That-was-the-weekLucy Scott-Moncrieff stepped down as President of the Law Society, and was replaced by Nicholas Fluck, a partner at Stapleton & Son who specialises in communications and data technology. In an interview with the Law Society Gazette shortly before stepping down she spoke of the challenges of her presidency, namely the changes and proposed further reforms to the provision of legal services. The government’s concession on allowing client choice to remain in criminal legal aid matters was hailed as a triumph. Fluck stated he intended to continue the fight:

“Under my leadership, the Law Society will remain committed to preserving access to justice in the face of the government’s proposed changes to legal aid. I will make no apologies for being clear to the government, the public and other professionals the value that solicitors add to society and to all of our lives.”

Abu Qatada was deported to Jordan. He left voluntarily following the adoption of a treaty guaranteeing that he would not face a retrial based on evidence against him that was obtained by torture, bringing to an end his 20-year exile.

On Tuesday the High Court handed down a judgment clarifying the “constitutional aberration” of s 53 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Under s 53 the Attorney General and ministers of the Crown can veto disclosure decision or enforcement notices from courts, described as an “executive override” suggested to be unique in this jurisdiction.

The matter (Evans v Attorney General & Anor [2013] EWHC 1960) concerned a journalist’s access to communications between Prince Charles and ministers, which are now (by statutory amendment) subject to an absolute exemption from the general right of citizens to access information held by public authorities. However, this judicial review proceeded without reference to that recent statutory amendment.

The Attorney General had used s 53 to override the Freedom of Information Tribunal’s decision that the Government was required publish the letters as it was “in the public interest for there to be transparency as to how and when Prince Charles seeks to influence government”. The Attorney General’s veto was upheld in the judgment, with Lord Judge finding that the balance of public interest lies in keeping the documents confidential. However, concern was expressed about the potential effect of s 53 on the rule of law, particularly as it could be used to override a decision of even the Supreme Court, but it was held that s 53(2) “provides the necessary safeguard for the constitutionality of the process” by keeping open the potential for a court challenge to the decision.

The CPS’s statutory watchdog published a report criticising the organisation’s hurried preparation of cases for court, blaming a lack of resources.

“Contested cases were being prepared only a few days before the trial and committals or sent cases were reviewed and prepared often on the day before that set down for the committal or service of the prosecution case.

“This allows little time to remedy evidential deficiencies or request additional information and … can lead to an unacceptable rate of late vacated magistrates’ court trials.”

Other warnings included the prevalence of police officers making decisions on whether or not to charge subjects (something that should be the responsibility of a prosecutor), and cases collapsing due to the preparation not being done properly. The CPS has recently had to cut its spending by 27%.

An inquest found that Jimmy Mubenga, a man being deported from the UK to Angola, had been unlawfully killed by G4S guards who restrained him prior to the flight. He died of cardio-respiratory collapse after other passengers heard him saying he could not breathe.

The jury foreman said:

“Based on the evidence we have heard, we have found Mr Mubenga was pushed or held down by one or more of the guards.

“We find that this was unreasonable force. The guards would have known that they would have caused harm to Mr Mubenga, if not serious harm.”