Weekly Notes: legal news from ICLR — 22 October 2018

This week’s roundup of legal news and comment includes a big Brexit march, a fracking upset, a winning personality and a helpful judge.

Brexit

People’s Vote March

Almost 700,000 people are estimated to have been on Saturday’s People’s Vote march in London, calling for an honest second chance to vote on the Brexit deal (whatever it is). Marchers gathered in Park Lane and processed from Hyde Park Corner along Piccadilly, down St James, along Pall Mall, through Trafalgar Square, and down Whitehall towards Parliament Square. Large screens showed campaign messages and relayed the live and recorded speeches from London Mayor Sadiq Khan, various MPs, celebrities and a variety of young people directly affected by the consequences of Brexit. At times, the speeches were drowned by the sound of the helicopters hovering overhead, from which either the police or the media were watching and assessing the size of the crowd.

The march was organised by The People’s Vote, a cross-party grassroots campaign whose constituent groups include Open Britain, the European Movement UK, Britain for Europe, Scientists for EU, Healthier In, Our Future Our Choice, For Our Future’s Sake, Wales For Europe & InFacts.

Why are they doing this? They say the decision over whether we accept the deal the Government brings back is too important for politicians alone to decide. That’s why more and more people are demanding a People’s Vote.

How can it be done? They have published a paper on called The Roadmap to a People’s Vote which explains it all:

Public order

Anti-fracking protesters’ sentencing appeal

Three anti-fracking protesters had their sentences of imprisonment set aside by the Court of Appeal, Criminal Division last week, on the grounds that the punishment was manifestly excessive. Simon Roscoe Blevins, 26, and Richard Roberts, 36, were each given 16 months in prison and Richard Loizou, 31, got 15 months on 26 September, after being convicted, by a jury in the Crown Court in August, of causing a public nuisance with a protest outside the Preston New Road site near Blackpool, Lancashire. Another defendant, Julian Brock, 47, was given a 12-month suspended sentence after pleading guilty to the same offence, according to The Guardian:

The four men were charged after taking part in a four-day direct action protest that blocked a convoy of trucks carrying drilling equipment from entering the Preston New Road fracking site near Blackpool. […]

Sentencing the men, the judge, Robert Altham, said he thought the three men posed a risk of reoffending and could not be rehabilitated as “each of them remains motivated by an unswerving confidence that they are right”. He added: “Even at their trial they felt justified by their actions. Given the disruption caused in this case, only immediate custody can achieve sufficient punishment.”

Reporting the Court of Appeal’s decision, the Guardian added:

Questions over the original trial judge’s family links to the oil and gas industry were also raised in court on Wednesday. Judge Robert Altham’s father and sister run JC Altham and Sons, a company believed to be part of the supply chain for energy giant Centrica, which has invested tens of millions of pounds in fracking.

The Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO) confirmed to the newspaper that it would be investigating a complaint (presumably that the judge should have recused himself on grounds of apparent bias). Meanwhile, the judgment of the Court of Appeal (presumably given extempore) has yet to be published in written form, but we will provide further details and a citation once that happens.

Legal professions

Law Society Excellence Awards

You might be surprised to learn that an anonymous author has a winning personality, but that is the obvious implication from the fantastic news that the Secret Barrister has won Law Society Gazette Legal Personality of the Year in the Law Society’s Excellence Awards 2018.

The unidentified author of Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken (reviewed here) has done a huge amount to expose the failings of the criminal justice system, with a book that remained in the Sunday Times bestseller top 10 for half a year and was circulated to all MPs in a crowdfunded campaign to prod Parliament into doing something to remedy the situation. Whether they can or will is another matter.

A recent poll by the Times Law Brief and Bar Council, designed to publicise the Bar Conference, asked barristers if they thought the identity of the Secret Barrister should be revealed: the overwhelming response, according to Twitter, was to reject the question as a cheap PR stunt and either ignore it or give a resounding No. The author’s reasons for anonymity are well explained in the book. Nothing would be served by revealing who they are, but perhaps the newspaper, having discovered by accident or design who it is, is anxious to exploit their scoop.

You can see a list of all the 2018 award winners here.

Family law

Helping litigants in person

The BBC’s Inside Out West programme last week devoted a substantial segment to the experience of litigants in person in the family courts, including interviews with Judge Stephen Wildblood QC and family law barrister Lucy Reed.

Wildblood has written and performs in a play to help litigants understand what family cases can be like, part of which was shown. Reed, who is also chair of the legal education charity The Transparency Project, was shown in chambers library fetching copies of ICLR Law Reports off the shelf, which was lovely, if a tad old-school.

The programme, presented by Seb Choudhury, is available to watch via iPlayer until 14 November 2018. We recommend it.

Crime

Hate crime review

The Law Commission announced on 18 October that it was launching a

“wide-ranging review into hate crime to explore how to make current legislation more effective and consider if there should be additional protected characteristics such as misogyny and age.”

The review, which will commence in 2019, follows an earlier Law Commission report into hate crime, dating from May 2014. Building on that previous work, the new project will review the adequacy and parity of protection offered by the law relating to hate crime and make recommendations for its reform.

See more about the Law Commission:

Dates and deadlines

Allegations of domestic abuse in family courts

Thursday, 22 November 2018 from 18:00 to 21:00 (GMT) at Gresham College, Holborn, London.

Panel discussion, chaired by Louise Tickle, to mark the publication of the Transparency Project’s new guidance note HOW DO FAMILY COURTS DEAL WITH CASES ABOUT CHILDREN WHERE THERE MIGHT BE DOMESTIC ABUSE?

Panel including Sam Hill QC, Sarah Parsons (CAFCASS), Bob Greig (Only Dads / Only Mums), and Dr Freda Gardner (Psychologist).

Booking details via Eventbrite:

ICLR News

Knowledge base goes live

Check out our new Knowledge pages, with articles about the legal system, case law, legislation and a growing Glossary of legal terms and definitions. You can also use the comprehensive search function to find whatever you’re looking for, if we’ve got it (including all our blog posts).

If you’ve got an idea for an article, on a topic that would help people understand the law, the legal system or legal information generally, let us know.

That’s it for now. Thank you for reading.

This post via Medium is an advance publication of Weekly Notes, a revised edition of which will in due course appear on the ICLR blog. It is written by Paul Magrath, Head of Product Development and Online Content. It does not necessarily represent the opinions of ICLR as an organisation.

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.