Criminal justice

Which prime ministers have faced the longest wait for honours?

Waiting for the gong Tony Blair was knighted, 14 years after leaving Downing Street. How long have other ex-PMs had to wait to be honoured? Edward Heath knighted in 1992, 18 years after leaving office. Harold Wilson awarded peerage on leaving Commons in 1983, 7 years after resigning as PM. Jim Callaghan awarded peerage on leaving House of Commons in 1987, 8 years after leaving office. Margaret Thatcher awarded peerage in 1992 on leaving House of Commons. John Major knighted in 2005, 8 years after leaving office. Said to have rejected peerage on leaving Commons in 2001. Gordon Brown, David Cameron, and Theresa May are still waiting. Unjabbed nations How

Covid has exposed the crisis in our courts

The other night I returned to my Cheshire home following a 500-mile round trip to the south of England to defend a client accused of drink driving. Along the way, I netted eight hours behind the wheel, one cheerless night in a deserted hotel and a surfeit of grisly service station sandwiches. All for the princely return of spending fruitless hours in a draughty waiting room — only to be told very late afternoon that the court had run out of time. How so? Three trials — including mine — had been listed for this particular courtroom. It only took one to get through the egg timer and monopolise the

In praise of Boris Johnson’s justice shake-up

It ought to be a good day at the office (at last!) for Robert Buckland, the Secretary of State who has outraged the legal profession. He spent most of last weekend on the media rack defending the government’s position that it might break international law to defy an agreement with the EU that it had negotiated.  Today is much more straightforward. His ‘get tough’ sentencing white paper contains a myriad of proposals that will resonate with ordinary people baffled by a justice system ever more remote from the idea of public protection and punishment, lost in abstractions, passing sentences that bear little relationship to the gravity of the crime. So while

The curious case of the coronavirus conviction

Last Saturday, a 41-year-old woman was arrested for what police described as ‘loitering between platforms’ at Newcastle Central station. By Monday, she had been successfully prosecuted – finding herself with a criminal conviction for breaching the newly enacted Coronavirus Act 2020. Days later, the conviction was dropped after police accepted they had misunderstood the law.  Why does all this matter? Well, clearly it’s important when law enforcement misuses some of the most draconian legislation passed in living memory. But the case tells us something else about the state of our criminal justice system. British justice, like the other parts of our constitution, is designed precisely so that failures like this do not occur.