Aug 11

Should a Judge swear at a defendant?

questionA Judge who reflected the words back at a man convicted of racism, after he swore at her while being sentenced, is facing complaints and an investigation by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO).

In Chelmsford Crown Court a 50-year-old defendant, who had been convicted of making insulting and  racist slurs towards a black Caribbean woman, made matters worse by swearing at the Judge.

The defendant  was in the dock when he told Judge Lynch she was a “bit of a c***”, to which she responded: “You are a bit of a c*** yourself. Being offensive to me does not help.” Read More »

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Jul 20

University fees to go above £9000 limit?

teachers payIt is reported that three Universities have set their 2017 tuition fees at £9,250. They have made this announcement even before Parliament have debating plans which would pave the way to raise fees.

The three Universities concerned are Royal Holloway, Durham, and Kent. The Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, John Pugh, described the premature announcement  as “disgraceful arrogance from some Universities”.

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Jul 04

Brexit: Legal challenge …

brexit

There is some concern that the government may be seeking to leave the EU using Royal Prerogative and without passing an Act of Parliament to trigger Article 50 of The Treaty of the European Union.  Indeed, lawyers at Mishcon de Reya claim the Government cannot trigger Article 50 without an act of Parliament. There has been conjecture that the Prime Minister, Theresa May, could seek to use Royal Prerogative to trigger Article 50. See also the view of former Attorney General Dominic Grieve.

Such an argument – required an Act of Parliament – must surely be constitutionally correct. My own view is that the voting public in the 2016 EU referendum knew what they were voting against – but nobody knows what they have voted for. Indeed, when you listen to the Brexit campaigners they all seem to have a very different view of what post Brexit could look like (will we be in or out of the Common/Single Market is just one example). Logically, therefore, the government should negotiate (over the next two years) a Brexit deal and then hold a referendum so that the electorate can confirm their support for a post Brexit United Kingdom.

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May 11

Wearing high heels at work …

heelsThere has been a great deal of press coverage about a female receptionist being sent home from work because she was not wearing high heels. Indeed, according to BBC News reports, the complainant has started a petition calling for the law to be changed so that such demands would be unlawful.

It seems to me that a requirement for women to wear high heels at work could amount to sex discrimination under existing provisions via the Equality Act 2010. If, for example, an employment tribunal were to conclude that only women in the employment were required to wear high heels (and men were not) – then that could amount to direct discrimination. If so, then the employer could have no ‘justifiable’ defence – essentially because you cannot justify direct discrimination.

A requirement for female staff to wear high heels must at the very least establish an argument of indirect discrimination (in that the requirement impacts upon women more than men). In such circumstances, the employer would then need to show that the dress code requirement to wear high heels can be objectively justified as appropriate and necessary.  In my view, an employer would find such a defence as being difficult to succeed with. Though, of course, the actual facts  (and the employees and employers response to the situation) in any case can be vitally important.

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May 02

A few tips …

tipsTips left by customers should go to workers in full – and not their employers, the Government has said in a report.

Restaurants and bars could also be stopped from adding service charges to bills to remind customers they do not have to tip if they don’t want to.

The eight-month review of tipping practices follows claims that some “well-known” chains were counting tips as part of a worker’s pay and were withholding some or all of the money.

The big question now is what are the government going to do about this problem? A voluntary code of conduct for employers may not be strong enough. Some form of statutory legislation, that makes it unlawful/illegal to retain tips intended for staff,  could be the approach that is needed.

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Apr 27

Children and Teenagers victims of revenge porn …

mobileChildren as young as 11, and teenagers of the age of 19, are amongst 1160 victims of revenge porn on the internet between April 2015 and December 2015. The average age of a revenge porn victim is 25.

Revenge porn refers to the act of a partner or ex-partner purposefully distributing images or videos of a sexual nature without the other person’s consent.

Facebook was used by perpetrators in 68% of cases where social media was mentioned in reports. Then came Instagram (12%) followed by Snapchat (5%).

Being a victim was a “hugely distressing, damaging and violating experience”. See BBC News report. See also Ministry of Justice Publication.

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Apr 21

Found guilty – but should he be free to work …

chedUPDATE: The Appeal Court have quashed the Ched Evans conviction for rape on the basis of new evidence being provided. The Appeal Court have indicated that a re-trial should take place.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-36099522

…………………………………………………………….

Ched Evans, the former Manchester City and Sheffield United forward, was found guilty of raping a 19-year-old girl in a hotel room and the Judge at the trial gave a five year prison sentence. In accord with normal procedure, Evans has been released from prison after serving two and a half years of his sentence. Despite such, via his website he maintains his innocence and the Criminal Cases Review Commission is to examine his caseSee a summary 0f the legal issues. (at 4th January 2015)

One of the main aims of sentencing is rehabilitation. This means that it is hoped that the convicted criminal will serve their time, reflect upon his/her unacceptable behaviour, and helped to be restored back into society a better person. As Gordon Taylor, of the Professional Footballers Association remarks: “It is a fundamental part of the justice system in this country and society in general that a person serves the punishment which the court determines is appropriate and, providing that has been done, an individual is entitled to be released to continue with his or her life.”

Ched Evans has served the punishment given by the Courts.  Should he now, like some other footballers with a criminal record, be free to work and participate in society?   Or, should society carry on punishing him?

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Mar 20

The filming of Crown Court trials …

Judge-150x150On the face of it, news that we may be able to watch Murder Trials on TV sounds exciting. However, when we examine the details we can see that its value is greatly limited. Currently, TV companies can film (and sometimes do) the proceedings of the UK Supreme Court and the Appeal Court.  The problem of such filming is that arguments over points of law may interest lawyers and law students, but it is dry and does not interest many members of the public. So, it is rarely filmed.

Under new proposals from the Ministry of Justice, it will become possible to watch parts of murder trials from criminal Crown Courts like the Old Bailey.  Though, this latest experiment in filming doesn’t mean we’ll get to see entire criminal trials like those of OJ Simpson and Oscar Pistorius. Indeed, in Crown Court trials the issues of fact are determined by the jury. However, the cameras will not show the jury, or any witnesses, so issues of fact will not be examined on TV.

What TV viewers could get to see and hear is that of judges sentencing murderers, and others, at the conclusion of gripping and notorious cases. In effect, what this means is that we will see a brief clip of a Judge from within the Court at end of the proceeedings. That’s clearly not going to do a great deal of informing law students about the legal processes within Courts. It will be far better to visit the Courts for the day and observe at first hand what happens.

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Mar 03

Cheating watches

_88562516_watch7Exam Boards have warned students about the dangers of “Cheating Watches”. These watches can be bought online and they are designed to enable a student to produce notes on a watch that can be read in exams. Should an invigilator walk nearby, the student can simply press a button on the watch and it then turns into a normal digital watch display.

These “Cheating Watches”, sold for around £44, may tempt students into cheating. However, exam boards have warned examination officers/invigilators to look out for such watches before exams start. Some Schools/Colleges are even banning students from taking watches into exam rooms. They also warn that any student found cheating could face exclusion from all of the examinations they are taking (e.g. all of their A-Levels).

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Mar 02

Mohamud v Morrisons 2016

petrolThe tort case of Mohamud v Morrisons involved an employee physically attacking a customer of Morrisons at a petrol station. Previous to this case, it was generally accepted that Morrisons would not be liable in tort law for the criminal actions of a working member of their staff. Though, liability could apply where a bouncer caused injuries to a customer at a night club – since the very nature of that job involved physical interaction between the bouncer and the customer.

However, the UK Supreme Court have now opened the door to companies being much more generally liable for the actions of their staff. The Supreme Court determined that a court must ask what function or field of activities has been entrusted by the employer to the employee (i.e. what was the nature of his job). This is to be viewed broadly. Second, the court must decide whether there was a sufficient connection between the position in which he was employed and his wrongful conduct to make it right for the employer to be held liable.

Given that the employee was employed at the petrol station to interact with Morrisons customers, the Court determined that the employer was liable for the actions of a member of their staff when he assaulted a customer.

See https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2014-0087-judgment.pdf

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Dec 22

Drink Aware …

drinkingAccording to a study, the number of teenage girls – aged 13 to 19 – going to A&E with suspected alcohol poisoning is one and half times the rate of their male counterparts. See also government advice.

What is alarming about the data is that it also masks the reality that alcohol often leads to fights and violence. For example, a 16 year old girl slashed across the face with a razor blade may not be classed as a alcohol related incident – i.e. despite the fact that the person who conducted the attack was influenced by alcohol. Indeed, many medics feel that 75% of attendances to A&E between midnight and 2am are drink related.

Obviously, a social life is important. If you don’t party as a teenager – when will you party? That being said, it is important to stay in control to avoid danger. T0 assist, there is a DrinkAware App that you can download that will help you stay in control. Personally, I find abstention from alcohol can also be fun. It’s great being sober and seeing all your friends make fools of themselves.

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Dec 11

GCSE and A-Level exam grades challenged …

questionMore than 90,000 GCSE and A-level results were changed after challenges to grades awarded last summer – the highest on record and an increase of 17% compared with last year.

Exam regulator Ofqual says there were more than 572,000 queries over grades – an increase of 27%.

The number of grades changed after re-marking has almost doubled in three years. In 99% of cases, it was an upwards change.

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Dec 05

Limits to freedom of religious belief and expression …


mm2

‘Out of school education settings: call for evidence.’ My submission to the consultation sent to the Department of Education …

Worrying times are before us. In future years we will look back at this era in the history of the UK as being equivalent to the McCarthy era of the US.

Not long ago in our Schools/Colleges it was unacceptable to ”promote” homosexuality. At that time, I felt it strange that I could discuss the legality of murder (while delivering A-Level Law) – but I did not have the same freedom to discuss the legality of homosexuality. Now, just a decade or so later, there is a requirement that homosexuality should be delivered in our schools/colleges as part of the new trend of ”British values”.

Likewise, a decade ago, Citizenship was considered to be a very important subject to be delivered and now many Colleges have abandoned the subject.

What concerns me is that the curriculum is being censored/politicised. Teachers are being restricted in their academic freedom to deliver values that they believe in. It seems that (to quote the Christian Institute) Ofsted are to become the state regulator of religion.  This is to apply not just in our schools, but also in youth work and in our Churches.

Read More »

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Dec 01

Can the govt unilaterally change an employment contract?

NHSThere has been a great deal of debate about the government imposing a new contract on junior doctors. It has been suggested that the working hours and rates of pay will be changed unilaterally. Indeed, the response of the Junior Doctors has been to go on strike. Though, this has been postponed to allow ACAS negotiations.

My understanding of an employment contract is that it MUST be agreed by both the employer and the employee. It simply is not legally possible for the employer to unilaterally change a contract of employment (see ACAS guide). This basic legal principle applies to the government, just as much as it does to a private sector company.

Should the government seek to impose a contract, so long as it has not been agreed with the BMA or individual doctors, then an employment tribunal can be expected to rule against the government (Sparks and another v Dept of Transport (2015)).

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Nov 18

Will 16 & 17 year old’s vote in the referendum?

ballotThe House of Lords have introduced an amendment to the Governments ‘European Referendum Bill’ to enable 16 and 17 year olds to vote.

The move, supported by Labour, SNP and Liberal Democrats, could result in the government accepting the amendment. Though, early indications are that the Tory Government will seek to use its majority in the House of Commons to block the move. Indeed, the government are reported to have said that it was wrong to change the franchise “by the back door” and it would seek to reverse the amendment when the bill returns to the Commons.

Rather confusingly the Prime Minister is reported to have said that the voting age should be determined by Parliament.  My understanding of the unwritten constitution is that Parliament consists of the House of Commons, House of Lords, and the Monarch. So, if the Commons accept the amendment in the Lords – then Parliament will have determined the voting age.

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Nov 16

‘Shake It Off’ by Taylor Swift …

swift

To listen to ‘Shake It Off’ by Taylor Swift – click on the photo.

A US judge in California has dismissed a $42 million copyright claim by a man called Jesse Braham that Taylor Swift had used lyrics in ‘Shake It Off’ from his song ‘Haters Gonna Hate’.

Judge Standish wrote in her dismissal, “The Court has been unable to identify a 22-word phrase that constitutes 92% of the lyrics of ‘Shake It Off’ or that is repeated 70 times as Braham alleges.”

The judge concluded her dismissal in true Taylor Swift style by saying: “At present, the Court is not saying that Braham can never, ever, ever get his case back in court. But, for now, we have got problems, and the Court is not sure Braham can solve them. As currently drafted, the Complaint has a blank space – one that requires Braham to do more than write his name. And, upon consideration of the Court’s explanation in Part II, Braham may discover that mere pleading Band-Aids will not fix the bullet holes in his case. At least for the moment, Defendants have shaken off this lawsuit.”

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Nov 14

Say ‘No’ to Police Austerity Cuts …

cuts
There is deep concern over the governments austerity cuts to the Police service. A dramatic change in neighbourhood policing in Surrey will see fewer officers on the streets and hundreds of jobs cut, as cyber crime and other offences rise.

Indeed, there are reports that in Surrey 234 staff members and 32 officers would lose their jobs as a result of the restructure, which is a bid to save £25m over the next four years. These cuts will take place despite the fact that over the past three years there has been a 153% increase in rape, 122% increase in sexual offences, and 34% increase in domestic violence.

With new types of cyber crime emerging, and terrorist threats and attacks evident throughout Europe, now is not the time to be cutting back on police numbers. Indeed, Sit Hugh Orde, the outgoing president of ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers), has already warned that the ‘Tory cuts will increase the risk of terror attacks‘. Britain’s counter terrorism chief has also advised that ‘Police Officers are vital to thwart terrorist attacks‘.

The UK needs to be reinforcing security – not weakening it.

FOOTNOTE: In his Spending Review of the 25th November 2015 the Chancellor, George Osborne, has responded to public pressure and announced that he is scrapping his planned ‘Cuts in Police Funding’. This U-turn should be welcomed, but we must read the small print before we start cheering.

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