In an appeal brought by the former joint administrators of Rangers Football Club, the Inner House of the Court of Session ruled that the Lord Advocate does not have absolute immunity from suit for malicious prosecution. It marks a significant change in an area of the law that has remained largely untouched for almost sixty years.
The serious financial troubles and subsequent winding up and sale of Rangers Football Club is well documented.
The two pursuers in this case were appointed as the joint administrators of Rangers when the club entered administration in 2012. They reported to the police that the acquisition of Rangers may have involved illegal financial assistance. The police then investigated the acquisition and financial management of Rangers. Whitehouse and Clark ceased to be the administrators later in 2012 when the club entered liquidation after an agreement with the club’s creditors couldn’t be reached. New joint liquidators were then appointed.
In November 2014, the pursuers were detained by Police Scotland on suspicion of being involved in a “fraudulent scheme and attempt to pervert the course of justice”. It was alleged that Craig Whyte, who became the club’s majority shareholder in 2011, had fraudulently bought the club and forced it into administration, which had financially benefitted the pursuers. Over the next year, there were a series of hearings and court proceedings. The pursuers were detained once again and re-arrested and charged with similar offences. They were then charged on a separate occasion with “conspiracy to defraud and attempting to pervert the course of justice”. They objected to the relevancy of these charges.
Whitehouse and Clark aver that they were then told by the Crown in June 2016 that all proceeding against them were finished, and they have not been charged with any offences since.
He cited as an example a recent case in Singapore. The judge had to decide on mistake in contract – except that the two contracting parties were both algorithms. In that instance the judge was able to identify the human agents behind the programmes, but that will soon not be the case.
R (on the application of) Friends of Antique Cultural Treasures Ltd v Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – read judgment
“We believe that the legal market presents opportunities for criminals to launder recently poached ivory as old ivory products.” (Defra’s statement in consultation in introducing the Ivory Bill)
The Ivory Act 2018, which received Royal Assent in December 2018, proposes to prohibit ivory dealing with very limited exceptions. This includes antique items made with ivory. According to the Government, the Act contains “one of the world’s toughest bans on ivory sales”. No date has yet been fixed for it to become law.
The purpose of the Act is to enhance the protection of African and Asian elephants in the face of ongoing threats to their survival. It does so by prohibiting the sale, as opposed to the retention, of all ivory (that is, anything made out of or containing ivory), subject to a very limited and tightly defined exemptions. These prohibitions are backed by criminal and civil sanctions.
The claimant company represented UK dealers in antique worked ivory such as Chinese fans, walking canes with sculpted ivory tops and furniture with ivory inlay. The appeal of these items is not confined to Sinologist antiquarians. Netsuke, smaller carved ornaments worn as part of Japanese traditional dress, are an example. Even for the non connoisseur, Edmund de Waal’s novel The Hare with the Amber Eyes is a celebration of the significance and aura that these ornaments bestow on their owners, not just for the carving, but for the material of which they are made. Religious, hierarchical, magical, and even medicinal.
J.D. and A v the United Kingdom (nos. 32949/17 and 34614/17) – read judgment
Much may have changed in the political world since the Coalition Government introduced its controversial ‘bedroom tax’, but the legal fall-out from the policy continues. The European Court of Human Rights has delivered its verdict on the compatibility of the scheme with the prohibition on discrimination set out in Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Strasbourg Court has found that the policy discriminated unlawfully against women at risk of domestic violence.
As is well known, in 2012 the United Kingdom government introduced new regulations with the effect that those in social housing with an ‘extra’ bedroom had their housing benefit reduced: the so-called ‘bedroom tax’. The purported aim of the policy was to save money and to incentivise those with an ‘extra’ bedroom to either move property or take in a lodger thereby resulting in a saving of public funds.
It is not difficult to imagine why someone might have an extra bedroom but have strong reasons (related to disability or gender) for not moving house. The Government sought to make provision for such cases through a discretionary scheme operated by local authorities but funded by central government.
An Extinction Rebellion protester is removed by police in central London. Credit: The Guardian.
As the general election campaign accelerated this week, the political fall out from the publication of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry contributed to some awkward headlines for both politicians and lawmakers. However, this was by no means the only legal news of the week…
The case turned on the lawfulness of the exercise of powers by the police under section 14(1) of the Public Order Act 1986 to ban XR’s protests earlier this month.
The court ruled that in exercising section 14 powers, the police were required to identify a location to be covered by the powers conferred by the Act. Separate gatherings, separated both in time and by many miles, even if co-ordinated under the umbrella of one body, were not held to be one public assembly within the meaning of section 14(1). Consequently, the decision of the police to impose the condition across a wide area of London for several days was unlawful, being outwith the powers conferred by section 14(1).
The Children Act 1989 (CA 1989) received Royal Assent on 23
November 1989 (30 years ago); and it was in force from October 1991. It was a
major reform of children law which required everyone – parents, children (when
of ‘understanding’), judges, social workers, health professionals and lawyers –
to learn a new set of legal concepts and attitudes. But what about children’s
rights? And what has happened to the law’s regard for those rights since 1989?
The Act required courts to consider a child’s ‘wishes and
feelings’ when that child’s welfare was in issue in a court. In parallel with
this, United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 Art 12.1 –
though not formally part of the Act – says:
States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.
On Wednesday last week I had the great pleasure of speaking to a fellow South African, which we post in this week’s episode of Law Pod UK. I promise there are no references to rugby in the entirety of the interview. How could we have predicted anything anyway?
Kate O’Regan is the Director of the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights at Oxford University. She is also a former judge of the South African Constitutional Court (1994 – 2009). One fellow judge has said that she is “one of the finest minds ever appointed as a judge in South Africa”.
Our discussion ranges over a multitude of topics, such as the difficulty of reconciling customary law practices with the rights of women under the Bill of Rights, and the problem of enforcing the rule of law in the townships and on public transport in a country where most people are dependent on the state owned Metrorail to get to their place of work.
This post, along with those before it, summarises some of the main points of interest arising from the ALBA Conference 2019.
‘Reith Lecture (Judicial Power) Response’ – Chair: Mrs. Justice Thornton; Speakers: Lord Dyson, Sir Stephen Laws, Prof Vernon Bogdanor, Prof Meg Russell, Lord Falconer of Thoroton QC
A prestigious panel offered its response to Lord Sumption’s Reith Lectures, followed by a reply from Lord Sumption himself.
In his lectures for the BBC, Lord Sumption argued that judges have excessively increased their power and invaded into the political sphere. The Human Rights Act 1998 and Judicial Review attracted particular criticism.
Lord Sumption’s original lectures are available from the BBC here. A recording of the full discussion is available on LawPod here, so this post draws out some of the key points.
Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law
In the News:
The Grenfell Tower Inquiry released its first report into the disaster. Its findings included:
The refurbishment of Grenfell tower broke building regulations because it used a mixture of combustible cladding. This was the main reason the fire spread.
Firefighters were let down by poor training, leadership, equipment and plans. Junior firefighters arriving at the scene were “faced with a situation for which they had not been properly prepared”.
The ‘stay put’ advice used by the London Fire Brigade was wrong, and cost lives.
The report recommends that national guidelines for evacuating high-rise flats are created. It also seeks for a programme of regular inspections of high-rise flats and lifts
The Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, Dany Cotton, attracted particular criticism from the media. Ms Cotton had said that although she was saddened by the loss of life, there was nothing she would have done differently. Sir Martin Moore-Bick, the Chair of the Inquiry, described her as showing “remarkable insensitivity” and suggested this showed an inability to learn from the tragedy.
The use of algorithms in public sector decision making has
broken through as a hot topic in recent weeks. The Guardian recently ran the “Automating
Poverty” series on the use of algorithms in the welfare state. And on 29
October 2019 it was reported
that the first known legal challenge to the use of algorithms in the UK, this
time by the Home Office, had been launched. It was timely, then, that the
Public Law Project’s annual conference on judicial review trends and forecasts
was themed “Public law and technology”.
Basic tech for lawyers
The conference helpfully opened with a lawyer-friendly run down of algorithms and automation. Dr. Reuben Binns (ICO Postdoctoral Research Fellow in AI) drew a number of useful distinctions.
The first was between rule-based and statisticalmachine learning systems. In rule-based systems, the system is programmed to apply a decision-making tree. The questions asked and the path to a particular outcome, depending on the answers given, can be depicted by way of flow-chart (even if that flow-chart might be very large, involving numerous branches). In contrast, statisticalmachinelearning involves a computer system training itself to spot patterns and correlations in data sets, and to make predictions based on those patterns and correlations. The computer system is first trained on data sets provided by the system designer. Once trained, it can be used to infer information and make predictions based on new data. These systems might be used, for example, to assess the risk of a person re-offending, where the system has been trained on existing data as to re-offending rates. It has long been known that machine-learning systems can be biased, not least because the data on which they are trained is often biased.
This post, and those that follow, summarise some of the main points of interest arising from the ALBA Conference 2019.
‘Practice and Procedure Update’ – Chair: Lord Justice Singh; Speakers: Catherine Dobson, Jo Clement, Christopher Knight
Catherine Dobson: Costs in Public Interest Litigation
Sir Rupert Jackson’s 2009 review of costs in civil litigation found that reform was required in relation to judicial review. This was because it was “not in the public interest that potential claimants should be deterred from bringing properly arguable judicial review proceedings by the very considerable financial risks involved”. Whilst the government did not take up the proposal for qualified one-way costs shifting in judicial review, it did introduce a scheme for cost capping orders in judicial review. This change was the focus of Ms Dobson’s talk.
Back in 2010 Catriona Murdoch wrote about the High Court’s decision that a Welsh ban on the use of collars designed to administer electric shocks to cats and dogs did not breach Article 1 of the First Protocol of the ECHR or impinge upon the free movement of goods protected under European Union Law. I followed with a comment on the status of animal welfare in EU law here.
Any pet owner living near a busy road or with less than adequate fencing will be aware of the availability of an electronic containment system which prevents animals escaping by administering a shock via a collar, a system to which they become conditioned by the warning of a radio signal as they approach the boundary. Hand-held e-collar devices are different in that the shock can be administered anywhere and at any time at the whim of the animal’s owner.
The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) recently published a report on police and prison facilities in Scotland after its visit in 2018.
This was an ad hoc visit and it aimed to evaluate the developments made since the CPT’s last visit to Scotland in 2012. The CPT’s delegation visited five police custody facilities and five prisons across Scotland. The report covers several areas, including the treatment of detained persons in police facilities, the conditions of male prisons, inmates in segregation and those on remand. It also focused on female prisons in general, and healthcare.
Police custody facilities
Overall, the CPT’s delegation was satisfied by the conditions and treatment in the police facilities that it visited. Every detained person that they interviewed reported that they had been correctly treated whilst in custody. However, an area of concern was the number of detainees who made allegations that they had suffered ill-treatment at the time of their arrest. Around one third of the detained persons alleged that they experienced excessively tight handcuffing and physical abuse by police officers. Several also claimed that they experienced this treatment despite not resisting arrest. The delegation reported that many of those making the allegations had visible signs of injury, such as bruises, scratches, and swelling.
This has been a turbulent week for Brexit.
Despite gaining approval for his adapted version of Theresa May’s deal, Boris
Johnson has been unable to secure approval for his Brexit timetable, with a
narrow consensus in Parliament that the deal requires longer scrutiny.
Meanwhile, EU leaders have granted permission for a further extension to
Article 50 until 31st January 2020, in response to the letter sent
by the Prime Minister to comply with the Benn Act. Leaving on October 31st
is no longer possible; Parliament is preparing for a December general election.
Even before Lady Hale and her spider brooch rose to national prominence following media coverage of Miller (No 2), she was something of a hero amongst female lawyers. A trailblazer in the profession, she was the first women appointed to the Law Commission, the first female Law Lord and the first female president of the Supreme Court. But it isn’t just Lady Hale’s rise through the ranks of the male-dominated legal profession that is inspirational. It is also the use she has made of the positions she has attained.
While at the Law Commission, Lady Hale played a significant role in the landmark reform that was the Children Act 1989. This placed the “best interests” of the child at the centre of public sector decision-making and represented a huge step forward for children’s rights. Amongst the many progressive and illuminating judgments penned by Lady Hale in the House of Lords and the Supreme Court, one of the most important is arguably the decision in Yemshaw v London Borough of Hounslow. In this case she held that domestic violence is not limited to physical violence. Lady Hale’s contributions provide a shining example of the importance of diversity in positions of power within the legal world. It cannot be doubted that she has brought a new perspective to bear that has enriched law-making in this country.
This blog is maintained for information purposes only. It is not intended to be a source of legal advice and must not be relied upon as such. Blog posts reflect the views and opinions of their individual authors, not of chambers as a whole.