CLRN Network Projects and Process
A. NETWORK CONFERENCES AND ASSOCIATIONS
1) The Criminal Law Reform Now Conference
The CLRN Network was launched following a general reform conference in 2016 (see here), where a selection of expert speakers presented on various criminal law reform topics. The proposals fed into the Law Commission's 13th Programme consultation; and were later published in a collection with Hart (see here). We hosted a second such event in association with the Law Commission for their 14th Programme in 2021 (see here), with an edited collection to follow.
We will continue to host conferences of this kind in line with the Law Commission's consultations, feeding into its work as well as presenting a snapshot of 'big ideas for law reform' from our network.
2) Association with the Criminal Law Team at the Law Commission for England and Wales
The CLRN Network proudly supports the work of the Law Commission. As part of an ongoing association, at twice yearly meetings, we maintain regular dialog with the Commission about ongoing reform projects as well as about the broader ideas and insights from our members. Our website blog (see here) is a particularly useful mechanism for members to share ideas on law reform, to be fed into our discussions with the Commission.
B. NETWORK PROJECTS
CLRNN 1: Review of the Computer Misuse Act 1990
Project Lead: Simon McKay
Project Completed - Report Published in 2020
Reforming the Computer Misuse Act 1990 is the CLRNN’s first report. The Computer Misuse Act 1990 (CMA 1990) is now almost 30 years old. In the years since it has not kept pace with rapid technological change. It is clear that the CMA 1990 requires significant reform to make it fit for the 21st century. The report identifies various problems with the CMA 1990 and provides detailed analysis and expert recommendations for reform. This includes recommendations for primary legislative reform of offence definitions and the creation of new defences, as well as associated measures to clarify guidance for prosecutors and sentencing courts.
The Home Office began a consultation on reform of the CMA in May 2021. We continue to advocate reform in line with our CLRNN 1 Report recommendations.
CLRNN 2: Review of Private Prosecutions
Project Lead: Jonathan Rogers
In 2009 the then Director of Public Prosecutions, without consultation, promulgated a new policy on overtaking private prosecutions, requiring the CPS to do so in any case where the CPS’s own Code tests (the evidential and public interest tests) were not met. This was held to be lawful by a 3-2 majority of the Supreme Court. Whether this is an appropriate policy requires a study of its effect on disappointed would-be private prosecutors and affords an opportunity to consider what purposes private prosecutions may serve and which offences are most effectively prosecuted privately. Reforms to this policy, if any, may be suggested to the CPS, suggestions may be made to the police about policies regarding the gathering of evidence for private prosecutors, issues relating to costs may require legislation, or the attention of judges who assess costs under present legislation.
Status: We held a scoping symposium on this project in April 2018 at UCL; a Framework Document was published in October 2018; and we discussed drafts of the report at our scrutiny symposium in January 2021. We are currently working with authors to finalize chapters for the report. The final report will be published in 2022/23.
CLRNN 3: Consent and Deception
Project Lead: Paul Jarvis
The ‘Supplementary and general’ provisions of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, namely sections 73 – 79, contain a definition of consent that applies to the offences under Part 1 where a lack of consent is a component of the crime, and a number of presumptions, both evidential and conclusive, about when consent will be absent for the purposes of those offences. Where sexual activity has been procured by deception, and the issue arises as to whether that sexual activity was consensual or not, the Court of Appeal in R (Monica) v DPP  QB 109 held that certain deceptions are capable of vitiating consent to sexual activity, but they are limited to deceptions as to the identity of the defendant or as to the nature or purpose of the sexual activity. Analysed in this way, deception is a concept that operates outside of the definition of consent in the 2003 Act; it is a factor that pushes against a person’s consent and could overturn it depending on whether the person who consented was deceived in either of those two ways. In recent years the courts have created a canon of case law that has strained to explain in a coherent way what the nature and purpose of sexual activity is.
Status: Launched in November 2020. Consultation was published here (open access) on 30th November 2021. The consultation period ended in May 2022. The CLRNN Committee are currently considering the consultation responses before making our recommendations within the final report, to be published in late 2022.
CLRNN 4: The Regulation of Drugs
Project Lead: Melissa Bone
The scoping event for the Regulation of Drugs project was held at the University of Leicester on the 29th April 2022. The CLRNN Committee are currently finalising the project framework, to be agreed and published later in 2022.
For info on any of these projects, please contact our Network Facilitator Dr Laura Noszlopy (L.Noszlopy@bham.ac.uk).
CLRN Network Project Process
Reform projects within the Network will proceed across four stages.
Stage 1: Identifying the area of law
The first task for each new project is to select a suitable area of law for review. This is done at a CLRN Network meeting, with members of the network encouraged to attend and/or provide written recommendations.
Our conference in September 2016 ‘Criminal Law Reform Now’ explored twelve ideas for potential law reform, focusing on legislative change. These proposals will be published as a collection in 2019. Any of these proposals would make a viable project for the CLRN Network, but we are not limited to these proposals, and we are not limited to a legislative focus. There are very few restrictions on the kinds of project the CLRN Network can take on. We restrict ourselves to comprehensible ideas for specified reforms, excluding those which would only be expected to receive academic support or understanding. We will target areas where there is sufficient expertise to form a useful project team. However, we are open to exploring ideas which are comprehensible even though they might be thought likely to encounter political resistance, nor do we restrict ourselves to reforms which require legislation. We will be happy to consider projects across the criminal law piste: including procedural, evidential, sentencing and substantive issues, as well as topics that combine these.
Stage 2: Identifying the issues, and forming the team
Having identified the area of law, the next stage is to reach out to members of the CLRN Network and beyond (principally though the SLS, and our mailing list) to find relevant experts working and/or researching in the field. These individuals are brought together for a full day conference exploring various aspects of the legal topic, and identifying issues that require further review within the project. Shortly after this scoping event, we form a core Project Team of 6-10 authors.
The proceedings from the conference will feed into the working of the project team. They may also be published separately by the authors.
Stage 3: Writing the Report, and flexible consultation
The project team are responsible for drafting the CLRN Network Report, exploring the relevant area of law and setting out recommendations for reform. Project teams, with support from the CLRN Network Directors and Committee, may also conduct consultation exercises as appropriate to the project. Reports will typically be around 100 pages in length, and written in an accessible style. Lastly, the CLRN Network Directors and Committee review the Report and offer comments, before it is finalised.
Stage 4: Dissemination and impact
CLRN Network Reports are intended to have maximum impact on their chosen target for legal reform. With this in mind, reports will be made immediately available for free on our CLRN Network webpage. Further to this, print copies will be made and sent to relevant people within the targeted reform institution or body. A range of publicity will also be considered at this stage, including interviews with print media, launch symposium, public meetings etc. The CLRN Network Committee and Project Team will continue to work with the target reform institution or body to take the proposals forward. Team members will remain free to publish their contributions or adapted contributions, under their own name, outside the Network Report, respecting the copyright of other Network contributors.