Nick Hatton checks into the Foley Arms Hotel


Book review- Alan Norrie’s Crime, Reason and History

Crime, Reason and History is a digestible attempt to situate the Law amid advances in medicine, society and thinking.

Norrie’s book, for all its brevity, takes its reader through 13 chapters. It covers many of the significant cases cited in common law criminal proceedings. Fortunately for the Law student, these are presented in a logical format. The authors’ attempts to contextualise the cases gives the reader something to think about. 

The chapters on mens rea and actus reus (part ii and iii) are useful reference tools for students. The chapters on mens rea delve into the relationship between motive and intention (Chapter 3). The significance of the binding murder cases of Nedrick, Moloney and Woolin are discussed. This leads naturally, as in many criminal law textbooks, to the issues of Recklessness  (chapter 4) and Strict and Corporate liability  (chapter 5).

The chapters on Actus Reus are, by nature, more descriptive. There is some discussion of the nature of voluntarism. The somewhat inconsistent case of Chetwynd (1912) is cited. Here, a suspect’s appeal was rejected on the basis that their behaviour constituted “non insane automatism”.

The book really comes into its own in part iv (chapters 8-11). Part iv discusses defences available to those accused of crimes. Many of these are established in case law. However, the book is sufficiently exploratory to analyse the influence of psychiatry and sociology on the criminal legal system.

The defence of necessity is discussed, with reference to the fascinating Victorian case of Dudley and Stephens (1881-1885). Dudley and Stephens were eventually found guilty of murder, after killing and cannibalising a cabin boy on a sinking ship. However, on appeal, the pair both had their sentences commuted from death to 6 months Imprisonment.

In the book, psychiatry is painted as a predominantly liberalising influence on criminal law. The book discusses the MNaghten criteria for establishing Legal insanity. This is based on the case of Daniel M’Naghten. This was a man that was acquitted of murdering somebody on the basis of his delusional beliefs. He shot a man whom he believed to be Robert Peel; a politician. He believed that he was under the control of the Tory party.

The defendant cited contemporary medical evidence in putting his case forward. Interestingly, the MNaghten rules have remained pertinent in Law since 1843.

Skipping forward to the 21st century, the case of Dowds  (2012) brought into question Lord Birkenhead’s long held view of voluntary intoxication. Rather than the act of drunkenness as “an aggravation rather than a defence”(DPP v Beard, 1920), Dowds succesfully managed to argue his way to the Court of Appeal on the basis that his substance abuse fit the criteria for mental illness in two separate, medically recognised diagnostic manuals.

One might find fault in Alan Norrie’s assertion of Psychiatry as a liberalising influence on the Law. Whilst the author rightly brings the issue of determinism into the fray (chapter 9), there is no mention of the horrendously biodeterminist 19th century practice of phrenology. Nor is any mention made of the seminal tort case of Bolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee (1957). This case set a precedent for Doctors to justify physical injury to patients, so long as this is concomitant with contemporary medical opinion.

Another criticism, in my view, is the authors tendency to fall back on American case law. The books discussion of acts and omissions  (chapter 6) paraphrases large sections of Hart and Honoré (1985)’s analysis of American case law. In the chapter on diminished responsibility (C9) several paragraphs are devoted to an analysis of Durham (1954). This can seem confusing in relation to a discussion of the MNaghten rules.

Overall, the book is readable and thought provoking. The contextual approach allows readers from other disciplines  (history, philosophy, medicine, psychology) a critical perspective on our legal system. However; the brevity of this text means that the analysis is, in some places, shallow. This may leave the discerning reader ultimately unsatisfied and pining for his Halsbury’s Laws of England; his RD Laing, or his Michel Foucault.

Non League Football

Aside from my studies for my law degree, which take up a lot of my time, I have a rather unusual hobby.

This isn’t anything illegal, risky or dangerous. It is actually quite run of the mill. However, it does require some patience, tolerance and loyalty.

I haven’t played football at any great level. I have even less time to do so now that I have my head in books. However, I do have an enthusiasm for grassroots sport. In my view, there is something admirable in going out and showing what you can do in front of 1,000 people, who are all convinced that they can do a better job.

After going to a few games at the Victoria Ground last season, I decided to put my name down for stewarding. I knew that Worcester City would be coming to play their home games here. Yes, I thought, this would mean twice the excitement.

I looked forward to the big games. Worcester City v Kidderminster Harriers on boxing day had all the makings of a classic local derby. 

The prospect of FC United coming to town meant hundreds of die hard football fans coming all the way from Manchester.

However, by far the biggest game at the Victoria Ground this season was the FA Vase clash between Bromsgrove Sporting FC and Bristol Park Farm.

Bromsgrove Sporting are a newly formed club, after some financial mismanagement led to the demise of the towns much loved former football club, Bromsgrove Rovers.

Bromsgrove Sporting had to start at the very bottom of the football pyramid. They have grown in stature since their inception. As they are the towns main football club, they consistently manage to punch above their weight in terms of attendances and supporter fervour.

The game against Bristol Park Farm gave Bromsgrove Sporting the opportunity to play, for their first time, in a quarter final of a national competition.

Word got around as to the magnitude of the occasion. 1,487 people packed in to the Victoria Ground in order to cheer on their local side.

As a steward, my role was to ensure that supporters were enjoying themselves safely. The FA competition rules stated that fans must not drink in the stadium during the game. Luckily, when I explained this to our fans, they were extremely obliging.

As a reward for being such a good steward, my boss let me go on to the pitch, in order to get a better view of the game. Bromsgrove were leading 2-1, but Bristol were putting up a good fight.When the final whistle went, with Bromsgrove coming out winners, everybody got excited.

I can only hope that our supporters will be just as enthusiastic and well behaved in the next round!

The European Union

It is an exciting time in our history, as the United Kingdom is in the process of leaving The European Union.

My heart goes out to all of the EU Law lecturers that will be looking for a new job at the end of the year. Well, I think a few of us were getting a little weary of hearing about Factortame, anyway.

R (on the application of Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has been very prominent in the news this week. The group that brought this case to court were die hard “remainers” that had hoped to stop the article 50 process in its tracks. 

However, supporters may have been underwhelmed by the limitations of the judicial review process. Rather than calling a halt to Britain leaving the EU, this court case has merely stimulated debate about the nature of prerogative powers and the processes needed to give effect to the referendum vote.

This may be sad for those of us that voted “remain”. I may feel more comfortable with the situation if I were to get my Irish passport- for this situation raises issues of identity as well as merely politics.

Ireland has won the EU over in recent years. It has certainly done its bit in facilitating free movement of citizens. I was reliably informed by a bus driver in Munster that 10% of Limerick’s population of 70,000 is Polish.

When I went to Mallow to visit family, a lady in a broad Cork accent told me to “work away” at the local newspaper. When I asked her where she was from, she told me “Hungary”.

However, cases like Commission of European Communities v Ireland  [1982] shows that it also knows how to rub Brussels up the wrong way. Here, Ireland was judged to have flouted competition laws by asking its citizens to “Buy Irish”.

The prospect of Ulster leaving the European Union but not the other provinces will lead to a very unusual relationship. The UK will be wise to at least retain a knowledge of the rules of its main trading partners. Our countries will always have a geographical partnership. This cannot simply be shed by referendum.

Law School

I have just come to the end of the first week of my second semester at Law School. I am beginning to think that this is the best decision that I have ever made. I cannot think of a better way to spend my time than reading through cases, statutes and processes. Most interestingly of all, I enjoy reading about the people and the events behind these social changes.

There is nothing that brings home the relevance of this subject than coming across cases that have a direct relevance to oneself. I love going for walks in the Malvern Hills. It was fascinating for me, when I was reading through my Land Law book over the summer, to come across the case of Zarb v Parry. The story of two neighbours fighting over a “strip” of land in the foothills of the Malverns really brought home the significance that seemingly innocuous disputes can have on the ways in which decisions are made in this country.

Last week, I came across the case of Adams v Lindsell. This is a monumental decision in the history of contract law, to the extent that the precedent set by this case in 1818 is still binding in courts today. The case concerned two wool companies that had arranged a business deal by post. Lindsell (the company based in St Ives) had sent a letter offering a deal to sell some wool to Adams (a company based in Bromsgrove). However, Lindsell had accidently sent their letter to Leicestershire instead of Bromsgrove. The Courts decided that, as Lindsell had made the mistake of sending the letter to the wrong place, the contract had stood as soon as Adams had posted their letter of acceptance prior to the deadline that was agreed.

This decision certainly sent a message out loud and clear to anybody that was thinking of forgetting where Bromsgrove is!

Of more personal relevance, my Public Law exam towards the end of last year mentioned the judicial review case of R v Secretary of State for the Home Department (ex parte Fire Brigades Union). I asked my dad about this case, as he was a member of the FBU at the time that this case was brought to court. I learned that the criminal injuries compensation scheme that this case had helped to set up was motivated by a desire to help victims of arson, who, at the time, had no means of recompense.

It really inspires me that the Law can be used to empower ordinary people. The Judicial Review process, in particular, gives ordinary people a voice against the tyranny of faceless public sector beaurocrats.

Another thing that I enjoy about my course is that I love coming to study in Birmingham. The Jewellery Quarter is a really nice area; full of history and culture. I have recently taken to spending my evenings studying at The Library of Birmingham. This is an innovative new building and a hidden gem. Click the link to see the photographs that I have taken from the top floor:

I hope that I can get even more out of my study this semester than I did in my first. Last year, I had the experience of going to a court room for the first time. I met all of my new classmates- it was great to meet such a diverse range of people. I experienced the joys of exams, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could write for almost 3 hours on a topic that I knew nothing about before I started my course.

I hope that the new semester brings myself and my classmates a great deal of joy, enlightenment and prosperity!

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: I’m not going to world championships to be a tourist

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: I’m not going to world championships to be a tourist