Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Evan Price: Lawyerly Exposition Plus Polemic

Evan Price offers an interesting round up of a week in court for the government. HERE. As a lawyer he makes a good polemicist.

But I'm not sure on the tallying - 4-1 to the people over the government - really. The decisions, or judgments as lawyers would have it, are of course more precise than the general reporting thereof.

In reverse order (please refer to Evan's blog for the flesh):

The military equipment one. Not really contested or controversial. But as Evan says the judgment borders on nonsense given the variables. There was an interesting contribution on R5L from a 19-year-old private. He was now wearing "better" body armour but found that it was "worse" in restricting his ability to use his weapon and also his mobility.

BAe Systems and Saud. Well. I'm not sure where this leaves the public interest rationale for abandoning such cases. The threat was an unlawful premise it seems. But what about the jobs, the exports, and the ultimate unwinnability of the case? Where it is not even really clear who the victim(s) is/are.

Inquiry on Iraq War II. There will be one in due course. But as Evan says this is not the way they come about. Though the equipment case offers a different route for skirmishes.

Abu Qatada export deal. Think we all knew that would probably happen. Is he a terrorist subject or a terrorist suspect Evan? He's still in jail of course and may ultimately plead to be allowed to go to somewhere that will be willing to take him.

Immigration rules. These are a right royal mess of course. This is not something exclusively of Labour's doing. The rules are sedimentary and have built up over decades. Need a clean sweep. But as this case shows change is difficult.

Not sure that Evan's conclusion of incompetence ("best ever!") is supported by the evidence he brings to bear. The law in such matters seems to be a process of both attrition and iteration.

And is it really the case that there were only five results in the courts last week where the govt or regina were party?


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the praise ... from one polemicist to another! Of course there is always an element of interpretation when one reads judgments and drags out some of the points made by individual judges ... but I should add that my comments are based on my reading of the judgments, not merely the reporting of them.

No point in going on about the military equipment case any further ... you've made comment, so have I. I think that we probably agree that there are limits as to the usefullness of the decision ...

BAE systems - the difficulty here is that the effect on the economy is expressly not something that can be taken into account under the 2002 (or is it 2003) Treaty on corruption. The difficulties with the decision challenged is that it was not the investigation that is under scrutiny ... it was the Attorney's decision and the SFO's decision to abandon the investigation as a result of what the court found to be a disgraceful request. If the decision had been based on a proper assessment of that request and there was no other course available, I doubt that the court would have reached the same conclusion ... again, as with some earlier enquiries into the Blair Government, it is the manner in which the decisions are reached that creates problems.

There should be an inquiry into the Iraq War now. I have heard no acceptable justification for delay ... and we could use the results of that inquiry to feed into future conduct on the ground and elsewhere.

Immigration rules - the Labour Government has overseen 11 years of immigration and has allowed some of the largest numbers of immigrants to arrive here without proper thought or consideration. It is not simply a case of saying that this is an historic problem; and immigrants themselves are not to blame; it is the Government failure to even attempt to get a handle on the problem and come up with any policy at all that is sensible that results in the difficulties we have now.

What is genuinely new about all of this is the number of different departments and bodies that are all properly part of the executive that are under attack. At the same time. It may be polemical, but you must admit its a bit odd ... and suggests quite some failure at the heart of Government.

Chris Paul said...

Mmmm, not sure about that last observation really. It is odd I suppose that so many judgments should arrive at purdah time! With Tories today kicking off about a Home Office announcement that can in fact be used and abused by candidates of all parties.

The BAe judgment has of course not been reported correctly. And you have clarified what it really means. Would have been lawful if the outrageous threat had been checked out and/or documented more carefully. I guess if there had been a file memo assessing it was say 30% likely to see some cooperation withdrawn that would have been enough. Perhaps a lower %?

The immigration one needs a quick answer I think. The judgment is stopping a change that you might approve of. It illustrates the difficulty of changing these things even where the will is there.

I am strongly in favour of immigration but don't doubt the need for control and transparency. The systems that have built up and which are hard to change - perhaps rightly hard to change - ideally need wholesale changes but this is not easy.