mcgillianaire: (Scale of Justice)
This makes for morbid reading.

(HT @LondonHistorian)
mcgillianaire: (BBC Logo)

Paul Dacre, speaking passionately against press regulation in October 2011.

A fortnight ago, I couldn't even picture the man running Britain's second biggest-selling newspaper, The Daily Mail. I knew who Paul Dacre was, and I had (irrationally) grown to dislike him, but beyond that, I didn't know anything about him.

I had absolutely no idea about his life, what he sounded like, or whether his own views coincided with the controversial ones propagated by his middle-market tabloid. He was an enigma. A hidden sort of satanic figure, an imaginary Norman-Tebbit-Spitting Image-like-puppet machinating in the background. Now, a fortnight later, and the devil has been unmasked.

It began with BBC Radio 4 profiling him, as a response to the furore caused by a Daily Mail article written by Geoffrey Levy at the end of last month, provocatively headlined "The Man Who Hated Britain", referring to Ralph Miliband, the late father of Labour Party leader - and Daily Mail bete-noire - Ed. Then, yesterday, Dacre ventured into the dark side himself by writing in The Guardian, his rag's arch-nemesis in the eyes of his mob, sorry, readers. Sound a bit dramatic? It certainly felt surreal.

Throw into that mix a running feud between The Mail and Auntie, the post-Leveson repercussions, the Snowden revelations, and you have the perfect ingredients for a box office blockbuster. And best of all, we still don't know how it'll end yet.

For what it's worth, I'm with Paul Dacre on press regulation. I do believe that along with certain other things, such as: parliamentary privilege, free, fair and secret ballot elections, and an impartial judiciary wedded to the rule of law; a free press, warts and all, is essential to the healthy functioning of a democracy. Dacre is right to point out the disproportionate coverage by the BBC over the Ralph Miliband story, in comparison with the Guardian's revelations of the Edward Snowden documents.

As much as I am Auntie's cheerleader and part-time Guardianista, I would rather live in a country that allowed all views to be aired freely, even ones that disgust me. That does not mean the press can publish whatever they want. Nor should they be limited by a Royal Charter or even self-regulation. The solution lies in the application of existing laws on defamation, contempt and other relevant crimes as and when necessary. Some of the existing laws are already too stringent, particularly those relating to the freedoms of expression and privacy as embedded into English law by the Human Rights Act, via the European Convention. Even so, I would still prefer judges to recalibrate the imbalance on a case-by-case basis, rather than a regulator.

In any democracy worth its salt, there needs to be a clear separation of powers between the legislature, executive, judiciary AND (especially) the press. Many constitutional law textbooks do not include the press as an organ of government, and perhaps rightfully so, as it does not directly partake in the law-making process. However, it is precisely because of that unofficial status, it should be able to remain independent and hold the State to account. The last thing we need is for an official branch of government to interfere with a centuries-old institution, that has done more good than harm. Let those who break the law be held to account by the courts, and let the Great British public decide for themselves who deserves their readership or not.
mcgillianaire: (Royal Coat of Arms)
In practice, the Irish president is a ceremonial figurehead, much like our Queen and the Indian president. But because of the notoriety attached to Sinn Fein's candidate, it has garnered far wider media coverage than it deserves. What intrigued me was how the current deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland could stand for the presidency of another sovereign state. The possibility of such an event reinforced the complex legal relationships shared by members of the British Isles.

The relevant starting point for the legal relationship between Ireland (as a whole) and Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) began with the merger of the two Kingdoms in 1801 to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Following a fight for independence, the majority of Ireland seceded from the UK and formed the Irish Free State in 1922 (but retained the British monarch as Head of State and remained a self-governing dominion within the British Commonwealth). Northern Ireland (comprising six of the nine Ulster counties) remained a part of the UK. A new constitution introduced in 1937 declared (Southern) Ireland a sovereign state and in 1949, the Irish Free State proclaimed itself a republic and severed all remaining ties to the British monarchy and the British Commonwealth. And so it has remained till today. In 1973, the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom joined the European Economic Community (now known as the European Union) as separate members, while in 2002 the Republic adopted the Euro currency along with eleven other EU member states. Although the UK did not adopt the Euro, it's obvious that theirs is a shared but complicated history.

But unlike the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 which for all intents and purposes, resulted in both sovereign states pursuing agendas virtually independent of the other, the same cannot be said of the Republic and UK. And that's despite the acrimony that existed between the two countries, whether at a governmental level or by the average bald-headed chap on a Clapham omnibus. In fact it is somewhat surprising just how interconnected the two sovereign states are at every level.

In terms of trade, Ireland is the UK's fifth biggest trading partner, receiving around seven percent of British exports, while British trade with Ireland is still greater than its business with the emerging economies of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) combined! British retailers such as Tesco and Marks & Spencer have a high-profile presence in Dublin (probably attracted by the 12.5% corporation tax in the Republic compared to 27% back home) while Ireland is a crucial market for goods produced in Northern Ireland. So much so that some British MPs recently concluded that devolving the setting of corporation tax to the Northern Ireland Executive would help businesses in the region to compete with the Republic.

At a sporting level, one could argue there is an even greater degree of cooperation. In many sports such as hockey, cricket and rugby union, they are organised in an all-island basis, with a single team representing Ireland in international competitions. But in football, there are separate organising bodies and teams representing Northern Ireland and the Republic. And at the Olympics, a person from Northern Ireland can choose to represent either Ireland or Team GB.

But we return to politics and elections. Since 1949, when the Republic was proclaimed and Ireland left the Commonwealth, Irish citizens have retained full voting/candidature rights in the UK at all levels as they could before 1949 as British subjects. This includes general, EU and local elections. Similarly, British citizens have more voting rights in Ireland than other EU and non-EU citizens in that they can vote at Irish general elections but like the others, they cannot vote in presidential elections and referendums. Therefore we now have a situation in which a Northern Irish-born Irish national, MP at Westminster, MLA of the Northern Irish Assembly and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland is standing for the presidency of the Republic. But thanks to the current legal position, British citizens in Northern Ireland will not be allowed to vote in the presidential election unless the Irish constitution was changed, as one Sinn Fein MP (UK) has proposed. Still with me?

In more ways than one, Sinn Fein is the political glue that binds the British Isles together. It is the only political party to still participate in elections at Westminster, within Northern Ireland and in the Republic. Its current leader (Gerry Adams) is a former member of the Northern Irish Assembly and British House of Commons, positions which he resigned from in order to become a member of the Irish parliament earlier this year. And like all former and current Sinn Fein MPs at the British House of Commons, he never took the oath of allegiance/affirmation which meant they could never attend or vote on proceedings in the House. As the political wing of the IRA, it should come as no surprise that there remains to this day a frosty relationship (to say the least) between the British monarchy and Irish republicans. In fact, even when the Queen visited the Republic earlier this year as the first British monarch to do so in a century, Sinn Fein did not take part in any of the main ceremonies. But Martin McGuinness has said he will be prepared to meet all heads of state "without exception", if he is elected President of Ireland. His victory in the forthcoming election would be worth it just for that historic handshake alone.
mcgillianaire: (Portcullis Logo)
For those of you who don't follow British politics closely, a significant by-election was held in the northern English constituency of Oldham East and Saddleworth on Thursday. The election was triggered by the decision of a specially-convened Election Court in November to declare void the result in the constituency during last year's general election in May. The winner on that occasion had been Phil Woolas, the immigration minister in the outgoing Labour government, by a margin of just 103 votes over his Liberal Democrat rival, Elwyn Watkins.

Following two recounts, Mr Watkins challenged the result as an alleged Section 106 breach of the Representation of the People Act 1983, by claiming Mr Woolas had issued Labour campaign literature containing misleading claims about his reputation and campaign. The complaints centred on claims that Mr Watkins did not live in the constituency, stories about Mr Watkins "wooing" Muslim extremists and an article about his campaign financing. Two High Court judges found Mr Woolas guilty of deliberately making false statements about Mr Watkins because he knew all three statements were untrue. Mr Woolas was ordered to pay £5000 in damages plus costs to Mr Watkins, while barring him from holding public office for three years. The Labour Party wasted no time and suspended his membership with immediate effect.

Mr Woolas applied for a judicial review into the ruling but the High Court rejected his request. He then launched a second application for permission seeking a judicial review. The High Court decision took longer than expected due to "difficult questions to resolve" but on 16 November, the court granted Woolas permission to bring judicial review. The review on 3 Dec overturned one of the three breaches found by the Election Court. However, the other two breaches stood and upon leaving court, Mr Woolas said, "It is the end of the road - I am out."

This meant a by-election would have to be held to elect a new MP for his seat of Oldham East and Saddleworth. Interestingly, despite becoming embroiled in the court proceedings immediately after last May's general election, Ed Miliband, the newly-elected leader of the Labour Party reappointed Mr Woolas to the immigration brief on the shadow front bench team in September. Even the left-wing New Statesman described this as a "bizarre decision" as Mr Woolas had "run one of the most disgraceful election campaigns in recent history".

By parliamentary convention, the party who last held the seat (ie, Labour) normally moved the writ for the by-election, and apparently Labour planned to call the election for 3 February 2011. However the Lib Dems broke the convention and pre-empted Labour by moving the writ for an election on Thursday (13 January). Five weeks of frenetic electioneering ensued and although ten candidates contested the constituency election, it was largely a two-horse race between Labour and the Lib Dems. Even the Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party, appeared to offer his tacit support to the Lib Dems by toning down the Tory campaign led by their candidate, Kashif Ali.

More than eighty Labour Party members applied to be their candidate, but in the end the initial frontrunner, Afzal Khan was not even in the final shortlist of three from whom Debbie Abrahams was selected. It has been suggested that Ms Abrahams, who had unsuccessfully fought to retain the neighbouring Colne Valley seat at last May's election, had been hand picked by the party high command to contest the election. Indeed she had finished third (behind the Tories and Lib Dems) in a seat Labour had held since 1997. Ultimately it didn't matter as Ms Abrahams overcame her opponents comfortably, including Mr Watkins of the Lib Dems, by increasing Labour's overall majority to 3558.

mcgillianaire: (BBC Logo)
16 DEC - The rights and wrongs of hacktivism (Economist)
16 DEC - Art imitating life: Funky new ad puts a spin on personal hygiene and politics (The Express Tribune, Pakistan)
14 DEC - Why I'm Posting Bail Money for Julian Assange: Michael Moore (Huffington Post)
10 DEC - Ron Paul’s Passionate Defense Of Julian Assange And WikiLeaks On House Floor (MEDIAite)
09 DEC - Pakistani media publish fake WikiLeaks cables attacking India (Guardian)

16 DEC - Top judge complains about 'sex with corpses' rules (Daily Telegraph)
16 DEC - Court backs tourist ban for Dutch cannabis coffee shops (BBC News)
15 DEC - Tweeting in court: why reporters must be given guidelines (Guardian)
14 DEC - Qatar: A centre for 'quality' international dispute resolution? (Guardian)

14 DEC - Let’s get London’s riots into the right perspective: Simon Jenkins (London Evening Standard)
14 DEC - An attack on the royal carriage by angry protesters. Sound familiar? (Guardian)

14 DEC - 'We the people' deserve something better than a high-class villain's charter (Guardian)
13 DEC - Toby Ord: Why I'm giving £1 million to charity (BBC News)
06 DEC - Medieval Britons were richer than modern poor people, study finds (Guardian)
03 DEC - Woman dials 999 to report snowman theft in Kent (BBC News)
03 DEC - Christmas with a German accent – the PR ploy taking Britain's towns by storm (Guardian)

03 DEC - India's third richest man gives £1.27bn to children's education charity (Guardian)
19 OCT - Indian man of 100 goes back to university for PhD (BBC News)

12 DEC - German man castrates teenage daughter's 57-year-old boyfriend (Daily Telegraph)

18 DEC - Liverpool fans outraged after Paul Konchesky's mum launches Facebook blast (Daily Mail)
16 DEC - India enter Formula One limelight (
09 DEC - The top 10 worst misses in football history: your votes are in (Guardian: Sports Blog)
17 SEP - Blackburn's Sam Allardyce 'more suited to Inter or Real Madrid' (Guardian)
mcgillianaire: (EU Flag)
The case comment reproduced below appeared in the Cambridge Law Journal earlier this year. It's written by J. R. Spencer, Professor of Law at Cambridge. Two judges heard the appeal including a certain Mr Justice Ouseley - the chap who let Assange out on conditional bail yesterday.

Abstract: Discusses the Divisional Court judgment in Symeou v Greece on whether the applicant could resist his extradition to Greece on the charge of manslaughter, which he claimed was based on tainted evidence, by relying on the abuse the process principle and the argument that it would breach his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights 1950 art.6 (right to a fair trial). Comments on the media reaction to the case, which has blamed the European arrest warrant system for the breach of a UK citizen's human rights.

Read more... )
mcgillianaire: (One Penny Coin (Tails Side))
From here:
    "Yes. If you booked by credit card or Visa debit card you can make a claim via your card company [...] Anyone who made their purchase with a Visa debit card is covered by its Chargeback scheme, which offers similar protection to section 75. To make a claim customers must contact their card issuer, which then contacts the company's payment-processing bank to reclaim the money. This means that even if a company goes into liquidation it is possible to reclaim money, as the claim is made against a bank not the company. Sometimes card issuers misunderstand the section 75 and Chargeback rules and refuse a claim. Anyone in this situation should make sure they know their rights and argue their case. If all else fails contact the Financial Ombudsman."
This entry was inspired by [ profile] loganberrybunny who posted about the seemingly unfair situation in which "if you spend money you haven't got, you're protected. If you spend money you have got, you're not". Hopefully this will clear things up. And do spread the message!
mcgillianaire: (Portcullis Logo)
A delightful exchange between two Lib Dem peers in the House of Lords from Tuesday:

Lord Wallace of Tankerness (Lord-Advocate of Scotland): ... However, I think that those who are suggesting that, somehow or other, people in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and parts of England cannot cope with dealing with two issues on the one day are totally underestimating them. It is an insult for them to suggest that it is not possible to vote on both matters on the same day.

Lord Tyler: Will my noble friend confirm whether there is a precedent for holding a referendum on the same day as local elections? I have been informed that the voters of London were able to vote in a referendum about the future governance of the city at the same time as local elections were taking place. Will he confirm that the people of Scotland are quite as intelligent as the people of London?

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: I am certainly happy to give that confirmation. I think-I will need to check, but I think-that my noble friend is right that the referendum on the mayoral system for London was on the same day as the London local elections. I think that I was registered in London at that time, when I was a Member of the other place [House of Commons]. I remember going to the same polling station as my noble friend Lord Ashdown and, as we entered it, the then leader of my party asked, "Which way do we vote?".
mcgillianaire: (Scale of Justice)
"This judgement should be celebrated as a victory for progressive thought; but it is nothing more than justice being done." [LINK]

Until yesterday, gay asylum-seekers could be deported under a controversial Home Office policy, even if they faced persecution in their home country. But in a unanimous ruling that mirrors a 2002 decision by the High Court of Australia, five of the country's senior-most judges have upheld the right of gay refugees to live in Britain, if they can establish that they faced persecution in their home countries.

The case of the two unnamed men (one from Cameroon and the other from Iran) was heard by the Supreme Court after their applications had been rejected on the basis that they could choose to keep their sexual orientation a secret upon deportation. However Lord Hope, deputy president of the court, who headed the panel of five justices said that to compel a homosexual to pretend that their sexuality does not exist or can be suppressed was to deny him his fundamental right to be who he is. Lord Rodger added that the normal behaviour of gay people must be protected as it was for heterosexual people, while Lord Walker noted that "the notion a gay man could (and so, some might say, should) avoid trouble by adopting a "discreet" lifestyle (or leading an entirely celibate life) is not limited to the context of asylum law. It is the way in which hundreds of thousands of gay men lived in England before the enactment of the Sexual Offences Act 1967."

The Home Office's 'reasonable tolerability' test (that was also used by the Court of Appeal) has been rejected in favour of a new three/four-stage test, in which asylum tribunals must first ask if the appellant is gay or would be treated as someone who is gay by potential persecutors in his/her home country. Second, is there evidence that someone who lived an openly gay life would be at risk of persecution in that country? Third, how would the appellant actually live if returned? If they would live openly then clearly they are not a refugee. But if they would live discreetly, a fourth question must be asked: why will they exercise discretion? The justices offered a distinction between discretion on grounds of persecution and discrimination. If for example an appellant simply wanted to avoid social pressures or family shame, the asylum tribunal would have to reject the application. Persecution means more serious harm, for example: prison, rape, torture or death.

There was also an interesting reference to pop culture by Lord Rodger who said: "To illustrate the point with trivial stereotypical examples from British society: just as male heterosexuals are free to enjoy themselves playing rugby, drinking beer and talking about girls with their mates, so male homosexuals are to be free to enjoy themselves going to Kylie concerts, drinking exotically coloured cocktails and talking about boys with their straight female mates." And you thought senior judges were cricket-loving, wig-wearing, out-of-touch, senile old farts.

Well done Supreme Court for correcting a series of wrongs. It's decisions like these that reaffirm one's confidence in our legal system.
mcgillianaire: (Scale of Justice)
Last June I made a post about a landmark decision by the Court of Appeal that created English legal history by allowing a criminal trial to be heard by a judge alone. That trial, involving four men accused of armed robbery at a cash depot at London's Heathrow Airport in 2004, began yesterday at the Royal Courts of Justice. As I wrote back then, the origins of jury trials in England date back to the 12th century, so this is a pretty significant development to our criminal justice system. Let's see what happens...
mcgillianaire: (Scale of Justice)

The Middlesex Guildhall on Parliament Square, the new home of Britain's Supreme Court and the Commonwealth's Privy Council.

A few days ago (30 July) the House of Lords ceased to exist as a court of law. In October it will be replaced by the newly created Supreme Court of the UK and will move to its new home across Parliament Square. Constitutionally very little will change. The symbolic change reflects New Labour's desire to strengthen the visibility of the constitutional principle of separation of powers, whereby the judiciary and legislature are not just assumed to function independent of one another, but seen to be functioning that way.

Eleven of the existing Law Lords (judges of the House of Lords) will assume new positions as Supreme Justices in the new court of last resort and will be joined by a new member to retain the existing twelve-member bench. The Law Lords will lose their titles and position in the upper House. In practice very little changes because it has been over a decade since the Law Lords participated in political debates.

The reforms end more than 600 years of history of the House of Lords as a court of law. However it will retain its legislative functions.
mcgillianaire: (Scale of Justice)
The concept of ABH was considered by the Divisional Court (DC) in DPP v Smith (Michael Ross) (2006). The defendant held down his former girlfriend and cut off her ponytail with kitchen scissors a few weeks before her 21st birthday. The Magistrates acquitted him on the ground that, although there was undoubtedly an assault, it had not caused ABH, since there was no bruising or bleeding, and no evidence of any psychological or psychiatric harm. The victim’s distress did not amount to bodily harm. The DC allowed an appeal by the DPP, rejecting the argument for the defendant that the hair was dead tissue above the scalp and so no harm was done.

"In my judgment, whether it is alive beneath the surface of the skin or dead tissue above the surface of the skin, the hair is an attribute and part of the human body. It is intrinsic to each individual and to the identity of each individual. Although it is not essential to my decision, I note that an individual's hair is relevant to his or her autonomy. Some regard it as their crowning glory. Admirers may so regard it in the object of their affections. Even if, medically and scientifically speaking, the hair above the surface of the scalp is no more than dead tissue, it remains part of the body and is attached to it. While it is so attached, in my judgment it falls within the meaning of "bodily" in the phrase "actual bodily harm". It is concerned with the body of the individual victim."
~ Judge P in DPP v Smith (Michael Ross) ~

"To a woman her hair is a vitally important part of her body. Where a significant portion of a woman's hair is cut off without her consent, this is a serious matter amounting to actual (not trivial or insignificant) bodily harm."
~ Creswell J in DPP v Smith (Michael Ross) ~

(as copied directly from Wikipedia)
mcgillianaire: (Scale of Justice)
In a landmark decision, the Lord Chief Justice (the aptly named Lord Judge) has created English legal history by agreeing to allow a trial to be heard by a judge alone. The ruling invokes Section 44 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and is dependent on evidence of a real and present danger of jury tampering taking place. The origins of jury trials in England & Wales date back to the 12th century.
mcgillianaire: (Football player)
Last November, 80 Stoke City football fans were rounded up by Greater Manchester Police under Section 27 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006. Their crime? A belief that they may cause trouble later. The fans were on their way to watch their team play Manchester United when they stopped at the Railway Inn in Irlam. Although there was no complaint from the landlord of the pub, the officers surrounded the fans and aggressively ordered them onto police buses and drove them back to Stoke. Some fans had not even traveled from Stoke. The fans were falsely imprisoned for four hours during which they were not allowed to take lavatory breaks.
    "Deprived of toilet facilities on the coach, the supporters were instructed to urinate into cups, which spilled over the floor of the bus so that they had to sit with urine sloshing around their feet for the 40-mile journey back."
They also missed their football match. One of the fans made a complaint and his case was taken up by the Football Supporters' Federation and Liberty for judicial review. The courts held the police had acted unlawfully and awarded damages of £2,750 to the claimant. About twenty further complaints are outstanding and are expected to result in similar payments. It has also emerged that a similar operation carried out by South Yorkshire Police in early December also resulted in Plymouth Argyle football fans being prevented from legitimately attending a match at Doncaster. The fans were escorted halfway across the country to Plymouth, at great expense, using police cars and helicopters from several different forces. The fans are still negotiating compensation with the police.

These incidents highlight the abuse of the new Section 27 powers which allow police to:
    "Direct individuals to leave a locality. This is where an individual's presence is likely to cause or contribute to the occurrence, repetition or continuance of alcohol-related crime or disorder in a locality and it is necessary to remove the individual from the locality for the purpose of removing or reducing the likelihood of there being such crime or disorder in the locality."
However to invoke Section 27 the officers must have a good reason (ie a complaint from the landlord or evidence of drunken behaviour). Moreover there is no requirement to sign Section 27 forms which the Stoke City fans were forced to do under threat of arrest and the powers only apply to individuals, not large groups. The court's decision is a positive outcome for all football fans.
mcgillianaire: (Scale of Justice)

It's a crisp. That's the decision of the Court of Appeal, reversing last July's High Court judgment that Pringles is not a potato crisp.
mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)
"Your Lordships have had your attention called to the evils of the exercise of arbitrary powers of arrest by the executive, and the necessity of subjecting all such powers to judicial control. Your Lordships have been reminded of the great constitutional conflicts in the seventeenth century, which culminated in the famous constitutional charters, the Petition of Right, the Bill of Rights, and the Act of Settlement. These struggles did indeed involve the liberty of the subject and its vindication against arbitrary and unlawful power. They sprang from the Stuart theory that the King was King by Divine Right and that his powers were above the law. Thus a warrant of arrest per speciale mandatum Domini Regis was claimed to be a sufficient justification for detention without trial. By the end of the 17th century, however, the old common law rule of the supremacy of law was restored and substituted for any theory of royal supremacy. All the courts today, and not least this House, are as jealous as they have ever been in upholding the liberty of the subject. That liberty, however, is a liberty confined and controlled by law, whether common law or statute. It is, in Burke's words, a regulated freedom. It is not an abstract or absolute freedom. Parliament is supreme. It can enact extraordinary powers of interfering with personal liberty. If an Act of Parliament or a statutory regulation, like reg 18B, which has admittedly the force of a statute, because there is no suggestion that it is outside the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939 under which it was made, is alleged to limit or curtail the liberty of the subject or vest in the executive extraordinary powers of detaining a subject, the only question is as to the precise extent of the powers given. The answer to that question is only to be found by scrutinising the language of the enactment in the light of the surrounding circumstances and the general policy and object of the measure. I have ventured on these elementary and obvious observations because it seems to have been suggested on behalf of the appellant that this House was being asked to countenance arbitrary, despotic or tyrannous conduct. In the constitution of England, however, there are no guaranteed or absolute rights. The safeguard of British liberty is in the good sense of the people and in the system of representative and responsible government which has been evolved. If extraordinary powers are here given, they are given because the emergency is extraordinary, and they are limited to the period of the emergency."
~ Lord Wright in Liversidge v Anderson (1941) ~
mcgillianaire: (Cricket Stumps)
"In summertime village cricket is the delight of everyone. Nearly every village has its own cricket field where the young men play and the old men watch. In the village of Lintz in County Durham they have their own ground, where they have played these last 70 years. They tend it well. The wicket area is well rolled and mown. The outfield is kept short. The village team play there on Saturdays and Sundays. They belong to a league, competing with the neighbouring villages. Yet now after these 70 years a judge of the High Court has ordered that they must not play there any more. He has issued an injunction to stop them. He has done it at the instance of a newcomer who is no lover of cricket. This newcomer has built, or has had built for him, a house on the edge of the cricket ground which four years ago was a field where cattle grazed. The animals did not mind the cricket."
-Lord Denning in Miller v. Jackson (1977)
mcgillianaire: (Scale of Justice)
"In the 1930s a barrister prosecuting in a burglary case was distracted by a fidgety juror who was unsure what to do with his coat. At first he kept it on, then he took it off and sat on it, then, getting uncomfortable, he put it on the edge of the jury box. Next he put it under his seat, and then on his lap. Then he chatted with his neighbour. The prosecuting barrister had been trying to open the case and had reached the point in his story when the householder had gone to his study and chanced upon the accused burglar. Although the barrister glared at the juror a number of times, the fidgeting persisted. His gesticulating chat was the last straw.The barrister paused, looked straight at the juror, and said with great emphasis: “Keep still, or I will knock your f***ing block off.” The court froze. The juror’s jaw dropped open. The barrister then continued, with absolute poise: “Those, members of the jury, were the words the accused uttered to the householder when he entered his study." [Read Nine More Great Legal Wits]
mcgillianaire: (Scale of Justice)
I attended my first British court hearing this afternoon. It was part of our Criminal Law Tutorial homework. We were instructed to attend a criminal hearing at a Crown Court or Magistrates' Court and answer some questions about it. I went with a group of friends to Southwark Crown Court near London Bridge. We sat in court for about an hour, observing a prosecutor questioning one of the defendants accused of controlling prostitution for gain, three counts of unlawful wounding, ABH (actual bodily harm) and possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. During the prosecution, the defendant denied all the charges. Unfortunately, I couldn't stay to watch the rest of the afternoon's proceedings but from what I did see, I'm sold! If you thought the theory was good, wait till you see it in practice!

Southwark Crown Court was opened in 1983 with fifteen courtrooms, making it the fourth largest court centre in the country. It is a desginated serious fraud centre and from what I'm told, it is second in stature to the Old Bailey (officially called the Central Criminal Court) when it comes to hearing criminal proceedings of the nature we observed this afternoon. If that's the case, I will most certainly be paying it a visit in the not-too-distant future. And given the proximity of the Old Bailey, I will also be paying it a visit soon.

There were quite a few little interesting things that I saw today. Firstly, the defendant had access to a translator who stood next to him the whole time. At one point the judge interrupted the translator and reminded him that he could only offer translation services. I'm not surprised the judge interfered because it looked distinctly like the translator was telling the defendant in Albanian: "deny it while you can, deny, deny, deny!" :P I was also surprised at how 'modern' the court was, with flat screen TVs (both were turned off) on either side of the side walls and laptops with MS Word open on the counsel's table. But it wasn't all like that. Despite a recent decision to allow counsel to get rid of their silk gowns and wigs in civil cases, the counsel in our case were in traditional attire, including the judge.

The case itself was quite fascinating. The prosecutor tried his best to poke holes in the defendant's original statement and even though the accused denied everything, he did let slip the following bits: he refused to refer to the girls in the brothel as prostitutes, instead insisted on using the term 'working girls', he refused to name the owner of the flat in which the brothel operated because it would compromise his own safety (an assertion he repeated several times despite the prosecutor flinging a name in his direction), and he claimed that he didn't run the brothel but worked there merely as a doorman or security guard. At one point he started throwing back questions at the prosecutor to which the prosecutor got annoyed and said we might as well all go home if he didn't stop. The defendant stopped asking questions, but not before he found himself in a sticky situation trying to explain why he had hid some prostitute timetable papers from the brothel under his kitchen sink, which he described as a safe place, while storing his passport in a drawer in his dresser. As the defendant put it, the passport was worthless because his visa had expired and therefore he was living illegally in the UK anyway. I really wish I'd heard the rest of the prosecution. You can read more about the background to the case and the charges laid upon the other defendants here.

Funnily enough, though my friends and I generally agreed about how interesting the case was, most of the jury looked bored. Only two ladies seemed engrossed in the case; one was dutifully taking notes, while the other perused the prosecution's folder of evidence. Thanks to my group attending the hearing the court was almost full. A few people thought we were journalists. I was tempted to play along...

Meanwhile, I have been unanimously acclaimed as my tutorial group's Class Rep. Nobody really stood against me and I suppose the initiative to create a Facebook Group for our class of 15 kids might've had something to do with it. You'd think in a group of budding-lawyers there'd be at least one other interested lad or lass. Nevertheless, I will have the distinct pleasure of communicating the praises and concerns of our group with the powers that be, but more importantly, I will be able to attend the bi-annual Class Rep Wine & Cheese.


mcgillianaire: (Default)

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