Jack Grealish and the Media Response

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By Matt Hall

Over the last week or so, football has been the focus of much negative press attention stemming from incidents of fan/player altercation. In Scotland, Glasgow Rangers captain James Tavernier was approached by a spectator in a game versus Hibernian. Shortly after in England, Aston Villa player Jack Grealish was hit from behind during a game against Birmingham City. The incident involving Jack Grealish was highly reported across the media and perpetrator, Paul Mitchell, was subsequently sentenced to 14 weeks imprisonment.

The defendant was charged with battery contrary to s 39 Criminal Justice Act 1988 and the football-specific offence of ‘pitch encroachment’ contrary to s 4 Football Offences Act 1991. As the blog by The Secret Barrister helpfully outlines, the maximum sentence for battery is 6 months, and taking in to account the guilty plea at the earliest opportunity and the then entitled one third deduction, the magistrates could have gone to 17 weeks. The maximum sentence for ‘pitch encroachment’ is a fine. Therefore, 14 weeks was certainly the top end of the scale and on the face of it, the sentence appears stern. Moreover, the defendant was also handed a 10-year Football Banning Order contrary to s 14a Football Spectators Act 1989.

On a note regarding the sentence handed down to Mitchell, many police officers took to Twitter to highlight the swift justice ( just a little over 24 hours) and the severity of the sentence when compared to those who assault police officers. For example, a defendant recently convicted of assault under the 2018 Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Actwas fined £120 and ordered to pay £50 compensation to the police officer he punched (see here). It has been suggested (in the absence of Sentencing Remarks) that the severity of the sentence handed to Mitchell was driven by the need for a deterrent, a legitimate aim of sentencing. Clearly, police officers may have a point here in asking where the deterrent is for those who assault officers going about their job. It is hard to imagine that a similar attack away from a football stadium would have resulted in a 14-week custodial sentence.

Despite the severity of the sentence, it is the knee-jerk and, to quote Stuart Hall, ‘short, simplifying and brutal’ media coverage and commentary that often follows disorder related to football that has been concerning. Following the incident involving Grealish, The Guardian reported that ‘football is urged to protect players’ whilst ex-footballer and current England Women’s manager Phil Neville drew the comparison to tennis player Monica Seles who was stabbed in the back during a tennis match in Hamburg in 1993, outlining his fears that if things do not change ‘a player will end up stabbed.’ The idea of fences returning to the stands was also mentioned and ex-footballer David Cotterill went one step further and suggested that armed police were needed at football matches to assist stewards. Whilst ex and current footballers are well within their rights to worry about their safety, some of the reporting and suggestions that the media give credit to are clearly ill-thought and nonsensical. Indeed, the media has often contributed to the moral panic that ensues when incidents such as this occur at football.

Photo by Vienna Reyes from unsplash.com

Emma Poulton has argued that the ‘hysterical headlines, emotive language and graphic imagery’ that often follow football related disorder contribute to the public viewing all fans of football as ‘hooligans,’ again, a concept that lacks a universal definition and is a construct of the media whom use it to cover an array of behaviour within the football context. What follows, and is true in this instance, is then an outburst for ‘collective punishment’ and headlines such as that in The Guardian that football needs ‘to do more’ to protect players or that armed police are necessary. Indeed, when alcohol was seen as a partial cause in 1985 to the Heysel Tragedy, again, fuelled by newspaper headlines, Parliament were quick to pass legislation that criminalised alcohol possession in direct view of the pitch. In similar vein following the Grealish incident, one media outlet published the opinions of a police officer who believes that cocaine is now a cause of much disorder at football.

Regarding Grealish, some perspective is clearly needed. The individual who attacked him was acting alone. Moreover, football fans are heavily policed and regulated in terms of legislation. As noted above, ‘pitch encroachment’ is a football specific offence and The Home Office’s own statistics demonstrate that arrests for ‘pitch encroachment’ are minimal; 188 arrests in 2015-16; 204 in 2016-17 and; 191 in 2017-18. I would argue many of these arrests take place during times of goal celebrations and not spectators running on the pitch to attack players. Moreover, and taking into account the millions who attend football, this is clearly a minute percentage. This was an isolated innocent and one that does not warrant the knee-jerk responses and ‘hysterical’ headlines that have followed.

It must not be forgotten that football is not unique in attracting disorder; many other sporting and social events attract disorderly behaviour, yet very rarely, if at all, do they attract such stigmatising or emotive headlines or suggestions. A prime example of this would be disorder at horse racing (see disorder involving 40-50 people here) or the 71 people arrested at the 2017 Glastonbury Festival for various offences ranging from drug offences, ABH and possession of an offensive weapon. The point here, is that football is targeted by the media and some members of society in a manner that no other events are.

Clearly, the media and commentators play a role in how football and its fans are perceived. The moral panic that ensues football is unique, in that no other sporting or societal event attracts such condemnation; condemnation that has led to an abundance of football-specific legislation being implemented. Therefore, and despite the media soundbites, football is heavily protected. There is no need to return to fencing in front of the stands, and clearly no need for officers at football to be armed. Statements like this by the media are irresponsible and indicative of what football and its fans have had to witness since the mid twentieth century. The result is a moral panic and a tarnishing of all spectators who pay a lot of money to watch football. As commented by Chief Superintendent Owen West of West Yorkshire Police, ‘one person did an idiotic and criminal act.’ This should not be forgotten, and you cannot legislate for the actions of one mindless individual.

Photo by Tom Grimbert from unsplash.com

Read more from Matt Hall in his previous blog post Matthew Hall presents “Thatcher’s Legacy on the Narrative Surrounding Fans of Football” at the Football Collective Conference.

Interdisciplinary Research into Organized Crime

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On Wednesday 30 January at UWE Bristol, Dr Mary Alice Young convened an interdisciplinary research event on the role of technology and the intelligent machine in organized crime. The event was supported by the Centre for Applied Legal Research and the Criminal Justice Unit. There were 60 attendees in total, including a group of senior investigators from the Metropolitan Police Service, law enforcement officers from the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit, Embassy attaches, investigators from HMRC, and colleagues from UWE’s departments including, Artificial Intelligence, History, Forensics, International Relations, Geography and Criminology. 25 students also attended (representing three faculties), and made valuable contributions to the discussion and connections with potential employers.

Event outcomes

Since the event on 30 January, Dr Young has been successful with a number of publications and planning upcoming workshops.

Dr Young’s interdisciplinary article, ‘Organised Crime and Security Threats in Caribbean Small Island Developing States: A Critical Analysis of US Assumptions and Policies’, has been accepted for publication by the European Review of Organised Crime, with one reviewer stating that it ‘re-orientates a long standing misreading of the Caribbean reality’ of organized crime. Dr Mike Woodiwiss (History, UWE Bristol) is the second author, and the work builds on interviews and field research carried out in Jamaica in 2018.

Dr Young’s forthcoming paper on the untold truth of the architecture of anti-money laundering policies has been accepted for discussion at the Tax Justice Network’s annual conference in July 2019 at City University, London.

Dr Young will also convene a plenary workshop on enablers of organised financial crime, and host the closed Think Tank on Organised Crime in September 2019, at the Cambridge International Economic Crime Symposium, Jesus College.

Technology and Law Policy Commission: Algorithms in the Justice System

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By Dr Tom Smith and Ed Johnston

Technology and Law Policy Commission: Algorithms in the Justice System

Wales Evidence Session7 February 2019

This event had 3 different panels speaking for about 30 minutes each regarding the use of algorithms in the justice system. The talks were a mix of practical and managerial algorithms. Both had aspects that were interesting to our teaching and research, as well as elements that were irrelevant.

The commission opened by making the point that we are not asking the correct questions concerning the use of algorithms in the justice system. We are not asking what ‘values’ underpin their usage (for example, issues like transparency and ‘explainability’). All panellists agreed that this is a growth area but the swift growth causes a number of concerns. Firstly, how do we define the ‘values’ that need to underpin the tech and its usage in law?

A major concern rests on the fact that algorithms are often opaque systems for decision making and there is a problem with ‘explainability’ (i.e. we cannot extract from machine learning the rationale for why the algorithm arrived at a particular conclusion). Arguably, this raises a red flag for lawyers in terms of justification of decisions to those affected, and especially for the potential conflict between Freedom of Expression and the use of AI to tackle forms of extremism in England and Wales.

There is a further problem with the lack of emotional intelligence associated with the use of AI. This raises questions about the lack discretion afforded to humans in legal systems when allowing machine learning to make decisions. Much of modern policing is done by using discretionary powers – a concern is the potential for the use of AI to allow the criminal justice ‘net’ to widen disproportionately and without adequate safeguarding. Additionally, if there is an element of human discretion operating alongside AI, who do we defer to in making final decisions (a classic man vs. machine argument)? This raises questions about the risk of humans delegating responsibility (and thus accountability) to machines.

As well as these elements, we need to answer questions concerning data control. What happens to the data that is generated by machine learning?

A further problem exists concerning the language being unpicked by the AI. We have many different languages spoken/written in society. Coupled with this we have local spoken/written language. Finally, we have code spoken by offenders to avoid detection on social media (for example in organised dogfighting). The dogfighting articlesuggests that there is an informal code spoken on social media to alert likeminded individuals to events and dogs for sale – how can the AI pick up such information? This would require continuous human input and updating to ensure that those targeting by such technologies cannot evade justice by ‘gaming’ such systems.

Ed asked a question about the Harm Assessment Risk Tool (HART) being used by Durham Constabulary but sadly it was not answered. I wonder what risks exist in using an algorithm to make bail decisions post-conviction. However, with the advent of the Released under Investigation status used frequently by police officers and the reduction of the use bail, this is perhaps not an issue (however, that feels very much like fudging the numbers to appear successful – this new unregulated status may in fact be a retrograde step which undermines attempts to reduce unnecessary use of bail). 

There are positives to the technology. The Facial Recognition software described by a Police Inspector appeared to be very beneficial. There are some 12 million images in the Police National Database and the average officer will upload 30 new images per day. Previously, there would be a 12 day wait to try and identify a suspect from the database. The new software will provide a result in 5 minutes. This is of particular benefit when tackling crowd disorder at sporting events. Previously, officers would have to stick their heads out the window of a police van to identify someone. Now the software can scan all individuals in a crowd. Whilst this has clear practical benefit there was little regard for the potential breach of civil liberties or discussion about training for officers on responsible and effective use.

Finally, the panel spoke of the need for regulation and the panels tried to centre in on accountability, oversight and transparency. We need to know a) how will the use be regulated (soft regulation or by legislation) or b) what happens if the evidence is wrongly used. We can exclude evidence under s.78 PACE 1984 currently, but does this broad protection go far enough?

Lots of questions, not many answers. It’s clear that this is a ‘sexy’ and attractive area of law, which is being pioneered primarily in other jurisdictions. Whilst the desire not to be left behind and to utilise technology effectively in the digital age is understandable, this area also potentially poses great danger. The use needs to be carefully considered from a protective, due process standpoint rather than focusing solely on the practical benefits of the technology to crime control and enforcement.

First PROTAX project focus group works to counter tax crimes in the UK and EU

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Prof Nicholas Ryder (UWE Bristol), Sam Burton (UWE Bristol), Prof Umut Turksen (Coventry University) and Dr Fanou Rasmouki (TRILATERAL) hosted the first focus group as part of an EU funded project, PROTAX , in Bristol on 31 January 2019. PROTAX project is focused on the human factors surrounding tax crimes. As such, it seeks to understand ground-level problems that hamper the application of law, investigation, collaboration and ultimately the conviction of tax crimes. By integrating stakeholder knowledge and expertise, PROTAX will generate law enforcement tools and guidelines to help counter tax crimes and reach harmonised levels of organisation and networking across the EU.

Protax logo

At the focus group, we welcomed tax experts, law enforcement agencies, relevant industry representatives. It has been an excellent opportunity to discuss how to counter tax crimes in the UK and EU.

The following themes were discussed during the focus group:

  • Exploring tax crimes
  • LEA requirements and organisational aspects
  • Inter-agency co-operation
  • International collaboration
  • Dual role of the financial sector: Prevention and facilitation of tax crimes
  • Benchmarks and best practices
  • Ideas to advance the fight against tax crime

Once the remaining 10 focus groups in 10 different EU countries are completed, we will convene a conference in Brussels at the EU Commission where we will invite all focus group participants and other stakeholders involved in the prevention, investigation and prosecution of tax crimes. The conference will provide a platform for professionals specialised in tax and tax crime matters to learn about the findings of the focus groups and contribute to the formulation of recommendations to the European Commission and stakeholders to enhance capabilities in the fight against tax crimes.

For more information on Protax see the project website: https://protax-project.eu/

SLSA Seminar Series: The Perennial Problem of Disclosure – A way forward?

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By Ed Johnston

Ed Johnston has recently been award £1,500 from the annual Socio-Legal Scholars Association’s Annual Seminar Series. Ed is currently organising a one-day conference at UWE Bristol Law School on the topic “The Perennial Problem of Disclosure – A way forward?” This one day event will take place on Wednesday 3 July 2019.

Prior to the mid-1960s, there was no requirement for defence disclosure. Between 1967 and 1996 the defence only had to disclose alibi and expert evidence. The prosecution would disclose elements of their case to ensure ‘equality of arms’. The issue of balance between both parties is long-running, since the prosecution have historically commanded significant resources to investigate and prosecute crimes (in comparison to the defence). The system of disclosure is a fundamental element of fair trial procedure as it helps to compensate for this natural imbalance. However, with the advent of the defence case statement under the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act (CPIA) 1996, both the underlying culture and systemic purpose of disclosure experienced a seismic shift.

In the following two decades, the general focus of criminal justice policy has been toward prosecuting cases in an efficient manner; the defence case statement forms a pivotal aspect of this. The disclosure regime was extended by the Criminal Procedure Rules (CrimPR) which now mean that disclosure, albeit operating under the guise of ‘case management,’ is essentially mandatory in summary trials. In contrast, under the CPIA 1996, summary trials were only the subject of a voluntary disclosure regime. Despite the insistence (via both judicial guidance and executive policy making) on the need for a culture of early disclosure and co-operative working to permeate modern criminal procedure, the post-CPIA 1996 regime is marked by practical failings and (arguably) ideological contradictions. This has generated significant and sustained criticism, and led to miscarriage of justices as a result of an inadequate disclosure system and culture.

In late 2017 and early 2018, a series of criminal cases collapsed after significant police failures in managing disclosure of key evidence. The first and most widely reported of these was the case of Liam Allan, who was accused of rape and released on bail for two years, before vital undisclosed evidence emerged days into his trial. In the wake of this, the CPS, Metropolitan Police, a Parliamentary Select Committee, and the Government have engaged in reviews of the effectiveness and fairness of the current disclosure regime in criminal proceedings. As mentioned above, this is not new; the modern system of disclosure has been lamented almost since its inception in 1996. There have been a number of critical examinations, including by academics Plotikoff and Woolfson (A Fair Balance in 2001); by Lord Justice Gross (A Review of disclosure in criminal proceedings in 2011); and by HMCPSI and HMIC jointly (Making It Fair in 2017) and the Mouncher Review (also in 2017).

Liam Allan speaking at the First Annual Criminal Justice Research Unit lecture at UWE Bristol in December 2018.

In 2018, two further reviews followed in the wake of the Allan case and others (including those of Samson Makele and Oliver Mears): the Justice Committee published Disclosure of evidence in criminal cases inquiry in July, and finally the Attorney General published a Review of the efficiency and effectiveness of disclosure in the criminal justice system in November. The latter review concluded that the ‘system is not working effectively or efficiently as it should’ and identified above all the need for a change in culture (rather than law) was needed. There is an obvious appetite for improving the function of the disclosure regime; yet, despite the numerous reviews and investigation, it remains fundamentally flawed and this represents a risk of causing further miscarriages of justice (which may or may not be detected). Speaking in June 2018, the former DPP, Lord Macdonald, suggested that it was ‘inevitable’ that innocent defendants had been imprisoned as a result of disclosure not being readily available to defence lawyers (a claim the then DPP, Alison Saunders, was hesitant to echo). Arguably, the current crisis in disclosure represents one of the most significant and impactful problems in 21st Century criminal justice.

This one day conference in July 2019 seeks to bring together academic and practitioner perspectives to examine potential avenues for reform and improvement. If you would like to attend this event, please register online here.

The confirmed speakers for the conference are: 

Anthony Edwards: “Contemporary issues with disclosure in the police station.”

Anthony is a criminal defence solicitor who specialises in Corruption, Fraud and Major Crime. He is widely acknowledged as one of the leading authorities on Police Station law and he has published widely in the areas of criminal procedure.

Dr. Abenaa Owusu-Bempah: “Reconsidering defence disclosure.”

Dr. Owusu-Bempah is an Assistant Professor of Law at the London School of Economics. Her research interests focus on criminal procedure and fair trial rights. Her recent book, Defendant Participation in the Criminal Process, examines how the disclosure provisions of the CrimPR compel the defendant to actively participate in their own criminal trial. The book examines how the adversarial criminal process can be effected by essentially non-adversarial provisions.

Dr. Hannah Quirk: “ Uncovering disclosure errors: Appeals and the CCRC.”

Dr. Quirk is a reader in Criminal Law at Kings College London. Her research interests lie in wrongful convictions and sentences. She has published extensively on the erosion of the Right to Silence and wrongful convictions.

Please see our event page for further details or click here to sign up now.

Catherine Easton (editor of the European Journal of Current Legal Issues) has been commissioned a Special Edition of the journal, which will focus on the papers presented at the seminar. This proposal has been accepted and the edition will be published in the winter of 2019.

UWE Law Society London Trip 2019

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The UWE Law Society reports on its recent trip to visit Parliament, the Supreme Court, and The Inns of Court.

Guest post by: Sam Louwers, President of  UWE Law Society
The opinions expressed by the guest writer and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of UWE Bristol.

The 18th February began very early in the morning for 50 members of UWE Law Society who had secured places to take part in our London Trip 2019. The aim of the trip was to move 50 members to London to visit Parliament, The UK Supreme Court and attend a talk delivered by Lincoln’s Inn.

It had been the intention from the offset that all society members should feel in a position to apply for a ticket, regardless of their personal circumstances, so the price should be free. Through applications to both the faculty and student’s union enough funding was secured to pay for the coach move meaning that all were in the same position to apply for a ticket.

We left UWE at 0530 to move to Westminster, for a change a very painless journey. Once arriving the trip was split down into two tranches; one detailed to Parliament and one the Supreme Court.

Those who toured Westminster had a unique opportunity to gain an understanding of the history of the building, visit both chambers and have explained the full process of how a Bill becomes an Act. With a passionate tour guide this element was enjoyed by all and was an opportunity that many had never experienced, and I am sure that many students would have left feeling they have a confident understanding of our constitution.

Tranche 2 began their day visiting the Supreme Court. A newer building in the history of the court system, but still bathed in history from its previous role. The group had the opportunity to explore the building whilst also have its purpose and history explained to them by their tour guide. With some fantastic photo opportunities, members even had the opportunity to sit in the seat of a justice and experience the true feel of the court room. Unfortunately, Parliament were holding an emergency debate in the afternoon so Tranche 2’s tour had to be cancelled.

Then a surprise to all when we were notified that Lady Hale, President of the Supreme Court, had heard that UWE students were visiting so was giving up her lunch break to meet with us and run a Q&A session, as I am sure all readers will appreciate this is a fantastic and privileged opportunity.

Meeting with Lady Hale was an experience that many students will never experience again, but you could tell that she was more than happy to give up her time to pass her knowledge and experience onto those young minds who have a passion to progress into the legal profession.

The final part of the day saw a move to Lincoln’s Inn where we were hosted by Andrew, their outreach Co-Ordinator. Unfortunately, the talk had to be held slightly down the road in their office and conference space as the Inn itself is currently undergoing major renovations, yet still a great environment to visit. Andrew gave a talk to the society members about what the purposes of the four inns of court are, their history and how they play a key part to anyone looking to progress to a career at the bar. He also took the time to discuss the vast range of scholarships available and in doing so demonstrating that there is financial support available to those who need it.

Lincoln’s Inn also paid for Sally Anne Blackmore of Ely Place Chambers to come and talk to our members. Sally is a former UWE Alumni and prominent member of the Inn, often involved in the residential and qualifying sessions that are run. As a former Alumni Sally was keen to talk to our members about her non-traditional route to the bar and her vast experiences surrounding the profession. Not only did she inspire members she was also happy to hand out her contact details should members want to seek further guidance.

The day ended with the journey back to UWE, getting in at 2230. After a long day I think I can honestly say that every attendee was able to get something special from the day and I have taken the time to thank every element of the trip personally for making it possible. If it wasn’t through keen networking and producing a positive image of UWE Law Society this trip would never have been possible. Dr Liam Fox MP was happy to support our tours, Lady Hale gave up her time and Lincoln’s Inn gladly hosting us at their location is proof that UWE Law Society have built a positive and strong reputation in the last year. We also thank UWE Law Department and the Students Union at UWE for their kind donations, as without them we would not have been able to meet our aim of making this trip open and accessible to all and by doing so we met our equality and diversity targets.

Although coming to the end of our term as a committee I am sure that now the ground work has been laid so future committees will be able to offer these fantastic opportunities to their members also.

Sam Louwers
President
UWE Law Society

Pro bono: Student reflections from the African Prisons Project

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One of the many activities the UWE Pro Bono Unit undertakes is the African Prisons Project. The project sees UWE students assisting prisoners and prison warders during their Law studies in Uganda and Kenya. Kathy Brown has previously blogged about the project here. In this post, student Kelly Eastham provides an update on an inmates sentence.

by Kelly Eastham

It has been a long time that I have been waiting to write this and awaiting this news itself, but not nearly as long as it has been for Wilson. I am completely overwhelmed to have received news today that Wilson (an inmate from Kamiti Prison, Kenya) has been released after winning his case in the Kenyan Supreme Court. Wilson was imprisoned at the age of 19 and sentenced to death, he has since served 20 years for robbery, a punishment not proportionate to his crime.

During my time in Kenya I grew close with Wilson. I was completely amazed by his beautiful perspective on life and his motivation to help other people in his situation. Prior to working in a “death row” environment, I had always thought that these people will have nothing to live for and will become the worse version of themselves as they have no reason or motivation to turn their life around. I was completely wrong and Wilson was one of the first inmates to totally shift my perspective on this. He showed me that it is never too late to make a positive change and if you keep fighting for it anything is possible. His case in the Kenyan Supreme Court (Coram: Maraga CJ & P, Mwilu DCJ &VP, Ojwang, Wanjala, Njoki and Lenaola SCJJ) will be monumental in Kenyan history as the one which abolished the death penalty and will have a significant knock-on effect for the lives of thousands. Wilsons motivation to be a changemaker has not come from a place of selfishness but from wanting to be able to make a difference.

I was asked by Wilson to attend his trial to support him, I remember walking into the High Court and awaiting the judges decision, this decision stated that Wilson had been successful and won his case. I remember going down to the cells under the court house and spending time with him celebrating his success. I felt so emotional to have been a part of his trial and I am so blessed to have been there to support him.

Wilson and his story have inspired me so much and I am honoured to have played a small part of it. I will forever be grateful for the life lessons he has taught me and for inspiring a huge passion within me. I will be wishing him all the best in the outside world and I will be there to support him though it. 

The Knife ASBO: The Incorrect Response

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By Ed Johnston

Last week, the Home Secretary suggested a new measure to tackle the ever-growing problem of knife crime in England and Wales. He suggested that children as young as 12 could be sanctioned with ASBO-style order, should the offender breach the order, they could be imprisoned for up to two years. There is undoubtedly a major problem with knife crime in London and this requires a solution. In November 2018, the House of Commons Briefing Paper Knife Crime in England and Walesindicated that the period 2017/2018 had the highest rate of number of knife or sharp instrument crimes in over a decade with nearly 15,000 incidents. However, whilst this crime increased year on year, the Sanction Detection Rate for crimes that involved knives was under 30%. It is clear that something needs to be done to tackle this very dangerous problem. Furthermore, the Briefing Paper highlighted the findings of the Crime Survey of England and Wales that suggested 6.2% of 10-15 year olds knew someone who carried a knife and 0.3% of that sample self-reported that they carried a knife. The Government has previously attempted to ‘get tough’ on knife crime, The Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 introduced a minimum custodial sentence of six months for repeat offenders of knife crimes. Nevertheless, this has not provided an answer to the reoccurring problem and knife crime is perpetually in the news.

Knife Crime in England and Wales briefing paper
House of Commons Briefing Paper Knife Crime in England and Wales 

The Knife and Offensive Weapon Sentencing statistics published in December 2018 states that at the end of September 2018, there were 21,381 cases of knife crime formally dealt with by the criminal justice system. Of those cases, 36% of cases resulted in an immediate custodial sentence. A mere 11% of cases resulted in a caution, which is a 13% drop from September 2009. For almost 3/4s (73%) of offenders, this was their first knife or offensive weapon offence. So, whilst the courts are treating the problem with severity, the average custodial sentence exceeded 6.5 months in 2016 for the very first time; there appears to be no effective deterrent currently available. According to the House of Commons Briefing Paper, there were 5,053 admissions to English hospitals as a result of an assault by a sharp object in 2017/18. This is a rise of 14% on the previous year and when compared to 2014/15 it has increased by 39%. The problem is real, the courts have attempted to deter offenders by using harsher sentences which has driven up the average custodial sentence, however, nothing seems to be working. In fact, in the dawning hours of 2019, two people were killed in London before 6am.

It is clear that something needs to be done to tackle this problem. However, questions remain about Sajid Javid’s Knife Crime Prevention Orders (KCPO). The Home Secretary wants to amend the Offensive Weapons Bill in order to bring in these orders. Amendment 73A of the Bill suggests that the court can make an order if, on the balance of probabilities, on at least two prior occasions (within two years), the defendant was in possession of a bladed article without good reason, in a public place, school or further education premises. The good reason could be for work, educational purposes, religious reasons or as any part of a national costume. Whilst this is clearly aimed at deterring young people from carrying a knife, which is to be commended, the standard of proof is far lower than establishing if a defendant has committed a crime. All that needs to be established is the fact it is more likely than not the person has previously carried a knife twice. Should a defendant be subjected to a KCPO, there are a number of prohibitions that the court can impose. The court can prohibit the defendant from:

  • Being in a particular place
  • Being with particular people
  • Participating in regular activities
  • Using particular articles or having particular articles on them, or
  • Using the internet to facilitate or encourage crime involving bladed articles.

This is a civil injunction, hence the lower the standard of proof. However, any breach of the order will render the conduct criminal, and the defendant could be imprisoned. These types of injunctions are nothing new to the courts. They have had the power to stop defendants associating with certain people or entering certain spaces for years. The Anti-social Crime and Policing Act 2014, allows the court to ‘prohibit the respondent from doing anything described in the injunction’ or ‘require the respondent to do anything described in the injunction.’ Both sanctions would allow the court the bar an individual from being in a particular place, being with particular people, participating in regular activities or using the internet to encourage knife crime. This could mean a person subjected to an order could be banned from using social media.

 A new provision, is not required. Perhaps, the Home Secretary is looking to polish his ‘tough on crime’ mantra for when Teresa May steps down ahead of the next general election (with some suggesting that may be as early as this summer). Perhaps Mr. Javid should not look to widen the net of criminal justice by snaring more young people into its grasp, as the stigma of being involved or subjected to criminal sanctions is hard to shift for young people. Employment opportunities are only going to be hampered by being subjected to KCPO and it begs the question, how can this be effectively policed? If the aforementioned rise in custodial sentences does not deter young people from these offenses, will a bar on using WhatsApp or other social media platforms? Whilst the provisions, on paper, have some bite, the reality means that they are almost impossible to enforce. It is suggested that the orders will be reviewed periodically, although the police are already underfunded and struggling to tackle crime; it is unrealistic to suggest the police would have the resources to see if a KCPO is being complied with. Ultimately, the proposals are another example of an order which is enforced by a low standard of proof but carries consequences that could give rise to criminal sanction and could blight the offender’s future.

Perhaps the Home Secretary would be better served looking at alternatives to divert young people from knife crime, rather than creating new provisions, that replicate sanctions that are already on the statute book. The courts have tried using more serve sentencing powers and yet that has failed to remedy this ever-growing problem, it is hard to believe a regime that mimics existing legislation would fix this problem. Nevertheless, it will help Mr. Javid’s leadership bid as the Home Secretary looks like he is doing something, rather than actually doing something to tackle the growing epidemic of knife crime.

Visiting scholar from the University of the Western Cape in South Africa shares his reflections after visiting UWE Bristol

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In December 2018, visiting scholar  Dr Windell Nortje from the University of the Western Cape in South Africa spent two weeks at the Bristol Law School. Below he shares his reflections of the visit: 

Guest blog by Dr Windell Nortje

I visited UWE between 4 and 18 December 2018. My home institution, the University of the Western Cape (UWC), in Cape Town, South Africa, granted me funding for a two-week international visit at a university abroad. I am truly grateful for the UWC Deputy Vice-Chancellor’s Research and Innovation Office for giving me the opportunity to visit UWE.

In October 2017 I started collaborating with Dr Noëlle Quénivet with a view to writing a journal article. This project turned into a book (Child Soldiers and the Defence of Duress in International Criminal Law) that has been accepted for publication by Palgrave. The manuscript is due to be submitted in March 2019. I approached Dr Quénivet in October 2018 and enquired whether UWE would be willing to host me as a visiting scholar. UWE graciously agreed. In my time at UWE I felt part of the Bristol Law School. I was warmly welcomed by Dr Quénivet, Dr Sarah Grabham, the Head of the Department of Law as well as all the academics and students.

This made my experience at UWE very fulfilling and rewarding.

The initial aim of the two-week visit was to work on the book and to collaborate with some of the academics at UWE. As it turned out, I held two guest lectures and presented my research to UWE academics. In addition, I collaborated with a number of academics with the view to writing journal articles, attended the first annual Criminal Justice Research Unit (CJRU) Lecture and importantly, also discussed the possibility of establishing a new LLM Programme between UWC and UWE. Finally, I also drafted a funding application with Dr Noëlle Quénivet for a potential writing workshop to be held in Cape Town in July 2019. I will be sharing some of the highlights of the activities above.

We are in the final stages of writing the book. Most of the chapters are completed. We are still finalising the conclusions and recommendations. Dr Quénivet had a few new books on child soldiers which I had not yet read and so I was able to incorporate some of the views of these authors in our book. Dr Quénivet and I also discussed the footnoting and referencing of the book as well as a follow-up article to be published in 2020. Dr Quénivet, being a leading expert in the field of international law, has been influential in turning the article into a book. I am grateful for her continuous support and guidance throughout the project. I would also like to thank Ms Shilan Shah-Davis and Dr Suwita Hani Randhawa for their invaluable comments when I discussed the book with them.

In a first for me, Dr Quénivet and I had the opportunity to present a public lunchtime lecture at the Bristol Central Library. This was a unique experience as we presented the lecture in the reception area of the Library and anyone was welcome to attend. The lecture entitled: “Child soldiers: Busting The Myth of their Victimhood to Better Understand who they are”, centred around the myth that child soldiers are victims only and that they should not be held accountable for their crimes. The audience found it fascinating to note that so many girls are also child soldiers since the perception is that the iconic child soldier is that of a boy. However, in some conflicts, the girls outnumber the boys. The audience, who consisted of about 20 people, had an opportunity to ask questions. I was grateful for this opportunity to discuss our work with the public as this is not an opportunity that comes by too often.

At UWE, I was invited by Mrs Evadne Grant to present a guest lecture on the International Law and Institutions module offered on the LLM progamme. The lecture, entitled: “The Fragmentation of International Law: An African Perspective” focused on the fragmentation of international law and how this has resulted in a conflict between African States and the International Criminal Court (ICC). There is no homogenous system of international law as different regulations are applied in different situations, thus a fragmented system. To explain this to the students I used the example of the concept head of state immunity within the context of Africa. The incumbent President of Sudan, Omar Al-Bashir, is wanted by the ICC for the commission of war crimes and genocide. He attended the African Union Summit in South Africa in 2015. During the Summit a South African Court issued an arrest warrant for his arrest. However, he was able to return safely to Sudan and is still wanted by the ICC. As a result, the ICC ruled that South Africa had a duty under the ICC Statute to arrest Al-Bashir. This was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Appeal in South Africa. In the case of head of state immunity, there are various regulations that could be applied in this case hence alluding to the fragmentation of international law. After presenting the lecture, the students had an opportunity to discuss several question posed to them by Mrs Grant. This included whether fragmentation should be regarded as a positive or negative aspect of international law. The students provided constructive feedback on the questions. In South Africa we are not used to this style of interactive lectures, even at LLM level. This was a refreshing experience for me and something that I will be considering at my institution as well.

I was also given the opportunity to present my research at the final Criminal Justice Research Unit/International Law and Human Rights Unit end of semester talk. My research article entitled “The Protection of the Identities of Minors upon Reaching the Age of Majority: Centre for Child Law and Others v Media 24 Limited and Others (871/2017) [2018] ZASCA 140 (28 September 2018)” dealt with the Supreme Court of Appeal’s judgment concerning the ongoing protection of the identities of minors involved in criminal proceedings. The identity of child witnesses, victims and perpetrators when they reach the age of 18 is not protected and it is argued that this could have a damaging effect on the development of the child, depending on whether the case receives wide publicity or not. I received valuable feedback from Dr Tom Smith and Mr Ed Johnston.

I was invited by Dr Smith and Mr Johnston to attend the first annual CJRU lecture which dealt with the disclosure of evidence by the police in the Liam Allan case. It was a fascinating experience for me as this was the first time for myself, and many others, where we could hear the experiences of a former accused, his defence lawyer and the state prosecutor all in one lecture. It was clear from the speakers that the current situation in the UK needs proper reform, and hopefully initiatives such as those of the CJRU will encourage policy change. This event also inspired me to ask questions about the South African law regarding the disclosure of evidence and what lessons could be learned from the UK criminal justice system.

Regarding collaboration, Mrs Grant and I talked about the idea of creating a joint LLM between UWC and UWE in the future. We exchanged ideas and will be looking at funding opportunities to launch a new LLM between our institutions.

Lastly, Dr Quénivet and I embarked on a funding proposal to be submitted to the British Academy which would enable us to hold a writing workshop in Cape Town in July 2019. This workshop will potentially bring together leading international journal editors, UK based scholars and young and emerging African PhD students/scholars and give the emerging PhD students/scholars the opportunity to present an article to the specialist panel and receive constructive feedback on how to publish in international journals. The workshop aims not only to remedy the lack of quality publications by African scholars but also to support them more generally in their career.

In sum, my visit at UWE was an unforgettable experience which has left a lasting impact on my own emerging research profile and my development as a scholar in the field of international criminal law. I hope to see you again in the future!

 

The disclosure crisis: A suspect and practitioner perspective

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On Wednesday 5 December 2018 UWE Bristol hosted the first annual Criminal Justice Research Unit lecture on the topic “The disclosure crisis: A suspect and practitioner perspective.” The event was organised and chaired by Dr Tom Smithand Dr Ed Johnston and funded by the Centre for Applied Legal Research.

Roughly a year ago today our first speaker Liam saw accusations of rape dismissed after the police failed to disclose crucial evidence which fundamentally undermined the claims made against him. Liam gave us a very a personal account of his experiences with the criminal justice system. Jerry Hayes and Anthony Edwards each provided varied and valuable professional perspectives on the problem of disclosure. We hope that this lecture will help to promote meaningful and long term change in this area as well as furthering our goal here at UWE Bristol of research that shapes the future of organisations.

The lecture has been recorded and is available to watch online as a video, or to listen to as a podcast:

View Full video

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Liam Allan

Liam Allan is a criminology and criminal psychology graduate who was charged with rape in 2015 and spent two years on bail before his case collapsed owing to failures with the disclosure regime. Liam gave us a very personal insight into his experience and the trauma of accusation, from the moment he was arrested until the case was dropped. Liam described being made to feel that he was “guilty until proven innocent”. Liam arrived at the Crown Court charged with 13 counts of rape; days into his trial, it emerged that the police had 60,000 non-disclosed text messages containing vital information which led to the collapse of the case against him. Following these events, there was huge media interest and public outcry. Subsequently, 600 cases were dropped, 6 of which were rape cases. Since that time, Liam has continued his studies and founded the Innovation of Justice campaign, which seeks to unite organisations, lawyers and barristers, individually seeking to improve different aspects of the criminal justice system.

Jerry Hayes

Jerry was the prosecution barrister for Liam’s trial, and played a fundamental role in the discovery of the non-disclosed evidence. Jerry described some of the fundamental issues with the criminal justice system, in particular in relation to sexual offences. He argued that many members of a jury jump to conclusions in a “no smoke without fire” reaction to rape cases (something Liam suggested he had previously done, prior to his accusation). Jerry emphasised the importance of remembering that people are complainants, not victims, until a conviction or a plea of guilty. Jerry described in detail how and why the system very nearly failed Liam Allan – who would have served up to 12 years in prison and been on the Sexual Offenders Register for life. He suggested that the evidence that was withheld had been deemed “too personal” to be revealed and not relevant to the case. Yet, he argued, it was not only capable of undermining the prosecution case; it made it absolutely clear that Liam Allan could not be guilty. Jerry described Liam’s case as the worst he had seen in 41 years of practice.

Anthony Edwards

Anthony Edwards has been a practising solicitor for 45 years and gave us a professional overview of how disclosure should be handled to avoid major miscarriages of justice. Anthony explained some of the provisions of the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act (CPIA) and gave an overview of the recent Attorney General’s review of disclosure. He argued that, with sexual offences, there is added complexity and difficulty due to frequent “credibility contest” in such cases – that is, they turn on one person’s word against another. He stated that it is a routine part of defence practice to deal with non-disclosure issues; from major fraud to cases of minor assault. He suggested that poor disclosure practice undermines the criminal justice system, as police and prosecutors do not look for what is actually needed in a case. Anthony highlighted that this issue will not just go away (and not done so for decades), arguing for an enormous cultural shift from the police, the prosecution and defence, to ensure that all evidence is properly disclosed from the start. Anthony highlighted the need for an independent disclosure review process, conducted by an independent barrister, arguing that history tells us that the police nor the prosecution can or will do a satisfactory job. Anthony highlighted the related issues associated with the use of social media by parties in a case; particularly the problems of detecting and accessing such material when it stored on a third party’s account. He asked: how an accused can find such material if they do not know it exists? Anthony suggested that, with an independent disclosure counsel running the process, a significant proportion of cases that currently reach court and are subsequently dropped or dismissed by a jury would be filtered out of the system at an early stage, avoiding injustice.

Question and Answer session

We had a range of questions, some sent in advance and then opened up questions from the audience. Liam talked about how the case affected his personal life and that he was suspended from his job for 2 months. The emotional strain of the case understandably caused Liam to breakdown in court, but he also spoke about the impact on his family and friends. There was much discussion around the CPS and CPIA, whether they were fit for purpose and whether Liam was judged fairly. Anthony and Jerry gave an insightful discussion of the failings of the criminal justice system and how these failings impact genuine victims of sexual abuse. The idea of anonymity for those accused of certain types of offences was discussed by all three speakers, and the idea that it should be anonymous until a judge, because there may be other offences, directs that it should be made publicly known. There was criticism of the CPS and police using their lack of resources as an excuse for their failings, and whether this is a valid excuse or reason, nonetheless it needs to be addressed.

The entire lecture is available online here:

Full video

Podcast