Much has been said about our surveillance law and much more will be said in Parliament’s debate on Thursday. And yet, how we talk about surveillance law merits at least as much concern as what we say about it. Over-intrusive government surveillance is a problem. But so too is loose language in opposition to it.
The Oxford English Dictionary (Online) describes a ‘snooper’ as ‘one who pries or peeps; spec. one who makes an intrusive official investigation. orig. U.S.’ So it is, at best, an American term for an officious busy-body and at worst someone prying or peeping. This is hardly an administrative accolade or term of endearment – unless one has rather curious definitions of government and/or courtship.
Further etymological investigation reveals that the term ‘to snoop’ is Dutch in origin, and one use would be to describe a servant “slyly going into a dairy room and drinking milk from a pan.” It seems a Dutch Downton Abbey would have even more intrigue than the English one does. For none of these definitions or descriptions would we want Parliament to legislate. No-one is on the side of the ‘snooper’. Continue reading
Chiragov and Others v. Armenia (App No 13216/05) – read judgment
In two important decisions, the Grand Chamber of the Strasbourg Court has held that the forced displacement of peoples from the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh during the armed conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia constituted a violation of Article 1 of Protocol 1 (right to the peaceful enjoyment of property) and Article 8 (right to a private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The case of Chiragov which concerned the forced displacement of Azerbaijani nationals was decided in parallel with the Grand Chamber judgment in Sargsyan v Azerbaijan (found here). Sargsyan was delivered on the same day and reached the same conclusions in respect of Armenian nationals forced to flee from Azerbaijani territory. Continue reading
R (Victor Nealon) v Secretary of State for Justice : R (Sam Hallam) v Secretary of State for Justice  EWHC 1565 (Admin), 8 June 2015 – read judgment
As Michael Gove contemplates the future of the Human Rights Act 1998, the High Court has considered how far the presumption of innocence in Article 6(2) ECHR spreads into decisions on payment of compensation for a miscarriage of justice. In doing so, Burnett LJ also managed to find some less than complimentary sentiments about the Strasbourg court’s decision-making.
Sam Hallam was convicted of murder in 2011. Victor Nealon was convicted of rape in 1997. Both successfully appealed against their convictions and then applied to the Secretary of State (‘SoS’) for compensation under s133 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (the ‘1988 Act’’), as amended by the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (the ‘2014 Act’). Both men were refused compensation on the basis that their circumstances did not meet the s133 statutory test (as amended). Continue reading
British legal history has long inspired the common law world. The Magna Carta, an 800-year-old agreement between a King and his barons, remains an icon of liberty, seen around the world as the foundation stone of the rule of law. In contrast, British law on online surveillance and privacy has been arcane and obscure – a field that is for reluctant experts if it is for anyone at all.
The law has largely been developed in reaction to external pressure. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 was the result of a series of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 was rushed into law after an EU Court of Justice ruling. This piecemeal approach provides a poor basis for investigatory powers and a worse one for privacy rights.
Momentum towards change has been building. The Edward Snowden revelations brought to an end the public’s ignorance – or quiet endurance – of state surveillance operations. So, although last year’s emergency law permits ongoing data surveillance, it also put in motion a review of the powers of intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Continue reading
Re A (A Child; Wardship; Fact : Finding : Domestic Violence  EWHC 1598 (Fam) – read judgment
This recent domestic violence case involving a child and the comments made by Mrs Justice Pauffley have been exciting the interest of both the media those agencies involved in child protection, such as the NSPCC.
The parents met in 2004 and were married in India in January 2005. They travelled to England in 2006 on six month visas. They became ‘over stayers’ when those visas expired and they decided not to return. They lived in a series of addresses with other families.
In June 2007 their only child, A, was born.
It was the mother’s case that after about three months the marriage became unhappy – a situation which continued until the final separation in 2013. The father, by contrast, maintained they were very happy until about 2011. Continue reading
Last week the Queen revealed that the newly-elected government had delayed its promised proposals to repeal the Human Rights Act. If this signals a willingness to listen and reflect, rather than an opportunity to bring potential rebels into line, then so much the better. Let us keep talking.
In this post, I want to talk about the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
The government’s key concern – judging by the Grayling paper published last October – is that the Strasbourg Court has got too big for its boots and won’t stop telling us what to do. Hence the manifesto commitment to introduce a British Bill of Rights. The Prime Minister’s personal gripe – with some justification – is the Court’s 2005 ruling on prisoner voting: Hirst v UK (No.2) (2005) 42 EHRR 849. Continue reading
The October 2014 Conservative Party proposals promised to:
End the ability of the European Court of Human Rights to force the UK to change the law. Every judgement that UK law is incompatible with the Convention will be treated as advisory and we will introduce a new Parliamentary procedure to formally consider the judgement.
In the event that we are unable to reach that agreement, the UK would be left with no alternative but to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights, at the point
at which our Bill comes into effect.” (see proposals here )
The Conservative Party’s manifesto included a much shorter summary of the proposals without the specific details about the relationship with the ECtHR of the Council of Europe and the Queen’s Speech on 27th May promised that there would be a consultation exercise (see summary here) Continue reading