Weekly Notes: legal news from ICLR – 29 July 2016

Posted on 1st Aug 2016 in Weekly Notes

This week’s roundup of legal news and commentary is the last before the summer recess. Weekly Notes will resume at the start of the next law term in October. Keep an eye on the blog, however, because we’ll still be doing other posts. In the meantime, enjoy a Brexit-free roundup including court modernisation, patents, professional news and a fond farewell to four familiar figures.



Briggs final


The courts of the future

Lord Justice Briggs delivered his final report on his Civil Courts Structure Review. The interim report, published in January this year, sketched out a future of e-courts in which live lawyers would play a somewhat reduced role, and it ruffled a few feathers. The key conclusion in this final report is that:

The Online Court project offers a radically new and different procedural and cultural approach to the resolution of civil disputes which, if successful, may pave the way for fundamental changes in the conduct of civil litigation over much wider ground than is currently contemplated by its first stage ambition, to resolve money claims up to £25,000 subject to substantial exclusions.

Briggs LJ makes a number of recommendations. We will look at his report in more detail over the summer, in particular its implications for open justice. In the meantime, you can READ THE FULL REPORT here (PDF).

This report comes with this topical warning:

The national referendum has resulted in a vote for the UK to leave the EU. While no-one can say at the time of writing what the effects of this will be on reforms in the justice system, there are likely to be consequences that may impact upon some of my my recommendations, which will need to be addressed both by HMCTS and those with responsibility for considering their implementation. <<

Magistrates’ courts: Update on Rota implementation

In the Inside HMCTS Blog, Keith Leightley, the Business Product Owner for the new CJS Common Platform Magistrates’ Rota application provides an update on implementation of the new Magistrates’ Rota service, which aims to replace various existing systems and manual processes with a single, flexible, national system using an online calendar to manage magistrates’ sittings more effectively.

He reports that the new system has been successfully piloted and magistrates’ digital rotas have been published in 17 local justice areas. National roll out of the application across England and Wales started on 3 May 2016. Currently the service is available to 576 rota administrators and 16,215 magistrates. To date, approximately 83% of magistrates have successfully registered to use the application and are now regularly accessing it to view their sittings, update their non availability and personal details.

The diary contains some feedback from users, including a self-confessed technophobe who, with a little help from the helpdesk, managed to get it set up and liked it. But it would be interesting if any magistrate readers of this blog were able to comment on their experience of it, via the Twitter accounts listed below.




One of the problems with the transparency agenda pushed with great enthusiasm by the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, is the lack of a proper joined up way of dealing with the anonymisation of personal and confidential information in the handed down judgments which now must, save in exceptional cases, be published on BAILII.

In this post on her Pink Tape blog, a version of which appeared in The Guardian, Lucy Reed (aka @familooo ) discusses the problem. Victory on secret courts?

See also: The state of transparency: what happens when anonymisation safeguards fail?

The Transparency Pilot that Wasn’t

From January to July this year, the Court of Protection has been running its Transparency Pilot scheme. This meant that any member of the public could attend any hearing of the Court of Protection designated as an open hearing under a scheme designed to collect evidence on transparency in the court. The problem seems to have been that no members of the public did actually turn up to watch a case in the court, which has the reputation (perpetuated at the lazier end of the media spectrum) of being a “secretive” court. The reason no one turned up might have something to do with the difficulty of finding out about the cases in advance. This was the subject of a blog post (by me) on the Transparency Project blog: The “secret” transparency pilot.



IPO Annual Report and Accounts

Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is an operating name of the Patent Office, whose annual report and accounts 2015-16 were released on 18 July. They show how the office performed against a set of six indicators identified in the 2015/16 Corporate Plan. These were:

  • Promoting UK growth through IP Policy
  • Delivering high quality rights granting services
  • Ensuring IP Rights are respected and appropriately enforced
  • Educating and enabling businesses to understand, manage and protect their Intellectual Property
  • Improving the skills and capability of our people
  • Increasing efficiency and delivering value for money

You can READ THE REPORT and accounts here.


Fond farewells

Lord Dyson MR

Giving his valedictory address on retiring as Master of the Rolls on 26 July, Lord Dyson, having recalled how his father’s parents had come from Lithuania at the turn of the 20th century and his mother from Bulgaria in 1939, expressed his great gratitude and love for what he hoped was still a tolerant country:

I can still think of no better place to live than in this country. I am proud to have been able to give something back to it. Maintaining the Rule of Law is as important as it has ever been. Perhaps even more so today, as the Executive arrogates to itself more and more powers. I hope that I have been able to make a modest contribution to maintaining the Rule of Law in my 23 years as a judge. I have been hugely privileged to have had a wonderful career.”

Lord Dyson, who for a time sat on the Council and indeed the executive committee of ICLR, was a High Court judge from 1993 and became a Lord Justice in 2001 and a Justice of the Supreme Court in April 2010. He has been Master of the Rolls since 2012.

Lord Toulson

The UK Supreme Court will be at less than full strength following the retirement this week of Lord Toulson. No one has been appointed to replace him, partly because a number of other retirements from the UK’s most senior court will leave further gaps to be filled, and it has been decided to fill all the vacancies in one go. In the meantime, reports Legal Cheek, the 12th seat on the bench will be filled by a “Supplementary Panel” of judges, taking turns on a rota, one of whom will be Lord Toulson himself. Another will be Lord Dyson, and there will be two Scottish judges as well, according to Legal Cheek.

Lord Toulson served as Chairman of the Law Commission from 2002 to 2006. He was a High Court judge from 1996 and was appointed to the Court of Appeal in 2007.

Some of Lord Toulson’s views on Brexit, Human Rights and the separation of powers can be read in an excellent interview published this week by the UK Supreme Court Blog.

Lord Justice Laws

This week was also wish a happy retirement to Lord Justice Laws, who gave the 2012 ICLR Annual Lecture, entitled Our Lady of the Common Law, which you can read on this website here (PDF).

Sir John Laws has had a distinguished legal career including his work as Treasury Junior during the period of rapid growth of judicial review in the 1980s, when he became a familiar figure to law reporters, including myself, covering what was then the Crown Office (later Administrative Court) list in the Queen’s Bench Division and its Divisional Court. He was appointed a Judge of the High Court (Queen’s Bench Division) in 1992 and a Lord Justice of Appeal in 1999.

Guy Holborn

Guy has been a familiar figure to all users of Lincoln’s Inn library, though he is not often coaxed out of his den, or office, except when he emerges to deal with a particularly thorny inquiry or to step outside to take the air. Guy has an agile mind and a dry wit, neither of which is likely to fall into disuse following his retirement. One hopes he will devote at least some of his time to writing, so that the rest of us may profit still further from his erudition. For a taster, try the piece he contributed to the ICLR Anniversary Edition last year, on the subject of the ancient law reporters (pre-ICLR) and their exasperating foibles.

Incidentally, the chair in his office was originally owned by Sir Frederick Pollock KC, the first editor in chief of The Law Reports, ruling from 1895 to 1936. (Before then, from the foundation of the Council in 1865, the various individual series of the Law Reports were edited by the reporters. Pollock, who had previously been the first editor of the Law Quarterly Review, founded in 1885, brought a degree of consistency and, dare one say it, selectivity to the enterprise, which became increasingly rigid until, under the present editor, Clive Scowen, it has been relaxed to permit more expansive coverage of new cases, particularly online.


Dates and deadlines

Lecture series in autumn

Gresham College (free) lecture series: When Worlds Collide: The Family and the Law

6 October 2016 to 4 May 2017 (various). Professor Jo Delahunty QC. Recommended.


Law (and injustice) from around the world


Case law from Quebec translated for use elsewhere

In a recent lecture on the language of judgments, the Leader of the Bar and former Chief Justice of Quebec, Mtre Michel Robert, claimed that the reputations of the Quebec Court of Appeal and Superior Court suffer disastrously because their judgments are not translated. This prompted Danielle Blondin Guest Blogger on SLAW to consider  the joint effort of the Quebec judiciary and SOQUIJ (Société québécoise d’information juridique) to promote Quebec case law in the rest of Canada (ROC).
SOQUIJ describes its mission on its own website thus:

SOQUIJ publishes decisions from the judicial and administrative tribunals of Québec. Its high value-added products are marketed in user-friendly electronic formats (online case law databases, e-newletters, RSS feed, etc.) to the legal, business and labour communities.

Blondin says that

Since 2004, nearly 1,000 judgments have been translated and published on the Services aux citoyens website, which is public. New translations are added every week. Over half of the available translations are English versions of Court of Appeal judgments. There are also English versions of judgments with undeniable precedential value.

She identifies some of the leading cases which have been made available in this way. You can read her blog here.

Incidentally, an earlier comment on SLAW said “ROC (Rest of Canada) is not really interested by Quebec law in French” but that was in relation to French language legal blogs (and that was back in 2006. I only found it because I was searching for the meaning of ROC, evidently a common enough term in Canada not to require clarification whenever used. (I wonder if, post-Brexit, we will start using the expression ROE to mean the rest of Europe? )



Male hijab is all the rage

The rage against the patriarchal hegemony, that is. The one that says women must cover their heads in public. Many women don’t like this denial of their freedom to dress modestly but not obscurely. Sympathetic men have taken to the hijab as a form of protest, according to The Independent.

Wearing a headscarf is strictly enforced by so-called ‘morality police’ in Iran and has been since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Women who do not wear a hijab or are deemed to be wearing ‘bad hijab’ by having some of their hair showing face punishments ranging from fines to imprisonment.

Woman have responded by, for example, shaving off all their hair to not have anything that needs to be covered, but now men are joining the protest, uploading images on Instagram and other social media, showing themselves wearing the hijab in solidarity.
Iran is also the place where women may not watch men playing international volley ball games. Not sure how the morality police think they can deal with this in Brazil now, but that was the position in Iran back in February. See New York Times, Women Denied Entry to Volleyball Event: That’s the Real Crime.


Saudi Arabia

And let us not forget, one of the many oppressed, Raif Badawi, winner of the  IPA Prix Voltaire, and still in prison, though thankfully not being lashed each week, following his conviction for criticising the country’s clerics (see various Weekly Notes )

See, also in New York Times, Wife of Raif Badawi, Imprisoned Saudi Blogger, Feels Pain From Afar



That’s it for now. Our thanks to all who flagged up stories, via their blogs (which we always try to acknowledge) and via Twitter (where useful tweets are retweeted).


This post was written by Paul Magrath, Head of Product Development and Online Content at ICLR, who also tweets as @maggotlaw. It does not necessarily represent the opinions of ICLR as an organisation. Comments welcome on Twitter @TheICLR.


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