Monday, 16 October 2017

"Victoria" TV series ~ Daniel M'Naghten

Daniel M'Naghten
The second series of the television programme "Victoria" ended on Sunday 15th October.  (There is to be a Christmas extra episode).  At times, the series touched upon some of the great issues of those days.

Victoria (1819-1901) was Queen from June 1837. The final episode of Series 2 touched upon the Parliamentary struggle for the repeal of the "Corn Laws" which essentially had come to protect wealthy landowners from the impact of allowing grain to be imported.  A poem of the time summarised the situation: "Ye coop us up, and tax our bread, And wonder why we pine; But ye are fat, and round, and red, And fill'd with tax-bought wine."

The Corn Laws were repealed during the premiership of Robert Peel (1788-1850).  Peel's private secretary was the civil servant Edward Drummond (1792-1843) who was shot by Daniel M'Naghten (1813-1865) whose name still lives on in English criminal law due to the much-criticised M'Naghten Rules which set out the requirements to establish a defence of "insanity."  Drummond was actually shot from behind and he died of complications which arose following surgery to remove the "leaden bullet" fired from M'Naghten's gun.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Ian Stewart-Brady

" .....even in the sordid history of crimes against children the murders committed by Hindley jointly with Ian Brady, were uniquely evil" - Lord Steyn in R (Hindley) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2000] UKHL 21.


On 15th May, the "Moors Murderer" Ian Brady died - previous post 18th May 2017.  He was convicted at Chester Assizes in 1966 (Fenton Atkinson J and a jury) of the murders of John Kilbride (12), Lesley Ann Downey (10) and Edward Evans (17).   Myra Hindley, who died in 2002, was convicted of the murders of Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Brexit Notes - Round 5 and other items

Round 5 of the Brexit negotiations has concluded with statements by the EU Chief Negotiator (Michel Barnier) and the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU (David Davis).  Some British politicians will be most unhappy to have heard Mr Barnier state - " ... as things stand at present, I am not able to recommend to the European Council next week to open discussions on the future relationship."

Although the talks clearly made a certain amount of progress, the major sticking point appears to be the financial settlement which Mr Barnier said had not been discussed apart from some technical details.  He said, "We are, therefore, at a deadlock on this question. This is extremely worrying for European taxpayers and those who benefit from EU policies."

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Brexit - Theresa May's statement to Parliament 9th October

Brexit negotiations are entering the 5th Round and, on 9th October, the Prime Minister made this statement to the House of Commons - see Hansard 9th October.

Mrs May emphasised that the government wishes to secure "a new, deep and special partnership with the European Union which spans both a new economic relationship and a new security relationship" but the UK will not be part of the EU single market or customs union. Also, the idea is rejected of "something based on European Economic Area membership."   Instead, the UK is seeking "a unique and ambitious economic partnership" which will "reflect our unprecedented position of starting with the same rules and regulations."  The UK will maintain its "unequivocal commitment to free trade and high standards."

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Suicide Act 1961 ~ Mr Noel Conway

Mr Noel Conway is 67 years old and suffers from Motor Neurone Disease (MND) which he described as "a relentless and merciless process of progressive deterioration."   When the time is appropriate, he wishes to have assistance to end his life but assisting suicide is a criminal offence in England and Wales - (Suicide Act 1961 section 2).  In the High Court he argued that section 2 of the Suicide Act is incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and he asked the court to make a declaration of incompatibility as permitted by section 4 of the Human Rights Act 1998. The court held that section 2 is compatible with the Article 8 rights of Mr Conway and declined to make the declaration.

The Queen (Noel Douglas Conway) v Secretary of State for Justice and others [2017] EWHC 2447 (Admin) - Sales LJ, Whipple and Garnham JJ.  The judgment is also available in pdf format via the Judiciary website.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Judiciary ~ Swearing in ceremonies

Sir Ian Burnett LCJ
The new Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales - Sir Ian Burnett - has been sworn in today (2nd October) - see the Judiciary announcement and the short video statement made by Sir Ian. The Lord Chief Justice holds the office of President of the Courts of England and Wales and is Head of the Judiciary of England and Wales - Constitutional Reform Act 2005 section 7.   Sir Ian is also Head of Criminal Justice but it is permissible for the him to appoint another to that position - CRA 2005 section 8.

Sir Ian is the 19th Lord Chief Justice since the major court reforms of 1875 and he is the 12th since the end of World War 2.  He is the youngest appointee since Lord Parker of Waddington who was appointed in 1958 at the age of 58.

Note 12th October - It has been announced that Sir Ian Burnett will receive a life peerage - Downing Street Press release

Change also took place at the Supreme Court .....

Friday, 29 September 2017

EU (Withdrawal) Bill - Delegated powers - Important House of Lords report



Previous posts have noted concerns in Parliament about the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.  See 12th September - Deep concerns as EU (Withdrawal) Bill passes second reading in House of Commons;  7th September - House of Lords Constitution Committee - Interim report on EU (Withdrawal) Bill; and 6th September - Massive powers for Ministers under the EU (Withdrawal) Bill.

Numerous amendments put forward:

As at 14th September, the list of proposed amendments to the Withdrawal Bill extends to 74 pages!  See Notices of Amendments.

Delegated powers report:

An important further report contains trenchant criticism of the Bill.  It has been issued by the 

Brexit Negotiations Round 4

Following on from the Prime Minister's speech in Florence, Round 4 of Brexit negotiations have concluded.  The Secretary of State's close of talks statement is HERE and the EU Negotiator's (Michel Barnier) statement is HERE.  The Prime Minister's speech was said by Mr Barnier to have "created a new dynamic in our negotiations."  Talks will resume on 9th October.

In his Round 4 closing statement, Mr Davis referred to publication of an updated table showing many areas of agreement.  For this see Department for Exiting the EU - Joint Technical Note

The Florence Speech was notable

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

R v Lavinia Woodward

Addendum 28th September + Addendum 29th September

TOFF JUSTICE is how The Sun newspaper described the sentencing of Lavinia Woodward who, in December 2016, had used a bread knife to wound her boyfriend- The Sun 26th September.  The report is riddled with comments implying that the Judge - His Honour Judge Pringle QC - was far too lenient on Miss Woodward.  She was "spared jail" and she "tearfully mouthed “thank you” to Judge Ian Pringle as he let her off with a suspended sentence - then walked out of court with a huge smile."  The Sun points out that - " ...  the judge’s leniency infuriated justice campaigners, who said offenders from less privileged backgrounds were regularly locked up for similar attacks."  The newspaper also offers three examples of women who had committed similar offences but they are "not posh" and so were jailed.  Those included the case of Angela Stead - 2 years for slicing her victim's artery causing severe blood loss.

Once charged with the offence,

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

"Double the powers of Magistrates" - said LCJ.


Magistrates' Courts should have their power of imprisonment doubled.  This view was put forward by the Lord Chief Justice (Lord Thomas) when opening a new Magistrates Association National Office at St. George Wharf (Vauxhall).  If adopted, the Magistrates' Court would be able to impose a sentence of up to 12 months imprisonment for a single imprisonable offence instead of the current maximum of 6 months.  Around 10,000 additional cases per year would remain with the magistrates  rather than being sent to the Crown Court.  The financial saving would be considerable because, at around £900 per day, Magistrates' Courts are a cheaper form of justice than trial on indictment in the Crown Court - (about £3400 per day).

Monday, 25 September 2017

Prison Reform Trust - Prison: The Facts 2017



On 22nd September 2017, the prison population of England and Wales was 86,200 against an operational capacity of 87,387 - Ministry of Justice Weekly - Prison population figures.

The Prison Reform Trust has published a briefing - Prison: The facts.  The briefing (16 pages pdf) is well worth reading in full.

England and Wales has the highest imprisonment rate in western Europe. In 2016, nearly 68,000 individuals were sent to prison and the majority of those (71%) were sentenced for non-violent offences.  Sentences of 6 months or less accounted for almost half that figure.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Retiring LCJ to review Welsh justice system and policing


On 7th September, the retiring Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, issued his final annual report HERE and, on 14th September, he gave evidence to the House of Commons Justice Committee.   His appearance before the committee may be viewed HERE and a transcript is available.

I believe that Lord Thomas is the first Lord Chief Justice to have been born in Wales since Alfred Lawrence (Lord Trevethin) who served as LCJ briefly from 1921-22.  Interestingly, Lord Trevethin's third son was Geoffrey Lawrence who presided at the Nuremberg Trials.

The Welsh Government

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

R v Charlie Alliston

Charlie Alliston - now aged 20 - has been sentenced to 18 months detention in a Young Offenders Institution for an offence contrary to the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 section 35.

On 12th February 2016, Mr Alliston was cycling at approximately 18 mph down Old Street (London).  As he approached the junction with Charlotte Road the traffic lights were at green in his favour.  Mrs Kim Briggs was trying to cross Old Street.  Mr Alliston ran into her causing injuries which proved to be fatal.  It appears from the sentencing remarks of Her Honour Judge Wendy Joseph QC that Mr Alliston saw Mrs Briggs, swerved, slowed to 10-14 mph and was shouting to Mrs Briggs - "Get out of the fucking way."

Friday, 15 September 2017

Grenfell Tower Inquiry underway but criticisms persist

Formal opening:

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry formally opened on Thursday 14th September and the Chairman (Sir Martin Moore-Bick) made his opening statement which may be read HERE or viewed via Youtube.

List of Issues - NOT exhaustive:

The Inquiry has published a List of Issues but the list is NOT exhaustive - it is described as a Guide to the issues on which the Inquiry's investigations will focus.

Terms of Reference:

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Under attack - the Conservative - DUP "confidence and supply" deal

Following the General Election 2017 and the weakening of the Conservative Party's position in the House of Commons, a "confidence and supply" deal was arranged between the Conservative Party and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland - Telegraph 26th June.

The agreement is available HERE and it is notable that the DUP agreed to support the Conservative government on

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Deep concerns as EU (Withdrawal) Bill passes Second Reading in House of Commons

For all the sound and fury, the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill survived its Second Reading in the House of Commons by 326 votes to 290 - (majority 36).  The debate and the voting may be seen at Hansard Online - European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Day 2 .  Day 1 of the Second Reading was on Thursday 7th September - Hansard.   The House of Commons debate highlighted serious concerns about the Bill including the way in which Parliament is in danger of becoming akin to a rubber stamp for Ministers.

Deep concerns remain:

Thursday, 7 September 2017

House of Lords Constitution Committee - Interim report on EU Withdrawal Bill

The House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution has issued an Interim Report on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - 3rd report Session 2017-19.  The five Chapters in the report an Introduction, EU Law and Exit Day, Delegated powers, Court of Justice of the EU and Devolution.

The report identifies three broad constitutional themes - the relationship between Parliament and the Executive; the rule of law and legal certainty and, thirdly, the stability of the UK's territorial constitution.

The Bill gives the executive

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Massive powers for Ministers under the EU (Withdrawal) Bill

I recall a thinly attended "Constitutional Law" lecture held on a chilly winter's day almost 50 years ago.  The lecturer, a pleasant and elderly gentleman, turned to "Delegated Legislation."  Here was a topic guaranteed to make even the brightest of young eyes glaze over or, as some did, skip the lecture and head for the bar!

The little we needed to learn about Delegated Legislation in order to pass the subsequent constitutional law examination could have been written easily on a single side of Foolscap Folio paper and copied using a Gestetner machine.  Acts of Parliament quite often granted powers to Ministers to legislate.  These "delegated powers" left it to Ministers to do lots of seemingly harmless things such as to decide when sections of the Act came into force and fill in the extensive detail needed to implement the Act.  Occasionally,

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Grenfell Tower ~ Panel and Assessors

The Grenfell Tower Fire Inquiry Chairman wrote to the Prime Minister on 10th August regarding the Inquiry Terms of Reference.  His letter referred to appointment of assessors - (Letter to PM).  Sir Martin wrote - " ... I think is is likely that I shall wish to appoint a diverse group of people whose experience extends to the occupation and management of social housing and the administration of local government more generally, as well as to matters of a more scientific nature.  At a later stage I may also wish to appoint others to assist on particular aspects of the investigation."

The Inquiries Act 2005:

Saturday, 2 September 2017

EU (Withdrawal) Bill ~ House of Commons Paper

The House of Commons Library has published a report on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill which had its First Reading on 13th July 2017.

House of Common Briefing Paper No. 8079, 1st September 2017 - The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill by Jack Simson Caird, Vaughne Miller and Arabella Lang.  The Paper, which extends to a summary and 11 sections, begins by noting the Bill will bring about a complex mixture of constitutional change and legal continuity and states that it is the most significant constitutional bill introduced since the European Communities Act 1972.  Of that there can be no doubt.