crime


New “loss of control” defence as murder law reforms take effect

30 September 2010 by

Joshua Rozenberg has written an article in today’s Guardian pointing out that, as of Monday, a major reform of the law of murder will take effect. The measures, which were introduced by the last Government, in effect replace the old partial defence to murder of provocation with a new partial defence of “loss of control”.

As Rozenberg points out, a partial defence reduces an offence from murder to manslaughter, which means that a judge will not have to impose a mandatory life sentence on conviction. The reforms to the law on provocation stem from long-standing criticism that the defence’s archaic origins in the common law have led to it being unduly lenient in instances of hot-headed violence (e.g. a husband killing his wife on discovery of infidelity), while providing insufficient protection for “slow burn” cases (and in particular those where victims of prolonged domestic violence finally kill the perpetrators). In recent years, attempts by the courts to extend the partial defence to “slow burn” cases have led to increasingly strained interpretations of the law in this area, which have furthered calls for reform.

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Turkish authorities did not do enough to protect rights of murdered journalist, says European Court

14 September 2010 by

Dink v. Turkey (applications no. 2668/07, 6102/08, 30079/08, 7072/09 and 7124/09) – This summary is based on the European Court of Human Rights press release.

In the case of Dink v. Turkey the European Court of Human Rights concluded that the authorities failed in their duty to protect the life and freedom of expression of the journalist Firat (Hrant) Dink, a prominent member of the Armenian minority in Turkey who was murdered in 2007.

Dink was a Turkish journalist of Armenian origin, and the publication director and editor-in-chief of Agos, a Turkish-Armenian weekly newspaper.

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Calls for murder law reform may be ignored

14 September 2010 by

Keir Starmer

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, has stated his support for a reform of the law of homicide that would see the introduction of different degrees of murder in this country.

Such a proposal was one of the principal recommendations contained in the Law Commission’s 2006 Report on Murder, Manslaughter and Infanticide (Law Com No 304). Mr Starmer’s predecessor, Sir Ken MacDonald, and the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Lord Blair, have also stated their support for the changes.

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Increasing prison numbers could save money, says report

31 August 2010 by

A new report from the think-tank Civitas argues that increasing community sentences and cutting prison numbers will lead to more crime and add to costs too.

This is contrary to the the view of the Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, who has argued recently that there is no link between the rising level of imprisonment and falling crime.

The report, Prison, Community Sentencing and Crime, is by Ken Pease, a professor at the Manchester Business School and a former Home Office criminologist. It does not present any significant new research; rather, it seeks to put the other side of the debate on prison numbers, in light of the “apparently concerted attempt to justify an increasing use of community sanctions in place of custody for convicted criminals”.

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Rules on intercept evidence not breach of human rights, say European Court

20 May 2010 by

KENNEDY v. THE UNITED KINGDOM – 26839/05 [2010] ECHR 682 (18 May 2010) – Read judgment

The European Court of Human Rights has held that the UK’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) does not breach Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to private life or Article 6, the right to a fair trial. The judgment is timely, with the new Government debating at present whether intercept evidence should be allowed to be used in court.

The case has a long and intriguing history. On 23 December 1990, Mr Kennedy was arrested for drunkenness and taken to Hammersmith Police Station. He was held overnight in a cell shared by another detainee, Patrick Quinn. The next day, Mr Quinn was found dead with severe injuries. Mr Kennedy was charged with his murder. He alleged that the police had framed him for the murder in order to cover up their own wrongdoing. He was subsequently was found guilty of the murder of Mr Quinn and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

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Is the historic right to trial by jury slipping away?

13 April 2010 by

The conviction of the “Heathrow heist four” at the Old Bailey has raised serious concerns that the historic right to trial by jury may be slipping away.

For the first time in 350 years, the four men were convicted in the Crown Court by way of a trial without a jury. On March 31st each received long prison sentences for their part in the robbery.

Henry Porter, writing in The Guardian, has severely criticised the reforms which allowed the trial to proceed with no jury. He says:

A profound change has occurred in Britain where it is now possible for counsels and a judge to decide the fate of defendants without the involvement of 12 ordinary citizens – the fundamental guarantee against arbitrary state punishment represented so well by the use of the star chamber under King Charles I.

The right to trial by jury has been steadily eroded in recent years. Civil courts now operate almost entirely without juries, as do some lower-level criminal courts such as Magistrates’ courts, which are only able to impose custodial sentences up to a maximum length of one year.

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