International Women’s Day, the Domestic Abuse Bill and Protest Rights- Round Up
9 March 2020
Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law
In the News:
The Government’s ant-slavery tsar has severely criticised the government for failing to take action on child slavery. Dame Sara Thornton, who was appointed in 2019, said that the government was failing to make changes as promised.
Her concerns relate to the Independent Child Trafficking Guardian (ICTG) scheme, which is designed to give vulnerable children one-to-one support. Under the scheme, guardians assist children with matters ranging from GP appointments to dealing with social services. In 2016 ministers pledged to implement the scheme, but progress has since stalled.
Dame Sara said that she wrote to the Home Secretary in January outlining her concerns and highlighting the fact that the scheme only covers a third of the country. However, she has not received a response.
In a further development, Dame Sara Thornton has said that the power to intervene in child trafficking cases should be taken away from the Home Office. She argues that local authorities are much better placed to provide support. However, others have pointed out that councils lack the resources and power to adequately address child slavery.
The number of children referred to the Home Office as being potential victims of modern slavery appears to be rising. Over 2000 children were identified between September 2018 – 2019, representing a 66% rise on the previous year.
More from the Independent here and the Guardian here.
In Other News….
- The International Criminal Court (“ICC”) has ruled that there should be an investigation into alleged war crimes committed in Afghanistan. The ICC had previously refused to hold an inquiry on the basis that the parties that would form the focus of any report would not co-operate. The lower court’s decision was overturned on appeal. The ICC’s investigation will now examine the actions of US, Afghan and Taliban troops (though it is possible the UK’s activities will be mentioned). The ICC’s Chief Prosecutor said she has evidence of torture, cruel treatment, rape and sexual violence being committed by US troops. The announcement provoked an irate response from the American government. Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, said: “This is a truly breathtaking action by an unaccountable political institution masquerading as a legal body”. The decision was praised by institutions such as Human Rights Watch and Reprieve. More from the New York Times here.
- Last Sunday was International Women’s Day, which is designed to celebrate and promote the achievements of women. The day began in 1908 when women marched in New York City demanding the right to vote, to receive better pay and work fewer hours. This year a number of events took place around the globe to mark the day. In the UK feminists marched in Parliament Square, the Duchess of Sussex visited schoolchildren, and celebrities changed their Twitter names/ photos with helplines for domestic abuse. The official website is here.
- An enhanced Domestic Abuse Bill is returning to Parliament. The Bill has the potential to produce landmark changes in the law. Ministers are considering how to limit the so-called ‘rough sex’ defence, in which Defendants claim that consensual violent sexual activity led to the victim’s death. The bill also includes: a ban on Defendants being able to cross-examine their alleged victims during proceedings; a requirement that councils find accommodation for victims of abuse (and their children); and a plan to make domestic abusers take lie-detector (polygraph) tests on release from prison. The Duchess of Cornwall addressed the 10th annual Women of the World (WOW) festival over the weekend. She described domestic abuse as a “taboo” subject that requires society-wide solutions. She pointed out that last year two women a week were killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales. More from the Guardian here.
In the Courts:
- Canada Goose UK Retail Ltd & Anor v Unknown Persons: The Claimants sought an injunction against animal-rights protesters who were campaigning outside its store on Regent Street. The Court of Appeal ruled that the Claimants had not properly served its claim form. Whilst the order granting an interim injunction had provided for an alternative method for service, this only applied to the order and not the claim form. The court reiterated Lord Sumption’s comment that “a person cannot be made subject to the jurisdiction of the court without having such notice of the proceedings as will enable him to be heard” (Cameron). The Court of Appeal also ruled that the Claimant’s application for summary judgment failed. The court produced some extremely useful guidance on injunctions against ‘persons unknown’ (at paragraph 82), but in short it ruled that such injunctions must be rare and clearly identify the category of person they are addressed at. The Claimant’s description of ‘persons unknown’ was impermissibly wide. The court finished by noting that civil litigation is a blunt instrument for dealing with protesters and suggested that the powers possessed by local authorities are better suited to the task.
- Grobelny v. Poland: The European Court of Human Rights ruled that there had been a breach of Article 1 Protocol 1 (the right to property). This was because the applicant’s disability benefits had been discontinued even though he was assessed as being unable to undertake farm work. The court stated that individuals claiming benefits require a degree of certainty and security. Where an individual has a right in domestic law to a welfare benefit, it is sufficiently important that it should be protected under A1P1. The mere fact that it is revocable in certain circumstances does not prevent the benefit from amounting to property. The applicant was entitled to the benefit and should have been compensated for it being taken away.
- Nottinghamshire County Council v SF And GD: The question in this case was whether it was ‘necessary’ for the Claimant to make special educational provision for a child. Section 36 of the Children and Families Act 2014 (“CFA 2014”) states that, if a request is made, local authorities should assess whether it is necessary for such provisions to be made. The Court of Appeal found that the word ‘necessary’ in this context was an ordinary word with a plain meaning. The role of the Health Education and Social Care Chambers in the First Tier Tribunal was to assess this fact-specific question. The FTT’s conclusion on whether special educational provisions are ‘necessary’ for a particular child can only be interfered with where no reasonable tribunal could have reached that conclusion. It could not be said that the FTT’s decision fell within this category. Appeal dismissed.
- After Strangeways: The past, present and future of prisons: 1st April, 9am with KCL. More information here.
- The law is broken: the future of legal aid: 30th April, 6pm with Gresham College. More information here.
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