Monthly News Archives: September 2013


Five posts on why we shouldn’t leave the European Convention on Human Rights

29 September 2013 by Adam Wagner

Screen Shot 2013-09-29 at 22.20.54The Conservative Party Conference began today. As has been the case in past years, human rights policy will have a prominent role to play, but much of which is said will be bluster. The Prime Minister has already said that all options are on the table, including withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Expect more tomorrow when Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling and Home Secretary Theresa May step up to the podium from 2:30pm to 4pm.

Judging from the Prime Minister’s comments as well as Chris Grayling’s in the Spectator, it appears likely that this party conference will be similar to previous ones. Government ministers will promise that a majority Conservative government will replace “Labour’s” Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights – a longstanding Tory policy which also featured in the party’s 2010 manifesto (at p.79). The promise was scuppered after the 2010 election due to demands from coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats. And, the Tories will continue to make vague threats that “people want to see the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom being in the United Kingdom and not in Strasbourg” (Grayling, a self-described “staunch Eurosceptic”) and that ECHR withdrawal “may be… where we end up” (Cameron).

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Tory ECHR Withdrawal, Prisoner Cold Turkey & Niqabs Again – The Human Rights Roundup

29 September 2013 by Sarina Kidd

smoking roundupWelcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular airport departure board of human rights news and views. The full list of links can be found here. You can  find previous roundups herePost by Sarina Kidd, edited and links compiled by Adam Wagner.

This week the Conservative Party Conference  is likely to generate human rights headlines. Meanwhile,  previous controversies still bubble away. Chris Grayling, taking a break from legal aid cuts, offered his opinion on the Europe debate. Meanwhile, others considered the role of transparency, demeanour, religious freedom and niqabs in the courts, and, with the proposed smoking ban in prisons, smokers may have found another reason not to break the law.


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Aarhus, the A-G, and why the rules on interim remedies need to change

27 September 2013 by David Hart QC

SheernessCommission v. UK, Opinion of Advocate-General Kokott, 12 September 2013 read opinion here 

I did an initial post here summarising this opinion from the A-G to the CJEU saying that the UK was in breach of two EU Directives about environmental assessment and pollution control – the breaches concerned our system for litigation costs. It struck me that there was a lot in the opinion, and after some re-reads, I continue to think so. So I will deal in this post with one aspect, namely the finding that the UK is in breach, in requiring an undertaking as to damages by the claimant to back up the claimant’s interim injunction – in the jargon, a cross-undertaking. 

We are back on the well-trodden path of the UN-ECE Aarhus Convention to which the EU has subscribed. Article 9(4) requires that there be review procedures in environmental cases which shall provide “adequate and effective remedies including injunctive relief as appropriate, and be fair, timely and not prohibitively expensive.” And a requirement for a cross-undertaking, the A-G concluded, infringed that provision.

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General Medical Council too late with child sex abuse complaint, rules High Court – Robert Kellar

26 September 2013 by Guest Contributor

785px-Doctors_stethoscope_1Robert Kellar appeared for D in these proceedings

D, R (on the application of) v The General Medical Council [2013] EWHC 2839 (Admin) – Read judgment

 

The High Court has strongly affirmed the prohibition against the pursuit of long delayed complaints against doctors in regulatory proceedings. The prohibition arose from the General Medical Council’s own procedural rules. It applied even where the allegations were of the most serious kind, including sexual misconduct, and could only be waived in exceptional circumstances and where the public interest demanded. The burden was upon the GMC to establish a sufficiently compelling public interest where allegations had already been thoroughly investigated by the competent authorities such as the police and social services.

Although the Court’s robust approach is to be welcomed, an opportunity to clarify the relevance of Article 6 ECHR in this context was not taken. The author suggests that Article 6 ECHR has an important part to play in protecting the rights of practitioners facing long delayed complaints.


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Denial of contact with father too “draconian” – Court of Appeal

26 September 2013 by Rosalind English

Father-and-child-holding--006M (Children) [2013] EWCA Civ 1147,  20 September 2013 – read judgement

The Court of Appeal has taken the unusual step of reversing a denial of contact order, by reviewing the question of the proportionality of the order in relation to the children’s right to family life under  Article 8.

The appellant father appealed against the refusal of his application for contact with his three young sons. He had a history of violence and previous criminal convictions all but one of which, though distant in time, related to violent behaviour, including causing grievous bodily harm with intent. Following repeated episodes of abuse, which was often witnessed by the boys, the mother had left the family home with the children and had taken up accommodation in a women’s refuge.  She voiced fears of their abduction out of the jurisdiction and her own personal safety to the extent of “honour based” violence and death at the hands or instigation of the father.  When he applied for contact Cushing J found that the father had minimised his behaviour and blamed the mother as the victim of his violence. She concluded that he had failed to show any lasting benefit from therapy and his behaviour was likely to destabilise the children’s home and security, which was provided by the mother.
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Australian judge lays down gauntlet for the angels of human rights

25 September 2013 by Rosalind English

PrintJ.D. Heydon: Are Bills of Rights necessary in common law systems?   – read lecture

Former Australian High Court Justice Heydon’s thought-provoking speech questioning the efficacy and indeed the very merits of the Human Rights Act deserves reading in full, but the following summary highlights its main features and should encourage readers to immerse themselves in the lecture.

Proponents of human rights instruments urge their necessity on society because they gesture toward a morality more capacious than the morality of our tribe, or association, or nationality. The forum of human rights is one in which our allegiances are not to persons or to wished-for outcomes but to abstract norms that are indifferent to those outcomes. That is why the Human Rights Act has around it what Heydon calls an “aura of virtue” that would make its repeal extremely difficult from a political point of view, even though it is legally and practically possible.
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Judge quashes “exclusive” golf course decision- and why we need judicial review

24 September 2013 by David Hart QC

22-ep-cherkley-court-2-W1200Cherkley Campaign Ltd, (R o.t.a ) v. Longshot Cherkley Court Ltd, Haddon-Cave J, 22 August 2013 read judgment

This is a successful judicial review of the grant of planning permission to a proposed new golf club in leafy Surrey – where one central issue was whether, in planning policy terms, there was a “need” for the club. The local planning officers had advised the council against the proposal, but the members voted in favour of it (just), hence this challenge. It succeeded on grounds including perversity, which is pretty rare, especially in the planning context, but, when one looks at the judgment, you can readily see why the judge concluded as he did. 

The judgment contains some pungently expressed reminders that the planning system is not just about facilitating “business” but requires a proper assessment of the public interest. And dressing up the provision of very very expensive golf to a few very very rich people as “need” does not wash.

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No breach of privacy to request DNA sample from ex con

24 September 2013 by Rosalind English

DNA code analysisR (on the application of R) v Chief Constable  [2013] EWHC 2864 (Admin) 24 September 2013 – read judgment

The High Court has ruled that it is not a breach of the right to private life to request DNA samples from those who were convicted of serious offences before it became commonplace to take samples for the production of DNA profiles for the investigation of crime.

Background Facts

The claimant was asked, by reason of his previous convictions, to provide a DNA sample under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act to enable the police compare the his DNA profile with those held by the police in connection with unsolved crime.  He refused to give the sample when it was sought initially, so he was sent a letter requiring him to attend at a police station to provide the sample on pain of arrest. He applied for judicial review of this requirement, arguing that it was an unlawful incursion on his right to privacy under Article 8.
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Police ‘containment’ of Palestinian solidarity protester was lawful, rules High Court

24 September 2013 by Matthew Flinn

Wright v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis [2013] EWHC 2739 (QB) – Read Judgment

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Image via Richard Millett’s Blog

The High Court has found that the containment of a protester in a designated protesting pen for seventy five minutes was not unlawful at common law, nor under the Human Rights Act 1998.

On 30th March 2011, a seminar marking sixty years of British-Israeli diplomatic relations took place in Chatham House in St James’ Square, London. The Israeli President, Mr Shimon Peres, was to be in attendance, and a group of protesters from the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign took the opportunity to demonstrate outside the seminar venue.

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More Veils, Detention Abuse and Police Reports – The Human Rights Roundup

23 September 2013 by Daniel Isenberg

Yarls-Wood-HRRWelcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular fruit salad of human rights news and views. The full list of links can be found here. You can  find previous roundups herePost by Daniel Isenberg, edited and links compiled by Adam Wagner.

Judge Peter Murphy’s ruling on the niqaab in criminal proceedings dominates this week’s commentary.  Some interesting pieces also on immigration detention following the outcry about abuse at one facility; and conflict between the IPCC and Metropolitan Police about internal investigations…

Human Rights Awards and Tour: Liberty has opened nominations for their 2013 Liberty Human Rights Awards – all details here. Meanwhile, the British Institute on Human Rights’ free Human Rights Tour is now in full swing – full programme here.


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“Follow the money” powers do not breach sex offenders’ privacy rights

18 September 2013 by Rosalind English

woman_with_hand_over_mouthR (on the application of) Christopher Prothero v Secretary of State for the Home Department  [2013] EWHC 2830 (Admin) 18 September 2013 – read judgment

This was a challenge to regulations  introduced in 2012 under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 which require a person on the Sex Offenders Register to provide details of bank, debit or credit card accounts held by him. The claimant sought a declaration that this particular regulation was incompatible with his right to respect for private life under  Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The last time the notification requirements under the 2003 Act came under attack, the Supreme court held that they were capable of causing significant interference with the Article 8 rights of an offender on the register (R (F)(a Child)) v The Secretary of State for the Home Department [2010] UKSC 17) – see our post on that case and its consequences.

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Veils and ignorance: defendant not allowed to wear niqaab when giving evidence

18 September 2013 by Alasdair Henderson

Woman wearing hijabThe Queen v. D (R) – Ruling available here.

The ruling by HHJ Murphy in Blackfriars Crown Court this Monday that a defendant in a criminal trial should not be allowed to wear a niqaab (face veil) whilst giving her evidence has prompted calls for a public debate about the wearing of face veils in public more generally. Adam Wagner has already commented on the case hereA summary and analysis of the decision follows below.

The defendant in this case, D, is a woman who is charged with a single count of witness intimidation. When the judge asked D to remove her veil in order to be formally identified for the court’s purposes at a plea and case management hearing, D refused because she believes she should not reveal her face in the presence of men who are not members of her immediate family. As a result, HHJ Murphy listed a special hearing to consider what orders should be made about the wearing of a niqaab during the rest of the proceedings, describing the issue as ‘the elephant in the court room’ which needed to be dealt with early on.

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What is a “public authority” for the purposes of environmental information?

17 September 2013 by Rosalind English

water_tapFish Legal v The Information Commissioner, United Utilities, Yorkshire Water and Southern Water (Case C-279/12) – read Opinion of AG Cruz Villalon

In this most recent case concerning access by private individuals to environmental information held by public authorities,  the AG grasps the nettlish question of what precisely a public authority is. The issue was a subject of debate because the request for information had  been addressed to private companies which manage a public service relating to the environment.  The question therefore was whether, even though the companies concerned are private, they may be regarded as “public authorities” for the purposes of the Directive governing access to environmental information (Directive 2003/4).

Clearly the definition of the concept of “public authority” is an issue of importance not just in relation to access to information, but across the board, whether involving EU law or the application of the Human Rights Act 1998 and judicial review in domestic law.
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The Niqaab issue is too important to be left to liberal instinct

17 September 2013 by Adam Wagner

A-Muslim-woman-in-a-niqab-007Yesterday, before His Honour Judge Peter Murphy ruled that a female Muslim defendant in a criminal trial must remove her face-covering veil (niqaab) whilst giving evidence, Home Office Minister Jeremy Brown said  he wasinstinctively uneasy” about restricting religious freedoms, but that there should be a national debate over banning the burka.

Many of us have a gut reaction to the niqaab, which poses particular problems for our mostly liberal, secular society. Arguably, it also prompts less laudable instincts originating in fear of the ‘other’. But trusting in our instincts is never a good way of solving complex problems. As I have suggested before, when politicians appeal to their gut they are often just avoiding making an intellectually sound case for their position.

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Veils in Court, Grayling and the Left & Legal Aid Anxieties – The Human Rights Roundup

16 September 2013 by Sarina Kidd

Niqab HRRWelcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular breakfast cereal variety box of human rights news and views. The full list of links can be found here. You can  find previous roundups herePost by Sarina Kidd, edited and links compiled by Adam Wagner.

Commentators have been criticising a number of assertions that Chris Grayling made about judicial review in the Daily Mail this week. Elsewhere, although Price Competitive Tendering has been scrapped, there are still many concerning proposals, and there has been a secret court rebellion by the Lib Dems.

Human Rights Awards: Liberty has opened nominations for their 2013 Liberty Human Rights Awards – all details here.


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