The Weekly Round-up: Rwanda hearing, planning law reforms, mercy killing reforms for prosecution decisions
9 October 2023
In the news
The government’s Rwanda deportation scheme begins its battle in the Supreme Court today. Arguing the case for the appellants are In June, the Court of Appeal ruled the policy unlawful because of ‘deficiencies’ in Rwanda’s asylum-processing system. That court found that sending asylum-seekers to Rwanda entailed a ‘real risk’ of applicants being returned to their home countries, meaning the UK would break its commitment to not putting people at risk of torture under the European Convention on Human Rights.
Angus McCullough KC of 1 Crown Office Row is representing the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in this appeal. On the respondent (government) side, both of 1 Crown Office Row, are Neil Sheldon KC and Natasha Barnes (instructed by the Government Legal Department).
If the Supreme Court overturns this judgment, the Home Office will be able to schedule flights to Rwanda with just 12 days’ notice, unless the European Court intervenes again. The Illegal Migration Act, however, gives the Home Secretary a new power to ignore an interim order from the European Court.
At the Labour party conference, shadow ministers have announced that a Labour government would bring in significant reforms to the planning system. Keir Starmer has pledged to build 1.5m homes in the first five years of his government, introducing reforms such as increased powers of local authorities to hold property firms to account. Rachel Reeves has promised to speed up the planning process for infrastructure building.
The CPS has provided prosecutors with new guidance for ‘mercy killings.’ The term has not been defined by statute or common law and is not currently a defence to murder, but the guidance sets out the factors to consider when determining whether bringing a charge would be in public interest. These include whether the victim was under 18 years old, whether the suspect was motivated wholly by compassion, and whether the victim had clearly communicated their wish to die. The update is unlikely to radically alter the prosecution’s approach to such cases, but it articulates more clearly the reasons for and against bringing a charge where the public interest is in question.
In other news
A London court has refused to let go to trial a £126m harassment lawsuit brought against the former king of Spain by his ex-partner. Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn has accused Juan Carlos of subjecting her to intimidation and intrusive surveillance since the breakdown of their relationship. Judge Rowena Collins Rice said that the case was outside the court’s jurisdiction, the claimant having failed to establish that the harassment occurred in England. Other claims made against the former monarch by his former partner had previously been struck out on the grounds that they pertained to the time Juan Carlos ruled as king and was thus protected by sovereign immunity.
Seven men accused of assassinating an Ecuadorian presidential candidate have themselves been killed in prison. Fernando Villavicencio, a prominent journalist running on an anti-corruption platform, was shot dead on 9th August at a campaign rally in Quito. The seven suspects were murdered within a day of each other in two different prisons, with the second-round runoff for the presidential election just days away. More suspects of the assassination have been moved to another location for their safety. The news came before the conclusion of the national prosecutor’s investigation into Villavicencio’s murder.
In the courts
In El-Asmar v. Denmark (application no. 27753/19), the European Court of Human Rights held that there had been two violations of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment), regarding the excessive use of force against the applicant and the failure to investigate the case effectively. The applicant had been pepper-sprayed by prison guards in April 2017. Among other things, the Court found that the Danish authority had not investigated whether the procedural standards for use of the pepper spray had been complied with, falling short of its legal obligation to investigate Mr El-Asmar’s claims fully.