Weekly Notes: legal news from ICLR — 10 July 2017

Inquiries

Grenfell gripes

Criticism of Sir Martin Moore-Bick’s selection as the chair of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has continued, albeit without any actual substance, other than a vague sense on behalf of those purporting to speak on behalf of the victims that he “isn’t one of us”, lacks “empathy”, or in one case applied the existing housing law as he saw it in a way that appeared to support what others have called “social cleansing” (see Emma Dent Coad MP for North Kensington on the Daily Politics on Sunday, admitting she’s never met Sir Martin, nor presumably read the relevant case report).

Legal assistance

Two clerks or paralegals employed or being trained by solicitors Leigh Day, have been suspended after it was discovered that they had, of their own initiative, and without involving the firm, put up posters near the Grenfell incident zone offering to “kick-start” insurance claims, contact embassies and draft letters for people affected by the blaze. According to The Times, the poster offered “free legal support”.

Clad tidings of not much joy

The somewhat panicky testing of the flammability of cladding on publicly owned blocks of flats has continued in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, with the vast majority of such buildings failing the test. Here, for example, is the report of such testing in the London Borough of Islington, which happens to be where both the leader of the opposition (whose party have made some rather regrettable political capital out of the tragedy) and the author of this blog.

Courts

Back to the future

Plans for court modernisation and the Online Court — which were to have been achieved by the Prisons and Courts Bill that got killed off in the sudden death of the last parliament — are back on the agenda following the Queen’s Speech in which her Majesty announced that

  • End direct cross examination of domestic violence victims by their alleged perpetrators in family courts and extend the use of virtual hearings.
  • Enable online systems for less serious charges, to plead guilty, accept a conviction and pay a fixed fine. This will go alongside digital services allowing businesses to pursue their cases quicky, to recover debt.
  • Modernise the courts, providing a better working environment for judges, allowing more leadership positions in the judiciary on a fixed term, and more flexible deployment of judges to improve career progression.

Online Courts Hackathon

Last weekend over 200 dedicated coders and legal geeks got together at the University of Law in London to see what they could come up with in the way of applied technology in support of the courts. The 23-hour Online Courts Hackathon was jointly organised by the Society for Computers and Law (SCL), Legal Geek, the Judiciary of England and Wales, and HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS).

Image from Online Courts Hackathon website

A note of caution

Not everyone has been cheering on the resumed development of the Online Court, in the form in which it is currently proposed (which is presumably unchanged by the legislative hiatus resulting from the snap election).

Family law

Anonymisation guidance

The Transparency Project has just released a guide on the publication of Family Court judgments, which:

Dates and deadlines

CARALL conference

The annual Conference and Annual General Meeting of the Caribbean Association of Law Libraries will take place in Nassau, Bahamas at the Melia Nassau Beach All Inclusive Hotel, from 24 — 27 July 2017.

Law (and injustice) from around the world

Canada

Chief Justice replacement

The present chief justice of Canada’s Supreme Court (which we visited in May) announced last month that she would be retiring in December this year. Beverley McLachlin was the first female chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, and the first in any equivalent court in the Commonwealth. She grew up in Alberta, and practiced law for some years at firms in Edmonton, Fort St John and Vancouver before becoming a professor of law at the University of British Columbia in 1974. She became a judge in 1980 and after rapid promotion became chief justice of British Columbia in 1988, before joining the Supreme Court of Canada the following year. She was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 2000.

Germany

G20 Summit

Representatives of the world’s twenty richest / most powerful national gathered in [location] to discuss [stuff they could have done on skype] while outside thousands of protesters fought police, set fire to cars, looted capitalist shops to liberate the goods enslaved there, stole hegemonic hamburgers, and took selfies on their [not really a particularly exploitative form of commercial product] smartphones.

Vietnam

Blogger jailed

English PEN reports that Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, also known by her pen name Me Nam (‘Mother Mushroom’), was convicted on 29 June 2017 of ‘conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam’ under Article 88 of the Penal Code and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Tweets of the Week

… (two of them, because cute dog) come from Andrew Langdon QC, recording the #LegalPride march over the weekend.

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The ICLR publishes The Law Reports, The Weekly Law Reports and other specialist titles. Set up by members of the judiciary and legal profession in 1865.