In December 2012, the Director of Public Prosecutions issued new guidance relating to charging decisions where a case involves 'joint enterprise.' The Defence Brief blog takes a look at this thorny topic. Also see The Guardian 5th March 2013.
Magistrates have been in the news with the Ministry of Justice looking at Reforming the role of Magistrates (Youtube). The Law Society Gazette (14th August) Government to propose new custodial powers for Magistrates states that the government is talking with Magistrates about why some offenders committed to Crown Court for sentence receive a sentence not exceeding 6 months imprisonment (i.e. within the powers of the Magistrates' Court). The Gazette article also mentions an idea of allowing victims to appeal to the Magistrates' Court if they feel that an offender should have been prosecuted rather than cautioned. A formal consultation about the future role of Magistrates is expected later this year. A further article on this is at Solicitors Journal. and see speech by Damian Green MP (MInister of State for Policing and Criminal Justice) to Magistrates 14th August.
Will magistrates' courts be given a greater maximum sentence? Green said that the idea has an attractive logic but there might be added pressure on the prison population. Government is keeping this matter under review and will retain the legislation which is in place to implement it.
On Monday 12th August, the Law Society Gazette published Doubts over MoJ's savings target. This indicates that cuts will have to deepen by £700m annually over the next two consecutive years, for the MoJ to meet its spending objective. This follows speculation that the MoJ will announce 80 further court closures in order to meet spending targets. The closures are expected to be mainly magistrates' courts and would add to the 142 courts that have been culled since 2010.
Will the Human Rights Act 1998 be safe
should Labour form the next government? It is hard to make a forecast on this. For example, the Labour Party has indicated that cuts to legal aid are unlikely to be reversed. Nevertheless, this appeared on Twitter this week. It is from Sadiq Khan MP - Shadow Minister for Justice.
@ObiterJ @Joanne_Clement @carlgardner @AdamWagner1 @SCynic1 @UKLabour protecting in my book means no amending, no watering down or altering!
— Sadiq Khan MP (@SadiqKhan) August 14, 2013
The British Institute of Human Rights is celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights. Take a look at their website where you can access factsheets and even sign a birthday card.
Mental health law:
The Mental Health Act 2007 has been subjected to post-legislative scrutiny. The report of the House of Commons Health Committe is available.
The British Institute of Human Rights publishes Mental Health Advocacy and Human Rights.
Fathers and Parental Responsibility:
See the interesting blogpost by Marilyn Stowe - Father loses parental responsibility appeal. The case is PM v MB and another  EWCA Civ 969.
A great Family Law blog:
Family Lore is a great blog on family law. Its author (John Bolch) posted that he is now looking for work and that his blogging may have to end. I wish John well in his search for work and sincerely hope that his excellent blog will continue for a long time to come. It would be missed.
Last execution in Scotland:
15th August is the 60th Anniversary of the last execution in Scotland - BBC The Murder (Abolition of the Death Penalty) 1965 saw an end to capital punishment for murder* in the United Kingdom though, at the time, the European Convention on Human Rights was not opposed to it. It was not until the adoption of Protocol 13 that the Convention finally prevented, in all circumstances, the use of the death penalty.
In case you are considering leaving money in your will to the government, this article is worth reading - Daily Mail - where the story of the late Joan Edwards is reported. She left £520,000 to whichever government is in office to use 'as they may think fit.' Somehow it ended up in the coffers of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Parties. It is understood that the Parties have now agreed to pay the money to the Treasury. I wonder what they will do with it.
* Note: the U.K. abolished the death penalty for murder in 1965 but retained it for treason and piracy and certain military offences until the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 s36 (Treason and Piracy) and the Human Rights Act 1998 (military offences).