Law in Action

Law in Action

United Kingdom

Joshua Rozenberg presents Radio 4's long-running legal magazine programme, featuring reports and discussion on matters relating to law


Joint Enterprise and Homicide Law  

Joint Enterprise is the law by which a group of people can be convicted with the same offence and earlier this year the Supreme Court ruled that Joint Enterprise law had been misinterpreted for 30 years. This gave campaigners significant hope as they say Joint Enterprise is an unjust law, especially when applied to murder convictions because all defendants face the same mandatory life sentence even if they were periphery players. But these hopes were dashed when the Court of Appeal announced that it was not going to permit thirteen Joint Enterprise murder convictions to be reviewed. Joshua Rozenberg explores why the court came to this decision - and asks if the perceived unfairness over Joint Enterprise points to bigger problems with the law of homicide. Also on the programme: Soon-to-be President Donald Trump has said one of his most important tasks will be to appoint a judge to the US Supreme Court, which he has said would be pro-life and pro-gun ownership. To what extent can he be sure that the Supreme Justices will do his bidding? And after 500 years, the trial of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark will be heard in London in a mock trial featuring real QCs, and a real judge. Law in Action hears how the prosecution and defence are going to state their case. CONTRIBUTORS Gloria Morrison, campaign co-ordinator for JENGBA (Joint Enterprise, Not Guilty by Association) Alison Levitt QC Bob Neill MP, chair of the Justice Select Committee James Zirin, lawyer and author of Supremely Partisan Ian Winter QC Ruth Brock, chief executive of the Shakespeare Schools Festival Shaheed Fatima QC Lady Justice Hallett PRODUCERS: Matt Bardo & Richard Fenton-Smith EDITOR: Penny Murphy.

Brexit in the High Court  

The High Court has decided that Prime Minister Theresa May cannot trigger Brexit without an Act of Parliament - but what are the legal ramifications of this ruling? This week, Joshua Rozenberg explores this latest chapter in Britain's exit from the EU - the fallout from which has seen highly personal attacks on England's most senior judges, as the ideological divisions seen in the run up to the referendum vote were exposed once more. Following our previous edition of Law in Action, which aired straight after the referendum vote, the programme has gone back to the same leading legal minds to seek some clarity amid the conflicting and confusing media coverage. Has the high court's decision really stalled Brexit as leave voters fear - and some remainers hope? Just how will the so-called 'Great Repeal Bill' work in practice? And will the UK still have to comply with EU laws if it wants to continue to trade with the continent? CONTRIBUTORS Prof Catherine Barnard, Professor of European Law at the University of Cambridge Prof Mark Elliott, Professor of Public Law at University of Cambridge Producers: Matt Bardo & Richard Fenton-Smith.

Terrorism, Extremism and the Law  

Do the laws designed to counter terrorism and extremism strike the right balance between stopping violent attacks and protecting our civil liberties? Weighing up this question has been one of the main tasks of David Anderson QC - the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. Mr Anderson is due to step down after six years in the post, and he speaks to Joshua Rozbenberg about the changes he has seen in counter-terrorism law, and whether the net has now been cast too wide in the fight against extremism. One critic of the current law is Salman Butt who is bringing a judicial review case against the Home Office, which he says unfairly labelled him as an extremist speaker. Mr Butt, who is the editor of the website Islam 21c, says the government conflates conservative religious views with extremism and this unfairly targets members of the Muslim community. Next month at the High Court he will be challenging sections of the government's Prevent counter-extremism policy, which he says conflicts with the right to free speech. These concerns are shared by the Home Affairs select committee which has also criticised the policy, with MPs saying that that unless concerns among the Muslim community are addressed, Prevent would continue to be viewed by many as toxic. Law in Action has also discovered that one of the key architects of Prevent also believes it has lost its way. In this programme, Joshua Rozenberg speaks to former GCHQ director Sir David Omand about how the strategy was devised and how it differs to his original vision. Producers: Richard Fenton-Smith & Matt Bardo Editor: Penny Murphy.

Interview with Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions  

Thirty years ago the Crown Prosecution Service was established - the body which acts as a gatekeeper to the criminal justice system of England and Wales. Those three decades have not been an easy ride for the CPS, which faced staffing shortages from the start. What's beyond doubt is that a well-run prosecution service is essential if the criminal courts are going to deliver justice. In this first programme of the new series, Joshua Rozenberg speaks to the current head of the CPS - the Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders. They discuss how the CPS has changed the legal landscape, as well as some of the key areas of work for the CPS in recent years such as increasing the success rate of rape prosecutions; bringing historical child sexual abuse cases to trial; the recovery of proceeds of crime; and the new challenges social media is presenting for the justice system. Producer: Richard Fenton-Smith.

Brexit: The Legal Minefield  

Brexit: the Legal Minefield How will the UK achieve its new status? Will the referendum result lead to real legal independence? Joshua Rozenberg and a panel of guests discuss the legal journey Britain must now take. They examine practical questions like workers' rights, the free movement of people and goods, as well as the constitution and human rights. Producer Simon Coates Editor Penny Murphy.

Sexual Risk Orders  

A man living in Yorkshire has been told he must give the police 24 hours before he plans to have sex - despite having no conviction, after being cleared during a rape trial last year. This restriction on his behaviour is a result of a Sexual Risk Order - what some have dubbed 'Sex ASBOS' - which have been designed to prohibit the activity of people deemed to be a potential threat to the public. This could be limiting access to the internet or preventing people from being alone with children - but is there a fine line between crime prevention, and unfairly punishing people who have no criminal record? Plus: The decision to raise court fees in England and Wales has been a controversial one and this week the House of Commons Justice Committee published its report on the policy. It didn't pull any punches. Joshua Rozenberg speaks to committee chairman Bob Neill MP. Finally: the quality of the courtroom performance of witnesses can determine the difference in winning or losing a case. Law in Action finds a court where people are actively encouraged to kick up a song and dance - the Karaoke Court. In East London artist and law graduate Jack Tan has created a mock courtroom, with all the traditional trappings of the law re-imagined. He wants to revive the spirit of Central Arctic Eskimo song duels, in which claims were resolved through singing. A paying audience will help to decide disputes between a number of litigants, singing their case in front of a real-live circuit judge who'll act as an arbitrator. CONTRIBUTORS Bob Neill MP, Chair of the House of Commons Justice Committee Hugh Davies QC, Three Raymond Buildings Detective Superintendent Nigel Costello, North Yorkshire Police Jack Tan, Artist PRODUCERS: Richard Fenton-Smith & Ben Crighton.

Coercive and Controlling Behaviour  

Six months ago, new laws on coercive and controlling behaviour were introduced, targeting those who subject spouses, partners and family members to psychological and emotional torment - but stop short of violence. The type of abuse covered by the new offence could include a pattern of threats, humiliation and intimidation, or stopping someone from socialising, controlling their social media accounts, surveillance through apps and dictating what they wear. It's an issue featured in Radio 4's The Archers, in a story-line which saw character Rob Titchener's long-term emotional abuse of wife Helen slowly drip fed to listeners over two-and-a-half years, bringing wide public attention to the problem. But what about the women who this affects in real life? Joshua Rozenberg speaks to Gemma Doherty about the physical and emotional abuse she suffered while living with her partner Mohammed Anwar. Mr Anwar sought to control every aspect of Gemma's life, from who she socialised with, her diet, and an enforced exercise regime. Mr Anwar became one of the first men jailed for the new offence. He also speaks to Women's Aid - one of several charities which campaigned for the new law, which hopes that the threat of a conviction will help bring in cultural changes in how some people conduct themselves in relationships. Also: Joshua interviews Peter Clarke, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, to find out what he has learned six months into taking up his new post. Producers: Ben Crighton and Richard Fenton-Smith.

Artificial Intelligence and the Law  

Artificial Intelligence has made great advances in recent years, with computer scientists developing cars without drivers, planes without pilots and mobile phones which can double up as a personal assistant. The legal profession is proving to be rich territory in the AI field too. Joshua Rozenberg meets computer scientists at the University of Liverpool, who are using 'computational argumentation' to digitally decide the results of legal cases, proving that AI can be just as discerning as a court judge. He also meets the founder of a law firm already making the most of existing AI technology to benefit customers and build business. But just how far is the legal profession - and the general public - willing to trust the judgement of an AI algorithm? The IT Adviser to the Lord Chief Justice, Professor Richard Susskind, explains where AI might fit into the legal sphere in years to come. Also: The First 100 Years is a new digital history project, charting the pioneering role women have played in the legal profession. Law in Action speaks to the project's founder Dana Denis-Smith and Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss. Producers: Richard Fenton-Smith & Ben Crighton.

Genocide v Crimes Against Humanity  

What does 'genocide' mean? How does it differ from 'crimes against humanity'? And why should there be such tension between two apparently related concepts - and between the two lawyers who devised them? Joshua Rozenberg explores the origins of international criminal law. Producer: Ben Crighton Editor: Penny Murphy (Image: The bones of thousands of genocide victims inside a crypt in Nyamata, Rwanda. Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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