Category: Roundup


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:

index

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

woman-in-white-face-mask-thumbnail

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:

index

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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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

index

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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The Round Up: Prorogation, Kashmir, and Protests

2 September 2019 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law

guardian

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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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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A Landmark Defamation Case and Child Spies: The Round Up

17 June 2019 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law

spy

Credit: The Guardian

In the News:

The High Court has heard how MI5, which is responsible for domestic spying operations, may have unlawfully retained the data of innocent civilians for years.

Liberty’s challenge centres on the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, which gives the security services the ability to access digital devices and electronic communications. It alleges that the system of information gathering used by the security services is illegal.

As part of a systemic judicial review, the High Court was told MI5 had realised that there were problems with their data handling in January 2016, but that the Prime Minister and Home Secretary were only informed in April. It was also alleged that MI5 has been holding sensitive data without proper safeguards. Liberty argued that the security services had submitted warrant applications which misled judges, because the agencies had incorrectly suggested sensitive data was being properly protected.

Much of the case will be heard in private over the next week.

In Other News….

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Secret Surveillance and a ‘Canadian Genocide’: the Round Up

3 June 2019 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law

LGBT

Credit: The Guardian

In the News:

The High Court has granted a without-notice injunction which bans protesters from gathering outside a primary school’s gates.

Protesters have been campaigning for weeks against Anderton Park Primary School’s decision to teach its pupils about LGBT issues. The activists argue that the children are ‘too young’ to understand the relationships. Some have also stated that it conflicts with Islamic teaching.

The Headteacher, Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, told the media that she has received a number of threatening messages. The school had to close early for half-term due to the protests.

Birmingham City Council applied for the injunction last week on the basis that the protests were beginning to jeopardise the safety of staff, pupils and parents. The injunction will last until the 10th June.

In Other News….

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Landmark ruling for inquests and Chelsea Manning released from prison: The Round Up

13 May 2019 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law

Manning

Credit: The Guardian

In the News:

Chelsea Manning, the ex-US intelligence analyst, was released from prison last week.

Manning was found guilty of a variety of charges in 2013, including espionage. She was subsequently given the longest sentence for a security leak in US history. After serving an initial period in jail, the remainder of her sentence was commuted by President Obama in 2017 on the basis that it was “disproportionate” to her crimes.

Ms. Manning has since refused to testify to a grand jury about her connections to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange (its founder). She claims that she has already given testimony as part of her trial in 2013, and objects to the grand jury system in principle. However, prosecutors have suggested that her evidence may have been inaccurate. A judge in Virginia ordered her to be taken into custody for 62 days.

She was released last week after the 62 day period elapsed. In the meantime, however, Ms. Manning was served with another subpoena which requires her to appear before a grand jury on May 16th in order to testify about the same issues. It seems likely, therefore, that she will be imprisoned again for contempt of court.
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Court of Appeal upholds ‘acoustic shock’ and Lord Sumption’s comments on assisted suicide- the Round Up

22 April 2019 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law

L Sumption

Credit: The Guardian

In the News:

Lord Sumption, the recently retired Supreme Court judge, has suggested that the law on assisted suicide ought to be broken.

Lord Sumption said that whilst assisted suicide should continue to be criminalised, relatives of terminally ill patients should follow their conscience and not always abide by it. As he put it, “the law should be broken from time to time”.

The former judge argued that the law’s current position helps prevent abuse, and that any change to it could only be produced by a political process.

His comments were made as part of the Reith Lectures, a series of annual radio lectures on BBC Radio 4. Lord Sumption’s lectures ask whether the legal process has begun to usurp the legislative function of Parliament. His first lecture will be made available on the 21st May.

In Other News….

  • Research has revealed that 55,000 pupils have changed schools for no clear reason during the past five years. A report from the Education Policy Institute suggests some schools have been unofficially excluding students with challenging behaviour or poor academic results, as part of a practice known as “off-rolling”. One in 12 pupils who began education in 2012 and finished in 2017 were removed at some stage for an unknown reason. Just 330 secondary schools account for almost a quarter of unexplained moves. The Department for Education said it was looking into the issue, and that it had written to all schools to remind them of the rules on exclusions. More from The Week here.
  • Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has warned that the rights of detained children are being repeatedly breached. In a report published last Thursday, it recommended that Young Offenders’ Institutions should be banned from deliberately inflicting pain on young offenders and from putting them in solitary confinement. It found that hospitals and jails are restraining children too frequently, and that such techniques are being used disproportionately against ethnic minorities. Around 2,500 young people are in detention at present. More from the Guardian here.
  • The activities of Extension Rebellion, the climate change group, sparked discussion and controversy this week. The organisation has three core demands: greater transparency about climate change, a legally binding commitment to zero carbon emissions by 2025, and the creation of a citizens’ assembly to oversee the issue. The group has staged protests in London for the past week, which has included shutting down a large portion of Oxford Street. Over 800 people have been arrested. The group has been criticised for adding pressure on already overburdened police force, and for the disruption caused to people’s lives and businesses. Extinction Rebellion has announced that it will pause its protests for the duration of next week. More from the BBC here.

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The High Court orders a fresh inquest, dismisses a discrimination claim, and quashes a police officer’s compensation– the Round Up

18 March 2019 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law

IICSA

In the News:

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) heard evidence about Sir Cyril Smith, the former MP for Rochdale. It has been alleged that Sir Cyril Smith abused boys in the 1960s at a school and hotel. The allegations were investigated by the police, but no further action taken.

Lord Steel, the former Liberal leader, gave evidence to the Inquiry. He explained that an article in Private Eye caused him to approach Cyril Smith about the allegations. Lord Steel said that, following this conversation, he “assumed” the allegations were true.

Lord Steel explained he had decided not to act because the accusations were “nothing to do with me”. He “saw no reason to go back to something that happened during his time in Rochdale” and the events happened “before he was even a member of the Liberal Party or an MP”.

Lord Steel’s comments sparked anger and he has been suspended from his party. He has since stated that the matter was properly an issue for the police and the council, and that he was not in a position to re-open the investigation.

In Other News….

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Housing Association can discriminate on religious grounds. Plus fracking and indefinite detention: The Round Up

11 February 2019 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law

prison

Credit: the Guardian

In the News:

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has concluded that indefinite detention in immigrations centres must cease. The Committee published a critical report into the issue, which found indefinite detention has a highly detrimental impact upon detainees’ mental health.

The Committee argued that individuals should be held for no more than 28 days. It said this would provide an incentive to the Home Office to speed up case management, thereby reducing costs. Harriet Harman MP, the JCHR’s Chairwoman, noted in an article that the Home Office has paid £20 million over five years to compensate for wrongful detentions.
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Round Up: Should short term jail sentences be abolished? Plus rulings on Universal Credit and judicial pensions.

14 January 2019 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law

In the News:

prison

Credit: The Guardian

The Government is considering whether to abolish prison sentences lasting six months of less.

Rory Stewart, the Prisons Minister, has argued that short jail terms are only serving to increase crime by mixing minor offenders with hardened criminals. He cited research suggesting that community sentences may help reduce the risk of reoffending when compared to short term prison sentences.

In Scotland there is already a presumption against such sentences. Re-offending has fallen to its lowest level for nearly two decades and the Scottish government are looking to widen the scheme.

The change would impact upon around 30,000 offenders, helping alleviate pressure on the overburdened prison system. Exceptions would be made for offenders who were violent or had committed sexual crimes.

The suggestion has already proven controversial. The Ministry of Justice has emphasised it is only exploring options and no decision has been made.

In Other News….

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The Round Up: Should veganism be protected by the Equality Act?

10 December 2018 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law

Vegan.jpg

Credit: The Guardian

In the News:

This week saw a novel legal challenge which may have significant consequences for the Equality Act 2010. The case arose following the dismissal of Jordi Casamitjana by the League Against Cruel Sports on the grounds of gross misconduct. This was because he released information showing that the pension fund of employees was being invested in firms engaging in animal testing. However, Mr Casamitjana claims he was discriminated against by his former employer because he is vegan.

Mr Casamitjana alleges that he first raised his concerns about the pension investments internally. He says the charity responded by offering staff an alternative ‘ethical’ investment strategy with lower rates of return. Mr Casamitjana subsequently wrote to colleagues saying that their money was still being invested in non-ethical funds, and that there were other alternative investments available with good financial outcomes.

Mr Casamitjana argues that his sacking was due to the charity discriminating against his belief in ‘ethical veganism’. The League strongly deny the allegations and have stated Mr Casamitjana was dismissed purely because of gross misconduct.

The dispute means that an employment tribunal will have to decide whether veganism is a ‘belief’ which should be protected by the Equality Act 2010. It is thought to be the first time this issue has been raised. The ruling could have significant consequences for the provision of goods and services, as well as on employment rights more generally. However, others have warned that recognising too many views as protected characteristics would be excessively restrictive.
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The Round Up: Criminal Sentencing, Assisted Suicide and a warning to Facebook

3 December 2018 by

In the Courts:

Conway, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Justice [2018] UKSC B1: The Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal from a sufferer of motor neurone disease, in the latest of a line of challenges to the UK’s ban on assisting suicide. The applicant was contesting the Divisional Court’s refusal to declare the statutory ban on assisting suicide to be incompatible with his article 8 rights.

The question for the court was whether his case raised “an arguable point of law of general public importance” which ought to be heard by the Supreme Court at this time. Whilst the points of law were undoubtedly arguable, and the public importance obvious, the court concluded “not without some reluctance” that the applicant’s prospects of success did not justify granting permission to appeal. Rosalind English has more detail here.

Stott, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Justice [2018] UKSC 59: The appellant was a prisoner who had been classed as ‘dangerous’ and accordingly given an Extended Determinate Sentence (EDS), under which he would become eligible for parole only after serving two-thirds of the appropriate custodial term. This was in various ways narrower than the ordinary parole eligibility of other categories of prisoner. The appellant claimed unlawful discrimination under Article 14 ECHR, combined with Article 5 (the right to liberty).

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