Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Rolls Building now in use: Oligarchs fighting in London: Premiership football viewing etc

The Rolls Building, Fetter Lane, London

High Court extension:

The latest extension to the High Court's accommodation in London is the "Rolls Building" and it has come into use.  Russell Conway, writing in the Solicitor's Journal 3rd October "The Rolls Treatment" - noted:

"It is deeply unsettling and almost embarrassing .... to see our legal aid system being destroyed and £350m a year slashed from the legal aid budget and yet we are now apparently blessed with what is described as the largest specialist centre for the resolution of financial, business and property litigation any-where in the world. The question is: who will be using these facilities? And at who’s expense?"

Later, the article states:

"The Ministry of Justice seems to have found the money for the Rolls building. Quite where it has found it from one can only shudder to speculate. Are we funding the Rolls building out of the savings from legal aid? Now, that is a very scary thought indeed. Are we really putting together a luxurious trial centre to be used by Russian oligarchs, multi-million pound companies and billionaire property companies at the expense of public funding?"

Set against this viewpoint is the fact the London is a major centre for international dispute resolution and this makes a very significant contribution to the UK economy.    The High Court has operated a Commercial Court since 1895 and the court's procedures reflect the special requirements of international commerce.  Many cases in the court involve parties who are resident or incorporated abroad.  For further see COMBAR (Commercial Bar Association).

The Ministry of Justice' s website gives
further information about the Rolls Building which brings, for the first time under one roof, the Chancery Division, the Admiralty and Commercial Court and the Technology and Construction Court.

Oligarchs fighting it out in London:

The reference to Russian oligarchs is, of course, directed at the civil action - being heard in the Rolls Building - between Boris Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich.   Mr Berezovsky contends that Mr Abramovich, the billionaire owner of Chelsea Football Club, made him sell his shares in Sibneft, the Russian oil company, for $1.3bn – a price that he argues was far below their market worth – under the threat that if he did not, Mr Abramovich would ask Vladimir Putin, then Russia’s president, to expropriate the shares for nothing.
Mr Berezovsky also argues that he, along with Badri Patarkatsishivili, a Georgian businessman (died 2008), owned half of the shares in Rusal, an aluminium company, which Mr Abramovich held in trust for them.  Berezovsky is represented by Laurence Robinowitz QC.  Abramaovitch is represented by Jonathan Sumption QC who, somewhat controversially, has been allowed to handle this case before taking up appointment as a Justice of the Supreme Court.  (Traditionally, on appointment as a judge other work had to cease).  The trial is before Mrs Justice Gloster.  Earlier this year, the Court of Appeal held that the case could be heard under English law.

The Red, White and Blue - Portsmouth
Premiership football viewing via decoders:

The Court of Justice of the EU has given judgment in the Football Association Premier League case concerning broadcasting via satellite of matches - (read Judgment).  The English High Court had requested "preliminary rulings" on a number of matters and it is in relation to these that the CJEU has issued rulings.  The cases then resume in the High Court which will be bound by the preliminary rulings.  For further on this, see Law and Lawyers 5th February 2011 - "The Red, White and Blue: Appeals and References."   

A reasonably clear explanation of the case can be seen in the CJEU's Press Release.   For some interesting posts on this CJEU decision see barrister Carl Gardner's  Head of Legal blog.

Unfair dismissal - rules change:

A blow to employees making claims for unfair dismissal has been announced by the government.  From 6th April 2012, the qualification period to bring an unfair dismissal claim will increase from 12 months to 2 years.  There will also be a £250 fee on lodging a claim and a further £1000 fee if the case is listed for hearing before a tribunal.  The government claims that the present unfair dismissal rules are a major barrier to business taking on employees - see Solicitor's Journal.   The "pros" and "cons" of this seem to be well discussed in The Independent 3rd October.   It is claimed that this change will save the government £6m per year. 

Can Afghan asylum seeker be returned to Greece?:

At the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Theresa May has been stirring things up not only about repeal of the Human Rights Act 1998 but also about clamping down on criminals who resist deportation - The Guardian 3rd October.   Mrs May will therefore really be enamoured by the opinion, given to the Court of Justice of the EU, by Advocate-General Trstenjak.  The case is NS v SSHD.  An Afghan asylum seeker entered the EU via Greece.  Normally, it would therefore be Greece who would process his asylum claim.  However, he got to the UK and the UK wishes to return him to Greece.  The Advocate-General says that this may not necessarily be possible.  The matter is well covered by Melina Padron's post on UK Human Rights blog.  This is an interesting matter since all EU member States are supposed to adhere to similar standards of human rights.

Safety of Prisoners in Her Majesty's Prisons:

There are serious questions to be answered by the Prison authorities when this can happen and, most recently, this.  Two men have now been charged with the murder of serving prisoner Mitchell Harrison who was held at HMP Frankland.  We are supposedly governed by the rule of law.  Prisoners should be protected and this includes serious sex offenders such as Huntley and Harrison.

Hooding of Detainees:

No doubt the government is also over the moon about the High Court's ruling that hooding of detainees during interrogation was unlawful - Guardian 4th October.  The challenges were brought against the government's consolidated guidance on interrogation.    The judgment of the Administrative Court is - Equality and Human Rights Commission v Prime Minister and others [2011] EWHC 2401 (Admin).

Underlying almost every case involving the United Kingdom and anything "European" there seems to be serious tension between what the UK government wishes to do and what the law - (whether EU law or the European Convention on Human Rights) - is permitting.  How this tension is ultimately resolved will be a major question over the next few years.  In relation to protection of human rights in the UK it may become the key question of our time.

... but the cat is not to blame ...!

I will end today with a reference to a superb post by Adam Wagner on UK Human Rights blog in which he deftly dismantles the suggestion made to the Conservative Conference by Theresa May that, in one case, the ownership of a cat prevented a deportation.  The reality was that, as is so often the situation, government officials had failed to follow their own procedures.  As Adam neatly puts it - " ... a bit more curiosity could have killed the cat."  For Adam Wagner's second post on this subject see - "What the first #catgate judgment actually says."

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