On the one hand, many people feel strongly that retention of something as personal as someone’s genetic code should never be done when the person has not been convicted of a crime. As DNA analysis gets more advanced, it can reveal increasingly large amounts of information about a person.
Updated |Nine years ago, in March 2002, Amanda “Milly” Dowler (aged 13) was on her way home from school. She was kidnapped and murdered and her body was found in September 2002. In June 2011, Levi Bellfield was convicted of her murder and sentenced to a “whole life” tariff. When Milly went missing, journalists of the News of the World newspaper “hacked” into her voicemail. The fact that this had happened came to public prominence in July 2011 when The Guardian newspaper revealed the story.
As a number of recent cases have made clear, the filming of policing activity in public places is a vital method of holding police to account. But there have been continuing tensions between the police and photographers over filming police activity. In January 2010 there was a protest in Trafalgar Square by photographers against the use of terrorism laws to stop and search photographers. A campaign called “I’m a photographer, not a terrorist” was launched to protect the rights of those taking photographs in public places.
However, although Guidance issued by, for example, the Metropolitan Police has made it clear that
Members of the public and the media do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places and police have no power to stop them filming or photographing incidents or police personnel.
In the wake of the recent violence in cities across England, the police have been releasing photographs of individuals in an appeal to the public for assistance in identifying them and bringing them to justice.
As the crisis has developed, politicians and police spokespeople have professed a strong intention to ensure that all the rioters and looters face the consequences of their actions. As of this morning, in London alone 888 people have been arrested and 371 people have been charged with offences relating to their involvement in the riots, and courts in London, Manchester and Solihull have remained open through the night in order to process these cases as swiftly as possible. Yet with the number of people involved likely to be in the thousands, there are many more who remain unidentified.
New and social media have seen almost blanket coverage of the events, so I have little to add, save to link to some interesting legal coverage of the issues involving policing policy, blaming social media, vigilante justice, journalists’ rights and paying for damage under riot law.
One issue which sadly has not arisen from these riots is freedom of speech; it would appear that there has been little sense or motive behind the violence following the initial catalyst.
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.
R (on the application of GC) (FC) (Appellant) v The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis – read judgment
A declaration has been granted by a majority in the Supreme Court that police policy of DNA retention is unlawful because it is incompatible with article 8 of the ECHR.
Guidelines under the current legislation allow destruction of DNA evidence only under “exceptional circumstances”; however police can be said to be acting unlawfully in retaining the evidence because the relevant provision of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) should be ‘read down’ to accord with the right to privacy under the Convention.
The guidelines on DNA retention were introduced under Section 64(1A) of PACE, which provides that samples taken in connection with the investigation of an offence “may” be retained. The provision thus substituted a discretionary power for an earlier obligation in the statute to destroy data. The guidelines issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers (“ACPO”) guidelines provided that data should be destroyed only in exceptional cases. Continue reading →
R (Moos and Anor) v The Commissioner of the Police of the Metropolis  EWHC 957 (Admin) – Read Judgment
The High Court has decided that the actions of police in “kettling” climate change protestors during the G20 summit were unlawful.
In the aftermath of the global credit crunch, the second G20 Summit, which was to commence on 2 April 2009, was an obvious target of public frustration and anger in respect of a range of economic and social issues. Thus on 1 April, two large demonstrations took place in the City of London. One was staged near the Bank of England, directed primarily at the (mis)management of the world’s financial markets by banks such as the Royal Bank of Scotland. The other was set up as a “Climate Camp” outside the Carbon Exchange Building in Bishopsgate, and was directed at environmental concerns. Continue reading →
Munim Abdul and Others v Director of Public Prosecutions  EWHC 247 (Admin) – Read judgment
The High Court has ruled that prosecution of a group of people who had shouted slogans, including, “burn in hell”, “baby killers” and “rapists” at a parade of British soldiers, was not a breach of their right to freedom of expression, protected by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Five men were convicted of using threatening, abusive or insulting words within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby (contrary to section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986). The men launched an appeal, raising amongst other things the question of whether the decision to prosecute them for shouting slogans and waving banners close to where the soldiers and other members of the public were was compatible with Article 10.
A decision of the Northern Ireland high court has highlighted the continued narrow definition of “standing”, or the right to bring a claim, under the Human Rights Act 1998.
An 8-year-old child applied to bring a claim, which included a challenge under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to life), to the decision by police to introduce tasers in Northern Ireland.
D Borough Council v AB  EWHC 101 (COP) (28 January 2011) – Read judgment
In a case which is fascinating both legally and morally, a judge in the Court of Protection has ruled that a 41-year-old man with a mild learning disability did not have the mental capacity to consent to sex and should be prevented by a local council from doing so.
The case arose when a local council, following allegations that a mentally disabled man made sexual gestures towards children, sought a court order stating that “Alan” (a false name) did not have the mental capacity to consent to sexual relations. The council ultimately wanted Alan to be banned from having sexual relations with his former house-mate and sexual partner.
Desmond v The Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire Police 2011] EWCA Civ 3 (12 January 2011)- Read judgment
The Court of Appeal has ruled that it is not possible to sue the police in negligence for not filling in an Enhanced Criminal Record Certificate (ECRC). The ruling shows that the courts are still reluctant to allow negligence claims against the police, and provides useful guidance as to the duty of care of public authorities towards the general public.
Vincent Desmond was arrested in 2001 for a late-night sexual assault in Nottingham. He denied the crime, and a week later the police decided to take no action against him. When closing the file, a detective constable wrote in his notebook “It is apparent Desmond is not responsible for the crime. The complainant visited and cannot state for certain if Desmond is responsible.”
Updated | The government is soon to reveal the future of control orders, controversial anti-terrorism measure which have been repeatedly found by the courts to infringe human rights. But what are they? And why have they caused such trouble since they were introduced?
What are control orders?
Control orders are an anti-terrorism power which allows the secretary of state to impose strict conditions on a terrorist suspect (the ‘controlee’).
Al Hassan-Daniel & Anor v HM Revenue and Customs & Anor  EWCA Civ 1443 (15 December 2010) – Read judgment
The Court of Appeal has ruled that the family of a drug smuggler who died after being poisoned by 116 swallowed cocaine packages can bring a human rights claim against the state, despite his criminal behaviour.