In celebration of UN Human Rights Day on 10 December, Professor David Carpenter will be giving a lecture at Queen Mary University London.
David Carpenter is a Professor of Medieval History at King’s College London and author of ‘Magna Carta’, published by Penguin Classics.
Magna Carta, forced on King John in 1215 by rebellion, is one of the most famous documents in world history. It asserts a fundamental principle: that the ruler is subject to the law. David Carpenter’s commentary draws on new discoveries to give an entirely fresh account of Magna Carta’s text, origins, survival and enforcement, showing how it quickly gained a central place in English political life. Continue reading
In the news
LGBT campaigners have called for an urgent reform of the law, following the death of 21 year-old transgender woman Vicky Thompson in an all-male prison. Ms Thompson had previously said that she would take her own life if she were placed in a prison for men.
The system of locating transgender people within the prison estate has recently come into criticism after transgender woman Tara Hudson was placed at HMP Bristol, an all-male establishment. Ms Hudson spoke of being sexually harassed by other prisoners, before a petition signed by more than 150,000 people led to her eventual transfer to a women’s prison. Statistics from the US suggest that transgender women in male prisons are 13 times more likely than the general prison population to be sexually assaulted while incarcerated.
Under the current rules, in most cases prisoners must be located “according to their gender as recognised under UK law”, although the guidance allows discretion where the individual is “sufficiently advanced in the gender reassignment process.” But the case of Vicky Thompson has been said to show that “the law is simply not working. For people living for years as women to be sent to serve sentences in prisons for men is inviting disaster.”
Responding to a question on the issue, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Andrew Selous has stated that the government intends to implement “revised policy guidance… in due course.”
In other news:
- The Guardian: The Metropolitan Police has issued an unreserved apology and paid substantial compensation to women who were deceived into forming long-term intimate sexual relationships with undercover police officers. The police force acknowledged that the relationships had been “a violation of the women’s human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma.”
- BBC: Members of the public and journalists will be permitted to attend the majority of hearings in the Court of Protection, where issues affecting sick or vulnerable people are heard. The new pilot scheme is intended to provide greater transparency, whilst safeguarding the privacy of the people involved.
- MPs on the justice select committee have called for the scrapping of the criminal courts charge, voicing “grave misgivings” about whether it is “compatible with the principles of justice.” The charge of up to £1,200 is imposed on convicted criminals, and is not means-tested. In its report, the parliamentary committee expressed concern that the charge, which is higher for those convicted after pleading not guilty, was creating “perverse incentives” affecting defendant behaviour. The BBC reports here.
- The Legal Voice: The Ministry of Justice has announced that the introduction of duty provider contracts will be postponed until 1 April 2016. A number of legal proceedings have been issued, challenging the legitimacy of the procurement process. The decision has been welcomed by the Bar Council, which has consistently opposed measures it claims would “damage access to justice and the provision of high quality advocacy services.”
- BBC: A couple from north west London have been found guilty of keeping a man enslaved in their home for 24 years, in “a shocking case of modern slavery.” The couple had “total psychological control” over their victim, threatening that if he left the house he would be arrested by police as an illegal immigrant.
In the courts
The Court found that a family of asylum seekers evicted from an accommodation centre had been exposed to degrading treatment, in violation of their rights under article 3 ECHR. The family had been left in conditions of extreme poverty, without basic means of subsistence for a period of four weeks. The Belgian authorities had not paid due consideration to the vulnerability of the applicants, who had small children including a seriously disabled daughter.
UK HRB posts
Best interests, hard choices: The Baby C case – Leanne Woods
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Judgments in best interests cases involving children often make for heart-wrenching reading. And so it was in Bolton NHS Foundation Trust v C (by her Children’s Guardian)  EWHC 2920 (Fam), a case which considered Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health guidance, affirming its approach was in conformity with Article 2 and Article 3 ECHR. It also described, in the clearest terms, the terrible challenges facing C’s treating clinicians and her parents. Continue reading
Charlotte Bellamy brings you the latest human rights news
In the News
The Home Office has confirmed that it is rejecting the call of Lord Carlile, the UK Government’s former independent reviewer of terror legislation, to rush the government’s internet surveillance bill through Parliament following the devastating attacks in Paris carried out by IS on Friday, Andrew Sparrow reports [at 12.18].
In Lord Carlile’s view the bill could pass through Parliament in the next three to four weeks, and the “necessary powers need to be on the statute book as quickly as that”. Though the draft bill was published on 4 November, it has not yet been scrutinised by the intended joint committee of both houses of Parliament. Despite Lord Carlile’s belief that “we don’t have time to wait” and the content of the draft bill is “for the most part perfectly reasonable”, the Home Office appears to be sticking to their original timetable that the final version be published in Spring next year, having had due regard to pre-legislative scrutiny, with a view to it becoming law before the end of 2016. Continue reading
Lord Carlile QC, former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, has said that in the aftermath of the Paris attacks last weekend, Parliament should fast-track the Investigatory Powers Bill into law. Given his extensive experience in the field, Lord Carlile’s views should not be taken lightly. But Lord Carlile is wrong. To fast-track the Investigatory Powers Bill is undesirable and unnecessary. It would also end a crucial public conversation in a wrong-headed paroxysm of governmental action.
An Undesirable Response
Fast-track national security law is undesirable for (at least) two reasons. First, legislatures tend not to function well in the aftermath of any emergency. If they legislate immediately, the result is often not just overreach, but legislation that is bad in technical terms. Second, these general concerns are of especial significance in this field of law, because existing flaws in our investigatory powers law are a result of failures of scrutiny in the past. Continue reading
McMorn (R, on the application of) v Natural England  EWHC 3297 (Admin) – read judgment
An interesting point arose in this judicial review (for which see Rosalind English’s post here). Could the claimant could get the benefit of an order that any costs he might have had to pay were capped at £5,000? The original judge, Thirlwall J, when granting permission, had refused this costs protection. Ouseley J granted it, though, because the claimant won, the order is academic (short of a successful appeal by the defendant).
This kind of costs protection only applies when the claim is an environmental claim covered by the Aarhus Convention: see a whole list of posts at the end of this one, including the true bluffer’s guide here. The UK has been dragged kicking and screaming into compliance with the Aarhus costs requirements, that environmental challenges not be “prohibitively expensive”, thanks to a combination of the Convention’s own enforcement body and the EU Court in Luxembourg.
But the domestic courts have had some difficulty in deciding what is or is not comes within an environmental challenge.
As we will see, the judge also thought that an Aarhus claim requires a more intensive review of the substantive decision than might have been applied had the claim been a typical domestic challenge on grounds of irrationality. I deal with that point first.
McMorn (R, on the application of) v Natural England  EWHC 3297 (Admin) – read judgment
Public opinion regarding raptors and pheasant shoots should not influence the authorisation of buzzard control, the Administrative Court has ruled. Any derogations to the EU protection of wild birds should apply equally across wild avian species, irrespective of their popularity.
This was a gamekeeper’s challenge to the refusal by the defendant statutory body (Natural England) to grant him a licence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to kill buzzards which he said were destroying such high numbers of game birds as to render his shoot unviable.
At the heart of the claimant’s challenge was his contention that NE treated raptors differently from other wild birds, making it far harder, well-nigh if not quite impossible, for anyone to meet the statutory conditions for the issue of a licence.
He maintained the defendant treated these licence applications differently because of the public controversy which the grant of a licence for the killing of buzzards would engender. This was because of perceived adverse public opinion about the protection of a pheasant shoot. Hence, the decision was based on unjustified inconsistencies in NE’s treatment of raptor and other birds equally protected under the law. Continue reading