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Showing posts from 2018

National Identity Cards

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Following the Second World War, Britain called for help from the people of the Commonwealth to come and fill thousands of job vacancies. Many answered the call and came to be known as the Windrush Generation after named the MV Empire Windrush, which docked in Tilbury on the 22nd June 1948 bringing the first workers from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago. The Home Office inevitably screwed up and caused a huge number of problems for members of the Windrush Generation. But their story is not the subject of this blog. Instead, I want to look at a side issue that has raised its weary head once again: ID cards. Alan Johnson and Charles Clarke, both former Home Secretaries, have begun a call for ID cards as the solution to the troubles of undocumented British citizens who have not had their status regularised. ID cards pop up every few years and I’ve no doubt that eventually we’ll have a compulsory piece of plastic foisted upon us that will actually do very little for anybody in the UK, but which …

Off to war

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The UK government recently launched airstrikes against targets in Syria alongside the US and France. The result was a lot of criticism from people in the UK arguing that the use of force is unlawful because it either breaches international law or because the UK Parliament was not consulted.
Lots of this furore seems to be stoked by Russia who are already upset at having been accused of poisoning one of their former spies in Salisbury recently and who have responded with an upsurge in propaganda aimed at the West in general and the UK in particular, including bizarre claims that the UK staged the chemical attack that triggered the air strikes.
So, what is the law on committing British forces to military action?
I’m going to gloss over international law for two reasons. First, I don’t really understand it and do not feel qualified to comment on it. Secondly, I’m not entirely convinced it exists. Sure, there are rules but they are really just political agreements and there is little that c…

Sentencing drink drivers: analysis of the Ant McPartlin case

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I haven’t blogged about drink driving for a while, which is a bit of a shame for me since drink driving cases form the bulk of my case load. So, with the conviction and sentencing of Ant McPartlin, of Ant and Dec fame, this seems like a great time to talk about how sentencing works in drink driving cases using this case as an example. Mr McPartlin entered a guilty plea when he appeared in court, which negates the need for a trial because he admits that he committed the offence. The maximum sentence is six-months imprisonment, an unlimited fine and a driving disqualification. The minimum driving ban is 12 months but there is no cap on what the magistrates can impose, although I have yet to personally witness anybody receive a ban longer than five years and first-time offenders will rarely get such a lengthy ban. It should be noted that although the ban may end after a year or two, the conviction remains recorded on your driving record for 11 years. Once the defendant pleads guilty, the m…

What's so wrong about hacking an MPs website?

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Kemi Badenoch, Conservative MP for Saffron Walden and, bizarrely for an MP with just a few months experience, Conservative Party vice-chairman with responsibility for selecting candidates in the 2022 election today confessed that ten-years ago she hacked into the website of a Labour MP to make changes to that MP’s website to “say nice things about Tories”.
This is a problem for two reasons so far as I can see.
First, we live in a climate where allegations of underhand and barely legal election tactics are thrown about regularly, apparently with some evidence to suggest that they are more than just allegations. Do we really want people in the House of Commons and at the top of the governing party who have confessed to engaging in completely illegal behaviour to influence voters?
Secondly, I mentioned that this sort of thing is illegal because it is a serious offence. It would appear likely that the MP whose website was hacked was Harriet Harman, then deputy leader of the ruling Labour Par…

Video evidence

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Legal practice, at least contentious legal practice, is all about evidence. One side brings a case by putting to the court and their opponent some evidence that they say proves their case. The other side responds by seeking to exclude, undermine or rebut that evidence, usually with evidence of their own. Exchanging evidence, call it discovery or disclosure as you will, is the all-important key to winning a case. Effective disclosure leads one side to thrown in the towel and give up. Failing to disclose leads to a loss in court, at best, and a wasted costs order at worst. Since evidence is so important you’d think somebody would have thought up a way to get that evidence to the people who need to see it quickly and efficiently while preserving the security of the information. I manage it in my firm through the use of encrypted uploads to secure cloud services and software that lets me to email the links to encrypted files that magically decrypt themselves upon receipt. It costs me about …

Can a court take my car after a drink driving conviction?

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Most people realise that once they are convicted of drink driving the court will take away their driving licence for at least 12 months, but most people aren’t too sure whether the court can also take away their car, it’s probably right to say that most people never think about it at all.
The answer is, yes, a court can take your car from you if you are convicted of drink driving.
Section 143 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 grants criminal courts the power to deprive a convicted defendant of any rights in property they to the property that was used to commit or facilitate a criminal offence or any property that the defendant intended to use to commit a crime, this specifically includes motor vehicles.
It is called a Deprivation Order and means that a court can lawfully deprive you of your car not only if you are convicted of driving with excess alcohol but also if you are convicted of attempting to drink drive. It also applies to somebody convicted of being drunk i…

The cost of saving your family

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This is a blog about legal aid, but first I want to set out the facts of a case.
A few weeks ago, the Court of Appeal heard the case of M (A Child) [2018] EWCA Civ 240 in which a mother appealed against an order that would have permanently separated her from her five-year-old daughter.
The facts are that on the 23rd October 2014 and on the 8th May 2015 the mother administered to her daughter an epi-pen and subsequently called an ambulance reporting that her daughter was having an allergic reaction. On both occasions, the doctors at the hospital felt that the epi-pen had been unnecessary. It is worth saying that the mother is a qualified nurse who later accepted that she had over-reacted because her motherly concern for her child had overridden her medical training. In 2016, the local authority and mother would sign a threshold document agreeing that the mother’s error had in part been made because she was not aware of the severity of her daughter’s sleep apnoea. In fact, during the appe…

Some thoughts on gun control

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So, the USA has a problem with guns. Or, to be more accurate, America loves guns but has a problem with them being used to kill innocent people, often en masse. There are literally millions of guns in the USA and while people, including me, regularly suggest an Australian-style buy-back of weapons and an outright ban the reality is that is unlikely to happen, if for no other reason than it will cost the government an absolute fortune – the Australian buy-back took around 650,000 weapons off the streets but an equivalent in the US would require something like 60,000,000 guns to be bought and if they cost an average of $500, which seems reasonable having checked out the Texas Gun Trader website for the prices of second-hand weapons, that would cost $30,000,000,000… which is a lot.
What then can be done about the problems of mass shootings in the short term? I think the answer is, probably, not very much. But, I do wonder whether things could be done in the mid to long-term. Here are a fe…

Pardons for suffragettes

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We are approaching the one hundredth anniversary of women first winning the right to vote, albeit in 1918 only land-owning women aged over 30 were to be given the right to vote.
The right to vote was won by campaigners who fought, often literally, for the rights of women. Many women were arrested, tried and convicted of criminal offences in respect of their protests and now, a century later, there are calls for them to be pardoned for their crimes as homosexual men were for theirs. Amber Rudd has promised only today that she will look at individual cases. But, what is a pardon?
Strictly speaking, a pardon is an exercise of the Royal prerogative of mercy. It does not expunge a conviction, nor does it mean that the person pardoned was not guilty of an offence. A pardon simply removes from the convicted person all penalties and punishments arising from the conviction. In ye olden days it was thus a legal instrument used by the monarch to save a person sentenced to death from the gallows. T…

Guilt: the difference between criminal and civil “convictions”

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There’s been an argument between police officers and lawyers over the past couple of days on Twitter over whether an acquittal means somebody is actually innocent versus whether a conviction means somebody is actually guilty. In law the position is quite clear, if you are convicted you are guilty; if you are acquitted you are innocent (you may already be shouting at me that “not guilty” does not equate to innocent but you are wrong – everybody is presumed innocent until convicted. If you are not convicted, then you are innocent in law thus a finding of not guilty maintains a defendant’s innocence and you can properly say that a person found not guilty is innocent).
One of the more interesting points raised in the police v lawyer debate is that a person can be acquitted in a criminal court but convicted in a civil court. I think it’s an argument that is strong on its face but when looked at in more detail is quite weak. So, it’s worth exploring in a little more detail than Twitter provi…