Saturday, 18 February 2017

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Protecting Official Data (1)



The Law Commission, acting at the request of the Cabinet Office, has issued a detailed report on the Official Secrets Acts and has put forward provisional proposals for reforms. – Official Secrets Acts reviewed to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.    The report (Protection of Official Data) is available via the Commission’s website together with a summary and the Commission is consulting on the report.  The consultation period ends on 3rd April 2017.

The report has already met with considerable comment – for example -  International Business Times (Jason Murdock 2nd February), BBC News 2nd February,  The Guardian 13th February  (Shami Chakrabarti) and  Liberty 13th February.   Possibly in an attempt to distance itself from the proposals, the government commented that the proposals arose from a request by the previous government – The Guardian 13th February (Owen Bowcott and Rowena Mason) where it is reported that a No. 10 source said: “This is a consultation by an independent body instigated by a previous prime minister.” “It will never be our policy to restrict the freedom of investigative journalism or public service whistleblowing.”

Royal Wedding 2011 ~ Arrests held to be lawful

Almost 6 years after the events, the Supreme Court gave judgment in the case of Hicks and others v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis  [2017] UKSC 9.   The case arose as a result of arrests made on the day of the Royal Wedding on 29th April 2011.  The arrests were based on prevention of public disorder.

The Supreme Court was concerned with Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).  Article 5 specifies the situations in which an individual may be deprived of liberty - see Article 5(1) and also note Article 5(3).  In particular, Article 5(1)(c) states:

"the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence or when it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent his committing an offence or fleeing after having done so;"

For the purposes of the European Convention, a breach of the peace is considered to be an "offence" even though it is not classified as an offence under English law.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The future of Combat Immunity

On 1st December 2016, the Ministry of Defence commenced a consultation which runs until 23rd February 2017 - "Better Combat Compensation" -  "The MOD plans to introduce a new compensation scheme for injured armed forces personnel and families of those killed in combat. Compensation would be paid at levels which a court would award, and are often substantially greater than the current Armed Forces Compensation Scheme.  Our proposals would mean many more individuals and families would benefit from these larger awards, and unnecessary legal costs, delay and stress associated with litigation could be avoided. At the same time, the government intends to legislate to clarify the scope of the common law principle of Combat Immunity."

See the Consultation Document (13 pages pdf).  The government considers that it already has powers, under the Armed Forces (Pensions and Compensation Scheme) Act 2004, to set up the scheme and it said that the new scheme will work in parallel with the existing Armed Forces Compensation Scheme.  The way in which combat immunity will be defined is discussed in Section 2 of the Consultation Document.  The proposals would prevent courts from adjudicating on allegations that injury or death in the course of combat were the result of negligence.  Cases not arising from combat (as defined) will remain open to legal action in the courts.

The proposed scheme appears to be closely based on this article by Dr Jonathan Morgan (Cambridge University) - Military negligence: Reforming Tort Liability after Smith v Ministry of Defence.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Iraq - the story continues

The aftermath of the UK's involvement in Iraq continues to unfold.

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal decided that Mr Shiner, from the now defunct firm Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), was to be struck off the roll of solicitors - BBC News 2nd February 2017 - Iraq Lawyer Phil Shiner struck off over misconduct.   The BBC article reports that 12 charges of misconduct were proved against Mr Shiner and that in five of the proved charges he was found to have acted dishonestly, including agreeing to pay "sweeteners" to a fixer - named only as "Z" in tribunal papers to persuade him to change his evidence to the £31m Al-Sweady Inquiry.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill in the Lords

The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill proceedings in the Commons may have highlighted points of concern that could come back to haunt at a later date but the Bill passed without amendment through the Commons and received First Reading in the Lords on 8th February.   Second reading of the Bill will take place over 20th and 21st February.  See Parliament - EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill.

Already, there have been political noises that the Lords had best not take a stand against the Bill if it values its future!  The actual stance to be taken in the Lords remains to be seen but it can be noted that, by the so-called Salisbury Convention, the Lords will not vote down a Bill that seeks to enact a manifesto pledge on which a government was elected.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Brexit - the White Paper

Update - Addendum 4th February

The day AFTER the conclusion of the Second Reading of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, the government published the White Paper - The United Kingdom's Exit from and Partnership with the European Union.   There are 12 key areas - Express - Brexit paper reveals UK plan:

●      Providing certainty and clarity where we can as we approach the negotiations.
●      Taking control of our own laws and statute book.
●      Strengthening the Union by securing a deal that works for the whole of the UK.
●      Maintaining the Common Travel Area and protecting our strong historic ties with Ireland.
●      Controlling immigration from the EU.
●      Securing the rights for EU citizens already living in the UK and the rights of UK nationals living in the EU.
●      Protecting and enhancing existing workers’ rights.
●      Ensuring free trade with European markets whilst forging a new strategic partnership with the EU.
●      Forging ambitious free trade agreements with other countries across the world.
●      Ensuring the United Kingdom remains the best place for science and innovation.
●      Cooperating in the fight against crime and terrorism.
●      And, finally, delivering a smooth, orderly exit from the EU.

Addendum 4th February: