Wednesday, 4 May 2016

The Coroners Court ~ a system that cannot remain unreformed

After the experience of Hillsborough, is it possible to pretend that Coroners Courts continue to be satisfactory?  The system received severe criticism in an article in The Guardian 29th April The other villain of Hillsborough saga: legal system that left families in torment - " .... over 27 years, the whole Hillsborough ordeal has sadly also illustrated why too many people who go to court do not find justice, but only the next phase of the nightmare which sent them there in the first place."

Whilst there have been some welcome reforms in recent years,  including the introduction of a Chief Coroner post, there is much more that could and should be done.  (There was prevarication over introducing the Chief Coroner post!)  The government and authorities ought not to be allowed to leave this system unreformed but they will do so unless public pressure is brought to bear.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Chief Constables and Police and Crime Commissioners ~ a post Hillsborough inquest reflection

Following the end of the Hillsborough Inquest, the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire (Mr David Crompton) was suspended by the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire (Dr Alan Billings) - Announcement by the Commissioner.  It is an interesting question as to whether the Police and Crime Commissioner should also carry some responsibility for the way in which the South Yorkshire Police conducted themselves at the inquest.  The answer is not entirely clear.

PCCs and Chief Constables:

Elections are in progress in 41 Police areas for Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) with voting on 5th May.  This elected office was created by the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011.   Section 1 states - "There is to be a police and crime commissioner for each police area listed in Schedule 1 to the Police Act 1996 (police areas outside London)."  Section 2 states - "Each police force is to have a chief constable."

Friday, 29 April 2016

1. Ministers disagree over Human Rights ~ 2. Hillsborough and Human Rights

The Home Secretary (Rt. Hon. Theresa May MP) wants the UK out of the European Convention on Human Rights - The Guardian 25th April.   The full speech is here.  As far as the EU is concerned, she wishes the UK to remain a member.

The Secretary of State for Justice (Rt. Hon. Michael Gove MP) wants the UK to remain in the European Convention on Human Rights - The Telegraph 26th April.   He wishes the UK to leave the EU.  Mr Gove spoke to Parliament about human rights recently - post of 2nd February.  In December 2015 Mr Gove attended the House of Lords Constitution Committee - previous post

The European Convention stems from the separate Council of Europe and not from the EU.

Little wonder that the general public wonders just what is going on!  Rights Info has looked at the Ministerial disagreement - "So what does the government want to do about the European Convention now?"  For more detailed analysis of Theresa May's speech see the post by Professor Mark Elliot on the Public Law for Everyone blog.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Hillsborough ~ Investigations on-going

The inquest Court at Warrington
Update 1 - Statement in the House of Commons by the Home Secretary.

Update 2 - South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner - Suspension of Chief Constable

Update 3 - The Guardian 28th April - Hillsborough Families commence legal action 

"It would have been more seemly and encouraging for the future if responsibility had been faced" - Lord Justice Taylor - Interim report at para. 285 

Anyone who has followed the Hillsborough Inquest should undoubtedly endorse all that was said in court as the inquest closed - Hillsborough Inquest 26th April 2016.  Sir John Goldring - Assistant Coroner for South Yorkshire (East) and West Yorkshire (West) - said:

"I suspect I speak for most when I say how hugely impressed we have been.  Sitting on a jury for this length of time, in such a demanding and at times deeply moving case, is to perform a public service of the very highest order.  It is very important, indeed, that decisions in matters such as the Hillsborough disaster are taken not by lawyers, but by members of the public, such as you.  I thank you very much, indeed."

On-going investigations:

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Hillsborough Stadium Disaster ~ Jury determinations

UPDATED 1200 hrs - Answers to General Questionnaire

UPDATED 1445 hrs - Individual determinations

Official Inquest Website

As a result of the events at Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield on 15 April 1989, 96 men, women and children lost their lives. Following an application by the Attorney-General, the High Court quashed the verdicts in the original inquests and ordered fresh inquests to be held.   The Rt Hon Sir John Goldring was appointed as Assistant Coroner for South Yorkshire (East) and West Yorkshire (West) to conduct those inquests with a jury. (By the end of the inquest the jury had reduced, for medical reasons, from 11 to 9).  The inquest hearings started on Monday 31 March 2014.  Previous post 20th December 2012 - Hillsborough - New inquests to be held.

Coroners - Some basic points:

Saturday, 23 April 2016

UK and the EU (8) ~ Trading bloc or emergent State?

The Treaty on European Union expresses a desire for an “ever closer union” among the peoples of Europe and for integration of economic and monetary policy.  The EU has legal personality but only has those competencies conferred on it by the Treaties.  The EU issues its own currency: the EURO (€).  A Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) has also developed and this has a Defence dimension.  It is hardly surprising that many see the EU as going well beyond a mere trading arrangement between States.  Certain characteristics of Statehood undoubtedly exist.  This post looks, albeit very briefly, at "Ever Closer Union", Criminal Justice; Foreign Policy; Defence and Monetary Union.  The UK has only partially embraced some of the common policies (e.g. defence) and has not entered into monetary union ("the Eurozone").

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Legal aid - Supreme Court ruled the planned "Residence Test" unlawful

Legal aid axemanship:

Part 1 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) was brutal axemanship by uncaring Ministers on the essential principle of access to justice.  Whole swathes of cases were removed from eligibility for legal aid and thousands of "litigants-in-person" have struggled to present their cases before the courts and tribunals.  (See, for example, Bar Council - LASPO One Year On: Final Report).  As far as I can see, there is still almost no political will to reverse these cuts or, for that matter, to even commission a thorough review of their impact.  The legislation contains provision for "exceptional funding and it appears that the number of applications being granted has risen gradually since 2013 although only around 45% of applications seem to be succeeding at the moment - Ministry of Justice Statistics July 2015-December 2015.

A residence test?

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

UK and the EU (7) - Your rights

The EU Referendum on 23rd June is very much bound up with YOUR RIGHTS as a citizen and it is vital that the voter considers the possible impact of Brexit on these rights.  Would rights guaranteed or underpinned by the law of the European Union continue to have the same protection?  Is there a possibility that some of those rights could be lost?

This is Number 7 in a series of posts seeking to inform the EU Referendum debate by looking, in as straightforward a way as possible, at various aspects of the European Union (EU) and its relationship to the UK.  Links to previous posts in the series are below.  We all value our rights and wish those to be enforceable at law.  This post aims to look at the topic of Rights and the EU.

Council of Europe:

Given that there always seems to be confusion on the point, let's say at the outset that

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

The rights to privacy and freedom of expression: PJS v News Group Newspapers

Updated - On 18th April the Court of Appeal held that the interim injunction should be removed but it remains in force pending the decision of the Supreme Court - see HERE.
PJS is well known in the entertainment business and is married to YMA, who is a well known individual in the same business.  They have young children.  In January 2016, two people who had engaged in a “three-way sexual encounter” with PJS in 2009 approached the editor of The Sun on Sunday with the story. (Why this was done after around 7 years is not explained).  The editor proposed to publish it and contacted PJS’s representatives to inform them of the position. Having been informed of the proposed story, PJS applied for an injunction preventing publication of the information.

At the Court of Appeal in January 2016:

On 22nd January 2016, a two judge Court of Appeal (Civil Division) - Jackson and King LJJ - issued an interim injunction to prevent publication of the story - PJS v News Group Newspapers Ltd [2016] EWCA Civ 100.  This injunction is binding on everyone within England and Wales.

Compensation for Miscarriage of Justice

The Court of Appeal (Civil Division) - Lord Dyson MR; Sir Brian Leveson P and Hamblen LJ - has dismissed appeals of Sam Hallam and Victor Nealon - R (Hallam and Nealon) v Secretary of State for Justice [2016] EWCA Civ 355. The appeals were concerned with whether the two men should be paid compensation for miscarriage of justice following the quashing of their convictions.

Recently, Parliament has adopted an exceptionally parsimonious stance in relation to compensation for miscarriage of justice even where an individual has spent many years in prison: e.g. 17 years in Mr Nealon's case. 

Friday, 8 April 2016

Supreme Court orders retrial in Jogee (Joint Enterprise) case

The Supreme Court, after receiving submissions from the parties, has ordered a retrial in the "Joint enterprise" Jogee case - see the Court's announcement 7th April.

The Supreme Court's judgment in R v Jogee and also the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council decision in Ruddock were discussed in this earlier post.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Human Rights concerns

British Bill of Rights:

Things have gone quiet on the government's plans for a British Bill of Rights.  This may be due to the impending referendum on the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union.  Regular readers will no doubt recall that, back in February 2016, the Secretary of State for Justice told Parliament's EU Justice Sub-Committee that something would appear "soon." Mr Gove added that he was "at the mercy of the Prime Minister" but we would not have "too long to wait" - Post of 2nd February 2016 (see the end of the recorded session where Mr Gove responded to a question by Baroness Kennedy).

Concerns about Foreign Affairs:

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Da Silva v United Kingdom ~ European Court of Human Rights 30th March 2016

The European Court of Human Rights has handed down judgment in the case of Da Silva v United Kingdom.   

Charles de Menezes was shot dead at Stockwell underground station (London) on 22nd July 2005, soon after he had been mistakenly identified as a suicide bomber just 2 weeks after the 7 July London bombings in which 52 people died.

The court's judgment was the culmination of a seven-year legal battle in a case first lodged with the Strasbourg court in 2008 by de Menezes’s cousin, Patricia Armani Da Silva, who was living with him in London at the time of his death.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Justice Committee ~ The Magistracy

On 22nd March the House of Commons Justice Committee took evidence on the role of the magistracy.  I am sure that many will find the session interesting - to say the least!  You may have to wait a few seconds for the video playback to appear.

Reference material:

Sir Brian Leveson (President of the Queens Bench Division) -Review of Efficiency in Criminal Proceedings

Toward the end of the Justice Committee session there is some reference to the "Community Magistrates" in New Zealand - see Restorative Justice in New ZealandDistrict Court Justices of the Peace; and District Court Community Magistrates.

It's also interesting that this IPSOS MORI 2011 report was referred to - The strengths and skills of the judiciary in the Magistrates' Courts

Also, when the committee and its witnesses mentioned benches comprising a District Judge and Magistrates I could not help but think back to the Auld Report in 2001.   I am aware that such benches are convened from time-to-time but the criteria for doing so are not particularly clear.

R v Adam Johnson

Crown Court ~ Bradford
Updated - with link to sentencing remarks 

Former Sunderland professional footballer Adam Johnson will come before a judge at the Crown Court in Bradford today for sentencing on 3 counts:  Two of sexual activity with a child (Sexual Offences Act 2003 section 9) and one offence of Meeting a child following sexual grooming (Sexual Offences Act 2003 section 15).

The maximum sentence possible under section 9 is 14 years imprisonment and under section 15 it is 10 years.

The judge will hear from the prosecution and the defence.  ALL the facts of the case will be considered and also any Pre-Sentence Report and other material such as any Victim Personal Statement.  The objectives of sentencing - e.g. punishment of offenders, reduction of crime (including deterrence), reform and rehabilitation of offenders - will be in the judge's mind.  Guidance on sentencing has to come from the Definitive Guidelines issued by the Sentencing Council.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Undercover Policing Inquiry

Pitchford LJ
Concerns about undercover policing have been rumbling on for some time - Guardian article by Helen Steel 23rd March 2016 "Under cover police spied on me.  Who else did they do it to?"

An Inquiry - being held under the Inquiries Act 2005 - is underway under the chairmanship of Lord Justice Pitchford - Inquiry website.  The Inquiry opened 28th July 2015 when the chairman made his Opening Remarks.  More details of the Inquiry are available HERE and see the Terms of Reference.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Operation Midland ends. The question of anonymity.

Operation Midland, an investigation by the Metropolitan Police into allegations of a VIP paedophile ring,  has been concluded without any charges being brought.  See the BBC News report 21st March ; Telegraph "Operation Midland: The story behind the Met's controversial VIP paedophile ring investigation" and the Statement by the Metropolitan Police.

Established in November 2014, Operation Midland was set up to examine historical claims that a VIP paedophile ring operated in Westminster, with allegations that boys were abused by a group of powerful men from politics, the military and law enforcement agencies.  The investigation was triggered by allegations made by a man referred to as "Nick" who claimed that he had been personally abused during the period 1975 to 1984.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Imprisonment for Public Protection ~ R v Roberts and others

As at 4 March 2016, there are over 4,000 still in custody under a sentence of IPP (about 5% of the total prison population) and a significant further number who are subject to the licence terms of their IPP and therefore still subject to recall to continue to serve their sentence of IPP  

Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) continues to bedevil the legal system.  In R v Roberts and others [2016] EWCA Crim 71, the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) - considered applications for an extension of time in which to apply for leave to appeal against sentences of imprisonment or detention for public protection imposed between 2005 and 2008 under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (CJA 2003).  All of the applications were dismissed.

It was recognised that prisoners remained in custody long after the minimum term had expired but, as far as the court was concerned, it was for Parliament to remedy the situation.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Happy Valley ~ a look at some of the legal angles

The BBC's crime drama "Happy Valley" has just completed its second series.  It was full of legal interest.  Set in and around West Yorkshire's Calder Valley, this gritty and sometimes violent story line was centred on Police Sergeant Cawood played by Sarah Lancashire and the various people she encountered as part of her work including a young man - Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton) - who is the father of Cawood's grandson.  Royce is a dangerous individual who copes with life by taking control of everything and everyone around him.

Series 1 saw Royce involved

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

UK and the EU (6) - Will BREXIT be a simple process?

There will undoubtedly be many members of the public thinking that a BREXIT vote on 23rd June to leave the European Union (EU) will mean that the UK is out immediately.    Nothing could be further from the truth since the legal process for withdrawal will be via Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU50) which was briefly looked at in BREXIT - Referendum - a few points (20th February 2016).  This is, as yet, an untested process and the "smart money" is on things taking a long time given the very extensive impact that the EU has had on national law.

On 8th March, the EU Select Committee of the House of Lords took evidence from Sir David Edward QC (a former Judge of the Court of Justice of the EU) and Professor Derrick Wyatt QC.  The Committee was concerned about the "What will Happens" if the UK actually does vote to leave the EU.  The session is available via Parliament's website - UK Exit Ramifications - and it well worth watching by anyone truly interested in seeing some of the problems that will be highly likely to arise as part of what will inevitably be highly difficult negotiations between the UK and the EU.