US court takes important step in resolving human/wildlife conflict at sea

Sea Otters

Sea Otters

California Sea Urchin Commission, et al. v Michael Bean, et al, US District Court, Central District of California (September 18 2015) – read judgment

A Californian court has upheld the protection of marine otters over the interests of commercial fishing.

Sea otters are remarkable marine mammals who live their entire lives at sea, giving birth in the water and clutching their cubs to their bellies as they float in rafts of up to a thousand, holding hands while they sleep to avoid drifting off in the ocean’s currents. But they are not just picturesque; they are essential to the health of the seas. A main component of their diet is the ubiquitous sea urchin, which feeds on kelp. As sea otters have been hunted and killed as by-catch over the centuries, their diminishing numbers have led to the proliferation of the sea urchin population and the consequent disappearance of the kelp forests on the seabed. The damage this does to the marine ecosystem has been inestimable.

This somewhat technical judgment, made on a preliminary application for summary judgment by the fishing industry, therefore marks an important step in the judicial response to marine conservation. Continue reading

The Round-Up: Holyrood’s Hard-line, and Sumption’s Long Game

SumptionLaura Profumo brings you the latest human rights happenings.

In the News: 

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, announced last week that it was “inconceivable” that the SNP would support the Conservative plans to scrap the Human Rights Act. Talking to an audience in Glasgow on Wednesday, Sturgeon pledged her unequivocal commitment to block the HRA-repeal. Sturgeon warned that human rights remained a “devolved issue”, meaning that Scottish opposition might well hamper Gove’s forthcoming efforts. Many find sympathy with Sturgeon’s stance. Sturgeon values the HRA as a “careful model” which incorporates human rights protection into UK law, without upsetting our constitutional bedrock, writes Alex Cisneros in The Justice Gap. Continue reading

We are five! And we’re having a party to celebrate

ann-marie-calilhanna-mardigras-party-2012_1514-bannerThe UK Human Rights Blog recently turned five years old, and it would only be right if we celebrated with you, our loyal readers. So, we’re having a party on Thursday 29 October 2015. The full details are below. There will be drinks and some great music.

It’s a free event, but places are very limited so if you want to reserve a place, please email Lisa Pavlovsky (lisa.pavlovsky@1cor.com) with the subject heading “UKHRB Birthday Party”. The body text should only include your name, position (e.g. “solicitor” or “student”) and organisation, if you are attached to one.

Full details:

UK Human Rights Blog Birthday Party

Thursday, 29 October 2015

 7pm – 10:30pm

 4th Floor Studios,

255-259 Commercial Road,

London E1 2BT

We really hope to see you there and thanks again for your support over the years.

Is the European Convention Working? Grieve advocates before Faculty of Advocates

crop-dominic-grieve_39562a1Less than 48 hours before First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s speech in Glasgow (see our coverage here), another rousing defence of the Convention was launched in Scotland. Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve addressed the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh on the 21st September, posing the question “Is the European Convention Working?”, and in reply giving an outstanding analysis of the reasons why the UK must remain within the Convention (full transcript available here).

In the interest of brevity, this post shall skim over the more “standard” defences of the Convention – highlighting the various historical “success stories”, the more serious situations in other states in comparison to the UK, the effective existing dialogue between domestic courts and Strasbourg, problems of EU membership and devolution agreements (of which we have previously discussed here) – and instead focus on the more interesting arguments he makes: namely, the important interactions between the international reputation of the UK and the authority of the Court. Continue reading

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reinforces Scottish opposition to repeal of the Human Rights Act

Nicola-SturgeonYesterday morning, in a speech to civic organisations in Glasgow, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned that “no responsible government” would consider repeal of the Human Rights Act 1998 due to the numerous negative consequences, both in the domestic and international sphere, that would result from such a move – (see a transcript of the speech here).

Proposals for Repeal of the Human Rights Act

It has been a longstanding Tory policy to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights. Such a policy is motivated by discontent over a handful of decisions from the European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”) that have allegedly “undermine[d] the role of UK courts in deciding on human rights issues”. In October 2014, the then Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced Tory proposals to treat Strasbourg judgments as “advisory” – irrespective of the potential incoherence between treating judgments in such a way and the UK’s obligations under Article 46, ECHR (see John Wadham’s post here). However, the 2015 Tory manifesto included less specific promises to “scrap the Human Rights Act” in order to “break the formal link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights”. Little substantive information has been provided on the development of these plans, apart from an intention, included in the Queen’s speech, to conduct consultations and publish proposals this autumn. Continue reading

Picket lines in General Franco’s Britain – the Round-up

Photo credit: The Independent

In the news

The controversial Trade Union Bill this week passed its second reading in the House of Commons by a majority of 33 MPs. The bill contains plans to impose a minimum 50% turnout in industrial action ballots, whilst public sector strikes will require the backing of at least 40% of all eligible voters. It further includes proposals to:

  • Increase the period of notice given by unions before a strike can be held from seven to 14 days;
  • Permit the employment of agency workers to replace permanent staff during strike action; and
  • Introduce fines of up to £20,000 on unions if pickets do not wear an official armband.

The civil rights organisation Liberty has warned that the bill will infringe the right to join a trade union, protected by Article 11 of the ECHR. Director Shami Chakrabarti has described the measures as a “spiteful and ideological attack” on freedoms that “must have one-nation Tories like Disraeli and Churchill spinning in their graves.”

Aspects of the bill have moreover come into criticism from senior members of the Conservative party. David Davis MP made clear his opposition to the requirement that organisers of picket lines register their details with the police, suggesting that the proposed reform was reminiscent of the Spanish dictatorship of General Franco.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid has, however, defended the measures, insisting that the reforms would “stop the ‘endless’ threat of strike action” and ensure that the right to strike was “fairly balanced with the right of people to be able to go about their daily lives and work.”

Other news:

  • A coroner has concluded that the suicide of 60-year-old Michael O’Sullivan was a direct result of his assessment by a DWP doctor as being fit for work. Mr O’Sullivan, who suffered from severe mental illness, hanged himself after his disability benefits were removed. The Independent reports.
  • Proposals announced by the Ministry of Justice to further increase court fees have been criticised by the Bar Council, which has warned that higher costs would give wealthy individuals and big business an unfair advantage over weaker parties in court proceedings. The Bar Council press release can be read in full here.
  • The Guardian: Cuts to legal aid have led to an increase in demand for free legal representation and advice, placing considerable strain on the resources of charities and lawyers engaged in pro bono work.
  • Local Government Lawyer: Lord Chancellor Michael Gove has launched a review of the youth justice system, which is to be led by Charlie Taylor, former chief executive of the National College of Teaching. Mr Gove noted in a statement to Parliament that 67% of young people leaving custody reoffend within a year, and emphasised that the rehabilitation of young offenders had to be a government priority.

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Events

If you would like your event to be mentioned on the Blog, please email the details to Jim Duffy, at jim.duffy@1cor.com.

Strasbourg in the Age of Subsidiarity: Enough Reform to Accommodate Conservative Concerns? Brian Chang

Judge_Robert_SpanoOn 7th September 2015, Judge Robert Spano (of the European Court of Human Rights) spoke at a high-level international conference on “The Role of Parliaments in the Realisation and Protection of the Rule of Law and Human Rights”, organised by Murray Hunt, Legal Adviser to Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights. This was his second public intervention in the United Kingdom since his seminal speech on “Universality or Diversity of Human Rights: Strasbourg in the Age of Subsidiarity” delivered at Oxford in 2014, the first having been covered by UK Human Rights Blog here, and built upon his earlier speeches by elaborating on four post-Brighton Declaration cases in which the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (the European Court) applied the principle of subsidiarity to find no violation of human rights, considering that the cases fell within the national margin of appreciation, after having examined evidence demonstrating that the national Parliaments had considered the human rights issues. Taken collectively, the four cases demonstrate that Strasbourg is well and truly in the age of subsidiarity, deferring to the decisions of national Parliaments, provided those Parliaments had considered the human rights implications of legislation. Whether this will satisfy Conservative Party concerns that membership of the European Convention on Human Rights is incompatible with the doctrine of Parliamentary sovereignty will be explored at the end of this post. Continue reading