Category

Criminal

Why wasn’t Anjem Choudary charged with Treason?

By | Criminal, news

You may recall that back in 2016, Mr. Anjem Choudary was jailed after drumming up support for ISIL. He was charged and convicted under Section 12 of the Terrorism Act 2000:-

A person commits an offence if—

  • he invites support for a proscribed organisation, and
  • the support is not, or is not restricted to, the provision of money or other property…

On sentencing Mr. Justice Holroyde said:
I must sentence you on the basis that any link between your words and the actions of others is an indirect one, and that your offences are therefore not the most serious example of their kind. Given the timing of your communications, your high standing, the size of the audience to which you were addressing your lectures, and the likelihood that those audiences would include impressionable persons who would be influenced by what you said, the indirect link is nonetheless a serious one.

The Judge also stated it was likely Mr. Choudary would continue to spread his message but drew our attention to the fact that Section 12 cannot allow an indeterminate sentence.

As a result, Mr. Choudary is being released on licence halfway through his sentence.

He can be recalled to serve the rest of his sentence but people are asking why he was not charged with Treason in the first place as well as the Section 12 offence.

The Treason Act was written in Norman–French in 1351, and you can find the current incarnation on the government legislation website here:

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/aep/Edw3Stat5/25/2/section/II

Not so easy to follow, is it?

In summary it means you are only guilty of High Treason if you plan the death of the King or his wife or his elder son, violate the King’s daughter, etc. or levy war against the King or help the King’s enemies.

(Petty Treason was abolished years ago, so “High Treason” is now just typically known as “Treason”.)

As I’m sure you’ll agree, this definition is fairly archaic, and perhaps not broad enough, but the Law Commission says there are suitable offences within the statute books and they have no current plans to update Treason Law. However, as political commentators are rightly pointing out, it is the only act on the statute book which recognises the betrayal of our country as an offence.

The offence used to be punishable by being hanged, drawn and quartered, but since 1998 it only attracts life imprisonment.

The law is still applicable and can be used, but updating its language would give less room for Defendants to argue whether they had committed an offence or not.

If it had been updated, and Mr. Choudary had been charged and convicted of Treason, the Judge could have sentenced him to life imprisonment, and we would not now be having to release a dangerous person back onto the streets.

What are your thoughts?  Should the definition be updated?

John

Death Penalty for Kotey and Elsheikh?

By | Criminal, news

Kotey and Elsheikh were part of the ISIS Army and were stripped of their British citizenship after alleged involvement in the execution of civilians.

Currently, they’re being held by Syrian Democratic Forces in Eastern Syria – an organisation that enjoys most of its military backing from the USA, who have been coordinating information on foreign fighters, together with governments involved in the anti-ISIS coalition.

The general protocol is that these sorts of prisoners are returned to their country of origin for trial.

However, the US probably believes that Kotey and Elsheikh were part of the group that killed the American Journalist James Foley and consequently, they want them tried and punished in America.

Doing the best I can with the information available on the web, it seems that the US approached the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, with a request for Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) under the arrangements between the USA and the UK.

In considering the request the Home Secretary decided the UK did not need to seek assurances from the USA that the two would not suffer the death penalty if convicted.

If you are interested in reading the home office MLA guidelines, you can find them here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/415038/MLA_Guidelines_2015.pdf

Interestingly, you can read on page 15 that:

“Possible grounds for refusal include: the risk that the death penalty will be imposed for the crime under investigation.”

From his comments it seems clear the Home Secretary consulted the Government’s Human Rights Guidance contained in the “Overseas Security & Justice Assistance” (OSJA) document.

He said that there were “strong reasons for not requiring a death penalty assurance …” (see item 9 (b) on page 22 of OSJA)

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/583304/OSJA_Guidance_2017.pdf

Mr. Elsheikh’s mother is now seeking judicial review of the Home Secretary’s decision.

It is likely that she will be alleging that it is violation of his right to life, and the Home Secretary has agreed to suspend the MLA while the case is before the court.

As soon as that judgment is available I’ll share my thoughts and findings with you.

John

Sir Cliff – privacy invaded?

By | Criminal, Food for thought, news

It’s unlikely that you missed the High Court judgment on Sir Cliff Richard’s case vs the BBC?

It was definitely an intriguing one. But even more intriguing was the BBC’s coverage of it.

Do take a read of the BBC’s summary here where you will find this line:

“The BBC said journalists acted in good faith and it is considering an appeal.”

Good faith. Covers all manner of sins, doesn’t it?

There are a couple of key Articles that come into play here:

  1. Article 8 of the ECHR:

“Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.”

  1. Article 10 of the ECHR:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of expression.”

Where these two rights conflict (as in Sir Cliff’s case), the Court has to perform a difficult balancing exercise.

In this case, in making the decision of the Court, the Judge balanced the scales more heavily onto Sir Cliff’s side because of the following reasons:

  1. The consequence of the disclosure to him;
  2. The public interest in identifying a person who is only being investigated is not strong;
  3. The degree of drama and sensationalism added to the report by helicopter views of the inside of Sir Cliff’s home by the BBC;
  4. The BBC, through its journalist, Mr. Johnson, did not get the information about the search in a straightforward manner.

That last point is key. Did Mr Johnson’s behaviour constitute acting in ‘good faith’? Mr Justice Mann clearly didn’t think so.

Here are some points that Mr Justice Mann brought up in his judgment that the BBC unsurprisingly omitted from their coverage:

  1. At a meeting on the 15 July 2014 between the Police and the BBC Mr. Johnson exaggerated his knowledge about the investigation of Sir Cliff.
  2. When Mr Johnson was contacted by his source Mr Johnson was probably aware that the original source of the information was Operation Yewtree, or possibly the Metropolitan Police. His contact was someone in a police force, or someone associated with a police force. He was not being informed officially, and had no reason to suppose that his tip-off was sanctioned by anyone in authority.
  3. When Mr Johnson contacted Miss Goodwin he mentioned his source in general terms and said it was, or the information came from, Operation Yewtree, and he also gave further details which reasonably led her to suppose he had a reasonable amount of detail.
  4. Miss Goodwin and Supt Fenwick went into a meeting with Mr Johnson concerned that he already had a story that he could and might well publish, and retained that concern in and thoughout the meeting, reinforced by what Mr Johnson said.

In order to prevent that they confirmed and offered information, and, crucially, offered to alert him to the forthcoming search. They did not volunteer anything. Had it not been for their concern (or fear) of publication they would not have offered him anything, or at least nothing worthwhile, and would not have provided details of the search.

As for ‘good faith’? You can make your own mind up, but it seems odd that a supposedly impartial broadcasting organisation chose to gloss over the high number of implicit criticisms that Mr Justice Mann made throughout his judgment.

You can read the full judgment here:

Do you have a view on the case?

Ben Stokes Verdict

By | Criminal, Food for thought, news

No doubt you were aware of the Ben Stokes trial last week, with the England cricketer eventually being found “not guilty” of affray.

The question is: was the jury right to acquit him?

Here are the four main decisions they had to make:

  1. Did he use threats and violence to another person?
  2. Did he believe that it was necessary violence to defend himself or another?
  3. Was the force he used reasonable in the circumstances?
  4. Was his conduct likely to cause “a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety?”

It is that final line that a significant proportion of the “affray” charge hangs on, but another important question is why the CPS did not charge Mr Stokes with assault.

We don’t know the answer to this question, but it seems likely that had that charge been brought from the very beginning, there could well have been a very different outcome to this case.

All we know is that the barrister advising the CPS at the beginning of the case did not consider an assault charge as appropriate, and unless we see the evidence and papers she considered, we do not know why.

What we DO know is that the barrister who brought the case in front of the court did apply to amend the indictment to add assault charges, only to be told it was too late by the Judge.

When the CPS were questioned on the subject, they gave an answer that gave very little away:

“We selected the charge of affray at the outset in accordance with the code for crown prosecutors. Upon further review Upon further review we considered that additional assault charges would also be appropriate. The Judge decided not to permit us to add these further charges. The original charge of affray adequately reflected the criminality of the case and we proceeded on that.”

As I said – giving very little away.

We can only speculate as to what the actual truth behind the failure to bring an assault charge is, but maybe a more honest answer might have been:

“We did not select assault because we forgot to tell the first barrister about the video tapes shown on the TV so she didn’t have the full facts”

(I make no allegation because we do not know what the reason was.)

In addition, there has also been a lot of questioning around why Stokes’ teammate Alex Hales wasn’t prosecuted, despite video footage seemingly showing him kicking somebody.

The CPS gave no explanation for this and the police gave another political type of statement which, again, tells us nothing:

“Early investigative advice was sought from the CPS in relation to Alex Hales’s involvement and a decision was made at a senior level to take no further action against him”

Again, I make no allegation, as we don’t truly know, but…

How do you feel about the fact that these organisations (the police and the CPS) that WE fund are simply not prepared to give us the facts when things go wrong?

In this case, it just feels like everyone knows that there’s something not quite right, but we’re not allowed to really question it!

John

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