Victims’ Rights, the EU Charter, and Passport Confiscation – the Human Rights Roundup
15 September 2014
Welcome 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.
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.
- Hounga v Allen & Anor  UKSC 47 (30 July 2014)
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.
- Moohan and another v the Lord Advocate UKSC 2014/0183
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.
- Kanu v Southwark LBC  EWCA Civ 1085
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
- Al Nashiri v Poland (Application No. 28761/11) 24th July 2014 and Husayn (Abu Zubaydah) v Poland (Application No. 7511/13) 24th July 201
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
- Deckmyn v Vandersteen C-201/13 3rd September 2014
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.
- Do Religious Courts Protect Human Rights : Adam Wagner (amongst others) is speaking at this conference. 16th September 2014, 6.30-9pm, JW3 Howard Hall.
- Human Rights in the UK Media: Adam Wagner (amongst many others) is speaking at this conference at Liverpool University on 19 September 2014. £25 for a full delegate or £15 for students – details here
- Do we need a British Bill of Rights : Monday 6th October, 6.30-8pm. Foyles, 107, Charing Cross Road.
- 2014 Public Law Lecture with Lord Thomas (Lord Chief Justice) – Thursday 9th October, 6.30pm, Main Arts Building, Bangor University School of Law.
- Judge rule : is the law taking over politics ? : Saturday 18th October, 10-11.30am, Pit Theatre.
- JUSTICE Human Rights Law Conference 2014: 20th October 2014, London
UK Human Rights Blog Posts
- No, The Sun, “Euro judges” do not “go against UK in 3 out of 5 cases”. More like 1 in 100 – August 27, 2014 by Adam Wagner
- Victims of trafficking can claim compensation despite illegal entry to UK – August 27, 2014 by Rosalind English
- Badgers’ expectations dashed – August 29, 2014 by David Hart QC
- State should pay for representation and witnesses in private child disputes – August 31, 2014 by Rosalind English
- Students without indefinite leave to remain are ineligible for student loans – September 11, 2014 by Rosalind English
- Three human rights events – September 11, 2014 by Adam Wagner
- A novelist enters the Family Division – September 12, 2014 by Rosalind English