Monthly News Archives: January 2012


UK loses 3 out of 4 European human rights cases? More like 1 in 50, actually

12 January 2012 by

It is rightly said that 95% of statistics are made up. Today’s Daily Mail front page headline contained a typically exuberant statistical claim: Europe’s war on British justice: UK loses three out of four human rights cases, damning report reveals. According to journalist James Slack “Unelected Euro judges” are mounting a “relentless attack on British laws laid down over centuries by Parliament”.

The Telegraph’s Andrew Hough and Tom Whitehead chime in with Britain loses 3 in 4 cases at human rights court. But are they right? To add a bit of spice to this statistical journey, I will aim to use at least one analogy involving a popular TV singing contest.

The “explosive research” is a report by Robert Broadhurst, a Parliamentary legal researcher for a group of Conservative MPs. The headline grabbing figures are in this paragraph:

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Injunction 4 sex pics on mob

12 January 2012 by

AMP v Persons unknown – read judgment

If you lose your mobile phone with highly confidential and private information on it, all may  not be lost. The unscrupulous finder may be prevented from blurting its contents all over the web, even if the identity of that person is unknown to you or the court. It requires considerable input of computer expertise, but it is possible, as this case (cleverly taken in the Technology and Construction Court) illustrates. 

The applicant’s mobile phone was reported to the police as stolen after she lost it at university in 2008. It contained digital images of an explicit sexual nature which were taken for the personal use of her boyfriend at the time. The applicant was alone in the photos and her face was clearly visible.

Invoking the right to privacy under Article 8, and the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, she applied for an interim injunction to prevent transmission, storage and indexing of any part or parts of certain photographic images taken from the phone, and an anonymity order under CPR r.39.2(4), which meant that the application, which was heard in private  on the basis that publicity would defeat the object of the hearing, would preserve the anonymity of the applicant. Both applications were granted.
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Is internet access a human right?

11 January 2012 by

A recent United Nations Human Rights Council report examined the important question of whether internet access is a human right.  

Whilst the Special Rapporteur’s conclusions are nuanced in respect of blocking sites or providing limited access, he is clear that restricting access completely will always be a breach of article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the right to freedom of expression.

But not everyone agrees with the United Nations’ conclusion. Vinton Cerf, a so-calledfather of the internet” and a Vice-President at Google, argued in a New York Times editorial that internet access is not a human right:

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Making a Fist of It: The Law and Obscenity

9 January 2012 by

On Friday 6 January 2012, a historic case came to a conclusion in Courtroom 7 of Southwark Crown Court. Michael Peacock was unanimously acquitted, after a four-day trial that saw the outdated obscenity law of England and Wales in the dock.

Peacock had been charged under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 for allegedly distributing ‘obscene’ ‘gay’ DVDs, which featured fisting, urolagnia (‘watersports’) and BDSM.

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Are some rights to private life just not cricket?

9 January 2012 by

Mr Abdullah Manuwar and Secretary of State for the Home Department IA26/543/2010 – Read decision

We have posted on this blog previously on some of the poor reporting of human rights cases. Alarm bells were ringing as the Sunday Telegraph reported student Abdullah Munawar’s appeal on human rights grounds against a refusal to grant him leave to stay in the UK, citing his playing cricket as a reason he had a private life under Article 8 of the ECHR.

However, considering the judgment, the Telegraph article makes a valid point on the limits provided by human rights on immigration decisions, and shows that not all journalism critical of the Human Rights Act is inaccurate.


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Lawrence murder sentencing, assisted dying, new SC justices > The Human Rights Roundup

9 January 2012 by

Welcome back to the first UK human rights roundup for 2012. Our 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

Although human rights abuses don’t break for Christmas, UK human rights news has taken a pause over the festive period. Nonetheless, there have been some newsworthy occurrences, the Commission on Assisted Dying’s report being the most recent.

Stephen Lawrence

As the BBC reports, the Attorney General is reviewing whether the sentences handed down to Dobson and Norris for the murder of Stephen Lawrence, receiving 15 and 14 years respectively, were unduly lenient. Gownandouta blog written by the editor of Banks on Sentencing, believes that a reference is “highly unlikely”, whilst blogger Charon QC notes that the pair is likely to spend a lot longer in prison, particularly due to their lack of remorse.

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A step closer to the legalisation of assisted suicide?

5 January 2012 by

Debby Purdy and husband

The Commission on Assisted Dying, set up in September 2010 and chaired by former Lord Chancellor Charles Falconer, has issued its monumental report on assisted dying in England and Wales.

The Commission was funded by two supporters of assisted suicide, author Terry Pratchett and businessman Bernard Lewis, and despite reassurances that the running and outcome of the Commission were independent, some individuals and groups opposed to the practice regrettably refused to give evidence to the Commission.  Still, the range and quantity of the evidence, which included evidence gathered from international research visits, qualitative interviews and focus groups, commissioned papers, and seminars, is impressive and can be read and watched here.

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Pigs have no rights to bigger pokes

5 January 2012 by

C- 310/60 Danske Svineproducenter  v Justitsministeriet – reference to the European Court of Justice (CJEU) for a preliminary ruling on the Regulation laying down standards for the transportation by road of live vertebrates – read judgment 

Some people might disagree with the Appeal Court’s judgment that a life serving prisoner did not have a human right to more than thirty minutes’ daily exercise in the open air (see Matthew Finn’s post on this case). Of course a pig, being transported by road on a journey lasting at least eight hours, is allowed no open air at all. EU law provides that for road vehicles used for the transport of livestock, the internal height of the compartments intended for the animals must be sufficient for them to be able to “stand up in their natural position, having regard to their size and the intended journey, and that there must be adequate ventilation above them when they are in a naturally standing position, without hindering their natural movement”. That’s very good and high minded, one might think, given that the EU has not been known to be at the forefront of animal welfare legislation, particularly in relation to livestock being traded over member state boundaries. But the devil is in the detail…
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Extension of secret hearings would be “fundamentally unfair”, say Special Advocates

5 January 2012 by

Government proposals to increase the number of court hearings held in secret, and in which parties can only see minimal evidence relied upon by the court, have been severely criticised by the “Special Advocates” who play the central role in closed hearings.

The group of 57 barristers, including 19 Queen’s Counsel, argue that despite attempts, for example, to give those subject to “Closed Material Procedures” a summary of the evidence against them, they remain “fundamentally unfair” and

represent a departure from the foundational principle of natural justice that all parties are entitled to see and challenge all the evidence relied upon before the court and to combat that evidence by calling evidence of their own.

The document is a response  to the Government’s Consultation (see my and Angus McCullough QC’s previous posts) which have to be sent via email or post by tomorrow, Friday 6 January 2012. I will be collating summaries of responses as I did with the Bill of Rights Commission consultation. If you would like your response to be included, please send it to 1crownofficerow@gmail.com, with the subject “Consultation response”.

In summary, the special advocates argue:

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Why Stephen Lawrence killers were sentenced as juveniles and under old law

4 January 2012 by

Updated | Two of Stephen Lawrence’s killers Gary Dobson and David Norris have been sentenced to minimum life terms “at her Her Majesty’s Pleasure” of 15 years 2 months and and 14 years 3 months respectively.

There has been surprise, from the Daily Mail amongst others that Dobson and Norris, now in their mid-30s, were sentenced as juveniles. Curiously, they have also been sentenced under historic law dating back to around 1993, which means they cannot be sentenced under harsh new guidance for racially aggrevated crimes.

This may all sound a bit strange, but as readers of this blog will know, the sentencing of criminals convicted in “cold cases” which have heated up can be much more complicated than if the crime happened a short while before trial. This may upset Daily Mail readers, but the reason is partly the European Convention on Human Rights. As Alasdair Henderson posted last month, Article 7 prohibits retrospective punishment, that is punishment using law which was not applicable at the time of the crime:

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Smells and mosquitoes but no extra damages under the Human Rights Act

2 January 2012 by

Dobson and others v Thames Water Utilities Ltd [2011] EWHC 3253 – read judgment

David Hart QC acted for the defendants in this case. He has played no part in the writing of this post.

An operator carrying out activities authorised by legislation is immune from common law nuisance liability unless the claimant can prove negligence. Any damages for such a nuisance will constitute “sufficient just satisfaction” for the purpose of the Human Rights Act; even if breach of a Convention right is proved, no further remedy will be available.

Background

It has been a long established canon of common law that no action will lie in nuisance against a body whose operation interferes in one way or another with neighbouring land, where Parliament has authorised the construction and use of an undertaking or works, and there is a statutory scheme in existence which is inconsistent with such liability.

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EU Court upholds greenhouse gas scheme against US airlines challenge

2 January 2012 by

Case C-366/10 The Air Transport Association of America and Others, judgment of the CJEU, 21 December 2011 Opinion of Advocate-General Kokott, 6 October 2011

On 1 January 2012, the EU Emissions Trading Scheme started applying to airlines for real. So it was perhaps no coincidence that just before Christmas, and rather more speedily than usual, the EU Court (the CJEU) effectively threw out a challenge by US airlines to the scheme brought in the UK Courts which was referred to the CJEU. The airlines had said that a raft of international rules and conventions were inconsistent with the scheme. The UK denied the unlawfulness; it said, if you want to land in the EU, you have to obey EU rules. I posted on the Advocate-General’s opinion, and the Court has come to the same conclusion albeit by a slightly different route. But, first, what are these emissions trading schemes about?

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Policy, possession and proportionality – Nearly Legal

1 January 2012 by

Denry Okpor v London Borough of Lewisham, Bromley County Court 25 October 2011 [Transcript not publicly available]

Adam Wagner represented Mr Okpor in this case. He is not the author of this post.

This was a rolled up permission to appeal and appeal hearing (on which more later) for appeal to a Circuit Judge from a possession order made by a District Judge at Bromley. At issue was whether the District Judge was wrong to reject a) a proportionality defence and b) a gateway B public law defence arising from Lewisham’s failure to follow its own policy. It is interesting as an example of proportionality/gateway B defences in action in the County Court, but also somewhat frustrating, for reasons which will become clear.

Mr Okpor was the secure tenant of Lewisham. At the age of 15 he had been taken into care by Lewisham following abuse. He left care aged 18 in 2006. In 2009, aged 21, he was given the secure tenancy. Mr O went into full time higher education later that year and has remained in full time higher education. This meant that the relevant Children Act 1989 provisions for care leavers continued to apply and would do until he was 24, if still in full time higher education. Mr O was receiving support from the Lewisham Leaving Care Team.

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UK Human Rights Blog – 2011 in review

1 January 2012 by

Happy New Year all!

To celebrate, enjoy this flashy summary of 2011 on the UK Human Rights Blog, including the most viewed posts, active commenters and the geographical spread of our readers. I cannot take credit for the whizz-bang design of the summary… thanks to WordPress for thinking this up.

Looking forward to lots of exciting developments in 2012. No doubt, there will be an enormous about to blog about as usual, not least new terrorism powers, more secret evidence in courts, press freedom and Leveson, hate speech, the human rights political circus, European Court of Human Rights reform, more bad reporting about human rights, immigration and extradition, the Gibson Inquiry (will it finally get underway?), legal aid…

Personally, I’ll try to get back to more regular blogging, although in the past few months this has been difficult as I have been so busy with work (I actually do some occasionally). I have also built up a team of dedicated and reliable bloggers, which means I have moved into more of a commissioning editor-type role, which allows me to spend less time on the blog, but hopefully with no drop in service. Thank you to all of the blog’s contributors for their amazingly hard work, particularly my co-editor Rosalind English whose enthusiasm is unrelenting.

If you don’t already, please do follow me on Twitter where I provided a more regular update on human rights law and occasionally other legal stuff too. Also, if you are looking for very regular human rights law updates, and are not on Twitter, the “Recommended” sidebar on the right of the blog is updated a few times each day.

Here’s an excerpt from the review:

London Olympic Stadium holds 80,000 people. This blog was viewed about 650,000 times in 2011. If it were competing at London Olympic Stadium, it would take about 8 sold-out events for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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