John Hart of Pepper v Hart (HL) died this year age 75

Monday 19 December 2011 at 8:42 am | In News | Post Comment

John Hart, who has died aged 75, was as a party in the House of Lords case Pepper v Hart he was also the first man to win Mastermind.

The first three Mastermind champions were women, Hart, a classics master at Malvern College, romped home to take the trophy in 1975.

In 1992 Hart and nine other teachers at Malvern challenged the Inland Revenue over the amount of tax they were being required to pay under the 1976 Finance Act. From 1983 to 1986 they had taken advantage of a “concessionary fee” scheme, which allowed their children to be educated at rates one-fifth of those paid by other pupils.

The Inland Revenue argued that the total cost of their education (which they estimated at £10,000 per pupil per year) should be treated as a taxable benefit; but the teachers argued that the cost to the school was minimal as, since it was not full to capacity, the children were occupying places that would not otherwise have been filled.

A literal interpretation of the Act seemed to support the Inland Revenue’s case, and both the High Court of Justice and Court of Appeal had found in favour of the taxman. But when the case was considered by a panel of five judges in the House of Lords, they took into account the debates on the legislation as it made its way through Parliament, which showed that ministers’ intention had been that such benefits should be taxed on the marginal cost to the employer, as the teachers had argued. The Lords found in favour of Hart by a 4-1 majority.

Pepper v Hart, as the case has come to be known, is regarded as a landmark in that it overturned a principle of at least 300 years’ standing that judges should not refer to “extra-statutory” sources when interpreting the law.

John Hart, born September 30 1936, died November 15 2011


Supreme Court court changes rules on legal dress

Thursday 24 November 2011 at 6:42 am | In News | 1 Comment
The end of legal dress in Supreme Court
Lawyers appearing in the Supreme Court will no longer have to wear the traditional wig and gown.

Supreme Court president Lord Phillips said it was “in line with the court’s goal” to make its work “as accessible as possible”.

If all advocates in a case agree, they may ask to “dispense with part or all of court dress”. Supreme Court justices have never worn legal dress.

The new code also applies in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

Judges and lawyers appearing in criminal courts still wear traditional wigs and gowns.

In 2008, judges in civil and family cases in England and Wales stopped wearing wigs. A simplified design of working robes in court was also introduced.

It went on: “It is anticipated that while some advocates will not wish to take advantage of this dispensation, others may prefer to reduce their legal dress to a simple gown, or to appear without legal dress at all.”

Change in Human Rights law is certain after next month.

Friday 28 October 2011 at 1:48 pm | In News | Post Comment

Britain will take the chairmanship of the Council of Europe, the court’s governing body, and ministers hope to use this to push through major reforms.

In a statement released through the council, the UK criticised the massive backlog of 155,000 cases before the ECHR and said that it would “ensure that national courts and authorities are able to assume their primary role in protecting human rights”.

The UK’s aim is to “strengthen subsidiarity” by introducing new measures to help ensure that the ECHR plays a subsidiary role where member states are fulfilling their obligations under the convention.

Mr Clarke the Justice Secretary, told the Home Affairs Committee that the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg should “have a proper regard for the way Parliament and the courts in independent states have addressed human rights issues themselves in the first place.”  He said: “The biggest priority for the British Government as a whole is to try and get some reform…” There’s a lot of support among other member states for reform and quite a lot of support in the court itself and in the Council of Europe.”

Lord Phillips, the country’s most senior judge has also contributed to the mood for change, by describing the court’s rulings as sometimes too narrow in scope.

Issues often centre over privacy and immigration, both in the courts and with parliament. In particular article 8 of the European convention on human rights, which guarantees respect for private and family life has caused most concern.

Justices at the supreme court have difficulty translating the “very abstract” wording of the convention into practical legal effect.

Lord Judge told a House of Lords committee this month that there was an “arguable case” that the UK had to take account of decisions emanating from the court in Strasbourg but that “we are not bound by them”.

Earlier this week, the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, announced he would appear before the European court of human rights in Strasbourg in a case about prisoners’ voting rights, to argue that English and Welsh courts should have “primary responsibility” in interpreting the convention.

All case law in one place – that is the plan

Monday 26 September 2011 at 7:33 am | In News | Post Comment

“Open justice is one of the oldest principles of English law, going back to before Magna Carta.” — Justice Tugendhat, Terry v Person Unknown [2010] EWHC 119 (QB).

Judgments to become more accessible

Finding reported cases is all but impossible for the lay person, so a group of enthusiasts has started “Judgmental” which went live on Friday to correct the balance.
“Judgmental” has started indexing all case law in one place, but most importantly it will be fully searchable.  BAILLI will continue but it is not fully indexed or searchable.

The legal aid, sentencing and punishment of offenders bill – when passed – will restrict the free access to lawyers the Judgmental site will go some way to providing free legal information.

Judgmental will appear here

Convicts to get phones in cells

Sunday 18 September 2011 at 7:39 am | In News | 1 Comment
Phone smuggled in shoe
Prisoners could soon have telephones installed in their cells, allowing them to make calls from their beds.

Officials are searching for a suitable jail to pilot the scheme and HMP Isis, a young offenders’ institution in South East London, is believed to be the most likely choice. The prison can hold 252 inmates in single and double cells, and each cell would have a landline phone installed.

The move is intended to stamp out the illegal use of mobiles in prisons and the flourishing black market in smuggled phones. It will also end the scenes, made familiar by television dramas, of inmates queuing to use public phones on prison landings.

Read more

‘Full week’ for Community Payback

Thursday 25 August 2011 at 6:18 am | In News | Post Comment
Community Payback - Community Service

Convicted offenders given community sentences will do a full week’s work rather than stretch the sentence over a longer period.

Those without jobs will work a minimum of 28 hours over four days, with the fifth day spent looking for full-time work.

Previously, Community Payback programmes – known as community service – could be spread out over 12 months, with some offenders working just six hours a week.

Speaking on a visit to Croydon, south London, Crispen Blunt the prisons minister said the new measures would make for more intensive unpaid work and would help rehabilitate offenders.

“If you are unemployed and on Community Payback you shouldn’t be sitting idle at home watching daytime television or hanging about with your mates on a street corner, you should be out paying back to your community through hard, honest work,”

Currently around 100,000 people are sentenced to Community Payback each year across England and Wales with more than 8.8 million hours of unpaid work completed last year, the Ministry of Justice said.

Crispin Blunt

“You can’t use your phone, there’s a lot of things you can’t do on Community Payback.

Jobseeker’s Allowance Current Rates (per week):
Aged 16-24 £53.45
Aged 25 or over £67.50

London to have global legal centre at the Rolls Building

Monday 22 August 2011 at 8:05 am | In News | Post Comment
Rolls Building

The Rolls Building in Fetter Lane, London will house 31 courts, including three ‘super-courts’ designed to accommodate larger disputes. From October it is hoped that the Rolls Building will become the new home of the Chancery Division of the High Court, the Admiralty and Commercial Court, as well as the Technology and Construction Court.

The curvaceous, 11-storey Rolls Building in Fetter Lane is close to the Royal Courts of Justice in central London.

A £300m state-of-the-art law court complex will open in the next few weeks as the government tries to make the UK the world’s pre-eminent destination for swiftly resolving international high-value legal disputes – and making a lot of money in the process.

Spending this amount of money just as the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is closing around 140 magistrates and county courts around the country and preparing to slash the legal aid budget, is bound to anger some.

The Rolls Building courts will also be used for mediation and arbitration cases, both increasingly popular alternatives to the traditional confrontations involved in litigation.

The UK’s legal sector is already a significant earner, generating £23.1bn in 2009 – equivalent to 1.8% of GDP. It contributed £3.2bn in exports, triple the level of a decade ago. Of commercial arbitration cases, 90% of those handled by London law firms involve an international party.

One comment on a legal website feared that electronic filing of cases would not be ready in time.

“The future might look bright to a rabbit staring into the lights of an oncoming car, but it may also get more stressful.”

Prison population – record high

Monday 22 August 2011 at 7:50 am | In News | Post Comment
Image of Wandsworth prison
Prisons are nearly full

Figures released Friday showed that the English prison population had hit a record high following the jailing of hundreds of people involved in the country’s recent riots.

Statistics released by the Ministry of Justice showed that the population in England and Wales reached 86,654 — just 1,500 places below operational capacity. About 700 people were added to the prison system in the past week.

A Manchester woman jailed for five months for accepting a pair of shorts that had been looted during the riots has been released in one of the first appeals against tough sentences being handed out by the courts, which have pushed the prison population to a record high.

Ursula Nevin, 24, has been ordered to do 75 hours of unpaid community work after a judge reduced the jail sentence imposed last week, saying it was

“wrong in principle”.

Solicitors – training contract – minimum salary 2011/12

Thursday 4 August 2011 at 7:09 am | In News | Post Comment
Solicitors are guaranteed a minimum wage
The minimum salary for trainee solicitors remains the same as last year. For trainee solicitors working in Central London it is £18,590 pa. For trainees working elsewhere in England and Wales, it is £16,650 pa.



R. (Chief Constable of Greater Manchester) v Salford Magistrates’ Court and Hookway [2011] EWHC 1578 (Admin)

Friday 29 July 2011 at 3:37 pm | In News | Post Comment

[Police – bail – court – procedure – legislation]
D, the Manchester police appealed against a High Court decision that had caused consternation in the police and the Home Office. A magistrate had ruled that the detention clock did not stop running when a suspect was bailed; which was universally understood by all police forces to be the case. The ruling was upheld by the High Court.

Held: A question was certified by the High Court, and very unusually for a criminal case, there was a leap-frog appeal to the Supreme Court. Mr Hookway who was a Respondent to the Supreme Court proceedings, withdrew from the appeal, because on 12 July 2011 the Police (Detention and Bail) Act 2011 received Royal Assent. The effect of the 2011 Act is to amend PACE to make clear that any periods spent by an arrested person on police bail shall not be counted when calculating the total period of time spent by an arrested person in police detention before charge. That is, to give clear statutory authority for the orthodoxy of the past – i.e. the practice adopted by police officers prior to the decision of the High Court.

The Act purports to be retrospective, again this is extremely rare.
The matter is closed.

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