Weekly Notes: legal news from ICLR, 29 March 2021

Photo by Giftpundits.com from Pexels

Politics

The Constitution under review

The Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland QC MP gave a speech at the Queen Mary University Conference last week discussing the UK’s constitution and his own role in it, which he aims to subject to some sort of review. This would follow earlier reviews into administrative law (discussed here last week) and human rights. In effect, he would be reviewing the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 under which his role as Secretary of State for Justice was created, and under which the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords was relocated and renamed as the UK Supreme Court on the other side of Parliament Square. All this reviewing is said to have been mandated under the manifesto on which the present Conservative government was elected.

Justice system under ‘unprecedented pressure’

“Besieged” prisons, probation & courts can’t provide justice for “victims, offenders, taxpayers or society” according to a report by the Public Accounts Committee published last week. Its Key challenges facing the Ministry of Justice report says the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) “faces significant risks across the full range of its services, without a clear sense of prioritisation” and huge backlogs that have built up are causing “unacceptably long waiting times for people to access justice”.

Courts

Supreme nominative determinism

The suggestion, trailed indirectly via a report in the Daily Telegraph about ministerial discussions, that the government might rename the UK Supreme Court because of a public perception that it had the same power as the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) to strike down legislation (and by implication to overrule the will of the people as expressed in the executive antics of a particular government) was given what is generally described as short shrift by the current President of the UK’s apex court, Lord Reed, when giving oral evidence to House of Lords constitution committee, on 17 March 2021.

The Direction of Travel

In a speech to the Chancery Bar Association, Sir Julian Flaux CHC (newly appointed Chancellor of the High Court) on 10 March 2021 outlines his approach to the resumption of physical court hearings as the threat of covid recedes, and calls for

Data protection

Vaccination passports and other covid status certificates

The Prime Minister has swithered, it seems, on whether pubs and entertainment venues might at some point require vaccination passports or some other form of coronavirus immunity certification. There has been talk of “no jab, no job” requirements in certain types of employment, mainly in the health and care sectors. No one seems to agree on what to require of whom, or when, but simply talking about it may help boost public enthusiasm for the vaccine. In the meantime, there has been a government call for evidence which closed today.

Legal services

Regulating the regulators

It sometimes seems to be turtles all the way down with legal regulators, there are so many of them. The biggest turtle of them all is the Legal Services Board, but in its recently published 10-year strategy document it names no fewer than 15 other, subsidiary regulators. These include regulators (or representative bodies) and regulatory (disciplinary) bodies for solicitors, barristers, legal executives, licensed conveyancers, costs lawyers, notaries and, it seems, accountants. (Is that all? Blessed are the will-makers, for surely they too should have their own regulator. And what about the irregulars? McKenzie Friends and Barrack-room lawyers?)

Other recent publications

The Digital Services Act: changing the rules of business

In a recent article on the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers, barrister Ian Whitehurst of Exchange Chambers discusses the latest European Union legislation designed to regulate digital services and markets. The Digital Services Act (DSA) and its sister legislation, the Digital Markets Act (DMA) seek to build upon earlier EU legislation such as the E–Commerce Directive 2000. The legislative intent of both pieces of legislation is to reform the digital marketplace and in particular to control and regulate how big tech operates and does business within the EU borders.

Family Court Reporting Watch Roundup

Regular roundup compiled by Alice Twaite of the Transparency Project, whose bloggers correct, clarify and comment on media reports of family court cases, explain and comment on published family court judgments and highlight other transparency news.

Should we reform the Human Rights Act?

Joshua Rozenberg on A Lawyer Writes discusses his and other evidence given to the Joint Committee on Human Rights about the Independent Human Rights Act Review chaired by Sir Peter Gross.

Coronavirus and ecclesiastical law — II

In the second of a series of posts on the impact of coronavirus on worship and other religious activity, David Pocklington on the Law & Religion UK blog considers the Impact of closure of churches on Church services. (See also regular updates on this blog, eg Law and religion round-up — 28th March and other recent posts.)

Dates and Deadlines

Diversity in the Legal Profession

Gresham College (live-streamed) — Thursday 1 April 2021, 6 to 7 pm.

Civil Procedure Rule Committee: Annual open meeting

Microsoft Teams — 14 May 2021

And finally…

Tweet of the week

offers a cheeky take from Daniel Benneworth-Gray on the current government obsession with flags and memorials:

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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.