Weekly Notes: legal news from ICLR, 9 March 2020

This week’s roundup of legal news and commentary includes a new Victims’ Code, domestic abuse, the rule of law, court reporting, terrorism, and advice on coping with Covid-19.

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Crime

Victims code

The existing Victims’ Code came first into effect in 2006 as part of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 and replaced an earlier Victims’ Charter dating back to 1990. It was updated in in 2013 and again in 2015. The new Code is structured so that it focuses on 12 overarching rights:

  • To be able to understand and to be understood.
  • To have the details of the crime recorded without unjustified delay
  • To be provided with information when reporting the crime
  • To be referred to victim support services and have services and support tailored to your needs
  • To be provided with information about compensation
  • To be provided with information about the investigation and prosecution
  • To make a Victim Personal Statement
  • To be given information about the trial, trial process and your role as a witness
  • To be given information about the outcome of the case and any appeals
  • To be paid expenses and have property returned
  • To be given information about the offender following a conviction
  • To make a complaint about rights not being met

The consultation is said to “pave the way for a Victims’ Law, which will underpin victims’ rights in legislation and further reinforce the support offered from the criminal justice system”.

Sentencing Code

The Law Commission explains the purpose of the Bill:

This short technical Bill is necessary to pave the way for the main Sentencing Code Bill to be introduced as a consolidation Bill. Once passed, the Sentencing Code will introduce a “clean sweep” of the old sentencing law so that anyone convicted once the Code is in force would automatically be sentenced under the current law.

This would apply for every offence no matter when it was committed, with limited and partial exceptions where applying the current law would expose a person to a penalty greater than the punishment available at the time the offence took place.

The Sentencing Code would simplify the law of sentencing procedure and bring it into one statute, whilst also removing unnecessary provisions and updating the language. The changes will reduce delays by making the sentencing process easier, simpler and clearer.

Family law

Domestic Abuse Bill

Following through on the pledge to bring the bill back to Parliament, it includes new measures, such as requiring tier one local authorities (county councils and unitary authorities) in England to provide support and ensure safe accommodation for victims and their children. The bill will also improve on the previous pledge to ban abusers from cross-examining their victims in the family courts, to apply to all family proceedings where there is evidence of domestic abuse.

The “previous pledge” to ban abusers from cross-examining their [alleged] victims in family courts has sadly (and scandalously) remained just that — no more than a pledge — for many many years, apparently not worthy of the time and resources needed to implement it, while who knows what other nonsense got priority.

The Bill also introduces Domestic Abuse Protection Orders and Protection Notices designed to protect victims immediately and offer flexible, longer-term protection by imposing requirements on perpetrators, together with an offer to fund any court costs for police implementation.

A government factsheet on Cross-examination in the family court says that perpetrators and alleged perpetrators of abuse will be prohibited from cross-examining their victims in person in the family court proceedings (and vice versa) in England and Wales.

Finally, we are giving the family court the power to appoint a public-funded advocate to carry out the cross-examination where necessary. Guidance will be issued about the scope and nature of that role.

Other much-discussed features of the Bill include a plan to make domestic abusers take lie-detector (polygraph) tests on release from prison, and ministers are considering proposals to limit a “so-called ‘rough sex’ defence” to homicide, in which defendants claim that consensual violent sexual activity led to the victim’s death.

Read the Bill’s Explanatory Notes pdf.

Poor practice

You can read her post here: Lawyers highlight poor practice in private law cases and the impact on families

Parliament

Rule of Law (Enforcement by Public Authorities)

“to require public authorities to exercise their statutory powers to investigate and take enforcement action for breaches of the law; to make provision for sanctions for failing to take such action; and for connected purposes”.

He cited recent examples of where, in his opinion, the police had either failed to act where they should have done, such as the “recent events in Cambridge, where the police did nothing to prevent or to take action against blatant examples of criminal damage” during a protest by Extinction Rebellion, or had intruded where no crime was actually being committed, such as the recent case where Humberside Police logged a tweet as a non-crime hate incident (see R (Miller) v College of Policing [2020] EWHC 225 (Admin)), and suggested that

“It is outrageous that the police are giving priority to matters that are not criminal while criminal activity, which is rife in our country, goes uninvestigated and unpunished.”

The Bill would reconfirm, he argued, that

“the main responsibility of law enforcement authorities under the rule of law should be to investigate and bring sanctions against those in breach of the existing law”.

Fraud, illegal immigrants, rogue landlords, “illegal activities by Gypsies and Travellers” and so forth could all do with a dose of proactive law enforcement, said Chope. And — no doubt as a measure of how effectively this new government is standing up for Tory party values of law and order — the Bill was duly allowed to be presented and read for the first time. The Rule of Law (Enforcement by Public Authorities) Bill will get its second reading on Friday 11 September (rather sooner than many of the actual cases that were adjourned in the criminal courts last week) and is now be printed (as Bill 99).

Courts

Updated media guidance

However, the guidance itself is primarily aimed at ensuring that media reporters are not obstructed in their attempts to provide fair and accurate reports of court proceedings, as by law they are entitled to do. The existence of the guidance (an earlier version was published in October 2018) does not seem to have stopped court staff from excluding from the building a reporter from the Law Society Gazette: see Weekly Notes, 24 February 2020. It would therefore probably be wise for every reporter covering a court to take with them a copy of the guidance, and be ready to refer to it before any court staff unaware of its contents, or if necessary to make an application to the judge or magistrates.

The new edition includes a revised protocol agreed between HMCTS, the News Media Association and the Society of Editors to govern the distribution of magistrates’ courts lists, registers and documents to the media, and specific guidance to courts and tribunal staff on handling high-profile hearings.

Terrorism

Public information campaign

NaCTSO has also launched a public information campaign with a short film being shown in cinemas across the country, highlighting possible signs of terrorist activity and explaining what the public can do to help officers. Called ‘Look Again’, the powerful production shows what sort of behaviour could indicate someone is planning a terrorist attack.

It then explains how members of the public can ACT to report their concerns online at gov.uk/ACT. The 60-second advert, which has already won a number of industry awards, will be on screens before many of the upcoming top-rated movies. It is also available online:

Coronavirus latest

Government guidance

Anyone who suspects they may be infected should dial 111 or use the 111 online coronavirus service to find out what to do next.

Inn guidance

ICLR policy

Coronavirus and the courts

The likelihood is that these plans may well include making rather more aggressive use of video-based hearings and online procedures, as Paul Magrath speculates by comparison with the situation in China, in The Lawyer: Coronavirus and the courts: how will a pandemic affect the conduct of litigation?

Coronavirus and crime

See also: CrimeLine (via Twitter) Coronavirus and the Criminal Justice System – a thread on what might happen (including measures the government might take under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004).

Coronavirus and personal data

Keeping it Clean with Tort Law

Recent publications

Silenced Voices: Glenn Greenwald

This month, the writer is Glenn Greenwald, a former lawyer and now investigative journalist living in Rio de Janeiro, but probably best known for his work in helping Edward Snowden to expose classified NSA documents. Greenwald, who is married to the Brazilian congressman David Miranda, is co-founder of the investigative news website The Intercept and a vocal critic of Brazil’s President Bolsonaro. The Intercept has been publishing reports on irregularities in a corruption investigation called Operation Car Wash, which has been looking into a money laundering of the profits of crime involving many members of the political and business elite.

In consequence, Greenwald has been the target of trumped up federal prosecutions accusing him of cybercrimes and of other forms of official harassment, as well as death threats containing detailed information only known to the state. PEN and other press freedom groups are said to be monitoring the situation.

What’s in store for judicial review?

Free speech in the UK: it’s the business of parliament, not Ofcom, to judge what is OK to publish

Interviews for pupillage and training contracts: advice from across the profession

Family Court Reporting Watch Roundup

Dates and Deadlines

Cafcass World Social Work Day Webcast

As the largest social work organisation in the country, Cafcass will be celebrating World Social Work Day by hosting a webcast and encouraging external partners and Cafcass staff to join in. The webcast will be focussing on this year’s World Social Work Day theme which is “promoting the importance of human relationship’’. Panel members will be discussing the importance of feedback and the impact that this can have on the relationships between social workers and children.

Presenters include Jacky Tiotto , Cafcass CEO, and Professor Eileen Munro, Professor of Social Policy at LSE. Register via StreamGo.

Judicial Assistant in the Court of Appeal (Civil Division)

There are 21 posts available, for up to ten months, open to anyone with a 2:1 undergraduate degree or better. Interviews will take place in the week commencing 18th May 2020. Full details via the Justice.gov website.

And finally…

Tweet of the week

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading, and thanks for the tweets and blogs and links to content from which this post was derived.

This post was written by Paul Magrath, Head of Product Development and Online Content. It does not necessarily represent the opinions of ICLR as an organisation.

Written by

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.

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