Monstering, 9/11 and supporting human rights – The Human Rights Roundup

5 September 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

Monstering of the innocent?

Once again the Press finds itself in the spotlight, this time over the reporting of former suspect Rebecca Leighton and the deaths at Stepping Hill Hospital. Obiter J sets out the charges against Leighton and also the tests which prosecutors must meet for charges to remain in place. Describing the test as “quite remarkable” given the gravity of the charges, as well as noting the “immense damage” which has undoubtedly been done to Leighton’s reputation, Obiter J predicts a complex human rights challenge to the police’s conduct and calls for Parliament to take a closer look at the existing powers for charging people.

Brian Cathcart, in a reproduced article on Inforrm’s Blog, has argued that the recent successful prosecutions of two newspapers for contempt of court over the reporting of Joanna Yeates’ murder might concentrate editors’ minds on how ongoing criminal investigations are reported. However, Leighton’s case shows that these prosecutions may have had little impact.

Indeed, in a separate post, Inforrm’s Blog notes that newspapers have not only printed stories indicating Leighton’s guilt, but have equally accessed and publicised private information from confidential sources such as Facebook. Inforrm’s Blog describes the Press’ treatment of Leighton as the ‘“monstering” of the innocent’ and suggests that criminal suspects should be afforded anonymity.

Poor Press reporting has not escaped the gaze of our blog, and Adam Wagner has brought together a number of articles he has written on the subject here. Given the pervasiveness of such reporting and the potentially grave consequences, perhaps the reporting of criminal investigations should fall within the ambit of the Leveson Inquiry (terms of reference here).

In defence of the Human Rights Act

Nick Clegg has written a staunch defence of the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights in the Guardian. Whilst intimating that he and the Prime Minister are singing from the same hymn sheet, it is clear that when Clegg endorses Cameron on the need to get a grip on the misrepresentation of human rights, they are not in harmony with one another.

Clegg is supportive of the European Court of Human Rights and is also committed to the protections and freedoms already contained within the Human Rights Act; indicating his desire that the Commission for a British Bill of Rights’ conclusions will suggest building upon these rights, not replacing them. (An example could include increasing protections for older people; a topic which the Human Rights in Ireland blog considers here).

Sir Geoffrey Bindman, respected human rights lawyer, has written a concise and supportive response to Clegg’s article. Bindman argues that in order to maintain our reputation for respecting human rights at an international level , the Human Rights Act should not be replaced. He also picks up on the recurring theme of the UK Press’ nefarious human rights reporting.

Liberty, an NGO dedicated to the protection and advancement of human rights and civil liberties within the UK, has recently started a Human Rights Act blog series in an attempt to clarify the human rights misrepresentations which Mr. Cameron may(?) have been talking about. So far, they have covered Article 2: Right to life, as well as Article 6: Right to a fair hearing.

Terrorism: home and away

Coinciding with the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks this week, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, has written a sobering blogTen years of “global war on terror” undermined human rights – also in Europe – calling for Europe to undertake a “self-critical review” of our involvement in the “spider’s web” of human rights abuses in which we have become entangled since the “war on terror” began.

Given that the UK has already established the Detainee Inquiry to look at the role the UK played in the rendition and torture of suspected terrorists, it could be said that we are one step ahead (although the Inquiry has been heavily criticised: see Eric Metcalfe’s guest post). Nonetheless, this call for a review also comes at a time when the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Bill finds itself in the news once more.

The BBC reports that an “Enhanced bill” will enable the Home Secretary to move suspected terrorists from their homes to other parts of the country, despite a pledge from the government to scrap similar relocation powers when first elected. The Bill will be kept in reserve and will only be put before Parliament in a time of emergency, and the powers could then only be used in exceptional circumstances. Adam Wagner explains the apparent policy inconsistency here.

Other roundups:

The Week That Was by UKSC blog offers a wide-ranging roundup of news, finishing with the bemusing story of the security personnel sacked for tagging an offender’s false leg. Obiter J’s August: will voices of calm prevail? implores calm across an array of legal news topics including the recent riots and the potential trial of Gaddafi.

In the courts:

Mr Yiannis Voyias v Information Commissioner, Camden Council must disclose list of empty residential properties to squatting campaigner under FoI rules, says first tier tribunal.

JG & Anor v Lancashire County Council [2011] EWHC 2295 (Admin) (02 September 2011), Judicial review of council’s multi-million pound cuts to disabled and social care services fails on High Court.

Case-law commentaries from across the blogosphere:

…and don’t forget our recent posts:

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