Monthly News Archives: May 2016


The Round-up: criminal justice close to breaking point

31 May 2016 by

scales of justice Old BaileyIn the news

The criminal justice system is “close to breaking point”, according to a report released by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last week, Efficiency in the Criminal Justice System. The report finds that the criminal justice system is “bedevilled by long standing poor performance” including delays and inefficiencies, where costs are shunted from one part of the system to another.

Last year there was a backlog of 51,830 cases awaiting a hearing at the Crown Court. The average wait between a case leaving the Magistrates’ Court and reaching the Crown Court is 134 days, compared with 99 days two years ago. The “disjointed” nature of the system – which is administered by different parts of government with different budgets – results in decisions taken by one part increasing inefficiencies in another area. The service received by victims and witnesses is not good enough, and there are “unacceptable variations” in the length of time victims have to wait  for access to justice in different areas of the country.

The report unequivocally concludes that the Ministry of Justice has been “too slow” to recognise that the system is under stress and to do anything about it. The MoJ has exhausted the scope to cut costs without pushing the system beyond breaking point – since 2010-11, the criminal justice system has suffered a massive 26% cut. Even if courts sit on all days in their allowance, there are still not enough judges to hear all the cases. Since the criminal bar has reduced in size as a result of reductions in legal aid spending, the CPS struggle to find counsel to prosecute cases.

Though the MoJ have developed an “ambitious” reform programme which aims to address the inefficiencies in the system, partly through digitising paper records and enabling flexible digital working, the PAC were told it would take four years to see the benefits. Court users should “not have to wait this long to see real change”, they say, noting that “Government does not have a good track record of delivering projects that involve significant changes to IT”. They recommend that the MoJ do more in the meantime by better sharing the small practical improvements introduced by hard-working staff in individual courts.

The Bar Council have said in response to the report that while it sends an “important message” to the Government, the proposed digitisation reforms are not enough to address the challenges faced by the system. The “precious asset” of Justice should be ring-fenced from cuts.

Other News

  • The Supreme Court last week upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal in finding that British expatriates of more than 15 years are not eligible to vote in the EU referendum on 23 June. Harry Shindler, 95, who has resided in Italy for 35 years, and Jacquelyn MacLennan, 54, who has lived in Belgium since 1987, had argued unsuccessfully that the 15-year rule contained in Section 2 of the EU Referendum Act 2015 was an unjustified restriction on their freedom of movement, in that it penalised them for exercising their right to move and reside in another Member State. Lady Hale, Deputy President of the Supreme Court, emphasised that the relevant question was not whether the voting exclusion was justifiable as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, but rather whether European Law applied at all, since only if it did was there any possibility of attacking an Act of Parliament. Assuming for the sake of argument that it did apply, the Supreme Court decided that it was not arguable that there was an interference with the right of free movement, for the reasons given by the Court of Appeal and Divisional Court. See David Hart QC’s previous post on the Court of Appeal decision here.
  • An inquest has found that police unlawfully detained a 22-year-old man with mental health issues who was later found hanged. Logan Peters had been held in an unauthorised headlock and illegally strip-searched by police who stopped him on suspicion of criminal damage at a takeaway. The inquest heard that whilst in his cell Mr Peters had battered the walls with his head and tried to strangle himself, but was considered “attention-seeking” rather than suicidal. There was no plan put in place for his care following his release. The panel concluded there were “errors, omissions, failures” in the way Mr Peters was seized on the street, finding that it was “extremely likely” that the events and the “unreasonable, disproportionate and unnecessary force used… had a negative impact on Logan’s physical and psychological well-being”. This follows several high profile failings by police to look after people with mental health issues whilst in custody, such as the death Sarah Reed at Holloway prison earlier this year and Sheldon Woodford at HMP Winchester in 2015.

In the Courts

  • IC v Romania – the inadequacy of the investigation into a young girl’s allegation of rape was a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment). A 14-year old girl with an intellectual disability had alleged that whilst at a wake she had been grabbed by three teenage boys who took her to a man, MC, waiting in the garden of a deserted building, who then raped her. Two other men were also present. During the police investigation the six men involved claimed the girl had consented to the intercourse. The prosecutor accepted this explanation, indicting MC only for sexual intercourse with a minor. The Court held that the authorities had put undue emphasis on the lack of proof that the girl had shown resistance during the incident. The prosecutors had based their conclusions on the statements given by the alleged rapists along with the fact that the girl’s body did not show any signs of violence and she had not called for help. The Romanian authorities had failed to give particular attention to IC’s intellectual disability, in light of which her ‘consent’ to the acts should have been analysed.
  • Biao v Denmark – The Court held in this case that Danish legislation on family reunion is discriminatory, finding a violation of Article 14 in conjunction with Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life). The applicant was a naturalised Danish citizen of Togolese origin who complained that he and his Ghanaian wife could not settle in Denmark. The Danish authorities had refused to grant them family reunion on the basis that they did not fulfil the “attachment” requirement that they did not have stronger ties with another country – Ghana, in this case. They complained that an amendment to the legislation which lifted the “attachment requirement” for those who had held Danish citizenship for at least 28 years resulted in difference in treatment between those born Danish nationals and those who had acquired Danish citizenship later in life. The Court held that this rule favoured Danish nationals of Danish ethnic origin, and placed those who had acquired Danish citizenship later in life at a disadvantage.

Previous Posts

Father should be allowed to apply for parental responsibility following surrogacy

25 May 2016 by

surro imageZ (A Child) (No 2) [2016] EWHC 1191 (Fam) 20 May 2016 – read judgment.

The Court of Protection has granted an order for a declaration of incompatibility with Convention rights of a section in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act on grounds of discrimination.

This case concerned a child, Z, who was born in August 2014 in the State of Minnesota in the United States of America. Z was conceived with the applicant father’s sperm and a third party donor’s egg implanted in an experienced unmarried American surrogate mother. The surrogacy arrangements were made through the agency of an Illinois company and in accordance with Illinois law.

Following Z’s birth, the father obtained a declaratory judgment from the appropriate court in Minnesota, relieving the surrogate mother of any legal rights or responsibilities for Z and establishing the father’s sole parentage of Z. Following that court order he was registered as Z’s father in Minnesota. The father has since returned to this country, bringing Z with him.

The legal effect of this is that the surrogate mother, although she no longer has any legal rights in relation to Z under Minnesota law, is treated in the UK as being his mother. By the same token, whatever his legal rights in Minnesota, the father has no parental responsibility for Z in this country. The only two ways in which the court could secure the permanent transfer of parental responsibility from the surrogate mother to the father is by way of a parental order or an adoption order. The father would obviously far prefer a parental order.
Continue reading →

Censorship or justified Concern?

24 May 2016 by

Southampton_1912501bIR(Ben-Dor & Ors) v The University of Southampton [2016] EWHC 953 (Admin) (read judgment)

Mrs Justice Whipple dismissed one claim for judicial review, and refused permission to bring a further claim, in respect of decisions made by Southampton University regarding a proposed conference on the legality of the existence of Israel under international law. She held that the University had lawfully withdrawn its permission to hold the conference in April 2015, and refused permission to challenge the University’s subsequent decision to require the conference organisers to meet the conference’s security costs as a condition of allowing the conference to take place at a later date. The conference organisers had claimed that both decisions represented an unlawful interference with their Article 10 right to free expression and Article 11 right to free assembly.
Continue reading →

Article 5 ECHR does not require time limits for detention pending deportation

24 May 2016 by

J.N. v. the United Kingdom, Application no. 37289/12, 19 May 2016 – read judgment.

Image result for guardian yarl wood

Photo credit: The Guardian

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the general system for detention of individuals prior to deportation in the United Kingdom, which lacks specific maximum time-limits, complies with Article 5, ECHR (Right to liberty and security of the person). However, in the proceedings involving J.N., the authorities had not acted with sufficient “due diligence”, which resulted in a violation of Article 5.

by Fraser Simpson

Background

The applicant, known as J.N., arrived in the UK in early 2003 and unsuccessfully sought asylum soon after. In February 2004 he was convicted of indecent assault and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment. Following his release he was subjected to a number of conditions which he failed to comply with. This led the Secretary of State to issue an order deporting J.N. back to Iran. On 31 March 2005 the applicant was detained pending deportation.

Complications arose when attempts were made to obtain the necessary travel documents from the Iranian Embassy. Eventually, in November 2007, the Embassy agreed to issue the documents if the applicant signed a “disclaimer” consenting to his return. The applicant refused to sign this disclaimer.

Despite being released for one month following review of his detention by the Administrative Court in December 2007, the applicant was once again detained in January 2008. He continued to refuse to sign the disclaimer that was necessary to obtain the travel documents and to effect the deportation. During this second period of detention the authorities considered prosecuting the applicant for failing to comply with the Secretary of State’s request to take specific action to obtain a travel document (under s. 35, Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004). But no prosecution was forthcoming. Additionally, J.N. agreed to sign the disclaimer if he was compensated for the periods of detention. However, the UK Border Agency refused to do so.

Domestic Proceedings

J.N.’s refusal to sign the disclaimer continued until late-2009 when J.N.’s solicitors began judicial review proceedings challenging the lawfulness of his detention. In considering the lawfulness of the detention pending deportation, the judge considered the four principles established in R v. Governor of Durham Prison, ex parte Hardial Singh, [1984] WLR 704:

  1. The Secretary of State must intend to deport the person and can only use the power to detain for that purpose;
  2. The deportee may only be detained for a period that is reasonable in all the circumstances;
  3. If, before the expiry of the reasonable period, it becomes apparent that the Secretary of State will not be able to effect deportation within that reasonable period, he should not seek to exercise the power of detention;
  4. The Secretary of State should act with reasonable diligence and expedition to effect removal.

The judge considered that the authorities responsible for the deportation had acted with a “woeful lack of energy and impetus”. They had failed to change their approach to the situation, they refused to bring a prosecution under the relevant legislation. Further, they had not approached the Iranian authorities to see if they would change their position regarding the need for a disclaimer. The Secretary of State had fallen short of the fourth requirement established in Hardial Singh. Accordingly, the judge found that the applicant’s detention had been unlawful from 14 September 2009 onwards.

The Strasbourg Court

Article 5 protects the right to liberty and security of persons. Restrictions of liberty are permissible if they fall within one of the specific grounds highlighted in Article 5(1). Article 5(1)(f) relates to detention “of a person against whom action is being taken with a view to deportation or extradition”. Any detention in pursuance of this objective must be prescribed by, and comply with, domestic law. Additionally, the domestic law must be “sufficiently accessible, precise and foreseeable in its application, in order to avoid all risk of arbitrariness”. To satisfy this “quality of law” requirement, domestic law should include clear provisions on the ordering and extension of detention as well as effective remedies that can be used by the individual to challenge the lawfulness of their detention. These requirements act as safeguards against arbitrary detention.

The applicant complained that the UK system for detention pending deportation did not specify maximum time limits for such detention and that this led to a violation of Article 5(1). Additionally, there was a need for automatic judicial scrutiny of any detention as opposed to requiring the individual to initiate judicial review proceedings themselves. Finally, the applicant submitted that if the UK’s system was said to satisfy the “quality of law” requirement, then the entirety of his detention had been unlawful, and in violation of Article 5, as at no point had there been a realistic prospect of removal (see paras. 59-63).

Lack of time-limits within the UK system (paras. 90-93)

The ECtHR had previously held that Article 5(1)(f) does not impose maximum time limits for detention pending deportation. However, the absence of such time-limits will be a factor in assessing whether domestic law satisfies the “quality of law” requirement. But other protections against arbitrariness, including the ability to review the lawfulness of the detention, are equally important.

The “EU Returns Directive” (see Article 15 here) does set down a maximum time limit of 18 months for detention pending deportation. However, the UK has opted out of this Directive and it is therefore not binding. The ECtHR considered that despite this Directive creating a uniform approach over the majority of Council of Europe States, it could not be considered that such a position was required by Article 5(1)(f) or that this is the only position compatible with such a provision. Additionally, two Council of Europe instruments had addressed detention pending deportation and refrained from imposing time limits (see Twenty Guidelines on Forced Return, 2005 and Parliamentary Assembly Resolution 1707 on the detention of asylum seekers and irregular migrants in Europe, 2010).

The ECtHR held that Article 5(1)(f) does not require states to establish time-limits for detention pending deportation. The UK has sufficient procedures to allow the lawfulness of detention to be tested. Accordingly, the failure of the UK system to establish such limits, in light of the other procedural safeguards against arbitrariness, was not in violation of Article 5(1).

Lack of automatic judicial review of immigration detention (paras. 94-96)

The ECtHR refused the applicant’s submissions that Article 5(1)(f) required automatic judicial scrutiny of immigration detention. Article 5(4) provides all individuals who have been detained or had their liberty deprived with a right to take proceedings to examine the lawfulness of the detention. An entitlement to take proceedings, as opposed to automatic review, is all that is required by Article 5.

Was J.N.’s detention in accordance with Article 5? (paras. 102-108)

Finally, the ECtHR considered whether J.N.’s second period of detention, from 14 January 2008 to 14 September 2009 (the date on which the domestic court ruled that the detention had become unlawful) was in compliance with Article 5(1)(f) (for the reasons for restricting the scope of review to this period see paras.48-57)

The ECtHR saw no justification for the domestic courts to have restricted the “unlawful detention” to the period following 14 September 2009. Despite the repeated refusal of J.N. to cooperate, this could not be “be seen as a ‘trump card’ capable of justifying any period of detention” (para. 106). The ECtHR considered that the authorities had shown, to use the language of the domestic court, a “woeful lack of energy and impetus” from mid-2008 onwards. As a result, the detention had not been pursued with “reasonable diligence and expedition” from mid-2008 and therefore was not in accordance with domestic law and the principles established in Hardial Singh.

Accordingly, the detention from mid-2008 to 14 September 2009 was in violation of Article 5(1).

Comment

Despite concerns as to the unlimited nature of detention pending deportation being generally raised by a number of UN and European human rights bodies, as well as specific recommendations for the UK to adopt such limits (see UN Human Rights Committee, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, and a UK All Party Parliamentary Group), the ECtHR refused to recognise that such limits were required by Article 5.

Undoubtedly the EU Returns Directive has resulted in the majority of Council of Europe states having limits for such detention. But as argued by the Government, recognising that Article 5 imposed such time limits may have “subvert[ed] the democratic process” by imposing time limits modelled on the EU Returns Directive from which the UK had lawfully opted out (para. 66).

During parliamentary scrutiny of the recent Immigration Act 2016 (which received Royal Assent on 12 May 2016) amendments were proposed by the House of Lords to limit immigration detention to 28 days  – it should be noted that this would not have covered J.N.’s situation as it was not applicable in the event that the Secretary of State had made a deportation order – see para. 84 here). However, this amendment was rejected. In the final version of the Immigration Act a duty to arrange consideration of bail is placed upon the Secretary of State for all individuals detained pending deportation (which would cover J.N.) after four months (Sch. 10, para. 11, Immigration Act 2016). This would clearly act as a further, important safeguard against arbitrariness.

Unlimited Immigration Detention and the Right to Liberty – the Round-up

24 May 2016 by

Photo credit: RT

In the news

The absence of fixed time limits in the UK system of immigration detention does not breach Article 5 of the Convention (the right to liberty), according to a recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights in JN v United Kingdom.

The applicant was an Iranian national who was refused asylum in the UK and issued with a deportation order. He was detained in an immigration removal centre for more than four and a half years, following completion of a custodial sentence for indecent assault. The applicant complained that in the absence of fixed time limits, domestic law was unclear and did not produce foreseeable consequences for individuals.

This argument was rejected by the Court, which re-iterated that Article 5 does not lay down maximum time limits for detention pending deportation. The issue was said to be whether domestic law contained sufficient procedural safeguards against arbitrariness, and in this regard the UK did not fall short of Convention requirements. However, the Court did find that between January 2008 and September 2009 deportation of the applicant had not been pursued with “due diligence”, and his detention during this period was therefore in breach of his right to liberty.

The decision will come as a disappointment to campaigners, who point out that the UK is the only EU Member State which places no time limit on the detention of foreign nationals. According to the UNHCR, detention can have “a lasting, detrimental impact on the mental and physical health of asylum seekers”, and both a cross-party Parliamentary Inquiry and a recent report of the UN Human Rights Committee have called on the UK to adopt an upper limit.

It remains open to the Government to do so. However, in light of the judgment in JN, the introduction of a statutory time limit would now appear unlikely. A spokeswoman told the Guardian that the Home Office were pleased with the outcome of the case: “We maintain that our immigration detention system is firm but fair”.

In other news

The Queen’s Speech has declared that “proposals will be brought forward for a British Bill of Rights” – wording that is near identical to last year’s commitment to ‘bring forward proposals for a British Bill of Rights”. Speaking to the Huffington Post, Policy Director at Liberty, Bella Sankey remarks that if this “felt like groundhog day, it was because little progress has been made” towards the scrapping of the Human Rights Act. UKHRB founder Adam Wagner provides a useful list of reactions and coverage here.

A report from the European Commission points to evidence that “the migration crisis has been exploited by criminal networks involved in trafficking in human beings”, who target the most vulnerable. According to official figures, in 2013-2014 there were 15,846 registered victims of trafficking in the EU, although the true number is considered to be “substantially higher”. The BBC reports on the findings.

The Supreme Court has upheld an interim injunction in the ‘celebrity threesome’ case, until after the full trial for invasion of privacy. The Court of Appeal had been wrong to enhance the weight attached to freedom of expression (article 10 ECHR) as compared with the right to respect for privacy (article 8 ECHR) – neither article had preference over the other in the balancing exercise. David Hart QC provides an analysis of the decision for the UKHRB – a summary of the main points can be found on RightsInfo

In the courts

The applicants were Hungarian nationals and members of parliament, who had been issued with fines for engaging in protests that were disruptive of parliamentary proceedings. They complained that this had violated their right to freedom of expression (article 10 ECHR).

The Court observed that Parliaments were entitled to react when their members engaged in disorderly conduct disrupting the normal functioning of the legislature. However, on the present facts domestic legislation had not provided for any possibility for the MPs concerned to be involved in the relevant disciplinary procedure. The interference with the applicants’ right to freedom of expression was therefore not proportionate to the legitimate aims pursued, because it was not accompanied by adequate procedural safeguards. Accordingly, the Court found a violation of Article 10.

The applicant’s husband had died in circumstances where there had been a negligent failure to diagnose meningitis shortly after (successful) nasal polyp surgery, although that negligent failure was not necessarily causative. In its Chamber judgment of 15 December 2015, the European Court of Human Rights held that there had been a violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the Convention as to the right to life and, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 2.

Analysis of that decision is provided by Jeremy Hyam QC for the UK HRB. On 2 May 2016 the Grand Chamber Panel accepted the Portuguese Government’s request that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber.

Publications

Those in need of some summer reading might consider: Five Ideas to Fight For, by Anthony Lester, recently published. The book describes the development of English law in relation to human rights, equality, free speech, privacy and the rule of law, explaining how our freedom is under threat and why it matters.

UK HRB posts

CA says ex-pats cannot say yes or no to Brexit – David Hart QC

The British Bill of Rights Show: Series 14, Episode 9…*Zzzzzzz* – Adam Wagner

Three Way in the Supreme Court: PJS remains PJS – David Hart QC

The National Preventive Mechanism of the United Kingdom – John Wadham

Bank Mellat’s $4bn claim: CA rules out one element, but the rest to play for – David Hart QC

Hannah Lynes

CA says ex-pats cannot say yes or no to Brexit

23 May 2016 by

feb1957854b3b7ec1c58e7c35c4c4503_LSchindler and MacLennan v. Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs [2016] EWCA Civ 469  20 May 2016 – read judgment

Last month, I posted here on this challenge to the rule stopping long-time expatriates from voting on the Brexit proposals. The case went swiftly to the Court of Appeal, who, today, swiftly dismissed the expats’ appeal. 

The challengers said that the 15 year rule on voting was an unjustified restriction of the rights of freedom of movement under EU law, not least because if the UK were to leave the EU, they would end up without rights of abode in their current EU countries.

Continue reading →

Very limited availability: Exclusive briefing on Jogee, the landmark Supreme Court Joint Enterprise case

23 May 2016 by

morning-breakfast-croissantI and Diarmuid Laffan are giving a breakfast briefing this Wednesday 25 May from 8:30am to 9:30am on the aftermath in R v Jogee, the Supreme Court case on the law of joint enterprise in which we both acted as juniors.

The briefing is aimed at solicitors. We have a very few spaces left – if you would like to attend please email Lisa.Pavlovsky@1cor.com as soon as possible.

The briefing will:

  • Explain key parts of the judgment, including the human rights arguments
  • Discuss how the case is likely to affect future cases and out of time appeals

1 Crown Office Row’s public law breakfast briefings are informal discussions of topical areas of public law. The briefings are short and to the point and discussion and questions are encouraged. The briefing will be chaired by 1 Crown Office Row’s Amy Mannion.

The British Bill of Rights Show: Series 14, Episode 9… *Zzzzzzz*

19 May 2016 by

Gove bends the knee

Gove bends the knee

It came and went, and we know nothing more. Yesterday, =the government said, through the Queen, that:

Proposals will be brought forward for a British Bill of Rights. My government will bring forward proposals for a British Bill of Rights. My ministers will uphold the sovereignty of Parliament and the primacy of the House of Commons.

All of the signals were pointing to no activity before the EU Referendum, and that was proved right.

It makes sense. We don’t even know if Michael Gove will still be in post after the referendum, and if we are leaving the EU we may want to fold bigger constitutional questions into the bill of rights debate anyway.

So, like a particularly boring 18-season box-set, the saga continues. But if the government continues to delay, at least each new episode brings forth some interesting reactions and coverage, and here is some of it:

  • This is by me: 4 Charts Which Show The European Court Of Human Rights Has Dramatically Changed Its Approach To The UK (RightsInfo)
  • What Did The Queen’s Speech Tell Us About The Bill Of Rights? (RightsInfo)
  • Lockerbie relatives, football supporters and domestic violence survivors among more than 100 groups standing together against Human Rights Act repeal (Liberty)
  • Why Michael Gove should drop his Bill of Rights plans (Head of Legal/Carl Gardner)
  • The 2016 Queen’s Speech and the Constitution (Public Law For Everyone)

See you next series. Or episode. Or something.

Three way in the Supreme Court: PJS remains PJS

19 May 2016 by

Humorous image of the bare feet of a man and two women in bed sticking out from under the bedclothes conceptual of a threesome, orgy, swingers or sexual cheating

PJS v. News Group Newspapers Ltd [2016] UKSC 26 – read judgment

The Supreme Court has this morning continued the interim injunction concerning PJS’s extra-marital goings-on until after the full trial of the claim – after a rollercoaster ride for his claim through the courts.

Cranston J refused an injunction on 15 January 2016.

The Court of Appeal granted it on 22 January (Matt Flinn’s post here), and then discharged it on 18 April due to the effect of subsequent publicity which they said had led the injunction to have no remaining purpose (my post here). The subsequent  publicity was in US newspapers and via the internet (with, as Lord Toulson commented, some fairly obvious twitter hashtags involved.)

The Supreme Court swiftly convened a hearing on 21 April, leading to today’s judgment reversing the Court of Appeal.

The decision (4-1) was not unanimous, with Lord Toulson dissenting. There are three concurring judgments (all agreed to by the majority).

 

Continue reading →

The National Preventive Mechanism of the United Kingdom – John Wadham

12 May 2016 by

Prisoners release

John Wadham today takes on the role of National Preventative Mechanism chair. He was formally Chief Legal Officer for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Deputy Chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission and most recently the Director of the international human rights organisation, Interights.  Throughout his career, John has worked to protect the rights of detainees.

We are delighted to feature this from John on his new role:

The National Preventive Mechanism describes the network of independent statutory bodies that have responsibility for preventing ill-treatment in detention. In every jurisdiction of the UK – England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales – the bodies in this network have the job of inspecting or monitoring every place of detention to try to prevent the ill-treatment of those detained. Whether a person is compulsorily detained in a prison, an immigration removal centre, a psychiatric hospital, or as a child in a Secure Training Centre, there is an organisation responsible for assessing how detainees are treated and ensuring that no ill-treatment will be tolerated.

The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) is the international human rights treaty designed to strengthen the protection of people deprived of their liberty by requiring National Preventive Mechanisms to be set up in every country. OPCAT’s adoption by the United Nations General Assembly in 2002 demonstrated a consensus among the international community that people deprived of their liberty are particularly vulnerable to ill-treatment and that efforts to combat such ill-treatment should focus on primarily on prevention. OPCAT embodies the idea that prevention of ill-treatment in detention can best be achieved by a system of independent, regular visits to all places of detention. OPCAT entered into force in June 2006. There are already 80 countries party to OPCAT, and 62 designated NPMs across the world – all designed to prevent ill-treatment in their places of detention. The UK ratified OPCAT in December 2003 and designated its own NPM in March 2009.
Continue reading →

Bank Mellat’s $4bn claim: CA rules out one element, but the rest to play for

11 May 2016 by

bank_MellatBank Mellat v HM Treasury [2016] EWCA Civ 452 1258, Court of Appeal, 10 May 2016: read judgment

Bank Mellat’s challenge to the Treasury’s direction under the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008  has been before the courts on a number of occasions. In 2009, the Treasury had concluded that the Bank had connections with Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programme. In 2013, the Supreme Court quashed the direction, which had stopped any institution in London from dealing with the Bank.

The Bank claims for damages caused by the unlawful direction. The claim is under the Human Rights Act via A1P1 of the ECHR, (the right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions).

Preliminary issues on damages came before Flaux J (judgment here, my post here). The Treasury appealed, with, as we shall see, some measure of success.

Continue reading →

The Round-up: child restraint and disenfranchisement

8 May 2016 by

Charlotte Bellamy brings you the latest human rights news

G4S

Children in privately-run youth detention centres are being seriously injured whilst being restrained by staff, according to a redacted Ministry of Justice report released to the Director of the children’s rights charity Article 39. The report focuses on four secure training centres (STCs) and two young offender institutions (YOIs) – the worst three of which are all run by G4S.

The report lists ‘restraints-gone-wrong’, where children were injured or suffered breathing difficulties in the process. Rainsbrook SCT – where teenager Gareth Myatt died in 2004 after choking on his own vomit while being restrained – had the highest number of incidents of serious injury. One child vomited from a prolonged restraint whilst being held in a seated position similar to the one used on Myatt. Government guidelines classify vomiting during restraint as a medical emergency.

Carolyne Willow, Director of Article 39, has been engaged in legal proceedings against the MoJ for access to an unredacted version of the manual ‘Minimising and Managing Physical Restraint’, published in 2012, which details the restraint techniques used in STCs and YOIs. However, the Upper Tribunal recently dismissed her appeal in Willow v Information Commissioner & Ministry of Justice [2016], holding that disclosure of the information would threaten the good order and security of prisons, as inmates might develop countermeasures to the techniques. Willow had argued – unsuccessfully – that Article 3(1) of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child required a greater emphasis to be placed on the child’s interests when balancing them against the public interest (see the Panopticon Blog for further analysis).

It came to light last week that Medway SCT – the subject of a BBC Panorama exposé aired in January this year which showed G4S staff appearing to use excessive force on children – is to be taken over by the Ministry of Justice. Four members of staff had been arrested on charges of child neglect in relation to the allegations, following which G4S announced in February it was selling off the contracts to run Medway, Oakhill SCT, and 13 local authority children’s homes.

Andrew Neilson of the Howard League for Penal Reform had called at the time for SCTs to be shut down completely, calling them a “failed model”. The Ministry of Justice is due to announce the findings of the Independent Improvement Board set up by Michael Gove in response to the Medway allegations, which will detail the future of the centre.

A wider review is currently being conducted into youth justice by Charlie Taylor, former head teacher and child behavioural expert, the final report of which is expected in July. The interim findings (available here) recommend an overhaul of the youth custodial estate, replacing youth prisons with smaller secure schools focusing on education.

Other news

  • In addition to the polling day problems in Barnet, it seems that thousands of women living in safe houses and refuges after fleeing domestic violence may have been disenfranchised. Mehala Osborne, a mother-of-one living in a refuge in Bristol, found it impossible to register anonymously as she could not adduce the required evidence to prove her safety would be at risk if her name and address appeared on the register. She estimates that 70% of women in refuges in Bristol and possibly across the country could be in the same situation. The evidence required for Anonymous Voter Registration is a court order or the attestation of an “authorised person” – a Police Superintendent, a Director of Adult Social Services, or the Director General of the Security Services or National Crime Agency. For many in Osborne’s situation, who have fled their homes quickly, there is no time to source such authorisation. The right to vote is protected by Article 3 Protocol 1 ECHR which states that the UK will “hold free elections … under conditions which will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature”. Osborne suggests that refuge and safe house management staff ought to be included in the definition of an “authorised person”.
  • Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi last week told a US delegation that human rights in Egypt should not be viewed from a “Western perspective”. Though reportedly keen to emphasise his commitment to democracy, he explained that “differences in domestic and regional conditions” make it difficult to apply the same standards. 237 human rights protestors were arrested last week during a peaceful demonstration in Cairo against the el-Sisi regime, including two journalists – Mahmoud al-Sakka and Amr Badr, who work for the opposition website Bawabet Yanayer – for “spreading false news and endangering national security”. Amnesty International have described el-Sisi’s remarks as “deeply troubling”, saying that “he should stop making excuses … There’s nothing remotely ‘Western’ about basic human rights like the right not to suffer torture or to be able to speak freely without fear of arrest or imprisonment”.
  • Arthur Scargill, the former miners’ union president, has called for an inquiry into the conduct of the South Yorkshire Police at the 1984 ‘Battle of Orgreave’. Thousands of minors clashed with the South Yorkshire police at the coking plant near Rotherham during the year long minors’ strike of 1984-5. A redacted version of the Independent Police Complaints Commission report into Orgreave was released last year, but the Yorkshire Post has now reported that the redacted sections proved the same senior police officers were involved in the aftermath of Orgreave as Hillsborough. Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham recently said that the full truth of policing at Hillsborough would not be known until there is transparency over Orgreave.
  • An Italian court has ruled that the theft of a piece of cheese and a wurstel sausage by a homeless man was not a crime because he acted in “desperate and immediate need of nourishment”. Roman Ostriakov had been sentenced by a lower court in Genoa to six months in jail and €100 fine after being arrested for slipping the sausage and cheese into his pocket when buying breadsticks in the supermarket. The Court of Cassation finally found in his favour, after a three-part trial to determine whether the theft of the food (worth about £3.70) amounted to a crime or not, prompting some commentators to lambaste the country’s notoriously inefficient legal system. Others, however, have lauded the judgment as establishing a “sacrosanct principle” that a small theft out of hunger is not comparable to an act of delinquency, and as an act of humanity which showed that in Italy the right to survive trumps property rights – something which would be “blasphemy in America”.

 

In the Courts

  • Cerf v Turkey  – The Court found a violation of the duty to conduct an effective investigation under the procedural aspect of Article 2 (right to life) into the suspicious death of the applicant’s husband. The applicant’s husband, Serf Cerf, a local politician, was shot outside a café in the town of Yüreğir in 1994 and died on the spot. In 2000, the authorities arrested a man (in the course of operations carried out against Hizbullah, an outlawed organisation in Turkey) who confessed to killing Mr Cerf. Despite criminal proceedings being initiated against him and four others in 2000, they were not concluded until 2009 and 2013. The Court considered the delays to be excessive and incompatible with the State’s obligation under Article 2, which requires proceedings to be initiated promptly and to proceed with reasonable expedition. The delays entailed the conclusion that the investigation had been ineffective.
  • Abdi Mahamud v Malta  – violations of Article 3 and 5. This case concerned a female Somalian asylum seeker detained for more than 16 months in overcrowded conditions, with little privacy and limited access to outdoor exercise. All the care of detained women was carried out by male staff. Ms Mahamud had been detained in May 2012. A decision on her asylum application was not made until December 2012 (when it was rejected). In the meantime she had been frequently hospitalised due several medical conditions. She was interviewed for release on the grounds of ill-health in December 2012, but was not actually released until September 2013. The cumulative effect of the detention conditions was found by the Court to be a violation of Article 3 (degrading treatment); a violation of Article 5 (right to liberty and security) § 1 was found in respect of the length of both periods of detention (seven months pending the asylum decision and the rest pending her removal). The lack of available measure to challenge the lawfulness of her detention was a violation of Article 5 § 4.

 

Previous UKHRB posts

Straining out a Gnat and Swallowing a Camel: The Convention, the Charter and Mrs May

6 May 2016 by

Photo credit: Guardian

By Marina Wheeler QC

In a speech about Brexit last week, the Home Secretary shared what she called her “hard-headed analysis”: membership of an unreformed EU makes us safer, but – beware the non-sequitur – we must withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights, which does not.

It is surely time for some clearer Government thinking about these questions. If politicians could put politics to one side, they might recognise that the Convention and the Strasbourg court are not enemies of our sovereignty, but there are aspects of EU law as applied by the Court of Justice in Luxembourg which are.

Continue reading →

Latest twist on standard of review in Aarhus cases

3 May 2016 by

_88207153_treeR (o.t.a. Dilner) v. Sheffield City Council [2016] EWHC 945 (Admin), Gilbart J, 27 April 2016, read judgment

A quick note on the latest Aarhus Convention point to come before the domestic courts.

In November 2015, I posted on the decision by Ouseley J in McMorn here that a gamekeeper’s challenge fell within the scope of Aarhus, and that as a result there should be a more intense scrutiny of the underlying merits of the claim than would typically be allowed under domestic public law principles.

The current case bears on the standard of review point. Mr Dilner and other environmental campaigners challenged the tree-felling policies of Sheffield City Council, and one of his arguments was that tree-felling required an environmental assessment under the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive. This environmental claim fell within the protections conferred by the Aarhus Convention, and hence, it was said, required such an intense scrutiny. Mr Dilner relied upon Ouseley J’s reasoning.

Gilbart J robustly rejected the argument, and did not follow Ouseley J’s ruling.

Continue reading →

Hillsborough and Human Rights – The Round-up

3 May 2016 by

https://i0.wp.com/i.guim.co.uk/img/media/551c83874a2c631eb5b7bb172c55adacbe65adc2/0_0_5090_3053/master/5090.jpg?resize=418%2C251&ssl=1

Photo credit: The Guardian

In the news

The families of the 96 people who died at Hillsborough in 1989 have been vindicated at last, following a 27-year long fight for justice. An inquest jury has returned a conclusion of “unlawful killing”, in a damning indictment of South Yorkshire Police. The jury unanimously concluded that the behaviour of football supporters had in no part caused or contributed to the disaster.

Christina Lambert QC acted as lead counsel to the inquests, assisted by a team that included 1COR colleagues Matthew Hill and Paul Reynolds.

Following the conclusion a number of questions still remain, including whether former chief superintendent David Duckenfield, the match commander, will now face fresh charges of manslaughter. A private prosecution ended in 2000 after a jury failed to reach agreement. Joshua Rozenburg observes that the inquest findings are clearly prejudicial – but “juries should be trusted to put prejudicial material out of their minds”.

Legal commentator David Allen Green points out that “without the Human Rights Act and ECHR there would not have been this new Hillsborough inquest”. The effect of Article 2 ECHR (the right to life) has meant it is no longer enough for an inquest to decide the means by which a person died; the circumstances in which the death occurred must also be determined. Barrister Michael Mansfield QC further notes that “one of the unusual features of these inquests has been the way the friends and relatives of the deceased have been accorded a central status” – a requirement of the European Court of Human Rights.

It is the jurisdiction of this same Court that Theresa May has declared the UK should leave, claiming this week that “the ECHR can bind the hands of Parliament, adds nothing to our prosperity…[and] makes us less secure by preventing the deportation of dangerous foreign nationals”. Mark Elliott describes the argument as “legally clumsy and constitutionally naïve”, while David Allen Green suggests human rights are being used “as a token in the game of politics”. He goes on to note that examples of the positive influence of the ECHR, such as the Hillsborough Inquests, will make this more difficult in the future: “even superficial politics can lose their shine”.

 In other news:

According to a report in the Telegraph, each year up to 40,000 dying patients are having “do not resuscitate orders” imposed on them without the knowledge of their families. In many cases there is no record of any consultation with the patient. Adam Wagner suggests at RightsInfo that this might be in breach of patients’ human rights.

Figures released by the Ministry of Justice indicate a worsening crisis in the UK prison system. Between 2010 and 2015, the number of sexual assaults recorded has more than doubled from 137 incidents per year to 300. In the same period, the number of deaths in prisons has risen from 198 to 257 per year. Campaigners say that serious overcrowding and staff shortages are largely to blame. The Independent reports.

The Bar Council has warned that plans put forward by the Ministry of Justice to increase fees for those seeking justice through the Immigration and Asylum tribunal system by 500% is yet another step towards putting access to justice beyond the means of those who most need it. Further details can be found here.

The Guardian: According to a new report by charity Transform Justice, legal aid cuts have led to a sharp rise in unrepresented defendants. In one example given to the charity, an unrepresented defendant remained silent during his appearance via video link from a police station. Only after he had been sent to prison did it emerge that he was deaf.

In the courts

The applicant was a Dutch national sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of a six-year-old girl. The Court found that the lack of any kind of treatment for the mental health condition suffered by the applicant meant that his requests for pardon were in practice incapable of leading to his release, since his risk of re-offending would continue to be assessed as too high. Accordingly, the Court found a violation of Article 3 of the Convention (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment).

 UK HRB posts

Ex-pats challenge to the EU referendum voting rules – David Hart QC

Extradition in “disarray”? – Amelia Nice

Court of Protection orders continued reporting restrictions after death – Rosalind English

Judge allows paternity test for DNA disease analysis – Rosalind English

The “up for a three way?” case: injunction set aside – Rosalind English

 

Hannah Lynes

 

 

 

Welcome to the UKHRB


This blog is run by 1 Crown Office Row barristers' chambers. Subscribe for free updates here. The blog's editorial team is:
Commissioning Editor: Jonathan Metzer
Editorial Team: Rosalind English
Angus McCullough QC David Hart QC
Martin Downs
Jim Duffy

Categories


Disclaimer


This blog is maintained for information purposes only. It is not intended to be a source of legal advice and must not be relied upon as such. Blog posts reflect the views and opinions of their individual authors, not of chambers as a whole.

Our privacy policy can be found on our ‘subscribe’ page or by clicking here.

%d bloggers like this: