« View all Articles

News Roundup Week Ending 6 June

Charlotte Rowles

By Charlotte Rowles on 06/06/14

News Roundup Week Ending 6 June

7 June 2014

New film from the Justice Alliance  highlighting impact of legal aid cuts includes interview with Patrick Maguire wrongly convicted aged 14 for explosives offences which never happened.(see Watch Video at bottom of page)

6 June 2014

Dominic Cassini, The BBC’s Home Affairs correspondent,  reports on the latest developments in approaching rape cases. 

Measures aimed at improving the conviction rate for rape in courts in England and Wales have been launched by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Alison Saunders and the leading national police officer for rape called for a renewed effort to dispel "myths". The plan includes monitoring the quality of decisions when police decide to drop investigations.

The conviction rate for rape dropped in the last 12 months after five years of steady improvements. In 2007-08, 58% of cases brought to trial resulted in a conviction. The conviction rate hit a high of 63% in 2011-12 but has since fallen back to 60%.

Separate figures provided to MPs show that the proportion of allegations referred by the police to prosecutors for a decision on whether to go to trial fell in 2012-13, despite a 30% increase in the number of rapes being reported. The most recent figures for 2014 suggest that the referral rate is beginning to rise again.

Police sent 5,400 cases to the CPS in 2012-13, representing 31% of all reports they had received. In 2008-09 the referral rate was 50%.

Ms Saunders said the decline in successful rape convictions "must be addressed immediately". "Over the last year we have worked hard to increase the volume of rape cases referred by the police and charged by prosecutors and our latest figures are certainly encouraging," she said.

"But even though there have been slightly more defendants convicted, the steady increase in conviction rates we have seen in recent years has halted, and this must be addressed immediately. "I am determined to ensure our long-term progress to tackle rape continues, particularly in dispelling the myths and stereotypes surrounding these types of cases."

The DPP said the joint CPS-police action plan made clear that the focus of any investigation, or preparation of a prosecution, must focus on the credibility of the allegations, not the credibility of the victim.

She said: "Myths and stereotypes still pervade throughout society and have the potential to influence jurors too. We have a part to play in fighting any pre-conceptions through the way we handle and present our cases to those juries. "

The key measures include:

Ensuring that prosecutions focus more clearly on what the law says about consent to sex in complicated cases.

Reviewing the operation of specialist Crown Prosecution Service teams and the barristers they use to present evidence to juries in court.

Monitoring police decisions when they decide to take no further action on some allegations, including analysing why and how that decision was authorised.

Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt, the national policing lead for adult sex offences, said: "All the changes we have made in the way police deal with sexual offences - specialist training of officers, the introduction of early evidence kits, greater access to sexual assault referral centres and working closely with support groups - are changes that have emerged from looking at ourselves and realising that we can do things better.

"We've taken another hard look at how we do things and found room for further improvements.

"We are determined that the service we provide to victims is the best it can be, so that more victims have the confidence to report, knowing that they will get the support they need to go through the criminal justice process and that we will do everything we can to bring offenders to justice."

5 June 2014

The Guardian’s Alexandra Topping reports on the latest arrests in Operation Yewtree. 

Former pop star Glitter, 70, whose real name is Paul Gadd, was the first person to be arrested as part of Operation Yewtree.

Gary Glitter is to be charged with eight sexual offences relating to girls aged between 12 and 14, the Crown Prosecution Service said on Thursday.

Glitter, whose real name is Paul Gadd, became the first person to be arrested as part of Operation Yewtree in relation to the police inquiry into sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile, when he was taken into police custody in October 2012.

The 70-year-old was questioned by police for more than nine hours, and has been on bail ever since. But after receiving new evidence as recently as March this year, the CPS have confirmed they believe they now have enough evidence to bring the case to trial.

Announcing the decision to charge him Baljit Ubhey, chief crown prosecutor for CPS London, said: "We have carefully considered the evidence gathered by the Metropolitan Police Service in relation to Paul Gadd, also known as Gary Glitter. He was arrested on 28 October 2012 over allegations of sexual offences and the police have been providing material to the CPS since July 2013, with the most recent material submitted in March 2014."

"Having completed our review, we have concluded, in accordance with the code for crown prosecutors, that there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest for Mr Gadd to be charged with eight offences under the Sexual Offences Act 1956. These relate to two female complainants aged between 12 and 14 at the time of the alleged offending between 1977 and 1980. "

Glitter is accused of four counts of indecent assault involving the first complainant, who was aged 12 or 13 at the time, between 31 January and 31 May 1977.

He is also accused of one count of "administering a drug or other thing in order to facilitate sexual intercourse" and one count of sexual intercourse with a girl under 13 between the same dates.

He is also charged with two counts of indecent assault between 1 October 1979 and 31 December 1980 involving the second complainant, who was aged 13 or 14 at the time.

Glitter will appear at Westminster magistrates court on 19 June 2014. Ubhey said that five allegations made by two further complainants had been dropped, because the CPS deemed there was "insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction".

5 June 2014

Rowena Mason and Sandra Laville report on the secret terrorism trial in the Guardian. 

Justice secretary's comments come after it emerges that case involving two terror suspects is set to be heard in secret

The justice secretary, Chris Grayling, has said judges should be trusted to make the right decisions in secret trials, after it emerged a major criminal case involving two terror suspects could be heard behind closed doors for the first time in modern history.

The senior Conservative said the default in the court system should be transparency but there were instances where it was right to hold hearings in secret.

He said this case was a matter for the courts but common law and statute did allow some rare cases in which trials could be heard in private.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he said: "We do entrust them with many parts of our national life … I believe passionately in the freedom of the press and I believe the circumstances in which the press do not have access to the trial process should be very, very rare indeed.

"But in this particular case, if there is a really good reason, if it is in the interests of justice for the judge to take a decision one way or the other, so be it; that's why we have them. That's why we trust the judges, that's why we have them, to take the right decisions of behalf of all of us."

Sadiq Khan MP, Labour's shadow justice secretary, said: "A cloak of secrecy on this scale is unprecedented. Open justice isn't some optional add on – transparency and openness are absolutely critical to the way our courts run. Deviating from this runs the risk of undermining the public's confidence in justice being done and is a slippery slope. While there will always be exceptional circumstances in which parts of cases may need to be held in secret, very important questions need answering as to why in this instance the whole case needs be held in secret."

Lawyers contesting the decision at the court of appeal on Wednesday said the plan amounted to "an unprecedented departure from the principles of open justice" and was inconsistent with democracy and the rule of law.

Until now it has not even been possible to report the existence of the forthcoming trial against the two men, known only as AB and CD. But three appeal court judges lifted a gagging order allowing reporting of a hearing challenging the plans.

The trial would be the first criminal case to be held behind closed doors for hundreds of years. It involves two defendants who are charged with terrorism but whose names are being withheld from the public. Unless the appeal succeeds, journalists will be banned from being present in court to report the proceedings on 16 June or the outcome of the trial.
The men will be tried by a jury but no report of the case will be made public and no members of the media or public will be given access to the court.

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, condemned the secrecy. She said: "Transparency isn't an optional luxury in the justice system – it's key to ensuring fairness and protecting the rule of law.

"This case is a worrying high water mark for secrecy in our courts – extensive restrictions set without robust reasons or a time limit. There must be clearer explanations before the door is shut on press and public."
The Guardian and other media organisations made a last-ditch challenge to the secrecy surrounding the terror trial at the court of appeal. Anthony Hudson, representing the media, said the decision to withhold the identities of the men and carry out the entire proceedings in private was a legal departure.

The court was told that the crown has sought and obtained legal orders on the grounds of national security, arguing that if the trial were held in public the prosecution might not proceed with the case.

Mari Reid, unit head of the counter-terrorism team in the special crime and counter-terrorism division of the Crown Prosecution Service, gave evidence during the crown application that there was a "serious possibility that the trial may not be able to go ahead" if it had to be held in public.
Counsel for the crown detailed evidence to back its case in private with the three court of appeal judges: Lord Justice Gross, Mr Justice Simon and Mr Justice Burnett.

Appealing against orders made by Mr Justice Nicol at an earlier hearing last month, Hudson said the secrecy around the trial was wholly unprecedented.

He added: "No order has ever been made which requires an entire criminal trial to be in private with the media excluded and the defendants unnamed. We submit that the orders made involve such a significant departure from the principle of open justice that they are inconsistent with the rule of law and democratic accountability."

He said that national security could not be pursued without regard to the values of the society it was seeking to protect.

Richard Whittam, QC, for the crown, told the court the case involved clearly exceptional circumstances which had led to the "exceptional procedures" that had been approved by Nicol on 19 May.
He said while the crown entirely supported open justice, the exceptional nature of the case made it necessary for the unprecedented procedures to be put in place.

"It is quite clear that there is jurisdiction for the defendants to be anonymous and there is jurisdiction for a court to sit in private. Whether or not it is appropriate to do so is evidence-dependent," he said.

But the evidence on which the crown relied to argue for the secret trial could not be presented in open court, he added. Whittam instead presented the evidence in private to the appeal court judges during part of the hearing on Wednesday.
The court heard that AB and CD were arrested in a high-profile police operation last year and had been charged with serious terrorism offences.
AB is charged with engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts between February 2012 and October 2013. He is further charged with CD of being in possession of documents or records containing information of the kind likely to be used by a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.
This relates to the pair's alleged possession of a document entitled "Bombmaking". CD is also charged with possession of an improperly obtained UK passport.

Gross said he would give the court's decision on the appeal by the media in a few days and a full judgment at a later date.

The trial of AB and CD is due to open in London on 16 June.

03 June 2014

Simon Israel reports for Channel 4 News on the impact of legal aid cuts on courts across the UK. here

Court documents seen by Channel 4 News suggest the criminal justice system in at least one part of the country is on the brink of collapse - and a senior judge has been forced to take action.

Watch video