The Weekly Round-up: Braverman, the 14th Amendment, CPS “cherry-picking”
22 May 2023
In the news
Rishi Sunak is expected to be consulting his ethics adviser over allegations that Suella Braverman mishandled a speeding offence charge. The Home Secretary is alleged to have attempted to arrange a private speed awareness course for an offence committed in the summer of 2022, rather than accept three points on her license and a fine or, alternatively, attending a course as part of a group of offenders. She reportedly consulted civil servants and a political advisor about the special arrangements. Sir Philip Rycroft, a former Permanent Secretary, commented that the actions appeared to be a “real lapse of judgment.” Kier Starmer has called for the Prime Minister to sack his minister if she is found to have breached the Ministerial Code. Braverman lost her position as home secretary under Liz Truss for a breach of the Code involving the transfer of official documents through her private email.
Senior members of the police service have criticised the CPS for “cherry-picking” cases to prosecute. Sir Mark Rowley, the Metropolitan police commissioner, has suggested the CPS’ high success rate is evidence that prosecutors are selecting easy cases to pursue while the victims of other crimes go unsupported. Craig Guildford, the chief constable of West Midlands police, has echoed the comments, repeating suggestions he made in February with the chiefs of Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire that the police’s discretion in bringing prosecutions should be expanded, with only the most complicated cases left for the CPS. Max Hill, the director of public prosecutions, has commented that the commissioner’s comments “risk damaging further the public’s confidence in reporting crime and their confidence that justice will be done.”
A group of Democrat senators have called for Biden to use the 14th amendment powers to avoid global financial chaos. A deadlock in Congress over the decision, usually a mere formality, to raise the federal government debt ceiling means the US is in danger of not meeting its financial obligations next month. If the US fails to pay interest on its debts, the global economy will be endangered. Senators including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren argue that Republican politicians are taking advantage of the debt ceiling vote to push their agenda of reducing the deficit, holding the world economy hostage as a result. The 14th amendment states that the “validity of the public debt of the United States… shall not be questioned,” and was passed in 1866 to prevent southern states disturbing the financial settlement of the Civil War. Biden has signalled he is considering use of the power, but Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has commented that its use would risk a constitutional crisis for the courts to settle.
In other news
The Russian government has issued an arrest warrant for the chief prosecutor of the ICC, the British lawyer Karim Khan. The announcement comes two months after Khan issued a warrant for Vladimir Putin and Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, for illegal deportation of children in the course of the Ukraine War. Previous reactions from Russian officials include former president Dmitry Medvedev’s call for a missile strike on the ICC headquarters. Russia’s Investigative Committee said in March that Khan was being investigated for “criminal prosecution of a person known to be innocent” and for allegedly arranging “an attack on a representative of a foreign state enjoying international protection.” The Court responded that such a declaration was “unacceptable” and that it would “remain undeterred in the conduct of its lawful mandate to ensure accountability for the gravest crimes.”
Prince Harry has launched a legal challenge against the Home Office for its decision not to allow him to pay for police protection while in the UK. Harry’s lawyers cited the 1996 Police Act, under which the police chief is empowered to sell special police services, typically for events such as football matches rather than for private individuals. Lawyers for the government argued that private people should not be empowered to hire specialist police protection, which would be contrary to the public interest. The case is one of five civil claims Prince Harry is pursuing in London.
In the courts
In Secretary of State for the Home Department & others v Cox & others  EWCA Civ 551, the Court of Appeal upheld the decision that government employees had a right to a contractual “check-off” option to have union subscriptions deducted from their wages, and that there had been no variation of their contracts following an implied agreement to have the option removed. The High Court’s decision in favour of the PCS union was reversed, however, so that the union was unable to enforce the right to “check-off” under the Contracts Act 1999 s.1.
A businessman whose foreign companies are being investigated by the National Crime Agency for money laundering has had his anonymity removed. The BBC had been pursuing an action to name Javid Marandi for 19 months and has labelled this decision “a milestone for freedom of the press amid growing privacy laws in the courts.” The High Court recommends its decision as the appropriate balance between “the core constitutional principle of open justice against … the potential damage to the claimant’s private and family life.” Marandi has donated over £663,800 to the Conservative Party and was awarded an OBE for business and philanthropy in 2019. Marandi’s lawyers have stated their client denies any wrongdoing and regrets the damage this decision will do to his reputation.