Law, Justice and Journalism

Posts Tagged ‘Case Law’

A call to free English case law

In City University London, Journalism, Law on August 11, 2011 at 4:43 pm

By Judith Townend

Legal data collection should happen as a matter of course. Lawyers and judges often scold the media for its representation of legal cases. “There are lots of judgments that have been criticised where it’s quite apparent that people haven’t read them,” Mr Justice Eady told legal journalist Joshua Rozenberg earlier this year.

Eady, who has heard numerous libel and privacy cases, is probably right that some journalists had not read the full content of judgments freely available on the BAILII website before reporting on the various so-called superinjunctions of 2009-11. But injunction decisions and applications are not always made accessible to the public.

Comprehensive information about case law is difficult to come by. A good deal is locked behind paid-for subscription services, or may not exist in written form. Certain legal statistics cannot be examined because no-one has collected, categorised or counted.

It is feasible that some newspapers, with their commercial agenda, would not make use of such data, if it were at odds with the popular editorial narrative. Perhaps not, but it would enable members of the public, researchers and bloggers to interrogate journalists’ analysis and challenge misrepresentations where they occur.

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Public funding for the representation of next of kin at inquests and open justice

In Journalism, Justice, Law on February 15, 2011 at 5:56 pm

By Sam McIntosh

In the recent case of R (Humberstone) v Legal Services Commission (the Lord Chancellor intervening) ( [2010] All ER (D) 255 (Dec), [2010] EWCA Civ 1479), the Court of Appeal held that the Legal Services Commission (LSC) was wrong to deny a mother public funding for legal representation at the inquest into the death of her son, Dante Kamara, who had died of an asthma attack aged 10 years.

The case is important because legal representation for next of kin at inquests into deaths for which the state may bear some responsibility can be a vital safeguard against them becoming incestuous dialogues amongst members of the establishment, where the next of kin’s (and the public’s) concerns are given short shrift.  For this and other reasons, the effective participation of the next of kin in an inquest has important implications for open justice and democratic accountability.

The judgment clears up a recurring ambiguity in previous case law concerning deaths which engage article 2 (the right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).  The judgment also criticises the presumption made by previous case law, and official guidance, that the next of kin’s right to publicly funded legal representation at article 2 compliant inquests will only arise in exceptional circumstances. Finally, the case demonstrates a rather concerning attitude on the part of the LSC when exercising its discretion: an attitude which may become increasingly entrenched in the current atmosphere of cuts to public funding.