Critics of Islam prevented from entering UK to attend Lee Rigby rally

rigby-mother_2659292bGeller and another, R (on the application of) v  The Secretary of State for the Home Department [2015] EWCA Civ – read judgment

This short case involves the old dilemma of public order law: whether it is right to shut down speech when the speaker himself does not intend to incite violence, but whose presence it is said may lead third parties to commit violence. Indeed the facts of this particular case go further than that , because the applicants had no plans to make any public address during their proposed visit to Britain. It was their presence alone which was feared would inflame “community tensions”.

The applicants were two well-known US writers whose critical views of Islam led to them being prevented from entering the country in May 2013, to speak at a rally  in the aftermath of the terrorist murder of Drummer Lee Rigby.  An exclusion order was issued against them on grounds of public order, of which they sought judicial review. This was their appeal against the Immigration Tribunal’s refusal to allow them to proceed with the judicial review claim. Continue reading

Supreme Court of Canada upholds physician-assisted dying

TaylorCarter v. Canada (Attorney General), 2015 SCC 5 (CanLII) 6 February 2015 – read judgment

The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld a challenge to the constitutionality of the prohibition on assisted dying, saying that since they last ruled on this issue in the 1993 case of Rodriguez (where a “slim majority” upheld the prohibition), there had been a change in the circumstances which “fundamentally shifted the parameters” of this debate.

The Court issued a declaration of invalidity relating to those provisions in the Canadian criminal code that prohibit physician assisted dying for competent adults who seek such assistance as a result of a “grievous and irremediable” medical condition that causes “endurable and intolerable” suffering. These laws should be struck down as depriving those adults of their right to life, liberty and security of the person under Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights (The Constitution Act 1982)

Importantly, the court recognised what has long been proposed by campaigners on both sides of the Atlantic, that the prohibition deprives some individuals of life, as it has the effect of forcing people to take their own lives prematurely, for fear that they would be incapable of doing so when they reached the point where suffering was intolerable. Continue reading

Foreign nationals who pose a threat to national security may not be deported to Algeria because of human rights – Court of Appeal

Attachment-1BB, PP, U and others v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2015] EWCA Civ 9 (23 January 2015) – read judgment

This was an appeal by Algerian nationals who had been found by the Special Immigration and Appeals Commission (SIAC) to constitute a threat to UK national security, against deportation to Algeria.

The appellants had resisted attempts by various home secretaries to deport them via protracted litigation over several years. Despite several findings by the SIAC that their human rights would not be infringed in Algeria, doubts remained, particularly with regard to the period of up to twelve days of initial detention in Algeria, known as “garde a vue” detention, in a barracks run by the Algerian security services (DRS). The purpose of such detention was to interrogate prisoners to obtain evidence for future proceedings. SIAC had wholly accepted the evidence of an innocent British citizen (AB) detained there in a case of mistaken identity as “punitive in the extreme”, but determined that his treatment showed a lack of care over the detainee’s welfare rather than a breach of his human rights. It had conceded that the treatment of the appellants might well be no better, not least because DRS officers considered such treatment to be consistent with respect for human dignity.

The appellants submitted that, in the light of this, SIAC’s conclusion that their treatment would not violate Article 3 of the Convention was legally unsustainable; that  SIAC had erred in law in its findings that the Algerian government’s assurances were capable of independent verification; and that the SIAC had also erred in law in maintaining, without any open evidence in support, that the DRS had been present during discussions about those assurances and had subscribed to them.

The Court of Appeal upheld the appeals. Continue reading

Human rights: a reality check

919PxBmnG1LMost law undergraduates are familiar with Jeremy Bentham’s dismissal of natural rights as “nonsense on stilts”.  This is a slight misrepresentation of what he said, which was that “Natural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsense — nonsense upon stilts“. But let’s take the stilts away and consider rights in their ordinary sense. They furnish not only arguments before courts, but reasons for going to war and toppling whole regimes. As Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari points out in his recent book:

No one was lying when, in 2011, the UN demanded that the Libyan government respect the human rights of its citizens, even though the UN, Libya, and human rights are all figments of our fertile imaginations.

So, might the author have added, are “citizens”, since in a reality without cities and states, it is a non-sequitur to talk of citizens. Continue reading

The Changing Face of the European Court of Human Rights: Public Lecture by Judge Paul Mahoney

Paul Mahoney European Court of Human rightsThursday 5 February 2015 marks the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta as well as the 50th anniversary of the School of Law at Queen Mary University of London. To commemorate both of these milestones, the Human Rights Collegium at Queen Mary University of London will be hosting this special event.

Paul Mahoney has been the UK judge on the European Court of Human Rights (Strasbourg) since November 2012. Before this, he spent the greater part of his career in the Registry of the Strasbourg Court, beginning as a case-lawyer in 1974 working on the case of Golder v. United Kingdom and ending as Registrar of the Court from 2001-05, with a three-year break in the 1990s as Head of Personnel of the Council of Europe (Strasbourg).

This event will be chaired by Professor Geraldine Van Bueren QC, and Lady Justice Arden will deliver the response.

The lecture will take place between 18.30 – 20.30 on Thursday 5 February at the Arts 2 Lecture Theatre, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS.

Book your tickets here.

HRC-ECtHR flyer

Nonagenarian unlawfully detained in care home for nearly two years

UnknownEssex County Council v RF and Others (deprivation of liberty and damages) [2015] EWCOP 1 – read judgment

The Court of Protection has castigated the actions of a County Council in depriving an old person of his liberty and dignity in their overreaction to reports that he might be subjected to financial exploitation. This, said the judge, amounted to punishing the victim for the acts of the perpetrators.

Factual background

The facts of this case can be summarised very shortly. P, a 91 year old gentleman, is a retired civil servant and WWII veteran, and until February 2013, has lived in his own home for fifty years. He has been alone with his companion cat since the death of his sister in 1998. He is described as being a very generous man ready to help others financially if he believed they needed it, as well as making donations to various charities. Continue reading

Male circumcision can be part of “reasonable parenting”, but no form of FGM is acceptable – Family Court

female-genital-mutilation-fgmB and G (Children) (No.2) [2015] EWFC 3 – read judgment

Contemplating the details of different forms of female genital mutilation is not for the faint hearted. But that is what the courts and the relevant experts have to do, not only to protected alleged victims but to defend the interests of those suspected of perpetuating the procedure, whether it is a question of criminal liability under the FGM Act 2003, or determining that a threshold of harm has been passed so as to initiate care proceedings if the victim is a child.

This case concerned the latter; although in the end the court was not satisfied that the evidence was sufficient to satisfy the “significant harm” requirement under the Children Act 1989, Sir James Munby P considered the case sufficiently important to explore the inclusion of FGM, and, more controversially, male circumcision, in the array of cultural and religious rituals that can trigger the state’s intervention in family life.

These were “deep waters” which the judge was “hesitant to enter”, yet, enter them he did, all the better for the clarification of this difficult issue in care proceedings. Continue reading