Thursday, 27 April 2017

Manslaughter by motor vehicle ~ Death of Police Officer

On 5th October 2015, Constable David Phillips of the Merseyside Police was killed when he was struck by a stolen vehicle, driven at speed towards him by Clayton Ronald Williams, who was then aged 18.

On 21st March 2016, in the Crown Court at Manchester (William Davis J and a jury) Clayton Williams was convicted of manslaughter. He was sentenced for that offence and also for offences of burglary and aggravated vehicle taking resulting in death, to which he had previously pleaded guilty.  The sentence was - imprisonment for 20 years for the manslaughter and concurrent terms of 2 years for burglary and 8 years for aggravated vehicle taking resulting in death.  He was also disqualified from driving for life.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Road Traffic ~ Speeding penalties ~ Dangerous driving

Speeding fines are subject to new sentencing guidelines which are effective from 24th April 2017 - Sentencing Council Guidelines - Speeding.   For an explanation of Fine Bands - see here.   The driver with a recorded speed of 41 to 50 mph in a 30 mph limit will face a Band B fine and 4 to 6 penalty points.  Disqualification is also possible.

Here are two recent cases involving dangerous driving.

Tania Chikwature:

The offence of dangerous driving is defined in the Road Traffic Act 1988 section 2 and the meaning of dangerous driving is set out in section 2A.   One recent example of dangerous driving is that of Tania Chikwature who was driving a Nissan Qashqai in December 2016.  The website of the Cambridgeshire Police has details of the case including video taken from the cab of a lorry which was overtaken by Chikwature on the approach to a roundabout.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

General election on 8th June

There WILL be a general election on 8th June.  The preceding post looked at the requirements for an "early election" in the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011 and the necessary majority was secured in the House of Commons on Wednesday 19th April.  MPs approved the motion for an early general election by 522 to 13.  The support of two-thirds of all MPs required for this motion to pass was reached - Parliament 19th April.

Parliament has to be dissolved 25 working days before Polling Day (8th June).  This means that Parliament will be dissolved on Wednesday 3rd May.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Prime Minister wants a general election on 8th June 2017

There MAY be a general election on 8th June 2017 - BBC NEWS 18th April.  This will be subject to securing a vote in the House of Commons for an early election as required by the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011

Section 2 of the Act specifies when an early election may be held.   An early parliamentary general election is to take place if -

(a)  the House of Commons passes a motion in the form set out in subsection (2), and

Monday, 17 April 2017

Tony Blair, the Iraq War and Aggression

The war against Iraq began on 20th March 2003.  It caused deep divisions among the people of the UK.  On 18th March 2003, the House of Commons - in which the Labour Party held a large majority - passed a motion supporting the war - 396 votes to 217.

According to The Guardian 16th April 2017, an attempt to bring a private prosecution of Tony Blair for the crime of aggression was rejected by a District Judge (Magistrates' Courts) at Westminster Magistrates' Court.  The judge refused to issue a summons but, as far as I can ascertain, the reasons of the judge for doing so were not published.  The Guardian report goes on to say that the present Attorney General - Jeremy Wright QC - is involved in proceedings in the High Court in which the District Judge's decision is being challenged.  The Attorney seeks to stop the prosecution and the basis for doing so is that the crime of aggression is unknown to English law.

Friday, 7 April 2017

School attendance ~ Isle of Wight Council v Platt

The Education Act 1996 section 444 defines two offences applying to parents of children of compulsory school age.

(1)  If a child of compulsory school age who is a registered pupil at a school fails to attend regularly at the school, his parent is guilty of an offence.

(1A)  If in the circumstances mentioned in subsection (1) the parent knows that his child is failing to attend regularly at the school and fails without reasonable justification to cause him to do so, he is guilty of an offence.

The Supreme Court

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Police Bail Pre Charge ~ A note on changes to the law


The Policing and Crime Act 2017 is yet another large Act comprising 184 sections (divided into 9 Parts) and 19 Schedules.  A further 204 pages of Explanatory Notes have been published.  Police Powers are the subject of Part 4 of the Act which encompasses several aspects of the law including amendment of the law relating to PRE-charge Bail.

The problem:

A considerable number of cases have raised concern about the length of time that individuals have been subjected to Police Bail whilst investigation continues.  Conditions attached to such "pre-charge bail" have, at times, been very onerous.  One high profile example was the case of BBC Presenter Mr Paul Gambaccini who was falsely accused of a sexual offence - see Telegraph 10th October 2014 and The Independent 3rd March 2015.  Apart from the trauma of being falsely named as a suspect, Mr Gambaccini was suspended from work by the BBC.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Gibraltar - a rock and a hard place

Updated 5th April 

The DRAFT guidelines of the European Council for the forthcoming Brexit negotiations contain much that is sensible but paragraph 22 is an "elephant in the room":  "After the United Kingdom leaves the Union, no agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without the agreement between the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom."

This post offers some tentative thoughts on this paragraph which brings into the arena the long-standing tension between the UK and Spain over Gibraltar. 

Friday, 31 March 2017

EU Commission - Brexit negotiation taskforce

The previous post looked at the DRAFT guidelines  issued by the European Council for the conduct of Brexit negotiations with the UK.  The European Commission will do most of the actual negotiation.

The EU Commission has published details of the negotiating team (or Taskforce) that will be handling the UK's Brexit negotiations - see Taskforce on Article 50 negotiations with the UK   The EU negotiating team will be head by French politician Michel Barnier.

The European Parliament has published Article 50: How the future of EU-UK relations will be decided and, on 29th March, a DRAFT was published of Conditions for approving UK withdrawal agreement.  The draft will be debated and voted on by the European Parliament on Wednesday 5th April. It attaches great importance to fair treatment of EU-27 citizens and stresses the need for reciprocity and non-discrimination between UK citizens living in the EU and EU citizens living in the UK.


On 1st March the EU presented a White Paper on the future of Europe: Avenues for unity for the EU at 27.  This paper has relevance because it looks at ways in which the EU will develop towards 2025 and those will be crucial years for the UK as it departs from the EU.

European Council - DRAFT guidleines for Brexit negotiations

The European Council has issued DRAFT guidelines for the conduct of Brexit negotiations.

Commenting on the draft, Mr Donald Tusk (European Council President) outlined the main points which would be treated as fundamental:


"Our duty is to minimise the uncertainty and disruption caused by the UK decision to withdraw from the EU for our citizens, businesses and Member States. As I have already said, in essence it is about damage control.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

The Great Repeal Bill - White Paper unveiled

The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has presented the government's White Paper on the "Great Repeal Bill" to the House of Commons - White Paper - Legislating for the United Kingdom's Withdrawal from the European Union.  The actual Bill will not be published until early in the next session of Parliament.  The White Paper is little more than an overview of how the government plans to proceed with Brexit.  It lacks detail.

Over the 44 years since the UK's accession to the European Communities, EU law has become virtually part of the DNA of the law governing the UK.  Its influence extends to almost every area of our lives.  Extracting the UK from this is bound to be a difficult and complicated task going well beyond a simple repeal of the European Communities Act 1972.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Article 50 notice - The end of the beginning

"This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end but it is perhaps, the end of the beginning."  Those words of Winston Churchill seem apt today as the UK government takes the formal step of commencing the withdrawal of the UK from the EU.

Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) was "triggered" today and the letter from the Prime Minister to the EU Council President may be seen via this link.   See also the Prime Minister's statement in the House of Commons
 
The European Parliament has published "How the future of EU - UK relations will be decided"  Starting today the UK and the EU have two years to negotiate a withdrawal agreement. In addition the two parties will need to start determining their future trade relations, though this is expected to take significantly longer than two years.

The withdrawal negotiations are to be conducted in accordance with guidelines to be issued as a draft by the European Council almost certainly later this week.  The European Council (27 member states) will convene on 29th April.  The UK remains a member during the negotiations but may not participate in Council discussions about Brexit - see Art 50(4).  The negotiation will be conducted by the European Commission acting on behalf of the Council.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

R v Alexander Wayne Blackman - sentencing for manslaughter

On 15th March, the Court Martials Appeal Court substituted a conviction for manslaughter in the case of former Royal Marine Alexander Wayne Blackman - previous post.   The substitution of a manslaughter conviction was on the basis of diminished responsibility at the time of the offence (September 2011).  On Tuesday 28th March, a sentence of 7  years imprisonment was imposed - read the court's sentencing remarks.  The court directed that time on remand in service custody be counted towards the sentence.  Mr Blackman remains dismissed from the Armed Forces but this is NOT with disgrace.

Monday, 27 March 2017

An unfair proposed amendment to the Prisons and Courts Bill

Note: Due to the General Election called for 8th June, the Prisons and Courts Bill will not proceed - Law Society Gazette

The offence of rape is among the most serious in our criminal law. The maximum available sentence is life imprisonment.  Rape Crisis England and Wales has published figures from the government's Overview of Sexual Offending in England and Wales (January 2013).  It is said that approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped in England and Wales each year and that conviction rates for rape are far lower than other crimes, with 5.7% of reported rape cases ending in a conviction.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Criminal justice ~ Pre Recorded Cross-Examination and Re-Examination.

The Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 Part 2 Chapter 1 (YJCEA) introduced into English law a range of "special measures" which may be applied when "vulnerable and intimidated witnesses" give evidence at a trial.   Changes were made by the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 sections 98-103 which came into force on 27th June 2011.   The law is summarised on the Crown Prosecution Service website.
There is no doubt that for many witnesses attendance at court is a highly daunting and even frightening experience.  "Special measures" are intended to assist vulnerable and intimidated witnesses to give their best evidence in court by relieving some of the stress associated with giving evidence in the public arena of the courtroom.  Special measures apply to witnesses (whether prosecution or defence) but they do not apply to defendants.
Possible measures are -

Lord Chancellor was "completely and utterly wrong"

On Wednesday 22nd March, the Lord Chief Justice - (Lord Thomas) - gave evidence to the House of Lords Constitution Committee.  The session may be viewed via this link, lasts approximately one hour and looks at a considerable number of problems facing the legal system and the judiciary.

The session covered, among other things, the need for the Lord Chancellor to uphold the independence of the judiciary.  Lord Thomas was of the view that the present Lord Chancellor was "completely and utterly wrong" in the view she took at the time of the infamous Daily Mail "Enemies of the People" headline.  I wrote about it at the time - A Jewel Beyond Price 5th November 2016.  Lord Thomas said that judges can be criticised and he welcomed constructive criticism of decisions but there was a difference between criticism and abuse.  According to Lord Thomas, the headline has resulted in some litigants in person saying that circuit judges are enemies of the people.

Friday, 17 March 2017

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017

Update 20th March 2017 - Article 50 will be triggered on 29th March - see this statement.  The European Council President stated that draft guidelines for the subsequent negotiations will be issued within 48 hours of the Brexit notification.
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The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 is in force.  Royal Assent was given on 16th March.  The legislative journey began on 26th January, after the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Miller case.

The Act gives the Prime Minister the power to notify the European Council of the United Kingdom's intention to withdraw from the EU. This will commence the 2 year period referred to in Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union.  During that time, negotiations will take place with a view to concluding an agreement with the UK, setting out the arrangements for withdrawal, taking account of the framework for the UK's future relationship with the Union.   Article 50 requires the negotiations to be conducted "in the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council."  At present, no such guidelines have been published.  The 2 year period can be extended as provided by Article 50.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

R v Alexander Wayne Blackman ~ Conviction reduced to manslaughter

In September 2011, Royal Marine Sergeant Blackman and his unit were operating in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.  They came across an insurgent who had been severely wounded by helicopter fire.  Sergeant Blackman killed the insurgent.

At a trial by Court Martial, Sergeant Blackman was convicted of murder, sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term to serve of 10 years.  He was also reduced to the ranks and dismissed with disgrace from the Armed Forces.  His defence at trial was that the insurgent was already dead. but this was rejected by the Court Martial.  No defence of diminished responsibility was raised and no psychiatric evidence was called at trial.  A psychiatric report was obtained for sentencing purposes.   On an appeal in 2014 to the Court Martial Appeals Court, the conviction for murder was upheld but the minimum term was reduced to 8 years.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Mental Health - Law Commission proposes replacing Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLs)

In 2014, the Supreme Court decided the Cheshire West case - [2014] UKSC 19.   The case was about the criteria for judging whether living arrangements made for a mentally incapacitated person amounted to a deprivation of liberty.  If they do, then, then the deprivation has to be authorised, either by a court or by the procedures known as the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLs), set out in the Mental Capacity Act 2005.  

The Law Commission has examined the law in this area and, on 13th March, issued a report. 

Sunday, 12 March 2017

A Trilogy of Speeches

Lord Neuberger (President of the Supreme Court) delivered the Neill Lecture at Oxford on 10th February 2017.  He retires this year and the selection process for his successor is well underway.  The Supreme Court was created by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 and replaced the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords.   Lord Neuberger was a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary from 2007 to 2009 and became Master of the Rolls on 1st October 2009.  In 2012 he was appointed President of the Supreme Court and, under his leadership, the Supreme Court has developed a remarkable degree of public acceptance largely because of the ways in which it communicates with the general public through televised hearings, prompt publication of judgments and press releases on the court website.  The handing down of judgments also appears on Facebook.  Additionally, members of the court are frequent guest speakers and the content of their speeches is always of considerable interest not only to lawyers but to the public.  Lord Neuberger's speech at Oxford is no exception and it may be read at - "20 years a judge: Reflections and Refractions" - Neill Lecture, Oxford Law Facility 10th February 2017.