All eyes are on the House of Lords as the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill receives its second reading on Monday. The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, has written to Peers to voice its concerns. Peter Lodder, the chairman of the Bar Council, said:

“The House of Lords has an important constitutional duty as a revising chamber. We hope that Peers on all sides will persuade the Government to recognise the real consequences of these drastic proposals, so that a realistic Bill can be returned to the Commons. The public interest and the interests of justice demand no less.”

The House of Lords Constitution Committee released its report on the Bill last week. The report, although short, contained significant criticisms, suggesting that legal aid cuts within the Bill undermine the constitutional principle that citizens must have access to justice.

Munir Patel, a court clerk, has become the first person to be jailed under new bribery legislation.  Munir Patel, 22, used his privileged access to the court system to help more than 50 offenders avoid prosecution in exchange for sums of up to £500, Southwark Crown Court was told.  He was today handed a three-year prison term for bribery and ordered to serve six years concurrently for misconduct in a public office.

Nick Clegg has ordered a fresh review of  the extradition treaty between the US and UK after rejecting last month’s study by Sir Scott Baker, which concluded it was fair. Sir Menzies Campbell is to chair a panel to examine how the arrangements could be reformed. Clegg has set up his review as Lib Dem leader rather than deputy prime minister and it is expected the findings will form a basis for his party’s policy on which to fight the next general election.

The Ministry of Justice has released a report, The Strengths and Skills of the Judiciary in the Magistrates’ Courts, which analyses in depth the differing ways in which lay and professional benches deal with the cases before them. While some of its conclusions are unsurprising, the underlying message is that there are fewer differences between the two groups’ performance than might have been supposed, and that the costs and outcomes are pretty similar between the two types of bench. The Ministry of Justice has also launched a consultation on proposed amendments to the statutory and regulatory frameworks for judicial appointments, together with improving judicial diversity. The MoJ press release states that:

“Although the principle of appointment on merit will remain, the changes will enable clear career progression and flexible working arrangements to encourage applications from previously untapped talent pools. The wide ranging consultation seeks views whether, when considering two candidates of equal ability, there could be a presumption in favour of selecting the person from an underrepresented group.”

The judge in the Stephen Lawrence murder trial has asked the Attorney General to consider criminal charges over an article written by the former editor of Radio 4’s Today programme, Rod Liddle, which appears in the current edition of the Spectator magazine. Mr Justice Treacy ordered the jury of eight men and four women not to read the magazine and referred the article to Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General, who will now decide if contempt of court proceedings should be brought.

Anti-tax avoidance protesters from the group UK Uncut have been found guilty of aggravated trespass after more than 150 people occupied a Fortnum and Mason during a TUC-organised demonstration last March. The 10 defendants were found guilty of intent to intimidate staff and shoppers.  All the defendants, who are aged 19 to 42, were given a six-month conditional discharge and a £1,000 fine for prosecution costs.

Lawyers across the UK will be breathing a sigh of relief following the news that Solicitors from Hell founder Rick Kordowski has given up his legal battle against the Law Society after Mr Justice Tugendhat granted injunctive relief and ordered the site to be taken offline.

Finally, the rights of thousands of women working as lap dancers are to be tested after a judge ruled that an appeal tribunal should establish whether Stringfellows “employed” its performers. The legal challenge brought by Nadine Quashie, 28, is likely to set a precedent for the adult entertainment industry where it has been argued that dancers are self-employed. The judge in the case, Jeremy McMullen QC granted Quashie permission to take her case against Stringfellow Restaurants Ltd to an employment appeal tribunal in “this very unusual case”. The fact that she was regularly “rostered” to work on pre-arranged days meant, the judge said, that she had an arguable case that she was employed by the club.