After a brief hiatus, the Human Rights Round-up is back. Our new team of expert summarisers – Hannah Lynes, Alex Wessely and Laura Profumo – is installed and ready to administer your regular dose of UK human rights news.
This week, Hannah reports on the Global Law Summit, access to justice, and what’s happening in the courts.
In the News
‘If you wrap yourself in the Magna Carta…you are inevitably going to look ridiculous if you then throw cold water on an important part of its legacy.’ Lord Pannick QC was not alone last week (23-28th February) in suggesting that there was some irony in Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling evoking the spirit of the Magna Carta at his launch of the three-day Global Law Summit.
The government ‘has delayed justice by running down the whole system, so that the Courts are overstretched, underfunded and clogged by people representing themselves because they can’t get legal aid and can’t afford a lawyer’, writes Francis FitzGibbon QC. ‘The destruction that has been wreaked on British Justice makes a mockery of the use of Magna Carta to adorn the GLS’.
Mockery took the form of a giant puppet-likeness of the justice secretary at the Not the Global Law Summit demonstration, organised by the Justice Alliance to coincide with the opening of the official event. Several hundred campaigners gathered by the House of Commons to protest plans to further cut the legal aid budget and restrict access to judicial review, as LegalVoice editor Jon Robins reports.
Amongst speakers at the demonstration was president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association, Jon Black. Police station defendants will be left in ‘a legal advice desert’ in regions worst hit by proposed changes to legal aid solicitor contracts, he writes in a comment piece for politics.co.uk. As we approach the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, we should contemplate the real meaning of its lines: ‘To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice’.
In other news…
- A High Court judge has granted permission in a judicial review against the Government over its refusal to extend civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples. PinkNews reports.
- Campaign group Big Brother Watch calls for an overhaul of ‘out of date’ legislation used to prosecute those employing social media to send grossly offensive or threatening messages, following publication of a report claiming considerable disparity of approach to social media crime among regional police forces.
- The Guardian reports on an admission by the government that intelligence agencies have engaged in unlawful monitoring of privileged conversations between clients and their lawyers.
- Director of the Centre for Ethics, Richard Moorhead, considers the implications for lawyers of the work of Professor John Ruggie, driving force behind the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
In the Courts
The Fourth Section of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has found in Hutchinson v UK that the imposition of a ‘whole life order’ for murder does not violate Article 3 ECHR (the prohibition on inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment).
The decision represents a change of position since the ruling of the Grand Chamber in Vinter v UK . In that case, an absence of clarity in the law regarding an Article 3 compliant mechanism for review was held to render whole life orders a breach of Article 3. The apparent reversal follows an express rejection by the Court of Appeal in R v McLoughlin of the conclusion reached in Vinter, thus representing a victory for the UK. Barrister Neil Shah comments on the decision here.
The Court of Appeal in MX v Dartford & Gravesham NHS Trust  considered whether a derogation from open justice was necessary where a court is asked to approve a settlement of a claim for damages for personal injury, brought by a child or protected party. It held that an anonymity order protecting the identity of the claimant should normally be granted without the need for any formal application, unless the court is satisfied that it is unnecessary or inappropriate to do so. Withholding the name of the claimant is required to respect his or her private and family life (Article 8 ECHR), and mitigates to some extent the inevitable discrimination (contra. Article 14 ECHR) between children/protected parties, and other litigants who are permitted to settle claims in private. However, the press should be able to make submissions before any order is made.
The ECtHR in MT v Sweden affirmed the principle that forced removal of a person suffering from a serious mental or physical illness to a country where medical treatment for that illness would be inferior might raise an issue under Article 3. However, it emphasised that the Article would be engaged only in a very exceptional case, disclosing compelling humanitarian grounds against expulsion. The fact that removal would affect an applicant’s circumstances, including by reducing his life expectancy, would not in itself give rise to a breach. In the present case, the Court found (Judge De Gaetano dissenting) that an applicant suffering from kidney failure would receive adequate medical care in Kyrgyzstan, so that his return there from Sweden would not present a real risk of an Article 3 violation.
To add to this list, please email Jim Duffy (firstname.lastname@example.org). 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.
- International conference to place Europe’s spotlight on the fight against torture – 2 March 2015
- Human Rights After the Election – A Near Miss or Apocalypse Now! Barrister and UKHRB founding editor Adam Wagner speaks at a seminar on the future of human rights in the UK at 1pm on 12 May, hosted by the Oxford Law Faculty.
Articles on UK Human Rights Blog
- Supreme Court – the right to be on the beach – February 25, 2015 by David Hart QC
- “Keep our kids safe from predators” FB page on the rampage again – February 25, 2015 by Rosalind English
- No entitlement to human rights damages after ‘caste discrimination’ case collapse – February 25, 2015 by Michael Deacon
- President of Family Division inveighs against social engineering in adoption proceedings – February 25 by Marina Wheeler
- The Big Fat Gypsy Judicial Review – February 26, 2015 by Jim Duffy
- Court of Appeal rules on police duty to suspects in detention – February 27, 2015 by Diarmuid Laffan