Thursday, 16 January 2020

Scotland - a note on Johnson's rejection of Sturgeon's request

Scottish Parliament
Brexit, unwanted by Scotland, is one reason why the Scottish National Party (SNP) is riding high in terms of election results regardless of consideration of their actual track-record in government.  In the 2019 general election, the party obtained 48 of the 59 Scottish seats at Westminster and currently appears to be on course for an outright win in the Scottish Parliamentary election to be held in 2021.

Scotland’s First Minister

Monday, 13 January 2020

Northern Ireland January 2020

On Saturday 11 January, the Northern Ireland Assembly met at Stormont, Belfast. Apart from a brief (48 minutes) plenary sitting on 21 October 2019 (Video), the Assembly had not sat since 13 March 2017.

The Assembly was created by the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

Elections were held on 25 June 1998 and the Assembly first sat on 1 July 1998 but existed in "shadow" form until 2 December 1999 when full powers were devolved. Since then the Assembly has operated intermittently and has been suspended on five occasions - (for details see Wikipedia).

The 2017 breakdown

Friday, 10 January 2020

Brexit ~ Events week beginning 6 January

The House of Commons returned after the Christmas / New Year recess and dealt with the Committee and Third Stages of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill - (see previous post).

Attempts to amend the Bill failed - see Parliament 7 January - Brexit Bill enters Committee Stage.  On 9 January, the unamended Bill passed its Third Reading (330 votes to 231) and will next be considered by the House of Lords - see Parliament - Lords debates the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) BillConsideration of  amendments is scheduled to take place on Wednesday 22 January. Royal Assent will follow and the way will then be clear for the UK government to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement. The European Parliament is scheduled to deal with ratification on 29 January. Once the Agreement is ratified by both the UK and the EU it will become a treaty binding in international law.

The House of Lords EU Select Committee

Saturday, 4 January 2020

Queen's Speech ~ Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission

It is to be hoped that we are not about to witness the "topping out" ceremony in the construction of the elective dictatorship .....

The Queen's Speech included creation of a "Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission" (CDRC). Work will also be taken forward to repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act.  The Speech may be read via the No 10 Downing Street website and is accompanied by Briefing Notes (151 pages pdf). Both proposals were included in the Conservative Party's general election manifesto (previous post).  Unlike the proposal

Thursday, 2 January 2020

2020 - Criminal Justice - a Royal Commission?

The first nation to mark the New Year was the Republic of Kiribati located in the Pacific Ocean. The last place, also in the Pacific Ocean, was American Samoa.  The International Date Line divides the two places. 2020 will be the year of transition from full UK membership of the EU to whatever new arrangements are put in place for 2021 onwards.  Parliament will be a busy place as the government's programme, set out in the Queen's Speech, is rolled out.

The Speech may be read via the No 10 Downing Street website and is accompanied by Briefing Notes (151 pages pdf). This post looks briefly at the immediate task facing Parliament in January and then considers the proposal in the Queen's Speech to set up a Royal Commission related to criminal justice.

Parliament resumes sitting

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

UK and EU in 2020

New Year is a time for looking forward and also back. 2019 was the year when Parliament forced the previous (2017-19) government to seek an extension of EU membership - European Union (Withdrawal) (No 2) Act 2019.  A "no-deal" Brexit was therefore avoided on 31 October.  This showed that the UK's constitutional arrangements were capable of preventing action by the executive which would have had serious economic consequences.  Nonetheless, it was a difficult process and constitutional consequences have been signalled by the Conservative Party manifesto and, following their general election win, the Queen's Speech.

The 2019 general election resulted

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Christmas 2019

Best wishes to all readers for a truly Happy Christmas and New Year 2020

"So remember while December Brings the only Christmas Day, in the year let there be Christmas in the things you do and say"

Here is some reflective music for the Christmas period -

John Rutter - Christmas Lullaby and Candlelight Carol

Carols from King's College, Cambridge

A selection of carols played by musicians of the Salvation Army - music capturing the timeless essence of Christmas

In the Bleak Midwinter

Monday, 23 December 2019

The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill


The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill will implement the Withdrawal Agreement under which the UK will leave the EU on 31 January 2020.  The Bill also gives legal effect to the EEA EFTA Separation Agreement and the Swiss Citizens’ Rights Agreement

A bill with the same Title was presented to the previous Parliament but fell with the dissolution of that Parliament. The new Bill

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Queen's Speech 19 December 2019

State Opening 19 December 2019
Following the General Election held on 12 December, the Conservative government has put forward its plans in the Queen's Speech.

The Speech may be read via the No 10 Downing Street website and is accompanied by Briefing Notes (151 pages pdf).

Overall, the Speech sets out a considerable number of Bills which the government will seek to drive through Parliament.


Seven Bills are planned to address aspects of Brexit. The first is the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill to ensure that Brexit takes place as planned on 31 January 2020.   This Bill was

Valedictory for Lady Hale of Richmond

A valedictory ceremony was held on 18 December for Lady Hale of Richmond who is retiring from her role as President of the Supreme Court of the UK.  On any fair view, her legal career has been remarkable: 23 years at the University of Manchester, 9 years as a Law Commissioner, appointed to the High Court in 1994, the Court of Appeal in 1999 and to the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords in 2004. In 2009 she became one of the first justices of the Supreme Court and became its President in 2017.

The full ceremony may be viewed via the Supreme Court website.

Lady Hale remarked

Friday, 13 December 2019

General Election 2019 ~ Conservative win

The 2019 General Election ended with a decisive majority for the Conservative Party under the leadership of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.   The outcome was Conservatives 365, Labour 203, SNP 48, Liberal Democrat 11, Others 23 - Full results.  The election was held under the First Past the Post system (FPTP) and the voter turnout was 67.3%.  The impact of FPTP can be seen in that the Conservatives achieved 56% of the 650 seats on the basis of 43.6% of the votes cast.

The House of Commons Library has issued this analysis of the results and further detail may be seen at Democratic Audit where the impact of FPTP is considered.  A third interesting look at the results is by Robert Ford (Professor of Politics, Manchester University) at The Guardian 15 December 2019.

On any view of the politics this was a disastrous result for the Labour Party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and also for the Liberal Democrats under the leadership of Jo Swinson who lost her own Scottish seat and resigned as party leader.  A Labour Party leadership contest is inevitable.

The Conservatives fought the election

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

R v Sally Challen ~ Invisible chains

On 14 August 2010 Sally Challen killed her husband, Richard Challen, with 20 or more blows from a hammer.  In 2011, she was tried and convicted of his murder. The trial was in the Crown Court sitting at Guildford - His Honour Judge Critchlow and a jury.  A sentence of life imprisonment was imposed with a minimum term of 22 years - later reduced to 18 years. 

In February 2019,  the Court of Appeal heard Sally Challen's appeal which was on the basis of fresh evidence, namely the diagnosis by a consultant forensic psychiatrist (Dr Gwen Adshead), that

Monday, 2 December 2019

Usman Khan and Extended sentences

Friday 29 November 2019, on London Bridge, Usman Khan (28) was shot dead by a Police Officer - BBC News 1 December 2019.  Khan was sentenced in 2013 for a Terrorism Offence but was released on licence from prison.

Khan killed two young people - Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones - who were both graduates of the Cambridge University Institute of Criminology . They were attending a conference at Fishmonger's Hall.  

Usman Khan's sentences:

The first sentence - 

On 9 February 2012, at the Crown Court at Woolwich,

Saturday, 30 November 2019

Other parties and the Constitution ~ SNP, DUP, Plaid Cymru, Green Party

This post looks briefly at "constitutional proposals" in the manifestos of the Scottish National Party (SNP), the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Plaid Cymu, and the Green Party. 

Much will depend on which of the larger parties eventually dominates in the House of Commons but the election may result in significant numbers of MPs representing these parties and, if that is the case, they may be in a position to have a marked impact on what the government is able to achieve.

Friday, 29 November 2019

R v David Godfrey Duckenfield ~ Hillsborough

On 28 November 2019, in the Crown Court at Preston (Openshaw J and a jury), former Chief Superintendent David Godfrey Duckenfield was acquitted of the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 people who died as a result of the events at Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield on 15 April 1989.

Ch. Supt Duckenfield was the senior Police Officer - "Match Commander" - at Hillsborough Stadium on the day of the match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.  The acquittal of Mr Duckenfield was by a jury of 10 and the verdict was a majority of 9 to 1. - Statement by the CPS 28 November 2019.

The law of gross negligence manslaughter is set out in detail on the CPS website.

A 96th victim

Thursday, 28 November 2019

A codified constitution?


Constitutional reform continues to be on the radar of the various political parties contesting the 2019 election but the proposals on offer fall short of making a commitment to a formal written, or codified, constitution for the UK even though recent events, particularly in connection with Brexit, have again raised the question of whether such a constitution would be desirable.

It is now 27 years since Lord Scarman called

Monday, 25 November 2019

The Conservative Party and the constitution

On Sunday 24 November, the Conservative Party published its election manifesto - "Get Brexit Done."  There is also a Costings Document.

At first glance, the manifesto does not appear to say much about constitutional reform but, as I seek to show, first glances can be misleading.


Exit Day from the EU is currently set at 31 January 2020 and, under

Sunday, 24 November 2019

The Labour Party and the Constitution

The Labour Party manifesto - "It's Time for Real Change" - is a lengthy 107 pages and contains a section on Constitutional Issues (pages 81-85).


The manifesto promises a legally binding "final say" referendum on Brexit and the referendum will have a Remain in the EU option. Labour rules out a "no deal" Brexit which would be harmful to jobs, rights, security and to our NHS." To that end, Labour would "rip up" the withdrawal agreement reached by Prime Minister Johnson and would seek to negotiate a new deal. They oppose

Liberal Democrats and the Constitution

The Liberal Democrat Party has published its manifesto for the 2019 Election. This post looks briefly at some of their key proposals and, in particular, those relating to constitutional reform.


At the forefront of their campaign is the plan to Stop Brexit. The manifesto states:

"The election of a Liberal Democrat majority government

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Brexit Party and the Constitution

Reform of the constitution has not escaped the attention of politicians. This post takes a brief look at some of the proposals put forward by the Brexit Party.  The party is actually The Brexit Party Ltd . It was incorporated as a company in November 2018, registered by the Electoral Commission as a political party on 5 February 2019, and contested seats in the 2019 European Parliamentary Elections winning 29 seats - previous post. At the 12 December General Election the party is to contest 275 seats.

The party has published