EU Directive on Refugee status does not enhance asylum rights under Strasbourg Convention

The Queen on the Application of MK(Iran) v Secretary of State for the Home Department
CA (Civ Div) (Sedley LJ, Carnwath LJ, Smith LJ) 25/2/2010 [2010] EWCA Civ 115

Directive 2004/83, which recognised the right to asylum as part of EU, did not alter the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights that asylum decisions did not constitute determinations of civil rights under Article 6 of the Convention, and consequently a foreign national had no right under Convention law to claim for damages for the delay in processing his asylum application.

Mutual confidentiality between intelligence services trumped by open justice requirements

R(on the application of Binyam Mohamed) v Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs [2010] EWCA Civ 65

This appeal was brought by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (“the Foreign Secretary”) against a decision of the Divisional Court to include seven short paragraphs in the open version of a judgment, notwithstanding the fact that the Foreign Secretary had started in a number of Public Interest Immunity Certificates that such publication would lead to a real risk of serious harm to the national security of the UK.

New assisted suicide guidance “focused on motivation of the suspect rather than characteristics of the victim” – DPP [updated]

Debbie Purdy

The Director of Public Prosecutions has published the long awaited Crown Prosecution Service guidance on assisted suicide, following the judgment of the House of Lords in the Debbie Purdy case. The DPP website says:

The public can have full confidence in the policy the CPS will follow in deciding whether or not to prosecute cases of assisted suicide, Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, said today.

Mr Starmer published the policy after taking account of thousands of responses received as part of what is believed to be the most extensive snapshot of public opinion on assisted suicide since the Suicide Act 1961 was introduced. Nearly 5,000 responses were received by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) following the consultation exercise launched in September.

Mr Starmer said: “The policy is now more focused on the motivation of the suspect rather than the characteristics of the victim. The policy does not change the law on assisted suicide. It does not open the door for euthanasia. It does not override the will of Parliament. What it does is to provide a clear framework for prosecutors to decide which cases should proceed to court and which should not.

Click here to read the CPS guidance and here to read a summary of the Purdy case. See also the Dianne Pretty case.

Update – 26 Feb 2010: Commentary on the guidance from the Guardian and The Times

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Hindu wins right to be cremated on a traditional funeral pyre

The Queen on the Application of Ghai v Newcastle City Council & Others [2009]EWHC 978 (Admin)

Read the 1COR case comment

A devout Hindu man has won the right to have his body to cremated in accordance with his religious beliefs as a Hindu.

In the previous hearing, the Judge, Cranston J, proceeded  on the assumption that the cremation desired by Mr Ghai would be in the open air, i.e. not within any structure. It was accepted by Mr Ghai that such an open air cremation would have been precluded by the legislation relating to cremation, at least if interpreted without reference to section 3 of the Human Rights Act 1998. Mr Ghai’s primary case before the Judge was that, if this was the right interpretation of the legislation, there would be an impermissible interference with his right to manifest his religion or belief under Article 9 of the European Convention. Although the Judge accepted that Article 9 was engaged, he went on to hold that the interference was justified . Mr Ghai also relied on Article 8 and Article 14 of the Convention, but the Judge held that they were not engaged.

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Do full body scanners breach the right to privacy? [updated x 2]

The Equality and Human Rights Commission have written to the Government urging caution before the introduction of full body scanners at UK airports; not that it has slowed the Government down – apparently, the scanners will be in UK airports as early as next week. Passengers at Manchester Airport have been experiencing full body scans since October, but clearly the recent botched ‘Detroit Bomber’ terrorist attack has speeded up their uptake.

John Wadham, group director legal at the EHRC says:

The right to life is the ultimate human right and we support the government reviewing security in the light of recent alleged terrorist activity. However, the government needs to ensure that measures to protect this right also take into account the need to be proportionate in its counter-terrorism proposals and ensure that they are justified by evidence and effectiveness.

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Supreme Court rules that presumption against children giving evidence not reconcilable with rights to justice under the Convention

Re W (Children) [2010] UKSC 12

SC (Lord Walker, Lady Hale, Lord Brown, Lord Mance, Lord Kerr) March 3 2010

The facts of this case are set out in the report of the Court of Appeal judgment below. In the Supreme Court the stepfather continued his submission that there should be no presumption against a child giving evidence, as that gave insufficient weight to the rights of all concerned under the European Convention on Human Rights 1950.

Read the judgment
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Court of Appeal orders Government to release Binyam Mohamed “torture” email

Binyam Mohamed

Read our case comment here

The Government has lost its appeal (see the BBC report) against the Divisional Court’s decision to order it to release an unredacted version of an email relating to the “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment which Binyam Mohamed received during questioning by the Americans. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) had previously argued that to release the full email would damage national security. The full email can now be read on the FCO website.

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Admin Court rules that Articles 5(5) and 8 of the Convention are compatible in relation to damages

R (Degainis) v Secretary of State for Justice [2010] EWHC 137 (Admin)

Mr Justice Saunders

When deciding whether to award damages under Article 5(5) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) for breach of Article 5(4), regard has to be paid to Article 8 and the limits on damages in that provision. Articles 5 and 8 are not, however, incompatible. There was no basis for the claim that Article 5(4) compensation can only be monetary, and in some cases a finding of a breach can be sufficient compensation.

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Will prisoners sue if denied voting rights?

Prisoners could sue if not allowed to vote in the 2010 general election, according to the Barred from Voting Campaign, organised by the Prison Reform Trust.

The group are seeking to remind the Government of the four year old judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in Hirst v UK, which arose out of the 2002 case of R v Home Secretary ex parte Hirst. The European Court held that Section 4 of the Representation of the People Act which prevents prisoners from voting is in breach of the electoral right under Article 1 of Protocol 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Government has as yet not addressed the Court’s ruling; according to The Guardian, ministers have been procrastinating on the issue, fearing that it will prove unpopular with the electorate. With the election looming, the Government may well be be vulnerable to a legal challenge.

Retrospective legislation on double taxation relief not a breach of the human rights of a taxpayer [updated]

Huitson, R (on the application of) v Revenue and Customs [2010] EWHC 97 (Admin)

Robert Huitson brought a Judicial Review against HM Revenue and Customs in order to challenge under the Human Rights Act 1998 sections 58(4) and (5) of the Finance Act 2008. He contended that these sections of the 2008 Act were incompatible with Article 1 of the First Protocol to the European Convention of Human Rights (“the ECHR”).

The claim related to a tax avoidance scheme based on the Isle of Man, which sought to take advantage of the UK and Isle if Man double taxation arrangement. The Claimant challenged HM Revenue’s attempt to retrospectively claw back taxation under the 2008 Act.

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Articles 8, 10 and the ‘Super Injunction’ [updated x2]

There was significant media attention over the weekend on the imposing and then lifting of a so-called ‘super injunction’ against press coverage of Chelsea footballer and England Captain John Terry’s alleged extra-marital affair. Mr Justice Tugendhat reversed a previous decision to impose the injunction (read judgment). Super injunctions not only block publication of the details of the case, but also any mention of the case existing at all. This morning’s Guardian asks whether this decision could be the beginning of the end for the super injunction:

Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights enshrines the right to privacy. But Index on Censorship is concerned that this right is increasingly used as a pre-emptive alternative to a defamation suit. In some ways, a superinjunction works better than a libel suit: after all, in libel cases, the allegations must be published first, and there is a chance (though only slight) that the litigant may actually lose.

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