Tuesday 25 February 2020

News Roundup - 25 February

Updated 27 February


The Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Bill passed all its House of Lords stages on Monday 24 February. The debates may be read via Hansard.

The Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law published a number of reports about the Bill. Their "Rule of Law Analysis" is of particular interest

House of Lords Constitution Committee 3rd Report of Session 2019-21.

House of Lords reform:

Lords reform is back
on the political agenda. The Conservative Party 2019 manifesto referred to examining the role of the House of Lords but failed to give any further information - previous post 25 November 2019.  Whether Lords reform will be restricted to just the role of the House remains to be seen and may come to depend on the eventual recommendations of the proposed Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission details of which have yet to be announced - Previous post 4 January 2020.   The UCL Constitution Unit has published a useful article about the wider options for Lords reform - Lords reform is back on the agenda: What are the options?

A further article from the Constitution Unit looked at the proposed Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission.


The Conservative Party 2019 election manifesto stated - " ...  a majority Conservative Government will get Brexit done, and then introduce a firmer and fairer Australian-style points-based immigration system, so that we can decide who comes to this country on the basis of the skills they have and the contribution they can make – not where they come from. Migrants will contribute to the NHS – and pay in before they can receive benefits ...."

On 18 February, the government set out its politically controversial proposals for such a "points based" immigration system - The UK's points-based immigration system: policy statement.  The Home Secretary "updated" MPs about the proposed system - Parliament 24 February and see Hansard House of Commons 24 February 2020.

Human Rights:

The inaugural annual Bonavero Human Rights lecture took place at the Old Hall, Lincoln's Inn in London on 20 February. The lecture titled 'The Democratic Virtues of Human Rights: A Response to Lord Sumption's Reith Lectures' was delivered by Judge Róbert Spanó, the Vice President of the European Court of Human Rights. Lord Sumption, retired Justice of the UK Supreme Court, responded to the lecture.

Supreme Court of the UK:

The UKSC will hear an appeal concerning the required standard of proof for an inquest to determine that a death was suicide.  Is it the balance of probabilities (the civil standard) or beyond reasonable doubt (the criminal standard)? The court will further consider whether the answer depends on whether the determination is expressed as a short-form conclusion or a narrative conclusion?

R (Maugham) v HM Senior Coroner for Oxfordshire - appeal from [2019] EWCA Civ 809

Scotland Voting rights:

A Bill to reform voting rights in Scotland has passed Stage 3 in the Scottish Parliament.  The reforms apply to Scottish Parliament and local government elections.

Scottish Government 20 February - Right to vote extended
Scottish Parliament - Scottish Elections (Franchise and Representation) Bill

This Bill also makes provision for the franchise to be extended to those serving a custodial sentence of 12 months or less.

General elections will continue to be governed by the Representation of the People Act 1983 which prevents serving prisoners voting in UK parliamentary elections - see section 3Research Briefing 07461 (30 September 2019) summarises developments with prisoners' voting rights.

EU Withdrawal Agreement: 

The UK left the EU on 31 January 2019 and the Withdrawal Agreement now applies and was given legal effect in domestic law by the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2019 - previous post 30 January 2020.

The EU Law Analysis blog continues to offer excellent material on all aspects of the withdrawal arrangements. In particular, please see 17 February - The Withdrawal Agreement Act: implementing the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement in the UK

The ink is barely dry on the Withdrawal Agreement and reports have appeared that the UK government may be seeking to avoid applying "Irish Sea" checks on goods - see The Times 23 February -where it is reported that - 

"Boris Johnson’s Brexit team has been ordered to draw up plans to “get around” the Northern Ireland protocol in the Brexit withdrawal agreement so the prime minister can play hardball with Brussels over trade.
Officials in Taskforce Europe, run by Johnson’s EU negotiator David Frost, are working in secret on proposals to ensure that there do not need to be checks on goods passing from Britain to Northern Ireland."

 EU Law Analysis looked at this issue in "How do you solve a problem like Suella? The legal aspects of breach and termination of the withdrawal agreement" The post summarises in turn the dispute settlement provisions of the withdrawal agreement and the rules on termination etc of treaties in international law, discussing the interaction between them. 

Future UK-EU relationship:

The Guardian 25 February noted that negotiations start Monday, 2 March, with 10 rounds of meetings between the EU and the UK every three weeks with a view to a Brexit deal sealed by the middle of October. Talks will alternate between Brussels and London, with Michel Barnier’s team expected to hold press conferences in the British capital on the Friday of every negotiating week.

European Council 25 February - Negotiating Guidelines approved - Council adopted a decision authorising the opening of negotiations for a new partnership with the UK, and formally nominating the Commission as EU negotiator. The Council also adopted negotiating directives which constitute a mandate to the Commission for the negotiations.

Update 27 February -

UK Government 27 February - Our approach to the future relationship with the EU

Hansard 27 February - Statement in the House of Commons

EU Law Analysis 26 February - Negotiating the future relatonship between the UK and EU: the EU negotiating mandate

Heavy handed Policing:

R (Miller) v College of Policing and Chief Constable of Humberside [202] EWHC 225 (Admin) Julian Knowles J is a case concerning freedom of speech. It involved judicial review of the lawfulness of the First Defendant's operational guidance on non-criminal hate speech and, specifically, how Humberside Police dealt with a complaint by a woman called Mrs B about things the Claimant had written on Twitter about transgender issues that offended her.  A complaint by Mrs B to the Police was recorded under the College of Policing's Hate Crime Operational Guidance. The court held that the guidance was lawful but the police's treatment of the Claimant disproportionately interfered with his right of freedom of expression, which is an essential component of democracy.

The College of Policing issued a statement about the case.

The judgment of Julian Knowles J is worth reading in full. See also the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the government's 2018 consultation on reform of the Act.

Judicial Review Explained



The Grenfell Tower Fire Inquiry - 3 years and 8 months after the Grenfell fire, the inquiry hearings were delayed pending determination by the Attorney General of a request that evidence given by certain witnesses will not be used against them in criminal prosecutions - The Guardian 23 February.  The second phase of the inquiry investigating how the council block was refurbished began on 27 January but was halted after little more than a week.  Corporate witnesses including cladding contractor Harley Facades and building operator, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, requested an assurance that prosecutors will not use their oral evidence against them to bring criminal charges against individuals or their firms.

On 26th February the Attorney General wrote to the Chairman, notifying him of her decision to provide an undertaking.  You can find the Attorney General’s letter announcing her decision here, together with a factsheet produced by the Attorney General’s Office explaining more about the undertaking. 

Evening Standard 30 January 2020

Child Sexual Abuse:

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has published its latest report into Child Sexual Abuse Allegations linked to Westminster.

Manchester Arena Bomb:

The Manchester Arena Inquiry stands adjourned until 20 March with a further hearing set for June 2020. This delay is to allow time for the trial of Hashem Abedi (brother of suicide bomber Salman Abedi) to be concluded - ITV News 28 January 2020. Hashem Abedi is charged with a single count of attempted murder and compsiring with his brother to cause explosions.

Infected Blood:

The Infected Blood Inquiry is on-going and issues Newsletters.

Undercover Policing:

The Undercover Policing Inquiry seems to have been with us forever - well, since 2015.  Evidence hearings are scheduled to begin in June 2020 - HERE.

Disorderly Behaviour at a Sentencing Hearing:

Carl Delton Stanbury has been sentenced to 7 months imprisonment for contempt of court - Judiciary - Sentencing Remarks - R v Carl Stanbury.   Contempt in the face of the court was committed at the Central Criminal Court on 27th January 2020 at a hearing before His Honour Judge Foster.  There was unrest and disorder in the public gallery as a result of which police officers were attempting to calm those present and clear the gallery.  Stanbury, being aware of this, climbed over the public gallery and jumped down from it into the well of the court.  He then fought with police officers who were attempting to restrain him, and shouted and protested about the sentences which had been passed, in particular about the sentence which had been passed on Shane Lyons (the sone of Stanbury's partner).

Edis J said - "The trigger for this outburst was a lawful sentence passed on a boy who had been convicted, with others, of murder in the context of homicidal gang warfare in London.  That conviction occurred some weeks before sentence and it was inevitable that there would be a life sentence with a long minimum term.  Grounds of appeal against conviction had already been lodged, which is the right way to deal with a disappointing outcome in a criminal case.  There was plenty of time for anyone who wanted to do so to compose themselves before the hearing.  Instead, members of the rival gangs attended the hearing intent on causing trouble.  You did not attend with that intention, but that is the true context in which you committed your offence." 

Details of the sentencing in relation to the murder on 22 February 2019 of Kamali Gabbidon-Lynck  are available via the Metropolitan Police.  Lyons was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 21 years.

Law in Action:

The BBC's Law in Action has downloadable podcasts. The 25 February podcast asks how effective is the Parole Board at predicting the likelihood that a prisoner will reoffend if released. 

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