The Weekly Round-up: Shamima Begum, UN resolution against Russia, and new law on Child marriages
27 February 2023
In the news
The UN General Assembly backed a resolution condemning Russia’s actions and calling for an end to the war on Thursday, the eve of the anniversary of the invasion. With 141 supporters, 32 abstentions and seven voting against, the resolution reiterated the UN’s support for Ukraine and called for a “comprehensive, just and lasting peace.” Abstentions included China, India and South Africa, while Russia, North Korea and Syria were among those voting against. General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding but carry great political weight, and the UN Security Council is obstructed from action by Russia’s veto. On the same day in Vienna, a large number of delegates walked out of a parliamentary assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in protest against Austria’s decision to give visas to Russian officials.
Leading supermarkets in the UK have introduced customer limits on purchases of fruits and vegetables. According to the British Retail Consortium, the shortages are expected to last a few weeks until reliance on imports from Spain and north Africa is counteracted by the start of the UK growing season. Tom Bradshaw, one of the leaders of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), has called for the UK to “take command” of its supply chains. Citing Brexit, the Ukraine War, and climate change, the NFU wants the government to use the powers granted it by the Agriculture Act 2020 to address exceptional market conditions.
The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Wage) Act comes into force on Monday. Campaigners argued that the previous position of the law, which permitted 16- and 17- year-olds to marry with parental consent, was being exploited to coerce young people into child marriages for religious or cultural reasons. The new law will automatically recognise those married under the age of 18 as victims of forced marriages, carrying a sentence of up to seven years in prison for those responsible. The legislation also applies to non-legally binding ceremonies. This law does not apply in Scotland and Northern Ireland, where the minimum marriage age will remain 16.
In other news
- Ex-Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has been sentenced by a Los Angeles court to an additional 16 years in prison for rape. Weinstein was convicted of attacking an actress in a hotel room in February 2013. He denied the charge, telling the court his accuser was “an actress with the ability to turn on her tears” and begged for leniency: “please don’t sentence me to life in prison, I don’t deserve it.” The 70-year-old had already been serving a 23-year sentence in New York for another conviction.
- Dominic Raab has announced that rules barring transgender women with male genitalia or those who had committed violent or sexual offences from female prisons in England and Wales apply from Monday. The news follows the recent case of Isla Bryson, the transgender woman convicted of two counts of rape who was subsequently remanded to a woman’s prison in Scotland, the media outcry against which prompted the Scottish Prison Service to announce an “urgent review” of transgender inmates.
In the courts
- In Shamima Begum v The Secretary of State for the Home Department  2 WLUK 353, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission found that the Secretary of State for the Home Department had not erred in depriving Shamima Begum of her UK citizenship on account of national security concerns. The Commission found “credible suspicion” that Begum, who travelled to Syria to join ISIL at the age of fifteen, had been “recruited, transferred and then harboured for the purpose of sexual exploitation”, where she was “married off” to an ISIL fighter and had three children. The decision to deprive her citizenship under the British Nationality Act 1981 Pt V s.40(2) was the Home Secretary’s, however, and not the Commission’s, whose jurisdiction is limited to investigating whether that decision was made according to proper procedure. Commenting on the case, former Supreme Court Justice Jonathan Sumption has criticised the Home Secretary’s use of the “legal fiction” of the appellant’s Bangladeshi citizenship to avoid the statutory obstruction on denying British citizenship to those who would then become stateless.
- In Re C (Parental Alienation: Instruction of Expert)  EWHC 345 (Fam), the Supreme Court dismissed a mother’s appeal against the refusal to re-examine the evidence of an unregulated psychologist who advised that the woman had alienated her children against their father. Sir Andrew McFarlane accepted that the label “psychologist” is not dependant on specific qualifications and can lead to confusion but called on Parliament and the psychology profession to delimit its application instead of the Court.
- In Catană v. the Republic of Moldova (application no. 43237/13), the European Court of Human Rights found that there had been a violation of ECHR Article 6.1 (the right to a fair hearing). The applicant, Angela Catană, had been subjected to disciplinary sanctions in 2011 in relation to her conduct as a judge. Her application to the Moldovan Supreme Court of Justice in 2012 had been dismissed under the CSM Act (Law no. 947-XIII), which limited that court’s review of the National Judicial Service Commission (CSM) and its Disciplinary Board to their decision-making procedures alone. The Supreme Court denied jurisdiction to examine the applicant’s claims, which related to the composition of the Disciplinary Board and the CSM, and held that Article 6 was not applicable. The European Court found that these disciplinary bodies had not undertaken her case in an independent and impartial way and that the Supreme Court’s decision had been inadequate. The Court observed that the CSM had contained three ex officio members including the Minister of Justice, which undermined the principle of a separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary, and the Prosecutor General, who had instituted the original proceedings against the applicant and whose role in the CSM’s subsequent decisions was unclear. The Court therefore found there had been a violation of Article 6.1 in failing to comply with the requirement of an independent and impartial tribunal. It noted, however, that the CSM’s composition had recently been altered to exclude the three ex officio members and that non-judicial members now had to be selected on the basis of merit by Parliament according to a Constitution amendment.