House of Lords closes on controversial note

Friday 31 July 2009 at 4:48 pm | In News | Post Comment
Supreme Court (House of Lords)
The House of Lords will be replaced by the Supreme Court

Supreme Court (House of Lords)

Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions, must “promulgate” a policy stating in which circumstances he would prosecute in assisted dying cases, according to yesterday’s Law Lords’ ruling.

Debbie Purdy, 46, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, had asked the House of Lords to order prosecutors to say whether they would charge her husband if he took her to the Swiss clinic Dignitas.

The Lords ruled that the law on assisted suicide interferes with the right to respect a private life under the European Convention on Human Rights, their ruling was unanimous.

This does not open the gates to assisted suicide; it is possible that the prosecuting authorities will draw up guidelines to prosecute a family member who assists another as has been happening in increasing frequency

One of the most high-profile assisted suicide cases concerned the former BBC music conductor Edward Downes and his wife, Joan Downes who died together at the Dignitas clinic earlier this month.

Not one of the 115 people reported to have assisted people to kill themselves at Dignitas has been convicted of assisting a suicide.

The CPS has stated that an interim policy would be in place by the end of September, followed by a public consultation on permanent rules, which could be ready in the first half of next year.

The ruling was the last by the Law Lords who start their summer recess today. The House of Lords Judicial Committee will be replaced in October by the Supreme Court. Over 600 years of British history and tradition ended with the decision. The House of Lords has been operating as a court since 1399. Prior to that the full Parliament could weigh cases. While the House of Lords has kept separate judicial and legislative functions since 1876, the two were not physically divided.

“Happy Birthday Legal Aid”

Thursday 30 July 2009 at 9:39 am | In News | Post Comment
Legal Aid pays for lawyers
Legal Aid pays for lawyers
Legal Aid will be 60 years old at 11.47am today, the moment the Legal Aid and Advice Act was created in 1949.

Legal Aid was part of the post war welfare reforms and until that date, access to justice for most people depended on charity, self-help and pro-bono lawyers.

Today, legal aid helps more than 2 million people each year and costs £2 billion.

The scheme is run by the Legal Services Commission (LSC), and is the best-funded state legal system in the world: the Government spends £38 per head of population on legal aid.

Legal aid provides legal advice, help and representation through solicitors, brristers and advice agency advisers. It includes advice at a police station on arrest, settling a childcare dispute, help and with debt.

* Over quarter of a million people involved in family disputes,
* Around 125,000 people with housing problems,
* Over 90,000 people struggling with debt,
* Around 18,000 people suffering domestic abuse, and,
* Over 90,000 people seeking the welfare benefits which they are entitled to.

History made by Lord Clarke, the first supreme court justice

Friday 24 July 2009 at 11:54 am | In News | Post Comment
Lord Clarke MR
Lord Clarke, the outgoing Master of the Rolls, is the first person to be appointed as a supreme court justice, taking up his post on October 1.  He is not a Law Lord.

Clarke, who was created a life peer in April, is however, eligible to sit in the House of Lords, even though he is not one of the 12 law lords.  Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice can also sit as a Law Lord as Lord Woolf did.

The law lords sit for the last time this week.

All 12 law lords become justices of the supreme court on October 1.

Lord Neuberger is new Master of the Rolls

Friday 24 July 2009 at 11:41 am | In News | Post Comment
Lord Neuberger
Lord David Neuberger has been appointed as the new Master of the Rolls, succeeding Lord Anthony Clarke.

Neuberger will become the ninety-fifth Master of the Rolls on 1 October this year when Clarke joins the Supreme Court after a four-year term.

Neuberger’s rise to the second-highest judicial post in the country – after the Lord Chief Justice – has been one of the fastest ever, having become the country’s youngest law lords in 2006 at the age of 58 after only two years at the Court of Appeal. He was called to the Bar in 1974.

The post of Master of the Rolls was initially a that of a clerk who looked after the records of the Chancery which were written on parchment, and the first recorded Master dates back to 1295.

National Court to have final say on EU law

Friday 17 July 2009 at 8:14 am | In News | Post Comment
On 30th June 2009 German judges ruled that although the Treaty of Lisbon is compatible with Germany’s constitution, they should have the final say on interpretation of EU law.

The effect would be to allow Germany’s highest Court to overturn judgments by the European Court of Justice (see Frei für den nicht gewerblichen Gebrauch. Kommerzielle Nutzung nur mit Zustimmung des Gerichts. 30th June 2009).

A translation of the accompanying Press Release includes (at para c) the following:

“The authorisation to transfer sovereign powers to the European Union …… is …… granted under the condition that the sovereign statehood of a constitutional state is maintained on the basis of a responsible integration programme according to the principle of conferral and respecting the Member States’ constitutional identity, and that at the same time the Federal Republic of Germany does not lose its ability to politically and socially shape the living conditions on its own responsibility”.

The European Commission fears the judgment could undermine “the European project” as it raises the issue of the competence of the European Union and principle of subsidiarity (EU Observer, 16th July 2009 “Brussels expresses concern at Germany’s court judgement”).

The end of the House of Lords Appellate committee

Thursday 16 July 2009 at 9:08 pm | In News | Post Comment
Committee Room 1 illustrating its smallness

Today in Committee Room 1 of the House of Lords, Baron Pannick, of Radlett (previously known as David Pannick QC) was involved in the case of Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay (the fabulously rich philanthropists) who argue that the unelected position of Sark’s Seigneur and Seneschal’s roles in Chief Pleas breach article three of the first protocol to the convention – the obligation to hold free elections under conditions which will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature.

The case in the House of Lords had the excitement of folding plain paper. It was boring in the extreme and witnessed by a small handful of people. So what? It was the end of 800 years of history. It is probably the last case that will be heard by the Law Lords before they rise for the summer; when they come back they will metamorphose into Justices of the Supreme Court. This historic event more or less clashed with the opening of the new Supreme Court – over the road – for viewing by the press. The papers this morning all contained the story of the new court but it appears not even the Guernsey Press reported the thrust of legal argument in Committee Room 1.

It is recognised that the first paragraph of this post is totally incomprehensible to most people which is why Lord Pannick earns breathtaking fees because he does. The point is, the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords has no more work scheduled.

The Guardian The Guernsey Press David Pannick Wiki entry

Online database identifies serial employment tribunal litigants

Wednesday 1 July 2009 at 8:35 am | In News | Post Comment
The Law Society Gazette – 18 June 2009 notes that a new website is being set up to record details of serial litigants at employment tribunals.

The site will be at www.serial-­ (still ‘under construction’ at date of writing – 1 July 2009). It is being set up by solicitor Gordon Turner and barrister Damian McCarthy.

Mr Turner told the Law Society Gazette about:

“………….. a serial litigant who has filed about 50 claims for age discrimination at tribunals throughout the country, including one against a client of mine. The litigant tells me he is earning good money because many employers prefer to settle rather than spend time and money defending the claim. The irony is, the litigant doesn’t even apply for the jobs – he just puts in the claim.”

See also emplaw web-updater of 27th November 2008 “The woman who netted £100,000 by making 22 claims of ageism”.

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