Archive for November 8th, 2010

Probably not the most flattering pictures The Guardian could have chosen see here and here for source of pics above.

Phil Woolas case: Speaker puts Oldham East rerun election on hold

Speaker will wait for court to rule on attempt by former minister to overturn ruling expelling him from Commons before announcing decision on new election

I have to admit that the decision of Mr Justice Silber today refusing judicial review took me by surprise – but as the judges were sitting as High Court judges and not ‘election commissioners’ (see Afua Hirsch below) the High Court cannot judicially review itself. Confused?  I am not a specialist in Constitutional law – and, clearly, know even less about Election law.   Fellow law bloggers on Twitter did admit that the law on the Representation of the People Act is hazy and unclear – so I don’t need to drown my legal sorrow.

Here is the judgment of the two High Court judges in the Watkins v Woolas case. HT to @Heresy_corner for the link.

Mark Pack put up the Mr Justice Silber ruling on judicial review this morning.

Phil Woolas case is becoming increasingly confusing

Analysis: No one seems totally clear whether or not the decision to strip the former minister of his seat is subject to judicial review

Afua Hirsch in The Guardian…..

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Law Review: The Bar’s moral obligation to the number of new, Called, barristers

My post on this issue on Saturday has generated both interest and interesting comment. The full text of Nicholas Green QC’s speech to the Bar Council is here.  Nicholas Green was right to initiate debate.  I have a view, but it is a very complex issue and I am interested in the views of students, academics and practitioners.  If you have time and the inclination, would you be kind enough to read the post and the comments thus far and comment here? (I permit anonymous comments)

“What is Marriage? What should it be?” A summary of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Family Law’s Opening Event

Family Law is not a field I know a great deal about – but I am delighted to link to Natasha Phillips’ excellent summary of this event.  Her blog is a very good resource for Family lawyers.

On Tuesday 2nd November, the newly established All Party Parliamentary Group on Family Law and The Court of Protection (“The Group”) held its first open event in The Grand Committee Room at the Palace of Westminster. This was a debate on the future of ancillary relief and focused on the philosophy of marriage as the starting point for the discussion.

The Group invited guest speaker, Mr Justice Mostyn to lead the debate. Mr Justice Mostyn has long been regarded as the leading family lawyer of his generation and now sits as a High Court judge in the Family Division. Joining him on the panel were Baroness Deech, acting as Chair for the evening and John Hemming MP, who introduced Mr Justice Mostyn to the audience with an engaging summary of the judge’s career and hobbies.

Mr Justice Mostyn’s Speech

Natasha Phillips’ full summary

Alan Shadrake faces Singapore jail term for criticising use of death penalty

Guardian: Contempt of court conviction for British author whose book fiercely criticises Singaporean justice system

I have had the pleasure of teaching law to a great many Singaporean lawyers.  I know Singapore well. I like Singaporeans and their country.  As a child I went to school there.  My parents were expats in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  Singapore is a highly sophisticated country – a small state, but a very powerful economic powerhouse in South East Asia. Outsiders may feel that the legal regime is strict with elements of a police state about it.  Many Singaporeans would not agree. Their legal system, based on the English Legal System, departs, however,  from the English system in terms of the death penalty and the harsh regime of caning for a wide range of offences. It has also been fairly intolerant in recent years of external and internal criticism as the Shadrake case  and other recent cases reveal.

Judges in England & Wales have to put up with a great deal of criticism – some,  detailed professional and academic analysis of their judgments;   other criticism, perhaps less analytical, from the Press and some quite offensive from the tabloids when the tabloids think judges are being soft on criminals or the topic of human rights comes up.  We tend not to imprison those who are critical of our judges here.  Judges tend to limit their public speeches to the major issues.   Contempt of court tends to be limited to clear acts of contempt in the courtroom and is exercised infrequently.

There is every prospect that Shadrake could be imprisoned…. as The Guardian reports, he is prepared to take that chance:“As he waits to learn his fate, the former Fleet Street journalist, who arrived in Singapore in 2002 to write travel articles for the local tourist board, admits to fantasising about swimming along the causeway and over the border to Malaysia, visible from his hotel room.

But he has no intention of fleeing: “I am prepared to go to jail: if I apologise, or try to abscond, it means I lied, that I got my facts wrong.”

Perhaps the Singaporean judiciary will reflect that Singapore is a mature, international, society well able to cope with external criticism without resorting to jailing journalists (or their own people) for daring to be critical?  We shall see.  I hope they take the mature approach.  It would be a travesty to jail someone for being objective and critical of a legal system – particularly if, as Shadrake maintains, he is only pointing to the truth.

If Singaporeans are happy to live with hard laws –  that is their prerogative as a democratic state.  Do they have the right, however, to prevent intelligent debate and criticism from outsiders?   I don’t approve of the death penalty.  I accept, however, that democratic countries have the right to decide on their laws – but that still doesn’t prevent me from expressing a critical and alternative point of view and it doesn’t make the death penalty *right*.

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