The acquittal of Ben Fellows on a charge of perverting the course of justice by falsely alleging that he was “groped” by Ken Clarke during the making of a television programme is in danger of being misunderstood.
The allegation was that he had falsely told the police that after he had been plied with alcohol at a party, Ken Clarke had groped him, by touching his genitals over his clothing. Mr Fellows was described in the prosecution opening speech as a “an inventive and sometimes persuasive fantasist”. Continue reading
The vast majority of Conservative MPs are united in the belief that Parliament should be sovereign and the British Supreme Court should be supreme. Yet the Government has embarked on a plan which (if it succeeds) will effectively entrench the precise opposite of what its MPs actually want.
The problem arises from a misunderstanding of the Human Rights Act and a failure to address the constitutional realities of EU law.
On the Human Rights Act, the Prime Minister has instructed Michael Gove to press ahead with preparations for its repeal and replacement by a British Bill of Rights.
Any sensible Conservative ought to realise that the repeal of the Human Rights Act is not just unwise but, if you are worried about Parliamentary sovereignty and the supremacy of our courts, entirely beside the point. The Act requires the Supreme Court only to “take account” of Strasbourg decisions, not to follow them; and it gives courts, whether British or European, no power to strike down Acts of Parliament. Under the Human Rights Act the Supreme Court is supreme and Parliament is sovereign. Continue reading
The latest polls in the Labour leadership election suggest that Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn has his nose in front. It is hard to trust the unattributed briefings reported in the New Statesman this week, but one “campaign staffer” (presumably, although the report does not say so explicitly, a Corbyn supporter) said “he is in a commanding position … he is on course to win.”
Jeremy Corbyn wearing his “Lenin” style cap.
(David Martyn Hunt)
Bookmakers’ odds tend to give a more reliable picture than anonymous quotes, and here too the picture is pretty clear: www.oddschecker.com shows that the best price you can now get on Mr Corbyn’s victory is 4-1, and even for that you must move fast: several are quoting him at 3-1 . At the start of the election you could back the hirsute Marxist at 100-1.
Mr Corbyn’s standing has been helped by a campaign led by, amongst others, Toby Young. Young is an unlikely Corbyn supporter. Indeed, he is generally sympathetic to the Conservatives, and for all I know he may even be a Party member. He is particularly well-known for helping to found the excellent West London Free School. Continue reading
A Guest Post by David Aaronovitch
Earlier this year BBC Radio 4 broadcast two programmes in the Analysis strand, which I made together with a BBC producer, Hannah Barnes. Ritual Sexual Abuse: the Anatomy of a Panic part one was broadcast on the 25th May and part two went out a week later.
I was asked to make these programmes because I had expressed a concern in various writings that some of the new accusations of historic VIP abuse of children, and the way in which sections of the media were handling them, were reminiscent of the “Satanic Panic” of the 80s and early 90s. During that time it was widely alleged and believed that a substantial number of Satanists and other cultists were or had been involved in complex rituals –involving child sexual abuse and even child sacrifice. Then, by the mid-90s the panic subsided. I felt that by analyzing that past panic we might better understand some aspects of the present. Continue reading
As the Euro teeters yet again on the edge of complete collapse and Greece faces up to the possibility of economic Armageddon, the British press have been even more exercised about another issue in the Eastern Mediterranean: a Romanian paedophile ring operating in a Greek Cypriot hotel.
The suspected paedophile gang has apparently been preying on children staying at the Anastasia Beach Complex Hotel in Protaras.
Hard facts are difficult to disentangle amongst a vast amount of often contradictory reports, rumour and speculation. It probably doesn’t help that some of the guests at the hotel were enjoying a wedding party at 8.30 p.m. last Tuesday. Continue reading
My client Stephen Gough, an ex Royal Marine better known as the Naked Rambler, has now been in prison, largely in a segregation unit, for the best part of 9 years. Once the remission rules are taken into account, that is the equivalent of a sentence of nearly 18 years. It is about what you would expect to get if you committed a rape of an eight year old child. By my very rough calculations the cost of imprisoning him (ignoring altogether legal and police costs) for those 9 years has been about £330,000.
His offence has been that he won’t wear clothes in public.
Who is being the most ridiculous here: Mr Gough or the Crown Prosecution Service? Continue reading
I had rather naively thought that a central part of Conservative philosophy was that, unless there is strong evidence of harm that can be prevented or alleviated by Government action, it’s usually best to let people live their lives without interference from the state. Theresa May’s Home Office thinks rather differently. It proudly announced last month that since 2010 it has banned more than 500 new drugs, as though this were an end and a self-evident good in itself.
Well, we now know it was not an end, it was a beginning, and 500 banned substances were just a taster. In its Psychoactive Substances Bill the second reading of which is to take place in the House of Lords next week, it has made proposals to ban all “psychoactive substances” apart from a few defined exceptions.
Did you know that tea was a “psychoactive substance”? Well under this new law it will be, and you will be allowed to drink it only as a special exemption from the normal rule. Continue reading
Daniel Hannan is one of the most persuasive advocates of repealing the Human Rights Act. In this week’s Spectator he was at his most eloquent and self-confident best, urging Michael Gove to see off the “powerful, wealthy & articulate” lawyers that prefer the rule of Strasbourg to that of the English common law, and warning of the “vicious” response to be expected from lawyers who, he asserts, might say – and even believe – that they are “defending the independence of the judiciary,” but are in fact motivated by the need to pay their mortgages and school fees, which are currently funded by a “multi-million pound industry … around human rights law.”
Daniel Hannan MEP: always eloquent
That last bit about money is rather a cheap shot. The notion that the Human Rights Act has spawned a “multi-million pound industry” is pretty far fetched. Very few cases are brought because of the Human Rights Act, and in the field of criminal law, where I practise, virtually none at all. Although the Act occasionally crops up during a criminal trial, its abolition would make no difference whatsoever to the volume of my work, or to my income and nor would it make any difference to that of the vast majority of my colleagues, very few of whom, incidentally, could begin to afford school fees out of their earnings at the bar, which have shrunk steadily since the Human Rights Act was passed. Continue reading
The new Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, is probably the cleverest man in Mr Cameron’s new Cabinet.
That is just as well because he faces formidable problems: prisons groaning at the seams with frequently suicidal inmates, civil and criminal legal aid in a state of near collapse, criminal barristers threatening to strike, and many demoralised police officers wishing that they were allowed to do so.
Intractable though these problems may be, they are insignificant compared to those that face Mr Gove should he try to implement one of the few concrete promises included within the Conservative Manifesto: repealing the Human Rights Act. Continue reading
Ed Miliband announced today that he has commissioned a giant 8′ 6” limestone slab bearing Labour’s “six election pledges” that is to be installed in the Downing Street Rose Garden if he becomes prime minister. He has promised, or perhaps one should say “pledged,” that the stone will be visible from offices inside Number 10 to remind him to keep his electoral promises.
It seems the height of hubris to have commissioned the massive monument before he has won the election.
When the pledges were first announced in March there were only five, as shown on his pledge card:
To these, Mr Miliband has now added as something of an afterthought: “Homes to buy and action on rent.”
Be that as it may – and arithmetic has never been Mr Miliband’s favourite subject – there are a large number of legal problems which suggest that installation of the Miliband Menhir will never happen. Continue reading