What you may have missed...

... during a busy week

Apologies for the dearth of posts this week: domestic commitments have kept me from my desk. Here are some of the stories I might have covered:

Government launches review of the Human Rights Act

The Ministry of Justice has announced that a panel of lawyers will examine whether there is a need to reform the Human Rights Act. I previewed this announcement last month and I plan to write an analysis (for subscribers only) at the beginning of next week.

Judge publishes Charlie Elphicke character references

Mrs Justice Whipple ruled that character references provided for the former MP Charlie Elphicke, currently serving two years’ imprisonment for sexual assaults on two women, should be disclosed to the media —subject to some exceptions. The judge’s reasons are here (see paragraphs 57-65 for a concise summary). The references, which run to 47 pages, are here.

I explained the background last month, suggesting that Whipple might have more to say about six parliamentarians who had tried improperly to influence her.

In the event she did not — perhaps because the lord chief justice had already made his views clear in response to a question I asked him last week.

Prosecutor drops case against UK

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has confirmed that she is closing her preliminary examination into alleged war crimes by British troops in Iraq. Fatou Bensouda will not be opening a formal investigation, which would have been the next step towards a future prosecution.

I predicted this outcome at the beginning of June after speaking to the UK’s director of service prosecutions.

Lord chief justice dismisses sentencing myths

Lord Burnett of Maldon gave a lecture to the Judicial Institute at UCL. He said:

Were the mythical alien to arrive on earth and, I grant you yet more improbably, take an interest in sentencing in England and Wales by reading the newspapers and dipping into the more noisy parts of on-line media, it would soon gain the impression that sentencing had got softer in recent years. It would read about “wet,

liberal judges being soft on criminals” and wonder why criminals convicted of serious offences were getting more lenient sentences than they used to. Then our alien visitor might seek some other sources of information, and if possessed of a brow it might become furrowed.

There is a difficulty with this narrative. It is a myth.

Another legal correspondent leaves the press bench

Owen Bowcott, the Guardian’s estimable legal affairs correspondent, is taking voluntary redundancy at the end of this month, hard on the heels of Clive Coleman (BBC). Frances Gibb retired from The Times last year but was succeeded by Jonathan Ames. As far as I know, he and Kate Beioley (FT) will be the only full-time legal correspondents employed by London-based news organisations.

So I’ll try not to take any more time off during a busy week.

Update: I have corrected the reference to the FT legal correspondent.