Archive for the ‘Chapter 11’ Category
The Equality and Human Rights Commission is the body given the statutory mandate to challenge discrimination, and to protect and promote human rights. As it states on its website:
“We live in a country with a long history of upholding people’s rights, valuing diversity and challenging intolerance. The EHRC seeks to maintain and strengthen this heritage while identifying and tackling areas where there is still unfair discrimination or where human rights are not being respected.”
To get a clearer idea about how the Commission goes about its work, I have been talking to Nony Ardill, a Senior Lawyer with the Commission. She provides a fascinating account of the ways in which the Commission works with other agencies to fulfill its (very challenging) mandate.
To hear the podcast, go to http://global.oup.com/uk/orc/law/els/partington14_15/student/podcasts/NonyArdill.mp3
To read more about the work of the Commission, go to http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/
Not exactly like the OJ Simpson trial in the US, but a very small next step has been taken in giving the media direct access to proceedings in Court. From 5 October 2013, five courtrooms at the Royal Courts of Justice – which houses the Court of Appeal – have been wired to allow broadcasting to take place.
Cases will not be shown in full. Rather, the broadcasters – BBC, Sky, ITV and Press Association – will be able to film proceedings from only one court room on any given day. They will agree which courtroom and will inform the judiciary the day before.
They will be able to show the footage for the purpose of news reporting only – i.e. not streamed live. All costs associated with filming within the Court of Appeal have been met by the broadcasters involved.
Advocates’ arguments, and the judges’ summing up, decision and (in criminal cases) sentencing remarks may be filmed.
Victims, witnesses and defendants will not be filmed.
In general I welcome this modest development. I do hope that when further decisions about broadcasting proceedings are taken, consideration will be given to alternative procedures, like tribunals or other forms of alternative dispute resolution, which the ordinary citizen is far more likely to encounter in real life.
Further information is at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/landmark-day-for-justice-television-broadcasting-in-courts-goes-live
Broadcasting of some court proceedings has moved a step forward, following approval of plans to allow filming of the legal arguments and the final judgments in criminal and civil cases in the Court of Appeal.
Subject to the approval of the House of Lords, the Government hopes that this will start at the end of October 2013.
The government plans to permit filming to allow the broadcast of sentencing remarks in the Crown Court. However victims, witnesses, offenders and jurors will continue to be protected, and will not be part of broadcasts. The date for the launch of this has not yet been announced.
This will, of course, supplement the broadcasting of cases in the Supreme Court which is already available.
I always thought that one of the important aspects of the National Curriculum was the introduction of citizenship education. When done well, it teaches young people to understand, challenge and engage with the main pillars of our democracy: politics, the economy and the law. It has also led to some quite brilliant and inspiring project work. Citizenship education is central to how young people can be given the confidence to engage and navigate the law and legal processes.
However, the Department for Education is now conducting a review of the National Curriculum and has issued a consultation document for public comment. Of most interest are the proposals for citizenship education in key stages 3 and 4.
The proposed new curriculum removes the explicit reference to ‘political, legal and human rights, and the responsibilities of citizens’, present in the current curriculum leaving only a vaguer reference to the ‘precious liberties of the citizens of the United Kingdom’.
Other references to ‘influencing decisions affecting communities…’ and ‘strategies for dealing with disagreement and conflict’ have also been removed; although there is now an explicit reference to the ‘importance of personal budgeting, money management and a range of financial products and services’.
The consultation closes on April 16 2013, so if you are moved to comment you’ll need to act fast. You can get further information from the Citizenship Foundation, who have provided a handy critique and guide to proposed changes.
In addition, campaign group Democratic Life has an online response form that you can use. It is pre-filled with thoughts about the citizenship curriculum, which you can leave in or edit as you see fit. It is sent automatically to the Department for Education’s consultation team, and a copy is sent to you.
One development, not adequately publicised, is the creation of an increasing number of short YouTube videos on different aspects of the justice system. Produced by the Ministry of Justice they provide introductions to many aspects of the justice systems, including information about a number of tribunals where those appearing will struggle to get legal representation.
To browse the videos, go to http://www.youtube.com/user/MinistryofJusticeUK/videos?view=1&flow=grid
In the book I argue that it is hard to encourage rational debate on sentencing policy. Discussion tends to be hi-jacked by shrill comments from politicians and the press.
To encourage better public understanding of sentencing and its actual application in particular cases, the Ministry of Justice created an interactive website – You be the Judge – which invites you to be the judge. The scope of the website has been expanded to include new offences.
From 30 November 2012, cases of murder, manslaughter, drug dealing and teen crime were added to the website You be the Judge.
To try you hand at sentencing go to http://ybtj.justice.gov.uk/
In the book, I observe how difficult it is for governments to get the balance right when it comes to questions of civil liberty and human rights. The Coalition Government’s Protection of Freedoms Act was born of a belief that the previous Labour government had got the balance wrong.
But the Coalition Government itself is struggling with this issue with two measures that are currently causing great concern in the civil liberty/human rights arena.
The first is the Justice and Security Bill 2012. The issue that has drawn the fire of human rights groups is the proposed introduction of what is called the ‘Closed Material Procedure’ which would allow, in certain civil cases being hear in courts, evidence about the work of UK Intelligence services to be heard behind closed doors.
The battlelines are clear and have been hard fought in the press and in Parliament. The Government argues that this is a practical way of admitting certain evidence to a hearing behind closed doors which it would not be in the public interest to disclose publicly; opponents argue equally strongly that this is an attack on the principle of openness and transparency in judicial proceedings that should be resisted at all costs.
The second is the Draft Data Communications Bill which is currently the subject of pre-legislative scrutiny. The Government argues that the arrival of new forms of communication has resulted in the police and security services facing new challenges when it comes to keeping tabs on those suspected of serious criminal activity, who need new powers to deal with these challenges.
Opponents argue that this is simply a ‘snoopers charter’ that will seriously undermine the right to personal privacy.
These are both live measures that make clear how important the Parliamentary process is in ensuring that arguments for and against such measures are properly debated. The final outcome of both measures is as yet far from certain, but given the importance of the role of law in balancing the interests of the state against the rights of the individual, they provide excellent illustrations of the problem of balance.
What do you think? Has the Government got it right? or has it cone a step too far?