Tag Archive | "Sadiq Khan"

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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Prisoner-lawyer calls recorded


Something remarkable happened in Parliament just before the MPs current recess. The two most hawkish senior cabinet ministers, the home secretary and the lord chancellor, were dragged reluctantly to the chamber and forced to apologise. You can be sure they hated the experience.

Theresa May’s repentence came for the chaos of the debate which was supposed to discuss the European arrest warrant, but which was not even mentioned on the order paper. The scolding she got from the Speaker must have been very hard to bear. Read the full story

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Threat of ‘elective dictatorship’


Last week’s blog described justice secretary Chris Grayling’s problems with judicial reviews and his justification for them to be limited. He accused pressure groups of exploiting costly legal procedures to delay legislation, planning permissions and deportation decisions, and said judicial reviews were being used as a tactical tool rather than a vehicle for an individual to right a wrong.

This week he came up painfully against the subject once again. On Monday he suffered a defeat in a key House of Lords vote on his plans to curtail access to judicial review, which would have made it harder to challenge government decisions in court. Peers voted by 247 to 181, a majority of 66, to ensure that the judges keep their discretion over whether they can hear judicial review applications.

It was at report stage of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill that amendment 146 to clause 70 was moved by Lord Pannick. This led to an outstanding debate on a crucial aspect of the constitution. Lord Pannick said that one of the central purposes of judicial review is to identify unlawful conduct by the Government or other public bodies.

Lord Beecham agreed and said: “Part 4 of the Bill proposes even more insidious changes which would narrow the scope of judicial discretion in cases in which the lawfulness of decisions made by the Government themselves, or by public agencies, is challenged through the process of judicial review.” He quoted the Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, who has asserted that: “there is no principle more basic to our system of law than the maintenance of the rule of law itself and the constitutional protection afforded by judicial review”.

Lord Deben said: “It is unacceptable if we have a system whereby if the government has acted illegally it can’t be brought to account in the courts. The British defence of freedom is judicial review.”

Former lord chief justice, Lord Woolf, said that the alternative amounted to an ‘elective dictatorship’. “It’s dangerous to go down the line of telling the judges what they have to do,” he told peers.

Baroness Williams of Crosby said: “Let us take pride in what we have been and what we are: one of the few countries in the world where an individual is treated as having the full right to challenge the Government and other forms of the Executive. I conclude by saying that it would be an act of absolute tragedy if we were to allow a law to go through that begins to put in doubt that reputation.”

Peers who voted against the government included the former Conservative cabinet minister John Selwyn-Gummer, who sits as Lord Deben, the former Tory chancellor Lord Howe, and 17 Liberal Democrat peers, including the former party leader, Lord Steel, and Baroness Williams.

Sadiq Khan, the shadow justice secretary, responding to the government defeat, said: “This is a humiliating slapdown for the government. These changes would have weakened judicial review, and would have placed the government above the law.

The Bar Council, which represents barristers, the Law Society, representing solicitors, and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) in England and Wales are all opposed the proposed changes and supported the amendments.

Grayling later suffered a second defeat. Peers voted 228 to 195, a majority of 33, over the issue of requiring applicants for judicial review to provide information on the financing of the application. He is likely to try to overturn the defeats when the criminal justice and courts bill returns to the House of Commons. The proximity of the general election could put this in doubt.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Criminal JusticeComments (0)

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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Legal aid truce with barristers


Bar leaders have agreed an interim deal with the Ministry of Justice to end the fee impasse that had threatened to derail several major trials, with a view to reforming the payment scheme for the most expensive cases.

Under the agreement, revised fixed fees, to be determined on a case-by-case basis, will be paid to advocates undertaking very high cost criminal cases (VHCCs). Details of the individually negotiated fees have not been revealed. Read the full story

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (0)

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.”

Posted in Legal AidComments (0)

The protests go on


Last week hundreds of lawyers and support staff took to the streets of London and Manchester to protest against the planned legal aid cuts.

The rallies were organised by the Criminal Justice Alliance. This is a coalition of legal organisations, charities, community groups, grass roots and other campaigning groups, trade unions and individuals who are united in opposition to the government’s attack on legal aid and the criminal justice system. Read the full story

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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)

Justice and Security bill


On Monday the Justice and Security bill came back to a packed Commons at Report stage. The bill extends the secret hearings, known as closed material procedures (CMPs), into the main civil courts in England and Wales. Read the full story

Posted in Civil Liberties, Criminal JusticeComments (0)

Secret Courts


Government proposals to expand secret courts suffered a series of hefty defeats in the House of Lords last Wednesday, significantly narrowing the scope of the justice and security bill. This can have come as no surprise to the government. The opposition of human rights groups and many prominent lawyers, and parliament’s joint committee on human rights (JCHR), to secret trials and withholding evidence has been mounting. Read the full story

Posted in Criminal JusticeComments (0)

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