Saturday, 2 January 2016

Happy New Year 2016

*** A Happy New Year to all readers *** - Looking forward: Looking back

2016 promises to be an interesting year during which the government should be publishing its long-awaited plans for human rights in the United Kingdom.  A New Year should be a time for hope but I am not a believer in either fairy tales or benevolent government (even one in a modern democracy)!  I do not expect this government's plans to fill me with enthusiasm though I may be pleasantly surprised.  Release of the plans has been delayed because, as Mr Gove informed the House of Lords Constitution Committee, the government is considering what role (if any) the Supreme Court might play.   A previous post noted:

"The delay to publication of government plans for human rights protection is due to the Prime Minister asking whether the Bill of Rights might be used to create a constitutional court for the UK and, if so, might the Supreme Court of the UK be given that role.  Such a constitutional court would operate as some sort of "constitutional long stop" though it is far from clear ... just how this will be either defined or operate.  It has the feel of the court being a buffer between the European Court of Human Rights (as well as the European Union / Charter of Fundamental Rights)  and the United Kingdom but isn't that the traditional role of Parliament?"

One of the internet highlights of 2015 was undoubtedly the publication of RIGHTS INFORMATION.  This was the inspiration of Adam Wagner, barrister at One Crown Office Row and founder of the UK Human Rights blog.  It is an excellent presentation of human rights and their importance.  To my mind, this website is THE legal website of the year.  Please visit it and take a tour of the various pages.

2015 was also notable for a record number of female members of the senior judiciary.  The number of female High Court Judges reached a record 23 with the appointment of Mrs Justice May in December - Judiciary website. This augers well for the future and will hopefully give the lie to Lord Sumption's somewhat despairing view that rushing to achieve equal representation for women at the top of the legal profession would inflict "appalling consequences" on the quality of British justice.  Judicial appointments must be on merit and there is clear support for an equal opportunity policy but there seems to be little enthusiasm for positive action to increase the number of female judges (assuming that such action would be lawful).

Terrorism dominated the news in 2015 with the appallingly horrific conduct of "Islamic State" and France saw the attacks related to Charlie Hebdo (post of 8th January 2015) and, in November, further attacks in Paris.  In 2016 this will certainly drive governments of western nations toward greater anti-terrorism powers and the problem for legislatures will be to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of law-abiding people.  One manifestation of this problem is the latest Investigatory Powers Bill which this blog touched upon in November.  Terrorism powers and the counter-terrorism strategy will be matters to watch in the forthcoming months.

The number of blogs by notable lawyers is remarkable and one former Lord Justice of Appeal (Sir Henry Brooke) has also started one.  They all stand out for the quality of their content.  The following is just a selection:  Sir Henry Brooke; Felicity Gerry QC; Family LoreNothing like the Sun; mmchgeorge99; Learned Friend, Marilyn Stowe, Pink Tape and Martin Partington.  It was also great to read the stylish blog by Rebecca Morgan who started her blog in later 2012 - Lawyer in the Making.  Many other blogs continue to offer their own rich variety of legal comment - Charon QC; Head of Legal; Jack of Kent; UK Human Rights; Barrister Blogger , Steve Cornforth, Justice Gap, Defence Brief, Of Interest to Lawyers and The Magistrates Blog to name but a few.

The Supreme Court of the UK never deals with lightweight matters and in 2016 we can soon expect their judgment in the joint enterprise - (or Parasitic Accessorial Liability case of Jogee which was heard along with the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) hearing the Jamaican case of Ruddock.  The key issue is whether the law took a wrong turning when the JCPC heard the appeal from Hong Kong in Chan Wing-Siu (1984) - a decision later adopted by the House of Lords in Powell and English back in 1997. The law is discussed in this article by Andrew Jefferies QC.  In late 2014, the Justice Committee issued a follow up report to their 2012 report and called upon the Law Commission to review the law.

I hope that the posts on this blog are of continuing interest.  The following is just a handful of them:

March 2015 - Human Rights on the Battlefield

May 2015 - Five posts on Why we need Human Rights - here is a link to the last of those

September - View from the north: a killing in Syria and also see Death by drone: Concerns and Questions

October - The Tax Credits row

November - Government emergency powers

December - Death of Lord Janner and the Strathcylde Review (which follows the row over tax credits - a policy actually abandoned in the Chancellor's autumn statement).  If the Strathclyde review is adopted it will amount to a major constitutional change weakening the right of the House of Lords to challenge secondary legislation and thereby enhancing the power of the executive which, by and large, has control of the business of the House of Commons.  There is a notable trend toward using secondary legislation whenever possible to achieve important policy objectives and this minimises opportunity (in both Houses) to scrutinise the legislation.

I am looking forward to the year ahead.  Much will happen and there is much to do.  Many thanks to all followers of this blog and those who follow me on Twitter.  May 2016 be Happy and Prosperous for you all.

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