Justice Beat: solicitor solidarity, criminal records review and court closures

Justice Beat

The CrowdJustice Team

posted on 04 Feb 2019

1st February 2019

In the news this week, the legal profession shows solidarity with a criminal defence solicitor subjected to death threats, campaigners achieve a legal victory to prevent disclosure of spent criminal convictions, and we investigate magistrates court closures.

Solicitor solidarity

1. Lawyers across the profession have condemned death threats made by a neo-Nazi group against a solicitor representing a man convicted of manslaughter, Legal Cheek reports. Richard Egan, senior partner at Tuckers Solicitors, is acting for Jack Shepherd, who fled the country last year after a drunken speedboat crash left his date, Charlotte Brown, dead. The Lord Chancellor is “very concerned” by the threats, while some are criticising the tabloid press for lamenting that Shepherd will receive legal aid to fund his appeal.

Criminal records

2. Criminal records checks revealing minor historic convictions “unnecessarily anchor people to their past”, according to the Director of Unlock, a charity for people with convictions. The charity is pleased with a decision of the Supreme Court this week, which declared the current criminal records disclosure regime disproportionate, the BBC reports. The charity instructed Bindmans and leading counsel Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC of Doughty Street Chambers to intervene, after raising over £17,000 on CrowdJustice.

3. In comparison, rather than trying to suppress past criminality, pensioners in Japan are actively trying to acquire criminal records, the BBC reports. An increasing proportion of offenders in Japan are over 65. The impetus behind this elderly crime wave appears to be poverty: pensioners don't want to burden their children but can't survive on the state pension alone. They have caught on to the fact that they can live for free in prison and save up their pension while inside.

Court closures

4. Lawyers, clients, witnesses and police officers are having to travel huge distances to attend court, as the number of magistrates courts in England and Wales falls by half, the Guardian reports. Since 2010, the Ministry of Justice has undertaken the controversial efficiency exercise in the hope of generating funds for the digital modernisation of the justice system. Critics are concerned that savings will only be achieved by displacing costs on to other agencies.

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This week on CrowdJustice, the Good Law Project is raising funds to defend an appeal by the Electoral Commission over its application of electoral law during the Brexit Referendum, an environmental campaigner is raising funds to get disclosure of documents setting out the impact of HS2 on the safety of public drinking water and local residents are raising funds to challenge the expansion of a racing circuit to combat noise nuisance and degradation of the environment.

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