Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Archive for the ‘Chapter 11’ Category

Filming in the Court of Appeal

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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

Written by lwtmp

November 7, 2013 at 9:59 am

Broadcasting of court proceedings

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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.

See https://www.gov.uk/government/news/one-step-closer-to-court-broadcasting

Written by lwtmp

October 22, 2013 at 11:09 am

Posted in Chapter 1, Chapter 11

Citizenship education in the National Curriculum – implications of the current consultation

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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.
See http://www.citizenshipfoundation.org.uk/main/news.php?n1056

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.

See http://www.democraticlife.org.uk/

Written by lwtmp

April 12, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Posted in Chapter 1, Chapter 11

Providing information about the legal system

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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

Written by lwtmp

February 14, 2013 at 12:41 pm

You be the judge:what sentences would you impose?

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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/

Written by lwtmp

December 5, 2012 at 11:37 am

Defending civil liberty and human rights; getting the balance right

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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?

Written by lwtmp

November 20, 2012 at 10:13 am

Posted in Chapter 11, Chapter 2

Protection of Freedoms Act 2012

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This Act of Parliament deals with a somewhat miscellaneous series of matters, but ones which had caused political controversy, where it was argued (and the Coalition Government had accepted) that the balance between the rights of the individual and the interests of the State was not right. (It had indeed been preceded by the Identity Documents Act 2010, which abolished measures relating to the introduction of identity cards, introduced by the previous Labour administration.) Among the measures included in the 2012 Act are:
• reducing the maximum period of pre-charge detention (without trial) for terrorist suspects to 14 days;
• deleting the DNA samples and fingerprints of more than 1m innocent people from police databases;
• deleting the DNA samples and fingerprints of more than 1m innocent people from police databases;
• abolishing a law to permit trials without juries in serious fraud cases;
• ending the fingerprinting of children in schools without parental consent; and
• introduction of a code of practice for CCTV and Automatic Number Plate Recognition systems
For more detail of these and other provisions go to http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/media-centre/news/protection-of-freedoms and follow the links.

Written by lwtmp

October 30, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Surveillance in the digital age

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In 2000, Parliament enacted the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. At the time, it was acclaimed by government ministers as Human Rights Act compliant, and was presented as forward-looking legislation. The Protection of Freedoms Bill, currently before Parliament contains provisions to tighten up the use of covert investigatory techniques. And a recent report from JUSTICE makes a strongly argued case for fundamental reform of the regulation of surveillance.

The principal findings in the report are:
• Since RIPA came into force in 2000, there have been:
– more than 20,000 warrants for the interception of phone calls, emails, and Internet use;
– at least 2.7 million requests for communications data, including phone bills and location data;
– more than 4,000 authorisations for intrusive surveillance, eg, planting bugs in someone’s house
or car;
– at least 30,000 authorisations for directed surveillance, eg, following someone’s movements in
public, or watching their house.
• In total, there have been close to three million decisions taken by public bodies under RIPA in the last decade.
• This does not include the number of warrants and authorisations on behalf of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, which have never been made public.
• Of the decisions we do know about, fewer than 5,000 (about 0.16 per cent) were approved by a judge.
• The main complaints body under RIPA, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, has dealt with only 1,100 cases in the last decade and upheld only ten complaints.
• Surveillance is a necessary activity in the fight against serious crime. It is a vital part of our national
security. It has saved countless lives and helped convict hundreds of thousands of criminals.
• But unnecessary and excessive surveillance, however, destroys privacy and blights our freedoms.
• RIPA has not only failed to check a great deal of plainly excessive surveillance by public bodies over the last decade but, in many cases, inadvertently encouraged it. Its poor drafting has allowed councils to snoop, phone hacking to flourish, privileged conversations to be illegally recorded, and CCTV to spread. It is also badly out of date.
• The conclusion is that RIPA is neither forward-looking nor human rights compliant. Piecemeal amendments are no longer
enough for what is already a piecemeal Act. Root-and-branch reform of the law on surveillance is needed to provide freedom from unreasonable suspicion, and put in place truly effective safeguards against the abuse of what are necessary powers.
• This report sets out a series of recommendations to serve as the basis for a draft Surveillance Reform Bill.

The full report is at http://www.justice.org.uk/resources.php/305/freedom-from-suspicion

Written by lwtmp

November 19, 2011 at 10:00 am

Reporting the law: interview with Joshua Rozenberg

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Joshua Rozenberg is one of a very small number of specialist journalists who cover legal issues in a serious and thoughtful way. He has worked in a wide variety of media, including the BBC – he was their legal correspondent for 15 years. He still makes the Law in Action series. He was also legal of the Daily Telegraph for a number of years. He now works freelance; much of his current work is published by The Guardian on-line

In the interview, he describes how he decided to become a journalist rather than a practising lawyer and comments on the challenges of devising ways to enable legal issues to be raised in the mass media.

To see his website with links to his blogs and other material, go to http://www.rozenberg.net/.
For law in action, go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006tgy1

To hear my interview with Joshua Rozenberg go to http://fdslive.oup.com/www.oup.com/orc/resources/law/els/partington13_14/student/podcasts/Rozenberg.mp3

Written by lwtmp

November 14, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Public legal education: new initiatives

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One of the consequences of government funding cuts was the elimination of financial support for the Public Legal Education Network – a group that was doing important and innovative work to promote better public understanding of law.

Frankly I was not sure where this initiative had got to. However in the last couple of days I received a newsletter telling me that the network has reconstituted itself as Law for Life: the Foundation for Public Legal Education and that there will be a relaunch of this work in early 2012.

Among other recent activity, they have secured funding for participating in research into adult legal education in Europe; they are about to publish the results of work they have done with Bristol University; and they continue to promote the Street Law programme.

Full details are still on their old website: http://www.plenet.org.uk/
but you can sign up to their newsletter to keep in touch with developments as they unfurl.

Written by lwtmp

November 3, 2011 at 8:43 am

Posted in Chapter 1, Chapter 11

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