The Round-Up: Janner’s debut, and the plight of relying on Dignitas.
17 August 2015
In the news:
Lurid show-trial of a vulnerable man, the timely vindication of justice being done, and being seen to be done, a CPS volte-face.
Whatever you think of the Janner trial, it’s now in full swing. The former Labour Peer made his first appearance in court on Friday, facing 22 historic child sex abuse charges. The 87 year old’s committal hearing lasted some 59 seconds, after weeks of legal grappling with his defence lawyers. Any doubt over Janner’s dementia was “dispersed instantly” by his arrival, writes The Telegraph’s Martin Evans: flanked by his daughter and carer, Janner appeared frail and “confused”, cooing “ooh, this is wonderful” as he entered the courtroom. The case will now pass to the Crown Court, with the next hearing due on September 1, where a judge will decide whether the octogenarian is fit to stand trial, or whether a trial of fact is a suitable alternative. If the latter course is taken, a jury will decide if Janner was responsible for his charged actions – no verdict of guilt will be found, and no punishment will be handed down.
It’s certainly a forlorn courtroom vignette. As Lord Janner left his brief hearing, his daughter, Marion, comforted him: “Come on Dad, let’s go home and have a nice ice cream”. But sympathy for the elderly peer can’t obscure the charges against him. Those complainants with genuine claims against Janner will feel frustrated by the hearing, following his legal team’s stalling appeal, and Janner’s subsequent failure to turn up for his first appearance. The former peer finally arrived, after the judge threatened to arrest him, rejecting his team’s proposals of a video link hearing. Yet “we have reached the stage in which none of the alternatives are palatable”, writes Hugh Muir in the Guardian. The timing and gravity of the allegations, in this post-Savile climate of public disquiet, means the trial must play out – however “grisly”. Perhaps, though the line between public interest trial and lynch mob apologia is a fine one.
In other news…
The number of Britons travelling to the Dignitas clinic is projected to reach 300 in the next few weeks. Right-to-die campaigners hope the figure will aid their call for the government to repeal the prohibition on assisted suicide. The news follows the decision of Bob Cole, a mesothelioma sufferer, to publicly speak out about his trip to Dignitas last Friday. Cole’s own decision to visit Dignitas follows his wife’s decision to end her life there: “it was a lovely, warm, dignified atmosphere”. Prior to his visit, Cole called on MPs to support the assisted dying bill, due to reach the Commons in September. Assisting someone to die, which currently includes accompanying the person to Dignitas, carries a potential custodial sentence of up to 14 years.
More fine work from Adam Wagner’s kaleidoscopic new website, Rightsinfo. Click here for colourful statistics on the European Court of Human Rights. For HRA supporters and skeptics alike, it’s a necessary read. One of the many red top myths Wagner debunks is the Sun’s report that the UK loses 60% of its Strasbourg cases – the UK wins 99% of the time.
The migrant crisis in Kos continues to escalate. Migrants desperate to leave the island fought one another last week to board passenger ships chartered to house and process the refugees. Whilst Greek authorities have allowed Syrians to board the ships, as they are classed as refugees, Pakistanis, Afghans and Iranians – whose status is more uncertain – scuffled to board the boats. Riot police were called to disperse the crowds. The island has been besieged by migrants – mainly Syrian and Afghan refugees – since early summer, whilst the UNHCR predicts that some 124,000 migrants have landed on Greek islands this year. The refugee agency has openly deplored Greece’s response to the crisis, urging the authorities to improve the refugees’ reception and living conditions.
Nick Hardwicke, the chief prisons inspector, has called for time limits on the detention of migrations without trial. The appeal follows an unannounced inspection of Yarl’s Wood which found the removal centre failing to meet the needs of its most vulnerable detainees. Inspectors discovered that 99 pregnant women had been held in the centre in 2014, of whom only 9 were removed from the UK, contravening the Home Office policy that expectant women should not normally be detained. Furthermore, a “disturbing” 54% of detainees interviewed admitted they felt depressed or suicidal upon arrival, whilst sexual allegations continue to be leveled at Yarl’s Wood staff.
Connecticut’s supreme court has spared the lives of 11 men who were already on death row when the death penalty was abolished in the state three years ago. The ruling comes following an appeal from one of the inmates, Eduardo Santiago, arguing any post-repeal execution would constitute cruel and unjust punishment. Though the death penalty was only repealed for future crimes, Santiago’s attorneys successfully argued such selective use of the death penalty would prove unconstitutional.
Barbara Calvert QC, the eminent barrister and female spokesperson, has died aged 89. Lady Lowry became the first female head of chambers, after starting up her own, Four Brick Court, in the 1970s. She went on to become the first female QC to be appointed a full-time chair of Industrial Tribunals, and, following her retirement, founded the Grandparents’ Association, which lobbies for grandparents estranged from their grandchildren. A formidable trailblazer, she was the first female QC to take a case to Strasbourg, and, dismayed by the many young barristers unable to gain tenancy in chambers, pioneered the creation of 1 Pump Court. Her Middle Temple reading – “Sex, Does it Really Matter?” – offers a fitting coda to her own career: “there is no height a woman cannot scale”.
Oliari and Others v. Italy: ECtHR held that Italy should introduce the possibility of legal recognition for same-sex couples. The case concerned a complaint by three homosexual couples that they could not get married, or enter into a civil partnership, under Italian law. The Court held that the absence of legal protection for same-sex couples contravened their Article 8 rights, failing to provide for the core needs of a couple in a stable committed relationship. The Court further emphasized the trend amongst Contracting States towards legal recognition of same-sex couples, with 24 out of the 47 states having legislated in favour of such recognition.
Nazarenko v. Russia: Russian family law was held inflexible in this ECtHR judgment, with the automatic exclusion of a non-biological father from a child’s life, after termination of his paternity, constituting a violation of his Article 8 rights. The Court held the authorities had failed to provide a possibility for the family ties between father and child to be preserved, neglecting to consider the child’s best interests. It was held that States should examine on a case-by-case basis whether it is in a child’s best interests to maintain contact with a person, whether biologically related or not.
- “Enrolling internet intermediaries in the law enforcement process: Challenges and opportunities”. University of Southampton, September 17th -18th. A convocation of researchers and legal practitioners will discuss key issues regarding digital rights, and the emerging role of the internet intermediary.
- “Freedom of Information: Extending Transparency to the Private Sector”. Baker & McKenzie LLP, September 28th, 17:30-19:00. Hosted by the British Institute of International and Comparative Law, this event will consider the differences in transparency requirements for private contractors, and proposals to extend the FOI regime to private companies providing public services.
If you would like your event to be mentioned on the Blog, please email the details to Jim Duffy, at firstname.lastname@example.org.