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The government's latest reform to the justice system appears to be an attempt to limit the use of judicial review. It includes a large increase in the fee payable for a hearing in person, a reduced time limit for bringing judicial review proceedings of planning decisions, and banning some applicants from having a hearing in person if their initial application is held to be without merit.
So, is this a necessary set of measures to prevent the abuse of judicial review and stop its use to delay immigration and planning decisions, and help economic growth into the bargain?
Or is it an attack on the rule of law which will restrict the right of citizens to challenge decisions made by the government? A great topic to stimulate debate!
Some members of the House of Lords, including the eminent Lord Pannick, think the change will actually result in an increase in applications - one to file under the law of unintended consequences? Video clip here from 8 mins 40: http://www.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/house-of-lords-22268607
This is my first post to the Law blogging section for tutor2u. I will be blogging about topics linked to AS and A level Law and in particular how you can make use of websites and e-learning to help aid your learning.read more...»
I have recently been introducing my BTEC level 2 students to the concept of sentencing and asked them what they thought about the sentencing in the UK and across the world. They gave various typical examples such as having your hands chopped off for stealing and refered to the death penalty in some states in America. I asked them to guess the sentence given to various images and cases that I had displayed and we had a good discussion of whether it was enough or was too harsh.
This is a great audio discussion on whether the quality of advocacy in the Courts has been affected by the blurring of lines between solicitors and barristers. Do lower costs make miscarriages of justice more likely? A clip would make a great discussion-starter.
Loathe as I am to blog on the subject of Mr Terry, it's a good example for new student of the differing standards of proof in civil and criminal cases - despite the argument of "victimisation" trotted out by some, er, commentators. Louis Restell has a sensible blog on this here .
The Lawyer has a piece this week on the problems the profession finds in dealing with the regulator's "black and white" approach. Some good extension material here!
Chris Grayling ousted Ken Clarke as the Minister for Justice in the recent cabinet re-shuffle. He is expected to be more right-wing - so will we see a move away from rehabilitation in sentencing, for example?
Grayling is also the first non-lawyer to hold the post since the reforms set out in the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, a move that has met with no little criticism from commentators as respected as Joshua Rozenberg , who worries, inter alia, that Grayling, as a politician apparently on the way up, may go chasing easy headlines on human rights, for example.
Definitely a situation to watch - how will the legal profession, for example, react?
The guardian has a great story to kick off a new term on the law blog. Serious implications for parliamentary sovereignty. The government has until 25 September to disclose the rules on how the veto of the Crown and the Duchy of Cornwall wielded by the Queen and Prince Charles is used. It will be fascinating to see what comes out of this - how do the Queen and Prince Charles in practice amend bills to protect their private interests?
Watch this space!
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A good way to tackle a substantive law or scenario question is to think of a little old lady. Do it now, go on. Think of the oldest, wrinkliest old lady that you can. She could look a bit like your Nan or that little old lady you see at the bus stop every morning or the woman who lives near you that tells you off every other day for bouncing a ball against her garden wall. Have you done it? Good.
Now we’re going to name this little old lady IDA and each letter of her name represents the three things that you need to do throughout your answer ...read more...»
The Gazette reports some interesting research on the impact of the Legal Services Act 2007 on the way law firms are run. Since March, firms have been able to apply for a licence to adopt an Alternative Business Structure - a change known as “Tesco Law” for the way it allows law firms to access outside funding.
The research notes that, although firms see the opportunity to obtain such funding as a “compellign reason” to become an ABS, only seven firms have in fact done so to date, with the sole “big name” being Co-operative Legal Services. Perhaps this is due to worries over loss of control, which many respondents saw as the biggest barrier to conversion to an ABS structure.
So, is the law becoming more of a profession and less of a business? Your students may wish to consider the advantages and disadvantages for both law firms and the public of this change…
After seven years in jail for a crime he did not commit, Sam Hallam was released on bail today. This case shows that miscarriages of justice are still with us, and highlights the role of the Criminal Cases Review Commission. It appears that photos on Mr Hallam’s mobile phone may have shown the jury that the alibi that he relied on was not “a concoction”.
It is also interesting to note that Mr Hallam’s exercising of the right to silence during his interview may not have helped matters.Of course, following the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 it is now possible for the jury to draw adverese inferences from this that historically it was not.
See below for a video clip. The Sam Hallam campaign website is also full of useful content.read more...»
...or so says the Gazette - the magazine for solicitors, and not exactly given to hyperbole. Plans to cut face-to-face counter services seem particularly difficult from an access to justice point of view, given the large amount of litigants in person created by the cuts to legal aid, as the Gazette points out.
Today the coalition government sets out its legislative agenda for the coming year via the State Opening of Parliament and in particular the Queen’s Speech. The Guardian has a great picture gallery to bring the pageantry to life here. Amongst the potential enactments is reform of the House of Lords, although whether this will become reality is anyone’s guess!
Equality and diversity in the legal profession continues to be a live issue, and a relevant discussion point for AS students. There’s a cracking article on the issue here, and an interesting range of views “below the line” as well!
This glossy new ad from the high street network of solicitors branded as Quality Solicitors, now backed in part by private equity firm Palamon Capital (paywall) under the new rules for Alternative Business Structures under the Legal Services Act, shows one of the potential advantages available to firms that can now raise money from outside investment. Louise Restell on the QS blog has a wider take on the significance of the ABS - seeing it as delivering choice and quality to customers. Not everyone sees it that way, however, with critics worrying over the quality and independence of advice
One of the finest minds in English legal history, Lord Bingham, passed away last year. His book, “The Rule of Law”, is essential reading, as BabyBarista explains. This giant of the English legal landscape is seen as a hero by the likes of both Shami Chakrabarti and Peter Oborne - quite a feat. As Lord Chief Justice, he was prepared to fight for the idea of the rule of law, particularly when it came to the issue of terrorism. The Independent, amongst many others, regard him as the greatest judge of his time.
For a more in-depth review of The Rule of Law, click here.
The Open Justice website is now a great resource for students to use on sentencing and, amongst other things, the proposed changes to the criminal and civil court systems.And of course there’s fab sentencing resource You Be the Judge...
It looks like the latest victim of government cuts could be the right to trial by jury for some offences that are currently triable either way. This follows a report from the Commissioner of Victims of Crime, Louise Casey, and also follows the swift justice meted out to the rioters of summer 2011. Although jury trial itself will stay, according to the government, we may see a reduction in the number of either-way offences together with an increase in the sentencing powers of Magistrates.
The proposal is much criticised, including this article and also a piece by famed QC Michael Mansfield, who calls the proposals “pathetically predictable”. Plenty for your AS students to get their teeth into!
Mr Justice Treacy’s sentencing remarks in the Stephen Lawrence case are now available to view. A fantastic source to give to the students - ask them to identify aggravating and mitigating factors referred to by the judge.
The BBC also have a good clip here from an interview prior to the sentences being passed in which a barrister explains how the judge will approach matters.
It’s also useful for illustration of the impact of Schedule 21 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 on sentencing for murder - as the offence in question was prior to this, the Act does not apply to Dobson and Norris.
A high profile case and a topic which should also provoke discussion of the aims of sentencing. See below for a brief video clip!read more...»
The fab The Bizzle has the following correspondence for us in respect of an Agreement for the Delivery of Presents. Something to brighten our mood as we mark endless mocks….
Barristers continue to do very nicely, thank you; at least at the commercial bar, where earnings in the region of £500,000 are average, and pupils are paid £65,000. However, this in turn raises the question of the impact on recruitment of quality personnel to the ranks of the judiciary, with the Chancery Division of the High Court particularly affected.
it’s probably not a good idea to mention this problem to any friends of yours at the tougher end of the criminal bar….
Another problem affecting the judiciary relates to selection of judges, and the use of veto by the Lord Chancellor - Ken Clarke, a politician, has blocked the appointment of two of the Judicial Appointment Commission’s choices for tribunal members this year, with obvious implications for judicial independence and the separation of powers.Not much point having an independent Commission if this is going to happen, you may well think.
Two stories with interlinked themes in terms of their impact on the judiciary for your students to ponder, with plenty of insight for evaluation purposes.
Fab case name, and a helpful point for A2 Contract Law students considering construction. It is well established that, in constructing the meaning of a term, the Court will take an objective approach - they will look through the eyes of the reasonable man, assuming relevant background knowledge.
In this case, the Supreme Court follows the reasoning in Schuler v Wickman. Rather than only departing from the above test only where it produces a result so extreme as to suggest it was unintended, where there are two alternative meanings, the Court will prefer the one that makes business sense, as per Lord Clarke:
If there are two possible constructions, the court is entitled to prefer the construction which is consistent with business common sense and to reject the other..
This is also a relatively short and digestible judgment for more able students to have a look at.
The ECJ has ruled that it is not permissible to patent the results of stem cell research within the EU. To do so the Court interpreted a Directive banning research that prohibits research resulting from the destruction of a human embryo widely, Article here.
A good example of the work of the ECJ in interpreting Directives, and of statutory interpretation.
The decision also poses questions from a law and morals standpoint. Will it drive research funding and jobs outside the EU, or is it an important step in preventing the privatisation of such knowledge for commercial gain?
This is a fantastic interactive resource for illustrating flows through the criminal justice system.
Are professional District Judges better than lay Magistrates? This article is perfect, based on the MoJ’s recent report. Fewer differences than you might think, apparently… perhaps get your students to list the comments on lay magistrates and District Judges made in the article, and use them for a debate!
There’s also some welcome criticism here of the old Auld report proposals for a new middle level of Court between Mags and Crown.
The European Commission is currently consulting on this idea, which EU Justice Minister Viviane Reding describes as “an historic opportunity to drive economic growth by easing the cost of cross-border transactions” and an opportunity to “make a quantum leap towards a more European contract law.”
A full range of options is on the table, from non-binding model rules to implementation via Directive or Regulation, or even as part of a fully-fledged European Civil Code, which would doubtless require a new Treaty.
Not everyone sees this idea as a boon, however. Ken Clarke has described it as an “Esperanto fallacy” and the idea is opposed by, amongst others, the Law Society, who are alive to the potential threat to UK legal firms posed by a potential European Civil Code.
This story is just full of material for law students. For example:read more...»
The Sentencing Council have released stats for Crown Court sentencing from October 2011-March 2012.
Some intersting stats to use with your students on sentencing - for example:read more...»
This is a great podcast by the BBC’s Law in Action team on public inquiries - including, topically, the inquiry into the Hillsborough disaster, and featuring some scathing criticism from Lord Falconer. Good material on miscarriages in particular and inquiries generally.
This is a fab video on how Supreme Court Justices reach their decisions, straight from the Justices themselves:read more...»
Thought provoking article by Zoe Saunders in The Lawyer on the continuing popularity of the BPTC despite the fact that the number of pupillages continues to fall. An expensive gamble at £10-15,000 per course… (via CharonQC). A good example for AS students of the uphill battle facing prospective barristers.
This is just a fantastic article for AS Law students on the Supreme Court, Appeals, Dissenting Judgments, Parliamentary Sovereignty, the Rule of Law… and the force of nature that is Lady Hale. Who will the new President of the Supreme Court be when Lord Phillips retires?
Unusually for the interweb, the comments are excellent too. Someone even mentions Factortame!
I don’t blog about Criminal Law that often, probably because I teach Contract at A2. However this story on that tabloid favourite, self defence, seems too good to miss…
Talkinf of which, there’s a cracking summary of the law in this area here by reknowned academic Gary Slapper.
is of course the highest Court in the English Legal System. This week has seen a nice example of the ECJ creating a precedent that will change matters across the continent. I’m talking, of course, about the ruling on satellite broadcasting of Premier League football brought by a Portsmouth landlady. Although the impact of the case is likely to be limited to permitting the private use of foreign broadcasts, the ruling will pose challenges to the Premier League’s ability to negotiate TV deals within individual EU states on the basis of exclusivity. A good example of the ECJ’s influence in areas such as competition law. See below for a video clip!read more...»
As AS Law students will no doubt be about to learn, a legal education can be an expensive business when you factor in the cost of a degree as well as GDL/LPC/BVC depending on your chosen route into the profession. Perhaps it’s not too surprising then to see that lawyers themselves are now arguing that the time is right for a new route into the profession in the form of Modern Legal Apprenticeships. Strangely, these almost hark back to the old days of doing your “articles” by on-the-job training. For an example, see the scheme run by prestigous firm Pinsent Masons in conjunction with ILEX - so a route to qualifying as a legal exec, but into commercial law and with the chance of a training contract always there…
Interesting news on the legal funding front as the practice of paying referral fees, whereby insurance companies, breakdown firms or car repairers sell on information to claimant solicitors, is to go. The government (and industry figures) reckon it is pushing up premiums and encouraging compensation culture (if such a thing exists….). Ths, together with the Legal Aid and Sentencing Bill which will require any success fee to be paid by the claimant rather than the defendant, amounts to a radical shift in approach which may eliminate some spurious claims. Let’s hope that cases of genuine injury are not put off claiming damages where they are due, however.
Cracking article here on what it’s like to be a duty lawyer at a police station. A good way to illustrate that being a solicitor can be a surprisingly varied job - contrast this experience with that of, say, someone working on deals in the City… or a family lawyer involved in divorce and custody battles.
The article itself is a rich source for AS law students, featuring mention of PACE, an example of an EU Directive, and also mention of the new Legal Aid Bill currently going through Parliament, which places the role of the duty lawyer under threat - in itself a great point for debate!
It looks as if the government are set to announce that sentencing (in the wake of the riots, presumably) is to be televised in future - although not the trial process itself. Nice link to the sentencing aim of denunciation. Let’s hope judicial reasoning behind sentences passed is covered properly too…!
The top 10 craziest by-laws have been named by Sutton Council as part of a battle against bureaucracy. My favourite is:
The person having control of a steam-powered whirligig will bring it to a standstill if a person becomes ill.
No more whirligigging for me then when people start looking queasy….
A nice way to brighten up this type of delegated legislation. Perhaps you could ask your students to come up with their own!
Well, plenty of discussion material for law teachers as a result of the, er, aggravated shopping that went on this summer in our major cities. Magistrates advised by clerks to toughen up… sentencing guidelines on the back burner… certainly food for thought. The riots are a clear example of an aggravating factor, but does this justify apparently inconsistently harsh sentencing? Yes, according to top Manchester judge Andrew Gilbert QC, who stated that it was “perfectly proper” to depart from sentencing guidelines in the circumstances. And depart they have - with sentences on average 25% tougher than normal and 70% of offenders jailed compared to a normal rate of 2% in the Magistrates’ Court.
Is he right, or do such sentences ultimately undermine public confidence in the fairness of the system? Former DPP Lord Macdonald thinks we need new guidelines for such situations - there’s a good discussion on Thursday’s Today Programme.
Also a good topic to prompt debate on competing sentencing objectives. Is this deterrence, or retribution? Is either approach the right one?
New ground broken in the last week as a Crown Court judge dismissed a “nobbled” jury and convicted four defendants accused of benefit fraud to the tune of £112,000.
Recorder Caroline English sitting at Wood Green Crown Court became the first judge to make use of powers under s46 Criminal Justice Act 2003 to dismiss the jury where the judge is satisfied that jury tampering has taken place and that it is fair to continue without the jury.
The thin end of the wedge for jury trial, or a sensible way of avoiding the costs of a retrial? A good case to get students thinking about balancing liberty with other considerations, and the strengths and weaknesses of jury trial.
BBC Radio 4’s Law in Action is always a good source of accessible legal analysis and a good way to deliver up-to-date content in a different way to your students. For example, you can listen to a podcast on the likely impact Ken Clarke’s sentencing reforms here. A great starter to a debate on sentencing theory and competing objectives such as public protection and rehabilitation - including a great bit with Ken Clarke in his usual relaxed tones explaining his justification for discounting sentences based on an early guilty plea after about 5 minutes.
A nice example of commencement - the Bribery Act came into force on 1st July 2011, having received the Royal Assent on 8 April 2010. It also happens to be an example of a consolidating piece of legislation, and creates new offences, including bribery of a foreign official. Guidance from the MoJ is available here. There will also be some interesting issues of statutory interpretation arising from the part of the Act referring to “carrying on a business” in relation to corporate offences under the Act.
... so says Supreme Court judge Lady Hale, highlighting concerns about the extent of the impact of the cuts on access to justice. With 18 law Centres due to close and most areas of civil work removed from legal aid, she appears to have a point. Also a nice example of the passage of a Bill through Parliament - the government’s Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill has its second reading tomorrow.
The case of juror Joanne Fraill, who has admitted contempt of court in looking up a defendant in the case she was hearing, is a great way to start a debate on the relevance (or otherwise) of juries in the internet age.
Video is below!read more...»
We have previously mentioned Ken Clarke’s planned sentencing reform - an attempt to save money by adopting more liberal penal policy, effecitvely. One particularly unpopular aspect of this has been the plan to offer sentencing discounts of up to 50%for an early guilty plea. According to papers such as the Independent, this proposal looks likely to be dropped as it doesn’t play well with voters or the Conservative party.
As the Indy notes, this will inevitably place further pressure on othe parts of the justice system. Still deeper cuts to legal aid or the Courts Service? Watch this space…read more...»
...so says The Guardian, which has seen official figures of the use of stop & search under s7 Terrorism Act (2000) at ports and airports without reasonable suspicion. Of course stop and search in the street under the Terrorism Act has been ruled unlawful by the ECHR - will this follow?
Community groups are alleging that the police are using the power to pressure people into spying on the Muslim community - video of one person’s experience here.
Lots of issues for discussion around the extent of police powers and the rule of law!
...are antiquated insitutions that can be difficult to fully convey to students. This article on the tradition of dining twleve times at an Inn might help!
R (on the application of Adams) (FC) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for Justice is a case in which the Supreme Court is set to rule on the meaning of miscarriage of justice. The primary appellant, Andrew Adams, spent 14 years in jail for a murder that he did not commit. The current position of the MoJ, according to lawyers for Barry George, another of the appellants, is that to be able to claim for a miscarriage of justice a claimant must be able to prove their innocence - not the easiest of propositions. The Court of Appeal (in the case of Andrew Adams v Secretary of State for Justice  EWCA Civ 1291) refused Adams’ claim for compensation.read more...»
Mark Johnson discusses two key sentencing themes here. A nice starter on sentencing!
The Guardian’s excellent Law pages continue to deliver the goods with this article about Lord Neuberger’s speech which contains an excellent summary of the views of the Master of the Rolls on the vexed issue of Parliamentary Sovereignty. Fantastic extension material!
The beeb have some fantastic clips on the Supreme Court here, as part of the programme “The Highest Court in the Land: Justice Makers”, which is currently available in full on iPlayer here. including the Justices explaining what happens when they cannot agree! Great for teaching dissenting judgments and A2 generally.
The Gazette has picked up some more interesting findings from the Law Society’s data. It looks like training contracts for would-be solicitors are becoming thinner on the ground, with an 18% decrease from last year’s figure of 5,809 training contracts offered down to 4,784. Although we mentioned the glass ceiling yesterday, it is interesting to note that over 60% of new entrants to the profession are women. I wonder how many will make partner in ten or years’ time or thereabouts?
In any event, competition will remain fierce, with 15,000 places on LPC courses available next year. Still, it could be worse - it could be the race for pupillage!
...says this article, which includes a neat visual representation of how the backgrounds of solicitors have become more diverse in the last decade. Numbers generally are up 36% on ten years back. As an extension, this piece notes that the glass ceiling is still very much a reality for women, with more females joining the profession but fewer making partner. In fact, 48% of men in private practice make partner compared to 21% of women.
....has arrived. In Jones v Kaney  UKSC 13 that brings the status of expert witnesses giving evidence in Court in line with Barristers (after Hall v Simons), the Supreme Court have decided that experts should no longer be afforded immunity from suit for matters arising during proceedings.
A few salient points here for A Level Law students. Firstly, this is an example of a majority verdict - the Supreme Court was split five to two. Secondly, it is an example of a decision being overruled - in this case, the Supreme Court overruling the Court of Appeal case of Stanton v Callaghan .
Thirdly, Lord Phillips in his judgment gave us an example of judges reasoning by analogy, by drawing comparisons with barristers:
“The removal of immunity for advocates had not diminished their readiness to perform their duty, nor had there been a proliferation of vexatious claims or multiplicity of actions.’
Fourthly, the ruling features dissenting judgments by Lady Hale and Lord Hope who thought matters best left to Parliament in view of the uncertain effect of the ruling.
If you’re teaching Legal Funding to your students, this site will be an excellent way of bringing home the likely impact of the Government’s proposed legal aid cuts.The site allows opponents of the cuts to leave Ken Clarke a voicemail and listen to those left by the legal great and good.
Below, Labour MP Kate Green outlines her oppostion to the cuts on video.read more...»
Lord Justice Jackson’s proposal for reform of the civil costs system, which previous allowed Claimant solicitors to charge sometimes huge success fees for cases getting anywhere near trial at colossal expense for public bodies such as the NHS, are to become law.
The system’s defendants claim that there will be an impact on access to justice as some claimants may no longer be able to afford to bring cases. However, general damages are to increase by 10% with success fees to be capped at 25% of damages in personal injury cases. This passes the burden of paying success fees to claimants rather than defendants.
As a former defendant solicitor I can see both sides of this argument. It’s clearly absurd to have a situation where defendants have to pay more in costs than damages due to success fees. However, it is also of concern that the government’s proposals may make it less economic for firms to take on some cases. Even if a case is of relatively low value, it can be greatly important to the parties.
Either way, the gravy train has left the station, and the NHS estimate that the change will save them £50m a year.
Legal Week has canvassed opinion from both Claimant and Defendant sides of the fence - a useful resource to bring home to your students the differing points of view on this topic.
Interesting article here on the white and predominantly male make-up of the Supreme Court which shows no sign of changing with the forthcoming appointment of two more, er, white male judges. Does it matter? Should the judges be more representative of those whom they judge?
A good resource for starting off a lesson on judges.
This story about BP, Russian oligarchs and a $16bn contract that now lies in tatters is a good example of an arbitration procedure, originating (presumably) from a Scott v Avery clause. As your students will know, the arbitrator’s decision is legally binding on the parties under s58 of the Arbitration Act 1996 - in contrast to the outcomes of other forms of ADR such as mediation and conciliation.
The government has launched a Commission to consider the case for a British Bill of Rights which will incorporate and build upon our existing obligations on the ECHR. Of course, as it stands judges must interpret domestic law so that it accords with Convention rights following the Human Rights Act 1988
forsees deadlock, with the Commission split down the middle between reformers and defenders of the ECHR.
Interesting that also within the Commission’s terms of reference is reform of the ECtHR itself.
The Bar Council’s new mini-site aims to promote diversity amongst Barristers.It includes some good video content aimed at school students as well as undergraduates. It also has some good basic information on the difference between solicitors and barristers.
The Graun has a good article on what it considers to be the Minstry of Justice’s misleading statistics on legal aid here. They think 650,000 people will be affected. A really relevant story that has links to topics including legal funding, civil and criminal courts, and access to justice. The Legal Action Group, upon whose report the article is based, can be read here
Not good days for everyone being equal before the law if they are correct!
...to address inequality in the legal profession, or so says Law Society President Linda Lee, in the week of International Womens Day. Food for thought when discussing the profession generally, and the training routes into it.
...is a new six-part BBC drama about life at the Bar starring Maxine Peak and Rupert-Penry-Jones. First episode here. Doubtless full of useful stimulus material for teaching the legal profession.
The series’ author, Peter Moffatt talks about it here.
Leave a comment - did you rate it or not, and why? Any useful bits for students?
Great article here on a successful challenge by Councils to the Government’s plans to scrap the Building Schools for the Future scheme - labelled by the judge as an “abuse of power”. The root cause seems to have been a failure to consult - procedural ultra vires. There’s another report here.
Although this may not mean an ultimate change to the decision, it looks set to lead to some heft compensation payouts to the schools and Councils left in the lurch to the tune of millions spent on preparation of projects when the plug was abruptly pulled. There’s a video detailing the impact of the decision in one local area here.
Lord Phillips, the Lord Chief Justice, has gone on the record in order to express his concerns at the impact of funding cuts on the independence of the Supreme Court, and has commented that the Court is dependent on monies that it can persuade the Ministry of Justice to give it.
Much to discuss with students here around issues of judicial independence and separation of powers.
Meanwhile, the government insists it remain committed to the concept of judicial independence.
There is a good Q&A on the Supreme Court for students here.
Auction House is a really good activity that will get your students’ competitive juices flowing.
Click here to download Auction House on Criminal Courts.
...is the view of Tory MP and Legal Aid solicitor Helen Grant (pictured above) on the coalition’s plans for the funding of legal cases. In this excellent article , Grant discusses the implications for access to justice of the £350 million pounds’ worth of cuts coming to the Legal Aid budget. The Green Paper under discussion in Parliament today will make this happen by 2014. A good starting point to debate the importance of legal aid with your AS students - and the Green Paper being debated today may be a helpful example for those of you studying the legislative process.
Providers including the College of Law and Queen Mary’s are set to offer a two-year LLB degree in the latest shake-up to legal education. As tuition fees rise and economic growth continues to look uncertain, this seems an understandable move. However, concerns over quality will doubtless be raised, Fees (in the region of £9,000 from some providers) have traditionally discouraged domestic students from enrolling on such courses in the past, but as fees go up across the board, this may no longer be the case.
This excellent article questions whether deterrent sentences can ever be justified, using the cases of Edward Woollard, the student who threw a fire extinguisher from the top of Millbank Tower during the student protests, and of Anton Ward and Javir Hull by way of example. The latter pair were convicted of violent disorder after a shocking attack on their victim in the street. If you can stomach it, the Manchester Evening News have it on video here. The article makes the point that Woollard may have received a deterrent sentence in comparison to Ward and Hull due to the high-profile nature of his case.
A truly excellent article and discussion piece for students of sentencing.
For a clip relating to Edward Woollard, see below:read more...»
This morning’s Today Programme on Radio 4 carried a good little dicussion on the merits of Judicial Review. A nice lesson starter on the topic, but hurry - it’ll only be around for a week. Clip is at about 1hr 32mins or thereabouts!
Wipeout Challenge is a fantastic interactive game that makes for an exciting starter or plenary. Click on the link below to download - the topics covered are the Legal Profession, Juries, and Magistrates.
There’s a great profile of the life of a legal adviser for students here. Useful for two things - firstly, for students to consider the impact of funding cuts on legal services, and secondly as an example of a specific legal career path to help your students think beyond the usual favourites (the City and crime, for example?).
Here is the latest edition of our Law Quiz, with ten questions on law in the news last week.
This really is an excellent resource which illustrates in compelling fashion the role of the probation service using video clips and a great interactive section where students can choose the questions to interview offenders. They then have to complete an assessment of the risks of harm and reoffending posed by the offender, leading students ultimately to consider which sentencing aims should be prioritised.
For teaching purposes, the best bit is perhaps where students are asked to complete a sentencing recommendation to the court.
This brings the various types of sentence nicely into play as students have to consider the various alternatives and come up with a sensible recommendation, which can then be compared to the “real” sentence. All in all a top teaching resource!
One prison in Leeds is working hard at reducing reoffending rates amongst its inmates serving short sentences. The MoJ website has details here. A nice story to use with students to illustrate one of the aims of sentencing in action - particularly as the current Home Secretary casts around for ways of cutting the prison population.
Positive Futures as a whole has been around for a decade or so now, and the Youth Justice Board has an impact report from 2005 with some stats on its effectiveness.
Such schemes are also now provided via private funding, and no doubt this option will be embraced further by the current government as things progress. Manchester’s Choose Change project is one such example which has slashed reoffending rates.
Following the decision of the judge in the Julian Assange bail hearing to allow live “tweeting” from Court, those people stubbornly clinging to the view that twitter is only for self-obsessed celebrities tweeting about what they had for breakfast really are going to have to rethink. Twitter has now made it as far as the Lord Chief Justice himself. Lord Judge has issued interim guidance on the matter which appears to permit the use of twitter in Court as long as it does not “interfere with the administration of justice”.
...although the public face of Wikileaks remains in custody pending an appeal by the Swedish government.
Liveblog of today’s proceedings here.
A great scenario to give to AS students looking at bail…
Ken Clarke published the Government’s Sentencing Green Paper this week. Amongst other things, the proposals are to introduce a unified sentencing regime for all offenders, and to repeal various pieces of legislation that Labour never got around to bringing into force when they were in power. Also, a reduction in sentence of up to 50% for an early guilty plea may be permitted.
Also on the table is a significant reduction in the prison population partly by cutting the use of remand, and partly by increased use of community sentencing using private sector providers. We may also see the removal of minimum term sentences for murder, giving judges much more discretion.
Of course, a Green Paper is a consultative document, and interested parties can comment online as part of the MoJ’s “Breaking the Cycle” campaign. A good story for teaching legislative process, sentencing and law reform, all in one go!
Can’t believe I’ve not got round to blogging about this yet. As you may be aware, a chap called Paul Chambers sent what he says is a joke message to his girlfriend on Twitter. It read as follows:
“Cr**! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your sh** together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!”. (Asterisks are mine, by the way).
The tweet was apparently a reaction to the airport’s closure preventing Mr Chambers from seeing his girlfriend.
He was prosecuted under s127 Communications Act 2003 for improper use of [a] public electronic communications network, found guilty by Doncaster Magistrates’ Court, and fined. He also lost his job as a result.
This case, decided recently in the Supreme Court, makes useful reading for Contract Law students.
The court can consider the objective facts of the parties pre-contractual negotiations when trying to work out the true intentions of the parties - nd now, it appears, even those negotiations entered into on a “without prejudice” basis.
Afua Hirsch of the Guardian interviews the Justice Secretary on the Magna Carta, civil liberties and human rights here.
Here is the latest edition of The Law Quiz with 10 questions on recent law news stories
Here are ten more questions on law in the news from the last seven days.
A being considered as having “decisive weight” for the first time. There is so much in this story for law teachers - it’s an example of original precedent, can be argued to be judicial activism (should this have been left to Parliament?), law reform, and so on.
For those of us teaching Contract Law at A2 there is also a lot to ponder. Is a pre-nup not a classic example of a social and domestic agreement? Does this decision prioritise freedom to contract at the expense (potentially) of protecting the weaker party? Does it make matters more or less certain? Does this area of law need codification now?
There is of course the rider that, if unfair, a pre-nup may not be legally binding - but that is no longer the presumption. The court says it will consider matters looking at fairness on a case-by-case basis. However - is this a charter for the rich to pressure those less well-off into contracting out of the jurisdiction of the family courts, or should we allow consenting adults the freedom to contract as they see fit?
It will be interesting to see what the Law Commission make of all this when they report in 2012!
What will it do to access to justice if free legal advice on areas such as Housing Law, Welfare Advice, and Debt - issues which affect the poorest in our society - are removed from the legal aid budget?
Can this ever be replaced by the “Pro Bono Society”, as it isn’t called?
Many thanks to Andy Howells for coming up with the questions and idea for the launch edition of The Law Quiz - our new quiz on the law-related news. Ten questions - can you get them all right?
Great story for information on Civil Courts, This article is full of material on civil courts and appeals and can be read in conjunction with the following worksheet:read more...»
This story is potentially massive in terms of the implications for police powers and the rule of law.
Great discussion starter. Are we balancing liberty and security? What would these proposals do to any such balance? Are the police attempting to put themselves beyond the rule of law, or just trying to become more efficient and effective?
Good old Greenpeace. When a law teacher needs an interesting story for their students, up they pop. From Leila Dean Custard Queen (pressure groups) to the Kingsnorth Six (jury equity), Greenpeace are a little goldmine of legal usefulness. So not only are they saving the planet, they are (hopefully) inspiring law students to boot!
This time it’s another example of a situation with the potential for judicial review - namely the coalition government’s plans to allow deep sea drilling of the Shetland Islands. A great story for dealing with the rule of law, ultra vires, separation of powers etc.
See below for an short clip showing Greenpeace’s protests in the Shetland Islands.read more...»
Great story here about the Magistrate who fell asleep during a criminal trial. Removed from the magistracy by the Lord Chancellor. Good one to remind your students that Mags can be removed and compare/contrast with the superior judiciary in particular.
From the 4th October 2010, acts or omissions are now subject to s52 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.
The Law Gazette explains this in more detail, but a key change appears to be the reference to “abnormality of mental functioning” as an update to the law on diminished responsibility - potentially opening the door to a whole new category of cases.