Thursday, 6 June 2013

Legal News - Legal aid - Hillsborough - Human Rights - Road safety - Kenya: a colonial legacy

Legal Aid - The Ministry of Justice received in the region of 13000 responses to their Transforming Legal Aid consultation.  Many of the responses are from bodies and practitioners with immense experience in the legal world.  Links to a sample of such responses are on the earlier blogpost.  On 4th May, a protest at the Ministry of Justice was addressed by several speakers including excellent speeches from Dinah Rose QC (a declaration of a lack of interest), Michael Fordham QC (the avocado of justice) and Geoffrey Robertson QC (there is a hidden agenda) - have a look at Head of Legal blog.    See also Garden Court Chambers blog - Speech of Stephen Knafler QC.  At this stage, it is possible for the Ministry to rethink their proposals given the overwhelming evidence that immense damage will be caused to justice should they bulldoze ahead and simply go for implementation.  The Ministry should rethink and engage with the legal profession and others to see where savings can be made without destroying the very fabric of justice for the citizen.

The MoJ is also beginning a full scale review of the legal services framework - Solicitors Journal 5th June

Hillsborough - In December 2012
the High Court quashed the earlier Hillsborough inquest verdicts and ordered fresh inquests.  Subsequently, Lord Justice Goldring was appointed as Assistant Deputy Coroner for South Yorkshire (East) and West Yorkshire (West) with a remit to conduct the fresh inquests - see their website Hillsborough Inquests.   Goldring LJ held a hearing in April and a further hearing on 5th June in London.  At the latter it was decided that the inquests would commence on 31st March 2014 at a venue in the North West of England - BBC News 5th June.  There will be a jury and the inquests will be Article 2 compliant.  On Article 2 compliance, please see post of 10th January 2013.

At the 5th June hearing, concern arose over the new police investigation under the leadership of Durham Chief Constable Jon Stoddart.  The judge expressed concerns during the hearing about the speed of the investigation into any criminal aspect of the disaster. Samantha Leek QC, representing the Stoddart team carrying out the probe, told the judge they were planning to complete interviews by December.  There was laughter from some of the Hillsborough victims' relatives when she said an advert had been placed for 70 or 80 additional officers on Friday.  When this was queried by the judge Ms Leek explained there had been "delays in the Home Office signing off on the recruitment of further officers".

It seems that G4S - heavily criticised over their handling of security at the London Olympics - are involved in the recruitment process for the fresh police investigation -  Clare Sambrook 30th May 2013 - Opendemocracy

Human Rights - Judge Dean Spielmann, the President of the European Court of Human Rights has commented that it would be a 'total disaster' for the UK to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights.  The Convention is, of course, inextricably linked to membership of the Council of Europe and also the European Union.  See the article by Joshua Rozenberg in The Guardian 4th June.

Road safety - The government's Department of Transport has a new campaign against drinking and driving and is also going to enable the Police to issue fixed penalty notices for careless driving (New plan to tackle tailgating and middle land hogging).   More detail on all of this is at Dept. of Transport - here.   The Department aims to bring the changes into force by July.  The implementation date will coincide with the completion of the national computer system, currently being rolled to all the police forces and Magistrates' courts in England and Wales. The new computer system will be used to record and process fixed penalty notice offences, and will enable police forces to deal with these offences more efficiently.

Kenya: a colonial legacy - The UK government is to express regret and announce compensation for thousands of Kenyans who were tortured during the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya in the 1950s.  Foreign Secretary William Hague is expected to announce compensation in the region of £14m ($20m).  More than 5,000 Kenyans say they were mistreated - some through torture - by the then-British administration.   BBC News 6th June BBC News 6th June.    This has followed extensive litigation in the High Court which commenced in January 2010 - see Matua and others v Foreign and Commonwealth Office [2011] EWHC 1913 (QB) - McCombe J where the government argued that any liability now belonged to Kenya and  Matua and others v Foreign and Commonwealth Office [2012] EWHC 2678 (QB) - McCombe J - where it was argued that the claims were time-barred .   Earlier post of 26th January 2010 - Britain and a ghost from the colonial past

Foreign Secretary's statement to Parliament 6th June 2013

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