Media By: Conor Monighan


Transgender Rights, an Inquest Update, and the British Judge Suing the EU- The Round Up

4 May 2020 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law

In the News:

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The long-delayed Domestic Abuse Bill returned to Parliament last week. It contains a number of measures, including a statutory definition of domestic abuse. The new definition will include not only physical violence, but also emotional, coercive and economic harm.

The Coronavirus has highlighted the importance of the Bill.  Many have expressed concern about the impact of the lockdown on abused individuals. Victims are trapped in their homes and many domestic abuse services reduced their support.

Disturbingly, the National Domestic Abuse helpline has seen a 25% increase in calls, and the Metropolitan Police has reported a similar increase in charges and cautions.

In Parliament, a number of MPs spoke out about their experience of domestic abuse. Bolsover MP Mark Fletcher described growing up with an abusive stepfather. Rosie Duffield MP, who herself is a survivor, also spoke powerfully.

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The Round Up: Terrorism, the Parole Board, and… Covid-19

30 March 2020 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law

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In the News:

A landmark piece of legislation was passed this week, with significant consequences for civil liberties. The Coronavirus Act 2020, which was passed in only 4 days, is designed to mitigate the impact of Covid-19.

It gives the police a number of powers, including:

  • A power to restrict events and shut down premises such as non-essential shops (Schedule 22).
  • The ability to forcibly isolate or detain individuals who are thought to be at risk of spreading Covid-19.
  • A reduction in the care duties imposed on Local Authorities.

The Act also produces a number of changes designed to help workers:

  • Employers can reclaim the cost of paying statutory sick pay from HMRC.
  • Employees can claim sick pay from the day they stop working, rather than there being a delay of three days before payments are made.

The Act has attracted criticism for the range of powers it grants to the executive, and the speed with which it was passed. To help address these concerns, the Act will automatically expire after two years. Matt Hancock MP, the Health Secretary, also said that the Act will be debated and voted on every six months. This commitment is reflected in s.98. A statement of compatibility with the ECHR has been made.
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International Women’s Day, the Domestic Abuse Bill and Protest Rights- Round Up

9 March 2020 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law

In the News:

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The Government’s ant-slavery tsar has severely criticised the government for failing to take action on child slavery. Dame Sara Thornton, who was appointed in 2019, said that the government was failing to make changes as promised.

Her concerns relate to the Independent Child Trafficking Guardian (ICTG) scheme, which is designed to give vulnerable children one-to-one support. Under the scheme, guardians assist children with matters ranging from GP appointments to dealing with social services. In 2016 ministers pledged to implement the scheme, but progress has since stalled.

Dame Sara said that she wrote to the Home Secretary in January outlining her concerns and highlighting the fact that the scheme only covers a third of the country. However, she has not received a response.

In a further development, Dame Sara Thornton has said that the power to intervene in child trafficking cases should be taken away from the Home Office. She argues that local authorities are much better placed to provide support. However, others have pointed out that councils lack the resources and power to adequately address child slavery.

The number of children referred to the Home Office as being potential victims of modern slavery appears to be rising. Over 2000 children were identified between September 2018 – 2019, representing a 66% rise on the previous year.

More from the Independent here and the Guardian here.

In Other News….
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Did MI5 break the law? The Round Up

10 February 2020 by

In the News:

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Sudesh Amman, the perpetrator of the Streatham knife attack (Credit: The Guardian)

The Government has announced that it will introduce emergency legislation to prevent terrorists from being automatically released after they have served half their sentence. Under the proposals, the parole board would have to authorise offenders’ release from prison. Individuals will need to have served two thirds of their sentence before being eligible.

The changes come after a knife attack in Streatham, London, in which a number of people were stabbed. The police and parole board were not able to prevent the automatic release of Sudesh Amman, the perpetrator of the attack.

Robert Buckland MP (the Justice Secretary) has confirmed that the proposals relate to current and previous offenders. There is also the possibility that further punishments may be proposed.

The changes have already been sharply criticised by some. Liberty has questioned whether the proposals are legal, because it means retrospectively altering people’s sentences. The BBC reports that Lord Carlile, the former independent reviewer of terrorist legislation, has suggested that the plans may be illegal.

Mr Buckland responded by arguing that the proposals relate to the ‘administration’ of the sentence, rather than altering its fundamental features (such as its length or type).

The government will try to pass the required legislation in six weeks in order to prevent the release of Mohammed Zahir Khan. Mr Khan, who is due to be released on the 28th February, was convicted after sharing extremist material and calling for the death of Shia Muslims.

The measures are designed to complement recent announcements. These have included making inmates undergo lie detector tests before they are released and recruiting probation officers that specialise in counter-terrorism.

It seems likely that a legal challenge will be forthcoming.
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Round Up- The Child Sexual Abuse Inquiry reports, Equal Pay, and waiving Article 6

13 January 2020 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law

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In the News:

ICCSA, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, published its report into protecting children who live outside the UK.

It described how there has been “extensive” sexual abuse of children by British nationals whilst abroad. Between 2013 – 2017, 361 UK nationals requested consular assistance between 2013 – 2017 for being arrested for child sex offences. The inquiry suggested this was likely to be a small proportion of offenders committing crimes abroad.

The report highlights the case of Gary Glitter, who was able to travel abroad and abuse vulnerable children even after he had been convicted. Glitter was later sentenced again for abusing two girls, aged 10 and 11, in Vietnam.

ICCSA concluded that travel bans should be imposed more frequently to prevent this behaviour. It noted that Australia bans registered sex offenders from travelling overseas. ICCSA’s report also argued that the burden of proof for imposing travel bans should be reduced, saying that the need for evidence is often overstated by courts and the police.

The inquiry described the global exploitation of children as worth an estimated £27.7 billion, with developing countries being particularly at risk.

The full report can be read here. More from the BBC here.

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Did the UK violate Article 2 in Kosovo? Plus the Oval Four, and racism in the police

9 December 2019 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law

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Winston Trew and his wife, Hyacinth. Credit: The Guardian.

In the News:

Court of Appeal judges overturned the convictions of the ‘Oval Four’ after it was found that their sentences were based on evidence given by a corrupt police officer.

The ‘Oval Four’ refers to a group of black men who were arrested by officers claiming to have seen the men stealing Tube passengers’ handbags. The men were subsequently convicted in 1972 based solely on the basis of evidence given by those officers. None of the ‘victims’ appeared at the trial.

The case became a focus point for black rights and the treatment of BME people by the police. It was referred to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which ultimately led to the successful appeal.

Whilst the convictions of three of the men were overturned, the fourth member of the ‘Oval Four’ unfortunately cannot be found.

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett, expressed “regret is that it has taken so long for this injustice to be remedied”. Lord Burnett also stated that there was “an accumulating body of evidence that points to the fundamental unreliability of evidence given by DS Ridgewell [the lead officer] … and others of this specialist group”.


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ALBA Conference 2019: A Review (Part 5)

5 November 2019 by

This post, along with those before it, summarises some of the main points of interest arising from the ALBA Conference 2019.

‘Reith Lecture (Judicial Power) Response’ – Chair: Mrs. Justice Thornton; Speakers: Lord Dyson, Sir Stephen Laws, Prof Vernon Bogdanor, Prof Meg Russell, Lord Falconer of Thoroton QC

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Credit: Robin S Taylor

A prestigious panel offered its response to Lord Sumption’s Reith Lectures, followed by a reply from Lord Sumption himself.

In his lectures for the BBC, Lord Sumption argued that judges have excessively increased their power and invaded into the political sphere. The Human Rights Act 1998 and Judicial Review attracted particular criticism.

Lord Sumption’s original lectures are available from the BBC here. A recording of the full discussion is available on LawPod here, so this post draws out some of the key points.


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Grenfell, Prisons, and the Inability to Appeal – Round Up

4 November 2019 by

GrenfellThe Grenfell Tower Inquiry released its first report into the disaster. Its findings included:

  • The refurbishment of Grenfell tower broke building regulations because it used a mixture of combustible cladding. This was the main reason the fire spread.
  • Firefighters were let down by poor training, leadership, equipment and plans. Junior firefighters arriving at the scene were “faced with a situation for which they had not been properly prepared”.
  • The ‘stay put’ advice used by the London Fire Brigade was wrong, and cost lives.

The report recommends that national guidelines for evacuating high-rise flats are created. It also seeks for a programme of regular inspections of high-rise flats and lifts

The Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, Dany Cotton, attracted particular criticism from the media. Ms Cotton had said that although she was saddened by the loss of life, there was nothing she would have done differently. Sir Martin Moore-Bick, the Chair of the Inquiry, described her as showing “remarkable insensitivity” and suggested this showed an inability to learn from the tragedy.


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ALBA Conference 2019: A Review (Part 4)

2 November 2019 by

This post, and those that follow, summarise some of the main points of interest arising from the ALBA Conference 2019.

‘Practice and Procedure Update’ – Chair: Lord Justice Singh; Speakers: Catherine Dobson, Jo Clement, Christopher Knight

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Catherine Dobson: Costs in Public Interest Litigation

Sir Rupert Jackson’s 2009 review of costs in civil litigation found that reform was required in relation to judicial review. This was because it was “not in the public interest that potential claimants should be deterred from bringing properly arguable judicial review proceedings by the very considerable financial risks involved”. Whilst the government did not take up the proposal for qualified one-way costs shifting in judicial review, it did introduce a scheme for cost capping orders in judicial review. This change was the focus of Ms Dobson’s talk.


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ALBA Conference 2019: A Review (Part 3)

24 October 2019 by

This post, and those that follow it, summarises some of the main points of interest arising from the ALBA Conference 2019.

‘The Constitutionality of Ouster Clauses’ – Chair: Lord Justice Leggatt; Speakers: Professor Alison Young, Professor David Feldman, Professor Stephen Bailey

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Earlier this year, the Supreme Court gave its judgement in R (on the application of Privacy International) (Appellant) v Investigatory Powers Tribunal and others (Respondents). The case concerned the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (‘IPT’), a specialist tribunal which was established by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (‘RIPA’). The IPT hears complaints about certain public bodies, particularly concerning the Security Services.

s.67(8) of RIPA contains a so-called ‘ouster clause’, which held that “determinations, awards and other decisions of the Tribunal (including decisions as to whether they have jurisdiction) shall not be subject to appeal or be liable to be questioned in any court”.

The issue in Privacy International was whether decisions made by the IPT were judicially reviewable. A majority of the Supreme Court held that s.67(8) did not, in fact, oust the jurisdiction of the court. The panel analysed this crucial case in more detail.


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ALBA Conference 2019: A Review (Part 2)

15 October 2019 by

This post, and those that follow, summarise some of the main points of interest arising from the ALBA Conference 2019.

Article 14 ECHR discrimination challenges to social welfare measures: the second benefit cap case in the Supreme Court: Raj Desai

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Credit: The Guardian

Introduction: The ‘Benefit Cap’

Mr Desai examined Article 14 ECHR through the prism of two ‘benefit cap’ cases: R (on the application of DS and others) (Appellants) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Respondent) [2019] UKSC 21 (“DA & DS”) and R(SG and ors) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2015] UKSC 16 (“SG”).

Both were decisions of the Supreme Court concerning the benefit cap. This provides that a household’s total entitlement to welfare benefits cannot exceed an annual limit. The cap is disapplied if a certain amount of relevant work is completed.

In common with many Article 14 ECHR claims, both cases raise complex issues about the proper constitutional role of the courts. SG (the first benefit cap case)


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ALBA Conference 2019: A Review

7 October 2019 by

This post is the first in a series of five reports by Conor Monighan from this year’s conference held by the Administrative Law Bar Association. We will be publishing the next four posts over the next month every Monday.

This year’s ALBA conference featured an impressive list of speakers. There were talks from a Supreme Court judge, a former Lord Chancellor, top silks, and some of the best academics working in public law.

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The conference covered a number of practical and substantive topics. The highpoint was an address given by Lord Sumption, in which he responded to criticism of his Reith Lectures. This post, together with those that follow, summarises the key points from the conference.


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The Round Up: Prorogation, Kashmir, and Protests

2 September 2019 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law

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Credit: The Guardian

In the News:

Last week, Boris Johnson decided to ask the Queen to prorogue (suspend) Parliament. The decision means that Parliament will be closed for 23 working days, reducing the amount of time MPs will have to pass legislation about Brexit.

Supporters of PM Johnson pointed out that Parliament has already been sitting for around two years. They have also suggested that proroguing Parliament is entirely proper because it is simply an exercise of a prerogative power. Finally, they argue that it will allow the government to hold a Queen’s Speech and outline its plans.

A number of figures spoke against the move:

  • Tom Watson (Labour) stated proroguing Parliament was an “utterly scandalous affront to our democracy”.
  • Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) has asked that MPs work together to stop Mr Johnson, or “today will go down in history as a dark one indeed for UK democracy”.
  • Dominic Grieve (Conservative) described it as “an outrageous act”.
  • Anna Soubry (Independent Group for Change) tweet that it was “outrageous that Parliament will be shut down at a moment of crisis as we face crashing out of the EU with no deal & for which there is no mandate”.

Ruth Davidson, who had been the leader of the Conservative Party in Scotland, quit. She said her decision was driven by political reasons and personal ones (she recently had a baby). The government whip, Lord Young, also resigned.

Demonstrations took place over the weekend. A judicial review, led by Gina Miller and her legal team, is also being launched.

Following the summer recess, MPs will return to Parliament on the 8th October.

In Other News….

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What is the correct standard to be applied in police misconduct cases? Plus a new inquiry launches, and cake goes to the ECtHR – the Round Up

19 August 2019 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law

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Credit: The Guardian

In the News:

An application in the Ashers ‘gay cake’ case has been lodged at the European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”). The case involved a Christian bakery which refused to bake a cake bearing the message ‘Support Gay Marriage’. The Supreme Court found in favour of the bakery, ruling its actions were not discriminatory because the appellants were not under an obligation to express a political view which conflicted with their religious beliefs.

Lawyers representing Mr Lee, the customer whose order was refused, have outlined some of the arguments they will be making. In their submission, merely baking the cake did not mean the bakery, or the bakers, supported its message. They argue that no reasonable person would think that the bakery supported gay marriage simply because they had produced Mr Lee’s cake. Mr Lee described the Supreme Court’s decision as allowing shopkeepers to “pick and choose” which customers they serve.
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Liberalising Abortion in NI, Tommy Robinson, and the lawfulness of Child Spies – the Round Up.

15 July 2019 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law

In the News:

same s marriage

Credit: The Guardian

The House of Commons has passed amendments which are likely to liberalise the law on abortion and same-sex marriages in Northern Ireland.

The amendments were added to the NI Executive Formation Bill. The first was put forward by Conor McGinn (Labour). It states that if the NI Assembly is not restored by the 21st October, the government must create secondary legislation to allow same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland. This means there will be no further debate in the House of Commons, because the government will make use of regulations. The second amendment, tabled by Stella Creasy (Labour), has a similar effect. However, both are subject to the condition that the Northern Irish Assembly can legislate to change the law.

Prior to the vote, Ms Creasy said “At this moment in time, if somebody is raped in Northern Ireland and they become pregnant and they seek a termination, they will face a longer prison sentence than their attacker”.

The Conservative leadership contenders were split on the vote. Boris Johnson stated that both subjects were devolved matters, whilst Jeremy Hunt voted for both proposals. Karen Bradley (the Northern Ireland Secretary) and Theresa May (PM) abstained.

Unusually, MPs in the Scottish National Party were given a free vote. The party ordinarily abstains from voting on devolved issues in other countries.
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