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Penal Affairs Panel: News Issue 6 2010

Welcome to another PAP News . The Penal Affairs Panel of the Unitarians brings you some more news of the concerns and good news of the criminal justice system.

Do tell us about your social action activities so we can pass the news and ideas to other Unitarians through the PAP News . Please do print copies for your own meeting.

1. Votes for Prisoners - What is the UK doing? In 2005, in the case of Hirst v. UK, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights ruled that a blanket ban on voting by prisoners in the UK was unlawful. Since then, the UK has done nothing. In June this year, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers expressed profound regret that the ban had remained for the 2010 elections and urged the UK to act on the Hirst ruling in time for the 2011 elections in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

2. No Secret Material in Civil Cases When six appellants, some who had been detained at Guantanamo Bay, sued the UK for civil damages, on appeal, the sole judge ruled it was lawful to use "closed" or secret information in a civil trial. The Appeal Court has allowed the further appeal. In principle, each litigant should see and hear all the evidence. The "closed material" system should not spread to civil cases. Not only was it also contrary to the Civil Procedure Rules but such a development would make much civil litigation unmanageable by the Courts. See Al Rawi v Security Service [2010] EWCA Civ 482, 4 May 2010 .

3. Sex Offenders Can Be Relieved From the Duty to Notify Police A person convicted of a sexual offence and sentenced to imprisonment for 30 months or more must, after release, notify the police of where they live, any address at which they stay for more than 7days and if they travel aboard. The requirements are automatic, life-long and not capable of review. The Supreme Court has decided that the registration requirements are contrary to Article 8 of the Human Rights Convention - the right to respect for private and family life. The Supreme Court rejected the submission that sex offenders could never show they did not pose a significant risk of further offending. See: www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKSC/2010/17.html

4. Refugee and Migrant Justice go into Administration A major provider of legal advice and representation for asylum-seekers and migrants was forced to close in June, 2010. The charity blamed the delays in payment of nearly £2m by the Legal Services Commission. The RMJ had helped more 100,000 people since it was set up in 1992 and was currently helping some 10,000 asylum-seekers including 900 separated children. The PAP for the Unitarians was amongst those who protested to the Ministry of Justice who replied that it must "achieve value for public money". RMJ's existing cases are being shared out amongst the other not-for-profit organizations and law firms helping refugees. See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10324774

5. More Legal Aid Cuts News that the Legal Services Commission has completed a review which is likely to result in the reduction of legal aid firms of solicitors from 2400 to 1300 has brought protests from the Law Society. It has called for the Government to suspend the proposals and publish the review in detail and is considering legal action. The Refugee Council has also protested that as asylum-seekers have no choice but to rely on public-funded legal advice. See http://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/news/reviews/newsreview/NR2010/270810_newsreview

6. Government Pledge to End Detention of Children Dropped The coalition Government has quietly changed its pledge from "to end" to "to minimize" the detention of children in prisons and detention centres. See www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/sep/09/detention-children-immigration-centres

7. Medical Justice Survey on Damage to Detained Children The charity, Medical Justice, has published what is described as one of the most comprehensive surveys of children in detention. The report "State Sponsored Cruelty" gives details of the examination of 141 families and children and found more than 74 of the children had been psychologically harmed by detention. Six had suicidal thoughts and three girls had attempted suicide whilst in detention. See www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/child-refugees-harmed-by-cruel-detention-system-2074220.html

8. Churches Criminal Justice Forum Network 28.10.10 The CCJF, on which the PAP represents the Unitarians, is to hold a Network meeting at The Sanctuary, Trinity Church, Mount Street , Stafford between 12.30 and 4.00 pm . There will be a celebrity speaker and an "Action Forum". Take your own lunch. See http://www.ccjf.org

9. And finally .. Does your Unitarian church, chapel or meeting have a Social Justice, Human Rights, Social Responsibility or similar group? The PAP knows of several and would like to join us together. Please send us a few words of your title and your activities for the PAP News to bruce_chilton@hotmail.com.

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