Weekly Notes: legal publishing news from ICLR – 10 July 2015
This week’s collection of legal news and events includes a major update to ICLR Online, a surprise move in legal publishing, an after dinner speech, a Gentleman’s view of gentlemen’s clubs, and a worrying retreat from the open justice rule.
ICLR Online version 2.5 goes live
ICLR Online, the simple and effective platform that delivers critical case law at no more than the cost of production, has now been enhanced by the addition of three major features.
- Browse. You can browse for cases, alongside our powerful search form
- Legislation. You can search and read any legislation currently in force, as enacted or as consolidated and updated by the National Archives on www.legislation.gov.uk.
- History. You can keep track of your session history, with a complete list of cases and legislative provisions opened, with the option to save or reopen for further reading.
For more details, see Primary law at your fingertips: New features coming to ICLR Online
For more on how Legislation.gov is updating its current statute book, see Internet Newsletter for Lawyers
Jordans joins Lexis
Shock move brings FLR and FCR under same roof
Jordans Publishing has agreed in principle to its acquisition by Lexis Nexis in a move announced this week that will further expand the Lexis law reporting stable, and bring into house content which it was no longer able to licence when Jordans decided, some years ago, to disaggregate. Such a decision, often necessitated by market forces, is not always popular with subscribers, but as a small publisher (and a charity at that) we understand the pressures Jordans must have been under. With the two big aggregators increasingly dominant, it is all the more crucial to retain some diversity in the legal information market and continue to provide the option of a dedicated case law platform offering content at no more than the cost of its production, for those users who cannot justify buying an entire library of content, much of which they may never use. ICLR is preparing to meet this challenge by expanding its coverage and providing a comprehensive case search facility, as well as upgrading its user friendly platform (see above). Keep an eye on this blog for further developments.
In praise of pizza
Lord Chief’s speech at Dinner for Her Majesty’s Judges
In a speech given to thank the Lord Mayor of London for a splendid dinner on 9 July at the Mansion House, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd unfurled yet again that ancient constitutional certificate, Magna Carta, in order to cite from it
one oft forgotten clause – clause 45. This demanded of the King that only those “as know the law of the land and [who] will keep it well” be appointed as judges.
His Lordship then proceeded to reheat, perhaps for the benefit of those who (faces pressed metaphorically against the window) hadn’t enjoyed the sumptuous dinner, the following somewhat tortuous culinary analogy:
a court system is like a pizza – even if the topping is excellent, it will be spoilt if the base is no good. That analogy has been applied to some systems where, although the highest appellate courts can be viewed as an excellent topping, the same cannot be said of the quality and the strength of the base: their highest trial courts. The distinguishing strength of our legal system is not the excellence of its highest appellate courts, excellent though they are. It is the outstanding ability of the judges of the highest trial courts.
In praising his collection of what the tabloids would call “top judges”, the Chief was careful not to appear too smug, as his predecessor Lord Hewart had done almost a century ago, when telling the Lord Mayor’s predecessor at a similar dinner, that
“Her Majesty’s Judges are well satisfied with the almost universal admiration in which they are held”.
The Chief went on, rather more seriously, to consider the problems currently facing the judiciary including, most notably, the antiquated state of its technology. He also outlined a proposal for something called the Financial List, a sort of fast track business court designed to “provide a faster, more efficient and economical forum for financial dispute resolution.” This sounds like a souped up version of what the Rolls Building was supposed to provide, perhaps with the idea of justifying higher court fees for jet setting oligarchs and multi-billionaire moneybenders.
This will be a specialist list for financial claims of £50 million or more, or cases that raise issues concerning the domestic and international financial markets: the equity, derivatives, FX and commodities markets. It will include provision for an innovative test case procedure, the aim of which will be to facilitate the resolution of market issues on which there is no previous authoritative English precedent.
He ended with a recognition that a justice system fails if it provides justice only for the rich.
Just as none can soar above the law, neither should anyone fall below its protection. If we are to ensure that none can fall outside the law, it is incumbent on us all to consider innovative ways to maintain access to it.
Hence the stuff about new technology. But as I’ve said before, access to justice needs more than innovative technology. It needs people to provide advice and people cost money.
Garrick Club News
Should judges join gentlemen’s clubs?
Should such clubs have loos for women? Don’t they already? (And do they even serve pizza?)
These (apart from the one about pizza) are just some of the bizarre questions thrown up by the recent decision of the Garrick Club, after taking a vote on the matter (or a ballot, or survey) NOT to admit women as members. I happen to know that they are admitted as guests, because I was at a dinner there, as a guest myself, and they must have loos for women guests. So the objection made by one crusty old member, the former MP Toby Jessel, that it would be “awkward” to admit women because women’s loos would have to be built, as reported in the Guardian by Amelia Gentleman (who was perhaps admitted as a Gentleman, even though she was a lady), was probably a joke. At any rate, it was the same excuse as the one used to prevent She Who Must Be Obeyed (Hilda, nee Wystan) joining her father’s chambers, where Rumpole did his pupillage, if I have got this right, as reported by Sir John Mortimer QC in his faux memoirs of the Old Bailey hack, in The Penge Bungalow Murders. (Reader, she married him.)
Dinah Rose QC, while denying reports that she had called on judges who were members to resign from the Garrick, did say this, in a letter to The Times:
“judges, who hold public office which requires them to support equality, might think twice about joining a club that promotes social interaction between lawyers and judges but excludes women, in a context in which the vast majority of senior judges are men. Whether actual networking takes place there or not, the perception is that it does. And the appearance of fairness matters in the administration of justice.”
But Lord Neuberger, President of the Supreme Court, whilst disappointed in the result, has in the past defended his membership, saying he didn’t go there to network, but merely to relax. (This was reported in a book in 2010, Women, Judging and the Judiciary: From Difference to Diversity By Erika Rackley, relevant bits of which can be read on Google Books.)
It seems a shame there isn’t a place where senior male and female judges, barristers, professors, actors and writers could all relax without being exclusive of any particular group. I am a little surprised the Inns of Court have not looked into the possibility of expanding in this way, instead of setting up mediation centres and conference facilities. They already provide drinks and dinner, and in Middle Temple there is a room called the Smoking Room where you’re not allowed to smoke. Seems ideal.
Open Justice, or not, as the case may be
Some magistrates hearing crime cases in private
Martin Beckford in the Mail on Sunday (12 July) reports, with a gratifying reference to “secret” justice, that, following a change in the law coming into force earlier this year, single lay magistrates sitting alone with a legal adviser have recently disposed of 3,000 cases involving minor crimes not subject to custodial sentences, where the defendant has pleaded guilty and has not asked for a public trial (as well they might wish not to).
So is it essentially just a quick sentencing exercise, one step up from the old fashioned police caution? The MOJ say the Single Justice Procedure (SJP) is designed to save money (well they would, wouldn’t they?) It was introduced under Part 3 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, which amends and inserts provisions in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980. You can now look these up on ICLR Online (saving a separate trip to www.legislation.gov.uk); and while you’re on ICLR Online, look up R v Sussex Justices, Ex p McCarthy  1 KB 256; 40 TLR 80, DC, which is the case that enunciates the principle that justice should not only be done but should be seen to be done. (If you don’t have a subscription, as it’s one of the landmark cases shortlisted in ICLR Vote you can read a free PDF of our report here.)
The Single Justice Procedure raises, says Martin Beckford, issues of public accountability and quotes Labour MP and lawyer Valerie Vaz saying
It is one of our basic principles that cases – except security cases – are heard in open court and that we have open justice. In my view, the procedure will undermine that principle.’
Transforming criminal justice…
From a system that works badly to one that may not work at all
The story continues (see last week’s Weekly Notes ). Still no decision from the Bar. The Criminal Bar Association, having been forced by grassroots pressure to revisit its initial decision not to get involved, has yet to complete its ballot of members. But there’s been a good deal of discussion, blogging and tweetage. The MOJ has indicated that solicitor fee reductions are no longer up for discussion, leaving itself room to manoeuvre only on the dual contracts aspect of its transformation strategy. For the Bar, the question is whether this will affect them adversely or not, or even, as some have even suggested, beneficially.
If you’re not up to speed with the whole debate, then a good place to start is this blog post by Jack of Kent (aka David Allen Green) Michael Gove and the Lawyers’ Revolt
For more on what defenders get paid, see James Parry, of Parry Welch Lacey LLP, in what looks like their first blog post: What are criminal legal aid lawyers paid?
The CBA ballot closes on 14 July. Here is a selection of the many recent blog posts that have been flying about on Twitter:
- Mukul Chawla QC (yes) on Twitter
- Ian West (yes) On DPC, voting yes, QASA and more
- Mark George QC (yes – and why you should vote for him as vice-chair of CBA) Representing the 96%
- Tom Payne (No) Why Sun Tzu would vote No
- Jerry Hayes (No) Now is the time to negotiate
- Richard Bentwood, Voting No and the Uneven Playing Field
- Francis FitzGibbon (no – and why you should vote for him as vice-chair of CBA) Don’t You Know There Isn’t a War On?
Dates and Deadlines
Fifty years of the Law Commissions
The Dynamics of Law Reform Now, Then and Next
10-11 July, Supreme Court, London. Hosted by Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College, London in association with the Faculty of Law, Cambridge, this year’s conference celebrates 50 years of law reform by the English and Scottish Law Commissions.
Live coverage on twitter: #lawreform50
Bar Council meeting
Commons Select Committee: Work of the Secretary of State for Justice
15 July, Thatcher Room, Portcullis House, at 9.15 am. Watch Gove under the spotlight, grilled by his parliamentary colleagues and oppos, in a one-off session.
Tell the International Criminal Court Why Justice Matters
By 17 July. Post something here, on their FB feed. It can be a message or a “jelfie” (dreadful word, but apparently understood). A number of messages, held up with self portraits, include “peace”, “protecting the innocent” and “ending impunity”.
I suppose justice matters for all sorts of different reasons, and without it no other human rights can be enforced or protected. But I wonder what the Ministry of Justice would say? (Justice is the delivery of common sense dispute resolutions at reasonable cost to the hardworking taxpayer, perhaps.)
IBA Survey on Access to Justice (2015)
Deadline 31 July. The IBA Access to Justice and Legal Aid Committee invites you to participate in an important survey about access to legal aid in criminal cases and redress for victims of violence in different countries. The survey aims to:
generate insights into barriers to access to legal aid in criminal cased and redress for victims of violence in different countries and the ways that organisations, individuals and governments have sought to overcome those barriers;
provide resources and examples which can assist in developing strategies and programs for effective change.
You can take part in the survey here.
That’s it for now. Enjoy the week ahead, and check for any updates in the next day or two.
This post was written by Paul Magrath, Head of Product Development and Online Content at ICLR. It does not necessarily represent any views of ICLR as an organisation.