Against the backdrop of much fanfare and polemic, France’s controversial prohibition on face-veiling came into force yesterday. The law has met with derision and scepticism internationally, and internally, from a surprising source, in the guise of a police union which “denounced” the law as “unenforceable”.
The law, which was passed by the Senate in September, was motivated by a number of political concerns.
First, it was rationalised with reference to the value of gender equality, and the concern that the republican state should take a stand against the symbols of value in the public square.
The decision of the Supreme Court in Jones v Kaney (see earlier post by Rosalind English) removes the immunity previously enjoyed by those who have acted as experts from suit by their former clients. To understand the significance of the decision, a number of important points should be kept in mind.
The immunity from suit for damages for a former client in respect of the retained expert’s activity in a civil action was already a limited one. In Palmer v Durnford Ford,  QB 483, the High Court held that an expert witness was not immune from suit in respect of work done primarily for the purpose of advising the client.
Expert witnesses have, since the decision of the Court of Appeal in Meadow v General Medical Council  QB 462, been liable to disciplinary sanction in respect of their activity and evidence as experts in courts and tribunals. That flows from the public interest in the fitness to practice of the professional (particularly, but not only, a medical practitioner). Continue reading →
The relationship between the expression of religious beliefs and practice and equality law is a fraught one, and particular difficulty has been experienced in the matter of the application of the law outlawing discrimination.
Equality law, as currently interpreted, treats the six prohibited grounds of discrimination – age, disability, race, religion, sex (including transgender status) and sexual orientation – as being of equal weight and standing; there is no hierarchy among these grounds.
The coalition Government has appointed an independent Commission to investigate the case for a UK Bill of Rights. This Commission has also been tasked with providing advice to the Government on the possible reform of the European Court of Human Rights – as part of on the ongoing Interlaken process – ahead of and following the UK’s coming Chairmanship of the Council of Europe.
One does not have to be human rights sceptic to accept that there is an unequivocal case for further reform of the Strasbourg Court because, unless something is done, the current system for human rights protection at a European level is in danger of imminent collapse. Continue reading →
The recent claim in Parliament by Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming (pictured right) that Sir Fred Goodwin has obtained an injunction to prevent him being identified as a banker has reignited interest in the suggestion that the media can in some way sidestep the secrecy of an injunction through the indirect use of Parliamentary privilege. The incident is reminiscent of Paul Farelly’s revelation to Parliament that Trafigura had obtained a so-called “super-injunction” against the Guardian in October 2009.
In his blog on the Guardian website, Roy Greenslade asks: “Have MPs, and the media, found a way to overcome super-injunctions?” This question is worth considering from a legal perspective. This post will attempt to answer it by focussing on two areas: (i) the ability of MPs to disclose confidential information in Parliament and (ii) the ability of the media to report on these disclosures in order to evade liability for contempt of court.
On 8 March 1951, sixty years ago this month, the UK ratified the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Two things are often said about what was expected of the Convention back in 1951.
First, it was only ever intended to establish a system that would protect against the types of severe human rights violations witnessed during the War. Consequently (and secondly), the Convention system was never intended to become what it has today, its Court now sometimes acting like a type of Supreme Court for Europe in the field of human rights.
Both points are relevant to current day debates about the legitimate role of the Strasbourg Court. To what extent then are they accurate?
At the end of the Wizard of Oz Dorothy manages to find her way back from the land of Oz to her farmstead in Kansas by closing her eyes, clicking the heels of her ruby-red slippers together, and repeatedly murmuring the incantation “There’s no place like home; there’s no place like home …”.
In his Bringing Rights back home: making human rights compatible with parliamentary democracy in the UK (Policy Exchange, 2011)the political scientist Dr. Michael Pinto-Duschinsky attempts a similar feat, seeking to bring human rights back from the Land of Stras(bourg).
There probably aren’t many people who want to know what ‘goes on’ in the Court of Protection more than me; it’s what I spend much of my time trying to fathom. An outsider would be forgiven for thinking that this branch of Her Majesty’s Court Service doesn’t feel that case law in this tangled and difficult area is anybody’s business but it’s own.
The reasons for this appearance are complex though, and not necessarily the fault of any individuals working within the courts. I think it’s important to draw a distinction between different ways that greater ‘transparency’ could be achieved; some might be more helpful than others.
The audience will be made up of legal bloggers, tweeters and journalists. If you area looking for an introduction to legal blogging, see this excellent article by Alex Aldridge. You can follow proceedings from 6pm to 7:30pm via Twitter on #LawBlogs, and Isabel McArdle will be tweeting live updates via our Twitter feed @ukhumanrightsb .
A podcast recording of the evening will be available in the next few days. Enjoy!
Updated | The Coalition Government’s Programme for Government, launched on 20th May 2010, made a number of commitments relating to information law, including issues about privacy and data protection. It also stated that the Government would introduce a Freedom Bill.
On Friday last week (11th February) the Protection of Freedoms Bill was duly published, with lengthy explanatory notes stating that it implemented 12 specific commitments in the Programme for Government.
It’s no Magna Carta. Those of us who teach public law in British universities will certainly have to grapple with the Protection of Freedoms Bill. But will it, like the that earlier constitutional text, echo through the centuries into the classrooms of 2311? I doubt it.
Although the Bill’s 107 sections will give Messrs Cameron and Clegg a long list of reforms to rattle off at party conferences it does little to coherently explain the coalition’s view of the appropriate relationship between the state and the citizen. The Government does not know what freedom is, but it knows freedom isn’t having your car immobilised without lawful authority (see section 54). In many respects, the Protection of Freedoms Bill seems to fit exactly with the coalition government’s attitude towards ‘freedom’, ‘liberty’ or – perish the thought – ‘human rights’. It is broadly libertarian but with no real coherent vision for fundamental rights. As a result the Protection of Freedoms Bill is a list of legislative pet hates, many introduced by New Labour, that the coalition wants to do away with.
The recent critics of Strasbourg judicial activism will, doubtless, be pleased by the Court’s latest Article 10 decision. Free speech campaigners may have more mixed views.
In the case of Donaldson v United Kingdom ( ECHR 210) the Fourth Section held that the application of a serving Republican prisoner alleging a violation of his rights under Article 10 (freedom of speech) and Article 14 (discrimination) was inadmissible.
There are a limited number of free tickets available to readers of this blog who are also lawyers or work in the public sector. All details are below.
Update – we have had a fantastic response since this morning and as a result the places available to readers of the blog have now been filled. We will, however, be producing a podcast of the seminar. You can download our previous seminar podcasts from iTunes by clicking here.
We have finished experimenting with the new look for now. Thank you for all of your comments, which will be taken on board for the future. Keep posted for exciting changes as we reach our first anniversary.
One change which we will keep on is the more advanced menu system at the top of the page. If you hover over the first two menus, a series of sub menus will appear, hopefully making the site a little bit easier to navigate.
The Court of Appeal yesterday handed down judgment in the case of JIH v News Group Newspapers Ltd ( EWCA Civ 42). In allowing the appeal against the order of Tugendhat J ( EWHC 2818 (QB)) the Court ordered that the claimant’s anonymity should be restored.
Although the Court stressed that each decision is fact sensitive, this approach seems likely to be followed in most types of privacy injunction cases. This eagerly awaited decision adds to the growing body of case law concerning reporting restrictions where an injunction has been granted to restrain publication of information about a claimant’s private life.
This blog is maintained for information purposes only. It is not intended to be a source of legal advice and must not be relied upon as such. Blog posts reflect the views and opinions of their individual authors, not of chambers as a whole.