Saturday, 26 October 2019

Brief roundup ~ not Brexit

Aberfan Rescuers

Brexit dominates the news but here are some other news items.

Manchester Arena:

The Home Secretary announced the establishment of an inquiry, under the Inquiries Act 2005, to investigate deaths arising from the attack at Manchester Arena on 22 May 2017 - Parliament announcement.

The Inquiry will be chaired by retired High Court Judge - Sir John Saunders.

Sir John had already been nominated by the Lord Chief Justice to lead the investigation and inquests into the deaths at Manchester Arena - Manchester Arena Inquests - but the inquests will be adjourned once the inquiry is established.

Sir John has
advised that an Inquiry is a necessary step to permit all relevant evidence to be heard. It is reported that the Inquiry will hold some closed evidence sessions - Independent 23 October.

Wales:

Prior to the creation of the Welsh Assembly by the Government of Wales Act 1998 it could be said that the law in Wales was essentially the same as that in England.  We used to refer to the "law of England and Wales."  Two recent reports are therefore of particular interest:

First report of the Independent Advisory Committee on Justice in Wales - The Independent Advisory Committee on Justice in Wales was established in early 2018 to undertake an ongoing review of justice in Wales, under the framework of the Wales Act 2017.

Commission on Justice in Wales (Y Comiswn ar Gyfiawnder yng Nghymru) Report - The Commission on Justice in Wales was set up by the Welsh Government to review the justice system in Wales. The report was published on 24 October 2019.

Julian Assange:

The United States of America is seeking the extradition of Julian Assange.  On Monday 21 October he appeared before Westminster Magistrates' Court.  The hearing was conducted by District Judge (Magistrates' Courts) Vanessa Baraitser.  The judge denied a request to delay the hearing and said Assange’s extradition hearing would go ahead as planned at Belmarsh magistrates’ court in east London in February.  Some commentators have raised serious concerns about the conduct of the Westminster hearing - see Reuters 21 October and Craig Murray 22 October - Assange in Court.

Magistrates:

A report by The Project for Modern Democracy -  Remaking the Magistracy - is the first major study of magistrates in England and Wales in at least 5 years.  The report warns that Justices of the Peace (JPs) are facing terminal decline unless new efforts are made to reinvigorate and invest in the role.
It calls on the Government and judiciary to take forward a long overdue consultation on the future of the magistracy as part of a comprehensive strategy to plan for the future role of JPs in the courts system.
The report suggests that the UK should follow the example of New Zealand by introducing an entirely new cohort of paid, part-time magistrates who would sit more frequently, and be more representative of the community. It proposes a system-wide reform to create a new hybrid, two-tier magistracy, as an evolution of the current model.
Instead of a single cohort of unpaid volunteers who sit no more than 2 days a month, this reform would create two distinct roles: Neighbourhood Magistrates, with a broader role in local justice, alongside a smaller number of new paid Community Magistrates sitting in courts for up to 10 days per month, in order to create a new problem-solving judicial tier. Each type of magistrate would have distinct and complementary roles, and separate powers, obligations and skillsets.
See the Response by the Magistrates' Association

Aberfan:

The 53rd Anniversary of the Aberfan disaster (Wikipedia) was on Monday 21 October.  A short video is available via Twitter.  A Tribunal of Inquiry was held under the Chairmanship of Lord Justice Edmund Davies (as he then was).

When the Report was published on August 3rd 1967 it had no qualms about making perfectly clear who was to blame:

… the Aberfan Disaster is a terrifying tale of bungling ineptitude by many men charged with tasks for which they were totally unfitted, of failure to heed clear warnings, and of total lack of direction from above. Not villains but decent men, led astray by foolishness or by ignorance or by both in combination, are responsible for what happened at Aberfan.
 
It concluded:

Blame for the disaster rests upon the National Coal Board. This is shared, though in varying degrees, among the NCB headquarters, the South Western Divisional Board, and certain individuals. … The legal liability of the NCB to pay compensation of the personal injuries, fatal or otherwise, and damage to property, is incontestable and uncontested.

Merthyr Tydfil Borough Council and the National Union of Mineworkers were cleared of any blame for not following their concerns over the tip further. It was concluded that they had had little option but to accept the assurances of the NCB that all was under control. Nine individual NCB employees and officials were singled for particular criticism. However, the report made clear that it was a tale of "not of wickedness but of ignorance, ineptitude and a failure of communications."

This Express article of 20 October 2016 is worth reading.  See also Youtube - Aberfan: The fight for justice.


Inquiries:

Several Inquiries are ongoing.

Independent Inquiry Child Sexual Abuse

Undercover Policing

Grenfell Tower



For information about Inquiries held under the Inquiries Act 2005 see -Institute for Government Public Inquiries, Law Society Gazette 27 March 2014 - Is the Inquiries Act 2005 fit for purpose, Parliament 30 January 2018 - Research Briefing Inquiries Act 2005

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