Wednesday, 28 January 2015

A shabby deal !

The UK - Saudi Arabia deal:

The Ministry of Justice and its Secretary of State are at the top of a pyramid which includes the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) and, within NOMS, is a somewhat little known entity: Just Solutions International.  JSi maintains a separate website - HERE

In a 2014 Mid-Year Report to Parliament, the Ministry of Justice said that:

"The Secretary of State visited Riyadh in September 2014 to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Judicial Cooperation, to build upon the existing bilateral justice relationship, promote UK legal services in Saudi Arabia and raise awareness of the upcoming Global Law Summit. He also met UK lawyers with offices in Riyadh. Discussions were also held on judicial cooperation, King Abdullah’s reform programme, and human rights issues."  The report offered no further detail.

The Mid-Year Report also noted that:

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Supreme Court ~ Definitive Maps

England has some 140,000 miles of footpaths and many are a delight to walkers.  The various classifications of public rights of way are well described on the website of the Institute of Public Rights of Way and Access Management

"Definitive Maps" are kept by local authorities in England and Wales (Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 section 53) and the map is conclusive evidence as to certain matters (section 56).   If there is dispute as to whether a route over the ground is a public right of way then the first port of call should be this map.   The Act contains a process for modifying the maps and an application has to be accompanied by a map drawn to a scale of not less than 1:25,000 (the "map requirement").

The Trail Riders Fellowship are seeking

Friday, 23 January 2015

5 years old

Expanded 25th January:

The 5th birthday of this blog was a few days ago.  Hopefully, it will plod on for some time to come looking at legal stories of interest.

Criminal Proceedings:

A report by Sir Brian Leveson - (President of the Queen's Bench Division) - has now been published.  It is entitled Review of Efficiency in Criminal Proceedings: Final Report.  It is a lengthy report (140 pages) touching on many aspects of criminal proceedings. A summary of his recommendations is at page 96.

Interestingly, at para 13 of the report, Sir Brian notes that - "Between 1989 and 2009, Parliament approved over 100 Criminal Justice Bills and more than 4000 criminal offences were added to the statute book.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

"To the manor born" ~ Manorial Rights ~ an interesting report

English land law has always been a very convoluted subject.  Although it has undergone reforms, it retains considerable complexity.  It is often dreaded by students and can present tricky problems for practitioners.  One problem that can appear from time-to-time relates to so-called "manorial rights."  This is the subject of an interesting report from the House of Commons Justice Committee - and see also The Guardian 22nd January 2015

"Lordships of Manors", "Manorial Land" and "Manorial Rights" are akin to ghosts from a bygone era of English legal history.  However, they can be very troublesome spirits as pointed out by Judith Bray (Senior Law Lecturer University of Buckingham) who wrote:

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

A (disturbing) thought on the Counter-Terrorism Prevent Duty

The immediately preceding post looked at the Prevent Duty within the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill which is now racing through Parliament with minimal opposition.  The Institute of Race Relations has published an article examining the Bill - Farewell Magna Carta: The Counter-terrorism and Security Bill.

An acquaintance recently drew my attention to an homework question set for a 13 year old.  The topic was

"The holocaust was caused by religion, discuss."

At the time I recall thinking that it was an interesting question relating to relatively recent history. 

Monday, 19 January 2015

Counter-terrorism and security bill ~ Prevent Duty

The Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill (previous post) is proceeding apace along its fast track Parliamentary process.  Rushed legislation is rarely considered as thoroughly as it ought to be and is often problematic when it comes to implementation. 

In the area of trying to prevent terrorism, the government has the CONTEST strategy - summarised here.  Para 1.12 of the document states that counter-terrorism strategy is organised around 4 workstreams referred to as Pursue; Prevent; Protect; Prepare.  Prevent seeks to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism.  Prevent is addressed further on this government website.

The Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill

Speaking to witnesses in court ~ CPS Consultation

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has announced a consultation on draft guidance for dealing with witnesses in court - Consultation on Draft CPS Guidance on Speaking to Witnesses at Court

The CPS website notes that the Crown Prosecution Service is committed to giving an excellent service to all victims and witnesses who attend court as part of its overall commitment to support victims and witnesses effectively throughout their time in the criminal justice system.  The draft guidance gives prosecutors clarity on what is expected of them in supporting victims and witnesses at court.  You can also download the consultation document - Draft CPS Guidance on Speaking to Witnesses at Court from this site.  Comments may be submitted by 16th March 2015.

See also

Child Contact Centres ~ a vital need

National Association of Child Contact Centres - Awareness Campaign

The Children Act 1989 (CA89) came fully into force in October 1991 and it remains, albeit with subsequent changes, the principal statutory framework for dealing in the Family Court with cases involving children.  The court is empowered to make various orders such as a Child Arrangements Order under section 8 of the CA89 when the court will specify arrangements concerning with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact.  Following the breakdown of the relationship between a child's parents, there is normally a need to enable contact between the child and the parent who is no longer in the family home.  It is here where the network of Contact Centres plays such a vital role.

A contact centre provides

Monday, 12 January 2015

Something is rotten in the State .... !

Head of Legal Blog - Post by John Cooper QC - Global Law Summit - By going there we are tacitly accepting what Grayling is doing

The Global Law Summit 2015 is heading for London.  The importance of London as a centre of legal excellence cannot be denied though other locations keen to have the business of commercial disputes are developing such as Singapore.  This stellar event - with several high profile speakers - seeks to exploit the fact  that 2015 is the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta by King John.  This document is generally seen as one of the foundation stones of the rule of law.  It effectively asserts that those who rule must comply with the law.  The Charter contains the famous statement - "We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right."  Before looking a little closer at the Law Summit, we should remind ourselves of some of the reality of the government's justice policies seen from the worm's-eye viewpoint of the citizen as opposed to the immensely wealthy world of international commercial business.

Judicial review at bay -

Counter terrorism and Security Bill - Joint Committee on Human Rights

Updated 13th January

The Joint Committee on Human Rights has issued its report on the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill and has called for better safeguards in a number of areas.  The Committee's Conclusions and Recommendations are HERE.

There are indications that if a Conservative government is

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Counter-terrorism law

Just a reminder that the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill is racing along its fast-track through Parliament.  The Bill (as introduced) is considered in this earlier post.  Please also see this post by Angela Patrick on the UK Human Rights Blog.

The Bill has now cleared the House of Commons and the second reading in the House of Lords is on 13th January.  A Joint Committee on Human Rights report about the Bill is due to be released on 12th January.  A JUSTICE briefing on the Bill is available, here.

EU leaders to discuss terrorism at February Summit 

Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Charlie Hebdo - Freedom of Expression

The murders of 7th January 2015 in Paris are profoundly shocking - BBC New Europe "Charlie Hebdo: Gun attack on French magazine kills 12."  Charlie Hebdo is a French satirical newspaper noted for satire and irreverence on many topics including all forms of religion.  In particular, it has published cartoons lampooning aspects of how certain Muslims behave though Islam is by no means the only religion to have been singled out by the magazine.  As The Telegraph 7th January wrote - the magazine has paid a terrible price for freedom of speech. 

Freedom of Expression is a right recognised to be of fundamental importance in democratic society.  The right for individuals and the media to be allowed to express forthright and critical opinion must be protected.  The right appears in many international and national documents:

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Lack of legal aid for a father in the family court ...

Re K and H (Children: unrepresented father: cross-examination of child [2015] EWFC 1 is an important family court decision.  His Honour Judge Bellamy (sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge) has held that Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) must pay for a father's legal representation given that the father is alleged to have sexually abused his daughter referred to as Y.  There is a need in the case to establish - as a question of fact -whether the allegations against the father are proved.  In order to do that Y must give evidence and be cross-examined and it is in relation to the cross-examination that the father requires legal representation.  It should be noted that the father does not actually seek to cross-examine Y himself but has sought and been denied legal representation to do so.  This judgment merits careful reading in full.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Happy New Year 2015

Here's wishing all readers a very Happy New Year 2015.  As 2014 petered out I could not help but think that the year saw the continuation of the relentless attack by the elected government on access to justice for the average citizen. The severe cuts to legal aid brought about by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 Part 1 came fully into force from 1st April 2013 but the cuts really began to be felt in 2014 with many courts having to deal with numerous litigants-in-person who, quite understandably, have little or no knowledge of law or the processes of the court.  "The State" is, of course, always adequately represented. 

The government also sought - and continues to seek - restrictions on judicial review which is a last resort but absolutely vital method of ensuring that government and other public bodies operate in a lawful manner.  On these topics please see The Justice Gap 1st January - Democracy, Legal Aid and the Election.   As for the future, the nation's relationship with the European Convention on Human Rights is also under threat at least from the Conservative Party.  Here is my view of the Conservative proposals with links to many other views.

A while ago,

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Debbie Purdy - RIP

The death of Debbie Purdy (1963-2014) has been anounced. Her wikipedia entry is here.

The very last judgment of the House of Lords was in R (Purdy) v Director of Public Prosecutions [2009] UKHL 45; [2009] EWCA Civ 92.  In October 2009, The Supreme Court replaced the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords as the highest court in the United Kingdom.

In Mrs Purdy's case,

Monday, 29 December 2014

Riding to Hounds ~ the Hunting Act 2004

The various Hunts came out on Boxing Day - BBC 26th December.  Twitter came alive with comments that, if they have a majority after the 2015 general election, the Conservative Party would, at some stage, allow a free vote on whether the Hunting Act 2004 should be repealed.

The Act does not prevent hunting other that of wild animals with dogs and even that is lawful if carried out in accordance with the conditions of an exemption.  Section 1 makes it an offence for a person to hunt a wild mammal with a dog unless the hunting is exempt. 

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas 2014

Best Wishes  for Christmas 2014 and New Year 2015

Enjoy the Festive Season - think of those less fortunate and, if you can, help them.  In the restless world of the law, there will be much more to write about in the coming days and months.   This blog will continue to follow at least some of the many stories and 2015 promises to be a most interesting year given the forthcoming general election which may bring about some new directions in government legal policy.  Here, I touch on four areas: Access to Justice; the European Convention on Human Rights; Devolution; and the EU.  

Will the EU accede to the European Convention on Human Rights?

There has been a Treaty obligation requiring the European Union (EU) to accede to the European Convention on Human Rights (E Conv HR) - Treaty on European Union Art 6(2)

On 18th December, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that the draft agreement on the accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) was not compatible with EU law.

See the Court's Opinion 2/13 and the associated Press release.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Strasbourg decides FOR the UK government

The Criminal Justice Act 2003 Part 11 Chapter 2 (CJA) enacted major changes to the law relating to the admissibility in criminal trials of hearsay evidence.  The changes were based on Law Commission proposals though Parliament did not completely follow the Commission's scheme.  Since they came into force, the CJA provisions have been the subject of extensive case law.  In an article in The Guardian 17th December, Joshua Rozenberg looked at certain cases where the CJA provisions were examined at the European Court of Human Rights - ECHR cases won by UK government show flexibility of the human rights system

With the General election looming in 2015, voters would do well to ask candidates what they or their party plan to do about human rights protection.  I will leave it to a later post to look more closely at just what the various parties are proposing.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth

The Torturer has long been regarded as the enemy of mankind (Hostis humani generis).  Those who authorise the use of torture or who, when in an official capacity, condone it or turn a blind eye to it should also be condemned - see, for example, Prosecutor v Furundzija

The US Senate "Torture" report:

The US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has released an important summary of a report covering the period September 2001 to January 2009 - Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency's Detention and Interrogation Program .  The document contains the Executive Summary, Findings and Conclusions of a much larger report that remains classified though declassification may be considered later.  In the Foreword to the document, the Chairman of the Committee (Senator Dianne Feinstein) stated - " .... it is my personal conclusion that, under any common meaning of the term, CIA detainees were tortured ....".  She goes on to add, " ... conditions of confinement and unauthorised interrogation and conditioning techniques were cruel, inhuman and degrading ..."   See the comments of 9th December by Senator Feinstein on her website.

Criticism and and concerns: