Law Round Up: A few articles from the press and the UK law blogs

A quick post with some interesting articles on legal issues I have read in the press and in some of the law blogs…

Police kettling stirs the pot of student unrest

This series of letters in the Guardian makes interesting reading on this controversial issue on the kettling and use of police horses at the student demonstration last week.  Professor Lewis Elton – who I had the pleasure of doing a conference with nearly 25 years ago –  makes an interesting point or two…

I also found Laurie Penny’s article in The New Statesman interesting – and thought provoking…Inside the Whitehall kettle

Why Lord Justice Moses should watch 12 Angry Men

Louise Christian in The Guardian: The judge’s proposals on criminal trials are a dangerous attack on the jury system. I hope he won’t prevail

Here is the opening of Moses LJ’s lecture – which I found interesting…

I shall speak to you at length; I cannot even say how long I will be. There will be few intervals; about once every 1½ hours if you are lucky, or 2 hours. I cannot say how long this will last, certainly more than a day, so please do not believe you can make any sensible arrangements for the rest of the week. You will not be able to take a proper note; even if you had pen and paper, your neighbour will be pressing hard upon your writing arm. You cannot interrupt or ask questions while I am speaking. To those of you who are not lawyers, or practise only in the commercial court, if that is not tautology, I shall be speaking in a language entirely foreign to you. There will be few visual aids; I shall expect throughout to capture your attention with the power of my voice, speaking faster during those parts of the process which I do not really understand and more slowly when it is really important. Before I finish my lecture it would be as well if you did not discuss it amongst yourselves because you will not, until I finish, have learnt all I wish to teach nor had the opportunity to appreciate my objective. Please, if I haven’t finished today do not discuss it with anyone else when you get home tonight. When I have finished I shall set you an exam. It is not the sort of exam with which you will be familiar. You must all agree the answer. You will receive the same mark and you will never know if you have reached the right
answer.

Most criminal practitioners I have spoken to over the years have expressed support for the jury system.  One does wonder, though, how jurors cope with the complexity of law and fact in a long complex trial.

Adam Wagner of the UK Human Rights blog adds a bit of light…. Jury summings-up should be binned, says judge

Ken Clarke plans tough changes to community service – run privately

Continuing with the plan to ‘improve British justice’ The Guardian notes: “Facing big budget cuts, Kenneth Clarke, the justice secretary, will publish a green paper on sentencing in the next fortnight which will introduce new private agencies, as opposed to probation services, to enforce tougher community orders. Clarke is eager to reduce the number of people serving short sentences, and Downing Street is determined that the alternative of community sentences should be seen to be tougher.”

Keen as I am to see improvements in the ‘corrections’ (We appear to be giving up on rehabilitation etc as an underlying rationale?)  part of the of the justice system,  I can’t be alone in having reservations and expressing a view that  placing prison control and community service into the hands of private for profit companies is necessarily a good thing.  I welcome comment from readers who have knowledge and experience of this issue.

The EU Bill in the European Scrutiny Committee

Carl Gardner in his Head of Legal blog writes: “Bill Cash’s European Scrutiny Committee of the Commons is looking at the EU Bill, and in particular is considering very closely clause 18, William Hague’s “national sovereignty clause”, which I’ve written about before. If you’re as interested as I am in this clause and the relationship between EU law and our own constitution, you’ll want to read or perhaps watch the evidence given on Monday by Professors Paul Craig of Oxford University and Trevor Hartley of LSE, and today by Professors Anthony Bradley of Oxford, Trevor Allan of Cambridge and Adam Tomkins of Glasgow.

You can see the videos here and here. The Professors’ written evidence is here, and a transcript of the evidence of Professors Craig and Hartley is here.”

Justice with Michael Sandel

Hat Tip to Natasha Phillips of Researching Reform for drawing my attention to this fascinating website. “What’s the right thing to do?”

Is torture ever justified? Would you steal a drug that your child needs to survive? Is it sometimes wrong to tell the truth? How much is one human life worth?  What do you think and why?  Take a frontrow seat at the first course Harvard has ever made available to everyone, online and on the air.

I think I am going to enjoy this from what I have seen so far…

And from Advanced Legal Studies @ Westminster

Representing Judges

This is an interesting post on the media representation of judges – well worth a look.

Garrow’s Law: Legal History

Obiter J, on his Law and Lawyers blog writes… “English law has a long and fascinating history.  As a subject, it is largely ignored in modern legal education.  This is a pity since there are many lessons to be learned.

The BBC Television series “Garrow’s Law” is proving to be very popular.  It is based on criminal trials which took place at The Old Bailey in the 18th century and highlights both the harshness of the system and the unfairness of the trial processes of the day.  The Old Bailey Online website makes available a fully searchable, digitised collection of all surviving editions of the Old Bailey Proceedings from 1674 to 1913, and of the Ordinary of Newgate’s Accounts between 1676 and 1772. It allows access to over 197,000 trials and biographical details of approximately 2,500 men and women executed at Tyburn, free of charge for non-commercial use……. ”

And finally… from Bitcher & Prickman…. always worth looking at!

One thought on “Law Round Up: A few articles from the press and the UK law blogs

  1. The courts were always supposed to be a place where the public could see justice being done. Barristers traditionally heckled outside in public, in the language and jargon of the people.

    If we do away with juries, we erode transparency. When there are alternatives, like simplifying the process (most concepts can be broken down so that they are accessible) why are our judges pushing so hard to push juries out of the system?

    In the family courts again, we’re hearing similar noises. Coleridge wants to do away with experts in cases where he feels he could understand psychological factors well enough to judge for himself. He wants more powers for judges (which may not be a bad thing, but power is nothing without control and some judges don’t inspire confidence in the way they wield it. I’m particularly concerned about Coleridge, who seems to be treading a fine ground between providing structures for the system and imposing draconian like authority).

    Sir Nicholas Wall also wants a pure, inquisitorial model for the family courts, which traditionally has been anti transparency (see the Star Chamber) and also gives judges complete control over cases. This kind of reasoning is not in line with democratic process.

    Yet the judges are being smoked out. Slowly but surely, in an attempt to speak up and forever hold the peace (on their terms and noone else’s) many are showing their true colours. Words like ‘authority’ are being bandied about. I always thought our legal professionals were there to serve the interests of justice, not play commando.

    The reality then has to be, it is never a system that is to blame first, but always the individuals who inhabit it.

    In order to protect democracy and freedom, we need to ensure transparency. The fact that our judges seem to be ignoring this essential bastion of British life, is, quite frankly, frightening.

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