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Rebekah Read

By Rebekah Read

The Immigration Bill will give the Secretary of State power to exile those who she thinks have acted in a way “seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the UK” regardless of whether this will result in them being stateless.  The civil liberties lawyer Gareth Pierce (of Birmingham 6 fame) has said that this is akin to “medieval exile – just as cruel and just as arbitrary.”

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Currently, citizenship is only allowed to be revoked if the individual will not be left stateless (apart from circumstances where the citizenship was obtained by fraud).  This executive power was granted in the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (with the bar subsequently lowered in the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006).

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By Rebekah Read

The recently exposed tragedy of the Winterbourne View hospital, which saw vulnerable, elderly patients assaulted by staff who pulled patients’ hair, gave them cold punishment showers, left one outside in near zero temperatures and poured mouthwash into another’s eyes, rightly left the public outraged at the State for the apparent indifference shown to the care provided to their most vulnerable citizens.

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By Rebekah Read

Lord Sumption recently gave a lecture entitled ‘The Limits of Law’.  Here he argues that the UK courts, particularly as a result of the influence of the European Court of Human Rights, are making judgments on issues which ought to be resolved politically.  He argues that this is illegitimate in a democratic society.  He has argued a similar point in his 2011 lecture ‘Judicial and Political Decision Making: the Uncertain Boundary’. This prompts the question of how far the judiciary should defer to Parliament in striking a balance between the rights of the individual and the needs of society.  This question is tested when decisions of the State are challenged by judicial review (JR) and the judiciary is asked to consider issues of policy.

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“Judges have joined the front line”, according to Thomas Tugendhat, co-author of the one-sided, scaremongering report, The Fog of Law.  By the right-wing think tank, Policy Exchange, it is  knee-jerk reaction to the case of Smith & Others v Ministry of Defence and a a seriously disappointing contribution to the debate on accountability in matters of defence.

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By Rebekah Read

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This week I saw the brilliantly entertaining satirical musical ‘The Scottsboro Boys’ at the Young Vic. (http://www.youngvic.org/whats-on/the-scottsboro-boys). A moving tale of a deplorable miscarriage of justice which brought about the end of all-white juries in Alabama, the Scottsboro boys were nine black teenagers who were falsely convicted of raping two white girls in 1931.  After many years of imprisonment and numerous retrials following campaigning from the American Communist Party, the boys were gradually released, apart from one of the boys who died in prison in 1952.

This play serves as a reminder of the fallibility of the court process.  Although we would like to place such atrocious injustices behind us, most readers will be familiar with some of the more notorious miscarriages of justice over the last 50 years.  The Birmingham six, for example, vilified in a dreadful media campaign, were sentenced to life imprisonment for the Birmingham pub bombings in 1975.  They were released when their convictions were found to be unsafe after 16 years of imprisonment.  Rightly, they were awarded compensation for the years of unfair incarceration and their release led to the setting up of the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which has led to the quashing of hundreds of unsafe convictions.  The Government are now trying to restrict compensation to those who can prove their innocence.

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