Category Archives: Featured

Community Advice Offer extended to More Courts

Guest blog by Joanne Thomas  (see author note below)

Introduction: “People in Court sometimes need more advice than just legal advice

Many of the people who come through magistrates’ court commit low-level offences and go on to commit them again and again without the underlying causes being tackled. Typically, the seriousness of offences means they receive fines or conditional discharges and therefore no support from statutory agencies. But very often they end up returning to court – 40% of fines go unpaid and a third of people receiving a conditional discharge reoffend within a year.

The South West model

In South West England, action is taken to stop this revolving door via CASS (http://cassplus.org/). CASS is a service that has been running for almost ten years and provides support to people coming to court in Plymouth, Truro and Bodmin. It is open to anyone – defendants, but also victims, witnesses and family members. There are very few limits on the kind of help that the service will provide. While there are some mainstays – namely drug and alcohol treatment referrals, information about community mental health care, practical support with debts or benefits – CASS has helped clients across with a huge range of issues. See our recent evaluation of this service here

The Community Advice Service at Highbury

Inspired by this work, we at the Centre for Justice Innovation worked with partners from the North London Local Justice Area over 18 months to see whether we could set up something similar at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court. The result is the Community Advice service, which has been delivered by RCJ Advice Bureau (http://www.rcjadvice.org.uk/) from the court since January 2015. Attending court can be confusing and intimidating, so the service works to identify those in need of immediate help, engaging the majority through proactive targeting in court rooms and public areas, as well as receiving referrals from solicitors, court staff and probation. The people seen present with a range of difficulties, with the most common being housing, benefits and debt, and mental health.  

Community Advice is currently delivered by a paid coordinator and team of CAB-trained volunteers. It provides immediate help and advice with practical issues such as benefit claims, debt and housing, as well as offering emotional support. It also helps people find out about and access long-term support services in the community such as alcohol treatment, mental health services and supported housing.

But most importantly of all, the service needs to know if it is making a difference to those using it. The team follows up with everyone who agrees to this for up to six months to check on their progress and see if they need any more support. The outcomes being reported are very positive, with 60% of people contacted at six months saying their issues have been resolved. Additionally, at two weeks, a third reported their issues were either resolved or better, rising to almost two thirds two months after using the service. A third of people using the service had visited the referrals that had been made by the service after two weeks, and this increased to 80% by two months. The majority of people at all stages of follow-up reported a high levels of helpfulness from the services to which they had been referred.  


Could More be Done?

With such positive outcomes, the question remains as to why this kind of service is not more prevalent. Pulling together the right partners and identifying funding can be challenging, but tackling the underlying problems that lead people to commit crime not only helps the individual but can also help the criminal justice system to meet its aims as well as being better for society overall. 

Conclusion

We remain keen to identify and work with other courts to recognise the benefits of services such as this and where appropriate to develop similar initiatives that respond to the needs of the people who continue to come through their courts time and again. 

The author

Joanne Thomas is Innovative Practice Manager at the Centre for Justice Innovation, a research and development charity which works towards a British justice system that reduces crime and in which all of our people can place their trust.

  
 

David Wilson:- 1014-or the Long Prehistory of Magna Carta

Guest Blog by David Wilson (Director, TV Series Producer)Reproduced with his kind permission, this article was first published on David’s website here.

1014-or the long prehistory of Magna Carta 

This year with many books and exhibitions we remember the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. That’s terrific, but however important the events of 1215, as it turned out, don’t imagine that they were only, or even the first time an English king had been wrestled to the conference table by his subjects.
We should perhaps have been celebrating two years ago – and the anniversary would have been millennial. 1014 saw the penultimate crisis in the disastrous reign of Aethelred the ‘Unready’ [978-1016]. Son of the great Edgar, whose prestige dominated the British isles and glowed throughout Europe, this ‘badly-advised’ [unraed in old English, hence ‘unready’] monarch brought his Kingdom to destruction by a mixture of willful politics and military failure. Assailed by renewed attacks from Denmark, latterly led by the Danish king Swein Forkbeard, in the winter of 1013 Aethelred lost control of the country altogether, and was forced to seek refuge with his brother-in-law Duke Richard of Normandy. As he clambered aboard the longship which took him to Rouen, Aethelred may have thought the disaster final. But suddenly, at the moment of triumph, Sweyn Forkbeard died. For the English there was a last opportunity to restore the situation and they took it. Sweyn’s Danish army were for enthroning his young son Canute, but somehow, all pulling together, the English elite resisted, as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle relates:

‘The fleet all chose Canute for king; whereupon advised all the counsellors of England, clergy and laity, that they should send after King Aethelred; saying, that no sovereign was dearer to them than their natural lord, if he would govern them better than he did before. Then sent the king hither his son Edward, with his messengers; who had orders to greet all his people, saying that he would be their faithful lord – would better each of those things that they disliked — and that each of the things should be forgiven which had been either done or said against him; provided they all unanimously, without treachery, turned to him. Then was full friendship established, in word and in deed and in compact, on either side. And every Danish king they proclaimed an outlaw for ever from England. Then came King Aethelred home, in Lent, to his own people; and he was gladly received by them all.’

Here for the first time we can see that conditions are being imposed on the king in return for the throne. The situation must have been not unlike that at Runnymede, more than two hundred years later. This was a king whose political and military failure had made him vulnerable to demands from his subjects.
What those demands were we can surmise from a sermon preached at the time by Wulfstan, Archbishop of York which has become famous as the Sermon of ‘the Wolf’ to the English. It was probably given in the presence of King Aethelred and his council, and it indicates the kind of issues that were exercising them: injustice, excessive taxes and treason.
‘the rights of freemen are taken away and the rights of slaves are restricted and charitable obligations are curtailed. Free men may not keep their independence, nor go where they wish, nor deal with their property just as they desire…

Nothing has prospered now for a long time either at home or abroad, but there has been military devastation and hunger, burning and bloodshed in nearly every district time and again… And excessive taxes have afflicted us…’
Experts think that the wording of the Chronicle is copied from a writ or document which Aethelred issued, which would have detailed the agreement. Eleventh-century writs were letters sent by the King to his governors in the shires, often specifically to be read out in the Shire court; such writs always began with ‘The King greets his people…’ as in the Chronicle. Usually the extent to whiuch kingship relies on the consent of the governed is concealed beneath the rhetoric of royal power. Here, that consent is made public. In the context of the, for this period, unusual sophistication of the English monarchy, working as it did through shire and hundred [district] assemblies, this is even more revealing. In administering the shires, the king’s officials relied, as we have seen, on the empanelment of juries, that is the participation of his subjects in their government. It seems that both at this subordinate level and at the highest reaches of politics, the English felt they had rights, that, as in the forests of Germany centuries before, sovereignty emanated, not just from above, from God, but also to some extent from below, from the people.
 Constitutional encounters of this kind happened elsewhere in Europe at roughly this time, but what makes 1014 special for us is that the agreement comes at the beginning of a continuing series of such deals which would govern the development of the English state down to our own times. Four years later, after Canute had eventually defeated Aethelred’s successor, he found himself making a similar agreement in Oxford, which he was to reiterate in two celebrated ‘Letters to the English’ in 1019 and 1027. King Edward the Confessor [the Edward in fact who crossed from Normandy to begin the negotiations in 1014] inherited this dispensation, and reconfirmed it publicly in 1065. The way he ruled was explicitly the basis of the regime of his Norman successors. That was made clear in the Charter issued by Henry I at his Coronation in 1100, which itself in turn became the basis of the restoration of order by Henry II after the ‘anarchy’ of King Stephen’s reign. Henry I’s Coronation Charter was also instrumental in the negotiations before Magna Carta. Thence, by way of Magna Carta itself, we reach Simon de Montfort, the ‘comune of England’ and the beginnings of Parliament. 

There was nothing inevitable about this, as there was nothing inevitable, indeed, about the survival of England as unified kingdom, but the fact remains that English constitutional history descends in a direct line, not unlike the monarchy itself, from those tense discussions in the aftermath of Danish disaster.
David Wilson 2015

Prison Books: Helping to Turn over a New leaf

The decision earlier this year by Justice Secretary Michael Gove to lift the ban on family and friends sending books to prisoners was welcome

Anybody who describes prison as a “holiday camp” has either never been to prison, or never been on holiday- the reality of contemporary incarceration is boredom from enforced idleness, interspersed with occasional violence (assaults are rife) but little support for rehabilitation programmes or tackling prevalent issues of mental health. Cuts to staffing levels have overlapped with a rapidly rising prison population. Recent reports by the Prison Inspectorate have been damming.

Books do not in themselves provide a panacea, but they are a good start. They provide education, help literacy and personal development, and broaden the mind.

The book ban introduced by Gove’s predecessor Chris Grayling was a vindictive, unjustified act.

The purpose of prison is punishment and rehabilitation- the first is implicit in the removal of liberty by being locked up, the second currently not achieved by draconian policies that fail to tackle the root causes of offending behaviour. In Nelson Mandela’s moving autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom”, he writes of the value and importance of books to him through his long period of imprisonment. Everyone but Grayling could see the value of books within prison.

In March last year I joined a demonstration against the book ban outside Pentonville prison organised by the Howard League for Penal Reform, and supported by authors including the Poet Laureate. See a short video clip here.

The reversal came initially as a result of a successful Judicial Review brought by solicitor Samuel Genen and counsel (all acting pro-bono) -read more about that here. The High Court ruled the policy was unlawful. Gove then confirmed in July the complete relaxation of the unfair and arbitrary rules Grayling introduced. That is a victory- unlawful policies do not always lead to policy reversal -look at the vexed issue of prisoner voting.

Now we no longer have a book ban, and we now longer have Grayling despoiling the office of Lord Chancellor. So what of his successor?

Gove has said that “the most useful thing we can do is make sure prisoners are usefully employed, and improve literacy, numeracy and work skills”. Will he act or are these just “words”?

I would suggest the most useful thing Gove could do would be to reduce the prison population by crime prevention and successful rehabilitation, and reducing the numbers imprisoned for pointless short sentences for non-violent crime.  This in turn would save money, which could be redeployed to properly fund the Justice system. Government cuts to Legal aid have put our Justice system at risk. The spending cuts were ideological, deferring costs elsewhere in the system.

Grayling was a wrecker, who for what he hoped would gain him short term popularity damaged both the Criminal Justice system and an effective penal system.

Gove has a long way to go to fix these problems, but reversing the book ban was a good start.

Published on International Literacy Day, 08 september 2015

An earlier version of this article was published here in the Islington Tribune in July this year

Legal Workers Trade Union

Legal Workers’ Trade Union (guest blog by Arthur Kendrick)

Why is there a need for a legal workers union?

 Unity 

There are thousands of solicitors, barristers, legal executives, paralegals and legal administrative staff in the UK. We need one voice. Organisations like the CLSA and the LCCSA have done amazing work in fighting the cuts and organising the workforce, but fundamentally, we need one organisation that can speak for us all. We need the Legal Workers Trade Union.

 In the last week we have seen how our divided profession has allowed the government to press on with its agenda of crippling cuts to legal aid. Without a central body to stand for our common interests as legal aid practitioners, this slash and burn government will continue to divide and rule.

 Experience

 It took our profession hundreds of years to go on strike and we’ve learned a number of valuable lessons (not least which handbag to wear…), but it’s difficult to know how to minimise the collateral damage to our clients. The Legal Workers Trade Union, as a part of Unite the Union, will be able to draw on decades of experience that will help us maximise the impact of any action we take and make sure that impact is felt by those responsible.

 Working conditions

It has been only three years since LASPO, but more than thirty since Legal Aid rates have increased. Very few industries have put up with such a savage attack on pay and working conditions. With the next cut due in a matter of days, working conditions across the legal aid industry will continue to fall. We need someone in our corner.

The Legal Workers Trade Union is a movement for fair and sustainable working conditions for all employees on an equal basis across the legal sector. Too many vastly talented individuals are leaving legal aid work, and too many are fearful to enter. Still more are putting up with a gradual erosion of their working conditions, thinking there is no alternative. The LWTU will help provide independent, experienced assistance in any employer/employee negotiations and help protect your rights.

 Who can join?

 LWTU is not just for the legally qualified; our membership includes students, trainees, and pupil barristers, as well as interns and volunteers, personal assistants, legal administrative staff, paralegals, solicitors, barristers and judges.

 Why join?

 We are stronger together. Quite apart from the huge importance of a strong, central voice for the industry, workers stand to benefit in a variety of ways from union membership.

 Workers in unions tend to earn more, receive more training and have better job security. Membership of a union also gives you access to the professional assistance that can help you negotiate better employment terms, like longer paternity/maternity leave or holiday entitlement.

 Perhaps most importantly, as a member of the LWTU you will be part of the fight for fairness and equality across the industry. Even if you are lucky enough to work in a positive and progressive workplace, your membership will help empower the paralegal on less than minimum wage, the legal executive working an eighty-hour week, or the barrister earning £50 (and often much less) to spend their Saturday morning at the Magistrates’ Court.

 How to Join

 You can join Unite online at:

 https://www.unitetheunion.org/join-unite/

 If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to tweet us @Legal_TU, email us on legaltradeunion@gmail.com or take a look at our website https://legaltradeunion.wordpress.com/

We look forward to hearing from you!

 

The Football Banning Order (guest blog by Amanda Jacks of FSF)

This blog is by Amanda Jacks of the  Football Supporters Federation

What do paedophiles, terrorists and football supporters have in common? 

 The State has the power to remove their passports and in the case of supporters, they can do so in two different ways: either by application on conviction of a football related offence or by a civil application made by a Police Chief Constable to a magistrates court. 

 In both cases the surrender comes under the terms and conditions of a Football Banning Order (FBO) and occur when either the supporters’ club or country play abroad. Ahead of last year’s World Cup, passports had to be handed over to police some ten days ahead of the tournament and, regardless of how far England progressed, would be kept until it was over. It’s been calculated that if your team are in a European competition and England are playing qualifiers or friendlies, you could be without your passport for 90 days in a year. Whether you’ve ever followed club or country, outside of these shores is immaterial, it’s a blanket condition. Ahead of the recent Ireland v England friendly played in Dublin, not only did those serving FBOs have to surrender their passports, they also had to report to their local police station the morning of the match – just so the police could be doubly sure they hadn’t managed to sneak out the country.

An FBO can impose severe restrictions on movement preventing you from being within a certain radius of a football stadium (upto 5 miles) or in some cases prevent you using the rail network. Given a court has to be satisfied that granting an application for an FBO will contribute towards the reduction of football related violence, you’d be forgiven for thinking that applications on conviction are only made if a supporter has been found guilty of violent disorder or affray but it’s our experience that the police/CPS will submit an application regardless of the offence with which the supporter has been charged and whether or not they’ve got a criminal record, let alone previous convictions for football related offences. In one of the more questionable cases we’ve been involved in, a supporter was charged with missile throwing after chucking his fancy dress trousers in the air. He had a clean record yet would have faced an FBO application had he been convicted but thanks to vigorous efforts by his solicitor the charge was dropped.

 When it comes to civil applications, the Police may present evidence to the Court upto ten years old in the hope that the court will be persuaded that granting the application will prevent individuals from causing or contributing to disorder. The supporters may not necessarily have a criminal conviction. I’ve attended court on several occasions to observe proceedings and the strength of the evidence varies. In some cases, the police are able to present strong cases, including CCTV footage of fans being involved or in close proximity to disorder but in just as many cases, the applications are based on little more than association with other ‘risk’ fans and ejections from stadiums for breaking ground regulations. In fact, some of the applications beg the question why individuals haven’t been arrested and charged with a criminal offence.

When supporters are served with a civil application approach us for advice, the one thing they all have in common is the account they give when the police turn up at their doorstep with legal papers. I’ve been told time and time again that the police tell fans not to bother taking legal advice, it’ll be too costly, they won’t get legal aid, if they contest the application, it’ll cost them thousands, or the original application for a three year ban will become a five year ban. Thankfully, this “advice” isn’t always adhered to and fans contact us and are advised – free of charge – on the merit of contesting the application.

It’s a frequent boast by the authorities that FBOs have transformed the behaviour of the English fan both here abroad and played a major part in the more or less complete reduction of ugly scenes that so tarnished the reputation of our supporters. However, there are three notable academics in the field of football policing and legislation (Messrs Pearson, Stott and James) and if you read their work – all freely available online – it paints a somewhat different picture. None of them say that FBOs haven’t played their part but the true picture takes into account many other factors, primarily policing, conditions and the changing demographic of fans. They will also argue that the effectiveness of the banning order has never been properly measured.  

For whatever reason, the narrative of the authorities that banning orders work in preventing ‘hooliganism’ (let alone the draconian implications of serving a ban) is very rarely challenged by the media or even those who champion civil liberties meaning there is little scrutiny in their application. It’s also the case, again as I’ve witnessed, that the judiciary doesn’t always apply the proper tests when considering applications for Football Banning Orders. Thankfully the FSF are able to rely on an excellent legal team who will give initial advice free of charge; we can’t though prevent football fans being subjected to the same reach of the state as terrorists and paedophiles.  

Amanda.jacks@fsf.org.uk / 07703 519555

Pledge For Justice

The following pledge can be signed by any PPC in the 2016 Election if they care about Justice and support Legal Aid

LEGAL AID PLEDGE  For a just and fair society 

The most recent You-Gov poll on access to justice found that 84% of people said legal aid and a fair trial were fundamental rights. I agree!

If elected as an MP I pledge that :- 

1.    I will seek to ensure that the principle of access to justice for all will be upheld and protected

2.     I will ensure that the integrity of an independent justice system is maintained and promoted

3.    I will not support any further cuts to the legal aid budget in the next Parliament

4.    I will support a review of access to justice within the first year of a new parliament to consider the effect of cumulative cuts and changes to legal aid funding.

Signed:-

Name:-

Constituency


Notes

1 The Vote For Justice campaign was first organised by the LCCSA, for the 2015 election, and backed by Justice Campaigners and Legal Aid Supporters. It is non-Party Political, but campaigners will actively promote candidates of any party who sign (for example in Haringey at the last election, we supported Catherine West who signed the pledge, unseating incumbent Lynne Featherstone who did not)

2 See Here for covering letter inviting PPCs to sign the Justice Pledge.

 

Book Review: Sexual Offences- a Practitioners Guide (Richardson/Clark)

Book Review: 

Richardson and Clark: Sexual Offences – A Practitioners Guide  (Publ. Bloomsbury )

Many LCCSA practitioners will have benefited from the recent CPD talk “everything you wanted to know about sex but were afraid to ask”.

Richardson and Clarks book sets out not only to provide the basic information you need to know, but how to put it into practice.

LCCSA member Nigel Richardson heads the criminal department at HJA and sits as a deputy District Judge.

Peter Clark is a barrister at 187 Fleet St. who specialises in sex cases. There is no doubting their combined experience, but knowledge doesn’t always translate into a good book. 

Thankfully, this time, the authors have accomplished exactly what is set out in the sub-title: a “practitioners guide”.

This book comes at the right time. The government have confirmed their intention to enact as policy what has been a much-trailed and anticipated policy announcement relating to compulsory training for advocates undertaking sex cases. 

This development is to be welcomed, as poorly conducted cases lead to trauma for victims and witnesses, miscarriages of justice, and bring the profession into disrepute. 

The foundation of any training is knowledge of the law, procedure and practice, and this text serves as a useful refresher, a summary of current legislation and case-law, and a guide on every aspect of both litigation and case preparation.

This guide covers every aspect up to and including sentence and the new guidelines, SOPOs and the sex offenders register.

I haven’t read the book from cover to cover-it’s not that kind of book- but the guide Set out clearly, well indexed,And extensively referenced.

Any practitioners guide has to be user friendly, and I was able to put this to the test as I was reviewing this book whilst defending in a sex case at Woolwich Crown Court. 

The evidence against a Co-Defendant by the key witness departed substantially from anticipated evidence and left a question mark on whether there was a case to answer on a Sex Assault Count. The issue became whether the touching was “sexual”,  and this book had the relevant provisions in a distinct chapter (chapter 2) together with discussion and comment. It passed the test, going beyond the basic definition which Archbold provided, and led to the foundation of a submission of no case to answer.

 

Part A of the book divides the law into concepts (consent, sexual, penetration, intoxication) which are relevant to the numerous offences, each offence is then considered individually in parts B and C.

What distinguishes this from other text books and makes it truly a “practitioner” guide is the inclusion of additional topics such as how to deal with PII, medical evidence and toxicology, DNA, previous inconsistent statements and so on. 

There is also guidance for “historic” sex offences, examples of which seem to be in the news so frequently at the moment. There seems to be little prospect of using abuse of process to stay sex cases for delay, following a case the book cites from 2013 (R v RD ) where proceedings were started after a delay of 63 years. Given the difficulties for witnesses recalling facts and dates after the passage of many years (think of Rolf Harris who tried to run alibi for one charge but didn’t remember that he had ever been filmed for a TV programme in that very location at the relevant time) the  authors are understandably troubled by the prospect that a chance of acquittal may depend on whether or not a Defendant has “hoarded” a diary or documentary evidence.

The DPP has recently  issued new guidance and protocols for prosecuting historic sex cases: they are not referenced in this book and should be examined in addition by anyone advising on historic abuse. What this guide does have however is chapters dealing with offences under previous legislation such as the 1956 sex Offences Act, which need to be revisited in historic allegations.

Another subject (contributed by LCCSA member Samira Noor-Khan) as a distinct topic is police station attendances Advocates will know that often cases are won or lost in the police station, and arguably in sex cases more than others the decision whether to answer questions or make no comment has potentially huge ramifications for cases that inevitably end up before a jury. 

In the days of the “old” caution (before adverse inferences) when every adviser in almost every case advised “No Comment” raising “Consent” as an issue was considered an honourable exception. But then, as now, each case is fact specific and suspects deserve proper advice from experienced lawyers. I recently saw a firm of solicitors seeking an agent to attend a police station late at night to advise a 15 year old accused of rape. The fee offered was £100. I hope they found someone who knew what they were doing. Whoever attended, it would have done no harm to have this practitioners guide for reference, (along with Ed Cape’s indispensable guide to police stations)

Like all books, this guide is stronger in some areas than others. The section on “false statements” (and s41 YJ&CEA generally) is excellent and user friendly.

A section on “bail” by contrast is not informative, and there is for example no advice or commentary on excessive bail periods, so prevalent in sex-case investigations (and currently quote topical, with promised legislation following high-profile investigations such as Paul Gambicinni) 

I would also have liked to see a section about advocacy, particularly as a framework for the forthcoming compulsory training referred to above).

But these are minor niggles in what is generally a useful asset to the lawyers armoury:- in short a concise, practical guide to the labyrinthine legislation and the over-riding topics. 

One omission that members who attended Prof Ormerods presentation at the LCCSA conference in Alicante may spot is the case of Thompson (2014) about sexual touching (the appellant with aspergers touching a minor in circumstances where he may not have realised it to be “sexual”)

There is also no mention of the recently reported case of R v Kamki [2013] EWCA Crim 2335 which deals with lack of consent in intoxication cases, and publication was too early for an important case dealing with consent and mental capacity (Avanzi 2014). These cases and others demonstrate the area of sex-crime is ever-evolving, and only this month we learned of proposals trumpeted by the MOJ  specifically to deal with “revenge-porn” , which many of us were foolish to think was already illegal. No doubt, in due course we will need a second edition of this guide.

Until then, there should be a copy in the library of every criminal firm, and if there is not, you will have to buy your own or risk being caught out next time you are advising or representing in this area.

   

BOOK REVIEW:  CRIMINAL JUDICIAL REVIEW

A Practitioner’s Guide to Judicial Review in the Criminal Justice System and Related Areas

Publ. By HART

Various Authors (General Editor Piers con Berg)

Perhaps surprisingly, this is the first book exclusively devoted to the topic of Criminal Judicial Review.

Do we need one?

Having read this, I think the answer is yes.

Those of us who practice exclusively in criminal law know that there is JR and associated remedies, but not necessarily the range of areas that Public Law can cover, or how to properly bring a review where appropriate.

In other words, you need to spot the point, to take the point.

In an era of increasing specialism, many Criminal Practitioners retain only a hazy idea of the principles of Judicial Review, leaving JR to the “experts”, many of whom are not criminal lawyers. 

LCCSA members may therefore be interested in this book, which brings together areas of both Criminal and Public Law and presents them in a practitioner guide which should equip any practitioner to access the relevant materials and prepare the relevant arguments.

The book is thematically arranged, with topics tackled by different authors (many from 36 Bedford Row) setting out the key principles and identifying grounds arising from conduct of (amongst others) the police, the Courts and Prisons.

Judicial Review allows claims to be made against any Public Authority which has acted unlawfully, including the IPPC or even the LAA.

As members will know, the LCCSA  used JR to challenge the flawed consultation imposed on criminal lawyers by the Ministry of Justice. Although the MOJ ultimately won that at the Appeal Court, there have been ten successful Judicial Reviews against the Ministry of Justice under Grayling’s tenure.

An over-riding concept in Criminal Judicial Review is “serious abuse of power”, and the scope includes police investigations and prosecutorial decisions, as well as oversight of the Courts.  These topics are ably covered in this book.

As a practitioner guide, the book rightly covers the mechanisms for bringing JR., the forms, procedures and timetables that apply, and equally important the availability of legal aid and  the way in which cases can be billed (including costs orders). The editor makes the point that at a time of huge cuts in legal aid funding, costs in some JR cases can be claimed at commercial rates.

Commendably, the book does not steer clear of controversy, suggesting for example possible challenges following the recent appellate decision in DAVIS.

Both Counsel and solicitors have contributed and each has brought their own area of expertise.

All appear enthused by the subject, which really comes to life and takes the novice through all the relevant steps from taking instructions to grant of submission and beyond. 

The chapter on Procedure by Grainne Mellon (Garden Court) is particularly helpful.

The book has a clear and simple style, is easy to use and will meet the needs of the practitioner.

In my view it will become the “go-to” book for Judicial Review.

Modern Slavery Act – a synopsis (Guest Blog by Ben Ticehurst)

The following is a guest blog by solicitor Ben Ticehurst of  E.M.M. Solicitors  


The Modern Slavery Act 2015

 

The Modern Slavery Bill received Royal Assent on the 26th March 2015. Following the announcement of Royal Assent, Unicef Director David Bull said:

The passing of the Modern Slavery Bill into law is an historic moment in the fight against modern slavery and human trafficking. Unicef UK is proud that the UK has committed to stamping out these horrific crimes and, in particular, to protecting vulnerable children.

http://blogs.unicef.org.uk/2015/03/26/modern-slavery-bill-becomes-law-unicef-uk-statement/

Why the need for new legislation?

The Global Slavery Index 2014 reported that over 35 million people are trapped in slavery across the world today. Modern slavery takes multiple forms including forced labour and human trafficking, and is found across the economic sphere in domestic servitude, the sex trade, on farms, building sites and in factories. Many are working in terrible conditions for extremely long hours, for little or no pay, and are vulnerable to verbal and physical abuse. 

http://www.globalslaveryindex.org/

The National Crime Agency suggests that the number of victims of trafficking in the UK rose by 22 per cent from 2012 to 2013 and these numbers are continually on the rise globally as well.

http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/news/news-listings/452-nca-human-trafficking-report-reveals-22-rise-in-potential-victims

In the UK, around 60% of children rescued from trafficking have gone missing from social services. Those working as foreign domestic workers on a tied visa (about 15,000 each year), meaning that they are tied to one employer for the duration of their stay, are unable to leave their houses unaccompanied or find alternative jobs to escape abusive employers without becoming criminalised. 

Until now, there were three pieces of legislation on slavery and trafficking that are scattered, impractical and therefore difficult to use. As a result, there were only 8 convictions of human trafficking in the UK in 2011. There have been calls for the law was to be on the side of victims of slavery and trafficking and so the new Modern Slavery Bill, has been hugely welcomed as it is pivotal to ensuring victims of abuse are found, cared for and receive justice for crimes committed against them.

A Home Office spokesperson recently said the bill was 

an historic opportunity to get legislation on the statute books that will , for the very first time, address slavery and trafficking in the 21st Century”

Summary of the Act

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/lbill/2014-2015/0098/15098.pdf

The Modern Slavery Act brings together current offences of trafficking and slavery, introduces tougher sentences (up to a maximum of life imprisonment) for traffickers, and creates an independent anti-slavery commissioner, likely to be a former police officer. It contains provisions for seizing traffickers’ assets and allows for confiscation proceedings (section 7) under the Proceeds of Crime act 2002 (POCA 2002). It also allows for the channelling of traffickers money towards victims, by way of compensation payments (section 9).

It is hoped the Act will provide greater protection for victims and improve the prospects for prosecuting perpetrators

The Act includes provision to defend those that have been forced to commit crimes as victims of slavery or exploitation (section 45). This includes a defence for child victims against prosecution for crimes committed directly as a consequence of their trafficking.

The provisions to protect children are continued in that Section 48 creates ‘Child Trafficking Advocates’ who will support and represent any child that has been the victim of human trafficking. The Act also sets out a ‘presumption about age’ (section 51) which means that where is it unclear as to the age of the victim and they could be under 18 years of age then they will be treated as under 18 until it is know otherwise.

The Act will also make a development in relation to corporate responsibility and accountability in an attempt to improve transparency in supply chains (section 54). This will require companies to make a statement detailing the steps they have taken to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place within the company or supply chains, or that no such actions have been taken. This step follows the USA, Brazil and Australia who have already made efforts to address modern slavery in supply chains.

Observations

There have ben some criticisms of the Bill in that it concentrates on enforcement and prosecution of traffickers as opposed to focusing more on victim protection.

Former conservative MP Anthony Steen has said: 

the prime minister said he wants to drive slavery out of Britain; I am convinced he is committed to doing something about it, but you are not going to catch traffickers unless you have evidence, and you are not going to have any evidence unless you support the victims. The reason why we have so few convictions in Britain is that police scare the living daylights out of victims.”

Barrister Parosha Chandran has commented that the section of the bill that deals with transparency in supply chains does not extend to wholly owned subsidiaries of UK companies abroad. 

She has stated that 

“…the modern slavery bill represents a huge step forward in the development of corporate accountability. Yet we will never really begin to tackle modern slavery unless we ensure that the supply chains of all our companies, whether doing business in the UK or overseas, are not tainted by trafficking, exploitation or abuse.

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2015/mar/24/loophole-modern-slavery-bill-transparency-supply-chain-abuses

Andrew Wallis, chief executive of Unseen, a charity that works with the survivors of trafficking and modern slavery, was more inclined to be positive. 

Whilst no legislation is ever perfect it must now be matched by a concerted and collaborative effort to put the provisions of this law into full effect”.

“Many have contributed to the process of drafting this legislation and we have arrived at an

Act that the UK can and should be proud of. There is and always will be more to be done

but it was crucial that this legislation reached the statute books before this parliament ended

so that we have a good foundation upon which to build.”

http://www.unseenuk.org/uploads/20150326125647668.pdf


Grayling Day- the Save Legal Aid Demo 07/03/14

The demonstration on 07 March 2014 in support of Legal Aid in Old Palace Yard, Westminster (outside Houses of Parliament) was possibly the largest gathering of protesting Legal Aid Criminal Lawyers and Supporters ever assembled, and became known as “Grayling Day”, after the man responsible for the cuts, MP Chris Grayling.

The demo raised the profile of the fight against Legal aid cuts. Guardian report here

Legal Aid Playlist here.   Highlights in this short film on YouTube

The Fight to Save Legal Aid

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling (a butcher posturing as Lord Chancellor) introduced further cuts to Legal Aid which threatened to destroy the ability of firms or individual lawyers to properly represent clients if reliant on legal aid.
The demo was not about Lawyers livelihoods. This was about equal access to justice for all, not just those who can afford to pay privately. No action was taken to stop wealthy defendants getting Legal Aid because their assets are “restrained” so they can’t use them to pay legal fees (as Martin Bentham  pointed out here)
I had the privilege of compering the demo, organised by LCCSA and the Justice Alliance, supported by revolting lawyers, inspirational speakers, MPs, and an effigy of Grayling. Many Legal Aid Lawyers were not working on the first ever full “strike” (day of action.) Concerns about the justice system were the theme. (BBC coverage here)

A full list of speakers with a summary of their contributions HERE.

I had previously blogged about a Legal Aid day of action in the New Year, (January 2014) but this demo was the first ever full-day National day of Action (aka a strike) by Criminal Lawyers.

20140301-091255.jpg

Footnote

Sadly, a year later the fight was ongoing, and we were back again.

We  kept fighting until Grayling had his day. Chris Grayling was demoted after the election, and replaced by Michael Gove,, who was in turn replaced by Liz Truss and two further changes.

Now, with disclosure issues, further funding problems, and a prison crisis, perhaps it is time to once more gear up to fight, campaign, demonstrate and if necessary take action once again.