Friday, 22 September 2017

Retiring LCJ to review Welsh justice system and policing


On 7th September, the retiring Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, issued his final annual report HERE and, on 14th September, he gave evidence to the House of Commons Justice Committee.   His appearance before the committee may be viewed HERE and a transcript is available.

I believe that Lord Thomas is the first Lord Chief Justice to have been born in Wales since Alfred Lawrence (Lord Trevethin) who served as LCJ briefly from 1921-22.  Interestingly, Lord Trevethin's third son was Geoffrey Lawrence who presided at the Nuremberg Trials.

The Welsh Government

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

R v Charlie Alliston

Charlie Alliston - now aged 20 - has been sentenced to 18 months detention in a Young Offenders Institution for an offence contrary to the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 section 35.

On 12th February 2016, Mr Alliston was cycling at approximately 18 mph down Old Street (London).  As he approached the junction with Charlotte Road the traffic lights were at green in his favour.  Mrs Kim Briggs was trying to cross Old Street.  Mr Alliston ran into her causing injuries which proved to be fatal.  It appears from the sentencing remarks of Her Honour Judge Wendy Joseph QC that Mr Alliston saw Mrs Briggs, swerved, slowed to 10-14 mph and was shouting to Mrs Briggs - "Get out of the fucking way."

Friday, 15 September 2017

Grenfell Tower Inquiry underway but criticisms persist

Formal opening:

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry formally opened on Thursday 14th September and the Chairman (Sir Martin Moore-Bick) made his opening statement which may be read HERE or viewed via Youtube.

List of Issues - NOT exhaustive:

The Inquiry has published a List of Issues but the list is NOT exhaustive - it is described as a Guide to the issues on which the Inquiry's investigations will focus.

Terms of Reference:

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Under attack - the Conservative - DUP "confidence and supply" deal

Following the General Election 2017 and the weakening of the Conservative Party's position in the House of Commons, a "confidence and supply" deal was arranged between the Conservative Party and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland - Telegraph 26th June.

The agreement is available HERE and it is notable that the DUP agreed to support the Conservative government on

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Deep concerns as EU (Withdrawal) Bill passes Second Reading in House of Commons

For all the sound and fury, the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill survived its Second Reading in the House of Commons by 326 votes to 290 - (majority 36).  The debate and the voting may be seen at Hansard Online - European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Day 2 .  Day 1 of the Second Reading was on Thursday 7th September - Hansard.   The House of Commons debate highlighted serious concerns about the Bill including the way in which Parliament is in danger of becoming akin to a rubber stamp for Ministers.

Deep concerns remain:

Thursday, 7 September 2017

House of Lords Constitution Committee - Interim report on EU Withdrawal Bill

The House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution has issued an Interim Report on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - 3rd report Session 2017-19.  The five Chapters in the report an Introduction, EU Law and Exit Day, Delegated powers, Court of Justice of the EU and Devolution.

The report identifies three broad constitutional themes - the relationship between Parliament and the Executive; the rule of law and legal certainty and, thirdly, the stability of the UK's territorial constitution.

The Bill gives the executive

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Massive powers for Ministers under the EU (Withdrawal) Bill

I recall a thinly attended "Constitutional Law" lecture held on a chilly winter's day almost 50 years ago.  The lecturer, a pleasant and elderly gentleman, turned to "Delegated Legislation."  Here was a topic guaranteed to make even the brightest of young eyes glaze over or, as some did, skip the lecture and head for the bar!

The little we needed to learn about Delegated Legislation in order to pass the subsequent constitutional law examination could have been written easily on a single side of Foolscap Folio paper and copied using a Gestetner machine.  Acts of Parliament quite often granted powers to Ministers to legislate.  These "delegated powers" left it to Ministers to do lots of seemingly harmless things such as to decide when sections of the Act came into force and fill in the extensive detail needed to implement the Act.  Occasionally,

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Grenfell Tower ~ Panel and Assessors

The Grenfell Tower Fire Inquiry Chairman wrote to the Prime Minister on 10th August regarding the Inquiry Terms of Reference.  His letter referred to appointment of assessors - (Letter to PM).  Sir Martin wrote - " ... I think is is likely that I shall wish to appoint a diverse group of people whose experience extends to the occupation and management of social housing and the administration of local government more generally, as well as to matters of a more scientific nature.  At a later stage I may also wish to appoint others to assist on particular aspects of the investigation."

The Inquiries Act 2005:

Saturday, 2 September 2017

EU (Withdrawal) Bill ~ House of Commons Paper

The House of Commons Library has published a report on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill which had its First Reading on 13th July 2017.

House of Common Briefing Paper No. 8079, 1st September 2017 - The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill by Jack Simson Caird, Vaughne Miller and Arabella Lang.  The Paper, which extends to a summary and 11 sections, begins by noting the Bill will bring about a complex mixture of constitutional change and legal continuity and states that it is the most significant constitutional bill introduced since the European Communities Act 1972.  Of that there can be no doubt.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Brexit negotiations - brief note on Round 3

A field in North Yorkshire

Five clear months have elapsed since the Prime Minister notified the EU that the UK would be leaving the EU.  On 22nd May the EU Council finalised its negotiating objectives for the starting phase of negotiations.

A first round of talks was held in June and a second round in July.  Some progress has been made but  Round 3 of the Brexit negotiations ended in Brussels on Thursday 31st August without major progress in the three areas set by the negotiating objectives - Citizen's Rights, the Financial Settlement and the Situation in Ireland.

The EU's principal negotiator - Mr. Michel Barnier - made a statement (HERE) noting that there was "useful clarification on many issues" but no decisive progress on the main subjects.  "At the current rate, we are far from seeing sufficient progress to be able to recommend to the European Council that we begin the discussion on the future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union at the same time as we will finalise throughout the year 2018 the withdrawal agreement."

The statement by the UK Secretary of State for Exiting the EU is HERE.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

UK - EU financial settlement - a note

The UK-EU financial settlement, citizens' rights and the situation of Ireland are the key areas under discussion in the present round of Brexit negotiations.

In March 2017, the House of Lords EU Committee 15th Report for session 2016-17 "Brexit and the EU budget" examined the potential financial demands in Chapter 3 and the UK's legal obligations in Chapter 4. At para. 137 the report said - " ..., the political and economic consequences of the UK leaving the EU without responding to claims under the EU budget are likely to be profound.  If the UK wants a preferential trading relationship with the EU, including a transitional arrangement, the EU partners may well demand a financial contribution post-Brexit."

On 13th July, David Davis MP said to the House of Commons - "On the financial settlement, as set out in the Prime Minister’s letter to President Tusk, the Government have been clear that we will work with the EU to determine a fair settlement of the UK’s rights and obligations as a departing member state, in accordance with the law and in the spirit of our continuing partnership. The Government recognise that the UK has obligations to the EU, and the EU obligations to the UK, that will survive the UK’s withdrawal—and that these need to be resolved."  (Hansard - Statement).

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Disclosure Survey ~ Interim results - Disturbing results emerge

How should the legal system deal with your case if YOU were charged with a criminal offence?  You would be certain to wish for a fair hearing within a reasonable time by "an independent and impartial tribunal."  The quoted words are from the European Convention on Human Rights and they reflect the position as it is established in the legal systems of the United Kingdom.

In England and Wales, that "independent and impartial tribunal" will often be the Magistrates' Court where around 90% of criminal cases are dealt with but it seems that all is far from well in those courts. 

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Brexit - one year on

Here are two interesting presentations reflecting on Brexit a year after the referendum.

Vernon Bogdanor Lecture- Brexit: One year on (2017)

Professor Michael Dougan - Project fear to project reality


Both are on Youtube and are well worth listening to.  There is also the "Kingston Smith debate" held on 28th June 2017.

Brexit - Negotiations Round 3 ~ Government publishes further papers


The Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU) has published a programme for the Third Round of Brexit negotiations to be held in Brussels from 28th to 31st August 2017.  In addition, the DExEU has published papers dealing with various aspects of Brexit - Article 50 and Negotiations with the EU

  Papers on Future Customs Union and Northern Ireland were the subject of this previous post (18th August).

The EU side of the negotiations basically operates in accordance with the European Council (Art. 50) Guidelines issued on 29th April 2017 and other official documents – see LIBRARY below.  At this stage, the EU guidance requires their negotiators to focus on Citizen's Rights, Financial Settlement and the Situation of Ireland.  The UK side appears to be keen to move the talks into other areas though the financial settlement ("divorce bill") is likely to be a major sticking point - The Guardian 28th August.   This May 2017 post looked at the financial situation as it appeared at that time. 

Friday, 18 August 2017

Brexit ~ Government Papers


Brexit will place the UK outside the EU Customs Union and Internal Market both of which, under the EU Treaties, are key features of the EU's structure.  The Department for Exiting the EU has published a "future partnership paper" - Future Customs relationship with the EU

A "position paper" deals with Northern Ireland and Ireland and proposes no physical infrastructure at the border - Pledge to protect the Belfast Agreement and Common Travel Area

Law Society Report on the state of legal aid


Four years ago, the coalition government implemented the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO). Hundreds of thousands of people who were eligible for legal aid on 31 March 2013 became ineligible the very next day.   Four years on, the Law Society has conducted a review of the legal aid changes introduced under the act. This review concludes that:
1. Legal aid is no longer available for many of those who need it
2. Those eligible for legal aid find it hard to access it
3. Wide gaps in provision are not being addressed
4. LASPO has had a wider and detrimental impact on the state and society
The review includes 25 recommendations to government, focusing on issues including increasing children's access to legal aid, reintroducing legal aid for early advice, and improving Exceptional Case Funding and the legal aid means test.  The report is available via  Law Society 29th June 2017.

Disclosure ~ an on-going problem in criminal cases

The unhappy state of affairs regarding Disclosure is yet again highlighted by a survey being undertaken by the Criminal Law Solicitors Association (CLSA) - CLSA Disclosure Survey.

Disclosure problems appear to beset the criminal justice system - previous recent posts - Stories from the Criminal Courts (6th August) and 19th July 2017 - Making it fair - the crucial matter of disclosure in criminal cases

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Grenfell Tower Fire - Inquiry terms of reference published

Updated 16th August:

The Terms of Reference for the Grenfell Tower Inquiry have been published by the government and may be read on the Grenfell Tower Inquiry website (HERE).  The terms are those recommended by the Inquiry Chairman - see page 4 of Sir Martin Moore-Bick's letter to the Prime Minister - (HERE).

Over 550 written responses were received in response to the terms of reference consultation and they are summarised at pages 5 to 7 of Sir Martin Moore-Bick's letter to the Prime Minister

Monday, 14 August 2017

EU (Withdrawal) Bill - Devolution and other points

This post looks at Legislative Consent and some other matters raised by the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill which was presented to Parliament on 13th July.  Explanatory Notes are available - HERE.  Previous posts considering aspects of the Bill are OVERVIEW , ECA Repeal and Exit Day , Retention of Existing EU Law, , Clause 6 - InterpretationFrancovich and Ministerial powers to legislate.

: Clause 1 :

"The European Communities Act 1972 is repealed on exit day."  As noted in this previous post, Clause 1 will repeal the mechanism by which EU law has been able to enter the domestic legal systems of the United Kingdom.  The Bill does not set out a single date to be Exit Day and it is for Ministers to decide.

Given that repeal of the ECA 1972 will bring about major constitutional and legal change, it might have been prudent for Parliament to retain some form of control over the specific date on which the European Communities Act 1972 is repealed but the Bill does not appear to do so.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

The EU Collection

13/8/2017 - Few topics have produced as much commentary as Brexit.  Here is a link to my various posts on this crucially important topic.  Please also see the LIBRARY (below) for links to relevant official material.

The posts are my attempt to set out events as they have occurred, to offer my viewpoint and to offer links to the views of others.   I will add to the list as things develop.

EU and the UK - Collection of Posts - Law and Lawyer posts from 20th February 2016 to 23rd July 2017.

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill