Weekly Notes: legal news from ICLR — 3 July 2017

The full majesty of the law, in brief: Etherton MR, Lidington LC, Thomas LCJ

Government

a Lord Chancellor for interesting times; ones that will reshape our justice system for the 21st Century.

A state which respects the rights of its citizens and fosters an independent judiciary and equality before the law, will be safer, more orderly and more prosperous. For this reason, strengthening the rule of law and access to justice is — and will remain — central to our work around the world.’

Each of the three oaths you have taken is of great importance, but it is the third that encapsulates the special constitutional responsibilities for respecting the rule of law, for defending the independence of the judiciary and for the provision of resources which Parliament has entrusted to the Lord Chancellor. So important and significant are they that Parliament uniquely required the holder of the office to swear a solemn oath to perform, as we have just witnessed.

determined I will be resolute and unflinching as Lord Chancellor in upholding the rule of law and defending the independence of the judiciary.

the UK is seen as the home of high quality justice and legal services. People come here from around the world to have their legal disputes resolved because they know that they will get a fair and independent hearing. […]

And looking ahead as we leave the European Union, it will be a priority for me to promote our excellent legal services both at home and as a major UK export, to maintain London as a competitive hub and ensure people continue to see English law as the law of choice.

Parliament

Grenfell Tower inquiry

he specialised in disputes relating to the carriage of goods by sea and road, commodity trading, general sale of goods, insurance and reinsurance, arbitration law and practice, banking and financial matters and other kinds of commercial contracts.

“I’ve been asked to undertake this inquiry on the basis that it would be pretty well limited to the problems surrounding the start of the fire and its rapid development in order to make recommendations about how this sort of thing can be prevented in future.”

He added: “I’m well aware the residents and the local people want a much broader investigation and I can fully understand why they would want that. Whether my inquiry is the right way in which to achieve that I’m more doubtful.”

My government will initiate a full public inquiry into the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower to ascertain the causes, and ensure that the appropriate lessons are learnt.

To support victims, my government will take forward measures to introduce an independent public advocate, who will act for bereaved families after a public disaster and support them at public inquests.

The building regulations in place when Grenfell Tower was designed demanded generous space standards (which were abandoned by Margaret Thatcher’s government in 1980) and made rigorously codified fire provision for escape and compartmentation. These had been eroded in the rebuilding of Grenfell Tower as more flats were squeezed in to increase accommodation.

Regulation has been denounced as “red tape” and the Conservatives have consistently voted against legislation to regulate landlords’ obligations better. Building regulations for fire prevention and safety have not been reviewed for more than a decade, even though most regulations are re-examined every couple of years to keep pace with changing technology and materials.

The right has gleefully pointed to Brexit as an opportunity for a “bonfire” of red tape. Sparks from a bonfire, however, can sometimes catch.

The Cabinet received legal advice that in order not to prejudice the public inquiry the meeting could not proceed as it would not be possible to restrict the discussions without straying into areas that would fall within the remit of the public Inquiry.

Robert Black quit the organisation, which manages the tower where at least 80 people lost their lives in the fire on June 14, so he can “concentrate on assisting with the investigation and inquiry”, the group said in a statement on Friday.

Prisons

Prisons have been going through a particularly turbulent time and we need to create calm and ordered environments for that effective rehabilitation. That means giving offenders the help they need to get off drugs, and the education, training and support to help them find employment when they leave prison.

Government does not know how many people in prison have a mental illness, how much it is spending on mental health in prisons or whether it is achieving its objectives. It is therefore hard to see how Government can be achieving value for money in its efforts to improve the mental health and well being of prisoners.

Rates of self-inflicted deaths and self-harm in prison have risen significantly in the last five years, suggesting that mental health and well-being in prison has declined. Self-harm rose by 73% between 2012 and 2016.In 2016 there were 40,161 incidents of self-harm in prisons and 120 self-inflicted deaths.

Media Law

Legal Services

Barristers who are cleared of misconduct by a disciplinary tribunal can still be sanctioned for breaching the BSB Handbook, under new changes to the rules approved by the Legal Services Board.

Law (and injustice) from around the world

America

“The interest in national security is an urgent objective of the highest order,” they said in their ruling.

Only those “with a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States,” can pass US borders.

Germany

Netherlands

Presiding judge Gepke Dulek-Schermers said that Dutch soldiers “knew or should have known that the men were not only being screened … but were in real danger of being subjected to torture or execution”.

In a departure from an earlier ruling, the court said the Netherlands should pay only 30 per cent of damages to victims’ families, after estimating odds of 70 per cent that the victims would have been dragged from the base and killed regardless of what action Dutch soldiers took.

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