Saturday, 14 January 2012

Mid-January News

Law and Lawyers blog is two years old - hence the birthday card.  It has been an interesting period and 2012 promises to be a challenging year.  The very first post on this blog hoped that, from time to time, the blog would throw at least a little light on the laws which govern us and the lawyers who implement those laws.  That continues to be the aim of the blog.


Extradition is in the news again.  The USA is seeking the extradition of Sheffield student Richard O'Dwyer and a judge, sitting at Westminster Magistrates' Court, has ruled that there is no bar to his extradition - see Daily Mail 14th January.  The US authorities allege that Mr O'Dwyer listed on a website places from where pirated films and TV programmes could be downloaded.  See the judgment of District Judge Purdy.  With respect to the learned judge, it is not entirely clear whether Mr O'Dwyer's conduct would constitute an offence in England though it may do so.  "Dual criminality" is a requirement for extradition.

This case - like that of Gary McKinnon - brings into focus the Extradition Act 2003.  Turkey has charged Sarah, Duchess of York with offences
relating to filming of children in an orphanage and they requested assistance from the British government to gather evidence - see The Telegraph 14th January.  Their request has been refused by the Home Office which is reported to have said that she could not be extradited because her conduct did not constitute an offence in the UK.

Both the USA and Turkey are "Category 2" countries for the purposes of the Extradition Act 2003.

For more on extradition, see Wikipedia Extradition Act 2003  and Law and Lawyers - "Extradition: the Scott Baker Review."  On 24th November 2011 there was a Westminster Hall debate about Extradition.  The arrangements with the USA have been especially contentious - see Telegraph 2nd December 2011.

The Scottish Referendum:

The Guardian - "Scottish Independence: Wales and Northern Ireland make unity plea."   Mr Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales, argues that in the event that Scotland left the Union, a fundamental rethink would be required of the remaining relationship between England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  Revised arrangements would be needed for the national parliament.  The government has conceded that there will be a referendum on Scottish Independence - see the earlier post on this blog - and a consultation document was issued earlier this week - Scotland's Constitutional Future.  Regrettably, a detailed assessment of all the likely constitutional, legal and economic issues appears to be lacking as the politicians in London and Edinburgh lock horns.

Alleged complicity in torture - DPP/CPS Joint Statement

Operation Hinton - In November 2008, the former Attorney General, Rt. Hon Baroness Scotland QC, referred the allegations made by Binyam Mohamed to the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).   Binyam Mohamed alleged involvement by British officials in his ill-treatment and torture. The investigation focused on whether there was sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of convicting any member of the Security Services for offences of aiding and abetting torture, aiding and abetting war crimes and misconduct in public office.  The conclusion was that the evidence was insufficient.  See Joint Statement by the DPP and the Metropolitan Police.  (Note: Litigation brought by individuals who claimed that British agents were implicated in torture was settled in November 2010 - see "The Al Rawi case settlement - security and the justice system.").  

Operation Iden -   In June 2009, Baroness Scotland QC invited the MPS to investigate possible criminal wrongdoing in respect of a discrete incident involving an individual who had been detained by US authorities at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan in January 2002 and who was interviewed by a member of the Secret Intelligence Service there.   It was concluded that the evidence was insufficient.  The offences considered were aiding and abetting torture, aiding and abetting war crimes, false imprisonment, aiding and abetting assault, and misconduct in public office.

Other allegations - there have been further specific allegations of ill-treatment of other named individuals detained in similar circumstances.   The DPP and the MPS agreed to set up a joint panel to consider amongst other things:  (a) whether there is any significant risk that any available evidence would not be available or would be weakened if an investigation did not take place until the end of the Detainee Inquiry and (b) whether the allegation in question is so serious that it is in the public interest to investigate it now rather than after the Detainee Inquiry.

Detainee Inquiry refers to the Inquiry under the chairmanship of Sir Peter Gibson which was announced by David Cameron in 2010 and has yet to begin its work.

Libya -  n November 2011, the Metropolitan Police received a complaint from a detainee in which specific allegations of criminal wrongdoing were raised in relation to alleged rendition and alleged ill-treatment in Libya.   The joint CPS/MPS panel considered this case and one other and decided that the allegations raised in these allegations are so serious that it is in the public interest for them to be investigated now rather than at the conclusion of the Detainee Inquiry.  The BBC reported on these stories- "Libya rendition claims to be investigated by UK Police."   One of the complainants, although not named in the DPP/MPS joint statement, appears to be Abdelhakim Belhadj who was commander of the rebel forces in Libya.  In December 2011, it was reported that Belhadj was to sue the British government - BBC 19th December.

The Craig Murray blog offers a very direct and characteristically outspoken view of all of this - Complicity in Torture

A glance at a few of the blogs:

UK Human Rights looked at whether internet access is a human right.

CharonQC looks at Theft, Drink Driving and an outbreak of festive hooliganism.

Magistrates' Blog has a post called House Full which looks at the effect of mergers of local justice areas on magistrate recruitment.  The Justice of the Peace blog goes further and suggests that Justices of the Peace are being squeezed out of the courts.

Beneath the Wig has a guest post from a female barrister who is on twitter as @seeyouatthebar - which is well worth reading and considering - "Wombs and Weight - the female bar"

Leon Glenister writing on Law Think asked - "Can one ever satisfy the assisted suicide debate?"

The Defence Brief - "This is why granting legal aid saves money."

Craig Murray -  "Scotland, England and Maritime Boundaries" - interesting that the boundary was redrawn in 1999

Of Interest to Lawyers - "Update on the Chief Coroner" -  (a post which the Labour government legislated for and which the coalition wished to abolish before it even started but they conceded the post in the face of opposition in the Lords).

Finally for today - At a Privy Council meeting, HM The Queen presented the WELSH SEAL to the First Minister

: ADDENDUM 18th January 2012 :

Kenneth Clarke has announced that the Gibson Detainee Inquiry is now abandoned in the light of the time it will take to conclude the investigations relating to Libya (see above) - BBC 18th January.  This has been welcomed by Liberty - "Torture: Whitewash won't wash."


  1. Happy second birthday - and congratulations for continuing to provide interesting, at the very least, blog essays and notes over the last two years.

    We both agree that The Law is of fundamental ( to use that much abused word, as I've said before) importance and the absolutely necessary part of that core principal is a citizenry who know The Law and care about it enough to defend it from the never-ending attack from those who would use for their own means.

    Only the people of a state who have knowledge of some kind can really protect it and blogs such as Law And Lawyers and similar ones have become essential aids to citizens in this country (whatever it may be called, now and in the future) and beyond.

    I look forward to reading Law And Lawyers for as long as you write it.

  2. Thank you. I will hopefully be well enough to blog for some time to come - God willing. It is good to be able to sit back at times and take a kind of "fly on the wall" view of things which is not possible when immersed in the day-to-day detail of practice.