Tuesday, 19 June 2018

EU (Withdrawal) Bill ~ update

The image shows the result of a House of Lords vote on 18th June 2018 on what can be called the "meaningful vote" amendment to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.  The vote took place during the "ping pong" process.

The government had said that Parliament would have a "meaningful vote" on whether to accept or reject any Withdrawal Agreement negotiated under the Article 50 process but, even in the slippery world of politics, there has perhaps never been as meaningless a phrase as "meaningful vote."  Just what did "meaningful" mean?   It appeared to mean a vote to either accept whatever was on offer or simply leave the EU without a deal.  Some in Parliament have tried to give the phrase some meaning with a view to Parliament having a greater say in the event that there are serious problems in achieving a Withdrawal Agreement.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Reporting restrictions and the importance of open justice

Recently, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson) was committed to prison for contempt of court in that he pleaded guilty to breaching a reporting restriction made in connection with a trial in the Crown Court sitting in Leeds.  The restriction was a "postponement order" made under Section 4(2) of the Contempt of Court Act 1981.  As defendants arrived for their trial, Mr Robinson broadcast via Facebook Live.  His broadcast lasted for over an hour.  This previous post looked at the basics of the law on contempt. 

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Upskirting ~ objection to a Private Members' Bill

The Voyeurism (Offences) Bill  is a Private Members' Bill aimed at the unpleasant and upsetting practice of "Upskirting" which typically involves offenders using a mobile phone to take a picture under a person’s clothing without them knowing, with the intention of viewing their genitals or buttocks.

It appears from this announcement  that the bill is supported by the government but, on 15th June - (one of the Fridays set aside for Private Members' Bills) -it made no progress because it was blocked when Sir Christopher Chope MP (Conservative, Christchurch) objected - BBC News 15th June.  The Bill is now listed for 2nd Reading on 6th July.  

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

EU (Withdrawal) Bill - back to the Commons (2) - 12th and 13th June

On Tuesday 12th June and Wednesday 13th, the House of Commons considered House of Lords amendments to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - the "ping pong" process.  The bill is intended to prepare domestic law for the UK's departure from the European Union - ("Brexit").   See previous post 12th June.

The list of amendments as put forward by the House of Lords is HERE.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

EU (Withdrawal) Bill - back to the Commons (1)

Under the terms of Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), the UK will leave the EU on 29th March 2019 - that is, two years after the Prime Minister exercised the power given to her by the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017.

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill returned to the House of Commons on Tuesday 12th June for consideration of amendments made to the bill during its time in the House of Lords - the "ping pong" process.  The bill is intended to prepare domestic law for the UK's departure from the European Union.  See Parliament 12th June - a useful link offering access to the entire progress of the bill.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Tommy Robinson protest highlights Judicial Independence

"The judiciary shall decide matters before them impartially, on the basis of facts and in accordance with the law, without any restrictions, improper influences, inducements, pressures, threats or interferences, direct or indirect, from any quarter or for any reason."

The Judiciary of England and Wales has its own website.  It used to have .gov in the address (URL).  It is now www.judiciary.uk

Although the change seems to be minor, it was made "to reflect the constitutionally independent position of the judiciary" and that is of massive importance to everyone. 

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Abortion and Northern Ireland ~ Supreme Court 7th June 2018

This morning the Supreme Court handed down judgment in the challenge from Northern Ireland to the law on abortion.  The proceedings were brought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) which was created, and has the powers give to it by, the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (as amended).  The court held, by a majority of 4 to 3, that the NIHRC did not have the legal right (standing) under the 1998 Act to bring the proceedings.  For this reason the court could not give a legally binding ruling on the substantive questions of the incompatibility of abortion law in Northern Ireland.

Nevertheless, the court had heard argument relating to incompatibility with Convention Rights and the justices undertook a comprehensive examination of the subject and expressed opinion on it.  Technically the opinion is not binding - it is obiter dicta - but, on any view, it has to be taken immensely seriously by those with power to legislate on these matters.  The court's opinion was that:

By a majority of 5 to 2 - In cases of fatal foetal abnormality - the law was incompatible with Article 8

By a majority of 4 to 3 - the law was also incompatible with Article 8 in cases where the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.

A majority (4) would not have made a declaration that the law of Northern Ireland is incompatible with Article 3.  Two of the Justices would have made a declaration.  Lady Hale did not consider it necessary to decide this issue given her view on Article 8.

See the Court's Judgment and Summary.

For some discussion on this cse see Joshua Rozenberg at Law Society Gazette 18th June.

Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill

Hard on heels of the revised Counter-Terrorism strategy (CONTEST) - post of 5th June - comes the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill 2017-19.  First reading in the House of Commons was on 6th June.  It is a Bill to make provision in relation to terrorism; to make provision enabling persons at ports and borders to be questioned for national security and other related purposes; and for connected purposes.

Text of the Bill as introduced.    Policy BackgroundLegal Background - Fact sheets

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Breach of the Peace

Our earliest Anglo-Saxon laws had an -ill-defined notion of "the peace" which gradually extended to a general peace applicable to the whole land.  Underlying the idea of "the Peace" was the notion of calm and absence of wrongdoing.

The Justices of the Peace Act 1361 refers to "Keeping the Peace."  The Courts Act 2003 created a single "Commission of the Peace" for England and Wales.  Justices of the Peace (JP) are members of the community appointed to discharge the functions of the Magistrates' Courts and other duties given to them by law.  Those functions are also discharged by a cadre of professionally-qualified District Judges (Magistrates' Courts) and, occasionally, other judges.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

CONTEST - Counter-terrorism strategy 2018

Rt.Hon.Sajid David MP - Home Secretary
On 4th June, the Home Secretary announced a revised Counter-Terrorism Strategy - referred to as CONTEST.   The speech making the announcement is HERE.

The revised strategy replaces the previous CONTEST and supersedes the Prevent Strategy, both published in 2011.  It is an updated and strengthened strategy containing 4 strands - Prevent, Pursue, Protect and Prepare. 

The strategy notes

Monday, 4 June 2018

Dispersal Orders ~ Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014

Football Lads Alliance (FLA) was formed in 2017.  According to its website, FLA believes in making a safer environment and community for all of our children and grandchildren - In being inclusive and acceptable to all colours, creeds, faiths and religions - In holding our politicians accountable to bring about a change in anti-terrorist legislation in order to safeguard all communities now and in the future.  Marches have been held in London (October 2017) and Birmingham (March 2018).

A further event was held by FLA in Manchester on 19th May and a counter-demonstration, organised by "Stand Up to Racism" (SUTR), also took place and attracted a large body of people - Counterfire 22nd May.  SUTR comments - HERE - that FLA "claims to be against all extremism but in recent months it has had far right speakers on its platforms and promoted Islamophobic events such as an intimidating march by far right extremists against the East London mosque in Tower Hamlets."

Friday, 1 June 2018

Contempt of Court - Tommy Robinson

A common saying is "A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on."  This was illustrated recently by the Tommy Robinson case.  His case resulted in a vast amount of ill-informed comment and distortion of the truth which it is difficult, if not impossible, to eradicate.  Let's look at the situation.

Recently, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson) was committed to prison for contempt of court and this resulted in enormous publicity for him personally and drew attention to the law of contempt.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Lord Reed ~ to succeed Lord Mance as Deputy President of the Supreme Court

Lord Reed will become Deputy President of the Supreme Court with effect from 6th June when Lord Mance, the existing Deputy, retires - No. 10 Downing Street 29th May and Supreme Court announcement.

Lord Reed became a Justice of The Supreme Court in February 2012.  After studying law at the universities of Edinburgh and Oxford, Lord Reed was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1983, where he undertook a wide range of civil work. He served as a senior judge in Scotland for 13 years, being appointed to the Outer House of the Court of Session in 1998 and promoted to the Inner House in January 2008. He has sat as an ad hoc judge of the European Court of Human Rights.  Lord Reed is one of the two Scottish Justices of The Supreme Court. 

Monday, 28 May 2018

Abortion ~ Referendum in Ireland ~ Northern Ireland

On 25th May 2018, a Referendum on the Regulation of the Termination of Pregnancy was held in Ireland - BBC News 27th May - The Guardian 26th May.

The referendum question was whether to accept an amendment to Article 40 of the Irish Constitution so that provision can be made in law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy.  The Irish electorate voted by 1,429,981 votes to 723,632 in favour of amendment - i.e. 66.4% to 33.6% with a turnout of 64.13%.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Rendition ~ Will we ever know the full truth?

Earlier this month, the Attorney-General informed the House of Commons that litigation concerning alleged British involvement in extraordinary rendition had been finalised by agreement.  The claimants were Mr Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his wife Fatima Boudchar.  The litigation was hard fought by the British government but, in early 2017,  the government lost its eventual appeal to the Supreme Court.  Even then, it took over a year – and with the help of mediation – to reach a finalisation of the litigation and that was without any admission of legal liability.  Mrs Belhaj was paid a sum of £500,000 and received an apology.  Mr Belhaj sought only an apology which he received.  This post looks at these lamentable events.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

GDPR comes on 25th May

GDPR is the General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 of the European Parliament and Council on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data.  The Regulation will be applicable as of May 25th, 2018 in all member states to harmonise data privacy laws across Europe.

The GDPR has direct effect across all EU member states and, as such, would apply in the UK without the need for additional legislation.   Nevertheless,

Monday, 21 May 2018

UK Supreme Court: Questions of Divorce and Civil Partnership

"Hypocrisy and lack of intellectual honesty which is so characteristic a feature of the current law ...." - Sir James Munby.

The appeal to the Supreme Court in Owens v Owens concerned a defended divorce petition.  See HERE for further details and links to video of the appeal hearings).

Defended divorce cases are nowadays relatively rare.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Contract ~ an interesting case

 English law of contract generally requires that the person seeking to enforce a contract has to have provided "consideration"  The requirement for consideration has been criticised but it remains a key element in the creation of most contracts.  The word "consideration" is a term of art and can be defined as - "An act or forbearance of one party, or the promise thereof, is the price for which the promise of the other is bought, and the promise thus given for value is enforceable" - Pollock on Contracts - approved by the House of Lords in - Dunlop v Selfridge [1915] AC 847. 

On 16th May the Supreme Court gave judgment in Rock Advertising Ltd v MWB Business Exchange Centres [2018] UKSC 24 - Lady Hale, Lord Wilson, Lord Sumption, Lord Lloyd-Jones, Lord Briggs. Watch the court handing down judgment.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill passes the House of Lords

The Third Reading of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill took place on 16th May and the Bill, as amended, now returns to the House of Commons.

The Lords agreed further amendments, mostly of a technical nature, to the Bill.  One particularly notable amendment was to insert a new clause dealing with Maintenance of EU environmental principles and standards.  This will require the Secretary of State to take steps designed to ensure that the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU does not result in the removal or diminution of any rights, powers, liabilities, obligations, restrictions, remedies and procedures that contribute to the protection and improvement of the environment.  This amendment passed by 294 to 244.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Scotland refuses consent to EU (Withdrawal) Bill but Wales consents

On Tuesday 15th May, the Scottish Parliament refused (93 votes to 30) legislative consent to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill currently passing through the UK Parliament - Holyrood 15th May.  The Welsh Assembly gave its consent (46 votes to 9) - BBC 15th May.

The issue centres on how EU powers in devolved areas such as agriculture and fishing are repatriated to the UK.  The UK government has said the vast majority of such powers should go straight to the devolved institutions apart from some in 24 policy areas where they want to develop “common frameworks” across the UK.   The UK government has proposed that Westminster should temporarily have control over those 24 areas for a few years so that those frameworks can be developed.  The 24 areas include agriculture, fisheries, food labelling and public procurement.