Monthly News Archives: April 2014


Disclosure of medical records breached patient’s human rights – Strasbourg

30 April 2014 by

Hospital-BedL.H. v Latvia [2014] ECHR 453 (29 April 2014) – read judgment

The release of confidential patient details to a state medical institution in the course of her negotiations with a hospital over a lawsuit was an unjustified interference with her right to respect for private life under Article 8.

Background

In 1997 the applicant gave birth at a state hospital in Cēsis. Caesarean section was used, with the applicant’s consent, because uterine rupture had occurred during labour. In the course of that surgery the surgeon performed tubal ligation (surgical contraception) without the applicant’s consent.

In 2005, after her attempt to achieve an out-of-court settlement with the hospital had failed, the applicant initiated civil proceedings against the hospital, seeking to recover damages for the unauthorised tubal ligation. In December of 2006 her claim was upheld and she was awarded compensation in the amount of 10,000 Latvian lati for the unlawful sterilisation.
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Not in our name: Parliamentary committee rejects Government’s case for Judicial Review reform – Angela Patrick

30 April 2014 by

RCJ restricted accessAngela Patrick, Director of Human Rights Policy at JUSTICE, summarises the important Joint Committee on Human Rights report “The implications for access to justice of the Government’s proposals to reform judicial review”.

Proposed Government restrictions to judicial review, including new cuts to legal aid, have already been dissected in detail by this blog (see here, here and here). Controversial Government proposals to limit when legally aided claimant solicitors will be paid in judicial review claims came into force last week (Civil Legal Aid (Remuneration)(Amendment)(No 3) Regulations).  

Heralding the arrival of the changes, the Lord Chancellor again repeated his now oft-heard refrain that reform is necessary to prevent “legal aid abusers” tarnishing the justice system.  Specific restrictions were justified to limit judicial reviews “instigated by pressure groups, designed to force the Government to change its mind over properly taken decisions by democratically elected politicians”.

Today, the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) publishes its verdict in a lengthy and considered report on the likely impact on access to justice of the cuts and the proposed changes in Part 4 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill. In short, the Committee rejects the case for reform and suggests that the Government go back to the drawing board.

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Closed material in UK proceedings cannot be disclosed in Strasbourg

28 April 2014 by

blind justiceWang Yam v Attorney General [2014] EW Misc 10 (CCrimC) 27 February 2014 – read judgment

It is for the UK government to decide whether to vary an order preventing publication of material heard in private in a murder trial, if the offender goes on to petition the European Court of Human Rights. It is not for the Strasbourg Court to determine whether the right to a fair trial should outweigh the risks to UK national security reasons.

The question regarding a state’s obligation not to impede the right of individual petition to Strasbourg arose where the applicant offender applied for an order permitting him to refer to material, which had been restricted on national security grounds during his murder trial, in an application to the European Court of Human Rights.
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Strasbourg acting as the EU Court’s enforcer

26 April 2014 by

67Dhahbi v.Italy, ECtHR, 8 April 2014 – read judgment – in French only

A case to get the Sun leader writers confused, in that the Strasbourg Court was making sure that Italy did not get away with refusing to refer a case to the EU Courts. 

Mr Dhahbi lives in Italy.  He was of Tunisian origin, and was not at the time of this case an Italian citizen.  He applied for and was refused a household allowance on the sole ground of nationalityHe relied upon an entitlement to this allowance in an association agreement between the EU and Tunisia (known as the Euro-Mediterranean Agreement).  The Italian court refused his application to have the case determined by the CJEU in Luxembourg.

Strasbourg decided that there had been a violation of his fair trial rights under Article 6, and discrimination on grounds of status under Article 14, when read with Article 8.

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Travails of the War Horse orchestra

23 April 2014 by

War-HorseAshworth and others v the Royal National Theatre [2014] 1176 – read judgment

Anyone who saw one of the early performances of War Horse in its first season at the National Theatre will remember how profoundly moving was the live music, with the musicians visible along the sides of the theatre above the stage.  Since that highly successful (and profitable) first season the role of the orchestra had been radically reduced, and now looks as if it is about to vanish altogether.

Background

War Horse opened at the Olivier Theatre in 2007, but since 2009 it has played at the New London Theatre. The claimants were engaged in March 2009 to play their instruments in the new production,  as a small company of wind players accompanying recorded music.  Productions of War Horse in other parts of the world have relied wholly on recorded music. In light of that, and because both the co-director of War Horse and the composer concluded that it was better for accuracy and impact to deliver the score through recorded music. The National Theatre sent the claimants letters giving notice of termination of their contracts to expire on 15 March 2014. In the letters the National Theatre stated that the grounds were redundancy.

The dispute

The claimants sought an order from the court, prior to the trial of the main action, to require the National Theatre to continue to engage them in the production of War Horse until the trial of their claim. They also relied upon the right to artistic expression protected by Article 10 of the human rights Convention.
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Article 11: Right to strike and insecure workers

22 April 2014 by

By Lauren Godfrey 1COR

 

Two different bodies in the last week have reflected on issues concerning the fundamental imbalance in the employment relationship. This provides an opportunity to consider what, if any, role human rights principles have in redressing that imbalance:

 

(1)    The Article 11 Case of RMT -v- UK (Application No 31045/10): The European Court Human Rights (Fourth Section sitting as a Chamber) found that Article 11 (the right to freedom of association) was not infringed by the restrictions imposed on trade unions calling on their members to take strike action by the UK Government as part of the statutory scheme which provides for lawful strikes; that is strikes that attract statutory immunity from common law liability. According to the ECtHR, these restrictions on lawful striking were within the wide margin of appreciation enjoyed by the UK Government. The RMT’s case was that the restrictions impermissibly restricted their ability to protect and promote the interests of their members working in industries and for employers with complex corporate structures.

 

(2)    Zero Hour Contracts Consultation: The Government’s consultation on zero hours contract which appears to have been somewhat upstaged by the Parliament’s Scottish Affairs Committee publishing an interim report on zero-hours contracts which while recommending some changes, ultimately concludes that ‘in the majority of cases’ zero-hours contracts should not be used at all. The interim report contends that the lack of job security for workers engaged on zero hours contracts places a practical impediment to the majority of the workers surveyed from enforcing other basic rights including the minimum wage, part-time worker protections, and protection for those with caring responsibilities: see summary here.  
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Grayling on the JR Attack, Sacked Christian Nursery Worker and Al-Sweady Inquiry – the Human Rights Roundup (BUMPER EDITION)

21 April 2014 by

Grayling HRRWelcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular Easter egg hunt 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.

Chris Grayling is on the offensive again over Judicial Review, the Home Secretary has faced a defeat over her decision to maintain a freeze on the money given to destitute asylum seekers, while in other news, the Strasbourg court rejects a challenge to a UK ban on secondary industrial action and the long-running Al-Sweady Inquiry has concluded hearing oral evidence.

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Not unlawful to refuse egg freezing therapy for Crohn’s sufferer

18 April 2014 by

bigstock-Boiled-Or-Raw-Egg-8015047Rose, R (on the application of) v Thanet Clinical Commissioning Group [2014] EWHC 1182 (Admin) 15 April 2014 – read judgment

Jeremy Hyam of 1 Crown Office Row represented the claimant in this case. He had nothing to do with the writing of this post.

There are times when individual need comes up against the inflexible principles of the law and the outcome seems unjustifiably harsh. This is just such a case – where a relatively modest claim based on individual clinical need was refused with no breach of public law principles.  As it happens, since the Court rejected her case, the the young woman concerned has been offered private support for the therapy she was seeking. The case is nevertheless an interesting illustration of the sometimes difficult “fit” between principles of public law and the policy decisions behind the allocation of NHS resources.
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Article 11: Right to strike and insecure workers – Lauren Godfrey

17 April 2014 by

strike2_5Two different bodies in the last week have reflected on issues concerning the fundamental imbalance in the employment relationship. This provides an opportunity to reflect on what, if any, role human rights principles have in redressing that imbalance:

(1)    The Article 11 Case of RMT -v- UK (Application No 31045/10): The European Court Human Rights (Fourth Section sitting as a Chamber) found that Article 11 (the right to freedom of association) was not infringed by the restrictions imposed on trade unions calling on their members to take strike action by the UK Government as part of the statutory scheme which provides for lawful strikes; that is strikes that attract statutory immunity from common law liability. According to the ECHR, these restrictions on lawful striking were within the wide margin of appreciation enjoyed by the UK Government. The RMT’s case was that the restrictions impermissibly restricted their ability to protect and promote the interests of their members working in industries and for employers with complex corporate structures.

(2)    Zero Hour Contracts Consultation: The Government’s consultation on zero hours contract which appears to have been somewhat upstaged by the Parliament’s Scottish Affairs Committee publishing an interim report on zero-hours contracts which while recommending some changes, ultimately concludes that ‘in the majority of cases’ zero-hours contracts should not be used at all. The interim report contends that the lack of job security for workers engaged on zero hours contracts places a practical impediment to the majority of the workers surveyed from enforcing other basic rights including the minimum wage, part-time worker protections, and protection for those with caring responsibilities: see summary here.
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Public and private law wrongs are not the same – Court of Appeal

15 April 2014 by

110618346_Vincent_398959c Tchenguiz v. Director of the Serious Fraud Office [2014] EWCA Civ 472, 15 April 2014 – read judgment

This judgment is a neat illustration of how important it is to keep the concepts of public law and private law unlawfulness separate – they do not necessarily have the same legal consequences.

It arose thus. The Tchenguiz brothers are high-profile businessmen, and they did not take kindly to being arrested and bailed on charges of fraud at the behest of the SFO. They sought judicial review of the search and arrest warrants. In due course, the Divisional Court ([2012] EWHC 2254 (Admin)) held that the SFO had made material non-disclosure and factual misrepresentations to the judge which vitiated the grant of the warrants, and the brothers have brought a substantial follow-on claim for damages – £300 million according to another recent judgement here.

So the Tchenguiz brothers have established unlawfulness, but, as we shall see, this does not automatically entitles them to damages.

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Bike repair and cycling training for your firm – and all for a good cause

15 April 2014 by

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 12.05.40Not too long ago, a friend of mine, Jem Stein, set up a brilliant social enterprise called the Bike Project. It has gone from strength to strength. The project is now loking for (i) new corporate clients for its very reasonable and professional bike repair service and/or bike training service, (ii) new bikes to repair. All details below and in this flier – Adam Wagner

The Bike Project was set up in late 2012 with the primary aim of refurbishing second hand bikes to give to destitute refugees and asylum seekers in London.

Many people come to this country with nothing, often escaping persecution. Whilst a number are forced to live on as little as £35 per week and unable to work as their status as a refugee is approved, those who are able to work find getting around on public transport simply too expensive. The effect that a bike can have is underestimated. It provides access to all that London has to offer: reaching charities that help with food, healthcare, education, and even the lawyer who can aid their application process. Of course, a bike can aid employment, if they are lucky enough to receive refugee status.

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Strategic litigation: the noble pursuit of litigation – Polly Botsford

15 April 2014 by

-0430-POLITICS-Justice.-006Though strategic litigation and test cases make essential contributions to the rule of law, there’s concern that they’re being abused. And, as funding comes under attack, there’s a greater need than ever for pro bono lawyers to take on test cases to ensure access to justice and accountability.

Following the fall of communism, the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) identified a significant problem with the educational segregation of Roma children in parts of Central and Eastern Europe. Roma children were ending up in what were termed ‘special schools’, supposedly set up for children with intellectual disabilities, and thus segregated from mainstream schooling. In 1998, the ERRC decided to investigate.

To try and bring about reform, it became apparent that the ERRC needed to identify a test case to put before the courts. In order to find the right applicant it interviewed hundreds of Roma families in the region and found 18 Roma children in the Czech Republic to be the test case. The legal angle the ERRC adopted was indirect discrimination: entry tests to mainstream schools were set for all children but they were biased against Roma children because they focused on Czech customs and language. The Roma children often failed and so were subsequently put in the special schools. The centre found that Roma children were twenty-seven times more likely than non-Roma children to be sent to a special school.
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Passive smoking in prison not a breach of human rights – Court of Appeal

14 April 2014 by

Cigarette_smokeSmith, R (on the application of v Secretary of State for Justice and G4S UK Ltd  [2014] EWCA Civ 380 – read judgment

This case raises the question of whether it is a breach of a non-smoking prisoner’s Convention right to respect for his private life and to equality of access to such rights (ECHR Articles 8 and 14) to compel him to share a cell with a smoker.

The appellant, a convicted sex offender serving a long sentence, was required between 21st and 28th March 2012 to share a cell with a fellow prisoner who was a smoker. It was known to the prison authorities that the appellant was a non-smoker, and the requirement to share with a smoker was contrary to his wishes. The sharing complained of ended when the appellant was transferred to another prison on 28th March 2012.

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Backlog, backlash and beyond: debating the long term future of human rights protection in Europe – Alice Donald

14 April 2014 by

Strasbourg_ECHR-300x297Around 150 delegates, including representatives of all 47 Council of Europe states and two judges of the European Court of Human Rights, met in Oslo last week. Their mission? To reflect on the protracted process of reforming the European Convention system and imagine what it might look like in 2030.

Non-government organisations and academics (myself included) joined the insiders to engage in ‘blue-skies’ thinking, despite the dense fog that enveloped the hilltop venue.

The end of the beginning

The Strasbourg Court as we know it came into being in 1998 with the entry into force of Protocol 11 to the Convention. Subsequent reform was driven by two closely-linked imperatives: first, to reduce the backlog both of applications and non-executed judgments and secondly, to reinforce the subsidiary role of the Court vis-à-vis national authorities.

As regards the former, notable developments include the steps taken since 2010 under Protocol 14 to increase the efficiency of judicial decision-making; and (more controversially) the introduction of a shorter deadline, narrower admissibility criteria, and stricter conditions for applicants. The post-judgment process of implementation was also reformed to permit more intensive supervision by the Committee of Ministers (the Council of Europe’s executive arm) of urgent, complex or inter-state cases and lighter touch supervision of the rest.
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Chagossians update

11 April 2014 by

330px-Chagosmap

A lot is happening in various challenges related to the long-running and shameful exclusion of the Chagossian people from their islands in the Indian Ocean. 

Here are the headlines, with a reminder of what these cases are about:

First, the Court of Appeal has just (2 April 2014) heard an appeal by the Chagossians against the dismissal of their challenge to the designation of the waters around the islands as a Marine Protected Area. 

Second, the closed hearing of the UNCLOS Arbitral Tribunal on the merits of the Chagos dispute (Mauritius v UK) is to be held at Istanbul on 22 April 2014. This also concerns the designation of the MPA.

Thirdly, the public hearing in the UK Information Tribunal on access to Diego Garcia pollution data appeal under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, which the FCO — contrary to the view of the Information Commissioner — says is inapplicable to overseas territories) is to be held on May 1st, 2014.

Now to a little more detail.

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