Hillsborough, Hemming and hostilities – the Human Rights Roundup

29 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 Melinda Padron

In the news:

President of the Family Division’s Press Release

Last week the President of the Family Division, Sir Nicholas Wall, issued a press release concerning two judgments in the case Re X which will soon be released in full (save for the identities of the children) to the public. The case involves allegations by a woman who her former partner abused her child and consequently custody issues. There was public support for the woman involved in the proceedings, and amongst these supporters were John Hemming MP (who used parliamentary privilege to name the woman despite the confidential nature of the proceedings) and Christopher Booker (a reporter for the Telegraph).

However, according to the press release, the allegations of sexual abuse were unfounded. The publication of the judgments, with the names of the parents de-anonymised, will be partly for the purposes of vindicating the former partner from the accusations. There are more details about this case which are better explained by some of the commentaries found in the legal blogs.

Adam Wagner posted a brief note about the press release with links to other commentaries by the Inforrm’s Blog and the Pink Tape. There is a newer post by the Inforrm’s Blog, and a very thorough post in the Ministry of Truth Blog. The law blogger, Carl Gardner, has been concerned about this case, and in particular about John Hemming’s use of parliamentary privilege, since last April, and in his latest post on the matter he recounts his quest since then to get to the bottom of this. This news story may generate more controversy: as more details surface, we may potentially be looking at abuse of privilege and more suits for contempt of court.

Scottish University Fees System

The Scottish University fees system reforms may eventually take an explosive turn. The Scottish government is free to charge university fees from students who reside in England, Wales and Northern Ireland whilst those who reside in Scotland or elsewhere in the EU can attend university free of charge.

Matthew Kelly wrote a piece in the Guardian countering the potential legal grounds to challenge the policy and envisaged a potential scenario whereby a successful challenge before the European Court of Human Rights (which would have to be against the UK since Scotland is a not a State party to the Convention) would lead to Westminster having to intervene in the devolved institutions. For an excellent appraisal of the potential legal arguments, see Geoffrey Bindman’s piece for Halsbury’s Law Exchange. See our coverage of this subject by Isabel McArdle here.

Eviction of travellers

The move to evict more than 85 travellers’ families from Dale Farm, in Basildon, has now attracted criticisms from the United Nations. Both the UN Special Rapporteur for adequate housing and the UN Independent Expert on minority issues argue that the planned eviction is a potential serious breach of human rights, but the government still refuses to give in to the concerns. For more on the subject, read Tom Hennessey’s post in Halsbury’s Law Exchange.

More on the UK riots

In last week’s roundup we mentioned that amongst the controversial measures in response to the riots were the seemingly blanket policy on the granting of bail. Blogger Obiter J writes for Law and Lawyers about a potential legal challenge to this policy and analyses the possible legal aspects of such challenge. The CPS issued a statement on the first Crown Court sentences which can be found here. Susan Wilson, the co-author of “Sentencing and Punishment: the quest for justice” questions whether the government and the criminal justice system have been making an example of the rioters and offers some interesting perspectives on the punishment.

The Hillsborough disaster information

Last week an e-petition requesting the full disclosure of all government documents relating to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster exceeded 100,000 signatures, prompting the government to issue a statement that the subject of the petition may be debated in Parliament once it returns in September and that the government was committed to the full disclosure of the papers (including cabinet papers) pending consultation with the families of the victims and the Hillsborough Independent Panel. You can find out more on this in the Law and Lawyers Blog.

Hostilities in Libya

James Wilson writes for Halsbury’s Law Exchange about a detailed document prepared last June which asserts that the involvement of US forces in Libya was only of a supporting nature, and not quite engagement in a war. James questions the merits of this argument, in particular in relation to allegations that the forces are more directly engaged in the conflict than they would like to admit by the rumoured arming of the rebels and potential special forces operations in the area.

In other news:

Despite mentioning that the Mental Capacity Act 2005 has been widely welcomed as an autonomy-promoting Act, in this excellent post Lucy Series questions whether the MCA is in fact too paternalistic.

For other interesting reading not related to any of the major issues feature in the news last week, why not check out Kat Watson’s post in the F word Blog asking where are the feminist lawyers? Also, see James Wilson’s discussion of the legal implications of transmitting an STD in Halsbury’s Law Exchange.

In the courts:

In re W (A Child) (Abduction: Contempt) [2011] WLR (D) 277, Court of Appeal, 17th August 2011

From Current Awareness (from the Inner Temple Library): “Where a father repeatedly flouted court orders that he disclose the whereabouts of his child, who had been abducted and was believed to be abroad, it was open to the court to impose repeated terms of imprisonment for contempt the cumulative duration of which ostensibly exceeded the two-year term identified in section 14(1) of the Contempt of Court Act 1981.”

…and don’t forget our recent posts:

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