Unique powers to police bedrooms

Tuesday 30 December 2008 at 6:07 am | In News | Post Comment
Critics of a new law banning “extreme” pornography say that legislation starting this month forbidding the possession of “an extreme pornographic image” will criminalise thousands of previously law-abiding people who have a harmless taste for unconventional sex.

Section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 comes into force on 26 January and makes owning offending pictures a criminal offence punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment.  An image is deemed to be extreme if it “is grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character” and portrays in any way an act which threatens a person’s life, or which results or appears likely to result in serious injury to someone’s genitals or breasts.

The definition of bestiality and necrophilia do not appear to present a problem (and are illegal acts already) but other definitions are so vague that even images of consenting adults engaging in fictional violence will now be outlawed, giving Britain the toughest anti-porn laws in Europe.

The Consenting Adult Action Network (Caan) plan to burn their pornography collections outside Parliament.

The law was passed after a campaign by Liz Longhurst whose daughter, Jane, was strangled by Graham Coutts in 2003. During his trial, Coutts said he had a fixation with asphyxiation porn and necrophilia. A petition started by Mrs Longhurst to outlaw violent pornography garnered 50,000 signatures.

The Bill went through the Commons unchallenged and only in the House of Lords was there any significant opposition. Baroness Miller, the Liberal Democrat peer, argued that the legislation would justify the Government “walking into people’s bedrooms and turning them into criminals simply for viewing something”.

Enthusiasts of gothic horror and burlesque shows – which often feature pseudo-violence such as fake knives and participants covered in mock blood, say they are concerned that their artistic creativity will be stifled.

Nuisance or disturbance on NHS premises

Monday 29 December 2008 at 9:19 am | In News | Post Comment
Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 (Commencement No 5) Order 2008

From 1 January 2009 it is an offence to make a nuisance or disturbance on NHS premises in England

"Exemplary" judge resigns after serious error of judgment

Tuesday 23 December 2008 at 10:49 pm | In News | Post Comment

The 62-year-old  Recorder of Birmingham, Judge Frank Chapman, has resigned after admitting a “serious error of judgment” by phoning a prosecution lawyer outside court, after a stressful week.

The defendant in the sexual offences trial will be retried in January.

 Judicial office holders must always fulfil the very highest standards of practice and conduct

The Lord Chief Justice and Lord Chancellor

News story here

Two years for pretending to be a barrister

Monday 22 December 2008 at 4:15 pm | In News | Post Comment

Ian Clegg the first man to be convicted of the new offence of impersonating a barrister turns out to be a convicted fraudster with needed long-term barrister_diversitypsychological treatment.

Passing a two year jail sentence, Judge Esmond Faulks said that Clegg was a compulsive liar who

“wanted to appear more important than you are. That’s your primary motive, rather than trying to feather your own nest.”

He bought his wig and gown on eBay.

News report here

Facebook used to serve Legal papers

Monday 22 December 2008 at 3:54 pm | In News | Post Comment

A lawyer in Canberra, Australia used Facebook to serve legal papers on a couple, after  several attempts to reach them failed.  They had missed payments on a loan for £44,000.  It is believed to be the first time Facebook has been used in this way.facebook

The lawyer, Mr McCormack resorted to using Facebook after the couple failed to attend a court appearance in October. Having found the woman’s page, he used details listed there such as her date of birth to argue in the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court that she was the person in question. Her partner was listed as one of her “friends”.

Australian courts have, in the past, granted permission for people to be served with legally binding papers via email or even text message but this is the first time they have allowed the use of Facebook,

Young black people and the criminal justice system – first annual report

Sunday 21 December 2008 at 8:28 pm | In News | 1 Comment

The Ministry of Justice refers to the levels of crime involving young black people as “the over-representation of young black people in the criminal justice system”.  Young black people represent fewer than 3% of all 10-17 year olds but constitute 6% of those within the youth justice system—a figure which has remained constant for the past five years.

The Home Affairs Select Committee published on 15 June 2007 the report of its inquiry ‘Young Black People and the Criminal Justice System’.

The government published its formal response on 18 October 2007. Detailed proposals for the delivery of improved outcomes for young black people were published on 13 December 2007, which set out the governance and reporting arrangements for delivering the government’s commitments.

One of the commitments made was to provide the committee with an annual report of progress in each year up to 2011. The first annual report is here, Young black people and the criminal justice system – first annual report.

Related links

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (Codes of Practice) (Revisions to Code A) (No. 2) Order 2008

Sunday 21 December 2008 at 10:43 am | In News | Post Comment

This Order brings into operation on 1 January 2009 the revision of paragraph 4 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 Code of Practice.

It regulates the exercise by police officers of statutory powers of stop and search and police officers and police staff of requiremen

ts to record public encounters (“PACE Code A”).

The Order also brings into operation the clarification in paragraphs 2.2 and 2.3 of Code A regarding reasonable suspicion not being based on single factors alone.

Paragraphs 4.10A and 4.10B of PACE Code A are also amended to clarify the position on providing receipts for stops and searches.

The revision of paragraph 4 of PACE Code A (recording requirements including recording of encounters not governed by statutory powers), together with the consequential deletion of Annexes D and E will mean that constables will no longer be required to record all encounters not governed by statutory powers.

The constables will only need to record information on the ethnicity of a person whois the subject of such an encounter. A receipt will also be made available to the person.

Family courts to be more open

Saturday 20 December 2008 at 11:14 pm | In News | Post Comment

From April, journalists will be allowed to attend and report on all divorce, custody and care proceedings unless specifically excluded.

There have been too many examples of where the secrecy has led to questionable decisions, and the secrecy has allowed certain statements to be made in the family courts which would have been instantly questioned had they been made in public courts which had been open to media coverage. For example, in a case in 2006 a child was taken into care for 14 months based on evidence that was all later declared “misleading, incomplete or wrong”, but where the council and the team leader of the case were never named.

The Times newspaper claimed credit for Straw’s decision to open the family courts to journalists, and said today it has “campaigned vociferously” for the change, “arguing that keeping the media out of certain courts has led to miscarriages of justice.”
Straw credited The Times for having brought the issue to his attention

“more graphically than it otherwise would have done”.

Barristers’ details stolen – all of them

Thursday 18 December 2008 at 11:22 am | In News | Post Comment

The contact details and data records of all practising barristers in England and Wales have been stolen.

The data was taken during a burglary at the central London offices of the Bar Council.

See BBC report here.

Court of Appeal rules on witness anonymity

Saturday 13 December 2008 at 7:03 pm | In News | Post Comment

lord_judge The court of Appeal has given guidance on when anonymous evidence can be given so that the most violent and dangerous criminals can be brought to justice.

Parliament passed the Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Act 2008 in July to protect witnesses following a Law Lords’ ruling in June.  The Law Lords ruled that a fundamental principle of English law was that an accused should be able to see their accusers and challenge them.  The June ruling led to the collapse at the Old Bailey of a £6m murder trial, which is to be retried next year.  The Crown Prosecution Service identified 580 cases involving anonymous evidence which could have be threatened by the ruling.

The Act has its limitations. This week he Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge sitting with a specially convened court of 5 appeal judges said the Act did not extend to statements of witnesses being read out in their absence.  Lord Judge said the “stark reality” was that the Act did not deal with the problem of those people who were too frightened even to attend court.

He said the Court of Appeal was effectively being asked to re-write the Act which is something Parliament should do.

Full judgment, here

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