Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Mid-week News Roundup

Updated 20th June ... Crown Prosecution Service 11th June - Interim Guidance on prosecuting cases of child sexual abuse

DPP - final guidelines for prosecutions involving social media communications

Human Rights ~ Remember the Commission on a British Bill of Rights? - Law and Lawyers 18th December 2012.   A Library Note has been issued by the House of Lords in advance of a debate on 20th June about “the report of the Commission on a British Bill of Rights”. The Note contains a brief summary of the development of human rights law in the United Kingdom and previous proposals for a British Bill of Rights, before précising a selection of the findings of the report of the Commission on a Bill of Rights. The Note concludes with an overview of some of the responses to the report.

In the European Court of Human Rights, an application may be rejected if it is 'manifestly ill-founded.'  Ever wondered just what this phrase means?  Is it possible for a decision that a claim is 'manifestly unfounded' to be made by a majority?  The answer to that is YES.  Strasbourg Observers consider this in an interesting and useful post.  They note - ' ... unlike in judgments – no information is given on the division in the Chamber that delivered these decisions. The decision merely states “manifestly ill-founded, by a majority”, without indicating how many Judges
disagreed. Secondly, because there is no room for separate opinions in decisions. We can thus not know why the Judge(s) in the minority disagreed on the finding that the claim was manifestly ill-founded. As a result of both factors, we are left puzzled as to what “manifestly ill-founded, by a majority”, a seemingly contradictory statement, might mean.'

Legal Aid ~ The row over the government's latest legal aid proposals continues. Gemma Blythe, Caseworker at Kent Defence and Law Student at the University of Kent, attended Legal Aid Question Time in London hosted by Joshua Rozenberg on 18th June 2013.  The panel included Lord McNally (Minister of State for Justice, responsible for legal aid), Andy Slaughter MP (Shadow Justice Minister), Steve Hynes (Director, Legal Action Group) and Maura McGowan QC (Chairman of the Bar).  Gemma wrote up a report on this meeting on her blog - Gemma's blog - thoughts on the criminal justice system   Please read her clear report.   Another good report of this meeting is at Head of Legal blog

There is to be a backbench debate in the Commons about the government's legal aid proposals - Back Bench debates announced for 27th June .

Meanwhile, the Attorney-General has rejected a call to cap government instructed lawyers' rates at legal aid levels.

Copyright ~ This blog has said very little about the very important topic of Intellectual Property.  One form of such property is Copyright and a very useful explanation of the subject is available.   

Supreme Court ~

Recent judgments - On 19th June, some very important judgments were handed down by the Supreme Court of the UK. 

Bank Mellat (Appellant) v Her Majesty's Treasury (Respondent) (No 1)
Bank Mellat (Appellant) v Her Majesty's Treasury (Respondent) (No 2)
Please note that the following documents contain judgment No 1 and No 2.
Cusack (Respondent) v London Borough of Harrow (Appellant)
Smith and Others (Appellants) v The Ministry of Defence (Respondent)
Ellis and another (FC) (Respondents) v Ministry of Defence (Appellant)
Allbutt and others (FC) (Respondents) v The Ministry of Defence (Appellant)

A speech - The President of the Supreme Court (Lord Neuberger) has made a speech - Judges and Policy: A delicate balance.  This includes some very pertinent observations about legal aid.

It is ... entirely proper for the Judiciary to stress to the Executive and Parliament that it is fundamental to the rule of law that every citizen, perhaps above all the poor, the vulnerable, the disadvantaged, should be able to go to court to vindicate their rights or to defend themselves, whether to challenge excesses of Executive power, to protect private rights, to be compensated for wrongs, to secure family rights, or to defend themselves if prosecuted.

Prisoner voting - The court has heard two cases concerned with prisoners and voting - R (on the application of Chester) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for Justice (Respondent) and McGeoch (AP) (Appellant) v The Lord President of the Council and another (Respondents) (Scotland).  See Prisoner Voting: Murderers challenge ban - BBC 10th June 2013.   

In domestic law, serving prisoners are disenfranchised from voting in national and European elections by the Representation of the People Act 1983 section 3 (“ROTPA”) and the European Parliamentary Elections Act 2002 section 8 (“EPEA”).

Surveillance ~  The extent of surveillance on society in a so-called 'free world' is now of massive proportions ranging from international monitoring of communications; undercover police work; to CCTV cameras on almost every street.  Writing in The Guardian, Anya Proops asked - Prism: how can this level of State surveillance be legal - It's hard to see how any system that captures data from millions of law-abiding citizens satisfies our right to privacy.

Foreign Secretary William Hague made a statement about GCHQ and the United States Prism system and how information obtained outside the UK is handled if it is forwarded to the UK government.  Hague claimed that the UK has robust controls in place to balance security / safety and the rights of citizens to privacy.  Note: The Justice and Security Act 2013 sections 1 to 5 and Schedule 1 strengthen scrutiny of the Intelligence and Security Services.  These sections are in force from 25th June 2013.

Library of the European Parliament - US views on PRISM and FISA

It is reported that Undercover Policing faces tighter regulation as a result of the Mark Kennedy situation.

The Home Office has issued a Surveillance Camera Code of Practice - June 2013.

Banking ~ if reading all of the above is not enough, there is the lengthy report of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards.  The Commission was established in July 2012, in the wake of the LIBOR scandal, to conduct an inquiry into professional standards and culture in the UK banking sector and to make recommendations for legislative and other action.  The report has been described by some as 'naive' and unworkable - see article at Legalweek

Note: The Serious Fraud Office has charged one person with conspiracy to defraud in relation to LIBOR rigging.

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