The Law Show

BBC Radio 4

Weekly conversation that will give you an in-depth understanding of the law stories making news and the legal decisions that could have a bearing on everyone in the UK. Whether it's unpicking a landmark legal ruling, explaining how laws are made or seeking clarity for you on a legal issue, The Law Show will be your guide.

read less
GovernmentGovernment

Episodes

Traumatised jurors, prenups and Japanese knotweed
Today
Traumatised jurors, prenups and Japanese knotweed
Weekly conversation led by Dr Joelle Grogan to give you an in-depth understanding of the law stories making news and the legal decisions that could have a bearing on everyone in the UK. This week: Traumatised jurors: new research has found that as much as half of people who serve on the juries of gruesome criminal trials, such as child murders or rape, can suffer symptoms of vicarious psychological trauma as a result. A pilot scheme to offer free counselling to affected jurors has now been shelved in England and Wales due to the election. But in Scotland and Northern Ireland support is available. Joelle discusses all this and what else happens on jury service with criminal defence barrister and part-time judge Charlie Sherrard KC, and with author, commentator and barrister Dr Sam Fowles. Prenuptial contracts: what is a "prenup," as they're often called? Should you get one even if you're not wealthy? Are they legally binding in the case of divorce, or not worth the paper they're written on? What do you need to do for the courts to uphold them in the various parts of the UK? Family law solicitor and social media's "legal queen" Tracey Moloney has the answers. And: Japanese knotweed, a fast-growing invasive species so tough it can only be successfully removed by professionals. A Scottish couple has been granted permission by an Edinburgh sheriff to sue the previous owners of their home, who had not declared that there is Japanese knotweed on the property. This case centres around whether or not it counts as an "infestation". Other home seller packs ask about knotweed explicitly. Dr Sam Fowles explains the law, and who you can sue if you find yourself with unwanted knotweed after all. Presenter: Dr Joelle Grogan Producers: Ravi Naik and Arlene Gregorius Editor: Tara McDermott Production co-ordinator: Maria Ogundele
Sewage-polluted waters, Divorce and financial orders, Leasehold reform
05-06-2024
Sewage-polluted waters, Divorce and financial orders, Leasehold reform
Weekly conversation led by Dr Joelle Grogan about the law stories making the news and the legal decisions that could have a bearing on everyone in the UK. Whether it’s explaining a new law or seeking clarity for you on a legal issue, The Law Show will be your guide.This week:Water: from the cryptosporidium outbreak in tap water in Devon, to E. coli bacteria in the Thames, and sewage in rivers, lakes and seas across the country - what does the law say about clean water? What obligations do water companies have, who enforces this, and who keeps an eye on the enforcers? Do we have a right to clean water to drink or swim in? Joelle explores all this and more with Angus Evers, Partner and Head of Environment Law at Shoosmiths, and with Dr Charlotte Proudman, a barrister and academic. Divorce: in England and Wales, the only divorce available now is no-fault divorce, as a result of a law change that came into force last year. As family law solicitor Tracey Moloney points out though, you also need to get a financial order. If not, your ties haven't been fully severed, and your ex-spouse could make a financial claim in future. In Scotland, you need to prove irretrievable breakdown of the marriage to get a divorce, or that one of you is applying for a gender recognition certificate. In Northern Ireland, you need to cite reasons like adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion. And: the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Act 2024 was the last bill that became law just before parliament was dissolved for the general election. Under the Act, which covers England and Wales, leaseholders will gain more rights. For example, it will become easier and cheaper for them to buy their freehold, or extend leases to 990 years. There is also a ban on the sale of all new leasehold houses. But, the Act didn't cap, let alone abolish, ground rent, and hasn't come into force yet...Producers: Ravi Naik and Arlene Gregorius Editor: Tara McDermott Production Co-ordinator: Maria Ogundele
Assisted dying, County court judgments, Drill music and ... nakedness
29-05-2024
Assisted dying, County court judgments, Drill music and ... nakedness
Weekly conversation led by Dr Joelle Grogan about the law stories making the news and the legal decisions that could have a bearing on everyone in the UK. Whether it’s unpicking a landmark legal ruling, explaining how laws are made or seeking clarity for you on a legal issue, The Law Show will be your guide.This week:Assisted dying. Jersey, the Isle of Man, and Scotland are all taking steps towards making it legal to help someone die, in very specific and limited circumstances. It's currently a crime punishable by 14 years' imprisonment in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Dr Joelle Grogan is joined by Professor Emily Jackson of the LSE, a specialist in medical law, and by barrister Dr Charlotte Proudman to navigate the law around assisted dying and to explain the differences between assisted suicide and euthanasia. Is there a point to county court judgements if they can't be enforced? Social media's "legal queen", solicitor Tracey Maloney, answers a question from a listener, who got a county court judgment against a builder, but still hasn't got her money back. Art or evidence? Drill music, with its sometimes violent-sounding words, has been used by the prosecution in criminal trials to help paint a picture of the defendants as gang members. But is it fair to claim lyrics like "try deadin' him" are proof of criminal intent, or are these words just fiction? Senior criminal barrister and co-founder of the "Art not Evidence" campaign Keir Monteith KC argues that drill is being used unfairly against Black boys and young men. The Crown Prosecution Service insists that they “would not use this evidence if it was not relevant.”And a listener asks: is it legal to sunbathe naked in your garden? Producers: Ravi Naik and Arlene Gregorius Editor: Tara McDermott Production co-ordinator: Maria Ogundele
Criminal damage defence limited
19-03-2024
Criminal damage defence limited
Following a Court of Appeal ruling this week about a case referred to the senior judges by the Attorney General, those charged with criminal damage for actions like throwing red paint at a building as a protest, can no longer use a certain defence to be acquitted. Parliament had intended the defence for different circumstances. Protesters used to be able to claim that had the owners of the damaged property known of the reasons for the damage, such as to highlight climate change, they'd have agreed to it. The Attorney General, Victoria Prentis KC MP speaks exclusively to Joshua Rozenberg about what this victory means. Prisons are almost full, and to help make room, the Justice Secretary Alex Chalk KC MP has announced that prisoners meeting certain criteria can be released up to two months early. Prison campaigners must be pleased, or are they? Andrea Coomber KC (hon), chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, has a more mixed reaction. How are prisons in England and Wales dealing with inmates with severe mental health needs? Independent Monitoring Boards (IMB), which are often called the eyes and ears of the public in prison, believe that too often prisons rely upon tough segregation units to manage inmates with mental health needs. IMB volunteers share their observations, and Elisabeth Davies, IMB National Chair, calls for a faster transfer to secure hospital units instead. Awaab Ishak was aged just two when he died as a direct result of exposure to mould in the home his family rented from Rochdale Boroughwide Housing. The coroner issued a Prevention of Future Deaths report as a result, but it was only following a campaign by Awaab's parents and others that the law was changed. Awaab's Law, as it's being called, will specify the timeframes within which social landlords have to respond to complaints of mould. We hear from barrister Christian Weaver of Garden Court North, who represented Awaab's family.Presenter: Joshua Rozenberg Producer: Arlene Gregorius Researcher: Diane Richardson Editor: Clare Fordham Production coordinator: Katie Morrison
Deepfakes and the Law
07-11-2023
Deepfakes and the Law
What if someone uses AI to create a fake version of your voice for their own aims? Recently, the actor, broadcaster and writer Stephen Fry found that someone had recreated his voice to narrate a documentary without his knowledge. What does the law have to say about deepfakes? What are your rights, and in which circumstances could someone be sued, or prosecuted? Associate solicitor Oliver Lock of Farrer & Co explains what the law can, and can't do. Creating fakes with AI, and the software to detect them, is a growing field. The same is true of forensic speech recognition, which is done both by ear and machine and can help the police or a court identify whether a recording is the voice of a suspect, for example. Dr Anil Alexander of Oxford Wave Research Ltd plays some samples to presenter Joshua Rozenberg. Can he guess them right? And what other uses are there for this technology in law enforcement?Forensic scientists are often called upon to give evidence in court, as are doctors. These expert witnesses are crucial, but things can go wrong. Some find cross-examination so bruising that they don't want to repeat it. Others fear for their reputation, if they're pushed into saying something they hadn't meant to say. Baroness Professor Sue Black is a leading forensic anthropologist and shares her thoughts.Sometimes barristers and judges are out of their depth on the science of a case. One solution to this problem has been put forward by the independent scientific academy the Royal Society, with the Royal Society of Edinburgh: subject-specific primers on relevant topics. As Dame Dr Julie Maxton, executive director of the Royal Society explains, leading scientists write and peer-review the primers, such as on ballistics or DNA, and senior judges cross-check them from the legal perspective. The primers are online, aimed at judges but available for everyone. The hope is that if barristers fail to ask the right questions on the science, judges who've read the primers can then do so instead. Presenter: Joshua Rozenberg Producer: Arlene Gregorius Researcher: Diane Richardson Editor: Clare Fordham Sound engineers: James Beard and Rod Farquhar Production Coordinators: Maria Ogundele and Rosie Strawbridge
Prison sentences: too long or too short?
31-10-2023
Prison sentences: too long or too short?
Last week, the House of Commons Justice Select Committee published a wide-ranging report about sentencing and public opinion. On the one hand, it said we shouldn't ignore what people think. On the other hand, MPs found that many people didn’t understand how sentencing worked. The justice committee's own research confirmed this lack of understanding. The committee's chair, the Conservative MP Sir Bob Neill, also points out the cost of longer sentences: £47,000 per prisoner per year.Despite that level of expenditure, all is not well in the prisons of England & Wales. Self-harm, suicide and assault rates are all up. Prison officers are "voting with their feet," says Professor Alison Liebling, director of the Prisons Research Centre of Cambridge University's Institute of Criminology. She has been doing research in prisons for nearly 35 years, and thinks that this is "the most unstable, and unsafe period [she's] known". But she also has some suggestions for how to improve matters, and to free up prison spaces.There's been yet another mass shooting in the United States, again involving a military-style assault weapon. Rather than try for tighter gun control to stop these killings, some people are taking the gun manufacturers to court instead. Chicago-based lawyer Antonio Romanucci is acting for many of those affected by a shooting in Chicago on Independence Day last year. They're bringing a civil claim under consumer marketing laws. Could it be successful?The Scottish government is planning to give the people of Scotland new, enforceable human rights. These would largely be economic, social and cultural rights, as opposed to the current civil and political ones like freedom of speech. The plan is to incorporate several international treaties into Scottish law. The UK is a signatory to these treaties already, but the rights they proclaim can't be enforced through the courts. A new Human Rights bill in Scotland would change that. But could it avoid being scuppered by the limits of devolution?Presenter: Joshua Rozenberg Producer: Arlene Gregorius Researcher: Diane Richardson Production Coordinator: Maria Ogundele Sound engineers: Neil Churchill and Graham Puddifoot
Exporting prisoners, is Joint Enterprise racist, and Gaza-Israel
24-10-2023
Exporting prisoners, is Joint Enterprise racist, and Gaza-Israel
Following the events of the 7th October in which around 1400 people were killed in Israel and over 200 taken hostage, Israel has been striking back against Hamas in Gaza. What does international law say about self-defence and proportionate responses to attacks? Joshua Rozenberg asks expert Professor Guglielmo Verdirame KC of Kings College. The government is proposing to rent prison space abroad, due to a risk of prison overcrowding here. There is precedent: Norway sent prisoners to a Dutch prison, for example. How did that work out in practice? What lessons were being learnt? Prisons expert Professor Alison Liebling of Cambridge University has studied and evaluated the Norwegian-Dutch case. How safe are Joint Enterprise convictions for murder? As a result of legal action on behalf of JENGbA (Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association), the Crown Prosecution Service has started to gather, and publish, data about those charged with Joint Enterprise homicide or attempted homicide. The figures show that young black men are vastly overrepresented among those charged under the Joint Enterprise doctrine. The convictions are difficult to appeal, as the threshold is high. In 2016 the Supreme Court admitted the law had "taken a wrong turn" on Joint Enterprise for 30 years. What went wrong, and is it being put right? We hear from Professor Felicity Gerry KC, who led the defence in the 2016 Supreme Court case, and from someone who served a Joint Enterprise sentence for murder, even though he says he was not present at the killing and only found out about it afterwards. Presenter: Joshua Rozenberg Producer: Arlene Gregorius Researcher: Diane Richardson Editor: Clare Fordham Sound engineers: Neil Churchill and Rod Farquhar Production coordinator: Maria Ogundele
The new Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, Alex Chalk KC MP
13-06-2023
The new Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, Alex Chalk KC MP
The new Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor Alex Chalk KC MP speaks to Joshua Rozenberg. How does he respond to criticisms levelled at the reforms of the Parole Board proposed in the Victims and Prisoners Bill? And how does he reconcile his wish to "provide individuals with the due process which is the hallmark of our legal system" with some aspects of the Home Office's Illegal Migration Bill, that aims to stop people crossing to the UK in small boats? Mr Chalk also speaks about new measures to protect investigative journalists from malicious libel actions, and confirms that the new Lord Chief Justice will be a woman, for the first time in a thousand years. Most of the senior judges in England and Wales are male, white, middle-aged and former barristers. The new head of the Judicial Appointments Commission, Helen Pitcher, in her first broadcast interview, tells Joshua that diversity is very important and admits its an issue in the judiciary. So how will she increase it? We hear about projects and research to help remove barriers and ensure senior judges reflect the society they serve. What is it like to do your job after a diagnosis of Parkinson's? The condition affects people differently, but many have a tremor, fatigue, reduced mobility in their arms, legs, or both, and some can have depression. Joshua meets a High Court judge, Sir Nicholas Mostyn, to find out how he has been able to carry on working despite the condition. What are employees' rights in this case? And what is it like for those in other lines of work? We also hear from a nurse with Parkinson's on how she does it. Presenter: Joshua Rozenberg Producer: Arlene Gregorius Researcher: Bethan Ashmead Latham Production Coordinator: Maria Ogundele Editor: Clare Fordham
How well is the Parole Board protecting the public?
06-06-2023
How well is the Parole Board protecting the public?
Is the Parole Board getting it right with prisoner releases? Last year, the then Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Dominic Raab thought not, and introduced reform proposals to, as he saw it, re-prioritise public protection and trust in justice. These proposals are in the Victims and Prisoners Bill that's now before parliament. But the Parole Board tell Joshua Rozenberg that public protection is their top priority anyway, and that only 0.5% of those they release go on to commit other serious offences. What can the law do when a husband takes his wife on a trip abroad, such as to his or her country of origin, and abandons her there, without the means to return? Typically in such cases, the man confiscates his wife's passport, documents and mobile phone, and then returns to the UK without her. If there are any children, the husband takes those with him, leaving the wife and children separated from each other. Often, the wife's right to live in or return to the UK is tied to her marital status. We hear from someone who became a victim of "transnational marriage abandonment" as it's called, when she was taken back to India.Artificial Intelligence or AI is changing how we live and work. Generative AI is able to produce written texts and many other types of content, including soon perhaps legal documents. Could such AI be used to deliver justice more quickly and cheaply than lawyers and judges? What safeguards should there be? And could it help clear huge backlogs in the courts? Joshua speaks with Professor Richard Susskind, one of the world's leading experts on AI and the law.Presenter: Joshua Rozenberg Producer: Arlene Gregorius Researcher: Bethan Ashmead Latham Production Coordinator: Maria Ogundele Editor: Clare Fordham
Climate Change Challenging the Law
30-05-2023
Climate Change Challenging the Law
The law is having to deal with new challenges due to climate change. Is it a human right to be protected from global warming? Do the 46 member states of the Council of Europe have to reduce carbon emissions faster to protect their citizens' right to life? The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has been asked to rule on these questions. We hear about the case of the Swiss 'Klimaseniorinnen', elderly women arguing that climate change-induced heatwaves threaten their lives. The little-known Energy Charter Treaty enables companies to sue governments for compensation for the loss of predicted profits, if signatory states reduce the value of contracts such as by banning new fossil fuel extraction projects. Could this deter countries from passing the carbon-reduction measures necessary to combat climate change? Or is the ECT a tool worth keeping, as it also protects renewable energy contracts that governments promised subsidies for?What are the ethical choices for climate-conscious lawyers when it comes to either representing fossil fuel companies, or prosecuting climate change protesters? Could, or even should, lawyers refuse to act for certain clients, or to prosecute certain defendants? What's more important: fighting global warming or ensuring access to justice for all and upholding the rule of the law as it stands? We discuss the dilemmas, and some new guidance for lawyers. Presenter: Joshua Rozenberg Producer: Arlene Gregorius Researcher: Bethan Ashmead Latham Production Coordinator: Maria Ogundele Sound Engineer: Neil Churchill Editor: Simon WattsPhoto of Swiss 'Klimaseniorinnen' activists at Strasbourg on 29.3.2023: © Greenpeace / Shervine Nafissi
How to Improve Rape Trials
23-05-2023
How to Improve Rape Trials
Conviction rates for rape trials are lower than those for other criminal trials, and the court experience can be intrusive and harrowing for survivors. The Law Commission of England and Wales (the independent body that advises the government on law reform), has just published a new consultation paper for how to change this. Criminal law commissioner Prof Penney Lewis, and before her Independent Sexual Violence Adviser Annabelle Edwards of Rape Crisis, speak about the reforms they'd like to see. The Scottish government's Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform (Scotland) bill also aims to improve rape trials. If passed, it would abolish the "not proven" option for acquittal, create specialist rape courts, and controversially establish the option of judge-only, non-jury trials as a pilot scheme, as it's feared rape myths might influence some jurors. Fiona Leverick, professor of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice at the University of Glasgow and Tony Lenehan KC, president of the Faculty of Advocates' Criminal Bar Association discuss the bill.The Hollywood stars and former married couple Johnny Depp and Amber Heard faced each other during two separate libel trials that asked whether or not Mr Depp physically abused Ms Heard. Depp lost the first case, against the owners of the Sun newspaper. It was heard by a judge in the High Court in London. Depp won the second case, against his ex-wife, decided by a jury in the United States. Nick Wallis is the only journalist to have covered both trials. He contrasts them in his new book "Depp v Heard, the Unheard Story".Presenter: Joshua Rozenberg Producer: Arlene Gregorius Researcher: Bethan Ashmead Latham Sound engineer: Neil Churchill Editor: Clare Fordham Production Coordinator: Maria Ogundele
Strikes Minimum Service Levels
14-03-2023
Strikes Minimum Service Levels
There are strikes again this week, by junior doctors, and train and tube drivers. The government's Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) bill aims to require sectors like health, education and transport to provide a "minimum" of services even on strike days. It would let employers, including government departments, issue "work notices" - lists of which staff have to work on strike days. But how will they decide who should be on the "work notice"?When someone is seriously ill, they or their family are often faced with other problems, such as a sudden drop in income, or unsuitable housing. Many don't know what help they're entitled to, or how to get it. Joshua Rozenberg visits a "Health Justice Partnership", where doctors and legal advisers are located in the same building, and patients are referred to the advice team. He finds it's making a big difference to families.When a piece of Artificial Intelligence software learns about images by being fed pre-existing, copyrighted versions of images, and then goes on to produce a new image of its own, is that a breach of copyright? That's what the High Court in London will have to decide, in a case in which Getty Images - a digital picture library - is suing Stability AI, whose artificial intelligence image-generating software was trained with a very large number of images, including (but not only) Getty's. The court's decision will in effect become new law. What impact could it have on the digital, creative sector? Presenter: Joshua Rozenberg Producer: Arlene Gregorius Researcher: Diane Richardson Editor: Simon Watts