Monday, 5 December 2011

The August Disorder - reports + Is a new EU Treaty coming + Impeachment + 3 excellent posts

The August 2011 disorder is back in the news following the publication of the interim report by the "Riots Communities and Victims Panel" (RCVP) which was set up at the end of August by the Deputy Prime Minister.  In addition, The Guardian is publishing details of a report which they and the London School of Economics (LSE) commissioned - see Reading the Riots.   The RCVP has responded to the Guardian-LSE report.

It is clear enough that the disorder erupted in London after the shooting of Mark Duggan on 4th August and some serious questions remain to be answered in connection with this.   Violence then erupted in other towns and cities in England.  

The RCVP report's Executive Summary states that "

"13,000 - 15,000 people were actively involved in the riots. More than 4000 suspected rioters have been arrested. Nine out of ten were already known to the police.  In total, more than 5000 crimes were committed, including five fatalities, 1860 incidents of arson and criminal damage, 1649 burglaries, 141 incidents of disorder and 366 incidents of violence against the person.

The overwhelming majority of those brought before the courts so far have been male and had a previous conviction. At least eighty-four people had committed 50 or more previous offences each. Three-quarters were aged 24 or under.

Of children brought before the courts, two thirds had
Special Educational Needs and on average missed almost one day of school a week. They were also more likely to live in the 10% lowest income areas, to be receiving free school meals and to have been excluded from school at least once. Only 11% had achieved 5 or more A*-C GCSE grades including English and Maths.

Whilst these are striking statistics, the vast majority of people we spoke to were clear that not having a good education or a job was not an excuse to do wrong."

The Guardian 5th December 2011 carried an article entitled "More English riots to come" in which they stated:

"An overwhelming majority of people interviewed about their involvement in this summer's riots believe they will be repeated and one in three said they would take part in any future disorder, a study by the Guardian and the London School of Economics shows.

Of the 270 questioned in the Reading the Riots study, 81% said they believed the disturbances that spread across England in August "would happen again". Two-thirds predicted there would be more riots before the end of 2014.

Despite more than 4,000 riot-related arrests, and harsher than average sentences in the courts, many of those interviewed said they did not regret their actions.

The research project, which is the only study to involve interviews with hundreds of people who rioted across England, found they were predominantly from the country's most deprived areas. The downturn in the economy featured heavily in interviews, with many complaining of falling living standards and worsening employment prospects."

An interesting angle on this is on the Stumbling and Mumbling blog  - (Who cares what rioters say) - which looks at the question of whether individuals can coherently explain their own actions.  

See also "Income inequality growing faster in UK than other rich countries, warns OECD"

Worrying times lie ahead.

Will there be a new European Union Treaty?

It is reported that Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy now wish to see a new EU Treaty to address the problems within the "eurozone" - BBC News "France and Germany call for tougher treaty"

Their proposals are far-reaching.  They include:

  • automatic sanctions against any eurozone country which violates rules on public deficit by running up a deficit of more than 3% of GDP.   (Sanctions could be overturned by a qualified majority of member states voting against them)
  • Eurozone states to have a "constitutional obligation to balance their accounts" - they would have to include in their budgets a "golden rule" against persistently running a deficit, with the European Court of Justice verifying that they had done so
  • the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) - the 500bn-euro (£430bn: $673bn) bailout fund due to replace the European Financial Stability Mechanism (EFSM) in 2013 - to be brought forward to 2012
  • The idea of single currency "eurobonds" was rejected.
The UK government appears to accept that stabilising the eurozone is in the UK's economic interests.  However, the idea of a new treaty will be music to the ears of those London politicians who seek to "repatriate" powers from Europe.   It is difficult to see how any new Treaty which amends the Treaty on European Union or the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU could escape being caught by the referendum requirement imposed by the European Communities Act 2011.  On this, given the ingenuity of some government lawyers, only time will tell.

Garrow's Law:

The recent series of Garrow's Law ended on Sunday 4th December with the arrest of Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville.  He was the last person to be impeached by Parliament and was acquitted but never held political office subsequently.  Impeachment is still legally available though it would be an exceptionally cumbersome and costly process.  The more usual course is that the services of a "problematic" politician are dispensed with by either resignation or getting the individual "kicked upstairs" to the Lords.  Recently, a few politicians were convicted of criminal offences in relation to Parliamentary expenses claims.  Impeachment is probably obsolete though, in 2004, there were some calls for the impeachment of Tony Blair.  In the USA, President Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998-99 - a trial noted for his comment "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky." 

Finally for today, I wish to draw attention to three excellent posts.  

The first is on The Justice Gap and is entitled "Chat or Interview."  "For a police officer, playing down the significance of the reason why they want to speak to you is designed in some cases simply to ensure you turn up and sometimes to ensure you turn up without a pesky solicitor in tow."  This post is well worth reading.

The second post is by David Allen Green writing in The New Statesman - "What do you do when an entire system fails?"  Mr Green writes in the context of the on going Leveson Inquiry which has, over recent weeks, seen a succession of star-studded witnesses offering their stories to the learned judge.  Mr Green points to a collective failure on the part of the existing enforcement bodies -- the Metropolitan Police, the Information Commissioner's Office, and the Press Complaints Commission -- which had the opportunity to act but, for whatever reasons, chose not to do so. "Had only one of these entities discharged its obligations properly, then the illegal and immoral behaviour of the tabloids would have been significantly checked. Had all three done so, then the scandals may not have even occurred at all on any great scale."

The third post is on the UK Human Rights blog - which keeps well abreast of the rapidly developing law and policy relating to human rights in the UK.  In this instance, we are taken back to the very old case of Mylward v Weldon (1595) 21 ER 136 where we learn of how a lawyer was treated for having offered the judge a pleading of 120 pages said to be about eight times longer than it need have been. He ordered that the pleader be taken to the Fleet prison.  The rest of this story may be read at "Should lawyers be named and shamed for being boring?"

Addendum 6th December:

Former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Stevens is to chair a committee examining policing - The Guardian 6th December.   Stevens said the way that outbreaks of public disorder are policed will be a key issue.

"My gut feeling is it's going to be a very difficult 18 months to three years," he said. "One of the main issues will be public order, or rather public disorder, and we will be looking at that in some detail."

Stevens warned of continuing disquiet on the streets, saying there were already "signs of increasing crime'' and that "the police will have to be match-fit on this issue".

The inquiry that Stevens will chair, which will report by 2013, is the first in five decades to promise a root-and-branch examination. It comes as police face large cuts, with rank-and-file officers saying cuts to their pay and conditions have hit morale.

It also comes as the Police and Social Responsibility Act 2011 has hit the statute book.

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