Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular full brass band of human rights news and views. The full list of links can be found here. You can find previous roundups here. Post by Sarina Kidd, edited and links compiled by Adam Wagner.
This week, Lord Neuberger implied that even if the Human Rights Act were to be abolished, the court would continue to uphold human rights, perhaps foreshadowing the Supreme Court’s decision in Osborn. Meanwhile, the controversial Immigration Bill now has its overarching documents available, LSE are looking to create a written constitution and the Daily Mail are in trouble, again.
In the News
Party intentions and human rights persistence
The protection of human rights is set to be a hot topic in the run up to the general election in 2015. In a useful summary, Act for UK Rights lays down the different parties’ intentions for the Human Rights Act. Nick Clegg has listed ‘not ditching the Human Rights Act’ as one of the key things that the Liberal Democrats have prevented the Conservatives from doing in the coalition. Labour, of course, ‘support the Human Rights Act and its role in protecting people’, whilst the Conservatives plan to ‘scrap’ it and alter the UK’s relationship with the European Court of Human Rights.
Joshua Rozenberg analyses Lord Neuberger’s comments on Conservative plans to take power away from Strasbourg. The Supreme Court president stated that, ‘I do not think it is politically controversial that some form of human rights or citizen’s rights against the state are encoded or enshrined in a statute or some similar document so that they can be enforced in the courts’. This suggests that even if the Act were to be abolished, the courts would continue to uphold human rights – this is an interesting foreshadowing of the decision in Osborn which followed only days later.
Meanwhile, Anthony Bradley discusses Jack Straw’s Hamlyn Lectures, in a review of his published collection. Straw, when discussing the Human Rights Act and Europe, blamed the current discontent towards Europe as being due to the ‘ever expanding remit of the Strasbourg Court for which it has no mandate’. Whilst accepting that the Convention should permit the Court to protect ‘basic human rights’ he agreed with Lord Hoffmann that these basic rights should not be stretched. Anthony Bradley dissects Straw’s arguments, noting that whilst he welcomes Straw’s continuing support for the HRA, ‘the features of the Strasbourg court that Straw now blames for the current discontents were all present and clearly visible in 1997’.
A written constitution?
The LSE has begun a project in collaboration with Democratic Audit to draft a new constitution for the UK by ‘crowdsourcing’. As Professor Conor Gearty explains, the ‘UK has no constitution, or as every first year law student learns, it has no constitution written down in one grand document’. Carl Gardner, of Head of Legal, states that although he is ‘firmly against a written constitution for Britain’ he thinks it is a ‘brilliant project’. Constitutionuk.com will provide a forum for debating, and suggested content covers equality of esteem, the celebration of respect for diversity, the protection of freedoms, subsidiarity and the guarantee of human security’.
A game of snakes and ladders: The Immigration Bill
You can track the progress of the Home Office’s major new Immigration Bill here. The overarching documents are available here, looking at ‘proposed changes to reform the removals and appeals system, end the abuse of Article 8 and prevent illegal immigrants accessing and abusing public services or the labour market’. The Immigration Bill was introduced into the House of Commons on 10 October 2013.
The United Kingdom Immigration Law Blog discusses the Bill further, stating that ‘Immigration is the burning issue in the UK’s political arena’. Theresa May has likened the immigration system to a ‘never-ending game of snakes and ladders’ and is intent on ‘clamping down on the abuse of human rights in immigration appeals’.
The Misleading Media
This week, the ECHR corrected fallacious information that has featured recently in British Media. One example is of a Daily Mail article claiming that Strasbourg judges ‘handed the criminals taxpayer-funded payouts of £4.4 million – an average of £22,000 a head’. But this is ‘seriously misleading’, according to the court. Obiter J’ discusses the offending article here – see also Joshua Rozenberg.
In other news
- The City and County of Swansea have ‘relaunched itself as the Human Rights capital of the UK’, by becoming the first local authority to adopt wholesale the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- A Statement is available from the Director of Public Prosecutions on abortion related cases, after an investigation by the Daily Telegraph on various clinics in England.
- Frank Cranmer discusses whether it is time to end religious oaths in court proceedings. He criticises suggestions of a replacement oath of ‘I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’ as Quakers, for example, ‘find the idea of swearing abhorrent’.
- On October 8th, Turkey lifted its ban on women wearing headscarfs in state institutions. The rule first appeared when Kemal Ataturk set about creating a secularist Turkey.
- The Supreme Court have heard that Peter and Hazelmary Bull, who turned away Civil partners Martin Hall and Steven Preddy from their B&B, were adhering to ‘God’s perfect standards’. The case continues.
- Regarding the Richard III reburial case, it has been announced that the Ministry of Justice is working with lawyers to challenge the High Court’s decision to allow judicial review. David Pocklington of Law and Religion UK analyses this further.
Should the UK create a system for independently investigating the deaths of detained psychiatric patients? Lord Justice Aiken and Mr Justice Mitting handed down judgment this week on the matter, finding that the current law did not require it. They suggested, however, that for public policy purposes, the UK may wish to create such a system.
In the Courts
- Osborn v The Parole Board  UKSC 61 (9 October 2013) bailii.org – Supreme Court rules that the Parole Board breached its common law duty of procedural fairness to the appellant by failing to offer prisoners oral hearings (post here)
- Secretary of State for the Home Department v Al -Jedda  UKSC 62 (9 October 2013) bailii.org – Supreme Court: Secretary of State should have conluded that appellant was “stateless” within meaning of British Citizenship Act once he was deprived of his British citizenship (post here)
- Cossey, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Justice  EWHC 3029 (Admin) (25 July 2013) bailii.org – Offender serving indeterminate sentence (post-tarrif period) not discriminated against under Article 14 ECHR by refusal to grant him similar rights to unconvicted and civil prisoners (post here).
- Delfi AS v. Estonia (application no. 64569/09) coe.int – Making an Internet news portal liable for the offensive online comments of its readers was justified (post here)
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.
- Procedural Justice in Police Interviews
Date: 18/09/13, 6pm, Middlesex University
- Human Rights Conference 2013: Lawyers as guardians of access to justice?
30/10/2013 09:00 – 17:00; Venue: The Law Society, from £200
- The Human Rights Tour 2013 | British Institute of Human Rights
Various dates and locations: 10 September to 18 October 2013
- Internet trolls and why Strasbourg doesn’t want to get involved, October 14 by Rosalind English
- Convicted prisoner has no entitlement to all the rights enjoyed by others – October 14, 2013 by Rosalind English
- Man cannot be stripped of British citizenship, rules Supreme Court – October 14, 2013 by Isabel McArdle
- The Supreme Court’s curious constitutional U turn over prisoner rights – October 13, 2013 by Richard A. Edwards
- More press nonsense, this time on human rights damages – October 12, 2013 by Adam Wagner
- No standing for the Inuit in Luxembourg – October 12, 2013 by David Hart QC
- Aarhus for real beginners – October 12, 2013 by David Hart QC
- Deportation of foreign criminals: the new immigration rules are a ‘complete code’ – October 9, 2013 by Rosalind English
- Why Mrs Litvinenko did not get her PCO – but what if it had been an environmental claim? – October 9, 2013 by David Hart QC