Month: October 2006

Religious Dress

Religious Dress

It is currently Reading week – a time to read. Yeah. Or something like that.

In addition to reading, we have been set a short assignment to comment on a case we have been looking at in Constitutional & Administrative Law, an assignment I have just completed and am now going to republish here:

Read the Court of Appeal decision of Brooke LJ, and the House of Lords decision of Baroness Hale, in Begum v Denbigh High School. In your opinion, how should this case have been decided and why.

The UK is not secular – throughout the country there exist schools run by the church, Religious Education is part of the national curriculum and religious dress is often incorporated into uniform policy. Indeed, the history of the UK revolves around religion and the influence of the Church of English, and now increasingly the religious beliefs of a wide variety of faiths. In contrast, the United States (and many countries in Europe) operates a secular educational system to allow the state to appear neutral. However, despite this, an interesting paradox exists in that the US “is now the most religiose country in Christendom, while England is among the least”[1] . This is particularly the case when the President of the USA himself openly states that “he [is] driven with a mission from God”[2] which goes against the original non-religious founding beliefs of the American government.

(more…)

The Perfect Example

detention-without-trial

When I showed the Military Commission article on The Register to one of my friends yesterday he said that it’s a sign of things to come here in the UK. I disgreed because in the UK we do have an effective parliament and safeguards in place. The government might try and instigate the likes of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill but they have so far, and I hope always will, fail.

Another perfect example of how this is the case is when the detention without trial idea was suggested only to be scrapped because it is against human rights laws. It’s ironic that it was this Labour government that passed the Human Rights Act in 1998 and now things they are trying to get through are being blocked because of it! I’d like to think that anything similar to this in the future will meet the same fate and our judicial system will ensure that even if something suspect does come into force, it doesn’t have much of an impact upon the freedoms we take for granted.

And I’m glad the Lord Chief Justice thinks along the same lines.

The beginning of the end

The beginning of the end

I hate the American media. I can’t stand their “news”. And I use “news” in the lightest sense. You only have to watch Fox News to see what I mean – a show of pure drama and hype. The news as I see it in the USA is purely for entertainment value and rarely shows an unbiased or independant view. Contrast that with the BBC News and even ITV or Channel 4 news and it really becomes aparrant. We are so lucky in the UK to have the BBC News providing real impartiality in their original news broadcasting.

However, despite my dislike for news reporting in the United States I am actually going to link to a 9 minute clip from an MSNBC broadcast which mirrors some of the points I highlighted yesterday. But even this clip that assults the Military Comissions Act and the government that passed it caused a shiver down my spine in the way that it was presented. If this had been reported by the BBC News (it may have been, but I don’t have a TV) I would have expected a summary of the points of the legislation covering both sides and possible impacts and perhaps a comment from the US political correspondant, but certainly no personal opinion. This MSNBC piece did none of that and focused entirely on what had happened in history and how it was the beginning of the end of America.

The media always hype things, particularly the destruction of freedom and liberty (rightly so?) and that is even more so in the USA. But on this occasion if you can put up with that, it’s worth watching.

Military Commissions Act

Military Commissions Act

So called “Western society” is supposed to be the pinnacle of democracy, fairness, justice and tolerance. I’m proud of British history and when people look back on the 21st century I want them to be just as proud of our the achievements.

Sometimes I feel sorry for the Americans who have to put up with the Bush administration. For the most part, Europe and the UK have been spared such crazy things like software patents, the full extent of the Patriot Act and forced teaching of creationism as a scientific theory (it might be a theory but it sure as hell isn’t scientific). So when I read an article today on The Register about the Military Commissions Act of 2006 I was dismayed at the extent to which rights are being eroded in the USA in the name of democracy – as a “a “vital tool” in the war on terror”.

My political alignment is not clearly defined – I like ideas from all sides of the political compass. As a result I’m by no means a liberal, but I think that aspects of law enforcement such as judicial review, parliamentary review, the right to legal counsel, the right to not be tortured et al are crucial aspects to a fair and just legal system. That the removal of these aspects of a legal system (all be it concerned with military commissions) can actually pass through the legislative stages in the USA is beyond belief. What exactly is the purpose of Congress if it just passes these bills without any consideration for the key aspects of modern society that it will demolish? I know our government has tried similar things, but they always fail – our parliament works in that stupid ideas such as these cannot get through.

(more…)

Trauma

beyond reasonable doubt

In the UK we have a criminal legal system which requires the burden of proof to be “beyond reasonable doubt” – should any doubt be present then the defendant should be acquitted of any charges. You already knew that.

The way the system works is a witness will be questioned by their own counsel and then cross examined by the other side. The idea here of course is to determine the facts of the case and convince the jury (if present) that something did or didn’t happen, how it did or didn’t happen and to prove or disprove the charge. The questions can often be difficult and since most barristers are cunning, the questions will also be worded and crafted in such a way as to get the answer the particular barrister wants. But you already knew that too.

It is quite fun to watch when this kind of thing happens. You can see how answers are manipulated and in many cases the witness will become frustrated, making them even easier to question. This is fine if the witness is a horrible criminal – you want to see them have a hard time – but what if the witness is the victim or someone who is vulnerable? Fine if they’re a hardcore robber but what if they are a young rape victim?

(more…)

The UK Statute Law Database

The UK Statute Law Database

Although I am only a first year law student, I have already had to use my Statute Book and the law resources online to research cases and particular legislation. This is made easier because my university subscribes to the well known online legal databases such as Lexis Nexis, Justis and Westlaw. These resources are helpful because it becomes much easier to find the text of the legislation as well as any ammendments and annotation.

Unfortunately, these resources are subscription based i.e. they will probably cost a hell of a lot of money to use. Just looking on the Lexis Nexis website right now I see that the prices aren’t even available – you have to contact someone first. That’s always a bad sign!

I read The Guardian and there has been an ongoing campaign in their technology supplement called “Free Our Data”. This is particularly focused on data such as post codes or Ordinance Survey maps, but I recall them also mentioning making available the law which applies to us all i.e. legislation. Already Parliament (through a fancy new website) and the DCA provide access to recent legislation as well as bills currently going through Parliament. There is also online access to Hansard and the particularly useful theyworkforyou.com. But there is no centralised source that can provide you with access to the full text of all the legislation along with details of amendments etc etc.

(more…)

Obligations

Obligations

Last week was my first week on a full and proper timetable, which is split between lectures and seminars. I had prepared the work I needed to for the seminars and this weekend I have been doing the same – preparing for the seminars for this coming week.

We haven’t really been “taught” much law so far – a lot of the lectures and seminars have been focused around an introduction to the modules. So when the second piece of work for the Obligations I seminar was set, I was a little surprised at what the question was. For example:

What is the likely (legal) outcome in the following situations?
1. Gary had installed a new kitchen for his friend Dave. When Dave bought a new car, he promised to give Gary his old car when the new one was delivered. Garry accepted, but Dave later changed his mind and decided to sell the car instead.

7. Martha rents out rooms in her flat for £300 per month. When James, one of her tenants, unexpectedly lost his job, she told him that she would accept half the rent from him, as she thought this would be easier than finding a new tenant. Two months later, James finds another job – but when Martha says the rent should go back to £300 per month, he tells her he doesn’t have to pay that much any more.

(more…)

Finding case material

Finding case material

Unfortunately I was very busy with visiting the County Court for the day and then going to the Space Society meeting so I wasn’t able to post this as I said I would, but here it is now!

Feel free to comment and add your own resources/tips and reuse this document under the terms of the CC license this site uses.

Sources of case material

Pre 1865 – Nominate Reports

Found in the “English Reports”
Post 1865 – The Law Reports (Incorporated Council of Law Reporting)

Official law reports, approved by judges and preferred in court
Under 200 cases per year
25 series, of which 4 are reported today
AC – Appeal cases in House of Lords
Ch – Chancery Division
QB – Queen’s Bench Division
Fam – Family Division
Post 1936 – All England Law Reports

Report quicker than The Law Reports
Post 1954 – Weekly Law Reports

Report quicker than The Law Reports
Locations of case material

(more…)

Finding legislation

As I posted yesterday, this is the first of two posts containing short reference documents I put together to consolidate the information I gained through lectures on finding legal material. This document concerns finding legislation.

Feel free to comment and add your own resources/tips and reuse this document under the terms of the CC license this site uses.

Types of legislation

Primary

Acts of Parliament or Statutes
Public General Acts – Apply nationally
Local/Personal Acts – Apply to an individual/locality
Debates published in Hansard
Green Papers – Consultative documents
White (Command) Papers – Policy documents
Orders in Council
Delegated

Statutory Instruments – made under the authority of statute
Other rules, codes, orders with the force of law
Locations of legislation

(more…)

Finding…

In order to find the text of legislation back in “The Day” you would have had to look in the library and find so called “books” with the text in, and even then it might be difficult to find the very latest version and the text may not have any helpful annotations. Nowadays this task is much easier with the use of the internet and Google. But whilst Google is handy to confirm a fact or get a quick copy of the legislation, for full, authoritative versions with additional information about citations, ammendments and various other notes you need to look elsewhere.

Right now, “elsewhere” will be databases such as Lexis Nexis, Westlaw and the Justis. Unfortunately these are subscription based services but since my university pays for access to them I shan’t consider any other resources for the moment. In a few months the Statute Law Database will become available which will provide access to the legislation for everyone for free. I am part of the final phase 3 test user group and shall be reporting my findings in due course (i.e. when I get around to testing it in amonst my vast amount of reading and preparation tasks).

One of the first things I have learnt from the law school is how and where to find both legislation and case material. Across a few lectures we have been introduced to the services available and I decided to consolidate the information provided into two handy documents I now have stuck on my wall. And I am going to share these online and open them for comment, feedback and improvement (assuming anyone who is reading has the time to do so!).

As such, my next two posts tomorrow and Wednesday will be these documents typed out for all and any to use. And because the content on this blog is licensed under a very unrestrictive CC license, you can pretty much do with them as you please so long as you mention me! But if you do improve them I would appreciate any feedback.