Monthly News Archives: December 2012


Avalanche! Daily Mail on new year dishonour list for dodgy prisoner human rights article

31 December 2012 by

Daily Mail 31.12.12Despite the Leveson Report, the Daily Mail’s brief flirtation with the Human Rights Act has not even lasted a month. This article by Home Affairs Correspondent Jack Doyle (Twitter: @jackwdoyle) is a weird one, even by the Mail’s standards. Here is the headline:

£500,000 a week in legal aid for prisoners’ human rights claims: YOU pay for them to seek easier life or early release

Clear, right? We are apparently spending £26m per year on prisoners’ human rights claims. And here is the first line:

Taxpayers are handing nearly £500,000 a week in legal aid to prisoners to help them make human rights claims.

That’s sounds like a lot of money to spend on prisoners’ human rights claims! But wait, there’s more…
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Extraordinary rendition gets to Strasbourg – a right to the truth

31 December 2012 by

ciaEl-Masri v. The Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia, Grand Chamber of ECtHR, 13 December 2012, read judgment

In a hard-hitting judgment, the 17 judges of the Grand Chamber found Macedonia (FYROM) responsible for the extraordinary rendition of Mr El-Masri, a German national, by the CIA to Afghanistan. We have all seen the films and read about this process – but even so the account given by the Court is breath-taking. And in so doing, most of the members of the Court made explicit reference to the importance of a right to the truth – not simply for El-Masri, the applicant, but for other victims, and members of the public generally. And the story is all the more chilling because the whole episode appears to have been caused by mistaken identity. 


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Judges on Same-Sex Marriage, and a Bit of a Recap – The Human Rights Roundup

31 December 2012 by

loud-hailer

Another judge speaks out

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 previous roundups here.

by Daniel Isenberg

A relatively quiet news-week in the world of human rights, with judges and politicians having (in some cases) a well-earned break.  Same-sex marriage managed to remain in the headlines with High Court Judge, Sir Paul Coleridge, saying it was a ‘minority issue’.  Looking back over the past few weeks there has been some recent interesting commentary on the European Court of Human Rights’ decision against Macedonia; as well as the domestic High Court’s ruling on Scientology.  Finally, a pair of articles on the historical and recent relationship between Jews and human rights.

You may also notice that the UK Human Rights Blog has a slightly refreshed design – please do send us your comments if you have any. If you are looking for some new year’s reading, why not try:


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The biggest human rights stories of 2012 – Part 2

30 December 2012 by

UKHRB 2012 year in review2012 has been a busy year on the UK human rights front, never short of controversy, hyperbole and even some interesting points of legal principle along the way.

Here are some of the biggest stories from April to June 2012. The first part of this post, January to March, is here. Feel free to comment on my choices, and add your own if you think something is missing.


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The biggest human rights stories of 2012 – Part 1

29 December 2012 by

UKHRB 2012 year in review2012 has been a busy year on the UK human rights front, never short of controversy, hyperbole and even some interesting points of legal principle along the way.

The Human Rights Act 1998, twelve years young, has been under fairly constant attack from politicians and newspapers. Meanwhile, the HRA has been operating pretty well in the courts, with judges producing a steady stream of interesting home-grown human rights judgments. The European Court of Human Rights has produced some fascinating and controversial judgments, and has also, thanks to the UK’s presidency, signed up to some significant reforms.

Here are a few highlights from January to March – hopefully I will have time to complete the rest of the year!

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Another cracking year for the UK Human Rights Blog

27 December 2012 by

Champagne ExplosionHello all, and happy holidays! 2012 has been a cracking year for the UK Human Rights Blog. As is customary, below are the top 2012 posts by hit count, but also a few of my own highlights of 2012:

  • After just over two and a half years in operation the blog is now achieving our aim (we hope) of informing and enhancing the human rights debate, which is no less controversial and caricatured than it was in March 2010.
  • The weekly Human Rights Roundups have become one of the most popular features of the blog, thanks to our fantastic updaters Daniel Isenberg, Sam Murrant and Wessen Jazrawi who moved on to other things in 2012.
  • In our third year we smashed one million hits and are already getting close to two million. We are regularly quoted across the media and for the first time this year, in the Northern Ireland Assembly. We are now getting close to 100,000 hits per month and are consistently ranked as the top legal blog on the ‘e-buzzing’ influence rankings.
  • We have over 4,000 email subscribers (just enter your email address in the box to the right to subscribe for free), over 2,000 on our Facebook fan page and 2,000+ on our @ukhumanrightsb Twitter account. You can also follow me on @adamwagner1 and my fantastic co-editors Angus McCullough QC on @amccqc and Rosalind English on @rosalindenglish.
  • Thank you to all of the fantastic contributors from 1 Crown Office Row (the barristers’ chambers which runs the blog)  as well as guest contributors from elsewhere, who have contributed to almost 1,500 individual posts. I have taken more of a back seat editorial role this year so as to get on with my day job (I am a practising barrister, honest – you can read about me here), an arrangement which has strengthened the blog.
  • Thank you also to all of those who have commented on individual posts both on the blog and on Twitter, which has been particularly vibrant in legal debates this year. Some of those debates have been fantastic and they add immeasurably to the content on the blog. As always, we welcome comments on any aspect of the blog, including the refreshed design which you may have noticed in the past few days. Thank you also to the growing army of fantastic legal bloggers (see our links section on the sidebar) who regularly link to the blog in their own post.
  • One final reminder: all of our blog posts are categorised by legal topic and article of the European Convention on Human Rights: you can access the categories by way of the drop down menu on the right sidebar (for example family law, technology, Article 8 etc) as well as by clicking categories under individual posts. Our index of European Convention Rights is here.

Without further ado, here are the top twenty posts of 2012:

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Bill of Rights, Hillsborough and Redfearn – The Human Rights Roundup

24 December 2012 by


18-hillsborough-afpgtWelcome 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.

This week the Commission on a Bill of Rights reported its findings, and commentary on the report has dominated the blogoshpere. We also have some analysis on the latest developments in the Hillsborough saga, analysis of the Redfearn (the BNP bus driver case) case and comments on prosecutions involving social media.

You may also notice that the UK Human Rights Blog has a slightly refreshed design – please do send us your comments if you have any.


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Chagossians hit the buffers in Strasbourg – but not over yet

22 December 2012 by

_64878328_005205708Chagos Islanders v. United Kingdom, ECtHR 4th Section, 11 December 2012 read admissibility decision

The set of injustices which led to these claims is well known – and see my posts here and here. For the uninitiated, in the 1960s, the US wanted Diego Garcia (one of the Chagos Islands) as a major air base. It spoke nicely to the UK, its owners, who consequently evicted and banned all the inhabitants from it and the neighbouring islands. The constitutional arrangements were apparently decorous. A new UK colony was established (the British Indian Ocean Territory or BIOT) with a Commissioner to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Territory.

The UN was told that the population consisted of migrant workers, their position had been fully protected, and they had been consulted in the process – none of this in fact happened. Those evicted mainly went to Mauritius and the Seychelles. So the peace, order and good government in fact forthcoming from the UK amounted to total depopulation for military objectives.

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What lies beneath the Commission on a Bill of Rights report – Amy Williams

20 December 2012 by

COMBARDon’t be fooled! We have been led to believe there was a two-way split on the government-appointed Bill of Rights Commission, which published its report on Tuesday, but the split was at least three-way. The Commissioners tell us that ‘it [was] not always easy to disentangle in the opinions expressed to [them] what are tactical positions rather than fundamental beliefs’. The same must surely be said of the report’s seven ‘majority’ authors.

The two dissenters who did not sign up to the majority’s conclusions – Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws QC and Philippe Sands QC – are clear: the time is not ripe for a new UK Bill of Rights. This is because (a) the devolution arrangements in the UK, in which the HRA is successfully embedded, are potentially about to undergo significant change (post-Scottish referendum) (b) the majority of respondents  to the Commission’s consultation support the HRA as the UK’s Bill of Rights which incorporates the ECHR rights (but not the European Court case law) into domestic law and (c) for some Commissioners, a Bill of Rights would be a means to decoupling the connection between the United Kingdom and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). In sum, “the case for a UK bill of rights has not been made” and the arguments against such a Bill “remain far more persuasive, at least for now.”

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Scientology does not qualify for chapel registration, rules High Court

20 December 2012 by

pg13_2R on the application of Louisa Hodkin v Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages [2012] EWHC 3635 (Admin) – read judgment

Ouseley J has dismissed a challenge by the applicant against the Registrar General’s decision not to register a chapel of the Church of Scientology as ‘a place of meeting for religious worship’ which in turn means it is not a registered building for the solemnisation of marriages.

The following report is drawn from the Court’s press summary

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New prosecution guidance on offensive speech online: sensible, but the law is still out of date

19 December 2012 by

Twitter-Logo UK human rights blogThe Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has published interim guidance on when to prosecute people for grossly offensive and obscene messages they send on social media. The guidelines are now subject to a full public consultation. Earlier this year, I took part in a series of round table discussions with the DPP over how the guidelines would look.

Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 prohibits any message sent “by means of a public electronic communications network” which is “grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character“.

The guidelines are sensible, to a point. They will make it less likely in future that people are prosecuted for saying stupid things online. Prosecutors are reminded that many offences will already be covered under other criminal laws such as those dealing with harassment, stalking or other violent threats. Cases which are not covered by those laws, that is the grossly offensive etc messages, are “subject to a high threshold and in many cases a prosecution is unlikely to be in the public interest“. The CPS then seeks to define “grossly” offensive, at least in the negative, as cases which are more than:

  • Offensive, shocking or disturbing; or
  • Satirical, iconoclastic or rude comment; or
  • The expression of unpopular or unfashionable opinion about serious or trivial matters, or banter or humour, even if distasteful to some or painful to those subjected to it.

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The Bill of Rights Commission report: a modest proposal

18 December 2012 by

COMBAR

Update, 15:15: I originally referred below to there being a majority of six versus two in favour of introducing a bill of rights. This was wrong – in fact there were seven. The Commission chair, Sir Leigh Lewis, should have been included in that number.

The Commission on a Bill of Rights has reported, just in time for its end-of-2012 deadline. The documents are here: News release ; Volume 1 ; Volume 2.

I have read the introduction, which sets out the main proposals. A few things that jumped out:

  • As predicted by most people since the beginning, there are areas of agreement but also some significant disagreements. Only seven out of the nine Commissioners believe there should be a bill of rights. Helena Kennedy and Philippe Sands disagree. Even the title is equivocal: “A UK Bill of Rights? The choice before us“.
  • This is not a unified document, but rather a running, almost Socratic, dialectic between the nine members. It is difficult to follow who agrees with which bit, even in individual paragraphs which are often qualified by “a majority believes”. Bizarrely, and going beyond even my pessimistic expectations of strife, there are eight (eight!) separate papers written by individuals and groups of individuals included in the report, including one by Lord Faulks and Jonathan Fisher on the European Court and why it is going beyond its original remit, one by Sands and Kennedy on why they don’t think there should be a bill of rights, a personal explanatory note by Lord Lester… it goes on. That is one of the reasons this is such a long document.

Commission on a Bill of Rights BINGO!

17 December 2012 by

As promised on Twitter, in readiness for tomorrow’s Commission on a Bill of Rights report (for more, see my post about grasshoppers), here is BILL OF RIGHTS COMMISSION BINGO!

You can click on the picture below or click here to download the PDF.. Diagonal lines count! And the centre square is a free square so you can cross through that too. Enjoy playing – the rules are in the PDF. Hopefully some serious coverage tomorrow as well. (Update – the Commission report is out, my initial analysis is here).

Bill of Rights Commission Bingo

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Run for the hills! Here come the noisy grasshoppers

17 December 2012 by

5629_grasshopper-121114-b-gettyThe Commission on a Bill of Rights is rumoured to be publishing its report tomorrow, just in time for its end-of-2012 deadline. It is also widely being reported, unsurprisingly, that the Commission may not produce a unified report at all. Unsurprising because the Commission was set an almost impossible task from the start.

Four Conservatives and four Liberal Democrats told to “sort out” UK human rights (the terms of reference were a little less vague, but that’s basically it), whilst also being limited to proposing a Bill of Rights that “incorporates and builds on all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights“. In other words, the could do very little at all except fiddle with our already existing, and actually quite elegant, Human Rights Act 1998. I have compared any new Bill of Rights arising from the Commission a bit like an updated Ford Fiesta; a new look and a few new features, but essentially the same car.

There will be plenty of analysis once the report is released. I wanted to concentrate here on the likely reaction. Matthew Parris got it right in Saturday’s Times (£) when he quoted Edmund Burke:

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Same-Sex Marriage, Child Protection and Extraordinary Rendition – The Human Rights Roundup

17 December 2012 by

gaycoupleWelcome 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.

Same-sex marriage continued to dominate the news this week, with the Church making its views known on the government’s proposals.  Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has been making delicate decisions about the rights of young persons to anonymity in proceedings relating to allegations of abuse.  It would not be a newsworthy week were there not some reference to prisoner voting, and this week the UK was given a pre-emptive warning by the Council of Europe on the matter.  Finally, commentators have been anticipating the imminent publication of the findings of the Commission on a Bill of Rights.

by Daniel Isenberg


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