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Judiciary

Judicial Assistant at the UK Supreme Court

Every year, the UK Supreme Court invites applications for up to 11 Judicial Assistants to support the work of the Justices of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC).

Applications for the 2024/25 legal year opened on the 29th January 2024. Fixed term contracts will start on Monday 16th September 2024 and finish on Friday 1st August 2025.

The salary is £38,905 per annum (with potential for increase due in the 2024 Pay Award).

The Judicial Assistant role is intended to provide junior lawyers with a unique opportunity to work at close quarters in support of the Justices. It enables junior lawyers to see the Supreme Court and the JCPC in operation from the inside.

The Supreme Court and JCPC hear many of the most important cases of the day. The appeals are very varied and generally raise an arguable point of law of general importance, so the work is both interesting and impactful.

The Judicial Assistants have the opportunity to get to know the Justices and to see their decision-making in action. By reading the parties’ written submissions and watching the appeal hearings, the Judicial Assistants are also able to learn from some of the UK’s best advocates.

Working as a Judicial Assistant is regarded highly by law firms, chambers and other employers – our Judicial Assistants typically go on to have successful careers at the Bar, top law firms, academia, the Government Legal Department and in policy.

UK Supreme Court – Why apply to be a Judicial Assistant?
A day in the life of a Judicial Assistant at the UK Supreme Court

Each Judicial Assistant is assigned to one or more Justices. They work very closely with their assigned Justice(s) and support them by:

  • Conducting legal research on appeals and applications for permission to appeal
  • Drafting bench memos summarising applications for permission to appeal
  • Attending appeal hearings and discussing them with the Justices
  • Drafting plain English press summaries of judgments for publication on the Court’s website
  • Responding to requests for information from international judicial and comparative law networks
  • Generally assisting the Justices in their work, including with extra-judicial speeches, articles and other publications.

Judicial Assistants also get involved in the wider work of the Court. For example, they may be asked to assist the Registrar with regards to applications for permission to appeal and appeals. All Judicial Assistants get involved with the Court’s educational and outreach activity, such as student mooting competitions and debate days.

Supreme Court – What do Judicial Assistants do?
Applications for Judicial Assistants to join the UK Supreme Court 2024/25 legal year

How can I apply to be a Judicial Assistant at the Supreme Court ?

To apply to be a Judicial Assistant at the UK Supreme Court, please complete the online application form.

Closing date for applications is midnight on Sunday 31st March 2024. Please note that late applications will not be considered.

Interviews are likely to take place week commencing 20th May 2024 in person at the Supreme Court.

We recommend you should always seek formal legal advice if required, from a qualified and reputable lawyer (solicitor or barrister).

We have a number of links to Free Legal Resources and Legal Organisations on our Free Legal Advice , Legal Aid and Pro Bono pages.

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Judiciary

Chief Magistrate

The title “Chief Magistrate” holds historical and contemporary significance in various legal and governmental systems across the world.

The Senior District Judge (Chief Magistrate) of England and Wales, as they are known, has a leadership responsibility for the 300-or-so District Judges (Magistrates’ Court) (DJMCs), and Deputy DJMCs across England and Wales.

The Chief Magistrate has no authority over lay magistrates, or over the several hundreds of district judges who sit in the county courts of England and Wales.

The current Chief Magistrate of England and Wales is Senior District Judge Paul Goldspring.

The current Deputy Chief Magistrate of England and Wales is Senior Deputy District Judge Tanweer Ikram CBE.

The position of Chief Magistrate, often laden with authority and responsibility, embodies the essence of governance, justice, and leadership within a jurisdiction.

The Chief Magistrate is responsible for:

  • hearing many of the most sensitive or complex cases in the magistrates’ courts and in particular extradition and special jurisdiction cases.
  • supporting and guiding district judge (magistrates’ court) colleagues.
  • liaising with the senior judiciary and Presiding Judges on matters relating to magistrates’ courts and district judges (magistrates’ courts).

The Chief Magistrate’s Office is also responsible for arranging sittings of Deputy DJMCs across England and Wales, and managing the hearings of disciplinary adjudications in prisons. Where a disciplinary offence by a prisoner merits additional days of imprisonment, full-time district judges are deployed to prisons to hear the cases. Requests come from prisons throughout the country – a list of cases is then built up, and when a sufficient number of cases has been generated, a judge attends the prison to hear them.

Chief Magistrate Courts and Tribunal Judiciary

Controvesy

Three women convicted of terror offence for ‘celebrating’ Hamas attack on Israel by displaying images of paragliders at pro-Palestinian march were spared jail as the Deputy Chief Magistrate of England and Wales, Senior Deputy District Judge Tanweer Ikram CBE says he ‘decided not to punish’ them after ’emotions ran very high’.

For this offence, Section 13(1) of the Terrorism Act 2000 allows for :-

(a)imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months,
(b)a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or
(c)both.

Why did the Deputy Chief Magistrate “let them off” so lightly ?

A row has broken out after a judge who decided to let three women wearing parachute images at a pro-Palestine march walk free admitted to liking a social media post branding Israel a ‘terrorist’.

Tanweer Ikram is facing calls to be investigated for a conflict of interest after he liked a LinkedIn post calling for a ‘free Palestine ‘ by a barrister who had previously promoted conspiracy theories claiming that Israel allowed the October 7 attack.

The senior district judge admitted to liking the post ‘by mistake’ three weeks ago, but was told by the Judicial Office that the matter would not be investigated further.

Daily Mail – Senior Deputy District Judge Tanweer Ikram

History of the Chief Magistrate

From ancient times to modern democracies, the chief magistrate has played a pivotal role in upholding the rule of law, ensuring the administration of justice, and maintaining social order.

Historically, the term “magistrate” finds its roots in ancient Rome, where magistrates held considerable power in the Roman Republic.

They were responsible for the administration of justice, overseeing public ceremonies, and enforcing laws. The chief magistrate, known as the “consul,” was the highest-ranking official elected to lead the republic for a term of one year. Their authority was balanced by the Senate and other governmental bodies, reflecting a system of checks and balances.

When the first Chief Magistrate began sitting at Bow Street in 1735, the title wasn’t confusing at all – at the time, magistrates in London were paid judicial office-holders, and magistrates’ courts in London were presided over by Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrates.  All magistrates – paid and unpaid – are Justices of the Peace. Nowadays the word magistrate is more commonly used for the unpaid judicial office holders, also commonly known as JPs.

Early holders of the post also had responsibility for the Bow Street Runners, until they were replaced by the Metropolitan Police in the 19th century.

Chief Magistrate’s Office

The Chief Magistrate’s Office provides administrative support both to the Chief Magistrate and to district judges sitting at all the magistrates’ courts in England and Wales.

The Chief Magistrate’s Office is based at:

181 Marylebone Road
London
NW1 5BR

DX 120551, Marylebone 9

Email addresses:

Chief Magistrates’ Office enquiries mailbox: CMO.Enquiries@Justice.gov.uk

Judicial Deployment mailbox: gl-cmo.ddjdeployment@Justice.gov.uk

Independent Adjudication mailbox : gl-ind.adjudication@Justice.gov.uk

Chief Magistrate’s Office
ContactPosition
Paul GoldspringSenior District Judge (Chief Magistrate)
Tanweer Ikram CBEDeputy Senior District Judge (Deputy Chief Magistrate)
Stephen SmithPA and Business Support to the Senior District (Chief Magistrate) and Deputy Senior District (Chief Magistrate)
Claire-Louise ManningLegal Adviser and Researcher for the Chief Magistrate
Rahat SiddiqiDelivery Manager
Khalilur RahmanAdmin officer – Deployment Section
Jabir AhmedAdmin officer – Deployment Section
Karen JenningsTeam Leader – Prison Section
Karolina ZukauskaiteAdmin officer – Prison Section
Gold Fax 01264 887 396
Contacts at the Chief Magistrates Office

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Legal Analysis

Injustice in the Single Justice Procedure ?

HM Courts and Tribunal Service have published a Fact sheet entitled Single Justice Service on their website. The Fact Sheet is worryingly described as “Promotional material“.

The Single Justice Service (SJS) allows magistrates’ courts to deal with minor offences in a way that’s quicker, more straightforward and more efficient, while still being fair, transparent and rigorous. This process is known as the Single Justice Procedure (SJP).

A single magistrate, supported by a legal adviser, can decide adult, summary-only, non-imprisonable and victimless offences, including company prosecutions.

They can do this when the defendant has pleaded guilty or has not responded to notification that they’re being prosecuted.

The defendant always has the option to choose to attend a hearing in court in person.

Examples of cases covered by the SJP include:

  • using a television without a licence
  • failing to show a valid train ticket while travelling on a train service
  • driving without car insurance
  • exceeding a speed limit
  • failing to ensure a dependent child’s school attendance
  • excess vehicle load
  • lack of valid vehicle operator’s licence

Is the Single Justice Service (SJS) quicker, more straightforward and more efficient, while still being fair, transparent and rigorous ?

Justice or Injustice

Tristan Kirk who is the Courts correspondent for the Evening Standard regularly posts on X about dubious and immoral convictions using the Single Justice Procedure.

Bristol woman, 57, prosecuted for not paying for a TV Licence
“I have no family or friends…my only lifeline is a TV”
Disabled, & depressed after her daughter’s death. Struggles with opening letters. #SingleJusticeProcedure

Tristan Kirk on X
Tristan Kirk Courts correspondent for the Evening Standard

This is an absolute disgrace.

The Single Justice Procedure is clearly not justice !

pjm1kbw KC Barrister at 1KBW
Injustice in the Single Justice Procedure

Lady Chief Justice to look into flaws of controversial fast-track justice system

Tristan Kirk wrote in the Standard on the 8th February 2024 :-

The top judge in England and Wales has promised to investigate the workings of a controversial fast-track court system after an Evening Standard investigation revealed how the elderly, vulnerable and mentally ill people are convicted in closed-door hearings.

The Lady Chief Justice, Lady Carr of Walton-on-the Hill, backed the single justice procedure when questioned on the fairness of the system, calling it “proportionate” for low-level crimes.

“I think the safeguards are there, both in terms of open justice and protection for the individual involved.”

Lady Carr said she would look into how mentally ill defendants are supported in the procedure, and vowed to inspect how decisions are taken at private hearings. She even suggested she may sit in judgment on SJP cases.

Top judge to look into flaws of controversial fast-track justice system

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Legal Analysis

What is Injustice ?

Injustice is a pervasive and complex concept that transcends geographical, cultural, and temporal boundaries, manifesting in various forms that deeply impact individuals and communities.

At its core, injustice refers to the violation of principles of fairness, equity, and moral rightness within social, political, economic, and legal contexts. The intricate nature of injustice makes it challenging to encapsulate in a singular definition, as its manifestations evolve and adapt to the dynamics of society.

One fundamental aspect of injustice lies in the unequal distribution of resources and opportunities.

Economic injustice, for instance, is evident when certain groups or individuals face systemic barriers preventing them from accessing basic needs, education, or employment opportunities. This form of inequality perpetuates cycles of poverty and limits the upward mobility of marginalised communities, creating a stark contrast between the privileged and the disenfranchised.

Social injustice encompasses discrimination based on race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or other defining characteristics. Prejudice and bias embedded within societal structures lead to unequal treatment, limiting the rights and opportunities available to certain groups. Discriminatory practices can manifest in subtle ways, such as microaggressions, or in more overt forms like systemic racism, reinforcing power imbalances and perpetuating stereotypes that fuel inequality.

Within the legal system, injustice emerges when the application of laws and regulations favours particular groups while disadvantaging others. Legal injustices can range from biased law enforcement practices to discriminatory sentencing, ultimately eroding trust in the judicial system. In some instances, unjust laws themselves may exist, further marginalising specific communities and impeding progress toward a more equitable society.

Political injustice often stems from the abuse of power, corruption, and the suppression of dissent. When leaders prioritize personal gain over the welfare of their constituents, democratic principles are undermined, leading to a lack of representation and accountability. Authoritarian regimes, censorship, and voter suppression are among the myriad ways political injustice can manifest, stifling the voices of those who seek a fair and inclusive governance structure.

Injustice is not solely confined to a macroscopic level; it permeates interpersonal relationships as well.

In everyday life, individuals may experience injustice through bullying, harassment, or exclusion based on personal characteristics. The repercussions of such injustices extend beyond immediate harm, contributing to the perpetuation of harmful social norms and attitudes.

Efforts to combat injustice require a comprehensive approach that addresses its multifaceted nature. Education and awareness play crucial roles in dismantling stereotypes and challenging ingrained biases.

Legal and policy reforms are essential to ensure the fair treatment of all individuals, regardless of their background. Grassroots movements and advocacy are powerful tools for challenging systemic injustices, fostering a collective commitment to building a more equitable and inclusive society.

In conclusion, injustice is a complex and pervasive phenomenon that manifests in various forms across societal structures. It encompasses economic, social, legal, and political dimensions, as well as interpersonal relationships.

Understanding the intricacies of injustice is essential for fostering meaningful change, as it empowers individuals and communities to challenge systemic inequalities and work towards a more just and equitable world.

We recommend you should always seek formal legal advice if required, from a qualified and reputable lawyer (solicitor or barrister).

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Law

The Rule of Law

The rule of law is a fundamental principle of democratic societies that underpins the concept of justice and fairness.

It refers to the idea that all individuals and institutions are subject to the same set of laws and procedures, regardless of their position or status.

This means that the law should be applied equally to everyone, without discrimination, and that no one should be above the law.

Origins of the Rule of Law

The origins of the rule of law can be traced back to ancient civilizations such as Greece and Rome, where it was seen as a key component of a just and stable society.

In ancient Greece, the philosopher Aristotle wrote about the importance of the rule of law in preventing the abuse of power and promoting the common good.

Similarly, in ancient Rome, the idea of the rule of law was embodied in the concept of “equal protection under the law,” which was enshrined in the Roman legal system.

In more recent times, the rule of law has been a central tenet of modern democratic societies.

It was first articulated as a formal principle during the Enlightenment, when thinkers such as Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, and Rousseau argued that the power of the state should be limited by law, and that citizens should have certain rights and freedoms that were protected by the law.

Importance of the Rule of Law

The rule of law is important for several reasons. First and foremost, it helps to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and equally under the law. This means that no one can be arbitrarily deprived of their rights or subjected to unfair treatment by those in positions of power.

Secondly, the rule of law is crucial for maintaining social order and stability. When people believe that the law is just and that it is being applied fairly, they are more likely to respect it and to comply with it voluntarily. This helps to prevent social unrest and disorder, and ensures that conflicts are resolved through peaceful means.

Thirdly, the rule of law is essential for protecting individual freedoms and rights. By providing a framework of laws and procedures that are designed to protect individual rights, such as freedom of speech, assembly, and religion, the rule of law helps to prevent abuses of power and ensures that people are able to live their lives in accordance with their own values and beliefs.

The Rule of Law in the UK

The rule of law is a fundamental principle of the UK’s constitutional system. It is enshrined in a number of key legal documents, including the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights 1689, and the Human Rights Act 1998.

In practice, the rule of law is upheld by the judiciary, which is independent of the government and other branches of the state. The courts are responsible for interpreting and applying the law, and for ensuring that the government and other public bodies act in accordance with the law.

The rule of law is also central to the UK’s relationship with the European Union. As a member of the EU, the UK was bound by EU law and subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

This helped to ensure that the UK government and other public bodies acted in accordance with EU law and that citizens were able to enforce their rights under EU law.

The Rule of Law around the World

The rule of law is also an important principle in the international arena. It is enshrined in the United Nations Charter and in a number of other international agreements and treaties.

One of the key functions of international law is to promote the rule of law in relations between states, by providing a framework for the peaceful resolution of disputes and the protection of human rights. International law also helps to promote cooperation and collaboration between states, by setting out common standards and norms for behaviour.

However, the rule of law is not always respected in the international arena. In some parts of the world, governments and other institutions may be corrupt or lack the capacity to enforce the law effectively. This can lead to human rights abuses, social unrest, and conflict.

In addition, there are concerns about the erosion of the rule of law in some countries, as governments may seek to restrict the rights and freedoms of their citizens in the name of national security or other interests.

The Importance of Upholding the Rule of Law

The rule of law is a fundamental principle of democratic societies, and its importance cannot be overstated. When the rule of law is respected, it helps to ensure that all individuals and institutions are held accountable, and that everyone is treated fairly and equally under the law.

The rule of law is also essential for maintaining social order and stability, protecting individual freedoms and rights, and promoting cooperation and collaboration between states.

In order to uphold the rule of law, it is essential that governments and other institutions act in accordance with the law, and that the judiciary is independent and impartial. It is also important for citizens to be informed about their rights and responsibilities under the law, and to be able to enforce those rights through the courts if necessary.

Conclusion

The rule of law is a fundamental principle of democratic societies, and its importance cannot be overstated. It helps to ensure that all individuals and institutions are held accountable, and that everyone is treated fairly and equally under the law.

In the UK, the rule of law is enshrined an unwritten constitution made up of various sources, including statutes, case law, and conventions which is upheld by an independent judiciary. The principle of the rule of law is an important aspect of the UK’s constitutional framework.

The UK’s longstanding commitment to the Rule of Law is under grave threat according to the landmark report The State We’re In: Addressing Threats & Challenges to the Rule of Law written by the legal charity JUSTICE.

In the world, the rule of law is an important principle in international relations, and is enshrined in a number of international agreements and treaties. However, there are concerns about the erosion of the rule of law in some countries, and the need to promote and protect the rule of law globally.

Ultimately, the rule of law is essential for promoting justice, fairness, and equality in societies around the world, and for ensuring that human rights and freedoms are protected and respected.

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Judiciary

Solicitor General

The Solicitor General is the second law officer of the Crown in the United Kingdom, after the Attorney General. The role of the Solicitor General is to assist the Attorney General in their legal duties and responsibilities, and to act as their deputy in their absence.

The Solicitor General is also responsible for representing the government in court, and for providing legal advice to government departments and agencies. In addition, the Solicitor General works closely with the Attorney General on a range of legal issues, including the development of legal policy and the administration of justice.

The current Solicitor General of the United Kingdom is Robert Courts MP KC. He was appointed to the role on the 22nd January 2024. Robert read law at the University of Sheffield.

The Solicitor General is appointed by the monarch on the advice of the Prime Minister, and is usually a member of the government. The Solicitor General is also a Member of Parliament and can participate in parliamentary debates and proceedings.

Solicitor General Salary

The Solicitor General is entitled to a salary of £62,368 but claims £57,962 according to Salaries of members of His Majesty’s Government: April 2022 (HTML)

This is addition to the basic annual salary for an MP from 1 April 2022 which is £84,144 according to Pay and expenses for MPs.

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Law

What is the Justice Committee ?

The Justice Committee is a cross-party group of MPs appointed by the House of Commons to examine the policies and spending of the Ministry of Justice and associated public bodies.

This includes the courts, legal aid, prisons, probation and the rule of law. It also advises on sentencing guidelines. The Justice Committee is chaired by Sir Bob Neill MP.

Role of the Justice Committee

Sir Bob Neill MP, Chair of the Justice Committee, explained the role of the Justice Committee and how to get involved in the Committee’s work

The Justice Committee was appointed by the House of Commons to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Ministry of Justice and associated public bodies, (to include the work of staff provided for the administrative work of courts and tribunals, but excluding consideration of individual cases and appointments, and excluding the work of the Scotland and Wales Offices and of the Advocate General for Scotland); and administration and expenditure of the Attorney General’s Office, the Treasury Solicitor’s Department, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Serious Fraud Office (but excluding individual cases and appointments and advice given within government by Law Officers).

The Justice Committee is one of the 19 Select Committees related to Government Departments, established by the House of Commons under Standing Order No. 152.

Role of the Justice Committee – Parliament Website

Subjects of Inquiry

The Justice Committee chooses its own subjects of inquiry. 

Depending on the subject, external deadlines, and the amount of oral evidence the Committee decides to take, an inquiry may last for several months and give rise to a report to the House; other inquiries may simply consist of a single day’s oral evidence which the Committee may publish without making a report.

When the Committee has chosen an inquiry it normally issues a press notice outlining the main themes of inquiry and inviting interested parties to submit written evidence. It may also identify possible witnesses and issue specific invitations to them to submit written evidence.

Role of the Justice Committee – Parliament Website

Membership

As of the 19th January 2024, the current members of the Justice Committee published on the Parliament website were :-

NameParty or affiliationConstituency or type
Sir Robert Neill MPConservativeBromley and Chislehurst
Tahir Ali MPLabourBirmingham, Hall Green
Rob Butler MPConservativeAylesbury
James Daly MPConservativeBury North
Rt Hon Maria Eagle MPLabourGarston and Halewood
Rachel Hopkins MP LabourLuton South
Paul Maynard MPConservativeBlackpool North and Cleveleys
Dr Kieran Mullan MPConservativeCrewe and Nantwich
Chris Stephens MPScottish National PartyGlasgow South West
Edward Timpson KC MPConservativeEddisbury
Karl Turner MPLabourKingston upon Hull East
Current Justice Committee Members 19th January 2024

Inquiries

Inquiries allow committees to consider oral and written evidence on a particular topic. They usually result in the publication of a report.

All inquires of the Justice Committee past and present are published and can be searched for on the Parliament website.

Contact the Justice Commitee

  • Email: justicecom@parliament.uk
  • Phone: (General Enquiries) 020 7219 7005 (Media Enquiries) 07842 601500
  • Address: House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA
Justice Committee Twitter Feed

Check out our article on the highly questionable Sussex Family Justice Board and make up your own mind.

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Legal Analysis

What does Lady Justice Symbolise ?

Lady Justice, often depicted as a graceful figure holding a sword, scales, and sometimes wearing a blindfold, is an iconic symbol of the judicial system.

Her image evokes a sense of impartiality, fairness, and the pursuit of justice. Through the ages, Lady Justice has come to embody the ideals of a just society, representing the principles upon which legal systems are built.

In this article, we will explore the history, meaning, and significance of Lady Justice, focusing on the symbolism behind her scales, sword, and blindfold.

Historical Origins and Evolution

The origins of Lady Justice can be traced back to ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. In Greece, she was known as “Themis,” the daughter of Uranus (Heaven) and Gaia (Earth). Themis was the personification of divine law, order, and justice.

The Romans adopted this concept and named her “Justitia” – the goddess of Justice within Roman mythology. Over time, her imagery and symbolism evolved to what we now recognise as Lady Justice.

The Scales of Justice

One of the most prominent features of Lady Justice is the scales she holds in her hand. The scales symbolize the weighing of evidence and arguments in a court of law. They represent the need for a balanced and impartial consideration of facts and arguments before reaching a fair judgment. Lady Justice reminds us that justice must be meted out objectively, based on the merits of each case.

The Sword

Lady Justice also holds a sword. The sword represents the power and authority of the judiciary to enforce the law and protect society. It signifies the role of justice in upholding the rule of law and maintaining order. The sword reminds us that justice has the strength to cut through falsehoods, expose the truth, and hold accountable those who have violated the law.

The Blindfold

Lady Justice’s blindfold, if depicted, is a powerful symbol of impartiality and the fair application of the law. By covering her eyes, she demonstrates her commitment to judge each case solely on its merits, without bias or favouritism. The blindfold represents the ideal that justice should be blind to factors such as wealth, status, race, or gender. It ensures that all individuals, regardless of their background, are treated equally under the law.

It has been said that the addition of the blindfold in the 16th century was intended to show Lady Justice as blind to the injustice carried on before her.

The Fight Against Injustice

Lady Justice stands as a potent symbol in the ongoing struggle against injustice. Throughout history, societies have faced numerous instances of injustice, where the principles of fairness and equity have been disregarded. There have been many cases where the blindfold has been lifted, and justice has been influenced by prejudice, political pressure, or systemic biases.

Lady Justice serves as a constant reminder of the importance of upholding these principles and working towards a just society. She encourages us to fight against corruption, discrimination, and inequality, and to advocate for the rights of the marginalised and oppressed.

‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’

Dr Martin Luther King, Jr

Conclusion

Lady Justice, with her scales, blindfold, and sword, represents the pillars of fairness, equity, and the pursuit of justice. Her image has evolved over time, reflecting the ideals of different civilizations.

Lady Justice serves as a constant reminder of the need for a balanced consideration of evidence, an unbiased application of the law, and the power of justice to combat injustice.

As society continues to strive for a just and equitable future, Lady Justice will remain an emblematic figure, inspiring us to fight for a world where fairness and equity prevail.

Check out our article on the highly questionable Sussex Family Justice Board and make up your own mind.

We recommend you should always seek formal legal advice if required, from a qualified and reputable lawyer (solicitor or barrister).

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Law

What is a Private Prosecution ?

Private prosecution refers to the initiation of criminal proceedings by a private individual or organisation rather than a public authority such as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in the UK.

In the UK, private prosecutions have a long history and are enshrined in common law, allowing individuals and organisations to bring criminal charges against others for a wide range of offenses.

Private prosecutions are relatively rare in the UK, but they are allowed under section 6(1) of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985.

This article will provide an overview of private prosecution in the UK, including its history, the legal framework, and the process of bringing a private prosecution. It will also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of private prosecution and some high-profile cases.

History of Private Prosecution in the UK

Private prosecution has a long history in the UK, dating back to medieval times. Before the establishment of a professional police force and public prosecution service, private individuals or organisations were responsible for investigating and prosecuting criminal offenses.

In the 19th century, the power to prosecute criminal offenses was gradually transferred to public authorities such as the Crown Prosecution Service. However, private individuals or organisations retained the right to bring private prosecutions, and this right was enshrined in common law.

Today, private prosecution is governed by the Prosecution of Offenses Act 1985 and the Criminal Procedure Rules.

There are, however, some limitations: 

  • the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has power under section 6(2) POA 1985 to take over private prosecutions;
  • in some cases, the private prosecutor must seek the consent of the Attorney General or of the DPP before the commencement of proceedings.

Legal Framework for Private Prosecution

The legal framework for private prosecution in the UK is set out in the Prosecution of Offenses Act 1985, Criminal Procedure Rules and the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980.

Prosecutions instituted and conducted otherwise than by the Service.

(1)Subject to subsection (2) below, nothing in this Part shall preclude any person from instituting any criminal proceedings or conducting any criminal proceedings to which the Director’s duty to take over the conduct of proceedings does not apply.

Section 6(1) of the Prosecution of Offenses Act 1985

The Criminal Procedure Rules 2020 Part 7 “Starting a Prosecution in a Magistrates’ Court” apply to private prosecutions in the UK.

CPR Part 7 contains specific provisions on the procedure to be followed in private prosecutions, including the requirements for the service of documents, the conduct of preliminary hearings, and the transfer of cases to the Crown Court. These rules provide a clear framework for the conduct of private prosecutions and ensure that they are conducted fairly and efficiently.

Section 1 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 (MCA 1980) applies to a laying of information at a Magistrates Court :-

Issue of summons to accused or warrant for his arrest.

On an information being laid before a justice of the peace that a person has, or is suspected of having, committed an offence, the justice may issue—
(a)a summons directed to that person requiring him to appear before a magistrates’ court to answer the information, or
(b)a warrant to arrest that person and bring him before a magistrates’ court

Section 1 Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980

In order to bring a private prosecution, the individual or organisation must have sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case against the defendant. This means that there must be enough evidence to suggest that the defendant has committed the offense, and that there is a reasonable prospect of conviction.

The process of bringing a private prosecution is similar to that of a public prosecution. The CPS publish legal guidance about Private Prosecutions on their website.

How to bring a Private Prosecution

To bring a private prosecution, an individual must first lay an information.

This is a document that sets out the details of the alleged offense and provides evidence to support the claim. The information must be laid before a magistrate or a judge, who will decide whether or not to issue a summons.

The information must contain the following details:

  • The name and address of the accused
  • The details of the offense, including the date, time, and location
  • The evidence supporting the claim
  • The name and address of the individual or organization bringing the prosecution
  • The name and address of any witnesses

The gov.uk website have published a word document SP001 dated May 2019 Application for summons or warrant for arrest for alleged offence under Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 section 1, CrimPR 7.2(6) which captures all the relevant information to “lay an information” at a Magistrates Court.

You can find a Magistrates Court using the Find a court or tribunal service.

Once the information is laid, the magistrate or judge will consider the evidence and decide, using it’s discretion, whether or not to issue a summons or warrant of arrest.

If the summons is issued, the accused will be required to attend court to answer the charges.

If a warrant of arrest is issued under Section 125 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980, then this will be directed to “any constable acting within his police area”.

Advantages of a Private Prosecution

There are several advantages to bringing a private prosecution rather than relying on the public prosecution service.

One of the main advantages is that the individual or organisation has greater control over the proceedings. They can choose the lawyers and experts who will represent them, and they can decide which charges to bring.

Another advantage is that private prosecution can be a more effective way of holding individuals or organisations to account, particularly in cases where the public prosecution service has declined to prosecute. Private prosecutions can also be quicker than public prosecutions, as they are not subject to the same bureaucratic processes.

Disadvantages of Private Prosecution

However, there are also some disadvantages to private prosecution. One of the main disadvantages is the cost.

Private prosecutions can be expensive, as the individual or organisation is responsible for paying for the legal representation and other costs associated with the case. This can be a particular problem for individuals or organisations who do not have significant financial resources.

Private Prosecutions can be seen as a way for individuals and organizations to take the law into their own hands and there is a risk of retaliation, including legal action or harassment.

Private prosecutions can be difficult to win, as the accused person has the right to a fair trial.

If you are considering bringing a private prosecution, it is important to seek legal advice to ensure that you are aware of the risks and potential benefits.

High-Profile Private Prosecutions

In recent years, there have been several high-profile private prosecutions in the United Kingdom that have garnered significant attention. These cases have demonstrated the potential power and impact of private prosecutions in bringing justice to victims and holding individuals accountable for their actions. Let’s explore a few notable examples:

  1. R v. Gary Dobson and David Norris (Stephen Lawrence Case): One of the most prominent private prosecutions in recent UK history was the private prosecution brought by Stephen Lawrence’s family. Stephen Lawrence, a black teenager, was murdered in a racially motivated attack in 1993. Despite strong evidence, the initial investigation failed to secure a conviction. In 1999, Stephen’s parents, Doreen and Neville Lawrence, utilized the private prosecution route to pursue justice. The private prosecution ultimately led to the conviction of Gary Dobson and David Norris for Stephen’s murder in 2012.
  2. R v. John Downey (Hyde Park Bombing Case): In 2013, a private prosecution was initiated against John Downey, who was accused of the 1982 Hyde Park bombing in London, which killed four soldiers and injured many others. The prosecution was launched by the families of the victims after the criminal trial against Downey collapsed due to an error in his prosecution. In 2014, the private prosecution was halted by a judge who ruled that Downey could not face trial again due to an official assurance given to him by the government.
  3. R v. Dale Cregan (Mark Short and David Short Case): Dale Cregan, a notorious criminal, was involved in the murders of Mark Short and his father David Short in 2012 as part of a gangland feud. The Short family decided to pursue a private prosecution against Cregan after the criminal trial against him commenced. However, during the trial, Cregan admitted to the charges, and the private prosecution was discontinued. Nevertheless, this case highlighted the potential for private prosecutions in high-profile criminal matters.

These recent high-profile private prosecutions demonstrate the ability of private individuals to bring justice to victims and hold perpetrators accountable, even in cases where the state prosecution may have faltered or faced challenges. Private prosecutions can play a crucial role in ensuring that no crime goes unpunished.

Conclusion

Private prosecutions are an important part of the legal system in the UK, as they allow individuals to seek justice in the UK legal system.

While there are advantages to bringing a private prosecution, such as control over the case and closure for the victim, there are also several disadvantages.

Nicola Sharp who is a Partner at Rahman Ravelli Solicitors has published a useful article Private Prosecutions: The Process, Defendants’ Options and Mixed Motives.

Check out our articles on HHJ FarquharHHJ Bedford and the highly questionable Sussex Family Justice Board.

We recommend you should always seek formal legal advice if required, from a qualified and reputable lawyer (solicitor or barrister).

We have a number of links to Free Legal Resources and Legal Organisations on our Free Legal Advice , Legal Aid and Pro Bono pages.

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Judiciary

Lady Chief Justice

The Lady Chief Justice is the most senior judge in England and Wales, and is responsible for the administration of justice.

Dame Sue Carr was sworn in as the first Lady Chief Justice of England and Wales on the 1st October 2023.

His Majesty The King has been pleased to approve the appointment of Dame Sue Carr as the Lady Chief Justice of England and Wales from 1 October 2023. This appointment follows the retirement of The Rt Hon. the Lord Burnett of Maldon on 30 September 2023.

Dame Sue Carr was called to the Bar in 1987. As a barrister she specialised in general commercial law and took silk in 2003. She became Chair of the Professional Negligence Bar Association in 2007, Chair of the Bar Standards Board Conduct Committee in 2008, and was appointed as the Complaints Commissioner to the International Criminal Court in the Hague in 2011.

Her judicial career began in 2009 in crime, when she became a Recorder. She was appointed to the High Court, Queen’s Bench Division in 2013, and became a nominated Judge of the Commercial Court and the Technology and Construction Court in 2014. In the same year she became a member of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal until 2016. She became a Presider of the Midland Circuit in 2016 until 2020, when she was appointed as a Lady Justice of Appeal. In the same year she was also appointed as the senior Judicial Commissioner and Vice Chair of the Judicial Appointments Commission, a position she held until January 2023.

Dame Sue Carr was educated at Wycombe Abbey School and read law at Trinity College Cambridge.

Appointment of Lord Chief Justice: 15 June 2023 gov.uk

The role of The Lady Chief Justice (LCJ) is to oversee the judiciary and ensure that the courts operate efficiently and effectively. This position is a vital one in the legal system, and the Lady Chief Justice plays a significant role in upholding the rule of law in England and Wales.

The Lady Chief Justice is also President of all the Courts of England and Wales. The Lady Chief Justice sits in both the Criminal and Civil divisions of the Court of Appeal, in the Divisional Court and also, by invitation, in the UK Supreme Court.

Under the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, the Lady Chief Justice (LCJ) has some 400 statutory (required by law) duties. The LCJ’s key responsibilities include:

  • Representing the views of the judiciary of England and Wales to Parliament and Government.
  • The welfare, training and guidance of the judiciary of England and Wales. The Lord Chief Justice discusses with Government the provision of resources for the judiciary, which are allotted by the Lord Chancellor.
  • The deployment of judges and allocation of work in courts in England and Wales.
Lady Chief Justice Courts and Tribunals Judiciary

You may also be interested in our article on the Lord Chief Justice, Master of the Rolls and the Lord Chancellor.

History of the Lord/Lady Chief Justice

The history of the Lord Chief Justice dates back to the 12th century, when the office of the Chief Justiciar was established in England. This office was responsible for overseeing the administration of justice in the country, and was considered the most important legal office in the land.

Over time, the role of the Chief Justiciar evolved, and in 1234, the office of the Lord Chief Justice was established by King Henry III. This new position was created to provide greater independence and authority to the judiciary, and to ensure that justice was administered fairly and impartially.

The Lord Chief Justice is appointed by the King on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. The appointment is made from a list of candidates prepared by an independent panel of legal experts. The Lord Chief Justice holds the position for a fixed term of five years, after which he or she may be re-appointed for another term.

The Lord Chief Justice has a number of important responsibilities. These include presiding over the Court of Appeal, which is the second highest court in the land, and overseeing the High Court and the Crown Court. The Lord Chief Justice also plays a key role in the development of the law, and is responsible for ensuring that the judiciary is properly trained and equipped to handle the complex legal issues that arise in the modern world.

One of the key functions of the Lord Chief Justice is to ensure that justice is administered fairly and impartially. This means that the Lord Chief Justice must be independent of political influence, and must make decisions based solely on the evidence presented in court. The Lord Chief Justice is also responsible for ensuring that the court system operates efficiently and effectively, and that the rights of defendants and victims are protected.

The Lord Chief Justice is assisted in his or her duties by a team of judges, including the Lord Justice of Appeal and the High Court judges. These judges are responsible for hearing cases and making judgments in accordance with the law. The Lord Chief Justice also works closely with the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General’s office to ensure that the legal system operates effectively and efficiently.

In addition to his or her legal duties, the Lord Chief Justice also plays an important role in promoting the legal profession and upholding the principles of justice and fairness. The Lord Chief Justice is often called upon to speak publicly on legal issues, and to represent the legal profession in national and international forums. The Lord Chief Justice is also responsible for ensuring that the legal profession maintains high ethical standards, and that lawyers and judges act with integrity and professionalism at all times.

The role of the Lord Chief Justice is a complex and demanding one, and requires a deep understanding of the law and the legal system. The Lord Chief Justice must be able to balance the demands of the legal profession with the needs of society, and must be able to make difficult decisions in the face of complex legal issues. The Lord Chief Justice must also be able to work closely with other members of the judiciary, as well as with government officials, to ensure that the legal system operates smoothly and effectively.

In recent years, the role of the Lord Chief Justice has become even more important, as the legal system has become more complex and the demands on the judiciary have increased. The Lord Chief Justice must be able to adapt to changing circumstances, and to ensure that the legal system remains effective in the face of new challenges and developments.

As Lady Chief Justice, Dame Carr is responsible for overseeing the administration of justice in England and Wales, and for ensuring that the legal system operates fairly and efficiently. She also plays an important role in promoting the independence and integrity of the judiciary, and in ensuring that judges and lawyers maintain high ethical standards.

In addition to his role as Lady Chief Justice, Carr also serves as a member of the Privy Council. She is widely respected for his legal expertise and her commitment to upholding the rule of law, and is regarded as one of the most influential legal figures in the UK today.

Appointment and Selection Process

The appointment of the Lord/Lady Chief Justice is made by His Majesty The King on the advice of the Prime Minister and the Lord Chancellor following the recommendation of an independent selection panel chaired by Helen Pitcher OBE, Chair of the Judicial Appointments Commission . The other members were Lord Lloyd-Jones of the Supreme Court,  Sue Hoyle OBE and Sarah Lee (lay and professional members of the Judicial Appointments Commission), and Lord Justice Edis (Senior Presiding Judge).

This selection exercise was run under the relevant sections of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 as amended by the Crime and Courts Act 2013. In accordance with section 70 of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, as amended by the Crime and Courts Act 2013, the panel determined the selection process to be followed and consulted the Lord Chancellor and the First Minister of Wales on the process followed.

In accordance with s.10(3) of the Senior Courts Act 1981 c.54, the selection exercise was open to all applicants who satisfied the judicial-appointment eligibility condition on a 7-year basis, or were judges of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, or High Court.

Given the challenges of reducing the outstanding caseloads across jurisdictions and the drive for modernisation across the Courts and Tribunals, candidates were expected to be able to serve for at least 4 years.

Appointment of Lord Chief Justice: 15 June 2023 gov.uk

Conclusion

The Lady Chief Justice is a vital figure in the English legal system, and plays a crucial role in upholding the principles of justice and fairness. The Lady Chief Justice is responsible for overseeing the administration of justice in England and Wales, and for ensuring that the legal system operates efficiently and effectively.

The Lady Chief Justice is also responsible for promoting the legal profession, and for ensuring that lawyers and judges maintain high ethical standards. This is an important role, as the legal profession plays a key role in upholding the rule of law and protecting the rights of individuals.

The Lady Chief Justice is an impartial figure, who must make decisions based solely on the evidence presented in court. This means that the Lady Chief Justice must be independent of political influence, and must be able to make difficult decisions in the face of complex legal issues.

One of the most important functions of the Lady Chief Justice is to oversee the development of the law. The Lady Chief Justice plays a key role in shaping the law, and in ensuring that the legal system remains relevant and effective in the face of new challenges and developments.

The Lady Chief Justice is also responsible for ensuring that the judiciary is properly trained and equipped to handle the complex legal issues that arise in the modern world. This means that the Lady Chief Justice must work closely with other members of the judiciary, as well as with government officials, to ensure that the legal system remains effective and efficient.

We recommend you should always seek formal legal advice if required, from a qualified and reputable lawyer (solicitor or barrister).

We have a number of links to Free Legal Resources and Legal Organisations on our Free Legal Advice , Legal Aid and Pro Bono pages.

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