Guidance from the Supreme Court on human rights damages

prison2aFaulkner, R (on the application of ) v  Secretary of State for Justice and another [2013] UKSC 23 – read judgment

The Supreme Court has taken a fresh look at what is meant by the Human Rights Act exhortation to take Strasbourg jurisprudence “into account” when fashioning remedies for violations of Convention rights, in this case the right not to be arbitrarily detained under Article 5.

These appeals concerned the circumstances in which a prisoner serving a life sentence or an indeterminate sentence of imprisonment for public protection (“IPP”), who has served the minimum period specified for the purposes of retribution and deterrence (the “tariff”), and whose further detention is justified only if it is necessary for the protection of the public, should be awarded damages for delay in reviewing the need for further detention following the expiry of the tariff.

Appellate courts do not ordinarily interfere with an award of damages simply because they would have awarded a different figure if they had tried the case. However, as the Supreme Court was being asked in this case to give guidance on quantum, the Court determined the level of the award that would adequately compensate the appellants. Continue reading

The Tallinn Bronze Soldier riots – and why Russia was in Strasbourg

X20060505037_lKorobov and others v. Estonia, 28 March 2013, ECtHR read judgment

At one level, this is a story of Estonian police over-reaction to major disturbances on the streets of Tallinn, which will be found reproduced in various incidents throughout ECHR countries at various times of civil strife. But a good deal of history and politics lies behind it, and Russia’s intervention in Strasbourg, in support of the applicants’ claims under Article 3 (excessive force) and 5(1) (unlawful detention) against Estonia is of some interest. 

The Bronze Soldier, originally named “Monument to the Liberators of Tallinn” was unveiled there on 22 September 1947, on the third anniversary of that “liberation” in 1944. Not all – including ethnic Estonians – saw it as a liberation. The Germans had retreated before the Red Army arrived, and on 18 September 1944 the Provisional Estonian government had declared independence – short-lived as Estonia was rapidly incorporated into the Eastern bloc courtesy of the Red Army. So “takeover” might be a term closer to Estonians’ hearts.

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Detention pending deportation without regular review breaches Article 5 of the Convention

prison2aAbdi v United Kingdom (application no. 27770/08) 9 April 2013 – read judgment

The Strasbourg Court has ruled that a Somali national’s detention pending deportation was not lawful under domestic law.

The following summary is based on the Court’s press release:

The applicant, Mustafa Abdi, is a Somali national who is currently detained in HMP Brixton. Mr Abdi arrived in the United Kingdom on 7 May 1995 and, although refused asylum, was granted exceptional leave to remain in the United Kingdom until February 2000. On 23 July 1998 he was convicted of a number of offences, including rape, and sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment. On 20 May 2002 the Secretary of State for the Home Department ordered Mr Abdi’s deportation and on 27 May 2002 he issued an authority for detention until the making of a deportation order. On 3 September 2003 Mr Abdi’s release became automatic; however he remained in detention on the basis of the authority issued on 27 May 2002. On 5 April 2004 the Secretary of State for the Home Department authorised Mr Abdi’s detention until his deportation. Continue reading

Terrorism Reviewer: Control Order successor “broadly acceptable”

352676_old_ball_and_chain_series_3David Anderson QC, the Independent Reviewer of terrorism legislation, has released his first report into the operation of Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures, introduced in 2011 with the aim of protecting the public from persons believed to have engaged in terrorism, but who can neither be prosecuted nor deported. 

TPIM subjects in 2012 were subject to restrictions including overnight residence at a specified address, GPS tagging, reporting requirements and restrictions on travel, movement, association, communication, finances, work and study. Like their predecessor, control orders, TPIMs have been highly controversial and, as Anderson points out, “vigorously attacked – from opposite directions – by civil libertarians and by the more security-minded.” However, his conclusion is that they are broadly acceptable:  Continue reading

European Court awards damages to prisoner after Parole Board backlog

man_in_prisonBETTERIDGE v. THE UNITED KINGDOM – 1497/10 – HEJUD [2013] ECHR 97 – Read judgment

On 29 January the Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights held that convicted rapist Samuel Betteridge’s Article 5(4) rights had been breached due to delays in his cases being considered by the Parole Board, and awarded him damages for his ‘frustration’.  The media furore, at varying degrees of accuracy, here and here.

The issue, by the time the matter reached the ECtHR, was whether the High Court (and the Government’s) “acknowledgment” of that Mr Betteridge’s Article 5(4) rights had been violated was sufficient redress.  In short, the ECtHR held that it wasn’t, particularly in circumstances where the systemic delays on the Parole Board Review System were caused by the Government’s failure to recognize and plan for the full effects of the IPP sentence (brought into force in the Criminal Justice Act 2003).   The ECtHR accepted that putting Mr Betteridge to the front of the Parole Board queue wasn’t the answer: that would simply jump him ahead of those who hadn’t sought judicial review.  However, damages could meet the ‘frustration’ he had been caused.

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Extraordinary rendition gets to Strasbourg – a right to the truth

ciaEl-Masri v. The Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia, Grand Chamber of ECtHR, 13 December 2012, read judgment

In a hard-hitting judgment, the 17 judges of the Grand Chamber found Macedonia (FYROM) responsible for the extraordinary rendition of Mr El-Masri, a German national, by the CIA to Afghanistan. We have all seen the films and read about this process – but even so the account given by the Court is breath-taking. And in so doing, most of the members of the Court made explicit reference to the importance of a right to the truth – not simply for El-Masri, the applicant, but for other victims, and members of the public generally. And the story is all the more chilling because the whole episode appears to have been caused by mistaken identity. 

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Recall of prisoner on home curfew did not breach right to liberty

Whiston, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Justice – read judgment

When a prisoner is recalled from home detention curfew he does not suffer a fresh deprivation of liberty so as to engage Article 5(4)of the Convention.  

Since this part of Article 5 confers a right on any person who is detained to challenge the legality of the detention determined by a body sufficiently judicial in character, the lack of review would render the decision unlawful. As Lord Elias says in his opening remarks,

This is one of a growing number of cases which have bedevilled the appellate courts on the question whether and when decisions affecting prison detention engage that Article. Problems arise because of the combination of general and imprecise Strasbourg principles and the complexity of English sentencing practices. Continue reading