Weekly Notes: legal news from ICLR, 7 October 2019

UK Supreme Court during Miller 2/Cherry hearing

Constitutional law

Prorogation of Parliament was unlawful and void

After mixed results in lower hearings, the combined English and Scottish appeals of R (Miller) v Prime Minister (Lord Advocate intervening) and Cherry v Advocate General for Scotland (Lord Advocate intervening) resulted in a decision of the Supreme Court [2019] UKSC 41; [2019] 3 WLR 589; [2019] WLR(D) 524 that was both unanimous and unambiguous. In a short, clear judgment, the court explained why the case was justiciable (suitable to be decided by the court) and why there were grounds for declaring in these cases that the purported prorogation of Parliament by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson (by way of advice given to the Queen, who is bound by convention to act accordingly) “from a date between 9th and 12th September until 14th October” was unlawful and of no effect. It was unlawful, the court said, because, it had the effect of “frustrating or preventing, without reasonable justification, the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions as a legislature and as the body responsible for the supervision of the executive”.

What next?

The government claims to have put forward a deal for serious consideration by the European Commission. Responses have been sceptical. And any deal will need the approval not just of the European negotiators but also of our own Parliament. It seems a lot to expect.

Crime

Full Henriques report published

The full report of the review chaired by Sir Richard Henriques into the conduct by the Metropolitan Police of investigations into historic sex abuse under Operation Midland has now been published, with a statement from the Met’s Deputy Commissioner Sir Stephen House:

Courts

Blueprint for digital justice

An important report by Dr Natalie Byrom of the Legal Education Foundation has recommended a 29-point plan for tackling ‘digital exclusion’, and ensuring the government’s £1bn court reform programme delivers access to justice for all court users. The report, entitled Digital Justice: HMCTS data strategy and delivering access to justice, was based on research conducted by Dr Byrom on a three-month secondment to HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) as an independent expert to the courts reform programme. Many of the recommendations relate to the collection of data to inform the future development of the courts, including digital and online justice, to make sure it still meets the “irreducible minimum standards” identified by stakeholders, of

NAO progress update report

Last month, the National Audit Office published its progress update on the HMCTS Transforming court and tribunals project. This report follows up on how HMCTS has completed the second phase of its reform programme, which ended in January 2019. An earlier report by the NAO was highly critical of the project, identifying a “significant risk that the full reform programme would prove to be undeliverable in the time available”. Since then the timescale has been extended, and the NAO notes that “HMCTS has acted on concerns raised in our previous report” and that the extended timeframe and some reduction in the scope of the projects has made the risk of undeliverability smaller but the expected savings have also been reduced.

Media law

Royal writs

Of course it’s not called a writ now but a claim form, which does not alliterate so well. The story is that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, aka the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, have launched media claims: Prince Harry, has brought phone hacking claims against the Mirror and the Sun, and Meghan Markle has brought an action for misuse of private information, breach of copyright and data protection against the Mail on Sunday. (See Inforrm’s blog for more details.)

Legal professions

AWB report on harassment and bullying

The Association of Women Barristers has published In the age of ‘us too?’: moving towards a zero-tolerance attitude to harassment and bullying at the bar, its report on its roundtable on harassment and bullying and the recommendations that emerged. The report is written by Lynne Townley and HHJ Kaly Kaul QC.

Commentary catchup

While we’ve not been publishing Weekly Notes over the long vacation, the ICLR blog has not been idle. We’ve published a number of reviews and case comments, which you can find listed here.

Tweet of the week

While there has been some criticism of the fangirling of Lady Hale and her now famous spider brooch (see, for example, Barbara Rich’s piece, Lady Justice and the cult of the “girly swot”), this inspiring girl-oriented toy is hard to disapprove of too fiercely, as I think the comments that follow Mary Aspinall-Miles’s retweet indicate.

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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.