Victims’ Rights, the EU Charter, and Passport Confiscation – the Human Rights Roundup

15 September 2014 by

British_passport HRRWelcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular (except for August) last night at the human rights Proms. The full list of links can be found here. You can find previous roundups here. Links compiled by Adam Wagner, post by Celia Rooney.

In recent news, the government outlines proposals for increased rights for the victims of crime, as well as for the revocation and confiscation of passports for ISIS fighters returning to the UK. In other news, the legality of the EU Charter comes back to haunt Chris Grayling once again.

New Rights for the Victims of Crime

The government has announced a proposal for legislation that would enhance the entitlements of victims of crime. The change in law would enable victims to stay informed about the progress of their case, and ensure that many of them could give a statement to the court regarding the impact that the offence had on their lives. In addition, it has also said that it will carry out a consultation on the idea of up-front compensation for victims, to tackle the delays that exist in the current system. It has also proposed reforms designed to protect vulnerable witnesses, such as requiring specialist training of lawyers who act in cases of sexual abuse and allowing greater use of video interviews for children.

In the past, Shadow Justice Secretary, Sadiq Khan, has been critical of the government’s stance on the rights of victims – accusing the coalition of cutting compensation and failing to ensure that the victims’ commissioner position was filled. In response to these recent proposals, he highlighted that the Labour party has carried out wide consultation on the issue of the rights of victims, whereas the government’s plans looked like they had been ‘cobbled together on the back of an envelope’. Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling, has said that the proposal would go before the next Parliament. The BBC has reported on the matter here.

Can the UK Resile from the EU Charter of Rights?

For several months, human rights reform has dominated the headlines. The UK’s relationship with both the Strasbourg Court, under the European Convention on Human Rights, and the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg, as part of the EU, have come under repeated fire. It the latest twist of this on-going tale, it has emerged that Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, received advice in the last few weeks which suggested that the UK will not be able to resile from its obligations under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights without leaving the EU altogether. The advice was given to Grayling as part of the recent ‘review of competences’ between the UK and the EU undertaken by the Ministry of Justice. The report concludes that the UK would have to comply with its obligations under the Charter so long as it was a member of the EU. The Financial Times reports here.

Passport Confiscation

In light of the alleged terrorist threat to the UK posed by British people fighting for ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the Prime Minister has outlined proposals which would enable to police to revoke the passports of such persons upon return. At present, that power can only be exercised by the Home Secretary under the Royal Prerogative, but new plans would allow the police confiscation for up to 30 days. The measures are a retreat from the government’s earlier plans, which would have prevented such persons returning to the UK under certain conditions. They have nonetheless been met with criticism, even from Liberal Democrat members of the coalition, such as Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, who has suggested that the plans will not work. The Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC, has highlighted that there are significant legal difficulties with giving the police such powers. The Guardian has reported on the issue here and here. Barrister, and former Tory MP, Jerry Hayes has written for the Sunday Express on this issue – arguing that we can revoke passports, but that we must ‘play by the rules’ to avoid making the suspects into martyrs

In Other News 

  • The President of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger, recently gave a lecture in Hong Kong entitled ‘The Third and Fourth Estates: Judges, Journalists and Open Justice”. In doing so, he reiterated the time old message of the importance of judicial independence. The speech may be particularly valuable reading for those interested in how new technology and the media interacts with the justice system. The full speech can be accessed here. The United Kingdom Immigration Law Blog has given a useful summary of it here
  • Purna Sen, writing for Pink News, has considered the likely implications of repealing the Human Rights Act 1998 for LGBT individuals. In doing so, she notes some of the LGBT’s success stories under the European Convention.
  • Carl Gardiner, writing for the Head of Legal blog, has commented on the likely implications (or lack thereof) that recent changes in extradition laws will have on the on-going Julian Assange sage here.
  • The legal community has been mourning the death of Helen Bamber OBE, who passed away in the last few weeks. Bamber was a leading human rights campaigner and her eponymous foundation has done tireless work for vulnerable people for many years.
  • The third edition of the classic text on European rights, ‘Harris, O’Boyle and Warbrick, Law of the European Convention on Human Rights’, is now available for purchase.
  • An exciting new endeavour called the Transparency Project is now live. More information about the project is available here.
  • Finally the HeadofLegal blog has reviewed Ian McEwan’s recent novel, The Children Act, which is set in the family law courts here. Rosalind English’s review is here.

Case Summaries

 UK Courts

In this case, the Supreme Court held that the defence of illegality was inapplicable where a Nigerian woman, trafficked into the UK, pursued her employer for discrimination in the workplace. Miss Hounga came to the UK at the age of 14 under a false identity. Although she had no right to work in Britain, she later proceeded to launch a race discrimination claim against her employer. While the Court of Appeal found that the claim failed because Miss Hounga was working illegally in the UK, the Supreme Court held that her claim was not barred on the ground of illegality. The United Kingdom Immigration Law Blog has considered the case in more depth, examining the reasoning of a number of the Justices, here.

In July, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of two Scottish prisoners who argued that a ban on prisoner voting, which prohibited them from voting in the upcoming independence referendum, violated their human rights. Ivonna Beches, writing for the Keep Calm, Talk Law Blog, has commented on the judgment of the Scottish Court of Session and the implications of the Supreme Court’s decision here.

In this case, the Court of Appeal considered whether or not the public sector equality duty under the Equality Act 2010 placed an additional requirement on local housing officers to take into account an applicant’s disability when considering whether or not that person was ‘priority need’.  The Court of Appeal did not consider the equality duty to add anything to the existing statutory obligations. A commentary on the case has been produced on the Nearly Legal: Housing Law News and Comment blog.

European Court of Human Rights

In this recent case, the Strasbourg Court considered allegations of torture by the CIA in Poland. Amrit Singh, who acted as lawyer for the men making the allegations, has noted the importance of the case on which is the first official recognition that there was such torture in a CIA-run prison in Poland – something the Polish authorities have denied. She also argues that the decision is a landmark in the fight against European impunity in CIA torture. Her post can be accessed on the Strasbourg Observers blog here.

European Court of Justice

In this recent case, the court considered whether the parody exception to freedom of expression must be given an autonomous meaning, with a uniform interpretation in the EU, despite the fact that it is optional under legislation. The case has been considered by Dirk Voorhoof on the Inforrm Blog.


To add 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 the topics covered by this blog.

UK Human Rights Blog Posts

1 comment;

  1. cidermaker says:

    Re: Passports. If someone goes to ISIS, the Islamic State, even if it is not recognised by any other country, surely they are effectively renouncing their British Citizenship by their very act of fighting for that ‘state’. Thus by doing so they cease to be British/EU citizens and are no longer entitled to travel on British passports.

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