Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Grenfell Tower Inquiry - update

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry has published an update via the Inquiry website - HERE.  The update provides information about the progress of the Inquiry, community engagement activity, Core Participants, appointment of assessors to the Inquiry, Inquiry phases, evidence from resident, a procedural hearing to take place on 11 and 12 December 2017 and the venue in which the Inquiry intends to conduct its work

Three Assessors have been appointed - see the announcement and details of the appointees.  Assessors are appointed in accordance with the Inquiries Act 2005 section 11.  They are not part of the "Inquiry Panel" which is the Chairman alone (Sir Martin Moore-Bick).  The role of assessors includes:  taking part in Inquiry proceedings as requested by the Chairman;  providing suggested lines of questioning for witnesses to Counsel to the Inquiry; and providing assistance and advice on any other matter relevant to the Inquiry within their area of expertise.  Assessors do not give evidence to the Inquiry, nor are they asked questions or cross-examined at the Inquiry. 

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Brexit Round 6 and promise of a EU (Withdrawal and Notification) Bill

The moment the 2 year period was triggered
Round 6 of the Brexit negotiations were held in Brussels on 9th and 10th November and concluded without any major breakthrough on either Citizens' rights, Northern Ireland or the Financial settlement.  The EU seeks agreement on those matters before it will discuss matters such as the future trading relationship.  The EU negotiators (Mr Michel Barnier et al) are bound by the Guidelines set by the European Council - (see post 1st May 2017).


End of round statements:

David Davis (Secretary of State for Exiting the EU)

Michel Barnier - Chief Negotiator

The "European Union Newsroom" is a useful site for information about Brexit

Statement to Parliament 13th November:


On 13th November, Mr Davis made a statement to the House of Commons - see Hansard 13th November.   See also Dept. for Exiting the EU announcement.  In his statement Mr Davis said:

Friday, 10 November 2017

Setting Brexit Day in stone? An unwise move. (Addendum 15th November)

Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill are both in the news again as serious doubts are developing about the economic wisdom of Brexit.

Article 50 Notice:

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, who was Britain’s permanent representative at the EU before becoming ambassador to the US,  drafted Article 50 TEU and has always been of the view that a notification under Article 50(2) may be unilaterally revoked by the State which gave the notice.  This point could easily have been dealt with when the Article was being drafted but, unfortunately, it was not.  Lord Kerr is now calling upon the government to publish any legal advice it has received from the Law Officers on this point - The Independent 10th November 2017.

The government

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Brexit: The non-existent impact assessments demanded by the Humble Address

On 1st November the House of Commons voted to present this Humble Address to HM The Queen:

"That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, That she will be graciously pleased to give directions that the list of sectors analysed under the instruction of Her Majesty's Ministers, and referred to in the Answer of 26 June 2017 to Question 239, be laid before this House and that the impact assessments arising from those analyses be provided to the Committee on Exiting the European Union." [My emphasis].

The address was the outcome of the 1st November debate entitled Exiting the EU: Sectoral Impact Assessments.  Here is the Hansard record of the debate.  The phrase "impact assessments" is used throughout the debate by many members.  Nevertheless,

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Voting for Prisoners - latest in the long-running saga



The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (David Lidington MP) was appointed after the June General Election (post 12th June).  One of the long-standing issues he inherited was that of whether prisoners (or some prisoners) should be allowed to vote.  The present ban is in the Representation of the People Act 1983 section 3 (as amended):

"A convicted person during the time that he is detained in a penal institution in pursuance of his sentence or unlawfully at large when he would otherwise be so detained is legally incapable of voting at any parliamentary or local government election."

So far

"Fat Rascal" - a Registered Trade Mark

199 Steps Whitby
FAT RASCALS have been made in North Yorkshire and other places for many decades.  They may not be the ideal food for those seeking to maintain a trim figure but they are a delight to have in a pleasant cafe along with coffee or tea.  The website Foods of England informs us that the name "Fat Rascals" has been in use at least since the 1855 "Glossary of Yorkshire Words and Phrases Collected in Whitby and the Neighbourhood."  The BBC offers us a recipe and says here that they may have been made since Elizabethan times.

Friday, 3 November 2017

"An Humble Address" to Her Majesty - 1st November 2017

On Wednesday 1st November, the House of Commons debated Exiting the EU: Sectoral Impact Assessments.  The Opposition Motion was worded in archaic terms:

"That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, That she will be graciously pleased to give directions that the list of sectors analysed under the instruction of Her Majesty's Ministers, and referred to in the Answer of 26 June 2017 to Question 239, be laid before this House and that the impact assessments arising from those analyses be provided to the Committee on Exiting the European Union."

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Roundup at Halloween 2017


Various stories at Halloween ... items in the news and on the blogs .....

Et Seq. is the blog of the Harvard Law School Library and they have offered this post about Halloween and the Law.  It's a great collection of links to other material including The Devil and Homer Simpson, the Salem Witch Trials and a discussion of whether the law in England requires sellers of houses to reveal the presence of ghosts!

There has been some speculation that the government may be about to move in the direction of allowing at least some prisoners to vote in elections - The Independent 29th October.  At the time of writing, nothing appears about it on the Ministry of Justice website.  The present ban is in the Representation of the People Act 1983 section 3.  Note also section 3A relating to offenders detained in mental hospitals.  See The Guardian 29th October.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

The Academic Freedom of our Universities

Academic Freedom - "Without such freedom there would have been no Shakespeare, no Goethe, no Newton, no Faraday, no Pasteur, and no Lister" - Albert Einstein - Royal Albert Hall 5th October 1933.

Mr Chris Heaton-Harris is Member of Parliament for Daventry.  In June 2017 he was appointed to the post of Vice-Chamberlain of Her Majesty's Household and he describes his duties in that role on his website as well as stating very clearly his position regarding Brexit:

"The EU Referendum still divides public opinion, with feelings on both sides of the argument still running high. However, the majority of people acknowledge that the public gave their opinion in a free and fair referendum and that the outcome should be upheld. Theresa May has been clear that “Brexit means Brexit”, and there is no doubt that we are going to make a success of it. There must be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to re-join it through the back door and no second referendum. Given both the high turnout of the referendum and our 2015 election manifesto to “respect the outcome” of it, in my mind the Government has a crystal clear mandate to implement the result of the referendum and reflect the will of the British people."

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Dishonesty ~ Important Supreme Court judgment

Updated 28th October ...

The Supreme Court has given unanimous judgment in Ivey v Genting Casinos (UK) Ltd [2017] UKSC 67 - Lord Neuberger, Lady Hale, Lord Kerr, Lord Hughes, Lord Thomas.  (Youtube 25/10/17).  On appeal from the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) judgment - Neutral Citation [2016] EWCA Civ 1093.


When Gambling at Crockfords on 20th and 21st August 2012 Mr Ivey won in the region of £7.7m but the casino refused to pay because the game had been compromised due to a practice known as "edge sorting."  Mr Ivey openly admitted to using the practice at the time though he did not consider that what he did amounted to cheating.  The High Court (Mitting J) disagreed with Mr Ivey and held that he had cheated.  This decision was upheld by a majority in the Court of Appeal and, given that the contract for betting contained an implied term that neither party would cheat, Crockfords did not have to pay.

Friday, 20 October 2017

More on the Revocability of the Article 50 notice


Notice is served - 29th March 2017
The previous post looked at "The Reckless Fantasy of Brexit" and the view put forward this week by Dr Phil Syrpis (Bristol University) that Brexit ought to be ended now - A call to stop Brexit - 18th October 2017.  Dr Syrpis wrote: "There are various ways in which Brexit might be stopped. Legal opinion suggests that Article 50 may be unilaterally revoked ....."

In this previous post  (23rd July) I attempted to collate at least some of the available legal views on the question of unilateral revocability.  Although that post was a mere 3 months ago it seemed, at the time, to be not much more than an interesting theoretical debate but, as the adverse impact of Brexit on the economy is becoming clearer, the question of unilateral revocability of the UK's Article 50 notification may turn out to be not so theoretical after all.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

The "Reckless Fantasy" of Brexit

Updated 20th October ...

Only the most naively optimistic would claim that Brexit is proceeding well.  Round 5 of the negotiations ended with what appears to be only minimal progress (previous post) and some politicians are now urging the Prime Minister to abandon the negotiations unless the European Council agrees to discuss the future trading relationship - BBC News 19th October.

It is entirely reasonable to conclude that, if Brexit comes about, the United Kingdom will be seriously damaged constitutionally and very much poorer economically.  The Brexit process should be stopped by Parliament - the UK's sovereign body - reversing the leave decision.  Such a decision would be in the best national interest and could, with the right leadership, lead to steps toward rebuilding the UK and establishing a 'deep and special relationship' with the EU but as a critical member rather than as an outsider peering, like the young boy pictured, into the shop window and hoping that we had access to the goods.

Monday, 16 October 2017

"Victoria" TV series ~ Daniel M'Naghten

Daniel M'Naghten
The second series of the television programme "Victoria" ended on Sunday 15th October.  (There is to be an extra episode at Christmas).  At times, the series touched upon some of the great issues of those days.

Victoria (1819-1901) was Queen from June 1837 until her death on 22nd January 1901.  The final episode of Series 2 touched upon the Parliamentary struggle for the repeal of the "Corn Laws" which prevented imports of grain and therefore had come to protect wealthy landowners.  A poem of the time summarised the situation: "Ye coop us up, and tax our bread, And wonder why we pine; But ye are fat, and round, and red, And fill'd with tax-bought wine."

The Corn Laws were repealed during the premiership of Robert Peel (1788-1850).  Peel's private secretary was the civil servant Edward Drummond (1792-1843).  Drummond was shot by Daniel M'Naghten (1813-1865) whose name still lives on in English criminal law due to the much-criticised M'Naghten Rules which set out the requirements to establish a defence of "insanity."  Drummond was actually shot from behind and he died of complications which arose following surgery to remove the "leaden bullet" fired from M'Naghten's gun.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Ian Stewart-Brady

" .....even in the sordid history of crimes against children the murders committed by Hindley jointly with Ian Brady, were uniquely evil" - Lord Steyn in R (Hindley) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2000] UKHL 21.


On 15th May, the "Moors Murderer" Ian Brady died - previous post 18th May 2017.  He was convicted at Chester Assizes in 1966 (Fenton Atkinson J and a jury) of the murders of John Kilbride (12), Lesley Ann Downey (10) and Edward Evans (17).   Myra Hindley, who died in 2002, was convicted of the murders of Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Brexit Notes - Round 5 and other items

Round 5 of the Brexit negotiations has concluded with statements by the EU Chief Negotiator (Michel Barnier) and the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU (David Davis).  Some British politicians will be most unhappy to have heard Mr Barnier state - " ... as things stand at present, I am not able to recommend to the European Council next week to open discussions on the future relationship."

Although the talks clearly made a certain amount of progress, the major sticking point appears to be the financial settlement which Mr Barnier said had not been discussed apart from some technical details.  He said, "We are, therefore, at a deadlock on this question. This is extremely worrying for European taxpayers and those who benefit from EU policies."

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Brexit - Theresa May's statement to Parliament 9th October

Brexit negotiations are entering the 5th Round and, on 9th October, the Prime Minister made this statement to the House of Commons - see Hansard 9th October.

Mrs May emphasised that the government wishes to secure "a new, deep and special partnership with the European Union which spans both a new economic relationship and a new security relationship" but the UK will not be part of the EU single market or customs union. Also, the idea is rejected of "something based on European Economic Area membership."   Instead, the UK is seeking "a unique and ambitious economic partnership" which will "reflect our unprecedented position of starting with the same rules and regulations."  The UK will maintain its "unequivocal commitment to free trade and high standards."

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Suicide Act 1961 ~ Mr Noel Conway

Mr Noel Conway is 67 years old and suffers from Motor Neurone Disease (MND) which he described as "a relentless and merciless process of progressive deterioration."   When the time is appropriate, he wishes to have assistance to end his life but assisting suicide is a criminal offence in England and Wales - (Suicide Act 1961 section 2).  In the High Court he argued that section 2 of the Suicide Act is incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and he asked the court to make a declaration of incompatibility as permitted by section 4 of the Human Rights Act 1998. The court held that section 2 is compatible with the Article 8 rights of Mr Conway and declined to make the declaration.

The Queen (Noel Douglas Conway) v Secretary of State for Justice and others [2017] EWHC 2447 (Admin) - Sales LJ, Whipple and Garnham JJ.  The judgment is also available in pdf format via the Judiciary website.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Judiciary ~ Swearing in ceremonies

Sir Ian Burnett LCJ
The new Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales - Sir Ian Burnett - has been sworn in today (2nd October) - see the Judiciary announcement and the short video statement made by Sir Ian. The Lord Chief Justice holds the office of President of the Courts of England and Wales and is Head of the Judiciary of England and Wales - Constitutional Reform Act 2005 section 7.   Sir Ian is also Head of Criminal Justice but it is permissible for the him to appoint another to that position - CRA 2005 section 8.  (Note 18th October - The new LCJ has appointed Sir Brian Leveson as Head of Criminal Justice - HERE).

Sir Ian is the 19th Lord Chief Justice since the major court reforms of 1875 and he is the 12th since the end of World War 2.  He is the youngest appointee since Lord Parker of Waddington who was appointed in 1958 at the age of 58.

Note 12th October - It has been announced that Sir Ian Burnett will receive a life peerage - Downing Street Press release

Change also took place at the Supreme Court .....

Friday, 29 September 2017

EU (Withdrawal) Bill - Delegated powers - Important House of Lords report



Previous posts have noted concerns in Parliament about the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.  See 12th September - Deep concerns as EU (Withdrawal) Bill passes second reading in House of Commons;  7th September - House of Lords Constitution Committee - Interim report on EU (Withdrawal) Bill; and 6th September - Massive powers for Ministers under the EU (Withdrawal) Bill.

Numerous amendments put forward:

As at 14th September, the list of proposed amendments to the Withdrawal Bill extends to 74 pages!  See Notices of Amendments.

Delegated powers report:

An important further report contains trenchant criticism of the Bill.  It has been issued by the 

Brexit Negotiations Round 4

Following on from the Prime Minister's speech in Florence, Round 4 of Brexit negotiations have concluded.  The Secretary of State's close of talks statement is HERE and the EU Negotiator's (Michel Barnier) statement is HERE.  The Prime Minister's speech was said by Mr Barnier to have "created a new dynamic in our negotiations."  Talks will resume on 9th October.

In his Round 4 closing statement, Mr Davis referred to publication of an updated table showing many areas of agreement.  For this see Department for Exiting the EU - Joint Technical Note

The Florence Speech was notable