Tag Archive | "magna carta"

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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Labour on legal aid, judicial reviews and other legal matters

In an interview with the ‘Guardian’, Sadiq Khan, the shadow justice secretary, said he would reverse the coalition’s courtroom reforms if his party won the election. He pledged that Labour will repeal restrictions on judicial review and make it easier for people to challenge government decisions they believe are unlawful.

Parliamentary battles over judicial review – a means of questioning the legality of decisions made by government or local authorities – resulted in peers, including rebel Tories, repeatedly defeating the coalition. The legislation, eventually passed last month in the Criminal Justice and Courts Act, introduced additional financial liabilities, measures to forcibly identify those who support litigation and resulted in peers, including rebel Tories, repeatedly defeating the coalition. 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

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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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Coming home to roost

Former Commons Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans has demanded that the law chiefs who prosecuted him for rape and sex assaults be forced to pay his £130,000 legal expenses after he was found not guilty. Mr Evans says the battle to clear his name has cost him his entire £130,000 life savings. He claims that every penny is gone, in addition to the £30,000-a-year additional parliamentary salary he was paid as Deputy Speaker.

And, amongst other proposals, he has called for a review of anonymity rules that allowed his seven male accusers to keep their identities secret while he has been reduced to personal and financial ruin.

If memory serves me right, Evans was in the chair when the Commons considered the relevant sections of the Legal Aid bill. Bet he never thought that he would be caught by his own party’s policy.

In another part of the jungle, a senior crown court judge has formally halted a complex trial of five men in an alleged land bank fraud. because expert defence barristers are refusing to represent the defendants in protest at 30% cuts in legal aid fees. Solicitors acting for the five defendants in the case were said to have approached more than 100 sets of chambers in an attempt to find barristers with relevant experience to defend their clients.

In his careful analysis Judge Anthony Leonard QC looked at the ‘complex and substantial’ evidence in the case. The volume of papers amounts to some 46,030 pages. There are in addition 194 Excel spreadsheets with a combined total of 864,200 lines of entry. The case summary covers 55 pages.

He said: “The knock-on effect on other trials, the waste of court resources and the need to disregard the criminal procedure rules designed to protect the court system from abuse, and to ensure that scarce resources are used to best effect all, in my judgment, add to the reasons why an adjournment should not be granted.” That lengthy delay in bringing the defendants to justice was also likely to breach their right to a fair trial under the European convention on human rights. Leonard refused the FCA leave to appeal and the FCA has five days to apply to the Court of Appeal.

By a nice irony it was the prime minister’s brother, Alexander Cameron QC, who represented the defendants. Acting on a pro-bono basis, he argued that they could not receive a fair trial and that the case should be stopped rather than merely adjourned. Leonard ruled that there was no realistic prospect of sufficiently highly qualified lawyers being available even if the case was delayed until early next year.

The ruling will also affect more than a dozen VHCC (very high cost cases) scheduled to be heard at crown courts in Southhwark, Birmingham and Nottingham in the coming year, involving at least one defendant who has no legal representation because of legal aid difficulties.

Other cases that may be affected include the Serious Fraud Office’s Libor rate-fixing cases and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) cases arising from Operation Tabernula, one of the largest investigations into insider dealing in the City. Trials relating to an alleged £35m fraud involving business loans made by HBOS bank have also been put in jeopardy.

Lawyers warned justice secretary Chris Grayling this would happen but he pressed on regardless. As usual, shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan sniped at the government from the sidelines but carefully avoided any commitment to do anything about it if returned to power.

This was a bad day for justice. How in all conscience can Grayling go ahead with his grandiose plans to celebrate the primacy of the English legal system to mark the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta next year. As the ‘Gazette’ puts it succinctly, “What a mess.”

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Civil Liberties

Over the past decade there has been a wholesale removal of rights that were apparently protected by the Human Rights Act and set down nearly 800 years ago in Magna Carta. The liberties that were assumed to be guaranteed by British culture have been compromised, as have constitutional safeguards that were once considered beyond the reach of a democratically elected legislature. Read the full story

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In Absentia Judgements

Ask returning holiday makers how things went and they usually respond in superlatives. It is only later that you hear about the airport delays or poor food or upset stomachs or ghastly weather or other matters which reduce the holiday experience to, like most things in life, no more than reasonably satisfying. Read the full story

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