‘Good lawyers save money': Supreme Court President weighs in on Legal Aid

Neuberger lega aidAccording to the President of the Supreme Court, the judiciary not only has a right but an obligation “to speak out on matters concerning the rule of law.”  In recent months, it is a duty from which Lord Neuberger has not shirked, and last night’s lecture to the Institute of Government was no exception.  Its focus was the importance of legal aid, which Neuberger described through the prism of the UK’s constitutional set-up and the respective roles of the legislature, executive and judiciary within it.

This is not the first time that the UK’s most senior judge has intervened in the debate surrounding the Transforming Legal Aid consultation, which closed on 4 June.  Back in March, he warned that proposals intended to save £350 million a year by 2015 could end up costing the Government more, with greater numbers of litigants appearing in court without legal assistance, and longer hearings.

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Apocalypse soon? The UK without the European Convention on Human Rights

HRLA speakersUpdated, 19 May 2013 | Last night, lawyers, academics, NGOs and even the President of the Supreme Court gathered in a basement conference room in central London.  Their purpose was to discuss the UK “without Convention Rights”, a possible future that some might view as post-apocalyptic, and others as utopia.  Either way, given recent political developments, the event could not, in the words of the Chair, Lord Dyson, “be more timely or topical.”

The seminar was hosted by city law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP and presented by the Human Rights Lawyers Association and the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law.  Lord Dyson, who is the Master of the Rolls (the second most senior judge in England and Wales), introduced three speakers:

  • David Anderson QC, the Government’s Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation since 2011;
  • Professor András Sajó, the Hungarian Judge at the European Court of Human Rights; and
  • Professor Hugh Corder, Professor of Public Law at the University of Cape Town.

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Court of Appeal rejects latest attempt to deport Abu Qatada

121113AbuQatadaMay_6898438Othman (aka Abu Qatada) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2013] EWCA Civ 277 – read judgment

The Home Office last night assured its 70,000 Twitter followers that “it is not the end of the road”.  Yet by the time she had reached page 17 of the Court of Appeal’s dismissal of her latest attempt to deport Abu Qatada, it might well have seemed that way to Theresa May. 

In November, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) ruled that Qatada could not be deported to face a retrial for alleged terrorism offences due to the real risk of “a flagrant denial of justice”.  Read my post on that decision here.  Yesterday, Lord Dyson – the Masters of the Rolls and second most senior judge in England and Wales – together with Lord Justices Richards and Elias, rejected the Home Secretary’s appeal.

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Semi-naked RocknRoll pics can’t be published in Sun, rules High Court

Kate Winslet and Ned RocknrollRocknroll v News Group Newspapers Ltd [2013] EWHC 24 (Ch) – Read judgment

Earlier this month, Rocknroll came to the Chancery Division.  Mr Justice Briggs set out his reasons yesterday for granting Kate Winslet’s new husband an interim injunction prohibiting a national newspaper from printing semi-naked photographs of him taken at a party in July 2010 and later posted on Facebook.

In Edward Rocknroll v. News Group Newspapers Ltdthe Judge decided that the Claimant was likely to succeed at a full trial in establishing that his right to respect for his family life (protected by article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights) and his copyright over the photographs should prevail over The Sun’s right to freedom of expression (protected by article 10 ECHR).  As such, the photographs cannot be published nor their contents described pending a full trial.

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Abu Qatada: Preventing a flagrant denial of justice

Othman (Abu Qatada) -v- Secretary of State for the Home Department (appeal allowed) [2012] UKSIAC 15/2005_2 – read judgment

Angus McCullough QC appeared for Abu Qatada as his Special Advocate in these proceedings before SIAC. He is not the author of this post.

Earlier today, Abu Qatada was released from Long Lartin prison following his successful appeal before the Special Immigration Appeal’s Commission (SIAC). Qatada was challenging the decision to deport him to Jordan, where he faces a retrial for alleged terrorism offences.  

For most of the last decade, Abu Qatada has been detained pending deportation to his home country. At his two original trials, he was convicted in absentia and sentenced to full life imprisonment with 15 years’ hard labour.

In his latest challenge to his deportation, SIAC concluded, as the European Court of Human Rights had in May 2012, that due to the real risk of a flagrantly unfair trial in Jordan, Qatada could not be deported there.  Continue reading

The 21st Century Coroner

The Coroners and Justice Act 2009 has created the office of Chief Coroner, plucked at the very last minute from the Coalition’s ‘bonfire of the quangos’.  On Friday, the first Chief Coroner, His Honour Judge Peter Thornton QC, delivered The Howard League for Penal Reform’s 2012 Parmoor Lecture.

Six weeks into his post, Judge Thornton presents a frank exposition of the challenges facing the system he now heads, sets out what he considers to be its purpose, and charts its remarkable genesis.

Coroners have, it seems, occupied for the best part of a millennium a peculiar pocket of public life, adapting their function and purpose over time in a manner not always understood by those working outside the system, or even by they themselves.  From the Articles of Eyre to the 2009 Act, via Robin Hood and Richard the Lionheart (the latter does not come out well), the Chief Coroner describes how ‘crowners’, as they were originally known, have evolved from lay magistrates or collectors of fines, to the judges they are today. Continue reading

When indefinite becomes arbitrary: James, Wells and Lee v UK

JAMES, WELLS AND LEE v. THE UNITED KINGDOM – 25119/09 57715/09 57877/09 – HEJUD [2012] ECHR 1706 – Read judgment / press release

As Andrew Tickell noted in his post on Wednesday the European Court of Human Rights this week ruled that the UK violated the Article 5(1) ECHR rights of three prisoners sentenced to indeterminate prison sentences for public protection, where reasonable provision for their rehabilitation was not made. 

In April 2005, the Government introduced indeterminate imprisonment for the public protection, or “IPP sentences”, whereby certain prisoners would not have a right to parole.  Instead, under section 225 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, they would remain in prison following expiry of their tariff periods until a Parole Board had decided they were no longer a risk to the public.  Prior to an amendment in 2008, an IPP sentence was mandatory where there was a future risk of further offending, and there was an assumption of risk where there was a previous conviction for a violent or sexual offence unless the sentencing judge considered it unreasonable to make such an assumption.

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