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.
These are difficult times for bringing public interest legal cases. The withdrawal of legal aid from many areas has meant that it has become a lot more difficult to fund cases. And the lawyers who are the experts in this kind of litigation are finding it harder and harder to keep practising in the area.
So bravo to a new initiative, CrowdJustice, a crowdfunding platform for public interest litigation. For those who don’t know about crowdfunding, it has been a huge success for other kinds of projects through sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. CrowdJustice is already fundraising for its first case, Torres v BP and Others, and there is a nice video on the site which has been cross posted by The Guardian.
Crowdfunding isn’t going to replace Legal Aid, nor is it going to become the main or perhaps even a major source of public interest litigation funding. But in cases that interest the public (is that the same as public interest?), it could become a really important resource. In the age of social media, a cleverly pitched campaign can raise a decent amount of money quickly. And wouldn’t it be interesting if someone could figure out a way of building a kind of crowd funded conditional fee agreement, whereby people get back their money or even a share of the damages if the case is successful?
Good for CrowdJustice – go to the site, share, and if you want to, contribute!
ABC v St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust and others  EWHC 139, Nicol J – read judgment
Philip Havers QC and Hannah Noyce, and Elizabeth-Anne Gumbel Q.C. and Henry Witcomb of Crown Office Row represented the defendants and claimant respectively in this case. None of them have had anything to do with the writing of this post.
I have blogged before on the Pandora’s box of ethical problems and dilemmas emerging out of our increasing understanding of genetic disorders (see here, here and here), and here is a case that encompasses some of the most difficult of them. Continue reading
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
In the news
“We can be sure of one thing. A battle is coming.” The future of the Human Rights Act still dominates the news, and this quote comes from UKHRB’s Adam Wagner, who suggests five tactics to ensure that human rights are not eroded. Perhaps the most in-depth analysis to date comes from Jack of Kent, who isolates the “seven hurdles” facing the government, including Scotland, Tory backbench rebels, the House of Lords and the wording of the “British Bill of Rights” itself. He summarises:
So the current situation is: if the UK government can address the immense problems presented by Scottish devolution and the Good Friday Agreement, win-over or defeat Conservative supporters of the Act, shove the legislation through the house of lords, work out which rights are to be protected, somehow come up with a draft Bill of British Rights, and also explain why any of this is really necessary, and can do all this (or to do something dramatic) in “one hundred days” then…the Conservatives can meet their manifesto commitment in accordance with their ambitious timetable. But it seems unlikely.
Jack of Kent´s conclusion is echoed by Matthew Scott in the Telegraph (“Gove…faces almost insurmountable odds”), Mark Elliott in Public Law for Everyone (“the HRA…is far more deeply politically entrenched that the UK Government has so far appreciated”) and the Economist (“getting rid of the HRA will be tough – and almost pointless”). 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.