Tuesday 31 March 2015

Human Rights and the Battlefield

Policy Exchange has produced an interesting report - Clearing the fog of war: saving our armed forces from defeat by judicial diktat

The report, authored by Professor Richard Ekins (University of Oxford), Dr Jonathan Morgan (University of Cambridge) and Tom Tugendhat (a former Military Assistant to the Chief of the Defence, Staff General Sir David Richards), reaffirms that armed forces on the battlefield should not be above the law but that the rules governing conflict must fall under the Geneva Conventions rather than the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). It argues that a blanket derogation from the ECHR is essential in all future conflicts involving British military personnel.

The report makes the following recommendations:

Monday 30 March 2015

Parliament dissolved ~ the fight for power at Westminster commences

Today (30th March), Parliament was dissolved.  The coalition government remains in place pending the outcome of the General Election on 7th May and it may remain in place for some time beyond the election (see later).  At present, the opinion polls suggest that no political party will gain an overall majority over all other parties in the House of Commons.  Hence, one possible outcome is another coalition between the party with the largest number of seats and one or more of the other parties.  There being no such thing as free lunch, the other parties will make demands as a price for their support.  An alternative to a formal coalition is a supply arrangement with the largest party but that would lead to constant haggling over the conditions for support.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

R v Jogee ~ Supreme Court to hear joint enterprise appeal

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal in the case of R v Ameen Hassan Jogee.  The Court of Appeal Criminal Division judgment is at [2013] EWCA Crim 1433.   Here is an appeal which is potentially of major importance in the controversial area of "joint enterprise" liability in criminal law.  Please read the Court of Appeal's judgment .... more will undoubtedly follow.  In the Supreme Court the case number is UKSC 2015/0015.

Despair and not a lot of hope ...!

Rarely, if ever, has a British government engaged in such an assault on justice than the present coalition.  The brunt of the assault applies to England and Wales since justice matters are mostly devolved to Scotland and Northern Ireland.  (The devolution settlements have become complex - see Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland).  I am not proposing in this blogpost to analyse all the regressive changes made by the coalition over the last 5 years but they are likely to be very far reaching indeed.

The coalition has had two Secretaries of State for Justice:  Kenneth Clarke QC MP and Chris Grayling MP.  That office has been doubled with that of Lord Chancellor though the modern version of the Lord Chancellorship is nothing like the immensely influential (if not powerful) office that it was prior to the Constitutional Reform Act 2007.

Friday 13 March 2015

Intelligence and Security ~ an important report

 12 March 2015 - The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament has today published its Report 'Privacy and Security: A modern and transparent legal framework'. This Report includes, for the first time in a single document, a comprehensive review of the full range of intrusive capabilities available to the UK intelligence Agencies. It contains an unprecedented amount of information about those capabilities, the legal framework governing their use, and the privacy protections and safeguards that apply. The Report also reveals the use of certain capabilities – such as Bulk Personal Datasets and Directions under the Telecommunications Act 1984  for the first time. The Report represents a landmark in terms of the openness and transparency surrounding the Agencies’ work.

The Committee has also released a press statement on the report, and the opening statement from a press conference held on 12th March.

The Guardian - Joshua Rozenberg - Legal limbo where spies reside is beyond spooky 

Telecommunications Act 1984 - Directions in the interests of national security

Tuesday 10 March 2015

Deaths in Prisons

Open Democracy 10th March 2015 asked - "Could Ministry of Justice and Grayling be prosecuted for manslaughter over prison suicides?"    The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman has repeatedly expressed concerns about the number of suicides of persons in detention - see his reports.   This blog - 26th February 2015 "A most serious report" - looked at a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission - Preventing deaths in detention of adults with mental health conditions.

Would it be possible to bring such prosecutions under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007

Friday 6 March 2015

Court fee increases approved

Like the Ritz, justice is open to all
Court fees will rise as a result of approval by Parliament of a Statutory Instrument imposing the increases - Law Society Gazette 5th March.  For many people in need of the law, access to justice will now be a forlorn hope.

The House of Lords debate approving the increase may be read HERE.  The Statutory Instrument in question is The Civil Proceedings and Family Proceedings Fees (Amendment) Order 2015

Tuesday 3 March 2015

The jury

We know that King John put his seal to a document at Runnymede in 1215.  The document was the Articles of the Barons and eventually it came to be known as Magna Carta (the Great Charter).  There were various versions and what remains of the 1297 version is the one still having legal force today.   Article 29 states:

NO Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the Land. We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right.

Monday 2 March 2015

A multi-angled story ...

 The revelation of the name of the individual usually referred to as "Jihadi John" is a news story with several legally interesting aspects.  He has been named as Mohammed Emwazi - BBC 26th February.  Some time ago he had contact with the organisation CAGE which had received some of its funding from certain charities.

CAGE recently published a statement concerning "Jihadi John" (Mohammed Emwazi) who, CAGE claims, was "harassed" by MI5 and this may have contributed to the radicalisation of the Kuwaiti-born computer graduate who grew up in west London - see BBC 27th February - CAGE: Important human rights group or apologists for terror?  This individual is said to have wielded the knife in the murders by beheading of a considerable number of people such as the American journalist James Foley - (Wikipedia Jihadi John).

The CAGE comments about Emwazi have been condemned by several politicians, including the Prime Minister and Boris Johnson (Telegraph 1st March 2015).  

Human rights plans ~ Legal Aid ~ Fee increases

What has happened regarding the much heralded Bill on Human Rights promised last autumn by the Secretary of State for Justice.  With only a month to go to the end of the present Parliament, it has not been published.  (General Election 2015 Timetable). 

Conservative Party plans for human rights reform were announced in October 2014 and they were severely criticised at the time - please see the various links at Human Rights - a look at the Conservative Party proposals (6th October 2014)

Writing in the Law Society Gazette 2nd March 2015, Joshua Rozenberg speculates