By: Guest Contributor


Human rights and a divorce or civil partnership dissolution statement

28 February 2022 by

Statement as ‘conclusive evidence’

The European Convention 1950 guarantees the right to a fair trial. Everyone knows that. At article 6.1 the Convention says:

Right to a fair trial

1. In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law…. 

What everyone does not know is what is a ‘civil right’. And in the present context – namely divorce of civil partnership dissolution – do you have a right to query the assertion of your spouse or civil partner that your marriage or civil partnership has irretrievably broken down?

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 simplifies the divorce and civil partnership dissolution process by changing the law to make irretrievable breakdown – as now – the only ground for divorce or dissolution. But to prove that, there was no longer any need to establish one or more facts: adultery (marriage only), unreasonable behaviour or living apart for varying periods. One, or both, parties can file a statement of irretrievable breakdown. The procedure for this is likely – no commencement date has been confirmed – to be in force from 6 April 2022. All so far so civilised.


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Bloomberg v ZXC – the Supreme Court decides — Aileen McColgan QC

24 February 2022 by

The UKHRB is grateful to Aileen McColgan QC for allowing us to republish her article, which originally appeared on Panoptican, a blog published by the barristers at 11KBW here.

The central question for the Supreme Court in Bloomberg v ZXC [2022] UKSC 5 was, as Lords Hamblen and Stephens put it (with Lord Reeds, Lloyd-Jones and Sales agreeing): “whether, in general, a person under criminal investigation has, prior to being charged, a reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of information relating to that investigation”. The short answer was “yes”.

The decision has been greeted with howls of indignation from Bloomberg but more muted responses from other sections of the press; whereas Bloomberg’s editor in chief released an editorial entitled “U.K. Judges Are Helping the Next Robert Maxwell” which stated that the judgment should “frighten every decent journalist in Britain”, the Financial Times and Guardian  were more restrained, pointing out respectively that the decision would have “far-reaching implications for the British media” and would “make it harder for British media outlets to publish information about individuals subject to criminal investigations”. This is no doubt the case, but it is worth noting that the publication which gave rise to this decision was based on a highly confidential letter leaked to Bloomberg and occurred apparently without any consideration of ZXC’s privacy interests.

ZXC, regional CEO of a publicly listed company which operated overseas (“X Ltd”), sued for misuse of private information because of an article concerning X Ltd’s activities in a country for which ZXC’s division was responsible. The activities had been subject to a criminal investigation by a UK law enforcement body (“the UKLEB”) since 2013 and the article was based almost completely on a confidential Letter of Request sent by the UKLEB to the foreign state. ZXC claimed that he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in information published in the Article, in particular in the details of the UKLEB investigation into himself, its assessment of the evidence, the fact that it believed that ZXC had committed specified criminal offences and its explanation of how the evidence it sought would assist its investigation into that suspected offending. ZXC’s application for damages and injunctive relief was upheld at first instance by Nicklin J and £25,000 awarded: [2019] EWHC 970 (QB); [2019] EMLR  20. Bloomberg’s appear was dismissed (see Panopticon post by Robin Hopkins and [2020] EWCA Civ 611; [2021] QB 28.


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The Independent Human Rights Act Review and the government’s Bill of Rights

24 January 2022 by

Do they have anything in common? Relatively little, says Nicola Barker, Professor of Law at the University of Liverpool.

When the IHRAR was announced by Robert Buckland in December 2020, it was accompanied by some of the usual rhetoric about the courts “rewriting” legislation, but the more hyperbolic claims about foreign criminals and pet cats were absent. The Terms of Reference given to the IHRAR were relatively narrow and the Call for Evidence emphasised that it was ‘not considering the substantive rights set out in the Convention’. Instead, the Review was to focus only the operation of the HRA under two themes: the relationship between domestic courts and the ECtHR; and the impact of the HRA on the relationship between the three branches of the state.

However, in its consultation document, the government’s language once again carries echoes of the pet cat oeuvre with a stance premised on the idea of a ‘broader public interest’ that must be ‘safeguarded’ (para 182) from the HRA. In this, they are articulating a problem that lies not so much with the HRA’s impact on the separation of powers and Parliamentary sovereignty (though those remain too) but with ‘the way in which [Convention] rights have been applied in practice’ (para 184). In other words, the focus is back on how to prevent rights from benefitting the ‘undeserving’ and how to forestall further development of rights through the ‘living tree’ doctrine.

Given that the Review was only commissioned a year ago it is unfortunate to see several reforms proposed in the government’s consultation that could have usefully been included within the remit of the Review but were omitted from the Terms of Reference, not least the proposals in relation to section 6. The government propose to expand the exception in section 6(2)(b) (that applies where a public authority was giving effect to primary legislation that could not be read or given effect in a way that is compatible with Convention rights) to include circumstances where the public authority is giving effect to the clear intentions of Parliament (para 274). This proposal is based on the premise that section 6 has created ‘confusion and risk aversion for frontline public services’ (para 132-140) and undermined public protection as the police and armed forces ‘find operational decisions challenged’ and ‘have a court retrospectively second-guess their professional judgement exercised under considerable pressure’ (para 142). It is regrettable that the Review was not able to consider the accuracy of the premise underlying such potentially far-reaching reforms, which could significantly undermine individual rights protection in the UK.

The more substantive questions of the balance between speech and privacy, between rights and responsibilities, limiting access to Convention rights in the context of deportation, and whether a specific right to jury trial is necessary, could also have been usefully informed by the extensive research, in-depth discussion with a variety of stakeholders, and objective analysis that were characteristic of the Review.

The table below maps the government’s proposals for a new Bill of Rights on to the recommended and not recommended/rejected options in the IHRAR report. The government makes around 40 proposals, though some present alternative options rather than separate and distinct proposals. Green text indicates where the government’s proposals broadly match a recommendation of the IHRAR, while red text indicates that the government are proposing something that the Review explicitly or implicitly cautioned against. Sometimes the proposals do not map in exactly the terms recommended or rejected by the Review, but I have matched them as closely as possible with the language used by each. For example, where the government proposals refer to ‘enabling’ UK courts to take account of case law from other jurisdictions and international bodies (a power they already can and do exercise), the Review did not consider affirming this existing power but rejected ‘requiring’ them to consider such case law. As the table illustrates, the government’s proposals bear little resemblance to the recommendations made by the IHRAR panel. More of the government’s proposals are ideas that were rejected by the Review than were recommended by it and around half of the government’s proposals were not considered by the Review at all, in most cases because they were outside of its Terms of Reference.

The Independent Review recommended first, and in my view most importantly, that there should be more public education about the UK constitution and HRA in schools, universities, and adult education. The Review itself could form the basis of that education. It is a thorough and clear exposition of the Act, its interpretation and use by the Courts, and its impact on the separation of powers, Parliamentary sovereignty, and the relationship between the UK and Strasbourg. However, the government appears to have ignored this recommendation and in general the Review appears to have asserted little influence on the government’s proposals. 

Table 1
Table 2
Table 3
Table 4
Table 5
Table 6

Nicola.Barker@liverpool.ac.uk

Brook House Inquiry: Phase 1 Hearings Reviewed – Appin Mackay-Champion

6 January 2022 by

‘A bleak, poorly staffed, highly charged and toxic environment.’ (Callum Tulley)

The Brook House inquiry has recently concluded its first phase of hearings which took place between November 23 and December 10, 2021 at the International Dispute Resolution Centre (IDRC). Brook House is an Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) beside Gatwick Airport, originally managed by the private security company G4S. The inquiry was set up to investigate the actions and circumstances surrounding the ‘mistreatment’ of male detainees at Brook House between April 1 to August 31 2017, and specifically, examining whether the treatment experienced was contrary to Article 3 ECHR (the right not to be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment). This followed the damning footage filmed by an undercover reporter in Brook House during the ‘relevant period’, and broadcast on the BBC Panorama Programme ‘Undercover: Britain’s Immigration Secrets’ which aired on September 4, 2017. 

Background

Callum Tulley was employed by Brook House from January 2015 as a detention custody officer. In this role he witnessed the disturbing culture and conduct of employees there and raised these concerns by email to the BBC Panorama team in January 2016. After a 14 – month period providing intelligence and completing specialist training, Tulley began to secretly film 109 hours of footage over a three-month period – the contents of which exposed the degrading treatment of detainees by employees. 


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Unorthodox Covid Views and Medical Regulation – Richard Smith

7 December 2021 by

White v General Medical Council [2021] EWHC 3286 (Admin) (03 December 2021)

A case in which the High Court reminds the regulator of requirements for imposing curbs on free speech.

Dr Samuel White is a GP. Earlier this year he posted a seven minute video on Instagram explaining that he had resigned from his job because, he said, he could no longer stomach the lies surrounding the NHS approach to the pandemic and because medical professionals were having their hands tied behind their backs in treating patients. He stated that he was being prevented from using treatments that had been established as being effective both as prophylaxis and treatment for Covid-19, naming hydroxychloroquine, budesonide inhalers and ivermectin, which he described as safe and proven. He raised concerns about the safety of the Covid-19 vaccine and claimed that 99% of people who contract the virus survive, with the only fatalities in those with multiple medical problems. He stated that masks do absolutely nothing. He invited his viewers to do their own research, but referred to a number of websites which supported his view. 

A complaint was made to the General Medical Council, which commenced an investigation into his fitness to practise as a doctor. The GMC referred his case to an Interim Orders Tribunal on the basis that his practise should be restricted pending investigation and the conclusion of the case. The role of an IOT is not to find facts, but to conduct a risk assessment based on the information before them and determine whether an interim order is necessary to protect patients or otherwise in the public interest.


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Safeguards for suspects and accused persons in criminal proceedings in the EU – Jodie Blackstock

24 August 2021 by

The UK’s exit from the European Union raises many questions for continuing cross-border arrangements and the legal proceedings that follow. This is no less the case in the area of police and judicial cooperation. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) has governed all arrangements since January 2021. Since people accused of crime will continue to travel, what does this mean for an individual’s ability to challenge requests from EU member states to UK authorities? These arguments are well known in the UK: how can we return people to Poland for prosecution of such minor misdemeanours as dessert theft? Should we be returning people to Lithuania given the appalling prison conditions?

Part 3 TCA introduced a new “surrender” arrangement with the EU to replace the European Arrest Warrant (EAW). It also replaced the other measures that in 2014 the UK concluded were necessary for law enforcement when it exercised the Protocol 36 to the Lisbon Treaty option to depart from police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, and then opted back into 35. Alongside the EAW, these included the European investigation order, supervision order, instrument on transfer of prisoners and various others. These measures resulted from the mutual recognition project that sought to make law enforcement speedier and more effective. Part 3 TCA now provides for cooperation with Europol and Eurojust, operational information exchange and mutual assistance. 


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Challenge to Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme dismissed by Supreme Court

16 August 2021 by

Inside the Supreme Court

A and B v Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority and another [2021] UKSC 27

On appeal from [2018] EWCA Civ 1534

The claimants in the case were victims of human trafficking with unspent convictions in Lithuania. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS) provides compensation to victims of crime, apart from where they have unspent criminal convictions (“the exclusionary rule”). The question for the Supreme Court was whether the exclusionary rule breached the claimants’ rights under Articles 4 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court found that the rule did not breach these rights.

Factual background

The CICS is a statutory scheme established by the Secretary of State for Justice which permits compensation to be given to a person “if they sustain a criminal injury which is directly attributable to their being a direct victim of a crime of violence”. But this is subject to the exclusionary rule for a person with an unspent conviction for an offence with a custodial sentence.

The appellants, A and B, were Lithuanian nationals and twin brothers. They were convicted of burglary and theft respectively in 2010 and 2011. They were then trafficked to the United Kingdom in 2013, where they were abused and subjected to labour exploitation. The traffickers were convicted for these criminal offences in January 2016.

On 16 June 2016, the appellants applied for compensation under the CICS. A’s conviction for burglary only became spent in June 2020, while B’s conviction for theft became spent on 11 November 2016. Because at the time of their application to the CICS they both had unspent convictions, they were disqualified from receiving compensation. They brought a claim for judicial review against the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) and the Secretary of State for Justice.


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Compulsory Vaccination for Care Home Workers – legislation coming into force in November

3 August 2021 by

The government has passed legislation compelling care homes to ensure almost all workers are vaccinated against Covid-19. It comes into force on 11 November 2021, and applies to England only.

The Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021 state that a care home provider must ensure that nobody enters care homes unless they fall into one of the identified exceptions.

The main ones are:-care home residents, friends and relatives of care home residents, emergency help providers (eg ambulance, emergency plumber) and children under 18.

If someone does not fall into one of the identified categories, the care home must not allow them entry unless they provide evidence that:- 

they have completed a course of an approved Covid vaccine;
or, for clinical reasons they cannot be vaccinated.

Some points to note: only those who cannot be vaccinated for clinical reasons are exempt. Religious and philosophical beliefs do not suffice. As well as workers, the Regulations ban a large variety of tradespeople who might need to visit a care home.

There is a 16 week period before the Regulations come into force; this is to allow care homes to encourage its workers to get vaccinated, warn of the consequences if they do not, and arrange alternative staffing to replace those who refuse. Compulsory vaccination is one of the three topics.

There will be a Zoom presentation on 6 September 2021 by Daniel Barnett of During it, you will learn:

– the seven common objections staff have to vaccination, and how to overcome them,
– whether dismissal for refusal to vaccinate because of health concerns is discriminatory
– whether dismissal for refusal to vaccinate because of pregnancy or breastfeeding is discrimination
– whether dismissal for refusal to vaccinate because of a anti-vax, or ethical vegan, or similar philopsophical belief is discrimination
– whether employers can compel existing employees and job applicants to tell you if they’ve been vaccinated
– the nine ‘reasonable’ steps for all employers under the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999
– more about compulsory vaccination at care homes, and the steps care homes need to take to ensure any dismissals are fair

We have reposted this report with the kind permission of its author, Daniel Barnett. Daniel is an employment law barrister at Outer Temple Chambers in London, a presenter on LBC Radio, and a leading speaker on the national and international lecture circuit.

Supreme Court dismisses solitary confinement appeal

22 July 2021 by

R (on the application of AB) v Secretary of State for Justice [2021] UKSC 28

The Supreme Court has unanimously dismissed an appeal which considered whether treatment throughout a 55 day period in solitary confinement of a then 15-year-old appellant in Feltham Young Offenders’ Institution constituted a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Facts

The case concerned the treatment of the Claimant, AB, whilst he was detained at Feltham Young Offenders’ Institution (FYOI) at the age of 15, between the period of 10th December 2017 and 2nd February 2017. AB had been remanded in custody at FYOI whilst awaiting sentence for indecent exposure and sexual assault. The pre-sentence report concluded that his risk of dangerousness was high, as was his risk of causing serious harm.

Throughout the above period at FYOI, AB had been placed under a “single-unlock” system, whereby he could not leave his cell when any other detainees were out of their cells, apart from some time in “three-officer unlock” which involved three officers being present whenever he left his cell. It was undisputed that he was placed under this regime for his own safety, as well as for the protection of others.

AB appealed to the Supreme Court to decide two questions. The first: whether the solitary confinement of persons under 18 automatically constitutes a violation of article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“the Convention”). The second: if not, whether there is a universal test for the compatibility of solitary confinement of children, namely that “exceptional” circumstances must determine the treatment as “strictly necessary”.


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Child Tax Credit: Two-Child Limit and the Limits of Review

16 July 2021 by

SC, CB and 8 children, R. (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions & Ors [2021] UKSC 26 (9 July 2021)

The Supreme Court has rejected a challenge against the two-child limit on the individual element of child tax credit payments. In a unanimous judgment delivered by Lord Reed, the Court held that the provision imposing the limit was not contrary to the appellants’ Convention rights.

The Court found that the rule was potentially indirectly discriminatory against women, as well as children living in households with more than two children. However, any such discrimination could be validly justified and was considered to be proportionate on the basis of ‘protecting the economic well-being of the country’. 

Background

Child tax credit is a welfare benefit scheme designed to provide financial support to families with children. The individual element of child tax credit, which is the subject of this case, entitles an individual to £2,830 per annum in respect of each child they are responsible for. 

In 2015, the Conservative Party announced as part of that year’s General Election manifesto that they intended to limit a person’s entitlement to child tax credit to just two children, unless one of a narrow range of prescribed exceptions applied. This was part of a wider policy pledge to substantially reduce the amount spent on welfare benefits. 

In March 2016, a bill was passed to that effect, and the limit came into force in April 2017. 


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The Tigray Conflict: Ethiopia’s Humanitarian Disaster — Harry Sanders

3 June 2021 by

Map of the Tigray conflict, which began in November and remains ongoing

This article was written by Harry Sanders, a content writer for the Immigration Advice Service.

Since November 2020, the Tigray region in the north of Ethiopia has been the epicentre of an awful (and hugely underreported) humanitarian disaster. War and violence have sent the region’s inhabitants fleeing over the Ethiopian border in search of asylum, while those who have not escaped are left to suffer increasingly disturbing conditions. Although the conflict was declared ‘over’ very quickly by the Ethiopian central government, abhorrent human rights abuses have continued while humanitarian access has been turned away. To understand how a nation led by a Nobel Laureate has fallen from grace on the world stage so dramatically, it is important to consider the circumstances which led to the outbreak of violence, and furthermore what it may mean for the future of Ethiopia and her people.

Ethiopia has long been a fairly fractious nation in terms of the patchwork of demographics within its borders. The Tigray region (bordering Eritrea to the north) is home not only to a majority of Tigrayan people – who account for 6.1% of Ethiopia’s population – but also myriad other ethnic groups. The majority ethnic group in Ethiopia are the Oromo, comprising 34.4% of the Ethiopian people.

Upon taking office, Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed promised to heal Ethiopia’s ethnic divide; all things told, he has been fairly true to his word, and in 2019 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for having brought an end to the 20-year old conflict with Eritrea. However, 2020 proved to be a defining chapter in Abiy Ahmed’s political career; citing social restrictions necessary to curtail the spread of COVID-19, he delayed the Ethiopian General Election from August 2020 to 5th June 2021. These actions were already disagreeable enough to some critics, though Abiy only stoked tensions further by having several of his rivals incarcerated. Most notably among these was Jawar Mohammed, who saw his ‘terror charge’ as a badge of honour and denounced PM Abiy for his blatant targeting of political opponents.


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The Chinese State attacks the Bar: A Call to Arms – Lord Sandhurst QC

31 March 2021 by

On 26 March, the Government of the People’s Republic of China announced sanctions against a number of British individuals and entities. Most publicity has been attracted by the inclusion of well-known politicians on the list. But the most sinister inclusion may be “Essex Court Chambers”. Whereas the sanctioning of a politician, who is unlikely to own property in China, is a largely symbolic gesture, the announcement in respect of the set of barrister’s chambers strikes at the heart of the English legal system and the services offered by English lawyers. It also has serious ramifications for all commercial transactions relating to China.

The decision against Essex Court Chambers is understood to be related to the fact that four individual members of those Chambers had together written an opinion concerning the treatment of the Uighur population in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. It appears that that legal opinion was written pursuant to instructions received from the Global Legal Action Network. Each of the four barristers was thus providing independent legal advice for a client pursuant to their professional obligations and qualifications as members of the Bar of England and Wales subject to the regulatory supervision of the Bar Standards Board. According to the chambers’ website, my source for this material, none of those four barristers published that legal opinion.


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Pandemic NHS workers should be granted indefinite leave to remain — Aaron Gates-Lincoln

17 March 2021 by

There is widespread gratitude for NHS workers for their service during the ongoing pandemic

Migrant workers have been essential to the operations of the NHS ever since its inception in 1948. Over the decades, many programmes have been used to encourage and find overseas workers and help them migrate to the UK to be employed in the healthcare system, demonstrating our governments acknowledgment of how important they are. As early as 1949, campaigns were made by the UK government in the Caribbean to recruit NHS staff, through advertisements in local newspapers.

However, throughout the current COVID-19 pandemic, many have argued that migrant workers have not been given the rightful respect or recognition in which they truly deserve. Many of them have been putting their lives on the line every single day fighting against a deadly virus, yet still face immigration insecurity.

There are currently 170,000 overseas NHS workers from 200 countries residing within the UK, many of which have to apply every year for five years to renew their work visas. Some are required to have employers provide certificates of sponsorship for them, and if they do not, then they can be deported at any time despite their critical service to the country. These certificates are necessary for those applying for skilled worker visas, to prove that the conditions of the visa have been met. If they are not signed it becomes increasingly difficult for migrants to apply for the visa needed to remain in the UK. As the pandemic has raged on since March 2020, support for a Private Member’s Bill which would grant migrant NHS workers indefinite leave to remain has grown.


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Overseas Operations Bill: Getting Away With Murder – Dr Ronan Cormacain

20 January 2021 by

Pardons versus failure to prosecute

One of the many outrages perpetrated by Donald Trump in the waning of his Presidency was granting a pardon to four private military contractors for their role in the Nisour Square massacre.  Those military contractors had opened fire indiscriminately, killing 14 Iraqi civilians, including two children.  

As with many of Trump’s assaults on the Rule of Law, the thought was that this kind of abuse could not happen in the UK. But certainty over our moral high ground will be short-lived if Parliament passes the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill – a Bill whose precise aim is to make it much harder to prosecute British military personnel for abuses (including murder) carried out overseas.  The Bill reaches Second Reading this week in the House of Lords.

Hurdles to prosecution under the Bill

The Bill introduces three substantial hurdles to the prosecution of British soldiers if the incident took place overseas more than five years ago.  The first is that prosecutions must only be “exceptional circumstances”.  The second is that the consent of the Attorney General is required.  The third is that, in contemplating prosecutions, prosecutors must place particular weight on a list of exculpatory factors, but with the absence of a list of factors tending in favour of prosecution.


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Freeman on the Land: Canadian lawyer responds

23 December 2020 by

What’s a judge to do when the Magna Carta/Freeman on the Land crew threaten you with hanging and start menacing court clerks as well?

As Rosalind English noted in a previous post, Canada’s latest Freemen judicial decisions in AVI and MHVB and Jacqueline Robinson (I and II) have had to answer those pointed questions.

Rosalind’s note canvassed the first decision by Justice Robert Graesser of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench calling out the actions of Jacqueline Robinson who had inserted herself into a high-conflict child custody case with disastrous results for the mother she was ‘helping’.  Robinson’s efforts included invoking Article 61 of the 1215 Magna Carta despite it having been repealed some 800 years previous and a demand for the return of the mother’s “property” (read ‘child’).  With Robinson’s Magna Carta Lawful Rebellion help, the mother went from having shared child access to no access and being removed as a guardian.


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