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Tag Archive | "moj"

Deport first, appeal later

This week the Supreme Court ruled that the government’s system for deporting foreign criminals before they have had a chance to appeal breaches their human rights. In a landmark case concerning two foreign national criminals, the court ruled that having to appeal from abroad denied the men an effective appeal.

‘Deport first, appeal later’ was introduced as part of the Immigration Act 2014. It removes a foreign criminal’s right to appeal in the UK unless they can show a ‘real risk of serious irreversible harm’ if they are deported to their country of origin. It was designed to reduce the number of offenders fighting deportation by using human rights grounds, especially the right to a private and family life. More than 1,100 foreign criminals have been removed from Britain under the system. It was a Conservative manifesto pledge.

The ruling, handed down by the deputy president of the supreme court, Lady Hale, and four other justices, said the system breached foreign criminals’ human right to an appeal as their ability to present their case from abroad was likely to be obstructed in a number of ways.

The case involved two men convicted of drug offences who had both served prison sentences. In both cases the home secretary (then Theresa May) issued certificates that their human rights claims were “clearly unfounded” under 94B of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002. This had the effect of ensuring that they could only appeal against their deportation after they had returned to Kenya and Jamaica.

The court ruling says that the financial and legal barriers to the men giving their evidence live on screen are almost insurmountable. The justices say the MoJ’s failure to provide facilities abroad to enable them to give evidence means they have been deported without any human rights-compliant system in place that enables them to conduct their appeal.

Leading counsel for one of the appellants said the ruling would halt the use of the power in the deportation of foreign national criminals. “The supreme court’s judgment will very heavily limit, if not entirely curtail, the home secretary’s use of the controversial ‘deport first, appeal later’ power for ‘foreign criminals’ who wish to challenge deportation decisions on the basis that deportation will infringe the right to family or private life. The court has made clear its disapproval of the routine use of such a power,” he said.

Clive Coleman, BBC legal affairs correspondent, writes that “the ruling is a hammer blow to the Home Office. Appeals will have to be ‘effective’ and that will often mean that they have to be conducted with the appellant in the UK. ‘Deport first, appeal later’ is damaged.

“Since December, in what amounts to a ‘remove first, appeal later’ policy, the process for certifying removal before appeal has been extended to other cases such as those brought by people who are not convicted criminals, but have overstayed their leave to remain here.” He adds that the decision “is likely to have significant implications for both the deportation of foreign offenders and the removal of others who are in the UK unlawfully.”

For the government, Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis said: “We are disappointed by the Supreme Court’s judgment and are carefully considering the implications.”

Saira Grant, chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, welcomed the ruling and said: “The Supreme Court has accepted, as we warned from the beginning, that it is almost impossible to appeal from abroad. They have also upheld the rule of law by making it clear that the Home Secretary cannot simply avoid scrutiny by removing from the UK anybody who disagrees with her decision.“

Posted in Civil Liberties, Law UpdatesComments (0)

Legal aid for prisoners

The government has lost an important battle in the court of appeal over access to legal aid. Denying prisoners in England and Wales legal aid so they can effectively challenge the conditions under which they are held could be illegal, the court has ruled.

In R (Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prisoners’ Advice Service) v the Lord Chancellor, the court of appeal judges – Lord Justice Leveson, Lord Justice Tomlinson and Lady Justice Sharp – considered five areas of prison law where the Ministry of Justice removed criminal legal aid eligibility in December 2013. Read the full story

Posted in Law Updates, Legal Aid, UncategorizedComments (0)

Reforming the Advocates’ Graduated Fee Scheme

The MoJ has published a consultation paper on a modernised advocates’ graduated fee scheme (AGFS). The scheme, which was last reformed in 2007, pays criminal defence advocates legal aid for representing those accused of crimes in the Crown court.

Introducing the new proposals, justice minister Sir Oliver Heald said: “Our current payment system does not focus enough on the skilled advocacy that barristers and solicitor advocates demonstrate in the Crown Court. I want to change that. The measures in this consultation package, developed with the assistance of representatives from across the legal profession, set out a simpler, fairer and more modern alternative.” Read the full story

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legal Aid, Legal ITComments (0)

Spending review

The axe which fell on the Ministry of Justice will reduce the department’s administrative budget by 50% within five years under the chancellor’s new spending plans.

Together with reforms of the prisons and courts systems, ‘significant back-office efficiencies’ will help deliver overall MoJ ‘resource savings’ of 15% by 2019/20. This cut over five years is the deepest among Whitehall departments which have £5bn-plus annual budgets, trailing only the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills. Read the full story

Posted in Criminal Justice, Law UpdatesComments (0)

MoJ yet again postpones legal aid contracts

You couldn’t make it up. Faced with a tidal wave of litigation over new crime duty contracts, MoJ has postponed their start date until April. There is also a contingency for a further delay should it be needed.

The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) had previously insisted that it planned to enter into the new contracts on January 11 next year, despite litigation from unsuccessful bidders. But it has now stated that both the new contracts and the fixed-fee scheme for police station and magistrates’ work will now come into effect, appropriately, on 1 April. MoJ said:”A number of unsuccessful bidders have chosen to legally challenge our decisions. There are now automatic injunctions on us proceeding with the new contracts in a number of procurement areas until those legal challenges are resolved. Our first priority is to ensure criminal legal aid remains available to those who need it and we cannot risk gaps in provision due to ongoing litigation. We have therefore taken the difficult but necessary decision to delay the implementation of the new contracts.” Read the full story

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (0)

Legal aid contract announcement

The MoJ never lose the ability to leave you speechless.

The announcement of winners of new legal aid contracts was promised by the end of September. Firms were expecting to be told last week via the Legal Aid Agency’s Bravo e-tendering portal whether they have won one of a reduced number of contracts to provide 24-hour cover at police stations. But what a cliffhanger that turned out to be. We were told Monday, then Tuesday, then Wednesday. On Wednesday we were told “soon” On Thursday we were told “by the end of the week.” Read the full story

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (0)

Legal aid contract bids could be withdrawn

As the MoJ prepares to announce the outcome of its tender process for new legal aid contracts, the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA) said some firms would be willing to withdraw their bids should others be willing to do the same.

In a message to members, the LCCSA committee said: “Many of us felt compelled to submit a bid for a contract but did so with little, if any, enthusiasm. In the past six weeks members have told us that, given the right circumstances they would withdraw their bids.

“We understand from informal soundings in meetings with London members that there is a belief that the great majority of solicitor firms who have submitted bids would withdraw them if they could be confident that other firms would act in a similar manner.”

The LCCSA has asked firms to confirm their willingness to withdraw their bids “if sufficient bidding firms in that area indicated they would do the same.” The practitioner group has also asked for confirmation from bidders which it said ‘have already reached a decision to refuse their tender offer’ as well as firms that have not submitted bids. The deadline for responses is 28 August.

“Subject to the degree of progress made in discussions with [the government], we may at any time contact all those indicating an intention to withdraw their bid or refuse an offer, to seek reconfirmation of their intention and to seek authority of the managing partner/director as to whether the firm consents to their name and/or their response being disclosed and to whom such information may be disclosed,” the LCCSA said.

Representatives from the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association (CLSA), London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA) and the Big Firms Group (BFG) met ministry officials again this week.

The CLSA and LCCSA said the groups presented four options for the ministry and Legal Aid Agency to consider ‘in terms of alternative savings’ to the second fee cut. “It is right to say that these proposals were very well received and that there was a recognition of a financial benefit long term and not just over a three-month period,” the groups said.

“The three organisations made it clear that if the lord chancellor was to suspend the cut on a long-term basis that they would continue with engagement to suggest other substantial savings not limited to the legal aid budget.”

The nationwide legal aid boycott is expected to continue and justice secretary Michael Gove is to be briefed on the four savings options next week. Though the CLSA and LCCSA’s statement suggested progress on the fee cut, the MoJ made it clear that the lord chancellor will continue to press ahead with plans to reduce the number of contracts for solicitors providing 24-hour cover at police stations from 1,600 to 527.

The CLSA and LCCSA welcomed the ministry and LAA’s suggestion that, should current talks resolve in a ‘satisfactory outcome’, the government ‘would want to continue the engagement with the associations in respect of other matters.

Photo courtsesy of Commons Wikimedia

Posted in Criminal JusticeComments (0)

Magistrates quit in protest over new fines rules

The unlamented former justice secretary Chris Grayling has left a nasty, spiteful legal legacy which is causing havoc for magistrates.

This is the criminal court charge, which came into effect in April. It ranges from £150 for anyone who pleads guilty to a summary offence at magistrates’ court and up to £1,000 for those convicted after a trial of a more serious offence at magistrates’ court. Read the full story

Posted in Criminal JusticeComments (0)

It’s not the lawyer who is the fat cat

Matthew Coats, the chief executive of the Legal Aid Agency (LAA), saw his combined salary, bonuses and pension benefits rise from between £195,000 and £200,000 in 2014, to between £220,000 and £225,000 this year.

This pay rise of more than 10% for the head of the body that oversees legal aid has been described as an insult by solicitors whose fees have been slashed on his watch. Read the full story

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (0)

‘Transformation Exhaustion’

Leveson LJ finds something we can all agree with.

Lord Justice Leveson has returned his review of efficiency in criminal proceedings and the first thing that strikes you is the feel of the MOJ’s dreary, dead hand on him from the outset. The MOJ asked for change ‘which can be implemented without legislation, whilst providing ‘no budget for this exercise’ and therefore the review was unable to undertake any qualitative analysis of the effects of the changes it proposes. Read the full story

Posted in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (0)

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