The Round Up: Criminal Sentencing, Assisted Suicide and a warning to Facebook

3 December 2018 by

In the Courts:

Conway, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Justice [2018] UKSC B1: The Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal from a sufferer of motor neurone disease, in the latest of a line of challenges to the UK’s ban on assisting suicide. The applicant was contesting the Divisional Court’s refusal to declare the statutory ban on assisting suicide to be incompatible with his article 8 rights.

The question for the court was whether his case raised “an arguable point of law of general public importance” which ought to be heard by the Supreme Court at this time. Whilst the points of law were undoubtedly arguable, and the public importance obvious, the court concluded “not without some reluctance” that the applicant’s prospects of success did not justify granting permission to appeal. Rosalind English has more detail here.

Stott, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Justice [2018] UKSC 59: The appellant was a prisoner who had been classed as ‘dangerous’ and accordingly given an Extended Determinate Sentence (EDS), under which he would become eligible for parole only after serving two-thirds of the appropriate custodial term. This was in various ways narrower than the ordinary parole eligibility of other categories of prisoner. The appellant claimed unlawful discrimination under Article 14 ECHR, combined with Article 5 (the right to liberty).

It was agreed that the right to apply for early release was within the scope of Article 5. In determining whether Article 14 applied, there were two issues: whether the different treatment was on a ground within the meaning of ‘other status’ under the Convention, and whether, if EDS prisoners were in an analogous situation to other categories of prisoner, there was an objective justification for the difference in treatment between the categories.

The majority held that the EDS scheme did not breach the appellant’s Article 14 and 5 rights: whilst the situation did fall within the meaning of ‘other status’ under the Convention, the majority did not think that the categories presented were analogous.

In the News:

The ongoing investigation into privacy breaches under the Cambridge Analytica data scandal has seen MPs seize documents from Facebook by employing rarely used parliamentary powers. Here’s how it unfolded: an executive of a US tech firm involved in court action against Facebook brought the documents into the UK during a trip to London. The House of Commons has powers to seize documents within UK jurisdiction: dramatically, a serjeant-at-arms was sent to the businessman’s hotel, where he was given a two-hour deadline to comply with the order. When he failed to do so, he was escorted to Parliament and warned that he risked fines and imprisonment if he did not surrender the documents.

The seized papers are understood to include data about Facebook’s privacy controls, and MPs further have the capacity to publish them under parliamentary privilege.

Upcoming Events:

Rethinking Human Rights: a southern response to western critics, Monday 10th December. In this LSE lecture Muthoni Wanyeki, Regional Director of Open Society’s Africa Regional Office, will draw on three decades of human rights activism with Kenyan, African and international organisations to push back against the western critique of human rights and to formulate her own assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the human rights movement in Africa and the global south.

Later today, Law Pod UK will post its latest episode No 56, in which Suzanne Lambert discusses with Emma-Louise Fenelon the recent judgment of Whipple J in YAH v Medway NHS Foundation Trust [2018] EWHC 2964 (QB). Listen on iTunes, Audioboom, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.

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