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.
This week’s major stories include deportation appeals, gay marriage, the petition for a posthumous pardon of Alan Turing on the centenary of his birth, and some discussion on the nature of paedophilia. This week also saw the new year rung in, and as such many legal blogs (including this one) have been running articles about the year that was. For those curious over whether they’ve missed anything, or looking to reminisce, here is a list of articles, sorted by topic:
Our very own review of 2012, by Adam Wagner
- Part 1 (January to March)
- Part 2 (April to June)
- Part 3 (July to September)
- The biggest human rights stories of 2012 – Part 4 of 4
- Part 1 of Inforrm’s Media and Law Review of 2012 (Jan-Apr) by Judith Townend
- Part 2 of Inforrm’s Media and Law Review of 2012 (May-Aug) by Judith Townend
- Part 3 of Inforrm’s Media and Law Review of 2012 (Sept-Dec) by Judith Townend
- Huffington Post review of 2012, focusing on free speech, by Jessica Elgot
- Free Movement’s review of 2012
In the news
Seven more years
In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Prime Minister David Cameron has said he wants to be re-elected and serve until 2020, so that he can oversee “a wave of new reforms”. The Prime Minister explained that he will not turn back on policies unpopular with his party’s support base such as gay marriage, but states that he feels the Government’s stance on gay marriage was “poorly communicated” as the way in which churches conduct marriage won’t change; only civil marriages will be required to accomodate homosexual couples. Mr. Cameron also discussed his stance on the EU, former chief whip Andrew Mitchell and his long-term vision for Conservative Party policies.
The PM also announced a new policy on deportation appeals – see Adam Wagner’s post Deport first, appeal second
Last week my counterpart Daniel Isenberg reported in his roundup that High Court Judge Sir Paul Coleridge described gay marriage as a “minority issue” unworthy of devoting a great deal of Parliamentary time to in view of the wider breakdown of the institution of marriage in Britain. This week, Philip Dayle, a pupil barrister at Took’s Chambers, writing in the Guardian, has criticised Sir Paul’s view. Mr. Dayle points out that to view gay marriage as unworthy of note because it concerns a minority is to ignore one of the purposes of human rights law: to protect the rights of minorities from the whims of the majority.
A pardon for Alan Turing?
2012 was the centenary of the birth of Alan Turing, and brought with it a fresh petition to posthumously pardon him for the crime of consensual homosexuality of which he was convicted in 1952 . Turing is a national hero, and many have felt that his treatment by the country he helped save in the Second World War was reprehensible, and in need of rectification. Alex Bailin QC and solicitor John Halford have argued on the Oxford Human Rights Hub that not only is there a strong moral case for a pardon, there is also a legal one: Section 92 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, which allows those convicted of homosexual offences to apply for their convictions to be “disregarded” (in effect, pardoned). Section 92 was written to recognise the injustice of old laws, so the argument goes that a refusal to pardon can no longer be justified on grounds of upholding a conviction that was lawful at the time.
James Wilson has offered a response to this position on his “A(nother) lawyer writes” blog, arguing that the post on the Oxford Human Rights Hub conflates two separate issues: Turing’s conviction for a crime that we no longer recognise as such, and whether Turing was sufficiently recognised for his contributions in life. The argument goes that Parliament has recognised the injustice of convictions for homosexuality by decriminialising consensual homosexuality in legislation – thus exonerating Turing, along with any and all other less famous deceased persons convicted of these offences. Whether Turing’s work has been given the recognition it deserves is, in James Wilson’s view, an issue for a separate debate.
Paedophilia as sexuality
Paedophilia is an enormously difficult subject, which is not often discussed save to establish that one is deeply set against it. In the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal, Jon Henley writes an opinion piece in the Guardian exploring the academic discourse on the subject – specifically what causes it and whether it amounts to “a sexuality”. His conclusion revolves around the idea that child abuse can be prevented by recognising that some people are sexually attracted to children, but that acceptance and support could prevent acting on these desires.
Chris Ashford, writing on the Law and Sexuality blog, welcomes Henley’s article as it contributes to an almost non-existent debate, and makes a particularly interesting human rights point in doing so: that if paedophilia was recognised as a sexuality, then rights would have to be balanced against one another (which of course involves giving rights to the paedophile in a child abuse context, something Ashford rightly recognises as toxic), rather than asserted against a “perverse” group. He also recognises the subject is so toxic that an actual debate is unlikely, referencing Damian Thompson’s Telegraph response to the article as an example of the backlash generated by discussing it.
A lengthy and considered response to Henley’s article can be found in Tom Watson MP’s reply. He disagrees with Henley’s conclusions, in particular picking up on the side of the argument that Henley has not fully engaged with – the evidence from child protection workers and survivors of child sex abuse of the damage that it causes. Granted, Henley does not actually advocate sexual relationships between adults and children (and his conclusion is that paedophiles need acceptance and support to prevent them acting on their desires), but as Tom Watson points out, due to the nature of the issue (and the provenance of some of Henley’s sources, in particular Tom O’Carroll) many will see him as having done so.
In the courts
AA (Afghanistan), R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 1643 Court of Appeal: Secretary of State should have considered potential unfairness of decision to grant discretionary leave to asylum seeker arising from fact that he was thought to be over 18 at time of decision but was in fact younger.
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.
- The Case for the Permissibility of Male Infant Circumcision – LSE
Tuesday 15 January 2013, 6.30-8pm, London School of Economics Speaker: Dr Joseph Mazor
- Fundamental Rights In Europe of Humanities and Social Sciences – Oxford Brookes University
Fundamental Rights In Europe: A Matter For Two Courts 18 January 2013, Oxford Brookes University
- Refugee and Migrant Children and Young Persons’ Rights in Scots Law
Legal Services Agency, Glasgow, 15/1/13, 10am-1pm, £60-£150
- Deport first, appeal second, Jan 6, Adam Wagner
- The biggest human rights stories of 2012 – Part 4 of 4 Jan 3, 2013 Adam Wagner
- Bill of Rights Commissioners speak out over internal strife Jan 2, 2013 Adam Wagner
- The biggest human rights stories of 2012 – Part 3 Jan 1, 2013 Adam Wagner
- Avalanche! Daily Mail on new year dishonour list for dodgy prisoner human rights article Dec 31, 2012 Adam Wagner
- Extraordinary rendition gets to Strasbourg – a right to the truth Dec 31, 2012 David Hart QC