Thursday 27 November 2014

Magna Carta

The UK Human Rights blog has drawn attention to a new book - "Magna Carta and its progeny" - Hart Publishing, October 2014 - details here

The authors are  Anthony Arlidge QC and the former Lord Chief Justice  - Lord Judge.

Magna Carta was the subject of my blogpost on 17th June - Magna Carta - is she still alive?

The real historical importance of Magna Carta lies in the fact that later generations saw embedded in the Charter the important ideas that those who govern must abide by the law and also that the governed would have access to justice.  There is no doubt that the document came to be venerated and it has had a wide ranging influence through the common law world and perhaps beyond.  Indeed, its influence has been far greater than the actual legal merit of the charter deserved.  After all, the document was essentially concerned with the feudal rights of some of the wealthiest people of the day.   

The need for access to justice is as important as ever and, in today's society with highly complex law, legal representation should be a basic right.  The government will wish to capitalise on 2015 being the 800th Anniversary of Magna Carta BUT it cannot and must not be forgotten that the government has minimised legal aid and, as a consequence, access to justice for the majority of the population.  For the very rich, the legal system continues to offer a "Rolls Royce" service as discussed here in this excellent post on the Steve Cornforth blog.

The Independent - Magna Carta: Contemporary account of the signing of historic document discovered

Addendum 15th June 2015:

For a more recent speech on Magna Carta see Lord Sumption's address to the British Library - Magna Carta then and now - 9th March 2015

The Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill ~ Overview

Once enacted, the latest Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill will be the 6th terrorism-related Act since year 2000.  The announcement of the need for additional legislation was covered in my blogpost of 15th November.   Earlier this week the Home Secretary spoke about the terrorism threat to the UK, the Intelligence and Security Committee issued a report relating to the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby and the Prime Minister spoke in the House of Commons about the report (Law and Lawyers 25th November).

Parliament's website has this PDF version of the Bill as introduced on 26th November.  The publication of the Bill is accompanied by Explanatory Notes (PDF 56 pages).   Matters such as the need for the legislation and the need for fast-tracking it through Parliament are addressed in the first 54 paragraphs.  Thereafter is a more detailed look at the clauses in the Bill.  The Explanatory Notes are well worth reading in full by any reader requiring a detailed look at the Bill.

The Bill is divided into 7 Parts and 5 schedules. The following paragraphs take a brief look at each Part.

Wednesday 26 November 2014

The Birmingham Pub Bombings 1974

21st November 1974 is another day that should live in criminal infamy.  Two explosions in Birmingham wrecked the Mulberry Bush and the Tavern in the Town.  21 people were killed and 182 injured.  A third explosive device failed to detonate.  Six men - (Hugh Callaghan, Patrick Joseph Hill, Gerard Hunter, Richard McIlkenny, William Power and John Walker) - were arrested and subsequently tried in the Shire Hall of Lancaster Castle (pictured) before Bridge J and a jury.  The trial commenced on 9th June 1975 and the men, having been convicted, were sentenced on 15th August 1975.  Bridge J rejected legal argument to the effect that the men's statements ought not to be admitted in evidence.  The statements were later shown to be unreliable.  It was not until 14th March 1991 that the convictions were finally quashed by the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division).  Financial compensation was subsequently paid.  Bridge J went on to eventually become Lord Bridge of Harwich and he sat in the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords from 1980 until 1992.

The Birmingham Six case, as it came to be known, has resulted in extensive literature including the book by Chris Mullins - "Error of Judgment: The truth about the Birmingham Bombings" - (see London Review of Books) and Chris Mullins' own comments about his book).

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Terrorism ~ Report on the Murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby

The need for legislation to give Ministers more anti-terrorism powers was announced earlier this month - Further anti-terrorism powers (15th November).  The new Anti-terrorism and Security Bill is to be presented to Parliament on Wednesday 26th November.  Comment to follow when its contents are fully known.  However, this week has seen a number of other terrorism-related matters.

1) On Monday 24th November, the Home Secretary (Theresa May MP) spoke of the terrorism threat facing the UK.
2) Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) has issued a report on the intelligence relating to the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby - and see BBC 25th November - Woolwich murder: Lee Rigby's death 'not preventable'.  Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale were convicted of the murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with, respectively a whole life term and a 45 year minimum term. - see Sentencing Remarks of Sweeney J (26th February 2014)

Saturday 22 November 2014

A few items of interest ...

A little list of items of interest ............

1. Severe cuts to legal aid have taken place in England and Wales.  The impact of these cuts is certainly being felt by many people who need access to law and must now try to fight their own case amid the thicket of law or, alternatively, who must simply give up the fight against the more powerful opponent with deeper and often publicly funded pockets.  In a report by the National Audit Office, the Ministry of Justice has been accused of slashing legal aid without understanding the impact of the cuts.  According to the National Audit Office, the £300m cuts to legal aid ‘cannot be said to have delivered better overall value for money for the taxpayer’.  
  • Read the full report here
The report's conclusions are not surprising

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Reforming the role of magistrates

This morning I draw attention to an article in Modern Law Review (November 2014) - Reforming the role of Magistrates: Implications for summary justice in England and Wales

The article may be obtained (£) from the Wiley Online Library.  The Library website offers the following introductory paragraph.

"The role of lay magistrates in England and Wales has been progressively undermined by protracted processes of reform over the last two decades. Current government proposals aim to reorient and ‘strengthen’ their function through the creation of new magisterial responsibilities such as oversight of out of court disposals and greater involvement with local justice initiatives. This article argues that while these proposals embody necessary and important areas for reform, taken in isolation they will fail to consolidate the role of magistrates in summary justice unless they are enacted alongside other measures which aim to reaffirm the status of lay justices, and which seek to reverse the trend which has prioritised administrative efficiency at the expense of lay justice. Rapidly declining magistrate numbers together with continuous (and continuing) programs of court closures are irreconcilable with the future viability of a lay magistracy."

Some of the "reforms" have included:

Saturday 15 November 2014

Further anti-terrorism powers

The Government is particularly concerned about UK citizens who travel to conflict zones and perhaps return to the UK with skills and intentions acquired from fighting or training with terrorist groups.  In a speech to the Australian Parliament, the Prime Minister (David Cameron) indicated that a new Counter-Terrorism Bill is to come before the UK Parliament with a view to getting it on the statute book by January 2015.  The Prime Minister noted that Australia had already passed new legislation to tackle foreign fighters - see the Australian Counter Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill

According to Mr Cameron, the UK Bill will contain - "New powers for police at ports to seize passports, to stop suspects travelling and to stop British nationals returning to the UK unless they do so on our terms.  New rules to prevent airlines that don’t comply with our no-fly lists, or our security screening measures, from landing in the UK."  See The Guardian 14th November and  BBC 14th November

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Law Commission ~ Offences against the Person

The Law Commission has commenced a "scoping consultation" about Offences against the Person - Law Commission 12th November 2014.  and also see Law Commission Offences against the Person.  The consultation remains open until 11th February 2015.  The Commission comments that :

"Offences of violence are some of the most common in our criminal justice system: those covered in our paper are charged anything up to 200,000 times each year.  It is, therefore, essential that the laws in this area are clear, fit for purpose in the 21st century and (ideally) collated together in a single, readily-accessible statute. This is especially so in an era with increasing numbers of litigants in person, even in criminal cases.

 The scope of the consultation is limited to

R v Max Clifford - Appeal against sentence

On 2nd May 2014 Frank Maxwell Clifford ("Max Clifford") was sentenced to a total of 8 years on eight counts of indecent assault contrary to s14(1) of the Sexual Offences Act 1956.   He appealed against the sentence and his appeal was dismissed.  The judgment is worth reading in full - R v Frank Maxwell Clifford [2014] EWCA Crim 2235

The judgment is considered in an interesting article by Joshua Rozenberg - The Guardian 12th November 2014 - Appeal court ruling on Max Clifford shows how far defendants can go 

Addendum 24th November:

Silence if Golden -  Law Society Gazette - David Corker comments - "Some may regard with alarm the establishment of this sentencing principle; essentially whether the defendant showed adequate respect for the criminal justice system. Bearing in mind the presumption of innocence, it seems inapt to hold that those who reiterate that by claiming to be so should be exposed to the risk of punishment."

Thursday 6 November 2014

European Arrest Warrant and other EU measures

Update 11th November:  The Criminal Justice and Data Protection Regulations were approved in the House of Commons. This completed the transposition into domestic law of 11 of the 35 measures that the government wished to retain.  The debate was dogged by procedural tactics and, to the annoyance of many MPs, there was no separate vote on the European Arrest Warrant even though there had been political assurances in advance that there would be.  Nevertheless, legally, a vote was not required on opting back into the EAW and so it will remain in force in relation to the UK.

Update 8th November: Parliament -  The UK's 2014 block opt-out decision: Joint Commttee Statement  and see the DRAFT Criminal Justice and Data Protection (Protocol No. 36) Regulations 2014

On Monday 10th November, the House of Commons will vote on a package of EU measures and one concern is whether the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) will continue to have force in the UK- BBC News 6th November 2014.   This is to be part of a one day debate relating to the opting out by the UK of some 110 EU Police and Criminal Justice measures and the opting back into 35 including the EAW - please see the post on 5th September.  

Monday 3 November 2014

Three questions needing satisfactory answers

1.  Why should lawyers continue to offer pro bono work as a means of covering up the fault-lines in government lack of legal aid policy?

Steve Cornforth blog - Who needs legal aid when lawyers do it for free?