Kenneth Clarke unexpectedly announced a six-month delay to plans to slice £350m out of the annual legal aid budget. The decision to postpone reforms was blamed on the need to reschedule legal contracts although it also comes as the reforms encounter fierce opposition in the Lords and strong criticism from senior judges and social welfare organisations. In a written ministerial statement, Clarke told the Commons merely: “We intend, subject to parliamentary approval of the legal aid, sentencing and punishment of offenders bill, to implement all of the legal aid reforms in April 2013. This will include the abolition of the Legal Services Commission under the bill and the creation of the new agency in its place.”

Newspapers have lost any sense of self-restraint and are ignoring their responsibilities, the attorney general has warned in a speech on the risks of contempt of court. Explaining why he initiated a spate of prosecutions to prevent criminal cases being prejudiced, Dominic Grieve said that bloggers and tweeters in cyberspace should not consider themselves immune from “the law of the land”. Grieve said he had become increasingly concerned at what he “perceived to be the increasing tendency of the press to test the boundaries of what was acceptable over the reporting of criminal cases”. Grieve’s speech followed news that Rod Liddle’s article in the Spectator after Grieve concluded that it may have breached a court order made under section 82 of the Criminal Justice Act.

There was an interesting post on the UKHR blog last week, highlighting the fact that there is just over a month left to respond to the Government’s consultation on the Justice and Security Green Paper. The proposals have been little reported, but if they become law then many civil hearings could be held in secret. The Ministry of Justice argues that the proposals will ensure “that the sensitivity of evidence does not prevent cases being heard in the courts – enabling justice to be done without compromising national security.”  But a number of organisations, including Liberty, have concerns that some cases which would have reached the courts under the old system may be taken out of the public gaze by the new.

Cooks, cleaners, caterers and care staff have won a landmark court of appeal decision that could pave the way for many more equal pay claims. Three appeal judges ruled such claims could be heard in the high court as well as at an employment tribunal. The decision is significant as it means employees who thought their claims were barred by tribunal time limits can now seek to recover compensation.

Judges, jurors and barristers are set to replace their traditional bundles of papers with iPad-style devices in an attempt to create paperless courts. Prosecutors will be given tablet devices that will contain all the evidence and documentation needed to conduct court hearings. The scheme will later be extended to judges, jurors and defence barristers, eventually meaning courts can operate without paper. All Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) departments in England and Wales are preparing to roll out the devices from April.

The House of Commons are set to debate the US-UK extradition treaty today, and MPs are expected to back a Commons motion calling for a change in the current extradition arrangements. In addition to the debate Nick Clegg has also ordered a separate Liberal Democrat review of the UK’s current extradition treaties. In other extradition news, Julian Assange is seeking to take his case to the Supreme Court, after losing his appeal to prevent his extradition to Sweden.