April 2010 articles archive:

DNA update - Crime and Security Act 2010

Despite concerns that we should be adopting measures which are said to be less fair than Scotland's scheme, the controversial provisions for a six-year period of retention of data even though the person has not been charged has been passed.

We have already considered the principles of the European Court of Human Rights ruling that the indefinite and blanket policy of retaining DNA even of persons who have not been charged or convicted of an offence to be disproportionate and contrary to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.  We have also had the opportunity of listening to the views of the father of DNA, Sir Alec Jefferys, as well as the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson.

Despite reservations and a healthy debate in Parliament the controversial provisions to introduce a 6 year period of retention for persons who have not been convicted have now found their way onto the statute books in the form of the Crime and Security Bill which was passed on the 7 April 2010.

Even so, we may have to wait and see when the new provisions take effect as they are dependant upon a revised Code of Practice being drawn up and approved after the general election on the 6 May. 

 

Have a go murder charge dropped

Omari Roberts, aged 23, had been charged with the murder of a 17 year old burglar and of assaulting a 14 year old boy during the burglary of his mother's home in Nottingham in March 2009 but has now learnt that all charges are to be dropped.

'Not guilty' of murder for protecting property - any one looking for a further example of how the present law stands in relation to the use of reasonable force to defend oneself against an attacker or attackers will find this useful.  The Crown Prosecution Service have now taken the decision to drop all charges against Mr Roberts and this has resulted in a formal direction by the judge at Nottingham Crown Court that Mr Roberts be formally found not guilty to the charges.

The decision came about following a fresh interview with the 14 year old accomplice over his account of the incident.  Apparently the boy had been stabbed in the knee in a fight with Mr Roberts in the kitchen of the house in question.

The boy had originally claimed that he had been pursued by Omari Roberts when he fled the house.  At the time the CPS considered this significant as it raised the issue that Mr Roberts appeared to have had time to call the police but chose to pursue the boy.  The boy however changed his account and admitted that he had been waiting for his accomplice outside the house and this tended to support the view that the boy had fought with Mr Roberts but there had not been any pursuit. Some of you may remember the case of Munir Hussain and the problem this posed prosecutors. Munir Hussain who was convicted of a serious assault on one of the men who had attacked his home and family and which resulted in a 30 month prison sentence (later reduced by the Court of Appeal to 12 months suspended for two years with a supervision requirement for the two years).

The incident took place at Omari's mother's home when he returned home from work at lunch time for something to eat.  He had been confronted by the boy and he then grabbed a kitchen knife to defend himself from attack from the 14 year old boy.  The result of which was that the boy was stabbed in the knee and fled from the property.

The 17 year old youth had been upstairs ransacking a room but came down to confront Mr Roberts. The two fought and the teenager was stabbed in the shoulder, as a result of which a major artery was severed and the teenager later died.

Jerome Lynch QC, the defence barrister was reported as informing the court: "The basis on which this case is being dropped at the 11th hour is a matter of public interest. It's clear that the prosecution's case has always been predicated on the reliability of this (boy).

"In our submission that was never a realistic approach. They relied on what he was saying, the veracity of what he was saying, and in our submission that was a flawed and erroneous approach."

Mr Roberts' solicitor Jonathan Eppley said after the case: "Omari was put in a position in which he was fighting for his life.

"He had no option but to defend himself - everything happened in a split second, he'd just returned to his mum's house for a little bite to eat and found himself in a terrible position."

We should not forget that someone has lost their life but hopefully this case may serve to help in the debate about how such cases should be dealt with.

Libel appeal won by Science writer Simon Singh

The science writer Simon Singh has won the ability to rely on the defence of fair comment in his defence of a libel action.

The Appeal Court has allowed Simon Singh's appeal against the ruling of the High court last May to the effect that Mr Singh's comments were factual and not opinion.  This meant that Mr Singh was unable to pursue the defence of fair comment in the libel action brought against him by the British Chiropractic Association regarding an article that he wrote for the Guardian which was published in April 2008.

The decision may well be seen as an important one in view of the growing concern over libel tourism with growing numbers of actions being commenced in this country with consequent problems for individual defendants.

In the article in question Mr Singh raised the question of whether there was any evidence for claims made over the treatment of certain childhood conditions.  This resulted in allegations by the British Chiropractic Association that Simon Singh had in effect accused the organisations' management of supporting bogus treatments.

Simon Singh himself has contributed to the growing debate and call for the law of defamation to be reformed in view of the very real financial and personal difficulties that can arise when faced with fighting such actions.

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