Category Archives: Justice

Ken MacDonald: For Liberal Democrats, civil liberties belong to every age (via Lib Dem Voice)

Lord Macdonald
Lord Macdonald

The closer we get to the election, the louder the question resonates: what have Liberal Democrats brought to government? In all the compromises and stresses of coalition, has our difference made it all worthwhile?

In the area of civil liberties, so important to us as a party, the answer must be a resounding ‘yes’. Of course not all the coalition battles around freedom have taken place in public, but they have been fiercely fought nonetheless- sustained, difficult struggles against the Tories and parts of the Whitehall machine, to keep our country loyal to its most enduring values in the face of terrorism and risk.

The appetite of the securocrats for more and more surveillance, more and more powers, ever-greater intrusion into everyday lives, appears at times to be almost without limit. As Director of Public Prosecutions during a period of intense terrorist threats following 9/11 and our tragically misconceived invasion of Iraq, I saw at first hand the extent to which politicians, even government ministers, would abdicate their responsibilities in this area. Too often they bowed down and failed to fulfil their most important role: to scrutinise.

Full article here

Brian Paddick & John Hemming MP: The injustice of pre-charge police bail (via The Daily Telegraph)

Lord Paddick
Lord Paddick
John Hemming MP
John Hemming MP

Lib Dems Brian Paddick & John Hemming MP have both put their names to a letter in the Daily Telegraph calling for a time limit on pre-charge bail:

Pre-charge bail was introduced 30 years ago to limit the freedom of individuals while police conducted further investigations. No restriction was put on the amount of time police could hold someone on pre-charge bail.

This has led to a perversion of justice where, today, more than 70,000 people are languishing in a form of legal limbo in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

More than 5,000 have been on police bail for at least six months. Innocent people have been left on bail for years before their cases are dropped or thrown out of court. Their careers are put on hold, and the mental anguish of not knowing what will happen is in itself a form of punishment without trial. There is no right of appeal.

These individuals are innocent until proved guilty, but justice delayed is justice denied. Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has called for a time limit for pre-charge bail. We believe it should be a maximum of 28 days, reviewed by a judge and not by police. The Government must act swiftly to turn words into action.

The letter, with a full list of signatories, appears on the Daily Telegraph website 

 

Lib Dem Peers lead the fight against revenge porn

Julian Huppert MP
Julian Huppert MP
Baroness Grender
Baroness Grender

Lib Dems in the House of Lords have moved one step closer to criminalising the sharing of revenge porn following the tabling of a new amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill.

The revision, which makes it an offense to publish a private sexual image of another identifiable person without their consent, focuses specifically on the distress caused to the victims.

The amendment was tabled by Lib Dem Peers Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, Baroness Grender, Baroness Brinton & Baroness Barker.

The proposal follows a hard fought campaign by Lib Dem MP, Julian Huppert, who has previously highlighted the issue in the commons and campaigned for a change in the law.

The amendment is expected to be debated on 22 October 2014, during the report stage of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill.

Revenge Porn Campaigner Hannah Thompson said: “It made me really ill to see that my ex-boyfriend had published pictures of me online.

“I remember thinking at the time that this must be illegal. When I found out it wasn’t I started my campaign to ban revenge porn but I never thought anyone would listen to me. I was so pleased when the Lib Dems picked it up in the House of Commons. The law needs to be changed and I am glad to see that we have a real chance to make this happen.”

Julian Huppert MP said: “I have campaigned vigorously to make a criminal sanction available when people share indecent images in the knowledge that consent would not have been given.

“Without these measures more people will unfairly suffer at the hands of malicious former partners.”

Baroness Grender said: “It is vital that we act in the House of Lords to criminalise revenge porn and protect that victims of this heinous practise. Ultimately this isn’t about the sexual nature of the images but about the embarrassment and shame felt by those that have their privacy breached in this way.

“I am grateful for the work my Lib Dem colleague Julian Huppert MP has been doing in the Commons to both raise awareness of this issue and lead the fight for it to be criminalised.

“I must also congratulate Hannah Thompson who was brave enough to get in touch and ask Julian and I to change the law.”  

Lib Dems Table Revenge Porn Amendment

Baroness Grender
Baroness Grender
Lord Marks
Lord Marks

Lib Dems in the House of Lords have today tabled an amendment making ‘revenge porn’ a criminal offense. Lord Marks & Baroness Grender have put forward a proposal that new clauses be added to the Criminal Justice & Courts Bill.

The proposal follows a hard fought campaign by Lib Dem MP Julian Huppert who has worked hard to highlight the issue in the commons.

Yesterday, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling MP’s commented on the revenge porn in Justice Questions in the House of Commons.

Julian Huppert says: “I do not often call for new criminal sanctions—it is not my natural style. In this case, however, I think we need to make a criminal sanction available when people share indecent images in the knowledge that consent would not have been given.”

Lord Marks added: “Julian Huppert has been leading on this vital issue and we are more than happy to support his campaign by bringing forward an amendment to the Criminal Justice & Courts Bill. We hope to work closely with Ministers within the Ministry of Justice to ensure that this offence reaches the statute book.”

The amendment seeks to ensure that images of an identifiable person, which are of an intimate or pornographic nature, published online without consent are viewed as criminal acts. An offence will only be committed where at the time of the images being taken the person had a reasonable expectation that the image would remain private. The offence will carry a maximum sentence of one year in prison.

Jonathan Marks: Criminal Justice and Courts Bill comes to the Lords (via Lib Dem Voice)

Lord Marks
Lord Marks

The Lib Dems should be proud that under the Coalition Government crime is falling and fast – in 2013 there was a drop in offences overall of 15%, including a drop in violent crime of 12%, continuing a trend that has been continuous for more than five years.  Crime is now at its lowest level for more than 30 years.

This Bill marks the Coalition Government’s commitment to keep the pressure on to drive down crime.  There is much in it that is good.

The Lib Dems have led the way on a number of key issues. The hard work of Paul Burstow, and Lib Dem Care Minister Norman Lamb, has ensured that wilful neglect by care workers will become a new offence. This is a vital step to ensuring that some of the horrific treatment of patients and those in care that we saw at Mid-Staffordshire Hospital and the Winterbourne Care Home never happens again.

Full article here

Navnit Dholakia: It’s time to raise the age of criminal responsibility

Today in the House of Lords, Lord Navnit Dholakia will have the Second Reading of his Private Member’s Bill which would raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12. It would, he writes here, be an important step in the way we deal with children

Lord Dholakia
Lord Dholakia

AT present in England and Wales children are deemed to be criminally responsible from the age of 10. That’s the lowest in Europe. In Scotland children cannot be prosecuted below the age of 12. Outside the British Isles the age of criminal responsibility is invariably even higher. In France, Greece and Poland it is 13. In Germany, Spain and Italy 14. In the rest of Europe it ranges between 15 and 18.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has repeatedly stated that our minimum age of criminal responsibility is not compatible with our obligations under international standards of juvenile justice and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Of course, taking 10- or 11-year-olds out of the criminal justice system would not mean doing nothing with children who offend. It would mean doing what other countries do with them, or what we do with delinquent nine-year-olds. In other words, it would mean dealing with the causes of these children’s offending through intervention by children’s services teams.

In the minority of cases where court proceedings are necessary, it would mean bringing children before family proceedings courts which can impose compulsory measures of supervision and care. In the most serious cases this can mean long-term detention in secure accommodation, but this would be arranged as part of care proceedings rather than as a custodial punishment imposed in criminal proceedings.

Those who oppose increasing the age of criminal responsibility often argue that children of 10 and 11 are capable of telling right from wrong, as though it automatically followed that they should therefore be dealt with in criminal courts. But this doesn’t logically follow at all. Most six-year-olds have a sense of right and wrong but no-one suggests they should be subject to criminal prosecution.

There is no other area of the law – whether it is the age for buying a pet, the age for paid employment, the age of consent to sexual activity or the age for smoking and drinking – where we regard children as fully competent to take informed decisions until later in adolescence.  The age of criminal responsibility is an anomalous exception.

My Bill is a simple proposition which would, if enacted, be an important step towards dealing with vulnerable, difficult and disturbed children in a way which befits a civilised society.

Published and promoted by Tim Gordon on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, both at LDHQ, 8-10 Great George Street, London, SW1P 3AE.

Bill on new cohabitation rights introduced in House of Lords

Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames
Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames

A Private Member’s Bill granting legal rights to cohabiting couples when they break up or when one partner dies was published today by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Jonathan Marks QC.

Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames’ Cohabitation Rights Bill will bring in some legal rights to couples who live together in line with proposals made by the Law Commission in 2007 and 2011.

 

The number of couples in the UK cohabiting increased from less than 3m in 1996 to 5.9m last year. 38% of those have children.

Lord Marks said: “Increasing numbers of people are choosing to live together rather than getting married or having a civil partnership and they deserve some legal protection.

“For far too long nothing has been done to give cohabiting couples fair treatment when they break up or one partner dies.

“There is a widespread belief that couples who live together get some rights in law as so-called ‘common-law spouses’. But that is a complete myth.

“My Bill will bring in the Law Commission’s proposals made in 2007 and 2011 to give couples who live together some legal rights.”

Under Lord Marks’ Bill, cohabiting couples would not be treated the same as married couples but would have some protection  against being taken advantage of when their relationships break down and against being left destitute when one partner dies without a will.

Lord Marks said: “The judges and the legal profession have been calling for these reforms for years – they are long overdue.”

Published and promoted by Tim Gordon on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, both at LDHQ, 8-10 Great George Street, London, SW1P 3AE.

Legal powers plan for families of missing people welcomed by Baroness Kramer

Baroness Kramer
Baroness Kramer

The news that the families of missing people will get more power to handle legal and money problems after their disappearance is “excellent”, Baroness Kramer said today.

The Government has proposed a new power of “guardianship” which would allow families in England and Wales to deal with property and administrative tasks such as suspending direct debits.

Last year Baroness Kramer withdrew a similar Private Member’s Bill after being given assurances that the Government would take up the issue.

Currently families can have to wait years for loved ones to be presumed dead.

Baroness Kramer said today: “This is excellent. Last year I withdrew my Bill on guardianship on the understanding that the Government would take up the issue. They have lived up to their word and put in place an aggressive timetable.

“So many families left in intolerable limbo when a relative goes missing will at least be able to handle these practical affairs.

“Guardianship powers will at least mean that issues like managing bank accounts and mortgages do not add these families’ emotional trauma.”

The Ministry of Justice is proposing a “temporary status” between people who are missing and those proposed dead.

 

Published and promoted by Tim Gordon on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, both at LDHQ, 8-10 Great George Street, London, SW1P 3AE.