9/11, open justice and squatters

13 September 2011 by

9/11 attack man accused gets compensationWelcome 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:

Remembering 9/11, 10 years on

Last week the Law and Lawyers blog posted a retrospective of 9/11 and the consequent events of legal significance that impacted, and continue to impact, on the UK. The Human Rights in Ireland blog discussed the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures legislation in the UK, whilst Adam Wagner took the unusual step of sharing his personal reflections on 9/11. Dapo Akande links his post on the EJIL Talk blog to an interview in a BBC Radio programme where he discussed, amongst other things, whether the Geneva Conventions apply to the so called “war on terror”.

The Baha Mousa Inquiry 

Last week a report by the inquiry into the death of Baha Mousa was published. According to an article by the Guardian, the report was a “devastating indictment of military culture”, concluding that British soldiers inflicted “violent and cowardly” assaults on Iraqi civilians, subjecting them to “gratuitous” kicking and beatings.

Clive Baldwin, senior legal adviser of Human Rights Watch, argues the findings contained in the report are just the tip of the iceberg and not a one-off aberration. He believes the report provides the UK government/military with the opportunity to reappraise its policing and military detention policies to ensure their compliance with human rights and Geneva Conventions standards. Accountability for such violations also needs to be looked at, in particular regarding responsibility of those occupying higher posts within a chain of command structure. Baldwin considers it a failure of the UK government that only one person, corporal Donald Payne, was held accountable for Baha Mousa’s death. See Rosalind English’s post on the report findings here.

Open justice

Broadcasters will be allowed to film in courts for the first time, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke announced last week. In an article for Halsbury’s Law Exchange, James Wilson argued that open justice should prevail and that the concerns expressed by Adam Wagner about the broadcasting of criminal trials, although in need of further careful consideration, are not so insurmountable as to stand in the way of tv broadcasting. Felicity Gerry also wrote for HLE, where she considered the potential consequences that televised trials will have for those involved, be that barristers, judges, defendants, victims or witnesses.

Reading the commentaries to this important development, it seems clear that the Ministry of Justice must think carefully about the purpose of allowing hearings to be televised. If the rationale is open justice, then what aspect of open justice? To counterbalance inaccurate media reporting? To foster greater public support for the justice system? To provide public access to the justice system? If the precise reasons are clear then this can guide the implementation of this initiative and achieve the best possible results without unnecessary detriment to those involved.

On a similar note, in a speech to the Broadcast Journalism Training Council Conference, Nicholas Moss JP outlined the imminent changes to the Criminal Procedure Rules. In his speech, Moss stated these changes will restate the judiciary’s commitment to open justice and make it easier for the media to understand the framework within which that commitment operates.

Meanwhile, the Researching Reform blog has news that the MOJ conducted an ‘information pilot’ (here is the report) to find out whether or not there was any merit in giving certain parties written judgments and making a selection of family law cases available to the public through the free resource, BAILII. The majority of those involved were of the view that greater transparency was needed in order to demystify the process and to facilitate greater understanding of how things work. The report expresses some concerns from those in the legal profession such as the privacy of the families involved, costs and logistics. If you are pressed for time, you can read the report’s 5-page executive summary. Alternatively, Family Law Week wrote a summary of the report.

The Commission on a British Bill of Rights

The Commission on a Bill of Rights has published its interim advice to Government on reform of the European Court of Human Rights. It has also published a letter to ministers on reform of the Court. There seems to be some disagreement amongst members of the commission on how to reform the Court.

Adam Wagner briefly discusses some of the proposals, with the most controversial being the suggestion that Ministers could be given a power to overrule ECtHR judgments.

The UK Constitutional Law Group blog suggests the Commission should rather focus on the risk that there are too many competing methods by which a citizen can apply for their rights to be enforced. The post explains the rather complicated framework (or rather, maze) through which citizens will have to go in order to vindicate their rights. It encompasses three Bills of Rights (the ECHR, the HRA and the EU Charter of Rights) and three competing courts (the UK Supreme Court, the ECtHR and the Court of Justice of the EU). For more on the interplay between the ECtHR and the CJEU on questions of fundamental rights, see Rosalind English’s post here and Aidan O’Neill QC’s post in the newcomer EUtopia Law blog.

A squatter’s road map?

In the case of Voyias v IC and LB Camden (EA/2011/0007), Camden Council has been ordered to disclose to a former member of the Advisory Service for Squatters lists of empty properties meeting certain descriptions. The decision was a controversial one and subject to criticisms from the Housing Minister Grant Shapps, the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph, which have reported the decision as supportive of the idea of squatting as a beneficial practice for society. Both Halsbury’s Law Exchange and the 11KBW Panopticon commented on the case and highlighted that its outcome is the result of a balancing exercise between the competing public interest in bringing properties back into reuse and the public interest in preventing crime.

Meanwhile, the Nearly Legal housing law blog has been working hard to dispel some of the more mischievous misrepresentations of squatting law.

In other news

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) published its report on the UK’s compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Although the report welcomed the enactment of the Equality Act of 2010 and the establishment of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, it raised a number of points for improvement.

Amongst the areas in need of improvement are the UK’s treatment of the Gypsy and Traveller community at Dale Farm in Essex; the increase in virulent attacks and negative portrayal of ethnic minorities, immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees by the media (incidentally, check this post by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and this one by Adam Wagner); and the government’s response to the recent riots.

For those who remain curious about the latest developments in the phone hacking saga, why not check out the Inforrm’s Blog latest updates?

Other roundups in the blawgosphere

Do not miss the excellent news roundups in Law Think’s “latest human rights developments in the UK” and the UKSC Blog’s “The week that was”.

In the courts:

PD & EB, R. v (Iraq Sanctions) [2011] EWCA Crim 2082 (08 September 2011)

Court of Appeal: Indictment of Iraq arms suppliers quashed as system for implementing UN resolution contains “serious and significant deficiencies”.

Castle & Ors v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis [2011] EWHC 2317 (Admin) (07 September 2011)

High Court: “Kettling” of two children at university fee protests by police in November was lawful and not breach of police duties under human rights law or Children Act 2004.

G. v the United Kingdom – 37334/08 [2011] ECHR 1308 (30 August 2011)

European Court of Human Rights: Rape conviction of 15-yr-old for rape of child despite fact he believed girl consented and was 15, not incompatible with the presumption of innocence.

Syed, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2011] EWCA Civ 1059 (07 September 2011)

Immigration: Court of Appeal confirms Article 8 ECHR need not necessarily be considered when deciding whether to grant indefinite leave to remain.

W (A Minor), R (on the application of) v Leeds Crown Court [2011] EWHC 2326 (Admin) (28 July 2011)

“With regret”, Admin Court rules 14 year old alleged burglar must be tried in Crown Court rather than youth court as committed alongside 20-yr-old.

Communicated case Pritchard v. the United Kingdom

A case concerning the fatal shooting of a Territorial Army soldier serving in Iraq is now pending before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

…and don’t forget our recent posts:


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