Thursday, 14 July 2011

What has happened apart from the "phone-hacking" debacle?

Addendum 20th July:  Convictions relating to Ratcliffe-on-Soar have been quashed by the Court of Appeal - Barkshire v The Queen 2011.   However, see the interesting article on the case on UK Human Rights Blog.

As the immediate furore over "phone hacking" and "blagging" dies down, let us look at what else has been going on this week.

DPP announces inquiry:  An inquiry under the Chairmanship of retired judge Sir Christopher Rose has been announced into issues arising from the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station protests - see CPS News Release.  The events at Ratcliffe-on-Soar were considered by Law and Lawyers on 10th June, 23rd April and 10th January. 

New Acts of Parliament:  The Police (Detention and Bail) Act 2011 is noted in a post below.

The Sports Grounds Safety Authority Act 2011 will rename the Football Licensing Authority as the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGGA) and, under section 2, the SGGA mat provide "relevant advice" to Ministers of the Crown - i.e. either advice relating to safety at sports grounds generally or advice regarding the exercise by Ministers of powers under the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975, Fire Safety and Safety of Places of Sports Act 1987 and the Football Spectators Act 1989.  SGGA will also be able to advise others such as local authorities.  Some background to this Act can be read in Hansard of 13th May 2011.  Implementation of much of the Act is subject to Commencement Orders.

The Estates of Deceased Persons (Forfeiture Rule and Law of Succession) Act 2011  makes amendments to the Administration of Estates Act 1925 and the Wills Act 1837.   The area of law in question was considered by the Law Commission (Law Com No. 295) and this Act, taken through Parliament as a Private Member's Bill (with government support), is based on the Commission's report.  It seeks
to reform the law where a person disclaims an inheritance or is disqualified from receiving an inheritance by the operation of the forfeiture rule as defined in section 1 of the Forfeiture Act 1982.  It also provides for the amendment of the current law that children of a minor are unable to inherit their parent's interest in an intestate's estate where the parent died before the age of 18, either unmarried or without entering into a civil partnership.  The Act will come into force subject to a "Commencement Order" and will not apply retrospectively.

EU Crackdown on Drivers:  The EU has proposed a Directive on cross-border enforcement of road safety.  See European Law Monitor for fuller explanation.  Since Directives have to be transposed into national law, it is unlikely that States will implement this before some date in 2013.

Speeding -107mph in 70 mph limit - driver not disqualified:  Under Magistrates' Courts Sentencing Guidelines, a speed of 107 mph in a 70 mph limit could attract a disqualification of 7 to 56 days.  The alternative is that the court awards 6 penalty points which would remain active for 3 years.  (This is in addition to any fine, surcharge and order for costs).  A millionaire but out of work footballer - Thomas Hitzlsperger - avoided disqualification at Bury St Edmunds Magistrates' Court.  See Telegraph 14th June.  It appears from the media reports that the magistrates accepted an argument that he needed his licence in order to find a football club.  We must always be cautious about commenting on actual cases when all we have are media reports.  However, would not a disqualification of (say) 21 days have been more effective here?  You be the judge!

Terrorism and Contest: CONTEST is the government's revised counter-terrorism strategy and is explained on the Home Office website.

Speech by the Lord Chief Justice:   Lord Judge spoke at The Mansion House, London and criticised those who have criticised the judges - "they should know better."  Kenneth Clarke (Secretary of State for Justice) was there and, in his Lord Chancellor role, he has a special responsibility to uphold the independence of the judiciary.  Clarke spoke about judicial diversity.  "It is quite clear to me that when the public looks at the judiciary it does not see itself reflected."  Perhaps not, but right-thinking members of the public do see a high quality and independent bench.

Public Bodies linked to the Ministry of Justice:  A consultation has been issued about "Reforming the public bodies landscape of the Ministry of Justice."  The aim is to reduce the number of public bodies linked to the MoJ to a mere 264.  Significant casualties will be the Youth Justice Board and the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council.

Options for dealing with Squatters:  The Ministry of Justice has published a consultation paper on Options for dealing with squatters.

Judge completes trial without a jury:  A "legal first" is reported by The Guardian 14th July.  

Government response to Child Maintenance consultation:  The response to the consultation "Strengthening families, promoting parental responsibility: the future of Child Maintenance" has been published.

Justice Committee:  The Committee's report on the Operation of the Family Courts has been published.  This contains reaction to the Norgrove Review's  interim report - (pdf - large file).   Discussion of the Norgrove report may be seen at Family Law Week.

Short Blogtour: Brian Barder's blog reminds us that, even in politics, there are important things going on apart from the phone hacking scandal - see "We're possessed by phone hacking while Rome burns."  John Bolch's Family Lore blog has some entertaining posts and takes a look at the Justice Committee's report on the family courts. The team at 1 Crown Office Row are to be congratulated on their UK Human Rights blog getting 500,000 hits.  Their site is well presented and covers most of the important human rights issues of the day as well as some other topics such as posts on the environment and the law.  Further interesting posts are at Martin Partington, UK Constitutional Law and Family Law Confessions which asks "Does anybody even know legal aid is up for the chop?"  It makes you wonder!  Regrettably, there is massive unawareness within the general public of almost everything that government gets up to.  There is an appalling level of apathy even among some who know.  The absence of legal aid in many areas of the law may not ever come to bother most people unless they are unfortunate enough to get caught up in some legal problem.  This, together with the media perpetuated view that all lawyers are "fat cats" living off the fat of the land, explains why legal aid is a relatively easy target for Ministers.

1 comment:

  1. There is no doubt in my mind that the footballer should have been disqualified. The mitigation on his behalf was weak in the extreme for somebody who could afford to have hired a driver.