Tuesday 29 June 2021

Probation ~ return to a unified service

Amid the fuss surrounding the resignation of the Health Secretary (Matt Hancock MP), a key reform of Probation Service has received minimal media attention.

UK Government - Bigger, better Probation Service to cut crime

With effect from 26 June 2021, a "unified" Probation Service has been created in what is a reversal of the reform introduced by Chris Grayling during his time as Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor.

A House of Commons Library Research Briefing (7 June 2021) notes -

Sunday 27 June 2021

Colin Pitchfork ~ Government requests reconsideration of Parole Board decision

Updated 21 November 2021

22 November 1983, Narborough, Leicestershire. The body of 15 year old Lynda Mann was found. She had been strangled and raped. Her body was naked from the waist down and her face bloodied. Biologists established that a semen sample taken from her body belonged to someone with Type A blood, and a particular type of enzyme secretion, a combination shared by around 10% of men. (Note 1).

31 July 1986, Dawn Ashworth (aged 15) went missing and her body was found near to the same spot where Lynda has been found. Dawn had also been strangled, raped and left naked from the waist down.

There was a suspect - a 17 year old hospital porter called Richard Buckland. He had been seen near the crime scene. When interviewed he revealed details about Dawn's murder and about her body. Those details were not available publicly at the time. Before long he confessed to the murder of Dawn but denied killing Lynda.

The Police

Wednesday 23 June 2021

The Lord Chancellor role may be reformed. Again !

The Secretary of State for Justice and and Lord Chancellor - Mr Robert Buckland QC MP - has recently delivered two notable speeches -

25 March 2021 - Speech at Queen Mary University, London - Law and Politics: the nightmare and the noble dream

17 June 2021 - Speech at University College, London

For an early commentary see Law Society Gazette - Joshua Rozenberg 21 June - A constitutional 'linchpin' that came loose

At the outset, it is worth reminding ourselves that much (not all) of what Mr Buckland talked about was included in the Conservative Party's 2019 election manifesto. The government

Russian Interference ~ High court rejects application for judicial review

The High Court has refused permission for a judicial review of the government's decision not to act on the findings of the Intelligence and Security Committee (the ISC) of Parliament that Russia has interfered in UK electoral processes (including the 2016 EU referendum held 5 years ago today) - Leigh Day (Solicitors - 22 June 2021).

The ISC report - published (with redactions) in July 2020 - found credible evidence that there had been attempts to interfere with electoral processes in the UK from at least the time of the EU referendum in 2016 - (see previous post 23 July 2020). 

Despite the concerns expressed by the ISC, there has been no

Sunday 20 June 2021

Independent Review of the Human Rights Act 1998 ~ responses

An Independent Review of the Human Rights Act 1998 was announced in December 2020 - see previous post 8 December 2020.

The government claimed that it is committed to "upholding the UK's stature on human rights" and that, after 20 years, "it is timely to undertake a review" of the operation of the Human Rights Act 1998,  

The government has also stated that it is committed to remaining a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights. The review was set up to consider the relationship between domestic courts and the European Court of Human Rights and also the impact of the Human Rights Act on the relationship between the judiciary, the executive and the legislature.

The Review undertook a "Call for Evidence" from 13 January 2021 to 3 March 2021 and that was

Friday 18 June 2021

Manchester Arena Inquiry - Report Volume 1 - Security Arrangements / Protect Duty consultation

Do YOU know what the Terrorism Threat Level for the UK is at the moment? It is published HERE and, at the time of writing, is SUBSTANTIAL. On 22 May 2017 - the day of the Manchester Arena attack - it was SEVERE.

In a previous post - HERE - I referred to the events of that day as an atrocity. I believe that is a fitting word.  22 innocent people were murdered and hundreds more suffered life-changing physical injuries or psychological harm. Salman Abedi intended to kill or injure as many people as he could. It was a wicked act, inspired by the distorted ideology of the so-called Islamic State.

On 17 June 2021, Sir John Saunders, the Chairman of the Manchester Arena Inquiry, published Volume 1 of his report into the deaths of the 22 victims of the bomb attack. 

The report - Volume 1: Security for the Arena - is the first of three volumes and examines the security arrangements that were in place at the Manchester Arena at the time. The report is available HERE.

In a Statement of 17 June 2021, the Chairman noted that, at the time, the threat level set by the Joint 12 Terrorism Analysis Centre was severe. A terrorist attack

Thursday 17 June 2021

Jermaine Baker Inquiry

On 12 February 2020 the Home Secretary announced an inquiry into the fatal shooting (on 11 December 2015) by the Metropolitan Police of Jermaine Baker (then aged 28).

This inquiry is being held under the Inquiries Act 2005.

In April 2019, Clement Goldstone QC was appointed as Coroner to conduct the inquest into Jermaine Baker's death. The inquest has been converted to an inquiry.

Inquiry website

The inquiry

Daniel Morgan Independent Panel Report

On 10 March 1987, Daniel Morgan's body was found in the car park of a public house in south London. By any standards it was a brutal murder - Wikipedia. Prosecutions against a number of individuals were abandoned in 2009.

The Daniel Morgan Independent Panel was established in 2013 by the Home Secretary - (at the time, Theresa May MP) - to "shine a light" on the circumstances of Daniel Morgan's murder in 1987 and the handling of the case over the period since 1987. The Independent Panel was chaired by Baroness O'Loan DBE and issued its three volume report on 15 June 2021.

A debate concerning publication

Friday 11 June 2021

Government "Covid" contracts ~ a finding of Apparent bias

The High Court has granted a declaration that the government's decision of 5 June 2020 to award a contract to Public First gave rise to apparent bias and was therefore unlawful. The contract in question was for the provision of focus group and communications support services and was issued without public notice or competition. The government sought to rely on Regulation 32(2)(c) of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.

The Good Law Project put forward three grounds of challenge but was successful only on Ground 3 (Apparent Bias). It was claimed that "the fair minded and informed observer would conclude that there was a real possibility of bias, having regard to the personal connections between the decision-makers and the directors of Public First."

The High Court's judgment (Mrs Justice O'Farrell - pictured) is at R (Good Law Project) v Minister for the Cabinet Office and Public First Ltd [2021] EWHC 1569 (TCC).

"Consequential matters" (including any applications for permission to appeal) have been adjourned to a further hearing.

Comment by Good Law Project

Wednesday 9 June 2021

Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill - No.2 ~ What is in the Bill

"The bill is a missed opportunity to place the role of the Crown in relation to Parliament on a modern footing ....."

Following the State Opening of Parliament on 11 May, the government introduced a new bill to repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 - Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill - and see Explanatory notes

An earlier post summarised the background to the bill. This post looks at the bill in greater detail. 

: The Clauses in the Bill : 

Clause 1 - The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 is repealed.

Tuesday 8 June 2021

Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill - No.1 Background

Following the State Opening of Parliament on 11 May, the government introduced a new bill to repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 - Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill - and see Explanatory notes

This post summarises the not entirely straightforward background to this bill. A further post will look at the bill in more detail. 

It is useful to begin with a brief look at the two powers which of the Crown in relation to Parliament.

 First, a power to prorogue Parliament. This power continues to exist unaffected by the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011 (FTPA). 

Secondly, a power to dissolve Parliament. This power was replaced by the FTPA with the result that a general election may now only come about either by using the mechanisms provided for by the FTPA or, alternatively, by Parliament enacting specific legislation to bring about an election. The latter happened in 2019. 

Prerogative power to prorogue Parliament:

Prorogation marks the end of a Parliamentary session. The next session begins, usually a short time later, with the Queen's Speech.

In practice, Her Majesty the Queen - has the legal power to prorogue Parliament.

The power to prorogue is exercised "on the advice" of the Privy Council. 

In practice, this means that the government of the day advises the Crown to prorogue Parliament and the request is accepted. 

Prerogative power to dissolve Parliament:

Until the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011 (FTPA), the Crown also had the legal right to dissolve Parliament. 

Dissolution is the official term for the end of a Parliament. A dissolution is followed by a general election to elect a new House of Commons. The government remains in office during a dissolution but, by convention, there are some constraints on what it may do during that period.

Votes of Confidence / No Confidence before the Fixed-term Parliaments Act:

A government depended on being able to command the confidence of the House of Commons. The Opposition could bring about a Vote of No Confidence or an incumbent government could let it be known that a particular matter would be regarded as a matter of confidence. The latter was a potent weapon in the hands of a Prime Minister when dealing with perhaps awkward MPs. See Institute for Government 2019 - Confidence Motions and Parliament.

Before the 2011 Act:

Prior to the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, the Prime Minister was able to secure a general election at a time of his or her own choosing. Basically, all that was necessary was that the Prime Minister "advised" the Queen to dissolve Parliament.

The Queen could, as a matter of strict law, have refused a dissolution but it was never fully clear in what situations that would have been a proper course for the monarch to take. 

Between 1950 and 2011 the "Lascelles Principles" were said to apply. Under those principles the Queen could refuse a dissolution if three conditions applied -

  1. if the existing Parliament was still "vital, viable, and capable of doing its job",
  2. if a general election would be "detrimental to the national economy", and
  3. if the Sovereign could "rely on finding another prime minister who could govern for a reasonable period with a working majority in the House of Commons".

Any attempt to apply principles such as these would place the monarch in an invidious position. In any event, how is the Queen to assess whether a general election would be detrimental to the national economy?

Whatever their status prior to 2011, the Lascelles principles are no longer applicable because the 2011 Act alone governs dissolution.

Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011:

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act provides for general elections to be held every 5 years and for an earlier general election to be held in only two situations - (1) the House of Commons votes by a two-thirds majority to hold an early election or (2) the House of Commons votes no confidence in Her Majesty's government and there is no-one able to form a government in which the House does have confidence within 14 days. 

Parliament may not be dissolved in any other way - section 3(2).

The Act provides expressly that the power to prorogue Parliament is not affected - section 6(1).

In September 2020, the 2011 Act was the subject of a report by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (6th report of session 2019-21) - see  The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (HC 167) - and see the government's response of December 2020.

Political events: 

The coalition government - The Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011 was enacted during the time of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition government (2010-15).  The two parties agreed, as part of their coalition agreement, to legislate for fixed-term Parliaments.

2017 - The 2017 General Election, held on 8 June 2017, resulted in a House of Commons made up of 318 Conservatives MPs, 262 Labour, 35 Scottish Nationalists and 35 others. Even with the support of the 10 Democratic Ulster Unionist (DUP) MPs this was bound to be a difficult result for any government wishing to push forward with its "Brexit means Brexit" agenda.

2019 - In July 2019, Boris Johnson replaced Theresa May as Prime Minister. Suffice to say that Johnson had positioned himself as a leading Brexiteer (or, as some prefer, Brexiter). A key problem for him, and other Brexiteers, was his party's situation in the House of Commons. Three attempts to bring about an early general election using the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 were unsuccessful - (4 September 2019; 9 September 2019; and 28 October 2019). The government failed to secure the required two thirds majority to trigger an early election.

On 28 August 2019, at a Privy Council meeting held at Balmoral, the Queen was advised to prorogue parliament from a date between 9 to 12 September until 14 October - (House of Commons - The Prorogation Dispute of 2019: a year on), 

This was presented by the government as a routine event closing down one parliamentary session and starting the next even though the surrounding circumstances were far from routine given that, as things then stood, UK membership of the EU was to end on 31 October with the distinct possibility that there might have been no withdrawal agreement - (previous post 29 August 2019).  

On 4 September 2019, MPs passed the EU Withdrawal (No.2) Act (previous post), known as the ‘Benn Act’, which forced the government to act to stop a no-deal Brexit on 31 October. The Bill passed the House of Lords on 6 September and received Royal Assent on 9 September - see this explainer published by the  Institute for Government.

Judicial review:

The August 2019 use of the prerogative power of the Crown to prorogue parliament was challenged by judicial review in both Scotland and England. In Scotland, the Court of Session Inner House ruled that the matter was justiciable and that it was motivated by the improper purpose of stymying parliamentary scrutiny of the executive. It was therefore unlawful. In England, the High Court ruled that the matter was non-justiciable - see the judgment. Both the Court of Session and High Court judgments were appealed to the Supreme Court.

On 24 September, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that this purported prorogation was justiciable but was also unlawful - Supreme Court judgment.  The Supreme Court maintained that this long prorogation significantly interfered with the constitutional principles of parliamentary sovereignty and parliamentary accountability. Such an interference required a “reasonable justification”. On the facts, the Court concluded the Government had not offered any justification for the prorogation’s length, let alone a “reasonable” one, and accordingly the decision to prorogue was unlawful.  See the judgment at paras 58-61.

2019 Election:

The Government subsequently secured the support of Parliament for the Early Parliamentary General Election Act 2019.  The Act received Royal Assent on 31 October 2019. 

The 2019 general election was held on 12 December 2019  with the result that the Conservatives won 365 seats, Labour 203, Scottish Nationalist Party 48, and others 34. This gave the Conservative Party a large majority of 80 seats in the House of Commons. 

The Conservative Party 2019 manifesto included their plan to - "Get rid of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011" which, it was claimed, "had led to paralysis at a time the country needed decisive action."

Since the 2019 election the electoral position of the Conservative Party appears to be very strong in England though not in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. This is despite matters such as the problematic handling of the coronavirus pandemic (including around 128,000 deaths) and continuing difficulties associated with Brexit.

Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (Repeal) Bill:

A draft Bill to repeal the 2011 Act was presented for pre-legislative scrutiny - the Draft Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (Repeal) Bill (pdf) and previous post 1 December 2020

This Bill was the subject of a report issued on 24 March 2021 by a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament - see HERE for links to the report. This Bill lapsed at the end of the 2019-21 session of Parliament.

The Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill:

The government has now introduced a new bill to repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 - Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill - and see Explanatory notes

See the government statement ate the time of introducing the new bill - Statement 12 May 2021.

This Bill provides that the prerogative powers relating to the dissolution of Parliament, and the calling of a new Parliament, will be exercisable again, as if the 2011 Act had never been enacted. This means that, as was the case prior to the 2011 Act, Parliament will be dissolved by the Sovereign, exercising the revived prerogative power, on the request of the Prime Minister.

..... No. 2 ~ What is in the Bill .....

Friday 4 June 2021

Hillsborough ~ the Police "cover up" ~ compensation for relatives

An agreement has been reached under which South Yorkshire Police and West Midlands Police will fund compensation payments for the police "cover up" which followed the Hillsborough football stadium tragedy of 15 April 1989 - The Guardian 4 June 2021.

More information is available in this statement by Garden Court Chambers. The settled civil claims were for misfeasance in public office and relate only to damage caused by the cover-up and not the disaster itself. As the statement points out - "the cover up was deliberate, orchestrated and thoroughly dishonest" and was "maintained for nearly 30 years."

The Garden Court statement concludes

Wednesday 2 June 2021

"Legal system broken" - an article by the Mayor of Greater Manchester

Mr Andy Burnham is the Mayor of Greater Manchester and a former MP.  He held office in the Gordon Brown Labour government as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport from January 2008 to June 2009.

Mr Burnham's article:

On 30 May The Guardian published an article by Mr Burnham - The collapse of the last Hillsborough trial shows our legal system is broken . A sub-heading follows - "It's time to pass a law to make sure no bereaved family is ever again made to relive their trauma in court."

Ever since his appearance