Reason resumes after a riotous August? – The Human Rights roundup

23 August 2011 by

Immanuel Kant

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 Melinda Padron

In the news:

First, we welcome to the legal blogosphere RightsNI, a new blog relating to human rights issues in Northern Ireland. Human Rights in Ireland wrote a short introduction to the new blog which can be found here.

The UK riots

Now back to August’s hot topic. Last week blogger Charon QC quoted Immanuel Kant: “All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.” Recognising the value of reason in the context of the riots, Charon QC posted several links to various articles which reflect on the events in the midst of all the confusion.

Now that the dust has settled, reason has become an even more prominent feature of many of the commentaries still springing from the riots, trying to make sense of their causes, their consequences and how to prevent their reoccurrence.

The content of these commentaries is varied, and in The Economist’s Bagehot’s Notebook we find an appraisal of the main lines of argument coming from the right, left and centre. He offers some interesting thoughts on the lines of discussion and reads between the lines of statements and speeches made by leading politicians in response to the riots.

It identifies strokes of rhetoric (for example, David Cameron attributing part of the blame for the riots on human rights – something the Guardian and Adam Wagner also picked up) and political opportunism, but also the true commitment of some of those MPs whose constituencies were affected by the disturbances.

Despite first impressions that youths were mostly responsible for the riots, the Research Reform blog remarks that it is now established that only a small proportion of youngsters were actually involved. The blog post provides us with a series of links to thought-provoking articles about the youngsters’ involvement in the disorder.

The aftermath of the riots has also generated a considerable amount of controversy because of the arguable harshness with which defendants have been treated by the judiciary. Tough sentences and the denial of bail are just some of the problematic issues, so much so that the Ministry of Justice and the Crown Prosecution Service (on the case involving incitement of disorder via social media website and another arising from the Manchester riots)  felt the need to issue explanatory statements.

Law and Lawyers provides us with the rules and principles which (should) be applied in the course of criminal proceedings, enabling us readers to make a more informed judgment of the criminal justice system’s treatment of the rioters. After all, to assess whether the reaction has been disproportionate would require much more than simply comparing the sentences issued for those involved in the riots with those of other crimes, something which would be akin to comparing apples and oranges, says the Beneath the Wig Blog.

Riots and the risk of eviction

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has amended a consultation on introducing a mandatory ground for possession on grounds of conviction for housing related 
anti-social related offences to include a question on whether a locality condition in the commission of some of these offences should be removed. In other words, a question on whether courts should, at their discretion, be able to grant a possession order against a tenant who was convicted of an ASB offence committed beyond the immediate neighbourhood of his/her residence.

NearlyLegal discusses the legal implications of this proposal which seems to alter the nature of an order for possession of this kind from being of a protective character (to protect other tenants from being affected by ASB offences) to becoming a punitive measure (since the connection between the offence and the neighbourhood no longer exists). Wandsworth Council seems to have attempted to seek possession in just such a scenario in circumstances involving a mother and her son, who was allegedly involved in the Clapham Junction riots. See Adam Wagner’s post on whether evicting the rioters will be a disproportionate and expensive response to the disturbances here.

Other news

International human rights organisations have increasingly recognised that access to the internet forms part of the broader right to freedom of expression. The Inforrm’s Blog helpfully outlines the key conclusions of reports and declarations of some of these organisations, in particular as regards the worrying issue of State action to block people’s access to the internet.

Last week the  Equality and Human Rights Commission published a Research Report entitled “Protecting Information Privacy”, in which it highlights the need for significant reform. It argued that the current privacy laws do not adequately uphold human rights and expressed concern principally in relation to two areas: the state’s handling of personal  data, and the use of surveillance by public bodies. See the Inforrm’s Blog for a summary of the report’s key findings and recommendations.

The UK Supreme Court Blog reported that Lord Steel has resigned as an independent adviser to the Scottish Government on the the ministerial code, in protest at the language used by Scottish Government ministers when criticising the Supreme Court.

For an interesting discussion about women in the law, practice at the Bar and a view on sentencing, CharonQC’s lawcast 191 with barrister Felicity Gerry is recommended.

In the courts:

The Queen v Stephen Carter David Beswick Linda Mary Boyd Michael Gillespie-Doyle

Four people sentenced to long custodial sentences (1 suspended) for Manchester riots – Sentencing remarks of judge.

…and don’t forget our recent posts:

1 comment;

  1. Julie says:

    Many thanks to contributors on this topic. I have just been catching up, trying to understand the basis of the link made by Cameron between human rights and the riots. The postings here have been helpful.
    However, the topic is not ‘UK riots’. They were English riots. I’m not just being pedantic, as there may be reasons why they were not replicated elsewhere.

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