PolLaw Express: 21st August edition.

Your daily dose of politics and the law. NI intrigued? Covered. UK focused? Sure. US-centric? You got it.

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Welcome to the daily news round-up via my e-newspaper. Here are the top stories from today:


  1. How Oscar Pistorius’s release from prison was blocked (via The Guardian)
    ~ There was confusion and outrage following the announcement that Pistorius was due to be released from prison, only for the confusion to be increased following a U-turn decision preventing his release.

Paralympian Oscar Pistorius was due to be released from prison and subjected to house arrest today. He has just finished serving 10 months of the five-year sentence he received last year for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. However, the country’s Justice minister, Michael Masutha, challenged this initial decision for early prison release and sent the case to the parole review board.

Confusion was added to the initial public outrage due to differing legal interpretation. Masutha, when sending the case to the parole review board, referred to the letter of the law: it says a prisoner “shall serve at least one sixth of his sentence before being considered” prior to parole. The Justice Minister said the parole board should only have begun considering parole on Friday, after Pistorius had completed a sixth of his sentence. However, the parole board had decided that Friday was the date on which Pistorius could be released into correctional supervision.

However, this article examines the case and queries whether there was a political influence behind the decision to prevent the early prison release of Pistorius, adding that ‘this is not the first time that we have seen high-level intervention in the Pistorius case.’


2. Iraq Inquiry: Lord Morris says PM could ‘pull plug’ on Chilcot report (via BBC News)
~ Well, whilst we are still Waiting for Chilcot, the former Attorney General for Tony Blair has stated that Prime Minister David Cameron may yet step in and ‘pull the plug’ on the inquiry into the Iraq war.

The independent inquiry was established in 2009, with a report due date set for 2011. Chairman Sir John Chilcot has previously written to Cameron, saying he is unable to set or estimate a timetable for publication.

Lord Morris, a former Attorney General, branded the inquiry committee a ‘disgrace’ for delaying its report, and Parliament could vote to force it to publish its report. However, another former Attorney General Dominic Grieve told the BBC he disagreed with Lord Morris calling for a parliamentary vote on the inquiry in order to speed up publication of the inquiry’s report.

The inquiry was commissioned then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown to investigate the background to UK involvement in the Iraq War, which had commenced when Tony Blair was Prime Minister in 2003. To date, it has cost around £10 million.

A spokesman for the Chilcot inquiry delivered a statement to the BBC, saying:

 ‘Sir John and his colleagues understand the anguish of the families of those who lost their lives in the conflict…

‘A timetable for the completion of the report will be provided once the Maxwellisation process is complete.’

To paraphrase that which Vladimir and Estragon said in Waiting for Godot:
“Let’s go.”
“We can’t.”
“Why not?”
“We’re waiting for Chilcot.”

(Can you tell that it is one of my favourite plays?)


3. Are Labour MPs worried about Jeremy Corbyn? (via BBC News)
~ With Liz Kendall recently saying she would ‘join the resistance’ of Labour MPs who would attempt to thwart the more radical plans of Corbyn if he were to win, is there perhaps a growing number of Labour MPs and supporters concerned about the consquences of a Corbyn victory?

Corbyn may be aware of this murmurs. He has recently stated he would expect Labour MPs to support his plans if he wins, saying if his party’s MPs refused to back his policy agenda, he would utilise his grassroots supporters.

Yet some MPs believe the left-winger would find it almost impossible to command loyalty, considering his history of rebellion against successive Labour leaders. However, many MPs do not expect any immediate attempt to remove Mr Corbyn if he were to win the contest. It is thought that an attempted coup would be seen to be dismissing the democratic will of the party.

Shadow cabinet members Chuka Umunna and Tristram Hunt are already establishing a group called Labour for the Common Good to pursue alternative ideas and policies to those proposed by Corbyn.

(I also found this article from POLITICO EU to be intriguing. Asking how it has happened that Corbyn, who made the ballot at the last minute, is now on the verge of winning the leadership contest, the author states ‘it was a catalogue of accidents and mistakes.’)


4. From bailout to ballot box (via POLITICO EU)
~ A week is a long time in politics, but the past two days turned the week – and the country’s political scene – around in Greece.

On Thursday, the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced his resignation, thus calling for a snap election.This comes just seven months after he took office, and brings concerns of uncertainty and political instability to a debt-stricken country. This shock resignation announcement from Tsipras had followed weeks of speculation over a plotted rebellion by far-left members of his Syriza party over the Greece’s third bailout.  The result? The Greek electorate are to take to the polls for the third time in 2015.

The election is most likely to be held on the 20th September. This article highlights a very interesting point – Syriza, when elected in January of this year, promised to reject bailout terms forced on Greece. The party will now have to run on a pro-bailout message, following the recent -and desperately needed – bailout oversaw by Tsipras.

‘…the stakes will be much lower than in January. Back then, the challenger, Tsipras, vowed to tear up Greece’s bailout agreement and promised Greek voters everything from blocking privatization and erasing a large part of the public debt to repealing unpopular taxes, preventing further pension cuts and delivering a major boost to social spending….

This time around, having broken all those promises, Tsipras’s Syriza… will run, albeit grudgingly, as a pro-bailout party.’

The article also highlights the price to be paid for the latest democratic action: potential new ministers have to be broken in, delaying negotiations on Greek debt. It may also lead to a worsening of the recession for this year.


5. Kevin McGuigan murder: Top PSNI officer confirms worse kept secret – members of the IRA carried out killing (via The Belfast Telegraph)
~ A story from my part of the world today, following on from the coverage around the recent murder of a prominent Belfast Republican. This is the news that confirms what we already knew – it was an IRA hit.

The murder of  Kevin McGuigan was apparently a joint enterprise, which involved current members of the IRA and Action Against Drugs. As details of the ongoing police assessment emerged yesterday, it appears to confirm that the murder was a reprisal killing, made in retaliation for the murder of a leader within the IRA, Jock Davison. Detectives however have ‘no intelligence or evidence’ to link McGuigan to the Davison killing.

A senior police source described the murder as being the result of ‘two factions coming together to assist each other in a common goal.’
That the IRA may be involved will have political repercussions here.
First Minister Peter Robinson warned that Sinn Fein simply could not remain in the Executive if the IRA was found to be involved. He further said that he would confer with other parties and the Secretary of State to discuss and initiate exclusion procedures should this prove to be the case.
The IRA ordered and publicly declared the end of its armed campaign a decade ago, having initially declared a ceasefire in 1997; that it still seemingly actively exists will prompt further questions – and political concerns.

It just goes to show that they apparently haven’t gone away, you know.

To read these headlines and more besides, why not visit PolLaw Express?

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