Monday 30 April 2018

Deciding not to sustain life - a note on the system in Texas, USA.

Cases such as Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans highlight to the general public the fact that, where caring parents and doctors disagree over appropriate treatment for a child, the judges of the Family Division of the High Court are the ones entrusted with making the decision about what is in the child's "best interests."   The "best interests" test has recently been described by the Supreme Court as the "gold standard" and the court commented that, in this type of case, the test "needs to apply to them without qualification."

These very difficult situations raise numerous legal and ethical questions.  This post takes a brief look at one alternative and controversial process for making such decisions although I do not advocate its adoption here.

Sunday 29 April 2018

Lay Magistrates at bay / The dire legal aid system

Cambridge Magistrates' Court
"Lay justice is a powerful expression of community participation in the regulation of society."

This week Criminal Law and Justice Weekly ceased publication.  For the last 182 years this "quiet" publication has recorded changes in the criminal justice arena.   It is noted for "quality" articles - e.g. Modern Slavery Act: Who bears the burden of proof? - and will be missed.

John Cooper QC commented about the closure by saying- "The final demise of CL and J is perhaps a salutary lesson for many of us. I will predict that in some years time, may be even sooner, practitioners will ask “why isn’t there a weekly publication devoted to crime and the criminal justice system?” And comparisons will be made with other legal disciplines who have their own titles. Well let me answer that question now, before you ask it...... “ you had one, and you lost it."

Interestingly, CL and J sprang from an earlier publication "Justice of the Peace." 

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Alfie Evans ~ a profoundly sad and difficult situation

The courts are called upon to make difficult decisions touching on all aspects of our human existence but the most profoundly difficult decisions are in those tragic cases where a child is in hospital with an incurable condition. 

Alfie Evans was born on 9th May 2016 and is on venitlatory support at Alder Hey NHS Foundation Trust Hospital.  The Hospital Trust sought a declaration from the High Court that continuing the support was no longer in Alfie's best interests and that in the circumstances it is not lawful that such treatment continue.

Monday 23 April 2018


In a House of Commons debate on the Immigration Bill held on 30th January 2014, Diane Abbott MP (Labour) said to the then Home Secretary (Theresa May MP):

" I accept the Home Secretary’s wish to clean up the system and discourage people from “playing” it - I deal with thousands of immigration cases every month - but has she given no thought to the effect that her measures that are designed to crack down on illegal immigrants could have on people who are British nationals, but appear as if they might be immigrants?"

Wednesday 18 April 2018

In the face of Barbarism (2)

The previous post - In the face of Barbarism (1) - looked at the use of chemical weapons in Syria and the recent air strikes by the USA, UK and France.  The moral position is, to my mind, beyond doubt.  Action was needed to try to degrade the chemical weapon capability available to the Syrian government and, for the future, greater action is needed to resume the Geneva peace-process which was discontinued in December 2017.

The clarity of the moral position is not matched by international law.  The UN Charter requires collective action to deal with threats to peace rather than, as in the past, States deciding to "do their own thing" but a void exists in cases where a permanent member of the UN Security Council will not support proposed action.  Attempts to fill that void have led to States using alternative justifications for the use of force such as "humanitarian intervention."   This has been used by British governments on a number of occasions (e.g. Kosovo) but such alternative arguments are far from universally accepted.  This post looks at this further and then looks at the question of the role of Parliament regarding military action abroad by British Forces. 

Tuesday 17 April 2018

In the face of barbarism (1)

Recent events in Syria have acutely raised the question of how the world is to deal with the barbarism of chemical weapons.  Gas as a weapon came to the forefront at the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915 - (Youtube - video).  Today, its use is prohibited by the Chemical Weapons Convention which most nations (including Russia and Syria) have accepted as binding.

Syria and Chemical Weapons:

Monday 16 April 2018

"Ant" McPartlin fined £86,000 for excess alcohol offence

On 18th March 2018, following a road traffic accident, Anthony David "Ant" McPartlin was arrested on suspicion of driving with excess alcohol contrary to the Road Traffic Act 1988 section 5.  On 16th April, at Wimbledon Magistrates' Court, Mr McPartlin pleaded guilty and was fined £86,000 and disqualified for 20 months - see The Telegraph 16th April.   Mr McPartlin's income was said to be around £130,000 per week.  The charge stated that he had 75 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath - the legal limit is 35 microgrammes per 100 millilitres of breath.

For offences committed on or after 12th March 2015, a Level 5 fine in the Magistrates' Court is unlimited (in most cases) as opposed to the previous usual maximum of £5,000.  See the Regulations effecting the change.

Previous post.

Saturday 14 April 2018

Syria - some links

The use of chemical weapons in Douma, Syria has, rightly, been met with disgust.  Fundamental human morality undoubtedly demands action against those responsible.  The governments of the USA, UK and France considered the Syrian government to be responsible and, in consequence, undertook air strikes against selected targets in Syria.  The United Nations Security Council failed to adopt three resolutions on the use of chemical weapons in Syria - UN News 10th April.

A difficult question is whether, as a matter of international law, the air strikes are lawful.

A further question is whether the UK government was entitled to act without the prior approval of Parliament.

The following links touch upon those difficult questions.  At this stage I offer the links without additional comment.  Many more links can be found.

Friday 6 April 2018

A very disturbing - shocking - situation

3 points.  First, the criminal justice system is in crisis.  Secondly, Police numbers have been markedly reduced.  Thirdly, over 50 people have been killed - mostly by stabbing - in London alone this year.  On any view, this is a very disturbing and shocking picture.

Deaths in London:

i News 4th April published the terrible List of victims killed in the capital so far this year and noted that - "The Met Police is currently investigating 55 suspected murders since the start of 2018."   The list shows that most of the victims died as a result of stabbing. 

Thursday 5 April 2018

Householder arrested on suspicion of murder

A 78-year-old was arrested on suspicion of murder after a 38-year-old died of his wounds in hospital in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The Telegraph 4th April reports - "Police said the struggle broke out after the pensioner, .... , found two men inside his home in ..... south London shortly after midnight.  One of the burglars, who was armed with a screwdriver, forced the homeowner into his kitchen while his accomplice went upstairs.  Detectives believe a struggle then took place between "one of the males and the homeowner" and the 38-year-old intruder was stabbed in the upper body."  It appears that the second intruder escaped from the scene and is still to be found.

The fact that there has been an arrest without warrant means that criminal proceedings are active for the purposes of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 and so I make no comment on the actual case.  Update 7th April - no charges are to follow.

Wednesday 4 April 2018

Brexit Update - Committee for Exiting the EU

The House of Commons Select Committee for Exiting the EU has published The Future UK-EU relationship.  The Committee's analysis has indicated that there are a number of key tests by which any deal agreed by October can be judged. The Prime Minister has set out her red lines for the negotiations. However, the success of the future relationship will be judged on the ground by the members of the public, businesses and agencies that travel to and from, trade with and will continue to work closely with the EU and EU Member States.  At paragraph 32 the Committee's criteria are set out:

Direct action by the Criminal Bar

An E Mail I received 3rd April .... I am happy to add it to this blog ...

The Criminal Bar is to take direct action as a result of new legal aid cuts. This email explains why action is being taken and why you should care about it. 

From today, most criminal chambers will be refusing to take on new government funded legal aid cases; this means that defendants will go unrepresented in the Crown Courts (where the most serious cases are tried). Such action could bring the courts to a halt - a matter not lightly embarked upon. Action is being taken because the criminal justice system is in crisis.

Tuesday 3 April 2018

More on problems with the Criminal Justice System

Centre for Criminal Appeals "the Centre) works to represent prisoners with compelling claims of innocence.  The Centre also seeks to improve transparency and accountability of the criminal justice system.  Full details of the Centre and its work may be seen in its 2017 annual report according to which - "There is an unfortunate misconception that our justice system is the best in the world .... But for those being prosecuted across the country for criminal matters, the situation is radically different - the "gold" standard simply does not apply.  The challenge for the Centre has only become tougher in recent years.  Government cuts have had a profound impact in every corner of the criminal justice system.  It is inevitable that the quality of representation afforded to defendants diminishes, as well as the quality of the investigation of crime by the police.  The inexorable result is that innocent people will be convicted and the demand on the Centre to redress these errors will become greater."