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10 May 2012
Draft Communications Bill
Law Society President John Wotton said: “Vast quantities of communications data are generated about UK subjects through their telephone calls, web, and social media use. Such data can build a highly detailed picture of people's lives, including their associates, location and interests.
“In a democratic society the needs of law enforcement will always need to be balanced against the rights of the individual. However, proposals for mass surveillance of the kind proposed in the Draft Communications Data Bill raise far for serious questions than more limited and targeted measures. In a global internet environment in which more data than ever is already available to the authorities a clear need to collect more data must be demonstrated and a firm legal basis for collecting the specific data and effective mechanisms to ensure compliance by government and redress for individuals are required.
“The relationship between developing technologies, government IT and surveillance systems and the legal frameworks which govern them, has not always been a happy one. Individuals have a right to privacy and the Law Society and its members will seek to contribute to the debate which is already underway.”
Justice and Security Bill
A Law Society spokesperson said: 'It is a long established principle that justice should be open. Being able to see your opponent's case ensures fairness. Allowing justice to be seen maintains trust in the system.
'There is no doubt that the work of the security services will sometimes be sensitive and therefore not for the public eye, but that needs to be balanced sensibly with the need for our justice system to be transparent, and the principle of holding the Government to account.
'The secret justice proposals in the Justice and Security Bill must not become a cloak for a Government to hide its blushes nor be allowed to deny justice to deserving cases.
'It seems a difficult task to reconcile the principles of the Draft Communications Bill which seeks to closely monitor the lives of individuals, with the Justice and Security Bill which could do the opposite for Government. The Law Society, which represents many of the lawyers who will be working in and with any new legal framework, will seek strenuously to ensure that the fundamental principles of British justice are maintained.'
Crime and Courts Bill:
Television cameras in court:
'We welcome measures designed to improve public confidence in and knowledge of the justice system, and support the principle of open justice.
'We have concerns, however, that allowing TV cameras into courts may lead to selective and sensational reporting, and cause even more stress to victims of crime, witnesses and defendants alike.
'We are pleased the government intends to introduce live broadcasting in limited circumstances only, and we look forward to considering their detailed proposals.'
On reforming the judicial appointments process: 'We support many of the changes which reflect Baroness Neuberger's recommendations, however, we have concerns over what appears to be an enlarged involvement for the Lord Chancellor in, for example, the appointment panel for the President of the Supreme Court and the Lord Chief Justice. This may raise questions over the true independence of the judiciary.
'Moves to encourage flexible judicial deployment are positive and will make it possible for High Court judges to work part time or opt for flexible working and help to ease the transfer of judges between courts and tribunals.'
Children and Families Bill
'Most separating and divorcing couples are able to reach informal or formal parenting arrangements without the need to go to court. For the minority who go to court, often the most high-conflict cases, it is not simply true that the courts are biased towards mothers: there is and can only be one bias – the welfare of the child.
'The risk is that 'shared parenting' or 'shared parental responsibility' is too easily misinterpreted as meaning equal time with each parent. This can lead to a focus on the rights of parents over the rights of children, and an understanding that the starting point is 'equal time'. Unfortunately, this is only likely to entrench attitudes among litigating parents.'
'The Family Justice Review had good reason for reaching the conclusion that 'no legislation should be introduced that creates or risks creating the perception that there is a parental right to substantially shared or equal time for both parents.'
'The Law Society welcomes the announcement in the Queen's Speech that the Government will be bringing forward a Defamation Bill in this Parliamentary session. If the Government's response to the Joint Committee report provides an accurate indication of the new Bill's content, then we expect the vast majority of its provisions to lead to a clearer, more proportionate defamation law regime, and we look forward to examining them in detail.
'We do however hold deep reservations about the proposals to introduce a requirement that statements cause “serious harm” to be actionable. We agree that a mechanism is needed to discourage trivial claims, but this proposal is likely to inhibit many people trying to validly protect their reputation from doing so.
'If the purpose of this law is to stop the protection of reputation from becoming the sole preserve of the rich, then this proposal is the wrong way to go about it, as it will create an unreasonably high threshold to overcome at a very early stage, necessitating extensive and costly pre-action work. In combination with the recent changes to no-win, no-fee agreements, ordinary people, small businesses and charities may simply not be able to afford to protect their reputation if this provision becomes law.'