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Tag Archive | "Dominic Grieve"

Human Rights Act repeal in the long grass

The Conservative party’s manifesto promise to scrap the Human Rights Act will not be carried forward immediately into legislation. In a move widely seen as a climb-down in the face of concern among lawyers and members of the House of Lords, the Queen’s speech announced that the government will “bring forward proposals for a British bill of rights” This is likely to include a further consultation. Read the full story

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ECHR (2) – And those against

There was always an air of mischief about the appointment of Lib Dem Simon Hughes to justice minister at the last reshuffle. He and his boss Chris Grayling are hardly soul mates, and Hughes has had some very forthright things to say about the government’s proposals.

“The Conservatives don’t care about the rights of British citizens” he said. “They care about losing to Ukip. These plans make no sense: you can’t protect the human rights of Brits and pull out of the system that protects them…We will not allow the Tories to take away the hard-won human rights of British people when in the UK or anywhere else in Europe.” Read the full story

Posted in Civil LibertiesComments (0)

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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Barristers’ boycott begins

When the Attorney General Dominic Grieve, QC addressed the this year’s Annual Bar Conference his main message was a stark warning about the dangers of taking industrial action. He particularly urged barristers not to return instructions they have accepted for the most serious criminal cases in protest at fee cuts, warning that if they do, the government may “look elsewhere” for others to do the work.

He said: “I do have concerns about returning instructions that have already been accepted, and particularly so where a trial date has been set.” He said the resulting disruption to the courts “carries with it the very serious risk that within government there will be a view that people should look elsewhere for the service to be provided…I think (it) is something which the bar has got to
bear in mind.”

But he accepted that barristers are entitled to refuse to accept new instructions at a fee they find unacceptable, and now a complex fraud trial, due to begin in late April, is threatened with collapse because barristers are refusing to take on defence work due to government cuts in legal aid. The case, involving eight defendants accused of land bank fraud, is the first criminal proceeding affected by concerted action by advocates refusing to accept work for lower fees.

This is a very complex case with more than 100,000 items of evidence. It would normally require 16 defence barristers, two for each defendant, but only two defence barristers were present at the pre-trial hearing. One of the defence solicitors said he had rung 17 chamber sets but all had declined to help. “None have said they would take on the case at the new rates.”

The MoJ is cutting rates paid for trials deemed to be very high cost cases (VHCC) by 30%. The reductions will affect trials starting after the end of March 2014.

The defending solicitor applied to have the date of the trial put back. The judge, Anthony Leonard QC, refused the delay and warned the defendants that they may have to represent themselves. He went on to tell the defendents that “They must be ready for trial … even if they have to attend in person to deal with it in person [however] much it will cost the country.” Cases involving unrepresented litigants usually last far longer.

Nigel Lithman QC, chair of the Criminal Bar Association, expressed the hope that refusing to take these briefs would not interrupt court cases but would send out a message that will be listened to. He said that the cuts were a recipe for chaos, adding “Criminal barristers nowadays have to work for a week to earn what commercial barristers earn in an hour. A questionnaire sent out to heads of chambers produced a reply that 95% of criminal barristers have said they will not take on very high cost cases at the reduced rate.”

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The Attorney General’s warning

The Annual Bar Conference 2013 was held at the Westminster Park Plaza, London, last weekend, and the ‘Law Gazette’ reported on the proceedings.

In his capacity as head of the bar, Attorney General Dominic Grieve, QC addressed the conference. He expressed sympathy with many of the bar’s current concerns. He said he understands the difficulties faced by the bar over very high cost cases (VHCC) for which, from this month, fees paid will be cut by 30%. He agreed that the fee cuts will not encourage the best students to come to the bar in the future. He said: “There is a serious issue of whether the bar will be attractive.” Read the full story

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (0)

Conference policy

Time was when the only place to announce government policy was the House of Commons. Now this has been superceded by press releases, speeches, celebrity interviews, and, of course, party conferences.

Thus it was that justice secretary Chris Grayling chose the Manchester conference to announce a review into the use of all out-of-court disposals, particularly penalty notices. Read the full story

Posted in Civil Liberties, Criminal JusticeComments (0)

Tagging contracts fraud investigation

Last Thursday the increasingly beleaguered Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, came to the Commons with a sorry tale to tell. He was flanked by the attorney general, Dominic Grieve, probably for moral as well as legal support. Read the full story

Posted in Criminal Justice, Law UpdatesComments (0)

Tough but Intelligent

Simon Hoggart of the ‘Guardian’ has a theory that if the opposite of a remark is plainly ludicrous, then the thing was not worth saying in the first place. So when David Cameron uses a major speech to announce his new policy on crime as ‘Tough but Intelligent’, Hoggart asks: “Does he mean that the previous policy was ‘limp but stupid’? ‘Feeble but demented?’” Read the full story

Posted in Criminal JusticeComments (0)

The fight against legal aid cuts is not yet over

Ken Clarke’s Ministry of Justice faces a legal challenge over its controversial plan to
scrap legal aid for victims of clinical negligence. The charity Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA) has issued legal proceedings for a judicial review of the decision.

AvMA Chief Executive Peter Walsh said: “Scrapping legal aid for clinical negligence is completely irrational whatever way you look at it, as well as grossly unfair. Ken Clarke’s department might save a little money, but the cost will simply be heaped on the NHS. Some of the most vulnerable people in society injured by negligent treatment at the hands of a State body will be denied access to justice.” Read the full story

Posted in Civil Law, Criminal Justice, Law UpdatesComments (0)

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