criminal law


Round Up 14.10.19 – Diplomatic Immunity, Brexit and Immigration

14 October 2019 by

dunn.jpg

Harry Dunn’s family after meeting with the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, last week. Photograph: Credit: The Guardian, Peter Summers/Getty Images.

The usually obscure concept of diplomatic immunity came to the fore this week after it emerged that the wife of an American diplomat was wanted for questioning in connection with the death of a motorcyclist in Northamptonshire. Anne Sacoolas was spoken to by police after a collision with Harry Dunn in which he was killed whilst riding his motorbike, prior to her return to the United States.

Article 31 of the 1961 Vienna Convention grants immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving state to diplomats, a feature extended to their family members by article 37. However, both the United Kingdom and the United States were this weekend reported as having agreed that diplomatic immunity was no longer “pertinent” in the case of Mrs Sacoolas. This raised the possibility of the UK seeking her extradition, despite President Trump being photographed this week with a briefing card stating that she would not be returning to Britain.

Meanwhile, the country’s attention turned back towards Brexit, with the week ahead promising to, in the Prime Minister’s words, be “do or die” for the prospects of a negotiated deal. At the beginning of the week it was widely reported that talks had faltered, with Downing St leaks suggesting a deal was “essentially impossible”. However, the mood surrounding negotiations changed significantly on Thursday, with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar describing the emergence of a “pathway” to a deal following his meeting with Boris Johnson.
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Holocaust denial in a parliamentary speech: criminal conviction not a breach of Article 10

11 October 2019 by

Pastörs -v- Germany (Case no. 55225/14))

On 3 October 2019 the European Court of Human Rights dismissed an application by former NDP leader Udo Pastörs that his criminal conviction in Germany for making a “qualified Auschwitz denial” in a parliamentary speech infringed his right to freedom of speech under Article 10 ECHR. The Court held that, although interferences over statements made in parliament must be closely scrutinised, they deserve little, if any, protection if their content is at odds with the democratic values of the ECHR system.

Previous Holocaust denial cases before the European Court have arisen from statements made in various media, including a book (Garaudy -v- France (dec.), no. 65831/01, 24 June 2003), a TV show (Williamson -v- Germany, no. 64496/17, 8 January 2019) and even as part of a comedy routine (M’Bala M’Bala -v- France, no. 25239/13, 20 October 2015). This time the Court was called upon to consider statements made in a parliamentary context. The case involves ultra-right wing nationalist politics, parliamentary immunity from prosecution, the parliament’s ability to self-regulate that immunity, and the courts as final arbiters of such disputes. Although the statements concerned were made back in 2010, 9 years later the case still feels very topical.


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No duty of care to disclose to pregnant daughter father’s genetic disease – High Court

20 May 2015 by

12280487228o6zg0ABC v St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust and others [2015] EWHC 139, Nicol J – read judgment

Philip Havers QC  and Hannah Noyce, and Elizabeth-Anne Gumbel Q.C. and Henry Witcomb  of Crown Office Row represented the defendants and claimant respectively in this case. None of them have had anything to do with the writing of this post.

I have blogged before on the Pandora’s box of ethical problems and dilemmas emerging out of our increasing understanding of genetic disorders (see here, here and here), and here is a case that encompasses some of the most difficult of them.
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British Jihadists and treason

21 October 2014 by

remember-remember-the-fifth-of-november-gunpowder-treason-and-plot-i-see-no-reason-why-gunpowder-treason-should-ever-be-forgotThe news last week was that the Foreign Secretary has proposed a revival of a fourteenth century statute in order to prosecute British jihadists who travel to Iraq or Syria to fight. Cries of foul are coming from the usual quarters, and there’s even a protest that the Strasbourg Court would object, which, given the current controversy surrounding that tribunal, may be a good reason in itself for such a move.

In the current froth over the Convention versus “home grown” human rights, there is much talk of the Magna Carta. So may be of interest to some that in the opinion of one of the greatest legal scholars in history, Edward Coke, the Statute of Treason had a legal importance second only to that of the “Great Charter of the Liberties of England”, piloted by feudal barons to limit King John’s power in 1215.

Politics aside, how would this work? On the face of it, a law which has been on the statute books for centuries, and is found to be applicable to a current state of affairs, is an equum donatum whose dental health should not be examined too closely. Although the last person to be convicted under the 1351 Treason Act – the Nazi propagandist William Joyce (otherwise known as Lord Haw Haw)- was hanged, now any British citizen convicted of the offence could be given a life sentence.
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Old and minor convictions and cautions need not be disclosed – Supreme Court

18 June 2014 by

criminal-background-checkR (On the application of T and another) (Respondents) v Secretary of State for the Home Department and another (Appellants) – read judgment

The Supreme Court has unanimously declared that government rules regarding the disclosure of spent convictions are unlawful and incompatible with Article 8 of the Convention.

One of these conjoined appeals involved T,  who was prevented from employment involving contact with children when  a police caution was disclose in respect of the theft of two bicycles when the respondent was eleven years old (see my previous post on the Court of Appeal judgment in T). In JB, the police issued a caution to a 41 year-old woman in 2001 when she was caught shoplifting (a packet of false fingernails).  In 2009 she completed a training course for employment in the care sector. She was required to obtain an “enhanced criminal record certificate” or ECRC, which disclosed the caution. The training organisation told JB that it felt unable to put her forward for employment in the care sector.
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Secret trials – a little transparency, a lot to worry about – Lawrence McNamara

12 June 2014 by

RCJ restricted accessGuardian News and Media Ltd -v- AB CD – Read preliminary judgment

The Court of Appeal has published its decision in Guardian News Media v AB and CD. It is not a judgment, the Court says. Judgments – plural – will be given “in due course.” Still, the 24 paragraph decision contains the order and explanation of the order, and gives an indication of some of the reasons that will follow.

Is this a good decision? It is better than it might have been, but there are still deeply worrying problems.

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Public and private law wrongs are not the same – Court of Appeal

15 April 2014 by

110618346_Vincent_398959c Tchenguiz v. Director of the Serious Fraud Office [2014] EWCA Civ 472, 15 April 2014 – read judgment

This judgment is a neat illustration of how important it is to keep the concepts of public law and private law unlawfulness separate – they do not necessarily have the same legal consequences.

It arose thus. The Tchenguiz brothers are high-profile businessmen, and they did not take kindly to being arrested and bailed on charges of fraud at the behest of the SFO. They sought judicial review of the search and arrest warrants. In due course, the Divisional Court ([2012] EWHC 2254 (Admin)) held that the SFO had made material non-disclosure and factual misrepresentations to the judge which vitiated the grant of the warrants, and the brothers have brought a substantial follow-on claim for damages – £300 million according to another recent judgement here.

So the Tchenguiz brothers have established unlawfulness, but, as we shall see, this does not automatically entitles them to damages.

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Strasbourg law does not prevent the imposition of whole life orders for “heinous” crimes

18 February 2014 by

_53452935_005783605-1McLoughlin, R v [2014] EWCA Crim 188 (18 February 2014) – read judgment

The Court of Appeal has today ruled that judges can continue to impose whole life orders in accordance with Schedule 21 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

On the facts of two individual cases, the Court increased the sentence of Ian McLaughlin to one of a whole life term for the murder of Graham Buck. The Court dismissed an appeal by Lee Newell against his whole life order for the murder of Subhan Anwar.

The following is based on the Court of Appeal’s press summary.
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Honeymoon murder suspect can be extradited to South Africa, says High Court

1 February 2014 by

dewani1Government of the Republic of South Africa v Dewani  [2014] EWHC 153 (Admin) 31 January 2014 – read judgment

Shrien Dewani, the British man facing charges of murdering his wife on honeymoon in South Africa, has lost his appeal to block extradition there (so far three men have been convicted in South Africa over Mrs Dewani’s death). The Court ruled that it would not be “unjust and oppressive” to extradite him, on condition that the South African government agreed to return him to the UK after one year if his depressive illness and mental health problems still prevented a trial from taking place.
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South African Supreme Court orders police to investigate Zimbabwe torture allegations

28 November 2013 by

subvertingjusticeNational Commissioner of the South African Police Service v Southern African Human Rights Litigation Centre (485/2012) [2013] ZASCA 168 (27 November 2013) – read judgment.

In what appears to be the first case where the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) has had to consider the investigation of crimes committed extraterritorially, the Court has made it clear that the perpetrators of systematic torture – as was alleged in this case – can be held accountable in South Africa regardless of where the offending acts took place.

It had been alleged that Zimbabwean officials had on a widespread scale tortured opponents of the ruling party. The Gauteng high court had ordered the SAPS to initiate an investigation under the Implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Act 27 of 2002 (the ICC Act) into the alleged offences (see my previous post on that ruling).  
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Supreme Court considers definition of “terrorism”

23 October 2013 by

terror-tsijkg

R v Gul (Appellant) [2013] UKSC 64, 23 October 2013 – read judgment

It is a platitude that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. It is for precisely this reason that the international community has not been able to agree on a definition of terrorism to be embedded in international law.

The issue in this appeal was whether the definition of ‘terrorism’ in the UK Terrorism Act 2000 includes military attacks by non-state armed groups against national or international armed forces in a non-international armed conflict.

The following is taken from the Supreme Court’s press summary.  References in square brackets are to paragraphs in the judgment.
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The Supreme Court’s curious constitutional U turn over prisoner rights – Richard A. Edwards

13 October 2013 by

Supreme Court meets StrasbourgOsborn v The Parole Board [2013] UKSC 61 – Read judgment / Press summary

1 Crown Office Row’s David Manknell acted as junior counsel to the Parole Board in this case. He had no involvement in the writing of this post.

Writing in his magisterial new work, Human Rights and the UK Supreme Court, Professor Brice Dickson noted that the Human Rights Act had created ‘an internationalized system of human rights protection rather than a constitutional one.’ Indeed, there had been a marked resistance on the part of the Supreme Court to use the common law to achieve the same goal of human rights protection. In Osborn v The Parole Board the Supreme Court seemed to resile from this position.

Osborn, and the co-joined appeals, concerned the circumstances in which the Parole Board is required to hold oral hearings. Osborn had been recalled to prison after an immediate breach of his licence conditions. Booth and Reilly had been sentenced to life imprisonment, and in both cases the minimum term had expired. The appellants sought early release and had been denied an oral hearing by the Parole Board under the operation of the statutory regime (detailed in paras 3-17). Instead their cases had been decided on paper by a single anonymous member of the Board.

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Deportation of foreign criminals: the new immigration rules are a “complete code”

9 October 2013 by

ukborderMF (Nigeria) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2013] EWCA Civ 1192 – read judgment

In what circumstances can a foreign criminal resist deportation on the basis of his right to family life under Article 8 of the Convention? Until 2012 this question was governed entirely by judge-made case law. Then rules 398, 399 and 399A  were introduced into the Immigration Rules HC 395.  I have posted previously on the interpretation of these rules here and here.

The rules introduced for the first time a set of criteria by reference to which the impact of Article 8 in criminal deportation cases was to be assessed. The intention of the legislature in introducing these rules was to state how the balance should be struck between the public interest and  the individual right to family life:

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“Law is no trade, briefs no merchandise”

27 August 2013 by

supreem-court1In Re Rameshwar Prasad Goyal, Advocate, Supreme Court of India, 22 August 2013, read judgment

For the moment, at least, the idea of Stobart-law, supermarket-law, or call-centre-law as the solution to the increasing cost of criminal justice seems to be on hold. But this broadside from the Indian Supreme Court (including my title) helpfully reminds us that the relationship between judges, advocates and their clients fits with difficulty into the bilateral model of most of the entirely commercialised world. The advocate owes a more complex set of duties to the court as well as to his or her client than are typically found in a haulage contract.

Shri Rameshwar Prasad Goyal, Advocate-on-Record or AOR in this case, is, according to Indian court statistics, a very busy man. He was acting  in 1678 cases in 2010, 1423 cases in 2011, and 1489 cases in 2012. But he has never actually appeared in court on behalf of his clients. Indeed a request from the Court in the present case for him to appear to explain himself was refused – try that in the High Court in the UK. It did not go down well in New Delhi either. The Court, having chucked out his hapless client’s application, declared that Goyal was guilty of conduct unbecoming an advocate, and told him that if he did not do better over the next year (i.e. turn up to court for his clients) he would get struck off.

The underlying facts show the dangers of allowing all of law to be run completely on business lines. Goyal had found an excellent and cost-efficient business niche. But as the Court explained

In a system, as revealed in the instant case, a half baked lawyer accepts the brief from a client coming from a far distance, prepares the petition and asks an AOR , having no liability towards the case, to lend his signatures for a petty amount. The AOR happily accepts this unholy advance and obliges the lawyer who has approached him without any further responsibility. The AOR does not know the client, has no attachment to the case and no emotional sentiments towards the poor cheated clients. Such an attitude tantamounts [sic] to cruelty in the most crude form towards the innocent litigant.

What is it about law that gives rise to this imbalance? If I go into the bread shop, and am asked £10 for my loaf, I walk out, because I know the price of bread. If I go to my lawyer about a case, which as an individual, I may do (if I am unlucky) once in my life, I have little idea of the standard of the service which I might receive. Even if it were Stobart- or Tesco- law, I might hope that they do things reasonably well, but in truth most people would not really know. Indeed most of us expect never to be arrested in our lives, so we don’t know what can be done by our lawyers if we end up there.

That said, turning up to court is normally expected of an advocate. Indeed, a little more than that, as the Court cuttingly observed

Thus, not only is his physical presence but effective assistance in the court is also required. He is not a guest artist nor is his job of a service provider nor is he in a professional business nor can he claim to be a law tourist agent for taking litigants for a tour of the court premises.

“Service provider”, now there is a phrase beloved of those designing our new criminal justice system – necessary, but not sufficient, for justice.

The Court continued by pointing out that in the present era, the legal profession, once known as a “noble profession”,

has been converted into a commercial undertaking. Litigation has become so expensive that it has gone beyond the reach and means of a poor man. For a longtime, the people of the nation have been convinced that a case would not culminate during the lifetime of the litigant and is beyond the ability of astrologer to anticipate his fate.

The  UK system still has to crack the costs of litigation, given the  conflicting difficulties of litigating properly and cost-efficiently for clients, but it is at least working on that hard, But we do seem to have sorted the time it takes to get to answer problems which we set our judges. Timing has been ruthlessly policed by our courts in recent years, so that you need a pretty good excuse for doing something late or slowly. So, unlike the gloomy picture presented by the Indian Supreme Court, most people know whether they have won or lost before they die – so astrologers are not generally necessary.

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Brain-damaged claimant fails in Article 8 claim against Council

2 July 2013 by

7c70bb7581834f77a7ca9f20e4dc6253Bedford v. Bedfordshire County Council, 21 June 2013, Jay J – read judgment

On 29 May 2004, Bradley Bedford, then aged 13, was beaten senseless by one AH, then 15, whom he had the misfortune to encounter entirely by chance near the seaside in Torbay. AH was in a children’s home there which was contracted to the Defendant Council; AH was a “looked after” child under section 20 of the Children Act 1989. Bradley sued the Council for failing to protect him. His claim was limited to one under the Human Rights Act, and Article 8 ECHR in particular.

Jay J dismissed the claim on the grounds that (a) it was brought too late; (b) there was not a real and immediate risk of harm to Bradley of which the Council should have been aware; (c) even if there was, the local authority took reasonable steps to eliminate or substantially reduce any risk. All these rulings are of some interest.

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