Tuesday, 23 April 2013

There are still Dragons to fight ~ St. George's Day roundup.

Here is a roundup of some of the many legal matters both in the press and on the blogs at the moment:

1. Jon Robins, writing for Legal Voice, offers a report on the day of action by barristers practising on the Northern Circuit.  "An all-day protest by close to 400 barristers in the North West over what was called ‘a wholesale restructuring of the criminal courts’ caused disruption yesterday. It was reported that of the 241 cases originally listed, 15 trials and 42 other matters were adjourned."  A report on the Northern Circuit meeting is at Crime and Justice 22nd April.

2. Cuts to legal aid will be hugely damaging to access to justice and the ability of non-wealthy individuals to enforce their rights.   Barrister Russell Fraser, writing in the New Statesman, argues that one consequence of government policy could be that our Police, lawyers and jails will be run by G4S.  Naturally, that begs the question - "Who runs G4S" - because, if Russell Fraser is proved right, they will be very powerful and yet rather unknown individuals.

3. If you read nothing else on legal aid, read The [Justice Gap] - Appalling Vistas where Francis FitzGibbon QC looks at government policy on  legal aid David Allen Green in The New Statesman - How the Ministry of Justice's proposal for the tendering of criminal legal aid is misconceived and illiberal.



4. Following on from a consultation about Judicial Review, the government is unveiling changes to make it harder for people to challenge the legality of official decision-making in this way - BBC 23rd April.   

5. For the more historically minded - Betrayal of the Rule of Law in Nazi Germany.  Film (1 hour) produced in 2006.  Are there any parallels today?  Well, I only asked! 

6. The government has failed to justify EU opt-outs according to the House of Lords.  See Law Society Gazette 23rd April  and 'opt-outs' could damage the UK's ability to fight crime. - BBC 23rd April.

7. The Supreme Court blog takes a look at the Crime and Courts Bill which is just finishing its progress through Parliament.

8. The Howard League for Penal Reform has looked at sentencing in Magistrates' Courts - Magistrates' Court Sentencing - Press Release

'People who have been convicted of a crime in England and Wales face a postcode lottery when they are sentenced, with some magistrates’ courts four times more likely than others to send them to prison. New research by the Howard League for Penal Reform shows that a growing number of magistrates’ benches are making good use of community sentences which reduce crime and help people to turn their lives around. However, some benches are still imposing prison sentences in cases where they are unnecessary.'

10. The Sun argues that, since the Leveson Report, the Police have become a law unto themselves.  The Daily Mail also published a piece in similar vein. 

There are also media reports of an alleged 'affair' between counsel when involved in the Leveson Inquiry - Daily Mail 21st April - The Leveson lovers and a compromised Inquiry that's begun a chilling assault on free speech   Further report in The Guardian .  The Times reports that Lord Justice Leveson is considering the matter and that it may be referred to the Bar Council.

11. The Cabinet Office has published  Join the good law conversation  - and see Law Society Gazette. "The government would like the user to experience good law: law that is necessary, clear, coherent, effective and accessible."  This will not be easy given (a) the style of English legislation - Acts with numerous Parts; Sections; Subsections; Schedules + secondary legislation in spades; (b) the 'cut and paste' method of amendment; (c) the massive micro-detail inserted into the law; (d) the inability of government to get a PUBLIC legislation database which is absolutely bang up to date.  The cynical could be forgiven for thinking that this is a 'sound good' initiative which will come to little.

12. In the Blogs

Family Lore blog - Roundup of family law news

UK Human Rights blog - weekly roundup

Dan Bunting blog - A system, Broken.  This post is well worth reading.  It looks at the 'warned list' system in the Crown Court; the problems involved in getting the Crown Prosecution Service to comply with legal disclosure obligations and the delays and inconvenience to witnesses.

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