Last update09:22:08 AM GMT


It’s a bad world to be growing up in; even if you can make yourself understood

Your Expert Witness blog logoIt's not been an edifying couple of weeks for anyone charged with investigating the truth of complaints of abuse by children, both contemporary and historical. The Jimmy Savile affair came hot on the heels of a multiple scandal involving the abuse of children in the Rochdale area – a scandal that is continuing, according to the co-ordinator of the council's crisis intervention team. Sara Rowbotham, an expert on sexual health among young people, told the Home Affairs Select Committee on 6 November that the abuse had started in 2004, not 2007, and that she had made 103 referrals of vulnerable people, yet there had only been nine convictions. The lessons have apparently not been learned and the abuse continues, according to Ms Rowbotham.

Another historical chapter of exploitation has also resurfaced: that concerning the Bryn Estyn children's home in Wrexham, which has seen allegations about figures as diverse as senior politicians and Savile himself being made. Again, there are claims that the investigation carried out in the early 1990s did not uncover the whole picture because its remit was not broad enough.

Last Updated on Thursday, 08 November 2012 14:54


As LASPO hits the fan, the experts get a little hot under the collar

Your Expert Witness blog logoThe Jackson reforms are about to bite. Recently the Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson told the Law Society that the legal profession faces a period of 'unprecedented change' with the implementation of LASPO, the Legal Services Act (LSA) and changes to the civil procedure rules.

"Each of these reforms on their own would present a challenge to the courts and the legal profession," he is reported to have said, but taken together they constitute a "massive change".

"Each carries the risk that, rather than improving access to justice, they will weaken and undermine it."

Last Updated on Friday, 19 October 2012 17:25


Mr Khan’s big plan to combat re-offending; and should the vices of plebs be legalised?

Your Expert Witness blog logoLabour's Shadow Justice Sadiq Khan has promised what he calls a "war on re-offending", aiming to cut the number of people who return to prison again and again. "Rehabilitation", he said, "is not soft on crime – it's tough on re-offending."

Re-offending costs the country £11bn per year, he said. One way to cut re-offending has been the restorative justice programme being used in Northern Ireland and held out by Mr Khan as a beacon, together with a 'triage' system being trialled in London.

It was all in line with what the Labour Party has believed for decades, in particular when he pointed to the appalling number of people with mental health problems who are languishing in prison – exchanging the Victorian asylum for the Victorian prison, he called it – and the number of women there for a first offence.

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 October 2012 15:04


The twitterings of trolls in the ether: can they cause as much distress as a hurled black pudding?

Expert Witness blog logoIt has been reported that the Director of Public Prosecutions is to "issue new social media rules" regarding what constitutes abuse, following a number of high-profile cases of nasty and offensive postings on Twitter and Facebook.

It is apparently known as "trolling", after the scary monsters. According to the Beeb: "Until recent years, the term 'trolls' referred to supernatural beings in Norse mythology." Has nobody there ever read The Lord of the Rings? A picture of one (from Troll-haugen, perhaps? Boom, boom!) was carried back in June, next to a report on proposed changes to the law.

Actually, I loved the depiction of trolls in the irreverent spoof by the Harvard Lampoon, called Bored of the Rings. In that, somewhat shorter, tome they are more like low-life gangsters and strip-club air-heads than the powerful, if sinister, stone monsters of Prof Tolkien's creation – which actually sounds more like the sad individuals who hide behind supposed anonymity to insult people in ways that would probably provoke a brawl if they were uttered aloud in a pub.

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 September 2012 17:05


A little lurch to the right and Texas prepares for a UN invasion

Expert Witness blog logoThe appointment of right-winger Chris Grayling as the new Justice Minister has evoked the expected (and possibly elicited) mixture of euphoria and opprobrium.

The Law Society Gazette, in the persons of John Hyde and Michael Cross, described the appointment as a "right turn", adding: "His appointment is likely to be viewed as an attempt by Cameron to win favour with the right of his party."

Christian Guy, managing director of the Centre for Social Justice – a 'think tank' set up by Iain Duncan Smith – said in a statement: "The appointment of Chris Grayling is to be welcomed, and I am sure that he will continue the Government's drive to cut reoffending and slow the revolving door culture that has blighted this country's criminal justice system for years. We hope he will carry the reforming spirit he has shown on welfare reform to the Ministry of Justice."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 September 2012 16:32