The Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet died aged 91 this month

Thursday 21 December 2006 at 10:54 pm | In News | 1 Comment

In December 1998 the House of Lords voted in favour of Pinochet’s extradition to answer torture charges against Spanish citizens; two voted against three voted for, including Lord Hoffman.
However, Lord Hoffmann had failed to disclose that since 1990 he had been an unpaid director of Amnesty International Charity Limited and his wife Gillian had worked for Amnesty for 21 years.
Amnesty had campaigned for Pinochet to be brought to justice and because of Hoffmann’s links; the Law Lords’ decision was set aside.

Reversing a House of Lords judgment in this way was unprecedented; reversing is normally exercised by a higher court over the judgment of a lower court.

Eventually the Law Lords ruled that Pinochet should face extradition. But in March 2000 the then Home Secretary, Jack Straw ruled that Pinochet should be released on medical grounds. He returned to Chile. Pinochet ruled the South American country from 1973 when he seized power in a military coup during which elected president Salvador Allende was killed. He remained in power until 1990.
Between 1973 and 1990 more than 3,000 Chileans were killed and thousands tortured. He was arrested in London in 1998 but he avoided lengthy attempts to extradite him to Spain to answer torture charges against Spanish citizens.

Baroness Thatcher remained loyal to Pinochet and pressed for his release after his arrest in London in 1998 because he alone had remained loyal to the UK during the Falkland Campaign. Margaret Thatcher would not have spoken up for him if she had believed him a monster in any event the legal case against him was weak and the motivation of those involved suspect.

UK Statute Law now freely available

Wednesday 20 December 2006 at 11:15 pm | In News | Post Comment

For the first time an official, authoritative online database of revised UK primary legislation is available free of charge to the public, the Department for Constitutional Affairs announced today.

The Statute Law Database can be found at

Baroness Cathy Ashton said:
“Citizens should have access to the laws of the land by which they are governed. The Statute Law Database provides an authoritative and easy-to-use historical database of UK statute law. I hope it will be welcomed as a useful tool for professionals who need to keep up with changes to the law as well as those who simply have an interest in historic and current legislation.” The database offers users a range of advanced search and navigation functions across over 30,000 items of UK primary and secondary legislation. The database contains primary legislation that was in force at 1 February 1991 and primary and secondary legislation that has been produced since that date.”

An amazing resource but the database must be treated with respect; for example the Industrial Tribunals Act 1996 was renamed the Employment Tribunals Act but finding which act made the amendment takes skill. Similarly, tracking down which articles were added to the police power of stop and search leads to “any article to which subsection (8A) below applies” which is not terribly helpful further research is only for the brave. In the same section it is also easy to miss is “(e) offences under section 1 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 (destroying or damaging property)”. The amendments to burglary have not yet been made and so they have missed out: “In section 9 of the Theft Act 1968 (burglary), in subsection (2) omit “or raping any person” (removed by the Sexual Offences Act 2003). So, beware you have been warned.
For students a good text book does it for you and you are not likely to need this otherwise wonderful resource.

Sir David Edmond Neuberger

Thursday 14 December 2006 at 10:58 pm | In News | Post Comment

Lord Justice Neuberger is to become the country’s youngest Law Lord at the age of 58. He replaces Lord Nicholls who retires in January.  At 61 Lady Hale was previously the youngest Law Lord.

Neuberger LJ, was called to the bar in 1974, took silk in 1987, became a High Court judge in 1996 and Court of Appeal judge in 2004. Neuberger’s rise in the judiciary is one of the quickest. Lord Hoffmann spent 2 years in the Court of Appeal and Lord Saville three years before their elevation to the Lords.

Law making to watch, if it happens

Thursday 7 December 2006 at 12:02 am | In News | Post Comment

The Chancellor, in his pre-budget speech threatened to pass retrospective legislation to ensure the treasury did not lose billions of pounds in wrongly paid tax. The government recently lost a claim in the House of Lords in Deutsche Morgan Grenfell Group Plc v HMC of Inland Revenue, the proposed legislation will reverse the judgment.  This is law making with a vengeance and will be fun to watch, we predict that banks and companies will not take this lying down.

MURDER, MANSLAUGHTER AND INFANTICIDE Project 6 of the Ninth Programme of Law Reform: Homicide November 2006

Monday 4 December 2006 at 9:37 pm | In News | Post Comment

A huge report covering most of the homicide matters, in a nutshell says:
The law governing homicide in England and Wales is a rickety structure set upon shaky foundations. Some of its rules have remained unaltered since the seventeenth century, even though it has long been acknowledged that they are in dire need of reform.

A new Act should replace the Homicide Act 1957.
There should be, for the first time, clear and comprehensive definitions of the homicide offences and the partial defences. In addition, the new Act should extend the full defence of duress to the offences of first degree and second degree murder and attempted murder, and improve the procedure for dealing with infanticide cases.

Structuring the general homicide offences should be guided by the ‘ladder’ principle. Individual offences of homicide should exist within a graduated system or hierarchy of offences. This system or hierarchy should reflect the offence’s degree of seriousness, without too much overlap between individual offences. The main reason for adopting the ‘ladder’ principle follows is as Lord Bingham speech in R v Coutts [2006] HL that defendants should neither over-convicted nor under-convicted.  

Other recommendations include: First degree murder Second degree murder Manslaughter Partial Defences reducing first degree murder to second degree murder.

If you must the full report is here

Literal Approach 1 Purposive Approach 0

Saturday 2 December 2006 at 10:24 am | In News | Post Comment

Bolton School v Evans [2006] CA (Civil Division)
[Statutory Interpretation – purposive approach]
D employed Mr Evans as a technology teacher. He was dismissed from his job after he hacked into the school’s computer system to demonstrate that security was inadequate. Before doing so he informed the head of the department. He was given a formal warning for hacking into the system. He resigned and claimed constructive unfair dismissal. He claimed he had made a protected disclosure under the Employment Rights Act. Mr Evans argued that his the course of conduct as a whole should be regarded as an act of disclosure and accordingly the hacking into the computer system had been part of the protected disclosure.

Held: Disclosure was a common word and Parliament did not intend to add some special meaning to the word. The tribunal’s approach was wrongly based on a purposive interpretation of the legislation and not based on the wording of the statute.

D won

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