The Weekly Round-up: Putin’s arrest warrant, “Increasingly authoritarian” UK, Murderer sentencing
20 March 2023
In the news
The ICC has issued an arrest warrant against Vladimir Putin for the war crime of the unlawful deportation and transference of children. The Russian commissioner for children’s rights, Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, has also been issued an arrest warrant. According to Ukrainian government figures, 16,266 children have been deported to Russia since the beginning of the war. Russia is not a member of the ICC and so it is unlikely that the suspects will be arraigned in court, but it will make international travel more difficult and place political pressure on the Russian government. This is the first instance of the court issuing an arrest warrant for the leader of one of the five permanent members of the UN security council.
Donald Trump told supporters on his social network Truth Social that he expects to be arrested on Tuesday and has urged them to stage mass protests. If indicted, Trump would be the first former US president to see criminal charges. The case concerns ‘hush money’ payments made through Trump’s lawyer to porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election. Once all the evidence has been taken, the grand jury will vote on whether to recommend criminal charges to the Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin Bragg, who determines what charges he thinks he can prove beyond reasonable doubt, if any, but there is no deadline on this process. Trump promises to continue his campaign for the 2024 presidential nomination even if he is indicted. He also faces upcoming inquiries into his attempt to overturn the result of the 2020 election.
Suella Braverman has said she has been “encouraged” by “constructive” talks with the ECHR about changing the Rule 39 injunction process that blocked the Home Secretary deporting migrants in 2022. The UK Government has requested a higher legal threshold for any such injunction that may be imposed on future deportation flights, and advised the ECHR that the British judiciary has ruled the Rwanda deportation scheme lawful. A government source says changing the injunction is likely to prove a necessary step in getting the scheme “off the ground,” Braverman having vowed to enact it by the summer.
In other news
The Morrisons supermarket chain has been fined £3.5million after an employee died when he fell from the stairs during an epileptic seizure. Matthew Gunn suffered fatal head injuries at a Morrisons shop in Gloucestershire in September 2014. A jury found the company guilty of three health and safety charges. The management staff had been made aware of Gunn’s epilepsy but did not take adequate steps to prevent the danger, failing to move his locker to the ground floor so that he did not have to risk using the stairs. Gunn’s parents described the devastating impact that their son’s death had on their physical and mental health, as well as on their marriage.
CIVICUS Monitor, a global research organisation which rates countries’ democratic and civic values, has downgraded the “increasingly authoritarian” UK in its annual global index of civic freedoms. Because of the government’s introduction of restrictive legislation including those related to protests, the CIVICUS ‘People Power Under Attack 2022’ report downgraded the UK’s rating from “narrowed” to “obstructed,” a category which includes Poland, Hungary and South Africa. Highlighted legislation included the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act and the Public Order Bill (currently going through Parliament), which give the police additional powers to restrict the activities of protesters, and the group also point to the government’s “hostile rhetoric” towards migrants and human rights campaigner groups.
The White House said Joe Biden spoke to Benjamin Netanyahu about his government’s plan to reform Israel’s judicial system. The prime minister has described the overhaul as necessary to rebalance a power structure which prevents legislators from enacting the voting public’s will, while the US president “underscored his belief … that democratic societies are strengthened by genuine checks and balances.” Opponents of the proposed measures have staged a series of large-scale protests in which members of the military elite have participated.
The Ministry of Justice has announced plans to increase sentences for murderers with a history of coercive behaviour or who use excessive violence towards their victims. The proposals come after recommendations from barrister Clare Wade, who criticised the current sentencing guidelines for failing to take into account the history of abuse that precedes many domestic murders. The government also plans to review manslaughter sentencing in ‘rough sex’ cases.
In the courts
In R v Secretary of State for Justice and Parole Board for England and Wales, the High Court found that prisoners may have been wrongly released or detained because of the intereference of Dominic Raab in the justice process. The Lord Chancellor changed the rules of Parole Board hearings in July 2022 to prohibit prison and probation staff from advising on whether offenders could be released and to grant the secretary of state a “single view on the prisoner’s suitability for release.” The rules 2(22) was declared unlawful for two reasons: (1) it sought to suppress relevant opinion evidence in favour of the secretary of state’s and (2) there was no evidence that the secretary of state considered whether prohibiting these views was justified if their application was limited to the reports sent with the referral. The court found there was no basis for the instruction to prison and probation staff to refuse to answer similar questions if cross-examined as witnesses, which may have been a breach of their legal obligations. The court will now hear submissions from parties to determine how to proceed.
In Argeseanu v Romania, the High Court upheld a district judge’s decision to extradite a Romanian national who arrived in the UK in 2007. Mr Argeseanu will serve three years and one month in a Romanian prison on assault and public order offences. The judge determined that judicial delay since 2012 which was not due to the defendant’s conduct was proportional to his ECHR article 8 right.