Responsible and sometimes critical comment on topical legal matters of general interest. This blog does not offer legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice.
Pro Aequitate Dicere
On Thursday 17 January 2019 a road traffic accident occurred on the A149 - a main road in Norfolk running south to north and linking King's Lynn to Hunstanton - MAP. The accident site was the junction with the B1439. The B1439 goes from West Newton (near the Sandringham Royal Estate to the east of the A149) and joins the A149 at the Babingley crossing. To the west of that junction is a minor road to the ruined Saint Felix Chapel and Babingley.
Links to Key Brexit materials are set out in this post. First, some of the background ...
*** Background ***
The United Kingdom joined the European Communities on 1 January 1973. 42 years later, the Conservative Party manifesto of 2015 declared - "For too long, your voice has been ignored on Europe. We will: give you a say over whether we should stay
in or leave the EU, with an
in-out referendum by the end of
It was patently obvious that, after 42 years of integration, the process of leaving the EU was going to be politically controversial with the potential to wreak immense economic damage. It was also going to be difficult legally. Any vote to leave was bound to be followed by tense and problematic negotiations with the EU which would seek to protect its own interests and those of its member States. Furthermore, leaving the EU would convert the border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland into a border between a member state (Ireland) and a third country (the UK).
London Stansted Airport is located about 40 miles north-east of central London. The airport is owned by the Manchester Airports Group and is the fourth busiest airport in the UK with flights to over 170 destinations and around 18 million passengers each year. The airport was the scene of a protest by 15 individuals who were subsequently charged, tried, convicted and sentenced in connection with their actions.
"A new Sentencing Code will reduce the number of unlawful sentences being handed out and save
£250 million over ten years .... When they sentence offenders, judges have to contend with more than
1,300 pages of law filled with outdated and inaccessible language. This
law is contained in over 65 different Acts of Parliament, and has no
coherent structure. This makes it difficult for judges to identify and
apply the law they need, which can slow the process of sentencing and
lead to mistakes. The Commission is recommending that anyone convicted from now on
should be sentenced under a simplified and modern Sentencing Code. This
would mean that judges would no longer need to search back through
layers of old law. This would decrease the number of unlawful sentences handed out, avoid unnecessary appeals and reduce delays in sentencing."
In early January 2018 it was announced that the Parole Board had assessed John Worboys (aka Radford) as suitable for release on licence from prison - post 5 January 2018. There was a judicial review of that decision - post 29 March 2018 - and Worboys remains in prison.
These events led to the controversial departure of Professor Nick Hardwick, the Parole Board Chairman. The Secretary of State for Justice (Mr David Gauke MP) gave Professor Hardwick no real option but to resign. Since then a new Board Chair, Caroline Corby, has been appointed with effect from 1 November 2018.
In June 2017, Fiona Onasanya was elected Member of Parliament for Peterborough. On 29 January 2019 she was sentenced to 3 months imprisonment for preverting the course of justice. False information had been supplied in reply to Notices of Intended Prosecution (NIPs) for three speeding offences. The judge took into account her previous good character and considerable personal mitigation. Her brother, Festus Onasanya, was sentenced to 10 months imprisonment on each of 3 counts of perverting the course of justice in relation to false information supplied in response to NIPs - the sentences to be concurrent. The sentencing remarks of Mr Justice Stuart-Smith are available via the Judiciary website. The case was reported by The Guardian 29 January.
Imagine that back in 1999 you were sentenced to a conditional discharge for the theft of a sandwich from a local shop. At the time you were 12 years old. Now, at age 32, you apply for a job at a school. Your have led a law-abiding life since that minor offence but you do not get the job because your enhanced criminal records check reveals the 20 year-old conviction even though it is a spent conviction under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. In effect you are marked for life because of this childhood misdeed.
The appellants, Mr Nealon and Mr Hallam, spent, respectively, about 7 years and 17 years in prison before their convictions were quashed for being unsafe in the light of newly discovered evidence. They applied for compensation under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 section 133 (as amended). The Secretary of State refused compensation on the ground that the new evidence did not show beyond a reasonable doubt that they had not committed the offences.
With only 60 days remaining until "Exit Day" (29 March 2019), efforts are underway in the House of Commons to bring about changes to the government's stance on three key points. First, that the way to avoid the Ireland backstop is for MPs to accept the deal on the table even though it was heavily rejected on 15 January. Second, the government insists that a no deal exit will not be ruled out. Third, there will be no extension of Article 50.
The Brexit saga continues to raise matters of considerable legal interest.
Private Members' Bills:
A number of Brexit-related Private Members' Bills have been presented to Parliament. This is an area of public policy firmly controlled by government and such Bills are unlikely to become law without government backing. Nevertheless, two very recent ones should be noted.
Brexit - the "meaningful vote" was held on 15 January and the "deal" - i.e. the Withdrawal Agreement and Framework for the Future Relationship - was decisively rejected by the House of Commons - previous post.
PM's Statement in House of Commons:
The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 section 13 gave the government 21 days (beginning on 15 January) to make a statement setting out how Her Majesty’s Government proposes to proceed in relation to negotiations for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union. However, the Commons voted to require the government to make the statement by 21 January - previous post.
From time-to-time a well-presented website appears and offers valuable insight into what can be a bewildering, dauntless area. Pupillage is the final, vocational stage of training for those seeking to practise at the Bar of England and Wales and the Pupillage and How to Get It website has to be regarded as essential reading for all aspiring barristers.
There appears to be no political consensus to hold either a further referendum (which, it is claimed, could take a year to organise) or to revoke the Article 50 notification. [The issues and timescale for a further referendum were considered in this post a year ago - 18 January 2018].
We are certainly living in "interesting times." The "meaningful vote" was lost by 432 to 202 - a majority against of 230 - (previous post) and see the Hansard record of the debate (here).
After losing the vote, the Prime Minister said - " ... we need to confirm whether the Government still enjoy the confidence of
the House. I believe that they do, but given the scale and importance of
tonight’s vote it is right that others have the chance to test that
question if they wish to do so. I can therefore confirm that if the
official Opposition table a confidence motion this evening in the form
required by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, the Government will make time to debate that motion tomorrow."
The day has arrived for what has become known as "the meaningful vote." MPs have to decide whether to accept or reject the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration negotiated with the EU. The withdrawal agreement may not be ratified unless the House of Commons votes in favour of it - European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 section 13.
The Order Paper sets out the motion and amendments to it have been proposed. The Speaker of the House of Commons selects the amendments to be voted on.
In December, the House of Commons vote on the Withdrawal Agreement and Future Relationship was deferred (previous post) and the Prime Minister said that, having listened to concerns in the Commons about the Ireland/Northern Ireland backstop, she would seek additional reassurances from the EU.
An exchange of letters took place between the Prime Minister and the Presidents of the EU Council (Mr Tusk) and the EU Commission (Mr Juncker).
The House of Commons debate on the EU Withdrawal Agreement / Future Relationship commenced on 4 December 2018 and continued on 5 and 6 December. On 10 December, the government deferred the vote - (details in this previous post). The government had realised that it was in danger of losing the vote and wished to seek further assurances from the EU regarding, in particular, the Ireland / Northern Ireland backstop.
On 9 January, a revised timetable was agreed by the House
of Commons requiring debate on 9, 10 and 11 January and then, after the weekend, on 14 and 15 January. The vote is now expected to take place on Tuesday 15 January.
How this revised timetable came about is of some interest and presented to the world further House of Commons procedural shenanigans!
A short post to keep abreast of developments relating to Brexit.
Finance (No. 3) Bill:
The Finance (No.3) Bill had its House of Commons Report Stage and Third Reading on Tuesday 8 January 2019. This is hardly the sort of legislation to get the blood racing but an amendment was introduced by MPs anxious to prevent a "no deal" Brexit. The amendment succeeded (303 to 296) and so, for the first time since 1978, the government lost a vote on a Finance Bill. The Guardian 8 January 2019 comments - 'The coalition of high-profile MPs behind the amendment are expected to
use the victory as a springboard for further parliamentary action to
prevent the UK crashing out of the EU.' See also iNews 8 January.