HM Attorney General v Associated Newspapers Ltd & Anor  EWHC 2029 (Admin) (18 July 2012) Read judgment.
The Divisional Court ruled that reports of Levi Bellfield in the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror, published while a jury was considering his charge of attempted kidnapping, were in contempt of court.
On 6 May 2011, Levi Bellfield’s trial for the murder of Milly Dowler and attempted kidnap of Rachel Cowles began. He had already been convicted in 2008 of the murders of Marsha McDonnell and Amelie Delagrange, and the attempted murder of Kate Sheedy. On 23 June 2011, the jury convicted Mr Bellfield of the murder of Milly Dowler, but had yet to return a verdict on the charge of attempted kidnapping. The Daily Mail and Daily Mirror printed stories on 24 June 2011 including information that wasn’t before the jury in the trial. The question in the resultant contempt proceedings was whether these articles violated the Contempt of Court Act 1981 (CCA).
The Queen, on the application of (1) RMC and (2) FJ – and – Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. Read judgment.
Liberal societies tend to view the retention of citizens’ private information by an arm of the state, without individuals’ consent, with suspicion. Last week, the High Court ruled that the automatic retention of photographs taken on arrest – even where the there is no prosecution, or the person is acquitted – for at least six years was an unlawful interference with the right to respect for private life of Article 8 of the ECHR, as enshrined in the Human Rights Act.
The case was brought by two individuals. One, known as RMC, was arrested for assault occasioning actual bodily harm after she was stopped riding a cycle on a footpath. The second, known as FJ, was arrested on suspicion of rape of his second cousin at the age of 12. In both cases, the individuals voluntarily attended the police station, where they were interviewed, fingerprinted and photographed and DNA samples were taken form them, but the CPS decided not to prosecute.
Last week the UN Human Rights Commissioner published the draft report of the second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the UK’s human rights record (draft report here, webcast of the UPR session here). The UPR involves delegations from UN member states asking questions and make recommendations to the UK government on the protection of human rights, which the government will consider before providing its response. The report is extremely wide-ranging, perhaps to its detriment, though many valuable and interesting insights are provided.
The UPR process was established in 2006. It involves a review of all 192 UN member states once every four years. As readers of this blog will know, the protection of human rights has a troubled recent history in the UK, with newspaper campaigns against “the hatedHuman Rights Act” providing the background to government pronouncements on human rights that veer from the sensible to the ridiculous. In this context, the UPR provides a valuable attempt at a serious assessment of human rights in this country.
As expected, last week’s Queen’s Speech included plans to reform libel law. This follows a concerted campaign to improve protection of the right to free expression and bring greater clarity to England’s libel law. But the question for those who wanted to see reform, now the Defamation Bill has been published, is whether the reforms proposed will be the right ones.
The media law blog, Inforrm, published this summary of the Bill, which takes a detailed look at the main clauses. Law blog Jack of Kent also has a libel reform resource page here. Among others, the Bill would make the following major changes:
Create a test of “serious harm” for statements to be considered defamatory.
Abolish the common law defences of fair comment, justification and Reynolds privilege, and place them on a statutory footing.
Create a new statutory privilege for peer-reviewed scientific and academic publications and provide greater protection to online entities.
Amend the existing law of qualified privilege to include reports of scientific conferences and press conferences.
Calver, R (on the application of) v The Adjudication Panel for Wales  EWHC 1172 (Admin) – Read judgment
The decision to censure a Welsh councillor for comments on his blog was a disproportionate interference with his right to freedom of expression, the High Court has ruled. This right requires a broad interpretation of what counts as “political speech” – even when the speech is sarcastic and mocking.
Lewis Malcolm Calver is a councillor on the Manorbier Community Council and Pembrokeshire County Council and the owner/writer of the at www.manorbier.com blog. These proceedings arose when Mr Calver was censured by the Standards Committee for Pembrokeshire County Council for comments or articles on his blog, which criticised the running of Manorbier Council.
Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, R (on the application of) v Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts & Anor  EWCA Civ 472 – Read judgment.
Marina Wheeler of 1 Crown Office Row appeared for the successful Appellant in this case. She is not the author of this post
When is reorganisation of healthcare services unlawful? When can consultation, rather than a final decision, successfully be challenged? These were the questions dealt with by the Court of Appeal in relation to the reconfiguration of paediatric heart surgery services. The Bristol Royal Infirmary scandal had left these services in need of change; the Court of Appeal found that there was nothing unlawful in the consultation process resulting in the Royal Brompton failing to be chosen as one of the two specialist centres in London.
Following the failures in Bristol that were subject to a public inquiry in 1998, there have been a number of reports on paediatric heart surgical care. This is an extremely specialised area of medicine. The recent trend has been for such specialist areas (another example is major trauma care) to become concentrated in fewer hospitals: the principle being that when professionals come into contact with such work more regularly they become better at it; spreading such cases wide and thin results in poor outcomes.
Free speech is under attack. Or so it seems. The last few weeks have been abuzz with stories to do with free speech: a Supreme Court ruling on the Reynolds defence to libel; contempt of court proceedings against an MP for comments made in a book and the latest in a growing line of criminal trials for Twitter offences. The diversity of media at the heart of these stories – print news, traditional books and online ‘micro-blogging’ – indicates the difficulty of the task for the legal system.
Flood v Times: how does this affect calls for libel reform?
On 21 March, the Supreme Court affirmed the Times newspaper’s reliance on the Reynolds defence to libel – often referred to as Reynolds privilege or the responsible journalism defence – to a claim by a detective sergeant in the Metropolitan Police.
Malik v United Kingdom 23780/08  ECHR 438 (13 March 2012) – Read judgment
The European Court of Human Rights held that the suspension of a GP from the Primary Care Trust (PCT) Performers List did not violate his right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions under Article 1 Protocol 1 (A1P1) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court declined to decide whether there was a possession that could be interfered with in this case, but held that suspension did not affect Dr Malik.
Dr Malik ran a general practice from premises he owned in London. He was under a general medical services contract with his PCT so that he had to ensure patients on his list were provided with GP services (whether by himself or a salaried doctor); his premises was rented (for a notional amount) so that it could be used for NHS services. Dr Malik was also on the PCT’s performers list so that he personally could provide GP services.
Why should we bother with the European Convention on Human Rights? Many of those that would never contemplate leaving the ECHR still question whether we should abide by controversial decisions such as those on prisoners’ voting rights or deportation. UCL’s Professor Richard Bellamy attempted to answer this question at the Statute Law Society’s talk on Monday evening. He said that the UK should abide by the ECHR, which gains its legitimacy by being the best way for democratic states regulate their relationships and protect their citizens’ rights.
The talk was entitled ‘The Democratic Legitimacy of International Human Rights Conventions’ (IHRCs). Although perhaps not in such terms, this is a topic that exercises many every week: from those questioning who exactly decides which human rights are the ones that count, to those asking why ‘unelected judges’ in Europe can tell a democracy how to govern itself. Professor Bellamy started by noting that mature democracies are generally less keen on IHRCs; at the post-war inception of the ECHR, he said it was Germany and Italy showing most enthusiasm. Even now, many ‘democratising’ countries show less opposition to Europe’s human rights structures.
On 25 January 2012 Justice Edwin Cameron, Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, delivered an emotive and thoughtful talk entitled “What you can do with rights”. The Law Commission’s annual Lord Scarman Lecture covered apartheid, AIDS denialism, LGBT rights and delved into the essence of moral humanity. It was a lecture delivered with skill and fluency, with only the slight dissatisfaction being the vagueness of Justice Cameron’s conclusion: that legal rights allow people to achieve some progress, but they don’t solve every problem.
Justice Cameron has occupied a seat on the highest judicial bench of South Africa for three years. He was made a judge by President Nelson Mandela in 1994, when his country was emerging from the systemic violence that the apartheid system had wrought on human rights. This position gives him authority, but it is his personal experience that lent the lecture gravitas. The Justice was diagnosed as HIV positive at a time when the true scale of the epidemic was being realised, and publicly fought for access to the anti-retroviral drugs that saved his life at a time when the scale of his government’s folly in denying them to millions was becoming equally clear.
Mr Abdullah Manuwar and Secretary of State for the Home Department IA26/543/2010 – Read decision
We have posted on this blog previously on some of the poor reporting of human rights cases. Alarm bells were ringing as the Sunday Telegraph reported student Abdullah Munawar’s appeal on human rights grounds against a refusal to grant him leave to stay in the UK, citing his playing cricket as a reason he had a private life under Article 8 of the ECHR.
However, considering the judgment, the Telegraph article makes a valid point on the limits provided by human rights on immigration decisions, and shows that not all journalism critical of the Human Rights Act is inaccurate.
A Roman Catholic diocese can be held liable for the negligent acts of a priest it has appointed, the High Court has ruled. The ruling is a preliminary issue in the Claimant’s proceedings against alleged sexual abuse and rape at a children’s home. The trial of these allegations are to follow.
The Claimant, a 47-year-old woman, is suing the Portsmouth Roman Catholic diocese for the injury she alleges she suffered from abuse and rape while living at a children’s home run by the diocese in the early 1970s. The priest involved, Father Baldwin, is now dead. The High Court was asked to determine, before the trial of the allegation, whether the diocese – that is, the district under supervision of the Bishop – could be held liable for Father Baldwin’s acts; whether the principle of vicarious liability applies to a diocesan bishop for the acts of a priest he has appointed.
Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis & Anor v Times Newspapers Ltd & Anor  EWHC 2705 (QB) (24 October 2011) – Read judgment.
Mr Justice Tugendhat has held that, with restrictions, The Times Newspapers Ltd (TNL) should be allowed to use information from leaked documents in its defence to a libel claim brought by the Metropolitan Police Service and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA). However, proportionality limited the reach of this judgment to the next stage in the libel claim, after which reassessment may be necessary.
It was held that restrictions in the order made did not interfere with TNL’s right to a fair trial in the libel case nor offend its right to freedom of expression. Decisions on specific documents was dealt with in a closed judgment because of the sensitivity of the subject matter.
Mahajna v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 2481 (Admin) (30 September 2011). Read judgment.
1 Crown Office Row’s Neil Sheldon appeared for the Secretary of State in this case. He is not the writer of this post.
The High Court has ruled that detention of a Palestinian activist, whilst he was challenging the decision to deport him on public policy grounds, was lawful in principle. However, the failure to explain to Raed Salah Mahajna the reasons for his detention in a language he could understand rendered the first 35 hours of detention unlawful.
The treatment of foreign nationals pending deportation has provoked a good deal of controversy, as reported recently. These cases are primarily ones where deportation is considered to be conducive to the public good because of serious criminal offences committed by the individual. In this case however, no crime was committed, but a history of activism perceived as anti-semitic preaching was considered a threat to security in the UK.
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