New independent legal think-tank Halsbury’s Law Exchange launched
7 September 2010
This week sees the launch of the Halsbury’s Law Exchange, a new independent legal think-tank funded by LexisNexis.
The new organisation describes itself as “an independent and politically neutral think tank which contributes to the development of law and the legal sector“, aiming to “promote debate through papers, reports, events and media pieces.” The think-tank is chaired by legal journalist Joshua Rozenberg, who is joined by a number of eminent barristers and solicitors.
John Cooper, a human rights barrister and inaugural member, makes the case for the think-tank on guardian.co.uk today. He argues that “Although the law represents the spine of democratic society and lays down the standards by which we live, the public have little influence upon it, which gives succour to the view that laws are created by the elite and imposed upon the masses.” Moreover, “The only place for debate and analysis was in the newspapers, themselves with political agendas.”
The think-tank’s website contains a blog, although it hasn’t been updated since August 20th so it is not clear how much of a feature this will be.
It can only be a good thing for there to be an additional independent voice in the legal world. The Law Commission does a good job but is limited by the number of projects it can undertake. And, as Mr Cooper rightly says, whilst other think tanks and newspapers comment on the law it is not always clear whether they have a wider political agenda.
No doubt the Law Commission will welcome a new and hopefully intellectually rigorous voice in the legal landscape. Moreover, readers of this blog will know that new technology is finally making inroads into the legal system, and hopefully the new think-tank, which comprises a number of cutting-edge lawyers, will have a good think about how access to justice can be improved and the public can have, if not true influence on the law, then at least a better idea of how it works. It is also to be hoped that the practitioner members, who are at the top of their respective fields, have the time and energy to contribute meaningfully to this project.
On the topic of access to justice, it is quite amazing how many independent voices have arisen in the legal world. A flurry of legal blogs have recently been launched, some of which can be found alongside ourselves at the Guardian Legal Network. Honourable mentions should also go to some new and some more long-standing legal blogs: CharonQC, Jack of Kent, Nearly Legal, Strasbourg Observers, Head of Legal, EJIL: Talk! and PHD studies in human rights. Meanwhile, the eminent US-based SCOTUSblog, which keeps track of the US Supreme Court, has just launched “version 4.0.” of its site, and it is still leading the way with its innovative but simple new layout and features.
Of course, a think-tank will have the time and resources to carry out deeper legal research than bloggers can. So, best of luck to the new think-tank and we look forward to hearing its views and joining in the debate.
Do you have any suggestions for topics which need attention from the new think-tank? If so, please leave a comment.
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It should be a fundamental of our legal system that the “rights” of an offender should never exceed, or take precedence over, the rights of the victim(s).
Whilst the principle of innocence until guilt is proven MUST be supported in all cases, the rights claimed by an alleged offender should never be permitted to compromise or diminish those of the victim(s).
My apologies – novice error! I have amended the post.
Thank you for the honourable mention. I should point out though that Nearly Legal has been going since 2006 and has a case law archive of all significant housing related cases from late 2006 onwards.
Debate on the repealing the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 et seq so as to restore the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial before punishment
Sir Ivan Lawrence QC calls the POCA “a law more draconian and manifestly unjust than anything ever devised by a State in modern times”
He continues that this “legally complicated, draconian and unjust system” has come about “mainly because Parliament does not send enough time , or use enough care, in vetting the laws us before it by civil servants and politicians-goaded as they are by the tabloid press with little understanding of the consequences of what they do”
1) Search warrants under POCA.
Warrants under the Proceeds of Crime Act can be issued to ‘the Occupant’. Someone who is merely suspected of involvement in a crime, without any evidence or complaint and without anyone having been charged or convicted of a crime, and any person who lives in an adjacent named property in the same building can have all movable assets seized
The police already have enough power to search and seize property relating to a crime they do not need the wide ranging powers given by the search and seizure warrant under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002
2) Restraint Orders
Freeze all non movable assets at the beginning of an investigation, before charge and on suspicion alone. By issuing a Restraint Order the suspect is punished before charge and before trial and prevented from paying for legal advice or assistance to overturn or vary the Restraint Order. If not charged or found innocent at trial the innocent victim is prevented from seeking compensation. This is a gross injustice.
3) Fair Trial
At trial the defendant, unless on State Benefits, is unable to obtain Legal Aid and because their assets are frozen is unable to pay for legal representation or expert witnesses. Justice for the defendant is impossible in these circumstances.
Whilst the Crown has virtually unlimited resources, is adversarial and stands to gain financially from a confiscation order if their prosecution succeeds
4) Confiscation Order
The prosecuting authority receives a cut of the proceeds seized from people convicted and subjected to confiscation orders and senior staff receives bonuses
Sir Ivan Lawrence, QC, says the “manifest injustices” in confiscation proceedings that were compounded by the setting of targets. “Once you start setting targets you are saying, ‘Never mind justice.’ Bodies like RCPO have to make a judgment on the cases they pursue — if they make that judgment on the basis that they will receive a lot of money, it calls into question whether justice is going to be done.
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