On 12 June 2013, the Gava courthouse in Barcelona filed a case against Lionel Messi. The Argentinean player and his father are suspected of using companies based in Uruguay and Belize to defraud the state of more than 4 million euros. A few months earlier, Bayern Munich’s general manager Uli Hoeness and French Budget Minister Jérôme Cahuzac were both accused of evading taxes through undeclared bank accounts in Switzerland. Ironically, the latter was leading the fight against tax fraud in France. A number of European multinationals, such as UBS and Vodafone, have also been suspected of taking part in proven or alleged evasion schemes. These high-profile cases have raised public awareness of tax dodging in Europe and given credit to its detractors. For instance, the Tax Justice Network estimated that 20 to 30 trillion dollars are currently held in tax havens worldwide. The issue is especially sensitive for European countries in the current context: securing stable tax revenue has become an urgent priority in times of recession and high public debt. Furthermore, the existence of tax havens within Europe – including Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Channel Islands – remains a pressing challenge for the continent.
“Judges have joined the front line”, according to Thomas Tugendhat, co-author of the one-sided, scaremongering report, The Fog of Law. By the right-wing think tank, Policy Exchange, it is knee-jerk reaction to the case of Smith & Others v Ministry of Defence and a a seriously disappointing contribution to the debate on accountability in matters of defence.
By Rebekah Read
This week I saw the brilliantly entertaining satirical musical ‘The Scottsboro Boys’ at the Young Vic. (http://www.youngvic.org/whats-on/the-scottsboro-boys). A moving tale of a deplorable miscarriage of justice which brought about the end of all-white juries in Alabama, the Scottsboro boys were nine black teenagers who were falsely convicted of raping two white girls in 1931. After many years of imprisonment and numerous retrials following campaigning from the American Communist Party, the boys were gradually released, apart from one of the boys who died in prison in 1952.
This play serves as a reminder of the fallibility of the court process. Although we would like to place such atrocious injustices behind us, most readers will be familiar with some of the more notorious miscarriages of justice over the last 50 years. The Birmingham six, for example, vilified in a dreadful media campaign, were sentenced to life imprisonment for the Birmingham pub bombings in 1975. They were released when their convictions were found to be unsafe after 16 years of imprisonment. Rightly, they were awarded compensation for the years of unfair incarceration and their release led to the setting up of the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which has led to the quashing of hundreds of unsafe convictions. The Government are now trying to restrict compensation to those who can prove their innocence.
By Sam Hawke
The recent legal aid proposals threaten to fundamentally change the way society’s most vulnerable members are protected, says Sam Hawke, a volunteer for the Migrant & Refugee Children’s Legal Unit (MiCLU) at Islington Law Centre and JustRights, who followed the Joint Committee on Human Rights evidence session last week.
Darling of the Blairite right, Louise Mensch, made several remarkable public outbursts in her strange political career. One such moment was famously documented on ‘Have I Got News For You’. Whilst discussing Occupy London, Mensch lamented the hypocrisy of the Occupants for buying Starbucks coffee. “You can’t say ‘capitalism is crisis’, and then enjoy everything that capitalism offers”. Her opinion was rightly laughed at for its utter emptiness, since you can clearly hate capitalism and like coffee at the same time, and not be a hypocrite. Or, as another panelist put it, someone on death row can enjoy their last meal. Mensch does, nonetheless, raise an interesting topic: how can an anti-capitalist live ethically?
By Alexander Green
The obvious should go without saying. However, sometimes it goes much better with saying. It should be obvious, at least to every right-thinking international lawyer, that Western military intervention in Syria would be illegal at this time. Someone had better tell Messrs Obama and Cameron before they do something we all might regret.
This article will first provide a brief summary of the facts before examining the legal position. I will argue, based upon a normative interpretation of international law, that any military action without the consent of the UN Security Council would be illegal even if a deliberate chemical attack was carried out by the Syrian government on its civilian population.
By Sarah Walker
On Tuesday disabled families lost a court challenge to changes to social housing benefit. The High Court ruled that the policy, commonly known as “the bedroom tax”, charging a subsidy to those on social housing benefit living in a property which is deemed to have a “spare bedroom” (14% less housing benefit per spare room), did not unlawfully discriminate against disabled people. Whether or not an appeal to the Court of Appeal will be successful remains to be seen. Whatever the legality of the decision to impose the “bedroom tax” (or ‘”spare room subsidy”), the policy, introduced on 1 April 2013, is still a bad one.