Round Up 3.8.20 – Sentencing in the criminal courts becomes the focus of public attention…

3 August 2020 by

British SAS soldiers in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Credit: The Guardian

The final week of the legal term was set against the backdrop of new restrictions on the ability of different households to meet across a large part of northern England. The main restriction takes the form of a prohibition on individuals entering households other than their own to visit friends and family. As has become traditional over the last few months, the guidance was announced with a promise to bring forth new laws in the future, to confer actual powers of enforcement.

In addition, many of the week’s dominant news stories carried a prominent legal flavour:

  • The conviction and sentencing for manslaughter of Henry Long, Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole in relation to the death of PC Andrew Harper focused attention on homicide law and sentencing procedure. The case drew significant public interest amid concerns about the potential leniency of sentence and their acquittal for murder. Those with an interest in the case could do much worse than to read the sentencing remarks of Mr Justice Edis (here), which provide a clear and helpful insight into the considerations of sentencing in the case;
  • It was widely reported (including by The Guardian – here) that a High Court order has been served on the Defence Secretary, requiring that he explain the failure of the Ministry of Defence to disclose large volumes of material suggesting the department held concerns about a “rogue” SAS unit conducting the extrajudicial killings of Afghan civilians in 2011. A response is required by the autumn;
  • The Government announced the formation of an independent panel to examine the role of judicial review. The panel is to be chaired by Lord Faulks QC, former Minister of State for Civil Justice and Legal Policy under David Cameron. Interestingly, Lord Faulks wrote on the very subject back in February (here), where he commented that the decision of the Supreme Court to quash the Prime Minister’s prorogation of Parliament was an “historic mistake”.

The week also saw a number of interesting judgments…

  • Harrison & Ors, R (On the Application Of) v Secretary of State for Justice [2020] EWHC 2096 (Admin) (31 July 2020). A judicial review brought by six couples who identify as humanists was dismissed by the High Court. The Claimants had sought a declaration of incompatibility under section 4 of the Human Rights Act on the grounds that the legal underpinnings of religious wedding ceremonies do not extend to weddings carried out in accordance with their beliefs. Whilst the court held that the law affords different individuals different rights on the basis of their religion, the Government was held to have demonstrated a legitimate aim in seeking to address such differences by way of a wholesale reform of the law of marriage, which is currently subject to ongoing review.
  • The High Court heard a judicial review of emergency legislation brought in response to terrorist stabbings at Fishmonger’s Hall and in Streatham – Khan, R (On the Application Of) v Secretary of State for the Justice Department [2020] EWHC 2084 (Admin) (30 July 2020). Following the two incidents, the automatic early release provisions were suspended in respect of terrorist offenders, with early release made subject to the approval of the Parole Board. The court dismissed the Claimant’s case that the legislation was incompatible with articles 5, 7 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

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