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I fought the law…..

Thank goodness that justice has prevailed.

Thank goodness that the UK Supreme Court stepped in to order a retrial.

Thank goodness that Nat Fraser’s conviction for murder has been exposed as a huge miscarriage of justice the verdict in the Fraser murder trial is the same as it was first time around.

Money well spent I say and hurrah! for the Supreme Court

What a complete waste of time and money.

Is Fraser’s appeal in yet?

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Tommy – The continuing Soap Opera

So the Prime Minister’s former press secretary Andy Coulson has been charged with committing  perjury at the Sheridan trial in 2010.

Pants on fire. Coulson goes to Govan.

All good and well, he almost certainly did.

Many folk including Tommy himself are now speculating that Tommy would probably win an appeal against his own conviction on the grounds that News International had a conspiracy against him.

It seems clear that Murdoch and co were out to get Sheridan but………

As I wrote here Coulson was a witness for the defence, called by Sheridan himself. Tommy didn’t as far as I can recall, challenge any of the evidence presented by the News of the World but rather he challenged the methods by which it was obtained.

Coulson’s replies would seem to be the reason for him being charged.

So I am confused. How can a convicted perjurer claim that his conviction is unsound because one of his own witnesses lied at his trial?

And how does the fact that at least one of Tommy’s witnesses lied mean that somehow he (Tommy) didn’t?

I don’t know the answer to that but if there are any legal bods looking in, you may be able to elucidate.

Human Rights and Human Wrongs

My last attempt at writing about Human Rights and how European conventions and laws apply in Scotland drew a response from a solicitor that I was either a fool or a man of no integrity. I was to choose which; there was no third option which perhaps allowed me the luxury of having a point.

In my post here therefore, other than a brief reference to my personal knowledge of Lord McCluskey, I am going to quote from qualified individuals (Lord McCluskey and the Legal Editor of the Guardian) with whom, as a layman, I agree.

Firstly, as regards Lord McCluskey, my own father many, (many) years ago had the occasion to appear before Lord McCluskey. Having had a particularly raw deal from other members of the judiciary and legal profession, he had been dreading the experience. However as it turned out, Lord McCluskey was the first legal figure to believe my father’s version of events and ruled in his favour.

I have no wish to go into greater detail on that other than to say that what was accepted by Lord McCluskey and rejected by the others was the truth. My view therefore of Lord McCluskey may be subjective but it is formed by his deeds and actions in a real life situation.

At the grand old age of 82, Lord McCluskey was appointed recently by the Scottish Government to chair an Independent Review Group examining the relationship of the High Court of Justiciary and the United Kingdom Supreme Court

In their first deliberations just released, The McCluskey report recommended a new provision, with proposed amendments to the Scotland Bill, which would place the High Court of Justiciary “on an equal footing with its counterparts elsewhere in the UK, by enabling the Supreme Court to grant permission to appeal only if the High Court of Justiciary has granted a certificate that the case raises a point of general public importance”.

Let me take you back to 2000 when Lord McCluskey delivered a warning on the consequences of“An unbridled ride to rights”

From that Guardian article comes this:

In February Scotland’s appeal court declared that an important element of the police armoury against drink drivers was unusable. Margaret Brown, 30, was charged after police confronted her at 3am in a 24-hour supermarket smelling of alcohol and clutching a bottle of gin. Asked who had driven the car parked outside, she admitted: “It was me.” Section 172 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 makes it an offence for the keeper of a car to refuse to identify the driver if asked by police. Parliament enacted it because a prosecution could not be brought without evidence that the person charged was driving the car.

Her own admission was the key evidence that Brown had been driving while over the limit. Without it there would be no prosecution But the court ruled that article 6 of the European Convention, the right to a fair trial, protected her against self-incrimination. So the prosecution could not rely on it as a significant part of the case against her.

At Brown’s appeal hearing the then solicitor general, Colin Boyd, argued that without section 172, there could be “momentous effects” on the use of roadside cameras to trap speeding drivers, since prosecutions relied on the section for proof of the driver’s identity. In his judgment, the Lord Justice General, Lord Rodger, left the question of speed traps open, but pointed out that the European Court of Human Rights had ruled that the protection against self-incrimination applied to “all types of criminal offence without distinction, from the most simple to the most complex”.

Lord McCluskey, burst into print in Scotland on Sunday a few days later, describing the results of the new human rights regime as “devastating”. He said he had warned in his 1986 Reith lectures that the Canadian charter of rights and freedoms, modelled on the European Convention, would produce “a field day for crackpots, a pain in the neck for judges and legislators, and a goldmine for lawyers.” He added: “Prophetic or what?”

Lord McCluskey predicted: “The police are about to embark on a helter-skelter of discovery about the restraints upon their traditional powers and practices”. They should be looking “long and hard” at article 8 of the convention, which guarantees a right to privacy. It was a right enjoyed by everyone, including “those whom the police are pursuing because they believe them to be drug dealers, fraudsters, paedophiles or wife-batterers”. The police could tap telephones, use secret cameras or engage in covert surveillance only if they had a valid warrant “under a law which has been promulgated and publicised as a law designed to permit the invasion of article 8 privacy.” It had been suggested, he said, that “it was a bit like sailing in the Titanic toward a legal iceberg. My own fear is that the better simile is with an avalanche; all we can hear at the moment is a distant roar; but it is coming and we are going to have to struggle to avoid being buried in new claims of right.”

In 2007 Lord McCluskey wrote:

IN FEBRUARY, The Scotsman published an article in which I highlighted some of the anomalies resulting from the ways in which the Courts and the Scottish Executive were applying the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights. I wrote: “In Scotland, we have the revolting spectacle of criminals being compensated to the tune of millions of taxpayers’ money, because they had to use chamber pots in their cells overnight. Just think about it: when the European Convention on Human Rights was written in 1950, half the people of Europe were still using chamber pots overnight, or holes in the ground! Did anyone imagine that, 50 years later, convicted murderers and rapists would be entitled to financial compensation because they didn’t have en suite facilities?”

The same scandal has now been thrown into dramatic focus by a decision of the highest court, the House of Lords, as reported in The Scotsman last Thursday. The issue before the court was: “Can a claim for damages based on an alleged breach, by the Scottish Executive, of a prisoner’s right under the European Convention become time-barred by a section of the Human Rights Act?”
If that sounds a bit technical, then don’t read the judgements: they are fiendishly complicated. The implications, however, are clear. Prisoners in Scottish jails during the last eight years or so who had to slop out are now free to sue for damages as compensation for the indignities of having to do so. Most will get Legal Aid. The Scottish Executive believed that claims older than one year were “time-barred”, so the sums involved were not unacceptably great. The Lords have decided that the Executive was wrong. The consequence is that some £70m of taxpayers’ money (plus legal expenses) will have to be paid over to countless convicted criminals. So if you try to persuade your MSP that a few hundred thousand pounds spent in your district would save lives, reduce accidents or improve public services, you are likely to be met with the reply: “Sorry: all our spare funds have had to be allocated to alleviate the suffering of convicts caused by their having had to slop out.”

(The ruling came via the Napier case. Napier was a remand prisoner with particular medical needs.)

He continues:

Many judges in that court come from countries where prison conditions are so primitive that our jails look like rest and recreation camps. I know that from personal experience. I take lawyers and others from countries in Europe and beyond to visit our prisons. They marvel at the modern conditions there, contrasting the much inferior conditions in their prisons. I find it difficult to believe that a court comprising judges from such backgrounds would take a tender-hearted view when applying the “inhuman and degrading” test to the sensibilities of convicted criminals. If the alternative to paying out £70m to convicts is an appeal to Strasbourg, it surely must be worth a try.

The Review Group’s report can be downloaded here

Legal Nonsense

To complete a trio of readers’ contributions, Claret and Amber, a man with an eye for the bizarre, sends me the following list of crazy laws;

25. It is illegal for a cab in the City of London to carry rabid dogs
or corpses.

24. It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament.

23. It is an act of treason to place a postage stamp bearing the
British monarch upside down.

22. In France, it is forbidden to call a pig Napoleon.

21. Under the UK’s Tax Avoidance Schemes Regulations 2006, it is
illegal not to tell the taxman anything you don’t want him to know,
though you don’t have to tell him anything you don’t mind him knowing.

20. In Alabama, it is illegal for a driver to be blindfolded while
driving a vehicle.

19. In Ohio, it is against state law to get a fish drunk.

18. Royal Navy ships that enter the Port of London must provide a
barrel of rum to the Constable of the Tower of London.

17. In the UK, a pregnant woman can legally relieve herself anywhere
she wants – even, if she so requests, in a policeman’s helmet.

16. In Lancashire, no person is permitted after being asked to stop by
a constable on the seashore to incite a dog to bark.

15. In Miami, Florida, it is illegal to skateboard in a police
station.

14. In Indonesia, the penalty for masturbation is decapitation.

13. In England, all men over the age of 14 must carry out two hours of
longbow practice a day.

12. In London, Freemen are allowed to take a flock of sheep across
London Bridge without being charged a toll; they are also allowed to
drive geese down Cheapside.

11. In San Salvador, drunk drivers can be punished by death before a
firing squad.

10. In the UK, a man who feels compelled to urinate in public can do
so only if he aims for his rear wheel and keeps his right hand on his
vehicle.

9. In Florida, unmarried women who parachute on Sundays can be
jailed.

8. In Kentucky, it is illegal to carry a concealed weapon more than
six-feet long.

7. In Chester, Welshmen are banned from entering the city before
sunrise and from staying after sunset.

6. In the city of York, it is legal to murder a Scotsman within the
ancient city walls, but only if he is carrying a bow and arrow.

5. In Boulder, Colorado, it is illegal to kill a bird within the city
limits and also to “own” a pet – the town’s citizens, legally speaking,
are merely “pet minders”.

4. In Vermont, women must obtain written permission from their
husbands to wear false teeth.

3. In London, it is illegal to flag down a taxi if you have the
plague.

2. In Bahrain, a male doctor may legally examine a woman’s genitals
but is forbidden from looking directly at them during the examination;
he may only see their reflection in a mirror.

1. The head of any dead whale found on the British coast is legally
the property of the King; the tail, on the other hand, belongs to the
Queen – in case she needs the bones for her corset.

Frankly Bonkers

Two pieces of news on the Lockerbie bombing this morning.

1) Al Jazeera report that the Maltese shopkeeper who identified Megrahi was paid for his evidence. Whilst this revelation is not new, it has been hitherto confined to internet chatter.

2) New Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland has declared that Colonel Gaddafi should be captured and brought to Scotland to stand trial for the bombing. (Edited to add this link to the story)

Absolutely nothing on the interweb as I type about these two gems but I heard them myself on Radio Scotland.

On 1) This piece of information if verified must cast serious doubt on Megrahi’s conviction.

On 2) Is the new Lord Advocate stark, staring bonkers?

Up To Our Knees…….In Legislation

It hasn’t taken the SNP long to turn the silk purse of a landslide election victory into the sow’s ear of one of their flagship pieces of legislation. To say that the proposed legislation on sectarianism, due to be through parliament by the end of June, is ill thought out and fraught with difficulty would be the understatement of the year.

Why is it that politicians think more legislation will solve a problem?

The legislation is already there to arrest idiots singing sectarian songs at the football. The legislation is already there to take the psychos who send letter bombs to people to court and to send them to prison.

Scotland must be in danger of becoming the most over legislated small country in the world.

“Over legislated” – It’s like “over refreshed” only maybe this time the drunkenness is with power.

There are several points arising from the Scottish Government’s reaction to the seeming upsurge in sectarianism. Firstly, the justice secretary Kenny MacAskill (The link is to Lallands Peat Worrier’s critique) seems quite genuinely confused as to what the new legislation will be about. He doesn’t seem to have much idea of the terms of reference or what offences it will cover. He seems to be saying that people could be jailed for up to five years for ‘peddling hatred online’

WHAT?

At a time when serious assault can land you a wee session of community service, and when the Scottish government want to abolish sentences under six months, where is the logic in sending someone to prison for five years for posting some, albeit offensive, comments on a website?

Carrying a knife could mean community service, but if there’s a sectarian dimension it could be five years in jail?

On the web side of things, who will decide what is fair and reasonable criticism of religion and what is sectarianism? Kenny says that it will be the courts and common sense.

In other words Kenny doesn’t know.

And here’s a wee paradox for the Scottish Government.

Are Orange/Hibs walks sectarian?

Are they to be banned under the legislation?

Will a parade still be able to bring a town to a complete standstill and making it a no go area for a whole day and increasing sectarian tension, whilst at the same time some wee eejit typing nonsense in a bedroom in the Calton, that no one reads could end up in Barlinnie for 5 years?

It’s a muddle right enough.

Press Freedom?

There’s been much talk about it recently. What with the super injunctions, Twitter and all that.

Yesterday Max Mosley failed in his bid to have the press inform people in advance that they were about to publish a story about them in order that the subject of the story could then seek a super injunction.

I tend not to read articles which relate to peoples private lives. Whatever Max Mosley or a footballer, be it Ryan Giggs or whoever wants to do in their private lives and it’s with another consenting adult or adults, then it’s none of my or anyone else’s business.

I’ve always been a bit puzzled by the ‘public interest’ line. Just why should the sex lives of well known figures be of any interest at all, except perhaps as in the Profumo case in the 60s, national security is at stake?

On the other hand, why should the rich and famous have a veto on what is published about them?

In that respect the decision against Mosley was correct, and as has been seen, super injunctions can’t stop people publishing tittle tattle on Twitter anyway.

Perhaps the answer to all this lies in the proposal of a prominent 20th century British politician who said:

As for controversy in the press, I would suggest a completely free press subject to one new condition; any individual or institution – including the government – which was attacked in a newspaper, should be given, by law, the right to equal space in that paper for reply. This would in most cases reduce time-wasting and de­structive controversy in the press to a minimum, as few newspaper owners would care very often to open their columns for their victims to say anything they liked in reply. In the case of an able and open-minded proprietor, who felt capable of coping with, and enjoying, such a situation, it might lead to much brighter news­papers; but on the whole it would tend to squeeze the nonsense, unfairness, and untruth out of the press very quickly.

Seems fair enough?

Who do you think said this?