Weekly Notes: legal news from ICLR — 19 June 2017

Politics

Deal or no deal: caught between the devil and the DUP

Last week we reported that Theresa May, who remains Prime Minister despite calls to resign after her disappointing victory in the General Election, was attempting to shore up her minority Conservative government with a confidence and supply agreement with the 10 MPs of the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland. At the time of writing, no deal has yet been reached, the Queen’s Speech heralding the opening of Parliament has been postponed, and yet the government is supposed to be ready to commence the Brexit negotiations with the European Union team due to begin today.

Parliament

Two-year session ‘to deliver Brexit and beyond’

According to an announcement from the Prime Minister’s office and other departments, dated 17 June:

Public inquiry

High rise horror: tears, fears and litigation

The fire which ravaged Grenfell Tower, a high-rise block of council flats in North Kensington, last week has given rise to a number of legal and policy issues. We won’t attempt to cover them all, but here are some of them.

Inquest or inquiry?

The Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered a public inquiry, led by a judge of High Court or greater seniority, to be appointed by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd. But there have been suggestions that it would be better for the victims and vindication of concerns of former residents to hold inquests. An inquiry doesn’t preclude inquests, it just delays them. That’s said to be the downside, because a public inquiry can take years and therefore any public safety recommendations made would not be implemented for a long time afterwards.

Legal Aid

Tenants of Grenfell Tower reported that they had often complained about potential fire hazards in the building, and about the way it was managed. But their complaints were ignored, and they were unable to get legal aid to fund the advice and help they would have needed to bring proceedings and obtain some form of declaration or other remedy. (For example, tenants concerned that fire regulations are being breached must commission a fire assessment and then bring a private prosecution, something well beyond the means of most tenants or their associations.)

Criminal investigation

It appears that there will now be a criminal investigation running alongside the public inquiry. That raises the question about the nature of any offences found to have been committed. David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, has suggested corporate manslaughter, and urged the police to seize all documents from relevant parties that could help explain the Grenfell Tower fire’s causes and assist the criminal investigations.

Media conduct

The story broke via social media amidst the confusion and horror of unfolding events, and attracted immediate and massive media coverage. We are used to the idea of the media, with their broadcasting vans and shouldered cameras, their reporters and microphones — and in many cases their editorial prejudices — arriving on the scene with the same alacrity as the emergency services. What we are sadly also used to is traumatic intrusion on the grief of victims and their relatives, and not surprisingly such incidents have been reported.

Civil Aviation

Legality of drones

One of the incidental Grenfell Tower stories was how drones had been used to survey the building in the immediate aftermath of the fire, while the structure was considered too risky to enter on foot. (See Newsweek, London firefighters used drone to battle Grenfell Tower blaze )

Legal professions

McKenzie Friends research published

A research study looking at the role played by Fee Paid McKenzie Friends in private law children cases has been published. The study, entitled A study of fee-charging McKenzie Friends and their work in private family law cases, was commissioned by the Bar Council, and was carried out by an independent team of researchers, Leanne Smith, Emma Hitchings and Mark Sefton (from Cardiff and Bristol universities). You can read the full report (pdf) here.

SRA fails against Leigh Day

The long-running and costly disciplinary hearings of the Solicitors Regulation Authority against solicitors firm Leigh Day and three of its lawyers in connection to their role in controversial Iraq war compensation claims has ended with the solicitors being cleared of all 20 charges brought against them. According to Roll on Friday:

Dates and Deadlines

IPSO lecture

The second annual IPSO lecture, featuring John Whittingdale (who served as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport from May 2015 until 14 July 2016) will now take place on Thursday 6 July from 6pm.

Law (and injustice) from around the world

America

Animal rights

The New York Daily News reported recently that an appeals court had rejected a claim by Nonhuman Rights Project on behalf of two chimpanzees for recognition of their “legal personhood”.

Turkey

War crimes judge convicted of being terror group member

Judge Aydin Sefa Akay, a UN war crimes judge who sits at The Hague, was detained last year in the wake of the failed military coup. He was later charged and convicted for membership of the ‘Gulenist Terrorist Organisation’ (FETO) and sentenced to seven years and six months imprisonment, though this has been suspended on humanitarian grounds.

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The ICLR

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.