The proposals for a UK Bill of Rights will be an important issue in the coming election, and we aim to keep you updated on developments. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published a research report on a potential UK Bill of Rights. All three of the major UK political parties have pledged to institute a bill of rights in some form. The Report summarises the position:
The Labour Government is consulting the public on a UK Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, while maintaining its commitment to the HRA, including both the rights enshrined in it and the mechanisms used to implement those rights. The Conservative Party has pledged to repeal the HRA and replace it with a ‘modern British Bill of Rights’. Repealing the HRA would mean that the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) would no longer be incorporated into domestic law; the party has not indicated whether, or how, a future Bill of Rights might incorporate the ECHR using a different mechanism. The Liberal Democrats are committed to a written constitution with, at its heart, a Bill of Rights which would strengthen and entrench the rights guaranteed in the HRA.
The public can have full confidence in the policy the CPS will follow in deciding whether or not to prosecute cases of assisted suicide, Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, said today.
Mr Starmer published the policy after taking account of thousands of responses received as part of what is believed to be the most extensive snapshot of public opinion on assisted suicide since the Suicide Act 1961 was introduced. Nearly 5,000 responses were received by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) following the consultation exercise launched in September.
Mr Starmer said: “The policy is now more focused on the motivation of the suspect rather than the characteristics of the victim. The policy does not change the law on assisted suicide. It does not open the door for euthanasia. It does not override the will of Parliament. What it does is to provide a clear framework for prosecutors to decide which cases should proceed to court and which should not.
A devout Hindu man has won the right to have his body to cremated in accordance with his religious beliefs as a Hindu.
In the previous hearing, the Judge, Cranston J, proceeded on the assumption that the cremation desired by Mr Ghai would be in the open air, i.e. not within any structure. It was accepted by Mr Ghai that such an open air cremation would have been precluded by the legislation relating to cremation, at least if interpreted without reference to section 3 of the Human Rights Act 1998. Mr Ghai’s primary case before the Judge was that, if this was the right interpretation of the legislation, there would be an impermissible interference with his right to manifest his religion or belief under Article 9 of the European Convention. Although the Judge accepted that Article 9 was engaged, he went on to hold that the interference was justified . Mr Ghai also relied on Article 8 and Article 14 of the Convention, but the Judge held that they were not engaged.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission have written to the Government urging caution before the introduction of full body scanners at UK airports; not that it has slowed the Government down – apparently, the scanners will be in UK airports as early as next week. Passengers at Manchester Airport have been experiencing full body scans since October, but clearly the recent botched ‘Detroit Bomber’ terrorist attack has speeded up their uptake.
John Wadham, group director legal at the EHRC says:
The right to life is the ultimate human right and we support the government reviewing security in the light of recent alleged terrorist activity. However, the government needs to ensure that measures to protect this right also take into account the need to be proportionate in its counter-terrorism proposals and ensure that they are justified by evidence and effectiveness.
The Government has lost its appeal (see the BBC report) against the Divisional Court’s decision to order it to release an unredacted version of an email relating to the “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment which Binyam Mohamed received during questioning by the Americans. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) had previously argued that to release the full email would damage national security. The full email can now be read on the FCO website.
When deciding whether to award damages under Article 5(5) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) for breach of Article 5(4), regard has to be paid to Article 8 and the limits on damages in that provision. Articles 5 and 8 are not, however, incompatible. There was no basis for the claim that Article 5(4) compensation can only be monetary, and in some cases a finding of a breach can be sufficient compensation.
Prisoners could sue if not allowed to vote in the 2010 general election, according to the Barred from Voting Campaign, organised by the Prison Reform Trust.
The group are seeking to remind the Government of the four year old judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in Hirst v UK, which arose out of the 2002 case of R v Home Secretary ex parte Hirst. The European Court held that Section 4 of the Representation of the People Act which prevents prisoners from voting is in breach of the electoral right under Article 1 of Protocol 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Government has as yet not addressed the Court’s ruling; according to The Guardian, ministers have been procrastinating on the issue, fearing that it will prove unpopular with the electorate. With the election looming, the Government may well be be vulnerable to a legal challenge.
Huitson, R (on the application of) v Revenue and Customs  EWHC 97 (Admin)
Robert Huitson brought a Judicial Review against HM Revenue and Customs in order to challenge under the Human Rights Act 1998 sections 58(4) and (5) of the Finance Act 2008. He contended that these sections of the 2008 Act were incompatible with Article 1 of the First Protocol to the European Convention of Human Rights (“the ECHR”).
The claim related to a tax avoidance scheme based on the Isle of Man, which sought to take advantage of the UK and Isle if Man double taxation arrangement. The Claimant challenged HM Revenue’s attempt to retrospectively claw back taxation under the 2008 Act.
There was significant media attention over the weekend on the imposing and then lifting of a so-called ‘super injunction’ against press coverage of Chelsea footballer and England Captain John Terry’s alleged extra-marital affair. Mr Justice Tugendhat reversed a previous decision to impose the injunction (read judgment). Super injunctions not only block publication of the details of the case, but also any mention of the case existing at all. This morning’s Guardian asks whether this decision could be the beginning of the end for the super injunction:
Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights enshrines the right to privacy. But Index on Censorship is concerned that this right is increasingly used as a pre-emptive alternative to a defamation suit. In some ways, a superinjunction works better than a libel suit: after all, in libel cases, the allegations must be published first, and there is a chance (though only slight) that the litigant may actually lose.
Her Majesty’s Treasury (Respondent) v Mohammed Jabar Ahmed and others (FC) (Appellants); Her Majesty’s Treasury (Respondent) v Mohammed al-Ghabra (FC) (Appellant); R (on the application of Hani El Sayed Sabaei Youssef) (Respondent) v Her Majesty’s Treasury (Appellant)  UKSC 2
The Supreme Court has ruled that the Treasury cannot make orders to freeze the assets of terror suspects. The Terrorism (UN Measures) Order 2006 and the 2006 al-Qaeda and Taliban (UN Measures) Order were made under section 1 of the 1946 UN Act in order to implement resolutions of the UN Security Council, and were found by the Court to be unlawful.
As a preliminary point, the Court considered that a press report identifying M would engage article 8. In a separate judgment, the Court repealed all of the suspects’ anonymity orders, finding that these would not breach the suspects’ Article 8 rights to privacy.
Today the European Court of Human Rights ruled that section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (the broad police power for stop and search without suspicion) violates the right to respect for private life guaranteed Article 8 of the Convention on Human Rights.
R (on the application of Rex Cart) (2) U (3) XC (Claimants) v (1) Upper Tribunal (2) SIAC (Defendants) & (1) Secretary of State for Justice (2) Secretary of State for the Home Department (3) Public Law Project (Interested Parties) & (1) Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (2) Wendy Cart (Interveners) DC (Laws LJ, Owen J) 1 December 2009  EWHC 3052 (QB)
The supervisory jurisdiction of the High Court, exercisable by way of judicial review, extended to decisions of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission that were not amenable to any form of appeal. It did not, however, extend to decisions of the Upper Tribunal, unless it had acted beyond its statutory remit.
Read the judgment or click the “continue reading” link below to see a comprehensive summary and case comment by Rosalind English.
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