Peter Sutcliffe to serve whole life sentence

Saturday 12 March 2011 at 9:38 am | In News | Post Comment
The Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe
Peter Sutcliffe
‘Yorkshire Ripper’ Peter Sutcliffe has failed in his attempt to have his sentence examined by the Supreme Court.

The killer of 13 women has seen his latest attempt to have his “whole life” tariff overturned was rejected by Court of Appeal judges, he will now serve a “whole life” tariff.

Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice said the Court of Appeal had refused to certify that a point of general public importance was involved in the appeal.

Sutcliffe 64, who is now known as Peter Coonan, a former lorry driver, from Bradford, West Yorkshire, was convicted at the Old Bailey in 1981, he received 20 life terms for the murder of 13 women and the attempted murder of seven others.

Corporate Manslaughter Conviction – £385,000 Fine

Saturday 19 February 2011 at 7:20 am | In News | 2 Comments
Alex Wright the victim of corporate manslaughter

The first conviction and sentence under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, occurred this week when Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings was fined £385,000.

In September 2008, Alex Wright, a young geologist employed by the company was investigating soil conditions in a deep trench, which collapsed and killed him.

The case is the first of its kind and is the first test of how the Sentencing Guidelines on Corporate Manslaughter (issued in February 2010) might be interpreted and applied.  It is clear that it would not be unreasonable to expect fines in the millions (rather than hundreds of thousands) of pounds and a starting point for fines is  £500,000, which is far higher than Health and Safety fines.

Whilst the objective of sentencing is to provide adequate deterrent to other companies who may commit health and safety offences, it should not have the effect of putting the company out of business and causing employees to lose their jobs.

The judge described Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings as in a “parlous financial state”, and the low fine reflects their inability to pay, nevertheless. the fine is considerable and sets the tone for future corporate manslaughter cases.

First Corporate Manslaughter Conviction

Wednesday 16 February 2011 at 7:44 pm | In News | Post Comment

At Winchester Crown Court yesterday, Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings became the first company to be convicted of the offence of corporate manslaughter under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.

The conviction by jury follows a lengthy trial into the death of Alex Wright, a young geologist employed by the company, on 5 September 2008. Mr Wright is believed to have died whilst investigating soil conditions in a deep trench, which collapsed and killed him.

The case against Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings was directed at the company’s failure to protect the young geologist from working in dangerous conditions such as the trench. In convicting the company, the jury found that the system of digging trial pits was unnecessarily dangerous and that in doing so, the company was ignoring well-recognised industry guidance in this area. To prove the offence, the Crown had to establish that the way in which its activities were managed or organised by its senior management formed a substantial element of the breach. In addition there had to be a gross breach of the relevant duty of care by the company charged with the offence i.e. the breach had to fall well below the standard that would normally be expected of it.

The case itself has suffered a number of delays due to concerns regarding the company director, Peter Eaton’s health. He was originally charged with gross negligence manslaughter but a judge has ruled that he is too unwell to stand trial.

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 came into force on 6 April 2008 and was heralded as new era of corporate accountability for health and safety offences in the wake of a number of high profile health and safety incidents such as the Herald of Free Enterprise ferry disaster, Hatfield rail crash and the Transco explosion in Larkhall. Since its coming into force, there has been much speculation about how the first prosecution for the offence of corporate manslaughter would arise and what type of company and what industry might be involved.

Commentators have expressed disappointment that this first corporate manslaughter case concerned such a (relatively) small organisation. At the time of the incident, Geotechnical employed only 8 people and it has been suggested that it does not have the size or status of the type of corporate entity that the new legislation was expected to capture. Nonetheless, it provides a useful and welcome insight into the first application of the legislation. The company will be sentenced tomorrow and we will report further on the case.

Lord Hoffman director of Amnesty International says withdraw from European Court of Human Rights.

Tuesday 8 February 2011 at 7:54 pm | In News | Post Comment
Lord Hoffman
Lord Hoffmann, who has been a leading judicial advocate for human rights warns that the phrase has become a “byword for foolish decisions by courts and administrators”.

Lord Hoffmann cites the prisoner voting issue as an example of the way the Strasbourg court has taken “extraordinary power to micromanage the legal systems” of the member states which needs to end.

Writing the introduction to a report by the centre-right think tank Policy Exchange, Lord Hoffmann says: “Since 9/11 there have been enough real and serious invasions of traditional English freedoms to make it tragic that the very concept of human rights is being trivialised by silly interpretations of grand ideas.”

Lord Hoffmann argues that the list of human rights enshrined in the 1950 European Convention, which now forms part of British law, is “admirable”. But he says that since then they have been misinterpreted by judges in Strasbourg to such an extent that they have become discredited.

Sunday 6 February 2011 at 3:03 pm | In News | Post Comment
ILEX one of the three core routes to becoming a qualified lawyer
The number of qualified legal executives is is up 40% on the number in 2009 based on the the number entering for the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX) examinations.

University is not the only route to a successful career in law and the legal executive route allows a student to be in paid employment whilst the study with ILEX. The Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice is equivalent to A-level.

ILEX is the professional body representing around 22,000 qualified and trainee Legal Executives, and is recognised by the Ministry of Justice as one of the three core routes to becoming a qualified lawyer.

Trainee legal executives can be valuable fee-earners for their firms as soon as they have gained their initial qualification, and a former legal executive, Ian Ashley-Smith, was made a deputy district judge on the South Eastern Circuit in December 2010.

DNA retention lawful – High Court ignores ECtHR

Sunday 23 January 2011 at 9:53 am | In News | Post Comment
Northern Ireland’s High Court of Justice has ruled that police retention of a 14 year old boy’s DNA was not illegal, despite a European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruling that the blanket data retention policy conflicts with human rights law.

The Court said that it could not follow the ruling from the ECtHR because an earlier ruling by the House of Lords conflicted with it. The Northern Irish Court said that the ruling of the ECtHR is not binding.

“By virtue of the doctrine of precedent, it is incumbent on this court to give effect to the decision of the House of Lords … ”

S and Michael Marper in 2004 involved the arrest of a boy who was not charged with the crime and his data was due to be kept by police for seven years with possible extensions for longer.

Following S and Marper, the Government planned to allow the retention of DNA data for 12 years but in 2009 said that it would change that in many cases to six years.

The Supreme Court is to rule on a similar case which would clarify the law on the issue soon.

The case highlights a clear judicial tension between the approach of the UK courts and the ECtHR.

Judgment here ruling.

28 days detention to end

Saturday 22 January 2011 at 10:12 am | In News | Post Comment
Parliament will not extend detention
The power to detain terror suspects for 28 days without charge will be allowed to lapse, reverting to two weeks.

The power to detain terrorist suspects for up to 28 days before they were charged or released was an exceptional power, and it was rarely used. Since July 2007 no one has been held for longer than 14 days despite the many terrorists arrested since then.

Conditional Fees (no win no fee) criticised by ECHR

Wednesday 19 January 2011 at 6:52 am | In News | Post Comment
Miss Campbell was photographed leaving a drug addiction treatment clinic in 2001
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg yesterday (18 January 2011) ruled in favour of Mirror Group Newspapers in a judgment that is likely to have significant ramifications for future privacy and libel cases, because the fee arrangements were flawed.

The court found that the “depth and nature of the flaws” in the no win, no fee payments system is in breach of the European convention on human rights.

The Strasbourg court ruled that the result of the fee arrangement was “disproportionate”, and that it exceeded even the broad margin of appreciation accorded to the government in such matters.
The judgment questions the whole system of CFAs which may need to be changed by the government. The recovery of such fees from defendants makes some cases impossibly expensive to pursue.

There is already a consultation exercise for reform of conditional fee arrangements, including success fees which followed the review by Lord Justice Jackson in 2010 which recommended lawyers in “no win, no fee” civil cases should no longer have a “success fee” paid by the defendants, but should get a share of damages.
At the time he said the system was not benefiting the public, with fees to lawyers sometimes amounting to more than 1,000% of damages.
The report suggested a 25% limit on the share of damages paid to lawyers in a successful claim.
However, the ECHR ruled by six votes to one that there was no breach of the Daily Mirror’s freedom of expression in the earlier UK court judgment that the paper had invaded Campbell’s privacy.

The case has taken 10 years to get this far.

Guardian here

Yorkshire Ripper loses appeal

Friday 14 January 2011 at 9:21 pm | In News | Post Comment
Peter Sutcliffe
The Yorkshire Ripper has lost his attempt to overturn his life sentence.

Peter Sutcliffe was sentenced to 20 life sentences in 1981 after murdering 13 women and attempting to murder seven in Yorkshire and Greater Manchester.

Sutcliffe was transferred to Broadmoor psychiatric hospital in 1984.

He also applied to have a minimum jail term set in July last year so that he might be able to apply for parole.  Today the appeal was rejected by the High Court.

Full details here

School dinner lady – unfair dismissal

Tuesday 11 January 2011 at 5:23 pm | In News | Post Comment
Carol Hill
School dinner lady, Carol Hill was suspended from Great Tey primary school, Essex, after telling the parents of a seven-year-old that she had been tied to a fence and hit with a skipping rope by a group of boys.

She has won her claim for unfair dismissal.

The Employment Tribunal heard that the girl appeared to have been tied to a playing field fence by her wrist and then “whipped” across the legs with a skipping rope. Deborah Crabb, the school’s headteacher said the incident was not bullying but an “inappropriate game” which went too far.

She sent a letter to the girl’s parent’s saying she has a minor accident. However, at a scouts meeting outside school, Hill gave more details to the girl’s mother and a written statement to the girl’s family, which was passed to police, and then called a local newspaper to tell of her suspension.   She was dismissed by governors after telling a local newspaper what had happened to her.

The headteacher said that Hill was sacked for committing the “offence” of “going to the press”. The tribunal panel would consider whether Hill should be compensated and reinstated, at a “remedies hearing” next month.

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