Sunday 1 November 2015

1st November ~ Round up - Legal aid - Judicial review - Investigatory Powers

November is here.  The change from summer to autumn has taken place without very heavy rain or strong wind and so the autumn colours have been magnificent.  Not so splendid is the existing state of our justice system and there are serious concerns about government plans for legislation to address Investigatory Powers and Extremism.

As the Marilyn Stowe blog states, cuts to legal aid are leaving people stressed and powerless.  It is claimed that the cuts in the family law area are jeopardising the rule of law and are hurting the most vulnerable people disproportionately.

The Public Law Project has looked at the value and effects of Judicial Review: one means of ensuring that official decision-making is lawful.  There are a number of widely held and influential assumptions about the costs and misuse of Judicial Review (JR).   First, that the past growth in the use of JR has been largely driven by claimants abusing the system, either deliberately or otherwise.  Second, that the effect of JR on public administration is largely negative because JR makes it more difficult for public bodies to deliver public services efficiently.  Third, that JR litigation tends to be an expensive and time consuming detour concerned with technical matters of procedure that rarely alters decisions of public bodies. These claims have been challenged for their lack of empirical basis and the study provides additional evidence which shows them to be at best misleading and at worst false.

"Radicalisation" or "Radicalism" continues to be a serious concern.  The UK Human Rights blog has an excellent report on activity in the courts - Radicalism and the Family Courts - Marina Wheeler.  Please also read the article on the Marilyn Stowe blog by Valerie Sterling - Recent radicalisation cases in the family courts

In June, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation (Mr David Anderson QC) reported on Investigatory Powers and made 124 recommendations.  The government is committed to further legislation on Investigatory Powers and a draft Bill is expected imminently.  It will undergo pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee of Parliament.  The aim is to have new or revised powers in place before the end of 2016.

The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) reported in July 2015 - A Democratic Licence to operate.  The Review shows how a democracy can combine the high level of security the public have a right to expect and also ensure the respect for privacy and freedom of speech that are the foundations of a democracy. The panel unanimously calls on government, civil society and industry to accept its recommendations and work together to put them into practice. 
The Independent Reviewer has expressed concerns over government plans for a Counter-Extremism Bill which is also imminent - The Guardian 17th September.   David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism laws, said the legislation to counter extremist ideology also risks legitimising state scrutiny of – and citizens informing on – the political activities of large numbers of law-abiding people.

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