Weekly Notes: legal news from ICLR — 3 June 2019

Misconductor? Boris Johnson in the frame for campaign lies

Crime

Misconduct in public office is a common law offence: it is not defined in any statute. It carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The offence requires that: a public officer acting as such; wilfully neglects to perform his or her duty and/or wilfully misconducts him or herself; to such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public’s trust in the office holder; without reasonable excuse or justification.

The offence is widely considered to be ill-defined and has been subject to recent criticism by the Government, the Court of Appeal, the press and legal academics.

All I can properly say is that any proposal for a statutory offence, punishable by life imprisonment, of telling lies at a press conference would be most unlikely to get through either House of Parliament.

“Lies and apparent lies have been part of political campaigning throughout history, especially so in this age of fake news and alternative facts. The appropriate response lies with the electorate, which has the power not to reward lying by withholding its votes.

The problem is that most claims made during campaigns are less obviously false than those on the Leave bus. They are more often genuinely debatable, more nuanced, matters of opinion, or even arguably correct. But there are many now whose default position is that every word coming out of their opponent’s mouth must be a lie.

If such people get the idea that they can use a prosecution, or threat of prosecution, to silence and opponent during a hard-fought campaign, it will stifle the robust debate necessary to the democratic process.”

Civil litigation

Law Tech

“regulatory environment that gives innovative businesses the confidence to invest, innovate and deploy emerging technologies for the benefit of consumers and the wider economy”,

The Legal Access Challenge is focusing on technology innovations which improve the way that people and SMEs experience legal services, using digital technologies to make obtaining legal support more affordable, understandable and convenient. Technology can help achieve this by reducing costs through automation and presenting tailored information in an easily digestible format.

The Legal Access Challenge has received £250,000 in government money to support ways of closing what is described as a ‘legal gap’.

Nesta, an innovation foundation set up in 1997 with National Lottery funding as the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts. To coincide with the announcement, it published research shows that vast majority of people in England lack access to legal support. The initiative is also based on the premise that the great bulk of investment in ‘lawtech’ is directed at improving efficiencies and automating processes in commercial law firms rather than opening access to justice.

Family law

In considering the conduct of the parties for the purposes of rule 28.3(6) and (7) (including any open offers to settle), the court will have regard to the obligation of the parties to help the court to further the overriding objective (see rules 1.1 and 1.3) and will take into account the nature, importance and complexity of the issues in the case. This may be of particular significance in applications for variation orders and interim variation orders or other cases where there is a risk of the costs becoming disproportionate to the amounts in dispute.The court will take a broad view of conduct for the purposes of this rule and will generally conclude that to refuse openly to negotiate reasonably and responsibly will amount to conduct in respect of which the court will consider making an order for costs. This includes in a ‘needs’ case where the applicant litigates unreasonably resulting in the costs incurred by each party becoming disproportionate to the award made by the court. Where an order for costs is made at an interim stage the court will not usually allow any resulting liability to be reckoned as a debt in the computation of the assets.

Legal professions

“The panel determined that the work you have described is more akin to that of a paralegal than a non-practising pupil, and so is unlikely to be of a comparable level of difficulty or complexity.”

“ the appellant has demonstrated to me his own strengths (and some weaknesses) as an advocate. He has been clear and cogent. He has demonstrated a mastery of the documents. He has displayed the utmost courtesy to the court, even when things were not going his way. These are all hallmarks of good advocacy and tend to indicate the degree of experience that the appellant has already obtained as an advocate. So, although dismissing his appeal, I can only, with sincerity, wish him good luck in the future and in his continued quest ultimately to emerge as a fully qualified practising barrister.”

Dates and Deadlines

And finally…

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