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A guide to reading the Official Statistics on judicial review in the Administrative Court

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Interesting report of interest to all those interested in administrative justice

UKAJI

A guide to reading the Official Statistics on judicial review in the Administrative Court

PAjustice

By Lewis Graham, Lee Marsons, Maurice Sunkin and Joe Tomlinson

UKAJI is delighted to publish this guide written by Lewis Graham (University of Cambridge), Lee Marsons (University of Essex), Maurice Sunkin (University of Essex), and Joe Tomlinson (University of York) on how to read the official statistics from the Ministry of Justice on judicial review in the Administrative Court.

Specifically, this guide aims to help people understand what the official statistics tell us and do not tell us about the use of judicial review in the Administrative Court. The note draws on the civil justice statistics published annually by the Ministry of Justice. This note seeks to explain the available statistics in an impartial way with a view to making them easier to read and understand.

In light of the current Independent Review of Administrative Law…

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Written by lwtmp

October 16, 2020 at 8:29 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Jury trials – a case for change?

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One response to the difficulties of running jury trials in the current Covid-19 world, where social distancing is crucial yet difficult to achieve in a crowded courtroom, has been that – at least temporarily – alternatives to juries should be tried.

The Lord Chancellor has set his face against this idea. Indeed, most people who even float the idea that jury trials should be abolished tend to be treated with scorn.

Nevertheless, it is worth noting that there is the occasional voice to be heard, suggesting that jury trial is not all that it is cracked up to be.

In this context, readers of this blog might be interested in a book, published in 2019, by the late Louis Blom-Cooper QC who suggested that criminal trials might be run differently.

In Unreasoned Verdict, Blom-Cooper argues that:

The system of jury trial has survived, intact, for 750 years. This book explains the nature and scope today of jury trial, with its minor exceptions. It chronicles the origins and development of jury trial in the Anglo-Saxon world, seeking to explain and explore the principles that lie at the heart of the mode of criminal trial. It observes the distinction between the professional judge and the amateur juror or lay participant, and the value of such a mixed tribunal. Part of the book is devoted to the leading European jurisdictions, underlining their abandonment of trial by jury and its replacement with the mixed tribunal in pursuance of a political will to inject a lay element into the trial process. Democracy is not an essential element in the criminal trial.

The book also takes a look at the appellate system in crime, from the Criminal Appeals Act 1907 to the present day, and urges the reform of the appellate court, finding the trial decision unsatisfactory as well as unsafe.

Other important issues are touched upon – judicial ethics and court-craft; perverse jury verdicts (the nullification of jury verdicts); the speciality of fraud offences, and the selection of models for various crimes, as well as suggested reforms of the waiver of a jury trial or the ability of the defendant to choose the mode of trial. The section ends with a discussion of the restricted exceptions to jury trial, where the experience of 30 years of judge-alone trials in Northern Ireland – the Diplock Courts – is discussed.

Finally, the book proffers its proposal for a major change in direction – involvement of the defendant in the choice of mode of trial, and the intervention (where necessary) of the expert, not merely as a witness but as an assessor to the judiciary or as a supplemental decision-maker.

I think it highly unlikely that there will be any change in the foreseeable future. But that does not mean that arguments against the ways in which juries are currently used should not at least be considered and debated to see whether there might be alternative arrangements that might work better and more fairly.Source: adapted from publisher’s notice at https://www.bloomsburyprofessional.com/uk/unreasoned-verdict-9781509915224/

Written by lwtmp

October 10, 2020 at 2:12 pm

A Smarter Approach to Sentencing: the Government’s White Paper, 2020

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Devising effective sentencing policy is hard. Ministers are often under great political pressures to deal with matters of public concern, which leads to frequent changes in sentencing law. This in turn can make the law hard to find and apply. The Sentencing Act 2020 is about to get the Royal Assent. Once in force it will provide a Code – an uptodate framework available online – within which new policies and changes to the law can be set.

Even before the ink has dried on the new Code, changes are in the pipeline. The Counter Terrorism and Sentencing Bill 2020 is well on its way through the Parliament ary process. (See https://martinpartington.com/2020/07/22/counter-terrorism-and-sentencing-bill-2020/)

More radical change is now promised by the White Paper on Sentencing, A Smarter Approach to Sentencing, published in September 2020.

It is a substantial document – reflecting a number of commitments made by the Conservative party in its election manifesto 2019 – on which the Government will be consulting over the next 12 months. A Bill is not anticipated until 2021.

The White Paper states that it is seeking to address three issues of public concern:

  1. Automatic Release: Sentences passed by judges and magistrates in the courts are criticised, often not for their overall length, but for the shortness of the time offenders actually spend in custody. The blanket use of automatic early release has, in the Government’s view, undermined confidence in the system. Too many serious and dangerous offenders are still released too early from custody; this risks public safety, and means the time spent in prison does not always properly fit the crime. The Counter-Terrorism Bill mentioned above deals with some of the issues; the White Paper argues for a more general policy to apply to all dangerous offenders, not just terrorists.
  2. Improving Confidence: Confidence in non-custodial sentencing options is low. The Government wants to gain greater confidence in the delivery of community sentencing. This is essential to reduce the prison population. Sentencers and the public need to be sure that there are effective non-custodial options, particularly for low-level offenders. The Government also wants to ensure that a wider range of non-custodial sentencing options are available to the courts, by capitalising fully on Electronic Monitoring technology, alongside enhanced community supervision delivered by a reformed National Probation Service and an expanded use of existing non-custodial conditions.
  3. Addressing the Causes of Offending: The Government wants to do more to address the causes of offending, particularly where it is driven by drug and alcohol misuse. In 2018/19, 28% of men and 42% of women entering prison reported having a drug problem. These issues are associated with offending, particularly low-level, repeat offending. Whilst there have been routes available to help treat and manage these needs in the justice system, as well as mental health needs, there have been too few options available to sentencers, and not enough confidence in the quality of these services.

The changes proposed in the White Paper are numerous. They include:

1. Introducing whole life orders for child killers, as well as allowing judges to hand out this maximum punishment to 18-20-year olds in exceptional cases to reflect the gravity of a crime. For example, acts of terrorism which lead to mass loss of life.

2. Introducing new powers to halt the automatic release of offenders who pose a terrorist threat or are a danger to the public.

3. Reducing the opportunities for over 18s who committed murder as a child, to have their minimum term reviewed – ensuring they cannot game the system and torment victims’ families further.

4. Ending the halfway release of offenders sentenced to between four and seven years in prison for serious crimes such as rape, manslaughter and GBH with intent. The Government proposes that they should have to spend two-thirds of their time behind bars.

5. Increasing the starting point for determining sentences for 15-17 year olds who commit murder from a minimum of 12 years to two thirds of the equivalent starting point for adults.This would ensure that the seriousness of the offence is taken into account and there is less of a gap between older children and young adults.

6. Longer tariffs for discretionary life sentences. Increasing the minimum period that must be spent in prison by requiring judges to base their calculation of the tariff on what two-thirds of an equivalent determinate sentence would be, rather than half as they do now. This will mean life sentence prisoners serve longer in prison before they can be considered for release by the Parole Board.

7. Raising the threshold for passing a sentence below the minimum term for repeat offenders, including key serious offences such as “third strike” burglary which carries a minimum three-year custodial sentence and “two strike” knife possession which has a minimum six-month sentence for adults. The should make it less likely that a court will depart from these minimum terms.

8. Piloting Problem Solving Court models in up to five courts, targeted at repeat offenders who would otherwise have been sent to custody.

9. Making full use of tagging technologies to create a tough restrictive order in the community. To support rehabilitation, courts and probation staff will have greater flexibility to impose curfew orders.

10. Piloting new ways of delivering timely and high-quality Pre-Sentence Reports.

11. Introducing new legislation to create the possibility of life sentences for drivers who kill.

12. Doubling the maximum sentence for assaulting an emergency worker from 12 months to 2 years.

The White Paper also proposes reforming criminal records disclosure to reduce the time period in which offenders have to declare offences to employers.

The full details of the White Paper are at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/a-smarter-approach-to-sentencing

This entry is adapted from the Government Press Release: at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/radical-sentencing-overhaul-to-cut-crime

Written by lwtmp

October 9, 2020 at 5:08 pm

Search warrants: proposals from the Law Commission

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One of the important powers the police have when they are investigating crime is the power to search premises and if necessary seize property that might be evidence to be used in a subsequent prosecution. A search warrant is an authorisation by a magistrate giving the police (or other investigtors) to make a search.

Around 40,000 search warrants are issued in England and Wales every year. There are over 175 different powers to issue search warrants. Some, like the general power under section 8 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (“PACE”), are used to look for evidence of a criminal offence. Some more specific powers allow the searcher to remove stolen goods, drugs, firearms or other dangerous materials, or to rescue people or animals in danger or distress. Other powers relate to complex financial or specialised investigations.

However, as the Law Commission notes, there are problems with the current system. These include:

  • Error: A 2016 review by the National Crime Agency found that 79% of investigations had defective warrants (of which 8% had significant deficiencies).
  • Inefficiency: Sometimes it can take three weeks to obtain a search warrant, during which time evidence might have been lost and further crimes committed.
  • Insufficient powers: Law enforcement agencies do not have effective powers to obtain electronic evidence, which might be stored on remote servers in an unknown jurisdiction. Such material can be vital for the successful prosecution of serious criminal offences.
  • Inadequate safeguards: There is currently not enough protection for individuals whose electronic devices are seized. Safeguards also vary depending on the type of warrant issued, so some individuals have fewer statutory protections than others.

To meet these shortcomings, the Law Commission has made a number of recommendations:

  • Strengthened law enforcement powers: These include:
    • Updating law enforcement powers so that they more clearly apply to electronic devices and data and allow digital evidence to be seized and copied.
    • The expansion of “multiple entry warrants” which would allow for a property to be searched on multiple occasions and “all premises warrants” which would allow all premises occupied or controlled by a specified person to be searched.
    • Permitting a police constable to search a person found on premises under the authority of a search warrant issued under PACE.
    • Giving the Insolvency Service and NHS Counter Fraud Authorities in England and Wales the ability to apply for and execute search warrants.
  • Improved process: The Law Commission makes recommendations to improve procedural efficiency, reduce the scope for serious errors and ensure that the issuing authority, a magistrate or judge, is presented with an accurate and complete picture of the investigation. These include: ensuring that the duty of an applicant to provide full and frank disclosure to the court is properly adhered to; introducing standardised entry warrant application forms and a template for entry warrants; considering the possibility of creating an online search warrants application portal; improving procedures for hearing search warrant applications to ensure that there is adequate judicial oversight.
  • Electronic evidence and materials: Amending the legal framework that currently governs the search and seizure of electronic material to facilitate the collection and examination of electronic material in a way which does not inhibit criminal investigations or impose unreasonable demands on law enforcement agencies. This could allow for electronic devices to be searched and data to be copied while on the premises. (The Government should consider whether this should include data stored remotely (even if in another jurisdiction).) The Commission also recommends measures to ensure transparency and accountability and limit the interference with property and privacy rights. Unneeded data should be swiftly deleted, and devices returned as soon as is practical.
  • Safeguards: These should be reformed to ensure that non-police investigators, such as members of the Serious Fraud Office, are subject to similar safeguards as the police. The Commission also recommends that an occupier should have a right to ask for a legal representative to be present to observe the execution of a warrant.
  • Personal records and journalistic material: In relation to personal records and confidential journalistic material, we conclude that they should remain obtainable under PACE in very limited circumstances. We recommend that the Government considers whether the law governing access to these categories of material under PACE strikes the right balance between the competing interests at play, and whether the law ought to be reformed.

As this project was undertaken at the request of the Home Office, there is reasonable likelihood that firm policy proposals will emerge in due course.

Source: adapted from https://www.lawcom.gov.uk/project/search-warrants/

Written by lwtmp

October 8, 2020 at 12:10 pm