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Selected articles 1
Execution by elephant was a common method of capital punishment in South and Southeast Asia, particularly in India, where Asian elephants were used to crush, dismember or torture captives in public executions. The animals were trained and versatile, able to kill victims immediately or to torture them slowly over a prolonged period. Most commonly employed by royalty, the elephants were used to signify both the ruler's absolute power and his ability to control wild animals.
The sight of elephants executing captives both horrified and attracted the interest of European travellers and was recorded in numerous contemporary journals and accounts of life in Asia. The practice was eventually suppressed by the European colonial powers that colonised the region in the 18th and 19th centuries. While primarily confined to Asia, the practice was occasionally used by Western powers, such as Ancient Rome and Carthage, particularly to deal with mutinous soldiers. (more...)
Selected articles 2
The Saxbe fix , or salary rollback, is a mechanism by which the President of the United States, in appointing a current or former member of the United States Congress whose elected term has not yet expired, can avoid the restriction of the United States Constitution's Ineligibility Clause. That clause prohibits the President from appointing a current or former member of Congress to a civil office position that was created, or to a civil office position for which the pay or benefits (collectively, "emoluments") were increased, during the term for which that member was elected until the term has expired. The rollback, first implemented by an Act of Congress in 1909, reverts the emoluments of the office to the amount they were when that member began his or her elected term.
To prevent ethical conflicts, James Madison proposed language at the Constitutional Convention that was adopted as the Ineligibility Clause after debate and modification by other Founding Fathers. Historically, a number of approaches have been taken to circumvent or adhere to the restrictions; these have included choosing another nominee, allowing the desired nominee's elected term of office to expire, ignoring the clause entirely, or reducing the offending emoluments to the level prior to when the nominee took office. Although Congress passed the mechanism reducing emoluments in 1909, the procedure was named "Saxbe fix" after Senator William Saxbe, who was confirmed as Attorney General in 1973 after Congress reduced the office's salary to the level it had been before Saxbe's term commenced. The Saxbe fix has subsequently become relevant as a successful--though not universally accepted--solution for appointments by presidents of both parties of sitting members of the United States Congress to the United States Cabinet. Members of Congress have been appointed to federal judgeships without any fix being enacted; court challenges to such appointments have failed. (more...)
Selected articles 3
The Constitution of the Republic of Belarus (Belarusian: ? , Russian: ? ) is the ultimate law of Belarus. Adopted in 1994, three years after the country declared its independence from the Soviet Union, this formal document establishes the framework of the Belarusian state and government and enumerates the rights and freedoms of its citizens. The Constitution was drafted by the Supreme Soviet of Belarus, the former legislative body of the country, and was improved upon by citizens and legal experts. The contents of the Constitution include the preamble, nine sections, and 146 articles.
The structure and substance of the Constitution were heavily influenced by constitutions of Western powers and by Belarus' experiences during the Soviet era. While much of the Constitution establishes the government's functions and powers, an entire section details rights and freedoms granted to citizens and residents. The Constitution has been amended twice since the original adoption, in 1996 and in 2004. Two referendums that were disputed by independent observers and government opposition leaders increased the power of the presidency over the government and eliminated the term limits for the presidency. (more...)
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The Honourable Society of Gray's Inn, commonly known as Gray's Inn, is one of the four Inns of Court (professional associations for barristers and judges) in London. To be called to the bar and practise as a barrister in England and Wales, a person must belong to one of these inns. Located at the intersection of High Holborn and Gray's Inn Road in Central London, the inn is both a professional body and a provider of office accommodation (chambers) for many barristers. It is ruled by a governing council called "pension", made up of the masters of the bench (or "benchers"), and led by the Treasurer, who is elected to serve a one-year term. The inn is known for its gardens, or walks, which have existed since at least 1597.
Gray's Inn does not claim a specific foundation date; there is a tradition that none of the Inns of Court claims to be any older than the others. Law clerks and their apprentices have been established on the present site since at least 1370, with records dating from 1381. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the inn grew steadily with great prestige, reaching its pinnacle during the reign of Elizabeth I. The inn was home to many important barristers and politicians, most notably Francis Bacon, and counted Queen Elizabeth herself as a patron. Thanks to the efforts of prominent members such as William Cecil and Gilbert Gerard, Gray's Inn became the largest of the four by number, with over 200 barristers recorded as members. During this period, the inn became noted for the masques and revels that it threw, and William Shakespeare is believed to have first performed The Comedy of Errors there. (more...)
Selected articles 5
Same-sex marriage in Spain has been legal since July 3, 2005. In 2004, the nation's newly elected Socialist Party (PSOE) Government, led by Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, began a campaign for its introduction, including the right of adoption by same-sex couples. After much debate, a law permitting same-sex marriage was passed by the Cortes Generales (the Spanish Parliament, composed of the Senate and the Congress of Deputies) on 30 June 2005 and published on 2 July 2005. The law took effect the next day, making Spain the third country in the world to allow same-sex couples to marry on a national level, after the Netherlands and Belgium, and 17 days ahead of the right being extended across all of Canada.
The ratification of this law was not devoid of conflict, despite support from 66% of the population. Roman Catholic authorities in particular were adamantly opposed, criticising what they regarded as the weakening of the meaning of marriage. Other associations expressed concern over the possibility of lesbians and gays adopting children. Demonstrations for and against the law drew thousands of people from all parts of Spain. After its approval, the conservative People's Party challenged the law in the Constitutional Court.
Approximately 4,500 same-sex couples married in Spain during the first year of the law. Shortly after the law was passed, questions arose about the legal status of marriage to non-Spaniards whose country did not permit same-sex marriage. A ruling from the Justice Ministry stated that the country's same-sex marriage law allows a Spanish citizen to marry a non-Spaniard regardless of whether that person's homeland recognizes the partnership. At least one partner must be a Spanish citizen in order to marry, although two non-Spaniards may marry if they both have legal residence in Spain. (more...)
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The Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles of State Policy and Fundamental Duties are sections of the
Constitution of India that prescribe the fundamental obligations of the states to its citizens and the duties and the rights of the citizens to the State. These sections comprise a constitutional bill of rights for government policy-making and the behaviour and conduct of citizens. These sections are considered vital elements of the constitution, which was developed between 1947 and 1949 by the Constituent Assembly of India.
The Fundamental Rights are defined as the basic human rights of all citizens. These rights, defined in Part III of the Constitution, applied irrespective of race, place of birth, religion, caste, creed, or gender. They are enforceable by the courts, subject to specific restrictions. The Directive Principles of State Policy are guidelines for the framing of laws by the government. These provisions, set out in Part IV of the Constitution, are not enforceable by the courts, but the principles on which they are based are fundamental guidelines for governance that the State is expected to apply in framing policies and passing laws. (more...)
Selected articles 7
The Scottish Parliament (Scottish Gaelic: Pàrlamaid na h-Alba; Scots: Scots Pairlament) is the devolved, unicameral legislature of Scotland. Located in the Holyrood area of the capital city, Edinburgh, it is frequently referred to by the metonym Holyrood.
The Parliament is a democratically elected body comprising 129 members known as Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs), elected for four-year terms under the additional member system: 73 MSPs represent individual geographical constituencies elected by the plurality ('first-past-the-post') system, while a further 56 are returned from eight additional member regions, each electing seven MSPs. The most recent general election to the Parliament was held on 5 May 2016, with the Scottish National Party winning a plurality.
The original Parliament of Scotland was the national legislature of the independent Kingdom of Scotland, and existed from the early 13th century until the Kingdom of Scotland merged with the Kingdom of England under the Acts of Union 1707 to form the Kingdom of Great Britain. As a consequence, both the Parliament of Scotland and the Parliament of England ceased to exist, and the Parliament of Great Britain, which sat at Westminster in London was formed. (more...)
Selected articles 8
Royal assent is the method by which a monarch formally approves an act of the legislature (either directly, or through an official acting on the monarch's behalf). In some jurisdictions, royal assent is equivalent to promulgation, while in others that is a separate step. Under a modern constitutional monarchy royal assent is considered to be little more than a formality; even in those nations which still, in theory, permit the Monarch to withhold assent to laws (such as the United Kingdom, Norway, and Liechtenstein), the Monarch almost never does so, except in a dire political emergency or upon the advice of their government. While the power to veto a law by withholding royal assent was once exercised often by European monarchs, such an occurrence has been very rare since the eighteenth century.
Royal assent is sometimes associated with elaborate ceremonies. In the United Kingdom, for instance, the Sovereign may appear personally in the House of Lords or may appoint Lords Commissioners, who announce that royal assent has been granted at a ceremony held at the Palace of Westminster for this purpose. However, royal assent is usually granted less ceremonially by letters patent. In other nations, such as Australia, the governor-general (as the Monarch's representative) merely signs a bill. In Canada, the governor general may give assent either in person at a ceremony held in the Senate or by a written declaration notifying parliament of their agreement to the bill. (more...)
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The Bricker Amendment is the collective name of a number of slightly different proposed amendments to the United States Constitution considered by the United States Senate in the 1950s. None of these amendments ever passed Congress. Each of them would require explicit congressional approval, especially for executive agreements that did not require the Senate's two thirds approval for treaty. They are named for their sponsor, conservative Republican Senator John W. Bricker of Ohio, who distrusted the exclusive powers of the president to involve America beyond the wishes of Congress.
American entry into World War II led to a new sense of internationalism, which seemed threatening to many conservatives. Frank E. Holman, president of the American Bar Association (ABA), called attention to Federal court decisions, notably Missouri v. Holland, which he claimed could give international treaties and agreements precedence over the United States Constitution and could be used by foreigners to threaten American liberties. Senator Bricker was influenced by the ABA's work and first introduced a proposed constitutional amendment in 1951. With substantial popular support and the election of a Republican president and Congress in the elections of 1952, together with support from many Southern Democrats, Bricker's plan seemed destined to Pass Congress by the necessary two thirds vote and be sent to the individual states for ratification by three fourths of the state legislatures.
The best-known version of the Bricker Amendment, considered by the Senate in 1953-54, declared that no treaty could be made by the United States that conflicted with the Constitution; treaties could not be self-executing without the passage of separate enabling legislation through Congress; treaties could not give Congress legislative powers beyond those specified in the Constitution. It also limited the president's power to enter into executive agreements with foreign powers. (more...)
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Carucage was a medieval English land tax enacted by King Richard I in 1194, based on the size--variously calculated--of the taxpayer's estate. It was a replacement for the danegeld, last imposed in 1162, which had become difficult to collect because of an increasing number of exemptions. Carucage was levied just six times: by Richard in 1194 and 1198; John, his brother and successor, in 1200; and John's son, Henry III, in 1217, 1220, and 1224, after which it was replaced by taxes on income and personal property.
The taxable value of an estate was initially assessed from the Domesday Survey, but other methods were later employed, such as valuations based on the sworn testimony of neighbours or on the number of plough-teams the taxpayer used. Carucage never raised as much as other taxes, but nevertheless helped to fund several projects. It paid the ransom for Richard's release in 1194, after he was taken prisoner by Leopold V, Duke of Austria; it covered the tax John had to pay Philip II of France in 1200 on land he inherited in that country; and it helped to finance Henry III's military campaigns in England and on continental Europe. (more...)
Selected articles 12
The Court of Chancery was a court of equity in England and Wales that followed a set of loose rules to avoid the slow pace of change and possible harshness (or "inequity") of the common law. The Chancery had jurisdiction over all matters of equity, including trusts, land law, the estates of lunatics and the guardianship of infants. Its initial role was somewhat different: as an extension of the Lord Chancellor's role as Keeper of the King's Conscience, the Court was an administrative body primarily concerned with conscientious law. Thus the Court of Chancery had a far greater remit than the common law courts, whose decisions it had the jurisdiction to overrule for much of its existence, and was far more flexible. Until the 19th century, the Court of Chancery could apply a far wider range of remedies than common law courts, such as specific performance and injunctions, and had some power to grant damages in special circumstances. With the shift of the Exchequer of Pleas towards a common law court and loss of its equitable jurisdiction by the Administration of Justice Act 1841, the Chancery became the only national equitable body in the English legal system.
Academics estimate that the Court of Chancery formally split from and became independent of the curia regis in the mid-14th century, at which time it consisted of the Lord Chancellor and his personal staff, the Chancery. Initially an administrative body with some judicial duties, the Chancery experienced an explosive growth in its work during the 15th century, particularly under the House of York, which academics attribute to its becoming an almost entirely judicial body. From the time of Elizabeth I onwards the Court was severely criticised for its slow pace, large backlogs, and high costs. Those problems persisted until its dissolution, despite being mitigated somewhat by reforms, particularly during the 19th century. Attempts at fusing the Chancery with the common law courts began in the 1850s, and finally succeeded with the 1873 and 1875 Supreme Court of Judicature Acts, which dissolved the Chancery and created a new unified High Court of Justice, with the Chancery Division - one of three divisions of the High Court - succeeding the Court of Chancery as an equitable body. (more...)
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The CSI effect is any of several ways in which the exaggerated portrayal of forensic science on crime television shows such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation influences public perception. The term most often refers to the belief that jurors have come to demand more forensic evidence in criminal trials, thereby raising the effective standard of proof for prosecutors. While this belief is widely held among American legal professionals, some studies have suggested that crime shows are unlikely to cause such an effect, although frequent CSI viewers may place a lower value on circumstantial evidence. As technology improves and becomes more prevalent throughout society, people may also develop higher expectations for the capabilities of forensic technology.
There are several other manifestations of the CSI effect. Greater public awareness of forensic science has also increased the demand for forensic evidence in police investigations, inflating workloads for crime laboratories. The number and popularity of forensic science programs at the university level have greatly increased worldwide, though some new programs have been criticized for inadequately preparing their students for real forensic work. It is possible that forensic science shows teach criminals how to conceal evidence of their crimes, thereby making it more difficult for investigators to solve cases. (more...)
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The Treaty of Devol (Greek: ? ) was an agreement made in 1108 between Bohemond I of Antioch and Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos, in the wake of the First Crusade. It is named after the Byzantine fortress of Devol (in modern Albania). Although the treaty was not immediately enforced, it was intended to make the Principality of Antioch a vassal state of the Byzantine Empire.
At the beginning of the First Crusade, Crusader armies assembled at Constantinople and promised to return to the Byzantine Empire any land they might conquer. However, Bohemond, the son of Alexios' former enemy Robert Guiscard, claimed the Principality of Antioch for himself. Alexios did not recognize the legitimacy of the Principality, and Bohemond went to Europe looking for reinforcements. He launched into open warfare against Alexios, laying siege to Dyrrhachium, but he was soon forced to surrender and negotiate with Alexios at the imperial camp at Diabolis (Devol), where the Treaty was signed.
Under the terms of the Treaty, Bohemond agreed to become a vassal of the Emperor and to defend the Empire whenever needed. He also accepted the appointment of a Greek Patriarch. In return, he was given the titles of sebastos and doux (duke) of Antioch, and he was guaranteed the right to pass on to his heirs the County of Edessa. Following this, Bohemond retreated to Apulia and died there. His nephew, Tancred, who was regent in Antioch, refused to accept the terms of the Treaty. Antioch came temporarily under Byzantine sway in 1137, but it was not until 1158 that it truly became a Byzantine vassal. (more...)
Selected articles 15
To be hanged, drawn and quartered was, from 1352 after the Treason Act 1351, a statutory penalty in England for men convicted of high treason, although the ritual was first recorded during the reign of King Henry III (1216-1272). The convicted traitor was fastened to a hurdle, or wooden panel, and drawn by horse to the place of execution, where he was then hanged (almost to the point of death), emasculated, disembowelled, beheaded, and quartered (chopped into four pieces). His remains would then often be displayed in prominent places across the country, such as London Bridge, to serve as a warning of the fate of traitors. For reasons of public decency, women convicted of high treason were instead burned at the stake.
The severity of the sentence was measured against the seriousness of the crime. As an attack on the English monarchy's authority, high treason was considered a deplorable act demanding the most extreme form of punishment. Although some convicts had their sentences modified and suffered a less ignominious end, over a period of several hundred years many men found guilty of high treason were subjected to the law's ultimate sanction. They included many English Catholic priests executed during the Elizabethan era, and several of the regicides involved in the 1649 execution of Charles I.
Although the Act of Parliament defining high treason remains on the United Kingdom's statute books, during a long period of 19th-century legal reform the sentence of hanging, drawing, and quartering was changed to drawing, hanging until dead, and posthumous beheading and quartering, before being abolished in England in 1870. The death penalty for treason was abolished in 1998. (more...)
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The LaRouche criminal trials in the mid-1980s stemmed from federal and state investigations into the activities of American political activist Lyndon LaRouche and members of his movement. They were charged with conspiring to commit fraud and soliciting loans they had no intention of repaying. LaRouche and his supporters disputed the charges, claiming the trials were politically motivated.
In 1986, hundreds of state and federal officers raided LaRouche offices in Virginia and Massachusetts. A federal grand jury in Boston, Massachusetts, indicted LaRouche and 12 associates on credit card fraud and obstruction of justice. The subsequent trial, described as an "extravaganza", was repeatedly delayed and ended in mistrial. Following the mistrial, a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, indicted LaRouche and six associates. After a short trial in 1988, LaRouche was convicted of mail fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and tax evasion, and was sentenced to prison for fifteen years. He entered prison in 1989 and was paroled five years later. At the same trial, his associates received lesser sentences for mail fraud and conspiracy. In separate state trials in Virginia and New York, 13 associates received terms ranging from one month to 77 years. The Virginia state trials were described as the highest-profile cases that the state Attorney General's office had ever prosecuted. Fourteen states issued injunctions against LaRouche-related organizations. Three LaRouche-related organizations were forced into bankruptcy after failing to pay contempt of court fines.
Defense lawyers filed numerous unsuccessful appeals that challenged the conduct of the grand jury, the contempt fines, the execution of the search warrants and various trial procedures. At least ten appeals were heard by the United States court of appeals, and three were appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark joined the defense team for two appeals. Following the convictions, the LaRouche movement mounted failed attempts at exoneration. (more...)
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The Marshalsea (1373-1842) was a notorious prison in Southwark, just south of the River Thames. Although it housed a variety of prisoners, including men accused of crimes at sea and political figures charged with sedition, it became known, in particular, for its incarceration of the poorest of London's debtors. Over half the population of England's prisons in the 18th century were in jail because of debt.
Run privately for profit, as were all English prisons until the 19th century, the Marshalsea looked like an Oxbridge college and functioned as an extortion racket. Debtors in the 18th century who could afford the prison fees had access to a bar, shop and restaurant, and retained the crucial privilege of being allowed out during the day, which gave them a chance to earn money for their creditors. Everyone else was crammed into one of nine small rooms with dozens of others, possibly for years for the most modest of debts, which increased as unpaid prison fees accumulated. The poorest faced starvation and, if they crossed the jailers, torture with skullcaps and thumbscrews. A parliamentary committee reported in 1729 that 300 inmates had starved to death within a three-month period, and that eight to ten were dying every 24 hours in the warmer weather.
The prison became known around the world in the 19th century through the writing of the English novelist Charles Dickens, whose father was sent there in 1824, when Dickens was 12, for a debt to a baker. Forced as a result to leave school to work in a factory, Dickens based several of his characters on his experience, most notably Amy Dorrit, whose father is in the Marshalsea for debts so complex no one can fathom how to get him out. (more...)
Selected articles 18
The Report of 1800 was a resolution drafted by James Madison arguing for the sovereignty of the individual states under the United States Constitution and against the Alien and Sedition Acts. Adopted by the Virginia General Assembly in January 1800, the Report amends arguments from the 1798 Virginia Resolutions and attempts to resolve contemporary criticisms against the Resolutions. The Report was the last important explication of the Constitution produced before the 1817 Bonus Bill veto message by Madison, who has come to be regarded as the "Father of the Constitution."
The arguments made in the Resolutions and the Report were later used frequently during the nullification crisis of 1832, when South Carolina declared federal tariffs to be unconstitutional and void within the state. Madison rejected the concept of nullification and the notion that his arguments supported such a practice. Whether Madison's theory of Republicanism really supported the nullification movement, and more broadly whether the ideas he expressed between 1798 and 1800 are consistent with his work before and after this period, are the main questions surrounding the Report in the modern literature. (more...)
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To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel by Harper Lee published in 1960. Instantly successful, widely read in high schools and middle schools in the United States, it has become a classic of modern American literature, winning the Pulitzer Prize. The plot and characters are loosely based on Lee's observations of her family, her neighbors and an event that occurred near her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, in 1936, when she was ten.
Despite dealing with the serious issues of rape and racial inequality, the novel is renowned for its warmth and humor. Atticus Finch, the narrator's father, has served as a moral hero for many readers and as a model of integrity for lawyers. The historian Joseph Crespino explains, "In the twentieth century, To Kill a Mockingbird is probably the most widely read book dealing with race in America, and its main character, Atticus Finch, the most enduring fictional image of racial heroism." As a Southern Gothic and Bildungsroman novel, the primary themes of To Kill a Mockingbird involve racial injustice and the destruction of innocence. Scholars have noted that Lee also addresses issues of class, courage, compassion, and gender roles in the Deep South. The book is widely taught in schools in the United States with lessons that emphasize tolerance and decry prejudice. Despite its themes, To Kill a Mockingbird has been subject to campaigns for removal from public classrooms, often challenged for its use of racial epithets. In 2006, British librarians ranked the book ahead of the Bible as one "every adult should read before they die". (more...)
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Convicted computer criminals are people who are caught and convicted of computer crimes such as breaking into computers or computer networks. Computer crime can be broadly defined as criminal activity involving information technology infrastructure, including illegal access (unauthorized access), illegal interception (by technical means of non-public transmissions of computer data to, from or within a computer system), data interference (unauthorized damaging, deletion, deterioration, alteration or suppression of computer data), systems interference (interfering with the functioning of a computer system by inputting, transmitting, damaging, deleting, deteriorating, altering or suppressing computer data), misuse of devices, forgery (or identity theft) and electronic fraud.
Convictions of computer crimes, or hacking, began as early as 1984 with the case of The 414s from the 414 area code in Milwaukee. In that case, six teenagers broke into a number of high-profile computer systems, including Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Security Pacific Bank. On May 1, 1984, one of the 414s, Gerald Wondra, was sentenced to two years of probation. In May, 1986, the first computer trespass conviction to result in a jail sentence was handed down to Michael Princeton Wilkerson, who received two weeks in jail for his infiltration of Microsoft, Sundstrand Corp., Kenworth Truck Co. and Resources Conservation Co. (more...)
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The County Court of England and Wales dates back to the County Courts Act 1846, which received Royal Assent on 28 August 1846 and was brought into force on 15 March 1847.
England and Wales (with the exception of the City of London, which was outside the scope of the Act) were divided into 60 circuits, with a total of 491 county courts within these circuits. The then Lord Chancellor, Lord Cottenham, wanted everyone to be within seven miles of a court, and the final scheme came close to that aim. One county court judge was appointed to each circuit, assisted by one or more registrars with some limited judicial powers, and would travel between the courts in his area as necessary, sitting in each court at least once a month. Few permanent courts were needed initially, given the infrequency of court hearings, and temporary accommodation such as a town hall would often be used where there was no existing courthouse for use. In some places, a building is now shared with the local Crown Court (as at Maidstone Combined Court Centre, for example), Family Court, or magistrates' court. The judicial business of the county courts is now carried out by circuit judges (a term introduced by the Courts Act 1971) and district judges (as the post of registrar was renamed by section 74 of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990). Part-time judges (recorders, deputy district judges and some retired judges) also sit in the county court. As at 1 April 2015, there are 640 circuit judges and 441 district judges.
The system of 60 circuits was abolished in 1970. Over time, whilst new courts have been opened in various locations, there has been an overall reduction in the number of locations where a county court is held. In June 2010, the Ministry of Justice announced plans to close 54 county courts and 103 magistrates' courts, in order to save £15m in annual running costs and £22m in necessary maintenance. After consultation, it was decided to keep five of these county courts open: Barnsley, Bury, Llangefni, the Mayor's and City of London Court, and Skipton. From 22 April 2014, the Crime and Courts Act 2013 replaced the previous system of county courts for different localities with one County Court that operates throughout England and Wales, sitting in multiple locations simultaneously. In July 2015, further proposals to close nineteen County Court venues were announced. (more...)
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The modern system of county courts in England and Wales was established by the County Courts Act 1846. The Act created 491 courts on 60 circuits; of these, 53 courts were in Wales and Monmouthshire (a Welsh county that had ambiguous status at the time and was sometimes treated as being in England). Since then, new courts have been opened in various locations, and 80 towns and cities in Wales have, or have had, county courts. As of 2012, there are 20 county courts in Wales. The courts in the other 60 locations have closed. Reasons for closure have included a decision that it was "inexpedient" to continue to provide a court, the volume of business no longer justifying a court, or the state of the building housing the court. The first closure was Fishguard, in 1856; the most recent closures are the county courts in Aberdare and Pontypool, which closed on 1 August 2011. (more...)
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India's unitary judicial system is made up of the Supreme Court of India at the national level, for the entire country and the 24 High Courts at the State level. These courts have jurisdiction over a state, a union territory or a group of states and union territories. Below the High Courts are a hierarchy of subordinate courts such as the civil courts, family courts, criminal courts and various other district courts. High Courts are instituted as constitutional courts under Part VI, Chapter V, Article 214 of the Indian Constitution.
The High Courts are the principal civil courts of original jurisdiction in the state along with District Courts which are subordinate to the High courts. However, High courts exercise their original civil and criminal jurisdiction only if the courts subordinate to the High court in the state are not competent (not authorized by law) to try such matters for lack of pecuniary, territorial jurisdiction. High courts may also enjoy original jurisdiction in certain matters if so designated specifically in a state or Federal law. e.g.: Company law cases are instituted only in a High court. (more...)
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A total of 115 people have served on the Supreme Court of the United States, the highest judicial body in the United States, since it was established in 1789. Supreme Court justices have life tenure, and so they serve until they die, resign, retire, or are impeached and removed from office. For the 105 non-incumbent justices, the average length of service was 6,203 days (16 years, 359 days). Their length of service ranges from William O. Douglas's 13,358 days (36 years, 209 days) on the Court to the 163-day tenure of Thomas Johnson. Among the current members of the Court, Clarence Thomas's tenure of 10,597 days (29 years, 4 days) is the longest, while Amy Coney Barrett's 1 day is the briefest.
The table below ranks all United States Supreme Court Justices by time in office. For five individuals confirmed for associate justice, and later served as chief justice --Charles Evans Hughes, William Rehnquist, John Rutledge, Harlan F. Stone, and Edward Douglass White--their cumulative length of service on the Court is measured. The basis of the ranking is the difference between dates; if counted by number of calendar days all the figures would be one greater, with the exception of Charles Evans Hughes and John Rutledge, who would receive two days, as each served on the Court twice (their service as associate justice and as chief justice was separated by a period of years off the Court). The start date given for each justice is the day he or she took the prescribed oath of office, with the end date being the date of the justice's death, resignation, or retirement. A highlighted row indicates a justice currently serving on the Court. (more...)
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The Keeper or Master of the Rolls and Records of the Chancery of England, known as the Master of the Rolls, is the President of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales, Civil Division, and Head of Civil Justice. As a judge, he is the second in seniority in England and Wales only to the Lord Chief Justice. The position dates from at least 1286, although it is believed that the office probably existed earlier than that.
The Master of the Rolls was initially a clerk responsible for keeping the "Rolls" or records of the Court of Chancery, and was known as the Keeper of the Rolls of Chancery. The Keeper was the most senior of the dozen Chancery clerks, and as such occasionally acted as keeper of the Great Seal of the Realm. The post evolved into a judicial one as the Court of Chancery did; the first reference to judicial duties dates from 1520. With the Judicature Act 1873, which merged the Court of Chancery with the other major courts, the Master of the Rolls joined the Chancery Division of the High Court and the Court of Appeal, but left the Chancery Division by the terms of the Judicature Act 1881. The Master of the Rolls had also been warden of the little-used Domus Conversorum for housing Jewish converts, which led to the house and chapel being used to store legal documents and later becoming the location of the Public Record Office. He retained his clerical functions as the nominal head of the Public Record Office until the Public Records Act 1958 transferred responsibility for it to the Lord Chancellor. One residual reminder of this role is the fact that the Master of the Rolls of the day continues to serve, ex officio, as President of the British Records Association. The Master of the Rolls was also previously responsible for registering solicitors, the officers of the Senior Courts. (more...)
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The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, commonly known as the Sakharov Prize, honours individuals and groups of people who have dedicated their lives to the defense of human rights and freedom of thought. Named after Russian scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, the prize was established in December 1988 by the European Parliament. A shortlist of nominees is drawn up annually by the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs and Committee on Development. The MEPs who make up those committees then select a shortlist in September. Thereafter, the final choice is given to The European Parliament's Conference of Presidents (President and political group's leaders) and the laureate's name is announced late in October. The prize is awarded in a ceremony at the Parliament's Strasbourg hemicycle (round chamber) in December. The prize includes a monetary award of EUR50,000.
The first prize was awarded jointly to South African Nelson Mandela and Russian Anatoly Marchenko. The 1990 award was given to Aung San Suu Kyi, but she could not receive it until 2013 as a result of her political imprisonment in Burma. The prize has also been awarded to organisations, the first being the Argentine Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in 1992. Five Sakharov laureates were subsequently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize: Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Malala Yousafzai, Denis Mukwege, and Nadia Murad. (more...)
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The Ministry of Justice of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) (Russian: ? ?, Ministerstvo Yustitsii SSSR), formed on 15 March 1946, was one of the most important government offices in the Soviet Union. It was formerly (until 1946) known as the People's Commissariat for Justice (Russian: ?, Narodniy Komissariat Yustitsi'i) abbreviated as (Narkomiust). The Ministry, at the All-Union (USSR-wide) level, was established on 6 July 1923, after the signing of the Treaty on the Creation of the USSR, and was in turn based upon the People's Commissariat for Justice of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) formed in 1917. The Ministry was led by the Minister of Justice, prior to 1946 a Commissar, who was nominated by the Chairman of the Council of Ministers and confirmed by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, and was a member of the Council of Ministers.
The Ministry of Justice was responsible for courts, prisons, and probations. Further responsibilities included criminal justice policy, sentencing policy, and prevention of re-offending in the USSR. The Ministry was organised into All-Union and Union departments. The All-Union level ministries were divided into separate organisations in the Republican, Autonomous Oblast, and provincial level. The leadership of the Ministry of Justice came from notable Soviet law organisations from around the country. (more...)
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LatinoJustice PRLDEF, long known by its former name the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, is a New York-based national civil rights organization with the goal of changing discriminatory practices via advocacy and litigation. Privately funded, nonprofit and nonpartisan, it is part of the umbrella Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
The Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund was founded in 1972 by three lawyers, one of whom, Cesar A. Perales, became the president of the group for much of its history. PRLDEF played a key role in the installation of bilingual education in New York City schools, and soon became the most important legal advocacy group for Puerto Ricans in the U.S. mainland. The group became known for the part it played in redistricting battles, for its opposition to civil service exams it thought discriminatory, and for its attempts to combat anti-Latino sentiment especially as arising from the debate over immigration to the U.S. It changed its name to the current one in 2008 in order to reflect demographic shifts in the Latino population in New York and elsewhere. (more...)
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The Salt March, also known as the Salt Satyagraha, Dandi March and the Dandi Satyagraha, was an act of nonviolent civil disobedience in colonial India led by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. The 25-day march lasted from 12 March 1930 to 6 April 1930 as a direct action campaign of tax resistance and nonviolent protest against the British salt monopoly. Another reason for this march was that the Civil Disobedience Movement needed a strong inauguration that would inspire more people to follow Gandhi's example. Mahatma Gandhi started this march with 79 of his trusted volunteers. Walking ten miles a day, the march spanned over 240 miles (384 km), from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi, which was called Navsari at that time (now in the state of Gujarat). Growing numbers of Indians joined them along the way. When Gandhi broke the salt laws at 6:30 am on 6 April 1930, it sparked large scale acts of civil disobedience against the British Raj salt laws by millions of Indians.
After making the salt by evaporation at Dandi, Gandhi continued southward along the coast, making salt and addressing meetings on the way. The Congress Party planned to stage a satyagraha at the Dharasana Salt Works, 25 miles south of Dandi. However, Gandhi was arrested on the midnight of 4-5 May 1930, just days before the planned action at Dharasana. The Dandi March and the ensuing Dharasana Satyagraha drew worldwide attention to the Indian independence movement through extensive newspaper and newsreel coverage. The satyagraha against the salt tax continued for almost a year, ending with Gandhi's release from jail and negotiations with Viceroy Lord Irwin at the Second Round Table Conference. Although over 60,000 Indians were jailed as a result of the Salt Satyagraha, the British did not make immediate major concessions. (more...)
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The FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives is a most wanted list maintained by the United States's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The list arose from a conversation held in late 1949 between J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI, and William Kinsey Hutchinson, International News Service (the predecessor of the United Press International) editor-in-chief, who were discussing ways to promote capture of the FBI's "toughest guys". This discussion turned into a published article, which received so much positive publicity that on March 14, 1950, the FBI officially announced the list to increase law enforcement's ability to capture dangerous fugitives.
Individuals are generally only removed from the list if the fugitive is captured, dies, or if the charges against them are dropped; they are then replaced by a new entry selected by the FBI. In ten cases, the FBI removed individuals from the list after deciding that they were no longer a "particularly dangerous menace to society". Machetero member Víctor Manuel Gerena, added to the list in 1984, was on the list for 32 years, which was longer than anyone else. Billie Austin Bryant spent the shortest amount of time on the list, being listed for two hours in 1969. The oldest person to be added to the list was Eugene Palmer on May 29, 2019, at 80 years old. On rare occasions, the FBI will add a "Number Eleven" if that individual is extremely dangerous but the Bureau does not feel any of the current ten should be removed. Despite occasional references in the media, the FBI does not rank their list; no suspect is considered "#1 on the FBI's Most Wanted List" or "The Most Wanted". (more...)
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The doctrine of legitimate expectation in Singapore protects both procedural and substantive rights. In administrative law, a legitimate expectation generally arises when there has been a representation of a certain outcome by the public authorities to an individual. To derogate from the representation may amount to an abuse of power or unfairness. The doctrine of legitimate expectation as a ground to quash decisions of public authorities has been firmly established by the English courts. Thus, where a public authority has made a representation to an individual who would be affected by a decision by the authority, the individual has a legitimate expectation to have his or her views heard before the decision is taken. Alternatively, an individual may also have a legitimate expectation to a substantive right. The recognition of substantive legitimate expectations is somewhat controversial as it requires a balancing of the requirements of fairness against the reasons for any change in the authority's policy. This suggests the adoption of a free-standing proportionality approach, which has been said not to apply in administrative law.
The procedural dimension of the doctrine of legitimate expectation has been recognized by Singapore courts and, since 2013, the substantive form of the doctrine as well. However, whether the courts will adopt the UK approach with regard to measuring legitimate expectation with the ruler of proportionality remains an open question. (more...)
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Marwa Ali El-Sherbini (Arabic: ? ), was an Egyptian woman and German resident who was killed in 2009 during an appeal hearing at a court of law in Dresden, Germany. She was stabbed by Alex Wiens, an ethnic German immigrant from Russia against whom she had testified in a criminal case for verbal abuse. El-Sherbini's husband, who was present at the hearing, tried to intervene. He too was repeatedly stabbed by Wiens and was then mistakenly shot and wounded by a police officer who was called to the court room. Wiens was arrested at the crime scene and subsequently tried for murder and attempted murder. He was found guilty of both charges; it was also found that Wiens's actions constituted a heinous crime, because they were committed in front of a child, against two people, in a court of law, and fulfilled the murder criterion of treacherousness, such as hatred against foreigners. Wiens was sentenced to life imprisonment.
The death of El-Sherbini immediately resulted in international reactions, with the most vocal responses coming from predominantly Muslim nations. The Egyptian public and media focused attention on the religious and racial hatred aspect of the killing, especially as the initial confrontation between the victim and perpetrator had happened because she wore an Islamic headscarf. In response to anti-German sentiments and public protests in Egypt and other countries, the German government issued a statement of condolence nine days after the incident. Wiens's trial for murder and attempted murder occurred under strict security measures and was observed by national and international media, diplomats and legal experts. (more...)
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The Sandugo was a blood compact, performed in the island of Bohol in the Philippines, between the Spanish explorer Miguel López de Legazpi and Datu Sikatuna the chieftain of Bohol on March 16, 1565, to seal their friendship as part of the tribal tradition. This is considered as the first treaty of friendship between the Spaniards and Filipinos. "Sandugo" is a Visayan word which means "one blood".
The Sandugo is depicted in both the provincial flag and the official seal of the government in Bohol. It also features the image of the blood compact. The top of the seal explains the history behind the Sandugo event that occurred in Bohol, the fleet and the location where the Spaniards anchored and the place where the treaty was conducted which was dated on March 16, 1565. (more...)
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The International Criminal Court investigation in Kenya or the situation in the Republic of Kenya is an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into the responsibility for the 2007-2008 post-election violence in Kenya. The 2007-2008 crisis followed the presidential election that was held on 27 December 2007. The Electoral Commission of Kenya officially declared that the incumbent President Mwai Kibaki was re-elected however supporters of the opposition candidate Raila Odinga accused the government of electoral fraud and rejected the results. A series of protests and demonstrations followed, and fighting--mainly along tribal lines--led to an estimated 1,200 deaths and more than 500,000 people becoming internally displaced.
After failed attempts to conduct a criminal investigation of the key perpetrators in Kenya, the matter was referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. In 2010, the Prosecutor of the ICC Luis Moreno Ocampo announced that he was seeking summonses for six people: Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Industrialisation Minister Henry Kosgey, Education Minister William Ruto, Cabinet Secretary Francis Muthaura, radio executive Joshua Arap Sang and former police commissioner Mohammed Hussein Ali. The six suspects, known colloquially as the "Ocampo six" were indicted by the ICC's Pre-Trial Chamber II on 8 March 2011 on charges of Crimes against humanity and summoned to appear before the Court.
On 23 January 2012 Pre-Trial Chamber II confirmed the charges against Kenyatta, Muthaura, Sang and Ruto and dismissed the charges against Kosgey and Ali. The charges against Francis Muthaura and Uhuru Kenyata were subsequently withdrawn by the prosecution. The trial of William Ruto and Joshua Arap sang began on 10 September 2013, and ended on 5 April 2016 with the charges being dismissed. During the investigation the ICC prosecutor also charged Walter Barasa, Paul Gicheru and Philip Bett with crimes against the administration of justice. (more...)
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Scientific jury selection, often abbreviated SJS, is the use of social science techniques and expertise to choose favorable juries during a criminal or civil trial. Scientific jury selection is used during the jury selection phase of the trial, during which lawyers have the opportunity to question jurors. It almost always entails an expert's assistance in the attorney's use of peremptory challenges--the right to reject a certain number of potential jurors without stating a reason--during jury selection. The practice is currently confined to the American legal system.
SJS has roots in criminal trials during the Vietnam War era, but in modern times is usually employed in high-stakes civil litigation (where only money is usually at issue, in contrast to criminal trials, where the defendant can go to prison). SJS practitioners determine what background characteristics and attitudes predict favorable results, and then coordinate with attorneys in choosing the jury. Studies are mixed as to the effectiveness of the practice, though it is clear that the evidence presented at trial is the most important determiner of verdicts (the trial result) and that SJS is more likely to have an impact where that evidence is ambiguous. SJS's potential to unfairly skew the jury has led to some reform proposals, but none have yet been implemented. The limited fictional portrayals of SJS have been negative towards the practice. (more...)
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The Constitution of 3 May 1791 (Polish: Konstytucja 3 maja; Belarusian: 3 , transcription: Kanstytucyja 3 maja; Balerusian Tara?kievica: 3 , transcription: Kanstytucyja 3 tra?nia; Lithuanian: Gegus tre?iosios konstitucija listen), formally titled the Governance Act (Polish: Ustawa Rz?dowa), was a constitution adopted by the Great Sejm ("Four-Year Sejm", meeting in 1788-92) for the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, a dual monarchy comprising the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Constitution was designed to correct the Commonwealth's political flaws. It had been preceded by a period of agitation for--and gradual introduction of--reforms, beginning with the Convocation Sejm of 1764 and the ensuing election that year of Stanis?aw August Poniatowski, the Commonwealth's last king.
The Constitution sought to implement a more effective constitutional monarchy, introduced political equality between townspeople and nobility, and placed the peasants under the government's protection, mitigating the worst abuses of serfdom. It banned pernicious parliamentary institutions such as the liberum veto, which had put the Sejm at the mercy of any single deputy, who could veto and thus undo all the legislation adopted by that Sejm. The Commonwealth's neighbours reacted with hostility to the adoption of the Constitution. King Frederick William II broke Prussia's alliance with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. He joined with Catherine the Great's Imperial Russia and the Targowica Confederation of anti-reform Polish magnates to defeat the Commonwealth in the Polish-Russian War of 1792.
The 1791 Constitution was in force for less than 19 months. It was declared null and void by the Grodno Sejm that met in 1793, though the Sejm's legal power to do so was questionable. The Second and Third Partitions of Poland (1793, 1795) ultimately ended Poland's sovereign existence until the close of World War I in 1918. Over those 123 years, the 1791 Constitution helped keep alive Polish aspirations for the eventual restoration of the country's sovereignty. In the words of two of its principal authors, Ignacy Potocki and Hugo Kotaj, the 1791 Constitution was "the last will and testament of the expiring Homeland." (more...)
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Mandamus (; lit. ''we command'') is a judicial remedy in the form of an order from a court to any government, subordinate court, corporation, or public authority, to do (or forbear from doing) some specific act which that body is obliged under law to do (or refrain from doing), and which is in the nature of public duty, and in certain cases one of a statutory duty. It cannot be issued to compel an authority to do something against statutory provision. For example, it cannot be used to force a lower court to reject or authorize applications that have been made, but if the court refuses to rule one way or the other then a mandamus can be used to order the court to rule on the applications.
Mandamus may be a command to do an administrative action or not to take a particular action, and it is supplemented by legal rights. In the American legal system it must be a judicially enforceable and legally protected right before one suffering a grievance can ask for a mandamus. A person can be said to be aggrieved only when they are denied a legal right by someone who has a legal duty to do something and abstains from doing it. (more...)
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A precedent is a principle or rule established in a previous legal case that is either binding on or persuasive for a court or other tribunal when deciding subsequent cases with similar issues or facts. Common-law legal systems place great value on deciding cases according to consistent principled rules, so that similar facts will yield similar and predictable outcomes, and observance of precedent is the mechanism by which that goal is attained. The principle by which judges are bound to precedents is known as stare decisis (a Latin phrase with the literal meaning of "to stand in the-things-that-have-been-decided"). Common-law precedent is a third kind of law, on equal footing with statutory law (that is, statutes and codes enacted by legislative bodies) and subordinate legislation (that is, regulations promulgated by executive branch agencies, in the form of delegated legislation (in UK parlance) or regulatory law (in US parlance)).
Case law, in common-law jurisdictions, is the set of decisions of adjudicatory tribunals or other rulings that can be cited as precedent. In most countries, including most European countries, the term is applied to any set of rulings on law, which is guided by previous rulings, for example, previous decisions of a government agency. Essential to the development of case law is the publication and indexing of decisions for use by lawyers, courts, and the general public, in the form of law reports. While all decisions are precedent (though at varying levels of authority as discussed throughout this article), some become "leading cases" or "landmark decisions" that are cited especially often.
Generally speaking, a legal precedent is said to be:
- applied (if precedent is binding) / adopted (if precedent is persuasive), if the principles underpinning the previous decision are accordingly used to evaluate the issues of the subsequent case;
- distinguished, if the principles underpinning the previous decision is found specific to, or premised upon, certain factual scenarios, and not applied to the subsequent case because of the absence or material difference in the latter's facts; or
- overruled, if the same or higher courts on appeal or determination of subsequent cases found the principles underpinning the previous decision erroneous in law or overtaken by new legislation or developments.
In contrast, civil law systems adhere to a legal positivism, where past decisions do not usually have the precedential, binding effect that they have in common law decision-making; the judicial review practiced by constitutional courts can be regarded as a notable exception. (more...)
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A power of attorney or letter of attorney in common law systems or mandate in civil law systems is an authorization to act on someone else's behalf in a legal or business matter. The person authorizing the other to act is the "principal" or "grantor (of the power)", and the one authorized to act is the "agent" or "attorney-in-fact". The attorney-in-fact acts "in the principal's name" -- for example, by signing the principal's name to documents.
One kind of agent, an attorney-in-fact, is a fiduciary for the principal. The law requires an attorney-in-fact to be completely honest with and loyal to the principal in their dealings with each other. If the attorney-in-fact is being paid to act for the principal, the contract is a separate matter from the power of attorney itself, so if that contract is in writing, it is a separate document, kept private between them, whereas the power of attorney is intended to be shown to various other people.
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The Bill of Middlesex was a legal fiction used by the Court of King's Bench to gain jurisdiction over cases traditionally in the remit of the Court of Common Pleas. Hinging on the King's Bench's remaining criminal jurisdiction over the county of Middlesex, the Bill allowed it to take cases traditionally in the remit of other common law courts by claiming that the defendant had committed trespass in Middlesex. Once the defendant was in custody, the trespass complaint would be quietly dropped and other complaints (such as debt or detinue) would be substituted.
The bill was part of a large reform movement to prevent equitable courts such as the Court of Chancery from undermining their business. It was far cheaper and faster than the older equivalents used by the Chancery and Common Pleas, leading to a drop in their business and an increase in that of the King's Bench. As such, the Chancery issued injunctions in an ineffective attempt to prevent its use. The Bill was finally abolished by the Uniformity of Process Act 1832.
As a result of reforming actions such as the Bill of Middlesex, the Common Pleas became increasingly conservative and resistant to King's Bench changes because of the impact they had on the business of the Common Pleas. This was best emphasised by Slade's Case, a struggle between the old and new forms of suing for breach of contract; although an equilibrium between the common law courts was finally reached, it eventually led to their dissolution with the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1873, and merger into a single High Court of Justice. (more...)
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The Tahirih Justice Center, or Tahirih, is a national charitable non-governmental organization headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia, United States that aims to protect immigrant women and girls fleeing gender-based violence and persecution. Tahirih's holistic model combines free legal services and social services case management with public policy advocacy, training and education.
Since its founding in 1997, Tahirih has answered more than 25,000 pleas for help from individuals seeking protection from human rights abuses, such as female genital cutting, domestic violence, human trafficking, torture and rape.
Tahirih is inspired by principles of the Bahá'í Faith, including the belief that equality between women and men is necessary for peace and unity in society. The organization is named after Táhirih, an influential female poet and theologian in 19th-century Persia who campaigned for women's rights. (more...)
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The Court of Common Pleas, or Common Bench, was a common law court in the English legal system that covered "common pleas"; actions between subject and subject, which did not concern the king. Created in the late 12th to early 13th century after splitting from the Exchequer of Pleas, the Common Pleas served as one of the central English courts for around 600 years. Authorised by Magna Carta to sit in a fixed location, the Common Pleas sat in Westminster Hall for its entire existence, joined by the Exchequer of Pleas and Court of King's Bench.
The court's jurisdiction was gradually undercut by the King's Bench and Exchequer of Pleas with legal fictions, the Bill of Middlesex and Writ of Quominus respectively. The Common Pleas maintained its exclusive jurisdiction over matters of real property until its dissolution, and due to its wide remit was considered by Sir Edward Coke to be the "lock and key of the common law". It was staffed by one Chief Justice and a varying number of puisne justices, who were required to be Serjeants-at-Law, and until the mid 19th century only Serjeants were allowed to plead there. (more...)
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A Serjeant-at-Law (SL), commonly known simply as a Serjeant, was a member of an order of barristers at the English and Irish bar. The position of Serjeant-at-Law (servientes ad legem), or Sergeant-Counter, was centuries old; there are writs dating to 1300 which identify them as descended from figures in France before the Norman Conquest. The Serjeants were the oldest formally created order in England, having been brought into existence as a body by Henry II. The order rose during the 16th century as a small, elite group of lawyers who took much of the work in the central common law courts. With the creation of Queen's Counsel (or "Queen's Counsel Extraordinary") during the reign of Elizabeth I, the order gradually began to decline, with each monarch opting to create more King's or Queen's Counsel. The Serjeants' exclusive jurisdictions were ended during the 19th century and, with the Judicature Act 1873 coming into force in 1875, it was felt that there was no need to have such figures, and no more were created. The last appointed was Nathaniel Lindley, later a Law Lord, who retired in 1905 and died in 1921. The number of Irish Serjeants-at-law was limited to three (originally one, later two). The last appointment was A. M. Sullivan in 1912; after his 1921 relocation to the English bar he remained "Serjeant Sullivan" as a courtesy title.
The Serjeants had for many centuries exclusive jurisdiction over the Court of Common Pleas, being the only lawyers allowed to argue a case there. At the same time they had rights of audience in the other central common law courts (the Court of King's Bench and Exchequer of Pleas) and precedence over all other lawyers. Only Serjeants-at-Law could become judges of these courts right up into the 19th century, and socially the Serjeants ranked above Knights Bachelor and Companions of the Bath. Within the Serjeants-at-Law were more distinct orders; the King's Serjeants, particularly favoured Serjeants-at-Law, and within that the King's Premier Serjeant, the Monarch's most favoured Serjeant, and the King's Ancient Serjeant, the oldest. Serjeants (except King's Serjeants) were created by Writ of Summons under the Great Seal of the Realm and wore a special and distinctive dress, the chief feature of which was the coif, a white lawn or silk skullcap, afterwards represented by a round piece of white lace at the top of the wig. (more...)
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The cy-pres doctrine in English law is an element of trusts law dealing with charitable trusts. The doctrine provides that when such a trust has failed because its purposes are either impossible or cannot be fulfilled, the High Court of Justice or Charity Commission can make an order redirecting the trust's funds to the nearest possible purpose. For charities with a worth under £5,000 and no land, the trustees (by a two-thirds majority) may make the decision to redirect the trust's funds. The doctrine was initially an element of ecclesiastical law, coming from the Norman French cy près comme possible (as close as possible), but similar and possibly ancestral provisions have been found in Roman law, both in the Corpus Juris Civilis and later Byzantine law.
Trusts where the doctrine is applicable are divided into two groups; those with subsequent failure, where the trust's purpose has failed after it came into operation, and initial failure, where the trust's purposes are immediately invalid. Subsequent failure cases simply require the redirection of the funds to the nearest possible purpose, since there is no question of allowing the settlor's next of kin to inherit the money. Initial failure cases, however, require not just a decision on whether the purpose has failed, but also on whether the funds should be subject to cy-près or returned to the estate in a resulting trust. This is decided based on the charitable intention of the settlor, something determined on the facts of each individual case. (more...)
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Nuisance in English law is an area of tort law broadly divided into two torts; private nuisance, where the actions of the defendant are "causing a substantial and unreasonable interference with a [claimant]'s land or his/her use or enjoyment of that land", and public nuisance, where the defendant's actions "materially affects the reasonable comfort and convenience of life of a class of Her Majesty's subjects"; public nuisance is also a crime. Both torts have been present from the time of Henry III, being affected by a variety of philosophical shifts through the years which saw them become first looser and then far more stringent and less protecting of an individual's rights. Each tort requires the claimant to prove that the defendant's actions caused interference, which was unreasonable, and in some situations the intention of the defendant may also be taken into account. A significant difference is that private nuisance does not allow a claimant to claim for any personal injury suffered, while public nuisance does.
Private nuisance has received a range of criticism, with academics arguing that its concepts are poorly defined and open to judicial manipulation; Conor Gearty has written that "Private nuisance has, if anything, become even more confused and confusing. Its chapter lies neglected in the standard works, little changed over the years, its modest message overwhelmed by the excitements to be found elsewhere in tort. Any sense of direction which may have existed in the old days is long gone". In addition, it has been claimed that the tort of private nuisance has "lost its separate identity as a strict liability tort and been assimilated in all but name into the fault-based tort of negligence", and that private and public nuisance "have little in common except the accident of sharing the same name". (more...)
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The Inns of Chancery or Hospida Cancellarie were a group of buildings and legal institutions in London initially attached to the Inns of Court and used as offices for the clerks of chancery, from which they drew their name. Existing from at least 1344, the Inns gradually changed their purpose, and became both the offices and accommodation for solicitors (as the Inns of Court were to barristers) and a place of initial training for barristers.
The practice of training barristers at the Inns of Chancery had died out by 1642, and the Inns instead became dedicated associations and offices for solicitors. With the founding of the Society of Gentleman Practisers in 1739 and the Law Society of England and Wales in 1825, a single unified professional association for solicitors, the purpose of the Inns died out, and after a long period of decline the last one (Clement's Inn) was sold in 1903 and demolished in 1934. (more...)
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Insanity in English law is a defence to criminal charges based on the idea that the defendant was unable to understand what he was doing, or, that he was unable to understand that what he was doing was wrong.
The defence comes in two forms; where the defendant claims he was insane at the time of the crime, and where the defendant asserts he is insane at the time of trial. In the first situation, the defendant must show that he was either suffering from a disease which damaged the functioning of the mind and led to a defect of reason that prevented him from understanding what he was doing, or that he could not tell that what he was doing was wrong. In the second situation, the test is whether or not the defendant can differentiate between "guilty" and "not guilty" verdicts, instruct counsel and recognise the charges he is facing. If successful, he is likely to be detained under the Criminal Procedure (Insanity) Act 1964, although judges have a wide discretion as to what to do.
Use of insanity as a concept dates from 1324, and its criminal application was used until the late 16th century in an almost identical way. The defence, if successful, either allowed the defendant to return home or led to him being incarcerated until he was granted a royal pardon; after 1542, a defendant who became insane prior to the trial could not be tried for any crime, up to and including high treason. During the 18th century the test to determine insanity became extremely narrow, with defendants required to prove that they could not distinguish between good and evil and that they suffered from a mental disease which made them incapable of understanding the consequences of their actions. The current wording comes from the M'Naghten Rules, based on the trial of Daniel M'Naghten in 1843. (more...)
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The three certainties refer to a rule within English trusts law on the creation of express trusts that, to be valid, the trust instrument must show certainty of intention, subject matter and object. "Certainty of intention" means that it must be clear that the donor or testator wishes to create a trust; this is not dependent on any particular language used, and a trust can be created without the word "trust" being used, or even the donor knowing he is creating a trust. Since the 1950s, the courts have been more willing to conclude that there was intention to create a trust, rather than hold that the trust is void. "Certainty of subject matter" means that it must be clear what property is part of the trust. Historically the property must have been segregated from non-trust property; more recently, the courts have drawn a line between tangible and intangible assets, holding that with intangible assets there is not always a need for segregation. "Certainty of objects" means that it must be clear who the beneficiaries, or objects, are. The test for determining this differs depending on the type of trust; it can be that all beneficiaries must be individually identified, or that the trustees must be able to say with certainty, if a claimant comes before them, whether he is or is not a beneficiary.
There are four categories of uncertainty that can affect the validity of a trust: conceptual uncertainty, evidential uncertainty, ascertainability and administrative unworkability. "Conceptual uncertainty" is where the language is unclear, something which leads to the trust being declared invalid. "Evidential uncertainty" is where a question of fact, such as whether a claimant is a beneficiary, cannot be answered; this does not always lead to invalidity. "Ascertainability" is where a beneficiary cannot be found, while "administrative unworkability" is where the nature of the trust is such that it cannot realistically be carried out. Trustees and the courts have developed various ways of getting around uncertainties, including the appointment of experts to work out evidential uncertainty, and giving trustees the power to decide who is or is not a beneficiary. (more...)
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The Exchequer of Pleas, or Court of Exchequer, was a court that dealt with matters of equity, a set of legal principles based on natural law and common law in England and Wales. Originally part of the curia regis, or King's Council, the Exchequer of Pleas split from the curia in the 1190s to sit as an independent central court. The Court of Chancery's reputation for tardiness and expense resulted in much of its business transferring to the Exchequer. The Exchequer and Chancery, with similar jurisdictions, drew closer together over the years until an argument was made during the 19th century that having two seemingly-identical courts was unnecessary. As a result, the Exchequer lost its equity jurisdiction. With the Judicature Acts, the Exchequer was formally dissolved as a judicial body by an Order in Council on 16 December 1880.
The Exchequer's jurisdiction at various times was common law, equity or both. Initially a court of both common law and equity, it lost much of its common law jurisdiction after the formation of the Court of Common Pleas, and from then on, it concerned itself with equitable matters and those common law matters that it had discretion to try, such as actions brought against Exchequer officials and actions brought by the monarch against non-paying debtors. With the Writ of Quominus, which allowed the Exchequer to look at "common" cases between subject and subject, this discretionary area was significantly expanded, and it soon regained its standing in common law matters. Cases were formally taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer but in practice were heard by the Barons of the Exchequer, judicial officials led by the Chief Baron. Other court officials included the King's Remembrancer, who appointed all other officials and kept the Exchequer's records, and the sworn and side clerks, who acted as attorneys to parties to a case. (more...)
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Criminal damage in English law was originally a common law offence. The offence was largely concerned with the protection of dwellings and the food supply, and few sanctions were imposed for damaging personal property. Liability was originally restricted to the payment of damages by way of compensation.
As time passed, specific laws were introduced to deal with particular situations as they were judged to require intervention, most particularly alongside the rise of mechanisation and urbanisation during the Industrial Revolution.
The modern law of criminal damage is mostly contained in the Criminal Damage Act 1971, which redefines or creates several offences protecting property rights. The Act provides a comprehensive structure covering merely preparatory acts to the most serious offences of arson and causing damage with intent to endanger life. As such, punishments vary from a fixed penalty to life imprisonment, and the court may order payment of compensation to a victim. (more...)
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The Court of Common Pleas, or Common Bench, was a common law court in the English legal system that covered "common pleas"; actions between subject and subject, which did not concern the king. Created in the late 12th to early 13th century after splitting from the Exchequer of Pleas, the Common Pleas served as one of the central English courts for around 600 years. Authorised by Magna Carta to sit in a fixed location, the Common Pleas sat in Westminster Hall for its entire existence, joined by the Exchequer of Pleas and Court of King's Bench.
The court's jurisdiction was gradually undercut by the King's Bench and Exchequer of Pleas with legal fictions, the Bill of Middlesex and Writ of Quominus respectively. The Common Pleas maintained its exclusive jurisdiction over matters of real property until its dissolution, and due to its wide remit was considered by Sir Edward Coke to be the "lock and key of the common law". It was staffed by one Chief Justice and a varying number of puisne justices, who were required to be Serjeants-at-Law, and until the mid 19th century only Serjeants were allowed to plead there.
As one of the two principal common law courts with the King's Bench, the Common Pleas fought to maintain its jurisdiction and caseload, in a way that during the 16th and 17th centuries was categorised as conservative and reactionary. Reaching an acceptable medium with the King's Bench and Exchequer of Pleas proved to be the downfall of all three courts; with several courts of near-identical jurisdiction, there was little need for separate bodies, and the superior courts of Westminster were merged by the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1873 into a single High Court of Justice. With an Order in Council issued on 16 December 1880, the Common Pleas Division of the High Court ceased to exist, marking the end of the Court of Common Pleas. (more...)
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In 1936, a constitutional crisis in the British Empire arose when King-Emperor Edward VIII proposed to marry Wallis Simpson, an American socialite who was divorced from her first husband and was pursuing the divorce of her second.
The marriage was opposed by the governments of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth. Religious, legal, political, and moral objections were raised. As the British monarch, Edward was the nominal head of the Church of England, which did not allow divorced people to remarry in church if their ex-spouses were still alive. For this reason, it was widely believed that Edward could not marry Simpson and remain on the throne. Simpson was perceived to be politically and socially unsuitable as a prospective queen consort because of her two failed marriages. It was widely assumed by the Establishment that she was driven by love of money or position rather than love for the King. Despite the opposition, Edward declared that he loved Simpson and intended to marry her as soon as her second divorce was finalised.
The widespread unwillingness to accept Simpson as the King's consort and Edward's refusal to give her up led to his abdication in December 1936. He was succeeded by his brother Albert, who became George VI. Edward was given the title of Duke of Windsor, and styled Royal Highness, following his abdication, and he married Simpson the following year. They remained married until his death 35 years later. (more...)
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In English law, secret trusts are a class of trust defined as an arrangement between a testator and a trustee, made to come into force after death, that aims to benefit a person without having been written in a formal will. The property is given to the trustee in the will, and he would then be expected to pass it on to the real beneficiary. For these to be valid, the person seeking to enforce the trust must prove that the testator intended to form a trust, that this intention was communicated to the trustee, and that the trustee accepted his office. There are two types of secret trust -- fully secret and half-secret. A fully secret trust is one with no mention in the will whatsoever. In the case of a half-secret trust, the face of the will names the trustee as trustee, but does not give the trust's terms, including the beneficiary. The most important difference lies in communication of the trust: the terms of a half-secret trust must be communicated to the trustee before the execution of the will, whereas in the case of a fully secret trust the terms may be communicated after the execution of the will, as long as this is before the testator's death.
Secret trusts do not comply with the formality requirements (such as witnessing) laid down in the Wills Act 1837. Despite this, the courts have chosen to uphold them as valid. Although various justifications have been given for this, they are generally categorised as either based on preventing fraud, or as regarding secret trusts as outside (dehors) the operation of the Wills Act. The first is considered the traditional approach – if the courts do not recognise secret trusts, the trustee given the property in the will would be able to keep it for himself, committing fraud. The fraud theory utilises the equitable maxim that "equity will not allow a statute to be used as a cloak for fraud". A more modern view is that secret trusts exist outside the will altogether, and thus do not have to comply with it. Accepting this theory would undermine the operation of the Wills Act, since the Wills Act is designed to cover all testamentary dispositions. To avoid this problem, one approach has been to reclassify the secret trust as inter vivos ("between the living") but this creates other problems. There have also been attempts to conclude that half-secret trusts rest on a different basis to fully secret trusts, although this has been disapproved by the House of Lords, primarily on practical grounds. (more...)
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Tracing in English law is a procedure to identify property (such as money) that has been taken from the claimant involuntarily. It is not in itself a way to recover the property, but rather to identify it so that the courts can decide what remedy to apply. The procedure is used in several situations, broadly demarcated by whether the property has been transferred because of theft, breach of trust, or mistake.
Tracing is divided into two forms, common law tracing and equitable tracing. Common law tracing relies on the claimant having legal ownership of the property, and will fail if the property has been mixed with other property, the legal title has been transferred to the defendant, or the legal title has been transferred by the defendant to any further recipient of the property. Equitable tracing, on the other hand, relies on the claimant having an equitable interest in the property, and can succeed where the property has been mixed with other property.
Defences to tracing are possible, particularly if returning the property would harm an innocent defendant, where the claimant has made false representations that the defendant relied on to his detriment, or where the property has been transferred to an innocent third party without anything given to the defendant in return that the claimant could recover in lieu. (more...)
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The Halifax Gibbet was an early guillotine used in the town of Halifax, West Yorkshire, England. Estimated to have been installed during the 16th century, it was used as an alternative to beheading by axe or sword. Halifax was once part of the Manor of Wakefield, where ancient custom and law gave the Lord of the Manor the authority to execute summarily by decapitation any thief caught with stolen goods to the value of 13½d or more, or who confessed to having stolen goods of at least that value. Decapitation was a fairly common method of execution in England, but Halifax was unusual in two respects: it employed a guillotine-like machine that appears to have been unique in the country, and it continued to decapitate petty criminals until the mid-17th century.
Almost 100 people were beheaded in Halifax between the first recorded execution in 1286 and the last in 1650, but as the date of the gibbet's installation is uncertain, it cannot be determined with any accuracy how many individuals died via the Halifax Gibbet. By 1650, public opinion considered beheading to be an excessively severe punishment for petty theft; use of the gibbet was forbidden by Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, and the structure was dismantled. The stone base was rediscovered and preserved in about 1840, and a non-working replica was erected on the site in 1974. The names of 52 people known to have been beheaded by the device are listed on a nearby plaque. (more...)
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Wife selling in England was a way of ending an unsatisfactory marriage by mutual agreement that probably began in the late 17th century, when divorce was a practical impossibility for all but the very wealthiest. After parading his wife with a halter around her neck, arm, or waist, a husband would publicly auction her to the highest bidder. Wife selling provides the backdrop for Thomas Hardy's 1886 novel The Mayor of Casterbridge, in which the central character sells his wife at the beginning of the story, an act that haunts him for the rest of his life, and ultimately destroys him.
Although the custom had no basis in law and frequently resulted in prosecution, particularly from the mid-19th century onwards, the attitude of the authorities was equivocal. At least one early 19th-century magistrate is on record as stating that he did not believe he had the right to prevent wife sales, and there were cases of local Poor Law Commissioners forcing husbands to sell their wives, rather than having to maintain the family in workhouses.
Wife selling persisted in England in some form until the early 20th century; according to the jurist and historian James Bryce, writing in 1901, wife sales were still occasionally taking place during his time. In one of the last reported instances of a wife sale in England, a woman giving evidence in a Leeds police court in 1913 claimed that she had been sold to one of her husband's workmates for £1. (more...)
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The Leges Henrici Primi or Laws of Henry I is a legal treatise, written in about 1115, that records the legal customs of medieval England in the reign of King Henry I of England. Although it is not an official document, it was written by someone apparently associated with the royal administration. It lists and explains the laws, and includes explanations of how to conduct legal proceedings. Although its title implies that these laws were issued by King Henry, it lists laws issued by earlier monarchs that were still in force in Henry's reign; the only law of Henry that is included is the coronation charter he issued at the start of his reign. It covers a diverse range of subjects, including ecclesiastical cases, treason, murder, theft, feuds, assessment of danegeld, and the amounts of judicial fines.
The work survives in six manuscripts that range in date from about 1200 to around 1330, belonging to two different manuscript traditions. Besides the six surviving manuscripts, three others were known to scholars in the 17th and 18th centuries, but have not survived to the present day. Two other separate copies may also have existed. The complete work itself was first printed in 1644, but an earlier partial edition appeared in 1628. The Leges is the first legal treatise in English history, and has been credited with having the greatest effect on the views of English law before the reign of King Henry II than any other work of its kind. (more...)
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The creation of express trusts in English law must involve four elements for the trust to be valid: capacity, certainty, constitution and formality. Capacity refers to the settlor's ability to create a trust in the first place; generally speaking, anyone capable of holding property can create a trust. There are exceptions for statutory bodies and corporations, and minors who usually cannot hold property can, in some circumstances, create trusts. Certainty refers to the three certainties required for a trust to be valid. The trust instrument must show certainty of intention to create a trust, certainty of what the subject matter of the trust is, and certainty of who the beneficiaries (or objects) are. Where there is uncertainty for whatever reason, the trust will fail, although the courts have developed ways around this. Constitution means that for the trust to be valid, the property must have been transferred from the settlor to the trustees.
If property has not been transferred, the potential trustees and beneficiaries are volunteers, and an equitable maxim is that "equity will not assist a volunteer"; the courts will not look at the case. To get around this, the courts have developed exceptions to this rule for situations when the settlor has done "all that he could do", the trustees or beneficiaries have acquired the property in a different way, or where the gift was made donatio mortis causa. Formality refers to the specific language or forms used when transferring property. For chattels, no formal language or documentation is needed, unless it is made as a will. For land, the transfer must be drafted in line with the Law of Property Act 1925 and the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989. When disposing of an equitable interest, the Law of Property Act 1925 must also be followed; much of the case law in this area has centred on the meaning of "dispose", with many cases involving people attempting to avoid tax. (more...)
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The 1990 Strangeways Prison riot was a 25-day prison riot and rooftop protest at Strangeways Prison in Manchester, England. The riot began on 1 April 1990 when prisoners took control of the prison chapel, and the riot quickly spread throughout most of the prison. The riot and rooftop protest ended on 25 April when the final five prisoners were removed from the rooftop, making it the longest prison riot in British penal history. One prisoner was killed during the riot, and 147 prison officers and 47 prisoners were injured. Much of the prison was damaged or destroyed with the cost of repairs coming to £55 million.
The riot sparked a series of disturbances in prisons across England, Scotland and Wales, resulting in the British government announcing a public inquiry into the riots headed by Lord Woolf. The resulting Woolf Report concluded that conditions in the prison had been intolerable, and recommended major reform of the prison system. The Guardian newspaper described the report as a blueprint for the restoration of "decency and justice into jails where conditions had become intolerable". (more...)
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