Monthly News Archives: August 2010


Human rights news and case-law roundup

17 August 2010 by

Hoovering up the latest human rights news

We recently started adding links to interesting new articles and case-law on the right the sidebar under the heading “Selected news sources”.

As of last week, these articles now appear on our Twitter feed (@ukhumanrightsb) and Facebook fan page too. Below is a quick rundown of some of the most recent stories. The full list of links can be found here.

17 Aug | Privacy law to stop rise in gagging orders by judges – Telegraph: We have posted on the coming libel reform and super-injunctions; Lord Neuberger is leading a review which may, according to the Telegraph, lead to a statutory law of privacy. The Head of Legal Blog queries whether this would be any different from Article 8 of the ECHR in any case.

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Age matters in asylum cases

16 August 2010 by

Updated 12/9/10 | PM, R (on the application of) v Hertfordshire County Council [2010] EWHC 2056 (Admin) (04 August 2010) – Read judgment

Some people get to a certain age and stop counting. For them, the exposure of their true age to friends or colleagues might cause embarrassment. But for asylum seekers, proving their true age can alter the direction of their lives.

The recent High Court case of an Afghan asylum-seeker has highlighted the different, and often better, treatment which child asylum seekers received compared to their adult equivalents. It has also brought into focus the importance of a court’s initial, and often difficult, assessment of an asylum-seeker’s age, and the duty on local authorities to make up their own minds.

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More on the DNA home-testing moral maze

13 August 2010 by

DNA home-testing is likely to be an increasingly high-profile and controversial issue in the coming years, both from a moral and legal perspective.

I posted last week on the moral maze which surrounds DNA home testing, in light of new guidance for direct-to-consumer genetic tests published by the Human Genetics Commission.

The guidance has been greeted with mixed reactions. GeneWatch UK, a not-for-profit organisation which investigates how genetic science and technologies impact on society, have condemned the guidelines, lamenting that there will be “no independent scrutiny of companies’ performance or the claims they make about people’s risk of developing diseases in the future” . The focus of their criticisms are that the HGC represents the interests of the genetic testing companies over those of the general public.

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Inquest reforms delay leaves relatives of the dead in legal limbo

13 August 2010 by

David Kelly

It has long been accepted that the coroners’ courts, which investigate tens of thousands of deaths per year, are in urgent need of reform. But long-awaited changes are now under threat from Ministry of Justice budget cuts, leaving relatives of the dead with an inconsistent system of varying quality. This arguably places the state in breach of is obligations under human rights law.

A death is referred to a coroner when there is reasonable cause to suspect that it was violent or unnatural, or if the cause is unknown. In 2009, just under half of around 460,000 deaths were reported to the coroner, and 31,000 inquests were then opened. Inquests are rarely out of the news; for example, today calls were renewed for an inquest into the death of David Kelly. In the absence of obvious negligence or suspicious circumstances triggering a criminal investigation or compensation claim, inquests are often the only chance for relatives to get to the bottom of how a person died.

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Can political asylum seekers be expected to hide their political opinions?

13 August 2010 by

Expected to show him support?

TM (Zimbabwe) and others v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2010] EWCA Civ 916 – Read judgment

Is it reasonable to expect an asylum seeker on their return to their home country to lie about their political beliefs and thereby avoid persecution? This question was recently addressed by the Court of Appeal in light of a potentially wide-ranging decision of the Supreme Court relating to gay refugees.

Last month the Supreme Court held in HJ (Iran ) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2010] UKSC 31 that to compel a homosexual person to pretend that their sexuality does not exist is to deny him his fundamental right to be who he is (see our post). When an applicant applies for asylum on the ground of a well-founded fear of persecution because he is gay, if the tribunal concludes that a material reason for his living discreetly on his return would be a fear of the persecution which would follow if he were to live openly as a gay man, then his application should be accepted [para 82].

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New button for easy tweeting

12 August 2010 by

We have added a new ‘Tweet’ button at the bottom of all posts (after you have clicked through to the full article). This means that if you use Twitter, you will be able to share our posts quickly and easily.

This is a good opportunity to explain how the blog links in with Twitter. Our Twitter feed can be found here, or by clicking on the Twitter icon which is always on the right sidebar.

The feed updates instantly with links to new posts on the blog, as well as with all of the links to external human rights news items which are listed along the right sidebar. For more information on how to keep updated through Facebook, RSS and Twitter, you can always click on the subscribe tab at the top of the page. Enjoy!

Will the European Union be brought under the Human Rights Convention?

12 August 2010 by

It is possible that the European Union will soon sign up to the European Convention on Human Rights. The change would have interesting implications for European human rights law, as well as for UK citizens seeking redress for alleged human rights violations.

Comments are enabled for this post

It may sound odd that whilst member states are signed up to the European Convention, the European Union as a corporate body is not. But negotiations began last month (see this Council of Europe press release) on the European Union’s accession to the European Convention. The Vice-President of the EU’s Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship said “We are now putting in place the missing link in Europe’s system of fundamental rights protection, guaranteeing coherence between the approaches of the Council of Europe and the European Union”.


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When is a human rights claim a human rights claim?

12 August 2010 by

Shirin Jisha v The Secretary of State for the Home Department [2010] EWHC 2043 (Admin) – Read judgment

When is a human rights claim a human rights claim in an immigration context? The High Court has recently considered this question in the case of a Bangladeshi citizen who had her visa cancelled when returning from a trip abroad.

This case related to the proper meaning of section 113(1) of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002. The Secretary of State had argued that the claimant’s claim was not a “human rights claim” because the claim was not made “at a place designated by the defendant” but served as part of her appeal to the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal against the defendant’s refusal to grant her leave to enter. It was held that the claim was a “human rights claim” within the terms of section 113(1).

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Where will £2bn of Ministry of Justice cuts come from? [Updated]

11 August 2010 by

Ken Clarke

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is to cut £2bn from its £9bn or so budget. But where will this 20% cut come from?

Kenneth Clarke’s MoJ are said to have got in early in agreeing spending reduction targets with the Treasury, and yesterday it was reported by the Public and Commercial Services Union that senior staff were informed by email that the cuts will amount to around £2bn of the overall budget. The Union suspect that around 15,000 of the MoJ’s 80,000 staff may have to be axed.

However the MoJ makes the cuts, a reduction of around 20% is likely to have severe effects on access to and provision of justice in the United Kingdom. Various MoJ-funded bodies have already been lining up to explain why their departments could not survive on much less. The criminal legal aid system has long been said to be in crisis, the President of the Family Division indicated last week that the child protection system is in grave danger of imploding, and the Chief Executive of the Supreme Court has said the cuts could cripple the new court.

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Freedom of information: Redact, but don’t rewrite

11 August 2010 by

http://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2010/07/15/al-rawi-disclo…ure-complicity/

Redaction in Al Rawi

Gradwick v IC and the Cabinet Office (EA/2010/0030) – Read decision

The Panopticon Blog has highlighted an interesting recent case in the General Regulatory Tribunal which may prove to be useful in the many different situations where documents are disclosed in redacted form.

The General Regulatory Tribunal (‘the Tribunal’) regulates information rights, amongst other things. Simply, the Tribunal held that if parts of documents disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 are to be redacted (blacked out), it is not good enough to transcribe a new document with the offending parts removed. This is because, as the Tribunal said:

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Many European human rights decisions left unimplemented for years

9 August 2010 by

The Strasbourg court

A new Government report on the implementation of European Court of Human Rights judgments has highlighted the vexed issue of the rightful place of such rulings in domestic law. Many decisions, for example on prisoner voting rights, have languished unimplemented for years and it remains to be seen whether the Coalition Government will do any more to fulfil its legal obligations to the thousands affected.

The report sets out the Government’s position on the implementation of human rights judgments from the domestic and European courts. It is a response to the Joint Committee on Human Rights‘ March 2010 report, in which the committee criticised “inexcusable” delays in implementation.

The United Kingdom is obliged to implement judgments of the European Court of Human Rights under Article 46 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In 2009, the UK was found to have violated the European Convention 14 times, which represents 1% of the overall total of violations found by the Court. However, the UK has a high proportion of leading cases outstanding for more than 5 years.

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Vulnerable children trapped in court limbo, says charity

9 August 2010 by

A leading children’s charity has said that vulnerable children are trapped in an unnecessary limbo of court delays, with courts taking up to 65 weeks to decide whether it is safe for a child to remain with its parents.

Barnardo’s has based its research (see press release) on ‘court data’ although the data itself is not published on their website. On the face of it, the figures are worrying:

Vulnerable children are waiting on average more than a year (57 weeks) in unstable family homes or emergency foster placements before a county court decides if they will be taken into care. In the family proceedings (magistrates) court the average time is 45 weeks – more than 10 months.

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ContactPoint switched off but child welfare concerns remain

6 August 2010 by

In happier days

A database which was to hold the details of every child in England will be switched off at noon today, but the uneasy relationship between social services, the government and the courts in child protection matters still remains.

The closure of the £224 million scheme marks a victory for human rights and privacy campaigners as well as the fulfilment of a longstanding promise by the coalition partners.

The ContactPoint Database was set up in the wake of Lord Laming’s 2003 Victoria Climbié Public Inquiry, which recommended, amongst other major changes in child protection policy, that the government should investigate the setting up of “a national children’s database on all children under the age of 16.” Victoria Climbié died in 2000 at age 8 after being abused by her guardians. In the trial of her guardians which followed her death, the judge described the response of local authorities as “blinding incompetence”.


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Repeal of Human Rights Act would make no difference

5 August 2010 by

Lord Hope

Lord Hope, the Deputy President of the UK Supreme Court, has said that repealing the Human Rights Act would have little practical effect effect on the enforcement of rights in the courts.

Joshua Rozenberg reports Lord Hope’s comments in the Law Society Gazette:

… what Hope did confirm – and I have never before heard a serving judge say this so clearly – was that repealing the Human Rights Act 1998 would, by itself, make very little difference to way such rights are enforced in our courts. As he explained, the most significant change to the UK’s relationship with the Human Rights convention came in 1966, when Britain first allowed individuals to bring cases against the government; until then, claims against Britain could be brought only by other states. As a result, courts in the UK felt obliged to take the convention into account.

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Little chance of US-style gay marriage ruling here

5 August 2010 by

A Federal court in California has struck down a ban on gay marriage in the state, marking the first step on a path to a United States Supreme Court decision on the issue. A similar decision is unlikely here, however, given a recent European Court of Human Rights ruling on gay marriage. Ultimately, only Parliament is likely to bring about a change to the law in the UK.

The decision in Perry v Schwarzenegger has been widely reported and can be downloaded here. U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker found that California’s ‘Proposition 8’, approved by voters in 2008, was unconstitutional. SCOTUSBlog explain the reasoning:

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