Vejdeland and Others v Sweden (Application no. 1813/07) – Read judgment
“Will both teacher and pupils simply become the next victims of the tyranny of tolerance, heretics, whose dissent from state-imposed orthodoxy must be crushed at all costs?”, asked Cardinal O’Brien in his controversial Telegraph article on gay-marriage. He was suggesting that changing the law to allow gay marriage would affect education as it would preclude a teacher from telling pupils that marriage can only mean a heterosexual union. He later insinuated that the change might lead to students being given material such as an “explicit manual of homosexual advocacy entitled The Little Black Book: Queer in the 21st Century.”
A few weeks before that article was published, the European Court of Human Rights handed down its first ever ruling on anti-gay speech, in a Swedish case where a group of young men, seemingly motivated by a similar abhorrence to that expressed by Cardinal O’Brien for the “tyranny of tolerance” in education, put a hundred or so leaflets in or on the students’ lockers at a secondary school. The leaflets read:
The media were successful in both the judgments handed down this morning by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights. The judgments made it clear that the right to privacy has to be carefully balanced against contribution which a publication makes to a debate of general interest. In both cases, taking account of the nature of the individuals involved and the publications the right to freedom of expression prevailed over the right to privacy.
The judgments demonstrate the need for a careful balancing exercise in privacy cases. Both cases involved “popular journalism” and show that, even in this area, privacy is not a “trump card”. The judgments will be welcomed by the media as showing that the Court of Human Rights remains sensitive to the need to protect its freedom of expression.
Hot on the heels of Cameron’s address on Wednesday, the Attorney-General Dominic Grieve gave a speech on Thursday which set out in further detail the Government’s plans for reform of the European Court of Human Rights and the incorporation of human rights into UK law.
The full text of the Attorney-General’s speech is not yet available (although a similar speech he gave last year and his own speech to the Council of Europe can be found here). However, it was interesting to compare his comments with those of David Cameron just a day before.
C-28/09, European Commission v. Austria, 21 December 2011 - read judgment
Many countries in the EU are struggling to comply with its laws about air pollution. The UK is in continuing breach of its nitrogen dioxide emission limit: see my post just before Christmas. But one way a country can try to comply with these laws is by banning or limiting heavy traffic. And that is exactly what Austria did in respect of an important bit of its motorway network; it prohibited lorries of over 7.5 tonnes carrying certain goods from using a section of the A 12 motorway in the Inn valley. And just before Christmas, it paid the price.
The EU Court told Austria it was infringing EU law, in particular, Articles 28 and 29 of the EC Treaty (now Arts 34 and 35 of TFEU) which are the core provisions protecting free movement of goods. Why, given that it was trying to comply proactively with another requirement of EU law?
The group of 57 barristers, including 19 Queen’s Counsel, argue that despite attempts, for example, to give those subject to “Closed Material Procedures” a summary of the evidence against them, they remain “fundamentally unfair” and
represent a departure from the foundational principle of natural justice that all parties are entitled to see and challenge all the evidence relied upon before the court and to combat that evidence by calling evidence of their own.
The document is a response to the Government’s Consultation (see my and Angus McCullough QC’s previous posts) which have to be sent via email or post by tomorrow,Friday 6 January 2012. I will be collating summaries of responses as I did with the Bill of Rights Commission consultation. If you would like your response to be included, please send it to email@example.com, with the subject “Consultation response”.
It is the third report of the current Independent Reviewer, David Anderson Q.C., since he took up the post in February. Asset freezing is something of a speciality of his, as he has appeared in litigation in both EU and UK courts on the matter. It is therefore unsurprising that the Report exhibits the same attention to detail that made the Anderson’s previous two efforts essential reading.
Lord Irvine tonight weighed in to the debate about Britain’s relationship with the European Court of Human Rights – and effectively accused the Supreme Court of having surrendered its intellectual independence, and shirked its judicial responsibility.
His at times toughly-worded lecture to the UCL Judicial Institute and the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law chimes with what the Attorney General Dominic Grieve has been saying recently about the need for primary responsibility for human rights protection to lie with states, not Strasbourg – and Grieve will surely approve of both the content and timing of Lord Irvine’s intervention, on the eve of the European Court’s ruling in Al-Khawaja and Tahery v. UK and in the context of Britain’s chairmanship of the Council of Europe. I’ll link to the text of his speech when it’s available.
Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other. So I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative.
We have covered the slow progress towards legalised gay marriage in a number of posts since this blog launched in March 2010: see the links below. Where are we up to now?
I posted recently on the ongoing saga surrounding the UK’s implementation of the Hirst No. 2 case, in which the European Court of Human Rights found that the UK’s blanket ban on prisoners voting was a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. The correspondence between the court and the UK Government is now available and I have reproduced it below.
In short, the UK previously had until 11 October 2011 to “introduce legislative proposals” to end the ban. But it has now been given a reprieve as a result of seeking to intervene in another case, Scoppola v Italy (No. 3) (available in French, English press release here), which is going to the court’s Grand Chamber This is another prisoner voting case.
Condliff, R (on the application of) v North Staffordshire Primary Care Trust  EWCA Civ 910 – Read judgment
A morbidly obese man has lost his appeal against his local Primary Care Trust’s (PCT’s) refusal to fund his anti-obesity surgery. The Court of Appeal ruled that the PCT had no obligation under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights to consider social or non-clinical factors when deciding whether to grant a request for exceptional funding.
In his discussion of the case, Lord Justice Toulson began by saying that “Human rights law is sometimes in danger of becoming over complicated“. Underlying this point is the fact that it is already complicated enough. This is a good example: how could a court find that this case, which clearly involves the dignity and family life of a man whose life is difficult and miserable, not engage the protection of human rights law? I will try to explain.
Updated | The legal blogs have been busy reporting on this morning’s important decisions of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in Al-Skeini and Al-Jedda – see my post.
There has been coverage already from PHD Studies in Human Rights, the Human Rights in Ireland Blog (update - see also EJIL: Talk: “Let me put this as strongly as I can: this is as close as we’ve ever come to the European Court overruling Bankovic. And good riddance – except, as we will see, the Court’s disavowal of Bankovic is only half-hearted at best.”). The Guardian has also published an article on the case in which Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers claims that the decisions will reopen the case for a wider public inquiry into alleged detainee mistreatment in Iraq; the firm recently failed in a judicial review of a decision not to hold a public inquiry on behalf of 127 Iraqis.
Many thanks to Antoine Buyse of the ECHR Blog for highlighting the lyrical and eminently quotable concurring opinion of Maltese Judge Giovanni Bonello, who since writing the judgment has retired from the court. Bonello said that he would have applied a slightly different “functional jurisdiction” test to decide whether the applicants fell within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom.
The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that from 1 May 2003 to 28 June 2004 the UK had jurisdiction under Article 1 (obligation to respect human rights) of the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of civilians killed during security operations carried out by UK soldiers in Basrah.
The court went on to find in Al-Skeini that there had been a failure to conduct an independent and effective investigation into the deaths of the relatives of five of the six applicants, in violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the Convention. The court awarded 17,000 euros to five of the six applicants, in addition to 50,000 euros in costs jointly.
In Al-Jedda, the court found a violation of Article 5 (1) (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention in relation to the internment of an Iraqi for more than three years (2004- 2007) in a detention centre in Basrah.
IR (Sri Lanka) & Ors v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 704 – Read Judgment
The Court of Appeal has rejected an argument that Article 8 of the European Convention of Rights (ECHR), the right to private and family life, requires that those challenging deportation and exclusion decisions on grounds of national security in proceedings before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) have to be given sufficient disclosure of the case against them to enable them to effectively instruct the special advocate representing their interests.
In his book “The Rule of Law”, the late Lord Tom Bingham enumerated a number of sub-rules to give content to that cardinal, oft-cited but rather vague constitutional principle. Unsurprisingly, one such sub-rule was that adjudicative procedures provided by the state should be fair, an idea which found expression in documents as old Magna Carta. In turn, this entails that, as Lord Mustill stated in In re D (Minors) (Adoption Reports: Confidentiality)  AC 593, “each party to a judicial process should have an opportunity to answer by evidence and argument any adverse material which the tribunal make take into account when forming its opinion”.
Sinclair Collis Ltd, R (o.t.a) v. The Secretary of State for Health  EWCA Civ 437 read judgment here
Sinclair Collis own cigarette machines, some 20,000 of them. So when cigarette machines were banned by law, there was nowhere for their owners to go, apart from the Courts. On Friday, the Court of Appeal dismissed their challenge to the ban, but there was a powerful dissent from Laws LJ on both the law and its application. This makes the prospect of an appeal to the Supreme Court all the more likely. Even that might not be the end of the line, if the SCt refer the case to Europe.
The case – all 70+ pages of the decision – is an object lesson in how to challenge a ban. But, hang on, some of you will say, how can you challenge a ban once it has become the law? Well, until 1973 you couldn’t. That is when we gained the first way of challenging a law, through joining the EEC and thus taking on the obligation to make our laws EEC-compliant. This was Sinclair Collis’s first string to its bow. In 2000, the second string arrived – the coming into force of the Human Rights Act. But there is still no third string – no purely domestic challenge to legislation once enacted – Parliament is still sovereign.
McCaughey & Anor, Re Application for Judicial Review  UKSC 20 (18 May 2011)- Read judgment
The Supreme Court has followed the European Court of Human Rights in ruling that an inquest into the death of two people killed before the introduction of the Human Rights Act is still bound by the rules laid down by that Act. In so doing, it preferred a “poorly reasoned and unstable decision” of the Strasbourg Court to a clearly drafted Act of Parliament and a recent decision of the House of Lords. How did this happen, should it have done so – and does it really matter?
The case concerned an appeal to the Supreme Court against a decision from the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal on which we have previously blogged at length. The appellants were the families of two men killed by the British Army during an attack on a police station in Northern Ireland in 1990. Allegations were made that a “shoot to kill policy” was being operated by the security forces.