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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Nov 13

Can you rely upon Wikipedia?

questionI have always maintained that you should not rely on Wikipedia as a single prime academic source. Indeed, before you consider quoting from Wikipedia, it is wise to find a secondary source that can confirm the accuracy of the information you are researching.

The claim, that Wikipedia has been taken over by Trolls. from Larry Sanger a co-founder of the site, only serves to confirm many fears. He claims: “People that I would say are trolls sort of took over. The inmates started running the asylum.”

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Nov 09

Should wigs and gowns be banned in Criminal courts?

Judge-150x150In Crown Courts barristers and judges wear wigs and gowns. A new report by the ‘Criminal Justice Alliance’, called ‘Structured Mayhem‘, states that: “Witnesses complain that Crown Courts courts are very frightening, very daunting when you walk in and you see all the chairs and the benches and everything set out. Then you see all these people with their wigs on and the gowns”. The report, also quotes a witness as saying: “That lawyers need to recognise that it’s not a game. They are playing with people’s emotions and lives”.

My own view is that the benches, gowns, and wigs, help create an atmosphere of authority – signifying a need for respect for the legal process. Trials being heard in the Crown Court are serious crimes such as rape, abh, gbh, robbery, manslaughter, murder etc. It would be wrong to turn the court arena, where such serious criminal trials are heard, into some kind of kinda garden. It would undermine the authority of the court.  Casual dress, like wearing suits or jeans etc, may make defendants and witnesses feel more at home – but that would not make them respect the law or the legal process any better.

Interestingly, the justices in the UK Supreme Court wear casual suits (i.e. except for ceremonial purposes).

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Nov 08

The dangers of sexting

sextingNews Update: Sexting Ring Uncovered at US High School + 200,000 Nude ‘Snapchat Images’ put online by hackers.

This news story of a teenage girl being cautioned by the Police after sexting a topless picture of herself has prompted a debate.  The girl sent the selfie to her boyfriend, who in turn forwarded the photo to his friends after the couple split up. Indeed, the Police have warned that teenagers sexting could be prosecuted for sharing child pornographic images and, if guilty, placed on the sex offenders register (if the sexual image is of someone under 18, then it amounts to child pornography).  See the warning via the Christian Institute and the discussion in The Guardian Newspaper, where they ask if it is right to criminalize children who share sexts? Would education be better than criminalization?

Note also that a person can bring a civil damages compensation claim for any harmful consequences that can be reasonably foreseen.

Advice: “It is crucial that users understand that every internet site and social networking site is monitored by an administrator.”  They, in turn, can be expected to pass information onto the police. The law is now to be changed to send revenge porn offenders to prison.

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Nov 05

Report sexual abuse …

rapeThere are reports that many 16 and 17 year girls are victims of sex crimes – such as rape, sexual assault, and sexual exploitation, Despite being sexually abused, it seems that many girls fail to report the crime to the police. 

One of the issues that leads to such crime is that the girls take drink and/or drugs and then find that they become exploited/abused by boys/men. The girls, uncertain of their rights (after taking drink/drugs) then blame themselves, and feel confused about exactly what happened, and/or their rights. As a result, they fail to report the sex crime.

The danger, from these scenarios, is that the boys/men could do the same to other girls – only the consequences could be far more serious or even fatal. In my view, girls need to recognise that the taking of drink and/or drugs is not good. But, it is a relatively minor transgression, that does not give a green light to the serious criminal offence of sexual abuse.  They as women, have a right to be respected. They should not tolerate abuse from boys/men and they should report sexual abuse to the police. At the very least (even if there is insufficient  evidence for a prosecution) a police investigation will warn the culprit that such behaviour is illegal and he could go to prison.

Girls should take control and report sexual abuse from boys/men. It is important to recognise that when someone reports a serious crime of sexual assault, the police are exceedingly unlikely to take any action over a victim consuming drink or drugs.

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Nov 02

The need to regularly attend school …

balanceIsle of Wight Council are to appeal a magistrates decision which found a parent not guilty of keeping his child off school.

The child had a 93.8% attendance in the previous year to the father applying for his daughter to go on vacation in Florida. The school rejected the parental request for vacation leave during term time and as a consequence of the child taking leave, fined the parents £120. The father refused to pay the fine and the case ended up in the Magistrates Court.

At the Court hearing the parent referred to s444 of the Education Act which requires parents to ensure that their children attend school “regularly”. His defence being that with a 93.8% attendance the child was attending regularly.

The parent won the case and the Isle of Wight authority have announced that they intend to appeal to the High Court.

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Oct 30

Released after 14 years in prison without charge …

camp After nearly 14 years in the Guantanamo Bay prison – without charge or sentence by a court –  Shaker Aamer, a British citizen. has today been released.  Imprisonment without trial was outlawed in the UK by the Magna Carta some 800 years ago.  Also outlawed is torture, but there are widespread reports of torture and humiliation in Guantanamo Bay.  Matters are made even worse by over 100 prisoners (including Shaker Aamer) taking part in a hunger strike, and prisoners being force fed and left to sleep at night on concrete.

In 2006 the United Nations called unsuccessfully for Guantanamo Bay to be closed. In January 2009 President Obama signed an order to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention facility that year. Despite such, the facility still operates and remains open. Could 2014 be the year that sees the closure of Gitmo Bay (see video of President Obama’s ‘new vow’ to close Gitmo Bay)?

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Oct 14

Democracy: You cannot bind future Parliaments …

austerity-britainIt is a long-standing acceptance, in a democracy, that a government cannot bind future Parliaments. Thus, the Conservative Government of Edward Heath may have taken the UK into the European Economic Community in 1973, but this government is free to reconsider that policy in 2015. To deny such freedom to future governments would undermine the democratic right of future generations.

That same principle must apply to todays vote on a Charter for Budget Responsibility – which aims to make alternative economic strategies unlawful. A future Conservative or Labour (or any other) Government must be free to pursue the economic path that the people and it chooses. The very idea that we must take a monetarist austerity approach to economics, would rule out alternatives such as the widely respected Keynesian approach.

Future Parliaments cannot and should not be bound by this pro-austerity government.

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Oct 13

Sentencing and the policy of ‘Rehabilitation’ …

keyLast nights Panorama programme on BBC – Tough Justice in Britain: Texas style – gave an interesting insight into the benefits of pursuing ‘rehabilitation’ os a means of sentencing policy. Indeed, it featuring the Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, and his desire to pursue rehabilitation as a means of reducing prisoners and therefore costs.

Given that ‘Sentencing’ can be an important part of AS/A2 Law exams, this programme is well
worth watching.

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Oct 08

Syria: “The solution has got to be law – not war.”

assadThe British PM, David Cameron, has claimed that he has evidence that the Assad regime in Syria has used chemical weapons against its own people in breach of international law(1). He claims, such inhumane and disgraceful action justifies the overthrow of the Assad regime. In order to bring about this overthrow of the Syrian Government, David Cameron wants the UK government to authorise British military action in Syria. This action to involve working with the US, and directed at the ISIS terrorist organisation. Read More »

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Oct 07

What is a DPA?

questionA ‘Deferred Prosecution Agreement’ (DPA) is something that is completely new to the UK – with its foundations arising from the USA. In the UK there is no statutory basis for such an agreement. It is claimed that it is different to a ‘Non-Prosecution Agreement’ (NPA), but in reality there seems to be little difference – with both types of agreement being capable of being subject to compliance with  conditions imposed on the offending party.

There are media reports that Tesco and the Serious Fraud Office could reach an agreement on the UK’s first ‘Deferred Prosecution Agreement’. This is arising from criminal investigations into the Tesco’s accounting scandal involving a shortfall in profits of around £326m.

The DPA involving Tesco is expected to result in the company admitting wrongdoing and accepting some form of independent monitoring to ensure future compliance with the law. In return, Tesco will avoid criminal sanctions.  To be made lawful, the DPA out of court settlement will need to be approved (agreed to) by a Judge in Court.

While such a DPA outcome may be consistent with the principles of US law, it does could be inconsistent with the principles of UK criminal law. The idea that you can bargain away criminal sanctions, by an out of court settlement reached between lawyers, could signify one law for the average citizen and a different law for corporations that can afford expensive legal teams. It also means that criminal justice could be hidden underneath a negotiating table. Further undermining our longstanding principle that criminal justice must be seen to be done in open court.

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Oct 06

Tougher sentences for theft?

Mobile theftThe emotional impact of theft is to be taken into account when judges or magistrates impose a sentence.  This could lead to tougher sentences for those found guilty of theft crimes.

These include shop theft, pickpocketing, handling stolen goods, stealing by employees or care workers, and abstraction of electricity.

Courts will also have specific guidance for common offences such as theft of a motor vehicle or bicycle.

Thefts are committed for financial gain, but the impact of the theft can mean much more than financial loss to the victim.

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Oct 06

UK Govt refuses to comply with Human Rights law …

voteThe UK government have been breaching Human Rights law for over ten years and they are still refusing to comply with the law. Those are the startling facts with regards to a prisoners right to vote.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) declared the UK’s ban on prisoner votes unlawful 10 years ago – a ruling which the UK has ignored ever since.

And it ruled again in February that the rights of UK prisoners were breached when they were prevented from voting in elections.

That case was brought by inmates who were in prison during various elections between 2009 and 2011, and was the fourth time the ECHR has ruled against the UK’s ban on prisoner voting.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said that the idea of prisoner voting made him “physically sick”.

In France, prisoners on sentences of five years or more are not allowed to vote, but the UK has a blanket ban no matter what the offence or the sentence.

The European Court of Justice (do not confuse with the ECtHR) recently ruled on a French case that a member state of the EU can maintain an indefinite ban on voting in the European Parliament elections … but that ban must be proportionate to the aim pursued.  While the ECJ upheld the French approach as being lawful, it seems unlikely that the UK approach of a blanket ban will be considered as lawful because it lacks proportionality.  

What is needed, is for a UK case to be taken to the ECJ (or UK appeal courts) to clarify the law. See European Features article for similar discussion.

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