It’s time for the human rights roundup, a regular bulletin of all the law we haven’t quite managed to feature in full blog posts. The full list of links, updated each day, can be found here.
#Without Prejudice – The Law Podcast 1: Assange, EAW, British Bill of Rights, Oversupply of lawyers and Silk
Listen to a one hour discussion between David Allen Green, Carl Gardner, Charon QC and guests about this week’s topical legal issues.
Adoption: new guidance to break down barriers
In order to address the fall in number of children placed for adoption, the government has issued guidance to local authorities whereby people wanting to adopt can no longer be turned away on the grounds of race, age or social background.
Ahmed & Anor v R  EWCA Crim 184 (25 February 2011) – Read judgment
“Torture is wrong”. The court of appeal made this simple and it would be hoped obvious statement in the appeal of two men convicted of terrorism and being active members of Al Qaeda. But, it turns out, the position on torture is not as clear as those three simple words.
Rangzieb Ahmed and Habib Ahmed were British citizens, born in Lancashire. They were jailed in 2008 for being members of Al Qeaeda and planning mass murder. During the trial, Rangzieb applied to the judge to stop the prosecution, on the basis that it would be an abuse of process to try him. He claimed that he was tortured whilst he was in custody in Pakistan. He said that amongst other things, he had been beaten and had his fingernails removed. He also claimed that British officers questioned him on one day of his captivity.
Three convicted murderers are challenging their sentences in the European Court of Human Rights. They claim that the rare “whole life” tariffs which have been imposed in their cases is contrary to their human rights.
Jeremy Bamber, Peter Moore and Douglas Vinter were all convicted for murder and therefore sentenced to life imprisonment, which is the mandatory sentence for the crime. It has been so since death penalty was abolished in 1969. However, as is well-known, life does not always mean life, and when a judge passes sentence he also sets a tariff, which is the number of years before which the prisoner will be eligible to be considered for early release on licence. The rules have already been altered to make them compatible with fair trial rights. Will they have to be altered again?
The judicial authority in Sweden -v- Julian Paul Assange – Read judgment
Julian Assange, the founder of the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, must face charges of sexual assault and rape in Sweden, the chief magistrate Howard Riddle has ruled.
The case will almost certainly be appealed, so in reality there may not be a final decision for many months. Assange has a right of appeal on law or fact to the High Court under section 26 of the Extradition Act 2003. Assange has 7 days to appeal, but otherwise the extradition would usually take 10 days to execute.
Assange’s skeleton argument, that is a summary of his legal arguments during the hearing, can be found here. You can find my previous post on the subject here, including an explanation of the law surrounding his potential extradition. Carl Gardner, of the Head of Legal blog, also provides an excellent post here.
On 17 February the Home Secretary announced that the government was moving ahead with changes to the Civil Partnership Act 2004 which would allow the registration of civil partnerships to take place in religious premises.
While welcomed by many, some have voiced concerns that permission will inevitably become coercion. They fear that religious organisations may face legal action if they refuse to facilitate civil partnership ceremonies, a claim the Government denies. But will they?
Updated | London Borough of Hounslow v Powell  UKSC 8 (23 February 2011) - Read judgment / press summary
The Supreme Court has given important guidance as to when eviction from local authority housing amounts to a breach of a tenant’s human rights. It has also confirmed that courts should have the power to consider the proportionality of previously automatic possession orders relating to council properties.
The judgment forms a double act with the recent decision in Manchester City Council (Respondent) v Pinnock (Appellant), a path-breaking ruling in which the Supreme Court held that Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to private and family life) requires that a court, when asked by a local authority to make an order for possession of a person’s home, must have the power to assess the proportionality of making the order (see Nearly Legal’s excellent discussion of that decision).
Garry Norman MANN v Portugual and the United Kingdom – 360/10  ECHR 337 (1 February 2011) – Read judgment
Garry Mann, a football fan who was convicted to two years in a Portuguese jail for rioting after an England match in 2004, has lost his appeal to the European Court of Human Rights against his conviction and extradition.
Mann has always denied taking part in the riot. The full background to the case is set out here. The case has been subject to a number of court hearings in the UK, including two judicial review hearings against his proposed extradition to Portugal to serve his prison sentence. He has also already had a claim in the European court rejected.
Munim Abdul and Others v Director of Public Prosecutions  EWHC 247 (Admin) – Read judgment
The High Court has ruled that prosecution of a group of people who had shouted slogans, including, “burn in hell”, “baby killers” and “rapists” at a parade of British soldiers, was not a breach of their right to freedom of expression, protected by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Five men were convicted of using threatening, abusive or insulting words within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby (contrary to section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986). The men launched an appeal, raising amongst other things the question of whether the decision to prosecute them for shouting slogans and waving banners close to where the soldiers and other members of the public were was compatible with Article 10.
Tovey & Ors v Ministry of Justice  EWHC 271 (QB) (18 February 2011) – read judgment.
In a case heard the day before Parliament debated whether it should amend the law preventing prisoners from voting, the High Court struck out a claim for compensation by a prisoner in respect of his disenfranchisement.
Although it was “not part of the court’s function to express any view as to the nature of legislative change”, this ruling confirmed that as a matter of English law, including the Human Rights Act 1998, a prisoner will not succeed before a court in England and Wales in any claim for damages or a declaration based on his disenfranchisement while serving his sentence. Continue reading
A sense of doom is gripping the legal profession in the face of significant cuts to the justice system. Amongst other consequences, legal aid may soon be reformed almost out of existence, meaning that lawyers will face the double jeopardy of fewer clients and more nightmarish cases against litigants in person.
There is little we can do to prevent the cuts. But a shrinking justice system could have an unintended consequence: it may inspire lawyers to take a more activist approach in promoting access to justice, and to find creative ways of bringing the public closer to the law.
Last night, 35 legal bloggers, tweeters and journalists descended on 1 Crown Office Row chambers to debate the future of legal blogging. Twitter was abuzz with the event, and you can read the tweets even if you are not signed up to a Twitter account.
The panel was made up legal bloggers David Allen Green (Jack of Kent / New Statesman), Carl Gardner (Head of Legal) and Adam Wagner (UK Human Rights Blog), and was chaired by Catrin Griffiths, editor of The Lawyer.
The event was a great success. I will write about it in more detail soon, as I hope will others. The one and a half hour discussion was always interesting and animated, and continued in earnest over drinks and substantial nibbles afterwards. There was also a complete reversal of the usual protocol that mobile phones should be turned off, and many people tweeted from the event. One of our editors even made a successful eBay bid.
The consultation on the Government’s proposed reforms of legal aid closed on Monday 14th February. The reforms amount to a substantial reduction in the scope of and eligibility for legal aid. When opposition to reform of access to forests can force a Government U-turn, can opposition to reform of access to justice do the same?
In a recent interview with the Daily Telegraph, Clarke was said to be sanguine about criticism of legal aid cuts:
Oddly enough, I’m not in as much difficulty as I thought.
Tonight at 6pm, 1 Crown Office Row is hosting a panel discussion on “The Future of Legal Blogging”.
The panel will be legal bloggers David Allen Green (Jack of Kent / New Statesman), Carl Gardner (Head of Legal) and Adam Wagner (UK Human Rights Blog). It will be chaired by Catrin Griffiths, editor of The Lawyer.
The audience will be made up of legal bloggers, tweeters and journalists. If you area looking for an introduction to legal blogging, see this excellent article by Alex Aldridge. You can follow proceedings from 6pm to 7:30pm via Twitter on #LawBlogs, and Isabel McArdle will be tweeting live updates via our Twitter feed @ukhumanrightsb .
A podcast recording of the evening will be available in the next few days. Enjoy!
Updated | The Coalition Government’s Programme for Government, launched on 20th May 2010, made a number of commitments relating to information law, including issues about privacy and data protection. It also stated that the Government would introduce a Freedom Bill.
On Friday last week (11th February) the Protection of Freedoms Bill was duly published, with lengthy explanatory notes stating that it implemented 12 specific commitments in the Programme for Government.