Archive for July 24th, 2006

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Justice moves at high speed

Criminals to be whisked before the court within 24 hours…

The Independent reports on Lord Falconer’s latest plans (Infra) to bring petty criminals who are choking the criminal justice system before the courts within 24 hours. Falconer is also going to let teenagers who commit crimes for the first time to apologise directly to their victims instead of facing the the courts.

Falconer also wants to set up mobile courts.

Lord Falconer said (The Independent) : “Too many cases take too long to come to court.

“Processes both in court and beforehand are often lengthy and arcane and take little account of the needs of victims and witnesses.

“The new measures mean that the criminal justice system, and in particular the courts, will be more responsive to concerns raised by local communities, reconnecting the criminal justice system with the public it serves.”

I have adverted to this below. Not being a criminal lawyer, I have absolutely no idea how this will work in practice – but it could either be good news or bad news for criminal lawyers (or is representation assumed not to be needed or desired?) and who is going to escort the virgin teen criminal to the victim to apologise (Para 7.19 Report – available dca website 21 July in pdf format under heading criminal justice review system published) . Presumably this will cost a fair bit of money to organise?

Is this another report destined to be brought into law so rapidly it is riddled with anomalies or are parts of it going to pass into history and be forgotten?

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My picture has been taken from me

Curiously…at about 4.15 this afternoon, my picture mysteriously disappeared from the sidebar. I am not alone. Other WordPress users have experienced the same phenomenon. It may be the heatwave or global warming.

I am going to mention linkiewinkie again just to see what happens. This time, without a link (Infra)

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Perusal and……Zidane

Zidane’s car wouldn’t start… and other thoughts from last Saturday evening.

I am sitting in the ‘Times reader’ infested garden at The Swan (a previous post below) with my copy of The Lawyer and Legal Week – would you believe? It is Saturday evening and I am waiting for a few friends, who are not trained lawyers and who cannot tell the time, to arrive. It is 6.30. there are children in the garden – but I know that they will be ejected or leave voluntarily at 7.00. But then…suddenly, there is the sound of a crying baby. I can feel my blood pressure rise. I wonder sometimes if I am turning into a grumpy old git or have already turned into one. I look over my distinctive black square reading glasses. The Mother catches my eye and looks upwards, a strained smile on her lips. Then a mobile goes off at their table.. a hideous ringtone which causes almost everyone nearby to turn. The collective disapproval of the herd of regulars (Would that be an appropriate collective noun?) and the Times Readers was too much for the Mother to cope with. It made the baby cry even louder and the Father and Mother scurried out, baby and pram. There is a god. I returned to my perusal of The Lawyer and Legal Week.

‘Perusal’… a word sacred to lawyers

Do we really still ‘peruse’. Do fee notes and bills refer to ‘To perusal of documents’ these days? Please feel free to comment below if you or your firm still ‘peruses’.

tr.v. pe·rused, pe·rus·ing, pe·rus·es
To read or examine, typically with great care.

[Middle English perusen, to use up : Latin per-, per- + Middle English usen, to use; see use.]
pe·rusa·ble adj.
pe·rusal n.
pe·ruser n.
Usage Note: Peruse has long meant “to read thoroughly” and is often used loosely when one could use the word read instead. Sometimes people use it to mean “to glance over, skim,” as in I only had a moment to peruse the manual quickly, but this usage is widely considered an error. Sixty-six percent of the Usage Panel finds it unacceptable.

Language is interesting… no more so when English is translated from a foreign language. Here are a few examples.

In a Bucharest hotel lobby:
The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time we regret that you will be unbearable.

In a Paris hotel elevator:
Please leave your values at the front desk.

On the menu of a Swiss restaurant:
Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.

In an advertisement by a Hong Kong dentist:
Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists.

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Crime doesn’t pay…

A raft of new initiatives on crime…

John Reid promised to work 18 f******g hours a day and has come up with a proposal to provide more prison places (8000) and to take a tougher attitude towards criminals. Out goes the automatic discount for pleading guilty. In, through the revolving door, comes an idea that the judges will have more discretion, an end to to the automatic halving of tarrifs for those on unlimited sentences, unanimous Parole Board decisions before prisoners are released, more foreign nationals will be returned to serve their sentences in their home countries and criminals who carry knives can expect a four-year maximum penalty.

Well… I am not a criminal lawyer – so you will have to visit the Home Office website if you wish to read the reform proposals.

My immediate throught on the proposals was that we really need to think hard about cutting the number of people we keep in prison at great expense – (surely all the prisoners locked up are not a danger to society?), no problem with the knife issue (Presumably chefs, fishermen, gardners and other who need knives will be fine?), good idea to give judges more discretion (I thought Reid was unhappy with the judges?) and it is good to see that the Human Rights Act is going to stay!

What about the automatic reduction for pleading guilty? Reid doesn’t like the idea of people getting a reduction when they are caught ‘red handed’. Here is what Gavin says on Diary of a Criminal Solicitor 20 July “If Dr. Reid does want to take away the idea of discount for a guilty plea then he is likely to find lawyers advising Clients that they have nothing to lose by pleading not guilty. If the sentence will be the same whether the person is convicted after a trial or pleads guilty then what is the point in pleading guilty? If there is no carrot being dangled to intice a guilty plea defendants are likely to plead not guilty.”

Others will, I am sure blog with greater knowledge and precision.

And then..today..up pops Charlie Falconer with another Reform Package from the dca. Delivering Simple, Speedy,
SummaryJustice –
available on Charlie’s Blog, the dca website. I will read this later, possibly. I had a telephone chat with a friend of mine who does practise as a criminal lawyer. He groaned – yet more criminal justice reform to master, yet more for other professionals (probation, prison, police, magistrates, parole ancillary services) to read and master. I asked him how coherent the reform of criminal justice had been in the last nine years since New Labour came to power. His reply “Coherent is not a word I would use. There is a lot of it. Some ill considered and a quick-fix.”

Of course, I could not help but notice that Dr Reid wants to put people who are given community service orders into uniform (bright orange?) so that they can be seen doing their ‘punishment and penitence’. I also noted in the press that he wants passport control officers to be uniformed. Good God…everyone in uniform? I rather like the fact that passport control officers in Britain wear normal smart business clothing. Almost more sinister. Very British and, to my mind, gives an air of ‘assured authority’ and an air of “We don’t have to look like colonels in a junta from some banana republic to know who you are.’ (Mind you – we have a lot of illegal immigrants and despite the best endeavours of everyone involved we don’t know where half of them are to deport them.)

I leave you with a quote from today’s Guardian by someone who does know what he is talking about:

“A criminal justice system that has already seen too much reform is about to be subjected to yet more change. Why? Almost everyone recognises – even if they won’t admit it -that the latest reforms announced by John Reid have more to do with a perceived need to appear tough than they do with rational, thoughtful policy-making. Behind the rhetoric there is growing chaos – the planned prison-probation merger into the NOMS is in a mess; long-standing plans for police reform have suddenly been shelved; despite year on year falls in crime, two thirds of the public think it is on the increase. At no point in the last half century has the need for a royal commission on crime and justice been more urgently required.”

Professor Tim Newburn
Director, Mannheim Centre for Criminology, LSE

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