The 21st Century Coroner

The Coroners and Justice Act 2009 has created the office of Chief Coroner, plucked at the very last minute from the Coalition’s ‘bonfire of the quangos’.  On Friday, the first Chief Coroner, His Honour Judge Peter Thornton QC, delivered The Howard League for Penal Reform’s 2012 Parmoor Lecture.

Six weeks into his post, Judge Thornton presents a frank exposition of the challenges facing the system he now heads, sets out what he considers to be its purpose, and charts its remarkable genesis.

Coroners have, it seems, occupied for the best part of a millennium a peculiar pocket of public life, adapting their function and purpose over time in a manner not always understood by those working outside the system, or even by they themselves.  From the Articles of Eyre to the 2009 Act, via Robin Hood and Richard the Lionheart (the latter does not come out well), the Chief Coroner describes how ‘crowners’, as they were originally known, have evolved from lay magistrates or collectors of fines, to the judges they are today. Continue reading

Supreme Court upholds US detention of Yunus Rahmatullah

Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and another (Appellants) v Yunus Rahmatullah (Respondent).  (Read judgment)
 
The Supreme Court has ruled that the law of habeas corpus should not be used to order the US to return a Pakistani national held in US custody  to the UK.

Yunus Rahmatullah was captured by British forces in Iraq in 2004 and later taken to Bagram airbase in Afghanistan having been the subject of “extraordinary rendition”.  As a suspected insurgent he remains in US custody, without charge.

The charity Reprieve challenged the Court of Appeal decision to cancel a release order in favour of Mr Rahmatullah after  they received notification from the US authorities that they intended to return him to Pakistan and would be dealing with the Pakistani authorities directly.  The UK Government also appealed, arguing that the Court of Appeal erred in finding that a writ of habeas corpus can be issued where a respondent has sufficiently arguable control of an applicant, and failed to have proper regard to the implications for foreign relations in requiring a request for release to be made to a foreign sovereign state.

The following summary of the facts and reasoning is based on the Supreme Court’s press summary. See my previous post on the Court of Appeal’s ruling on habeas corpus in the case of Rahmatullah. Continue reading

Working with the elderly and infirm: a delicate balance of rights

 R (on the application of J) v the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall [2012] EWHC 2996, 26 October 2012 – read judgment

Close on the heels of last week’s decision regarding disclosure of information from the Child Sex Offenders Register comes this ruling on the police decision to disclose certain information from a nurse’s enhanced criminal records certificates without affording her an opportunity to make representations before the information was released.

The Legal Framework

Section 113B of the Police Act 1997 provides for enhanced criminal record checks to be carried out in various specified circumstances, such as where people are applying to work with children or vulnerable adults. The check is enhanced in the sense that it will involve a check with local police records as well as the centralised computer records held by the Criminal Records Bureau. As well as information about minor convictions and cautions, it will reveal allegations held on local police records about the applicant’s criminal or other behaviour which have not been tested at trial or led to a conviction.If the information satisfies certain threshold tests in the relevant statute, it must be given to the Secretary of State  who must include it in the relevant individual’s Enhanced Criminal Record Certificate or “ECRC.” Continue reading

High Court calls for joined-up thinking on disclosure of sex offender information

X (South Yorkshire) v Secretary of State for the Home Department and Chief Constable of Yorkshire  [2012] EWHC 2954 (Admin)- read judgment

The High Court has made an important ruling about the disclosure of information under the Child Sex Offender  Disclosure Scheme (CSOD).

This non statutory arrangement has been in place since March 2010. It  allows members of the public to seek details from the police of a person who has some form of contact with children with a view to ascertaining whether that person has had convictions for sexual offences against children or whether there is other “relevant information” about them which ought to be made available. This request could come from any third party such as a grandparent, neighbour or friend. The  aim of the scheme is described thus:

This is to ensure any safeguarding concerns are thoroughly investigated. A third party making an application would not necessarily receive disclosure as a more appropriate person to receive disclosure may be a parent, guardian or carer.  In the event that the subject has convictions for sexual offences against children, poses a risk of causing harm to the child concerned and disclosure is necessary to protect the child, there is a presumption that this information will be disclosed.

Anya Proops’ post on the Panopticon blog sets out a clear summary and analysis of the ruling by the President of the Queen’s Bench Division and Hickinbottom J. Here are a few more details about the judgment. Continue reading

Speaking for the dead, prisoner votes and equal pay – The Human Rights Roundup

Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your weekly bulletin of human rights news. 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

This week, free speech continues to be widely discussed, along with prisoner votes and the popular conception of human rights law in the UK. A group of Birmingham women win a landmark equal pay case in the Supreme Court and the Chief Coroner speaks.

1 Crown Office Row seminar on inquests and inquiries

Public Inquiries and inquests have dominated the headlines recently, with members of One Crown Office Row appearing in many of them. On 8 November 2012 One Crown Office Row will be hosting a mock trial and panel discussion on the topic – there are still a few places left for legal practitioners, full details here.

Continue reading

Last quango in Paris? Why the fate of the EHRC is important for all of us – Neil Crowther

In its foreign policy, the UK Government is a keen advocate of national human rights institutions (NHRI’s). The Brighton Declaration, drafted by the UK, encourages Council of Europe States to consider ‘the establishment, if they have not already done so, of an independent National Human Rights Institution’. In June 2012 the UK signed a UN General Assembly resolution ‘Reaffirming the important role that such national institutions play and will continue to play.’

Yet at the same time, Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights wrote to Theresa May MP raising concerns about proposals to reform Britain’s own NHRI, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC):

While fully respecting your Government’s priority to improve EHRC’s financial and operative performance as a public body, I would like to call on your Government to review some of the proposals with a view to preserving EHRC’s independence and to ensuring its continued compliance with the (Paris) Principles.

Continue reading

Holding the State to Account: Public Inquiries and Inquests seminar – 8 November 2012

Public Inquiries and inquests have dominated the headlines recently, with members of One Crown Office Row appearing in many of them, including: 

  • The Leveson Inquiry into the ethics of the press
  • The Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry
  • The Baha Mousa Public Inquiry
  • The Al-Sweady Public Inquiry
  • The 7/7 Inquests
  • The Victoria Climbié Inquiry.

On 8 November 2012 One Crown Office Row will be hosting a mock trial and panel discussion on this important subject. The event will draw on the latest case law concerning the scope of Article 2 investigations, the grounds for a public inquiry, and the test for re-opening inquests.

The speakers will be Neil Garnham QC, Jeremy Hyam, Richard Mumford, Caroline Cross, Adam Wagner and Matthew Hill .

The full flyer for the event is available here (PDF).

There are still a few places remaining to attend this event.  If you are currently practising within the field of public and administrative law and/or inquests and would like to attend please contact Charlotte Barrow, Marketing Executive at One Crown Office Row  (events@1cor.com) stating your name and organisation. Places will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

CPD has been applied for and debate, drinks and snacks will of course follow.