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Showing posts from 2018

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…

What legal protections does Magna Carta offer people today?

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None.

Why do two people get different sentences for the same offence?

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There is a, very minor, story in today’s Daily Mail about a businessman sentenced for drink driving that has led to quite a few people asking why he received a fine of £488 (actually, he was fined £367 but the Mail got that bit wrong) and a 14-month driving ban while Chris Tarrant was fined £6,000 and handed a 12-month ban for the same offence, even though Mr Tarrant had a much lower alcohol level. 
As I acted for the businessman, I’m tempted to say that the difference must reflect the fact that one had a specialist drink driving solicitor while the other was represented by a corporate crime expert, although I’m sure that the truth is that the law on sentencing came into play. So, since people are speculating about the differences in sentence I though we might as well take a moment to look at how people are sentenced by criminal courts. We’ll use drink driving as an example, but the principles apply to all criminal offences.
When a person appears in court for drink driving the sentence …