When indefinite becomes arbitrary: James, Wells and Lee v UK

JAMES, WELLS AND LEE v. THE UNITED KINGDOM – 25119/09 57715/09 57877/09 – HEJUD [2012] ECHR 1706 – Read judgment / press release

As Andrew Tickell noted in his post on Wednesday the European Court of Human Rights this week ruled that the UK violated the Article 5(1) ECHR rights of three prisoners sentenced to indeterminate prison sentences for public protection, where reasonable provision for their rehabilitation was not made. 

In April 2005, the Government introduced indeterminate imprisonment for the public protection, or “IPP sentences”, whereby certain prisoners would not have a right to parole.  Instead, under section 225 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, they would remain in prison following expiry of their tariff periods until a Parole Board had decided they were no longer a risk to the public.  Prior to an amendment in 2008, an IPP sentence was mandatory where there was a future risk of further offending, and there was an assumption of risk where there was a previous conviction for a violent or sexual offence unless the sentencing judge considered it unreasonable to make such an assumption.

Continue reading

The UK and Strasbourg: a victim fantasy

Rhubarb, rhubarb. Another defeat for the United Kingdom in Strasbourg yesterday. In James, Wells and Lee v. the United Kingdom, a chamber of the Court’s Fourth Section held that indeterminate sentences of imprisonment for public protection infringed Article 5 of the Convention.  At his first Justice Questions in the House of Commons yesterday, our fresh-minted Conservative Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, advised MPs that:

“I’m very disappointed with the ECHR decision this morning.  I have to say, it is not an area where I welcome the Court, seeking to make rulings.  It is something we intend to appeal.”

One wonders which areas Mr Grayling would welcome the Court’s jurisdiction, but all in all, a somewhat tepid response from a man whose appointment was greeted by the Daily Mail with the enthusiastic suggestion that Grayling…

“… unlike his predecessor Ken Clarke, will have no truck with the cardboard judges at the European Court of Human Rights.”

Continue reading

BC Supreme Court grasps the nettle in right to die case

Lee Carter, Hollis Johnson, Dr. William Shoichet, The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and Gloria Taylor v Attorney General of Canada (2012 BCSC 886) 15 June 2012 – read judgment

Interest in the “locked-in syndrome” cases currently before the High Court runs high.  We posted here on the permission granted to locked-in sufferer Tony Nicklinson  to seek an advance order from the court that would allow doctors to assist him to die under the common law defence of necessity.

He is also arguing that the current law criminalising assisted suicide is incompatible with his Article 8 rights of autonomy and dignity. The other case before the three judge court involves another stroke victim who is unable to move, is able to communicate only by moving his eyes, requires constant care and is entirely dependent on others for every aspect of his life. (Philip Havers QC of 1 Crown Office Row is acting for him)

Continue reading

Assange: does it matter if ministers mislead Parliament?

Assange v. The Swedish Prosecution Authority [2012] UKSC 22, read judgment

Today, the Supreme Court held that Julian Assange should be extradited to Sweden for alleged rape. This is subject to further submissions on one point (concerning the Vienna Convention on Treaties), well covered by Joshua Rozenberg in his post on the lively proceedings when the judgment was handed down.

The whole of the appeal turned on one technical point, simple to state, but it took the Court 266 paragraphs to answer. Was the European Arrest Warrant which triggered the extradition request signed by a”judicial authority,” given that it was signed by a prosecutor? Most English lawyers, unburdened with the detail, would say – no, a prosecutor is not a judicial authority, indeed he or she is the opposite of that, a party. But, according to the Supreme Court, they are wrong, and so are the ministers who told Parliament that a judicial authority has to be some sort of judge or court.

Continue reading

Time and time again: Article 6 to the rescue

Last week Rosalind English did a summary post on the important Supreme Court case of Lukaszewski and others, R (on the application of Halligen) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2012] UKSC 20 - read judgement.

The technicalities of this decision about extradition time limits are set out in her post. Here, I explore the potential implications for other cases.

The Extradition Act contains firm rules that appeals need filing and serving within 7 or 14 days, depending on the procedure. The Supreme Court decided that there should be a discretion in exceptional circumstances for judges to extend time for service of appeal, where the statutory time limits would otherwise operate to impair the right of appeal and therefore be in breach of  the right to a fair trial afforded by Article 6(1) of the Human Rights Convention. And it is this discretion which is important for a whole range of appeals  where mandatory time limits are laid down by statutes.

Continue reading

When does an expert report constitute “independent evidence” of torture?

R (on the application of AM) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2012] EWCA Civ 521 - Read judgment

Whether expert evidence relied upon by an asylum seeker amounted to “independent evidence” of torture was the key issue before the Court of Appeal in this case . The issue arose in the context of AM’s claim against the Home Office for wrongful imprisonment contrary to the UK Border Agency’s  Enforcement Instructions and Guidance. The Guidance, which contains the policy of the Agency on detentions (amongst other things), says that where there is “independent evidence” that a person has been tortured, that person is suitable for detention only in “very exceptional circumstances”.

AM, an Angolan national, was detained pending removal following an unsuccessful appeal from the refusal of her asylum claim, the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal having found her to have “no credibility whatsoever” and rejected her evidence that she had been raped and tortured. She later launched a fresh asylum claim on the basis of new evidence, in the form of an expert report by a wound and scar specialist, Ms Kralj, which linked the various scars on her body to torture. The claim was refused again but AM won her appeal. The Tribunal this time found that she had been raped and tortured as she had claimed, causing the scars on her body.

Continue reading

Irrational, inhuman and degrading: detention of a mentally ill asylum-seeker was unlawful

R (on the application of HA (Nigeria)) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2012] EWHC 979 (Admin) – Read judgment

The detention of a mentally ill person in an Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment and false imprisonment, and was irrational, the High Court has ruled.

Mr Justice Singh heard a judicial review application by a Nigerian National against decisions to continue to detain him under the UK Borders Act 2007 and the conditions of that detention. From August 2009, HA, an overstaying visitor and asylum seeker, was detained at various IRCs following his release from prison for a drug-related offence which triggered the automatic deportation provisions of the 2007 Act. His behaviour during detention became increasingly disturbed and strange. In January 2010, he was seen by a psychiatrist who recommended HA’s transfer to a mental hospital for assessment and treatment.

Continue reading

Kettling: Can a public interest motive justify a deprivation of liberty or not? – Robert Wastell

Austin & Others v. The United Kingdom, [2012] ECHR 459, 15th March 2012 – read judgment

The Grand Chamber of the ECtHR recently tackled the question of whether the police tactic of “kettling” (verb, UK, of the police – to contain demonstrators in a confined area) amounted to a deprivation of the liberty of four applicants within the meaning of Article 5(1) of the ECHR.

The facts of this case reveal a clash of perspectives between private and public interests. However, as the applicants argued, the deprivation of liberty cannot be justified by a wider public interest motive.  Continue reading

Another control order ruled unlawful for breach of right to fair trial

AT v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2012] EWCA Civ 42 – Read Judgment

The Court of Appeal has upheld a challenge to a control order on the basis that the person subject to the order (‘the controllee’) had not been given sufficient information about the case against him.

How do you solve a problem like a suspected terrorist? For successive governments, the answer has proved to be far from straightforward, as the recent controversy surrounding radical cleric Abu Qatada has demonstrated.

The focus of this blog post is on yet another challenge to the imposition of a control order. Introduced by the Labour government in the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, a control order is a controversial tool used to restrict and monitor suspected terrorists. They have now been superseded by Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (or “TPIMs”, described by some critics as “control orders lite”), which will in due course have their time in the legal spotlight. For now, there remain a small number of cases brought under the old control orders regime which are being determined. As this decision demonstrates, even their consignment to history has not shielded them from careful judicial scrutiny.

Continue reading

Scottish bail conditions breach human rights to liberty, rules Scottish court

Cameron v. Procurator Fiscal [2012] ScotHC HCJAC_19 – Read judgment

Amongst Scots lawyers, few judicial observations are more notorious than those uttered by Lord Cranworth in the House of Lords in Bartonshill Coal Co v Reid in 1858.  “If such be the law of England,” he said, “on what ground can it be argued not to be the law of Scotland?” Today, in a United Kingdom further complicated by the asymmetric devolution of the 1990s, it isn’t unusual to encounter a Cranworthy combination of perplexity and indifference amongst English lawyers when it comes to the structure and implications of devolution elsewhere in these islands.

On one level, this is perfectly understandable.  Devolution is a matter for the Welsh, Northern Irish and Scots, the proposition runs. Let them get on with it. For those of us interested in the developing constitution, human rights and judicial review, weary of re-reading hand-me-down copies of Dicey, this inattention is to be regretted. The emerging body of litigation around devolution, and the powers of devolved institutions, is producing some of the most interesting “constitutional” cases in Britain today.

Continue reading

Everything’s free in America (copyrighted material not included)

The Government of the United States of America -v- O’Dwyer, Westminster Magistrates’ Court – Read judgment

It seems appropriate, on the day when Wikipedia shut down for 24 hours to protest against US anti-piracy legislation, to talk about piracy (in the copyright sense) and what role human rights law has to play in the perpetual battle against it.

It is a topic that polarises, with some considering piracy to be no more moral than any other theft, and others seeing those who commit piracy offences as fighting for freedom of expression and liberal copyright laws. In the case of Richard O’Dwyer, a young man who is accused of setting up a website which breaches US copyright law and who is facing extradition to the US for trial, he attempted to block his extradition by relying on a combination of human rights and other objections relating to the manner and circumstances surrounding the request.

Continue reading

BEWARE statutory time limits to appeal: if you are late, you are out

Modaresi v. Secretary of State for Health & others [2011] EWCA Civ 1359, Court of Appeal

Any lawyer dealing with civil or criminal cases tends to think that, if there is a time limit for doing something in the case, then if that thing does not get done on time, the court may be lenient if there is good reason for extending time. The problem comes where the court is only given power to hear an appeal by a specific set of rules, and the rules say, for instance: you must appeal within 14 days of the decision. In the statutory context, that may mean precisely what it says. And the court, however sympathetically inclined, cannot do otherwise and allow a late appeal.

We see this from this mental health case. Ms Modaresi, who suffers from schizophrenia, was admitted to hospital on 20 December 2010 for assessment under section 2 of the Mental Health Act. Section 66 of the Act provides that where a patient is admitted to hospital in this way, “an application may be made to [the tribunal] within the relevant period” by the patient, and “the relevant period” means “14 days beginning with the day on which the patient is admitted”.

Continue reading

Severely disabled man’s care plan not a deprivation of liberty – Court of Appeal

Chester West and Chester Council v. P (by his Litigation Friend the Official Solicitor) [2011] EWCA Civ 1257 – Read judgment / Lucy Series’ commentary

When assessing whether a patient’s care deprives him or her of their liberty, and thereby entitles them to the procedural protections under Article 5 (4) ECHR, the right to liberty, the Court of Appeal has ruled that the appropriate comparator is an individual with the same disabilities and difficulties who is not in care. The court also provided useful general guidance for deprivation of liberty cases.

P is a 39 year old man with Cerebral Palsy and Down’s Syndrome who lacks the capacity to make decisions about his care and residence arrangements as a result of his physical and learning disabilities.

Continue reading

Israeli Arab activist detention was (mostly) lawful

Mahajna v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2011] EWHC 2481 (Admin) (30 September 2011). Read judgment.

 

1 Crown Office Row’s Neil Sheldon appeared for the Secretary of State in this case. He is not the writer of this post.

The High Court has ruled that detention of a Palestinian activist, whilst he was challenging the decision to deport him on public policy grounds, was lawful in principle. However, the failure to explain to Raed Salah Mahajna the reasons for his detention in a language he could understand rendered the first 35 hours of detention unlawful.

The treatment of foreign nationals pending deportation has provoked a good deal of controversy, as reported recently. These cases are primarily ones where deportation is considered to be conducive to the public good because of serious criminal offences committed by the individual. In this case however, no crime was committed, but a history of activism perceived as anti-semitic preaching was considered a threat to security in the UK.

Continue reading

Anti-terrorism powers for a rainy day

Updated | Next week will mark the 10th anniversary of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. Despite the intervening decade, the states threatened by terrorism are still puzzling out the right balance between the powers of security services and the rights of suspected terrorists to due process.

Although terrorism is now mercifully low on the public agenda, the effects of 9/11 are still being felt across the legal system. The United Kingdom is soon to open an independent inquiry into the improper treatment of detainees by security services following the terrorist attacks. As things stand, the UK’s major human rights groups are boycotting the inquiry for fear that the government will be able to suppress evidence.

The intelligence services have now tightened up their policy towards interviewing detainees overseas, but one policy which is still in flux is the control order regime, soon to be succeeded by Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIMs).

Continue reading