Human rights awards, “special” offences and the porn trial – The Human Rights Roundup

13 August 2012 by

Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your weekly bulletin 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

Another sparse week for human rights news – eyes, I suspect, remain on the Olympics as Team GB tried to accrue as many medals as possible in this last week, and of course the Parliamentary and legal summer holidays will make these coming months somewhat quiet. Some exciting news, however: Liberty is welcoming nominations for its Human Rights Awards 2012. We also have discussion of neglect and ill-treatment of the disabled, and illuminating commentary on the “Porn Trial”, in which a decision was reached this week.

Human Rights Awards

This week, Liberty announced that it is looking for nominations for their 2012 awards, stating that anyone who has contributed significantly to promoting or protecting human rights in the UK over the last year is eligible. Nominees can include individuals, campaign groups or NGOs, and categories are not fixed (so anyone can be nominated, for any type of contribution). For more information on how to nominate people, see the announcement post.

“Special” offences?

There are specific offences for dealing with ill-treatment and neglect of the disabled by carers under the Mental Health Act 1989 and Mental Capacity Act 2005, designed to deal with abuse such as that committed by care staff against patients at the Winterbourne View hospital last year. However, Lucy Series, in an illuminating post this week, considered why we have these “special” offences, and whether they are even justified, given that ordinary criminal offences could be used to prosecute these crimes instead. The thrust of her argument is that we (as a society) see normal criminal offences as somehow not applying in the context of disability care, and she seeks to dispel this somewhat odd preconception. I can’t do her discussion justice in this small space, however, so those interested are urged to read the post first-hand.

Winterbourne View update

On the subject of abuse of the disabled, the last member of staff at Winterbourne View hospital pleaded guilty to charges of ill-treatment or neglect of his patients (perhaps unsurprisingly for anyone who watched the Panorama footage of this particular defendant twisting a patient’s wrists and fingers behind her back for very flimsy reasons). Lucy Series of The Small Places discusses this development, providing background on the case and useful links, in her post here. In other Winterbourne news, Margaret Flynn’s independent review of the situation was published on the South Gloucestershire Council website, concluding that insufficient oversight existed to uncover the extent of abuses and crimes at the hospital.

The Porn Trial

Good news for barrister Simon Walsh this week, following his acquittal on charges of possessing “an extreme pornographic image” contrary to s. 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008. In two articles for the New Statesman, David Allen Green criticises the 2008 Act as bad law, as it is “illiberal” and vague, and can amount to prosecuting individuals for possession of images of consensual acts between two adults, and argues that the case should never have been brought to trial, calling the prosecution “nasty” and “shameful”. In particular, the CPS barrister attempted to argue that attendance of sexual health clinics is for those who “engage in more risky practices” – a statement that was criticised both by David Allen Green and by Stephen Gray of PinkNews.com. See also Nick Cohen in The Guardian.

When is there “Deprivation of Liberty”?

The short answer is, we don’t really know. The case-law in this area is convoluted, as admirably illustrated by Lucy Series in this post, including a fantastic diagram (PDF) revealing the contradictory nature of the decisions.

Other Roundups

Laura Sandwell, posting for the UKSC blog, has provided a short summary of some of the most important recent developments in English law over the previous week, including controversial changes to the “cab-rank” rule, an update on Abu Qatada and Rebekah Brooks’ formal charges for phone hacking. The “Week That Was” may be read here.

The ever-reliable Law Think blog has posted its latest human rights roundup, read it here.

In the courts

Reilly & Anor, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Rev 1) [2012] EWHC 2292 (Admin) High Court rejects challenge to Government’s compulsory work experience scheme on human rights and legality grounds. The work experience scheme did not amount to “forced or compulsory labour” within meaning of Article 4 ECHR

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