By: Adam Wagner


Recent press and case-law roundup

18 June 2010 by

This week we 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.

Bloody Sunday report to have a chilling effect on future inquiries?

18 June 2010 by

The controversy generated by the Bloody Sunday Inquiry continues to generate much comment and conjecture.

Lord Saville himself is to resign his judicial post in the Supreme Court early, although he was only a year away from retirement at age 75.

The most pressing concern for many of the relatives of those who were killed will be riding the momentum in order to push for prosecutions; either for the deaths themselves (fairly unlikely given the length of time which has elapsed since the killings) or perjury. Whilst public inquiries are not supposed to lead directly to prosecutions, at least not as a result of a person’s self-incriminating evidence, they can led to charges if someone is found to have lied under oath. The views of the families of the dead appear to be mixed in relation to this possibility.

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Major new equality laws under threat from new government

18 June 2010 by

The Equality Act 2010 may be a quiet addition to the Coalition Government’s repealing agenda as the Government Equality Office (GEO) withdraws the timetable for its implementation.

According to Out-law.com, a spokesperson from the GEO said “An announcement on scheduling for implementation of the Equality Act will be made in due course” and also confirmed that the new Government is not bound by the timetable set by its predecessor.

The Equality Act 2010 was passed into law on in the dying days of the New Labour government despite opposition of from the Pope, who complained that it would run contrary to “natural law” due to its likely effect on Catholic adoption agencies. The Conservatives may have more luck, however, in thwarting the Act’s implementation and in particular three aspects of it which they are opposed to. Some of the main provisions were supposed to come into force in October, but this now appears to have been put on hold. The original timetable can be accessed here.

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Muslim area CCTV cameras to be covered by plastic bags [updated]

17 June 2010 by

The BBC report that plastic bags are to be put over “scores” of surveillance cameras in Birmingham following allegations that they deliberately targeted Muslim areas.

Update 19/06/10: Campaigners and the Guardian say police are now facing an investigation for failing to disclose the true purpose of the cameras

The decision marks a victory for campaigners who threatened to bring a judicial review challenging a surveillance project that uses 150 automatic number plate recognition  cameras to monitor the roads in two predominantly Muslim areas of Birmingham. We posted earlier this week on the issue, sparked by a Guardian investigation:

The newspaper’s investigation has led to considerable public criticism of the scheme and the threat of legal action. The criticisms have concerned three main areas.First, it has been alleged that the scheme constitutes an unacceptable infringement of civil liberties. Local MPs Roger Godsiff (Labour) and John Hemming (Lib Dem) have attacked it on these grounds, with the latter said to be seeking the support of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. Second, there have been complaints about a lack of consultation despite the fact that Project Champion is reported to be undergoing tests with the intention of going live in August.

The cameras will not be used “until a consultation has been carried out“.

Control order breached human rights say Supreme Court [updated]

16 June 2010 by

Secretary of State for the Home Department v AP [2010] UKSC 24 (16 June 2010) – Read judgment

The Supreme Court have given the latest judgment on the controversial control order scheme, and in this case have allowed the appeal of a man suspected of terrorism on the grounds that confinement to a flat 150 miles away from his family amounted to a breach of his human rights.

The Appellant was an Ethiopian national who was the subject of a control order. This confined him to a flat for 16 hours a day in a Midlands town 150 miles away from his family in London.

The Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal, set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal and restored the High Court’s order. Lord Brown gave the leading judgment. Lord Rodger and Sir John Dyson SCJ delivered concurring judgments. The press summary of the judgment can be read here and the summary below is drawn from it.

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Bloody Sunday, human rights and the duty to investigate deaths [updated]

16 June 2010 by

Lord Saville has already come under significant criticism for the time and money which has been swallowed up by the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. Future public inquiries could now be under threat as new Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has accused the Lord Saville of allowing the process to get “ludicrously out of hand“.

The Saville Inquiry Report was published yesterday and can be downloaded here, a summary here and a good analysis here. Lord Saville’s long-awaited inquiry into the Bloody Sunday killings of 30 January 1972 was set up to investigate the events surrounding a march in Derry when 29 protesters were shot by British soldiers, leading to 13 deaths. The Inquiry has been widely criticised prior to its findings.

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Bill of Rights privilege plea fails parliamentary expenses four

14 June 2010 by

Morley & Ors, R. v [2010] EW Misc 9 (EWCC) (11 June 2010) – Read judgment

Four former Members of Parliament have failed in their initial bid to claim parliamentary privilege in criminal proceedings arising from the parliamentary expenses scandal. The case has highlighted constitutional principles which reach back hundreds of years to the time of Oliver Cromwell, and raises questions of whether parliamentarians are above the criminal justice system.

This will not be the end of the affair, however, as leave to appeal has been granted with the case to be heard by the Court of Appeal as early as before the end of this month

Mr Justice Saunders sitting the Southwark Crown Court ruled that the parliamentary privilege enshrined in the 1688 Bill of Rights does not extend to protecting the four ex-MPs, Elliott Morley, David Chaytor, James Devine and Lord Hanningfield, from prosecutions for claiming inflated expenses.

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Are the courts doing enough to protect religious freedom? [updated]

14 June 2010 by

No entry?

A number of recent cases have ignited an interesting debate on the place of religion in the UK court system, and whether the courts are doing enough to ensure religious freedom as they are obligated to do under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The most notorious example has been McFarlane v Relate Avon Ltd, an unfair dismissal claim brought by a relationship counselor who as a result of his Christian beliefs refused to promote gay sex. The former Archbishop of Canterbury submitted a witness statement stating that cases such of these should be heard by judges with special religious sensitivity. Lord Justice Laws in the Court of Appeal rejected his arguments outright.

We also posted last week on the Hardeep Singh case, in which Mr Justice Eady in the High Court effectively threw out a libel action because it rested upon fundamental principles of legal doctrine which could not properly be examined by a secular court. We posted:

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Home Secretary on offensive as police admit anti-terror mistakes

11 June 2010 by

The Home Secretary has pledged to conduct an “urgent review” of police stop and search powers as it has been revealed that thousands of searches may have been conducted illegally.

Teresa May, the new Home Secretary, has gone on the offensive with a Guardian editorial blaming the previous Government and promising to fix the problem urgently. She says “It has been clear for a decade that the last government held our civil liberties cheap. They introduced the powers that have been abused 10 years ago, and then sat back as they were used more and more frequently.” She is reportedlyincandescent” over the report.

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Bloody Sunday Inquiry findings leaked, killings were “unlawful” [updated]

11 June 2010 by

The Guardian claims to have access to key findings of the long awaited inquiry into the Bloody Sunday killings of 30 January 1972, and some of the soldiers implicated may now face prosecution almost 40 years after the event.

The Inquiry was set up to investigate the events surrounding a march in the Bogside area of Derry in 1972 when 29 protesters were shot by British soldiers, leading to 13 deaths.

Lord Saville’s report, which marks the conclusion of the longest and most expensive public inquiry in British history, “will conclude that a number of the fatal shootings of civilians by British soldiers were unlawful killings“. However, the Guardian has not revealed where its information originates from, or how the shootings were “unlawful”, which could mean a number of different things.

The report is to be published on Tuesday 15 June at 3pm. The Inquiry’s website, which also has transcripts of the hearings, can be found here.

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Child protection review ordered by Government in light of crumbling system [updated]

10 June 2010 by

The Government has commissioned an independent review of children’s social work and frontline child protection practice. Child protection services have been widely derided as a result of a series of scandals such as that involving baby Peter Connelly (Baby P), and many lawyers feel the court system is at breaking point.

Update 13/06/10 – The Court of Protection has issued its first annual report, which can be accessed here. The forward to the Report says “The court has had to endure more than its fair share of setbacks, which were caused in the main by a failure to anticipate, prior to the implementation of the Act, the volume of work that would inundate the court during the initial transitional period, and the overall burden it would place on the judges and staff.

According to a Department for Education (DoE) press release, Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, has asked Professor Eileen Munro, a professor of social policy at the London School of Economics, to lead the a “fundamental” review of child protection services. Professor Munro has written widely on child protection and the regulation of child care.

According to the DoE, the Government intends to

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Council of Europe raps UK on prisoner voting [updated]

9 June 2010 by

The Council of Europe has expressed “profound regret” that the UK has failed to implement its 5-year-old European Court of Human Rights ruling against the policy which prevents prisoners from voting in elections.

In a Committee of Ministers decision, the Council, which monitors compliance with European Court rulings, has:

expressed profound regret that despite the repeated calls of the Committee, the United Kingdom general election was held on 6 May 2010 with the blanket ban on the right of convicted prisoners in custody to vote still in place

It also appears to be giving the new Government a chance, expressing

confidence that the new United Kingdom government will adopt general measures to implement the judgment ahead of elections scheduled for 2011 in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and thereby also prevent further, repetitive applications to the European Court;

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Human Rights Act helps fight terrorism says head of Supreme Court

9 June 2010 by

Lord Phillips comes out in support of the Human Rights Act

Lord Phillips

Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the head of the UK Supreme Court, has responded to accusations that the Human Rights Act is hampering the fight against terrorism, and that “respect for human rights is a key weapon in the ideological battle”.

With reports this morning that the Government has written to High Court judges encouraging then not to delay a deportation flight to Bagdad, the speech presents a well timed defence of judicial independence.

The Gresham Special Lecture: The Challenges of the new Supreme Court is available in text and audio format. Lord Phillips used the opportunity to defend the judiciary in light of their regular use of the Human Rights Act to limit the effects of the anti-terrorism laws enacted by the government in the past decade, including controversial measures such as control orders and the Special Immigration Appeal Commission (SIAC). He said:

After 9/11 the British Government decided that the threat of terrorism in Britain was such as to amount to a public emergency threatening the life of the nation and purported, on that ground, to derogate from the Convention.

He continued:

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Hardeep Singh libel case reignites debate on place of religion in the English courts

8 June 2010 by

HH Sant Baba Jeet Singh Ji Maharaj v Eastern Media Group & Anor [2010] EWHC 1294 (QB) (17 May 2010) – Read judgment

The High Court has effectively thrown out a libel action against a journalist who claimed in an article that a Sikh holy man was a “cult leader”. The judge’s reasoning was that the disputed points of religious principle were not questions which a secular court could properly decide. In refusing to rule on such cases, are the courts taking an increasingly anti-religious view, and are they now in breach of the human right to religious freedom?

The decision was reported in mid-May, but Mr Justice Eady’s judgment was made publically available yesterday. It highlights controversial issues of whether religious believes are getting a fair hearing in the English courts, and whether “secular” judges are qualified to decide points of religious principle.

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Libel reform watch [updated – even Wayne Rooney is affected]

7 June 2010 by

Update 08/06/10: Is there no limit to the damage which restrictive libel laws can do? A Wayne Rooney biography, and possibly England’s football World Cup chances, are the latest victim of threats of libel action, says Afua Hirsch in the Guardian:

I’m not saying that information about Rooney’s background is up there with other public interest revelations that have been caught by libel law – lying politicians or innocent people dying from toxic waste, for example. On the other hand, if the Daily Star is to be believed, the book is fundamental to England’s World Cup performance. The paper claims that the book, which I haven’t read, contains “embarrassing material on the England hero” and “is threatening to derail England’s World Cup dreams.”

The law of libel and defamation sets the limits of freedom of expression. It is therefore unsurprising how many conflicting views there are on the Government’s proposed libel reforms. To keep up with this fast-moving debate, we are introducing a new feature: Libel reform watch.


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