JUSTICE had another busy year in 2016. Here are some of our highlights:
JUSTICE has decided to take up the challenge of reimagining the appointment and promotion of judges, with a view to a more inclusive, diverse judiciary. Our Working Party on Judicial Diversity, chaired by Nathalie Lieven QC began work in 2016 and is supported by three sub-groups (looking at the ‘talent pool’; policies and procedures; and the judicial ‘career path’) which draw in additional JUSTICE members and other experts.
In November 2016 JUSTICE responded to the Ministry of Justice enquiry on Modernising Judicial Terms and Conditions. In its response JUSTICE made clear its support for the introduction of a single non-renewable fixed term for Recorders and Deputy High Court Judges, but argued that it will not solve our judiciary’s pressing diversity crisis alone.
The Mental Health and Fair Trial Working Party was also launched in 2016, chaired by Sir David Latham. It is made up of 12 legal and medical practitioners. The working party will be developing robust and practical recommendations for reform in this area, at a time when we as a society begin to understand mental illness better.
Lord Eassie was appointed chair of the first JUSTICE Working Party in Scotland. This is looking at waiver of the right to legal assistance during police detention and quality of legal representation. The working party will seek to uncover an accurate picture of how legal advice is obtained and why there are barriers to effective advice and assistance. It will aim to significantly increase recourse to effective legal assistance during police detention.
The Complex and Lengthy Criminal Trials Working Party report, chaired by Sir David Calvert Smith, was launched by Lord Justice Fulford on 3 March 2016 with three key recommendations for early engagement of relevant experts; robust case management and use of technology.
The ground-breaking What is a Court? report, chaired by Alexandra Marks, was launched on 17 May 2016. It came out of the Working Party established in Autumn 2015 to inform the HMCTS reform programme to maximise access to justice. Upon the request of Lord Justice Ryder and the Lord Chief Justice, HMCTS has set up a working party to follow up on the report’s recommendations. The report has also been discussed at a number of other high level meetings and events. In 2017 JUSTICE will develop a new What is a Trial Working Party which will build on this work and look at the language, interaction and questioning processes engaged during the adversarial trial from the user’s perspective.
JUSTICE had an active calendar of events in 2016. These included:
- Law and Liberty: reflections on campaigning by Shami Chakrabarti, the former Director of leading civil rights NGO Liberty. Chakrabarti discussed a lifetime of campaigning on issues affecting all members of society, joined by Derek Ogg QC and Lord Hodge, Justice of the UK Supreme Court. Part of the JUSTICE Scotland Beyond Law series.
- Complex and Lengthy Criminal Trials report launch at Simmons and Simmons. Lord Justice Fulford (Senior Presiding Judge) and Sir David Calvert-Smith, considered its recommendations.
- Justice Student Network Annual Conference – ‘Protecting rights, safeguarding justice: the Human Rights Act 1998’. This event took place at the University of Law, Bloomsbury.
- Karon Monaghan QC in Conversation at Linklaters LLP for the JUSTICE Student Network. A leading public law and equality practitioner, Karon has appeared in many of the leading equality decisions of the past two decades.
- Launch of the report To Assist the Court: Third Party Interventions in the Public Interest. In outlining good practice in the UK and in Europe, the guide hopes to inform the development of future good practice on third party interventions; and to an extent, limit the potentially chilling effects of the new reforms in England and Wales. The event was hosted by co-authors Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP.
- Law and the Media: Journalist Jon Snow discussed four decades of covering justice issues in the media with Helena Kennedy QC. Part of the JUSTICE Scotland Beyond Law series.
- JUSTICE Human Rights Law Conference. The Rt. Hon. Lord Kerr of Tonaghmore and Phillippa Kaufmann QC joined us as our keynote speakers for a programme focused on the challenges facing practitioners and the wider public policy debate on human rights law in the UK. The conference was hosted by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in London.
- JUSTICE Annual General Meeting and Tom Sargent Lecture. We had a productive General Meeting followed by our annual lecture, this year given by Lord Justice Briggs who outlined the potential for an online court. The AGM and the lecture were hosted by Shearman and Sterling LLP in London.
- The Human Rights Implications of Brexit on EU Migration: In partnership with the Equality and Human Rights Commission we organised this evening event exploring the potential effects of Brexit on UK and EU citizens. Panellists were: Sarah Smith, BBC Scotland Editor (chair); Mungo Bovey QC, Advocate; Kenneth Campbell QC, Advocate; Dr Jan Culik, Senior Lecturer in Czech, University of Glasgow, School of Modern Languages and Cultures; Maria Fletcher, Senior Lecturer, University of Glasgow, School of Law.
- Fundamental rights and the prosecution of crime: The 2016 Human Rights Day lecture was given by the Lord Advocate, James Wolffe QC. His first speech as Lord Advocate placed the prosecution of crime in the context of a commitment to fundamental rights.
At a time of political uncertainty and radical reform of the justice system, how do we ensure access to justice? JUSTICE was present at the Liberal Democrat, Labour, Conservative and Scottish National Party conferences in September and October to discuss what access to justice should mean in practice and how we can reasonably expect to deliver it in the current economic and political climate.
JUSTICE staff also spoke at numerous meetings, seminars, university law fairs and other events across the UK and beyond throughout 2016.
More highlights from 2016
The Investigatory Powers Bill was published by the UK government in February 2016. JUSTICE’s work around this focused on surveillance and the protection of individuals’ rights. We produced a number of overview briefings for use by policy makers engaged with the Bill. Most of JUSTICE’s suggested amendments were tabled for debate. JUSTICE was invited to meet with the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, with a group of NGOs and civil society organisations, to discuss human rights concerns around the new draft Bill.
We published Freedom from Suspicion: Building a Surveillance Framework for a Digital Age, an update to our 2011 report, Freedom from Suspicion, detailing the core safeguards we consider crucial to debate on the Investigatory Powers Bill. On 2 November, with the support of King’s College London, we hosted a high-level roundtable discussion at Somerset House to inform the final iteration of the report.
During 2016 parliamentary work continued on the Immigration Bill, including briefing MPs on the Public Bill Committee (Labour and the SNP in particular) on various amendments, briefing all MPs for the House of Commons Report Stage and Third Reading and briefing Peers for the House of Lords Second Reading. One success for JUSTICE in this area was the Government’s withdrawal of three related provisions which would have given the Secretary of State the power to override the decisions of independent Tribunals, something we described (and this was quoted in the Lords) as “a direct affront to the rule of law”.
JUSTICE joined the ICJ, Amnesty International and REDRESS in an intervention in Belhaj & Anor v Straw & Ors, This case was heard in the Supreme Court in November 2015 and the judgment was given on 17 January 2017. The case considered whether the UK courts have jurisdiction to hear claims relating to torture, extraordinary rendition and wrongful imprisonment carried out abroad by UK officials acting complicitly with other countries. Our intervention argued that dismissing the claims would grant impunity to UK officials, violating international human rights law and weakening international commitments to an effective remedy for torture and other human rights abuses. We were represented pro bono by Martin Chamberlain QC, Oliver Jones and Zahra Al-Rikabi.
We are immensely grateful to all the JUSTICE members and invited experts who assisted in these activities during the year. Without your support our work would not be possible.