Your round-up of the stories that you should discuss at interview this week:
- Justice System
Reported by Dan James
Public should be given the option to Skype the Judge
Sir James Munby, the outgoing president of the family division has said that the public should be asked if they would like to talk to a judge via a Skype call rather than attending in person.
Munby stated that “anyone who thinks we currently have a network of courts which enables proper access to justice is deluding themselves”. It was later added that someone in Norwich had to walk twelve miles to court and back.
“If you ask, you have a simple choice, you can either make this journey or you can sit in your kitchen and talk to the judge on Skype. I do not know what the answer is. One thing that worries me is we have not asked people what the answer should be… What would the “customer” actually prefer. [Is it] “Actually I would prefer to walk 12 miles”? We do not ask, and we should ask.’
HM Courts and Tribunals Service announced this week that they are closing seven courts. Munby said therefore a more holistic view should be taken as our court system continues to change state. A move away from traditional court concepts must be taken and new ideas embraced to allow more accessibility for those who currently struggle to understand the justice system.
These days most people receive and process information online, Munby said. ‘We have got to get a grip.’
Munby outlined that court staff are working hard and morale is high despite growing pressures, however cracks could appear at any moment.
For more information, see the Law Gazette
- Medical Law
Reported by Nathan Gore
UK judges will no longer rule on removing life-support
A court order will no longer be required to withdraw care for patients in a long-term vegetative state, the Supreme Court has ruled.
This ruling, handed down on Monday, will make it easier to withdraw food and liquid support for those in an unresponsive state, if the doctors and family are in agreement about doing so.
This decision will affect the thousands of people across the country who are kept alive in nursing homes and hospitals by medical interventions. In the past, an application to decide the patient’s best interests would have had to been made to a judge, a time-consuming and potentially costly process.
This was such in the case of a man known as Mr Y, a 52-year-old banker who was left in a vegetative state after a sudden cardiac arrest. Having been a previously healthy man, he had made no stipulations for what should happen in the event of a sudden illness such as this one. After the arrest, he was said to have no real understanding of his surroundings, and doctors had stated that it was unlikely he would ever regain consciousness.
In light of this situation, the NHS Trust had asked the High Court to declare that this process was not necessary – when families and doctors were in agreement. The judge in that instance agreed, but then the official solicitor (the legal office that helps people who are vulnerable because of their lack of mental capacity or age) appealed to the Supreme Court.
Mr Y died while the court case was going on, but the case was continued to allow the courts to make a ruling in favour of abolishing this requirement.
Delivering judgment, Lady Black said: “Having looked at the issue in its wider context, as well as from a narrower legal perspective, I do not consider that it has been established that the common law or the European convention on human rights … give rise to the mandatory requirement, for which the official solicitor contends, to involve the court to decide upon the best interests of every patient with a prolonged disorder of consciousness before CANH [clinically assisted nutrition and hydration] can be withdrawn.
“If, at the end of the medical process, it is apparent that the way forward is finely balanced, or there is a difference of medical opinion, or a lack of agreement to a proposed course of action from those with an interest in the patient’s welfare, a court application can and should be made …
“This possibility of approaching a court in the event of doubts as to the best interests of the patient is an essential part of the protection of human rights.”
- Criminal Law
Reported by Jutha Cheewat
New Sentencing Guidelines for Gross Negligent Manslaughter
Under the new guidelines, a defendant guilty of gross negligence manslaughter could be sentenced up to 18 years or a maximum of life imprisonment.
Prior to the guidelines, sentences for gross negligence manslaughter were left wholly to judges’ discretions. The Sentencing Council intended for this set of guidelines to enhance transparency and consistency rather than to change sentences levels. The Sentencing Council is an independent body that does not operate within the Ministry of Justice.
According to the Guardian, the new guidelines could potentially have an effect on Hillsborough and Grenfell Tower prosecutions including that of David Duckenfield, the former police superintendent on duty then.
Gross manslaughter categories created also includes guidelines for corporate manslaughter. For example, employers with serious disregard for employees’ safety could face longer sentencing.
Lord Justice Holroyde, one of the Sentencing Council members, staid “Manslaughter offences vary hugely – some cases are not far from being an accident, while others may be just short of murder. While no sentence can make up for the loss of life, this guideline will help ensure sentencing that properly reflects the culpability of the offender and the unique facts of each case.”
The guidelines will come into force on 1st November 2018.