By: Adam Wagner


Equality and Human Rights Commission reverses position on religious cases intervention

22 August 2011 by

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has reversed its plans to intervene in two European Court of Human Rights cases about religious discrimination. 

Last month the Commission announced that it would intervene in European Court of Human Rights cases on behalf of religious believers who failed to convince the UK courts that they were being discriminated against in the workplace. Two of the proposed interventions – in which the EHRC proposed a “reasonable accommodation” for religion and belief cases (an idea proposed on this blog by Aidan O’Neill QC) – courted controversy, as Alasdair Henderson explained in his post, A leap of faith?

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Will evicting rioters be a bear patrol?

18 August 2011 by

In a 1996 episode of The Simpsons, a bear frightens residents of Springfield by strolling down from the mountains. Homer rallies an unruly mob and convinces the town mayor to create a state of the art Bear Patrol, including branded stealth bombers. All is well until Homer receives his pay cheque, which includes an additional $5 “bear tax”. 

Which of the proposed responses to this month’s rioting and looting will be a bear patrol, that is a disproportionate and expensive response prompted by an unruly mob of citizens demanding action?

Alongside the human rights review of every public sector organisation, an early candidate is the plans to create a new discretionary power of possession to enable landlords to take swifter action to evict their most anti-social tenants. The government consultation is open until 7 November; see also this letter from Grant Shapps MP explaining the change .

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Are human rights to blame for the riots?

16 August 2011 by

Many explanations have been proposed for the recent British riots, including poor policing, Twitter and violent video games. Yesterday, the Prime Minster suggested that the Human Rights Act is to blame.

In a major speech, he said that when considering questions of attitude and behaviour, “we inevitably come to the question of the Human Rights Act and the culture associated with it“. What is “exerting such a corrosive influence on behaviour and morality“? No less than “the twisting and misrepresenting of human rights in a way that has undermined personal responsibility“.

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#WithoutPrejudice: Riots, Human Rights Act and hacking

12 August 2011 by

I had the honour of appearing on this week’s #WithoutPrejudice. The podcast also featured regulars CharonQCDavid Allen Green and Carl Gardner, alongside guests former Lib-Dem MP Dr Evan HarrisDavid Wales, a criminal lawyer and blogger.

We discussed:

 

  • what criminal offences rioters and looters are being charged with, and why;
  • the Riot (Damages) Act 1886, and
  • whether rioters and looters should be denied social housing;
  • the European Court of Human Rights’ judgments in Al Skeini and Al Jedda;
  • the withdrawal of human rights organisations from participation in the Gibson inquiry into complicity in torture;
  • the government’s Bill of Rights Commission; and finally
  • Hackgate, the terms of reference of the Leveson inquiry, and what to hope and fear from it.

Listen to the podcast here, or subscribe through iTunes.


The English riots

10 August 2011 by

England has experienced a fourth consecutive night of rioting and looting in its cities, prompted by the shooting by police of Mark Duggan in Tottenham.

New and social media have seen almost blanket coverage of the events, so I have little to add, save to link to some interesting legal coverage of the issues involving policing policy, blaming social media, vigilante justice, journalists’  rights and paying for damage under riot law.

One issue which sadly has not arisen from these riots is freedom of speech; it would appear that there has been little sense or motive behind the violence following the initial catalyst.

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Do we need a UK Bill of Rights?

5 August 2011 by

The UK Bill of Rights Commission has launched a public consultation on whether we need a Bill of Rights.

The consultation document is here and reproduced below. You have until 11 November 2011 to respond and you can do so via email or post.

The document provides a useful and fairly noncontroversial summary of rights protections as they currently exist within the UK constitutional structure. It does not, however, provide any information at all about what a “bill of rights” might entail or how such instruments work in other countries: contrast the far more detailed (and very useful) document produced in 2010 by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

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When public authorities must pay legal costs: Two important cases

3 August 2011 by

G v E & Ors [2011] EWCA Civ 939 – Read judgment1COR’s Guy Mansfield QC appeared for the Respondent. He is not the author of this post.

Bahta & Ors, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department & Ors [2011] EWCA Civ 895 – Read judgment

The general rule in civil law cases is that the loser pays the winner’s legal costs, even if the case settles before trial. As with all general rules, there are plenty of exceptions, and many relate to public authorities. Two of those exceptions have just been chipped away at by the Court of Appeal.

Two important judgments increasing the likelihood that local authorities will have to pay out costs emerged the usual last-minute glut before the court term ended on Friday. The first concerned costs in the Court of Protection when an authority has unlawfully deprived a person of their liberty. The second was about costs in immigration judicial review claims which had settled following consent orders.

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Family courts guide to Media Access & Reporting

29 July 2011 by

Updated | The family courts in conjunction with the Judicial College and the Society of Editors have has published a Guide to Media Access and Reporting. It has been written by two barristers, Adam Wolanski and Kate Wilson.

It seeks to address “the tension between concerns about “secret justice” and legitimate expectations of privacy and confidentiality for the family (update – read Lucy Series’ analysis with a focus on Court of Protection cases).

This is interesting and, on a quick glance through the detailed document, useful. Family judges have been critical of journalists’ reporting of sensitive cases recently, and this guide is clearly an attempt to guide judges on what can and can not be reported, and journalists on how to report responsibly. The guide would benefit from a contents page and executive summary, but aside from that it will no doubt prove useful to practitioners and journalists.

One line I am predictably fond of: “Although it remains a matter for the judge, senior members of the judiciary have encouraged the making of public judgments

View this document on Scribd

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Analysis – Daily Mirror and The Sun in contempt over Jo Yeates murder case

29 July 2011 by

Her Majesty’s Attorney-General Claimant – and – (1) MGN Limited Defendants (2) News Group Newspapers Limited – Read judgment

The High Court has found that the Daily Mirror and The Sun were in breach of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 (1981 Act) in relation to their reporting of the Jo Yeates murder case. The court was strongly critical of the “vilification” of a man who was arrested but quickly released without charge.

The proceedings were in relation to Christopher Jefferies, a school teacher who was arrested early on in the investigation. The court fined the Daily Mirror £50,000 and The Sun £18,000.

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Public purse stays closed for morbidly obese man

28 July 2011 by

Condliff, R (on the application of) v North Staffordshire Primary Care Trust [2011] EWCA Civ 910 – Read judgment

A morbidly obese man has lost his appeal against his local Primary Care Trust’s (PCT’s) refusal to fund his anti-obesity surgery. The Court of Appeal ruled that the PCT had no obligation under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights to consider social or non-clinical factors when deciding whether to grant a request for exceptional funding.

In his discussion of the case, Lord Justice Toulson began by saying that “Human rights law is sometimes in danger of becoming over complicated“. Underlying this point is the fact that it is already complicated enough. This is a good example: how could a court find that this case, which clearly involves the dignity and family life of a man whose life is difficult and miserable, not engage the protection of human rights law? I will try to explain.

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Whose law is it anyway?

26 July 2011 by

What is a “tort”? No,  not a rich multilayered cake, but rather an “actionable wrong”. Tort law is also the means through which five Kenyans alleging they were mistreated in British detention camps in the 1950s may get damages. How do I know this? Because Mr Justice McCombe told me in a helpful summary of his judgment which was released on Thursday.

It is heartening but unfortunately rare to see a judge explaining an important ruling of to the public. Save for supreme court rulings, which are always accompanied by an excellent press summary, the public is left alone to puzzle out the meaning of judgments. Journalists do their best to explain, but often get it wrong either by accident or design.

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Terrorism off the agenda, for now

20 July 2011 by

Updated |The UK public only really worries about terrorism after an attack or a credible threat of one. Certainly, at the moment, it would take a serious threat to knock the Shakespearean drama of phone-hacking off the front pages. Nevertheless, the government and others continue their efforts to contain the threat, and it is perhaps a sign of the strategy’s success that we are not unduly worried by it.

Part of that strategy is that under terrorism law the secretary of state must appoint a person to review the operation of the Terrorism Act 2000 and Part 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000, and in particular proscription of organisations, stop and search powers, arrest and detention powers and prosecutions for terrorist offences.  To that end, the new Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC, has released his first annual report.

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Sun and Mail fined £15,000 for contempt of court

19 July 2011 by

Attorney General v Associated Newspapers Ltd & Anor [2011] EWHC 1894 (Admin)  – Read judgment

The High Court has handed down fines of £15,000 each and to Associated Newspapers and News Group Newspapers (NGN), owners of The Daily Mail and The Sun, for contempt of court. The companies will also have to pay £28,117.23 to cover the Attorney General’s costs. This blog’s co-editor Angus McCullough QC appeared for the Attorney General in the case but is not the writer of this post.

The newspapers’ owners, particularly NGN, probably have other things on their minds at the moment. But the fines, which relate to contempt proceedings decided in March (read judgment / my post) represent something of a landmark, as they are the first relating to online publication. In this case, The Sun Online and Mail Online published pictures of Ryan Ward holding a gun whilst he was on trial for murder.

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UK Human Rights Blog reaches half a million hits

14 July 2011 by

According to our statometer, the UK Human Rights Blog by 1 Crown Office Row chambers has just surpassed 500,000 hits. 

This is a bit of a landmark for a site which launched at the end of March 2010. We had hoped that the blog would be useful for lawyers and the general public, and that it would in part compensate for some of the mischievous and misrepresentative reporting of human rights law. But we never expected it to take off in the way that it has.

It is a happy coincidence that we have reached this landmark in a week which has seen the two most important courts for UK human rights – the Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights – both releasing pairs of landmark judgments in Al Rawi / Tariqon the use of secret evidence in civil proceedings, and Al-Skeini / Al-Jedda, on where in the world the European Convention applies.

We now have 1,558 subscribers by email (you too can subscribe for free), 1,065 on Facebook, and 2,991 via my account on Twitter. We also have recently updated our introduction to the European Convention on Human Rights and introduced a human rights case table. As always, your comments are gratefully received.

This is our 853rd post. In the tradition of such posts, here are our top 20 all time greatest hits:

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Was it human rights wot won the phone hacking scandal?

12 July 2011 by

2011 may be remembered as the year of Article 8. The public may not realise it, but the two major news stories of this year have had at their core the 8th article of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to privacy and family life. And without this controversial law, the phone-hacking scandal may never have been exposed.

First came the super-injunctions scandal, in which the public, egged on by the popular press, became enraged at sportsmen using expensive privacy injunctions to keep details of their alleged bad behaviour out of the news. That scandal has now been replaced by a much bigger one, relating to illegal phone hacking. The affair has already led to the demise of the News of the World.

As the human rights organisation Liberty have pointed out, the newspaper was never a fan of New Labour’s Human Rights Act. Amongst other things, it fought an expensive and partially successful privacy battle against Max Mosley over claims that he slept with prostitutes in a “sick Nazi orgy“. It has always been suspected that the tabloid press’s almost universal antipathy towards the 1998 Act, which in theory at least should be popular as it protects citizens against nasty state intrusion, was inspired by the fear that the privacy rights it bolstered, despite the competing right to freedom of expression, would prevent them doing their jobs. And now, with some irony, it is a tabloid newspaper and not a public authority which may represent the 1998 Act’s most high-profile scalp.

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