Thursday 27 February 2014

Manslaughter sentencing ~ R v Lewis Gill

Update:  Letter in The Guardian 3rd March from the Attorney-General - Dominic Grieve QC

On 26th February, former Lord Justice of Appeal Sir Henry Brooke tweeted:

There can be no doubt about that given the vast spectrum of factual situations and degrees of culpability involved in manslaughter cases.

Serious public concern has been expressed at the 4 year sentence imposed on Lewis Gill (aged 20) for the manslaughter of Andrew Young (40) who suffered from Asperger's Syndrome.  Some of the media coverage of the offence is at The Independent 27th February  (with a video of the event).  Unfortunately, sentencing remarks do not seem to have been officially released.   However, The Independent report states:

Wednesday 26 February 2014

Sentencing in R v Adebolajo and Adebowale

The men found guilty of the murder, on the afternoon of 22nd May 2013 at Woolwich, of  Fusilier Lee Rigby have now been sentenced.  A whole life term was imposed by Mr Justice Sweeney on Michael Adebolajo.  A 45 year minimum term was imposed on Michael Adebowale.  See the Sentencing Remarks (via the Judiciary website).  Adebolajo ( also known as Mujaah id Abu Hamza) was the leader of the joint enterprise.  Adebowale (also known as Ismail Ibn Abdullah) played his part in the joint enterprise enthusiastically.  Earlier this month, the Court of Appeal held that it was lawful to impose a whole life term (previous post of 18th February).

The Guardian 26th February reports that the two had to be removed from the dock for disruptive behaviour and they were not present in court as the judge passed sentence.

The "On the Run" administrative scheme ~ Statement in Parliament

Update 27th February:   The Guardian - Cameron orders judicial review into IRA immunity letters and see 10 Donwing Street announcement

In the Parliamentary session of 2005-6, a Northern Ireland (Offences) Bill was introduced into Parliament.   The Bill was introduced on 9 November 2005, and it had its second reading in the Commons on 23 November and passed its committee stage. Further information on the provisions is given in Library Research Paper 05/78.   Following widespread opposition to the Bill, Peter Hain MP announced on 11 January 2006 that he had decided to withdraw the bill.  He noted (HC Debates 11th January 2006 c286-288): 

'Every Northern Ireland party vigorously opposed the Bill, bar Sinn Fein. Now Sinn Fein opposes it, because it refuses to accept that the legislation should apply to members of the security forces charged with terrorism-related offences.  To exclude

Tuesday 25 February 2014

1982 Hyde Park Bomb ~ Abuse of process ~ Indictment against John Downey stayed

The Crown Prosecution Service website has a clear explanation of the basic principles of "abuse of process" - a principle by which a trial court exercises its overriding duty to promote justice and prevent injustice.  The court has an inherent power to 'stay' an indictment (or stop a prosecution in the magistrates' courts) if the court is of the opinion that to allow the prosecution to continue would amount to an abuse of the process of the court.

Abuse of process has been defined as something so unfair and wrong with the prosecution that the court should not allow a prosecutor to proceed with what is, in all other respects, a perfectly supportable case (Hui Chi-Ming v R [1992] 1 A.C. 34, PC). 'Unfair and wrong' is for the court to determine on the individual facts of each case. The concept of a fair trial involves fairness to the prosecution and to the public as well as to the defendant: DPP v Meakin [2006] EWHC 1067.

On 20th July 1982, bombs exploded

Women and children first ~ Gender neutraility in the family courts ~ Marital property agreements

Update 27th February:  Law Commission Report - Matrimonial property, Needs and Agreements

"Men have every right to feel disillusionment with the family courts system" argues Philippa Dolan in the Law Society Gazette 24th February - Women and Children First.   For years family lawyers have known it to be true: men get a raw deal when they divorce in England and Wales.  Scotland has a different appoach to money in divorce and women rarely get the joint lives order (aka "meal ticket for life") that we still see here.   Also, the prejudice against men is not confined to finance.  There is not a level playing field when it comes to deciding whether children should have their primary homes with their mothers or fathers.

The author of the article bases her views on years of dealing with the family courts, mainly in London.   Our capital city is not the divorce capital of the world for nothing.  Wives with tenuous connection to the city jump through hoops to avail themselves of our wife-friendly judges.  As Boris Johnson said in November 2012: 'I have no shame in saying to the injured spouses of the worlds' billionaires, if you want to take him to the cleaners ... take him to the cleaners in London because London cleaners will be grateful for your business.'

The author notes that our legislation is neutral. 

Friday 21 February 2014

An event at an anti-fracking protest

Here is a link to a report in the Manchester Evening News  21st February. 

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is to investigate the arrest of a man at an anti-fracking camp.  Dr Steven Peers is planning to sue Greater Manchester Police, claiming video footage shows an officer lying to detain him on ‘trumped up’ charges.  He was filming a demonstration at Barton Moss in Salford and arrested for refusing a breath test after the policeman accused him of driving to the site having had drink.  He was charged but the case collapsed at Manchester and Salford Magistrates' Court when prosecutors offered no evidence.

Worth watching ... !!!

Earlier post relating to "Fracking"

Wednesday 19 February 2014

2014 Queen's Counsel

The Lawyer 19th February has the 2014 list of those to be appointed Queen's Counsel (QC) in 2014.   There were 225 applicants.  The successful included 95 barristers and five solicitor-advocates (out of just 7 solicitor applicants). The majority of the new QCs are civil practitioners, with 63 saying they practise civil law. A further six have a mixed civil and criminal practice, and 26 purely criminal practices. Just five are family barristers.

The number of women appointed rose from 14 last year to 18 this year, out of 42 applicants, making the success rate among women 43 per cent. The proportion of new silks who are female rose from 17 per cent last year. However the success rate for women is the lowest since 2008, when 39 per cent of female applicants were made QCs.

In addition there are six QC Honoris Causa

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Court of Appeal upholds "whole life" terms for exceptionally serious murder

A five judge Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) has upheld whole life terms for exceptionally serious murder - Judgment.    Lord Thomas LCJ delivered the court's judgment.  His Lordship succinctly stated the statutory sentencing provisions in paragraph 1 and noted that the Secretary of State has a power of release under s.30 of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 (the 1997 Act) to release a prisoner if there are exceptional circumstances which justify release on compassionate grounds.  The challenge to the scheme was based on Article 3 and the relevant European Court of Human Rights decisions are stated in paragraph 2.

In the event,

Saturday 15 February 2014

Coming soon in the Court of Appeal - legality of whole life terms for murder

Update 18th February:

The Court of Appeal has upheld the legality of "whole life" orders - Judgment.

Original Post:

The death penalty for murder was abolished in the United Kingdom and, in its place, a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment has to be imposed - Murder (Abolition of the Death Penalty) Act 1965.  (The last executions in England were in 1964). This remains the law despite the wishes of some to have a discretionary, as opposed to mandatory, life sentence - Give Judges discretion in murder sentencing - The Guardian 7th December 2011. Whatever the merits of such proposals, there seems to be little doubt that the settled will of the majority of the British people is that the mandatory life sentence should remain.  Even if eventually released, such individuals remain on licence.

The UK Parliament has spoken more recently about sentencing for murder.

Friday 14 February 2014

Scotland and its currency in the event of independence

Update 17th February:  The Telegraph reported on a defiant speech by Alex Salmond.  The speech delivered in Aberdeen claimed that the British government would back down with regard to its stance of no currency union in the event of independence.

The European Commission President stated that obtaining EU membership might be difficult for an independent Scotland - BBC News Scotland 16th February 

Original Post:

The "Edinburgh Agreement" 2012 paved the way for the forthcoming independence referendum in Scotland - BBC 15th October 2012  and see also the text of the agreement.  The final words of the agreement are perhaps worthy of particular note:

"The two governments are committed to continue to work together constructively in the light of the outcome, whatever it is, in the best interests of the people of Scotland and of the rest of the United Kingdom."

The referendum, will be decided by the electorate in Scotland.  The peoples of the remainder of the existing UK do not have a say even though an independence vote will have serious effects on England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  (Of course, Wales and Northern Ireland already have forms of devolved government).  With just 7 months to go to the referendum, many key questions have been asked but the answers remain unclear including whether an independent Scotland will be able to remain in the EU and, perhaps the most fundamental issue of all, the currency to be used in Scotland in the event of independence.

Thursday 13 February 2014

Hillsborough - Home Secretary's Statement in Parliament

The Home Secretary has made a statement in Parliament relating to the Hillsborough Stadium disaster in April 1989.  The statement was essentially a progress report on how matters have proceeded since the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report. 

A website - Hillsborough Inquests - has been set up to enable matters to be followed by the public.  

Tuesday 11 February 2014

Litvinenko's widow wins Judicial Review but decision whether to hold an inquiry remains with Mrs May

Alexander Litvinenko died in London in November 2006.  The cause of death was almost certainly Polonium 210 poisoning.  It may surprise some readers to learn that an inquest into his death has still not been completed - for the detail see Alexander Litvinenko Inquest

Faced with the possibility that various documentation supplied to the inquest might become subject to a claim for public interest immunity, Mr Justice Owen - (the High Court Judge conducting the inquest) - requested the government to substitute an inquiry in place of the inquest see - Inquest or Inquiry: Litvinenko.  The government refused and that refusal has been to judicial review at the behest of Mr Litvinenko's widow.  The High Court's judgment in the judicial review is at R (Litvinenko) v Home Secretary and others [2014] EWHC 194 (Admin). 

The factual background is at paragraphs 3 to 20.  The Home Secretary advanced six reasons for refusing to establish an inquiry - see paragraph 23 of the judgment.  The High Court concluded (para 73):

Monday 10 February 2014

In the Firing Line ~ The Environment Agency

The extensive flooding since December 2013 in Somerset has placed the Environment Agency at the centre of a political storm.  The agency is a non-departmental public body (NDPB).  Legally, the Board constitutes the Environment Agency and is directly responsible to Government Ministers for all aspects of its organisation and performance.  The agency is accountable to Parliament through Ministers.  It has a Board of 11 members (including the Chairman and Chief Executive) and all are appointed by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Ministers expect the Board to ensure that the agency's statutory duties are fulfilled in the light of the guidance and directions which they provide, and to ensure that the organisation operates with propriety, regularity, economy, efficiency and effectiveness.  (See Ministerial direction and guidance.)

The functions of the agency are stated to be:

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Fighting abroad ~ is it against the law?

Imagine that in some foreign land there is a political power struggle.  Those opposing the de facto (or de jure) government seek help by violent means and individuals decide to provide such help.  Could this be an act of terrorism in our law?  For an historical example, see the International Brigades.   In modern times, some British citizens have been fighting alongside those in opposition to President Assad in Syria.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has chosen to warn of the possible consequences for those who decide to go to Syria to oppose the Assad government - see The Muslim Issue  and also BBC - Britons returning from Syria face arrest, says Police Chief 25th January 2014.  The concern is that young people who do this may have become "radicalised" and thus become a threat within the UK.

In the UK,

Grayling's Criminal Justice and Courts Bill

Updated 7th February ... and 9th February ... and 10th February

Here is the latest Criminal Justice Bill - Parliament or see the PDF VERSION.   Part 1 is headed "Dangerous Offenders" but the contents actually extend well beyond that.  Part 2 - Young Offenders.  Part 3 - Courts and Tribunals.  Part 4 - Judicial review.  Part 5 - Final Provisions.

A very quick glance at the Bill instantly reveals a number of matters.   Here are just a few.  Restrictions on the use of cautions; Trial on the papers by a single "justice" of certain offences; Jurors to be able to serve up to and including age 75; Various offences are to be introduced which jurors might commit such as researching the case (punishable with up to 2 years imprisonment); Various provisions about judicial review.

Analysis of this Bill will undoubtedly pour forth and the Bill will accumulate further provisions as it progresses through Parliament.    Therefore, more on this later !

The government's information on the bill is here  and it is accompanied by 15 fact sheets.   Owen Bowcott takes a look at the Bill in The Guardian 5th February and notes that the bill is being introduced before two other crime bills have had the chance to reach the statute book. Grayling's new bill even amends some of the provisions in his own offender rehabilitation bill, which has also yet to reach the statute book.


a) 5th February - Joshua Rozenberg in The Guardian - Despite the tough talk, Grayling has listened to the judges on judicial review. 

b) 7th February ~ With regard to the Judicial Review part of the Bill see the post by Ben Jaffey and Tom Hickman at UK Constitutional Law Association- Loading the dice in Judicial Review

"The overall message from Grayling remains depressing ....  All the proposals are directed at strangling claims and hobbling claimants.".

c) 7th February - UK Human Rights blog - Adam Wagner writes Don't be fooled by the concessions, there is still a threat to judicial review

d) 7th February - Response of the Senior Judiciary to the Consultation on Judicial Review 

e) Grayling's proposals for environmental and planning judicial reviews - David Hart QC on the UK Human Rights blog

Tuesday 4 February 2014

The Law Society Gazette - Tells it like it is !

The Law Society Gazette is an estimable publication.  A copy arrives each week at home and I like the paper copy because it is easier for me to highlight points of particular interest.  The publication, which dates from 1903, can now be obtained electronically on your iphone or Android ipad.   This week's Gazette (3rd February) was a depressing but very informative experience to read.  Here is a down to earth factual publication in which lawyers and others "tell it like it is".

We start with Very High Cost Criminal Cases (VHCCs) being jeopardised by fee cuts.  I cannot imagine a surgeon performing a complex operation without appropriate remuneration but here we see that multi-million pound fraud trials are being put at risk by the Ministry of Justice's cuts to advocates fees. Next, John Hyde notes that the government is reviewing legal regulation and expects to make an announcement later this year.  The outgoing Chief Executive of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (Mr Antony Townsend) urges the government to resist another immediate overhaul of the system.

Sunday 2 February 2014

A few items for Sunday afternoon.

Inquests and legal aid (absence of):

Legal aid for families at inquests has not been readily granted because, so the government argues, an inquest is an inquisitorial process and this should protect the interests of the family.  Exceptionally, legal aid may be made available - see page 17 of the Ministry of Justice document "Coroners and Justice."    A worrying case is reported in The Guardian 2nd February.

Alex Kelly died, aged 15, in 2012, by hanging himself with his laces. He was serving a 10-month sentence in a young offender institution, for burglary and theft from a vehicle. At six, he had been taken into care having been repeatedly raped by a relative (not his father), leaving him profoundly emotionally damaged. The serious case review into his death found failings by a number of professionals.