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Law | The Guardian

Latest news and features from theguardian.com, the world's leading liberal voice

Scottish court allows petition on whether UK can unilaterally stop Brexit

Tue, 20 Mar 2018 12:16:17 GMT

Major victory for cross-party group as appeal judges say case raises point ‘of great importance’

Appeal judges have ruled that a Scottish court has to properly examine claims that the UK should be able to unilaterally abandon Brexit without permission from other EU member states.

A panel of three judges led by Scotland’s most senior judge, Lord Carloway, the lord president, said the cross-party group of politicians behind the case had raised a point “of great importance” that had to be fully heard.

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Can climate litigation save the world?

Tue, 20 Mar 2018 06:00:31 GMT

Courts are a new front line of climate action with cases against governments and oil firms spiralling, and while victories have so far been rare the pressure for change is growing

Global moves to tackle climate change through lawsuits are poised to break new ground this week, as groups and individuals seek to hold governments and companies accountable for the damage they are causing.

What is it?

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UK army investigators under fire as bullying trial collapses

Mon, 19 Mar 2018 12:11:48 GMT

Possible witnesses were not spoken to as it was assumed they would not be honest, it emerged

A judge has criticised military investigators after the collapse of a case against army instructors who were accused of bullying teenage recruits.

Twenty-eight soldiers aged 16 and 17 had claimed they were abused and assaulted by 16 instructors during a battle camp exercise.

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Denisa Gannon: ‘Roma people are not getting justice’

Tue, 20 Mar 2018 15:00:42 GMT

The first Roma person to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales wants to empower others by improving access to the law

Denisa Gannon foresees an “immigration crisis” when Roma people in Britain apply to stay here in advance of Brexit. As the first Roma person to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales, she wants to do whatever she can to help.

There are thought to be around one million Roma people in the UK. Like many other immigrants, they have suffered increased hostility since the EU referendum. Still on the edge of society and with literacy and language problems, Gannon says they need help to integrate.

Related: Roma in UK 'deeply insecure' after vote to leave EU, thinktank says

Related: My path to law: 'I couldn’t understand my lecturers for the first two years'

I had a very small hope that I would ever qualify, but I held on to that hope

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Barrister blows whistle on 'broken legal system brought to its knees by cuts'

Sun, 18 Mar 2018 18:09:46 GMT

Damning book by ‘secret barrister’ tells of courts plagued by daily errors leaving them unfit for purpose

Courts that are like an A&E unit on a Saturday night, violent abusers walking free because evidence has gone missing, and lawyers doing hours of unpaid work to keep the system from collapse, are all part of a damning picture painted in a new book on the legal system by a barrister.

According to the anonymous author of The Secret Barrister: Stories Of The Law And How It’s Broken, the courts in England and Wales have been brought to their knees by government cuts and left so plagued by daily errors they are no longer fit for purpose.

Related: UK courts service spending sees tenfold rise since 2010

Related: Court closures: sale of 126 premises raised just £34m, figures show

Related: Law Society takes action over cuts to legal aid fees

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Sir Richard Body obituary

Mon, 19 Mar 2018 17:30:08 GMT

Independent-minded Lincolnshire MP who was an uncompromising eurosceptic

Sir Richard Body, the former Conservative MP for the broad acres of south Lincolnshire, claimed descent from the 18th-century agricultural innovator Jethro Tull and stood himself in a traditional parliamentary lineage that is all but extinct: that of the independent-minded country squire.

He would have fitted right in with the backwoodsmen who brought down Robert Peel over the Corn Laws in 1846. But by the time he retired from the House of Commons in 2001 his sort of backbencher, with deep and sometimes eccentric passions, many embedded in his agrarian roots, was on the way out. “I wasn’t ambitious,” he said. “I have a horror of creeps.”

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Shoreham air crash pilot to be charged with manslaughter

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 22:46:19 GMT

Andrew Hill faces manslaughter by gross negligence charges after 11 men died in air show tragedy

The pilot whose plane crashed in the Shoreham airshow disaster, killing 11 men, will be charged with manslaughter by gross negligence, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has announced.

Andrew Hill also faces charges of endangerment of an aircraft under air navigation laws after the Hawker Hunter jet plummeted on to the A27 in West Sussex at 1.22pm on 22 August 2015.

Related: What happened at the Shoreham airshow crash?

Announcement that charges have been laid in Shoreham Airshow crash will give families of victims opportunity to raise many outstanding questions in court but should not haven taken 31 months to take that decision & has only compounded their grief

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Undercover officers need protection from Greenpeace? You’re joking | Neil Woods

Mon, 19 Mar 2018 10:00:30 GMT

Anonymity for the police is a privilege. I was undercover for years and can see this privilege is being abused in the spycops inquiry

I’m increasingly disturbed by the “spycops” public inquiry into the undercover policing of political protest groups, which is having yet another hearing on Wednesday to decide whether or not individual officers should be identified. The Metropolitan police is dictating the terms of this public inquiry and, even to a former undercover police officer like me, it has begun to look like a whitewash.

In 2015, in the spirit of transparency, police misconduct hearings were made public. This means that any constable accused of wrongdoing now features in local newspapers or the national press. So why isn’t the behaviour of the Special Demonstration Squad and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit – at the centre of this inquiry – being examined with the same transparency?

I caught some of the most vicious gangsters in the UK, but I knew that if I behaved improperly I could lose my pseudonym

Related: Undercover police abused female activists. But the inquiry is a farce | Alison

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Failings in mental healthcare are violating basic human rights | Rob Behrens

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 16:39:03 GMT

My report shows that too many people in the UK aren’t being treated with the dignity and respect they should expect when in crisis

• Rob Behrens is the parliamentary and health service ombudsman

General attitudes to mental health may have become more enlightened, but serious inadequacies remain in how we care for and treat mental health patients. After my in-depth investigation into mental healthcare provision in the UK, it is clear that damage can be done to individuals when the system fails them. Such failings are commonly blamed on three problems: lack of integration of mental health services with other healthcare provision; underfunding; and lack of skills and staffing capacity.

Related: Damning report finds ‘serious failings’ in NHS mental health services

We should never have to see cases coming to us where care appears to be Dickensian in its lack of compassion

Related: How the Guardian investigated mental health patient deaths

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Grenfell inquiry to have most core participants in UK history

Tue, 20 Mar 2018 17:52:53 GMT

Preliminary hearings resume with more than 530 accredited individuals and organisations

More than 530 individuals and organisations have been granted core participant status for the Grenfell Tower fire inquiry, which resumes preliminary hearings on Wednesday.

The number of accredited parties underlines the breadth of the disaster’s impact and the challenge facing Sir Martin Moore-Bick, the retired appeal court judge chairing the investigation. Three individuals are being allowed to remain anonymous.

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Anger over ruling that British army did not use torture in Northern Ireland

Tue, 20 Mar 2018 14:52:39 GMT

Victims dismayed as European court declines to alter 1978 judgment on treatment of ‘hooded men’

The European court of human rights’ decision to reject a request to rebrand as torture the maltreatment of 14 detainees by the British state at the start of Northern Ireland’s Troubles has been met with shock and dismay from the victims.

Known as the “hooded men”, the 14 men interned without trial in 1971 said the court’s refusal to redefine their ordeal at the hands of British troops and police as torture was a setback for the international campaign against torture methods.

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Climate science on trial as high-profile US case takes on fossil fuel industry

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 23:18:40 GMT

Courtroom showdown in San Francisco pitted liberal cities against oil corporations, and saw judge host unusual climate ‘tutorial’

The science of climate change was on trial Wednesday when leading experts testified about the threats of global warming in a US court while a fossil fuel industry lawyer fighting a high-profile lawsuit sought to deflect blame for rising sea levels.

The hearing was part of a courtroom showdown between liberal California cities and powerful oil corporations, including Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and BP. San Francisco and Oakland have sued the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies, arguing that they are responsible for damages related to global warming.

Related: A judge asks basic questions about climate change. We answer them

Related: Can climate litigation save the world?

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How Goldie is leading the tech revolution sweeping British courts

Sun, 18 Mar 2018 15:00:06 GMT

The drum’n’bass pioneer was the first person in the UK to FaceTime his plea hearing – but from ‘eBundles’ to ‘eBay justice’, it’s not the only way technology is transforming trials

Drum’n’bass icon and grills pioneer Goldie has shot back to the top of the news agenda after making legal history last week. Asked to plead over a fight he’d had at Glastonbury in 2017, Goldie, real name Clifford Price, was absent. His defence explained that he regularly flitted off to Thailand for the winter, so he wouldn’t be back in the UK till May. But when district judge Lynne Matthews ordered the trial proceed without him, he was rustled up on FaceTime. Matthews asked if he was pleading guilty. He said: “Correct, my dear,” to which the judge replied: “No, I am not your dear.”

As far as it is known, this is the first time FaceTime has been used in a British court. But behind this charming tale of technology securing justice in the alleged kicking of a bouncer, a far broader e-revolution has been gathering pace in British courtrooms.

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The Cambridge Analytica saga is a scandal of Facebook’s own making | John Harris

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 11:33:41 GMT

This mess was inevitable. Facebook has worked tirelessly to gather as much data on users as it could – and to profit from it

  • Mark Zuckerberg breaks silence on Cambridge Analytica

Big corporate scandals tend not to come completely out of the blue. As with politicians, accident-prone companies rarely become that way by accident, and a spectacular crisis can often arrive at the end of a long spell of bad decisions and confidence curdling into hubris. So it is with the tale of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, and a saga that vividly highlights the awful mess that the biggest player in billions of online lives has turned into.

Related: Cambridge Analytica may be guilty of hype. But data mining poisons our politics | Gaby Hinsliff

At times, Mark Zuckerberg looks like someone who cannot keep up even with himself

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No wonder so few people report rape. They are hung out to dry in court | Joan Smith and Claire Waxman

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 15:20:03 GMT

Fear of intrusive investigations and total loss of privacy make sexual assault victims less likely to make a complaint

The process of investigating and prosecuting rape cases in England and Wales is in crisis – but not for the reasons you might think. In January, the attorney general, Jeremy Wright QC, asked the crown prosecution service to review all live rape and serious sexual assault cases following the collapse of four high-profile cases in a matter of weeks. In London, the Metropolitan police is carrying out a similar review of 600 current cases.

Related: Solicitor for student in rape case criticises police and CPS

Astonishingly, there is no equivalent obligation on defendants to hand over phones and computers in a rape investigation

The stark truth is that very few rapists end up in court

Related: Woman was killed by ex-lover just days after police seized her phone

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Guernsey could be first place in British Isles to allow assisted dying

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 11:44:12 GMT

Parliament to vote on proposals to allow some terminally ill people to end their lives with help of a doctor

Guernsey could become the first place in the British Isles to allow assisted dying under proposals expected to be voted on in its parliament in May.

The island’s chief minister, Gavin St Pier, is backing a bill to allow people who are terminally ill, mentally competent and have less than six months to live, to end their lives with the help of a doctor.

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Ukip on brink of bankruptcy after £175,000 legal bill

Mon, 19 Mar 2018 19:24:10 GMT

Party hit with bill for its part in libel action involving one of its MEPs and three Labour MPs

Ukip is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy after it was presented with a legal bill of £175,000 for its part in a libel action involving three Labour MPs in the run up to the 2015 election.

If the party does not appeal, it must find the cash in the next fortnight, which may leave it unable to field candidates in the local elections in May.

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The Guardian view on free speech online: let law decide the limits | Editorial

Sun, 18 Mar 2018 18:15:33 GMT

The standards by which the internet is controlled need to be open and subject to impartial judiciaries – not left to advertisers

The revelations we publish about how Facebook’s data was used by Cambridge Analytica to subvert the openness of democracy are only the latest examples of a global phenomenon. All over the world, governments are coming to grips with the destructive power of social media. In recent weeks, Sri Lanka, Britain, Indonesia and Myanmar have all seen measures taken against hate-speech campaigns. In some cases the companies that publish and profit from them have acted themselves; in others the government has taken direct action. In Sri Lanka, the government reacted to a burst of anti-Muslim rioting by completely shutting down Facebook, WhatsApp, and the messaging app Viber for a week on 7 March. In Britain, Facebook banned the neo-Nazi Britain First movement, which had acquired 2m “likes”, after two of its leaders were jailed. The leaders’ personal pages were also removed. Why it took the company that long to act, when the hateful nature of the pages had been obvious to the whole world ever since Donald Trump retweeted one of their made-up news stories in 2017, is difficult to explain.

YouTube can not only profit from disturbing content but in unintended ways rewards its creation. The algorithms that guide viewers to new choices aim always to intensify the experience, and to keep the viewer excited. This can damage society, and individuals, without being explicitly political: recent research found that the nearly 9,000 YouTube videos explaining away American school shootings as the results of conspiracies using actors to play the part of victims had been watched, in total, more than 4bn times. Four billion page views is an awful lot of potential advertising revenue; it is also, in an embarrassingly literal sense, traffic in human misery and exploitation.

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Poorest priced out of justice by legal aid rules, says Law Society

Tue, 20 Mar 2018 00:01:24 GMT

Study finds low-income families cannot afford representation due to freeze in means test threshold

Some of the poorest families in England and Wales are being denied legal aid because they cannot afford the financial contributions they are required to make, according to the Law Society.

A study commissioned by the body that represents solicitors criticised the fact that many on low incomes are being deprived of access to justice by the very system that is supposed to support them.

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Bad Girls review – a much-needed history of Holloway prison

Sun, 18 Mar 2018 11:00:01 GMT

Caitlin Davies’s timely study brings into focus the problems with incarcerating women – be they prostitutes or royalty

HMP Holloway opened in 1852 as a house of correction for both men and women. The “terror to evildoers” became a women-only institution in 1902 and finally met its end in November 2015, when George Osborne, then chancellor, announced the prison’s closure. The female inmates were decanted.

In Bad Girls: a History of Rebels and Renegades, Caitlin Davies meticulously records a much-needed and balanced history of this home to “royalty and socialites, spies and prostitutes… Nazis and aliens, terrorists and freedom fighters” and thousands of very ordinary desperate women, many of whom had experienced violence at the hands of men, and entered prison knowing that as the sole parent for their children, they would lose their children into care.

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