The Round-Up: Right or Wrong to Die and Rent?

4 March 2019 by

In the News 

Opinion has been divided this week after a landmark High Court ruling on Friday declared that the government’s right to rent scheme is breaching human rights laws and actively creating racial discrimination in the housing market. 

The scheme requires landlords in England check the immigration status of tenants, with fines of up to £3,000 and a potential prison term if they fail to do so. Introduced by sections 20-37 of the Immigration Act 2014, right to rent is a cornerstone of the government’s hostile environment policy, which aims to reduce the number of illegal immigrants in the UK. The High Court said that it would be illegal to roll the scheme out out in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland without further evaluation. Mr Justice Spencer noted that the scheme had ‘little or no effect’ on immigration control, and that independent evidence ‘strongly showed’ the scheme was ‘indirectly’ discriminatory, causing landlords to turn down potential tenants because of their nationality or ethnicity. 

A Home Office statement expressed ‘disappointment’ with the ruling, saying an independent study had found no evidence of systemic discrimination, and that it had been granted permission to appeal. Writing in the Spectator, Richard Ekins called the decision a ‘travesty’, characterising its ratio as the ‘sketchy and implausible’ culmination of a ‘political campaign against the UK’s immigration laws’. Conversely, an Observer editorial said the ruling was ‘common sense’ and expressed shock that in 2019 a court should be called upon to pass judgement on a policy encouraging the proliferation of ‘insidious racism’. 

Some controversy also surrounded the results of a survey carried out by the campaign group My Death, My Decision (MDMD), which suggest there a shift in public opinion on physician assisted death. The study indicates more than 90% of the UK’s population believe assisted dying should be legalised for those suffering from terminal illnesses. This attitude is not currently reflected by Parliament, which rejected a private member’s bill to legalise assisted dying in 2015, or by the Supreme Court, which turned down an application to hear a claim from lawyers for a former lecturer with a progressive motor neurone disease in November 2018. MDMD argues that the right to choose the manner and timing of one’s own death is a fundamental human right. Those who oppose the right to die, such as the campaign group Care Not Killing, believe that the current law is necessary to protect vulnerable people who might otherwise be pressured into ending their lives. See Rosalind English’s post on the poll conducted by the College of Physicians on their stance regarding medically assisted death. Our podcast series Law Pod UK also features an interview with CEO of Dignity in Dying, Sarah Wotton, which covers the issue in depth.

In Other News 

  • In an interview with the BBC’s Middle East correspondent, Shamima Begum’s Dutch husband Yago Riedijk said that he wanted his wife to return to the Netherlands with him. It seems likely, however, that Ms Begum would struggle to get her underage marriage recognised in the Netherlands, and that any application for a residence permit would be jeopardised by her suspected involvement in terrorist activity. 
  • A committee of the US House of Representatives chaired by Jerrod Nadler has begun an investigation into allegations of obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power by President Donald Trump and his aides. Mr Nadler cited President Trump repeatedly attacking Special Counsel Robert Mueller — as well as firing the former FBI chief over the Russia inquiry —  as ‘very clear’ instances of obstruction. He also stated that the testimony given before the US House of Representatives’ oversight committee by Trump’s former aide Michael Cohen ‘directly implicated the president in various crimes, both while seeking the office of president and while in the White House’.
  • Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and the daughter of founder Ren Zhengfei, has filed a civil case against Canada’s government, border agency and police for ‘serious breaches’ of her civil rights under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Ms Wanzhou was arrested in December at Vancouver Airport the request of the US, and on Friday Canada officially began her extradition process to the US. Huawei and its top executive are facing almost two dozen criminal charges filed by US authorities. The situation is further complicated by diplomatic tension and an ongoing trade dispute between the US and China, and mounting concern among Western nations about the possible spying risk posed by the widespread adoption of Huawei’s technology. 

In the Courts

  • In the matter of an application by Geraldine Finucane for Judicial Review (Northern Ireland): The Supreme Court ruled on a case brought in judicial review by Geraldine Finucane, the wife of a North Belfast solicitor brutally murdered in front of his family by loyalist paramilitaries in collusion with members of the security forces. Mrs Finucane claimed she had a legitimate expectation that a public inquiry would be held into her husband’s death, and that the failure to hold one constitutes a violation of her rights under Article 2 of the ECHR and section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998. The Supreme Court unanimously held that Mrs Finucane did have a legitimate expectation, but she had failed to show the government’s decision not to uphold its promise was made in bad faith or not based on genuine policy grounds. The Court also made a declaration that there has not been an Article 2 compliant inquiry into Mr Finucane’s death. 
  • Konecny v District Court in BrnoVenkov, Czech Republic: The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the appeal of Mr Konecny, a Czech national convicted of fraud in absentia by the District Court in Brno-Venkoy. In reliance on section 14(a) of the Extradition Act 2003, Mr Konecny had argued that it would be unjust and oppressive to order his extradition, taking into account the delay between the alleged crimes in 2004 and the date of conviction in 2008. He also maintained that his extradition would infringe his rights under Article 8 of the ECHR. 
  • Case of Beghal v The United Kingdom: The European Court of Human Rights heard an application against the United Kingdom brought by Ms Sylvie Beghal, a French national ordinarily resident in the UK whose husband is in custody in France in relation to terrorist offences. When returning from a visit to her husband in 2011, Ms Beghal and her children were stopped at the border under Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000 (“TACT”) empowers police, immigration officers and designated customs officers to stop, examine and search passengers. Ms Beghal alleged that the powers given to the police under Schedule 7 had infringed her rights under Articles 5, 6 and 8 of the Convention and her right to freedom of movement. The Court unanimously declared that Ms Beghal’s Article 5 and 8 complaints were admissible and the remainder of the application inadmissible, acknowledged there had been a violation of Article 8, and ordered the UK to pay costs. 

On the UKHRB

  • Rosalind English discusses the implications of a recent case concerning mental capacity and access to the internet.
  • Rosalind English summarises the latest developments regarding physician assisted dying, and considers a recent decision on whether those who assist with journeys to Dignitas will risk losing the benefit of the deceased’s estate.
  • In the last week’s Law Pod UK episode, Emma-Louise Fenelon talks to Robert Kellar about consent and causation.
  • The latest Law Pod UK episode explores the adequacy of our legal tools in a world where transactions are governed by algorithms. Rosalind English talks to author of Robot Rules by Jacob Turner.

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