It’s (nearly) all about the riots – The Human Rights Roundup

15 August 2011 by

Welcome 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 can be found here. You can also find our table of human rights cases here and previous roundups here.

by Graeme Hall

In the news


Theft, assault, arson and death: the result of riots not seen in the UK in recent memory. Despite the shocking scenes, communities have united and even the courts have worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week to process those charged. Unsurprisingly, the blawgosphere has been prolific in its coverage, and Adam Wagner provides a summary of useful articles here.

Whilst calm appears to have returned to our streets, further outcry was brought to the nation’s living-rooms when the historian David Starkey provocatively pronounced on Newsnight that “the whites have become black”. However, deploring the lawlessness and imploring calm, David Allen Green takes a more considered approach, noting in the New Statesman that “the participants in the disorder came from a range of social and employment backgrounds.

Although true, the Pink Tape blog recognises that the majority of those involved are from “poor and underprivileged backgrounds” and that evicting those involved and their families misses the “bigger picture”. The Nearly Legal blog outlines the law regulating eviction, highlighting that human rights considerations will be brought into play in any eviction proceedings. However, as Matthew Flinn argued on our blog, ‘human rights’ most probably won’t prevent the authorities from identifying those involved.

Losing benefit entitlements, the other punishment which has gained traction with the public, is assessed by barrister Elizabeth Prochaska in the Guardian. Acknowledging that such action “would represent a radical departure from the universalist assumptions underpinning the welfare state”, Prochaska concludes that “[i]n its quest to satisfy public bloodlust [the government] is indulging in the irresponsibility it seeks to condemn.

Given that the courts are already able to impose fines on those responsible, it would seem that powers do exist to reduce rioters’ benefits. Inevitably, Felicity Gerry’s prediction in Halsbury’s Law Exchange of another ‘riot’ among the court of public (and political) opinion will prove correct when the courts mete out sentences.

Other news

Matthew Burton, writing in the Guardian, takes a look at the Commission on a Bill of Rights’ discussion paper, highlighting not only where it has fallen short, but also its “glaring errors”. See also Adam Wagner’s post: Do we need a UK Bill of Rights?

Judith Townsend, also writing in the Guardian, reminds us of the bygone era of superinjunctions; arguing that the courts and ministry of justice must make more information available to journalists and the public to bring clarity to the debate.

Other legal news roundups:

The UKSC blog provides an overview of the riots, paying particular attention to responses from politicians; The Week that Was – The Mask of Anarchy. Obiter J’s Law and Lawyers blog also gives Some thoughts on desperate August week. The United Kingdom Immigration Law Blog offers a roundup of legal immigration news: Points-based system, switching, etcetera.

In the courts:

WILLIAM WALTON+JOHN WEIR FRASER+MRS MAGGIE FRASER AGAINST A DECISION MADE BY THE SCOTTISH MINISTERS DATED 21 DECEMBER 2009 FROM THE DIRECTOR OF TRANSPORT v. , 11 August 2011, Lord Tyre: Road building a rerouting decisions in Scotland did not breach human rights of local residents.

PR (Sri Lanka) & Ors v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Rev 2) [2011] EWCA Civ 988 (11 August 2011): Court of Appeal considers application of “some other compelling reason” test for 3rd bite of cherry immigration appeals

Connelly, Re Judicial Review [2011] NIQB 62 (5 August 2011): Northern Ireland High Court rejects UK court’s decision in Hookway (96 hour detention on bail case), says court “failed to recognise the context within which the words are used”.

City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court, sitting at Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court The Government of South Africa v Shrien Dewani: Magistrate orders Shrien Dewani’s extradition to South Africa to face charges that he murdered his new bride. See Rosalind English’s post.

SL v Westminster City Council & Ors [2011] EWCA Civ 954 (10 August 2011): Iranian failed asylum seeker with indefinite leave to remain was entitled to residential accommodation. Court of Appeal overrules High Court – see Nearly Legal’s coverage

Case-law commentaries from across the blogosphere:

That’s not the way to do it, Nearly Legal blog, Zolotareva v Russia (App. No. 15003/04), Article 8 and evictions.

‘Not otherwise available’ Nearly Legal blog on SL v Westminster City Council & Ors

…and don’t forget to take a look at our recent posts:


  1. Tim says:

    I was shocked to read this (detoxified Mail link.) If this story is true, surely it breaches the ‘independence of the judiciary’?:

  2. Flawed Election says:

    The BBC allowed a racist historian to air his bigoted and narrow minded views within a public forum (this coming on the back of the Darcus Howe “you are a rioter” fiasco). I am a Black British woman who has studied Law at a top 5 UK institution, yet, Starkey referred to Black culture in totality as having a nefarious impact on white society. Well I cannot recall going out to loot my corner shop after finishing my final exams.
    Black culture is disparate. There is no such uniform entity. He is suggesting that Nigerian, Jamaican, Antigua, Trinidadian, Cuban, Barbadian, Trinidadian, Zimbabwean culture is the same as we are all black. For goodness sake we do not even eat the same food let along share the same cultural traditions. His suggestion is also that since we are all black, we are all prone to rioting, crime activites,speaking patois and subverting impressionable white youth. Ridiculous and offensive to the extreme. Black culture was not responsible for the riots, it was a subculture unique to dispossessed urban youths that was responsible for the riots.
    He has cast a shadow over the entire black community and contributed to the racism which is now being levelled against my community particularly online. He stoke the fires and his comments were like an incediary device and I personally know of many black people who are presently scared for their safety. I am black as I stated earlier and no one that I know speaks patois or listens to gangster rap. This is a fallacy and a dangerous one. He has sterotyped an entire community and contributed to the belief that black people are no good and good for nothing.
    Thank you David Starkey!

    1. FatherDougal says:

      Firstly, may I say that I did not see the actual VT of David Starkey so I will not comment on his specific comments as I am unable to appreciate the overall context. I will, however, make a general point.

      It was clear that it was not merely black people rioting on the streets, these thugs were of all ages, races and religions. I think, however, that there is an underlying issue regarding race and this concept of ‘gang culture’ which is part of the problem and what initially sparked these riots. I would suggest that this is a problem amongst black youth which the liberal political class are afraid of making reference to for fear of being labelled a racist.

      You make reference twice in your comment to the fact that you are black and use the words ‘my community’. It is this self-perpetuating victimisation that reinforces these generic stereotypes.

      I also read law at University was called to the Bar in 2009 and have just completed a Masters. This was despite coming from an under-privileged council estate, attending a failing state school in the heart of the Black Country. I am from working class stock, whose parents still work in unskilled hard labour jobs. Yet, I very rarely make reference to this or seek to rely on this to criticise the old boys club at the ‘Bar’ or within the wider legal profession.

      Yes, my father may not be a High Court Judge with the contacts to find me pupillage but I have the same opportunities as everyone else if we believe in a meritocracy. Yes, I am certainly proud of my background but my point very simple – if we continue to reinforce these subjective characteristics (in your case the fact that you are black and in my case the fact that I am from a socio-economically deprived background) as a tool for arguing that we are the under-class, the oppressed or the disadvantaged, then all we do is perpetuate the unequal footing we may or may not have in society. The interesting point is that we ourselves maybe responsible for the creation of our own public stereotypes.

  3. You may want to consider the outcry about the harshness of the sentence and prison conditions of WWII Veteran Norman Scarth. The best summary is on the online petition on or on this press release:

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