Repealing the Human Rights Act is not as easy as it seems

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

If Miliband erects his pillar in the Rose Garden he may be sent to prison

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:

Labour PLedge Card March

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

Lord Janner: Was the DPP right? What can the complainants do next?

The Crown Prosecution Service has announced that Greville Janner will not be prosecuted for sexual offences against boys in Leicester during the 1970s and 1980s.

Greville Janner: Alzheimer's disease is incurable

Greville Janner: Alzheimer’s disease is incurable

The CPS says the case passes its “evidential test.” They believe they have evidence which makes a conviction more likely than not. The reason for not proceeding is that, in the view of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, a prosecution “would not be in the public interest.”

The announcement has been greeted with outrage. According to one, unnamed, complainant quoted on the Leicestershire Police website:

This animal is still being protected because [of his status] and isn’t able to stand trial. They say that it’s not in the public interest, but isn’t it in the public interest to know what his victims have gone through at the hands of this man?”

It seems quite unprecedented for an investigating police force to quote someone describing an unconvicted individual in such terms.

There are two questions:

Why did Ms Saunders find that a prosecution was not in the public interest?

What can those aggrieved by the decision do about it? Continue reading

Mr Grayling’s Court Catering Charge Will Prove Hard to Swallow

Chris Grayling, the Justice Minister has not let the dissolution of Parliament or the appalled objections of lawyers stand in the way of ever more absurd ruses to squeeze money out of Court users.

Last week he announced plans to charge defendants a flat rate, non-negotiable charge merely for being convicted, irrespective of the seriousness of the charge or their ability to pay. This will be as high as £1200.00 for any Crown Court trial.

Justice Minister Chris Grayling

Justice Minister Chris Grayling

Last night, in a bold attempt to take the war to critics who have attacked his plans, Mr Grayling announced the introduction of what he describes as “further much needed efficiency savings” in the criminal justice system.

Top of the list is a new “Catering Charge” which, Mr Grayling said, was a closed canteennatural development arising out of the closure of all court catering contracts which took place in January. Continue reading

The so-called “Hampstead Satanic Cult” should be a warning to the credulous

Lovers of paedophile and Satanist conspiracies have been having a wonderful time recently with their claims that a Satanist paedophile ring has been operating from Christ Church Church of England Primary School in Hampstead, a beautiful part of North London not far from where I used to live.

Christ Church Hampstead

Such scares blow up from time to time and they always turn out to be nonsense, or at least, if they contain a grain of truth, to be hugely exaggerated. However on this occasion I have paid more than passing attention because the school in question happens to be where two of my children learnt to read and write and where they spent seven exceptionally happy years.

I have had no involvement with the school since 2008, but the Head Teacher and many of the other teachers and staff, as well as the Parish priest, are the same now as they had been then. Continue reading

Were the three porn viewing judges rightly sacked?

You might think that the most important part of a judge’s job is to sit on the bench and listen to the evidence, and that the least important part is sitting in chambers waiting to be called into court. The Judicial Conduct Investigations Office, on the other hand, appears to think that how a judge behaves in the privacy of his chambers is more important than how he does his job in court.

Three judges have been sacked for watching pornography. District Judge Timothy Bowles, Immigration Judge Warren Grant and, Deputy District Judge and Recorder Peter Bullock. In the great scheme of things there have been greater injustices, but I think they have been treated rather harshly. Bullock has perhaps got off the lightest of the three as he was not a full-time judge. No doubt he can return to private practice without too many problems. Bowles and Grant were full-time judges and they have lost their livelihoods. Possibly they will be able to return to practice as lawyers but failed and disgraced ex-judges don’t command a high premium in the competitive world of legal recruitment. Continue reading

Has the Guardian gone mad about Jimmy Savile?

Has Jimmy Savile driven The Guardian mad? The tabloids, unsurprisingly, seek out the most sensational stories about the now disgraced disc jockey, as though to atone for their devotion to the man when he was alive. One would like to have thought that more serious newspapers would adopt a more sober tone.

The Guardian sometimes prints drivel. One expects nothing else from some of its star columnists, such as Seamus Milne who likes to write approvingly of Vladimir Putin and wistfully of the Soviet Union.

Its editorial columns are usually rather more sensible.

Last Thursday was an exception. Under the headline “Oblivion’s Too Good For Him,” the newspaper that remains required reading for the British left published an editorial that was so hysterical and so bizarre that it suggested the writer (who is sadly unnamed) might require a few weeks leave to calm himself down.

Its subject was Jimmy Savile. Bemoaning the fact that no Hell exists in which Mr Savile could be condemned to “eternal torment,” the editorial went on to make an extraordinary comparison:

If there is one thing to make the most benign agnostics wish that there were a God to punish sinners with eternal torment, it is the contemplation of history’s monsters. Oblivion is too good for the likes of Pol Pot, and for Jimmy Savile, too.”

Continue reading

Saman Naseem will hang tonight. George Galloway has appealed to save his life

Unless a miracle occurs around about 2 a.m. UK time tomorrow morning, 22 year old Saman Naseem will be hanged.

Saman Naseem: Due to be hanged tomorrow

Saman Naseem: Due to be hanged tomorrow

The usual Iranian method of hanging is unusually cruel and gruesome. The condemned prisoner is simply suspended from a rope by his neck. There is no drop; no attempt to break his neck. He is slowly strangled to death as he kicks and struggles. Death takes minutes. Sometimes the executions are public, though more commonly they take place inside a prison. Continue reading

Religious slaughter should not be banned

The covert film by Animal Aid of slaughter at the Bowood halal abattoir near Thirsk shows revolting animal cruelty.

Slaughtermen are seen hacking and sawing at the necks of fully conscious sheep, throwing them around, kicking and punching them prior to slaughter; and all this while surrounded by the smell and sight of death in the form of dead sheep and chickens hanging from nearby meat-hooks.

Animal Aid deserves enormous credit for making these disgusting scenes public. Any civilised person, of whatever religion or none, will be horrified to see the film.

It raises the explosive question of whether halal or kosher slaughter should be banned by law. UKIP, in an apparent reversal of its previous policy, has already announced that it will support a ban on all slaughter in which the animal is not first stunned. It is a policy that may well prove popular. Like most UKIP policies I rather doubt that it has been carefully thought out. Continue reading

Docks are nasty relics of eighteenth century injustice. It is time to dismantle them

We have abolished the gallows, the gibbets and the pillories that once adorned every rutted turnpike cross-road.

GibbetIt’s now time to turn our attention to another eighteenth century legal relic. No, not the harmless wig, but the pernicious practice of forcing defendants to stand trial while caged inside the wooden and glass cages known as “docks.”


The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, seems to think so too.

In a speech last week to Birkbeck College’s Institute for Criminal Policy Research Lord Thomas suggested that docks could be abolished:

Do you really need the dock? Are they really necessary? I do think these sort of radical ideas need considering …. They are terribly expensive. Particularly in magistrates’ courts.” Continue reading