Monthly News Archives: June 2015


“No union more profound”: The US Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage

30 June 2015 by

Photo credit: Guardian

Photo credit: Guardian

The Supreme Court of the United States has decided that same-sex couples have a constitutionally protected right to marry.

In the history of American jurisprudence, there are a handful of cases which are so significant that they will be known to all US law students, much of the domestic population at large, and even large segments of the international community. Brown v Board of Education, which ended racial segregation in schools, is one example. Roe v Wade, which upheld the right of women to access abortion serves, is another. To that list may now be added the case of Obergefell v Hodges.

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When the Sh*t hits the Ban

30 June 2015 by

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination ActJack Lowe and Dennis Reynolds, Plaintiffs v Atlas Logistics Group Retail Services

The first prosecution under the 2008 US Genetic  Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) has won $2.25 million jury damages for the individuals involved .

I have posted about genetic discrimination here and here. In the US some of these problems have been foreseen and legislated against: GINA prohibits discrimination against healthy individuals for employment decisions or health insurance purposes on the basis of genetic information alone; it also prevents employers and insurance providers from demanding or using information from genetic tests.

The law does include limited exemptions, however. Forensic laboratories can ask workers for their DNA to check that employees’ genetic material does not contaminate the genetic samples that they analyse.
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The Round-up: One nation justice – but will the Government pay for it?

29 June 2015 by

Credit: The Telegraph

In the news

In his first major speech as Lord Chancellor, Michael Gove this week set out his vision for ‘one nation justice’. At present a two-tier system provides the “gold-standard” of British justice to the wealthy and a “creaking, outdated system to everyone else”. The emphasis was on making use of technological developments, closing under-used courts and requiring the “most successful in the legal profession” to help “protect access to justice for all”.
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Supreme Court on EU and ECHR proportionality – back to basics

27 June 2015 by

seo-marketing-320x200R (ota Lumsdon) v Legal Services Board [2015] UKSC 41, 24 June 2015 (see judgment)

The Supreme Court has reminded us, in a tour de force by Lord Reed, that there is no such thing as one-stop proportionality. It varies between ECHR and EU law, and the tests of EU proportionality then vary according to the nature of the EU issue in play.

And all this in a case about trying to improve standards for barristers’ advocacy.

Barristers challenged the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates or QASA, on EU grounds. QASA requires barristers in the criminal courts to be assessed by judges before they are allowed to take on certain categories of cases.

Its EU-ness arises in this way.

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Care arrangements for severely autistic man did not deprive him of his liberty

26 June 2015 by

Court of protectionBournemouth Borough Council v PS and another [2015] EWCOP (11 June 2015) – read judgment

Mostyn J in the Court of Protection was asked to determine whether care arrangements in place for a 28-year-old man (BS) with severe autism and who lacked capacity constituted a deprivation of his liberty. He concluded that the care arrangements in place were in his best interests and did not constitute a deprivation of his liberty under Article 5 of the ECHR. Although he was subject to observation and monitoring in his own home he was not under continuous supervision and he was afforded appreciable privacy; there were no locks on the doors and he was free to leave.

Interestingly, comments made in this case shows that judges, or some of them, do engage with what is being said about them in the blogosphere.
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The 50 human rights cases that transformed Britain

26 June 2015 by

50cases_desat

Today, I am delighted to launch a major new RightsInsfo infographic, the 50 Human Rights Cases That Transformed Britain.  For the full experience, make sure you access it on a desktop computer.

Since RightsInfo launched two months ago, we have had over 300,000 hits and now have over 10,000 followers across social media. It has already been an amazing journey and we feel that this is the beginning of something very special.

v-9#50cases has been contributed to by top legal academics, writers and human rights experts through crowdsourcing on this blog. Along with our amazing infographic, each of the 50 landmark cases has also been translated  into a plain-English, bitesize story. It is by the most comprehensive study so far as to what human rights have done for Britain.

v-12As the government seeks to reform human rights laws, it is crucial for people to understand what effect human rights have had on our society. This project shows that the European Convention on Human Rights and Human Rights Act have had a profound impact on British society. The #50cases project shows that human rights are not just for terrorists and criminals, but affect all of us.

The RightsInfo volunteer team, Information is Beautiful Studio and I have put a lot of work into this project. Please explore, engage and, most of all, enjoy.

Click here to begin your journey.

Asylum is a high hurdle. Can aspirants for UK try the Convention on Human Trafficking instead?

24 June 2015 by

Default_en-Stop_Trafficking_Still-1R (on the application of Hoang Anh Minh) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2015] EWHC 1725 (Admin) – read judgment 

This case concerned the proper approach to establishing whether there are “reasonable grounds” for believing that a person has been a victim of trafficking under the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (“the Trafficking Convention”). It also touched on the scope of the state’s positive obligations under Article 4 ECHR (which protects citizens of Council of Europe Countries from subjected to slavery, servitude, or forced or compulsory labour).

Background

The claimant arrived in the UK from Vietnam via Russia, where he claimed he had been forced to work in a factory for several years before being released. On arrival here he claimed asylum, which was refused.

In parallel with asylum proceedings, however, his case was referred to the Home Office’s competent authority to determine whether he was entitled to protection and assistance under the Trafficking Convention. The question in this context was different from that in the asylum claim – the competent authority was required to consider whether there were “reasonable grounds” to consider that the Claimant had been a victim of trafficking.

The competent authority gave an emphatic “no” to that question, by way of three decisions (an initial decision and two further decisions which reconsidered the first) which were in effect treated as a single decision for the purposes of the claim. The Claimant challenged those decisions by way of judicial review.
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Don’t Say ‘Snooper’s Charter’: Dutch Dairy-Rooms and British Political Language – Dr Cian Murphy

24 June 2015 by

No_snoopers_homeMuch has been said about our surveillance law and much more will be said in Parliament’s debate on Thursday. And yet, how we talk about surveillance law merits at least as much concern as what we say about it. Over-intrusive government surveillance is a problem. But so too is loose language in opposition to it.

The Oxford English Dictionary (Online) describes a ‘snooper’ as ‘one who pries or peeps; spec. one who makes an intrusive official investigation. orig. U.S.’ So it is, at best, an American term for an officious busy-body and at worst someone prying or peeping. This is hardly an administrative accolade or term of endearment – unless one has rather curious definitions of government and/or courtship.

Further etymological investigation reveals that the term ‘to snoop’ is Dutch in origin, and one use would be to describe a servant “slyly going into a dairy room and drinking milk from a pan.” It seems a Dutch Downton Abbey would have even more intrigue than the English one does. For none of these definitions or descriptions would we want Parliament to legislate. No-one is on the side of the ‘snooper’.
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Strasbourg Court opens door to complaints by refugees displaced during conflict – Aarif Abraham

22 June 2015 by

032bb0281e611647bb7f32ea4dae3488_normalChiragov and Others v. Armenia (App No 13216/05) – read judgment

In two important decisions, the Grand Chamber of the Strasbourg Court has held that the forced displacement of peoples from the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh during the armed conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia constituted a violation of Article 1 of Protocol 1 (right to the peaceful enjoyment of property) and Article 8 (right to a private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case of Chiragov which concerned the forced displacement of Azerbaijani nationals was decided in parallel with the Grand Chamber judgment in Sargsyan v Azerbaijan (found here). Sargsyan was delivered on the same day and reached the same conclusions in respect of Armenian nationals forced to flee from Azerbaijani territory.
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Copying material for private use: is it legal?

20 June 2015 by

fva-630-copyright-infringement-dmca-stock-photo-shutterstock-630wBritish Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors and others, R(on the application of) v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and another [2015] EWHC 1723 (Admin) – read judgment

An exception to copyright infringement for private use has failed to survive a challenge in the High Court. But this may not be the end of the story. Although he accepted part of the claimants’ contentions, Green J observed that

the Claimants’ argument does not sit well or easily with the very unusual and particular circumstances which have led to the decision to introduce the private use exception in the first place. These are that the advent of digitalisation has led to a market where device sellers and consumers assume they may copy and where rightholders have not sought private law remedies against infringers.[my italics]

It is a particular feature of this case that there is a widespread consensus that the law has signally failed to keep up with market reality and with reasonable consumer expectations and indeed has been brought into disrepute by its condemnation as illegal of activities which are now accepted by consumers as lawful and which in actual fact form the basic commercial premise upon which copying and storage devices are actively sold throughout Europe.

Having upheld a small part of the challenge, Green J will now hear submissions as to what flows from this conclusion and from the judgment generally. In particular he will hear submissions as to whether any issue of law that he had decided should be referred to the Court of Justice and if so as to the question(s) that should be asked.
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UK courts are bound by UK rulings, not Strasbourg decisions, says Admin Court – Leanne Woods

19 June 2015 by

keep-calmR (Victor Nealon) v Secretary of State for Justice : R (Sam Hallam) v Secretary of State for Justice [2015] EWHC 1565 (Admin), 8 June 2015 –  read judgment 

As Michael Gove contemplates the future of the Human Rights Act 1998, the High Court has considered how far the presumption of innocence in Article 6(2) ECHR spreads into decisions on payment of compensation for a miscarriage of justice. In doing so, Burnett LJ also managed to find some less than complimentary sentiments about the Strasbourg court’s decision-making.

Sam Hallam was convicted of murder in 2011. Victor Nealon was convicted of rape in 1997. Both successfully appealed against their convictions and then applied to the Secretary of State (‘SoS’) for compensation under s133 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (the ‘1988 Act’’), as amended by the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (the ‘2014 Act’). Both men were refused compensation on the basis that their circumstances did not meet the s133 statutory test (as amended).
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Withdrawal of nutrition and hydration would not offend right to life – Strasbourg Court

16 June 2015 by

P3_010457_Sonde_SHS_PUR_violett_Kurzzeit_SG8_80_A6_RGB_575px_01Lambert and Others v. France (application no. 46043/14) – read judgment

In an important step away from Pretty v UK, the Grand Chamber of the Strasbourg Court has upheld the right of to die with dignity by ruling that there would be no violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights if artificial nutrition and hydration were to be withdrawn from a patient in a persistent vegetative state.

Although the facts were very different, it is heartening to see Strasbourg at last allowing the argument that the state’s obligation to protect life also involves a duty to respect people’s rights to exit life with dignity. The importance of this ruling cannot be underestimated, as can be seen in the ferocity of dissent set out in the Separate Opinion annexed to the judgment (discussed at the end of this post.)

The case involved a challenge by some of the patient’s family members to a judgment delivered on 24 June 2014 by the Conseil d’État which authorised this step.  The following summary of the facts and judgment is based on the Court’s press release.

Background facts

Vincent Lambert sustained serious head injuries in a road-traffic accident on 29 September 2008, which left him tetraplegic and in a state of complete dependency. At the time of this hearing he was in the care of a hospital which specialises in patients in a vegetative or minimally conscious state.In 2011 his condition was characterised as minimally conscious and in 2014 as vegetative. He receives artificial nutrition and hydration which is administered enterally, through a gastric tube.
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The Round-up: the first conviction for forced marriage and other news

14 June 2015 by

forced-marriage-imageThis week’s Round-up is brought to you by Alex Wessely.

In the news

In a written statement the legal aid minister Mr Shailesh Vara confirmed that a further 8.75% will be cut from the criminal legal aid budget in 2015. The legal profession has reacted with dismay. Andrew Caplan, president of the Law Society has stated his “deep concern” and published an open letter to the lord chancellor arguing that the cuts “undermines the role of criminal legal aid solicitors in our justice system”. He also points to December 2014 research which shows that young legal aid lawyers are a “dying breed”, something which the most recent cuts will not help to alleviate. Elsewhere, Jonathan Black – president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association – has also expressed his bitter disappointment: “There is no further fat to be cut, let alone meat or skin – we are cutting deep into the bone.” Alistair Macdonald QC, chairman of the Bar Council, also expressed his “serious concerns”. Last month, 96% of criminal barristers voted for industrial action if these planned cuts went ahead.
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Britain Can Lead the World In Online Privacy – Dr Cian Murphy

13 June 2015 by

Eye_2British legal history has long inspired the common law world. The Magna Carta, an 800-year-old agreement between a King and his barons, remains an icon of liberty, seen around the world as the foundation stone of the rule of law. In contrast, British law on online surveillance and privacy has been arcane and obscure – a field that is for reluctant experts if it is for anyone at all.

The law has largely been developed in reaction to external pressure. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 was the result of a series of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 was rushed into law after an EU Court of Justice ruling. This piecemeal approach provides a poor basis for investigatory powers and a worse one for privacy rights.

Momentum towards change has been building. The Edward Snowden revelations brought to an end the public’s ignorance – or quiet endurance – of state surveillance operations. So, although last year’s emergency law permits ongoing data surveillance, it also put in motion a review of the powers of intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
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Assessment of domestic violence should not be culture sensitive – Jacqueline Roach

13 June 2015 by

Domestic_violence ChildrenRe A (A Child; Wardship; Fact : Finding : Domestic Violence [2015] EWHC 1598 (Fam) – read judgment

This recent domestic violence case involving a child and the comments made by Mrs Justice Pauffley have been exciting the interest of both the media those agencies involved in child protection, such as the NSPCC.

Background facts

The parents met in 2004 and were married in India in January 2005.   They travelled to England in 2006 on six month visas.   They became ‘over stayers’ when those visas expired and they decided not to return.   They lived in a series of addresses with other families.

In June 2007 their only child, A, was born.

It was the mother’s case that after about three months the marriage became unhappy – a situation which continued until the final separation in 2013.   The father, by contrast, maintained they were very happy until about 2011.
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