Ethics on the bench and in the witness box: The Round-up

Photo credit: Guardian

This week’s round up comes from Alex Wessely.

In the news

A highly experienced magistrate – Richard Page – has been sacked for airing views opposing same-sex couples being allowed to adopt.  In a statement the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office said his views – which he had expressed in an BBC interview in 2015 – constituted “serious misconduct which brought the magistracy into disrepute”. Alice Arnold in the Guardian agrees with the decision to sack him (“the law is clear… magistrates must respect it”), whereas the Christian Legal Centre say this represents a “new political orthodoxy” and “modern day madness”. In a subsequent development, Mr Page is now planning to sue Michael Gove, citing religious discrimination. Continue reading

GTMO hunger strike and DWP make-believe

Photo credit: Guardian

Photo credit: Guardian

Alex Wessely brings you the latest Round-up.

In the news

Guantanamo Bay was back in the headlines this week, after the Obama administration responded to a legal request to free a hunger-striking detainee “entirely in secret”. Tariq Ba Odah has refused to eat voluntarily since 2007, and now weighs a “shockingly frail”  74.5 pounds (33.8kg). Continue reading

Round-up: Obama in Africa, and Supreme Court on solitary confinement

2015-07-africa-kenya-kenyatta-obamaIn the news:

President Obama made a historic trip to Kenya this week, and called upon African states to abandon anti-gay discrimination (watch the full speech here). In a speech welcomed by Human Rights Campaign, he urged Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to stop treating people differently based on their sexuality, comparing the effects of this to racial segregation in early 20th century America.

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The Round-up: Srebrenica veto, and legal aid boycott latest

Srebrenica_massacre_memorial_gravestones_2009_1Alex Wessely brings you this week’s Human Rights Round Up.

In the News:

“Twenty years after Srebrenica, incomplete justice”. This is Human Rights Watch’s conclusion after Russia vetoed a UN resolution to refer to the 1995 massacre as “genocide”. Amnesty go further; calling the veto “an insult to the memory of the dead”. HRW calls for the European Union and the United States to encourage the Bosnian local courts to develop a national war crimes strategy to address the “case backlog” and bring war criminals to justice. Tensions between Serbia and Bosnia remain high; on Sunday the Serbian prime minister was attacked with stones when attending a 20th anniversary commemoration at Srebrenica.

In UK news, the legal aid boycott enters its second week, and has begun to bite. Delays are building up in the magistrates’ courts and police stations. A Bristol murder case has had to be adjourned due to the defendant being unrepresented and Liverpool magistrates’ are reportedly in “chaos”. The Criminal Bar Association is ballotting its members and will decide on Wednesday whether to support the boycott through a ‘no returns’ policy and by refusing new work. Continue reading

The Round-up: the first conviction for forced marriage and other news

forced-marriage-imageThis week’s Round-up is brought to you by Alex Wessely.

In the news

In a written statement the legal aid minister Mr Shailesh Vara confirmed that a further 8.75% will be cut from the criminal legal aid budget in 2015. The legal profession has reacted with dismay. Andrew Caplan, president of the Law Society has stated his “deep concern” and published an open letter to the lord chancellor arguing that the cuts “undermines the role of criminal legal aid solicitors in our justice system”. He also points to December 2014 research which shows that young legal aid lawyers are a “dying breed”, something which the most recent cuts will not help to alleviate. Elsewhere, Jonathan Black – president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association – has also expressed his bitter disappointment: “There is no further fat to be cut, let alone meat or skin – we are cutting deep into the bone.” Alistair Macdonald QC, chairman of the Bar Council, also expressed his “serious concerns”. Last month, 96% of criminal barristers voted for industrial action if these planned cuts went ahead. Continue reading

The Round-up: 21/7 bombers in Strasbourg and other news

Photo credit: Guardian

Photo credit: Guardian

This week’s Round-up is brought to you by Alex Wessely.

In the news

Three high profile cases concerning the UK government have been granted hearings in the European Court of Human Rights grand chamber, putting the relationship between the government and the ECHR “in the spotlight“.

  • Ibrahim and Others v. the United Kingdom concerns four men convicted of offences relating to the 21 July London terror plot. The men were initially interviewed by police before they were allowed to consult a lawyer (on the grounds that the urgent situation meant no delay was permissible), which they claim is a breach of their Article 6 rights (right to a fair trial).
  • The second case, Hutchinson v UK, concerns the politically charged issue of whole life tariffs – prisoners who have been told they will never be released from jail. Ian Hutchinson, sentenced in 1983 for triple murder and rape, argues that this constitutes a violation of his Article 3 rights (protection against torture and inhumane and degrading treatment). This argument was rejected in February, but is now being re-heard.
  • The third case is brought by the family of Jean Charles de Menezes, who was killed by police in 2005 when they mistakenly thought he was planning a suicide attack at Stockwell station. This is covered by Inquest, the Guardian and Evening Standard.

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The round-up: more righteous indignation about the Human Rights Act – in both camps.

hot_airIn the news

We can be sure of one thing. A battle is coming.” The future of the Human Rights Act still dominates the news, and this quote comes from UKHRB’s Adam Wagner, who suggests five tactics to ensure that human rights are not eroded. Perhaps the most in-depth analysis to date comes from Jack of Kent, who isolates the “seven hurdles” facing the government, including  Scotland, Tory backbench rebels, the House of Lords and the wording of the “British Bill of Rights” itself. He summarises:

So the current situation is: if the UK government can address the immense problems presented by Scottish devolution and the Good Friday Agreement, win-over or defeat Conservative supporters of the Act, shove the legislation through the house of lords, work out which rights are to be protected, somehow come up with a draft Bill of British Rights, and also explain why any of this is really necessary, and can do all this (or to do something dramatic) in “one hundred days” then…the Conservatives can meet their manifesto commitment in accordance with their ambitious timetable. But it seems unlikely.

Jack of Kent´s conclusion is echoed by Matthew Scott in the Telegraph (“Gove…faces almost insurmountable odds”), Mark Elliott in Public Law for Everyone (“the HRA…is far more deeply politically entrenched that the UK Government has so far appreciated”) and the Economist (“getting rid of the HRA will be tough – and almost pointless”). Continue reading