Beggs v Scottish Ministers  CSOH 98, 21st July 2015 – read judgment
The Court of Session’s first instance chamber – the Outer House – has held that the way in which the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) handled a prisoner’s correspondence breached Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The petitioner, William Beggs, was a prisoner at HMP Glenochil until March 2013 and thereafter at HMP Edinburgh. In 2001 he was sentenced to life imprisonment for the 1999 murder of 18 year-old Barry Wallace, whose dismembered body parts Beggs disposed of in Loch Lomond. Continue reading
R (o.t.a A.M) v. General Medical Council  EWHC 2096 (Admin) Read the full judgment here
The High Court has rejected the argument made by “Martin”, a man with locked-in syndrome who is profoundly disabled and wishes to end his own life. This comes shortly after Strasbourg’s rejection of the Nicklinson and Lamb cases, for which see my post here.
Philip Havers QC, of 1COR, acted for Martin, and has played no part in the writing of this post.
Martin would like to travel to a Swiss clinic to end his life, but wishes to obtain a medical report, from a doctor, to assist. He would also like to take medical advice on methods of suicide.
There is no dispute that a doctor advising him in this way will likely break the law, by committing the crime of assisting suicide. However, Martin argued that in practice, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has relaxed guidelines on when it is in the public interest to bring a prosecution against a doctor in these circumstances.
Coventry v. Lawrence  UKSC 50, 22 July 2015, read judgment here
The pre-April 2013 Conditional Fee Agreement system, under which claimants could recover uplifts on their costs and their insurance premiums from defendants, has survived – just. It received a sustained challenge from defendants to the effect that such a system was in breach of their Article 6 rights to a fair trial.
In a seven-justice court there was a strongly-worded dissent of two, and two other justices found the case “awkward.”
The decision arises out of the noisy speedway case about which I posted in March 2014 – here. The speedway business ended up being ordered to pay £640,000 by way of costs after the trial. On an initial hearing (my post here), the Supreme Court was so disturbed by this that they ordered a further hearing to decide whether this was compatible with Article 6 .
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the applications to the ECtHR in Nicklinson and Lamb v UK, cases concerning assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia, are inadmissible.
This is the latest development in a long running series of decisions concerning various challenges to the UK’s law and prosecutorial guidelines on assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia. You can read the press release here and the full decision here. Continue reading
IS (by the Official Solicitor as Litigation Friend) v The Director of Legal Aid Casework and Anor  EWHC 1965 (Admin) (15 July 2015) – read judgment
Collins J has ruled that the Legal Aid guidance as to whether to provide exceptional funding in certain cases is so rigid and complicated as to be unlawful.
Although no declaration has been made in terms, he said that the scheme as operated was “not providing the safety net promised by Ministers and is not in accordance with [the relevant statute] in that it does not ensure that applicants’ human rights are not breached or are not likely to be breached.”
The actual case before him concerned a defendant who had in fact been granted legal aid consequent to an earlier decision by the Appeal Court. There were five other claims which raised similar issues in relation to the guidance and in which the individual claimants asserted that there had been a wrongful refusal of Exceptional Case Funding under Section 10(3) of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO). It was ordered that the six claims should be heard together to deal with the individual circumstances of each claimant and the attack on the guidance. The claims came before the same judge, Collins J, and on 13 June 2014 he granted judicial review in each of the six cases. His decision was appealed to the Court of Appeal by the defendants, but in this case the appeal was discontinued. The cases were reported under the title of R (Gudanaviciene) v. DLAC and Lord Chancellor (read my previous post on the Court of Appeal’s decision). Continue reading
British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors and others, R(on the application of) v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and another  EWHC 1723 (Admin) – read original judgment and  EWHC 2041 (Admin), 17 July 2015 read remedies judgment
On 19 June 2015, Green J ruled that an exception to copyright infringement for private use was unlawful, at common law, because of flaws in the consultation process which had preceded its enactment. See Rosalind English’s post here.
The judge left open for further argument what should be done about this unlawfulness.
The Secretary of State agreed that the offending statutory instrument should be quashed, and that he would re-consider whether a further private copying exception should be introduced.
But the parties disagreed about the date from when it should be quashed. Should it be prospective or retrospective? Or, in the Latin that lawyers still love, ex nunc (from now) or ex tunc (from then)? (Auto-correct so wanted those words to be “ex tune” – which would have been very appropriate, but wrong)
Laura Profumo serves us the latest human rights happenings.
In the News:
Michael Gove appeared before the Justice Select Committee last Wednesday, in the first true baring of his political mettle as justice secretary. Overall, it seems, the MP made a largely favourable impression, though legal commentators remain wary. UKHRB’s own Adam Wagner deftly compared Gove’s success to “when they gave Obama the Nobel Peace Prize…because he wasn’t George Bush”. The “post-Grayling Gove-hope” may, then, prove deceptively shallow, defined by the simple relief that Gove is not Grayling.
Yet Gove’s evidence before the committee was laudable – reasonable, measured, and skifully non-committal. Gove’s comments on the Human Rights Act obliquely signalled the “proposals” will be published “in the autumn”, failing to specify whether they would be accompanied by a draft Bill. His substantive points were similarly vague. The Lord Chancellor invoked the “abuse” of human rights as justification for the repeal of the HRA, before conceding he could not offer a “one-hundred per cent guarantee” that the UK would remain a party to the Convention. Such a position suggests a British Bill of Rights may “seek to limit certain rights”, argues academic Mark Elliot, which would, “quite possibly”, precipitate British withdrawal from Strasbourg altogether. Gove also stressed the role of the judiciary in applying the common law to uphold human rights, holding that “there is nothing in the Convention that is not in the common law”. Such a view is “highly contestable at best, plain wrong at worst”, holds Elliot, whilst Conor Gearty finds it stokes the fantasy of “the civil libertarian common law”. Gove seems to suggest that HRA-repeal and possible ECHR-withdrawal would be “far from earth-shattering events”, Elliot notes, as judges could still invoke a panoply of common-law rights. Whilst Gove is right to remind skeptics that HRA-repeal would not leave domestic judges powerless, such “overstatement” of the common-law rights model “might end up hoist on its own petard….ringing hollower than its cheerleaders”. Continue reading