Hillsborough, a new president and mental health discrimination – The Human Rights Roundup

16 September 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.

by Wessen Jazrawi

In the news
A bumper edition this week. The European Court of Human Rights elected a new president and the Government finally apologised for the Hillsborough disaster. Its report on Hillsborough was published this week and provides illuminating reading. In other news, the DPP has published guidelines on the approach prosecutors should take when assessing the public interest in cases affecting the media and the UKBA has published guidance for caseworkers following the Alvi judgment. Finally, questions are asked about Chris Grayling’s qualifications for his new role of Lord Chancellor.

Human Rights Tour

First, the British Institute of Human Rights is bringing the 2012 Human Rights Tour to a city near you soon: see here for further detail on the programme, dates and venues.

New president of ECtHR
The term of Sir Nicholas Bratza will come to an end on 31 October and Dean Spielmann, elected by his peers to be the next president, will begin on 1 November. For more information on his background and the reshuffle at the Court, see the ECHR blog.
The Hillsborough Independent Panel published its report into the disaster this week; it stated that found no evidence among the vast number of disclosed documents and many hours of video material to verify the serious allegations of exceptional levels of drunkenness, ticketlessness or violence among Liverpool fans. In addition to reading the report, you can also browse the disclosed material here. Joshua Rozenberg asks in the Guardian whether there should be a second inquiry or whether an inquest into the deaths might be more appropriate; he notes that Michael Mansfield QC has referred to a possible charge of manslaughter. Obiter J has also summarised the articles out there on this topic.
Mental capacity and voting rights
The ever-excellent Small Places blog has written a punchy and emphatic post on mental capacity and voting rights, inspired by a discussion on the Mental Health Law Online discussion list about care homes refusing to enter residents on the electoral register on grounds that they lack mental capacity to vote. The upshot of this is that mental incapacity is not a valid reason not to put a person on the electoral register, that failure to provide information to registration officers about a person who is eligible to be on the electoral register may be an offence, and furthermore that it may be a violation of their legal right to vote, enshrined in Article 3 Protocol 1 of the ECHR.
UN security council resolutions do not trump human rights
Eric Metcalfe, who acted for JUSTICE as third party intervener in the case, has written an article in the Guardian on the recent European Court of Human Rights judgment in Nada v SwitzerlandSwitzerland (and the UK who intervened on its behalf) argued that UN security council resolutions took priority over fundamental human rights. He notes that the Court ducked the bigger question but its ruling that Nada was entitled to an effective means to challenge UN measures in Swiss courts is likely to prove significant in its own right, not least to the various sanctions regimes operated by the Treasury Asset-Freezing Unit in the UK.
Do Not Resuscitate and Down’s Syndrome
Halsbury’s Law Exchange has posted this week on the case of the family of a 51- year-old, tube-fed man with Down Syndrome and dementia who allege that, during a three week stay in the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, an order was placed on the patient’s notes instructing them not to attempt resuscitation in the event of cardiac or respiratory arrest; no provision was made for review and there was no consultation with the patient’s family. The blog sets out the applicable law; the case is ongoing.
Access to court documents in Ireland

Eoin O’Dell discusses on the Inforrm blog the lack of access to court documents in Ireland and its consequences. He notes that the Legal Services Regulation Bill should result in a reasonably transparent process permitting public access to court documents, such as legal submissions and court transcripts.Lawyers at the European Court of Human RightsThe Human Rights in Ireland blog has written an interesting post on the topic of the non-renewable contracts of lawyers working for the European Court of Human Rights, drawing the link between the huge backlog of applications and the loss of qualified staff every four years, combined with the re-training of new staff who will necessarily take some time to get up to speed.

Justice and Security, and the Lib Dems
The Lib Dem party conference is due to take place in Brighton from 22 to 26 September and battles over the Justice and Security Bill are expected, according to the Guardian. Jo Shaw, a barrister and Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate in 2010, will move a motion at the conference urging all Lib Dem parliamentarians to resist the concept of secret courts in civil cases. Apparently, we may see further concessions made by the coalition but the Lib Dems are not going to throw out the closed material procedures. More’s the pity.
Improving judicial diversity
The Ministry of Justice website has published the second Judicial Diversity Taskforce Annual Report, which states that significant progress has been made by members of the Taskforce, having already completed twenty of the fifty-three Advisory Panel recommendations. All three branches of the legal profession have put in place programmes to promote judicial office to their members and the Judicial Appointments Commission now monitors a wider range of diversity characteristics including sexual orientation and religion.
Judicial bias
The Justice Gap reports on the Megaupload extradition case where in July of this year Judge David Harvey of the North Shore District Court in New Zealand stepped down after his comments suggesting that ‘the US is the enemy’ were widely reported. The blog takes a keen look at the question of judicial bias, particularly unconscious bias. Worth a read.
DPP guidelines to prosecutors
The Crown Prosecution Service announced this week that, following a public consultation, Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), has published final guidelines on the approach prosecutors should take when assessing the public interest in cases affecting the media. They will be relevant when prosecutors are considering whether to charge journalists – or those who interact with journalists – with criminal offences that may have been committed in the course of their work as journalists.

Is the new Lord Chancellor qualified?

James Wilson has posted a very interesting piece on his A(nother) Lawyer Writes blog on the question of whether the appointment of the new Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling, was actually unlawful as he lacks the qualifications set out in s 2(1) of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. He concludes that Mr Grayling appears not to have the relevant expertise and that his appointment does not meet the spirit of the 2005 Act irrespective of the letter.

UKBA guidance on handling cases post-Alvi

The UKBA has published guidance on how to handle cases post-Alvi.

In the courts
R (on the application of Chen) v Secretary of State for the Home Department & Another [2012] EWHC 2531 (Admin).  System for provision of benefits to unmarried partners of asylum seekers is lawful and no breach of arts 8+14 ECHR.
R (on the application of NM) v Secretary of State for Justice [2012] EWCA Civ 1182. Prison’s investigation into sexual assault on prisoner was lawful and complaint with article 3 ECHR.

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1 comment;

  1. James Wilson says:

    Congratulations on another excellent roundup and many thanks for the mention. I should add though that while I do indeed think that the sprit of the Act, given the role of the Lord Chancellor, should require a distinguished legal career, any challenge would fail because the Act is drafted so widely. I therefore disagree with the constitutional law expert Francis Bennion, who maintained that the appointment is void.

    I suppose there is a rather distant analogy with the old House of Lords Judicial Committee. Technically lay peers could sit on it, but the last time one actually did was in the nineteenth century. A convention thereafter formed whereby only senior lawyers ever would.

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