The Weekly Round-Up: Bibby Stockholm, Children’s Rights, and Illegal Evictions
28 August 2023
In the news
The Fire Brigades Union has sent a pre-action protocol letter to the Home Secretary threatening judicial review of her alleged failure to address “serious fire and operational safety concerns” aboard the Bibby Stockholm. The FBU claims that the Home Office has failed to arrange fire drills for asylum seekers or adequate risk assessments of the barge, despite more than doubling the number of planned occupants by using single rooms for double occupancy and creating rooms for four or six persons to sleep in. This, they say, creates “an apparently entirely new, and highly dangerous accommodation arrangement” which is “inherently unsafe”. The planned judicial review follows the Home Office’s refusal to meet officials to discuss fire safety concerns, which Robert Jenrick – the Immigration Minister – justified on the basis that the barge meets industry standards and that appropriate bodies, such as the National Fire Chiefs Council, have been consulted.
Police in London are to be told to start arresting landlords who illegally evict tenants after mounting concern about officers showing bias and enabling some unlawful evictions. New guidance is to be issued telling officers to presume any eviction they are called to is likely to be illegal and that the tenant should remain in the home, and that landlords using or threatening violence to enter an occupied home are committing a crime. They will be told that signs of an unlawful eviction include: a landlord changing locks; forcibly throwing a tenant out; cutting off the gas and electricity; and using threatening and bullying behaviour. Officers will also be told to report the landlord to the local authority’s private rented sector enforcement team and log them on the “report a rogue landlord tool” for London.
The government is planning to introduce legislation to expand the use of whole-life orders to include murderers where the killing involves sexual or sadistic conduct. The whole-life order is the most severe penalty available in the UK’s criminal justice system – setting a presumption of no parole save in the most exceptional of compassionate grounds – and is reserved for the most horrific crimes, such as those committed by Lucy Letby.
In other news
- Developments in the Sudanese civil war have seen thousands more flee their homes and atrocious civilian deaths, as the war rages for a fourth month. Thousands of people have fled from the capital of South Kordofan state after an attack by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North rebel group, one of three forces now fighting in the area. Meanwhile, people trapped in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, and its twin city of Omdurman say civilians are being deliberately targeted in shelling by the warring parties. Martin Griffiths, the under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator at the UN, has warned that the war and the resulting displacement and disease “now threatens to consume the entire country”.
- A bill has been introduced in the Iraqi Parliament which, if passed, would punish same-sex relations with the death penalty or life in prison, punish “promoting homosexuality” with a minimum seven years in prison and a fine, and criminalize “imitating women” with up to a three-year sentence. Human Rights Watch has called on Iraq to immediately withdraw the bill, which would violate the rights to freedom of expression, association, privacy, and equality.
- Staff working in children’s prisons are to be banned from using techniques that deliberately cause pain, except in emergency scenarios to save life or to prevent life-changing injury. The policy will be implemented in 2024 – 20 years after 14-year-old Adam Rickwood killed himself at Hassockfield secure training centre in County Durham following a restraint by four Serco officers for non-compliance using a technique called “nose distraction”, which involved a karate-like chop to the nose.
In the courts
- Judgment has been handed down by Rooney J in the case of Holden v Ministry of Defence and the Police Service of Northern Ireland, a legacy case from the Troubles, holding that Liam Holden’s confession to murder was obtained via prohibited treatment under Article 3 ECHR while in military custody. A full analysis by Anurag Dab can be found here.