Thursday, 26 September 2013

Grayling on Making the Supreme Court supreme.

Updated 30th September:

In an article in The Spectator, the present Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Chris Grayling MP) has set out his vision of the future relationship between the United Kingdom and 'Europe' - The Spectator Chris Grayling: 'I want to see our Supreme Court supreme again'

It is plain that Grayling, along with a number of other British politicians, dislikes the European Convention on Human Rights and, in particular, the European Court of Human Rights.  He intends to publish draft legislation containing his ideas for reform.  This will be published, very possibly, in 2014.  The Spectator article states that - Grayling would not be drawn on the specifics of what will be in this bill. He wants to see what the working group he has set up with former Tory leader Michael Howard on it suggests. But he’s clear that: ‘We have to curtail the role of the European Court of Human Rights in the UK, get rid of and replace Labour’s Human Rights Act. We have to make sure that there is a proper balance between rights and responsibilities in law.’  Crucially, he adds, ‘I want to see our Supreme Court being supreme again. I think people want to see the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom being in the United Kingdom and not in Strasbourg.’

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

What is Litter? An interesting question.

Litter is a menace.  Many places are littered with discarded materials.  It is unsightly; can result in unhygienic conditions and costs are incurred in cleaning it up.  The Environmental Protection Act 1990 section 87 provides for an offence of leaving litter.

Section 87(1) states - A person is guilty of an offence if he throws down, drops or otherwise deposits any litter in any place to which this section applies and leaves it.

The offence may be committed in any place in the area of a principal litter authority which is open to the air.   The offence may also be committed in certain covered places provided the place is open to the air on at least one side AND the public has access to it, with or without payment.  A further point is that it is immaterial whether the litter is deposited on land or in water.

There are some situations where an offence would not be committed.  On this, see section 87(4A).

The offence is triable summarily (i.e. in the Magistrates' Court) and, upon conviction, the maximum punishment is a level 4 fine (£2500).  The surcharge would be added to that and, possibly, costs.

The Daily Mail 25th September - published the story of two men who have been convicted at Thames Magistrates Court of the offence for spitting in a public place. 

Thursday, 19 September 2013

The Niqab in court ~ Ruling of HH Judge Peter Murphy


On 24th April 2007, the Judicial Studies Board issued guidance to the judiciary as to the wearing of the niqab in court proceedings - see HERE.    The guidance was eventually incorporated into the Equal Treatment Benchbook at Chapter 3.3 (Religious Dress).

The latest situation regarding a defendant claiming a right to wear the niqab in court arose in the Crown Court sitting at Blackfriars.  The Presiding Judge - His Honour Judge Murphy - heard legal argument and then issued his reasoned decision -Judgment of HH Judge Peter Murphy in relation to wearing of niqab by defendant during proceedings in Crown Court.

Judge Murphy's decision amounts

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Family Law - additional catch up notes

Daniel Pelka
A Serious Case Review was conducted following the death, in March 2012, of Daniel Pelka (aged 4) -  BBC Coventry and Warwickshire 17th September 2013 .  The Review Report has been published by the Coventry Safeguarding Children BoardREPORT.  At the Crown Court in Birmingham - before Mrs Justice Cox and a jury - Mariusz Krezolek and Magdalena Luczak were sentenced to life imprisonment for Daniel's murder with a minimum terms of 30 years.  The excellent sentencing remarks of Cox J graphically describe the appallingly brutal treatment meted out to Daniel.  Local Safeguarding Children Boards were created in England by the Children Act 2004 s.13 and, in Wales, by section 31.

Adoption:

The Court of Appeal (Civil Division) has given judgment

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Family Law ~ Catch up notes

The Family Justice system is working toward the implementation of the new Family Court for England and Wales.  On this see post of 12th May 2012 and the Crime and Courts Act 2013 Part 2 (along with Schedules 9 to 11).

The President of the Family Division has said - 'It is some forty years since such a court was recommended by Sir Morris Finer and he, alas, did not live to see his recommendations bear fruit – such is the snail-like pace of so much legal reform in this country. When it opens its doors, the Family Court will include, wherever possible sitting under the same roof, judges from every tier of the judiciary: High Courts Judges, Circuit Judges, District Judges and Magistrates. And it will benefit from unified systems of administration and listing.'   The Single Family Court: A Joint Statement by the President of the Family Division and the HMCTS Family Business Authority’ issued in April 2013.

Views from the President's Chambers:

The President of the Family Division has issued the sixth in his series of Views from the President's Chambers - HERE.   Earlier 'Views' are available.  The Sixth view offers a succinct catch-up on a number of developments.  For instance, the praises of the 'Triborough Pilot' are sung loud and clear.  The pilot scheme, which covered three London Boroughs, sought to reduce delays in care proceedings.  The evaluation of the pilot scheme is HERE.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

A look at the Michael Turner case (aka Michael Le Vell - aka soap star name Kevin Webster)

At the Crown Court sitting in Manchester, the case of R v Michael Turner was heard by His Honour Judge Henshall and a jury.  Turner, probably better known as the actor who plays the Coronation Street character Kevin Webster, was charged with sexual offences.  He was acquitted by a unanimous jury on all counts - BBC NEWS Manchester 10th September

The events prior to the trial are of some of interest.  Turner was originally arrested in September 2011. By December 2011 the Crown Prosecution Service had concluded that there was insufficient evidence to proceed to trial and no charges were brought at that time.  In February 2012, the victim’s mother made a formal complaint about the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decision not to charge him and the victim gave further information to the police in March 2012.  However, it was not until February 2013 that the CPS had reviewed the case and concluded that charges should be preferred.  It was in October 2012 that the revelations about the activities of the late Jimmy Savile came to public notice.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Tuesday Roundup

Black Holes
Here is my roundup of legal news at a time when the political world is circling toward an 'event horizon' in relation to Syria.*  The future of legal aid, judicial review and the legal profession are other topics which seem to be getting close to some other 'event horizon' as the government's far-reaching proposals are out for consultation.  Let's begin though with some recent decisions in the family law area.

Family Law:

The President of the Family Division (Sir James Munby) delivered a robust judgment in Re J (A Child) where a local authority sought a wide ranging reporting restriction on child care proceedings relating to child J (born April 2013).  The child's father had posted material on the internet including a photograph of a social worker.  A feature of the postings was the use by the father of language which on occasions was abusive, insulting, threatening and, indeed, highly offensive. Munby LJ referred to 'automatic restraints' on the publication of information relating to proceedings under the Children Act 1989.  However, there is a pressing need for more transparency in the family justice system.  A robust view

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Judicial Review ~ Further proposals ~ Sir Stephen Sedley

The Judicial Review Consultation:

In addition to its further consultation on Transforming Legal Aid (previous post), the Ministry of Justice is consulting on proposals for further reform of judicial review - Consultation Description and Proposals


These proposals follow those in the consultation Judicial Review – Proposals for Reform, which ran from December 2012 to January 2013 and set out some of the background and the Government’s concerns about the use of judicial review.  The foreword to that document said:
“we are considering whether these proposals need to be supported by a programme of more wide ranging reforms.”
The present consultation follows on from the reforms implemented as a result of that consultation, setting out further proposals and areas in which action might be taken, on which the Government seeks views.

This consultation runs for 8 weeks; the deadline for responses is midnight on the 1 November 2013.  

Friday, 6 September 2013

Transforming legal aid ~ Reaction ~ A few of the Tweets



In no particular order, just a brief sample of the tweets which have appeared regarding the government's revised legal aid proposals.

Transforming legal aid - previous post

The revised proposals may be read HERE and are open for consultation but only until 18th October 2013.


Thursday, 5 September 2013

Transforming legal aid: Next steps ~ A new consultation ~ the fight for fairness is not over

As mentioned in the previous post, the government has published revised proposals for transforming legal aid - Ministry of Justice - Law Society and MoJ agree new proposals for criminal legal aid.   The revised proposals may be read HERE and are open for consultation but only until  1st November (extended from 18th October 2013).

The estimable Crimeline has published a very helpful summary of the proposals, together with links to the various documents - details here.  Whilst there is much detail, some key features are that Price Competitive Tendering (PCT) has been dropped and, in its place, there will be two forms of contract: Own Client Contracts and Duty Client Contracts.  There will be no limit on new entrants / existing firms wanting Own Client Contracts.  Duty client contracts will be awarded on the basis of quality and capacity rather than on price.  There is to be a phased cut of 17.5% in fees with 8.5% in 2014 and the remainder in 2015.  For Very High Cost Criminal Cases there is a 30% cut in fees and also action is to be taken to reduce the use of multiple advocates in such cases (see consultation para 1.26).

Legal Aid ~ Westminster Hall debate ~ Inefficiency and waste

Chris Grayling MP
Transforming legal aid:

Price Competitive Tendering (or PCT) was a central plank in the government's Transforming Legal Aid proposals.  I say 'was' because it looks as though it has been dropped by the Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr Chris Grayling) - BBC News 5th September.  A revised consultation is to be issued and it will need careful reading and analysis.  One feature of the revised proposal appears to be a phased cut in criminal legal aid fees.  'Very High Cost Criminal Cases' apart, legal aid fees are not especially generous at the moment and a severe cut - said to total 17.5% - may drive many practitioners away from legally aided criminal work.  For more on this - see:


Twitter which shows an interview given by Grayling to The Times - Grayling does deal on legal aid cuts and Second page of the Law Section interview

Westminster Hall debate:

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

European Convention at 60 ~ Legal Aid

Update 5th September - link to 4th September legal aid debate

The European Convention:

“Human rights are inscribed in the hearts of people; they were there long before lawmakers drafted their first proclamation. Mary Robinson, Former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Following on from yesterday's 60th birthday of the European Convention on Human Rights, I came across an excellent article published by the British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR)'s Act for UK Rights blog.  It is by Paul Langton who is the winner of the BIHR's competition celebrating 60 years of the Convention.  Articles, not exceeding 750 words, were invited on why the Convention has been valuable in the UK and what it means to the writer.

As I understand it, Mr Langton is not a lawyer and, in any event, it is often said (with much truth) that law is too serious to be left entirely to lawyers.  This is particularly so on a subject such as human rights which are meaningless unless they belong to everyone.  Mr Langton's article is certainly my 'pick of the day'. 

Why I'm celebrating the other Jubilee: 60 years of the European Convention on Human Rights

Mr Langton says:

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The European Convention on Human Rights is 60 today

Lord Bingham of Cornhill
3rd September 1953 was the day when the European Convention on Human Rights came into force.  It is also 74 years ago today that a sombre Neville Chamberlain announced the entry of the United Kingdom into World War 2: a war which was to see terrible devastation, the deaths of millions and gross cruelty practised on a daily basis.

In the immediate aftermath of the war, the United Nations (U.N) was created.  The Charter of the United Nations 1945 determines that nations shall reaffirm their faith in fundamental rights.  On 10th December 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights came into being.  Even now, almost 70 years after the end of World War 2, the ideals of the Declaration remain very far from being achieved across enormous areas of the world.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Miranda 6 ~ Hearing of 30th August

The David Miranda case returned to the High Court on Thursday 30th August.  Barrister Carl Gardner covers the hearing on his Head of Legal blog - R (Miranda) v Home Secretary: today's hearing and varied consent order.

At the hearing, Matthew Ryder QC (for David Miranda) explained that agreement had been reached to continue the interim injunction on the same terms as previously and also to permit the defendants to inspect the detained material for the purpose of investigating offences under section 58 and section 58A of the Terrorism Act 2000, and offences under the Official Secrets Acts 1911 and 1989.

Hence, until