Monday, 16 April 2012

Monday 16th April - News in brief and Reports

Update 28th April - Richard Foster, the Chairman of the Criminal Cases Review Commission wrote in the Law Society Gazette of 26th April that criticism of the CCRC in the Law Society Gazette article of 13th April was grossly unfair.

Update 17th April- links to various reports added ...
and 18th April - Council of Europe website Brighton Conference
and the latest (leaked) Draft of the Brighton Declaration (as published via The Guardian).  See also The Guardian article 18th April - Don't believe the myth: Strasbourg is doing a good job


Human Rights - the 'chips' are down: The Brighton Conference is to be held from Wednesday 18th April to Friday 20th April.  The programme is here and regrettably reveals nothing of what is actually to be discussed though it states that the delegates will have Fish and Chips at Brighton Pier.  See earlier post "UK seeks to minimise the influence of Strasbourg" which considered the Draft Declaration on the future of the European Court of Human Rights.  (The draft was leaked and published by The Guardian).  On 13th April, a statement was issued by 11 Non-governmental organisations calling for the Brighton Declaration to strengthen human rights protection in Europe and to preserve the integrity and authority of the European Court of Human Rights.

For a view that the European Court of Human Rights may now be adopting an approach which is more deferential to governments see UK Human Rights Blog - post by Professor Helen Fenwick.

Wales: A consultation is afoot about Wales becoming a separate legal system from that of England.  Since 1999, there has been an increasing divergence between the law in Wales and the law in England — particularly in devolved areas such as education, health and social care.  The consultation closes on 19th June and may be seen via the Welsh Government website.

Criminal Cases Review Commission: The Commission was
set up in 1997 by the Criminal Appeal Act 1995 in response to a key recommendation of the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice which reported in 1993.  The Law Society Gazette 13th April published an article "Reaching a Verdict" which is critical of the Commission.  Since its foundation, the CCRC has had 458 referred cases heard by the Court of Appeal and convictions in 320 of those were quashed.  The Innocence Network UK has proposed reforms including the CCRC not merely seeking "fresh evidence" but reviewing all the evidence in cases and making a reference to the court if the CCRC thinks that the applicant is or might be innocent.  Also, the CCRC should make use of its power to recommend the use of the prerogative of mercy in cases where the Court of Appeal refuses to overturn an application referred to it by the CCRC.

Update 28th April - In the Law Society Gazette 26th April, Richard Foster (Chair of the CCRC) wrote that the article of 13th April is grossly unfair.  "The idea that the commission does not investigate is a piece of nonsense propagated by people who do not understand, or choose to simply ignore, what the commission actually does in its case reviews.  In most cases, a painstaking forensic deconstruction of the original investigation and prosecution is required to discover what went wrong in a wrongful conviction; often until you understand that, you cannot begin to look for the evidence that may undermine a conviction."  Mr Foster has offered a robust defence of the CCRC.  Law and Lawyers will link to the Gazette article if possible.

A further item of interest on the CCRC is The Justice [ ] Gap blog piece by Prof. Michael Zander QC - "Zander on the CCRC"

Neighbourhood Panels: The idea of Neighbourhood Resolution Panels has been quietly easing its way into the criminal justice system.  They were first mentioned by government in December 2010 - "Breaking the Cycle ...." though, to date, it has only been in certain parts of the country where such panels have been set up - see a report on Sheffield .  In July 2011, the Ministry of Justice called for expressions of interest from local authorities, criminal justice agencies and others wishing to create such panels.  This MoJ document states that the panels are not courts and there are no lawyers.  They are a form of "restorative justice conferencing" facilitated by a community volunteer.  It now appears that a further 15 panels are to be created - see Daily Mail 14th April - "Inner-city neighbourhoods to be given power to hold 'street courts' in bid to tackle gangs of feral youths."   Here is a development to be watched with interest.

Stop Delaying Justice: This initiative was introduced into Magistrates' Courts in January 2012 - see Law Society Gazette.   Now, there are serious claims that the initiative is leading to miscarriages of justice - BBC 14th April - Lawyers claim new policy causes miscarriages of justice  The initiative places pressure on all parties to have a case in the Magistrates' Court completed within 6 weeks from first appearance.  On the face of it, this ought to be possible in most cases suitable for Magistrates' Courts with their present powers of punishment (Max 6 months imprisonment and/or £5000 fine).  However, it will be unfair in practice if the evidence against a person is not sufficiently available at an early stage for that person to enter an informed plea having consulted a lawyer if he so wishes.  BBC Radio 5 Live covered this topic on 15th April and a podcast may be heard on their website.

Reports:  Numerous reports have been issued recently.  

Media Guidance for the Judiciary - covers all levels of judiciary

Ministry of Justice - Effective Community Sentences Consultation and Effective Probation Services Consultation

Control Orders in 2011 - The Independent Reviewer's final report on the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005

Home Affairs Committee - 20th report - The US/UK Extradition Treaty  This Treaty is very controversial.  See Letters published by The Guardian 13th April.   The writers of the letters see the treaty as an abuse of justice.

Ofsted -  Right on Time: Exploring Delays in Adoption

Family Justice Review - Ryder J is in charge of modernisation of family justice.  This follows on from the Norgrove review (see earlier blogpost).  Ryder J has issued three updates - First, Second and Third

1 comment:

  1. Many thanks for your continued excellent blog coverage.

    As an important aside, I urge everyone to read something quite amazing: Tarek Mehanna’s incredibly eloquent, thoughtful statement at his sentencing hearing, before being given a 17-year prison term in Boston, USA.