BNP bus driver, legal aid bills and Abu Qatada – The Human Rights Roundup
11 November 2012
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.
The Rahmatullah Supreme Court judgment remained in the spotlight this week, but had to share it with old faces such as Abu Hamza (whose case has managed to keep outraging the public despite his extradition to the US), the loudly ticking clock of prisoner voting and the attendant debate over whether the UK should replace the Human Rights Act with a “British” human rights statute. Meanwhile, the ruling on whether Abu Qatada can be deported to Jordan is coming tomorrow (Monday).
In the news
The Rahmatullah case has already been throughly discussed on this blog by Rosalind English, Lois Williams and Wessen Jazrawi in last week’s roundup, so I won’t repeat the background and analysis of the case. For those looking for another perspective, though, Samantha Knights of Matrix Chambers has posted a case comment on the UKSC blog this week, which includes a summary of the background and the judgment. On the issue of the cross-appeal (which concerned whether the US’s response was sufficient to show that the UK could not secure Mr. Rahmatullah’s release) Ms. Knights concluded that this judgment might have been made more satisfying if the dissenting judges’ reasoning had prevailed.
Carl Gardner of the Head of Legal blog has also weighed in (twice) on the Rahmatullah issue. The first post is in response to a press release by the charity Reprieve headed “Supreme Court: UK unlawful rendition may have been war crime”, which Mr. Gardner argues is misleading, as the judgment didn’t use the phrase “war crime”, or indeed that the UK took part in unlawful rendition, both of which the offending press release seems to claim as fact. The second post follows on from the first, responding to criticism of his claim in the first post that the UK did not know about Mr. Rahmatullah’s rendition at the relevant time.
Abu Hamza’s Legal Aid
Abu Hamza’s defence against extradition has cost the taxpayer £680,000 in legal aid, according to the Daily Mail. This has prompted Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to take a “strong stance” and call for an “immediate investigation” of the Legal Aid system – which in turn has invited scorn from commentator Simon Pottinger of the Justice Gap, who explains how costs can only reach the levels in the Hamza case if previously authorised by a Civil Servant, and that in fact almost all legal fees in the criminal justice system have been set at prescribed levels by the Government.
The Law Society has also weighed in, stating that it has offered to work with the Justice Secretary to increase public understanding and confidence in legal aid, which it rightly describes as a safeguard for equal access to justice and ensuring that the government is never insulated from scrutiny in the courts. The impression that one gets from these comments is that Mr. Grayling’s speech ignores not only the recent cutbacks in legal aid (see the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012), but also the exceptional nature of a case such as Abu Hamza’s.
Abu Qatada judgment tomorrow (Monday)
The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) is to rule tomorrow on whether suspected terrorist Abu Qatada can be deported to Jordan to face trial. For all the background, see this excellent article by BBC Home Affairs Correspondent Dominic Casciani. See also this blog’s most recent coverage here – Taking stock after Abu Qatada: Assurances, secret detention and evidence in closed proceedings
and Abu Qatada detention will continue through Olympics.
Prisoner Voting and where it may take us
The clock keeps ticking down to the 22nd of November, the government’s deadline to “bring forward legislative proposals” to end the “general, automatic and indiscriminate disenfranchisement of all serving prisoners”. As all readers of this blog no doubt know, this has created something of a dilemma, as the Prime Minister has gone on the record as being absolutely against prisoners getting the vote under the current government.
Joshua Rozenberg discusses the thorny problem in this post and on Law in Action with the ex-Solicitor General Sir Edward Garnier QC. Mr. Rozenberg argues that the recent rulings against the UK in Strasbourg (including the Redfearn case, discussed below) will stiffen the PM’s anti-ECHR resolve, and wonders why this resolve has led the UK not to ratify the very worthy child protection convention (though we have signed it).
Eirik Bjorge has also posted commentary on prisoner voting this week, on the Oxford Human Rights Hub. In his post, he explains how deferential to national governments the Strasbourg Court has been in the prisoner voting cases, and how little we would actually have to do to comply with the rulings. He concludes with the expectation that prisoner voting will be a “gift that keeps on giving” to the stubborn Coalition government.
Finally, our own Adam Wagner has posted a defence of the Human Rights Act in the Jewish Chronicle (in response to the post by Jonathan Fisher QC in the same publication, entitled “the wrongs of human rights”). The Chronicle does not accept comments on its posts, so Adam has invited responses to his post on this blog.
The BNP Bus Driver
In a decision that may seem ironic to some, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favour of a BNP Councillor who was sacked from his job as a bus driver due to potential risks to the health and safety of his co-workers, based entirely on his BNP membership. The irony, of course, is that the BNP views the ECHR as a system which allows scroungers to drain UK taxpayers’ money and promises to abolish it in the UK, as pointed out by James Wilson in this very interesting post on his blog. The irony seems to be lost, however, on BNP leader Nick Griffin, who hailed the decision as a “HUGE VICTORY” on his Twitter account on the 6th of November. See also Martin Downs’ post on this blog, which concisely analyses the case . Well worth a read.
How to Become a Legal Commentator
Any readers want to become a legal commentator? Alex Aldridge of Legal Cheek discusses the future of legal commentary (both online and in print) and how to break into this field for those inclined to do so with Carl Gardner, who blogs on Head of Legal (among numerous other online activities).
In the courts
BEGGS v. THE UNITED KINGDOM – 25133/06 – HEJUD  ECHR 1868 Scottish criminal appeal proceedings lasting 10 years were too long and breached Article 6, rules Strasbourg.
REDFEARN v. THE UNITED KINGDOM – 47335/06 – HEJUD  ECHR 1878 Strasbourg held that dismissal of BNP bus driver breached his human rights to free association under Art 11; the UK must do more to protect employees’ political views.
Mohammed, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 3091 (Admin) Legacy Scheme case – High Court quashes as unlawful the decision to refuse the Claimant leave to remain without having full regard to the provisions in Chapter 53.
Thurrock Borough Council v West  EWCA Civ 1435 Court of Appeal sets out principles to be applied to Article 8 defences to local authority possession orders
As mentioned by Wessen in last week’s roundup, the UKHRB now has an additional feature on the right sidebar of the website. To add events to this list, email Adam Wagner. Please only send events which (i) have their own webpage which can be linked to, and (ii) are relevant to topics covered by the blog.
- Should the Human Rights Act be replaced with a New Bill of Rights? Thursday 22 Nov 2012, Professor Conor Gearty, Professor Francesca Klug, Dr Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, London School of Economics
- Event: ALBA annual lecture by Lord Dyson MR 6 November 2012
- Human Rights Conference 2012 | Law Society £174-£354, Monday 10 December 2012
- Seminar: Informed by the Past: IRA Informers and the Transition in Northern Ireland Free – Wed 21 November, 12:30-2pm, University of Ulster, Londonderry
- Human Rights and Cyberspace – HRLA Wednesday, 21 November 2012 from 18:00 to 19:30, London, £5
- Dinner to honour Sir Nicolas Bratza – HRLA Tue 13 November 2012, Lincoln’s Inn, £110/£59 under 3yrs call / free for students (limited places)
- A consideration of the family migration changes and Article 8: Where do we go from here? – HRLA 6.30pm on Thursday 8 November 2012
- In Conversation with The Hon Mr Justice Singh – LSE Date: Wednesday 7 November 2012, Time: 6.30-8pm
- VIDEO: Dignity, Death and Deprivation of Liberty – Human Rights in the Court of Protection November 9, 2012 Adam Wagner
- Iraq soldier families can bring negligence but not human rights claims – Robert Kellar November 9, 2012 1 Crown Office Row
- Upper Tribunal confirms the legitimacy of the new immigration rules – but questions their completeness November 8, 2012 Rosalind English
- UK’s relationship with the Council of Europe soon to reach a turning point – Joshua Rozenberg November 7, 2012 1 Crown Office Row
- The rights (and wrongs) of human rights (and human wrongs) November 7, 2012 Adam Wagner
- Human rights victory for BNP bus driver November 6, 2012 Martin Downs
- The Law in These Parts – this Sunday, 2:30pm November 6, 2012 Adam Wagner
by Sam Murrant