Sunday 6 January 2019

New Year Roundup

Here is an early 2019 roundup of news and views.

Parliament - see Bills and Legislation and Committees.    In 2018, 34 Acts of Parliament were enacted - see the full list

Supreme Court - sittings will resume on 15 January and the court's listings up to mid-April (Hilary Term) may be seen HERE.   For a list of all current cases, including those where the court has heard argument but judgment has yet to be handed down, see HERE.

Court of Appeal (Civil Division) - live-streaming of selected cases commenced in November 2018.  For further details see Courts and Tribunals Judiciary.

Human Rights - Rights Information continues to provide human rights news, views and information.  This site is well worth visiting frequently.

Notable cases of 2018 -The UK Human Rights blog continues to be an excellent legal resource and offers The 5 most significant inquest cases of 2018 and 10 cases that defined 2018.   

On the international law scene, take a look at OUP blog - Top ten developments in international law in 2018

Civil Litigation Brief has highlighted a case concerning refusal of a Magistrates' Court to permit an adjournment - HERE.  The Administrative Court allowed an appeal against a decision not to adjourn a trial.  The magistrates’ court simply went ahead without referring to any of the relevant legal principles.   Although these were criminal proceedings, these principles have some relevance to civil cases where parties cannot attend due to bad weather or other unforeseen circumstances.

Reporting of recent judgments continues via BAILII and ICLR.

Grenfell Tower Inquiry - the inquiry into the fire at Grenfell Tower on 14 June 2017 continues.   Read the statement of 12 December 2018 by the Inquiry Chairman.   Phase 1 was completed in early December 2018 with Phase 2 likely to start in late 2019.  Phase 1 was concerned with events on the night of the fire.  A list of issues for Phase 2 has been prepared.

A number of expert reports have been prepared for the inquiry and links are available in this previous post.

Rape Myths - The Law Society Gazette 21 December 2018 looks at  Rape Myths and Misconceptions

The article highlights research undertaken by Dominic Willmott PhD of Huddersfield University - Willmott, D. (2018). An Examination of the Relationship between Juror Attitudes, Psychological Constructs, and Verdict Decisions within Rape Trials (Doctoral thesis). University of Huddersfield.

'What if I told you that some jurors do not decide cases on the evidence that they hear, but instead on entrenched prejudices and stereotypes that they cannot shake? That as far as those jurors are concerned, the calling of evidence does nothing more than pay lip-service to the concept of a fair trial? Would you be shocked that people could be convicted and imprisoned on the basis of prejudiced and stereotyped jury attitudes? Except that it’s not defendants who are at risk; instead the biases operate against women complainants in rape cases.'

Joint enterprise - see the judgment (published by Crimeline) in R v Laura Mitchell [2018] EWCA Crim 2687.  This was an appeal of a 2007 murder conviction brought via the Criminal Cases Review Commission.  The appeal failed with the court stating that a Jogee-compliant direction to the jury would not have made a difference. 
Legal aid - or, more exactly, the lack of legal aid - continues to be a major concern in both criminal and civil cases.

Secret Barrister, writing in The Guardian 27 December 2018, comments that 'Without legal aid, the rule of law collapses.'

The outcome of the Ministry of Justice review of legal aid provision has yet to be announced.  See Ministry of Justice Post implementation review of LASPO.  I am not holding my breath given that the MoJ has to find further financial cuts over 2019-20.

It is beyond doubt that LASPO is resulting in daily injustice as many people are forced to represent themselves - see - This leaked report reveals the stark warnings from judges about defendants with no lawyer.

Turning to Secret Barrister again please see - Don't let the Jack Shepherd stories on legal aid distract you from the government's cynical agenda - The MoJ promised to publish a full review into the devastating impact of LASPO by the end of 2018. They broke their promise. Six years after implementation, we are still waiting. Within 24 hours of the Mail calling for legal aid to be stripped from unpopular criminals like Jack Shepherd, the Ministry pledged to hold an “urgent review”.

McKenzie Friends - On 3 January, the Law Society Gazette published Family Law 'does not need lawyers', claims ex-policeman's McKenzie startup.   A former police officer who has set up a venture linking the public with McKenzie friends has told the Gazette it is an ‘irrebuttable truth’ that family law does not need lawyers.  This opinion is based on a view that - "The legal system in family law is no more than human disagreement – there are no legal questions."  This ignores the point that courts decide cases according to the relevant background of law and procedure and family law is, to say the least, complex.

The absence of legal aid for legal representation in many family law cases (e.g. child arrangements, maintenance payments etc) has spurred an increase in the number of McKenzie friends and many are charging up to £260 a day for their services. 

It is now almost 3 years since the Judiciary issued a consultation on McKenzie friends.

For a September 2016 article on McKenzie friends see The Conversation - What are McKenzie friends and why are they appearing in more courtrooms?.

Drones - The pre-Christmas chaos at Gatwick Airport raised the question of what is the government doing about the operation of drones.  The government commenced a consultation in late July 2018 and has yet to issue its official response. 

Law Commission - In June 2018 the Law Commission published a report on Search Warrants and argued that greater protection for the public was required.  "The laws around search warrants should be modernised with more protections put in place to protect individuals’ rights ..."  The Law Commission also wishes to see a new Sentencing Code put in place.  On this see the Martin Partington blog.

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