That-was-the-week-150x150Senior legal figures have defended the system of jury trial after the jury in the trial of Vicky Pryce, the ex-wife of the disgraced cabinet minister Chris Huhne, failed to reach a verdict following what Mr Justice Sweeney described as an “absolutely fundamental deficit in understanding“.  The jury reached deadlock after submitting ten questions to the judge which indicated that they had failed to grasp the basic concept of trial by jury.  Such questions included whether they could reach a verdict based on factors that were not presented as evidence in court.  The retrial is likely to take place next week.

Olympic and paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius has been released on bail pending trial in June this year for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steencamp.  This decision, that has been condemned for sending the wrong message in South Africa, came after Pistorius’s case took a dramatic turn this week when the chief investigator was removed from the case following the revelation that he is facing attempted murder charges.  This came as a second blow to the prosecution case following an admission by the South African police that they had made serious blunders in their investigation.

The European Commission has welcomed a draft report from the European Parliament’s Legal Affair Committee (JURI) backing the Commission’s proposal for a common European sales law.  The optional EU-wide rules are intended to encourage economic growth by reducing the cost for businesses to access new markets and provide a logical set of rules for the marketing of digital products and related services.  The new rules would also benefit consumers by giving them a greater choice of products at competitive prices whilst also protecting their rights.   The JURI committee is due to vote on the report in the coming months.

Under the recommendations of the Law Commission published this week it should no longer be possible for residents to automatically be entitled to enjoy natural daylight at their property just because they have done so for a prolonged period of time without interruption.  The intention of the new recommendations is to introduce greater certainty in what has become an ambiguous area of law and strike a suitable balance between the rights of developers and landowners and occupiers.

The US Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether the current cap on the amount that individuals can contribute to candidates in political campaigns should be removed.  In Mc Cutcheon v Federal Election Commission it was asserted that the cap on donations is a breach of the first amendment of the US constitution.  This argument was rejected by the US District Court in Washington DC however, if the Supreme Court disagrees with this decision the case could be used to change part of the landmark decision in Buckley v Valeo which upheld the caps.  Critics argue that if the cap on contributions were removed it would affect the transparency of the system by enabling donors to exert undue influence on the political process.    The Supreme Court is due to hear the case in its next term which commences in October 2013.