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Showing posts from August, 2013

Ed Milliband on Syria: the danger of a political strategy where you expect to lose

In essence Ed Milliband's position on Syria was essentially the same as the government's. Hence he needed to lose to avoid people noticing that his position is tactical rather than based upon principle. There are a number of principled positions. However, his position was pure oppositionism. He now faces the real difficulty that although his amendment failed he also voted against the substantive and defeated that. How can he justify that?

Syria: Labour's Amendment (490 MPs were willing to consider military action potentially)

It is worth looking at Labour's Amendment expresses its revulsion at the killing of hundreds of civilians in Ghutah, Syria on 21 August 2013; believes that this was a moral outrage; recalls the importance of upholding the worldwide prohibition on the use of chemical weapons; makes clear that the use of chemical weapons is a grave breach of international law; agrees with the UN Secretary General that the UN weapons inspectors must be able to report to the UN Security Council and that the Security Council must live up to its responsibilities to protect civilians; supports steps to provide humanitarian protection to the people of Syria but will only support military action involving UK forces if and when the following conditions have been met that : (a) the UN weapons inspectors, upon the conclusion of their mission in the Eastern Ghutah, are given the necessary opportunity to make a report to the Security Council on the evidence and their findings, and confirmation by them that che

Syria - so far

It is, of course, an unusual situation to have both the opposition amendment fall and the government motion fall. I was concerned about the issue as to whether UK bases would be used by anyone attacking Syria without a motion in parliament. I, therefore, obtained an assurance from the government before voting for the motion. I voted for the motion on the following grounds: a) We were assured that there would be no UK involvement in any military activity in Syria without a further vote. I had this clarified to include UK bases not being used by other countries without parliament's consent. b) I do think we need a humanitarian response. We should not exclude any military action if this is required by the International Criminal Court or the Security Council. However, we should use the international bodies. c) In the absence of a motion there is nothing to bind the government. Happily David Cameron is not Tony Blair and he will not be using the Royal Prerogative without a mo

Adoptive parents gagged from talking anonymously to the media

This case is an interesting one that I know well. I know it well because I drafted some of the paperwork for the successful appeal earlier this year. A number of adoptive parents have contacted me about their concerns with the way the system works. I believe it is right that they should be allowed to warn people of how badly the system can go wrong. However, the judiciary have been resisting this. This is an example.

Local authorities cannot be trusted with the care of children

This story in The Times confirms that local authorities have a tendency to be complacent about the care of children in local authority care. This was also clear in A and S v Lancs CC [2012] EWHC 1689 (Fam) . The underlying problem is that it is not possible to challenge the way in which a local authority is caring for a child from outside the local authority. The Independent Reviewing Officer is an employee of the local authority and hence not independent . I proposed in my private members bill a system where the LA would be open to challenge. Unsurprisingly the Association of Childrens Services Directors opposed this. The government opposed the bill. The government believes in trusting local authorities implicitly in caring for children that they are responsible for. I do not.

The law and agents of the state

The issue of David Miranda has obtained quite a bit of public attention. That of Leah McGrath Goodman is perhaps more important, but has not managed to get anything like the same attention. In both of these cases the questions are ones about whether agents of the state are abusing their position. In the Miranda case because "Reasonable Suspicion" is not needed then the actions were probably within the law. I don't think the same applies to the other case, but we still don't have the CCTV from that although it happened in 2011. There are many agents of the state that have compulsive powers under the law or can apply for them, the police, border agency staff, the security services, social workers, housing officers etc. In many cases the underlying intentions may in fact be beneficial to society. Preventing terrorist attacks has to be a top priority for the government. However, the wrongful use of such powers can not only be based on erroneous information or even

What happens if a local council gives you planning permission by mistake?

This case is an interesting one on Bailii from Scotland. Basically the Local Authority COmmittee refused permission, but the letter written to the applicant said that permission had been granted. It is a long judgment that is worth reading and is relevant to English Law to some extent not least as to legal principles. The LA issued a notice in error saying permission had been granted. Then years later after building works had happened they issued a backdated notice purporting to supersede the original notice refusing permission. The court concluded that the second notice was invalid. I have for some time been interested the basis upon which estoppel can be used to stop misbehaviour by public officials. Often people are promised outcomes for a particular action, but then the LA does a reverse ferret. Still, an interesting judgment to read.

DHP Sandwell

The government have allocated Sandwell 740K and as at end July they have spent 133K and allocated 93K. That is a third of the year. If you go by the spending they would spend 399K and spending plus allocation (which is toppy) it would be 678K. There is the uncertainty about the benefit cap, but otherwise Sandwell don't look like they are going to spend beyond the government allocation.

Where are all the other contempt cases?

This is a judgment in accordance with the Practice Direction of 3rd May. The case was on 19th June and the initial view of the court was that they did not need to produce a judgment. I raised a concern with the office of the President, he produced the more recent circular and we pointed that at Derby County Court who produced a judgment. However, there would going by past history have been at least 10-15 contempt imprisonments between May and the end of July if not a lot more. However, there have been only two judgments produced, both at the instigation of Justice for Families activists. Where are all the other contempt cases? The government should track this, but have not been bothered to do so.

Mother to be deported whilst her child is kept for adoption

This JR judgment (which I have anonymised) is about an American woman: She was living here and her child was taken into care. Now she is to be deported and her child kept for adoption. An application was made for judicial review which has failed (this documents the failure). I am surprised that the US government are comfortable about this (if they know). It also raises a question for her child in the future. When (as is often the case with adopted people) the child asks what happened to her mother he or she will be told that: a) We took you off her b) We locked her up preventing her from properly appealing the decisions c) Then we deported her ... and d) No you are not allowed to know the reasons for this. Incidentally at the moment the people trying to help this mother are trying to get other applications made on her behalf, but she needs to sign them. She is in prison (for immigration reasons) and is not being allowed to sign them.

Mike Clarke's Video Petition to the Queen

This is Mike Clarke's video petition to the queen. A petition to the Monarch is protected under Article V of the 1688 Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights is here . and Article V states: Right to petition. That it is the Right of the Subjects to petition the King and all Commitments and Prosecutions for such Petitioning are Illegall. This is also referred to in the first amendment of the US Constitition which states: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. It is in fact Article V that means that some court orders do not have a valid jurisdiction (such as court orders that prevent people complaining about crimes - one further one of which was referred to me this week, and those which purport to prevent people talking to MPs or appealing decisions

Litigant in Person wins appeal against Bank of Scotland on Harrassment

This case which is Johnson v Bank of Scotland [2013] EWCA Civ 982 is an appeal in which a Mrs Johnson, as a litigant in person, won an appeal against the Bank of Scotland for harrassing her to pay a debt to the bank. She won the appeal because it was concluded by the court of appeal that she had an arguable case that the bank had been harrassing her. I am surprised this has not got any publicity as far as I have seen. Still I thought I would put it on my web log as an interesting case. (A shot across the bows for aggressive banking practise).

IN THE MATTER OF M (A CHILD) [2013] EWCA Civ 1007 - Why is the baby in care?

This case on Bailii is an unusual thing to find on Bailii as it is a refusal of permission to appeal. Quoting from the judgment: 2. Again, offering no more than a summary, the reasons for that decision, which was the removal of the three children from the mother who had been caring for them, and a decision that (a) the threshold criterion section 31 of the Children Act were satisfied in relation to the care given by the mother, and (b) that they should not be returned to the mother's care, was justified, apparently not on any shortfall in the mother's ability to provide practical day-to-day parenting to her children, but arose from the mother's personality and her ability to act in a way which would cause the children significant harm to their emotional and social development. and 10. Happily, on one basis, this case is not about a mother who is incompetent or unable to provide ordinary, good enough or even good physical and practical care for her children. Unhappily, a

Crimes against Humanity

The Rome Statute is interesting in that it defines crimes that are prosecutable on an extrajurisdictional basis. One is a "crime against humanity". The Rome Statute Can be found here . The following are extracts from Article 7. (e) Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law; (f) Torture; (h) Persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender as defined in paragraph 3, or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law, in connection with any act referred to in this paragraph or any crime within the jurisdiction of the Court; (i) Enforced disappearance of persons; (k) Other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health. 2. For the purpose of paragraph 1: (a)

Experts must be Neutral (LASHIN v. RUSSIA)

This case which was in the European Court of Human Rights was recently pointed out to me. Paragraph 87 states: The Court reiterates that where the opinion of an expert is likely to play a decisive role in the proceedings, as in the case at hand, the expert’s neutrality becomes an important requirement which should be given due consideration. Lack of neutrality may result in a violation of the equality of arms guarantee under Article 6 of the Convention (see, mutatis mutandis, Sara Lind Eggertsd├│ttir v. Iceland, no. 31930/04, § 47, 5 July 2007, with further references). In the Court’s opinion an expert’s neutrality is equally important in the context of incapacitation proceedings, where the person’s most basic rights under Article 8 are at stake. It is, of course, obvious that this is the case under UK law. However, assessments by employees of the local authority continue to be relied upon in family court cases of all sorts. There is additionally the repeat player prejudice prob

The "Bedroom Tax" DHP Dudley and Rehousing

I now have the figures for DHP in Dudley. Of a total budget of £494,398 as at 30th June £95,506.18 had been committed of which only £73,910.35 related to the first quarter (was spent) That is just under 20% committed and under 15% actually spent for a quarter of the financial year. This is, of course, before the increase in funding provided by the government. A big issue, however, appears to be that local housing authorities are not doing enough to rehouse people who are overcrowded. I have a few cases where nothing much is happening even though there are people who wish to downsize.

Mike Clarke and his mother Ann (on the run in Spain)

Mike Clarke has been on the run in Spain for some time. He was on the run because he was given a 3 month prison sentence for contempt because he failed to remove what he put on the internet relating to a court of protection case. Since that point (and I am not sure when this happened) the judiciary have published a number of judgments relating to his case. There is a court of appeal case: Re_Clarke_(2013)_EWCA_Civ_811,_(2013)_MHLO_52 And a number of COP cases: [2012] EWHC 2947 (COP) [2012] EWHC 2714 (COP) [2012] EWHC 2256 (COP) What is interesting is that the judgment relating to his imprisonment (which should have been public in any event) has not been published. Contempt of court is not an extraditable issue. However, at the moment he is a bit stuck in Spain and unable to return to the UK. I do personally think there should be a published judgment explaining why he was imprisoned. The new practice directions require this (I accept the case happened before the issuance o

Oaklands Park Master Plan (see map)

This is the current master plan for comments. It is best if comments are sent to the council, but I will pass any made on this web log post as well. It is better really to email comments to my team with names and addresses so people can have acknowledgments from the council.

Children Taken into care of all ages

I have been asked for figures as to the total number of children taken into care. I make a distinction between those children voluntarily placed in care under S20 and those subject to a care order (interim or final) emergency protection order or taken into police protection (often called wrongly a police protection order). These are the figures I have . 1993 4,000 1994 5,100 1995 5,600 1996 5,800 1997 6,100 1998 7,100 1999 7,100 2000 7,700 2001 7,000 2002 7,400 2003 8,100 2004 7,600 2005 7,800 2006 7,700 2007 7,700 2008 7,440 2009 8,180 2010 9,580 2011 9,560 2012 10,100 These come from SSDA903.

Daniel Pelka - more of the wrong children are being taken into care

I have for some time been raising concerns that the wrong children are being taken into care. The threshold for removing a child into care is at times so low that the system gets clogged up with cases where intervention is wrong. I made this point after the death of Peter Connolly. If you look at the trends in terms of numbers the numbers subject to care orders increased dramatically after his death. However, cases like Khyra Ishaq and Daniel Pelka continue to occur. In the mean time the government and Martin Narey put as a priority increasing adoptions rather than preventing children from dying as a result of abuse. I personally think that is wrong. It creates an environment in which experienced social workers are fired if they believe that in an individual case a child should be returned to its parents. My own view is that we should reprioritise the care system into protecting children first and foremost rather than satisfying government targets (or statistical pressures). I