Media By: Sam Sykes


The Round-up: Saudi Arabia, school protests, and state surveillance

25 June 2019 by

Photo: The Huffington Post

In the news

In a bombshell ruling on Thursday last week, the Court of Appeal (Sir Terence Etherton MR, Irwin, Singh LJJ) held that the UK government’s failure to suspend licences for the sale of military equipment to Saudi Arabia was irrational, and thus unlawful. This was based on a finding that the government had violated Article 2.2 of the EU Common Council Position 2008/944/CGSP, as adopted in the Secretary of State’s 2014 Guidance. Under this instrument, Member States must deny a licence for the sale of arms to other states if there is “a clear risk” that the military equipment exported might be used “in the commission of serious violations of international humanitarian law”. In this case, there was a substantial risk of their use in the conflict in Yemen. The issue will now be remitted to the Secretary of State for reconsideration.

Government misuse of data continues to be a hot topic, as hearings have begun for Liberty’s landmark judicial review under the Investigatory Powers Act 2016. Meanwhile in Parliament, the Joint Committee on Human Rights has launched a new inquiry into ‘Privacy and the Digital Revolution’. The committee received evidence including written submissions from Privacy International, Liberty, the Information Commissioner’s Office. In its findings so far, it has emphasised a widespread lack of knowledge and understanding about how personal data is being used, threats posed by large-scale data collection to freedom of expression and association, and the role of ‘baked-in’ discrimination in data collection algorithms. These findings will supplement the government’s Digital Harms white paper, announced in April.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published a report into legal aid and access to justice for discrimination cases. Its recommendations include reforming the telephone service to make reasonable adjustments for disabled users, adjusting the threshold and financial evidence requirements for financial eligibility, and addressing the asymmetry in terms of claims for legal representation between discrimination and other cases. The full report is available here.  

The Court of Appeal yesterday overturned the decision on Nathalie Lieven J in the Court of Protection that doctors could perform an abortion on an intellectually disabled woman who was 22 weeks pregnant without her consent. The decision had been made despite opposition by the woman’s mother and social worker, and had led to some international controversy, including a transatlantic intervention by US Senator Marco Rubio. Lieven J stated in her judgement that it would be a “greater trauma” for the woman to have a baby removed into care post-pregnancy than to have an abortion, stating “I have to operate in [her] best interests, not on society’s views of termination.” She also suggested that the woman, who was considered to have a mental age of between 6 and 9, wanted a baby “in the same way that she would like a nice doll”. The judgement of the Court of Appeal is not yet published.  

In the courts

  • Liberty, R (On the Application Of) v Director of Legal Aid Casework: in 2017, Poole BC issued a public spaces protection order to prohibit rough sleeping in the town centre. This was issued despite advice from the Home Office that PSPOs could not be used for such a purpose. Ms Sarah Walker, a homelessness worker, sought to challenge the decision under s.66 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, and was refused legal aid for making that challenge. Murray J upheld the Director’s decision to refuse legal aid. Despite submissions about the precariousness of her (and many others’) circumstances, he held that Ms Ward was not seeking a ‘personal’ or ‘material’ benefit as required by paragraph 19(3) of LASPO 2012, read in light of the Ministry of Justice’s 2009 consultation paper. In light of this conclusion, the question of whether a s.66 challenge constitutes ‘judicial review’ under paragraph 19(10) was not addressed.
  • Birmingham City Council v Afsar & Ors: this case related to the recent protests outside Anderton Park School in Birmingham, against the teaching of LGBTQ relationships to young children. Warby J discharged injunctions that had been granted without notice at the end of May, on the basis of a failure to comply with the duty of full and frank disclosure. However, he granted fresh interim injunctions, as he considered that the Council had demonstrated that it would probably succeed at trial in showing a risk justifying an injunction, and that the fresh injunctions would not amount to ‘improper restraint of lawful protest’. A more detailed weighing up of Articles 9, 10, 11 ECHR and Article 2 Protocol 1 awaits in the substantive hearing.
  • Chief Constable of Norfolk v Coffey: a front-line police officer with serious hearing loss applied to be transferred from the Wiltshire Constabulary to the Norfolk Constabulary, but was refused because her hearing fell “just outside the standards for recruitment strictly speaking.” The police officer was awarded compensation in the Employment Tribunal, on the basis of discrimination based on a perceived disability, under s.13 and Sch 1 of the Equality Act 2010. the Chief Constable appealed. In dismissing that appeal, the court emphasised the Chief Constable’s failure to take into account the Home Office guidance, and dismissed any suggestion that front-line duties were different in Norfolk and in Wiltshire as ‘half-baked’.  
  • MacKenzie v The University of Cambridge: a lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the University of Cambridge was dismissed in 2013. Upon a challenge, the Employment Tribunal made an order for re-engagement following unfair dismissal under Part X of the Employment Rights Act 1996. The claimant sought to enforce this decision by issuing judicial review proceedings in the High Court, relying on s.3 and s.6 HRA 1998, Articles 6 and 13 ECHR, and Article 1 of the first Protocol. The court held, however, that ss.115-117 of the Employment Rights Act indicated that an ‘order for re-engagement’ did not create an ‘absolute and indefeasible obligation’ on the employer to re-engage the employee, or an equivalent right in the employee to be re-engaged. Therefore, in the absence of special circumstances, the order was not enforceable in the High Court, and the application for judicial review was dismissed.

On the UKHRB

  • Amelia Walker discusses the investigation into abuse at Brook House.
  • On Episode 85 of Law Pod UK, Emma-Louise Fenelon talks to Jo Moore and Laura Bruce about equality, diversity, and access to the Bar.  
  • Thomas Beasley reviews the Supreme Court’s decision on ‘intentional homelessness’ in Samuels v Birmingham City Council.
  • On Law Pod UK Rosalind English discusses with Alaisdair Henderson the Welsh government’s decision to scrap the M4 Newport relief road.

The Weekly Roundup: Windrush compensation, fracking injunctions, and deportation of ‘foreign criminals’

8 April 2019 by

CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images

In the news 

This week, the Home Secretary Sajid Javid launched the Windrush Compensation Scheme. It is estimated that the total compensation will be somewhere in the region of £200m, but critics note that individual payments may be ‘insultingly low’, as with a cap of £1,000 for those who left under a ‘voluntary’ return scheme. The government has published an impact assessment for the scheme. 

The media (and certain MPs) have reacted with outrage to a High Court judge’s statement that a man had a ‘fundamental human right’ to have sex with his wife. The remark was made by Hayden J in a Court of Protection case concerning a marriage to a woman with severe learning disabilities. One commentator has suggested that the remark has been interpreted uncharitably, and was simply meant to indicate a cautious approach to governmental interference with private life in such complex and difficult situations, in line with Article 8 of the ECHR.

The Foreign Office has appointed human rights lawyer Amal Clooney as its ‘Special Envoy for Media Freedom’. Meanwhile, human rights criticisms of the UK government itself have come from various angles: 

  • The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commissioner has called on Theresa May to clarify the post-Brexit rights of Northern Ireland-born Irish citizens. 
  • The Scottish Commissioner for Young People and Children has called for UN intervention to address Scottish breaches of children’s human rights, such as by strip-searching and illegal restraint. The Commissioner urges the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law. 
  • report by the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, titled ‘China and the Rules-Based International System’, worries that UK trade policy with China is prioritising economic interests over other vital concerns such as human rights violations. 
  • report by Citizens UK indicates that the Home Office is making a substantial profit (~£25m/year) from fees to process citizenship applications by the children of migrants who have grown up in the UK. 
  • As Shamima Begum’s lawyers prepare her appeal against the government’s decision on her citizenship, international criticism of the UK’s reluctance to repatriate children of ISIS parents is growing, with repatriations by France and Germany, and pressure from the International Committee of the Red Cross. 

Outside the UK: 

  • Brunei’s anti-LGBT law has come into force, despite overwhelming international criticism. 
  • Debate continues about Mark Zuckerberg’s call for a US state regulator of Facebook. 
  • Rwanda marked the 25thanniversary of the 1994 genocide

Continue reading →

The Weekly Round-up

1 April 2019 by

In the news

With a third rejection of Theresa May’s deal on Friday, Brexit remains a dismal subject. Dismal not only for its economic but for its human rights implications: this week, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights published its report on the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill. The report (available hereraises concerns about legal limbo for the 3m EU citizens remaining in the UK post-Brexit. In particular, it makes the following recommendations: 

  • The bill in its present form is a ‘blank cheque’ affording ministers excessive discretion to remove rights. The JCHR recommends an amendment requiring the Secretary of State to ensure that any regulations contain measures to protect the acquired rights of persons who benefited from EU free movement of persons prior to Brexit.  
  • The EU Settlement Scheme is unclear on the implications of failure to register the time limit. The JCHR recommends provisions for registration outside the time limit, and/or otherwise to limit the implications of the time limit.  
  • The EU Settlement Scheme in its present form would issue only electronic proof of a successful application. The JCHR recommends the issuing of physical proof, echoing the EU Justice Committee in a comparison to the Windrush scandal on this point. 
  • Vulnerable people may have difficulty in accessing the EU Settlement Scheme. The JCHR recommends that steps be taken to ensure that vulnerable people are aware of their rights, and have assistance in accessing the scheme. 
  • Finally, the JCHR recommends clarification of the Common Travel Area for Irish citizens.  

Continue reading →

The Round up: Begum, knife crimes, Tamil Tigers and disability discrimination

25 February 2019 by

In the news 

This week has been dominated by Shamima Begum. On Tuesday last week, Home Secretary Sajid Javid issued an order depriving Ms Begum of citizenship under s.40(2) of the British Nationality Act 1981. The act authorises the Secretary of State to deprive a person of citizenship where this is “conducive to the public good” – but s.40(4) states that the order must not make the person stateless. 

The Home Office claimed compliance with s.40(4) on the basis that Ms Begum could claim citizenship from Bangladesh, in light of her Bangladeshi heritage, until the age of 21. However, on Wednesday, the Bangladesh Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement that Ms Begum was not a Bangladeshi citizen, and that there was ‘no question’ of her being allowed into the country. Ms Begum herself told the BBC, “I wasn’t born in Bangladesh, I’ve never seen Bangladesh and I don’t even speak Bengali properly, so how can they claim I have Bangladeshi citizenship?”


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The Round-up: immigration centres, military justice and human trafficking

4 February 2019 by

In the news 

A cross-party group of MPs is seeking to put an end to indefinite detentionin immigration centres. Led by Harriet Harman MP, the Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the group are backing an amendment to the Immigration and Social Security Coordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill, which will make it illegal for people to be held for more than 28 days in an immigration detention centre, unless a judge issues a 28-day extension. 

The Human Rights group Liberty has published two important reports. The first report highlights the failings of the UK military justice system, including a lack of transparency and a practice of downgrading offences to as to deal with them internally; the report recommends a new independent supervisory body for the Service Police. In connection with the report, Liberty has launched an Armed Forces Human Rights Helpline. 

The second Liberty report evaluates the use of ‘predictive mapping’ by the police to identify crime hotspots and to conduct ‘individual risk assessments’. The report concludes that this system threatens privacy and freedom of expression, and encourages discrimination and racial profiling. 

A few pending cases are of interest: 


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