Tag Archive | "David Cameron"

Birmingham and after

The King is dead, long live the Queen. With brisk efficiency the Birmingham conference airbrushed David Cameron out of the Tory pantheon.

In a populist speech to her party, the prime minister painted June’s referendum result as a “quiet revolution” that should force politicians to tackle public concerns, repeatedly telling delegates that “change must come.” But in true party conference tradition the speeches were long on rhetoric but short on practical details. Read the full story

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Review into racial bias in the criminal justice system

Last January the Labour MP for Tottenham, David Lammy, was asked by David Cameron to head a new government review into discrimination against black and ethnic minority people (BAME) in the criminal justice system.

Cameron said: “If you’re black, you’re more likely to be in a prison cell than studying at a top university. And if you’re black, it seems you’re more likely to be sentenced to custody for a crime than if you’re white. We should investigate why this is and how we can end this possible discrimination.” He said the review would address “possible sentencing and prosecutorial disparity”.

Introducing the review, Lammy said: “We know that there is disproportionate representation in the criminal justice system – the question is why. Over the course of the next year my review will search for those answers, starting with an open call for evidence to get to grips with the issues at hand.

“There is clearly an urgent need for progress to be made in this area, and the evidence received through this consultation will be crucial in identifying areas where real change can achieved.”

The review will address issues arising from the CPS involvement onwards, including the court system, in prisons and during rehabilitation in the wider community, to identify areas for reform and examples of good practice from the UK and beyond. There would be a consultation exercise. Offenders, suspects and victims were urged to share their experience of possible racial bias in the criminal justice system.

Questions in the consultation would include why respondents think black defendants are more likely to be found guilty by a jury, face custodial sentences and report a worse experience in prison than white defendants. Despite making up just 14% of the population of England and Wales, BAME individuals currently make up over a quarter of prisoners. Those who are found guilty are more likely to receive custodial sentences than white offenders.

Latest figures also show that BAME people make up a disproportionate amount of Crown Court defendants (24%), and those who are found guilty are more likely to receive custodial sentences than white offenders (61% compared to 56%).

The call for evidence closed six weeks ago, with more than 300 responses from groups and individuals in the criminal justice system.

Although the final report is not due until next summer, Lammy has determined to focus much of his report on the makeup of the judiciary, where 5% of members are from a BAME background. He said: “It is definitely the case there are some areas of criminal justice where there is a significant amount of ethnic minority lawyers. They are just not making their way to the judiciary. There are barriers [to applying] or they are not successful when they do apply.

“Relative to other professions, we have in our country a bank of BAME lawyers. What we have not seen is progress to the bench. That is what I want to look at very closely.”

Greg Foxsmith, president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association, said: “For years we have acknowledged the problem of convert or subliminal discrimination. The challenge for Lammy and for all of us in the justice system is to find a way that actually tackles the problem, and ensures that justice is not just blind, but colour-blind, providing equality of outcome for all.”

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And the list grows. The relentless procession of those who fought for the UK to leave the EU and have since fled the field of battle. Johnson, Farage, Gove, Leadsom, Duncan Smith, Cameron, just to name a few. As if horrified by what they have achieved they cannot face the task of implementation. But here they are, like crows on a telephone wire, demanding that others carry out their legacy. Ironic that they are already haranguing Theresa May, a Remainer, to stick to the letter of Brexit.

As John Crace writes in today’s ‘Guardian’, “May says Brexit means Brexit though not necessarily if the man by her side, Chris Grayling, were to become minister for Brexit. Grayling has yet to find a job he can’t do slowly and badly.”

If you are one of the millions who signed the on line petition seeking a rerun of the referendum, you will have received an email stating that “The Prime Minister and Government have been clear that this was a once in a generation vote and, as the Prime Minister has said, the decision must be respected. We must now prepare for the process to exit the EU and the Government is committed to ensuring the best possible outcome for the British people in the negotiations.” Even though the ‘outers’ campaign was based on misrepresentations of fact and promises that could not be delivered.

The email also refers to the European Referendum Act 2015, which is concerned mainly with who can vote, where, and (most importantly) who can claim expenses. The Act also makes clear, by default, that the referendum is consultative and not legally binding.

As a result, more than 1,000 barristers have signed a letter to the prime minister urging him (now her) to allow parliament to decide whether the UK should leave the European Union. The barristers argue that there must be a free vote in parliament before article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon treaty can be triggered.

According to the ‘Guardian’ the letter states: “The referendum did not set a threshold necessary to leave the EU, commonly adopted in polls of national importance, eg, 60% of those voting or 40% of the electorate. This is presumably because the result was only advisory…The parliamentary vote should take place with a greater understanding as to the economic consequences of Brexit, as businesses and investors in the UK start to react to the outcome of the referendum.”

The barristers call for the establishment of a royal commission or an equivalent independent body to receive evidence and report, within a short, fixed timescale, on the benefits, costs and risks of triggering article 50. The parliamentary vote would not take place until the commission has reported.

Philip Kolvin QC, who coordinated this action,is reported as saying that Parliament is sovereign and the guardian of our democracy, which is what Brexiters have been demanding. “MPs are elected to exercise their best judgment on the basis of objective evidence, to safeguard the interests of the country and their constituents for this and future generations,” he said. “At this time of profound constitutional, political and possibly social and economic crisis, we look to them to fulfil the responsibility placed upon them,”.

A legal challenge to David Cameron’s assertion that he or his successor as prime minister can begin the withdrawal procedure is due to be heard in the high court next week.

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Proposals on a Bill of Rights this autumn

At a ceremony celebrating the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta David Cameron said that the Conservative commitment to break the link between the British courts and the European court of human rights (ECHR) by scrapping the Human Rights Act and replacing it with a British bill of rights will safeguard the Charter’s legacy.

In the Commons on Tuesday the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Dominic Raab) was asked when he plans to open a consultation on proposals for a British Bill of Rights. Read the full story

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“Turbo-charged snoopers’ charter”

Britain leads the world in the use of CCTV. As a result, surveillance has become an inescapable part of life. Britain has a larger DNA base and more police powers and email snooping than any comparable liberal democracy.

This was the very solid base for coalition home secretary Teresa May’s snooper’s charter bill three years ago which would have allowed GCHQ to conduct real-time surveillance of a person’s communications and their web usage. The intelligence services and police would have had powers to insist that internet and phone companies hand over our data without our knowledge. She stressed the need to move quickly. Read the full story

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ECHR (1) – The government’s proposals

Addressing the party conference in Birmingham, Prime Minister David Cameron pledged that a Conservative government would scrap the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British bill of rights.

He said: “Of course it’s not just the European Union that needs sorting out, it’s the European Court of Human Rights. When that charter was written, in the aftermath of the Second World War, it set out the basic rights we should respect. But since then interpretations of that charter have led to a whole lot of things that are frankly wrong.” Read the full story

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Yet more anti-terrorism legislation

Prime Minister Cameron has warned that the danger posed by Islamic State (Isis) extremists presented the biggest security threat of modern times, surpassing that of al-Qaida. He is joined by many voices in calling for a range of new powers. As if there are not enough already, many of them the product of similar panic attacks.

The coalition’s package of measures does not include key proposals, shelved amid legal uncertainty, Lib Dem objections and doubts within the security services. Cameron insists that new measures are still needed to prevent British jihadis returning to this country but his rhetoric is not backed up by specific proposals. Read the full story

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The war on terror

The so-called war on terror is nearly 13 years old. In that time there have been crackdowns on civil liberties across the world and military interventions whose consequences have ranged from the disastrous to the catastrophic. But little seems to have been learned.

Last Friday the level of threat of a terrorist attack in the UK was raised to ‘severe’ by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) due to fears about British jihadis returning from Iraq and Syria. This prompted Prime Minister Cameron to warn that the danger posed by Islamic State (Isis) extremists presented the biggest security threat of modern times, surpassing that of al-Qaida. Read the full story

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Challenge to DRIP

Drip is the acronym of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act which was rushed through Parliament with unseemly haste in three days last week in response to a European Court of Justice ruling in April that challenged the rights of phone and other communications providers to keep records of information on people’s calls and emails.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that the accelerated passage of the bill through Parliament was necessary because of the April ruling. They warned this would deny police and security services access to vital data about phone and email communications. “Lives could be lost”, said Home Secretary Theresa May. Read the full story

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Residency test

The Administrative Court has declared that the proposed residence test for civil legal aid is discriminatory and unlawful, following a successful judicial review challenge against the Secretary of State for Justice. In a damning unanimous decision, three senior judges declared the draft regulations now before parliament cannot be enacted by means of secondary legislation.

The case was brought by the Public Law Project, a national legal charity that promotes access to justice. Read the full story

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