Pardons for suffragettes

We are approaching the one hundredth anniversary of women first winning the right to vote, albeit in 1918 only land-owning women aged over 30 were to be given the right to vote.
The right to vote was won by campaigners who fought, often literally, for the rights of women. Many women were arrested, tried and convicted of criminal offences in respect of their protests and now, a century later, there are calls for them to be pardoned for their crimes as homosexual men were for theirs. Amber Rudd has promised only today that she will look at individual cases. But, what is a pardon?
Strictly speaking, a pardon is an exercise of the Royal prerogative of mercy. It does not expunge a conviction, nor does it mean that the person pardoned was not guilty of an offence. A pardon simply removes from the convicted person all penalties and punishments arising from the conviction. In ye olden days it was thus a legal instrument used by the monarch to save a person sentenced to death from the gallows. T…

Guilt: the difference between criminal and civil “convictions”

There’s been an argument between police officers and lawyers over the past couple of days on Twitter over whether an acquittal means somebody is actually innocent versus whether a conviction means somebody is actually guilty. In law the position is quite clear, if you are convicted you are guilty; if you are acquitted you are innocent (you may already be shouting at me that “not guilty” does not equate to innocent but you are wrong – everybody is presumed innocent until convicted. If you are not convicted, then you are innocent in law thus a finding of not guilty maintains a defendant’s innocence and you can properly say that a person found not guilty is innocent).
One of the more interesting points raised in the police v lawyer debate is that a person can be acquitted in a criminal court but convicted in a civil court. I think it’s an argument that is strong on its face but when looked at in more detail is quite weak. So, it’s worth exploring in a little more detail than Twitter provi…

What legal protections does Magna Carta offer people today?


Why do two people get different sentences for the same offence?

There is a, very minor, story in today’s Daily Mail about a businessman sentenced for drink driving that has led to quite a few people asking why he received a fine of £488 (actually, he was fined £367 but the Mail got that bit wrong) and a 14-month driving ban while Chris Tarrant was fined £6,000 and handed a 12-month ban for the same offence, even though Mr Tarrant had a much lower alcohol level. 
As I acted for the businessman, I’m tempted to say that the difference must reflect the fact that one had a specialist drink driving solicitor while the other was represented by a corporate crime expert, although I’m sure that the truth is that the law on sentencing came into play. So, since people are speculating about the differences in sentence I though we might as well take a moment to look at how people are sentenced by criminal courts. We’ll use drink driving as an example, but the principles apply to all criminal offences.
When a person appears in court for drink driving the sentence …

Tricky lying foreigners trick Supreme Court into allowing them to stay in UK #bastards

The Daily Fail Heil er I mean Mail today reports on two awful Albanians who tricked the Supreme Court into letting them stay in the UK despite their having lied to the wonderful, faultless British Government by claiming they were from Kosovo. They report that “Dinjan Hysaj and Agron Bakijasi pretended to be victims of ethnic cleansing when they came to the UK in the 1990s, but were ordered to leave the country when their lies were exposed.” Lawyers for the pair wracked up bills of “£1million in legal aid” (yeah right – in fact the Supreme Court ordered a detailed assessment of costs and no figure was quoted in the case but in any event a cool mil sounds unlikely to me) fighting deportation by arguing that lying about nationality was not enough to remove British citizenship… oh did we forget to mention that they are British citizens and the case is really about whether they should be deprived of citizenship?
The Mail says that this could lead to thousands more being allowed to stay, alt…

Laura Plummer gaoled for taking Tramadol into Egypt

Big news in the UK today is the case of Laura Plummer, a 33 year old British woman who managed to “accidentally” plead guilty to importing Tramadol painkiller tablets into Egypt in a bizarre misunderstanding on Christmas Day. She has now been sentenced to three years imprisonment by the court. In Egypt it seems that the possession and importation of Tramadol is banned without a special prescription because it is widely abused in that country. Ms Plummer has said that she did not know the medication was illegal in Egypt and had taken it into the country for her Egyptian boyfriend, Omar Caboo, who is also 33 years old. According to the news reports I’ve read of Ms Plummer’s account and those given by her family to explain her actions, Ms Plummer obtained the drugs from a friend here in the UK. It is unclear whether that friend was in possession of a prescription nor, if they were, how it came to be that they built up such an extensive stockpile if they genuinely required the medication –…

Disclosure: Liam Allan cleared of rape

The Times front page carries a startling report today of a rape trial that ended in acquittal of the defendant, Liam Allan, on the second day of trial after the police revealed a cache of messages obtained by them from the complainant’s telephone that they had decided to withhold from both the prosecutor and the defence. It seems that in Mr Allan’s case the police had seized the complainant’s mobile telephone as evidence and interrogated it to obtain all messages contained therein. What happened next is unclear, the least damaging (to the police officers involved) theory is that they simply did not bother to read the messages. I’ll leave you to work out other possibilities. On day one of the trial, the complainant (who is still entitled to anonymity despite the prosecution being so sure that her allegations were entirely fabricated that they felt compelled to offer no evidence against the defendant) gave evidence that she was raped and sexually assaulted multiple times by Mr Allan. The …