Monthly News Archives: March 2012


Brighton bombshells, Justice vs Security, Legal Aid U-turns – The Human Rights Roundup

4 March 2012 by

Welcome back to your weekly helping 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

The biggest news of the week was the leak of the Draft Brighton declaration, the UK’s proposals for the reform of the European Court of Human Rights. In other news, a spotlight finally began to shine on the Government’s Justice and Security Green Paper, with the Daily Mail suggesting that it might do anything but promote justice and security.

by Wessen Jazrawi


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Annulment: all or nothing? Walloons in a mess about muck-spreading

4 March 2012 by

Case C-41/11,Inter-Environnement Wallonie ASBL,Terre wallonne ASBL v Région wallonne, CJEU, 28 February 2012, read judgment

Some years ago, Belgium got itself into trouble for not properly implementing the Nitrates Directive, a measure designed to limit the amount of water pollution arising from muck-spreading and other good old-fashioned agricultural activities. And then it got itself into trouble under another Directive (the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive) for the way that it then went about amending the law to address nitrates. So the nitrates amending law got annulled. But what to do then? Because a defective nitrates law was better than none at all. This was the conundrum which faced the CJEU in this recent case.

The latest round of this saga started when NGOs challenged the way in which the Walloon government sought to amend their water law in line with the Nitrates Directive. They went to the Conseil d’Etat to annul the amendment, because it did not comply with the SEA Directive. In 2009, the Conseil d’Etat referred the case to the CJEU, asking whether the nitrates amendment was a strategic plan or programme with the meaning of the SEA Directive. In 2010, (C-105/09) the CJEU said it was, in principle, it being for the domestic court ultimately to rule on the issue. In due course, the Conseil d’Etat confirmed this view by ruling that the nitrates amendment was in fact such a measure.

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Justice wide shut

1 March 2012 by

Yesterday I spoke at Justice Wide Open, an excellent conference organised by Judith Townend. I mounted my usual open justice hobby horses (to coin a topical phrase) on how to make the justice system more accessible to the public, including a moan about human rights reporting. Someone told me during the break that according to her research, when newspapers put a positive slant on a human rights story, they tend to use the code word “civil liberties”. And, as if to prove the point, on the very same morning the Daily Mail put its considerable weight behind a crucial but until now sub-public-radar “civil liberties” and open justice issue, the Justice and Security Green Paper.

As readers of this blog will be aware, the Government proposes in the Green Paper to introduce “closed material procedures” into civil proceedings. For an explanation of why this amounts to “a departure from the foundational principle of natural justice“, look no further than the Special Advocates’ response to the consultation and my co-editor Angus McCullough QC’s post, A Special Advocate’s comment. But although the proposals have been getting lawyers and The Guardian hot and bothered, the sound of tumbleweed has been the loudest response. Until now, that is.

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Legal aid: Government backs down on clinical negligence and domestic violence

1 March 2012 by

The Ministry of Justice has proposed two important amendments to the Legal Aid, Punishment of Offenders and Sentencing Bill.

As has been predicted for a number of months, the proposals will bring a limited number of clinical negligence claims and claims arising as a result of domestic violence back within the scope of legal aid. The clinical negligence exception only relates to claims arising whilst a person was still in their mother’s womb, or 8 weeks after their birth. If the baby is born before 37 weeks gestation, the legal aid clock will begin to tick from the date they would have been 37 weeks gestation. The victim must also be “severely disabled” as a result.

As to domestic violence, the amendments are to provide legal aid for civil claims where:

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My witness statement to the Leveson Inquiry – Part 2/2

1 March 2012 by

Not me giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry

Last month I was asked to provide a witness statement to the Leveson Inquiry into Culture, Practice and Ethics of the Press. You can download the entire statement here, The questions in bold are those asked by the Inquiry in their request – read part 1 here.

On similar topics, I also recommend the statements of Francis FitzGibbon QC and David Allen Green.

(10) Does/Can blogging act as a check on bad journalism?

Yes. The primary reason UKHRB was set up was to act as a corrective to bad journalism about human rights, and in under two years it has become a trusted source of information for journalists, politicians, those in government and members of the public.

UKHRB operates alongside a number of other excellent legal blogs, run by lawyers, students and enthusiasts for free, which provide a similar service in respect of other areas of law. I would highlight, for example[2]:

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