Saturday, 4 December 2010
Early December collection ... Are juries under threat; Parliament; Assisted Dying; Victims and a naughty Santa Claus
An article by Rachel Rothwell published in The Law Society Gazette argues that trial by jury is under threat from none other than the judges - "Is trial by jury under pressure from judges?" This follows a speech by Lord Justice Moses to the effect that trial judges should give the jury a list of questions leading them to a verdict. Moses LJ has the view that too many expensive appeals are based on the judge's direction to the jury. The full speech by Moses LJ may be read at "Annual Law Reform Lecture - Inner Temple Hall - 23rd November 2010."
Whilst it may not be very "sexy", the important Budget Responsibility and National Audit Bill is before Parliament. Readers may recall that, on 17th May 2010, the coalition government set up an Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR). This Bill will place the office on a statutory basis and define its role. It will be led by a 3 person Budget Responsibility Committee appointed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer with the consent of the Treasury Select Committee. The Bill goes on to modernise the National Audit Office's "governance." The post of Comptroller and Auditor-General will continue but holders of the office will be limited to 10 years.
Joshua Rozenberg, writing in The Guardian, looked at the House of Lords debate on the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill - see here for the article. According to the Daily Mail (4th December) the government will introduce a House of Lords reform Bill in the New Year. The Bill will replace the present House of Lords by a House of some 300 "senators" elected by proportional representation. This may be some time coming since it seems that the Bill will be discussed by a Joint Committee of the two present Houses before it enters the legislative process proper. Meanwhile, the creation of further peerages continues - BBC 19th November bringing the membership of the Lords to around 750.
Constitutional Reform Act 2005. Details of the Commission may be read on the Solicitors Journal website. This commission is not a government appointed investigation. It operates under the aegis of the "think tank" organisation Demos. However, there seems little doubt that any report it produces might be very influential in eventually amending the law. See the Commission's website which invites interested persons to give evidence. The final case decided by the House of Lords was R (Purdy) v DPP  UKHL 45 when their Lordships directed the DPP to draw up a policy relating to prosecutions under the Suicide Act 1961 s2(1).
Frequently, the victims of violent crime or the families of victims seem to be given little consideration by the authorities. A thought-provoking item appeared in the Daily Mail 3rd December about Frances Lawrence, widow of Philip Lawrence who was murdered in 1995 by Learco Chindamo. Just how much information (if any) should surviving relatives be given about killers who have been released?
Finally, for some light relief see BabyBarista which continues "a worm's eye view of the English Bar" in fine style and a video of a certain Santa Claus behaving badly may be seen at CharonQC but it is strictly adults only and for viewing after the "watershed." You have been warned !