Thursday, 26 April 2012

Miscellany: on a wet Thursday in April !!

This post brings together a number of items of general legal interest.

The Guardian's "interactive" about the "History of the Supreme Court" is very good and contains links to some very useful material.  The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom is a creature of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 and held first sitting in  October 2009.  Prior to that, the highest appeal court in the UK was the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords with its judges the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary.  The House of Lords delivered its last judgment on 30th July 2009.

The European Court of Human Rights has a new judge - Paul Lemmens, from Belgium - ECHR Blog.  He was elected by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe which had to choose from three candidates put forward by Belgium.  Lemmens, who is a Professor at the Human Rights Centre of Leuven University, is the one with the most extensive ECtHR expertise.  The recent Brighton Declaration (Section E) stated that
the authority and credibility of the Court depends in large part on the quality of its judges and the judgments they deliver and, in turn, the quality of the judges must depend on the quality of the candidates that are proposed by States to the Parliamentary Assembly for election. The States Parties’ role in proposing candidates of the highest possible quality is therefore of fundamental importance to the continued success of the Court.

The declaration calls for a stable judiciary and states that, in principle, it is undesirable for any judge to serve less than the full term of office provided for in the Convention (i.e. 9 years).  The declaration welcomed the adoption of Guidelines on the selection of candidates for the post of judge at the European Court of Human Rights, and encourages States to implement them.  Further, the declaration welcomed the establishment of the Advisory Panel of Experts on Candidates for Election as Judge to the European Court of Human Rights and noted that the Committee of Ministers has decided to review the functioning of the Advisory Panel after an initial three-year period.  The Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers are "invited" to discuss how the procedures for electing judges can be further improved.  Finally, Article 23(2) of the Convention should be amended to replace the age limit for judges by a requirement that judges must be no older than 65 years of age at the date on which their term of office commences; and invites the Committee of Ministers to adopt the necessary amending instrument by the end of 2013. Thus, once the amendment is in place. it may be that a judge could serve to age 74.

See also Dr Mark Elliott on the UK Constitutional Law Group blog .  This post looks at the differences between the February draft of the Brighton Declaration and the final draft and also analyses the consequences of the Declaration.  A further summary is at the ECHR blog.

The disorder of August 2011 was covered quite extensively on this blog.  Some of the more serious cases have been through the courts.  The arson attack at Reeves Corner, Croydon was an appalling crime.  It was by sheer chance that there was no loss of life.  For his part in this Gordon Thompson (aged 34) received a sentence of eleven and a half years for the offences of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered and burglary - see Sky News.  

In January 2012, Adam Ahmadzai (aged 20) was sentenced to a total of 48 months for offences of violent disorder, robbery, burglary and criminal damage.  The Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) heard a reference from the Attorney-General that the sentence was unduly lenient.  The court agreed and, rightly, increased Ahamdzai's sentence to 7 years imprisonment.   See BBC.  

The various law blogs continue to offer interesting material.  Do right, fear no-one" has a thought-provoking post by Ali Naseem Bajwa QC which considers the sentencing discounts which can be offered in certain criminal cases under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005.  The reader may be surprised at the extent of the discount given in the case of Saajid Badat (sentencing remarks of Fulford J).    

On the Halsbury's Law Exchange website, Simon Hetherington looks at  Breivik - insanity as a defence.  See also the earlier post on Law and Lawyers about the Breivik case and insanity as a plea in English law.

The Family Lore blog draws attention to a report by the charity Action for Children.  The report calls for reform of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 which is considered to be unsatisfactory in a number of ways.  The government would do well to bring this report within any legislation aimed at implementing reforms by the Family Justice Review (Norgrove Report)

The Marilyn Stowe blog has a post entitled  An evening at All Souls, Oxford - and why I agree with Baroness Deech about legal aid   I found this to be a most interesting post with revealing insight into the attitudes of certain individuals about provision by the State of access to justice.  Stowe writes - "I spoke to one All Souls fellow, who was formerly with the Treasury.  In clipped tones, he told me that the abolition of family legal aid had been on the cards “for years”, and about time too. Legal aid had to go, he said. There were people who couldn’t afford access to dental treatment – why should access to law be any different?"

CharonQC has been publishing a number of Guest Posts recently and the latest is The New Breed of Lawyer: The rise of the legal executive   As the costs (at least to English students) of University rise, young persons wanting a career in law might do well to consider what this post is saying.  Added to University fees are, of course, the costs of professional training courses.  There is a clear and present concern that a career at the Bar or as a Solicitor might become beyond the financial means of many. Indeed, I think it already is.

On UK Human Rights blog, David Hart QC has posted "Is climate change a human rights issue?"   It appears that Olivier De Shutter (UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food) makes a case for human rights playing a radical role in response to climate change.

The UKConstitutional  Law Group blog takes a look at the possible impact of the Brighton Declaration on the Human Rights Act and the Bill of Rights debate - see post by Mark Elliott, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Cambridge.

Reform of the House of Lords is a particular matter dear to the heart of some politicians however irrelevant it may appear to be to the public trying to weather the present intransigent economic downturn.  The Defence Brief puts forward some arguments as to why this reform must not go ahead.   See earlier Law and Lawyers post on reform of the Lords.   On the subject of House of Lords reform, please also have a look at the Of Interest to Lawyers Blog - Lords Reform, a different view

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