Monthly Archives: May 2011
Thanks to a friend’s news article link on Facebook (see below); today is another one of those days where the first thing you read makes you want to explode with a torrent of explicatives. The subject of my incredulous angst was yet again, the Human Rights Act. To be fair, it’s not the actual legislation that is really at fault per se, as usual it’s down to its interpretation and application. However; isn’t that so true of many of our laws?
Many would argue that predominantly career and salary orientated lawyers are the ones responsible for making a mockery of our Judicial process and I have to admit, I’ve also been known to subscribe to that train of thought from time to time. However many would also argue, this element of our legal system alone makes it special. Doesn’t the fact that legal argument, interpretation and challenge can be applied to legislation, make it fairer and more safe in its application?
Burglar is freed to care for his children after judge rules prison breached his human rights: In a staggering judgment, the Appeal Court ruled that the rights of Wayne Bishop’s five children were more important than those of his victims or the interests of justice… (dailymail.co.uk)
Article 8 of The Human Rights Act, the right to a family life, also repeatedly used by foreign criminals to avoid deportation from the UK was (arguably) never intended to be used in this way. This particular case is also believed to be the first time it has been used to let a prisoner walk free from jail. That said, the Human Rights Act is only one piece of (statutory) legislation which (often), produces vastly different outcomes to the ones that were originally intended. Much of this results from the working practises of our legal system. A process that is based upon a combination of both Statutory Law and Common Law, and one where the judicial process is (quiet rightly) open to challenge.
More than 200 foreign prisoners, including killers, cheated deportation last year by claiming they have a human right to a ‘family life’ in Britain… (dailymail.co.uk)
Basic legal standards such as; Corpus delicti (proof a crime has actually been committed) and Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat (everyone is innocent until proven guilty) are fundamental elements within our legal system and ones we expect as a human right. In addition we have semper necessitas probandi incumbit ei qui agit (the burden of proof) which often requires evidence of mens rea (mental intention) and Actus reus (a guilty act) has actually taken place. In short, the ultimate effectiveness of our legislation will always be subject to the application of such legalese and definitions. Like many, I could challenge the actual ethics behind much of the application and interpretation, Ad infinitum.
Many Lawyers will however accept instruction simply to enhance their personal career and credibility, although I feel sure most would (understandably) offer argument to the contrary, and dress up their mitigation with excuses of a legal, logical and ethical nature. Ian Wise QC, the Barrister representing the appellant in this case, will undoubtedly have a contented and warm feeling about the resulting outcome of a ‘job well done’. He will be proud of yet another success resulting from his expertly executed delivery on behalf a client. He has gained another notch for his CV, along with a further unique selling point for the abilities and expertise of Doughty Street Chambers, an extensive legal team “at the heart of human rights”.
As an aside: it is interesting that, in non of the reports I’ve read, is there any mention of how this appeal and its undoubted considerable costs were funded? Given the apparent social/financial status of the appellant, Legal Aid via the taxpayer would be my expectation. Another factor that tends to create intense heat under the collars of many but one I won’t even attempt to address here!
After spending thirty years of my life involved in the application of the laws of this land, it strikes me that irrespective of any ideological (or legal) arguments, there are individuals within the legal profession who play the system. The ultimate fallout from their courtroom games and posturing only results in public disgust, that and an over all mistrust of our legal process. A system that constantly and consistently appears to be putting the offender first and failing the victim(s).
Unfortunately and irrespective of the legal team’s raison d’être in this case, it appears that once again, limited consideration has been given to the resulting impacts upon our society. However; is it realistically possible to make those types of consideration, without them having a negative impact upon the individual?
Without wishing to cast aspersions about Mr Ian Wise QC and his personal integrity, many Lawyers, Queen’s Counsel and members of the Judiciary should remember; their ‘professionalism’ can also undermine the credibility of our legal system, just as much as it enhances it. The unwanted consequence is a greater public mistrust of a system by those it is designed to serve and protect.
So please M’Lud, question how personal ethics and drivers fit into our legal system, before counting you’re not inconsiderable salary and always remember that like offenders, victims also have human rights!
Interesting headline from the news this week; Complaints about county police officers rise sharply (D&S Times – print edition 27th May). However, I also find it surprising that the same story (by the same correspondent), was delivered under a slightly differing headline by The Northern Echo on the 6th May; Complaints up against North Yorkshire police officers and staff…
One has to ask, especially as both newspapers are part of the same Newsquest Media group (one local and one regional); are we short of ‘news’ in the North East or, is their some more sinister motive at play here within the repeat editorial?
I am aware that sometimes, there are subtle differences in content and publication date between the print and online versions of these journals however; doesn’t the repeated message also go some way towards further undermining public confidence in an already beleaguered service? An organisation that, under tough financial constraints, is trying to operate as efficiently as possible and provide a service for and to their public.
The Northern Echo: THE number of allegations against officers and staff at one of the regions police forces has risen sharply in the last year. North Yorkshire Police recorded an 18 per cent increase in the number of allegations made against the force in the first three months of the year, compared to the same period last year… (Read more)
Public confidence for varying reasons is already in decline and I suggest that, a portion of this decline can be attributed to the often continuous and repeated supposition and innuendo from some media outlets. The media could actually promote greater public understanding and often, more realistic expectations of the service… For the benefit of all within our communities but I doubt it. After all, any watering down of sensationalism may impact upon news sales.
With all that said, when you Google the term ‘police complaints increase’ you will actually find that North Yorkshire is not alone in their experience, numerous other forces across the country have also recorded an increase of complaints. On face value, this is indeed worrying however, I would suggest there are several factors at play here, other than simply concluding our police service and the officers that serve within them are getting worse.
I would also suggest that the reported ‘increase’ is also well short of ‘breaking news’. Back in March I commented upon the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) when they published their annual report on grievances recorded against police forces (see here).
When you consider that as a society, we have a tendancy to be less tolerant of and complaint with authority, it is hardly a surprise that individuals sometimes take umbrage when their behaviour is challenged and/or punished. When considering any trend in these figures we would also do well to remember that; police officers are (supposedly) representative and indicative of the society they serve. Doesn’t it therefore follow that any increase in complaints about “fairness and impartiality, incivility and failures of duty” could reasonably be construed as a reflection upon our society?
Don’t take this the wrong way, I do not condone any wrong doing by our police officers (of any rank), in fact I find any abuse of power an abomination. What I’m simply trying to point out is that often, we reap what we sow. We should also be mindful of the fact, our police operate in situations that are often difficult and stressful on our behalf.
And, as Mark Botham, the Chairman of North Yorkshire Police Federation branch said recently;
“While people are of course entitled to make complaints, and this is done in an open and transparent manner, it should be noted that most allegations are unsubstantiated. Police officers operate with a high level of integrity and are under huge pressure because of the cuts they are facing and given that it is no surprise that the figures have increased.”