Media By: Adam Wagner


Mid Staffordshire Public Inquiry report published

6 February 2013 by

Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 11.37.46The Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry report has been published. Robert Francis QC was tasked to investigate the role of the commissioning, supervisory and regulatory bodies in the monitoring of Mid Staffordshire Foundation NHS Trust. 

Read the report:

The report built on the work of Francis’s earlier independent inquiry into the care provided the hospital between January 2005 and March 2009. A number of 1 Crown Office Row barristers, including me, represented various participants at the Inquiry. They were:

  • Sally Smith QC and Christopher Mellor for the Strategic Health Authority;
  • David Hart QC for the CQC
  • Owain Thomas for the NHSLA;
  • Jeremy Hyam and Kate Beattie for a number of the families;
  • Shaheen Rahman and Peter Skelton for AVMA and the Patients Association;
  • Adam Wagner for the Department of Health.

Government’s ‘war’ on Judicial Review panned

2 February 2013 by

Waronwaron copyRemember Pearl Harbour? Not the 1941 attack which propelled the USA into World War II, but the awful 2001 film starring Ben Affleck. What really sticks in the mind wasn’t the film itself, but the critical reaction. It is hard to remember a more gleeful spectacle, captured here, than reviewers falling over themselves to see who could produce the most withering response.

No doubt inspired by the Prime Minister’s own World War II analogy (on reflection, something of a hostage to fortune), legal commentators and organisations have also been falling over themselves, if not gleefully, to express their collective displeasure and disbelief at the poor quality of the Government’s proposals to reform Judicial Review.

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Equal marriage on the way as Bill published

25 January 2013 by

gaycouple“Marriage of same sex couples is lawful”, begins the Government’s new Equal Marriage Bill, which will, amongst other things, make it legal for gay couples to marry in both civil and religious ceremonies.

Religious communities will not be forced to conduct ceremonies, but will be able to ‘opt-in’ to the new system. However, Church of England communities will not be permitted to opt in even if they want to. The progress Bill can be tracked here – the next reading is in the House of Commons on 5 February. The Bill is summarised as follows:

A Bill to make provision for the marriage of same sex couples in England and Wales, about gender change by married persons and civil partners, about consular functions in relation to marriage, for the marriage of armed forces personnel overseas, and for connected purposes.

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Context is everything – European Court of Human Rights struck out 99% of UK cases in 2012

24 January 2013 by

UK stats 2012

The European Court of Human Rights got off lightly in the Prime Minister’s In-Out speech yesterday, with just a single passing mention. No surprises there, as the speech was about the European Union, a separate organisation from the Council of Europe, which runs the Strasbourg court. Withdrawing from the European Union would not mean withdrawing from the European Court of Human Rights.

Yesterday was, however, an exception. Ordinarily, the European Court of Human Rights is a large presence in the in-out Europe debate. And, from the amount of coverage and political argument the court generates, you might be forgiven for thinking it rules against the UK hundreds of times per year. The Court has just released its statistics for 2012, and the figures may surprise you.

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UK Supreme Court judgment summaries on YouTube… now we need the full hearings

21 January 2013 by

Screen Shot 2013-01-21 at 09.43.46The UK Supreme Court has today launched a YouTube channel showing short summaries of judgments. The summaries are read out by justices when a judgment is released. There are already ten online and more will be uploaded each time a judgment is released.

Since its launch in 2009, the UK’s new Supreme Court has been doing rather well at online access to justice. Its website is clear and elegant, it publishes excellent press summaries at the same time as judgments, it was the first supreme court to join Twitter (@uksupremecourt now has over 27,000 followers) and its hearings can be watched live online thanks to a partnership with Sky News.

Judgment summaries are a good start. Without wanting to sound ungrateful, what would really be useful is to be able to access recordings of full hearings on YouTube, as is provided on the superb Brazilian Supremo Tribunal Federal YouTube channel.
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Judicial Review reform and the mystery of the missing evidence

17 January 2013 by

war on JRThe Government’s consultation on Judicial Review ends on Thursday 24 January – please forward your response to the consultation by email  and I will include it in a roundup.

It is fashionable at the moment to speak about ‘evidence-based’ policy. The concept has been imported from the sciences by advocates such as Dr Ben Goldacre. In short, policies should be based on empirical evidence, statistics and perhaps even randomised trials. Very sensible. So sensible, you would hope that Government has been doing it anyway.

Which brings me to the planned reform of Judicial Review, the process by which legislative and executive decisions are reviewed by judges to make sure they are lawful. The Government’s ideas are fairly significant, although not quite as major as defeating Hitler, as the Prime Minister intimated they were when he announced them. I have already looked at the proposals in some detail – see also this excellent post. I wanted to concentrate here on the broader picture; the ‘mood music’, as it has been described by Mark Elliott.

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Public insults to be legalised but grossly offensive messages still criminal

15 January 2013 by

Twitter-Logo UK human rights blogSection 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, which outlaws the use of “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviourwill be amended to remove the word ‘insulting’. The amendment is the result of a successful, high-profile campaign which asked “Do we really need the police and the courts to deal with insults?

That campaign, supported by major organisations and many MPs, prompted a successful House of Lords vote to amend the wording in December. That vote was supported by the Crown Prosecution Service, with Director Keir Starmer writing that his organisation was “unable to identify a case in which the alleged behaviour leading to conviction could not properly be characterised as ‘abusive’ as well as ‘insulting“. The Home Secretary has now, rather grudgingly, said she will not oppose amendment.

So, we will be able to insult in public. But thanks to section 127 the Communications Act 2003, it is still up to the police and the courts to decide whether we have sent grossly offensive messages on Facebook, Twitter and in practically any other communications medium.
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Christians have no right to refuse to work on Sundays… oh no, wait

11 January 2013 by

TelegraphOn 29 December 2012 The Daily Telegraph published an article under the headline Christians have no right to refuse to work on Sundays

This has now been shown to be nonsense. The judgment in Mba v London Borough of Merton was released yesterday and is analysed here. Mr Justice Langstaff made entirely clear that the judgment only applies to the individual worker who brought the appeal, not more generally. Here is some inaccurate reporting from David Barrett (remember this by him?), Telegraph Home Affairs correspondent:

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Religion, Inquiries, Judicial Review

8 January 2013 by

three-fingersWith apologies for the boring title, here are three quick things.

First, the Government’s consultation on Judicial Review changes ends on 24 January 2013, so you have just over two weeks to respond. As with some previous consultations, I will be collating responses on the blog so please feel free to email them to me. My most recent thoughts are here: Quicker, costlier and less appealing: plans for Judicial Review reform revealed

Secondly, the European Court of Human Rights is to rule next Tuesday 15 January on four key cases involving discrimination and religious rights. The full background is here:  Religious freedom in UK to be considered by Strasbourg Court and you can watch the entire hearing here. We will, of course, be covering the judgment in full.

Thirdly, in November 1 Crown Office Row hosted a mock trial on the topic of public inquiries and inquests at which a number of 1COR barristers, including me, spoke. The podcast of the event is now online and you find it here and also below the page break. You can also download the handout, which includes a number of very useful skeleton arguments for the mock trial, here.

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Deport first, appeal second

6 January 2013 by

horseIn a wide-ranging interview with the Sunday Telegraph, the Prime Minister has previewed a new ‘deport first, appeal second’ approach to deportation cases:

… in specific response to the never-ending Abu Qatada case, and vexatious use of the European Convention on Human Rights, the PM is looking at a new and radical option. “I am fed up with seeing suspected terrorists play the system with numerous appeals. That’s why I’m keen to move to a policy where we deport first, and suspects can appeal later.” Under this new arrangement, deportees would only be able to appeal against the decision while still in this country – thus suspending their removal – if they faced “a real risk of serious, irreversible harm”.

It seems to me that this approach is anchored in last month’s European Court of Human Rights (Grand Chamber) decision in DE SOUZA RIBEIRO v. FRANCE – 22689/07 – HEJUD [2012] ECHR 2066 (summary here). See in particular paragraphs 82

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Bill of Rights Commissioners speak out over internal strife

2 January 2013 by

Screen Shot 2013-01-02 at 22.24.44In March I complained that the Commission on a Bill of Rights should open up. Well, two weeks after publication of the Commission’s final report(s), two of the Liberal Democrat-appointed commissioners have given their insider  perspectives of the Commission in an article in the London Review of Books

Nothing in Helena Kennedy QC and Philippe Sands QC’s article is particularly surprising. The Commissioners emerge as a dysfunctional group of seasoned advocates on two sides of a case, with no presiding judge to rein them in or decide who was right. The report itself, with its bewildering array of separate papers and minority reports, demonstrated how little common ground there was between the commissioners.

I recommend reading the article in full, but here are a few interesting tidbits. Of course, some caution is necessary as the other members of the Commission (particularly the Conservative ones) may remember things differently.

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Avalanche! Daily Mail on new year dishonour list for dodgy prisoner human rights article

31 December 2012 by

Daily Mail 31.12.12Despite the Leveson Report, the Daily Mail’s brief flirtation with the Human Rights Act has not even lasted a month. This article by Home Affairs Correspondent Jack Doyle (Twitter: @jackwdoyle) is a weird one, even by the Mail’s standards. Here is the headline:

£500,000 a week in legal aid for prisoners’ human rights claims: YOU pay for them to seek easier life or early release

Clear, right? We are apparently spending £26m per year on prisoners’ human rights claims. And here is the first line:

Taxpayers are handing nearly £500,000 a week in legal aid to prisoners to help them make human rights claims.

That’s sounds like a lot of money to spend on prisoners’ human rights claims! But wait, there’s more…
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