The Weekly Round-Up: Partygate, trans rights and terrorist flags
31 January 2022
In the news:
The Metropolitan Police have been criticised for their request to Sue Grey not to prejudice their investigation into parties held at Downing Street during lockdown. Ms Grey has yet to publish her report into the parties, but a “heavily redacted” version is expected “imminently” according to the Guardian. The Met requested the report to make “minimal reference” to the parties, not that it be delayed or otherwise limited, but it has caused some to question the motives and/or competence of the police. It is possible that their investigation will go beyond current public knowledge and if criminal charges result in a jury trial the police do have to ensure potential jurors are not prejudiced. On the other hand, human rights barrister Adam Wagner has questioned why a civil service report on alleged breaches of Covid regulations would prejudice a police investigation.
In other news:
The Equality and Human Rights Commision (EHRC) has come under fire from LGBTQ+ campaigners and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for its response to the Scottish government’s plans to simplify the process for legal gender recognition, and the UK government consultation on banning conversion therapy. The EHRC said “more detailed consideration is required before any change is made” to the Gender Recognition Act 2004. Ms Sturgeon noted that this was a “significant change in position” for the EHRC and that she was concerned that the Commission’s response “doesn’t accurately characterise the impact of the Bill.” In its response to the consultation on conversion therapy, the EHRC said that a ban should initially focus on attempts to change sexual orientation, while a ban on “conversion therapy attempting to change a person to or from being transgender should follow, once more detailed and evidence-based proposals are available”. A clause to allow “informed consent” to conversion therapy in the Conversion Therapy (Prohibition) Bill has been condemned by activists but was not criticised in the EHRC’s response. LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall said the EHRC’s response disregarded the expert opinion on of the UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and violated the ‘Paris Principles’ of promoting and protecting human rights as a UN-accredited National Human Rights Institution.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights has launched its investigation into proposals to reform the Human Rights Act. The Committee will examine government proposals to replace the Human Rights Act with a “Bill of Rights”, which would reduce the impact that case law from European Court of Human Rights has on domestic law.
In the courts:
Pwr (Appellant) v Director of Public Prosecutions (Respondent) and Akdogan and another (Appellants) v Director of Public Prosecutions (Respondent)  – this case concerned section 13(1) of the Terrorism Act 2000, which makes it a criminal offence for a person to display an article in public, in a way that arouses “reasonable suspicion that he is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation”. The appellants had carried flags of the Kurdistan Workers Party (the PKK), a proscribed organisation, at a demonstration. The Supreme Court dismissed their appeals, finding that section 13(1) is: a) a strict liability offence, such that there is no necessary mental element beyond the defendant knowing they are displaying the relevant article; and (b) compatible with article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). Section 13(1)’s interference with the Article 10 right to freedom of expression is justified by being prescribed by law; in pursuit of legitimate aims; and necessary in a democratic society and proportionate to its legitimate aims.
R (Binder, Eveleigh, Hon and Paulley) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  EWHC 105 (Admin) – the High Court allowed a judicial review claim by four disabled adults and granted a declaration that the government’s National Disability Strategy is unlawful. While there was no common law or statutory duty on the defendants to consult before publishing the Strategy, the Court held that their “UK Disability Survey” amounted to a voluntary consultation (which the defendant denied), and as such the common law principles of consultation fairness (“the Gunning principles”) applied. The Survey breached the second Gunning principle to “enable intelligent consideration and response” due to its lack of information (it did not outline or allow for comments on specific policy proposals), and format (the questions were all multiple choice except four open-ended questions with word-limits). The Court rejected the Claimants’ additional submission that the defendant breached the Public Sector Equality Duty per section 149 of the Equality Act 2010.
R (D4) (Notice of Deprivation of Citizenship) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 33 – ‘D4’ was a British and Pakistani dual citizen who has been detained at a camp in Syria for three years. On 27 December 2019 she was deprived of her British citizenship under Regulation 10(4) of the British Nationality (General) Regulations 2003, which permits the Home Secretary to “serve notice” of a deprivation of British citizenship merely by putting the notice on a person’s Home Office file. On 28 September her solicitors requested the Foreign Office’s assistance in repatriating and it was then that the deprivation of her citizenship was first communicated to either D4 or her advisors. This case was a judicial review of Regulation 10(4) and the Court of Appeal found the regulation ultra vires; it went beyond the Home Secretary’s powers under the British Nationality Act 1981 and was therefore unlawful. However, if the Nationality and Borders Bill is passed, it will remove the requirement to give notice if it is “in the public interest” and will apply to this case retrospectively, effectively making lawful D4’s deprivation of citizenship without personal notice. (see last week’s round-up for more on deprivation of citizenship)
On the UKHRB:
- Nicola Barker looks at the Independent Human Rights Act Review and the proposed Bill of Rights
- Sapan Maini-Thompson asks whether “perception-based recording” of hate crimes is compatible with freedom of speech
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