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News Round-Up Week Ending 13.3.15

(Posted on 13/03/15)


Public Inquiry into Undercover Policing:

Appeal Court Judge Lord Justice Pitchford will head the inquiry into undercover policing of political campaigns, following a series of revelations in the Guardian of “sexual relationships with women including the fathering of children, the theft of dead children’s identities and the use of fake names in court”.

The Home Secretary ordered the inquiry last year on discovering that the Scotland Yard special demonstration squad had spied on the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence. Theresa May described herself as “profoundly shocked”.

A separate inquiry has found no evidence that the Home Office knew of any misconduct by the undercover unit, despite funding it for twenty years. 

China’s Top Judge Takes Blame for Miscarriages

China’s top judge has called for increased transparency of the judicial system.

"With regard to miscarriages of justice, we deeply reprove ourselves and demand that courts at all levels draw profound lessons, and further strengthen the effective prevention of unjust and false cases and timely correction mechanisms," Chief Justice Zhou Qiang said.

Last year Chinese courts revised sentences in 1,317 cases, including the exoneration of a teenager from Inner Mongolia 18 years after he was wrongfully executed for murder and rape.

Federal Judge for Ferguson

A state judge will hear all future cases at the court in Ferguson, Missouri, scene of the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer last August. A federal report found routine violation of residents' constitutional rights by the town's justice system and overwhelming racial bias by police.

"Extraordinary action is warranted," Chief Justice Mary Russell said. "Judge Richter will bring a fresh, disinterested perspective to this court's practices, and he is able and willing to implement needed reforms.”

Magna Carta Sold for Profit

“To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice,” declared the barons of Olde Englande in putting their seal to the great charter.

Yet “increases of more than 600 per cent in some civil court fees have turned our courts into something akin to a profit centre,” Andrew Caplen, President of the Law Society of England and Wales, writes in The Telegraph this week. “Court fees are the latest in a line of policies that are having a severe effect on access to justice in this country. 

“The rule of law is one of our greatest exports. In the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, the Government has taken the opportunity to market the UK as a safe place to rule on international disputes. Only last month, in central London, delegates from Pakistan to Paraguay gathered at the “Global Law Summit” to celebrate the contribution that the year 1215 made to business, economic growth and “societal fairness”. 

“But what about those closer to home? Without access to justice here, Britons themselves are being deprived of the very rule of law that we proudly show off abroad. What’s fair about that?”