Weekly Notes: legal news from ICLR — 3 April 2017

Advance copy for our roundup, which will appear on the ICLR blog soon.

Brexit

On 29 March, some 9 months after it had been mandated by the ‘will of the people’ as expressed in the EU referendum, Theresa May sent notification under article 50 of the EU Treaty of the UK’s intention to withdraw from the European Union. It was quite a long letter in the end, self-consciously rather tactfully expressed (for consumption by grown up European leaders, rather than the hysterical tabloid mob back home) and was duly received by Donald Tusk, the current President of the European Council. Given its historical significance, one wonders why it was not inscribed on vellum; at any rate, it was important enough not just to send a text or tweet. As a letter, it may not be the longest suicide note in history (that was reputedly the Labour Party manifesto of 1983) but it must be the longest anticipated.

It set in motion a two-year period of negotiations over the terms of the UK’s de-accession to the European Union. There will be, if not hell to pay, some very large sums of money. The figure of £60bn has been mentioned. Accusations of bad faith began, if they had not already begun, almost immediately. Mrs May was said to be prepared to use cross-border cooperation on security as a bargaining chip, as well as the fate of expat Brits and Europeans, but to be fair that is not how the letter reads. Rather, it reads as though May is anxious to ensure that those matters are settled as soon as possible and thus preserved from the risk of compromise in the cross-fire of tit-for-tats over travel and trade.

The following day the government issued its white paper on the procedural and legislative challenges involved in preserving and maintaining the domestic continuity of EU-derived law following Brexit. What is called the Great Repeal Bill should probably be called the Great Repeal, Re-enactment and Consequential Amendment by Delegated Powers Bill.

Among the points discussed was the continuing relevance and applicability of the case law of the European Court of Justice: we wrote about this in a post entitled Is reporting EU case law now a waste of time?

For more commentary, see:

In the courts

The Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) sitting as the Court Martial Appeal Court delivered its sentencing remarks following the successful second appeal of Sgt A Blackman, aka Marine A (R v Blackman (No 2) [2017] EWCA Crim 190), which we last wrote about in Weekly Notes —20 March 2017. Having reduced the offence to manslaughter, the court also reduced the term of Blackman’s imprisonment, so that he is expected to be released fairly soon.

A late application by Katie Hopkins for permission to appeal against Warby J’s judgment [2017] EWHC 433 (QB) awarding damages for defamation and interim costs to the claimant, Jack Monroe, was refused by the judge in a further judgment [2017] EWHC 645 (QB). We wrote about the judgment on liability in Weekly Notes — 13 March 2017.

Lord Neuberger has proposed raising the age of judicial retirement from 70 to 75, to avoid the waste of experienced wisdom and talent that the current cut-off point mandates. See The Guardian, Allow judiciary to work until 75, says Britain’s most senior judge. It might also help resolve the current recruitment crisis in the judiciary, reported here.

While many courts have been closed, to save money, the Ministry of Justice has now proposed that those which remain open should sit for longer hours, until as late as 8.30pm. Pilot schemes in six courts will run in May, according to the Law Society Gazette. Professional bodies such as the Law Society and Bar Council have questioned the benefits of late sittings, while pointing out the adverse impact on the work-life balance of lawyers, many of whom do considerable amounts of work before and after court hearings each day, as well as often spending considerable time travelling.

A petition has been launched in response to the MOJ’s proposal, urging the government not to proceed further with the late sittings plan. It points out that

It is unfair and discriminatory for Court staff, Judges, Barristers, Solicitors, and court users, particularly those with children. It will have a detrimental impact on well-being and diversity at the Bar and Judiciary.

Arguably the same sort of problems must be faced by other late-night workers, such as NHS doctors, nurses and staff, the police and emergency services, and shop and restaurant workers when expected to work at late or unsocial hours. But the response to this question on Twitter was overwhelmingly to point out that most other kinds of shift work was (a) dictated by the job itself, whereas there is no essential reason for courts to sit at night; and (b) work itself was confined to within the shifts (and possibly travel) because those other types of work did not involve hours of intensive preparation, often at short notice, before the next court shift, as it were.

April follies

There were some amusing spoofs to mark April Fool’s day on Saturday. We round up the best of them here.

Dates and Deadlines

In 2016 over 10,000 people took part and raised over £740,000. For details on how to register your team for the 10km walk and start fundraising, see London Legal Support Trust

The 2017 Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year awards have been launched, with nominations now open for 11 award categories. The awards ceremony takes place in London on Wednesday, 5 July 2017.

See LAPG’s website for the full awards list.

Law (and injustice) from around the world

Courts to sit in vacation to clear backlog

India’s recently appointed Chief Justice J S Khehar has asked judges, including those of the Supreme Court, to sit during the law vacation to help clear a massive backlog of pending cases, according to LiveLaw News. The problem has partly been caused by a shortage of judges.

The Supreme Court has set an example by agreeing to hear over five thousand cases during its summer vacation from 5th May, 2017 to 2nd July 2017.

India’s justice system is notorious for its inordinate delays, but steps are being taken to speed things up with the use of technology. According to the Law Society Gazette, last May, reporting on the previous Chief Justice’s plea for more judges (India’s top judge pleads for help to clear backlog of cases):

Cases lasting decades over tiny sums of money frequently make headlines in India. One that has lasted four decades involves a Delhi bus conductor accused of defrauding his employer of 1/20th of a rupee by undercharging a passenger by 5 paise (0.05p).

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.