The End of DOMA, Squeezing Justice and Breaching the Editors’ Code – The Human Rights Roundup

Human rights roundup - gay flagWelcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular  LS Lowry matchstick  panorama of human rights news and views. The full list of links can be found here. You can also find our table of human rights cases here and previous roundups here. Links compiled by Adam Wagner, post by Daniel Isenberg.

With the continuing progress of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill through Parliament, focus was turned this week to the same issue in the USA.  Meanwhile, it was extra-judicial scrutiny being meted upon Chris Grayling’s money-making proposals, and the Sun was censured by the PCC over an EU-ECtHR mix-up.

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Pride in London, Fierté in Paris & joy in San Francisco: taking stock of law for LGBT

gaykemptownPride is celebrated this weekend in London, New York and – most especially – San Francisco where, even as I write, same sex couples are being married after the ruling of the US Supreme Court on Proposition 8. Appropriately, Kris Perry, one of the litigants before the Court was the first to be wed. Matthew Flinn has already posted on this and the Court decision on the Defence of Marriage Act.

It is irresistible to take stock at moments such as these.

France is celebrating its first same sex marriages, Uruguay and New Zealand are close on its tail and the Bill to effect the same in England and Wales should confront its final hurdle on 15 July.

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US Supreme Court opens door to marriage equality, UK coming next

Kris Perry kisses Sandy StierHollingsworth v Perry – No. 12–144 – Read judgment

United States v Windsor – No. 12–307 – Read judgment

In rulings that have the potential to influence the jurisprudence of courts around the world, the Supreme Court of the United States has handed down two landmark decisions pertaining to the issue of same-sex marriage.

The right of gay and lesbian couples to wed remains one of the most controversial and debated civil rights issues of our time. However, the ground has been shifting with increasing rapidity in recent years and months. The direction of change is clear. There are now fifteen countries which permit or will permit same-sex marriages, including most recently Uruguay, New Zealand and France. With bills steadily progressing through the Parliamentary process, there is a strong possibility that England, Wales and Scotland may soon be added to the list.

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Civil courts not open to attempts to re-run criminal trials

PAjusticeSalahuddin Amin v Director General of MI5, Chief of MI6, the FCO, the Home Office and the Attorney General- [2013] EWHC 1579 (QB) – read judgment

Do not be misled by the impressive cast list of defendants in this case. It means simply that the claimant was attempting to attack the integrity of his criminal conviction via the civil courts.

He framed his case against the defendants principally in vicarious liability for the alleged torts of individual SS or SIS officers committed in the performance of their duties, when he was arrested and detained in Pakistan and the UK. In a short judgment, Irwin J set out his reasons for allowing the Particulars of Claim to be struck out as an abuse of the process of court.

The somewhat complicated procedural history of this case can be briefly summarised. In 2008 the claimant was convicted of conspiracy to cause explosions likely to endanger life. His appeal failed. In 2009 he commenced these proceedings, claiming that the mistreatment he received at the hands of the Pakistani authorities and whilst in detention in the UK had rendered the evidence so unreliable that it should not have been admitted at the original trial. Continue reading

A historic leap forward for equal pay claimants?

Money purse - WalletDumfries and Galloway -v- North [2013] UKSC 45 – Read judgment

Yesterday’s much heralded equal pay ‘victory’ in the Supreme Court (see BBC Report) undoubtedly will be good news for the specific female claimants in the case who seek to vindicate their European Union rights to equal pay.

The female claimants do so by comparing their pay with male colleagues working in entirely distinct parts of the same local authority (being Dumfries and Galloway Council) but arguably on common terms and conditions of employment (often referred to as the ‘same employment’ test).

However, in legal terms, arguably the unanimous Judgment delivered by Lady Hale in the Supreme Court is not quite so revolutionary. Many practitioners, outside Scotland at least, had anticipated its outcome.

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Will Article 6 come to the rescue after the legal aid reforms? – Guy Mansfield QC

Henry Cavill in Man of Steel, Zack Snyder's Superman movieTan & Anor v Law & Anor (2013) – Currently available on Lawtel 25/6/2013 and Westlaw, BAILII link to follow

The absence of legal representation for defendants to an action for debt who contended they could not speak English resulted in the High Court granting an application that the trial be adjourned for a second time.  The judgment is a good example of the interaction of Article 6 ECHR (right to a fair trial) with the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR). 

The decision by Judge Burrell QC obviously turns on its own facts. But the absence of legal aid, the rise in litigants in person, and the increasing number of persons in this country for whom English is not their first language (or indeed their language at all) mean that this is not likely to be the last such case.

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The good Samaritan doctor and the Human Tissue Act

Woman Resuscitating a Young BoyCM v The Executor of the Estate of EJ (deceased) [2013] EWHC 1680 (Fam) – read judgment

You would have thought the law would be entirely behind a person who intervenes to help a stranger in distress. Indeed most civil law countries impose a positive duty to rescue, which means that if a person finds someone in need of medical help, he or she must take all reasonable steps to seek medical care and render best-effort first aid. A famous example of this was the investigation into the photographers at the scene of Lady Diana’s fatal car accident: they were suspected of violation of the French law of “non-assistance à personne en danger” (deliberately failing to provide assistance to a person in danger), which can be punished by up to 5 years imprisonment and a fine of up to 70,000 euros. But the position in common law countries like the UK and the United States is completely different: you can watch a child drown and not be held to account.

Of course no good citizen would do such a thing and in this case the claimant, a medical doctor, went out of her way to try to save the life of someone in extremis. She was driving home, off duty, in South East London, when she saw a body lying motionless on the pavement. Continue reading