Medieval Animal Trials

In medieval times, animals who had been accused of committing crimes were brought to court, provided defence counsel and prosecuted in full hearings before a judge.

For the Compass Festival 2018, artist Jack Tan created a fictional Department of Animal Justice, and staged a series of live ‘moot’ (or should that be “MOO-T”?!) animal trials before a judge and jury at the old Victorian courtroom in Leeds Town Hall (detail here)

I was the Judge for the first trial, a Jack Russell on trial for sheep-worrying, a potential death penalty case, but thankfully on this occasion the only thing hung were the jury (unable to reach a decision)

In a later trial I successfully defended a Staffordshire Bull Terrier accused of being a “dangerous dog”, after being provided with prosecution witness statements and a defence proof of evidence, just as I would in a contemporary case. One difference here was that the dog appeared in the dock, rather than the owner. I have defended in real dangerous dog cases where of course the owner is the defendant, but in either case it is the animal that faces the ultimate penalty (a “destruction order”).

Jack Tan is an artist with a legal background, his attention to detail meant that the proceedings were as faithful a representation of an actual case as could be imagined, albeit with a curtailment of jury deliberation time, compensated by the added interest that the audience could discretely “listen-in” to the deliberations, which were amplified. One juror went on to review the event here.

The event was a huge success, and enormous fun. Jack Tan intends to bring the event to London- definitely one to look out for.

Freelance Advocacy Services: News and Advocacy Availability


COURT AVAILABILITY– I have concluded at Harrow Crown Court (Not Guilty verdict) so can assist with cases for remainder of this month. See here for detail: http://www.freelanceadvocacyservices.uk/.

Book via gregfoxsmith@msn.com  

News

Christmas Appeal The mentoring charity for which I volunteer as trustee (bridging the Gap) has a Christmas appeal to support those who are sleeping rough- please make a small contribution if you can. https://www.totalgiving.co.uk/appeal/sleepingrough. Thank you

Government to review criminal legal aid https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/practice/government-embarks-on-wider-criminal-legal-aid-review/5068636.article

And the costs of legal aid cuts generally https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-46357169

Hats off to Len Hodkin (GT Stewart) who with courage and fortitude represented the family at the inquest hearing, which followed the tragic murder of his Mum Sally in a random attack by someone suffering from severe mental illness who should have been securely detained. The Inquest was reported here. Len’s earlier blog is here. Len and family set up the charity http://www.hundredfamilies.org/ which supports victim’s families in homicide trials by providing practical support, information, and advocacy services throughout Britain for families who have lost loved ones as a result of killings by people with mental illness.

Congratulations to Needham Poulier on their 20 year anniversary this week!

Naughty Court usher up North https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6465731/Court-usher-46-suspended-having-sex-video-link-room.html

Medieval Animal Trial, Leeds. Delighted to have taken part in the Compass Festival in Leeds last month. My blog here

LCCSA 70. watch the film here https://youtu.be/oXvz9nVVA7A

Breakfast Court Victory. HMCTS have confirmed the proposed projects for “flexible” (ie extended) court sitting hours for criminal courts have finally been abandoned (detail here)

Christmas playlist here

Lawyers of the Month

1 Len Hodkin (see Inquest story above)

2 Miranda Ching (co-organised Animal Trials -see above) Miranda is leaving Peters and Peters for the Serious fraud Office. Good luck!

The Charter for Justice-Next Steps

What is the Charter for Justice?

The charter was launched in 2018 as a way of highlighting to the public the crisis in the criminal justice system, and offering proposals to address that crisis by adopting some key principles that everyone should be able to unite behind and we can campaign for.

We ended up with 5 key principles, and those became the Charter:-

1 Access to Justice

2 Prompt and Adequate Disclosure of Prosecution case

3 A Fair and non-discriminatory Criminal Justice System

4 A properly funded prison and probation service

5 Open and transparent justice

Crisis? What crisis?

The 2018 book by the “Secret Barrister” which identifies some of the numerous and cumulative failings in the current system, is called “THE LAW IS BROKEN”. And it is.

The author laid bare the results of the drive to prosecute and defend on the cheap, and warns that “we are moving from a criminal justice system to simply a criminal system”.

Who cares?

But the secret barrister’s rage is equalled only by astonishment at the “wall of silence” and “collective indifference” of the public to the parlous state of affairs.

What astounds me most is that people don’t seem to care. Or even know… If the criminal justice system were the NHS, it would never be off the front page.

It is not enough to say the law is broken without adding “but we can fix it”

We know that the broken justice system can be fixed, but we also know that to fix it involves hard expenditure of cash. And yet MoJ projections currently show further proposed cuts to the budget, claiming that it needs to reduce spending by around £500m per year from 2015-16 levels by 2019-20.

If it is hard to get the public interested in the problem, it will be impossible to get support for the solution.

Raising Awareness

But maybe the tide is turning in terms of media coverage and public awareness

The prison crisis is ongoing and remains a newsworthy story.

David Lammy’s report came out last year, and highlighted that issues of racism and discrimination have not gone away.

Then we have had ongoing disclosure stories. Nothing new to us, but suddenly the right case hit the headlines leading to media attention and a flurry of similar scandalous stories.

And even the action by the bar gained media attention.

The charter aims to join all this up, by helping people outside the system see that this is all part of the same problem- chronic underfunding of the justice system.

Previous campaigns

The charter redresses 2 failures of some previous campaigns by legal aid lawyers:-

1 complaining about legal aid cuts in terms of our pay rather than broader consequences.

2 reactive or isolated campaigns on isolated issues, rather than focusing on the bigger picture.

Arguing for reasonable remuneration needs to focus on the consequences of poorly paid lawyers: – inadequate investigation by the police, inadequate review by CPS, cutting corners by prosecution and defence, factory-firms, increasingly inadequate advice and/or representation, a recruitment crisis in an already greying profession, and ultimately miscarriages of justice.

Charter for Justice Principles

So the Charter sets out 5 principles that are easy to understand and support, and if adopted and properly funded would restore faith in the justice system and fix what is now broken.

The text of the charter is here. (or scroll down to appendix below)

The Charter is something that we hope legal affairs or justice commentators show interest in, that the public would support, that campaigners can argue for, and that parties and politicians can sign up to.

It offers unity in that all lawyers can support the aims, whereas previously there have been differing interests and factional differences (bar vs solicitors, big firms group vs small, etc) We need a united approach -no back- door meetings with the MoJ by the bar or solicitors alone.

It is backed by initial sponsor signatories including the LCCSA, CBA, Howard League, Transform Justice, CLSA, Jengba and the Law Friends Society.

Launch

The charter was launched on 26th March 2018 (summary of launch event here)

Angela Rafferty QC (then CBA chair) spoke on funding issues and ACCESS TO JUSTICE

Laura Jane (Howard League) spoke on the Prison and probation crisis (her speech here)

Raj Chada on tackling discrimination, prejudice and the Lammy report. (speech here)

Jerry Hayes spoke on the DISCLOSURE crisis.

Penelope Gibbs (Transform Justice) talked about Open Justice

LCCSA President Greg Powell spoke of the need for Unity (his comments here)

Speaker clips (filmed and edited by our friends at the Law Friends Society) here,

What happened next?

Attention then focussed on the (then current) advocates dispute over AGFS reform, and the contentious ballot, from which solicitor advocates were excluded, voting against action by a narrow margin in favour of a deal. Impetus for the charter ebbed away.

Next steps if Charter is re-launched

Collect signatories to the Charter

Request a meeting with the Lord Chancellor and MoJ to present the Charter.

Use Charter for campaigning on Justice issues at next election.

Please contact LCCSA President Jon Black jonathanb@bsbsolicitors.co.uk if you would like to help with campaigning, or be a signatory.

Appendix- the Charter for Justice

Preamble

For too many years those who are close to the criminal justice system have observed the impact of funding restraints and cuts which have led to dilapidated buildings, reduced access to Justice, and a prison service on the point of collapse. The Lammy report has highlighted inequality of outcomes, and recently highlighted disclosure problems have shown systemic failures in the system.
This charter seeks to set the standards for a justice system that is sustainable, workable and fair.

1 Equal Access to Justice

Publicly funded representation is essential for defence and prosecution.

The CPS needs to be properly funded to properly present cases, and legal aid sufficiently available and remunerated to ensure equality of arms in an adversarial justice system, and to allow everyone access to legal advice and representation irrespective of means.

2 Disclosure

There should be full and fair disclosure of the Prosecution case to a suspect at the police station and defendant at court. Criminal justice is not a game, and proper disclosure needs to be made in a timely fashion so that those accused by the state can fully understand what they are accused of, and respond accordingly. Failures in the disclosure process waste huge resources throughout the system and result in wrongful convictions, avoidable appeals and abandoned trials, damaging both the accused and victims of crime and undermining public confidence. There is an urgent need to increase fairness, effectiveness and accountability within the disclosure process.

3 Open Justice.

There should be no further court closures, and court buildings and their fabric should be maintained to an acceptable standard. The latest initiative of online pleas is a dangerous development that will remove the direct engagement that a defendant has with the court and legal representatives. Every defendant or witness or member of the public should have a right to attend a court hearing in person.

The recent change to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act allowing the police to video-interview people wherever they choose without legal advice undermines vital protections for those suspected of crime and should be prohibited. This is especially dangerous for the young, those with mental health issues or learning disabilities, or for whom English is not a first language.

4 A humane and effective prison and probation service

Urgent action is required to upgrade and maintain the quality of prison buildings and facilities. There are too many people in prison and at risk of being sent to prison for failing to comply with conditions and urgent action is required to reduce the number of people in prison. We must learn from other countries where prisons are more forward thinking and humane and reoffending rates are lower. There must be recruitment and retention of sufficient prison officers, and access to properly funded rehabilitation and education courses within the prison system. The part privatisation of the probation service is a costly failure which should be reversed.

5 A Fair Justice system

Urgent action is needed to achieve equality of justice and eradicate the discrimination identified in the Lammy Report. Unless all have faith in the processes as well as the outcomes of our justice system, trust in the system will ebb away. We need to work to eliminate unconscious bias amongst all those involved in the system through diverse recruitment, better training and rigorous monitoring.

Justice cannot be seen to be done when there are the clear differences in treatment and outcome identified in the Lammy Report, or arising through use of the legal concept of Joint Enterprise.

Charter for Justice- for a Fair Justice System

Charter for Justice- for a Fair Justice System- guest blog by Raj Chada

Just  5 months ago, we welcomed the “Lammy Review”  into inequality of outcome for black and ethnic minority defendants, but questioned whether it could change the landscape. .
We know that nothing has changed, but that the whole criminal justice is close to collapse.

Justice on the cheap means no real justice for any community – but it will always, and indeed has, affect most those that are discriminated against , those with limited means , those with no voice at all.
That is who we must in a Charter for Justice.
David Lammy was comissioned to prepare a  report (an   ‘independent review into the treatment of, and outcomes for, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals in the Criminal Justice System “  in response to the over -representation of BAME individuals in the criminal justice system.
You are 17.5 times more likely to be stopped and searched if you are black
45% of those in youth custody are from an ethnic minority – a higher percentage than the US.

I borrow from the LCCSA response to Lammy – If you are a defendant in the Crown Court (and certainly should you reach the Court of Appeal) you can expect white Judges, mostly men and often still an all-white court room. Imagine roles are reversed. Imagine if you are white appearing in an all-black courtroom where you believe you have been harshly treated. Later you might read of higher sentences for white people, or that white deaths in custody never result in any prosecution. That white youth are disproportionately stopped and searched. You may imagine a lack of equality in the criminal Justice processes.
Think of that role reversal when you ponder why Lammy said that there was a trust deficit ; and then ask ourselves how that is not top of the agenda for Justice Secretary, every minute of every day of every week of every year that he or she is in office.
Think of that when you consider that the real trend is abolish any pretence of establishing a system with balance and checks, professionals exercising judgement from experience and training. With legal aid fixed cases cut to the bone, and a pressure to plead guilty,  there is insufficient time to develop relationships with clients ; to consider, review, analyse  the papers, and to properly advise clients. The   MoJ response to Lammy pointing out the lack of trust for BAME is not to re consider how fixed fees operate ; not to look at the absurd rates of pay in police stations, to demand at how the professions train and recognise the needs of the communities that they serve….
but to welcome the development of an app that can be used to explain people rights in custody.

The MoJ rejects the idea of accountabilty for the judiciary by feedback from users – lawyers, defendant or victims as if it will mean those that are aggrieved by decisions will use it as a complaint mechanism.
The MoJ offers nothing new about how to increase diversity of judiciary, – of the senior judiciary 81% went to Oxbridge, 76% went to fee paying schools and half went to boarding schools.
Enough already.
We need concrete action ; not the luke-warm response to the genuinely innovative idea of deferred prosecution for youth offending that will allow youngster not to have a criminal convictions on an agreement of behaviour in future. Good enough for a multi national company caught defrauding millions of pounds – not good enough for the balck defendant in Brent that was caught shoplifting for £50.
Of course I know that the solution to this is wider the CJS It requires us to help individuals through support and intervention, to hold individuals to account through community mechanisms and to develop that individual so that he has sense that he or she belongs and has a stake.
The solution as to why so many BAME youths do not feel they have that stake is political not legal: An active well-funded state that exists to help all its citizens, not just one section would benefit everyone, not just BAME communities. It is why we must make common cause across civic society with Trade unions and others…
We must start with CJS. This is not just about pay for us – it is about our participation in a public service, with our own roles to play and that the same system of justice should exist no matter what the social status, race or means of the victim, no matter what the social status, race of the defendant.

If we don’t have that now, we should be prepared to fight to achieve it.

That is why striving to achieve a fair Justice system must be part of the #Charter4Justice that we must all fight for.

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Raj Chada, (Partner, HJA,). 26 March 2018

The above is the text of a speech given by Raj at the launch of the Charter for Justice, 26 March 2018 (edited by Greg Foxsmith)

Notes

See also blog  “Lammy- we must not be silent”

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Charter for Justice -prison and probation reform

On a humane and effective prison and probation service

Guest Blog by Dr Laura Janes, (Legal Director of the Howard League)

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This is the text of a speech that Dr Laura Janes gave at the launch of the Charter for Justice on 25th March 2018 

The Howard League for Penal Reform was founded in Charles Dickens’ Britain in 1866 – over 150 years ago.

How fitting then, if utterly depressing, that we are now dealing with a prison system that retains Dickensian features.

Dickens describes the children in the jail that backed onto the Old Bailey as “hopeless creatures of neglect”, children without a childhood.

Every day, at the Howard League, we provide legal support to children and young adults in prison through our free advice line.

There are fewer children and young adults in prison today than there were 10 years ago – one piece of good news.

But that is where the good news ends.

• 45 per cent of children in prison are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds– even though this group accounts for just 18 per cent of the general population.

• One third of all children in prison can expect to spend time in isolation, sometimes for prolonged periods, such as AB, who I represent – a 15 year old child who spent over 23 hours a day locked in his room for 55 days, solid. The High Court ruled that was unlawful but fell short of inhuman and degrading treatment – a point we are appealing to the Court of Appeal.

• The recent snow inexcusably led to many children being locked up in solitary confinement for days on end – due to staff shortages. We heard of one child who was allowed out of his cell once in a two week period for a visit with his foster mother. He reported that on the way to the hall, he reached out to touch the snow but was sharply told not to by the guard.

• Violence and harm is rife. In the five years leading up to 2016 the Youth Justice Board says that

o The use of force increased by 36%

o Assaults increased by 95%

o Self harm increased by a staggering 120%

• Exposure to, let alone experience of these things, would give rise to a child protection referral in the community

• It is not surprising then that Chief Inspector said last year that no prison he inspected was safe for children and young people

• Since legal aid cuts for prisoners in 2013, calls to our specialist legal advice line have increased by 62 per cent.

Sadly, the reduction in numbers for children and young adults have not been mirrored among the adult population.

At any one time we have over 80,000 men, women and children in prison. The prison population has more than doubled since the mid-1990s. We lock up more people than any other nation in Western Europe.

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No public service in England and Wales has deteriorated more dramatically and more profoundly in recent years than our prison system.

Someone takes their own life in prison once every five days. Over 2000 people have taken their own lives in prison since 1990.

Three in four men’s prisons are holding more people than they are designed to accommodate.

Wandsworth prison, for example, is designed to hold no more than 943 men. But it currently holds 1,564 men.

On top of that, our prisons are reeling from poor upkeep, after Chris Grayling handed the £200 million pound maintenance contract to Carillion in 2014.

This situation is inhumane for the prisoners and unmanageable for those charged with their care. Staff numbers have been reduced since 2012 by up to 40 per cent, making the so-called transforming rehabilitation agenda impossible to achieve.

Nor is it effective. One third of prisoners reoffend on release,

Turning to our probation service. It has been split in two. The national probation service has been absorbed into the failing prison service. Pressures on probation officers are unsustainable. The “less serious” cases have been farmed out to private Community Rehabilitation Companies, who in the words of the Public Accounts Committee last week, “the Ministry accepts … were plainly not working as intended”. The Ministry has agreed to pay them up to £342 million pounds more of taxpayers’ money but can’t explain what it is getting back for its money. Pausing for a moment, that figure is around ten times the amount the Ministry hopes to save from this latest round of criminal legal aid cuts.

With David Gauke, we have our sixth Lord Chancellor in as many years.

That fact in itself suggests a contempt for justice and total disregard for the importance of the justice system. Yet, the notion that the way we treat our prisoners is a measure of the strength and virtue of the nation is as true today as it was at the turn of the century.

I am glad that we have moved from the deplorable ideological attack on prisoners, spearheaded by Mr Grayling in the form of cuts to legal aid for prisoners.  Those cuts were an affront to the rule of law. The whole point of the rule of law is that “everybody matters”.  Legal aid was designed as an equalising measure to allow everyone to access justice. The lawlessness within our prisons today is unacceptable. How can we possibly hope to instil respect for the law in prisoners if we exclude them from its protection?

I am proud that, along with the Prisoners’ Advice Service and over a five year period, our successful challenge to the Court of Appeal has seen the first areas of legal aid brought back into scope since LASPO – even though prisoners are still effectively denied access to justice in some important areas. It is also good that in Rory Stewart we have a Prison’s Minister who is taking the crisis in our prisons seriously. But they need more than just a jolly good clean.

I delighted to be here today at the launch of a Charter for Justice calling for:-

Less people in prison

– A humane and effective prison system and

– An end to the two tier failing semi privatised probation service

Laura Janes, 25 March 2018

Note- the charter for Justice is here

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Prison Mutiny

Three defendants were today sentenced at Winchester Crown Court to 3 years immediate custody, for taking part in a “prison mutiny” in June 2016 at HMP Erlestoke as reported here

A fourth defendant had been acquitted.

Numerous other prisoners who had participated in the disturbance had been dealt with administratively, or were charged with lesser offences.

This disturbance was one of a number of similar episodes in recent years, which many commentators have contributed to a hugely reduced prison budget, which has led to a shortage of experienced prison officers, and raised tensions for prisoners.

These recent disturbances have followed a long and predictable pattern.

The most infamous British prison riot in recent history was at Strangeways in April 1990 (One prisoner killed, and 147 prison officers and 47 prisoners injured. Much of the prison was damaged or destroyed with cost of repairs coming to £50 million)

The resulting Woolf Report found “Prisoners felt their complaints about conditions were being ignored. Remand prisoners were only allowed out of their cells for 18 hours per week, and Category A prisoners were locked in their cells for 22 hours a day, and rarely left their cells except for “slopping out“, a one-hour exercise period each day or a weekly shower”

Lord Woolf concluded that conditions in the prison had been intolerable, and recommended major reform of the prison system.

“Slopping out” has ended, but many of the other recommendations were never implemented, subsequently abandoned or now ignored. So much so, that 25 years later in 2015 Lord Woolfe warned that prisons are again at Crisis point (as reported here) and as evidenced in numerous Prison Inspectorate reports, and the annual Inspectorate report.

The IMB (Independent Monitoring Board) reports which visited Erlestoke gave an insight of the dire situation there before the disturbance. (Most recent report here)

(Erlestoke is a medium secure all-male prison with over 500 prisoners including violent offenders, sex offenders, and “lifers”. A number were “IPP” prisoners who had served longer than their sentence but with no indication as to when may be released.)

The IMB reports showed:-

-Drugs were rampant in the prison, particularly SPICE

-smuggling of tobacco

-smuggling and useage of mobile phones

-a culture of bullying

-property going “missing”

-high levels of self-harm

– a “self-inflicted death” (2015)

-high levels of mental-health issues, many unaddressed and/or untreated

-chronic staff shortages.

On the 11 June there were only 17 members of staff on duty.

As a result, there was a lock-down.

Despite what was said by the Prosecution at the outset of the trial, and then reported in local media, this was never about a “smoking ban” which had been introduced that year.

The trigger for the disturbances was the lamentable staff-shortages which caused the prison to have another unannounced lock-down, a decision that was communicated to prisoners by a note pushed under their cell doors, and communicated to staff with a note pinned to the notice-board wishing them “good luck”.

The consequences that flowed from the lock-down included:-

– being locked in cell all day, (in some cases shared cells with an open-toilet)

– no hot meals,

– no association,

– no showers

– and no calls to friends or family (one of the prisoners on trial had promised he would call his daughter. it was her birthday)

That was a systemic failure, and not the fault of the hard-working prison officers on duty.

If it does not excuse prisoner’s conduct, it does at least explain it.

Prisoners kicked off, and some broke through their doors, which were wooden.

Two ended up on the roof.

So far as the damage is concerned, it is hard to establish an accurate valuation as much of what was repaired was badly in need of repair or refurbishment anyway, including:-

-some of the showers and boilers that didn’t work,

-the huge backlog of maintenance which should have been but was not completed by Carillion,

-wooden doors on the cells which are usually seen in a prison museum rather than an operating prison.

The prison service conducted a review into the disturbance, and produced a report which they have not published and declined to provide to the Prosecution.

The two wings which were damaged are back in operation.

It will however take more than a lick of paint and new cell doors to repair what is broken in the prison system.

The real damage inflicted on the prison system is not broken windows and roof tiles, but the savage cuts to the prison budget by forever “Justice Secretary” Chris Grayling, which has left prison buildings to decay, slashed numbers of prison officers, and cut back on education and rehabilitation for those locked up.

When people , whether prisoners serving their time or sailors at sea, are treated unfairly and subjected to intolerable conditions, it will (as Captain William Bligh discovered) lead to mutiny.

Prisoners convicted of prison mutiny pay a price for their participation in disorder, and those sentenced today will now serve an additional three years to their current sentences.

But as a society we all pay the price of Government failure to tackle the prison crisis that shames this Country.

As Winston Churchill once said: “The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilisation of any country. A calm and dispassionate recognition of the rights of convicted criminals against the state, a constant heart-searching by all charged with the duty of punishment, a desire and eagerness to rehabilitate, and an unfaltering faith that there is a treasure, if only you can find it in the heart of every person – these are the symbols which in the treatment of crime and criminals mark and measure the stored up strength of a nation, and are the sign and proof of the living virtue in it.

Check-mate. A poem in memory of my father

Check Mate: A Poem for my Father

My father was the one who taught me chess.
Then, each game he held out two closed hands,
Each hiding a pawn, one white, one black.
I made my selection and prepared for attack.

We played in silent concentration,
His only words “check!” (and, later, “check-mate”)
Fragrant pipe-smoke trailed around the pieces
As I learned the bitter taste of defeat.

Later: Monopoly, and he was always the ship
Sailing round the the board as though still at sea
In Cuba he had played a GET OUT OF GAIL FREE card
Long before he passed Go and then bought his first house.

The family played a board game called Risk
The so-called “Game of Global Domination”
Only much later did I realise
He had already conquered my world.

When I left home I too travelled the globe
With a back-pack and portable chess set.
Only now do I realise what ha had taught me
Not just the rules. I had learned Values.

Now I am the one to teach my sons chess.
I hold out my closed hands
Each with a pawn, one white, one black.
The King is dead: Long Live the King.

Later: Monopoly, and lessons in life
Try not to Go Back 3 Spaces.
So boys, choose a token, roll the dice but remember
Your Grandfather was always the ship.

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In Memory of William Foxsmith RIP (04.02.41- 10.03.14)

William Foxsmith Obituary

Obituary for My Father

Dad (known by almost everyone as Bill) was born in Hinckley, Leicestershire on 04 February 1939 and was christened William Ernest FOX (his father’s name)

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When Dad was two his father drowned, and so was brought up my his Mum Hilda (known as “H”) in rural poverty, initially staying in an alms house, for which privilege his mother had to scrub the stone floors of the church on her hands and knees. Dad was no fan of the church or organised religion. The family had moved to Dorset, and Dad with his younger brother Dick went to school in Lyme Regis. He was a fast runner, running the mile for the County and setting a school record.
He acquired a stepfather, Jack SMITH, and then another brother (Nick). Dad later combined the names FOX and SMITH and the FOX-SMITH family name was created.
Aged 16, Dad left home and went to Navigation school in Plymouth, and then joined the merchant Navy:-

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For six years he travelled the World visiting the US, China, Japan and Cuba amongst other Countries. In Cuba, he was arrested and spent a night in prison. It’s a bit unclear what offence he had allegedly committed, or how he came to be released, but it was a typical escapade for Dad who loved adventure. Dad’s brother Nick has a memory of watching their mother putting pins in a world map on the kitchen wall every time they received a card from a country Dad visited when at sea.
Dad’s Mum died when he was still at sea. He was not able to return for the funeral. Over 30 years later he found a “memory box” with some keepsakes and mementoes from his sea-faring days. Not realising what it was, he began reading aloud the letter he had received from his brother Dick which broke the news of their mother’s death,and it moved him to tears. It was the only time I ever saw him cry.

Dad met Mum (Sylvia) in July 1964 and they were married in Wembury Church on 05/10/1966.

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His first “land” job was selling encyclopaedias, and then he worked with Mintex (a Company selling brake and clutch linings) as a salesman and later as manager of the Plymouth depot.
He had been framing pictures- self taught – as a hobby, and now became self-employed doing that professionally.
He had also formed an interest in silhouettes, which he began collecting and became something of an expert. (He later became involved in the Silhouette Club)
Eventually he opened his shop on Southside Street, The Barbican, selling antique maps and prints. The shop “Foxsmith Galleries” was open for 20 years, and eventually closed in 2006.

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Dad was renowned for his honesty and good business ethics, never broke his word or a contract, and had great integrity. His word was his bond, and most deals were done on a handshake. He disliked debt, and was beholden to nobody. He worked hard, and in order to provide for his family, put business before pleasure.
Dad loved antiques and fine art, good company and good wine.
He enjoyed classical music, which could always be heard in the basement at home where he was framing pictures, or in the shop.
He had a great sense of humour, and a good sense of adventure. He loved sailing and wind-surfing, but was equally happy to try his hand at anything adventurous from para-gliding to stock car racing to bungee-jumping.
Dad didn’t tolerate fools gladly, and disliked snobbery and pretentiousness.
He hated hypocrisy. He had no airs and graces and could mix easily in any company.
He had a wide circle of friends. Most of all he loved his family. There were three children- myself Mark and Naomi.

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Mum and Dad first lived in a small bungalow in Staddiscombe (near Plymstock) and then moved to Alfred Street on Plymouth Hoe.
We holidayed as children in Butlins, and many years later in France,catching the ferry from Plymouth to Roscoff and driving to a campsite.

Sadness at Dads death is tempered by the happiness that he was released from the hell of his last few years. Sadly, in truth we lost Dad a few years before his passing to the cruel disease of Alzheimer’s, the early onset of which robbed him of a peaceful retirement.

Dad was a towering figure for me, and an important influence on my life.
He was there for my significant birthdays, my graduation, was a witness at my wedding, and once came to see me advocating in Court. I inherited or learned from him some qualities that have stood me in good stead as a defence lawyer-a sense of fairness, and an innate sympathy for the underdog.
I admired him very much, and am sorry that his early departure deprived his grandchildren of spending time with him, and he with them.

Dad had a great love of board games.
He taught me chess. We played for years and years before I won a game. Dad wasn’t one to let you win. But at least when I eventually did, I knew it was on merit. Winning at chess was a major surprise to me. Like many boys, I believed my father invincible, and not just in chess.

As a family we also enjoyed board  games, particularly Monopoly and Risk, which were extremely competitive but riotous fun.
I played as a child , but was aware if friends or family were staying that games would continue after I was dispatched to bed
Then the drinks would come out, and the games were a backdrop to anecdotes, stories and jokes, with the roar of raucous laughter. These are amongst the memories that we will cherish.

Cheers Dad!

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A poem for my father

In Memory of William Foxsmith RIP (04.02.41- 10.03.14)

 

Memories
The family were grateful for the many condolence cards, supportive messages, anecdotes and photos sent to the family.
“A vibrant and infectious zest for life (Nigel F.)
entertaining, knowledgable and fun to be around” (Matt Tiller)
He ran his business so well,always kind and courteous”(Jenni)
“No-one will forget Bill” (Vanessa J)
“Our hearts are sore at the passing of our dear friend Bill. We will always value our friendship” (Gerry and Malcolm)
I held the most tremendous admiration for Bill,his humour, stories, knowledge and skills….” (Simon B.)
we are surrounded by memories of Bill as there isn’t a room in the house that hasn’t either a picture from the Gallery or framed by Bill” (Jane and John Green)

“This card (pictured below) shows one of the many precious prints which adorn my walls and which Bill found for me”

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a wonderful entertaining host!” (Viv and Brian)
A lovely human being, a delightful neighbour and friend with a great sense of fun and generosity of spirit” (Elaine and Adrian)
Bill was a fantastic man.” (Sarah and Tony)
“Bill was a delight to work for” 
“The spirit which he evoked-one of friendship, challenge and investigation” (John Pickles)

Ros offered these lines from Shakespeare (Anthony to Cleopatra):-
the miserable change now at my end
Lament nor sorrow at,
But please your thoughts
In feeding them with these my former fortunes

An anecdote from Malcolm and Gerry:- “Bill loved sailing in Plymouth Sound after work. One evening the tide and wind took him into Mountbatten Pier, and as he had stayed out until the last minute, it had become dark and he had no choice but to land. At that time it was private, R.A.F. property, with landing prohibited. He somehow found the Officer’s Mess and entered in his wet suit [just like James Bond] and persuaded them he was not a spy. He finished at the bar with a pint telling them of his adventures!”

“We are both very sad to hear of the death of your Dad, a great friend of mine and someone I admired very much.” (Richard Walker)

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Lord Chancellor David Lidington-a review

On 11 June 2017 PM Theresa May in a post-election re-shuffle appointed David Lidington as Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor. He replaced the hapless Liz Truss,  who had herself been appointed by May in a post-election re-shuffle less than a year before. Lidington was himself replaced as Lord Chancellor in Theresa May’s botched reshuffle on January 8th 2018. Lidington was the fourth consecutive non-lawyer appointment- his predecessors were Liz Truss, Michael  Gove and Grayling (widely regarded as the worst Lord Chancellor ever).

This blog reviews Lidington’s performance over his brief term of office.

Background

David Roy Lidington CBE PC (born 30 June 1956) has been MP for Aylesbury since 1992. He was Minister of State for Europe from May 2010 to July 2016, and Leader of the House of Commons.

He was educated at a public school, before studying history at Cambridge (appearing on University Challenge)

He was given a CBE in Cameron’s widely criticised resignation honours list.

IMG_0622Expenses scandal In May 2009, it was revealed Lidington had claimed £1,300 on expenses for dry cleaning. He also claimed for toothpaste, shower gel, body spray, vitamin supplements and a second home allowance. He repaid the claims for toiletries, saying: “I accept that many people would see them as over-generous.”  So although he eventually came clean you paid for his soap 

Record in Parliament pre-appointment  (Justice issues)

Lidington voted in favour of repealing the Human Rights Act,  restricting the scope of legal aid and limiting fees paid to solicitors in no-win no-fee cases. The “they-work-for-you” website says Lidington generally voted against equal gay rights, and his record on cutting legal aid is here.

First six months

The new Lord Chancellor was sworn in on 19 June.  In the in-tray? Read anopen letter to Lord Chancellor from Joshua Rozenberg

Sort out the prison crisis! read these recommendations from the Howard League

His first official pronouncement, following the Grenfell tragedy, was on availability of legal aid in housing cases- and he got it wrong (see here)

There was then a period of calm, in a political period dominated by Brexit, we heard very little from or about the Lord Chancellor until the Party Conference in October when there were apparently conciliatory noises on LASPO reform

Prisons

The crisis within the prison service has shown no signs of improvement under Lidington. The shocking number of suicides by vulnerable prisoners, murder and violent assaults by against prisoners and staff remains at high levels in crumbling, under-staffed, unsafe failing prisons. The extent of this is too great to record in this blog, and can be charted elsewhere (see eg Howard League) but of the many scathing, shameful reports I include this one from the Independent Monitoring Board into Aylesbury Prison -it is in Lidingtons constituency, so the shameful record has happened “on his watch” as local MP and Justice Sec.

The treatment of young people in custody has also remained dire and dangerous under Lidington’s watch – see this report of November 2017 

Legal Aid and funding

Under this Lord Chancellor, there was no improvement in funding for the MoJ in general or legal aid in particular, as it was revealed the department will have suffered a 40% cut in budget by 2020 (as reported in Gazette in November here)

Conclusion- a summary of Lidington’s tenure

Lidington has been the silent chancellor- we heard very little from or about him. In a Government divided by over but dominated by Brexit issues, this Lord Chancellor kept his head down. There is much to be said for that, preferable at least to failing Grayling or hapless Truss, but a failure nonetheless to tackle the big issues in his department- the chronic underfunding of the Justice system, and in particular legal aid and the prison estate. He left everything without comment to MoJ apparatchiks, who have continued with their pet projects including pilot projects on extended Court hours. He remained silent on the “disclosure scandals” that have thrown a spotlight on the sorry state of our justice system, and prisons and young offender institutions remain as overcrowded, dirty and dangerous as when he took over.

His department did however find the money to pay fat-cat consultants to advise on “digital transformation”, leaving solicitor Matt Foot to assess his legacy with this tweet “Justice Minister Lidington’s only contribution was to cut criminal legal aid by £30 mn, given to PricewaterhouseCoopers (650k profit per partner) instead

Name, Number and Nationality

This blog has also been published by the JUSTICE GAP here

Excerpts were quoted in a Law Society Gazette article here: https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/law/defendant-nationality-declarations-offensive/5063715.article  (see also the lively comments thread)

A new requirement is in force (with effect from Monday 13th November) that requires every defendant appearing before a Criminal Court to confirm their nationality, or risk a prosecution and imprisonment.

I believe a conviction arising from this provision  can be challenged due to the inherently discriminatory nature of this legislation. I am in contact with other lawyers who are considering strategies to remove this provision, but we need to know how the legislation is being enforced. Have you been involved with or witnessed such a case? Please let me know! We can exchange info to see if there is any uniformity of approach, and evaluate the impact. Email gregfoxsmith@msn.com

The provisions are as follows:-
Section 162 of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 provides as follows:

162.         Requirement to give information in criminal proceedings
In the Courts Act 2003, after section 86 (alteration of place fixed for Crown Court trial) insert—

86A         Requirement to give information in criminal proceedings
(1)          A person who is a defendant in proceedings in a criminal court must provide his or her name, date of birth and nationality if required to do so at any stage of proceedings by the court.

(2)          Criminal Procedure Rules must specify the stages of proceedings at which requirements are to be imposed by virtue of subsection (1) (and may specify other stages of proceedings when such requirements may be imposed).
(3)           A person commits an offence if, without reasonable excuse, the person fails to comply with a requirement imposed by virtue of subsection (1), whether by providing false or incomplete information or by providing no information.
(4)            Information provided by a person in response to a requirement imposed by virtue of subsection (1) is not admissible in evidence in criminal proceedings against that person other than proceedings for an offence under this section.
(5)           A person guilty of an offence under subsection (3) is liable on summary conviction to either or both of the following—
(a)     imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks (or 6 months if the offence was committed before the commencement of section 281(5) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003), or
(b)     a fine.
(6)          The criminal court before which a person is required to provide his or her name, date of birth and nationality may deal with any suspected offence under subsection (3) at the same time as dealing with the offence for which the person was already before the court.
(7)          In this section a “criminal court” is, when dealing with any criminal cause or matter—
(a)     the Crown Court;
(b)     a magistrates’ court.”

 

In practice, “the Court”  is likely to be the Magistrates Court, at the first appearance in a case. The provision is offensive and objectionable, and straight out of the UKIP dream statute book. Why stop there? Why not require confirmation of ethnicity or of religion? Perhaps instead of requiring a question and answer routine, the Court could just write down the defendant’s skin colour.

It is presumed the legislation is to assist with the speedy deportation of “foreign” criminals. But how to monitor them once identified? Well lock them up obviously – something that is 9 times more likely to happen if the foreign national is non-white, as evidenced in the Lammy report.

But after that?  It is a only a short step from obtaining verification of nationality to requiring the foreign defendant to be tagged , a digital equivalent of being forced to display a star or triangle. The legislation ironically became effective the day after Remembrance Sunday.

Enforcement

How are the provisions to be policed? If a defendant fails to answer, it presumably falls on the Prosecutor to lay a charge, yet the CPS have had no training or guidance in respect of this legislation.

How will the charge be proved? The prosecutor presumably cannot be a witness in their own case. Will the Judge be required to give evidence, or treat it as they would a contempt? (See para 6 above)  Is the defence Advocate professionally embarrassed in the substantive proceedings as well as the nationality offence?

There may well be a temptation for a foreign national appearing in Court to keep their head down and answer “British”, to avoid some unspecified future sanction.

But perversely, as a British born citizen ashamed of this legislation and outraged at it’s purpose, the temptation for me were I appearing as a defendant would be to refuse to answer out of sheer bloody-mindedness (“don’t tell em Pike!”) or to say something flippant (European? Independent republic of ISLINGTON?) That is probably the British in me coming out.

Answering questions in these circumstances (rather than sticking up two fingers)  would feel “un-British” – as alien as compulsory ID cards.

Absurdities

Is it permissible to answer “none” if the defendant is stateless, the refugee without a Nation home?

What of the defendant who answers one nationality, but is believed to be of another (the first limb of the s3 offence?) How is the “true” nationality to be proven?

Is there a defence if the defendant genuinely believes they have acquired British nationality, answers accordingly, but finds out status still undetermined, or is it a strict liability offence?

What is the penalty for the prankster who answers “Vulcan” or “Jedi”?

Do they get a second chance, or like the drink-driver at the police station who doesnt blow into the tube hard enough, is it a one-off opportunity?

Which nationalities are recognised? The 193 currently recognised by the UN, or a broader definition? There are said to be 270 nationalities (and 300 different languages) in London alone.

What of dependent territories, or those are on the verge of becoming sovereign nations? What of autonomous regions of different nations? Can a resident from Barcelona answer “Catalan”?

Are fat-cat tax avoiders to say “British”, or name their off-shore domiciled Nationality?

What of those with joint or dual nationality- do they get to choose?

How about somebody with mental health issues who is unfit to plead-are they also unfit to confirm Nationality?

What about a defendant who is silent throughout the proceedings? Mute by malice, or by visitation of God?

Conclusion

At this post-Brexit time of national discourse leading to discontent, with the issues of prejudice and discrimination in the criminal justice system to the fore after publication of David Lammy’s report, the timing of this rushed and  ill-judged legislation is unfortunate. Nigel Farage may be cheering, I am not.

Challenge to legislation, and appeal for information

Anecdotally I am told that defendants are complying with the legislation and stating their nationality (although often initially answering by ethnicity) and have been unable yet to find a case where somebody has been charged.

I believe the provisions can be challenged due to the inherently discriminatory nature of this legislation. I am in contact with other lawyers who are considering strategies to remove this provision, but we need to know how the legislation is being enforced. have you been involved with or witnessed such a case? Please let me know! We can exchange info to see if there is any uniformity of approach, and evaluate the impact. Email gregfoxsmith@msn.com