Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Making it Fair ~ The crucial matter of Disclosure in criminal cases

A 1976 report by the late Lord Devlin noted that - "In criminal cases, the State has the Police, an agency for the discovery of evidence, superior to anything which even the wealthiest defendant could employ."  The Devlin Report is still well worth reading by criminal practitioners.

The investigative role of the Police gives them very much a monopoly over the collection of information.  Several lines of enquiry might have been followed and a considerable volume of information obtained though the prosecution may not need to use all of it in a particular case.  In our adversarial system, the defence plays a reactive role.  This raises the question of "disclosure" - should ALL of the information gathered by the Police be disclosed to the defence?

Monday, 17 July 2017

Acid attacks ~ government plan ~ sensible review or knee-jerk reaction?

The use of acid to inflict terrible injury is a growing phenomenon - see Acid Violence Organisation - where it is said that in 2016, in London alone, there were 454 crimes involving corrosive substances. On Thursday 13th July there were 5 attacks in London (Telegraph 14th July) followed by calls for greater punishment of offenders.

In September 2015, The Guardian reported that acid attack hospital admissions had almost doubled in 10 years - The Guardian 30th September 2015.

The government has announced an "action plan" to tackle such attacks - Government: 16th July 2017

Saturday, 15 July 2017

R v Viscount St. Davids ~ Communications Act 2003 s.127

I know little of  Rhodri Philips.  In fact, although from time-to-time he has been in the news (e.g. here), I knew almost nothing about him until he appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court charged with offences under the Communications Act 2003 section 127.  He is a Peer of the United Kingdom with the title of Viscount St. Davids of Lydstep Haven in the County of Pembroke.  This peerage dates from 1918 and the present Viscount inherited it in 2009.  He also holds a number of other, more ancient, titles such as Baron Strange of Knockin - a peerage dating from 1299.  His Wikipedia entry is HERE. The College of Arms maintains a list of the peerage.

Appearing in court for trial

Friday, 14 July 2017

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill ~ an overview

Whitby Harbour
Resources list at the end.

On 13th July, the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill had its first reading in the House of Commons. It is a turgid and difficult document extending to 19 clauses and 9 proposed schedules and it has to be read against a background of other material some of which is listed at the end of this post. Here is a brief overview of the Bill. More detailed examination will be required.

Background in brief:

The European Union Referendum Act 2015 enabled the EU referendum of 23rd June 2016.  This resulted in a 52% vote to leave the European Union. 

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Tuesday morning - roundup of news

The tragic situation of baby Charlie Gard, Grenfell Tower, Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia, Non-jury trial in Northern Ireland, a point of law highlighted by the Coroner's Society and two notable speeches.  These are some of the important stories today.

The Charlie Gard case is back before the High Court - BBC News 10th July.   Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) referred the case back to the High Court after reports of  "new" data from foreign healthcare experts suggested treatment could improve his condition.  The new hearing is before Mr Justice Francis who also conducted the original High Court hearing held in April.  It is particularly notable that legal aid for Charlie's parents is not available at this hearing.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Grenfell ~ How long to an interim report?

The Chair of the Grenfell Inquiry - Sir Martin Moore-Bick - is consulting on the terms of reference for the inquiry - HERE.  The consultation notes that the inquiry will issue an interim report "as soon as possible."  When might that be?

Obviously, at this stage, a definite answer cannot be given to that question but let us see what happened with a couple of previous inquiries.

The Hillsborough Stadium Disaster occurred on 15th April 1989.  Lord Justice Taylor - (later Lord Chief Justice) - was appointed to inquire into the events on that fateful day.  He issued his interim report in August 1989.  Here is a link to the report.  His final report is dated January 1990.

The Bradford City Stadium Fire occurred on 11th May 1985.  Mr Justice Popplewell chaired the inquiry and issued an interim report in July 1985 with a final report in January 1986.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Grenfell Tower ~ updates

There have been several developments relating to the response to the Grenfell Tower fire of 14th June.

Terms of reference:

The Inquiry Chairman - Sir Martin Moore-Bick - has launched a consultation into its terms of reference which will set out what the Inquiry will cover.  This is a very important development requiring a response particularly from those affected by the fire.  Sir Martin will consider all suggestions made to him when drawing up the terms of reference. He will then make a recommendation to the Prime Minister, who will take the final decision on the terms of reference.   Please read the full statement at - Grenfell Tower Inquiry website and please note the extended timescale to reply to the consultation.

From the outset,

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Local Authorities, Contingency Planning, Resilience

The Council in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has been criticised for its response to the Grenfell Tower fire of 14th June - The Independent 18th June "Emergency taskforce takes over Grenfell Tower relief operation ...." and BBC News 18th June.   The Council's response will eventually have to be assessed against the planning that a Council is required to undertake in preparedness for emergency situations.  The principal legislation is now the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 Part 1 (Arrangements for civil protection).

The Civil Contingencies Act established a new legislative framework for civil protection in the United Kingdom. It imposes duties on those organisations with a role to play in preparing for and responding to emergencies. Local authorities are a Category 1 responder under the Act, and have a key part to play in respect in discharging their duties under the legislation.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Grenfell Tower Inquiry Chairman

Updated 10th July:

Former Lord Justice of Appeal, Sir Martin Moore-Bick has been appointed Chairman of an Inquiry to examine the Grenfell Tower fire.  This was announced today (29th June) by the Prime Minister - see No. 10 Downing Street, announcement.

A website for the Inquiry has been set up and will be used to provide the latest information on the Inquiry, including details of hearings, evidence and how to contact the Inquiry Team.

Sir Martin was called to the Bar in 1969 and practised mainly as a commercial lawyer.  He became Queen's Counsel (QC) in 1986, was appointed High Court Judge in 1995 and Lord Justice of Appeal in 2005.  He retired from the bench in December 2016.

The all-important Terms of Reference for the Inquiry have yet to be set. 

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Hillsborough Tragedy 15th April 1989 ~ CPS announces charging decisions

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has made charging decisions in respect of certain individuals connected with the 1989 Hillsborough Football Stadium tragedy.  The announcement may be read HERE.  The announcement states that - "Criminal proceedings have now commenced and the defendants have a right to a fair trial. It is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings."

Friday, 23 June 2017

Swift justice ~ Communications Act 2003 s.127

There are times when the administration of justice can be swift as demonstrated by the case of Mr Omega Mwaikambo (M).

It is reported - Mirror 16th June - that M made cups of tea for firefighters as they battled the Grenfell Tower fire.  He noticed that a body had been placed into a body bag and left on the ground.   According to the prosecutor (Tom Little) - M uploaded photographs and video of the deceased inside the body bag and then five photographs of the upper body and the face and the blood that had drained from the body.  According to the defence (Michelle Denney), M found the deceased person and was shocked by the fact the body was there and felt a sense of shock that the body was unattended.  He tried to find someone to come and help but "there was not one else in sight" and he took the photos to "show how the victim was being treated" and get someone's attention.

The offence:

M was charged with two offences under the Communications Act 2003 section 127(1) - Improper use of public electronic communications network. The case was dealt with at Westminster Magistrates' Court.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

State Opening ~ Confidence and Supply ~ Concerns over Good Friday Agreement

Updated 26th and 27th June -

21st June 2017 is the Summer Solstice and, on this occasion, it is also the State Opening of Parliament when HM The Queen delivers the Queen's Speech setting out the government's plans for the coming session of Parliament.  There will not be a Queen's Speech in 2018 and so this session of Parliament will last for 2 years.  The government's reason for this is the amount of legislation to be considered including what has been referred to as "the Great Repeal Bill" dealing with the legal consequences of Brexit.  The Queen's Speech will be the subject of a 6 day debate in the House of Commons commencing 21st June and ending 29th June.  Proposed amendments to the Queen's Speech will be dealt with on 28th and 29th June.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Criminal liability of corporations

The Grenfell Tower fire on 14th June is under investigation by the Metropolitan Police.  Mr David Lammy MP called for charges of corporate manslaughter to be brought - see The Guardian 15th June.  Here is a brief look at the relevant law.

Corporations such as limited companies are, in law, legal entities distinct from the individuals who direct them or are employed by them.  The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 introduced a statutory offence of corporate manslaughter and abolished the common law liability of corporations for manslaughter.

The offence is defined in section 1 and certain types of organisation may be found guilty of the offence.  The offence is concerned with the way in which the activities of an organisation (e.g. company) are managed or organised.  It has to be shown that this caused a person's death and amounted to gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Mrs May is right to decide on an INQUIRY into Grenfell Tower fire

Today, 17th June, it has been announced that 58 people have died as a result of the Grenfell Tower fire which occurred on 14th June.  There has been debate about whether the correct legal response is an inquest or an inquiry.  The Prime Minister has announced that there is to be an inquiry led by a judge.   Fuller details of the inquiry are awaited but it seems likely that it will be held under the Inquiries Act 2005.

It is not that the Inquiries Act 2005 is a perfect tool because the legislation gives Ministers considerable power in relation to certain aspects of an inquiry.  Criticism of the Act may be seen in this Select Committee report at paragraphs 197 and 198.   The Act replaced the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921 and was hurriedly enacted as part of the so-called "wash-up" process just prior to the 2005 general election.  Nevertheless, the Act was subjected to post-legislative scrutiny by a Select Committee which made 33 recommendations - Committee Report 11th March 2014.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Civil Contingencies - a brief note

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is the location of the 14th June disastrous fire at Grenfell Tower - a high-rise block of flats.  The Borough also has a large number of empty properties and the Council has put in place a number of measures to try to reduce the number - see RBKC Empty Homes and CityA.M 21st April 2017 where it is said that the Borough has the most empty properties of any London Borough.

The Independent 15th June reports that Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn has called for homes left vacant in Kensington and Chelsea by overseas investors to be “requisitioned” in order to rehouse those left homeless due to the Grenfell Tower fire. Is there a legal power to do this?

The (elusive) decision to leave the EU

Has the UK made a legally valid decision to leave the EU?

Article 50:

Article 50(1) of the Treaty on European Union states that "Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements."  Article 50(2) commences - "A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention ..."

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Baby Charlie Gard ~ European Court of Human Rights interim measure

The European Court of Human Rights has decided to continue to indicate to the United Kingdom Government that they should provide Charlie Gard, a baby suffering from a rare genetic disease, with such treatment and nursing care as may be appropriate to ensure that he suffers the least distress and retains the greatest dignity consistent, insofar as possible, with maintaining life.  The court's Press release dated 13th June 2017 is available via THIS LINK.  The Press Release states that the "interim measure" continues until the court decides on any substantive application that may be submitted.  In the event that no substantive application is submitted, the interim measure shall be maintained until midnight on Monday 19 June 2017.

Swearing in of MPs

It is a long standing legal requirement that Members of Parliament (House of Lords and House of Commons) are required to pledge allegiance to Her Majesty The Queen.

Based on their opposition to British Sovereignty over Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin representatives have traditionally refused to take their seats in the House of Commons.  It follows that they refuse to pledge allegiance to the Queen.  The consequence is that they may not participate in proceedings in Parliament - e.g. debates, voting, committees etc.   They are permitted to use office accommodation and to claim MP's expenses - Sinn Féin, Allowances and Access to Commons Facilities - 2006.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Monday 12th June - New Lord Chancellor and other matters

The Prime Minister is forming her government and the appointments may be seen via the No. 10 Downing Street website.

Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice:

Rt Hon David Lidington MP becomes Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice.  His appointment has been welcomed in some quarters (Law Society, Bar Council) but, for my part, I will wait to see how he performs. There is much to be done in relation to the prison system.  There are also serious issues concerning the reduction of legal aid which took place following the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2011 (LASPO).  Then there is the major programme of modernisation of the court system.  A Prisons and Courts Bill

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Sunday roundup

Baby Charlie Gard:

The Supreme Court has rejected an application for appeal in the terribly sad and distressing case of Baby Charlie Gard.  The application hearing in the Supreme Court may be heard HERE.   See also the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) judgment and the judgment of Mr Justice Francis in the High Court.

The case is now before the European Court of Human Rights with a view to that court hearing the parent's application - BBC News 9th June