Responsible and sometimes critical comment on topical legal matters of general interest. This blog does not offer legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice.
Pro Aequitate Dicere
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.
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.
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).
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) Bill. Consideration 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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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