Thursday, 22 November 2012

Two BIG stories

The Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) sat with 5 judges with the Lord Chief Justice presiding and considered whole life tariffs for those convicted of murder.

David Oakes and others v R [2012] EWCA Crim 2435 - Lord Judge LCJ, Hallett, Hughes, Leveson and Rafferty LJJ

This is an important decision not only because of the immediate subject matter but also because the judgment appears just in advance of the European Court of Human Rights decision in the Jeremy Bamber case.  This is the strongest Court of Appeal constitution that I am able to recall and it sends out a very strong message that the principle of a judge being able to impose a whole life tariff is lawful in relation to exceptionally serious murders.

Interestingly, there is a very strong possibility that one of those who sat with Lord Judge will become the next Lord Chief Justice since Lord Judge has now announced his retirement in September 2013.

The other big story is
the House of Lords Report Stage of the government's Justice and Security Bill which was considered in a number of other posts on this blog.  Rarely has any bill received such widespread condemnation as this.  The government suffered a number of defeats in the Lords and a good report on the debate is that by Owen Bowcott - The Guardian 21st November - Secret Court plans savaged by House of Lords.  Also Telegraph 21st November - Secret courts suffer humiliating defeat in House of Lords.

The effect of all this is that the scope of the bill is narrowed but the principle that there may be closed hearings in civil cases is by no means rejected.  The outcome of the debate is that the whole process would be more under the control of the judges than the government wishes to be the case.  It is also significant that one amendment which would have prevented any further expansion of "secret courts" was lost.   Overall, major improvement to the bill was secured and it is to be hoped that the government now accept the amendments and not try to reverse them when the the bill goes to the Commons.

It seems that the Human Rights Joint Committee's Fourth report had considerable influence on members of the Lords.

Lords defeats on secret courts plans exposes coalition splits - Owen Bowcott - The Guardian 22nd November

1 comment:

  1. I think of the three most likely candidates for Chief Justice (Hallett, Hughes and Thomas LJJs), Heather Hallett is still the one that is most "right" for the post - and, yes, her sex and social background does contribute to making her appointment to be preferred to either of her colleagues (who will no doubt be promoted in due course).

    I've noticed that the "Musical Chairs" of senior judicial appointments I mentioned here a while back is also being called a "Merry-Go-Round". I don't recall these phrases used about similar senior appointments in the
    Medical profession or the Armed Forces - perhaps a result of the much greater publicity given to the judiciary these days?

    Meanwhile, you will have noticed that another subject I've commented on here, Welsh legal devolution, does appear to becoming inevitable (see several current legal blogs for the latest developments), so whoever succeeds Igor Judge may well be the last LCJ of England "and Wales".