Wednesday, 18 April 2018

In the face of Barbarism (2)

The previous post - In the face of Barbarism (1) - looked at the use of chemical weapons in Syria and the recent air strikes by the USA, UK and France.  The moral position is, to my mind, beyond doubt.  Action was needed to try to degrade the chemical weapon capability available to the Syrian government and, for the future, greater action is needed to resume the Geneva peace-process which was discontinued in December 2017.

The clarity of the moral position is not matched by international law.  The UN Charter requires collective action to deal with threats to peace rather than, as in the past, States deciding to "do their own thing" but a void exists in cases where a permanent member of the UN Security Council will not support proposed action.  Attempts to fill that void have led to States using alternative justifications for the use of force such as "humanitarian intervention."   This has been used by British governments on a number of occasions (e.g. Kosovo) but such alternative arguments are far from universally accepted.  This post looks at this further and then looks at the question of the role of Parliament regarding military action abroad by British Forces. 

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

In the face of barbarism (1)

Recent events in Syria have acutely raised the question of how the world is to deal with the barbarism of chemical weapons.  Gas as a weapon came to the forefront at the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915 - (Youtube - video).  Today, its use is prohibited by the Chemical Weapons Convention which most nations (including Russia and Syria) have accepted as binding.

Syria and Chemical Weapons:

Monday, 16 April 2018

"Ant" McPartlin fined £86,000 for excess alcohol offence

On 18th March 2018, following a road traffic accident, Anthony David "Ant" McPartlin was arrested on suspicion of driving with excess alcohol contrary to the Road Traffic Act 1988 section 5.  On 16th April, at Wimbledon Magistrates' Court, Mr McPartlin pleaded guilty and was fined £86,000 and disqualified for 20 months - see The Telegraph 16th April.   Mr McPartlin's income was said to be around £130,000 per week.  The charge stated that he had 75 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath - the legal limit is 35 microgrammes per 100 millilitres of breath.

For offences committed on or after 12th March 2015, a Level 5 fine in the Magistrates' Court is unlimited (in most cases) as opposed to the previous usual maximum of £5,000.  See the Regulations effecting the change.



Previous post.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Syria - some links


The use of chemical weapons in Douma, Syria has, rightly, been met with disgust.  Fundamental human morality undoubtedly demands action against those responsible.  The governments of the USA, UK and France considered the Syrian government to be responsible and, in consequence, undertook air strikes against selected targets in Syria.  The United Nations Security Council failed to adopt three resolutions on the use of chemical weapons in Syria - UN News 10th April.


A difficult question is whether, as a matter of international law, the air strikes are lawful.

A further question is whether the UK government was entitled to act without the prior approval of Parliament.

The following links touch upon those difficult questions.  At this stage I offer the links without additional comment.  Many more links can be found.

Friday, 6 April 2018

A very disturbing - shocking - situation

3 points.  First, the criminal justice system is in crisis.  Secondly, Police numbers have been markedly reduced.  Thirdly, over 50 people have been killed - mostly by stabbing - in London alone this year.  On any view, this is a very disturbing and shocking picture.

Deaths in London:

i News 4th April published the terrible List of victims killed in the capital so far this year and noted that - "The Met Police is currently investigating 55 suspected murders since the start of 2018."   The list shows that most of the victims died as a result of stabbing. 

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Householder arrested on suspicion of murder

A 78-year-old was arrested on suspicion of murder after a 38-year-old died of his wounds in hospital in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The Telegraph 4th April reports - "Police said the struggle broke out after the pensioner, .... , found two men inside his home in ..... south London shortly after midnight.  One of the burglars, who was armed with a screwdriver, forced the homeowner into his kitchen while his accomplice went upstairs.  Detectives believe a struggle then took place between "one of the males and the homeowner" and the 38-year-old intruder was stabbed in the upper body."  It appears that the second intruder escaped from the scene and is still to be found.

The fact that there has been an arrest without warrant means that criminal proceedings are active for the purposes of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 and so I make no comment on the actual case.  Update 7th April - no charges are to follow.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Brexit Update - Committee for Exiting the EU

The House of Commons Select Committee for Exiting the EU has published The Future UK-EU relationship.  The Committee's analysis has indicated that there are a number of key tests by which any deal agreed by October can be judged. The Prime Minister has set out her red lines for the negotiations. However, the success of the future relationship will be judged on the ground by the members of the public, businesses and agencies that travel to and from, trade with and will continue to work closely with the EU and EU Member States.  At paragraph 32 the Committee's criteria are set out:

Direct action by the Criminal Bar

An E Mail I received 3rd April .... I am happy to add it to this blog ...

The Criminal Bar is to take direct action as a result of new legal aid cuts. This email explains why action is being taken and why you should care about it. 

From today, most criminal chambers will be refusing to take on new government funded legal aid cases; this means that defendants will go unrepresented in the Crown Courts (where the most serious cases are tried). Such action could bring the courts to a halt - a matter not lightly embarked upon. Action is being taken because the criminal justice system is in crisis.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

More on problems with the Criminal Justice System

Centre for Criminal Appeals "the Centre) works to represent prisoners with compelling claims of innocence.  The Centre also seeks to improve transparency and accountability of the criminal justice system.  Full details of the Centre and its work may be seen in its 2017 annual report according to which - "There is an unfortunate misconception that our justice system is the best in the world .... But for those being prosecuted across the country for criminal matters, the situation is radically different - the "gold" standard simply does not apply.  The challenge for the Centre has only become tougher in recent years.  Government cuts have had a profound impact in every corner of the criminal justice system.  It is inevitable that the quality of representation afforded to defendants diminishes, as well as the quality of the investigation of crime by the police.  The inexorable result is that innocent people will be convicted and the demand on the Centre to redress these errors will become greater." 

Friday, 30 March 2018

Good Friday 2018 - Policing issues - Criminal Bar at crisis point

Good Friday 2018.  Easter and Christmas are the greatest of Christian Festivals.  The story of Easter is well-known.  Pontius Pilate - faced with the baying mob - allowed Christ to be crucified.  Whatever the truth of those long-ago terrible events, we can think ourselves lucky that we live under the Rule of Law in the United Kingdom and that it is a law which places great emphasis on civil liberty and the rights of the individual against the State.

Nonetheless, it would be immensely foolish to take such matters for granted.  We need to have good Policing to investigate offending and to bring those charged before the courts.  Once at court we need to have the prosecution conducted fairly but robustly and the fearless independence of the judges, juries and magistrates is to be defended at all times.  Historically, rights such as the right to a fair trial have been hard-fought and have not been readily granted by a benevolent State.  There are serious grounds for concern at the present time.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

John Radford - aka Worboys - Judicial review

On Wednesday 28th March, the High Court handed down judgment in the judicial review proceedings connected with John Radford - also known as John Worboys - R (on the application of DSD and NBV) v The Parole Board of England and Wales and others and John Radford  [2018] EWHC 694 (Admin).

Background:

On 13th March 2009, taxi driver John Worboys - now known as John Radford - was convicted of a number of offences, including one count of rape, a number of sexual assaults and 12 counts of administering a substance with intent.   He was sentenced by Mr Justice Penry-Davey to imprisonment for public protection (IPP) and ordered to serve a minimum term of 8 years before his release could be considered by the parole board.   In early January 2018 it came to light that the Parole Board  had decided that John Radford could be released on licence subject to licence.  Please see the post of 5th January.  A subsequent post looked at the Parole Board in more detail - HERE.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

"Released under investigation" ~ what is this?

On 18th March 2018, following a road traffic accident, Anthony David "Ant" McPartlin was arrested on suspicion of driving with excess alcohol contrary to the Road Traffic Act 1988 section 5.

Media reports - e.g. Yorkshire Post 19th March - inform us that Mr McPartlin was subsequently "released under investigation."  The investigation referred to presumably relates to the detail of the accident which involved 3 vehicles.  A number of individuals were treated at the scene for minor injuries, and a child passenger from one of the cars was taken to hospital to be checked as a precaution.

Brexit related litigation

This post is a brief note on a number of "Brexit-related" applications for judicial review which are before the courts.

Judicial review is concerned with the legality of  decisions and actions and not with the merits (e.g. political merits) of the decision itself.  This very basic point was either not understood or was deliberately ignored by the media when the High Court was criticised for its decision in the Miller and Dos Santos litigation - see this previous post.  

Saturday, 24 March 2018

European Council - guidelines on the post-Brexit relationship

The European Council, meeting in an EU27 format, adopted the guidelines on the framework for a future relationship with the UK after Brexit. The Commission's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, updated the EU27 heads of state or government on the state of play of the Brexit negotiations. The EU wants to have the closest possible partnership with the UK, which would cover trade and economic cooperation, security and defence, among other areas. However, EU 27 leaders noted that UK's current positions "limit the depth of such a future partnership."

See the Guidelines 23rd March 2018

Friday, 23 March 2018

The Tooting One ~ Protests about tree-felling in Sheffield


A lady was arrested in Sheffield.  She was protesting about the felling of trees and was, seemingly to the annoyance of a "member of the public", blowing a "toy trumpet."  It would appear that the same member of the public was unperturbed by the chain saw noise!  It is not clear why the Police felt it necessary to prioritise the complaint over her seemingly mild protest.

The story is briefly reported in the media - e.g. The Sun 23rd March- Police said the arrest on Rivelin Valley Road on the outskirts of the city had been made following a complaint about the horn-blowing from a member of the public.   A police spokeswoman said: "A 57-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of causing intentional harm or distress, under Section 4A of the Public Order Act 1986. She has been reported on summons."

Salisbury Nerve agent attack - Court of Protection decision

On 21st March, in the Court of Protection, Mr Justice Williams made a number of declarations relating to Mr Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, both victims of the Salisbury attack on 4th March.

Evidence presented to the court by a Porton Down Chemical and Biological Analyst stated that they had been affected by "a novichok class nerve agent or closely related agent."

On 22nd March, the judgment of Williams J was published and may be read via the Judiciary website - HERE.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Under Cover Policing Inquiry

Proceedings in courts and public inquiries rarely produce moments of "drama" but there was certainly such a moment on 21st March at the Under Cover Policing Inquiry.  This inquiry was set up in 2015 under the chairmanship of Sir Christopher Pitchford who died in 2017.  He was replaced by Sir John Mitting - (Chairman of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission from 2007 to 2012).

A serious concern about the inquiry ought to be that 3 years have elapsed since Theresa May - then Home Secretary - announced her intention to establish the inquiry.  Even after that length of time, the inquiry is considering "anonymity applications" and the inquiry has yet to hear evidence on the substantive issues it was set up to consider - see the Terms of Reference.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Draft Withdrawal Agreement - 19th March 2018

The United Kingdom leaves the European Union (and the European Atomic Energy Community - Euratom) on 29th March 2019.  That is two years after notification under Article 50 TEU.

The latest text of of the Draft Withdrawal Agreement has been issued and follows soon after the release of an earlier draft of 28th February - (discussed here).

Draft Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

A serious attack within the United Kingdom

(Updates at the end).

For some years, there has been considerable concern about the activities of foreign powers within the UK.  The concerns extend to a number of deaths of individuals with connection to Russia - see BBC News 17th March 2018.  

Markov:

In 1978, the writer and broadcaster Georgi Markov was killed in London by means of an umbrella which injected ricin into his leg.  It is generally thought that the Bulgarian State was responsible for this murder but it remains unsolved - BBC News - 1978: Umbrella attack victim dies.  From the late 1980s, Bulgaria underwent a transition from Communism to Parliamentary democracy and has been a member of the European Union since 1st January 2007.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Brexit and the EU Act 2011

The Mirror 10th March draws attention to a plans by "Best for Britain" to bring judicial review proceedings in an attempt to require the government to hold a further referendum on Brexit.  According to the Mirror - " ... judges will be asked to ­judicially review whether Mr Davis’s Brexit negotiations are unconstitutional."  Their basis for this appears to be the referendum requirements in the European Union Act 2011 which apply to new treaties amending or replacing either the Treaty on European Union or the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU.  (See also The Independent 11th March).

An inconvenient point