Archive for September 2011
In this podcast, I talk to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, Ann Abraham. She reflects on a number of issues about the Ombudsman’s role which she has had to face during her time in office. Besides the headline grabbing cases, such as Equitable Life, she emphasises that the role of the Ombudsman is for ordinary people to seek redress from public bodies which have fallen below acceptable standards of administration. In our conversation, she particularly notes the case involving Occupational Pensions where she found that official information about the security of final salary occupational pension schemes provided over many years by the Department for Work and Pensions, the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority and other government bodies was inaccurate, incomplete, unclear and inconsistent. This view was challenged in the courts by the Goverment, and she welcomed the Court of Appeal’s decision, in 2008, that provided welcome reinforcement of the Ombudsman’s constitutional position. Their judgment confirmed that, although the Ombudsman’s findings are not binding on Government, the relevant Minister must either accept them or alternatively establish good reason for not doing so. In effect, the judgment requires the Minister to have ‘due regard’ to the Ombudsman’s findings.
For full information about the work of the Ombudsman, go to http://www.ombudsman.org.uk/home
For the interview with Ann Abraham, go to http://fdslive.oup.com/www.oup.com/orc/resources/law/els/partington13_14/student/podcasts/Abraham.mp3
Unlike the situation in many other countries, the televising of court proceedings has not been a central feature of the English Legal System.
There are signs of significant change on the horizon.
First, the Supreme Court has already decided not only to let television companies make documentary programmes about its work (see this blog Feb 2011) but also to enable Sky TV viewers to see full broadcasts of its proceedings. For further details see http://news.sky.com/home/supreme-court.
Second, Justice Minister Ken Clarke has announced that limited televising of proceedings will be allowed. Initially this will be limited to the Court of Appeal where filming will be of judges’ summary remarks only; victims, witnesses, offenders and jurors will not be filmed. He has stated that this may be extended to the Crown Court at a later date.
This second step will not take place overnight, however. Legislative change is required to repeal Section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act 1925 and Section 9 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981, which currently forbid the broadcasting of court proceedings. See further http://www.justice.gov.uk/news/press-releases/moj/moj-newsrelease060911a.htm.
One consequence of these developments may be that members of the public who think that most cases are heard by courts will be reinforced in this view, whereas readers of the book will know that in every area of the law, save perhaps family law, great number of issues are disposed of outside court proceedings.
Nonetheless, I welcome this development and suspect that in a year or two people will wonder why we took so long to reach this position.