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News Round-Up Week Ending 4.12.15

(Posted on 04/12/15)


Criminal Courts Charge Gone by Christmas!

Michael Gove has announced that the widely condemned “tax on justice”, that made defendants in England and Wales pay towards the cost of their trial, is to be abolished.

The Independent has campaigned against the charge, introduced by the previous Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, claiming it has encouraged defendants to plead guilty to crimes they have not committed, so as to avoid the unaffordable fee.

“It has become clear that while the intention behind the policy was honourable, in reality that intent has fallen short,” Mr Gove said. “Whenever I have had the opportunity to talk to magistrates over the last six months, the criminal courts charge has been raised and in almost every case it has been criticised.”

NCA Searches Unlawful

Buzzfeed’s Tom Warren reported that trials are collapsing amid warnings that historical convictions are unsafe because of “glaring” systemic failures at the National Crime Agency, the UK’s serious crime body.

Searches, surveillance and evidence seizures over the past decade may have been conducted unlawfully, putting every single one of the NCA’s live investigations and prosecutions in jeopardy.

Lawyers have warned that past convictions may be unsafe and some of Britain’s most dangerous criminals may have to be set free.

“The ramifications for defendants past, present and future are immense,” said Kier Monteith, defence barrister for two collapsed money-laundering trials. “The fallout is hard to predict but the number of convictions that could be quashed might reach double figures.”

“The prospect of hundreds of hours of time having been wasted by experienced NCA officers, and criminals avoiding prosecution because of a failure to follow legal processes is deeply concerning,” said Keith Vaz, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee.

The NCA has launched an internal inquiry.

Pistorius Guilty of Murder

An Appeal Court has set aside Oscar Pistorius’ conviction for culpable homicide and found him guilty of the murder of Reeva Steenkamp.

“As a result of the errors of law… and on a proper appraisal of the facts, he ought to have been convicted not of culpable homicide on that count but of murder.

“In the interests of justice the conviction and the sentence imposed in respect thereof must be set aside and the conviction substituted with a conviction of the correct offence.”

In a unanimous ruling, the five judges said Pistorius’ evidence and explanations were “implausible” and he had “never offered an acceptable explanation” for shooting four times through a closed door. The original trial judge, Thokozile Masipa, had been wrong on several points of law.

“I have no doubt… the accused must have foreseen and therefore did foresee that whoever was behind that door might die,” said Justice Eric Leach on behalf of the bench.