Sajid Javid’s reported objections to the Government’s pre-election proposals on countering extremist ideas uncover just how controversial the new laws will be. He had objected, it seems, to a mooted expansion of Ofcom’s powers to take pre-emptive action to prevent the broadcast of programmes with ‘extremist content’ before they are transmitted.
That specific proposal may no longer be part of the proposed laws, but Ofcom is likely to be given powers to move against broadcasters after transmission. And there will be plenty else to discuss when the legislation is likely announced in the Queen’s Speech next week.
The main points have already been revealed when last week the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary announced that new laws will be introduced ‘to make it much harder for people to promote dangerous extremist views in our communities.’ As always in counter-terrorism laws, the relationship between freedom and security will be brought into sharp focus when the proposals are debated. In this piece we set down some of the questions which we think warrant attention. Continue reading
Constitutional Futures 2015 – 2025 – a vignette, and comment
January 1, 2025
As the first day of 2025 dawns the people of the Kingdom of England wake looking forward to the arrival of their new passports, issued by the United States of… America. Governor Farage’s message is unusually sober, encouraging, almost apologetic:
While we had hoped to make our future with the Commonwealth, despite our best efforts, and the tireless advocacy of the Royal Family, we must acknowledge that our former friends are content with their lives and more local partners. We thank Her Majesty, and her family, for their service. We wish them well with their continued public service in Scotland, Canada and elsewhere.
While the bargain our NAFTA partners have struck is a bracing one, it is one which I believe we can live with, and indeed thrive under. As the fifty-first state, the first to join since Hawaii in 1959, we rejoin friends older than the New Zealanders, Australians, Canadians; we go back to our shared Mayflower roots.
President Clinton assures me that she expects Baroness Hale to be confirmed to the Supreme Court. I’m sure she will do great work weaving British principles into our new shared constitution.
With representatives in the House, and Senators Cameron and Umuna in the Senate, we can look forward to a prosperous future as a new and vital part of a nation we can claim have been with, in some ways, since it began.
It’s time to tell the untold story of the Human Rights Act.
With the post-election dust barely settled, the Human Rights Act is firmly in the Conservatives’ sights. Caught in the crosshairs is section 2 HRA, which requires UK courts to take into account, but not necessarily follow, the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.
Also under fire is Article 46 of the European Convention, which makes Strasbourg judgments against the UK binding upon it in international law. This much is clear from the ‘Grayling paper’ of October 2014, the Conservative manifesto, remarks made by Lord Faulks in the pre-election Justice debate (analysed here by Mark Elliott), and post-election comments by David Cameron.
Absent from this debate is the fate of other provisions of the HRA, among them section 6, which requires public authorities to act compatibly with Convention rights unless primary legislation requires otherwise, together with remedies for breach provided for in sections 7 and 8. Continue reading
On 24 March, The Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London hosted a public debate on ‘The Human Rights Act: the Bill of Rights for the 21st Century?’ at Inner Temple. The panellists were Dr Colm O’Cinneide, Mr Martin Howe QC, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, and Mr John Wadham. Professor Aileen McColgan chaired.
Lord Phillips began by reminding us that King John never intended to respect Magna Carta, and that its most iconic sections were not the most prominent in the original document. He went on to point out that the UK’s ‘motive in participating’ in the European Convention of Human Rights ‘was the belief that other members of the Council of Europe should be under the obligations that it imposed.’ A ‘groundswell of dissatisfaction’ with the working of the Convention had led to critics portraying the Human Rights Act today – rather like Magna Carta in its infancy — as a disturbance to an historical order. The British Bill of Rights now proposed by the Conservative Party was
intended, as I understand it, to give the Supreme Court, rather than the Strasbourg Court, the last word in the correct interpretation of the Human Rights Convention. I have yet to see a draft of this; but in principle I am not in favour…Under the scheme of the Convention it is ultimately for the Strasbourg court to give authoritative rulings on its effect. I emphasise the word “ultimately”. Before according the Strasbourg Court that last word, there is room for dialogue.
When late last year the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence published parts of its 6,700 page report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation programme, it shed light – remarkable light – on how the ‘war on terror’ had been conducted by the US for some time.
It very rightly prompted questions for this country. The most immediate and top level question was, if that is what the US did, what did Britain do? But one need barely scratch the surface of the matter before encountering some difficult questions about method – how do we find out what Britain did? – and about scrutiny – are there lessons to be learned about oversight and accountability?
We review here some of the expert opinions and highlight five issues that, if the experts are right, are likely to lie at the heart of debate for some time to come. Continue reading
Procedural fairness is a bit like an elephant. It is difficult to define in abstract, but you know a fair procedure when you see one. So Lawton LJ put it in Maxwell v Department of Trade  QB 523, 539
The trouble is it seems that different courts have different ideas of “elephantness”. Since we know that fairness is a necessarily context-sensitive notion, this, in itself, does not seem to give rise to too much difficulty. But practical problems start to arise when, for example, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) starts to endorse a view of fairness that is binding on the UK courts, but at odds with the approach taken by the UK Supreme Court. Add the facts that a) the UK is required to take into account the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which seems to have a different conception of fairness to that of the CJEU and b) the UK courts themselves do not necessarily speak with one voice, there’s a heady mix.
This brief post attempts to survey the area, and to discern the bumps in the road. Smoothing them out is another challenge in itself, and will probably require more than filling in the odd pot-hole. Continue reading
The New Zealand Parliament seems about to drop that country’s commitment to the rule of law from the Act underpinning the judicial branch. Retiring Supreme Court judge (and former Solicitor-General) Sir John McGrath thinks that’s worrying. He’s right. There’s still time for ex-pat Kiwis to lobby the Minister of Justice.
One of the first legislative measures of the young South Pacific colony, back in 1841, drafted in part by the Birmingham born first Chief Justice, Sir William Martin, was the creation of what is now known as the High Court of New Zealand.
That legislation has been updated over the years, significantly in the 1880s before consolidation in 1908 in the Judicature Act. That Act was overseen by the country’s fourth Chief Justice, the remarkable, Shetland born, Sir Robert Stout. Continue reading