Monthly News Archives: October 2013


EU Balance of Competences Fundamental Rights Review

31 October 2013 by Adam Wagner

european_union_grunge_flag_by_think0The Ministry of Justice is calling for evidence on the Review of the Balance of Competences between the United Kingdom and the European Union, specifically relating to fundamental rights. The consultation document is here and main website here.

The deadline for responses is 13 January 2014, but if you want to take part in one of the four discussion groups (three in London, one in Edinburgh), you need to email by tomorrow – all details below.

And don’t let the obscure-sounding title put you off. This review is potentially very important. Just look how broad question 1 is: 
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Freedom of expression – nakedness in a public place

31 October 2013 by David Hart QC

Stephen_Gough_at_lands_endGough v. Director of Public Prosecution [2013] EWHC 3267 – read judgment

Mr Gough wishes to walk up and down the UK naked. Others do not approve of this, so his progress has been somewhat stop-start. This appeal concerns a brief and inglorious autumnal outing in Halifax. He was released from the local nick at 11.30 am on 25 October 2012,  wearing only walking boots, socks, a hat, a rucksack and a compass on a lanyard around his neck. “He was otherwise naked and his genitalia were on plain view.” He then walked through Halifax town centre for about 15 minutes.

In the words of the judgment, he received a “mixed reaction” from its inhabitants.  At least one female member of the public veered out of his way. Evidence from two women was to the effect that they were “alarmed and distressed” and “disgusted” at seeing him naked. One of the women was with a number of children at least one of whom, 12 years old, she reported as “shocked and disgusted”. The district judge found that it caused one of the women to feel at risk, and, further, based on the evidence, that it caused alarm or distress.

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Petition to Strasbourg stops the Spanish bulldozers

31 October 2013 by Rosalind English

article-2465761-18D0E7F500000578-802_634x473This week’s newspapers have highlighted the plight of the thousands of British homeowners who face demolition orders over their Spanish properties because they have been built without proper planning permission.  Permits granted by town mayors during the property boom turn out not to be worth the paper they were written on, and since the regional authorities have overturned most of these permits, the buildings are condemned to destruction. Compensation from the developers and public officials who made these transactions possible is not forthcoming; as the Times leader points out

In a few cases, the courts have ordered that developers or town halls should compensate those who have lost their homes. Yet the former invariably opt for bankruptcy, instead, and even the latter seem markedly reluctant to pay out. Owners, often now back in Britain, face daunting and bewildering battles in foreign courts. (Tuesday 29 October, behind paywall)

Now one couple, Terry and Christine Haycock, are testing how far the Strasbourg Court will go to protect their property rights in this fracas  (which would be under Article 1 Protocol 1).
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Court of Appeal broadcasters must learn the Supreme Court lessons

31 October 2013 by Adam Wagner

Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

TV cameras are recording Court of Appeal hearings from today. The BBC, ITN, Sky News and the Press Association are cooperating on the project, and have hired an in-court video-journalist who will recommend the most interesting cases.

This is great news. Let in the light. The more that the public can see what is going on in their courts, the better. The courts are a bewildering place for the uninitiated and especially for those who cannot afford to pay someone to explain what is going on. This is still a relatively small advance – only appeals will be broadcast, not trials, so the public is unlikely to see any cross examination of witnesses. But hopefully it will be enough to increase public understanding of and interest in the courts.

But a word of warning. This initiative will only succeed if it is implemented in the right way. And, there are important lessons here from the Supreme Court’s ongoing broadcasting experiment.

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You can’t be disabled when you’re dead – a footnote to R (Antoniou)

31 October 2013 by

hospital

A somewhat curious additional point arises out of the case of R (Antoniou) – see my earlier post for the main issue – in which the court decided that Article 2 ECHR does not require an independent investigation into deaths in state detention prior to a coroner’s inquest. There was therefore no obligation to ensure that there was an independent investigation into the suicide, or death resulting from self-harm, of a mentally ill person detained under Section 3 of the Mental Health Act 1983. There is such an investigation when a prisoner commits suicide. The Claimant thought this smacked of discrimination against the mentally disabled. The Court disagreed – on the somewhat surprising ground that you can’t be disabled once you’re dead.

Where a prisoner commits suicide, or dies as a result of self-harm, there will be an independent investigation from the outset. Any death in prison or in probation custody is automatically referred immediately to the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman for independent investigation. The Independent Police Complaints Commission performs a similar role for deaths in police, immigration or Customs & Excise detention. There is no equivalent independent investigator of deaths in mental health detention, which are investigated by the hospital where they occurred. The Claimant said this distinction discriminates between people who are mentally disabled and those of sound mind.

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Evidence to Parliament on prisoner voting

30 October 2013 by Adam Wagner

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 13.32.48This morning Joshua Rozenberg and I gave evidence the Joint Select Committee on the Draft Voting Eligibility (Prisoners) Bill. You can watch our evidence session here – we are on from 10:34:30.

It was an interesting experience. There is clearly a range of views on the committee, to say the least. It will be fascinating to see what happens next – it is already almost a year since the draft bill was published and, as Joshua Rozenberg said, it seems quite possible that this issue will not be resolved one way or the other before the 2015 General Election, which is only 18 months away.

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1940 Soviet massacre outside reach of European Convention, rules Strasbourg

29 October 2013 by Dominic Ruck Keene

Trzy_krzyze-1Janowiec and Others v Russia (Applications nos. 55508/07 and 29520/09)read judgment

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has held that it had no competence to examine complaints relating to the adequacy of Russia’s criminal investigation into events that had occurred prior to the adoption of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in 1950: namely the Katyń Massacre of 1940.

The applicants were relations of 12 victims of the Katyń Massacre. They had been executed by the NKVD together with over 20,000 other former Polish Army officers, government officials, and landowners. A criminal investigation into the deaths ran from 1990 until 2004 when the Chief Military Prosecutor decided to discontinue ‘Criminal Case no. 159’ on the grounds that any alleged suspects were dead.


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Wind farms, birds, and that pesky thing called the rule of law

28 October 2013 by David Hart QC

bp_whimbrel_15_240409_500Sustainable Shetland, Re Judicial Review, 24 September 2013, Lady Clark of Calton  read judgment

The current storms brought down a turbine in Teignmouth: see here for good pics of this and other mayhem. And the rule of law recently brought down a massive wind farm proposed for Shetland. The Scottish Ministers had waved aside a request for a public inquiry, and ended up drafting reasons which ignored the obligations in the Wild Birds Directive in respect of this bird – the whimbrel. Lady Clark quashed the consent on this ground, and also decided that the wind farmer could not apply for the consent anyway because it had not got the requisite licence which she concluded was a pre-condition for such an application. 

And there is a very good chance that the NGO which brought this challenge would not be entitled to do so if Mr Grayling gets his way, because it might well not have been held to have “standing”. Such a change he would regard as “firmly in the national interest”: see my post of last week on proposed reforms to judicial review rules. There are, to say the least, two sides to that argument about national interest, hence the importance of responding to his consultation paper, with its closing date of 1 November 2013.

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Human rights – coming to a private care home near you?

28 October 2013 by Kate Beattie

Winterbourne View

Winterbourne View

Human rights protection for residents in private care homes could be a step closer after the House of Lords passed an amendment to the Care Bill.

The amendment, moved by Lord Low of Dalston and supported by Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC and Lord Pannick QC, makes clear that a person who provides regulated “social care” is to be taken for the purposes of subsection 6(3)(b) of the Human Rights Act 1998 to be exercising a function of a public nature.

It is the latest development in a long-running battle to secure human rights protection for service users who are not in local authority-run care homes.

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Two events and an evidence session

27 October 2013 by Adam Wagner

Schoolhouse_Rock!_Three_Is_Magic_Number_001_0001Just a quick post to tell you about three things I have coming up which you might be interested in:

1. This Wednesday 30 October from 10:30am I am giving evidence to the Joint Select Committee on the Draft Voting Eligibility (Prisoners) Bill, along with Joshua Rozenberg – full details here. The hearing will be broadcast live online. I will be talking about how media reporting and public perceptions  of the European Court of Human Rights has affected the prisoner voting debate.

2. Then, also on Wed 30 Oct, in the evening, I’m taking part in a panel debate with BPP Fresh Perspectives on Law, which will explore the aftermath of the revelations about the NSA and GCHQ’s communications surveillance programmes. Also speaking: Paul Bernal, Lecturer in Internet and Media Law, University of East Angli; Ben Hayes, Statewatch and Alex Lawson, Lecturer, BPP Law School. Places are free but you have to sign up here.

3. Finally, on Wednesday 20 November I am joining lots of excellent lawyers in a charity mentoring event, raising money for Anna Verrico’s cancer treatment. Tickets are £10, a great cause, all details here.

And that is all.

Disability detention, Immigration Issues and Court TV – The Human Rights Roundup

27 October 2013 by Sarina Kidd

Court TVWelcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular hurtling freight train 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, immigration, in various forms  was hotly discussed and some notable cases have been or are soon to be decided in the realm of disability rights. And not everyone is happy about the decision to televise Court of Appeal cases.

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Another hall of mirrors human rights story from the Telegraph

27 October 2013 by Adam Wagner

Screen Shot 2013-10-27 at 10.46.13Yesterday saw another poor piece of human rights reporting from the Telegraph, again from Home Affairs Correspondent David Barrett. Strasbourg human rights court threatens key counter-terrorism powers. It is a typical piece of hall-of-mirrors reporting; all of the basic elements are there but presented in a distorted and inaccurate way.

The piece is about the case of Sabure Malik, a British investment banker who was stopped by police in 2010 at Heathrow on his way back from an organised package tour to undertake the Hajj. Full details of his case, which is supported by Liberty, are in the Euoprean Court of Human Rights’ admissibility decision here. It was granted permission to proceed in May 2013, well before the David Miranda controversy which took place in August.

I’ll take this shortly.

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Court of Appeal refuses anonymity for offender

25 October 2013 by Rosalind English

anonymity21Fagan, R (on the application of) v Times Newspapers Ltd and others [2013] EWCA Civ 1275 – read judgment

Only “clear and cogent evidence” that it was strictly necessary to keep an offender’s identity confidential would lead a court to derogate from the principle of open justice. The possibility of a media campaign that might affect the offender’s resettlement could not work as a justification for banning reporting about that offender, even though a prominent and inaccurate report about him had already led to harassment of his family.

This was an appeal by a serving prisoner, SF, against the dismissal of his application for anonymity and reporting restrictions in judicial review proceedings.
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More than a slip ‘twixt cup and lip

25 October 2013 by Rosalind English

a4632048X Local Authority v Trimega Laboratories and others [2013] EWCC 6 (Fam) – read judgment

Technical evidence can sometimes be crucial to judicial decisions and this case shows how dramatic the consequences are for a family if evidence is unreliable. If the respondent in this case had not put probity before its commercial interests, a mother would have been deprived of the care of her child. Hence the importance of publishing the judgment.

The case arose out applications by the parents, a child and the child’s guardian to care proceedings for wasted costs orders against Trimega Laboratories. In short, the care proceedings had been brought for a number of reasons foremost of which was the mother’s “excessive drinking”. In March 2013 the mother said she had been abstinent from alcohol since August 2012. But in July 2013 a blood alcohol test report from Trimega suggested that she had been drinking.  Her abstinence was a crucial factor in the plan for rehabilitation of the child to her care, and had it not been for this test result a final order would have been made on 25 July 2013 and the child returned to her.
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When a decision-maker gives retro-reasons

25 October 2013 by David Hart QC

_57148667_012889212-1Lanner Parish Council (R ota) v. the Cornwall Council [2013] EWCA Civ 1290 read judgment

This planning judicial review tackles the problem posed by an authority who says one thing in its formal reasons granting planning permission, and another thing in the court proceedings when the grant is challenged.

Coastline wanted to construct 25 affordable dwellings in Lanner. The Parish in Lanner objected, on the basis that 25 was too many. It referred to a local planning policy (H20) which said that there should be no more than “about 12” houses on any new development in a large village such as Lanner.

The planning officer supported the grant of planning permission, and the Council agreed. The Council’s reasons for grant said that the proposal “accords with” policy H20. But it didn’t, because the policy referred to 12 houses, and the proposal was for 25 houses, and this error in the reasons was one of the Parish’s main points on the judicial review.

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