Monthly News Archives: September 2010


The future of the Human Rights Act, a reminder

22 September 2010 by

Lord McNally

Lord McNally, the minister of state for justice, has told the Liberal Democrat Party conference that the Justice Ministry is looking at the Human Rights Act, not to “see how we can diminish it”, but so it can be “better understood and appreciated.”

There will be, he said, “no retreat” over human rights. His comments have been reported as “likely to anger” backbench Tory MPs, who have “long criticised the HRA”.

In reality the reports may cause anger, but they will come as absolutely no surprise. Whilst it is true that the Conservatives pledged in their election manifesto to repeal the act, a lot has happened since then.

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Top judge says legal aid in family cases may disappear

21 September 2010 by

Update The president of the family courts, Sir Nicholas Wall, has given a wide-ranging speech to Families Needs Fathers. In it he outlined his own vision for change and also sounded a warning that legal aid in family cases may soon be abolished.

On legal aid, he said “you do not need a crystal ball to see that legal aid for private law proceedings is likely to be further diminished if not abolished“. This may not come as a surprise to those who have been following the family legal aid tender debacle. But the practical outcome of a reduction or abolition of Legal Aid will be that when cases do come to court, more will have to be accomplished, and faster, before the money runs out. Sir Nicholas suggests some ways of achieving this.

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Open for your comments

21 September 2010 by

Regular readers may have noticed that in the past few weeks we have the opened up reader comments on the UK Human Rights Blog. This took a few months to get going for practical reasons, but comments are now enabled for every new post.

Please use the comments section on this post to let us know if there are any new features which you would like to see appear on the blog.

We are approaching 6 months since launch, and we want to thank all of our readers for supporting the blog. The response has been fantastic. We have had around 80,000 page views since launch, and next week will have had around 20,000 during September alone. We also have over 1,000 subscribers on email, Facebook, RSS and Twitter. If you have not subscribed for free, then click here to find out how.

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Does Nick Clegg want prisoners to vote?

20 September 2010 by

Updated, Tue 21 Sep | It is being reported that Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, is looking to end the ban on prisoners voting in elections. If the law were to change, it would represent the end of a very long road for campaigners. However, they have been waiting since 2005 and may well be waiting for longer yet.

The Times apparently reported this morning (I haven’t confirmed this as it is behind a pay wall) that the deputy prime minister is backing plans for prisoner enfranchisement.

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Media freedom under review

20 September 2010 by

Updated | Recent weeks have seen some interesting developments in the debate over freedom of expression of the press.

Last week saw a decision of Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in Sanoma Uitgevers B.V. v. the Netherlands. The case related to the protection of journalistic sources, and has been described as a “victory for press freedom”.

The court held that an order for the compulsory surrender of journalistic material which contained information capable of identifying journalistic sources requires legal procedural safeguards commensurate with the importance of the principle at stake. The Dutch prosecutors in the case, which had ordered the production of a CD-ROM containing potentially incriminating photographs of participants in an illegal race, had therefore breached Article 10 (freedom of expression).

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Human Rights roundup: Supreme Court for MP expenses, ‘spent’ convictions and opening up family justice

17 September 2010 by

Some of this week’s human rights news, in bite-size form. The full list of our external links can be found on the right sidebar or here:

New human rights body must be independent, says Law Society: The Foreign Secretary announced a new independent advisory group, including non governmental organisations and independent experts, to advise ministers on human rights issues (see our post). The Law Society says it should be on it.

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Specialist Mental Health Courts are a good idea which may never happen

17 September 2010 by

The Ministry of Justice is a step closer to introducing specialist mental health courts, which would work within the criminal justice system to identify and assess offenders with mental health issues, and ensure that offenders received appropriate intervention.

Similar courts have been widespread in the United States for around a decade. They are considered to be ‘problem-solving courts‘, which seek to address the underlying problems which contribute to criminal behaviour. There are around 2,500 such courts in the US, and they have been already been successful in the UK in addressing problems such as drug addiction and domestic violence.


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Baroness Hale still ’embarrassed’ to be only diversity Supreme Court Justice

16 September 2010 by

The UK Supreme Court Blog has posted an exclusive interview with Baroness Hale, the Supreme Court’s only female judge. The interview is worth reading in full but I would like to highlight a few of her comments which are relevant to human rights.

By way of background, Baroness Brenda Hale is the first and only woman who sits in the UK’s highest appeal court. She came to the bench after a career in academia and a post at the Law Commission. As she admits in the interview, he areas of interest – such as family law, human rights and equality law – are quite different from those of the other justices who mostly come from a commercial law background.

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France expulsion of Roma: the EU law perspective

16 September 2010 by

In  the ongoing row over France’s repatriation of Roma nationals there has been little debate over precisely what power the EU Commission has to initiate legal action against the French government.

Viviane Reding, the EU Justice Commissioner, is widely reported to have declared that France faces possible infringement proceedings and a fine from the European Court of Justice in respect of its dismantling of Roma camps and repatriation of up to a thousand Bulgarian and Romanian Roma citizens since last month. It is suggested that the French government is guilty of applying the 2004 Directive of Free Movement of Persons in a “discriminatory” fashion, offending not only directive’s own provisions, but the European Treaty’s principle of non discrimination (Article 19) and also, possibly, the ban on collective expulsion of aliens under Protocol 4 Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

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The Pope’s visit and human rights

16 September 2010 by

The Pope begins a four-day visit to the UK today, the first official trip by a serving Pope for 28 years. The visit has already been controversial, and it raises some interesting questions from a human rights angle.

The leader of the Catholic church has spoken out recently on UK equality laws, complaining that they would run contrary to “natural law”. His comments were most likely directed at the effect of the new legislation on Catholic adoption agencies, making it more difficult for them to turn down gay couples. This could have been the key issue of the trip, but it has been overshadowed by a more difficult and damaging controversy.

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Pressure grows for reform of access to environmental justice

15 September 2010 by

Hard on the heels of the UN-ECE Aarhus Compliance Committee (see my previous post), Lord Justice Sullivan’s Working Party on Access to Environmental Justice has similarly condemned the current system under which judicial review claimants face an onerous costs burden when they advance claims which do not ultimately succeed.

The Working Party reported initially in May 2008 on access to justice in environmental cases, and was critical of the current costs regime. Its current focus is rather narrower that the recent conclusions of the Aarhus Compliance Committee, but potentially more effective thanks to that focus. It reviews the rather fuzzy case-law on Protective Costs Orders, fashioned by the judges to help Claimants against unlimited costs liabilities. The report can be read here.

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New senior media judge to play important role in balancing of rights

15 September 2010 by

Eady to go

The Lord Chief Justice has announced the appointment of Mr Justice Tugendhat as Judge in charge of the Jury and Non-Jury Lists with effect from 1 October 2010. This makes him the senior ‘media judge’ in England and Wales, and he will play an important role in balancing rights to privacy against freedom of expression.

The Jury and Non-Jury lists contains general civil law, including defamation and privacy. The Judge in charge has responsibility for managing the work in the lists and assigning judges to cases.

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Foreign Secretary pledges to ‘strengthen’ human rights focus

15 September 2010 by

Updated British Foreign Policy will put more emphasis on protecting human rights, the Foreign Secretary said in a speech today at Lincoln’s Inn.

It has been widely reported this morning that Mr Hague will argue that a focus on human rights is inextricably linked to the UK’s security and standing, and in the context of the upcoming torture inquiry, “directly linked to the belief of others that we will do what we say and we will not apply double standards“.

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Turkish authorities did not do enough to protect rights of murdered journalist, says European Court

14 September 2010 by

Dink v. Turkey (applications no. 2668/07, 6102/08, 30079/08, 7072/09 and 7124/09) – This summary is based on the European Court of Human Rights press release.

In the case of Dink v. Turkey the European Court of Human Rights concluded that the authorities failed in their duty to protect the life and freedom of expression of the journalist Firat (Hrant) Dink, a prominent member of the Armenian minority in Turkey who was murdered in 2007.

Dink was a Turkish journalist of Armenian origin, and the publication director and editor-in-chief of Agos, a Turkish-Armenian weekly newspaper.

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Human rights roundup: Koran burning, Diplomatic assurances and the LSC saga continues

14 September 2010 by

Terry Jones- book burning called off

Some of this week’s human rights news, in bite-size form. The full list of our external links can be found on the right sidebar or here:

13 Sep | Terrorist suspect loses “deportations with assurances” appeal – Press Association: A suspected terrorist (‘XX’) with links to the failed July 21 bombings in London will be deported to Ethiopia in the interests of national security, a court has ruled. The Home Office have said this is a victory for their “deportation with assurances” policy which allows individuals who could not ordinarily be deported – due to risk of human rights violations – being returned with diplomatic agreement that they will not face danger (see here for an explanation). The ruling is not yet available but we will comment on it when it is. The Home Office will be relieved that this is not another case of being unable to deport a suspected terrorist due to human rights consideration (see this post).

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