Monthly News Archives: April 2013


Government U-turn on EHRC’s General Duty – Neil Crowther

29 April 2013 by

EHRC-logoThe Government abandoned its plans to repeal the ‘general duty’ of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) under the Equality Act 2006 (the Act) last week, but insisted upon amendments to the EHRC’s duty to monitor progress on equality and human rights.

The general duty in section 3 of the Act sets out why the EHRC exists and the aims towards which it should be working, namely that it:

shall exercise its functions…with a view to encouraging and supporting the development of a society in which

(a) people’s ability to achieve their potential is not limited by prejudice or discrimination,

(b) there is respect for and protection of each individual’s human rights,

(c) there is respect for the dignity and worth of each individual,

(d) each individual has an equal opportunity to participate in society, and

(e) there is mutual respect between groups based on understanding and valuing of diversity and on shared respect for equality and human rights.

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Denouncing Human Rights, Legal Aid Woes and Animal Rights Advertising – The Human Rights Round

29 April 2013 by

Christian rights case rulingWelcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular potpourri 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, in order to deport Abu Qatada, there have been mumblings of a temporary departure from the ECHR. Furthermore, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s legal services reforms lead to a strike in the North, and the recent ECHR decision to allow the UK’s ban on political advertising continues to generate discourse.

by Sarina Kidd


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Chagossians: Wikileaks cables not admissible in court

28 April 2013 by

9780199275670Bancoult v. Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Divisional Court, Richards LJ and Mitting J, 16-24 April 2013, judgment awaited, but see 25 July 2012, Stanley Burnton LJ for an earlier judgment   UPDATED

A quick update at the end of the recent judicial review on 24 April by Mr Bancoult on behalf of the Chagossian islanders, but before judgment. The challenge was to the designation of the waters around their islands as a “no take” Marine Protected Area, i.e. one which could not be fished.

I have posted on this saga before, which started with the Chagossians’ eviction from their islands in the Indian Ocean in the late 1960s and early 1970s, here, here, and, in Strasbourg, here. After a judgment from the courts in 2000, the FCO accepted that the original law underlying their departure was unlawful, and agreed to investigate their possible resettlement on some of their islands.

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Genetic testing of children up for adoption

27 April 2013 by

12280487228O6zG0Y and Z (Children), 25 April 2013 [2013] EWHC 953 (Fam) – read judgment

Having children is a lottery. No judge or court in the land would sanction the regulation of childbearing, however feckless  the parents, unsuitable the conditions for childrearing, or unpromising the genetic inheritance.

Adoption on the other hand is stringently regulated, set about with obstacles for prospective parents, and strictly scrutinised by an army of authorities backed up by specialist family courts and a battery of laws, statutory instruments and guidance papers. Usually the filtering is in one direction only: the suitability of the parents to the child or children up for adoption. But sometimes it goes the other way, and this case raises the fascinating and somewhat futuristic question of whether children’s chance of finding a suitable home might be increased by genetic testing.

The circumstances were somewhat exceptional here, since the local authority had ascertained from the biological father  of the two young boys in question that they might have a chance of inheriting a rare genetic disorder of the central nervous system. Huntington’s Chorea is caused by a single gene mutation on chromosome IV and causes damage of the nerve cells and areas of the brain which in due course leads to severe physical, mental and emotional deterioration. Anyone whose parent has the disease is born with a fifty per cent chance of inheriting the gene. Anyone who inherits the gene will, at some stage, develop the disease. 
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Denounce the ECHR to deport Abu Qatada… You cannot be serious! – Richard A. Edwards

26 April 2013 by

mcenroeThe Guardian reports that Prime Minister Cameron is considering denouncing the ECHR on a temporary basis in order to facilitate the deportation of Abu Qatada. As tennis legend John McEnroe might have put it ‘you cannot be serious!’ In order to remove one man from the jurisdiction the government is contemplating removing the protection of human rights for all. One suspects that this announcement by Downing Street was little more than ‘dog-whistle’ politics with the local elections looming next week. But what if the government is really serious? Two quick thoughts come to mind.

Firstly, the UK is on the face of it able to denounce the ECHR under the terms of Article 58, though see below. But even after a denunciation the ECHR will remain fully applicable for six months. Presumably the government would wait for the six months to expire. It would then seek within domestic law to remove Qatada. As this would also require the suspension or repeal of the Human Rights Act 1998 this would require an Act of Parliament. No doubt a political and constitutional storm would break as a result. This would of course not be the end of the matter because the decision would be judicially reviewable, no doubt under an enhanced form of anxious scrutiny. How further forth would the government be then?

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Judicial Review reform: What does “totally without merit” mean? – Paul Bowen QC

25 April 2013 by

Chris Grayling, justiceWhat is the test the Court should apply in deciding whether an application is ‘totally without merit’?  The question is prompted by the Lord Chancellor’s announcement on 23 April 2013 that he will press ahead with plans to reform judicial review procedure to target ‘weak, frivolous and unmeritorious cases’.  A key change will be to give judges of the Administrative Court, when refusing permission to apply for judicial review on the papers, the power to certify a claim as ‘totally without merit’ (TWM), thus depriving the claimant of the right to renew the application before the court at an oral hearing.

This power is one that is already exercisable by judges when refusing applications for permission to appeal on the papers under Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) r. 52.3(4A), the effect of which is to prevent the appellant from renewing the application orally. However, it is better known – or, at least, more widely used – in the context of the courts’ jurisdiction to make ‘civil restraint orders’ under CPR 3.11. Indeed, the Administrative Court has had power to certify an application as TWM for the purposes of making a ‘civil restraint order’ since those rules were introduced in 2004 (see R (Kumar) v Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs [2007] 1 WLR 536). Although no statistics are currently available for this use of the power to certify a claim as TWM, according to Lynne Knapman, Head of the Administrative Court Office, these are now being collated for applications made since the beginning of 2013.

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What is the UK Supreme Court? Head to YouTube to find out (with cheesy muzak)

25 April 2013 by

The Supreme Court has produced a rather excellent short YouTube video about what it does. Look out for interviews with Justices, a funky 3D representation of the UK court system, a bit of court action and of course, cheesy muzak. 

Regular readers will know I am a big fan of the Supreme Court’s efforts to be accessible to the public, which stand in stark contrast to the almost non-existent efforts of the rest of the UK justice system. You can find an article about the video by the court’s Chief Executive here and one reviewing the court’s innovations here.

Enjoy!


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The felling of a tree might breach occupier’s right to respect for a home

25 April 2013 by

italocalvinoLane v Kensington & Chelsea Royal London Borough Council (19 April 2013) – extempore judgement by Sir Raymond Jack QBD 

In Italo Calvino’s charming short story “The Baron in the Trees” the twelve year old son of an aristocratic family escapes the stultifications of home decorum by climbing up a tree, never to come down again. He literally makes his home in the treetops of his vast family estate.

So perhaps we shouldn’t quarrel with the inclusion of a tree as part of the concept of home life for the purposes of Article 8. The further twist is that the felling of this particular tree took place on a property where the appellant lived without a tenancy. Nevertheless, this event still amounted to a potential interference with his right to a home under Article 8.
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Supreme Court find A1P1 breach in retrospective legislation

24 April 2013 by

19053359-2Salvesen v. Riddell [2013] UKSC 22, 24 April 2013, read judgment 

When can an agricultural landlord turf out his tenant farmer? The answer to this question has ebbed and flowed since the Second World War, but one element of the latest attempt by the Scottish Parliament to redress the balance in favour of tenants has just been declared incompatible with Article 1 of the 1st Protocol (A1P1) as offending landlords’ rights to property. The Supreme Court has so ruled, upholding the Second Division of the Court of Session’s ruling in March 2012

The reasoning is not just of interest to agricultural lawyers either side of the border. But a brief  summary of the laws is necessary in order to identify the invidiousness of the new law as identified by the Court – and hence its applicability to other circumstances.

As will be seen from my postscript, the decision of the court below to the same effect appears to have had tragic consequences.

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How can the courts manage the Facebook phenomenon?

24 April 2013 by

Facebook-from-the-GuardianHL (A Minor) v Facebook Incorporated, The Northern Health and Social Care Trust, The Department of Justice for Northern Ireland and others  [2013] NIQB 25 (1 March 2013) – read judgment

In this somewhat chaotic action, the Plaintiff sued ten defendants, in anonymised form by her father and next friend.

The Writ stated that the Plaintiff, aged 12,  had been engaged in posting and uploading sexually suggestive and inappropriate photographic images of herself onto Facebook, and that she had been doing so vis-à-vis several different accounts with differing profile names. She had been involved with the social services from the age of 11. From July 2012 to January 2013 she was the subject of a Secure Accommodation Order. She currently resides in a specialised unit, is a grade below secure accommodation.

This was clearly a bid by the father to bring his wayward daughter under control by restricting her access to the internet.

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Government pressing ahead with (most of) its proposals to restrict access to judicial review – Mark Elliott

23 April 2013 by

war on JRThe Ministry of Justice has released its response to the comments generated by the consultation paper on judicial review that was published in December. Unsurprisingly, the Government has signalled that it intends to press ahead with most of the proposals upon which it consulted. In particular, it plans to implement the following proposals:

  • Time limits  The time limit for judicial review (which at three months is already very short) will be reduced to six weeks in planning cases and thirty days in procurement cases. The Government recognizes that these timescales are so short that compliance with the Pre-Action Protocol will be impossible, so it will invite the judiciary to disapply the Protocol in such cases. Given that one of the objectives of the Pre-Action Protocol is to encourage pre-litigious resolution of disputes, it is not clear how this will promote the Government’s objective of reducing recourse to litigation.

Strasbourg ties itself in knots over advertising ban

23 April 2013 by

primate adAnimal Defenders International v  United Kingdom, April 22 2013 – read judgment

In what was a profoundly sad day for democracy, on 22 April 2013 the European Court of Human Rights found in favour of the UK government in a landmark test case concerning a TV advertisement produced by ADI in 2005, and subsequently banned under the Communications Act 2003.

This announcement by Animal Defenders International (ADI) describes the fate of a film from which the picture above is taken. The verdict was carried through by a majority of one – eight out of seventeen judges dissented. And the reference to “democracy” in ADI’s response to the judgment is not overblown. The general trend of the majority appears to suggest that it is legitimate, in a democracy, for a government to impose a blanket restriction on the exercise of freedom in the name of broadcasting freedom. Such an aim is not one of those listed in Article 10(2). As some of the dissenting judges pointed out,

The ban itself creates the condition it is supposedly trying to avert – out of fear that small organisations could not win a broadcast competition of ideas, it prevents them from competing at all.

….A robust democracy is not helped by well-intentioned paternalism.
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The spanner of “human dignity” in the wheels of modern medicine

22 April 2013 by

parthenote-stemcellInternational Stem Cell Corporation v Comptroller General of Patents 17 April 2013  [2013] EWHC 807 (Ch) – read judgment

The EU bans the patenting of human embryos for commercial purposes. This ban is implemented in national law via the 1977 Patents Act. But what precisely is a “human embryo” for the purposes of the Biotech Directive? Or, put another way, must the process involving embryonic stem cells be capable of developing into a human being, before the ban can bite?

Stem cells – not just the embryonic variety – are vital to current medical research. This is because they have the capacity to differentiate into almost any type of adult cell, thus opening the door to a wide variety of new therapies and other medical applications. In theory, stem cells can be grown in the lab and developed into healthy adult cells to correct cardiovascular disorders , diabetes and a range of degenerative brain diseases and spinal cord injuries. One of the first triumphs of stem cell therapy is the ability of retinal pigment epithelium cells, cultured from embryonic stem cells (ESCs), to reverse the effects of age related macular degeneration. Other potential applications include the treatment of burns, strokes, eye disease, spinal cord injuries and certain forms of cancer.

But the concept of ESCs  is fraught with emotion and controversy and scientists have worked, with varying degrees of success, at finding stem cells elsewhere, either in adult tissue, or by creating stem cells from non-viable embryos.
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Political Advertising TV Ban (Just) Upheld, Bad Law and International Human Rights – The Human Rights Roundup

22 April 2013 by

new_4960802_retro-tv-icon-1 copyWelcome 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.

Strasbourg popping up in various places in the human rights news this week: a couple of important decisions, as well as some broader reporting on the UK’s human rights performance this year.  Meanwhile, the battle between the Home Secretary and the immigration judges continues; and the US Supreme Courts turn away a foreign human rights claim.

by Daniel Isenberg


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Jihadist suspect cannot be extradited to United States because of his mental illness

21 April 2013 by

prisonAswat v United Kingdom, 16 April 2013 – read judgment

The Strasbourg Court has ruled that a terrorist suspect detained in the United Kingdom’s Broadmoor hospital should not be extradited to the United States because of the risk that his mental condition would deteriorate there.

The applicant was indicted in the US in respect of a conspiracy to establish a jihad training camp in Oregon.  He was arrested in the UK in 2005 and in 2006 the Secretary of State ordered his extradition. He unsuccessfully appealed the High Court and the Court of Appeal on the grounds that his extradition would not be compatible with Article 3 of the Convention because he could be detained in a “supermax” prison. In November 2011 a mental health tribunal determined that he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.
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