Presumption of innocence?

Photo by Kay on Unsplash

A deeply embedded principle?

Should the accused in a criminal trial enjoy the presumption of innocence?

This is a long established principle of criminal law in the Western World that I have taken for granted since my first days at university. I always remember Professor Kenny Miller (of Strathclyde University’s Law School) correcting students who spoke in error about the ‘guilty’ person in a Scottish criminal trial. They were quickly admonished and reminded of the maxim that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

Indeed, Article 11 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights takes the view that the presumption of innocence is a fundamental human right.

Furthermore, Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights establishes the right to a fair trial and this includes the presumption of innocence. In the United Kingdom, this very important right has been incorporated into Scots, English and Northern Irish law via the Human Rights Act 1998. In Scotland, we, of course, have an additional layer of protection with the Scotland Act 1998.

Article 48 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights also echoes Article 6 of the European Convention.

Going back to the historical record, the Byzantine or Roman Emperor Justinian I emphasised the presumption of innocence for the accused as part of codification of Roman Law between 529-534 CE. Admittedly, Justinian was building on previous Roman legal practice as the Emperor Antoninus Pius (he of the less well known Wall for our Scottish readers) had introduced the principle during his reign between 138 and 161 CE.

The Romans would say Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat; translated as Proof lies on him who asserts, not on him who denies.

Jewish and Islamic scholars have, historically, also placed huge importance on the presumption of innocence as a cornerstone of their legal practices. Both the Jewish Talmud and Islamic Hadiths (sayings or practices of the Prophet) testify to this.

The Carlos Ghosn Affair

So, why am I reflecting on this area this dull and rainy second day of the New Year?

The escape from Japan of Carlos Ghosn brought the principle forcibly to mind this New Year. Mr Ghosn is the former Chief Executive of Nissan who has been accused of defrauding his former employer.

Mr Ghosn was under effective house arrest in Japan until a few days ago. Allegedly, with the help of his wife, he escaped from that country to the Republic of Lebanon (of which he is a citizen) The escape reads like something from a Hollywood movie script (the Mission: Impossible series anyone?) with Mr Ghosn hiding in a musical instrument case (presumably not a violin case) in order to make good his unauthorised exit from Japan.

A link to an article about Mr Ghosn’s escape in The Independent can be found below:

https://edition.independent.co.uk/editions/uk.co.independent.issue.020120/data/9266461/index.html

A link to a YouTube film about the Affair can be found below:

https://youtu.be/BAxwWW5Ldqo

What is Mr Ghosn’s motivation for leaving Japan in this dramatic way? He claims to have no faith in Japanese justice in that the legal system of that country presumes his guilt.

The Japanese criminal justice system

Not possessing a great deal of knowledge about Japanese criminal practice, I admit that I was somewhat intrigued by Mr Ghosn’s assertions.

I had also just finished reading Owen Matthew’s excellent biography* of Richard Sorge, probably the most successful spy in modern history (and a possible role model for James Bond). Sorge had been spying for the Soviet Union in Japan in the 1930s and 1940s until he was unmasked and arrested in 1941. The treatment of Sorge at the hands of the Japanese criminal justice authorities forms part of the climax to the book.

As Owen Matthews notes:

Japanese justice, surprisingly, for an authoritarian state, turned out to be both thorough and scrupulous. The three volumes of investigative documents prepared by the Tokko [the Japanese Police] are exhaustive, far more professional than the cursory evidence which the NKVD [the forerunner of the Soviet KGB] assembled to convict hundreds of thousands of suspected spies in the 1930s.’ [p345]

Does the Japanese criminal code presume the guilt of persons on trial, as opposed to their innocence?

I decided to investigate …

… what I discovered was something rather more subtle.

The Japanese legal system does recognise the right of the accused to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise – despite Mr Ghosn’s claims. The burden of proof rests on the prosecution to demonstrate the guilt of the accused (as in Scotland, England, the United States etc).

There are indeed criticisms of the Japanese legal system that could be made (but no legal system is immune from criticism). In particular, the practice of not allowing suspects to have access to a lawyer during Police interrogation has been highlighted as a weakness of the system.

Before Scots lawyers get too smug, we would do well to remember the Peter Cadder case which led to an overhaul of Scottish criminal practice (see Cadder v HMA [2010] UKSC 43).

Another criticism of the Japanese legal system seems to centre around the practice of prosecutors rearresting an accused when s/he has been acquitted by a lower court. The accused is then taken before a superior criminal court for a further trial and, possibly, conviction.

That said, in Scotland (and in England), we have abolished the double jeopardy rule, but this does not mean that prosecutors have free range to do what they like.

Finally, an accused who maintains his/her innocence under the Japanese legal system, is often not granted bail and can therefore be expected to undergo a lengthy period of detention until the case is brought to trial (Mr Ghosn was perhaps luckier than most being under house arrest). Critics of this aspect of the legal system have pointed out that it puts suspects under duress making them more likely to make an admission of guilt. Mr Ghosn had apparently spent 120 days in detention before bail (with very strict conditions) was granted last year.

Links to articles about the Japanese legal system from the local media can be found below:

https://www.nippon.com/en/japan-topics/c05403/at-the-mercy-of-the-system-criminal-justice-and-capital-punishment-in-japan.html

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190109/p2a/00m/0na/015000c

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2003/12/09/issues/burden-of-proof-impossible-to-bear/#.Xg456i-nyhA

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/01/05/national/media-national/international-scrutiny-japans-criminal-justice-system-fair/#.XhUY0S-nyhA

Conclusion

The principle of presuming the innocence of the accused in a criminal trial until proven otherwise is a deeply rooted one in the Western World. It is a cornerstone of our justice systems. The United Nations regards it as a fundamental human right in terms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Yet, to assume that it is a Western concept alone, would be a monstrous conceit. Jewish and Islamic legal scholarship have both emphasised the importance of this principle.

Japan, as a member of the United Nations, also recognises the importance of the principle – which makes some of Mr Ghosn’s claims somewhat misjudged. Yes, the operation of the Japanese criminal justice system can and is the subject of criticism, but this observation also applies to every other legal system in the World.

* “An Impeccable Spy – Richard Sorge – Stalin’s Master Agent” by Owen Matthews (Bloomsbury Publishing: 2019)

Copyright Seán J Crossan, 2 January 2020

Alexa, there’s been a murder!

Photo by Grant Ritchie on Unsplash

Technology: blessing or curse?

The law has always had to deal with technological advances and these developments are often presented in a way which shows the legal system all too often playing catch up. The chronic problem of identity fraud is a case in point.

What if, however, we look at things from a different angle? Could the law use technology to its advantage?

Alexa, there’s been a murder!

Recently, I was intrigued by a story from the American State of Florida. In November 2019, it was widely reported that the Police in Florida had been able to solve a murder. Nothing particularly unusual about that, but it was the circumstances surrounding the murder which I found striking.

Adam Reechard Crespo was accused of murdering his girlfriend, Silvia Galva when she sustained a knife wound to her chest. Broward County Sheriff Department led the investigation into Ms Galva’s death and Crespo was the prime suspect.

The Sheriff’s Department was particularly anxious to obtain access to Crespo’s Amazon Echo speaker (which is connected to Amazon Alexa). It was believed that the transcripts of the recordings would shed vital evidence on the circumstances of the crime and the relevant search warrants were duly obtained by the officers of the law.

Interestingly, Crespo’s defence lawyers were also keen to have access to the Alexa transcripts in the belief that they might establish his innocence.

A link to the story on the Sky News website can be found below:

https://news.sky.com/story/amazon-echo-may-have-been-a-witness-to-a-suspected-murder-11852886

Before we get carried away, it’s useful to remember that forward thinking legal professionals (the police; defence and prosecuting lawyers) have always been keen to use technological advances in support of their work.

Photographic evidence

Some years ago, I was reading an article in The Derry Journal from Northern Ireland which recounted the story of the first murder trial in British legal history where photographic evidence was used. The accused was Father James McFadden, a Roman Catholic priest who was suspected of involvement in a conspiracy to murder William Martin, a Royal Irish Constabulary Inspector, in Gweedore, County Donegal in February 1889 (the locality was still part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland).

The murder took place against the backdrop to the so called Donegal Sheep Wars where wealthy landowners were driving their tenants off their estates in order to prioritise sheep farming. In this way, the situation was very similar to what happened in Scotland during the Highland Clearances. Father McFadden was a prominent supporter of the Irish Land League which was a political and social movement which campaigned against the actions of the landowners.

Anyway, back to Father McFadden’s fate: he was eventually acquitted of murder by the Court thanks, in no small part, to photographs which had been taken by the Glasgow born, James Glass (now residing in Derry). The priest’s defence lawyers had approached Glass to take a series of pictures of rural life in County Donegal. Their intention in doing so was to provide context to the case i.e. the harshness of day to day living for many people in that part of the world. Father McFadden eventually agreed to plead guilty to the far lesser charge of obstructing Police officers (for which he served 9 months in total in Derry Gaol).

A link to the article in The Derry Journal about Father McFadden’s trial can be found below:

https://www.derryjournal.com/lifestyle/a-derry-photographer-a-murder-and-a-court-case-1-5468222

Fingerprint evidence

Fingerprint evidence was first used in a criminal trial in the United Kingdom in 1902 where it was used to convict Harry Jackson who had been accused of the theft of billiard balls.

That said, in 1858, Sir William Herschel, a senior Magistrate in British ruled India was the first European who had allegedly compiled the first fingerprint register to assist him in his work.

A link to an article about the historical importance of fingerprint evidence can be found below:

https://www.oldpolicecellsmuseum.org.uk/content/learning/educational-programmes-and-tours/first-convictions-uk-based-fingerprint-evidence

The Telegraph system

In 1910, Dr Harvey Hawley Crippen was attempting to flee English justice. The doctor had murdered his wife and had taken passage on the liner, Montrose, which was sailing to Canada.

Crippen was travelling under a false name and had attempted to disguise himself. The Captain of the ship recognised Crippen and his lover (who was disguised as a boy in order to pass herself as the doctor’s ‘son’).

Captain Kendall ordered the ship’s telegraphist to send a message with this intelligence to Scotland Yard. This was fortunate because the ship had not yet left the telegraph range of the British Isles. Had the Captain made the discovery later, the story might have had a very different outcome.

Upon receiving this news, Chief Inspector Dew, who was leading the murder investigation, boarded a faster liner, SS Laurentic, which arrived in Canada before the Montrose. The good Chief Inspector boarded Montrose as it came into the St Lawrence River (he was disguised as a river pilot). The Captain of the Montrose had, by now good reason to believe that the fugitives would be caught. He invited the pair to meet the pilots as they were boarding the vessel. At that point, Chief Inspector Dew revealed his true identity. Dew was able to effect Crippen’s arrest because Canada was, at this time, still a Dominion of the British Empire.

Doctor Crippen was sent back across the Atlantic to England where, following his trial at the Old Bailey, he was executed by hanging at Pentonville Prison.

DNA samples

DNA evidence was first used in 1986 to convict Colin Pitchfork of the rape and murder of two girls (which had occurred 3 years earlier in the Leicestershire area of Narborough). Sir Alec Jeffreys, a genetic scientist, had made the fortuitous breakthrough that DNA could be used to solve crimes as part of his research. Crucially, the test which Jeffreys developed helped to clear the name of an other suspect in the investigation (Richard Buckland).

A link to an article in The Guardian reflecting on the 30th anniversary of this momentous effect of DNA profiling can be found below:

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jun/07/killer-dna-evidence-genetic-profiling-criminal-investigation

The Elaine Doyle Murder Case

The contribution of DNA as corroborative evidence was powerfully brought home to me in a fairly recent Scottish murder trial and appeal before the High Court of Justiciary in which a 30 year old murder was finally solved (see Her Majesty’s Advocate v John Docherty [2014]; and John Docherty v Her Majesty’s Advocate [2016] HCJAC 49 HCA/2014/3517/XC).

I have to confess more than a slight interest in the case: my father was a member of the CID team which worked on it during the mid 1980s.

In 1986, Elaine Doyle aged 16, was found murdered near her home in Greenock. Despite an extensive Police investigation, the murderer was never caught. Hopes of a breakthrough to this unsolved murder seemed to dwindle as the years went by.

Until a breakthrough came unexpectedly (and somewhat sensationally) in 2012 when John Docherty was identified as a suspect.

As Lord Carloway, the Lord Justice General, noted crime scene officers at the time of the murder had collected DNA evidence – the value of which would only become apparent nearly 3 decades later:

‘The principal evidence against the appellant [John Docherty] came, first, from matches between the appellant’s DNA, ultimately obtained in 2012, and cells captured on tape applied to the body of the deceased as it lay in the lane shortly after its discovery.’

As Lord Carloway, the Lord Justice General also remarked in the murderer’s appeal against conviction and sentence (in 2016):

‘The protection of the crime scene in 1986 was not as it would be today. By coincidence, an early part of the investigation at the scene was video recorded, in what was then a pioneering experiment. This was in the days before DNA profiling had captured the imagination of criminal investigators; modern processes only having been developed two years later.’

It was during a review of the tape sample in 2008 (when the extraction of DNA from older samples had greatly improved) that the first steps towards a tentative breakthrough arose. In 2011 and 2012, a review of the index of names held by the Police led to John Docherty being traced. In 1986, a friend of Docherty’s had identified him as a person of interest in a statement to the Police. Regrettably, Docherty was never questioned. When this omission came to light during the cold case review in 2011/12, Docherty was asked to provide a voluntary sample of DNA to the Police – along with the hundreds of other local men who were viewed as potential suspects. Docherty actually provided two samples and these matched the cells captured on the piece of tape taken from the crime scene in 1986.

Docherty was finally brought to justice in June 2014 when, after a 52 day trial at the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh, he was convicted of the murder of Elaine Doyle. Sadly, Elaine’s father never lived to see this day.

Although Docherty’s defence team challenged the DNA evidence on the grounds that the 1986 sample could have been contaminated and was therefore unreliable, the jury (by majority verdict) clearly was of the opinion that the Crown’s evidence proved beyond reasonable doubt that he was the murderer.

A link to the judgement of the Appeal Court of the High Court of Justiciary can be found below:

https://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/format.cgi?doc=/scot/cases/ScotHC/2016/[2016]HCJAC49.html&query=(Elaine)+AND+(Doyle)

CCTV footage

Finally, CCTV evidence has been used successfully by the prosecution to obtain convictions. In earlier Blog (Corroboration published on 1 March 2019), I discussed the use of CCTV footage in relation to the appeal of Jacqueline Shuttleton against a conviction for careless driving in terms of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (see Jacqueline Shuttleton v Procurator Fiscal, Glasgow [2019] HCJAC 12 HCA/2019/20/XC).

In the Shuttleton appeal, reference was made to an earlier decision – Gubinas & Radavicius v HMA [2017] SCCR 463.

Gubinas & Radavicius contained a very interesting statement (at paragraph 59) which became known as the “Cluedo” reference (after the well known murder mystery board game):

….once the provenance of the images is shown, they become real evidence in causa which the sheriff or jury can use to establish fact, irrespective of concurring or conflicting testimony. Even if all the witnesses say that the deceased was stabbed in the conservatory, if CCTV images show that he was shot in the library, then so be it.

Related Blog article:

Corroboration

https://seancrossansscotslaw.com/2019/03/01/corroboration/

Conclusion

Although technology can often be portrayed as leaving the Police and the legal profession playing catch up, there can be no doubt that when the potential of these developments is appreciated they can be of great assistance to the cause of justice. In particular, advances in photographic and CCTV evidence and DNA and fingerprint samples have undoubtedly been of great service to criminal law – for both the prosecution and the defence.

Copyright – Seán J Crossan, 28 December 2019

A civil action

Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash

What if criminal law lets down victims (and by extension their families)? Over the past year, several of my Blogs have looked at situations where the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service have either not succeeded in prosecuting a suspect in a criminal case or have declined to do so.

In Scotland, the ability to bring a private prosecution is heavily restricted making it almost an impossible task to obtain the necessary authorisation from the High Court of Justiciary (via a Bill of Criminal Letters).

Victims (or their families) will often then have little choice but to turn civil law for some sort of resolution – usually an action for compensation.

I often emphasise to students that criminal and civil law have very different objectives: criminal law is used by the State to punish those individuals who would threaten the safety or security of the community by their actions; civil law, in this context, is primarily concerned with compensating the victims of a wrongful act.

Admittedly, certain types of conduct can be both criminal and civil in nature e.g. assault, dangerous driving, fraud and theft. This means that an individual could face the prospect of two trials. The outcome of each trial is independent of each other.

It is also worth remembering that criminal and civil law have different standards of proof. In a criminal trial, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of a crime; in civil law, the claimant (or pursuer) must show on the balance of probabilities that the respondent (defender) was responsible for the harm caused. The civil standard of proof is therefore a lower standard of proof.

So, it was of some interest that, in the last week, two stories were widely reported in the media which highlighted the difference between the two systems.

In the first story, it was established that John Downey, a former member of the Irish Republican Army, bore responsibility for the deaths of four members of the Household Cavalry (two British Army regiments) in July 1982. An IRA active service unit had planted a car bomb in London which had caused these fatalities. Downey was a member of that unit, but he had immunity from criminal prosecution under the terms of the Belfast (or Good Friday) Agreement 1998. The families of the victims had no alternative but to raise a civil legal action in the English High Court in order to establish that Downey was an active participant in the planning and execution of the bombing. The success of this action means that the families can now pursue Downey for damages (see Sarah Jane Young v John Anthony Downey [2019] EWHC 3508 (QB)).

It is important to stress that this judgement establishes Downey’s civil liability for the deaths of the four serving members of the British armed forces; it does not establish criminal liability.

A link to the judgement of the English High Court can be found below:

https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/APPROVED-JUDGMENT-Young-v-Downey-18.12.19.pdf

The second story is from further afield and involves a female, Japanese journalist (Shiori Ito) who successfully sued a male TV journalist (Noriyuki Yamaguchi) who had raped her. This case broke many taboos in Japan because victims of rape tend not to publicise their ordeal. Again, the decision of Tokyo’s District Court establishes Yamaguchi’s civil liability for rape – not criminal liability.

In Scotland, of course, we have had two recent civil actions whereby victims of rape have successfully pursued their attackers for the right to receive compensation. It might not be the ideal solution, but in the absence of any action on the part of the State prosecution authorities, it may be the only recourse to justice that the victims have.

Links to media articles about the two cases can be found below:

https://news.sky.com/story/hyde-park-bombing-ira-member-john-downey-was-responsible-for-1982-attack-11889683

Journalist wins Japan civil rape case

Related Blog Articles:

The public interest?

https://seancrossansscotslaw.com/2019/11/12/the-public-interest/

The burden of proof

https://seancrossansscotslaw.com/2019/02/10/the-burden-of-proof/

Private prosecutions

https://seancrossansscotslaw.com/2019/05/29/private-prosecutions/

Copyright Seán J Crossan, 23 December 2019

Hitman (or woman) for hire

Photo by Dimitri Houtteman on Unsplash

Implausible or unlikely as the above Blog title may sound, you can apparently hire people to carry out murders on your behalf – quite easily.

How did I find this out? Simply by chancing upon another Blog article on WordPress. This article exposed one chilling aspect of modern life: the reality of the so called ‘dark web’. This is an unregulated part of the internet where all sorts of criminal activities (arms dealing, drugs, human trafficking, prostitution – and even murder for hire) can be accessed.

The article in question (see the link below) discussed a situation where someone arranged the murder (or a ‘hit’) on their stepmother for $5:

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/22973954/posts/2522423606

We often think of contract killings as being something straight out of Hollywood. After all, one of the most popular movies currently being aired on Netflix is ‘The Irishman‘ (directed by Martin Scorsese) which depicts the life and times of Frank Sheeran, an enforcer for the Mafia. In one of the scenes, an enquiry is put to Sheeran by Russell Bufalino, a Mafia boss: ‘I hear you paint houses?’ Painting houses has nothing to do with interior decoration, but rather that Sheeran is a gun for hire.

Going back a few years, a terrific (and underrated) Hollywood movie starring Brad Pitt and the late, great James Gandolfini (‘Killing Them Softly’) had scenes with the main character, Jackie Cogan (played by Pitt) negotiating contract killings with a Mafia lawyer – as if this was a normal business transaction (in certain worlds/sub-cultures it will be).

It so happened this morning, that I was discussing the law of contract with a group of students. In particular, I had planned to talk to them about void contracts. The above article was, therefore, something of a fortunate discovery in that arranging the murder of another person (for a fee) is a really graphic example of a void agreement. In other words, such an agreement is a criminal conspiracy.

I also have to add that I was pretty shocked at the very low value placed on the potential act of taking of another human life.

If an agreement (or part of it) is deemed to be void, it can have no legal force – it is as if it never existed. Neither party to the agreement can enforce it. So, if the person who hired the killer was unhappy that the murder had not in fact been carried out or had been botched in some way, would they have any legal redress?

I hope you answered absolutely not! The law would be a complete ass if participants in criminal conspiracies were able to enforce their agreements in the civil courts on the basis of contract law. Such a situation would positively encourage people to enter into all sorts of questionable activities.

It reminds me of the case recounted to my first year law class by Professor John Huntley many years ago (Everet v Williams [1725] 2 Pothier on Obligations 3 9 LQR 197). He told the story of the two highway robbers who agreed to split the proceeds of their crimes on a 50/50 basis. One of the robbers made off with the stash leaving his partner in crime with nothing. This unfortunate individual took legal action to recover his share. As Professor Huntley concluded, when the judge discovered the background to the legal action, he was very fair: he ordered that the two highwaymen should be put to death by hanging.

That is the moral of the story: if you get involved in a criminal conspiracy, the law does not offer you any protection if you are cheated by your partners in crime. Furthermore, silence (on your part) is probably a sensible option because to attempt to recover your share of the ill gotten gains would amount to a confession of guilt on your part. Don’t be naive and think you could be vague about the background to the legal action; the judge will almost certainly want to know why you are raising an action to recover a debt or items of property.

Copyright Seán J Crossan, 18 December 2019

Decriminalisation?

Photo by Seán J Crossan

Don’t worry: I renewed my TV licence before the deadline.

Failure to obtain a TV licence (unless you benefit from an exemption) is a criminal offence and could be punishable by a fine of up to £1,000.

Currently, the Communications Act 2003 and the Communications (TV Licensing) Regulations 2004 contains the relevant law.

So, it was with some interest that I read that the UK Government intends to review the law and decriminalisation may be an option. This of course, would mean that it would no longer be a criminal offence for failure to obtain a TV licence.

A link to the story on the Sky News website can be found below:

https://news.sky.com/story/government-reviewing-decriminalising-non-payment-of-bbc-licence-fee-11888375

When beginning my introductory lectures about law and legal obligations, I often remark to my students that legal principles or rules (especially in relation to criminal law) are a reflection of society’s values.

Well, guess what? Society can move on or evolve. The law is a living, breathing entity. There is nothing fixed about it.

This week, a new UK Parliament will convene at Westminster following last Thursday‘s General Election. It is a widely accepted constitutional principle that no Parliament can bind its successors. The Prime Minister has already signalled his intention to take a very different path from the Parliament that sat between June 2017 and December 2019.

When discussing the possible decriminalisation with regard to non-payment of the TV licence fee, one of my students asked what would happen to those individuals who had previously been convicted of this offence?

Too bad; tough, I responded. That is the law and if you break it, you pay the penalty. So, a final word of warning: don’t be tempted to flout the law in the hope that decriminalisation will happen any time soon.

Commit the crime, pay the fine.

Copyright Seán J Crossan, 16 December 2019

Smacking: banned!

Photo by Anna Kolosyuk on Unsplash

John Finnie, a Green Party member of the Scottish Parliament introduced a Bill (Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill) on 6 September 2018.

This Bill seeks to remove the common law defence of reasonable chastisement in Scotland which permits parents and guardians (primarily) to use smacking as a punishment in relation to children in their care.

The main objective of the Bill was expressed in its accompanying Explanatory Notes:

A person charged with assault of a child will no longer be entitled to claim that a use of physical force was justifiable on the basis that it was physical punishment administered in exercise of a parental right (or a right derived from having care or charge of a child). This will give children the same protection from assault as adults.

This week (beginning 30 September 2019), Mr Fannie’s Bill passed Stage 3 of the legislative process in the Scottish Parliament. The Bill will shortly receive the Royal Assent (a mere formality) thus becoming the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Act 2019.

An info graphic showing that the Bill has now passed Stage 3 of the legislative process in the Scottish Parliament can be found below:

As a result of the passing of this Bill into law, Scotland will follow 54 other countries from around the world where the physical chastisement of children is now the criminal offence of assault.

A link to how the passing of the Bill was reported by The Guardian can be found below:

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/oct/03/scotland-becomes-first-country-in-uk-to-ban-smacking-of-children

Copyright Seán J Crossan, 4 October 2019

Space oddity?

Photo by History in HD on Unsplash

It had to happen at some point: the first allegation of a criminal act in outer space.

The locus: the international space station orbiting Planet Earth.

The suspect: a NASA astronaut.

The alleged offence: the astronaut in question is accused of hacking into her ex-wife’s bank account from the international space station. Good old fashioned fraud or theft in a hi-tech setting. At last reality is catching up with all those fictional crime dramas set in outer space.

Which criminal law has jurisdiction? Good question.

Thankfully, we have a point of reference: Article VIII of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.

Article VIII states:

A State Party to the Treaty on whose registry an object launched into outer space is carried shall retain jurisdiction and control over such object, and over any personnel thereof, while in outer space or on a celestial body.

That said, no single State/country or Agency (e.g. NASA or ESA/ASE) controls the international space station. We do have an Inter-governmental Agreement signed in 1998 regulating the space station and Article 22 is particularly relevant (please see the image below):

Under the terms of Article 22, it looks as if the Americans probably have jurisdiction in the matter because one its astronauts is alleged to have committed the crime.

Readers can find a link below to the Inter-governmental Agreement of 1998:

https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/12927-Multilateral-Space-Space-Station-1.29.1998.pdf

Should we be surprised about this development? No, wherever humans go, crimes will undoubtedly be committed. As space travel, exploration and colonisation become more common in the coming decades, expect more stories about crime in outer space and the need to police it effectively.

A link to the story as reported on Sky News can be found below:

http://news.sky.com/story/is-this-the-first-crime-committed-in-space-11792853

Copyright Seán J Crossan, 30 August 2019

Copyright Seán J Crossan, 30 August 2019