Tag Archive | "shami chakrabarti"

The Supreme Court has ruled


Parliament must vote on whether the government can start the Brexit process, the Supreme Court has ruled. The judgement means Theresa May cannot begin talks with the EU until MPs and peers give their backing, although this is expected to happen in time for the government’s 31 March deadline.

Reading out the judgement, Supreme Court President Lord Neuberger said: “By a majority of eight to three, the Supreme Court today rules that the government cannot trigger Article 50 without an act of Parliament authorising it to do so.

“Withdrawal effects a fundamental change by cutting off the source of EU law, as well as changing legal rights. The UK’s constitutional arrangements require such changes to be clearly authorised by Parliament.”

Attorney General Jeremy Wright said the government was “disappointed” but would “comply” and do “all that is necessary” to implement the court’s judgement. The government had argued that, under the Royal Prerogative (powers handed to the government by the Crown), it could make this move without the need to consult Parliament.

The court also rejected, unanimously, arguments that the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Assembly should get to vote on Article 50 before it is triggered.

Key points of the judgement include the fact that the 1972 Act that took the UK into the then EEC creates a process by which EU law becomes a source of UK law, and so long as that act remains in force, it means that EU law is an “independent and overriding source” of the UK’s legal system. Withdrawal from the EU makes a fundamental change to the UK’s constitutional arrangements because it will cut off the source of EU law. The UK constitution requires such changes can only be made by Parliament.

Dominic Casciani, BBC home affairs correspondent, writes: “”This momentous judgement is about one thing alone: the rule of law and how the UK, as a champion of that steady, calm form of government, gets on with the business of leaving the EU.

He added: “But what it also makes clear is that membership of the EU is messy in constitutional terms – so only Parliament has the right to pull us out. It can’t be done by the stroke of a minister’s pen.”

BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg detected “sighs of relief” in Whitehall for two reasons. The verdict from the justices doesn’t take away from the reality that having to go to Parliament before triggering Article 50 is a political inconvenience that Theresa May very much wanted to avoid. But “the justices held back from insisting that the devolved administrations would have a vote or a say on the process. That was, as described by a member of Team May, the ‘nightmare scenario’.”

She said: “Second, the Supreme Court also held back from telling the government explicitly what it has to do next. The judgement is clear that it was not for the courts but for politicians to decide how to proceed next.” Explicit instructions from the court about the kind of legislation they had to introduce would have made ministers’ lives very difficult.

David Davis stated that the government supported the right of the judges to come to their conclusion, after the ‘Daily Mail’ argued: “Yet again, the elite show their contempt for Brexit voters.” There followed a statement from the justice secretary, Liz Truss, who faced criticism for not defending the appeal court justices denounced by sections of the media as “enemies of the people” after they ruled against the government.

Truss said: “Our independent judiciary is the cornerstone of the rule of law and is vital to our constitution and our freedoms. The reputation of our judiciary is unrivalled the world over, and our supreme court justices are people of integrity and impartiality.”

The shadow attorney general, Shami Chakrabarti, argued that it was not enough, and that the prime minister should also speak out.

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How went the battle?


It is quite something when the deliberations of 11 very senior judges is the hottest ticket in town. There should be twelve judges but at the moment there is one unfilled vacancy. Nevertheless this is the first time that that all Supreme Court members have convened to decide a case.

There was standing room only as the battle for Brexit began. At issue is whether the government, through its executive powers, or parliament, can trigger article 50 of the treaty on European Union. The four-day hearing on the divisive constitutional issue was broadcast live. The High Court had ruled that parliament was sovereign in this case and the government was appealing that decision.

Emotions are running high. Ukip has accused those behind the claim of being “arrogant federalists” intent on blocking Brexit, the Daily Mail has branded the high court judges who found against the government in the first round as “enemies of the people”, and individual challengers – such as Gina Miller – have received death threats.

Before legal argument began the president of the Court, Lord Neuberg, stressed the court’s determination to assert its impartiality in the proceedings. He went on to say “various individuals have received threats of serious violence and unpleasant abuse on emails.” He warned that there are “legal powers designed to ensure that access to the courts is available to everyone.”

Labour’s shadow attorney general, Shami Chakrabarti, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “the political aspect of the case had been hyped in parts of the media.” She said: “This is about process. It is not about outcomes.” She said it was unfair for newspapers to delve into the personal lives or supposed opinions of the judges.

Opening the government’s submission, the attorney general, Jeremy Wright QC and MP, said that royal prerogative powers were an essential part of the UK’s unwritten constitution and the high court had been wrong to rule last month that article 50 could only be triggered following a vote in Parliament.

Wright was followed by James Eadie, known as the Treasury Devil, but he ran into a barrage of queries from the justices in the court challenging the source of the royal prerogative.

Lord Pannick, QC, opening the argument on behalf of the lead claimant of the case, Gina Miller, dismissed as “inherently implausible” the government’s assertion that it was entitled to deliver notice of the UK’s intention to leave the EU under article 50. He described the referendum as “plainly an event of considerable political significance”, but was not a matter for the court because “it was irrelevant to the legal issue of whether ministers enjoy prerogative powers to set aside the 1972 Act.”

‘Guardian’ sketch writer John Crace had fun with the performing personnel. Of Lord Pannick he said: “Seldom has a man been less well named…a Pannick attack is a thing of zen like beauty.” Lord Keen, for the Scots, was described as being “breathless in a way that only a tortoise could ever know. Glaciers move more quickly than Lord Keen.” John Larkin, attorney general for Northern Ireland “dropped his bundles and lost his place to deliver one of the more hapless performances ever witnessed by the supreme court. Still his job was done. By making himself appear so useless, he might just have made Eadie and Keen look a little better.”

Judgement is expected mid- January.

Posted in Case Law, Law UpdatesComments (0)

Investigatory Powers Bill


The snoopers charter, known as the Investigatory Powers Bill , is with us again. While tightening up privacy safeguards in proposed new spying laws, the government is seeking to give the police more power to see internet browsing records.

Published on Tuesday, the Bill will force service providers to store browsing records for 12 months. It will also give legal backing to bulk collection of internet traffic. It expands the purposes for which police can obtain internet connection records. It says they can be acquired for a “specific investigation” provided it is “necessary and proportionate.” Ministers say the new powers are needed to fight terrorism, but internet firms have questioned their practicality, and civil liberties campaigners say it clears the way for mass surveillance,

In her written statement to Parliament, Theresa May said that the government is not seeking sweeping new powers and had taken on board the criticisms of three parliamentary committees. She said: “The privacy safeguards are stronger and clearer. The Bill incorporates additional protections for journalists, removing a key exemption for the security and intelligence agencies when seeking to identify journalists’ sources. And it incorporates statutory protections for lawyers.”

May said the latest version reflected the majority of the 122 recommendations made by MPs and peers, including strengthening safeguards, enhancing privacy protections and bolstering oversight arrangements.

She also said that the revised measure would strengthen the office and powers of the investigatory powers commissioner, giving the lord chief justice a role in his or her appointment. “This is vital legislation and we are determined to get it right…Terrorists and criminals are operating online and we need to ensure the police and security services can keep pace with the modern world and continue to protect the British public from the many serious threats we face.”

May said the Bill is not asking companies to weaken their security by undermining encryption. New safeguards for interception and equipment interference warrants are introduced, reducing the period of time within which urgent warrants must be reviewed by a Judicial Commissioner from five to three days.

She said: “The Bill as amended strengthens the office and powers of the new Investigatory Powers Commissioner, giving the Lord Chief Justice a role in his or her appointment and allowing for the Commissioner to inform people who have suffered as a result of the inappropriate use of powers.

“The ‘double-lock’ authorisation model endorsed by the Joint Committee – involving judges in the approval of warrants for the most intrusive powers – remains on the face of the Bill and has been strengthened further in respect of urgent warrants.”

Ministers want the new bill to become law by the end of the year, citing the urgent demands of national security and crime prevention.

The ‘Guardian’ reports that Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: “Less than three weeks ago MPs advised 123 changes to the majorly flawed draft bill. The powers were too broad, safeguards too few and crucial investigatory powers entirely missing. Government must return to the drawing board and give this vital, complex task appropriate time.” Lord Strasburger, a Liberal Democrat member of the scrutiny committee on the draft bill, said nothing had changed. “The Home Office just doesn’t do privacy. It does security and ever more intrusive powers they claim will make us safer, but not privacy.”

The ‘Guardian’ editorial says the bill “is, in its way, a triumph for [Edward] Snowden: it involves the British security state coming clean about the extraordinary existing facility to snoop that he exposed, spelling the powers out in statute for the first time… It will become possible to build up exhaustive logbooks on the lives of others. Bluntly described powers to switch on cameras and microphones on people’s own phones starkly reveal how the tide of technology is washing away all need for the old art of installing bugs…”

Posted in Civil LibertiesComments (0)

Investigatory Powers Bill


Britain leads the world in the use of CCTV, and 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.

Coalition home secretary Teresa May’s snooper’s charter bill, introduced three years ago, 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. Read the full story

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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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Return of the snooper’s charter


Emergency powers to ensure police and security services can continue to access phone and internet records are being rushed through Parliament.

Prime Minister David Cameron has secured the backing of all three main parties for the highly unusual move. The brief, six clause, Data Retention and Investigation Powers Bill (Drip) will be pushed through Parliament in seven days, a process that normally takes several months. Read the full story

Posted in Civil LibertiesComments (0)

How effective are walk-outs?


Last Friday more than 1,000 barristers and solicitors protested outside parliament at cuts to criminal legal aid in their first full-day walkout. They are not calling it a strike, but that is how it will be seen.

At the rally opposite the House of Commons, Sir Ivan Lawrence QC, the former Conservative MP, said: “I’m ashamed of this government. I have been a Conservative for 60 years of my life. Never has there been a demonstration like this. It’s atrocious that this government has forced us to come and behave like this.” Read the full story

Posted in Legal AidComments (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 trials


Back in the heady days of May 2010 a Tory and Liberal coalition agreement was produced at break-neck speed.

Section 10 of the agreement was about civil liberties. The preamble stated: “The parties agree to implement a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties under the Labour Government and roll back state intrusion.” The agreement specifically promised the protection of historic freedoms through the defence of trial by jury. Read the full story

Posted in Civil LibertiesComments (0)

Counter terrorism review


Home Secretary Theresa May went to the House of Commons on Wednesday to announce the results of the counter terrorism review which was one of the main commitments of the coalition government. The headline announcement was the proposal to scrap the very controversial control order regime. Read the full story

Posted in Criminal Justice, Law UpdatesComments (0)

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