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News Archives: Index

October 7, 2010: Probation Set For Industrial Action

October 5, 2010: Turning Prisoners Into Taxpayers

October 4, 2010: Murder Changes Now In Force

September 20, 2010: Probation Programmes Face Cuts

August 24, 2010: Victorian Poor Law Records Online

August 10, 2010: Justice Job Cuts

July 28, 2010: Prison Violence Growing

July 22, 2010: Police Numbers: Latest Figures

July 22, 2010: New Jurisdiction Rules

July 16, 2010: CCJS On Prison And Probation Spending Under Labour

July 15, 2010: Latest Statistics On Violent And Sexual Crime

July 15, 2010: Latest National Crime Figures

July 15, 2010: New Chief Prisons Inspector

July 14, 2010: Hard Times Ahead For Prisons: Anne Owers

July 14, 2010: Prison Does Not Work: Ken Clarke

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform: Sentencing and Rehabilitation

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform Priorities

July 12, 2010: What Price Public Protection, Asks Probation Chief Inspector

July 12, 2010: NOMS has failed, says Napo

July 10, 2010: IPCC To Investigate Death of Raoul Moat

July 9, 2010: Women In Prison: New Report

July 9, 2009: Unjust Deserts: Imprisonment for Public Protection

July 8, 2010: Police Search Powers Change

July 7, 2010: Make 'Legal High' Illegal, Says ACMD

July 2, 2010: Failing Children In Prison

July 2, 2010: Police Buried Under a Blizzard of Guidance: HMIC

July 1, 2010: Freedom To Change The Law?

June 30, 2010: A New Outlook On Penal Reform?

June 30, 2010: Revolving Door Of Offending Must Stop, Says Clarke

June 30, 2010: Ken Clarke: Speech on Criminal Justice Reform

June 29, 2010: No More Police Targets

June 26, 2010: Family Intervention Projects Questioned

June 25, 2010: Cutting Criminal Justice

June 24, 2010: Napo on Sex Offenders Report

June 23, 2010: Closing Courts: The Cuts Begin

June 23, 2010: Strategy To Tackle Gangs

June 15, 2010: Courts and Mentally Disordered Offenders

June 8, 2010: Working With Muslims in Prison

June 1, 2010: Your Chance To Nominate a QC

July 22, 2010: New Jurisdiction Rules

The Ministry of Justice has stated that the government is proposing new rules about how courts in England and Wales deal with people accused of serious human rights violations.

The jurisdiction of the courts in England and Wales is basically territorial – with some exceptions they only try offences committed in England and Wales.

However, war crimes under the Geneva Conventions Act 1957 (and a small number of other grave offences) are subject to universal jurisdiction. This enables prosecution to take place here even though the offence was committed outside the United Kingdom, and irrespective of nationality.

There are a small number of offences over which the United Kingdom has 'universal jurisdiction'. That means that a suspect can be prosecuted regardless of where the crime was committed, or the nationality of the perpetrator or victim.

Offences covered include some of the most serious under international law, such as:

  • war crimes under the Geneva Conventions Act
  • torture
  • hostage-taking

A person accused of committing these very serious crimes in another country can be brought to justice in UK courts.

At the moment, anyone can apply to the courts for an arrest warrant. That is a right that the government wants to protect. However, because the evidence necessary to issue an arrest warrant may be far less than would be needed for a prosecution, the system is open to possible abuse by people trying to obtain arrest warrants for grave crimes on the basis of flimsy evidence to make a political statement or to cause embarrassment.

In the past, attempts have been made to obtain warrants to arrest visiting foreign dignitaries such as Henry Kissinger, Chinese Trade Minister Bo Xilai and Tzipi Livni, former Foreign Minister and now leader of the Opposition in Israel.

Announcing plans to bring forward legislation, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke restated the Government’s commitment to upholding international law and said: 

'Our commitment to our international obligations and to ensuring that there is no impunity for those accused of crimes of universal jurisdiction is unwavering.
'It is important, however, that universal jurisdiction cases should be proceeded with in this country only on the basis of solid evidence that is likely to lead to a successful prosecution – otherwise there is a risk of damaging our ability to help in conflict resolution or to pursue a coherent foreign policy.
'The Government has concluded, after careful consideration, that it would be appropriate to require the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions before an arrest warrant can be issued to a private prosecutor in respect of an offence of universal jurisdiction.'

The Government will bring forward legislation as soon as Parliamentary time allows.