Barristers tell Parliament that some GCHQ mass surveillance is illegal

Edward Snowden.Two barristers have advised a Parliamentary committee that some mass surveillance allegedly undertaken by the UK’s security services is probably illegal. Jemima Stratford QC and Tim Johnston’s advice (PDF) was commissioned by the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drones

You may ask why an Parliamentary group on drones is getting involved in the GCHQ surveillance debate, itself kickstarted by the revelations by Edward Snowden (pictured). The slightly tangential answer is that the committee is concerned about the legality of data being passed to the United States for use in drone strikes.

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Council acted unlawfully in refusing tenancy

Enterprise centreTrafford v Blackpool Borough Council [2014] EWHC 85 – read judgment

The High Court has held that a local authority had abused its powers by refusing to offer a solicitor a new lease of the claimant’s office premises.

The claimant solicitor was aggrieved by the fact that the stated reason for the defendant’s refusal was that her firm had brought claims against the Council on behalf of clients seeking compensation for injuries alleged to have been caused by the negligence of the Council, predominantly in highways “tripping” type claims.

HHJ Davies held that the Council had exercised its “wide discretion” under Section 123 of the Local Government Act 1912 for an improper purpose and was “fundamentally tainted by illegality” on that basis. The Council’s refusal was both Wednesbury unreasonable and procedurally unfair.

Public versus private

The interesting question central to this case was whether or not a public body, acting under statutory powers in deciding whether or not to renew or terminate a contract, was acting under public law duties, and therefore amenable to judicial review, or whether  the relationship between the claimant and the defendant was one governed exclusively by private law, where judicial review has no part to play . Continue reading

Drones, “Ex-Gay” Bus Advert and Train Track Constitutionalism – the Human Rights Roundup

HRR ex-gay advertWelcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular bountiful burst of human rights news and views.  The full list of links can be found here.  You can find previous roundups here.  Links compiled by Adam Wagner, post by Celia Rooney. 

This week, the pragmatic, political and constitutional ramifications of the Supreme Court’s decision in the HS2 case are up for debate.  Meanwhile, the European Court considers whether the Charter of Rights applies in private disputes, while the domestic courts take on the tricky issue of the justiciability of US drones strikes in Pakistan. And the Court of Appeal rules on TfL’s bus advert ban.

An unashamed plug: A few tickets still left for this Thursday’s event featuring Adam Wagner amongst others – Human Rights Behind the Headlines

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Taj Mahal Hotel injury claim allowed to proceed in English courts

IndiaTajMahalhotel081129_432Pike and Doyle v Indian Hotel Companies Ltd [2013] EWHC 4096 (QB) – read judgment

Philip Havers QC and Peter Skelton of 1 Crown Office Row represented the claimants in this case. They have nothing to do with the writing of this post.

This sad case arose out of the 2006 terrorist attack on the Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, India. The claimants, who had spent 15 days backpacking around Goa, decided to treat themselves to one night of luxury at the hotel before they were due to fly home from Mumbai. Shortly after the attack began the claimants hid in their room, locked the door and turned off the lights. Some hours later they tried to escape through the window. Their room was on the third floor of the tower part of the hotel. They tied together sheets, curtains and towels to make a rope. They hung it outside their room and the first claimant went first. The “rope” came apart and he fell to the ground suffering serious spinal injuries which have left him paraplegic. The second claimant was rescued subsequently. She did not suffer physical injuries but claims for continuing psychiatric consequences. Continue reading

New Year, new tort of misuse of private information

google-sign-9Vidal Hall and Ors v Google Inc [2014] EWHC 13 (QB) – read judgment

A group of UK Google users called ‘Safari Users Against Google’s Secret Tracking’ have claimed that the tracking and collation of information about of their internet usage by Google amounts to misuse of personal information, and a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998The Judge confirmed that misuse of personal information was a distinct tort. He also held that the English courts had jurisdiction to try the claims. 

Mr Justice Tugendhat’s decision was on the basis that (1) there was a distinct tort of the misuse of private information (2) there was a serious issue to be tried on the merits in respect of the claims for misuse and for breach of the DPA; (3) the claims were made in tort and damage had been sustained in the jurisdiction and (4) England was clearly therefore the most appropriate forum for the trial.

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High speed rail, Parliament, and the EU Courts

World war one tankR (o.t.a HS2AA, Buckingham County Council and others) v. Secretary of State for Transport, [2014] UKSC 3 – read judgments

So the challenge to the way in which the Government wished to push the HS2 project through Parliament has failed before the Supreme Court, though not without clarifying the way in which key EU environmental provisions are meant to work. And we will also see a further flexing of the Court’s muscles against a too straightforward reading of the supremacy of EU law when seen against our constitutional principles.  

The objectors said the command paper which preceded the Parliamentary hybrid bill, in which the Government set out its proposals for HS2, fell within the scope of the  Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive 2001/42/EC and that an SEA ought therefore to have been carried out. The directive applies to plans or programmes which set a “framework” (Art.3(2)(a)) for future decisions whether to grant development consent for projects, and it was said that the command paper set the framework for the decision whether to grant consent for HS2.

Secondly, the objectors said that the legislative procedure in Parliament does not meet the requirements of the  Environmental Impact Assessment Directive 2011/92/EU. The EU Court of Justice has interpreted that directive as imposing a number of requirements, including that the legislature must have available to it the information required by the directive, and a requirement that national courts must be able to verify that the requirements of the directive have been satisfied, taking account of the entire legislative process, including the preparatory documents and the parliamentary debates. Continue reading

Does the EU Rights Charter apply to private disputes? Sometimes, sometimes not…

European-Union-Flag_1Association de médiation sociale v Union locale des syndicats CGT, Hichem Laboubi, Union départementale CGT des Bouches-du-Rhône, Confédération générale du travail (CGT), Case C‑176/12 – read judgement

The Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled on whether the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union can apply in a dispute between private parties, although it is not quite clear what its conclusion implies.

This was a request for a preliminary ruling under Article 267 TFEU from the Cour de cassation (France), received by the CJEU in April last year. Continue reading