New Judges, Secret Trials and Pulling Out of European Human Rights – The Human Rights Roundup
3 March 2013
Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular smorgasbord 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 saw three new appointments to the UK Supreme Court, which has in turn prompted discussion of equality and diversity within the senior judiciary (unsurprisingly, all three of them are white, male and “of a certain age”), as well as Conservative warnings over withdrawal from the European Court of Human Rights.
In the news
The UK Supreme Court Blog has launched its 2013 essay competition – so all those interested, sharpen your pencils and head over to the UKSC Blog website where the details of the competition can be found.
Equality in the Judiciary
This Tuesday, President of the Supreme Court Lord Neuberger announced the three appointments to the Court: Lord Justice Hughes, Lord Justice Toulson and Lord Hodge. See also here for detailed bios on the three judges, and this post by Joshua Rozenberg, that also touches on on those judges that missed out. Adam Wagner has described this as an “attack of the clones” in his post on the subject, referencing the fact that the composition of the court remains unchanged in terms of gender balance, ethnicity and age bracket. And, as Adam pointed out, we aren’t likely to find out why the new members of the Supreme Court are, in this highly reductive sense, “clones”, as the selection process is so opaque. Finally, Lady Hale (the only female Supreme Court judge) delivered the Kuttan Menon memorial speech on the subject of judicial diversity – see here for the transcript.
Secret civil trials
For an excellent, up to date post, see Everything you need to know about the secret trials coming to a courtroom near you – Angela Patrick.
As the Justice and Security Bill edges ever closer to enactment, the Joint Committee on Human Rights has published its second report into the Bill. Seemingly, whenever anyone not currently in Government looks at the Bill, they find a wealth of problems to point out, and this time is no different. Not only has the JCHR proposed numerous amendments, the special advocates (lawyers charged with arguing cases in the current secret justice system we have in the UK) have submitted a memorandum to the JCHR, in which they state that there is “no compelling justification for the proposals in Part 2 of the Bill has been made out, notwithstanding the Government’s assertions to the contrary“. The Daily Mail has also run an article highlighting this disapproval of the Bill among lawyers. See also Adam Wagner’s post on the subject.
Repeal the HRA?
Today’s Mail on Sunday reports that the Home Secretary is to announce “soon” that the Conservative Party’s 2015 election manifesto will include a pledge to withdraw from the European Court of Human Rights if the party obtains an overall majority. Meanwhile, the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling says that the Conservatives will repeal the Human Rights Act and will not rule out withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights itself.
For some good early coverage, see
- Adam Wagner (What would happen if the UK withdrew from the European Court of Human Rights?)
- Dr Dr Noelle Quenivet on The End of Individual Petition
- Richard A. Edwards on Repealing the HRA, Leaving the ECHR – An End to the Good Friday Agreement?
- Finally, David Allen Green: Human Rights Act and Bingham’s Question: which rights are we to discard?
Meanwhile, for a preview of what repealing the HRA might look like, the Human Rights Act 1998 (Repeal and Substitution) Bill was a Private Members Bill promoted by Charlie Elphicke MP and, as its name suggests, it proposes the repeal of the Human Rights Act and its replacement with a UK Bill of Rights (and Responsibilities). As Mark Elliot points out in his post (briefly) analysing this Bill, it is unlikely to go very much further but serves as a depressing reminder of the esteem in which the ECHR is held by many politicians, and should be seen as a sign that universal human rights advocates need to argue their case far more strongly. For a stirring defence of the HRA, see from 10:40 on the video of the debate.
The Tweeter’s Guide to Media Law
Contempt of court and libel law were never really prepared for such a thing as online social media – but users of social media should certainly be aware of how those laws can affect them, in the wake of prosecutions for facetious bomb threats and examples of what not to do when undertaking jury service. BBC News has published a comprehensive guide to tweeting one’s way around the legal minefields, including short summaries of past cases and any known future changes to the relevant law.
In Other News
Some interesting individual stories this week:
- A speculative piece on the practical, legal and human rights issues that would arise from attempting to ban Internet pornography (or make it “opt-in” only) by Paul Bernal on the UK Constitutional Law Group blog site;
- Russian punk band Pussy Riot is heading to Strasbourg to claim violations of ECHR rights by Russia in arresting and sentencing them after their notorious “gig” in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow – see this article for an analysis of their chances of success;
- David Mead has written an interesting post in which he explores the impact of “conceptualisation” (the way in which an idea is framed altering how it is perceived, and therefore its meaning) on human rights cases.
In the Courts
Omar & Ors, R (on the applicatiom of) v Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs  EWCA Civ 118 Court of Appeal confirms common law can’t be used to obtain evidence from Foreign Secretary for use in a foreign court.
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.
- Justice, Equality, Unity: Manor Gardens Public Lecture… Eventbrite Wednesday, 17 April 2013 from 19:00 to 21:00 (BST) – £10 (for charity)
- Arms and the merchants of death 18:00 – 20:00 5th March 2013, University of Warwick
- Human Rights Law In Practice: Policy, Politics And Potential Justice Saturday, 9 March 2013, 9:30am – 5pm
- Public Law Project Wales Conference 2013 Thursday 11th April 2013, 09:30 – 17.30. Venue: Cardiff University
- International Graduate Legal Research Conference King’s College London, April 8-9, 2013 (including 2 human rights panels and one on environmental law).
- What would happen if the UK withdrew from the European Court of Human Rights? Adam Wagner, 3 March 2013
- Everything you need to know about the secret trials coming to a courtroom near you – Angela Patrick, 3 March 2013
- Uganda bomb suspects not entitled to evidence from UK for proceedings abroad March 1, 2013 Rosalind English
- Shhh… March 1, 2013 Adam Wagner
- The small farmer and Goliath Monsanto Feb 27, 2013 Rosalind English
- Attack of the Clones: Supreme Court keeps its white male first eleven Feb 27, 2013 Adam Wagner
- Grand Chamber find Austrian same sex adoption discrimination Feb 27, 2013 Martin Downs
by Sam Murrant