Right to Die, Grayling v Legal Aid and Abu Qatada Finally Off (?) – The Human Rights Roundup

13 May 2013 by

Christian rights case rulingWelcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular chocolate selection gift box 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 Government announced plans to curb Article 8 of the ECHR, Grayling continues to cause controversy with his reforms of both the Criminal Justice System and of judicial review, and Qatada may soon be leaving us for pastures new.

by Sarina Kidd

In the News

A Right to Family and Private Life

It was announced this week in the Queen’s speech that Article 8 ECHR, (the right to private and family life), would be limited in the Immigration Bill. The Bill will ‘contain provisions to give the full force of legislation to the policy we have already adopted in the Immigration Rules.’

Mark Elliot, over at Public Law, states how at face value the new Act would ‘load the dice’ (as Adam Wagner has also said) to prioritise deportation over an individual’s right to private and family life. The effect would be that the new Act will ‘legalise, as a matter of UK law, ECHR incompatible deportations’. Therefore, the only recourse available for national courts would be to issue a declaration of incompatibility. This, however, would not invalidate the Act and Elliot wonders whether such a move would lead to an intentional confrontation with Strasbourg.

Adam Wagner has also written about the move over at the New Statesman.

Right to die

As the BBC reports, the Court of Appeal is this week (starting today) hearing appeals by two severely disabled men who are trying to change laws governing the right to die. Our coverage of the decision being appealed is here. You can read more about Paul Lamb, who has taken over Tony Nicklinson’s case (effectively) since he sadly passed away, here. He is pictured above.

Right to life

Meanwhile, Obiter J examines the case law behind the right to life (ECHR Article 2). Examining the effect of key cases such as Mcann and Others v UK (1996), Osman v UK (2000) etc, he then addresses the issue of all the anti Human rights rhetoric in the media with a quotation from Lady Hale in defence of a right to life.

Anti-Human Rights

Indeed, this week there have been a number of articles challenging the current law on human rights, some  more scaremongering than others.

The Daily Mail states that human rights can put children at risk. Focusing on how sex offenders are now allowed to appeal against staying on the register for life, the article asserts that such a decision puts the rights of criminals above those of potential victims and calls for a reform of the law.

The Mirror reports how ‘two foreign thugs jailed for rioting have been allowed to stay in the UK because of their “right to family life” ‘.  Conservative MP Dominic Raab says: ‘These cases warp the moral balance of British justice, endanger the public and make human rights sound like dirty words to many.’

Over at the Guardian, the father of Amy Houston discusses how his daughter’s case has been used as ‘an example of all that is wrong with the Human Rights Act.’ In 2003, Amy was knocked down and killed by an Iraqi Kurd and the resulting aftermath was dealt with, in what some see, as Home Office administrative incompetence. Whilst Mr Houston is in support of the Human Rights Act, he asks that ‘the Home Office apply its own policies correctly – not use human rights to mask its own failings.’

Grayling v Legal Aid

Sadiq Khan MP, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, continues the vociferous discussion on the reforms that are to be made to the Criminal Justice System. He explains that such reforms will force people to accept the representation they are given, regardless of quality, and that ‘ignoring the quality of representation is a mistake as it may lead to increased pressure to plead guilty – regardless of whether the individual committed the crime – creating a system of state sponsored miscarriages of justice.’

Relatedly, Richard Edwards asks whether restricting choice of lawyers for defendants in criminal cases may breach Article 6 ECHR, the right to a fair trial.

If you are interested in these issues, please take not of this event, which is free but pre-registration is possible here: Legal Aid Changes | The Government’s Proposals on Legal Aid: The Client, the Lawyer and the Rule of Law – Town Hall Meeting, London School of Economics Monday 20 May 2013, Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, 6.30 – 8.30 pm, Chair: Professor Conor Gearty LSE

Grayling v Judicial Review

Joshua Rozenberg, writing for the Law Gazette, expresses concern over Chris Grayling’s announcement of reforms to judicial review that will ‘target the weak, frivolous and unmeritorious cases which congest the courts and cause delay’. He notes that the courts are already taking steps to deal more efficiently with applications for judicial review but that the Justice Secretary’s plans will still go ahead. Whilst there will be no change in the substantive law, we will be left with ‘unnecessarily tight initial time limits for a handful of planning cases with unintended consequences that the judges will have to sort out’ and ‘no oral hearings in hopeless cases and financial disincentives in weak cases.’

The Political Neutrality of Prince Charles

The Court heard this week that the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, got the law wrong when he overruled judges who ordered the government to publish letters Prince Charles wrote to ministers. In his defence, Mr Grieve has stated that if such letters were published it would affect the Prince’s political neutrality and his preparation for kingship. Judgment has not yet been passed.

Abu Qatada

It seems that Abu Qatada, a regular on this blog, would return to Jordan voluntarily if the country ratified a treaty drawn up with the UK Government. Theresa May has stated that the treaty (which deals with the use of evidence obtained by torture) would allow Qatada to face a fair trial in Jordan. Robin Tam QC, representing the home secretary, stated that ‘the treaty would be laid before the Jordanian parliament within the next few weeks, and the UK side of the process should be finished by late June.’

Jack of Kent has compiled a resources page on the whole Abu Qatada saga, which includes key legislation and a timeline.

Adam Wagner was interviewed on the BBC News on Friday – you can watch the interview below.

 In other news…

  • The Constitution Society has released a paper entitled, ‘ Parliamentary Privilege: Evolution or codification’ which can be read here.
  • The Home Secretary announced this week a judge led panel to consider the murder of Daniel Morgan who died in 1987. His family have campaigned for 25 years for there to be an appropriate independent inquiry.
  •  Liz Fisher examines the new www.gov.uk website, criticising its lack of transparency, and discusses how a website will need to evolve with a change in government.
  •  The House of Commons library has published UK cases at the European Court of human rights since 1975.
  •  The Guardian delves into the archives and has re-published a 1978 article reporting on the Liberals plans to adopt the European Convention on Human rights as Britain’s own Bill of Rights.

Case Comments

Ramsay Hall looks at the case of White and Mackay Ltd v Blyth & Blyth Consulting Engineers Ltd. Hall discusses how the case ‘sets a precedent for A1P1 challenges to adjudicator awards, particularly in cases where the losses claimed are not immediate. ‘

In the Courts

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