Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Late November News Items - 2

A report from the London School of Economics (LSE) argues that the law should be changed so that sex offenders can be permitted to adopt, foster or work with children - see LSE Report and The Guardian 30th November Afua Hirsch.  The report argues that indivdual cases should be considered on their merits and that a blanket ban is discriminatory.  Whatever the logic in this pathway of reasoning, it is perhaps a pathway which the government will be unlikely to follow.

However, in these areas the law tends to alter from time-to-time as public opinion changes though the courts do not seek to lead such opinion.  Certainly, the European Convention on Human Rights is viewed by Strasbourg as a living instrument and not one set at the date the Convention came into force originally.  In Re P [2008] UKHL 38 the House of Lords held that a ban in Northern Ireland on unmarried couples adopting was discriminatory. A recent case in the High Court (Administrative Court) considered the scheme under the Safeguarding of Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 - see R (Royal College of Nursing and others) v Home Secretary and Independent Safeguarding Authority [2010] EWHC 2761 (Admin).  Here the fact that persons were listed without being able to make representations was held to be a breach of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Statements made in accordance with the Criminal Justice Act 1967 s.9 are commonplace and allow mostly uncontroversial evidence to be admitted without the need to call a witness.  Over the years they must have saved thousands of hours of court time.  In Wood v DPP [2010] EWHC 1769 (Admin) a technical point was raised that the statement served on the defence was not absolutely identical in form to that received from the witness.  The only difference was the date on the documents.  The High Court had little truck with this argument.  In the past such technicalities were admired but they are now viewed as lacking merit and having no place in a modern criminal justice system.

For the law student - an interesting speech has been made by Christos Pourgourides (Chair of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Council of Europe) in which it is argued that some litigation could be prevented if national courts were to recognise clear trends in the Strasbourg Court's jurisprudence.  See the speech - "Strengthening Subsidiarity: Integrating the Strasbourg Court's case law into national law and judicial practice."  It is a forceful argument though the English judiciary is merely required to "take into account" such decisions - Human Rights Act 1998 s.2.  Full speech here .... article at ECHR blog.

Well done to the CharonQC blog which is in the running for an award from the American Bar Association - see here. The blog has started an interesting series of Podcasts about Legal Education - they are well worth listening to.

Finally, the UK Supreme Court is looking at moving towards saving masses of paper by introducing electronic document management - see Press Release.

Picture above - "Sheep in the Snow" - artist Joseph Farquharson 1846-1935.

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