Wednesday, 29 January 2014

"Skipping" ~ Dogs ~ GCHQ ~ Opposing legal aid cuts ~ Lobbying

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has decided that it is in the public interest to prosecute three men under the Vagrancy Act 1824 section 4.   The story is in The Guardian 28th January - "A man will stand trial next month after being caught taking some tomatoes, mushrooms and cheese from the dustbins behind a branch of Iceland."   This rather old legislation was enacted in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars (Wikipedia) of 1803-15.   Usually, in recent times, the Act has been used to prosecute homeless individuals found in deserted buildings etc.  Those who may be prosecuted under the Act include:

" .... every person being found in or upon any dwelling house, warehouse, coach-house, stable, or outhouse, or in any inclosed yard, garden, or area, for any unlawful purpose; ...."

There is massive food wastage in supermarkets.  For example, Tesco revealed that some 30,000 tonnes of food were wasted in the first half of 2013 - BBC 21st October 2013

Under the Vagrancy Act, the prosecution would have to establish that the defendants were in a place within the meaning of the Act (e.g. an inclosed yard etc) and that they had an "unlawful purpose" whilst there.  The purpose appears to relate to the likelihood that the men were there to steal from the skip.  Only the purpose would need to be proved as opposed to proving an actual offence of theft.

A good post on this matter is at Criminal Law blog 29th January  and also see Wiley Online Library - Do freegans commit theft?

More on the relevant law is at Andrew Keogh's blog - A case like Jean Valjeans

A statement from ICELAND was issued 29th January

*** Postscipt - The CPS decided not to continue with the prosecution -  statement of 29th January where it is stated that the CPS reviewed the case and decided, on public interest grounds alone, to discontinue the prosecution.

A serious case dropped:

Recently, a Conspiracy to Supply Class A drugs ended due to CPS failure, primarily on financial grounds, to disclose evidence which had been ordered by the court  - Law Society Gazette 14th January.

Perhaps some priorities need to be sorted out in the CPS?


Another story appears in the London Evening Standard.  It concerns a lady challenged by a Civilian Enforcement Officer for allegedly failing to clear up after her dog.  The lady maintained that she had cleared up the mess.  According to the report, the officer was asked by the lady to indicate where the alleged offence had occurred and he was unable to do so.  Having carried out a "dynamic risk assessment" the enforcement officer decided to call for Police back up.  Of course, the local authorities are right to enforce the law but commonsense does seem to have been lacking in this instance.


The Guardian 28th January draws attention to legal advice given to MPs warning that GCHQ is 'using gaps in regulation to commit serious crime with impunity'  The legal advice was prepared by Jemima Stratford QC and Tim Johnston of Brick Court Chambers.  Tom Watson MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drones, commissioned the advice which considers five possible scenarios concerning state surveillance in the UK.

Legal Aid:

Legal aid lawyers have formed a new group to oppose the government's plans to cut legal aid in criminal cases - Law Society Gazette 28th January.  The National Justice Committee comprises the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association, London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association, Legal Aid Practitioners Group, Justice Alliance, Criminal Bar Association and circuit leaders.

CIVIL legal aid has been axed in many areas.  The Steve Cornforth Blog highlights the case of a child who, due to negligence in the NHS, is now severely brain damaged and will be dependent on others for the remainder of her life.  Here case was legally-aided but a similar case now would not be.  Please read this and bend the ears of your MP about the appalling state to which lack of legal aid is reducing British justice.


The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill  - ("Lobbying Bill") - has almost cleared its stages through Parliament.  When it receives Royal Assent, it will become law.  This controversial Bill merits a post in its own right.  However, the Bill:
  • introduces a statutory register of consultant lobbyists and establishes a Registrar to enforce the registration requirements
  • regulates more closely election campaign spending by those not standing for election or registered as political parties 
  • strengthens the legal requirements placed on trade unions in relation to their obligation to keep their list of members up to date.
and, finally, .......... in the Supreme Court

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