Effectiveness of terrorism laws questioned as terrorism charges fall 80% over same period

Tuesday 30 November 2010 at 7:03 am | In News | Post Comment

It emerged last month that no one stopped and searched under anti-terrorism laws last year went on to be arrested for suspected terrorist offences despite police using the power more than 100,000 times.

A total of 12 suspects were charged under counter-terrorism laws in 2009/10 compared with 54 in 2006/07. Of those, only five were prosecuted and three convicted, compared with 47 prosecutions and 32 convictions in 2006/07.

Report, Daily Telegraph, 26 November 2010, pg 18

New and compelling evidence needed for retrial

Tuesday 30 November 2010 at 6:57 am | In News | Post Comment

CPS Southampton v Whittle CA (2010)
[Criminal law- Murder - retrial]
D, who had been acquitted of murder, years later, in a drunken stupor, walked into a police station and purportedly confessed.

Held: The material relied upon did not provide evidence of substantial or probative value to comply with the statutory requirements for a retrial under s 76 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003. The case was distinguished from R v Dunlop [2007] 1 All ER 593 which had involved a carefully structured statement of a confession and where the confession was resoundingly supported by the accused person’s own admission that he was guilty of perjury.

The application by the Crown for a retrial was refused.

Sweeping changes of lawyers’ training

Tuesday 30 November 2010 at 6:27 am | In News | Post Comment

Pressure mounted for sweeping reform of the education and training of lawyers this week, as regulators announced a root-and-branch review of the current framework.

The review was unveiled as research seen by the Gazette suggested that there are currently three times more final-year law students who want to become solicitors than there are places available. Another study this week recommended the abolition of the training contract.

Gazette article here

Monday 22 November 2010 at 1:43 pm | In News | Post Comment
Lord Neuberger Master of The Rolls
Lord Neuberger the Master of The Rolls has warned that mediation ‘cannot be a substitute for justice’. His view does not appear to be in line with government proposals to replace many legal aid-funded cases with ADR soluctions, especially for private family law cases..

Lord Neuberger said,

‘If we expand mediation beyond its proper limits as a complement to justice, we run the risk of depriving particular persons or classes of person of their right to equal and impartial justice under the law.

‘It is an elementary constitutional proposition that the civil justice system is part of the third branch of government – hard though it sometimes seems to be for some people in the other two branches, the legislature and the executive, to grasp.

‘… The courts system is part of the state itself. To suppose the civil justice system is by nature a provider of services to consumers akin to a dispensing chemist, a shoe shop, a train operator and so on, is fundamentally – and dangerously – wrong.’

Monday 22 November 2010 at 7:36 am | In News | Post Comment

*R v C  [2010] (CA)
[Expert evidence - DNA]

D was alleged to have raped V at her house many years previously.  No DNA profiles were obtained from swabs taken at that time. Advances in DNA technology led to a further analysis of the swabs.  The quantity of the sample was below 50 picograms and D claimed the random (stochastic) effects were likely to be considerable.    The stochastic threshold of 100 to 200 picograms was established in Reed and another; R v Garmson[2009].
At the voi dire, the judge held that the evidence should not be excluded under s 78 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. He agreed with the FSS expert that it was not the quantity of the DNA that necessarily mattered but its quality and reliability.

Held:  Despite he authority of Reed and another; R v Garmson[2009] a DNA profile could still be reliable, even if the amount of DNA in that profile was below 200 picograms, provided the necessary reproducibility had been demonstrated.

(Intoloculatory appear – trial to continue)

Jurors risk trials by tweeting

Saturday 20 November 2010 at 8:02 am | In News | Post Comment
Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge
Lord Judge, the lord chief justice has again warned about internet use by jurors, this week,

“We cannot stop people tweeting, but if jurors look at such material, the risks to the fairness of the trial will be very serious,” he said.

In a speech to the Judicial Studies Board in Belfast, he said: “We welcome advances in technology, provided that we are its masters and it is our tool and servant.”

Lord Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions, has suggested to the newspapers that judges were “giving up” trying to stop juries using Google, Facebook and Twitter to access information about defendants.

Macdonald, said,

“I don’t think juries should be ‘allowed’ to do online research. But I do think we need to assume this will occasionally happen and that it should not invalidate a trial.”

Tape recorders are banned under the Contempt of Court Act, it is likely that Twitter will also be banned, and he judges warnings to jurors about discussing their trial outside the jury room should be extended to the internet.

Looking up cases on the internet by jurors might constitute contempt of court, punishable by two-years imprisonment.

Lord Judge also warned that schools were failing to train children to “sit still and listen for prolonged periods”, an essential skill for jurors.

Parents of truants convicted – 8,000

Friday 19 November 2010 at 7:33 am | In News | Post Comment
Children not attending school
The Press Association has obtained figures from the Ministry of Justice which show that more than 10,600 people were prosecuted with over 8,000 convicted in 2009 because of their child’s truancy.

This is the equivalent of 56 parents facing criminal proceedings every day of the school year.

Some 14 were sent to jail facing an average sentence of around one month.

The threat of prosecution and the possibility of a jail term were part of new truancy sanctions introduced under the last Government.

Since the measures were introduced, the numbers facing prosecution have rocketed. In 2001, it is thought that around 1,900 people were prosecuted with around 1,500 convicted.

Mercy killing is murder – first case before Court of Appeal

Saturday 13 November 2010 at 2:05 pm | In News | Post Comment

R v Inglis [2010] CA
The Court of Appeal, Criminal Division, in the first case of murder involving a mercy killing before it, heard that D injected her son with a fatal dose of heroin where he had suffered catastrophic brain damage after falling from an ambulance. There was no evidence that when the defendant injected the fatal dose of heroin into her son she had lost her self-control.

Held: The law of murder did not distinguish between murder committed for malevolent reasons and murder motivated by familial love. Subject to well established partial defences, like provocation or diminished responsibility, mercy killing was murder.

Guilty of murder:  The appeal against sentence was allowed to the extent that the minimum term of nine years was reduced to five years.

Per curiam: The court cannot decide the case on the basis of whichever of the contradictory strands of public opinion in this extremely sensitive area happens to coincide with our own views, assuming that is, that if we had allowed our personal feelings to impinge on our discussions, that there would be any coincidence of views. How the problems of mercy killing, euthanasia, and assisting suicide should be addressed must be decided by Parliament, which, for this purpose at any rate, should be reflective of the conscience of the nation. In this appeal we are constrained to apply the law as we find it to be. The court cannot amend it, or ignore it (see [39] of the judgment).

Rape defendants not to be anonymous

Saturday 13 November 2010 at 1:08 pm | In News | 1 Comment

Rape defendants will not have their identity protected despite a government promise in May. It appears that there is not enough evidence to support a change in law.

Justice Minister Crispin Blunt said
“The coalition government made it clear from the outset that it would proceed with defendant anonymity in rape cases only if the evidence justifying it was clear and sound.”

Women’s groups say anonymity would deter victims of rape from coming forward and it would send a message to juries that the victim should not be believed.

Yvette Cooper, the Labour Party women’s minister, welcomed the decision and said the government should never have promised it.

The Sexual Offences Act 1976 allowed anonymity for rape defendants. In 1988 the act was repealed so that all defendants were treated the same.

Three in four convicts remain criminals

Sunday 7 November 2010 at 8:51 am | In News | 1 Comment
Punishment does not prevent re-offending
Three in four convicted criminals never give up a life of crime regardless of whether or not they are jailed or agree to community penalties.

Ministry of Justice figures released this week show that 74 per cent of those convicted go on to commit a further crime within 10 years – at the very most. And 61% of prisoners are re-convicted within a year of release.

Last year alone, convicts being monitored by the probation service went on to commit almost 600 serious further offences, including murder, rape and grievous bodily harm.

Community orders are not significantly more effective than short term prison sentences and that, over time, most offenders returned to crime regardless of what punishment they are given.

The report contains the most detail on re-offending ever produced and discloses that from 14 prisons, seven in ten inmates re-offend within a year of release (9 years for other prisons).

Re-offending statistics are normally only based on the first year after punishment.
This report is based on a study of offenders released from custody (or who started a community penalty) and re-convicted within nine years. It is based on the period between January and March 2000.

The conclusion is that the majority of offenders are never rehabilitated.  The justice system is failing to deter criminals who remain active for many years and sentences are clearly not working to rehabilitate when most convicts go back to crime regardless of how many prior sentences they have served.

At Dorchester prison, around 75 per cent of those inmates went on to re-offend as did almost 77 per cent of women at New Hall prison in Wakefield.

Crispin Blunt, the Justice Minister, said: “Prison remains the right place for the most serious, dangerous and persistent offenders.”

Justice secretary, Kenneth Clarke will reduce prison populations by introducing legislation whereby criminals with serious mental illnesses or drug addictions will not be sent to prison but offered “voluntary” treatment in hospital. They will be diverted from jail to secure NHS units, but will be free to walk away. Officials define “secure” as having a grip on the individual, rather than locking them up.

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