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News Round-Up Week Ending 28.11.14

(Posted on 28/11/14)


Cough up, Vic!

The Ministry of Justice is pursuing Victor Nealon for £2,500 legal costs from his failed attempts to win compensation for 17 years in prison, according to Jon Robins of Nealon’s attempted rape conviction was quashed a year ago after DNA evidence pointed to another man. 

The 53-year-old former postman was released with just £46 and spent his first night of freedom sleeping on the streets of Birmingham.

‘It is a public scandal that the government has refused to compensate Victor Nealon, but now we learn that Chris Grayling is trying to recover his costs defending a claim from someone who has suffered so much already because he  has been treated outrageously by the state,’ solicitor Mark Newby said. ‘Not only does the secretary of state want to deny Victor Nealon compensation for 17 lost years but he wants him to pay the cost of that refusal as well. Victor is determined to fight on for what is right and just.’

Nealon’s challenge is being seen as a test case for the new compensation scheme introduced in this year’s Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act. The secretary of state’s grounds for resisting the claim asserted that the DNA analysis ‘plainly did not show beyond reasonable doubt that the claimant did not commit the offence’ but added that ‘there is nothing in that conclusion that affects the claimant’s entitlement to be presumed innocent of the offence itself’.

West Mercia Police recently re-opened the investigation into the 1997 attempted rape.

Mau Mau Damage Claim

Thousands of elderly Kenyans have launched a £200m damages claim against the UK Government, claiming mistreatment, rape and torture by British colonial forces during the Mau Mau uprising of the 1950s.

A claim by 5,000 victims was settled last year for £19.9m. The new claim is for compensation for alleged systematic torture and serious sexual assault of members of the Kikuyu tribe during the eight-year emergency.

“There are a vast number of people here who are waiting for somebody to say that what happened was wrong, and we are going to give you recompense,” said Simon Myerson QC, for half of the claimants. “That is hugely important to them and time is running out. These are completely admirable people. They are not grasping, they are dignified.”

A 1957 memo from Kenya's Attorney General, Eric Griffith-Jones, stated that “if we are going to sin, we must sin quietly” and acknowledged that the abuses were “distressingly reminiscent of conditions in Nazi Germany or communist Russia”.

Law Society Drops Sharia Advice

The Law Society has withdrawn controversial guidelines for solicitors on “Sharia compliant” wills after complaints of discrimination against women and non-Muslims.

“Our practice note was intended to support members to better serve their clients as far as is allowed by the law of England and Wales,” said Andrew Caplen, Law Society President. “We reviewed the note in the light of criticism. We have withdrawn the note and we are sorry.”

“This is an important reverse for what had seemed to be the relentless march of sharia to becoming de facto British law,” responded Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society. “Until now, politicians and the legal establishment either encouraged this process or spinelessly recoiled from acknowledging what was happening. I congratulate the Law Society for heeding the objections we and others made.”

New Police Anti-Terrorism Powers

Home Secretary Theresa May has unveiled a new counter-terrorism bill giving police and security services new powers. Schools, universities and councils will be required to counter radicalisation; internet providers will have to identify individual users through Internet Protocol address data.

“We are in the middle of a generational struggle against a deadly terrorist ideology,” said Mrs May. “These powers are essential to keep up with the very serious and rapidly changing threats we face. In an open and free society, we can never entirely eliminate the threat from terrorism but we must do everything possible in line with our shared values to reduce the risks posed by our enemies.”

Litvinenko Inquiry Imminent

The public inquiry into the death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 is due to begin in January. 

“I’m not against Russia and I believe in British law,” said his widow Marina, in an interview with Porter magazine. “I am doing this in memory of my husband, so he can finally rest.” 

Mr Litvinenko died three weeks after being poisoned with radioactive polonium-210, traced back to Russian agents.