Hacking, torture and legal aid – The Human Rights Roundup

18 July 2011 by

In the week that saw the UK Human Rights Blog reach half a million hits, we welcome you back to the human rights roundup, a regular bulletin of all the law we haven’t quite managed to feature in full blog posts. The full list of links, updated each day, can be found here. You can also find our table of human rights cases here.

by Graeme Hall

In the news:


With the resignation of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, and the arrest of the former Chief Executive of News International, Rebekah Brooks, the phone-hacking scandal revelations continue to snowball. Adam Wagner considers what role human rights may have played in the News of the World’s demise, here.

The RPC Privacy Blog reports on the Inquiry set up to investigate phone-hacking. The Inquiry will focus on two areas. First, “a full review of the regulation of the press”; and, second, “an investigation into the wrongdoing of the press and police, including the failure of the first police inquiry”. Bagehot, writing in The Economist, considers how (and whether) the press ought to be regulated independently. In particular, Bagehot considers the Prime Minister’s comment that a body akin to the Advertising Standards Authority could offer the best solution.

RPC Privacy Blog also notes that Lord Justice Leveson, judge of the Court of Appeal, will head the phone-hacking Inquiry. Whilst Dominic Carman, writing in the Guardian, purports to outline some of Leveson’s flaws, the appointment of a judge to preside over the Inquiry has led Joshua Rozenberg to write that “when people can no longer trust the press, police or politicians, only a judge will do.” This is an interesting observation given recent murmurings about unelected and unaccountable judges, as well as an article in the UK Constitutional Law Group blog calling for Parliament to have greater input into the selection of senior judges.

Torture allegations

Human Rights Watch published a report, Getting Away with Torture, calling for George W. Bush and other senior members of the Bush administration to be the subject of criminal investigations into their roles in the alleged torture and ill-treatment of detainees. HRW’s press summary states that there is

substantial information warranting criminal investigations of Bush and senior administration officials, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and CIA Director George Tenet, for ordering practices such as “waterboarding,” the use of secret CIA prisons, and the transfer of detainees to countries where they were tortured.

Richard Moorhead, writing for the Lawyer Watch blog, focuses on the report’s allegations that lawyers tailored legal advice to suit the aims of the Bush administration, as well as the mirror-image excuse given by Bush and others that they always followed legal advice.

HRW’s report comes at a time when the UK Supreme Court has ruled that the courts have no common law power to use “closed material procedures” (that is, secret evidence) when assessing compensation claims against the UK government for alleged involvement in torture (see Rosalind English’s post). Owen Bowcott, writing in the Guardian, describes the judgment as a “significant victory for open justice”, but then continues to mention another decision of the Supreme Court (see also Rosalind English’s post) which ruled that such closed procedures can be used in employment tribunals. For an explanation of the apparent contradiction, see the Law and Lawyers’ post, and Rosalind English’s post, here.

Legal aid

In response to the news that the Immigration Advisory Service has gone into administration (a decision tentatively criticised by the Free Movement blog as “questionable”), the government issued a statement saying that the IAS’ work would be distributed among other providers. However, this offers cold comfort given the impending legal aid cuts.

Indeed, a post by barrister Nick Armstrong on the Law Watch blog describes the government’s Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill as having “the effect of completely removing legal aid from all non-asylum, non-Article 3 claims”.

The chair of The Bar Council, Peter Lodder, also criticises the government for misrepresenting the statistics on legal aid to galvanise support for cuts, while also highlighting the negative effects legal aid reductions will have on access to justice for the young and vulnerable in our society. For our overview of the Bill, see Adam Wagner’s post, here.

Take a look at other legal news roundups:

Obiter J’s Law and Lawyers’ blog offers a concise roundup of legal news, answering the rhetorical question What has happened apart from the “phone-hacking” debacle? Inforrm’s Blog has also published its regular Law and Media roundup here.

In the courts:

Duncombe & Ors v Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families [2011] UKSC 14 (30 March 2011): Supreme Court: Teachers employed by Sec of State to work abroad at European Schools entitled to the protection against unfair dismissal – see the Education Law Blog.

Al Rawi and others v The Security Service and others [2011] UKSC 34: Supreme Court: Courts have no inherent power to order closed material procedures. See Rosalind English’s post.

Home Office (Appellant) v Tariq (Respondent) [2011] UKSC 35: Home Office wins on Supreme Court appeal – No absolute requirement for claimant to know gist of case against them in civil proceedings if national secrets involved. See Rosalind English’s posts here and here.

NM, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Justice [2011] EWHC 1816 (Admin) (12 July 2011): Prison acted lawfully in deciding not to investigate allegations of sexual assault on prisoner with learning difficulties. See Lucy Series’ reproduced post, here.

Case-law commentaries from across the blogosphere:

Duncombe (No. 2) [2011] UKSC 36 Education Law Blog

Quader, R (on the application of) v SSHD Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants

R (NM) v Secretary of State for Justice [2011] The Small Places blog

Home Office v Tariq Daniel Barnett’s Employment Law Archive

Thamby, R (on the application of) v SSHD – LTTE, nationality, naturalisation and “good character” United Kingdom Immigration Law Blog

Class Conflict: R (G) v the Governors of X School [2011] UKSC 30 Solicitors Journal

… and don’t forget to look at out recent posts:


  1. bobby cracknell jnr says:

    sack the lot

  2. John Dowdle says:

    Apparently, Yates of the Yard is being interviewed by an ethics committee today and there is also the case of another former senior police officer who was appointed to a position with News International after leaving the Met.
    This latest set of events looks likely to continue running for some time to come before any further enquiries are held.

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