Family legal aid tender process was “unfair, unlawful and irrational”

Updated The High Court has ruled that the Legal Service Commission’s legal aid tender process was “unfair, unlawful and irrational”. The decision came in  a judicial review of the tender brought by the Law Society.

According to the Law Society’s press release:

The failure of the LSC to anticipate, let alone manage, the outcome of the process was the latest and perhaps most alarming of the LSC’s apparently haphazard attempts to reshape legal aid…

The LSC’s actions would have seen the number of offices where the public could get subsidised help with family cases drastically cut from 2400 to 1300.

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New “loss of control” defence as murder law reforms take effect

Joshua Rozenberg has written an article in today’s Guardian pointing out that, as of Monday, a major reform of the law of murder will take effect. The measures, which were introduced by the last Government, in effect replace the old partial defence to murder of provocation with a new partial defence of “loss of control”.

As Rozenberg points out, a partial defence reduces an offence from murder to manslaughter, which means that a judge will not have to impose a mandatory life sentence on conviction. The reforms to the law on provocation stem from long-standing criticism that the defence’s archaic origins in the common law have led to it being unduly lenient in instances of hot-headed violence (e.g. a husband killing his wife on discovery of infidelity), while providing insufficient protection for “slow burn” cases (and in particular those where victims of prolonged domestic violence finally kill the perpetrators). In recent years, attempts by the courts to extend the partial defence to “slow burn” cases have led to increasingly strained interpretations of the law in this area, which have furthered calls for reform.

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Roma: Commission shies away from full discrimination action against France

We reported earlier on the threat by EC Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding to institute infringement proceedings against France in respect of its expulsion of Roma and the dismantling of their encampments. It seems now that the Commission itself may not have the stomach for an action expressly based on the ban on discrimination in the EC Treaty and the Free Movement Directive.

As the Darren O’Donavan reports in Human Rights in Ireland,

The Commission decided to threaten a less controversial legal action against France for not having correctly transposed the Free Movement Directive into national legislation.

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UK discriminated by making same-sex relationship mum pay more child maintenance

J M v. The United Kingdom – 37060/06 [2010] ECHR 1361 – Read judgment

The European Court of Rights has declared that rules on child maintenance prior to introduction of the Civil Partnership Act discriminated against those in same-sex relationships.

The events happened nearly a decade ago and the law in relation to same-sex couples has greatly altered since, so it will be of limited relevance to those paying child benefit now. Of more interest is the reasoning of the majority in deciding the case under the right to peaceful enjoyment of property rather than the right to family life.

The case summary is based on the Court’s press release, and is followed by my comment.

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Human rights roundup: Green Milibands, press freedom and Guantanamo Bay rights

Some of this week’s human rights news, in bite-size form. The full list of our external links can be found on the right sidebar or here:

Can an institution demand a CRB check from tutors visiting to train staff? – Anna Fairclough, Liberty: Another excellent answer to a human rights question via the Guardian’s Liberty Clinic. This edition addresses the overzealous use of Criminal Records Bureau checks by employers. I referred to this issue in a recent roundup, as Nacro, a crime reduction organisation, is campaigning to reform the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act so that ancient and trivial criminal offences would no longer be a bar to employment as they often are now.

Which Miliband is greenest? – Halsbury’s Law Exchange: Stephen Hockman QC, an environmental law expert, says that both Milibands have done more than the current government to promote green issues. Perhaps when David returns to front-line politics he will take up the environmental post his brother recently vacated. We have been featuring environmental law recently on the blog – see a list of recent posts here. Also, good to see the Halsbury’s Law Exchange are now blogging regularly!

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Coroners take action on deaths in custody

Coroners are making more recommendations about how to avoid deaths in custody, according to the latest report from the Ministry of Justice.

The latest statistics on “rule 43 reports”, where coroners make reports to prevent future deaths, show that deaths in custody account for 11% of reports made, up from just over 6% in the two previous reporting periods.

Since July 2008 coroners have had a wider power to make reports to prevent future deaths and a person who receives a report must send a response within 56 days.

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Did the security services know about detainee mistreatment?

Binyam Mohamed

More documents have emerged calling into question what the UK security services knew about the alleged mistreatment of ‘War on Terror’ detainees. Until this case is resolved, it is unlikely that work will begin on the upcoming torture inquiry.

Various documents have been disclosed in the ongoing case of Al Rawi and Others v The Security Services, in which six men who were detained at various locations, including Guantanamo Bay and Bagram in Afghanistan, allege various forms of mistreatment. They say that the UK government knew or should reasonably have known that the mistreatment was happening. Although the case has not yet reached trial, it has been the subject of a number of high-profile applications for secret documents (see our posts here and here).

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