Tuesday, 31 May 2016

UK and the EU (9) - A monumental referendum - Information to assist

The monumental EU Referendum on 23rd June is undoubtedly the most important decision the British electorate will ever make.  It is also a very complex matter.  The outcome will determine the UK's future for many years (perhaps decades) to come.  Several vital questions lie at the heart of the issue.  The economy is the central question: will it prosper more within the EU than outside?

Many voters wish to make an INFORMED decision rather than rely on the barrage of often exaggerated claims from politicians on both sides of the argument.  At present, there are no absolutely clear cut answers to some of the questions raised but there is also a great deal of misinformation.  This post offers links to referendum-related material that has become available but it is by no means a comprehensive selection.  The reader should consider the extent to which the material offered is reliable and objective.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

The Union and Devolution ~ House of Lords Constitution Committee

The House of Lords Constitution Committee has published its 10th report of session 2015-16 - The Union and Devolution (pdf - 144 pages).  Underlying the report is concern for the future stability of the United Kingdom as a UNION in the light of devolution of power.  At the start of the report is this assertion: "The four nations of the United Kingdom are stronger united than apart. The Union has brought stability, peace and prosperity to the United Kingdom."   


The devolution of power to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has been a feature of British politics for many years. The late 1990s saw the creation

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

British Citizens Overseas ~ Voting in the EU Referendum

Today, the Supreme Court considered whether to give permission for an appeal in the EU Referendum Voting Rights case of R (Shindler and another) v Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and another.  Permission to appeal was refused and these brief reasons handed down.

Section 2 of the EU Referendum Act 2015 deals with who may vote in the referendum - principally they are those who would be entitled to vote as electors at a parliamentary election in any constituency.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Queen's Speech 2016 ~ Human Rights, Sovereignty, Primacy. Power!

Amid splendid and colourful pageantry, HM The Queen delivered the Queen's Speech 18th May 2016 .   Background Briefing Notes were issued by the Cabinet Office and see Briefing material for the House of Lords debate on the Queen's Speech - Home, Legal. Constitutional and Devolved Affairs 12th May 2016

The Queen's Speech contained these terse sentences:

"Proposals will be brought forward for a British Bill of Rights."  "My ministers will uphold the sovereignty of Parliament and the primacy of the House of Commons."  [My emphasis].

The highlighted words raise the very fundamental question of POWER.  Strong protection for human rights results in weaker EXECUTIVE power over the individual.  "Sovereignty" is about power in relation to international bodies (e.g. the European Court of Human Rights).  "Primacy" is concerned with the power balance between the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

Will the UK remain a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights


Thursday, 19 May 2016

"Celebrity" injunction remains ~ Is the law an ass? Supreme Court answers NO.

Earlier post 12th April 2016

The Supreme Court has ruled that the "celebrity" injunction in PJS v News Group Newspapers Ltd [2016] UKSC 26 is to remain in place - Supreme Court UK Judgments.  The Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeal erred in law and therefore substituted its own decision.

The press summary states - "The central issue is whether the trial judge is likely to grant a permanent injunction.  Balancing all these factors, the majority concludes that PJS is likely to establish at trial that the proposed publication by NGN constitutes a serious breach of his and his family’s privacy rights, with no countervailing public interest on the present evidence, and that he is likely to be granted a permanent injunction notwithstanding the internet and social media publication."

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Secondary Legislation and the Powers of the Lords ~ Commons report

Remember the Tax Credits row and how it was blown up into a constitutional crisis when the House of Lords voted for a DELAY in implementing the Tax Credits (Income Thresholds and Determination of Rates)(Amendment) Regulations 2015   The government had claimed that cuts to tax credits were crucial to its plans for public finances but the cuts were abandoned in the Autumn Statement 

The House of Lords voted for a DELAY so that the position of those already receiving tax credits could be better protected.  They voted decisively against rejecting the regulations entirely.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Parliament prorogued - Hillsborough - Finucane remembered - Judicial Power

Filey (see here)

The Parliamentary Session 2015-16 ended on Thursday 12th May.   Parliament is "prorogued" until the Queen's Speech on 18th May.   Certain Bills received Royal Assent and became Acts of Parliament on Thursday 12 May 2016:

The Criminal Cases Review Commission (Information) Act 2016 is an example of a private member's bill becoming law although, in this case, it had government support.  It is an important Act in that it fills a gap in the Commission's ability to obtain information to assist its investigations.  It enables the Commission to apply to the Crown Court for an order requiring NON-public bodies to give access to a document or other material.  See Previous Post 9th July 2015

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Parliament and Death by Drone

Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights has called upon the government to clarify the legal basis on which it contributes to the use of lethal force abroad outside armed conflict by other countries such as the US - Government must clarify legal case for lethal drone strikes outside armed conflict

The use of drones to carry out targeted killings has attracted a considerable degree of analysis and critical comment particularly in relation to operations conducted by the United States of America.  Despite numerous concerns and questions, it has not been declared unlawful in all circumstances.  This earlier post looked briefly at some of the "Special Rapporteur" reports presented to the United Nations -Death by Drone ~ Concerns and questions.   See also View from the North ~ A killing in Syria - 8th September 2015.

Report: The Government's policy on the use of drones for targeted killing (PDF 1.41 MB)

Monday, 9 May 2016

Iraq Inquiry Report to be published

Iraq Inquiry

The report of the Iraq Inquiry is to be issued - without redactions - on 6th July 2016.  See the letter from the Prime Minister to Sir John Chilcot (the Inquiry Chairman). 

Earlier posts 14th August 2015 and 1st September 2015.

Litanies of Lies ~ Orgreave - June 1984 and Hillsborough - April 1989.

Update: Orgreave inquiry calls grow after damning Hillsborough verdict for police  - The Guardian 16th May.

New Zealand judge Peter Mahon (1923-86) conducted an inquiry into the crash of a DC10 aircraft near Mount Erebus, Antarctica on 28th November 1979.  Referring to Air New Zealand he said that he had been presented with "an orchestrated litany of lies."  Mahon's statement was itself the subject of litigation - The Honourable Peter Mahon v Air New Zealand 1983 -  where the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council held that Mahon had not given Air New Zealand a proper opportunity to answer that criticism.

The determinations of the Hillsborough Inquest jury leave no doubt that a litany of lies developed even as the disaster unfolded and this was perpetuated by the Police and elements in the media.  Even at the Inquest held in Warrington there were attempts by the Police to counter the conclusions of the Independent Panel report.  Those attempts were out of kilter with the apology issued in 2012 by South Yorkshire Police (previous post).  It also appears that the South Yorkshire Police were engaged in an earlier litany of lies involving the events at the British Steel Orgreave Coke Plant in 1984 and its aftermath. 

Important Human Rights Report ~ The UK, the EU and a British Bill of Rights

Updated 12th May

The House of Lords EU Committee has issued an important report - The UK, the EU and a British Bill of Rights - 12th Report of Session 2015-16 - 9th May 2016.

The committee held eight evidence sessions with academic legal experts, legal practitioners, two former Attorneys General, a former Lord Chief Justice and a former UK judge in the Court of Justice of the EU. The final evidence session was with the Secretary of State for Justice and Dominic Raab MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Human Rights at the Ministry of Justice.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

The Coroners Court ~ a system that cannot remain unreformed

Update: Let's be honest: Inquests often are adversarial - Nigel Poole QC (Learned Friend blog 6th May).  Also, New Law Journal 5th May - The long road to justice - Patrick Roche (barrister).

After the experience of Hillsborough, is it possible to pretend that Coroners Courts continue to be satisfactory?  The system received severe criticism in an article in The Guardian 29th April The other villain of Hillsborough saga: legal system that left families in torment - " .... over 27 years, the whole Hillsborough ordeal has sadly also illustrated why too many people who go to court do not find justice, but only the next phase of the nightmare which sent them there in the first place."

Whilst there have been some welcome reforms in recent years,  including the introduction of a Chief Coroner post, there is much more that could and should be done.  (There was prevarication over introducing the Chief Coroner post!)  The government and authorities ought not to be allowed to leave this system unreformed but they will do so unless public pressure is brought to bear.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Chief Constables and Police and Crime Commissioners ~ a post Hillsborough inquest reflection

Update 1: PCC Election results 2016 

Update 2: Essential Law and Practical Guidance for Police and Crime Commissioners- 5 Essex Court. 

Following the end of the Hillsborough Inquest, the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire (Mr David Crompton) was suspended by the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire (Dr Alan Billings) - Announcement by the Commissioner.  It is an interesting question as to whether the Police and Crime Commissioner should also carry some responsibility for the way in which the South Yorkshire Police conducted themselves at the inquest.  The answer is not entirely clear.

PCCs and Chief Constables:

Elections are in progress in 41 Police areas for Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) with voting on 5th May.  This elected office was created by the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011.   Section 1 states - "There is to be a police and crime commissioner for each police area listed in Schedule 1 to the Police Act 1996 (police areas outside London)."  Section 2 states - "Each police force is to have a chief constable."