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Tag Archives: Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill

R (Sisangia): woman wins legal aid to pursue Metropolitan Police false imprisonment claim

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A woman has won a significant case giving her legal aid to pursue an allegation of false imprisonment against the London Metropolitan Police – despite a claim by lawyers that legal aid was barred by the Coalition Government’s draconian LASPO legislation [Note: see however Court of Appeal reversal at end of this piece].

The case of R (Sunita Sisangia) v Director of Legal Aid Casework means legal aid will not be restricted to tort claims in which police are accused of dishonesty in detaining people unlawfully. Legal aid will be available for a wider set of claims: when police detain someone deliberately (whether or not dishonestly) knowing harm might come to the detainee as a result of the detention.

Sisangia had been arrested just after at 4am one morning in January 2011 after a neighbour reported alleged harassment two weeks earlier. She was held for more than 11 hours. “Ms Sisangia says that she was not provided with permission to take her medication until she saw a doctor at 0810 hours, and was not provided with food or water until 0953 hours. Ms Sisangia alleges she was not provided with any further food apart from water and a cup of tea, was released from custody at 1545 hours.” Police decided there was no criminal case against her.

Sisangia’s claim for being wrongly detained is in part based on the police being aware of the history of her dispute with the neighbour during which she had been allegedly threatened and as a result of which she had been given a panic alarm by the police. She considers it was unnecessary to have arrested her in a “dawn raid”.

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Nigel Evans legal fees: thank the Tories we don’t have to pay

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Friends of Nigel Evans, the British House of Commons deputy speaker cleared of nine sexual offences, have complained that he has been financially wiped out by £130,000 of defence costs in the court case. And wags of a legal disposition have pointed out that he has only his own Tory-led Government to blame.

Conservative MP for Northampton South Brian Binley,  a friend and flatmate of Evans, and Tory Bob Stewart have both pointed out Evans must pay his defence costs even though he was acquitted of all charges – and the Crown Prosecution Service criticised for pursuing them. And Evans himself now says the state should pay. But none of them has made the link with Section 16A of the Prosecution of Offences Act, added by amendment to the act by the notorious Legal Aid Act (LASPO) in 2012.

This stops defence costs being awarded for those not legally aided except under limited circumstances. Costs can be awarded: Read the rest of this entry

After Trayvon Martin, Britain’s ‘stand your ground’ law

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Is the UK Parliament about to bolster the law on self-defence with a British version of the US “stand your ground” law implicated in the killing of Trayvon Martin? There is no doubt that the Prime Minister’s commitment to the Big Society would be boosted if he could recruit an army of volunteers willing to bring down criminals by private intervention – and bring down the crime rate too.

So here is clause 149 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill [now Section 148 of the newly passed Act] which says that when assessing whether the degree of force used by a defendant claiming “private defence” (self-defence, defence of another or prevention of crime) was reasonable:

“a possibility that [he or she] could have retreated is to be considered (so far as relevant) as a factor to be taken into account, rather than as giving rise to a duty to retreat”.

Compare the Florida law cited by Trayvon’s killer, George Zimmerman, which says:

“a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if … he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.”

The new UK provision establishes that if you are attacked and fight back, you do not have to prove you first turned and ran to avoid the attack: you can stand your ground and defend yourself.

Now, most people when faced with a weapon-wielding crazy-man intent on doing serious physical harm would, in fact, retreat – and retreat as far and as fast as possible. But not in the Wild West Big Society have-a-go-hero fixated minds of the proponents of “stand your ground”. Instead it goes something like this: a swift upper-cut to the chin of the villain of the piece; a neat move to pinion him to the floor with a hand to the throat; the other hand pressing the cold barrel of a Colt 44 to his temple; give him over to the custody of the sheriff; get the girl in the final reel.

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