Here is a look at some of the many things which have been going on recently in the world of law.
In R v Kelly and others  EWCA Crim 1462, the Court of Appeal (Lord Judge CJ, Leveson and Bean LJJ) considered sentencing for murder in cases where a knife or other weapon was taken to the scene. Those words appear in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (Mandatory Life Sentence: Determination of Minimum Term) (Order) 2010 which amends Schedule 21 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003. The amendment to the law sets a starting point for this form of murder at 25 years. However, a full reading of the case is essential to see how the judiciary are applying Schedule 21.
The Sentencing Council has issued new consultations on the "totality principle", offences taken into considerations and Allocation of cases (i.e. the decision as to the court where the case will be tried). Responses to the consultations will be received by the Council up to 8th December.
There is a report, prepared by Lord Justice Gross, on the operation of disclosure under the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 - .see Review of Disclosure in Criminal Procedure.
Turning to the Ministry of Justice, there
is a notice that the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions will now be required for the issue of an arrest warrant under the so-called "Universal Jurisdiction" applicable in international law to certain crimes. Kenneth Clarke has stated in a speech that the UK should be lawyer and adviser to the world and a new Restorative Justice Register has been started. Restorative Justice seeks to reduce re-offending by making offenders realise the consequences of their actions and to make amends. For more information on RJ see Restorative Justice Council.
Under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, Police Authorities will be replaced by directly elected Police Commissioners from 15th November 2012 - see Association of Police Authorities. The costs of effecting this change are unclear but may exceed £100m. On 1st December 2010, Law and Lawyers took a brief first look at the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill.
The title "Supreme Court of the United Kingdom" is something of a misnomer in relation to Scotland since, criminal appeals do not generally go beyond the High Court of Justiciary. When the Scotland Act 1998 was enacted, certain "devolution" jurisdiction was given to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. However, that jurisdiction was transferred to the Supreme Court when the latter was established. It is a bone of contention with the Scottish government that, in relation to criminal matters, there might be cases heard by the Supreme Court. An independent review committee was set up, under Lord McCluskey, to examine the law and practice surrounding the jurisdiction of the High Court of Justiciary and the Supreme Court. It appears that the committee has upheld the Supreme Court's role over human rights convention breaches in criminal cases but the committee has recommended that cases should only go to the Supreme Court with the permission of the High Court of Justiciary - The Guardian 14th September. The Law Society of Scotland has expressed disagreement with the requirement for permission.
Whilst on the subject of the Supreme Court, there is an interesting article by Lord Walker of Gestingthrope in the excellent Cambridge Student Law Review - see "Moving In and Moving On: One Justice's View." Lord Walker describes the transition from the House of Lords to the Supreme Court. A further article looks at the process for appointment of Supreme Court Justices and asks what role (if any) should be played by Parliament.
The Scottish government has issued a consultation about the Rights of Children and Young Persons Bill.
Turning to the blogs, there have been many excellent posts over the summer period. Here is a small selection from the many. UK Human Rights Blog has numerous posts on a variety of topics such as War Crimes arrest warrant law changes; Camden Council must disclose list of empty properties to squatting campaigner; Courts still slow to interfered with spending cuts decisions; Opening up the family courts etc. The Marilyn Stowe blog tells how the government has announced, in just 150 words, that they are not going to proceed with the Law Commission's report on Cohanitation Reform. The blog also has an interesting post on what the firm is looking for in candidates for trainee posts. EutopiaLaw is a new blog produced by Matrix Chambers and one posts asks whether the UK Opt Out from the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights is worth the paper it is written on. CharonQC has a podcast with Professor Gary Slapper which looks at a variety of topics including pending changes to the legal system, the legal aid cuts and also asks whether Legal education is just a racket for the law schools.
The destruction of legal aid by the present government continues as the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill winds its way through Parliament. Recently, Opposition amendments were voted down in Committee - see Law Society Gazette 8th September. Lord Justice Jackson - who produced a report on costs in civil cases (Law and Lawyers ) - has spoken on the subject at Cambridge University. His speech was entitled "Legal Aid and Costs Review reforms."
Last, but by no means least, the Criminal Solicitor blog comments about the proposals of government regarding telephone advice to persons in Police Stations - "If you would like legal advice please press #1 ..." Please read this link even if you read no other. I hope it persuades you to contact your MP about this appalling proposal. The proposal is in Clause 12 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill. Further, as the Solicitors Journal highlights, MPs voted by 303/192 not to opt in to a EU Directive on access to lawyers.
"Conservative MP piloting legal aid cuts may profit from the changes" - The Guardian 17th September