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The Guardian

Independent inquiry into recruit Cheryl James’s death in 1995 is ‘milestone’ in history of unexplained barracks deaths

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Pte Cheryl James, who was found dead with a bullet wound in 1995. Photograph: PA

Twenty years after Pte Cheryl James, 18, was found dead with a bullet wound to her face a new inquest into her death opens on Monday that may shed light on the long-running mystery surrounding unexplained fatal shootings of young army recruits at Deepcut barracks in Surrey.

The fresh inquest follows a two-decade battle by James’s parents to force Surrey police to hand over crucial evidence concerning her death, which was treated as suicide even though their daughter was said to be in good spirits, cheerful, happy and enjoying army life.

Emma Norton, legal officer for human rights organisation Liberty, which has fought the case, said her parents were “finally getting an independent investigation into their daughter’s death. It has been recognised that questions they have been asking for 20 years are legitimate questions which are going to be examined, we hope, thoroughly and independently”.

James was one of four young recruits to die of gunshot wounds at Deepcut between 1995 and 2002. She was undergoing initial training as a recruit with the Royal Logistical Corps and died in November 1995 after being been posted alone, in battledress and armed with an SA80 rifle, to a gate at the barracks known as A2.

She was found at around 8.30am close to the gate in a small wooded area surrounded by trees with a single-entry bullet wound to the front of her head.

Surrey police almost immediately handed the investigation over to the Royal Military police special investigations branch. The original inquest, held three weeks after James’s death, lasted one hour and heard from seven witnesses. The coroner recorded an “open verdict” .

Liberty finally won a fresh inquest after threatening Surrey police with legal action under the Human Rights Act after the force consistently refused James’s parents, Desmond and Doreen, access to all their evidence in the case. The force then handed over more than 90 lever-arch files of forensic evidence, photographs, statements and other evidence.

A high court ruling in July 2014 said the original investigation by army police was “extremely limited and had flaws” and that there had been “an insufficiency of inquiry”.

The new inquest, by coroner Brian Barker QC, is expected to examine important material relating to ballistics, the finding of the body and the credibility of some witnesses as well as hearing from further witnesses. Pte James’s body was exhumed in August last year and bullet fragments recovered for a ballistics expert to analyse.

It will also examine whether there were shortcomings with barracks policies on sexual behaviour, supervision of young females, drugs, alcohol and accommodation. A pre-inquest hearing was told of material suggesting James “may have been sexually coerced or raped” shortly before her death.

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The Defence College of Logistics at Deepcut, Surrey. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

James was the second of the four recruits found dead at Deepcut. Sean Benton, 20, died in June 1995, Geoff Gray, 17, in September 2001 and James Collinson, 17, in March 2002.

During the original and subsequent investigations by army police and Surrey police, an early assumption was made that James had taken her own life.

Norton said the fact it had taken 20 years for an independent investigation should be “extraordinary and shocking”. “But hang on, it is not extraordinary at all, because that is what happened to all four of the Deepcut deaths. It is apparently not extraordinary, and it should be, that these young people who died so long ago were not given the benefit of an independent investigation and their families were shut out and treated with contempt. It is shameful that we have had to wait 20 years for this,” she said.

Of James’s parents’ tenacity, she said: “I say to the army, this is what happens if you investigate yourself. You can’t just expect parents to accept that their luminous, beautiful, happy daughter would be found dead with a bullet wound to the face and for them just to be told: ‘Trust us, it’s suicide.’ Not being told why, or with any, or not a great deal, of evidence, why she might have committed suicide. But ‘Trust us. Get on with life.’ It’s extraordinary.”

In 2002, Surrey police reinvestigated the deaths, concluding there was no evidence of third-party involvement. That inquiry was criticised in a review by Devon and Cornwall police, which concluded key officers in the force adopted a particular “mindset” in favour of suicide as the most likely explanation, which influenced the approach to the investigation.

In 2006, a further review by Nicholas Blake QC, concluded the deaths were most likely self-inflicted, but expressed deep concern at the treatment of young recruits at Deepcut barracks.

Writing for the Guardian, James’s father said: “My family would not have seen this day without the Human Rights Act. It secured us access to vital evidence regarding Cheryl’s death – evidence it suited the authorities to withhold.” Without that evidence there would have been no new inquest, he said.

Liberty applied to the attorney general for a fresh inquest into James’s death in October 2013. The following March the attorney general granted his “fiat” – the process whereby a case can be referred to the high court for a hearing to determine whether a fresh inquest ought to be ordered. In July 2014, the high court ordered a new inquest.

Norton said the high court order was “a really important milestone” for the family. “For the first time they felt somebody with authority and with the necessary power was listening to them.

“They weren’t just grieving relatives that weren’t able to cope. They were actually asking very serious credible questions that were entitled to be answered.”

The Guardian

Psychoactive substances bill may lead to lack of clarity over whether or not suspects are breaking the law, says Durham PCC Ron Hogg

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Northumbria University research found the main market for legal highs was vulnerable young people. Photograph: Alamy

Police could face extra expense and confusion as a result of discrepancies in the laws banning the possession of drugs that will emerge once the psychoactive substances bill comes into force, a police and crime commissioner has warned.

Ron Hogg, police and crime commissioner for Durham, said he found it bizarre that the new law to ban the trade in any substances that have a psychoactive effect will not also make possession an offence, and that this could cause problems for investigating officers.

“On the ground that might mean that people are arrested, drugs seized and taken for testing, and then people are not prosecuted,” Hogg said. It costs about £100 to test a single sample of suspected drugs, one expert told the Guardian.

Amid controversy and impassioned debate, the psychoactive substances bill passed its final stages in parliament this week and is expected to be signed into law by the Queen in April.

The law is intended to shut down the trade in legal highs, also known as novel psychoactive substances (NPSs), which are designer drugs concocted to have similar effects to controlled drugs, while circumventing drugs laws.

However, there are reports that the trade in some legal highs is already moving underground and that use, particularly of synthetic versions of cannabis, has already become embedded in groups of problem drug users such as prisoners, the homeless and disadvantaged young people.

Hogg has previously called for the decriminalisation of all drug possession to allow police to focus on dealers, but he said that the discrepancy in the ban between controlled drugs and NPSs meant that it would be increasingly unclear to officers whether or not suspects were breaking the law.

“It depends how much time and energy that forces are willing to put into this. The legislation doesn’t help for not making possession a criminal offence, or taking the converse view and decriminalising possession of all drugs,” he said.

“I suspect we will find a mixed bag and it will make it very difficult for operational officers to make a decision.” The current Acpo guidance on dealing with drugs crime says that suspect substances should be treated as controlled drugs until proven otherwise.

Nevertheless, Hogg welcomed the new powers the law would give police, particularly around search and seizure, that will allow them to tackle distribution of NPSs, which are leading to a rise in antisocial behaviour in many communities.

Vera Baird, PCC for Northumbria, said her region was one of the worst affected by use of NPSs and she also welcomed the new powers. Police in Newcastle have launched a task force specifically to tackle the problem after they received 96 calls for antisocial behaviour linked to use of legal highs in just two weeks.

Research commissioned by Baird and carried out by Northumbria University found that the main market for legal highs was vulnerable young people, in particular young boys who were in local authority care.

Supt Richie Jackson, who is leading Newcastle’s task force, said the city’s problems were focused on a form of synthetic cannabinoid called methoxetamine or MXE, which is traded on the street and in so-called headshops under various names, including Black Mamba and Pandora.

Aside from erratic and antisocial behaviour, incidents linked to the substance included users found unconscious in the street and subsequently suffering breathing problems. In one case a man who had to be talked down after threatening to leap from a local landmark ended up in hospital coughing up blood.

Local police intelligence was suggesting that the substances were being imported into the area then locally cut with unknown chemicals, Jackson said. Samples of the drugs had been seized and the force was awaiting the results of sample tests to find out what they contained.

Michael Linnell, founder of DrugWatch, a forum for drugs workers and professionals, said he expected legitimate retailers to start selling off their remaining stocks of NPSs at big discounts ahead of the ban. After that, the results of the ban were unpredictable, although it is likely that the trade would continue in some form underground, he said.

“It’s important to remember it’s a market, so for a lot of people it doesn’t really matter whether it’s illegal or not,” Linnell said. “It’s a matter of if it’s desirable and whether they can get hold of it.”

The Law Gazette

Lord Justice Jackson, the architect of the present civil costs regime, last night called for fixed costs to apply to all claims valued up to £250,000.

Jackson urged government ministers to make reform an immediate priority with a view to setting fixed recoverable costs by the end of this year.

Having carved out the costs reforms that formed part two of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, Jackson said the time has now come to extend the fixed fees regime significantly. Current fixed costs apply only to personal injury claims valued up to £25,000, but Jackson recommended that every type of civil claim up to £250,000 should be subject to new restrictions.

In a speech in Westminster, he even went as far as to suggest a grid of rates – minus disbursements and VAT – for each value of claim: £18,750 for claims up to £50,000; £30,000 for claims up to £100,000; £47,500 for claims up to £175,000, and £70,250 for claims up to £250,000.

However Jackson advised the government to pause plans for fixed fees for clinical negligence claims to stop the ‘Balkanisation’ of fees for different types of claim.

‘What we do not want to have is a series of separate grids for different types of cases,’ he said. ‘There should be a single fixed costs grid for all multi-track cases up to £250,000.’

The judge baulked at applying fixed costs to claims valued over £250,000, saying that ‘would be too great a change for the profession to accept’, though he suggested a universal costs regime could be implemented once people see how it works.

Jackson acknowledged that his recommendations may not be welcomed by solicitors on both the claimant and defendant sides, but he said the reform would save on the pressures of costs management and help solicitors to explain to clients how costs have been accrued.

He also said practitioners’ experience of fixed fees in low-value claims – as well as in the IP Enterprise Court – has been ‘satisfactory’.

‘My impression is that the profession is now more willing to accept fixed costs than it was in the past,’ he said. ‘I do accept if we have a regime of fixed costs there will be winners and losers – it is impossible a case will cost the client precisely the amount set out in the grid.

‘That is a price worth paying in order to obtain the benefits of certainty, predictability and proportionality – I have come across cases which have flown out of control where the issue is of modest value.’

The Guardian

MPs told fees rise was based on ‘hopeless’ evidence to plug £100m hole and hit small businesses, divorcees and employees

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The master of the rolls said ‘enhanced fees’ meant users of civil courts were subsiding the family and criminal courts. Photograph: Velar Grant/Demotix/Corbis

Court fee increases that were hastily introduced to plug a £100m hole in the Ministry of Justice’s budget were based on “hopeless” evidence, according to the most senior civil judge in England and Wales.

Giving evidence to the justice select committee, the Master of the Rolls, John Dyson, highlighted the financial problems of the department under which the government is trying to make the justice system self-financing.

In what amounted to a display of judicial alarm at MoJ policy under the previous justice secretary, Chris Grayling, three of the most senior civil judges warned of the danger of raising tribunal and court fees too high.

“Enhanced fees” are designed to make a profit, charging claimants more than the administrative cost of the service.

“The users of the civil courts are subisdising the family courts and criminal courts,” Lord Dyson said on Tuesday. “I think it’s wrong in principle … but it’s a policy matter as to whether parliament should go down that route.

“It is, I’m afraid, why the risk of denying access to justice for a lot of people is so intense in these proposals.”

People in small enterprises and business would be deterred from litigation, Dyson said.

Fee increases “won’t deter rich people but small businesses. With the type of people this government said it wanted to encourage because they will be the engine for [economic] growth, many of them are most at risk.”

Dyson continued: “We have warned of the real dangers and we also warned that the reseach carried out by the government before it embarked on this course of action was lamentable.”

Only 31 calls were made to ask what impact it would have, mainly to wealthier court users who could afford the increase in fees, he said.

“We warned that this research was hopeless but the impression I had was, such was the need to rush this through because there was a great big gap in the finances which had to be plugged … There’s a big hole in the department’s finances. We were told there’s a £100m shortfall for justice.

“[The MoJ] made assumptions that demand would not be affected by these changes and they based that assumption on a very, very limited evidential base … I’m extremely sceptical about that assumption.”

Dyson acknowledged that £700m had been made available for court modernisation, but observed: “The government’s track record on IT projects is not exactly shining.”

Sir James Munby, the judge in charge of the family courts, said the administrative cost of a divorce was around £200 but the MoJ considered charging £750. It was eventually fixed at a profit-making level of £550.

Any divorce must go through the courts.

“Can we continue putting fees up until it becomes another poll tax on wheels?” Munby asked. “Those who want to divorce will probably still do so through gritted teeth but it doesn’t mean you can keep on putting up the fees.”

By comparison, he said, it cost around £100 to register a marriage. “People will see that it doesn’t cost six or eight times as much to get divorced as it does to get married.”

He said one of the first legal functions to go online was likely to be divorce. “It won’t take long to work out that the cost of administering it online is a fiction.”

Making it possible to process a divorce online was fairly straightforward compared with other types of cases, Munby added.

“If it can’t be done we are in very big trouble. I have been discussing online divorce with [MoJ] officials for several months now.

“I’m becoming increasingly concerned and the current position is that the ability to deliver it is a question on which the jury is out. I’m disappointed about where we have got to after many months of work. I still have no clear answers to such basic questions as what is the overall timeline for this process.”

Sir Ernest Ryder, who is in charge of employment and immigration tribunals, said increases in fees for employment tribunals had resulted in a 70% fall in the number of claims being brought over a single year.

“That’s an extraordinary position that demands an explanation,” he told MPs.

There was no evidence, as some had argued, that a rise in fees had deterred supposedly spurious claims, he said.

At justice questions in the Commons shortly afterwards, Labour justice spokesman Andy Slaughter took up Lord Dyson’s comments. “The Master of the Rolls described the fee increases affecting civil litigants of small businesses as a desperate way of carrying on based on hopeless research,” he said. “It is another car crash. Is it time for another U-turn?”

The justice secretary, Michael Gove, replied: “One of the biggest barriers to justice, as the Master of the Rolls and others have pointed out, is costs. Action needs to be taken to reduce costs in civil justice. It is not enough simply to say that the taxpayer must shoulder the burden. We need reform of our legal system to make access to justice easier for all.”

The Independent

Vital information about prison attacks, penalty fares on London trains, NHS whistleblowing policies in the NHS and parking tickets has all been withheld

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Currently withheld information includes complaints made against the services provided by the private security firm G4S Rex

Companies who operate everything from prisons to parking services and prosecuting TV licence evaders must be made more accountable, campaigners say.

A legal loophole in the Freedom of Information Act which exempts major contractors from revealing details of the public services they provide must be closed, they say.

Vital information about prison attacks, penalty fares on London trains, NHS whistleblowing policies in the NHS and parking tickets has all been withheld under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act because this information was held by public authority contractors and not by the authorities themselves.

The Campaign for Freedom of Information say currently under the FoI Act, information held by contractors can normally only be obtained if the contract specifically entitles the authority employing them to it.

If the contract is silent, the information cannot be accessed.

Maurice Frankel, the Campaign’s director said: Information about public services provided by contractors, whether commercial bodies or charities, should be covered by FoI. The loophole in the Act, which excludes such information if the contract doesn’t refer to it, should be closed. The public’s right to know should not be arbitrarily cut off because the staff who provide the service are paid by a contractor, not by the authority itself.

The Campaign has highlighted 10 examples of information about public services withheld because of the loophole.

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Withheld information includes  

        • The number of complaints from the public against court security officers provided by G4S and the number of officers charged with offences.

        • the number of prison staff at HMP Birmingham and the number of attacks at the prison. Also held only by G4S.

        • the ratio of prison officers to prisoners at Liverpool’s HMP Altcourse, managed by G4S.

        • information about rehabilitation projects at HMP Bronzefield, near Ashfield in Surrey run by Sodexo.

        • the value of penalty fares issued on the London Overground and Docklands Light Railway by private sector inspectors.

        • the costs of bringing TV licensing prosecutions, which is held by Capita and not known to the BBC.

        • whistleblowing policies applying to Virgin Care staff providing NHS services.

        • the numbers of parking tickets issued, then cancelled on appeal, by Islington traffic wardens offered Argos points as incentives to issue tickets by NCP Ltd.

        • how often a contractor managed council swimming pool in Southwark had been needlessly closed to the public after being booked by schools which did not use their slots.

        • arrangements made by a subcontractor to restore Leyton Marsh after its use as a temporary basketball court during the Olympics.

The Campaign have called for major contractors, whose work mainly involves providing public services, to be brought directly under the Act in their own right in relation to those contracts. Information held by other contractors should be available via an FOI request to the public authority, it says. This approach has been endorsed by the Information Commissioner.

The Public Accounts Committee has recommended that “Freedom of information should be extended to private companies providing public services” and that “where private companies provide public services funded by the taxpayer, those areas of their business which are publicly funded should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act provision”.

BBC

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The defence secretary has said he is concerned about the “industrial scale” of claims against serving personnel and veterans

 

The prime minister has said he wants to “stamp out” what he called “spurious” legal claims against British troops returning from war.

David Cameron said ministers had been asked to draw up plans to restrict claims, including by curbing financial incentives for “no win, no fee” cases.

About 280 UK veterans are currently being investigated over alleged abuse by soldiers during the Iraq War.

Lawyers said no-one was above the law, and many abuse cases had been proven.

The Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) was set up to investigate allegations of murder, abuse and torture against Iraqi civilians by UK military personnel between 2003 and 2009.

It has considered at least 1,515 possible victims – of whom 280 are alleged to have been unlawfully killed – and lawyers are continuing to refer cases of alleged abuse.Capture1

The head of the inquiry, Mark Warwick, has said there are “lots of significant cases” and that discussions would be held over whether they met a war crimes threshold.

However Mr Cameron has previously said he feared people were being “solicited by lawyers” enticing them into making accusations, and was concerned many of them were fabricated.

Hounded by lawyers’

In a statement issued on Friday, Mr Cameron said there was now “an industry trying to profit from spurious claims” against UK military personnel.

“Our armed forces are rightly held to the highest standards – but I want our troops to know that when they get home from action overseas this government will protect them from being hounded by lawyers over claims that are totally without foundation.”

He said he had ordered the National Security Council – a cabinet committee set up by David Cameron which meets weekly to discuss security and defence strategy – to produce “a comprehensive plan to stamp out this industry”.

Plans to be considered by the National Security Council include:

  • Curbing the “financial incentives” for law firms to pursue “no win, no fee” claims against military personnel, and the reimbursement of costs that can be awarded through such arrangements
  • Bringing forward plans to make it a requirement for claimants to be resident in the UK for at least 12 months in order to be eligible for legal aid. The new “residence test” is due to come into force in the summer
  • A “broader legislative package” to strengthen investigative powers and penalties that can be used against law firms found to be “abusing the system” by pursuing claims that are ruled to be fabricated

Number 10 said the measures aimed to stop “lawyers pursuing soldiers through the courts for simply serving their country and doing their jobs on operations overseas”.Capture2

The Legal Aid Agency – the department of the Ministry of Justice which provides legal aid and advice in England and Wales – has also been asked to consider whether legal aid arrangements should be temporarily restricted for any firm being investigated for misconduct.

The BBC’s legal affairs correspondent, Clive Coleman, said lawyers had stressed that the the government had agreed financial settlements in hundreds of claims brought against soldiers, and that few cases were legally-aided.

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A Number 10 source said David Cameron was “deeply concerned” by the number of “spurious” claims

A spokesman for law firm Leigh Day said Mr Cameron should not challenge the principle that “no-one is above the law, not us, not the British army and not the government”.

He said: “Over the last 12 years many cases of abuse made against the MoD during the course of the occupation of Iraq have come to light and been accepted by the government.

“They include the appalling torture and murder of Baha Mousa in 2003. In addition, the government has paid compensation for over 300 other cases relating to abuse and unlawful detention of Iraqis.

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Baha Mousa, seen here with his family, was a 26-year-old hotel receptionist who died in British military custody in 2003

He added: “The vast majority of serving army soldiers do a first-class job in protecting this country but the evidence shows that this is by no means the case for all.”

Leigh Day has been referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal to answer complaints about its handling of legal challenges brought by Iraqi detainees against the Ministry of Defence.

Wrongdoing denied

It follows the findings of the 2014 Al-Sweady inquiry, which concluded that claims that British troops had murdered and mutilated Iraqis in custody were “deliberate lies, reckless speculation and ingrained hostility” – although some of the detention techniques used had amounted to mistreatment.

The firm has strongly denied allegations of wrongdoing and said it would “vigorously” defend itself.

In 2011, another inquiry into claims of abuse highlighted the death of hotel worker Baha Mousa in British military custody, and blamed “corporate failure” at the Ministry of Defence for the use of banned interrogation methods in Iraq.

Number 10 said the defence secretary had been commissioned to prepare the ground for seeking “to recover as much of the £31m of taxpayers’ money spent on the Al-Sweady inquiry as possible”, including money awarded to some law firms involved in the inquiry.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has criticised “ambulance-chasing British law firms” who he said were inhibiting soldiers on the battlefield who feared being hauled in front of the courts on their return.

He has argued there is “a strong case” for suspending the European human rights law when sending forces into action overseas.

 The Guardian

Force says BBC story was inaccurate and has damaged community relations with the police

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BBC newsroom studio at Broadcasting House. Lancashire’s police and crime commissioner has written to BBC Lancashire about its reporting of the story. Photograph: Jeff Overs/BBC/PA

Police have criticised the BBC for publishing a story that claimed a spelling error led to a 10-year-old Muslim boy being investigated over terror allegations, and warned the press of the impact it could have on community relations.

On Wednesday, the BBC reported that a boy who attends a Lancashire primary school was interviewed by police after he had written that he lived in a “terrorist house”. His family claimed this was a spelling mistake and he meant to say he lived in a “terraced house”.

Lancashire Constabulary’s police and crime commissioner, Clive Grunshaw, has written to BBC Lancashire about its reporting, which he said had damaged relations. The police said the family were not interrogated as potential terrorists.

The police visit took place because of other worrying issues in the boy’s school work, not just the “terrorist house” line, Grunshaw said. The concerns were “reported through the appropriate channels”.

“This was not responded to as a terror incident and the reporter was fully aware of this before she wrote her story,” he said. “In the event there was no further action needed, but if the school and police had not acted then they would have been failing in their duty to respond to concerns.”

Condemning the reporting and the level of debate it sparked, he said: “The media needs to take more responsibility when sensationalising issues to make stories much bigger than they are and to realise the impact they can have on local communities

A statement from the police and local council echoed the commissioner’s comments. It read that it was “untrue to suggest that this situation was brought about by a simple spelling mistake. The school and the police have acted responsibly and proportionately in looking into a number of potential concerns using a low-key, local approach.”

The BBC said in reply to the complaint that the reporting had been in the public interest. A spokesperson said: “The BBC has a duty to report challenging stories in a responsible way. We firmly believe this story was in the public interest and that we acted properly.

“We reported the facts in good faith and after taking appropriate steps to check them with the authorities involved. A statement from the police was included. We updated the story immediately when the authorities released more information once the story was in the public domain. We absolutely did not say the family was ‘interrogated as potential terrorists’.”

The original story was widely reported in national and international press, attributing the BBC as the source of the news, and even inspired a hashtag on social media #IGrewUpInATerroristHouse. The Guardian’s report of the the initial story has since been taken down and is under investigation by the readers’ editor.

Since July, teachers have been legally obliged to report any suspected extremist behaviour to police. In addition, teachers must report any child protection concerns through the necessary channels.

The boy’s family are demanding that both the school and police apologise for the incident, which took place on 7 December. The father, who wished only to be known as Mohammed, told local Lancashire press he wanted a written apology. He said: “The police officer took his laptop and the officer came back 45 minutes later and said everything was all right. My son is very disturbed. We all are. We are a very peaceful family with no links to politics. He had never written anything like this before.”

The father demanded that an explanation of the incident be given to the whole school at morning assembly to stop his youngest child being bullied.

A spokesperson for Lancashire police said the force had not received a formal complaint and would not be further investigating the case, adding that officers had acted proportionately. “There was no further action required by any further agency,” the spokesperson said.

The BBC reporter had been given the context surrounding the incident by both Lancashire council and the police, as well as guidance to make sure that the story would not be “sensationalised or reported differently to how it was brought to us”, the spokesperson said.

The Guardian

Judge says traditional cabs are ‘devoid of inherent distinctive character’, in legal row involving new eco-friendly taxi group

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The new Green taxi, Metrocab – the only zero-emissions capable black cab currently operating in London. Photograph: Metrocab

A high court judge has ruled that one of London’s most famous sights, the black cab, is not that unique after all, concluding that they are “devoid of inherent distinctive character”.

Mr Justice Arnold said that the taxis are “merely a variation of the typical shape of a car” and ruled that trademarks exclusively relating to its shape should be deemed invalid.

He made the judgment on Wednesday after a legal row between the manufacturer of the traditional London taxi and the group behind a new eco-friendly cab. The ruling paves the way for the “green” taxis to hit London’s roads over the next few years.

Arnold said: “In my view the CTM [the design of the black cab] would have been perceived by the average consumer of taxis as merely a variation of the typical shape of a taxi.

“I should make it clear that, if one considers the question from the perspective of the average consumer of cars, in my view the CTM would be perceived as merely a variation of the typical shape of a car.”

The two trademarks in question during the hearing related to three-dimensional drawings of the exterior of the typical black cab.

The London Taxi Company, which is owned by Chinese group Geely, had claimed the new Metrocab was “substantially copied” from the design of the TX4, the latest version of the hackney carriage.

The Metrocab is a hybrid-powered taxi developed by Frazer-Nash Research and Ecotive. The zero-emissions vehicle uses an electric battery and a petrol engine, which extends the range of the battery.

The judge dismissed fraud allegations by the London Taxi Company as “deeply implausible” and said that even if the trademarks were valid then the Metrocab was not simply a copy of the TX4.

The Metrocab is scheduled to go into bulk production later this year and is at the forefront of a drive by Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, to ensure that all new taxis are zero-emission by 2018. Geely has pledged to invest £250m into a new facility in Coventry to produce greener versions of its black cab.

Peter Johansen, the chief executive of the London Taxi Company, said: “We are understandably disappointed by the judge’s ruling. We will review the ruling to determine our way forward.”

The London Taxi Company has been in operation since 1899, with black cabs going on to become one of the symbols of London.

A fleet of black cabs featured in the closing ceremony for the London 2012 Olympics, and last year it was voted as London’s favourite transport “design icon” in a survey conducted by Transport for London (TfL) and the London Transport Museum.

It represents another blow for the traditional London taxi as it battles against the rise of Uber, the car-hire smartphone app.

TfL announced on Wednesday that after conducting a consultation it would not be introducing proposed new regulations that would have affected Uber, including forcing minicab operators to provide booking confirmation details to the passenger at least five minutes before a journey starts.

The high court decision follows a similar ruling on Wednesday about KitKat, with the same judge deciding that Nestlé could not trademark the shape of its chocolate bar.

The Law Gazette

The president of the Family Division has proposed introducing mandatory restrictions on the number of pages in court documents for family cases, alleging that lawyers have ignored previous calls for restraint.

Last February Sir James Munby (pictured) criticised lawyers for ‘routinely’ ignoring practice directions imposing a 350-page limit on bundles, warning that surplus court documents would be destroyed without notice if practitioners cannot keep to these directions.

But in proposals published for consultation today, Munby says he is ‘not conscious’ this has had much effect, and that the time may have now come to impose page limits for certain types of documents.

These are not currently regulated by practice directions.

The limits would be mandatory unless the court specifically directs otherwise.

Munby has proposed amending the practice directions to specify limits on the number of sheets of paper specific documents should contain. The proposals include a 10-page cap on skeleton arguments, a maximum of 20 pages for witness statements and 40 pages for expert reports.

He has also suggested amending the rules to specify that bundles should not contain more than ten authorities.

Munby said the need for mandatory restrictions was highlighted by the case of Seagrove v Sullivan, when a family judge removed most case documents from court after the parties’ lawyers submitted 3,500 pages of documents from 32 authorities for consideration ahead of a proposed eight-day trial.

Munby is asking for opinions on whether his proposals are desirable, and if so whether the length would be controlled by page count or word count, and if by page count what figures are appropriate.

The guardian

Appeal court says detention of Miranda was lawful but clause under which he was held is incompatible with European human rights convention

The court of appeal rules in the David Miranda case – video

A key clause in the Terrorism Act 2000 is incompatible with the European convention on human rights, the master of the rolls, Lord Dyson, has declared as part of a court of appeal judgment.

The decision came in the case of David Miranda, who was detained at Heathrow airport in 2013 for carrying files related to information obtained by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The court of appeal’s judgment on Tuesday will force government ministers to re-examine the act.

Dyson, who made the ruling along with Lord Justice Richards and Lord Justice Floyd, said the powers contained in schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 were flawed. Schedule 7 allows travellers to be questioned to find out whether they appear to be terrorists. They have no right to remain silent or receive legal advice and they may be detained for up to nine hours.

“The stop power, if used in respect of journalistic information or material is incompatible with article 10 [freedom of expression] of the [European convention on human rights] because it is not ‘prescribed by law’,” said Dyson, the most senior civil judge in England and Wales.

The judgment continued: “If journalists and their sources can have no expectation of confidentiality, they may decide against providing information on sensitive matters of public interest.

“The court of appeal ruling rejects the broad definition of terrorism advanced by government lawyers. The correct legal definition of terrorism, the court of appeal has now ruled, requires some intention to cause a serious threat to public safety such as endangering life.”

Welcoming the decision, Kate Goold, representing Miranda, said: “The notion of a journalist becoming an accidental terrorist has been wholeheartedly rejected. We welcome this court’s principled and decisive ruling that schedule 7 [of the Terrorism Act] needs to come in line with other legislation to ensure that the seizure of journalistic material is protected by judicial safeguards.”

However, the judges concluded that the police decision to detain Miranda, the partner of the former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, at Heathrow was lawful.

Dyson said the police power to stop at airports and ports was not subject to “sufficient legal safeguards to avoid the risk that it will be exercised arbitrarily. The court therefore grants a certificate of incompatibility”.

“It will be a matter for parliament to decide how to provide such a safeguard,” he added. “The most obvious safeguard would be some form of judicial or other independent and impartial scrutiny in such a way as to protect the confidentiality in the material.”

Issuing a certificate of incompatibility is highly unusual but open to judges when they conclude that UK law is inconsistent with the country’s international human rights obligations.

The judgment in effect says the police acted within the existing law but the law itself was illegal.

“The exercise of the schedule 7 stop power in relation to Mr Miranda on 18 August 2013 was lawful…” the judges concluded. “But the stop power conferred by paragraph 2(1) of schedule 7 [of the Terrorism Act] is incompatible with article 10 of the convention [on human rights] in relation to journalistic material in that it was not subject to adequate safeguards against its arbitrary exercise.”

The judgment said: “The central concern is that disclosure of journalistic material [whether or not it involves the identification of a journalist’s sources] undermines the confidentiality that is inherent in such material and which is necessary to avoid the chilling effect of disclosure and to protect article 10 [freedom of expression] rights.”

The challenge brought by Miranda questioned the legality of his nine-hour detention under counter-terrorism powers.

The hearing at the court of appeal in London in December followed an earlier decision by a lower court that holding him was lawful.

Approximately 60,000 people a year are held in such controversial port stops. The Home Office has argued that border controls exist to check on travellers where there is insufficient information to justify an arrest.

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David Miranda and his partner, former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald. Photograph: Janine Gibson for the Guardian

Liberty, The human rights campaign group, welcomed what it described as a “landmark judgment”. Rosie Brighouse, its legal officer, said: “This judgment is a major victory for the free press. Schedule 7 has been a blot on our legal landscape for years – breathtakingly broad and intrusive, ripe for discrimination, routinely misused. Its repeal is long overdue.

“It is also a timely reminder of how crucial the Human Rights Act is for protecting journalists’ rights. Once again it has come to the rescue of press freedom in the face of arbitrary abuse of power by the state.”

Miranda’s first legal challenge was supported by the Guardian. The court of appeal challenge was funded by First Look Media, which publishes the online magazine the Intercept. The organisation said the appeal had been brought to defend freedom of expression and journalists’ rights.

When Miranda was stopped, he was carrying encrypted files containing journalistic material derived from Snowden, the US National Security Agency whistleblower. His counsel, Matthew Ryder QC, told the court: “Snowden, whatever you may think of him, provided information which has been of immense public importance. In this case we are talking about journalism of unusually high quality.”

The previous court had erred in its decision, Ryder said, because it had misinterpreted the law on proportionality and the detention was incompatible with Miranda’s rights to privacy and freedom of expression under the European convention on human rights.

In 2014, three high court judges dismissed the initial challenge, accepting that Miranda’s detention and the seizure of computer material was “an indirect interference with press freedom” but said this was justified by legitimate and “very pressing” interests of national security.

Miranda was stopped in transit between Berlin and Rio de Janeiro after meeting the film-maker Laura Poitras, who had been involved in making disclosures based on documents leaked by Snowden.

Miranda was carrying encrypted files, including an external hard drive containing 58,000 highly classified UK intelligence documents, “in order to assist the journalistic activity of Greenwald”.

The Guardian made his travel reservations and paid for the trip. The high court judgment said the seized material included personal information that would allow security staff to be identified, including those deployed overseas.

In the court of appeal hearing, Ryder told the judges: “Wanting to get material off somebody and no more is not a [legitimate] schedule 7 purpose.”

The focus of a schedule 7 port stop, he maintained, should be whether or not the person targeted is preparing acts of terrorism. If the law was interpreted as the high court decided, Ryder said it “would mean that terrorism could be committed by acts that do not intend to incite violence or endanger life”.

He added: “It would mean that terrorism can be committed by acts that are themselves entirely lawful and … can be entirely lawful.”

 

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