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REAL1

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A former high court judge has suggested that judges hearing difficult legal cases could be allowed to call in colleagues to give a second opinion.

Lord Coulsfield spoke in the wake of the collapsed World's End murder trial in Edinburgh, when the judge ruled there was not enough evidence.

 

Lord Coulsfield
Lord Coulsfield asked whether lone judges should make big decisions.

He said there was an issue as to whether such major decisions should be taken by a single judge.

The Scottish Government has already hinted at legal reforms.

Judge Lord Clarke dismissed the case against convicted killer and rapist Angus Sinclair, who was accused of murdering two teenage girls 30 years ago, saying that the Crown had insufficient evidence to proceed.

 

Christine Eadie and Helen Scott, both 17, were last seen in the World's End pub in Edinburgh and their bodies were found dumped in East Lothian.

It has also emerged that cross-party talks on far-reaching reform of the legal system are to take place, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said.

He added that he believed giving the Crown the right to appeal a judge's decision, not a jury's, needed to be investigated.

The changes - including the removal of "double jeopardy", the ban on suspects being tried twice for the same crime, and giving the Crown the right to appeal - could form part of new criminal justice legislation scheduled for late 2008.

Ministers will also consult on allowing an accused person's previous convictions to be revealed to the jury during a trial.

Meanwhile, Lord Coulsfield, one of the judges who heard the trial of the two men accused of the Lockerbie bombing, told BBC Radio Scotland's Sunday Live programme: "The real issue here is whether a decision of the magnitude that Lord Clark had to take should always be taken by a single judge.

 
 

"I think we have to think about it whether it's possible to make some kind of arrangement. It was done at one time in the high court in the old days before the court of criminal appeal existed, that judges could call in one or two of their colleagues to sit with them to hear a difficult legal matter.

"I think those are the sort of lines we should be thinking about."

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament on the World's End case, Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini, Scotland's top prosecutor, said Crown evidence had established a circumstantial case against Sinclair.

Ms Angiolini, who has supported a change in the law to allow the Crown to appeal certain criminal cases if they are thrown out of court, said DNA evidence providing a partial match to Sinclair found on items of underwear worn by Christine Eadie and Helen Scott, which were used as ligatures or bindings by the killer, was not presented to court.

The Lord Advocate said the evidence was "low probability" and could only have shown that Sinclair came into contact with the underwear and stronger DNA evidence had already been presented.

Speaking later, Lord Coulsfield said: "Unless you really knew what the DNA evidence was, unless you really studied it, you couldn't say whether or not the Advocate Depute was right to take the course that he did, you couldn't say whether the evidence could have made any difference."


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Lord Hamilton. Picture: David Moir

 Lord Hamilton...

 

Lord Advocate is accused of 'undermining the judiciary'...

SCOTLAND'S most senior judge yesterday launched an unprecedented attack on the Lord Advocate, accusing the country's top prosecutor of undermining the independence of the judiciary in the wake of the World's End trial collapse.

The Lord Justice General, Lord Hamilton, rounded on Elish Angiolini, saying a detailed statement she gave to parliament on the handling of the case was "inappropriate" and disrespectful to the trial judge, Lord Clarke.

His comments - which came in a letter that was made public - triggered an open spat between Scotland's two most important legal figures, with Ms Angiolini issuing a public written reply defending the outspoken comments she made to MSPs, and forcefully rejecting any suggestion she had been disrespectful.

The row has triggered a debate about how much public comment should be made about judges, within a legal establishment that is highly protective of its centuries-old principles.

The sacrosanct nature of judicial decisions is founded on the principle that courts should be completely independent, and free from undue influence by the prosecution and/or politicians, when dispensing justice. It is a principle reflected in the continued existence of the offence of publicly criticising, or "murmuring", a judge, or for jurors to openly discuss their deliberations after they reach a verdict.

Such a clear separation of powers within the justice system is distinct from other countries such as the United States, where discussion of ongoing court cases is far less restricted.

The seeds of the row were sown last month in the World's End murder trial when Lord Clarke threw out the case against Angus Sinclair, ruling there was not enough evidence for the jury to reach a verdict.

Following a public outcry over the prosecution's handling of the case, Ms Angiolini took the unusual step of delivering a statement to MSPs in which she insisted there had been a strong enough case to put to the jury. If she had the legal right to do so, the Lord Advocate added, she would appeal against the decision by the trial judge to throw out the case.

It was these comments that led Lord Hamilton to issue an open letter to Ms Angiolini, in which he wrote: "It is clear that you were, as Lord Advocate, stating to the Parliament that in your 'clear' opinion there was sufficient evidence to go to jury.

"The plain implication from that statement was that you were publicly asserting that the decision of the trial judge was wrong."

He went on: "I am concerned that you have thought it appropriate to challenge, in a public and political forum and in the way which you have, a final decision of the court (whether that decision be right or wrong).

"Public criticism in a political forum of particular decisions, especially in controversial and sensitive areas, is in my view inappropriate."

The shock collapse of the trial led to calls by politicians for a public inquiry.

Many raised concerns that advocate-depute Alan Mackay had not led all the available evidence during the case. Mr Mackay failed to turn up to court to hear Lord Clarke's decision and has not returned to work since.

Ms Angiolini later hit back at the senior judge, saying her words were carefully chosen and reflected on the Crown's, and not the judge's, decision-making.

In a written reply to Lord Hamilton, she added: "I do not think I could have gone further expressly to afford greater respect for the final decision of the trial judge in the circumstances."

Last night one constitutional expert said Ms Angiolini had been right to make her statement.

Colin Munro, professor of constitutional law at Edinburgh University, said: "Parliament and the general public are naturally interested in the prosecution of serious crimes, whether justice has been done, and if not, why not.

"The independence of the judiciary is an important principle, but the concept should not be stretched so far as to shield judges from all discussion of their actions, especially nowadays when judges decide on human rights laws or express their views on a DNA register or on constitutional reforms.

"It sometimes used to be said that criticism of judges was wrong because they had no opportunity to answer back, but as this particular instance shows in one way, that is not entirely the case."

First Minister Alex Salmond has said that Ms Angiolini was "absolutely right" to make her statement in parliament.

Full account had to be given - and there was no attack on judge

NO-ONE has argued more passionately than I in defence of the independence of the judiciary. So I take very seriously the assertion by the Lord Justice General in a letter to the Lord Advocate that, in making a statement to parliament on the World's End murder trial, she acted in a way that posed a threat to that independence. In my considered opinion, the Lord Justice General is wrong.

Leaving aside my personal view, I refer to a new report by the House of Lords Select Committee, Relations between the executive, the judiciary and parliament. The committee comprises a former Lord Chief Justice, two former Attorney-Generals and many experienced constitutional experts. They addressed the problem of frictions arising because the then home secretary and prime minister publicly criticised court judgments.

The report says: "The second aspect of defending the independence of the judiciary was dealing with ministers who attack individual judges. Lord Falconer (then Lord Chancellor) explained how this duty applied to the question of ministers commenting on individual cases: 'If you disagree with a decision, say what you are going to do; if you are going to appeal, say you will appeal; if you are going to change the law, say you will change the law. If you cannot appeal and cannot change the law then my advice would be to keep quiet...'"

The committee then said: "Therefore, it is acceptable for ministers to comment on individual cases, but, as Lord Falconer told us, 'what is objectionable... is something which expressly or impliedly says that there is something wrong with these judges for reaching this conclusion'. Lord Lloyd of Berwick agreed, saying: 'What I think is intolerable... is a personal attack on judges'."

I agree entirely. Ministers should not publicly criticise judges on any personal basis. They can, and sometimes should, criticise decisions. When they do, they should, if the law allows, appeal the decision or ask parliament to change the law.

I have studied the Lord Advocate's statement. I believe she had no choice but to make a full statement, following the shocking collapse of such a high-profile case. She could not "keep quiet". She said, "given the extent of misunderstandings about the case and the Crown's approach, I feel I have to set the record straight about the Crown's understanding of the case and the evidence made available to the court." She did precisely that. She did not criticise the judge. There was no personal attack. She just explained her conclusion that the evidence was sufficient, from which it followed that the judge was mistaken in holding that it "insufficient in law".

She described the judge's decision as "final". The Lord Justice General refers to that, saying it follows that she should not have made her statement.

But the decision is "final", only in the sense the Crown cannot, by successfully appealing, get the case back on the rails and resume the prosecution. However, as everyone accepts, there can be a "Lord Advocate's Reference" to have the legal decision reconsidered by Appeal Court judges.

Those senior judges would give a definitive ruling between the two conflicting views as to the legal sufficiency of the evidence.

The Lord Advocate can still refer the decision: I repeat my advice to her to do so. Not only is the question itself seen by the public to be important: the public differences between the Lord Advocate and the Lord Justice General make it essential the matter be taken for resolution to the High Court.

In addition to the obvious, legitimate public interest in reviewing the unexpected ruling, a reference would, especially if the Crown's view prevailed, provide a sound basis on which to consider possible reforms, such as abolishing the alien "No case to answer" procedure, or giving the Crown a right to an effective appeal against an adverse ruling. It would also give Appeal Court judges an extremely valuable opportunity to provide guidance to trial judges sitting alone in such tragic cases, where murder has silenced the victims.

LORD MCCLUSKEY

TOP LAWYER WITH A CARING TOUCH AND A ZEAL FOR REFORM

ELISH Angiolini became the first female Lord Advocate when she was appointed to the role almost exactly a year ago.

A coalman's daughter from Govan, Glasgow, she is also notable for her down-to-earth, personable manner.

Ms Angiolini, 47, was very much a surprise choice when, in 2001, Jack McConnell, the then first minister, gave her a leading role in reforming Scotland's ailing prosecution service.

She completed several firsts in being appointed Solicitor-General for Scotland. She was also the first solicitor, as opposed to an advocate, to take the office, and the first person from the procurator-fiscal service to be promoted to number two in the prosecution service.

Ms Angiolini was also the first solicitor to have the letters QC after her name; only advocates had previously "taken silk" to become a Queen's counsel.

Educated at Notre Dame High School, Glasgow, and Strathclyde University, Mrs Angiolini had served as a prosecutor in Airdrie and Glasgow and held senior positions in the Crown Office, where she advised on the implications of the European Convention on Human Rights and drew up a blueprint for a victim-liaison scheme. Later, she became regional procurator-fiscal for Grampian, Highlands and Islands, based in Aberdeen.

Mr McConnell hailed her as a "quality lawyer" with a "track record of putting victims and ordinary people first".

Ms Angiolini has always paid tribute to her husband, Domenico, who gave up work as a hairdresser to allow his wife to further her career.

She once remarked that, in spite of shortcomings, Scotland had the best prosecution service in the world.

• The Lord Advocate, assisted by the Solicitor-General, heads the country's system of criminal prosecution and leads the investigation of deaths.

It is also her job to provide legal advice to ministers, a role that has attracted controversy amid claims that she may be susceptible to political interference, causing the clear distinction between politics and law to become murky. As a result, the SNP government decided after May's election that the Lord Advocate should only attend cabinet meetings when legal advice was needed.

'AN INDIVIDUAL OF SUBSTANCE AND INTEGRITY'

LORD Hamilton, the most senior judge in Scotland, has enjoyed a distinguished career spanning 40 years.

But he had been regarded as an outsider in the race for the post of Lord President and Lord Justice General.

Born in Glasgow, the 65-year-old studied at Glasgow, Oxford and Edinburgh universities. In 1968, only a year after completing his studies, Arthur Hamilton was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates. He "took the silk" to become a QC 14 years later.

As an advocate depute between 1982 and 1985, he was responsible for prosecuting some of the most serious criminal cases. He has also held the posts of chairman of the Medical Appeals Tribunals and president of the Pensions Appeal Tribunal. Over several months in 1992-93, he acted as a temporary Sheriff Principal in Tayside, Central and Fife, while he also served as an appeal judge in Jersey and Guernsey.

In 1995, he rose to become a Senator of the College of Justice and between 1997 and 2000 was a full-time commercial judge. In 2005, he was appointed to his present role. The then first minister, Jack McConnell, said:

"He is an individual of substance and integrity and will lead Scotland's judiciary with independence and distinction."

• The Lord President is the head of the Court of Session and, as Lord Justice General, head of the High Court of Justiciary.

He routinely presides in these courts, dealing mainly with appeals. In addition to his judicial duties, the Lord President has general supervision over all the business of the Court of Session and the High Court, and is responsible for the policy governing these courts and the judges.

He makes appointments to certain tribunals sitting in Scotland and, as Lord Justice General, recommends on whom the rank of Queen's Counsel might be conferred.

As the most senior judge in Scotland, the Lord President is routinely consulted on a wide range of matters concerning the law and the legal system, and he deals with communications and consultations with the heads of foreign and Commonwealth judiciaries.

The Prime Minister makes a recommendation to the Queen on the position of Lord President, but may not recommend any person who has not been nominated by the First Minister.


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Judge's death by fire...

The six-year mystery of how a judge died in a blaze within 90 minutes of asking his wife for a divorce could finally be solved by dramatic new evidence to be unveiled at a forthcoming inquest.
 
A number of new witnesses, police documents and expert testimony will be revealed at next week's high profile inquest into the death of Judge Andrew Chubb, who perished in a fireball in his garden shed.
 
The coroner will consider whether the father of three committed suicide or was unlawfully killed, or may return an open verdict.
 
On the evening of 27 July 2001 Chubb had told his wife Jennifer that he was leaving her for his mistress.
 
Soon after, as Mrs Chubb ate dinner, she saw the garden shed of their £1m marital home near Chard, Somerset, explode. Firemen found his charred body inside.

Ten months later his widow was interviewed under caution on suspicion of murder and perjury, but was released without charge.

 

Chubb's mistress, Kerry Sparrow, from Hampshire, has spent years amassing evidence that she claims counters the verdict of accidental death in the original inquest into the death of her lover.

 

'Everybody deserves justice and I would hope that someone would fight as hard for me for the truth. We loved each other so much and I believe that the outcome of this inquest will bring closure.'

The second inquest, which starts next week, was ordered after Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers quashed the original verdict of accidental death, citing the existence of new evidence. The Lord Chief Justice said there was not 'a shred of evidence' to support an unlawful killing verdict but suicide could not be ruled out.

Among those summoned to give evidence are 10 neighbours and friends who witnessed the events of the night.

The hearing will be told fresh details of the botched initial police investigation into the death of Chubb. No special post-mortem examination by a Home Office pathologist took place, despite evidence that Chubb's death could be considered suspicious. Instead, a local pathologist concluded he had died of burning, a conclusion that Sparrow believes should be contested. 'There was still enough tissue left of his lungs to test them for soot particles and that could have determined whether he was dead or alive before the fire,' said Sparrow.

The body was released for cremation, another decision that Sparrow fears has destroyed potentially vital evidence.

During the original inquest the coroner agreed with experts who said a spark from a lawnmower may have ignited petrol fumes in the shed. Yet a report expected to be heard at the inquest from Dr Chris Foster, one of the world's leading specialists in the investigation of fires, said the assumption that a spark could have triggered the blaze was purely 'speculative'. 'If I had observed the same evidence and recorded the same findings as the scene examiners then with that information I would not have speculated.

Among the first witnesses due before the East Somerset coroner are fire officers who considered the blaze 'very suspicious' and promptly requested a fire investigation officer. Forensic officers detected a strong smell of petrol close to Chubb's body. However, Mrs Chubb was allowed to bulldoze the shed 24 hours after the blaze.

Testimonies from seven friends and colleagues will portray Chubb as unlikely to commit suicide, though troubled by the breakdown of his 34-year-old marriage. 'A less likely candidate for suicide [I could not] imagine,' said one in a statement to police.

According to transcripts of interviews between detectives and his wife at Bridgwater police station, Somerset, detectives claim to have evidence that she gave 'contradictory accounts and information' about her husband's death. However, the CPS concluded she should not be charged with perjury.

Tim Hayden, Mrs Chubb's solicitor, said he could not comment on the case until he had received instruction from his client.

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Will second inquest solve mystery of the judge killed by fireball?.

The mysterious case of a judge who died in a fireball within 90 minutes of asking his wife for a divorce will be reopened next week following a six-year campaign by his mistress.

Kerry Sparrow was last year granted a fresh inquest into Judge Andrew Chubb's death in his blazing garden shed.

The wife: Jennifer Chubb and her husband, Judge Chubb

It emerged that the hearing could be presented with dramatic new evidence from a number of witnesses.

It will then decide whether the father of three committed suicide or was unlawfully killed, or reach an open verdict. Judge Chubb's remains were found in the garden shed at his 19th century farmhouse near Chard, Somerset, on July 27, 2001.

He had asked his wife Jennifer to free him from their 34-year marriage so he could start a new life with his blonde lover.

The 58-year-old circuit judge, a prosecutor at the trial of mass killer Rosemary West, had been having an affair with legal officer Miss Sparrow for two years. He told her he had been trapped in a loveless marriage for 20 years.

Mrs Chubb, a community nurse, told the first inquest in December 2001 that after asking her for a divorce her husband went to mow the lawn. Soon after that she saw the shed explode.

Questions arose over his death after it was discovered that evidence had been destroyed or overlooked. Police allowed Mrs Chubb to bulldoze the remains of the shed the day after the fire. And it was not established if Mr Chubb was dead when the fire started as his remains had been cremated.

The inquest nevertheless decided the judge died accidentally when his lawnmower started a fire.

Mrs Chubb, 60, was interviewed under caution on suspicion of murder and perjury in May 2002 but was released without charge. She inherited her husband's £1 million estate and moved to Australia.

She is said to believe that a new inquest will vindicate her, although it is unclear whether she will attend next week's hearing at Glastonbury.

Miss Sparrow, 38, has spent years collecting evidence which she says counters the original verdict.

During the first inquest the coroner agreed with experts who said a spark from a lawnmower could have ignited petrol fumes in the shed.

But a report expected to be heard at the new hearing, from one of the world's leading specialists in the investigation of fires, said the assumption that a spark could have triggered the blaze was purely 'speculative'.

Dr Chris Foster said: "If I had observed the same evidence and recorded the same findings as the scene examiners then with that information I would not have speculated."

Miss Sparrow told the Observer: "Everybody deserves justice and I believe that the outcome of this inquest will bring closure."


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Judges furious over plan to cut appeal court's powers.

The government has suppressed for more than six months an overwhelmingly hostile reaction by judges and legal experts to proposals to restrict the appeal court's powers to quash convictions. Senior appeal court judges, the council of circuit judges, the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) and, in a personal response, its chairman, Graham Zellick, all lambasted the plans in unpublished responses, the Guardian has learned.

Other bodies, including the Law Society, the Criminal Bar Association and the campaigning groups Justice and Liberty, have made their objections public. But the government has ignored Cabinet Office guidelines on publishing the responses to consultations, though the measures are now part of a bill due for a second reading next week.

The measure, which would require judges to uphold a conviction if they thought the defendant was guilty despite flaws in the trial or pre-trial process, has been incorporated in the criminal justice and immigration bill, scheduled for second reading next Monday. Ministers have responded in part to the outcry by adding a new provision that judges need not uphold the conviction if they believe this would be incompatible with the defendant's human rights.

But John Spencer, professor of law at Cambridge University, said that did not resolve concerns about the measure. "I think it's an attempt to push through something unacceptable by putting some dressing round the edge of it, and it should be resisted." He said the failure to publish the responses was "scandalous" and described the provision as "a piece of populist nonsense which I hope the House of Lords will throw out".

Ministers insisted the law needed to be changed to stop criminals "getting away" with their crimes. They were particularly exercised by the case of Nicholas Mullen, who had fled to Zimbabwe but was later jailed for his role in an IRA bombing campaign after British secret services had him illegally kidnapped and deported to Britain.

The court of appeal quashed his conviction in 1999, not on a technicality but because of an "extremely serious failure to adhere to the rule of law".

Judges say the law works well as it is. Under current law, they will not readily quash convictions because of trial or pre-trial flaws if they believe the jury would have convicted anyway, unless there has been some gross injustice in the process.

In the consultation paper, John Reid, then home secretary, said the government had already decided to go ahead with the change, and was consulting only on how it should be done. Professor Zellick, in his response, said the statement was "a disturbing departure from good government".


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New evidence at fresh inquest into judge's death...

The mistress of a judge who died in a fierce blaze in his garden shed moments after arguing with his wife about their future yesterday claimed she was close to proving that her lover did not die accidentally.

A fresh inquest into the death of Andrew Chubb, who died in 2001, is to begin today following a determined campaign by Kerry Sparrow to have the case re-examined by a coroner.

New witnesses and evidence will be presented at the inquest in Glastonbury, Somerset, which is expected to back up Ms Sparrow's claim that the original police investigation was botched.

She said: "Everybody deserves justice and I believe that the outcome of this inquest will bring closure. I'm convinced Andrew did not die accidentally and now I am even closer to proving that."

It is believed that Chubb's widow, Jennifer, will not give evidence. Mrs Chubb, who was at one point arrested in connection with her husband's death but never charged, has moved to Australia and cannot be forced to appear at the inquest.

Mrs Chubb was pictured in a tabloid newspaper yesterday at a fair in New South Wales with a male companion.

Her lawyer has written to the coroner, Sheriff Payne, to say she can "envisage no circumstances in which she could contribute further evidence to assist in your inquiry".

During a high court hearing last year at which Ms Sparrow's team argued for a new inquest, Mrs Chubb's barrister, Tim Nesbitt, said there was a "lingering cloud of suspicion generated against her".

The high court quashed the finding of the original inquest that Mr Chubb's death had been accidental, accepting that not all the relevant evidence had been considered.

But the court also said there was not a "shred of evidence" that Mr Chubb was unlawfully killed.

The court was told that Mr Chubb, 58, a lead prosecutor in the Rosemary West case, was having an affair with Ms Sparrow while he worked in Portsmouth during the week, and would go back to the family home, a 19th century farmhouse, near Chard in Somerset, at the weekend.


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Judge's wife took in the washing after fatal explosion in shed...

The widow of a judge who burned to death in a mystery explosion 10 minutes after asking for a divorce acted in a "weird" and "very controlled" manner in the aftermath of the tragedy, an inquest heard yesterday.

Jennifer Chubb took in her washing as thick black smoke poured out of the shed. She asked for the house windows to be closed against the acrid smoke and fretted over the welfare of her sheep, the hearing was told.Even before the remains of Judge Andrew Chubb had been found, Mrs Chubb began "building up a case" to suggest her husband had committed suicide, it was claimed. She became "upset" when a police officer told her they could not find a body in the blackened remains of the shed and insisted he was in there, the inquest heard.

Later that night after the remains were found, neighbours were shocked when a friend of Mrs Chubb allegedly asked her if she was insured with another acquaintance of theirs, and reassured her that he "pays out on suicides".

A few weeks before Mr Chubb's death in July 2001, Mrs Chubb found out he was having an affair with a 38-year-old legal executive, Kerry Sparrow.

Mr Chubb, 58, arrived back at the family home near Chard in Somerset on a warm Friday evening, changed into gardening clothes and told his wife of 34 years that he wanted a divorce. He went into his wooden shed and there was a huge explosion.

At an inquest in December 2001 a verdict of accidental death was recorded, but Ms Sparrow continued to have doubts about how the judge died and campaigned for a second inquest. The high court agreed the hearing had been unsatisfactory and a second inquest began in Glastonbury yesterday.

The coroner, Sheriff Payne, said an unusual feature of the new inquest was that Mrs Chubb, 60, would not be attending. He said she had moved to Australia and could not be compelled to return. Mr Payne said Mrs Chubb, a nurse, had been questioned by police for a day and a half over her husband's death and her statements would be read.

Two witnesses gave evidence about Mrs Chubb's odd behaviour after her husband's death.

Gardener Peter Evans, who dashed to the scene after hearing an "earth-shaking" explosion, said that as he tried to find a way of getting the judge out of the shed Mrs Chubb started taking washing off the rotary washing line.

He said: "That I found strange. If her husband was in the shed, she was bothered about the washing." Mr Evans said Mrs Chubb also asked after her sheep. Later Mr Evans said he heard a friend of the Chubbs asking if she had a solicitor and telling her that "Bob paid out on suicides". Mr Evans said: "I thought it was a strange thing to say so soon after what had happened."

Neighbour Beth Luck, who comforted Mrs Chubb after the fire, said the judge's wife told her that her husband had talked about suicide.

She said: "Jenny was sowing the idea of suicide. The suicide idea never gelled ... she was trying to create a background of mental instability which I don't think was there. She was very controlled. She knew what she was saying, she knew what she was doing."

Mrs Luck claimed she also heard the friend talking about insurance and found it a "weird" way of talking. "That is very strange stuff to say to someone half an hour after your husband's been incinerated in a shed." At first firefighters could not find a body. "I recall Jenny being upset that Andrew was not in the shed," said Mrs Luck. "She said: 'No, he's in there'. "

Mrs Luck also told the inquest she smelled smoke on Mrs Chubb's clothes and said the judge's wife had claimed her husband was being blackmailed by his mistress.

Another neighbour, Michael Scott, said he had smelled gunpowder when he went to the scene. He said Mrs Chubb had shown little emotion at the funeral. "There didn't appear to be any genuine sadness for Andrew. Jenny came across as very hard," he said.

Five friends and neighbours of Mr Chubb told the inquest he did not seem the sort to take his own life. William Freestone said: "He was a very outgoing chap. Quite pragmatic. He didn't let problems get on top of him. He seemed like the most unlikely chap to consider suicide."

The inquest also heard how the police allowed the shed to be bulldozed the day after the fire. The police's handling of the investigation has been criticised in the past.

The hearing continues.


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Inquest fails to solve mystery of judge death...

The mystery surrounding the death of a judge who was killed in a fireball in his garden shed may never be solved after a second inquest failed to establish a definitive cause for the blaze.

Judge Andrew Chubb, 58, died about an hour after telling his wife, Jennifer, 60, that he was ending their 34-year marriage.

The father of three said he was leaving his wife for Kerry Sparrow, whom he had been seeing for more than two years.

The original inquest concluded that the judge died as a result of an accident when a spark from his lawnmower ignited petrol cans in the shed at his 19th-century farmhouse near Chard, Somerset.

His wife was later arrested on suspicion of murder, and perjury in connection with her evidence at the first inquest, but was released without charge.

Miss Sparrow, 38, campaigned for six years for a second inquest.

At the end of that hearing in Glastonbury, Sheriff Payne, the deputy coroner for east Somerset, said the cause of the fire in 2001 was "unascertained".

Recording a narrative verdict, he said there was not enough evidence to prove the death had been an accident or suicide.

He said it was likely the fire was caused or accelerated by the ignition of petrol vapour, but it had not been possible to establish how the vapour arose nor the source of ignition.

There was no electricity or gas supply to the shed and no match, nor means of fire lighting, found.

Discounting the idea that Mrs Chubb killed her husband, the coroner said: "To kill him in the shed and immobilise him seems almost impossible.

He was a grown man and she was a woman. I would have thought he could have defended himself."


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Judge jails serial thief.

 

Judge Timothy Nash

      Judge Timothy Nash

On-the-spot fines were condemned as 'namby pamby' and 'stupidity in practice' by a judge yesterday.

Timothy Nash launched his attack on the Government's fixed-penalty policy while jailing a serial thief who stole a pensioner's purse.

Pickpocket Ann Gilheaney had committed an identical offence two years earlier, Canterbury Crown Court was told.

Despite the fact that she had convictions for more than 30 previous thefts, on that occasion she had been given just an £80 on-the-spot fine.

Jailing Gilheaney, 46, for 14 months for her latest offence, Judge Nash said the fixed penalty had been the equivalent of a parking ticket.

"It is a ridiculous approach to dishonesty because it's unfair as far as the community is concerned. It is stupidity in practice.

"One day we will all wake up to the namby-pamby, politically-correct approach that for economic reasons seems to be adopted to save the police paperwork - instead of letting them get on with their jobs.

"The issue of a penalty notice ticket for the criminal offence of shoplifting as a device is stupidity in practice.

"It means, not infrequently, that people don't have their difficulties addressed by a court, which is better able to deal with shoplifters than anybody issuing what is in effect a parking ticket."

Gilheaney had been found guilty of stealing 82-year-old Doris Atkins's purse while she was shopping at a supermarket in Dover.

The judge's attack will re-ignite the debate over Labour's decision to spare almost 200,000 offenders every year the humiliation of a court appearance.

It means police are increasingly reliant on issuing fines - last year, 193,000 were handed out, a rise of 30 per cent on 2005.

This is the equivalent of 22 every hour for offences such as theft, criminal damage, drunk and disorderly and throwing fireworks.

Ministers plan to increase their use even further by issuing police with electronic ticketing machines, which will print out the fines to save time.

Critics said the machines will make giving a criminal a fine which carries no criminal record - rather than prosecuting them - even more attractive to over-stretched forces.

Under the Government's rules for counting the number of offenders brought to justice - a key police target - the fines carry the same weight as a conviction through the courts.

Critics, including rank-and-file police, say this has placed enormous pressure on officers to take the easier option.

Last night a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said current guidelines warn that on-the-spot fines do not cover theft or mugging.

"They also make clear that they should not usually be used for those who repeatedly offend," he added.


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Rebuke: Judge Durham Hall
 

 

A judge today slammed the prosecution of a "gallant" policeman over the way he arrested a knife-wielding suspect as a "politically correct disgrace".

PC Lee Armstrong was taken to court for allegedly using excessive force while arresting a man for being in possession of an offensive weapon.

The 28-year-old officer vehemently denied any wrongdoing and was stunned when the Crown Prosecution Service decided to charge him with assault.

But on the day he was due to stand trial at Bradford Crown Court, prosecutors decided to offer no evidence and drop the case in the light of fresh information about the accuser.

The move ended the police officer's 18-month-old ordeal and he walked free from court to resume his career in the West Yorkshire Police force.

PC Armstrong was praised by the judge and completely vindicated.

However, Judge Jonathan Durham Hall, QC, issued a stinging rebuke to CPS lawyers responsible for bringing the case to court and ordered all the officer's legal costs - estimated at £16,000 - be paid from public funds.

He told prosecutor Paul O'Shea: "There was never any prospect at all of this gallant, young officer being convicted.

"The conviction of yet another man doing his duty, for reasons that are best described as politically correct, is a disgrace. The Crown will pay every penny of his costs."

The judge apologised to PC Armstrong for the way he was "harassed" through the courts and praised his actions in arresting the knifeman weeks after the murder in nearby Bradford of colleague Sharon Beshenivsky.

"Mr Armstrong you have in my judgement, if your actions are anything to judge by, a very good career ahead of you," said Judge Durham Hall.

"I note that this matter took place within a few days of the random shooting of an officer on the streets of this city and I am sure every police officer is right to bear in mind the courts will, whenever possible, recognise the dangers and difficulties of their duties and will commend officers.

"If the boot had been on the other foot I suspect I would have been commending you for your actions.

"I cannot imagine what you have felt being pursued and harassed in this prosecution over the last few months and I am very sorry.

"Thank you. Leave without a stain on your character."

PC Armstrong, who has been in the force for almost four years, was called to an incident at a shop in Keighley at 1.45 pm on 21 December 2005.

A man was said to be threatening a woman at the shop and was carrying a knife.

The officer arrived at the scene and ended up arresting the suspect Lawrence Lister for possession of an offensive weapon.

Bystanders swore and shouted abuse at PC Armstrong as he made the arrest, the court heard.

Four months after the incident the officer was contacted "out of the blue" about the incident and interviewed under caution. He was subsequently charged with assault and appeared before magistrates where he elected to stand trial before a jury.

He was said to have used excessive force to make the arrest, including the "unnecessary banging" of the complainants face on the bonnet of a vehicle.

Details of the prosecution case were not revealed in court, but Mr O'Shea told the court further information meant there was no longer any "realistic prospect of a conviction."

PC Armstrong, of Ilkley, West Yorkshire, always insisted he used "reasonable force" in making the arrest and denied banging his head against the vehicle or using illegal force.

The officer left court without commenting, but his solicitor Ian Townsend said later: "PC Armstrong wishes to thank the publicc for their support over the past two years, which has been a difficult time for both him and his family.

"PC Armstrong is grateful to the crown court judge for confirming what he has always maintained, that he was innocent of the allegations made."

Tom McGhie, of the West Yorkshire Police Federation, backed the judge's criticism of the CPS and called for a more common sense approach to assault allegations against officers.

He said too many cases involving police officers were going to court. "The CPS needs to make decisions based upon the evidence and treat everybody fairly and everybody equally," he said.

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Judge allows foreign serial sex attacker to stay because of 'right to a family life'...

A serial sex offender who admits attacking 11 women has escaped deportation after a judge said it would breach his human rights.

The Home Office argued that Mohammed Kendeh, 21, had a "high risk of reoffending" and should be sent back to Sierra Leone.

But Sir Henry Hodge, Britain's top immigration judge and the husband of Culture Minister Margaret Hodge, said although the sex attacker had been refused British citizenship and was likely to offend again, he must be allowed to stay here.

Sir Henry said sending him home would breach his rights to a family life under the European Commission of Human Rights, and agreed with an earlier ruling that the prolific offender is "one of us".

Kendeh's sex offences rampage began when he was 15 - two years after he became a heavy cannabis smoker - and he has also committed burglary, arson and drug offences.

In 2005 he was jailed for four years for two sex attacks committed days after he was released early from detention for burglary. Astonishingly he was again released early several months ago.

The Home Office last year tried to deport Kendeh, of Peckham, South London, but an immigration judge ruled the move was unlawful.

There was then an appeal by the Home Office - but Sir Henry has now ended the long process by saying the he can stay here for good.

One of Kendeh's victims, Gabrielle Browne, who was dragged into the bushes and sexually assaulted while jogging in a London park, has waived her right to anonymity to attack the judgment.

Mrs Browne, 42, a mother of two, said: "I feel devastated and let down. How is it that somebody who has offended so seriously against defenceless women is allowed to remain in this country?

"It is more than possible he will rape or kill a future victim. It is a farce."

The case comes two months after the decision by Sir Henry to allow killer Learco Chindamo, who murdered headmaster Philip Lawrence, to remain in Britain when he is freed from jail.

The senior judge, who is president of the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal and a former chairman of the National Council for Civil Liberties (now known as Liberty), has a long record of supporting human rights causes.

His latest ruling shows the near impossibility of deporting many dangerous foreign criminals thanks to human rights laws.

Court papers emphasised that Kendeh, first jailed aged 15, has a long history of offending "and in particular of serious sexual assault" and "has been assessed as showing a high risk of reoffending".

The Home Office said his deportation to West Africa was "necessary for the prevention of disorder and crime and for the protection of health and morals".

But Sir Henry disagreed, accepting that the prolific sex offender had come to Britain aged six, and that his only family in Sierra Leone is a grandparent.

 

Justice Hodge

Human rights: Mr Justice Hodge upheld a ruling that attacker was 'one of us'...

Yet the immigration tribunal had also been told Kendeh had a "very poor emotional relationship with his parents", meaning that even his probation officer argued he should not return to his parental home when freed.

Mrs Browne, of South London, said: "He does not have a relationship with his family here, so why not deport him to Sierra Leone where he can start afresh? It is not a reason to keep him in the UK. He is a very violent and dangerous offender."

She added: "The attack has had a devastating effect on my life. My freedom has been taken away." Sir Henry's ruling even suggested that because Kendeh arrived here aged six, his "horrendous criminal conduct" could be "attributed to failures in our system".


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Judge says rules for Diana inquest are 'antiquated rubbish'

 

Lord Justice Thomas

       Lord Justice Thomas

A High Court judge yesterday condemned the rules governing the inquest into the death of Princess Diana as "antiquated rubbish".

In an extraordinary outburst, Lord Justice Thomas said the rules are "wholly improper for the modern age" and demanded to know which Government minister was responsible for "this lamentable state of affairs".

The criticism came during a legal challenge to a key decision taken by coroner Lord Justice Scott Baker.

The coroner has ruled that statements made by members of the paparazzi, who were pursuing Diana on the night she died, can be read to the inquest jury, unchallenged.

The photographers have refused to appear at the inquest to give evidence and to submit to cross-examination and the French government has decided not to force them to appear.

But Mohamed Al Fayed - whose son Dodi died in the car crash along with Diana in 1997 - the Ritz Hotel in Paris, which is owned by Mr Al Fayed, and the family of his former employee, driver Henri Paul, are protesting that the coroner's decision is unlawful because it deprives them of the right to question the reliability and credibility of the photographers' evidence.

Richard Keen, QC, appearing for the Paul family, added that the problem with the paparazzi could also have a knock-on effect on other overseas witnesses in the case.

Among them, he suggested, could be Diana's former butler Paul Burrell, who lives in the U.S., and ex-spy Richard Tomlinson, whom Mr Al Fayed wants to call as a witness, to back up his claim that the Princess was murdered by MI6.

Mr Keen and Michael Beloff QC, appearing for the Ritz, asked Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Aikens to quash the coroner's decision - made on November 7 in the fifth week of the inquest - and declare that he is wrong in law.

The legal challenge centres on the meaning of Rule 37 of the 1984 Coroners' Rules, which allows written, rather than live, evidence to be admitted if it is "unlikely to be disputed" and if there are no objections from official "interested persons".

Mr Beloff argued that the controversial nature of the paparazzi evidence rendered the coroner's decision "contrary to law".

But Lord Justice Thomas rounded on the Coroners' Rules themselves and the politicians he accused of failing to reform them. He said: "It is shocking actually. No doubt everyone agrees this rule is hopeless.

"It is lamentable this has come about. Someone should be politically answerable for this."

He added: "How can you allow a major inquest to take place against a background of rules wholly improper for the modern age?

"There must be some minister responsible for this terrible state of affairs."


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Judge honoured...

A FORMER senior judge has been given Scotland's highest honour, it was announced yesterday.

Lord Cullen of Whitekirk was appointed a Knight of the Thistle on St Andrew's Day.

He led inquiries into the Piper Alpha disaster and the Dunblane shootings, and in March 2002 led the five-judge tribunal which heard the failed appeal of the Lockerbie bomber.

The Order of the Thistle represents the highest honour in Scotland. It honours Scottish men and women who have held public office or who have contributed in a particular way to national life.

*What exactly has he done to either advance jurisprudence in Scotland, or reform our archaic and creaking legal system?

After the Lockerbie appeal, maybe he should have been given the Order of the Boot.*


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Judge: TV executive dishonourable...

Alan Clements, the Glasgow-based TV executive and husband of Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark, was yesterday criticised as "dishonourable" by a judge for snooping on a colleague's private e-mails.

Deputy Judge Bernard Livesey, QC, said Mr Clements had breached the terms of his contract with independent company IWC, now part of RDF Media, by attempting to secure a job with rival broadcaster Scottish Media Group (SMG), and dismissed his bid to escape a three-year "golden handcuffs" agreement.

The immediate effect of the injunction, issued after a hearing at the High Court in London more than a month ago, is that Mr Clements will not be able to take up his post with SMG - which runs two ITV franchises in Scotland and owns the production arm behind hit shows such as Taggart and Rebus - until December 2, 2008.

Mr Clements is thought to have made around £2m when IWC, the Scottish production company formed by merging independents Wark Clements and Ideal World, was snapped up by RDF for £14m in December 2005. He resigned as creative director of RDF by e-mail on March 30 this year but later claimed he had been constructively dismissed because of a "vitriolic" briefing the company gave to Ken Symons, a reporter at The Herald's sister paper, The Sunday Herald, in April.

However, the judge criticised Mr Clements's conduct, saying he did not accept his explanation he had "innocently" erased diary entries which showed meetings with SMG prior to leaving RDF.

"He would want to conceal this because it would challenge his good faith in pledging to The Sunday Herald on 18 March that he was committed to IWC for the foreseeable future," the judge said, adding that these matters affected Mr Clements's "credibility".

The ruling was welcomed by RDF, which had fought Mr Clements's attempt to reduce the three-year "non-compete" clause to two years - which would have allowed him to take up a post at SMG this month. David Frank, chief executive of RDF, said: "In my view, a deal is a deal. Alan Clements entered into his contractual arrangements with RDF voluntarily, for which he was paid handsomely."

The judge said while RDF's conduct in speaking to the press about him would amount to breach of the employer's obligation to him, Mr Clements's own behaviour justified RDF's decision to terminate his contract on May 3, 2007.

The judge said in his ruling Mr Clements had accepted he had procured his wife's personal assistant, Janice McKnight, to access former colleague Hamish Barbour's private e-mail inbox on RDF's website to monitor what was being said about him at the company.

The judge said: "I find it more than a little surprising that he should have snooped into the private correspondence of a close colleague and friend, having regard to the strong objection he has shown in this case to the reports in the newspaper which alleged that he had behaved in a dishonourable manner."

Following the judgment, Mr Clements said he intended to appeal: "The court found that I broke my contract by talking to SMG.

"Half the people in our industry would be out of a job if that was the case."


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A judge has condemned the "barking mad" human rights rules that allowed a drug dealer to stay in his prison cell rather than appear in court....

 

Amir Ali, who was jailed for almost four years last September, refused to leave the "comfortable" cell because he was afraid of losing it to another inmate.

 

  • Judge Richard Hayward said: "I didn't know that prisoners could choose whether or not to come to court. I just assumed they would be scooped up by a burly prison warden and dumped in the back of a van. Now I hear this prisoner is refusing to leave his cell, and no one's doing anything about it. Once again, it's down to barking mad human rights rules."

    Ali was due to appear at Lewes Crown Court, East Sussex, for a confiscation hearing yesterday to be stripped of the tens of thousands of pounds he earned from dealing in class A drugs.

    However, he refused to leave HMP Camp Hill, a category C training prison on the Isle of Wight. Julian Woodbridge, defending Ali, said: "Mr Ali refused to leave his cell this morning because he is comfortable there and doesn't want to lose it.

    "There is a shortage of comfortable prison cells in this country, so he was obviously keen to hold on to his." Judge Hayward, who adjourned the hearing, said: "If he doesn't turn up then, we will simply go on without him."

    Police caught Ali and 14 co-conspirators in Crawley, East Sussex, during a sting operation in March 2007. He was convicted of conspiring to supply cocaine, two counts of supplying the same drug and a further two charges of supplying heroin.

    After the operation, Det Insp Nick May said: "Compared with the same period last year, burglary, robbery and vehicle crime have all dropped in Crawley, and this is a tribute to the fantastic support we receive from communities, and the efforts we put into tackling drug dealing, as shown by this series of arrests."

    A court source said: "Judge Hayward is known for his no-nonsense approach to criminals and he is sick and tired of coming up against barriers which slow down the legal process. It's incredible that this drug dealer finds his cell so comfortable he doesn't want to leave it. If they make prison that easy then it is no surprise the jails are full up."

    The source added: "To claim your human rights are being infringed by being brought to court from your prison cell is really the final straw."


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