Thursday 28 February 2013

Deprivation of Citizenship - Justice and Security Bill condemned again

In an exclusive story, The Independent (27th February) tells of individuals being stripped of British Citizenship and then being killed by drones -  Exclusive: Secret war on enemy within - British terror suspects quietly stripped of citizenship ... then killed by drones

According to the article - 'The Government has secretly ramped up a controversial programme that strips people of their British citizenship on national security grounds – with two of the men subsequently killed by American drone attacks.  An investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism for The Independent has established that since 2010, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, has revoked the passports of 16 individuals, many of whom are alleged to have had links to militant or terrorist groups.  Critics of the programme warn that it allows ministers to “wash their hands” of British nationals suspected of terrorism who could be subject to torture and illegal detention abroad.  They add that it also allows those stripped of their citizenship to be killed or “rendered” without any onus on the British Government to intervene.'

It is also alleged

Wednesday 27 February 2013

Lives of Great Men ~ Stéphane Hessel

The death of Stéphane Frédéric Hessel (1917-2013) has been announced. By any standards, Hessel lived a most remarkable life during which he was a diplomat, ambassador, writer, concentration camp survivor, former French Resistance fighter and BCRA agent.   Hessel was born in Berlin and, in 1924, emigrated to Paris with his parents.  In 1939 he became a naturalised French citizen and the following year joined General Charles de Gaulle's group of resistance fighters.  He returned to France and organised Resistance communication networks in advance of D-Day (1944).

He was captured by the Gestapo and sent to the Buchenwald and Dora concentration camps, where he was tortured by waterboarding.  He later escaped during a transfer to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, and went to Hannover, where he met the advancing troops of the United States Army.

He participated in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Appointments to the Supreme Court of the UK

Updated 27th February - link to other blogs and some of the 'tweets' on the appointments system

The appointments of three Justices of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom have been announced - Number 10 and see Lord Neuberger's (President of the Supreme Court) announcement.

"The Queen has been pleased to approve the appointment of The Right Honourable Lord Justice Toulson, The Right Honourable Lord Justice Hughes and Lord Hodge as Justices of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. This fills the three vacancies arising from Lord Dyson’s appointment as Master of the Rolls and the retirements of Lord Walker and Lord Hope."

Lord Walker retires in March and Lord Hope in June.

Once the changes have taken place, the make up of the Supreme Court will be: Lord Neuberger (President), Lady Hale, Lords Mance, Kerr, Clarke, Wilson, Sumption, Reed, Carnwath, Toulson, Hughes and Hodge.  Biographies of the Justices are available.

The appointments process

Sunday 24 February 2013

Advances in forensic science ~ Virtual autopsy

The Guardian 24th February published Virtual autopsy: does it spell the end of the scalpel?

Scientific advances have led experts to pioneer the 'virtopsy', a non-invasive imaging process which can reveal details conventional methods would have missed.  According to the article, CT and MRI imaging are now often deemed sufficient. In Manchester, coroners now routinely give families the option of an MRI scan to establish the cause of death and Guy Rutty, chief forensic pathologist to the East Midlands Forensic Pathology Unit  and a member of the Leicester team that exhumed Richard III, recently called for cross-sectional autopsy imaging to be made available on the NHS. "There are important religious, cultural and humanitarian benefits offered by non-invasive autopsies," he argues. "As people become more familiar with the technology, demand is expected to grow."

Saturday 23 February 2013

The question of Bail ~ Oscar Pistorius ~ Operation Weeting

Given the Oscar Pistorius case in South Africa and, in England, the on-going Operation Weeting, bail is well and truly in the news.

Oscar Pistorius:

The world famous paralympian Oscar Pistorius stands charged in South Africa with the murder (on 14th February) of his girl friend Reeva Steenkamp.  After a 4 day hearing, a Magistrate granted Pistorius bail on a number of conditions - see CNN News 22nd February 2013   At times, the bail hearing appeared to be almost like a mini-trial of the case itself.  It appears that the prosecution and defence agree that shots fired by Pistorius killed Miss Steenkamp but Pistorius says that he thought he was firing at an intruder.  For those interested in the South African judicial process, see World Criminal Justice Library Network.  An interesting article is The Independent 22nd February - The Pistorius case casts a lurid light on a corrupt and crime-ridden South Africa.

Operation Weeting ~ Phone hacking:

Operation Weeting is the investigation

Thursday 21 February 2013

The Jury

At Southwark Crown Court, the jury in the Vicky Pryce case was discharged since it was unable to reach a verdict despite the trial judge (Mr Justice Sweeney) being prepared to accept a majority verdict-  (The Guardian 20th February).  A retrial was ordered.  Ten questions sent by the jury to the judge have received huge publicity and some commentators have used these to attack the whole idea of trial by jury - e.g. Simon Jenkins The Guardian - Juries? It's time they went the way of the ducking stool.  Unfortunately, certain of the questions posed by this particular jury appear to show a distinct lack of understanding and, as Joshua Rozenberg points out (The Guardian 21st February), might have damaged confidence in the jury system.  A good antidote to such thoughts is to listen to John Cooper QC and Kirsty Brimelow QC discussing the jury - BBC 21st February 2013 - Lawyers debate whether trial by jury is the best option.

In serious cases, I have no doubt that the jury remains, in Lord Devlin's memorable phrase, the Lamp that shows that freedom lives.

Read Trial by Jury - Marcel Berlins The Guardian 24th May 2005; Explaining our Law and Legal System ... No. 4 ... Juries  ; 'The Little Parliament' (Sally Lloyd-Bostock and Cheryl Thomas) and How the Law Works - Chapter 8 - The Jury - Dr. Gary Slapper.

Further excellent articles are:  Felicity Gerrity - The Barrister - Jury Trial - Don't fix what isn't broken.; David Allen Green - New Statesman 21st February - What Pryce justice?  ; Pete Weatherby QC of Garden Court North Chambers - On Jury Trials. and John Cooper QC - Shadowofthenoose blog.

Wednesday 20 February 2013

Theresa May to 'curb' judges on immigration ~ Some Observations

Immigration is of considerable concern both within the country and to government and it is obvious that population growth places additional pressures on infrastructure and resources.  The accession to the European Union of Romania and Bulgaria (from 1st January 2007)  has helped to fuel the concerns given the EU's rules relating to freedom of movement for workers.  Quotas applicable to those countries expire at the end of 2013 with fears of large numbers then arriving in the UK and, according to the German Association of Cities, importation of crime.  There is also considerable immigration from non-EU nations.  The government set a target of reducing annual net migration to below 100,000 by 2015.  It appears unlikely that this target will be achieved though figures show a reduction - The Guardian 29th November 2012  Much political capital therefore exists in this area and it is little wonder that politicians seek to generate headlines - as did Home Secretary Theresa May - Mail on Sunday 17th February - It's MY job to deport foreigners who commit serious crime

May's article in The Mail on Sunday:

May's article is

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Magistrates Courts ~ Unacceptable delays

Justice Minister Mr Damian Green is seeking to improve the performance of the Magistrates Courts - Ministry of Justice - Damian Green: unacceptable delays in Magistrates Courts.   He is right to do so but, let's remember, there have been several quite recent 'initiatives' aimed at the same thing: Criminal Justice: Simple, Speedy, Summary (CJSSS); Making it Count (in Youth Courts); Stop delaying Justice and also considerable emphasis on Case Management.  

The Defence Brief blog recently drew attention to some of the problems - Courts are a Farce.  There is no reason to suppose that the inefficiencies referred to are all that unusual and the Justice Minister would do well to read it. 

Anyone inclined to think that inefficiency is a recent innovation

Saturday 16 February 2013

The Mid Staffordshire NHS report

On 9 June 2010, the Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley MP, announced a public inquiry into Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. The public inquiry was formed under the Inquiries Act 2005, to look at the operation of the commissioning, supervisory and regulatory bodies responsible for the Trust.   Robert Francis QC was appointed to Chair the Inquiry.  The website for the public inquiry can be found at:   Mr Francis delivered his report on 5th February 2013 (here).  The Press release stated:

'The Inquiry has been examining the commissioning, supervisory and regulatory bodies in the monitoring of Mid Staffordshire hospital between January 2005 and March 2009. It has been considering why the serious problems at the Trust were not identified and acted on sooner, and identifying important lessons to be learnt for the future of patient care. It builds on Mr Francis’s earlier report, published in 2010 after the earlier independent inquiry on the failings in the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust between 2005 and 2009. The Inquiry identifies a story of terrible and unnecessary suffering of hundreds of people who were failed by a system which ignored the warning signs of poor care and put corporate self interest and cost control ahead of patients and their safety.'  (Link to earlier inquiry added).

Friday 15 February 2013

Dizaei loses appeal against conviction at second trial

The case of R v Dizaei was considered on this blog on 29th June 2010 and 13th February 2012

In February 2010, Ali Dizaei (who held the rank of Commander in the Metropolitan Police) was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment for offences of misconduct in public office and perverting the course of justice - see Daily Mail 9th February 2010.    He appealed and the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) ordered a retrial on the basis of new evidence - judgment.  In February 2012, Dizaei was convicted and, this time, sentenced to 3 years imprisonment (less 

Dizaei's appeal was heard in May 2011 and a retrial was ordered on the basis of new evidence.  In February 2012, Dizaei was convicted at the retrial.  Saunders J sentenced him to 3 years imprisonment (with 15 months already served to be allowed for).  The sentencing remarks of Saunders J are available on the Judiciary website.  

Dizaei appealed

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Letters Patent ~ Royal Charters ~ Press Regulation

Two of the ways by which the Crown exercises its powers are the issue of Letters Patent and Royal Charters.

Letters Patent:
Letters Patent (Open Letters) are used in many areas.  In May 2012 the Ministry of Justice referred to 92 types of Letters Patent.  They are a type of legal instrument in the form of a published written order issued (technically by Her Majesty), granting an office, right, monopoly, title, or status to a person or corporation.   Certain appointments must be made by Letters Patent - e.g. the Judges of the Supreme Court (Constitutional Reform Act 2005 s.23).  Queen's Counsel are also appointed by this method.

The Guardian 11th February reports the case of Rohan Pershad, a barrister and Queen's Counsel (QC) who specialised in fraud cases.  Pershad has been convicted of cheating the public revenue in that he failed to pay over £620,000 in VAT.  See the HMRC Press Release. An interesting question is whether the Letters Patent issued to him may be revoked thereby removing his rank.  This appears

Monday 11 February 2013

Special Measures in Criminal Proceedings

Update 27th March:  Brewer was sentenced to a total of 6 years imprisonment

Frances Andrade was a very talented violinist.  As a child she studied at Chetham's School of Music, Manchester.  A teacher at the school was Michael Brewer who, on 8th February, was convicted at the Crown Court Manchester (His Honour Judge Rudland and a jury) of five counts of indecent assault on Frances Andrade during the 1970s when she was at the school and aged 14-15.  Brewer's former wife was also convicted of indecently assaulting Andrade.  See 'Choirmaster Michael Brewer guilty of sec abuse'

The case against Brewer emerged years later as a result of Andrade's friend (Jenevora Williams) informing the Police. (Andrade had told Williams about what Brewer had done).  Consequently, Andrade was called as a witness for the prosecution.  As a complainant in this type of case, Andrade was qualified to benefit from special measures (Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999) but, as permitted by s.17(4) of the Act, she declined them and chose to give her evidence in person before the court.  She endured a rigorous cross-examination by Brewer's counsel Kate Blackwell QC. Between giving her evidence and the conclusion of the trial, Andrade took her own life.  Her family are particularly distressed at the conduct of the cross-examination which, they suggest, contributed to her state of mind - The Guardian 8th February 2013 - "Sexual abuse victim killed herself after giving evidence at choirmaster trial."  and The Guardian 10th February.  The fact of Andrade's death was withheld from the jury until after the verdicts had been returned.

Every defendant

Thursday 7 February 2013

Driving resulting in death

The excellent Crimeline has drawn attention to two recent decisions of the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) concerning causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving.   Both were appeals against sentence.  Both are, in their ways, tragic cases.

The first case demonstrates that poor health can be the factor which makes the driving dangerous and also shows that old age is not, in itself, a factor which prevents the imposition of a custodial sentence.

Death by dangerous drivingR v Cole – The appellant was a man of age 86 who suffered poor health and, in particular, had suffered poor eyesight since 2007.  In the Crown Court,

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill ~ Key features

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill aims to enable lawful marriages between two males or two females.  It is a government bill sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the department has issued Equal Marriage with a view to highlighting some of the myths around equal marriage and explaining the truth within the Bill.

As English law stands, a marriage is between a man and a woman and marriage is effected either by a religious ceremony or by a civil marriage entered into before a Registrar.  (Civil marriages have been recognized as a legal alternative to religious marriages since 1837 - Marriage Act 1836).

The Civil Partnerships Act 2004 (fully in force from 5th December 2005) enabled same sex couples to enter into a 'civil partnership' which has almost the same legal effects as a marriage between a man and a woman.  See Parliament - Same sex marriage and civil partnerships

Monday 4 February 2013

King Richard III

The University of Leicester has announced that all the available evidence shows that human remains (a skeleton) discovered on the site of the former Greyfriars Church, Leicester are the remains of King Richard III - see University of Leicester Media Centre 4th February where the supporting evidence is set out.   A key element of the evidence is mitochondrial DNA which passes down the maternal line - (for a clear explanation see HERE).

The brutal death of Richard III (aged 32) at Bosworth Field, Leicestershire in 1485 marked the end of the Wars of the Roses between the Houses of Lancaster and York.  This was a turbulent and bloody period of what was essentially internecine warfare.  The victor of Bosworth Field was Henry Tudor who became Henry VII - the first of the Tudor line of Monarchs who ruled until the death of Elizabeth I in 1603.  Richard was declared King by Parliament - Titulus Regius 1483 - but his reign was destined to be short though it was not without lasting influence on the law.

Saturday 2 February 2013

DNA ~ Low Copy Number / Mixed samples ~ Admissibility of evidence

A previous post asked whether' DNA evidence' was truly the 'Gold standard' of forensic science - Law and Lawyers 5th August 2011.   The Forensic Science Service, referred to in that post was closed on 31st March 2012. The closure was met with considerable concern - see, for example, The Independent 2nd April 2012 and  BBC News July 2011

Many of the evidential problems relating to DNA arise in connection with either low copy number (LCN) DNA or where mixed samples are obtained at a crime scene.

An article in Barrister Magazine considered the need for introducing a standard in relation to low copy number (LCN) DNA.  This is a particularly problematic area where the evidence comes from minute quantities of material and where the results are particularly open to differing expert interpretation.  As the article states - "