Tuesday, 24 May 2016

British Citizens Overseas ~ Voting in the EU Referendum

Today, the Supreme Court considered whether to give permission for an appeal in the EU Referendum Voting Rights case of R (Shindler and another) v Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and another.  Permission to appeal was refused and these brief reasons handed down.

Section 2 of the EU Referendum Act 2015 deals with who may vote in the referendum - principally they are those who would be entitled to vote as electors at a parliamentary election in any constituency.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Queen's Speech 2016 ~ Human Rights, Sovereignty, Primacy. Power!

Amid splendid and colourful pageantry, HM The Queen delivered the Queen's Speech 18th May 2016 .   Background Briefing Notes were issued by the Cabinet Office and see Briefing material for the House of Lords debate on the Queen's Speech - Home, Legal. Constitutional and Devolved Affairs 12th May 2016

The Queen's Speech contained these terse sentences:

"Proposals will be brought forward for a British Bill of Rights."  "My ministers will uphold the sovereignty of Parliament and the primacy of the House of Commons."  [My emphasis].

The highlighted words raise the very fundamental question of POWER.  Strong protection for human rights results in weaker EXECUTIVE power over the individual.  "Sovereignty" is about power in relation to international bodies (e.g. the European Court of Human Rights).  "Primacy" is concerned with the power balance between the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

Will the UK remain a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights


Thursday, 19 May 2016

"Celebrity" injunction remains ~ Is the law an ass? Supreme Court answers NO.

Earlier post 12th April 2016

The Supreme Court has ruled that the "celebrity" injunction in PJS v News Group Newspapers Ltd [2016] UKSC 26 is to remain in place - Supreme Court UK Judgments.  The Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeal erred in law and therefore substituted its own decision.

The press summary states - "The central issue is whether the trial judge is likely to grant a permanent injunction.  Balancing all these factors, the majority concludes that PJS is likely to establish at trial that the proposed publication by NGN constitutes a serious breach of his and his family’s privacy rights, with no countervailing public interest on the present evidence, and that he is likely to be granted a permanent injunction notwithstanding the internet and social media publication."

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Secondary Legislation and the Powers of the Lords ~ Commons report

Remember the Tax Credits row and how it was blown up into a constitutional crisis when the House of Lords voted for a DELAY in implementing the Tax Credits (Income Thresholds and Determination of Rates)(Amendment) Regulations 2015   The government had claimed that cuts to tax credits were crucial to its plans for public finances but the cuts were abandoned in the Autumn Statement 

The House of Lords voted for a DELAY so that the position of those already receiving tax credits could be better protected.  They voted decisively against rejecting the regulations entirely.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Parliament prorogued - Hillsborough - Finucane remembered - Judicial Power

Filey (see here)

The Parliamentary Session 2015-16 ended on Thursday 12th May.   Parliament is "prorogued" until the Queen's Speech on 18th May.   Certain Bills received Royal Assent and became Acts of Parliament on Thursday 12 May 2016:

The Criminal Cases Review Commission (Information) Act 2016 is an example of a private member's bill becoming law although, in this case, it had government support.  It is an important Act in that it fills a gap in the Commission's ability to obtain information to assist its investigations.  It enables the Commission to apply to the Crown Court for an order requiring NON-public bodies to give access to a document or other material.  See Previous Post 9th July 2015

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Parliament and Death by Drone

Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights has called upon the government to clarify the legal basis on which it contributes to the use of lethal force abroad outside armed conflict by other countries such as the US - Government must clarify legal case for lethal drone strikes outside armed conflict

The use of drones to carry out targeted killings has attracted a considerable degree of analysis and critical comment particularly in relation to operations conducted by the United States of America.  Despite numerous concerns and questions, it has not been declared unlawful in all circumstances.  This earlier post looked briefly at some of the "Special Rapporteur" reports presented to the United Nations -Death by Drone ~ Concerns and questions.   See also View from the North ~ A killing in Syria - 8th September 2015.

Report: The Government's policy on the use of drones for targeted killing (PDF 1.41 MB)

Monday, 9 May 2016

Iraq Inquiry Report to be published

Iraq Inquiry

The report of the Iraq Inquiry is to be issued - without redactions - on 6th July 2016.  See the letter from the Prime Minister to Sir John Chilcot (the Inquiry Chairman). 

Earlier posts 14th August 2015 and 1st September 2015.

Litanies of Lies ~ Orgreave - June 1984 and Hillsborough - April 1989.

Update: Orgreave inquiry calls grow after damning Hillsborough verdict for police  - The Guardian 16th May.

New Zealand judge Peter Mahon (1923-86) conducted an inquiry into the crash of a DC10 aircraft near Mount Erebus, Antarctica on 28th November 1979.  Referring to Air New Zealand he said that he had been presented with "an orchestrated litany of lies."  Mahon's statement was itself the subject of litigation - The Honourable Peter Mahon v Air New Zealand 1983 -  where the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council held that Mahon had not given Air New Zealand a proper opportunity to answer that criticism.

The determinations of the Hillsborough Inquest jury leave no doubt that a litany of lies developed even as the disaster unfolded and this was perpetuated by the Police and elements in the media.  Even at the Inquest held in Warrington there were attempts by the Police to counter the conclusions of the Independent Panel report.  Those attempts were out of kilter with the apology issued in 2012 by South Yorkshire Police (previous post).  It also appears that the South Yorkshire Police were engaged in an earlier litany of lies involving the events at the British Steel Orgreave Coke Plant in 1984 and its aftermath. 

Important Human Rights Report ~ The UK, the EU and a British Bill of Rights

Updated 12th May

The House of Lords EU Committee has issued an important report - The UK, the EU and a British Bill of Rights - 12th Report of Session 2015-16 - 9th May 2016.

The committee held eight evidence sessions with academic legal experts, legal practitioners, two former Attorneys General, a former Lord Chief Justice and a former UK judge in the Court of Justice of the EU. The final evidence session was with the Secretary of State for Justice and Dominic Raab MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Human Rights at the Ministry of Justice.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

The Coroners Court ~ a system that cannot remain unreformed

Update: Let's be honest: Inquests often are adversarial - Nigel Poole QC (Learned Friend blog 6th May).  Also, New Law Journal 5th May - The long road to justice - Patrick Roche (barrister).

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

Update: PCC Election results 2016

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

Update - The Supreme Court has ruled that the injunction is to remain in place - Supreme Court UK Judgments.

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.