(1) Intercept watchdog sides with security services to reject phone-tap evidence

The Conservatives and other civil rights groups are pressing for intercept evidence to be used in court cases, while the security services oppose this move, fearing it could expose their spying techniques and capabilities. Only a few weeks before a review committee is due to report to the Home Office on this issue, the intercept watchdog said yesterday that any change in the law allowing material gained from phone taps as evidence in courts would be heavily outweighed by the disadvantages.

(2) Attorney General forced to give up power over political cases

After apparent conflicts of interest in the Attorney General’s office were exposed under Lord Goldsmith’s tenure, responsibility for initiating proceedings involving politicians will be handled by the Director of Public Prosecutions from now on.

(3) Juror speaks out and questions the jury system

A juror spoke out after the murder case and questioned the practical workings of the jury system. He said that some of the jurors were ill-chosen for the work and the court proceedings were intimidating. Most jurors learnt nothing from the trial, judged the defendant by themselves and after listening to expert opinion and looking at evidence, they used their common sense to reach their verdict.

(4) Prison study to investigate link between junk food and violence

Based on the hypothesis that bad eating habits are linked with violent and antisocial behaviour, scientists from Oxford University will carry out a three-year study involving an estimated 1,000 inmates at young offenders institutions. Some inmates are to be given vitamin supplements to determine if better nutrition can improve the health of their brains and help them to keep violent urges at bay.

Legal Londate LLP



(1) Police call for domestic abuse register

The police are pressing for a domestic violence register, similar to the sex offenders’ list, to enable them to track serial offenders. They argue that if a statutory duty was placed on schools, housing and social services departments and the police to share information about domestic violence incidents, murders sparked by domestic abuse could be halved. Currently, some departments use Data Protection Act as a reason for not sharing information.

(2) Judge forced to retire wins age bias case

A part time judge, forced to retire after reaching the age of 65, has won an age discrimination claim against the lord chancellor, and could get up to £200,000 compensation if the Ministry of Justice does not let him return to sit as recorder. The new age discrimination rules which came into force in 2006 makes it unlawful to discriminate on grounds of age, except as a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.

Legal Londate LLP



(1) Government to review Bill that could block stem-cell experiments

Tough new consent laws that would block cloning experiments involving embryonic stem cells are to be reviewed by the Government in response to a protest by leading scientists, who argue that such measures will hold back vital studies into diseases such as muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s and diabetes.

(2) Judge granted bail to three Algerians in detention limbo

A high court judge, sitting in the case of three Algerians who had been detained for up to 18 months while waiting for deportation, ruled that continued detention was unlawful and granted bail. Under the 1971 Immigration Act, detainees can only be held if deportation is expected to take place within a ‘reasonable” period. However, recent trend poses a danger that increasingly lengthy periods of administrative detention are becoming accepted as the norm. The ruling should prompt the Home Office to review the cases of scores more detainees who have found themselves in limbo after the failure of attempts to deportation.

Legal Londate LLP



(1) Barristers boycott new legal aid contracts

Many barristers are boycotting new legal aid contracts mainly because the rates are significantly lower than their current pay. One barrister is so against the move that he actually made a complaint to the Metropolitan police commissioner asking him to investigate an official at the Legal Services Commission (LSC), which administers legal aid, for attempting to “blackmail” barristers into signing. The LSC, on the other hand, warned that barristers pressuring their peers not to sign could amount to a criminal offence under anti-cartel competition laws.

(2) First president of the new supreme court

After the appointment of a chief executive on 18 Jan, the search has started for the judge who will be the supreme court’s new chief. The hot favourite is Lord Phillips, the current lord chief justice, but as he would be 71 when he takes over in the supreme court, somebody with more time in which to stamp his authority and influence on the court would be preferred.

(3) 2006 Companies Act needs amendment

The 2006 Companies Act imposed new legal curbs on shareholders’ rights to vote at company annual meetings and this is proving to be particularly damaging in fast-evolving and contentious situations such as corporate financial crises or takeover bids, where investors need the flexibility to change their voting intentions at short notice. In order to end confusion on shareholder voting rights, leading City businesses have brokered a deal as a potential short-term fix while business leaders lobby government to solve the problem by amending the 2006 Companies Act.

(4) Company lawyers see above-inflation pay rise

According to research published today by Incomes Data Services, senior in-house lawyers received above-inflation pay increases of nearly 7 per cent in 2007. This is due to increasing competition amongst companies to recruit and retain top legal talent.




(1) Courtroom battle over banks’ overdraft charge started

Banks have spent millions of pounds hiring the City’s leading QCs and barristers to fight the Office of Fair Trading’s legal bid to limit overdraft charges which began yesterday.

(2) Corrupt MoD official got away with confiscation order due to the CPS’s negligence

After a corrupt MoD official was convicted for frauds in 1994, the CPS took no action to enforce a £1.5m confiscation order and the Lord Chancellor is demanding to know why prosecutors had left it so long.

(3) Lord chancellor defended judge’s bail decisions

In response to recent criticism towards judges over bail decisions, the Lord Chancellor defended judges and magistrates and emphasized the need to give them the public space to make “desperately difficult decisions”. He said it was essential to the integrity of the judiciary in a free society that trial judges and magistrates were left to pass the sentence they believed was appropriate.

(4) Fresh evidence to suggest that there was ‘discreet’ Saudi demands for arms sale fees

Fresh evidence that the Saudi royal family demanded secret commissions on arms sales emerged yesterday raising further questions about the propriety of Britain’s dealings with the kingdom and the government’s defence of them.

(5) Government aims to push through its 42-day limit for detention without charge

Ahead of the publication of the Counter Terrorism Bill which extends the limit on pre-charge detention to 42 days, the home secretary has her work cut out in winning over the skeptics within her party’s ranks.

Legal Londate LLP



(1) Donor rates can be improved without a change in the law

In order to improve donor rates, a task force was set up by the Government to consider how to, without changing the law, create a system under which it would be assumed that everybody was willing to have organs removed after death unless they explicitly had said not to.

(2) NHS Constitution – judges to make key health decisions

Gordon Brown is trying to press on with the NHS constitution whereby enabling judges to routinely decide whether or not the NHS provides life-saving treatments to patients.




(1) Secrecy ordered for parts of murder trial

An Old Bailey judge ruled that the trial of a man accused of murdering a prizewinning author would go ahead with parts of the proceedings held in private due to “national security” reasons.

(2) The FCO to take up detention with Tokyo about the anti-whaling activist

Two anti-whaling campaigners who were pursuing a fleet of Japanese whaling vessels across the seas of Antarctica were detained on board a Japanese harpoon ship last night. The anti-whaling campaign group claimed that the pair had been taken hostage, beaten and tied to a railing, a claim vehemently denied by the Japanese. The FCO said that it would take up the issue with the Japanese Government.




(1) Foreigners’ ID cards to be phased in

Identity cards for foreign nationals are to be phased in over three years. A small scale pilot scheme, which is expected to involve 10,000 foreign nationals already living in London, is scheduled to begin in April for three months.

(2) Superjail could risk riots

The head of the Prison Governors’ Association warned that superjail which will be able to hold 2,500 inmates could risk riots.

(3) Media's challenge to secret trial – CPS may abandon the trial

Media organizations yesterday challenged a demand that witness at a forthcoming murder trial of a prize-winning author should be heard in secret for national security reasons because the defendant may have links with British Intelligence. They argued that such a trial would breach the common law principle of open justice and the principle of freedom of the press enshrined in the European human rights convention. However, in response, the Crown gave warning that it may not go ahead with the trial unless some of the proceedings were held in secret.

(4) Attorney General to investigate judge’s decision to bail police officer accused of murder

The Attorney General launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding a judge’s decision to free a senior police officer accused of murdering his wife whereby enabling him to kill again. Inquiry will investigate how someone on such a serious charge could have been granted bail.

(5) Britain joins FBI to set up an international database of criminals’ details

The US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand have formed a working group, the International Information Consortium, to set up an international database containing the biometric details of thousands of people to combat against terrorism. As a result, biometric measurements, irises or palm prints as well as fingerprints, and other personal information are likely to be exchanged across the network.

(6) Two causes for the low conviction rate in rape cases

The head the CPS and the solicitor general said that the two major causes in the collapse in the number of rape convictions were promiscuity among young people and the failure of police and prosecutors to put enough effort into investigating cases.


(1) Newspapers to challenge move to hear trial in secret

Seven leading newspapers will lodge a challenge today to an unprecedented move by the Home Secretary to have the trial of a man accused of murdering a prize-winning author held in secret because the defendant may have links with British Intelligence. Counsel instructed by the newspaper will argue that any restriction must be strictly necessary and in line with the principles of open justice.

(2) Major reshuffle of top lawyers expected upon the start of supreme court

Recruitment to the new post for the first supreme court is underway and this will trigger a major reshuffle of top judicial posts. The hot favourite for the head of the first supreme court is Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, who is currently Lord Chief Justice and the decision is expected by May. The supreme court is expected to be fare more visible than ever its predecessor was, and the public will be encouraged to visit and the openings of appeals and the handing down of judgments could be televised.

(3) Equality watchdog drops its backing for low-paid women’s legal challenge

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has decided to withdraw its backing for a court case that will determine whether local authorities have the right to delay paying women the same amount as men. The decision will come as a blow to many low-paid women who have put their faith in anti-discrimination law.

(4) Prosecutors in rape cases to trial US ploy of self-incrimination

As a new effort to improve the stubbornly low rape conviction rate, police and prosecutors in rape cases are set to experiment with controversial techniques, used by investigators in the US, designed to make suspects incriminate themselves through phone calls or text messages. The tactic involves women sending texts or making calls to their alleged attackers to see if they can extract an admission of guilt.

(5) Immigration detainees’ fight for freedom

Algerians, who have been detained for much longer periods than the controversial 42 days maximum ministers are seeking for suspects detained before charge, will invoke the ancient law of habeas corpus to seek their freedom in a high court test case next week. The case, funded by legal aid, is being brought by the charity Bail for Immigration Detainees.

(6) Banks face judgment on overdraft charges

Crucial test case over the legality of overdraft charges will reach its verdict today. The Office of Fair Trading is seeking to cap the fees banks can levy when customers exceed their current accounts without permission.




(1) Figures to prove adverse effect of downgrading Cannabis

Figures have shown that the number of people needing medical treatment as a result of cannabis use has risen by roughly half since the Government’s decision to downgrade the drug four years ago. These figures support the case for the drug being restored to Category B, and apparently Gordon Brown and the Home Secretary are both determined to do just that.

(2) Lenient sentencing of a terrorist to be challenged by the CPS and Police

After liaising with police, the Crown Prosecution Service is expected to pressure the government by challenging the perceived leniency of a jail term imposed on a terrorist who planned to kill British troops in Afghanistan. Those who brought the terrorist to court were angry and surprised at the sentence and is going to refer the case to the Attorney General, asking her to appeal against the sentence on the ground that it is “unduly lenient”.

(3) Sentenced in breach of a summons to give evidence for the prosecution in an assault case

A lottery winner who flew off on holiday instead of appearing as a witness in a criminal trial has been jailed for contempt of court. The judge said what she did was inexcusable and that it must be made quite clear no one must disobey an order of the court.

(4) Chinese executive flees UK court

A Chinese executive who was due to appear in a British court for possible extradition to the US skipped bail and fled home to the southern province of Hunan. An executive at MagPow told the FT that the Chinese government was very helpful in getting him out of the country. Legal protection for intellectual property in China is notoriously unreliable, making it difficult to stop pirates or enforce court judgments.

(5) Japan to force through terror law

The Japanese government is expected to force through controversial anti-terror legislation which would allow Japanese naval vessels to resume supplying oil to allied ships on anti-terror patrols in the Indian Ocean.


(1) Soaring cost of a prison building programme

MPs are accusing Jack Straw for providing misleading information regarding the cost of building new prisons. Albeit the original cost was estimated at £1.2 billion, the actual overall cost, which Mr Straw, the Justice Secretary was forced to disclose at the Commons Justice Select Committee, became £2.3 billion, almost double the original figure.

(2) New sentencing guidelines for traffic offences

The new penalties outlined by the Sentencing Guidelines Committee, are aimed at punishing more harshly drivers who kill, but they will dismay victims’ groups, who had hoped for tougher penalties for all drivers who cause deaths, as custody will not result in every case. Judges will have to assess how bad the driving was and the degree of danger created.

(3) Japan tries to cut bike toll

In the first changes to cycling rules for almost 30 years, Japan is planning new measures to discourage some of the outlandish but popular saddle habits. Warnings will be issued towards multi-tasking cyclists who do things like listen to portable music players or use umbrella while on the move. Offenders face a fine of 20,000 yen (£93) from this spring if they are caught triple riding – a balancing act usually involving an adult an d two small children spaced out along the length of the bicycle.


(1) Cannabis to be reclassified as Class B drug

The government is determined to reverse the decision taken in 2004 to downgrade cannabis. New evidence on the harm to mental heath cased by the used of stronger forms of the drug, commonly known as skunk, prompted the latest review of the law. Reclassifying cannabis as a Class B drug will mean that anyone found in possession of the substance could face a five-year jail term and an unlimited fine.

(2) Offender tracking scheme in tatters

The government’s original plan to set up a computer system aimed at improving co-ordination between the prison and probation services is to be scaled down after the costs of the project more than doubled in just six months to £512 million. As a result, the project, known as C-Nomis, will be introduced in prisons only and not extended to the probation service, as originally planned. Opposition MPs labeled this decision as another “government IT fiasco”.

(3) Magistrate reprimanded over veil

A magistrate who refused to deal with the case of a Muslim woman wearing a niqab covering her face was reprimanded by the Lord Chief Justice and Lord Chancellor. The Office of Judicial Complaints said that the magistrate had been ordered to receive further training.




(1) Move to ban industrial action in the prison service

In order to avoid a repeat of a wildcat strike by prison officers last August which caused chaos in the jail system, the Justice Secretary Mr Jack Straw unveiled a controversial plan to reintroduce a legislative ban on industrial action in the prison service.

(2) Right to defend their homes against burglars

MPs will debate tomorrow about the changes to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill which is aimed to provide householders the right to use force to defend their homes against burglars. An amendment seeks to clarify the law so that people can use “reasonable” force without fear of being prosecuted.

(3) Legal aid – new fees scheme will drive away the best barristers from hardest cases

While accepting that fees must be controlled, Tim Datton, QC, the new chairman of the Bar warns that the new fees scheme coming into force this month for complex lengthy cases may drive the best barristers away from the most important cases. Under the new scheme, QCs in middle-tier cases –including some terror and murder trials – will be paid just £89 an hour and it will be difficult to attract the best advocates into the hardest cases.




(1) Legal aid scheme shake up – exodus of expert lawyers

Just before the start of the legal aid scheme shakeup, solicitors are deserting legal aid work particularly in child cases. Furthermore, they are threatening to pull out of legal aid criminal defence work as well. It is expected that the new fees scheme, which will be introduced from next week, will see many criminal defence firms’ income drop.

(2) Structural flaw in pensions bill

A bill with the potential to provide the biggest boost to pension saving in decades goes before parliament today. However, the reform is criticized for retaining structural flaw as analysis by the Pensions Policy Institute suggests that perhaps one in five of those who save in the new system of personal accounts will be at risk of being no better off, and possibly worse off.