BNP bus driver, legal aid bills and Abu Qatada – 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.

The Rahmatullah Supreme Court judgment remained in the spotlight this week, but had to share it with old faces such as Abu Hamza (whose case has managed to keep outraging the public despite his extradition to the US), the loudly ticking clock of prisoner voting and the attendant debate over whether the UK should replace the Human Rights Act with a “British” human rights statute. Meanwhile, the ruling on whether Abu Qatada can be deported to Jordan is coming tomorrow (Monday).

In the news

Rahmatullah Commentary

The Rahmatullah case has already been throughly discussed on this blog by Rosalind English, Lois Williams and Wessen Jazrawi in last week’s roundup, so I won’t repeat the background and analysis of the case. For those looking for another perspective, though, Samantha Knights of Matrix Chambers has posted a case comment on the UKSC blog this week, which includes a summary of the background and the judgment. On the issue of the cross-appeal (which concerned whether the US’s response was sufficient to show that the UK could not secure Mr. Rahmatullah’s release) Ms. Knights concluded that this judgment might have been made more satisfying if the dissenting judges’ reasoning had prevailed.

Carl Gardner of the Head of Legal blog has also weighed in (twice) on the Rahmatullah issue. The first post is in response to a press release by the charity Reprieve headed “Supreme Court: UK unlawful rendition may have been war crime”, which Mr. Gardner argues is misleading, as the judgment didn’t use the phrase “war crime”, or indeed that the UK took part in unlawful rendition, both of which the offending press release seems to claim as fact. The second post follows on from the first, responding to criticism of his claim in the first post that the UK did not know about Mr. Rahmatullah’s rendition at the relevant time.

Abu Hamza’s Legal Aid

Abu Hamza’s defence against extradition has cost the taxpayer £680,000 in legal aid, according to the Daily Mail. This has prompted Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to take a “strong stance” and call for an “immediate investigation” of the Legal Aid system – which in turn has invited scorn from commentator Simon Pottinger of the Justice Gap, who explains how costs can only reach the levels in the Hamza case if previously authorised by a Civil Servant, and that in fact almost all legal fees in the criminal justice system have been set at prescribed levels by the Government.

The Law Society has also weighed in, stating that it has offered to work with the Justice Secretary to increase public understanding and confidence in legal aid, which it rightly describes as a safeguard for equal access to justice and ensuring that the government is never insulated from scrutiny in the courts. The impression that one gets from these comments is that Mr. Grayling’s speech ignores not only the recent cutbacks in legal aid (see the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012), but also the exceptional nature of a case such as Abu Hamza’s.

Abu Qatada judgment tomorrow (Monday)

The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) is to rule tomorrow on whether suspected terrorist Abu Qatada can be deported to Jordan to face trial. For all the background, see this excellent article by BBC Home Affairs Correspondent Dominic Casciani. See also this blog’s most recent coverage here  - Taking stock after Abu Qatada: Assurances, secret detention and evidence in closed proceedings
and Abu Qatada detention will continue through Olympics.

Prisoner Voting and where it may take us

The clock keeps ticking down to the 22nd of November, the government’s deadline to “bring forward legislative proposals” to end the “general, automatic and indiscriminate disenfranchisement of all serving prisoners”. As all readers of this blog no doubt know, this has created something of a dilemma, as the Prime Minister has gone on the record as being absolutely against prisoners getting the vote under the current government.

Joshua Rozenberg discusses the thorny problem in this post and on Law in Action with the ex-Solicitor General Sir Edward Garnier QC. Mr. Rozenberg argues that the recent rulings against the UK in Strasbourg (including the Redfearn case, discussed below) will stiffen the PM’s anti-ECHR resolve, and wonders why this resolve has led the UK not to ratify the very worthy child protection convention (though we have signed it).

Eirik Bjorge has also posted commentary on prisoner voting this week, on the Oxford Human Rights Hub. In his post, he explains how deferential to national governments the Strasbourg Court has been in the prisoner voting cases, and how little we would actually have to do to comply with the rulings. He concludes with the expectation that prisoner voting will be a “gift that keeps on giving” to the stubborn Coalition government.

Finally, our own Adam Wagner has posted a defence of the Human Rights Act in the Jewish Chronicle (in response to the post by Jonathan Fisher QC in the same publication, entitled “the wrongs of human rights”). The Chronicle does not accept comments on its posts, so Adam has invited responses to his post on this blog.

The BNP Bus Driver

In a decision that may seem ironic to some, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favour of a BNP Councillor who was sacked from his job as a bus driver due to potential risks to the health and safety of his co-workers, based entirely on his BNP membership. The irony, of course, is that the BNP views the ECHR as a system which allows scroungers to drain UK taxpayers’ money and promises to abolish it in the UK, as pointed out by James Wilson in this very interesting post on his blog. The irony seems to be lost, however, on BNP leader Nick Griffin, who hailed the decision as a “HUGE VICTORY” on his Twitter account on the 6th of November. See also Martin Downs’ post on this blog, which concisely analyses the case . Well worth a read.

How to Become a Legal Commentator

Any readers want to become a legal commentator? Alex Aldridge of Legal Cheek discusses the future of legal commentary (both online and in print) and how to break into this field for those inclined to do so with Carl Gardner, who blogs on Head of Legal (among numerous other online activities).

In the courts

BEGGS v. THE UNITED KINGDOM – 25133/06 – HEJUD [2012] ECHR 1868 Scottish criminal appeal proceedings lasting 10 years were too long and breached Article 6, rules Strasbourg.

REDFEARN v. THE UNITED KINGDOM – 47335/06 – HEJUD [2012] ECHR 1878 Strasbourg held that dismissal of BNP bus driver breached his human rights to free association under Art 11; the UK must do more to protect employees’ political views.

Mohammed, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2012] EWHC 3091 (Admin) Legacy Scheme case – High Court quashes as unlawful the decision to refuse the Claimant leave to remain without having full regard to the provisions in Chapter 53.

Thurrock Borough Council v West [2012] EWCA Civ 1435 Court of Appeal sets out principles to be applied to Article 8 defences to local authority possession orders

Upcoming Events

As mentioned by Wessen in last week’s roundup, the UKHRB now has an additional feature on the right sidebar of the website. To add events to this list, email Adam Wagner. Please only send events which (i) have their own webpage which can be linked to, and (ii) are relevant to topics covered by the blog.

UKHRB posts

6 thoughts on “BNP bus driver, legal aid bills and Abu Qatada – The Human Rights Roundup

  1. Words are only sound waves that vanish in a trice ! We should be free to abuse one another verbally in any way we choose concerning race,sexual orientation,physical appearance,disabilities,religions, fashions, or anything else without being arrested by the thought police …….

  2. Your comment on the BNP’s position to the ECHR is completely wrong – and no surprise there amongs many a writer who always seeks to be free with inaccuracies in order to discredit it.

    The BNPs position is that the ECHR is an extension of the European Union (it is compulsory for all members to sign up to it and provide legislation accordingly) that is imposed by the EU as a means of harmonising human rights law to reflect a liberal agenda.

    There is no inconsistency or “irony” in relation to the BNP and this ruling. The BNP’s position is that Britain should leave the EU and the ECHR, replacing it with a Bill of Rights determined by a British Parliament.

    Furthermore the supposedly “very interesting post” in James Wilson’s blog to which you refer is full of hostile nonsense with regard to the BNP. He claims “The BNP is a party whose doubtful reputation on human rights and indeed human decency needs no elaboration.”

    Oh really? But where is his proof of such a claim? The BNP has never been in government so it has never been in a position to either apply or deny human rights. And what “human decency” is the BNP lacking? That it opposes being involved in foreign wars? Or that it opposes the supremacist ultra fascism, misogyny, and paedophilia that is an integral part of Islam? Or that it opposes mass immigration because it creates a pool of cheap labour to undercut those of indigenous Britons, as well as causing a strain on the supply of housing and services? The fact is that the BNP’s economic policies are more left-wing than the Labour Party, whist it’s social policies are traditional conservative.

    I suggest your (and James Wilson’s) hostility to the BNP is solely down to the fact that it is the largest political party that opposes multiculturalism, Islamic degeneracy, and the agenda of Common Purpose.

  3. BNP Arthur Redfern acquitted by the EU
    left wing organisations i.e. newspaper editors , Guardian thinkers, the church, media outlets, and Jewish Zionists organisations have been paralysed by Mr Redfern BNP being acquitted, it is now evident that not even the Ultra Marxist EU is falling for the anti BNP lies, or is it they think that those phony greedy money grabbing left wing civil right lawyers such as cherry Blair are now earning more money than them. ???.
    The case of Hook
    £600,000 was the estimated price for fighting the case for Abu the terrorist hook not to be , deported , the true amount may never be known, but even in that swine’s absence hooks family is housed free , and given hundreds of thousands annually
    Mr Redfern councillor on the other hand lost a leg during his military service, and was indiscriminately sacked for being BNP by a foreign owned bus company called Serco ,, even though his constituents , and Muslim work colleges gave Mr Redfern a good reference .
    Can all those BNP members whose names and address were posted on line by Gerry gables searchlight magazine claim money for harassment and others which were sacked for being BNP must go in for the kill , letting the left know that it is unwise to mess with the BNP?
    I for one will consult Nick Griffin on this issue Walter Barfoot BNP

  4. With regards to the judgement concerning the BNP bus driver. It is inherent in a democracy that people should be able to express or indeed, associate themselves with a political view without being discriminated or victimised. That said, by the same token employers have a right to intervene where the individual seeks to usurp that right to advance an agenda or indeed discriminate against those who have different persuasions- cannot cry discrimination on one hand and then gone on to abuse this by discriminating against another.

    However, having extreme views has repercussions if spilled out in the public for an employer cannot protect a person from outside hostilities.

  5. There is no “irony” to be found in the BNP pursuing legal redress through the European Court of Human Rights. Why should the BNP not use the legal systems that the political establishment have signed us up to? The BNP using the European Court of Human Rights does not mean they agree with it. It is such a cheap and pathetic attack on the BNP to suggest they are somehow hypocritical to use the European Court of Human Rights.

    Do you think because Abu Hamza used the European Court of Human Rights that this means he agrees with it ideologically? of course not, and anyone making such an assertion would obviously be a complete idiot. And yet we never hear him labelled a hypocrite or that it ironic that he used the European Court of Human Rights. I am pretty sure Abu Hamza wants Sharia courts in place of the European Court of Human Rights.

  6. The BNP had no alternative. And soon, the BNP or whatever forms from it, will have to worry about the Police being politicized by Police Commissioners who are political opponents.

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