Thursday, 26 August 2010

An August Miscellany of Law

Quite a few items in the news deserve a mention.  Here are a few:

1. There is the woman dealt with by Blackpool Magistrates court  - (a District Judge took the case) - for urinating on the town's war memorial and peforming a "sex act".  She was charged with outraging public decency and received a suspended prison sentence of 12 week with a drug rehabilitation requirement - compensation of £50 to a police officer and costs of £200.  Daily Mail 26th August.  Will she manage to adhere to the order?  We'll see but she has been given a chance whether she deserved it or not.

2. There is the woman who was seen to put a cat into a wheelie bin.  This story is well covered by the Jack of Kent blog.  It is disturbing that West Midlands Police appear to have said that no crime was committed when it might be an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 s.4. It seems that the woman is receiving police protection.  Just why someone would do this is a mystery but there has been considerable over-reaction in some quarters to it.  Daily Mail 26th August 2010.  It is reported that the RSPCA is conducting an investigation.

3. Then there is the juror who went on Facebook and commented about a case which she had been involved in.  Daily Mail 26th August 2010.  It appears that she was given a good talking to by the judge.  She claimed that she did not know that her action was wrong despite the fact the jurors are always informed that they must not discuss the case with others.  This behaviour lets the jury system down badly.

4.  The Independent 26th August took a look at the issue of reforming the libel laws.  Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC has decided to allow the Ministry of Justice to bring forward reform proposals rather than press ahead with his Defamation Bill at the present time.  There are several recent instances where the libel laws are having a severe chilling effect on free speech and reform appears to be necessary to achieve a better balance.

5.  The government's budget is also being questioned on the basis that there was no "equality impact assessment".  Daily Mail 26th August.   The Equality and Human Rights Commission is taking a considerable interest in this matter and it is reported that a judicial review is being considered.    There is concern that the budget affects some people in a disproportionate and adverse way.  See the comment on the Commission's website.

6.  Mr Justice Collins - sitting in the High Court - has said that the Legal Services Commission's tendering process on welfare law was "uttrely absurd and irrational".  Bizarrely, the tender process seemed to favour those law firms who got more cases appealed and worked against firms who managed to avoid appeals.  Good legal practice is to avoid appeals wherever possible.  See Law Society Gazette 26th August.

Whilst the Senior Courts of England and Wales are taking a break prior to the Michaelmas Law Term, there certainly seems to be plenty brewing elsewhere !

"Miscellany at Law" is the title of entertaining books by the late judge Sir Robert Megarry (1910-2006).


  1. " jurors are always informed that they must not discuss the case with others"

    This is not quite true, I believe? They must not discuss the deliberations of the jury, or anything which happened in the jury room, and they are advised not to discuss the case with another before the verdict, lest that person say something which prejudices them.

    As far as I am aware there is no prohibition on recounting anything which happens in open court, or giving their own opinions of the evidence, provided they do not discuss the deliberations. But please correct me if I am wrong.

    This juror went beyond that and discussed the deliberations of the jury.

  2. Ben - many thanks for the comment. The instructions given to jurors are clearly set out in a booklet - "You and Your Jury Service" - and this includes a warning not to discuss the case with anyone.

    You may find the case of Attorney-General v Scotcher [2005] UKHL 36 interesting - a juror wrote a letter to the defendant's mother.

    Then there is the subject of internet research which was the subject of a recent Court of Appeal decision in R v Thompson [2010] EWCA Crim 1623

    Somehow I suspect that there will be further problems in this area.

  3. Thank you for the references. In "You and Your Jury Service", the following sentence appears:

    "You must not talk about the case outside the jury room".

    I would be interested to learn the legal basis for that warning, if there is one, as it isn't given in the leaflet, which seems written to be as uninformative as possible.

    The Contempt of Court Act, 1981 s.8 seems clear: Only the deliberations of the jury are protected. (By that act at any rate, perhaps there is other applicable law).

    In Scotcher, the defendant wrote as follows "Many changed their vote late on simply because they wanted to get out of the courtroom and go home". and "Some of the jury said they were ready to believe they were guilty despite almost complete lack of evidence. The 'leader' of this pack was XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX saying they are drug dealers,etc,".

    This is precisely the type of statement the act prohibits, presumably to protect jurors from subsequent recrimination.

    8. Confidentiality of jury’s deliberations.—

    (1) Subject to subsection (2) below, it is a contempt of court to obtain, disclose or solicit any particulars of statements made, opinions expressed, arguments advanced or votes cast by members of a jury in the course of their deliberations in any legal proceedings.

    (2) This section does not apply to any disclosure of any particulars—

    (a)in the proceedings in question for the purpose of enabling the jury to arrive at their verdict, or in connection with the delivery of that verdict, or

    (b)in evidence in any subsequent proceedings for an offence alleged to have been committed in relation to the jury in the first mentioned proceedings, or to the publication of any particulars so disclosed.