Saturday, 18 April 2015

Lord Greville Janner ~ the decision not to prosecute

Lord Janner of Braunstone (aged 86) who suffers from dementia is not to be prosecuted for 22 alleged serious sexual offences.  The reasons for this decision are set out in a statement issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions.  Please read the statement in full.

The two-stage test:

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) applies a well-known two-stage test in deciding whether to prosecute: (1) the evidential test and (2) the public interest test.  The CPS considered the evidential test to be met in relation to all the allegations.  However, the CPS decided that the public interest test was not met.
The statement notes:

'At the outset, it is emphasised that but for medical considerations, it would undoubtedly have been in the public interest to prosecute. Public interest factors in favour of a prosecution include that the allegations are of very serious offending; the complainants were young, vulnerable children and the allegations involve the alleged abuse of power and position.  The CPS equally has no doubt that, if the correct decisions had been taken about the evidential test in relation to the previous investigations, the public interest test would have been passed and prosecution should have followed.'


It then continues:

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The fight for access to Justice

A poll conducted for the Criminal Law Solicitor's Association has concluded that the British public believes that legal aid should be a right and not a benefit see Solicitors Journal. The CLSA plans to hold a rally in Westminster on 23rd April to seek to make the governmental attack on legal aid more of an election issue.

A Guardian animation - Superheroes battling for legal aid - also highlights the parlous state of legal aid provision following the implementation of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 ( LASPO). 

Cuts to legal aid have been implemented under the mantra of the need to save money in times of austerity. Whilst access to justice - at reasonable cost - ought to be a fundamental democratic right, it is a great sadness that there seems to be no Party with a chance of being in government that is willing to return to anything like the pre-LASPO arrangements.

The lack of legal aid is compounded by the recent imposition of considerable court fees - see Court fee increases approved (6th March) and Criminal Court Charges (4th April).

"EUROPE" is one of the election issues and, in the area of criminal law, there are many "Euro-myths".  In a video, Professor John R Spencer of Cambridge University tackles some of the myths - Is EU criminal law a threat to British justice?

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

1,000,000 exceeded

I am absolutely delighted that this blog has today exceeded 1,000,000 page views.  So many thanks to all of you who take the trouble to follow my occasional ramblings about the law in England and Wales.  You may be assured that - God Willing - I will continue for some time to come.

The blog started on 14th January 2010 - a winter's night when I felt rather bored and thought why not write about the second love of my life - English law.  I was impressed by the doyen of bloggers - CharonQC and also by Adam Wagner's efforts with UK Human Rights Blog and Carl Gardner's Head of Legal blog.  Thankfully - they all continue to provide excellent and inspirational material.  This blog had 500,000 hits by 25th July 2013 and will hopefully plod on to offer further observations which never seek to persuade or dictate but merely to try to inform.   

Criminal Court Charges - again !

The following tweet requires little by way of explanation. The relevant legislation may be seen via my earlier blogpost - Criminal Court Charges.  The impact of this on the rate of guilty-pleas remains to be seen but it seems likely that some will opt to plead guilty rather than face this particular charge.  Of course, if they do that,  they will then often find themselves hit by a fine, costs and so-called "victim" surcharge.  All of this is ample illustration of the parlous state of justice in this country today.  The fact that the court has to impose the charge irrespective of means is disgraceful.

Monday, 13 April 2015

A very brief glance at the Labour Party Manifesto

Here are some of the "justice highlights" in the Labour Party Manifesto for the 2015 General Election.  The full manifesto is here and is summarised at Election 2015: Labour Manifesto at-a-glance

The EU and Human Rights:

Labour would work to reform the European Union, and would retain our membership of it.  The Human Rights Act 1998 would be protected and the European Court of Human Rights would be reformed rather than the UK walking away from it.  The precise "reforms" that would be sought are not mentioned.   Also, reform of the European Convention system is not a matter within the gift of the British government alone and the Council of Europe would have to be persuaded to introduce reforms.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Men are not eligible to apply ....

The Judiciary has announced a new initiative aimed at improving diversity in the role of Deputy High Court Judge. This new route to the High Court is explained by Lady Justice Hallett in this video.  Places on the programme are limited to women, BAME candidates and those from a less advantaged background, because these are the areas where the judiciary is said to be significantly less representative of society.  Taking part in the programme will not guarantee appointment by the Judicial Appointments Commission as a Deputy High Court judge or success in a subsequent High Court exercise.

See also Legal Business 8th April 2015.

Coroners

Coroners perform an important and very long-established role.  In recent times there have been a number of important reforms brought about by the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.  His Honour Judge Peter Thornton QC has recently been re-appointed as Chief Coroner of England and Wales - (an office specifically created by the 2009 Act).  His new appointment is until 1st October 2016.

The Judiciary website has published a considerable amount of guidance relating to Coroners.



Saturday, 4 April 2015

Criminal Court Charges

On 13th April, the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 (Criminal Courts Charge) Regulations 2015 enter into force.

They are well explained in this article in the Law Society Gazette 27th March.  Suspects pleading not guilty in the Crown court will risk paying a court fee of £1,200 if convicted under guidelines slipped into legislation without debate in the final days of the last parliament.  Law Society president Andrew Caplen described the new charges as ‘outrageous’ and a threat to fair trials.

The Magistrates' Blog describes the fees as "Callous and Destructive."  

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Human Rights and the Battlefield

Policy Exchange has produced an interesting report - Clearing the fog of war: saving our armed forces from defeat by judicial diktat

The report, authored by Professor Richard Ekins (University of Oxford), Dr Jonathan Morgan (University of Cambridge) and Tom Tugendhat (a former Military Assistant to the Chief of the Defence, Staff General Sir David Richards), reaffirms that armed forces on the battlefield should not be above the law but that the rules governing conflict must fall under the Geneva Conventions rather than the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). It argues that a blanket derogation from the ECHR is essential in all future conflicts involving British military personnel.

The report makes the following recommendations:

Monday, 30 March 2015

Parliament dissolved ~ the fight for power at Westminster commences

Today (30th March), Parliament was dissolved.  The coalition government remains in place pending the outcome of the General Election on 7th May and it may remain in place for some time beyond the election (see later).  At present, the opinion polls suggest that no political party will gain an overall majority over all other parties in the House of Commons.  Hence, one possible outcome is another coalition between the party with the largest number of seats and one or more of the other parties.  There being no such thing as free lunch, the other parties will make demands as a price for their support.  An alternative to a formal coalition is a supply arrangement with the largest party but that would lead to constant haggling over the conditions for support.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

R v Jogee ~ Supreme Court to hear joint enterprise appeal

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal in the case of R v Ameen Hassan Jogee.  The Court of Appeal Criminal Division judgment is at [2013] EWCA Crim 1433.   Here is an appeal which is potentially of major importance in the controversial area of "joint enterprise" liability in criminal law.  Please read the Court of Appeal's judgment .... more will undoubtedly follow.  In the Supreme Court the case number is UKSC 2015/0015.

Despair and not a lot of hope ...!

Rarely, if ever, has a British government engaged in such an assault on justice than the present coalition.  The brunt of the assault applies to England and Wales since justice matters are mostly devolved to Scotland and Northern Ireland.  (The devolution settlements have become complex - see Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland).  I am not proposing in this blogpost to analyse all the regressive changes made by the coalition over the last 5 years but they are likely to be very far reaching indeed.

The coalition has had two Secretaries of State for Justice:  Kenneth Clarke QC MP and Chris Grayling MP.  That office has been doubled with that of Lord Chancellor though the modern version of the Lord Chancellorship is nothing like the immensely influential (if not powerful) office that it was prior to the Constitutional Reform Act 2007.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Intelligence and Security ~ an important report

 12 March 2015 - The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament has today published its Report 'Privacy and Security: A modern and transparent legal framework'. This Report includes, for the first time in a single document, a comprehensive review of the full range of intrusive capabilities available to the UK intelligence Agencies. It contains an unprecedented amount of information about those capabilities, the legal framework governing their use, and the privacy protections and safeguards that apply. The Report also reveals the use of certain capabilities – such as Bulk Personal Datasets and Directions under the Telecommunications Act 1984  for the first time. The Report represents a landmark in terms of the openness and transparency surrounding the Agencies’ work.

The Committee has also released a press statement on the report, and the opening statement from a press conference held on 12th March.

The Guardian - Joshua Rozenberg - Legal limbo where spies reside is beyond spooky 

Telecommunications Act 1984 - Directions in the interests of national security

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Deaths in Prisons

Open Democracy 10th March 2015 asked - "Could Ministry of Justice and Grayling be prosecuted for manslaughter over prison suicides?"    The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman has repeatedly expressed concerns about the number of suicides of persons in detention - see his reports.   This blog - 26th February 2015 "A most serious report" - looked at a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission - Preventing deaths in detention of adults with mental health conditions.

Would it be possible to bring such prosecutions under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007

Friday, 6 March 2015

Court fee increases approved

Like the Ritz, justice is open to all
Court fees will rise as a result of approval by Parliament of a Statutory Instrument imposing the increases - Law Society Gazette 5th March.  For many people in need of the law, access to justice will now be a forlorn hope.

The House of Lords debate approving the increase may be read HERE.  The Statutory Instrument in question is The Civil Proceedings and Family Proceedings Fees (Amendment) Order 2015

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

The jury

We know that King John put his seal to a document at Runnymede in 1215.  The document was the Articles of the Barons and eventually it came to be known as Magna Carta (the Great Charter).  There were various versions and what remains of the 1297 version is the one still having legal force today.   Article 29 states:

NO Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the Land. We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right.

Monday, 2 March 2015

A multi-angled story ...

 The revelation of the name of the individual usually referred to as "Jihadi John" is a news story with several legally interesting aspects.  He has been named as Mohammed Emwazi - BBC 26th February.  Some time ago he had contact with the organisation CAGE which had received some of its funding from certain charities.

CAGE recently published a statement concerning "Jihadi John" (Mohammed Emwazi) who, CAGE claims, was "harassed" by MI5 and this may have contributed to the radicalisation of the Kuwaiti-born computer graduate who grew up in west London - see BBC 27th February - CAGE: Important human rights group or apologists for terror?  This individual is said to have wielded the knife in the murders by beheading of a considerable number of people such as the American journalist James Foley - (Wikipedia Jihadi John).

The CAGE comments about Emwazi have been condemned by several politicians, including the Prime Minister and Boris Johnson (Telegraph 1st March 2015).  

Human rights plans ~ Legal Aid ~ Fee increases

What has happened regarding the much heralded Bill on Human Rights promised last autumn by the Secretary of State for Justice.  With only a month to go to the end of the present Parliament, it has not been published.  (General Election 2015 Timetable). 

Conservative Party plans for human rights reform were announced in October 2014 and they were severely criticised at the time - please see the various links at Human Rights - a look at the Conservative Party proposals (6th October 2014)

Writing in the Law Society Gazette 2nd March 2015, Joshua Rozenberg speculates

Friday, 27 February 2015

It's no good ...!

A stench of Ministerial hypocrisy pervaded central London this week.

The Global Law Summit was a "stellar" event attended by legal notables from around the world.  The Secretary of State for Justice spoke of the importance of the rule of law and the ideas implanted by Magna Carta.  The following extract gives a flavour of his speech:

"In the UK, the legal sector contributes over £20 billion to our GDP, employing over 300,000 people. And UK law firms play an important role in the success of international businesses worldwide.  In London, we have a centre of legal excellence that is rival to any other great city in the world. I would like it to stay that way.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

A most serious report

Here is a very serious report - Equality and Human Rights Commission - Preventing deaths in detention of adults with mental health conditions.

I wonder whether government will really take very seriously the matter of the deaths of those detained by the State.

With respect to deaths in prison - INQUEST has some statistics.  Over the years 2010-14 there were 1001 deaths in prison and 336 of them were self-inflicted.

Over the same period, deaths of those aged 21 or less and detained in either prison or young offenders institutions came to 38 out of 38 - see here.

The figures do not necessarily