Lord Saville has already come under significant criticism for the time and money which has been swallowed up by the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. Future public inquiries could now be under threat as new Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has accused the Lord Saville of allowing the process to get “ludicrously out of hand“.
The Saville Inquiry Report was published yesterday and can be downloaded here, a summary here and a good analysis here. Lord Saville’s long-awaited inquiry into the Bloody Sunday killings of 30 January 1972 was set up to investigate the events surrounding a march in Derry when 29 protesters were shot by British soldiers, leading to 13 deaths. The Inquiry has been widely criticised prior to its findings.
The Human Rights organisation Liberty is threatening to bring a judicial review challenging a surveillance project that uses 150 automatic number plate recognition (“APNR”) cameras to monitor the roads in two predominantly Muslim areas of Birmingham.
The Guardian reports that the plan, Project Champion, is funded by the Association of Chief Police Officer’s Terrorism and Allied Matters fund, which is intended to “deter or prevent terrorism or help to prosecute those responsible”. Project Champion provides for three times as many APNR cameras in the suburbs of Sparkbrook and Washwood Heath as are present in Birmingham City Centre. According to the Guardian: “The cameras form “rings of steel”, meaning residents cannot enter or leave the areas without their cars being tracked. Data will be stored for two years.”
A number of recent cases have ignited an interesting debate on the place of religion in the UK court system, and whether the courts are doing enough to ensure religious freedom as they are obligated to do under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The most notorious example has been McFarlane v Relate Avon Ltd, an unfair dismissal claim brought by a relationship counselor who as a result of his Christian beliefs refused to promote gay sex. The former Archbishop of Canterbury submitted a witness statement stating that cases such of these should be heard by judges with special religious sensitivity. Lord Justice Laws in the Court of Appeal rejected his arguments outright.
We also posted last week on the Hardeep Singh case, in which Mr Justice Eady in the High Court effectively threw out a libel action because it rested upon fundamental principles of legal doctrine which could not properly be examined by a secular court. We posted:
The Guardian claims to have access to key findings of the long awaited inquiry into the Bloody Sunday killings of 30 January 1972, and some of the soldiers implicated may now face prosecution almost 40 years after the event.
The Inquiry was set up to investigate the events surrounding a march in the Bogside area of Derry in 1972 when 29 protesters were shot by British soldiers, leading to 13 deaths.
Lord Saville’s report, which marks the conclusion of the longest and most expensive public inquiry in British history, “will conclude that a number of the fatal shootings of civilians by British soldiers were unlawful killings“. However, the Guardian has not revealed where its information originates from, or how the shootings were “unlawful”, which could mean a number of different things.
The report is to be published on Tuesday 15 June at 3pm. The Inquiry’s website, which also has transcripts of the hearings, can be found here.
The Government has commissioned an independent review of children’s social work and frontline child protection practice. Child protection services have been widely derided as a result of a series of scandals such as that involving baby Peter Connelly (Baby P), and many lawyers feel the court system is at breaking point.
Update 13/06/10 – The Court of Protection has issued its first annual report, which can be accessed here. The forward to the Report says “The court has had to endure more than its fair share of setbacks, which were caused in the main by a failure to anticipate, prior to the implementation of the Act, the volume of work that would inundate the court during the initial transitional period, and the overall burden it would place on the judges and staff.”
According to a Department for Education (DoE) press release, Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, has asked Professor Eileen Munro, a professor of social policy at the London School of Economics, to lead the a “fundamental” review of child protection services. Professor Munro has written widely on child protection and the regulation of child care.
The Council of Europe has expressed “profound regret” that the UK has failed to implement its 5-year-old European Court of Human Rights ruling against the policy which prevents prisoners from voting in elections.
expressed profound regret that despite the repeated calls of the Committee, the United Kingdom general election was held on 6 May 2010 with the blanket ban on the right of convicted prisoners in custody to vote still in place
It also appears to be giving the new Government a chance, expressing
confidence that the new United Kingdom government will adopt general measures to implement the judgment ahead of elections scheduled for 2011 in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and thereby also prevent further, repetitive applications to the European Court;
Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the head of the UK Supreme Court, has responded to accusations that the Human Rights Act is hampering the fight against terrorism, and that “respect for human rights is a key weapon in the ideological battle”.
With reports this morning that the Government has written to High Court judges encouraging then not to delay a deportation flight to Bagdad, the speech presents a well timed defence of judicial independence.
The Gresham Special Lecture: The Challenges of the new Supreme Court is available in text and audio format. Lord Phillips used the opportunity to defend the judiciary in light of their regular use of the Human Rights Act to limit the effects of the anti-terrorism laws enacted by the government in the past decade, including controversial measures such as control orders and the Special Immigration Appeal Commission (SIAC). He said:
After 9/11 the British Government decided that the threat of terrorism in Britain was such as to amount to a public emergency threatening the life of the nation and purported, on that ground, to derogate from the Convention.
Prime Minister David Cameron has been busy preparing the country for “painful” cuts to pensions, pay and benefits. In a recent Guardian Article, The changing face of human rights, Afua Hirsch comments with approval on the 2008 recommendation by the Joint Committee on Human Rights that a new UK bill of rights should include the rights to health, education, housing and an adequate standard of living. Rosalind English asks whether the time has indeed come for “economic” human rights.
Ms Hirsch cites a number of examples around the world where such “social and economic rights” have been used successfully to challenge government policy on the distribution of healthcare, housing and benefits. Why, then, she asks, is such an extension of our existing rights so strenuously resisted in this country?
Update 08/06/10: Is there no limit to the damage which restrictive libel laws can do? A Wayne Rooney biography, and possibly England’s football World Cup chances, are the latest victim of threats of libel action, says Afua Hirsch in the Guardian:
I’m not saying that information about Rooney’s background is up there with other public interest revelations that have been caught by libel law – lying politicians or innocent people dying from toxic waste, for example. On the other hand, if the Daily Star is to be believed, the book is fundamental to England’s World Cup performance. The paper claims that the book, which I haven’t read, contains “embarrassing material on the England hero” and “is threatening to derail England’s World Cup dreams.”
The law of libel and defamation sets the limits of freedom of expression. It is therefore unsurprising how many conflicting views there are on the Government’s proposed libel reforms. To keep up with this fast-moving debate, we are introducing a new feature: Libel reform watch.
The Coalition Government have promised to “restore the right to non-violent protest”, but Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, is bringing court proceedings to evict protesters from Parliament Square. What are the human rights implications?
During the build-up to last month’s General Election, a number of protesters erected tents and flags in Parliament Square, a green outside the Houses of Parliament. The protesters still remain and have named the site “Democracy Village”. Brian Haw, famous for his protests against the Iraq war, is amongst the protesters.
Now Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, has decided that enough is enough and is to institute trespass proceedings against the protesters. The BBC quotes a spokesman for Mr Johnson, who said “The mayor respects the right to demonstrate, however the scale and impact of the protest is now doing considerable damage to the square and preventing its peaceful use by other Londoners, including those who may wish to have an authorised protest.“
The European Court of Human Rights underwent something of a revolution yesterday with the long-delayed introduction of reforms to its rules. The changes will help the court clear its enormous backlog of cases, but also give it significant new powers to punish states which fail to implement its rulings. The UK may be one of the first on the receiving end of these new powers in relation to prisoner voting rights.
The Strasbourg-based European Court, which interprets and applies the European Convention on Human Rights, celebrated its fiftieth birthday last year. But it has recently been showing its age, creaking under the weight of its backlog of cases, running to an astonishing 119,300 waiting to be heard in 2009.
We have been following the debate on whether Britain will opt to supplement the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights. In a wide-ranging article published today, Geoffrey Robertson QC, a barrister specialising in human rights, has advocated “moving on from the Euro Convention – building on it, but not abandoning it.”
Despite these inadequacies, there is ample evidence that the Human Rights Act has measurably improved the level of dignity and decency accorded by the state to its most-vulnerable citizens, and for that relief much thanks to the Blair government which enacted it with cross-party support in 1998. But it has not, as its proponents hoped, conduced to a “culture of liberty”….
We posted on Friday that the libel reform debate is hotting up now that the Coalition Government has pledged to reform the law of libel. We are following the debate because of the wide-ranging implications any significant reform will have for the law of freedom of expression, as a number of articles published over the weekend demonstrate.
The Guardian reports today that prisoner voting rights will be back in the public eye this week with critical comments from Europe and increased pressure from compensation claims.
Interestingly, the article has now been amended to remove part of a quote from the Ministry of Justice, who had initially said that “Disenfranchisement is an outdated, disproportionate punishment which has no place in a modern prison system with a renewed emphasis on rehabilitation and resettlement”. This line has been replaced by a policy-neutral quote. On the face of it, it seems that government may finally act on this issue, five years after the European Court of Human Rights criticism of its ban in the case of Hirst v UK.
The recent announcement of the review of libel and privacy law by a high-profile panel has led to a flurry of conjecture, comment and proposals. The new Government has pledged to reform the law of libel, but what shape will the reforms take?
The committee, which was announced last month, is being led by Lord Neuberger, the head of the Court of Appeal, and will be composed of legal and media experts. One notable absence, as Joshua Rozenberg blogs, is Mr Justice Eady, who has been responsible for many of the more controversial “super injunctions”.
The new Coalition Government have pledged to “reform libel laws to protect freedom of speech“. Cases involving libel, defamation and super-injunctions have seen two competing European Convention rights fighting it out; Article 8 (right to privacy) versus Article 10 (freedom of expression).
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