Student fees, access to justice and Leveson Part II – The Human Rights Roundup

26 February 2012 by

Welcome back to the human rights roundup, your weekly buffet of human rights news. The full list of links can be found here. You can also find our table of human rights cases here and previous roundups here.

In the news

Legal aid reforms

The proposed reforms to legal aid are divisive: they are either necessary to combat a society of blame and litigation, or a disastrous reduction of access to justice for those who can’t afford legal fees. The subject is given in-depth treatment on BBC Law in Action with Joshua Rozenberg. The podcast, discusses what effects the reform bill will have on lawyers, claimants and defendants. This post on The Justice Gap, by Alice Forbes, explores some of the more specific effects the reforms will have on the type of advice (and more importantly, legal remedies) available to claimants.

UKHRB news

In exciting news for this blog, UKHRB editor Adam Wagner has been appointed to the Attorney-General’s C panel of Counsel. See here for more detail on what this involves.

Immigration and removal

As part of a general trend towards more lenient interpretation of the Immigration Rules policy guidance, a recent Court of Appeal case decided that not falling within the exact wording of the guidance will not necessarily prevent an application being granted. Commentary on this case may be found by Henry Oliver of Mulberry Finch, here.

Also from the same source is commentary on a recent Upper tribunal decision, in which the court held that a decision to remove an immigrant can be lawful even if it goes against established policy not to enforce removals. However, in the case itself, the Article 8 rights of the applicant’s children were decisive in leading the court to determine that, despite its legality, the decision to return the applicant to Zimbabwe was disproportionate.

There has also been some commentary on Hirsi Jamaa and Others v. Italy, a recent European Court of Human Rights Grand Chamber judgment – see Henry Oliver’s guest post. The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants comments on the case here, and there is an excellent, in-depth article on the implications of the decision on the European Journal of International Law blog by Francesco Messineo.

Challenge to tuition fees hike

The recent challenge to the threefold increase in tuition fees, while unsuccessful, provides evidence for the flexible and wide-reaching status of Judicial Review today, as discussed by Colin Murray in his thoughtful article for Human Rights in Ireland. The case has also been covered this week in brief on the Education Law Blog. The difficult nature of the decision, which concerned controversial policy issues and therefore required very careful handling, is highlighted in Karwan Eskerie’s post for UKHRB.

Freedom of information and privacy

The Panopticon Blog has published a short article on the new developments in the Kennedy case, currently in the Court of Appeal. The case concerns a statutory exception to the duty to disclose information about inquiries by public bodies, which is drafted ambiguously. Judgment is yet to be given in the Court of Appeal, but Panopticon suggests that the Court feels bound by an earlier Supreme Court decision to read the exception as a wide one, rather than reading the statute under section 3 of the Human Rights Act to make it compatible with the article 10(1) ECHR right to receive information. Leave to appeal to the Supreme Court has been given, however, so the book is not closed on this issue.

Abu Qatada remains a hot topic, which has brought trouble for his landlord, who has become harassed by journalists due to his connection to a controversial figure. Inforrm’s blog has posted about the resulting legal proceedings, providing the back-story, and discussing the rather wide-reaching court order which currently prevents journalists from publishing almost any information about this man, or going anywhere near him. His case has yet to be decided, however.

Speaking of hot topics, the Leveson Inquiry has recently concluded its first module, and Natalie Peck for Inforrm’s blog has provided a well-researched and thorough article on the story so far. It is recommended reading for anyone who wants to know the gist of what has been done so far, or specific details of any particular part.

The Inquiry starts up again tomorrow (27 February) with Module 2, examining to the relationship between the press and the police. The witness list for this week is here.

Homophobia at home and away

Michael Gove has been asked to clarify his position on the controversial issue of anti-gay teaching materials in schools by Pink News, following being quoted out of context. Adam Wagner provides a short post on the quote in its proper context here; the Education Secretary actually stated the law on this issue more accurately than previously suggested. The potentially damaging implications of the la being misunderstood are covered by Adam Wagner here.

Alexandra Trimmer, writing in Inforrm’s blog, provides commentary on a similar issue in the case of Vedjeland and Others v. Sweden. In this case, the four applicants disseminated homophobic pamphlets in a secondary school, and were convicted in Sweden of agitation against a national or ethnic group. They brought an action in Strasbourg against the Swedish government, arguing the Article 10 right to freedom of expression (on the basis that  the pamphlets were meant to spur debate, not as hate speech), and were unsuccessful. The blog post provides  thoughtful analysis of the issues and implications of the case, and also a critique of the sparsely reasoned judgment. It is well worth reading.

The virtues of legal blogging

One of our ex-contributors, Melina Padron, has written an article on the virtues of legal blogging (or, and forgive me for this, “blawgging”) both for readers and writers, whether currently practicing or studying the law. As a recent addition to the legal blogging scene, I fully agree with her.

In the courts

The Mayor Commonalty and Citizens of London v Samede (St Paul’s Churchyard camp representative) & Ors (Rev 1) [2012] EWCA Civ 160 Court of Appeal refuses permission for Occupy London to appeal High Court eviction ruling.

EL v The Children’s Society [2012] EWHC 365 (QB) The High Court rules that there is no vicarious liability for alleged abuse by son of housemaster at a Children’s Society home 46 years ago. The judge also ruled (obiter) that he would not have disapplied the standard limitation period in this case.

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