CATGATE! And some other things that happened last week

Welcome back to 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 can be found here. You can also find our table of human rights cases here and previous roundups here.

In the news

Hissing “Catgate” / “Catflap”

As you will probably know, the Home Secretary Theresa May has been criticised for erroneously claiming that an illegal immigrant avoided deportation because of his pet cat. The episode came to be known as “Catgate”/”Catflap”* and was widely covered both in the mainstream press and the legal blogs; our blog in particular posted four articles. Here are just some of the many articles about the incident (or related to it):

Catgate happened in the midst of a speech where the Home Secretary announced she planned to rewrite immigration rules to prevent “misinterpretation” of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights – the right to family life. The media’s and the government’s spotlight tends to focus on cases involving individuals who committed very serious crimes. This is not to say that serious criminals do not enjoy the protection of article 8 when applicable – they do. But focusing on those cases leads the public to misunderstand the purpose of article 8. Francis Fitzgibbon QC made this point by providing us with an example of a case where one can really sees what this provision actually means and seeks to protect.

*You may notice that this post is not accompanied by a cute cat picture. This is in order that this blog retain its integrity as a serious source of human rights news. For funny cat pictures, please visit Lolcats.

Employment Law reforms

Chancellor George Osborne has announced two important changes, intended to reduce the number of employment tribunal claims and boost the economy: first, the qualifying period for unfair dismissal will be increased from one year to two years with effect from 1 April 2012; second, fees will be introduced for tribunal claims.

Both Osborne and Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, believe these changes would save UK businesses £6m a year and encourage them to take on more staff. The policy, however, is already the target of much criticism: the unions argue they constitute a “further erosion of the rights of poorly paid workers at a time when the government should be standing up for them”, whilst for Dr John Philpott, chief economic adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the changes run the risk of reinforcing a hire-and-fire culture in UK workplaces.

Employment lawyer Kevin Poulter thinks the changes may reduce access to justice and anticipates an increase in the number of claims involving discrimination, whistleblowing or health and safety, all of which do not require a minimum qualifying period. These are often more complex and costly than simple unfair dismissal cases, and will potentially cost businesses more to defend them.

The Equality Act

In an article for the Guardian, Karon Monaghan QC gives an appraisal of the Equality Act, which was brought into force on 1 October 2010. The Act, she argues, marks a groundbreaking step in the way we perceive and address inequalities. She gives an account of past laws on discrimination to illustrate her point that inequality, once regarded solely as a race issue (which eventually expanded to include gender, sex and age discrimination), now recognises inequality as not only affecting human dignity, but also social balance. Monaghan, however, laments the Coalition government’s decision not to bring into force some of the key provision of the Act which seek to promote this broader approach to inequality.

Report on the Protection of Freedoms Bill

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) published its report on the Protection of Freedoms Bill. The JCHR welcomed the enhanced human rights protection which the Bill would provide, but stated that this protection should be strengthened further in some areas, such as those which relate to powers of entry and biometric data, for example DNA. Our post on this coming soon.

In other news

Joshua Rozenberg wrote a piece in the Law Gazette about the increasing interest in studying the judiciary, in particular in what concerns the appointment of judges and its implications to the judiciary’s independence, quality and diversity.

In a post about women barristers, Baroness Deech states that since the profession is now clearly open to women, the problem then becomes one of retention and the dilemma of balancing very long working hours and a young family. She remarks the Foreign Office has a nursery and questions why can’t the Inns of Courts provide childcare?

David Allen Green reveals who are the current UK’s top legal tweeters based on the number of followers. The list includes a “mixed bunch” and shows there is “diversity as to what actually makes a “legal” Twitter account one which a relatively large number of other tweeters want to follow.”

As announced last September, the UK Supreme Court held a mock “ecocide” trial with the participation of top UK lawyers. You can find a video of the event here and David Hart QC’s post on the topic here.

Finally, last week Director of Public Prosecutions refused a request to arrest former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni. The refusal is the first after changes made to law on universal jurisdiction.

In the courts:

Her Majesty’s Advocate v P (Scotland) [2011] UKSC 44 October 6, 2011

Supreme Court: Scottish prosecutions based on questioning by police pre-detention without access to lawyer not ECHR breach.

Ambrose v Harris (Procurator Fiscal, Oban) (Scotland) Her Majesty’s Advocate v G (Scotland) Her Majesty’s Advocate v M (Scotland) [2011] UKSC 43 October 6, 2011

Supreme Court: Scottish prosecutions based on questioning by police pre-detention without access to lawyer not ECHR breach.

Football Association Premier League and Others v QC Leisure and Others Karen Murphy v Media Protection Services Ltd October 4, 2011

System of licences for broadcasting football matches which grants broadcasters territorial exclusivity on a Member State basis and prohibits television viewers from watching broadcasts with decoder card in other Member States is contrary to EU law.

Equality and Human Rights Commission v Prime Minister & Ors [2011] EWHC 2401 (Admin) (03 October 2011) October 3, 2011

High Court: 2010 policy on interviewing detainees overseas is lawful, but armed forces policy on hooding detainees should be amended to prevent confusion and potential liability for soldiers on the ground.

AM v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2011] EWHC 2486 (Admin) (03 October 2011) October 3, 2011

Mr Justice Silber in High Court: Refusal to amend 5 aspects of control order was lawful. Interesting comments re inability of Security Services to guarantee internet monitoring due to Windows security flaws (para 112).

Ferdinand v Mgn Ltd (Rev 2) [2011] EWHC 2454 (QB) (29 September 2011) October 2, 2011

High Court dismisses a claim by footballer Rio Ferdinand against “Sunday Mirror”. Although claimant’s Article 8 rights engaged, public interest in correcting false image promoted by him.

…and don’t forget our recent posts:


One thought on “CATGATE! And some other things that happened last week

  1. The Government has dealt a hammer blow to workers rights. How can employees afford over £1,000 for a hearing, when employers are already treating workers like they did in this case http://is.gd/gWac7Z which happened under existing legislation.

Comments are closed.