The European Court of Human Rights is Court flouting democratic self-government

Thursday 21 April 2011 at 8:03 pm | In News | Post Comment

Following Parliament’s rejection of votes for prisoners, a new Civitas report calls for urgent reform of human rights legislation to keep European judges from deciding British law.

Strasbourg in the Dock, by international lawyer and Conservative MP Dominic Raab, argues that judges have gone beyond their legitimate powers of interpretation in their now infamous Hirst ruling. He finds some of the European judges are ‘woefully lacking in experience’ and, as a consequence, ‘are undermining the credibility and value of the Court’.

‘[I]n 2007, only 20 of the 45 European judges had any prior judicial experience before joining the Strasbourg bench. By 2011, the judicial calibre had not improved much: 23 out of 47 of the judges had prior judicial experience.’
[p. 42-43]

He notes that

‘the judge for San Marino… only completed her training as a lawyer in 2002’
[p. 43]

and that some judges come from member states with poor institutional respect for human rights. Some have little understanding of the rule of law in more advanced democracies.

More from Civitas here

Two ways of looking at marriage…

Wednesday 20 April 2011 at 3:47 pm | In News | Post Comment
Bountiful commune in the Kootenays

In Canada a Vancouver court has been asked to rule on a principles that could change the country’s future. The issue at stake is whether polygamy can be legally prohibited.

A fundamentalist sect that broke away from the Mormon church permits men to take several wives at its Bountiful commune in the Kootenays.  One of the commune’s leaders is alleged to have 25 wives.

If the ban on polygamy is upheld, that means religious freedom is only a qualified right. However, if the ban is struck down, values such as gender equality and the rights of children take a back seat. Religious freedom would come first.

The court heard testimony that one of the Bountiful leaders took his 15-year-old daughter to the United States to be married, and brought back with him a bride of the same age.

And they note that in similar fundamentalist communes in the U.S., male children are driven away to prevent competition for wives. One witness testified that a boy of 15 and his brother were given $100 and a black bag with clothes, and told to leave. The arithmetic of polygamy is bound to cause problems.

Full story Times Colonist

Meanwhile in the UK….

With effect from 6 April 2011 separating couples are required to attend a mediation awareness session before taking their case to court unless there are allegations of domestic violence or child protection issues. Applicants for public funding are already required to do this.

The Pre-application protocol for mediation information and assessment (Family Procedure Rules 2010) is available here


Murder cases given just one prosecutor as CPS pressured to cut costs

Thursday 14 April 2011 at 5:05 pm | In News | Post Comment
Milly Dowler - 9 years - still no conviction
It is reported in the Guardian that murder cases will be given just one prosecutor as the Crown Prosectution Services is pressured to cut costs.

Barristers say the workload is too much for one lawyer while victim support groups fear miscarriages of justice

Barristers and victim support groups have expressed concerns that in some murder trials, including forthcoming cases involving multiple defendants, the Crown Prosecution Service is instructing a single counsel for the prosecution.

The Guardian has learned of a murder case in which a single barrister without a junior counsel has been instructed for the prosecution in a trial with potentially four defendants. Each defendant is likely to have both a junior and leading counsel, meaning that a single prosecutor could face as many as eight defence counsel.

Full report here

Training contracts -v- no training contracts

Thursday 14 April 2011 at 1:51 pm | In News | Post Comment
College of Law

The College of Law (CoL) is warning the profession that training contract vacancies are expected to exceed the number of students completing the Legal Practice Course (LPC).

According to the CoL a shortfall could arise as early as this year and may jump considerably in 2011-12, meaning there are 14 per cent more available training contracts than students passing the LPC in that year, a graduate shortfall of around 550.

It is in stark contrast with statistics published by the Law Society last week, which revealed that despite 14,510 LPC places being available to law students across two modes of study in 2009-10, only 4,874 training contracts were registered between 1 August 2009 to 31 July 2010.

CoL blog here

Baring barred

Thursday 14 April 2011 at 1:26 pm | In News | Post Comment
Sunbeds subject to strict control

The Sunbeds Regulation Act 2010 now in force, means that under 18 year olds are no longer allowed to purchase time on a sunbed.

Six per cent of 11 to 17-year-olds in England previously used sunbeds, rising to 50% of 15 to 17-year-olds girls in some areas.

Sunbeds increase the risk of getting skin cancer, with an estimated 100 deaths a year as a result. Two people under 35 are diagnosed with the deadliest form of skin cancer every day in the UK.

Businesses who fail to comply with the new rules could be fined up to £20,000 if they allow anyone under 18 to use their sunbeds.

In Wales, from 31 October, sunbed use will have to be supervised, under-18s will not be able to buy or hire beds themselves and all adults will have to wear protective eyewear.

Accounting + legal services + legal advice from a RBS

Sunday 10 April 2011 at 10:24 am | In News | Post Comment
Royal Bank of Scotland offering legal services
Last week, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) launched a product that will provide legal documentation and advice to its small business customers. A clear indication how Tesco’s law may look in the future, and how law firms may be squeezed out of some markets.

The service, Smarta Business Builder, incorporates a range of online accounting, business and legal services, with legal software provided by Epoq.

The package provides business clients with a suite of legal documents required to set up a business, such as shareholder agreements.

Premium users access legal advice provided by FirstAssist.

Home disguised as hay barn unlawful

Friday 8 April 2011 at 7:25 pm | In News | 1 Comment
House disguised as a Barn
In Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Anor v Welwyn Hatfield BC [2011] UKSC 15 Lord Hope describe the actions of Mr Beesely thus:

“Frankly, the dishonesty involved in this case is so far removed from almost anything else that I have ever encountered in this area of the law that it appears to constitute a category all of its own.”

Mr Beesley, a property developer who carried out a “deliberate, elaborate and sustained plan” to outwit planners has finally lost a legal battle over the £500,000 home he built disguised as a hay barn.

Mr Beesley was granted permission in 2001 to build a barn for agricultural use only, but fitted it out as a luxury house complete with three bedrooms – two with en suite bathrooms – a study, living room, a garage and gym.

From the outside, the property, North Brook Meadow, near Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, looks like any other hay barn with a curved roof, no windows, and surrounded by farmyard machinery.

Mr Beesley, 38, and his 35-year-old wife Sarah moved into the completed property in 2002 and applied for a certificate of lawfulness four years later on the basis that the time for enforcement action against the use of the building as a dwelling had expired.

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council refused but an inspector appointed by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government allowed Mr Beesley’s appeal in 2008. This was reversed at the High Court the following year.

But the next twist in the legal battle came last year when a panel of three appeal judges ruled immunity from enforcement had been established. The council then appealed to the Supreme Court and the seven justices unanimously ruled in its favour, setting aside the certificate of lawfulness relating to the property.

The justices ruled that there had been no change of use within the section of the Town and Country Planning Act which imposes a four-year time limit for taking enforcement action against breaches of planning control, and that, in any event, Mr Beesley’s “dishonest” conduct meant he could not rely on the section.

Lord Brown said:

“On any possible view the whole scheme was in the highest degree dishonest and any law-abiding citizen would be not merely shocked by it but astonished to suppose that, once discovered, instead of being enforced against, it would be crowned with success, with Mr Beesley entitled to a certificate of lawful use to prove it.

Increase in minimum wage

Friday 8 April 2011 at 7:03 pm | In News | Post Comment
Money matters for students
The adult national minimum wage will increase by 15p an hour, to £6.08, from 1st October 2011.

Other increases are:-

18-20 year olds: by 6p to £4.98ph
16-17 year olds: by 4p to £3.68ph
apprentices: by 10p to £2.60ph

Cornish Pasty must come from Cornwall

Saturday 2 April 2011 at 8:11 am | In News | 1 Comment
Cornish Pasty
The Cornish Pasty Association has obtained Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) from the European Commission.

Which means a Cornish Pasty must:

  • be made in Cornwall in order to be given the term ‘Cornish’;
  • have a distinctive ‘D’ shape, crimped on one side;
  • contain a chunky filling made up of minced or cut beef that makes up no less 12.5% of the finished product;
  • have a golden pastry colour glazed with milk or egg; and
  • no artificial colours or additives whatsoever.

The Cornish pasty is now part of the other 42 British protected products including Cornish Cream, Melton Mowbray Pork Pies and Abroath Smokies.

The Cornish pasty evolved when Cornish tin miners needed a suitable lunch to eat underground

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