Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Judges reveal anger over curbs on power!

UK: Senior judges fear that a succession of recent laws pushed through by the government could fetter their ability to administer justice and to act as a check on the executive.

In a rare series of interviews, five judges in the high court and court of appeal have said their concerns about laws on sentencing, control orders for terror suspects, and public inquiries, which they see as attempts to limit their role.

Their worries at apparent attempts to marginalise the judges are echoed by other senior legal figures, including the former master of the rolls, [Ruling Class] Lord Donaldson.

Several, including [Ruling Class] Lord Donaldson, say the country came close to a constitutional crisis, with some senior judges tempted to defy the will of parliament, when the government proposed an "ouster clause" barring the courts from ruling on the legality of asylum and immigration decisions.

The plan was abandoned in March 2004 after an outcry from lawyers and a threat by the former Labour lord chancellor, Lord Irvine, to break the silence he has maintained since he lost his job in June 2003 to speak against it.

Lord Donaldson said, "Derry Irvine put his foot down implicitly and they abandoned that.

"Had they successfully pursued the ouster clause then we certainly should have been in a very interesting constitutional crisis. If they really did that - and people like James Mackay [the former Tory lord chancellor] thought as a matter of wording it was wholly effective and stopped up every loophole - we would simply have to say: 'We [the judges] are an independent estate of the realm and it's not open to the legislature to put us out of business. And so we shall simply ignore your ouster clause.'"

One appeal court judge said: "The ouster clause I thought was an outrage - the idea that they should actually spell out that the court would have no power to decide on questions of legality. I'm not aware of that ever happening before."

He acknowledged that abuse of the appeals system in immigration was "a scandal" which needed tackling, but described the ouster clause as "a complete overreaction".

Laws which concern the judges include:

- the recently implemented Criminal Justice Act 2003, which imposes mandatory and minimum sentences, reducing the judges' discretion to fit the punishment to the individual case;

- the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, which allows the home secretary to restrict individuals' liberty on suspicion of involvement in terrorist activities, with minimal oversight by the judges;

- the Inquiries Act 2005, which restricts the independence of judges appointed to chair inquiries, allowing ministers to decide what evidence is given in public and to block the disclosure of evidence.

[Ruling Class] Lord Saville, the law lord chairing the Bloody Sunday inquiry, has written to the constitutional affairs minister, [Ruling Class] Lady Ashton, that the Inquiries Act "makes a very serious inroad into the independence of any inquiry and is likely to damage or destroy public confidence in the inquiry and its findings".

The judges, speaking on condition of anonymity, fear the Criminal Justice Act 2003 could lead to an explosion in the prison population and that mandatory measures could force them to impose sentences which are unfair in all the circumstances of the case.

They blame the determination of successive home secretaries, from the Tories' Michael Howard to Labour's David Blunkett, to appear "tough on crime". One appeal court judge noted: "One does have a bit of wriggle room, and I suspect what's going to happen is the judges are going to interpret the wriggle room a bit more widely than the government would like."

Another said: "While the judges will be courageous in standing up for individual rights and civil liberties in the way they did in the Belmarsh case, it is dangerous for the judges to get too far out of step with public opinion.

"It has to be pointed out to the public that these quite draconian measures [control orders] apply to them - not just to bad people but to everybody.

"They may think that the government will only apply them to bad people but there is a risk that they will be applied to cases where they're not justified."

A high court judge added: "I think the executive takes too much power in relation to terrorism and in relation to shutting people up without trial."

By Clare Dyer posted 27 April 05


Threat of terrorism overblown, says Kirby
The High Court judge Michael Kirby has urged Australia's security chiefs and judges not to exaggerate the risk of terrorism, saying that more people die of AIDS every day than were killed in the World Trade Centre in the September 11 [US false flag] attacks.

Guantanamo guards blinded prisoner: lawyer
UK/CUBA: British permanent resident detained at the US camp for terrorism suspects [scapegoats] in Guantanamo Bay was blinded in one eye following an assault by guards, his lawyer says.

Britain 'sliding into police state'
The home secretary, Charles Clarke, is transforming Britain into a police state, one of the country's former leading anti-terrorist police chiefs [false flag police chiefs] said yesterday.

Safeguards demanded for DNA database
Privacy safeguards are required to combat the intrusive effects of the police DNA database, it has been claimed.

London police may moor prison ship on Thames
UK: The London police are holding discussions about possibly mooring a prison ship on the River Thames in a bid to ease pressure on the spiralling prisoner population.

UK solitary confinement
UK: Segregation units are prisons within prisons - the places where the most unchecked brutality is meted out to prisoners. In recent years conditions in high security segregation units have deteriorated, and the use of long-term segregation as a control mechanism has increased.

UK politicians launch Blair impeachment bid
Parliamentarians and celebrity campaigners have launched a bid to impeach UK Prime Minister Tony Blair for "gross misconduct" over his justification for the Iraq war.

Blunkett's Quest, but is he on drugs?
The legislation is expected to introduce a new definition of "possession" of an illegal drug, making it an offence to have a certain amount in the bloodstream. This is likely to prove controversial - not least because some drugs, such as cannabis, can remain in the bloodstream for weeks.

Mentally ill face 'Asbo' measures
UK: People with mental health problems living in the community could be banned from leaving their homes under proposals to reform mental health law, a legal expert has warned.

UK court rules to use evidence obtained by torture
Britain's Court of Appeal has ruled that evidence obtained by torture can be examined in criminal proceedings.

law and order days over, says Blair
UK: Tony Blair will today make the provocative claim that Labour's new five-year crime plan heralds "the end of the 1960s liberal consensus on law and order" by putting the values of the law-abiding majority at the centre of the criminal justice system.

Blair's comments reflect badly on Australia says Hicks lawyer
The Adelaide-based lawyer representing accused Taliban fighter David Hicks says the latest comments by the British Prime Minister Tony Blair on United States military tribunals reflect badly on Australia.

PM, Carr attacked as judge pulls plug
In November 2002, as chairman of the International Commission of Jurists, he told a Senate inquiry "it is patently clear" that proposed anti-terrorism legislation "is aimed at Muslims". His submission said the new laws would be "subverting [liberty] more effectively than terrorism could ever do".

Terror suspect tells of 'torture' that led to death wish
'Give me an injection and I will be dead' : After several months of legal action, the Guardian has won the right to interview foreign nationals being held without charge on suspicion of terrorist involvement. Audrey Gillan goes inside Broadmoor high security hospital and talks to Mahmoud Abu Rideh about being locked up with no prospect of release and why he has tried to kill himself.

Belmarsh detainees consider suicide, says freed man
UK: The first of the Muslim detainees released from Belmarsh high security prison after being held on suspicion of terrorism has told the Guardian his fellow prisoners are suffering such severe mental problems that they constantly consider suicide.

Blunkett charges miscarriage of justice victims 'food and lodgings'
UK: We locked you up in jail for 25 years and you were innocent all along? That'll be £80,000 please.

England tops the EU in imprisonment
England and Wales jail more offenders per capita than any other European, Union country, according to new figures.

Blunkett to extend long arm of the law
UK: Sweeping changes to police powers were proposed by the government yesterday, with officers in England and Wales to be permitted to arrest suspects for any offence, rather than only those which attract prison sentences.

England tops the EU in imprisonment
England and Wales jail more offenders per capita than any other European, Union country, according to new figures.

Britain ponders new terrorism laws?
The British Government is considering introducing new legislation that it claims would make it easier to convict suspected terrorists.

Charles guilty as sin? Or Lying-in-state?
Prince Charles and his sons William and Harry are said to be devastated by the decision of Royal Coroner Michael Burgess to seek a Scotland Yard investigation into the death of Princess Diana when it is clear as the nose on your face that Charles is guilty as sin?

Suicides and unrest have soared, admits Home Office
UK:The already overcrowded prison population is set to go on rising and will top 80,000 within the next three years, a senior Home Office civil servant warned yesterday.

No need for new terrorism laws: DPP
The New South Wales Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has rejected the idea of new laws against terrorism in Australia.

Here come de Judge - Time to Leave [266]
There have always been examples of rulings and interpretations that have supported the saying "The law is an ass". This is increasingly the case, because even the best intentioned judges are now facing an avalanche of new technologies and social change. But, it is no good making excuses for the judiciary and continuing to accept their strange interpretations. We must recognise that not only judges but the whole legal system will struggle more and more. In the end the whole system will become a farce. This is the way empires end.

It is up to ordinary people to raise the level of debate about the undemocratic surveillance practices of the many faceless and unaccountable agents who make daily intrusions on individual privacy, and about the apologists and propagandists for the War nn Terror who applaud every new attack on human rights and freedoms as "prudent" or "necessary". If there is no discussion of reverse surveillance in the national media, create it on the streets on a citizen to citizen basis. If nobody is talking about the outrageous assaults on privacy and human rights embodied in the new antiterrorist acts forced through US, UK and Australian legislatures, start talking about it to your neighbours and friends.

2nd Renaissance -15 The Rabbits And The Wolves [180]
Historically, there have been periods when legal distinctions between animals and humans have been blurred. For instance, in medieval Europe, in the 14th and 15th centuries, numerous trials and executions of animals occurred. One source identifies 34 recorded instances of pigs having been tried and cruelly put to death. Besides pigs; rats, chickens, goats, and bees were similarly tried. Some of the pigs were fully dressed in human clothes at the time they were, inevitably, found guilty. In one case a vicar excommunicated a flock of sparrows that infested his church. All this happened despite the theological stance that animals had no soul, and no morals or conscience. They could not really be guilty of transgressing the Rule of Law.