On 5th December 2017, the Divisional Court gave judgment in Power v HM Senior Coroner for Inner London  EWHC 3117 (Admin), directing that an inquest held in 1998 into a road traffic accident following a police chase had been insufficient and a fresh inquest needed to be held.
On 1 December 2017 an event in Temple Church with the Bar Council in collaboration with Refugee Tales, an outreach project whose aim is to see the end of indefinite immigration detention, saw an announcement of new recommendations for reform of the system of immigration detention.
This followed from the publication on 30 November 2017 of ‘Injustice in Immigration Detention, Perspectives from Legal Professionals’, an independent report by Dr Anna Lindley of SOAS. Read the report here: http://www.barcouncil.org.uk/media/623583/171130_injustice_in_immigration_detention_dr_anna_lindley.pdf
The Bar Council, led by Andrew Langdon QC, is making a series of recommendations in light of the report, as follows:
- A 28-day time limit for administrative detention;
- Automatic judicial oversight of the arrangements for holding people in administrative detention;
- Adequate legal aid for advice and representation for those held in immigration detention to challenge the loss of their liberty;
- A ban on the use of prisons for the purposes of administrative detention;
- Special care for vulnerable people and victims of torture held in administrative detention; and
- Review and clarification of the criteria for administrative detention. The relevant policy and rules need to be accessible and intelligible so that all those who are affected by the exercise of powers to detain understand the reasons for the exercise of those powers and can challenge decisions where appropriate.
TBS v Metropolitan Police Commissioner  EWHC 3094 – read judgment
The High Court has refused an application to strike out a claim in negligence and misfeasance in public office taken by someone born as a result of a liaison between an activist in the animal liberation movement and a man who subsequently turned out to be an undercover police officer.
Although this is not a full trial of the merits, the ruling from Nicol J triangulates on very interesting questions relating to “wrongful life” claims, legal duties owed by people in public office, and the predictability of harm as well as the identity of potential victims. It also touches on the character of psychiatric harm, and how difficult it is to identify the point at which it can legitimately be said to arise. Whatever the results of the ultimate litigation, the arguments here raise sharp questions of public policy as to who, and what, should be compensated from the public purse. There is also a deep philosophical question underlying the whole argument which is known as the “non-identity problem”. Can you harm somebody by bringing them into existence? Continue reading
Belhaj and Boudchar v. Director of Public Prosecutions (Foreign Secretary intervening)  EWHC 3056 (Admin) – read judgment here.
The Justice and Security Act 2013 introduced the idea of Closed Material Proceedings (CMP) to civil litigation in a significant way for the first time. This is a procedure (which had previously only used in a small number of specialist tribunals) whereby all or part of a claim can be heard in closed proceedings in order for the court to consider material which, if disclosed publicly, would risk harming national security. These hearings exclude even the claimant, who is represented instead by a Special Advocate who takes instructions and then is unable to speak to his or her client again once they have seen the sensitive material.
This system is obviously far from ideal. Indeed it is a major deviation from the usual (and very important) principle that justice must not only be done, but be seen to be done. It was introduced because the alternative in some cases involving national security matters was no justice at all. But it must be used sparingly. In particular, the 2013 Act allows its use only in civil litigation and not in “proceedings in a criminal cause or matter” (section 6(11)). The question that the Divisional Court had to consider in this case is how wide that exception for criminal matters should be.
O’Connor (Appellant) v Bar Standards Board (Respondent)  UKSC 78 – read judgment
The Supreme Court has ruled that a barrister’s claim against the Bar Standards Board for discrimination should not be time barred under the one year limit prescribed by the Human Rights Act. In her case, the Court said, the time limit for bringing proceedings only started running when she successfully appealed against disciplinary action taken against her. The decision to bring disciplinary proceedings and the subsequent hearings were part of a single process, not a series of disparate acts which set the time limitation period running.
The Court also concluded that the High Court judge was correct to conclude that the appellant’s claim of indirect discrimination in respect of her right to be treated equally under the law (Articles 14 and Article 6) did have a real prospect of success.
The following report is based on a combination of the full judgment and the Supreme Court’s press summary.
Background facts and law
Ms O’Connor is a practising barrister who faced a number of disciplinary charges brought against her by the Bar Standards Board in 2010. In May 2011, the Disciplinary Tribunal found most of these charges proved. The appellant, who is black, appealed to the Visitors of the Inns of Court and in August 2012 her appeal was allowed on the basis that none of the alleged conduct involved any breach of the Bar Code of Conduct.
In February 2013, the appellant issued the present proceedings, which included an allegation of violation of Article 14 of the ECHR together with Article 6. She claimed that the BSB, by bringing the disciplinary proceedings. had discriminated against her on racial or ethnic grounds. In particular, she alleged that the respondent had infringed her right to a fair trail on grounds of race.
Since this was a claim under section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 the limitation provisions under that Act applied. The BSB maintained that this claim was time – barred under section 7(5)(a) of the 1998 Act which provides that proceedings must be brought before the end of the period of one year beginning with the date on which the act complained of took place.
On 5th December 2017, an event exploring the current political situation in Cambodia was held at Chatham House. The discussion was led by Sam Rainsy, a key member of Cambodia’s recently dissolved opposition party, the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP). The discussion touched on a plethora of issues relevant to politics and human rights in Cambodia, ranging from the impact on Cambodia of China’s dam-building project to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.
This article will provide a brief history of Cambodia before reviewing four topics which were considered at the event: (1) the influence of China; (2) the power of the army; (3) sanctions and aid; and (4) the 2018 election.
Fishermen & Friends of the Sea v. The Minister of Planning, Housing and the Environment (Trinidad and Tobago)  UKPC 37, 27 November 2017 – read judgment
A vignette of where
(1) Trinidad and Tobago is,
(2) the EU/UK is,
(3) where Michael Gove may wish us to be post-Brexit,
on the Polluter Pays Principle (PPP), a key environmental principle.
As we shall see, in legal terms, the expansiveness of (1) and (2) contrasts with the potential parsimony of (3).
Now (3) may be better than nothing, as per the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, i.e, no enforceable environmental principles at all. But that does not mean we should not aspire for more. After all, as we shall see, the PPP is hardly a racy new entrant into environmental law.