The deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats has said that gay couples are likely to gain full rights to marriage under the current Parliament. This would represent a revolution for gay rights, but there is still a long way to go before same-sex couples achieve full rights to marriage as they are arguably entitled to under human rights law.
Simon Hughes MP has told Yoost.com, a question and answer website, that Liberal Democrat MPs would be consulted on the rights of gay couples. He said “I don’t know the answer because we haven’t had the discussion“, but that
I see absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t all be able to support what Nick Clegg said, which is that it would be appropriate in Britain in 2010-11 for there to be the ability to have civil marriage for straight people and gay people equally.
The Coalition Government promised in the first days of its rule to “reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties under the Labour Government and roll back state intrusion“. This policy is now in play and appears to be making quick progress.
The Coalition’s Program for Government contains a long shopping list of civil liberties promises. Some are specific; scrapping ID cards, restricting DNA retention by police and reviewing libel laws. Some more vague, such as the Freedom / Great Repeal Bill, for which Deputy Prime Minister has just launched an online public consultation. As we posted last week, even the Lord Chief Justice is getting in on the act.
We recently started adding links to interesting new articles and case-law the sidebar under the heading “Selected news sources”. Below is a quick rundown of the most recent links. The full list of links can be found here.
Five activists were recently acquitted for causing £180,000 damage to an arms factory after successfully deploying the defence of lawful excuse. But did the judge’s politically coloured summing up of the evidence to the jury render the trial a miscarriage of justice?
Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights guarantee a “fair and impartial tribunal”, and it is sometimes claimed in courts that a judge or judicial panel are biased and therefore cannot preside over a fair trial. While not often successful, the complaints are always taken seriously. As any law student knows, justice must not only be done but also be seen to be done.
To this end, judicial impartiality has been much in the news of late. Cherie Booth QC, an observant Christian, was apparently rapped by the Office for Judicial Complaints for reducing a defendant’s sentence on the grounds that he was a “religious man” who knew what he did was wrong. Meanwhile, in a less successful challenge to a judicial decision, Lord Carey failed to convince the Court of Appeal that a judicial panel of special religious expertise was needed in the case of a Christian marriage councilor sacked for refusing to counsel gay couples.
Hall & Ors v Mayor of London (On Behalf of the Greater London Authority)  EWCA Civ 817 (16 July 2010) – read judgment
The Mayor of London has won a court order to evict a camp of protesters from Parliament Square, with the Court of Appeal upholding a decision of the High Court stating that the Mayor’s response to the protest was proportionate and not a breach of the protesters’ human rights.
The protesters had gained a temporary reprieve by appealing the decision to the Court of Appeal, but that appeal has now been rejected. The BBC report that Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, said “I think it’s wonderful that as a city we can protest. But it is nauseating what they are doing to the lawn“.
The Lord Chief Justice has lamented the ease with which new laws can be passed without proper scrutiny, comparing new powers to those which were imposed by England’s worst tyrant.
Lord Judge, who is the Lord Chief Justice and head of the judiciary, was speaking at the annual Lord Mayor’s dinner for the judiciary; his speech can be read here.
The thrust of the judge’s speech was his concern at the proliferation of what he called “Henry VIII” clauses, the proliferation of which had “astonished” him. Henry VIII’s 1539 Statute of Proclamations allowed the King’s proclamations to have the same force as Acts of Parliament. Lord Judge compared this to a series of recent Acts which have given the Government licence to enact law without the scrutiny of Parliament.
The Guardian have published a number of documents which have been disclosed to the High Court as part of a claim for compensation by men claiming they were mistreated abroad with the knowledge of UK security services.
The Guardian claims that the documents reveal the “the true extent of the Labour government’s involvement in the illegal abduction and torture of its own citizens”. Key passages can be found here.
The documents were disclosed as part of the ongoing case of Al Rawi and Ors v The Security Services. Although the case has not yet been heard, it has been the subject of a number of high-profile applications for secret documents which the Government have generally lost. We posted recently on the judgment of Mr Justice Silber leading to the disclosure of some of the most recent documents which the Guardian have published (see also here).
Flood v Times Newspapers Ltd  EWCA Civ 804 (13 July 2010) – Read judgment
A Detective Sergeant in the Metropolitan Police accused of taking bribes has won his battle against the Times to prevent the newspaper relying on the Reynolds defence, which allows allegations to be reported even the it they turn out to be wrong, in the interest of media freedom.
In June 2006 the newspaper had published an article entitled “Detective accused of taking bribes from Russian exiles”, leading the detective to sue in libel The Court of Appeal reversed the decision of Mr Justice Tugendhat in the High Court which had said the Times could rely on Reynolds privilege. The Inforrm Blog has provided an excellent analysis of the judgment. The post sums up the facts as follows:
The courts’ relationship with religious principles is rarely out of the spotlight, and recent decisions have provided more fuel for this debate.
Aidan O’Neill QC, writing on the UK Supreme Court Blog, provides an interesting discussion of last week’s Supreme Court decision in HJ (Iran) in the context of a series of controversial United States decisions on sexuality and religion.
We posted last week on the case of HJ (Iran), in which the Supreme Court ruled that policy of sending back gay refugees to their home countries where they feared persecution is unlawful as it breached their human rights. Rosalind English examined the case in the context of a European Court of Human Rights rejecting a complaint by a same-sex couple that Austria was in violation of the Convention for not granting them the right to marry.
Gaunt v OFCOM  EWHC 1756 (QB) (13 July 2010) – Read judgment
The High Court has ruled that OFCOM did not breach a DJ’s freedom of expression rights by finding that he contravened the Broadcasting Code after calling a guest a “Nazi” during an interview on talkSPORT. The decision by the regulator led to the DJ’s sacking.
Jon Gaunt applied for judicial review of the decision by OFCOM that he had breached rules 2.1 and 2.3 of the Broadcasting Code. Liberty supported his claim. He argued that OFCOM’s decision amounted to a disproportionate interference with his freedom of expression and an infringement of his rights under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The criminalisation of support for terrorist organisations has arisen in various domestic and international contexts recently, and it is likely that the issue will continue to attract controversy as states attempt to trace the boundaries of what can fairly be considered “support” for terrorism, and risk criminal legislation unjustifiably infringing on human rights.
The Human Rights in Ireland blog has posted the first in a series addressing the issue (update – the second post in the series is now available, see below). In the post, Dr. Cian Murphy suggests that “One of the most corrosive effects on political freedom during the “war on terrorism” has been that caused by material support legislation.” He goes on to refer to three recent decisions, including the 2008 Kadicase on EU implementation of UN sanctions against individuals linked to the Taleban, al-Qaeda and bin Laden (see ASIL case comment).
We recently started adding links to interesting new articles and case-law the sidebar under the heading “Recent selected sources (del.icio.us)”. Below is a quick rundown of the most recent links. The full list of links can be found here.
Babar Ahmad, Haroon Rashid Aswat, Syed Tahla Ahsan and Mustafa Kamal Mustafa (Abu Hamza) v United Kingdom – 24027/07  ECHR 1067 (6 July 2010) – Read judgment
The European Court of Human Rights has delayed the extradition of four men, including the notorious Mustafa Kamal Mustafa (Abu Hamza), from the United Kingdom to the United States due to concerns that long prison sentences and harsh conditions in a “supermax” prison could violate their human rights.
In this admissibility application, the four men mounted a wide-ranging attack on the US Justice system to the Strasbourg court, in terms usually reserved for lawless rogue states. The men claimed their extradition would put them at risk of harsh treatment, extraordinary rendition and the death penalty, amongst other draconian penalties. They said that the trial of non-US citizens on terrorism charges would lead to a “flagrant denial of justice”.
The controversial stop and search anti-terrorism powers are to be scrapped after a decision of the European Court of human Rights that they violated human rights law.
According to a press release on the Home Office website, the decision will have immediate effect and is a direct response to the European Court’s decision:
Theresa May today tells Parliament that the government will change how stop and search powers under section 44 of the Terrorism Act are used, with immediate effect.
The move is in response to a decision by the European Court of Human Rights (new window), which found that the use of stop and search powers under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (new window) amounted to a violation of the right to a private life. Continue reading →
HJ (Iran) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  UKSC 31 (07 July 2010) – Read Judgment
The Supreme Court has ruled that the government’s “Anne Frank” policy of sending back gay refugees to their home countries where they feared persecution is unlawful as it breached their human rights..
HJ and HT are both homosexual men and had been persecuted in their home countries – Iran and Cameroon respectively – after their sexual orientation had been discovered.
The court criticised the controversial policy, practised since 2006, of telling gay asylum seekers who feared prosecution in their home countries to hide their sexuality upon their return, rather than granting them asylum. In the Court of Appeal the men’s barrister had referred to this as an “Anne Frank” policy, in that, like Anne Frank, the men would be safe if they hid from authorities but not if they didn’t.
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.