Don’t abuse the Brexit litigants: their action shows that we live in a free country

The law firm Mishcon de Reya is bringing an action to force the Prime Minister, whoever she (or just conceivably he) may be, to obtain Parliamentary approval before issuing that all-important Article 50 notification.

The question in issue is a deceptively simple one but it has divided lawyers. Can the Prime Minister invoke Article 50 as an act of Royal Prerogative; or will she need to persuade Parliament to pass legislation before doing so? Continue reading “Don’t abuse the Brexit litigants: their action shows that we live in a free country”

Why is it wrong to overturn wrongful convictions, Mr Bone?

It is a pretty safe bet that whenever Peter Bone MP opines on the criminal justice system he is wrong. He has voted to lower the abortion limit to 12 weeks, to retain the criminal offence of blasphemy and to reintroduce the death penalty (although not for blasphemy). One of his typical interventions last year was to sponsor a bill which would have forced judges to pass lengthy prison sentences even when they knew that it would be unjust to do so.

In fairness to him, he is wrong about plenty of other things too. In 2010 he signed an Early Day Motion in support of homeopathy (Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott were fellow signatories, as well as the completely barmy Conservative MP David Tredinnick, who believes in astrology). Continue reading “Why is it wrong to overturn wrongful convictions, Mr Bone?”

The law on transsexual sex has lost touch with humanity and common sense

There has been widespread concern expressed at the 8 year prison sentence passed on Gayle Newland, the 25 year old Chester University student who was recently convicted of assaulting her sexual partner by penetration.

Just weeks later, female to male (but pre-op) transsexual, Kyran Lee, appeared before the Lincoln Crown Court and received a suspended sentence for assault by penetration. The judge’s relative leniency spared the Ministry of Justice the dilemma of deciding if he should be sent to a male or female prison.

There were many differences between the two cases, not least the fact that Newland had been convicted after a trial, whilst Lee pleaded guilty. Lee also faced only a single count.

Nevertheless, the different treatment afforded to the two defendants was striking, and it perhaps serves to emphasise the confusion that now surrounds the law relating to transsexual people and the criminal law.

From shortly after Newland was dragged to the cells, screaming “I’m scared!” press comment has been almost universally critical of HHJ Dutton’s sentence (even though he was faithfully following the Sentencing Guidelines). An entirely unscientific online poll by the Daily Telegraph found that 72% of respondents thought the sentence was too severe, and a similar poll for the Chester Chronicle produced nearly identical results.

Gayle Newland: 8 year sentence widely criticised
Gayle Newland: 8 year sentence widely criticised

Continue reading “The law on transsexual sex has lost touch with humanity and common sense”

The Government’s Policies on the Human Rights Act and the EU are an incoherent muddle

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 Government’s Policies on the Human Rights Act and the EU are an incoherent muddle”