Triumph for the rule of law in South Africa?

Jacob-Zuma(R)The leader of South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, has called for President Zuma to be impeached following the Constitutional Court’s finding that he had flouted the Constitution by failing to “uphold, defend and respect the Constitution.”

The case was brought by the Democratic Alliance, amongst others, seeking validity for the Public Protector’s remedial action against the President. Public Protector Thuli Madonsela had reported that Zuma should reimburse the country the money he has spent on upgrades to his palatial homestead. As a course of this remedial action, she recommended that he pay back a portion of the funds used for the upgrades. But this report was set aside by the National Assembly after Zuma made submissions on why he should not pay back the funds.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, giving judgment for the Court, said that the remedial action had a binding effect. Continue reading

Joint Enterprise press release from the Appellant’s solicitors

20308267It is important to note that the draft judgment of the Supreme Court was embargoed from all apart from solicitors and counsel until today so our client, Ameen Jogee, and his family only found out about our success this morning. There are also no facilities for Ameen to attend court so his family have authorised us to release this statement: 

  1. We are glad our arguments on the law were accepted by the court and very pleased that the court took this opportunity to correct a grossly erroneous tangent of law and remove “parasitic accessorial liability” (often referred to as “joint enterprise”) from our law.
    1. The law had incorrectly and unfairly developed to convict secondary parties on the basis of mere “foresight or contemplation” of what someone else might do. This over-criminalised secondary parties, particularly young people like Ameen Jogee.
    2. The consequence was that people were convicted of serious offences, committed by others, and imprisoned for lengthy periods. Primarily, we suggested to the Court that there should be a return to the foundational law encapsulated in cases before the tangent created by joint enterprise. Our primary submission at the hearing in October 2015 was that the true test for accessorial liability is knowledge of the essential matters of that offence or that type of offence and acts which demonstrate an intention to assist or encourage that offence or that type of offence. Such a formulation can adapt to individuals assisting each other or cases where there is evidence of a common plan. The Supreme Court judgment appears to adopt our submissions.
  1. We are delighted for Ameen and his family and the many other families of those affected by joint enterprise who have been waiting on this judgment.
  2. This judgment does not refer in detail to all the material placed before the court so future cases and appeals must take care to ensure that the errors are not repeated.
  3. Internationally it is vital that the errors created by joint enterprise are also corrected.
  4. We would like to thank our excellent staff, our team of counsel Felicity Gerry QC and Catarina Sjölin of 36, Bedford Row and Adam Wagner and Diarmuid Laffan of 1 Crown Office Row. We would also like to thank the teams for Mr Ruddock and the interveners (Just for Kids Law and JengBA). Many of the lawyers involved have worked pro bono for all or some of the time on this difficult case.
  5. A special thank you to Dr Matt Dyson of Trinity College Cambridge whose meticulous research over 500 years of law enabled us to prove what the law was and how it went wrong. Also thank you to Beatrice Krebs from the University of Reading for her comparative work on authorisation which enabled us to place alternative options before the court, and to Professor Luke McNamara from the University of Wollongong whose 2014 paper identified the probability issues from an Australian perspective, which was an important part of this appeal.
  6. We must now focus on the final orders which are not due for some weeks. The Court is yet to decide what effect its conclusions on the principles of joint enterprise will have on our client’s specific case.
  7. If you want an easy read on the case, see these 2 blogs by Catarina Sjölin and Felicity Gerry QC for Nottingham Law School: http://blogs.ntu.ac.uk/nlsblog/tag/joint-enterprise/
  8. In the words of Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG “To hold an accused liable for murder merely on the foresight of a possibility is fundamentally unjust. It may not be truly a fictitious or ‘constructive liability’. But it countenances what is ‘undoubtedly a lesser form of mens rea’. It is a form that is an exception to the normal requirements of criminal liability. And it introduces a serious disharmony in the law, particularly as that law affects the liability of secondary offenders to conviction for murder upon this basis”.
  9. We started this case looking for an alternative probability test for those who were not accused of direct participation with shared intention, along the way we identified the legal errors which had been perpetuated over many years.

We are glad to have played a role in correcting this unjust law.

 

 

 

NI Judge acquits Pastor of “gross offence” against Muslims

MolanaDPP v McConnell [2016] NIMag (5 January 2016)

Silence is the language of God, all else is poor translation.

(Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī , 13th Century Persian Islamic scholar and poet)

These words were the last in the ruling by DJ McNally in the Belfast county court, acquitting Pastor McConnell of grossly offending Muslims in a sermon that had been delivered in church but also transmitted over the internet. The Pastor had declared from the pulpit the there were more and more Muslims “putting the Koran’s hatred of Christians and Jews alike into practice”, and the sermon had continued in a similar vein. Continue reading

The “socialite” who rejected life saving treatment

why_we_need_kidney_dialysis_1904_xKing’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust v C and another  [2015] EWCOP 80 read judgment

A woman who suffered kidney failure as a result of a suicide attempt has been allowed to refuse continuing dialysis. The Court of Protection rejected the hospital’s argument that such refusal disclosed a state of mind that rendered her incapable under the Mental Capacity Act.  An adult patient who suffers from no mental incapacity has an absolute right to choose whether to consent to medical treatment. Continuation of such treatment is unlawful, even if the refusal seems irrational to others. As the judge said, this rule

reflects the value that society places on personal autonomy in matters of medical treatment and the very long established right of the patient to choose to accept or refuse medical treatment from his or her doctor (voluntas aegroti suprema lex). Over his or her own body and mind, the individual is sovereign (John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859).

The Trust’s further application to be allowed to restrain C “physically or chemically” from leaving the hospital where she was receiving the dialysis was therefore rejected.

Background facts

The coverage of this case reflects a certain level of social disapproval. “Right to die for socialite scared of growing old” – “Socialite allowed to die was terrified of being poor” run the headlines. Behind them lurks an essentially religious consensus that people should not be allowed to opt out of senescence and its associated poverty and suffering, such matters being for God alone.  There is also a measure of censoriousness behind the  details brought to court regarding C’s attitude to motherhood and men, the news that she had breast cancer, her love of “living the high life” and her dread of growing old “in a council house”. Continue reading

The Human Genome and Human Rights recommendations: “aspirational and symbolic”

DNA database impact on human rightsThe International Bioethics Committee, under the auspices of UNESCO, has recently updated its guidance on the human genome and human rights. The Report of the IBC on Updating its Reflection on the Human Genome and Human Rights was published in October 2015, and takes into account the  Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights (1997), the International Declaration on Human Genetic Data (2003) and the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights (2005). The following summary is based on Alison Hall’s review of the recommendations in the PHG Foundation’s bulletin.

The IBC’s report attempts to review all the relevant ethical challenges for regulating genetic research and clinical care across national boundaries. The area that has received most coverage in the press involves the emerging techniques for editing the human genome, in particular engineering gametes. The other four areas of application the IBC has chosen for review are:

Direct-to-consumer genetic tests and genetic analysis that is not related to health care
Precision/personalised medicine
Biobanks (banks of genetic information)
Non-invasive prenatal testing Continue reading

The Magna Carta, Then and Now: Public Lecture

National Archives Displays An Original Copy Of Magna CartaIn celebration of UN Human Rights Day on 10 December, Professor David Carpenter will be giving a lecture at Queen Mary University London.

David Carpenter is a Professor of Medieval History at King’s College London and author of ‘Magna Carta’, published by Penguin Classics.

Magna Carta, forced on King John in 1215 by rebellion, is one of the most famous documents in world history. It asserts a fundamental principle: that the ruler is subject to the law. David Carpenter’s commentary draws on new discoveries to give an entirely fresh account of Magna Carta’s text, origins, survival and enforcement, showing how it quickly gained a central place in English political life. Continue reading

Buzzards should not be protected any more than herring gulls and cormorants: High Court

buzzard06McMorn (R, on the application of) v Natural England [2015] EWHC 3297 (Admin) – read judgment

Public opinion regarding raptors and pheasant shoots should not influence the authorisation of buzzard control, the Administrative Court has ruled. Any derogations to the EU protection of wild birds should apply equally across wild avian species, irrespective of their popularity.

This was a gamekeeper’s challenge to the refusal by the defendant statutory body (Natural England) to grant him a licence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to kill buzzards which he said were destroying such high numbers of game birds as to render his shoot unviable.

At the heart of the claimant’s challenge was his contention that NE treated raptors differently from other wild birds, making it far harder, well-nigh if not quite impossible, for anyone to meet the statutory conditions for the issue of a licence.
He maintained the defendant treated these licence applications differently because of the public controversy which the grant of a licence for the killing of buzzards would engender. This was because of perceived adverse public opinion about the protection of a pheasant shoot. Hence, the decision was based on unjustified inconsistencies in NE’s treatment of raptor and other birds equally protected under the law.  Continue reading