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

In the News

Abu Qatada (again)

The Court of Appeal has refused the government permission to take their fight to remove Abu Qatada to the Supreme Court.

Subsequently, Theresa May has announced a mutual legal assistance treaty (PDF) with Jordan. Carl Gardner describes the move as a ‘game-changer‘ for the Home Secretary.  He explains that if Abu Qatada’s surrender to Jordan is requested under the new extradition arrangements of Article 26, then Article 27.4 will shift the burden of proof onto the Jordanian prosecution. This will be to a very high standard, and they will have to ‘prove that any statement it relies on in evidence against Abu Qatada was provided freely and not obtained by ill treatment.’

Furthermore, the Prime minister is apparently considering denouncing the ECHR on a temporary basis in order to facilitate the deportation of Abu Qatada. Richard Edwards offers some thoughts on the matter, such as how a denunciation of the ECHR will remain fully applicable for six months. After this, in order to suspend or repeal the Human Rights Act 1998, an Act of Parliament is required and ‘a political and constitutional storm would break as a result’. Channel 4 news reports  Professor Francesca Klug OBE of the LSE’s centre for the study of human rights’ comment that a temporary withdrawal would be ‘extremely unlikely’. Politically speaking, it also looks unlikely, as the Liberal Democrats have said they would not consider such a withdrawal. Channel 4 also reports a comment by our own Adam Wagner.

Telegraph continues Article 8 campaign

The Sunday Telegraph continued its longstanding campaign against the use of Article 8 family life by foreign criminals seeking to avoid deportation – ‘Rights’ that make a mockery of our courts. You can read the controversial Tribunal judgment here (PDF) if you want to make up your own mind.

Political Advertising triumph?

Comment continues over the recent Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights decision to do with political advertising. The court upheld, by a razor-thin 9-8 majority that the UK’s ban on political advertising on TV was compatible with free expression rights. In the case, Animal Defenders International v. the United Kingdom , it was argued that the ban, under the Communications Act 2003, contravened Article 10, which protects free expression. The Animal Defenders International called the result ‘a profoundly sad day for democracy’. Our analysis of the ruling is here.

For a number of commentators, the decision has been very welcome. Jacob Rowbottom discusses his relief and notes Strasbourg’s argument that if the ban were to be overturned, advertising would begin to resemble the US in which ‘‘powerful financial groups’ can ‘obtain competitive advantages in the area of paid advertising and thereby curtail a free and pluralist debate’. He praises the decision for preventing communication from being skewed in favour of those with the deepest pockets. Over at the Guardian, Joshua Rozenberg also praises the move, having no wish to have UK political parties forced to raise ever larger funding ‘by increasingly dubious means’. Kate Ghose, Chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society states, ‘This ruling should be welcome news to all democrats. Lifting the ban would have irrevocably changed the political landscape in Britain, and not for the better.’

Jeff King looks at the effect the case has on three matters to do with British constitutionalism: the role of judicial restraint; the merit of rigorous human rights-based parliamentary scrutiny of legislative proposals; and the value of UK-Strasbourg dialogue.

Legal Aid Woes

This week, the Northern Circuit of the Bar – comprising over 1,000 barristers and almost 100 QCs – went on strike over the Lord Chancellor’s overhaul of the criminal justice system. With legal aid to be slashed and the proposed introduction of a ‘best value tendering’ system, many people see the changes as ‘the end of the legal system as we know it’.

Jake Simons notes that Chris Grayling is the first non-lawyer to hold the position of Lord Chancellor since 1673 and many see this as the root of the problem. He records one barrister’s statement that, ‘He’s basically introducing a massively standardised, target-driven culture…the effect will be that barristers will have no motivation to take pride in their work, and there will quickly arise a culture of box-ticking.’

Over at the Free Movement blog, it is emphasised how much these changes will affect the weakest and most vulnerable groups in society and their access to justice. This time, however, lawyers will suffer as well, and such a move will make it harder for unlawful government decisions to be challenged. At the New Statesman, David Allen Green examines the government’s contradictory approach to the legal profession, and notes that many firms will probably have to close due to the cuts. He explains that the abandonment of localism and removal of choice cannot be justified when the proposals to replace the current system are so flawed.

Meanwhile, also at the New Statesman, Russell Fraser paints a dystopian future in which ‘suspects are apprehended in G4S investigators, transported by G4S security, detained by G4S officers and imprisoned by G4S jails  – at each stage represented by G4S lawyers.’

Judicial Review Reform

 In December 2012, a consultation paper titled, ‘Judicial Review: proposals for Reform’ was published. This month, the Government published the response to the consultation, with a number of measures to be introduced. This includes a reduction in the time limits for bringing a claim from three months to six weeks for planning cases and 30 days for procurement cases. For further discussion on the changes on this blog, see Paul Bowen QC’s post and Mark Elliot’s.

In response to such changes, the Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Sadiq Khan, writes in defence of judicial review, stating that it allows ordinary people to use ‘their power as individual citizens to make sure public authorities abide by the law when taking decisions that impact on their lives.’ He notes that these changes, along with the threat to abolish the Human Rights Act and leave the ECHR, give citizens ‘even fewer tools to hold unaccountable power to account.’

The Defamation Act

On April 25th, nearly three years after the introduction of Lord Lester’s Defamation Bill, the Defamation Act 2013 received Royal Assent. Inforrm’s blog discusses the Act, explaining that it does not produce any radical revisions to English libel law. For example, there are no “real remedies” in the form of ‘declarations of falsity or orders for the publication of corrections.’

Case Comments

Mark Elliot, over at ‘Public Law for Everyone’, discusses the recently decided case, Salvesen v Riddell [2013] UKSC 22, and the questions that arise from it. In the case, the UK Supreme Court ruled part of an Act of the Scottish Parliament to be unlawful on the grounds that it conflicted with the ECHR – David Hart QC’s analysis is here.

In other news

  •  Scotland Yard has opened up investigations into three further allegations that British intelligence officers were involved in the mistreatment of al-Qaida suspects after 9/11. The allegations are about events that occurred in 2002 in a US run detention centre north of Kabul, where it is said that prisoners were interrogated and tortured.
  • Judith Townend discusses the government’s updated amendments in the Crime and Courts Bill. The change emphasises that small blogs will not be classed as ‘relevant publishers’ who should sign up to the new regulator. – notes, however, that two definitions might prove problematic in the future: ‘news –related’ and ‘blog’.
  • The Supreme Court has released a video detailing what goes on in its court.

In the Courts

Upcoming Events

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.

UKHRB posts –


  1. RF says:

    Which paragraphs of the judgement do you specifically believe to be farcical or bewildering? To my mind, the judge – who, unlike us, had the benefit of hearing from the parties in person, so he could assess their truthfulness – has explained himself very clearly. In contrast, your comment simply asserts that you don’t believe the evidence. Your “hey presto” comment entirely misrepresents the presence of a relationship as a trump card, when it is made very clear that it is one of a number of competing factors that have to be balanced.

    Regarding legal aid, you might want to look up the graduated fees paid to advocates in the Upper Tribunal. You could save up all of your fees over your career, but you’d still be hard pushed to afford that villa once you’d retired. The government has made a big fuss over legal aid fees, and it doesn’t take a moment to look up the actual fee tables and discover that it’s not true.

    No doubt I suppose you will never need legal aid. (Look, I can combine “no doubt” and “I suppose” as if they weren’t actually opposites!) It’s only scumbags and murderers who need legal help, and you don’t care about them. You won’t get divorced and find yourself falsely accused of domestic violence as part of the custody battle. You won’t make a mistake with your car paperwork one year and get done for having no insurance. You won’t be forced to choose between your partner and the life you’ve made for yourself. And you certainly won’t put aside your “I’m alright Jack” attitude to think about anyone who does.

  2. Mactheknife says:

    If you want to understand why the majority of the British public want rid of the human rights legislation then you need look no further than the case of this drug dealer. Once again we see farcical arguments and bewildering logic from our once renowned judiciary. The man entered this country illegally, broke the law with a serious offence, had children with multiple women but suddenly ‘finds love’ and hey presto he can stay.

    As far as the reforms on legal aid are concerned that it about the only good thing on this roundup. It seems the government want to stop the legal aid gravy train which can only be a good thing.

    I suppose our drug dealer got legal aid for his case no doubt and several HR lawyers bought a villa in Tuscany with the proceeds.

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