Category: Article 8 | Right to Privacy / Family


Sex offenders’ lifelong living and travel restrictions were breach of human rights

21 April 2010 by

Sex offenders register is breach of human rightsR (JF (by his litigation friend OF)) & Anor v SSHD [2010] UKSC 17

(Read Judgment or Supreme Court press summary)

The Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that lifelong requirements for sex offenders to notify the police when they move house or travel abroad are a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. 24,000 former offenders will potentially be affected by the decision.

Under section 82  of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 all persons sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment or more for a sexual offence become subject to a lifelong duty to keep the police notified of where they are living and when they travel abroad. Crucially, there is no right to a review of the necessity for the notification requirements.

The Respondents were convicted sex offenders. Both challenged the notification requirements by way of judicial review, on the basis that the requirements were a disproportionate manner of pursuing a legitimate aim of preventing crime and therefore breached their rights under Article 8.

Lord Philips gave the leading judgment. He emphasised that the question (as in the case of all human rights claims involving a “qualified” right in general and Article 8 in particular) was one of proportionality, and that the correct test, as had been set out in previous decisions, was:

whether: (i) the legislative objective is sufficiently important to justify limiting a fundamental right; (ii) the measures designed to meet the legislative objective are rationally connected to it; and (iii) the means used to impair the right or freedom are no more than is necessary to accomplish the objective (para 17)

The Court went on to discuss UK and European authorities, and in particular referred to the Marper judgment, which we discussed earlier this week in relation to the retention of DNA samples (para 31). The European Court of Human Rights had been particularly concerned that in cases involving DNA there was no provision for independent review, as was the case with the notification requirements in this appeal.

The Court were concerned about risks of disclosure to third parties inherent in offenders having to visit police stations to report. They said:

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Medical intervention without parental consent violated child’s and parents’ Article 8 rights says Strasbourg Court

21 April 2010 by

MAK and RK v United Kingdom (Application Nos 45901/05 and 40146/06) European Court of Human Rights March 23, 2010 – Read judgment

The taking of blood samples and photographs of a child by the medical authorities in the absence of the parents violated the child’s and parents’ rights to respect for their private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention, and the inability of the parents to take an action for damages at common law against the hospital breached their right to a remedy under Article 13.

The applicant M.A.K was the father of R.K., who was born in 1989. In 1997 and again in 1998 M.A.K. took her to their family doctor because he, his wife and their daughter’s swimming teacher were concerned about what appeared to be bruising on her legs. This was followed by a visit to a paediatrician who had blood samples and pictures of the girl taken in the absence of either of the parents and despite the father’s indication that any tests should be done in the mother’s presence or with her explicit consent. The paediatrician concluded, after examining the girl’s genitalia and legs, that she had been sexually abused and informed the social workers.

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Judges should consider parents’ interests under Article 8 of the Convention before granting care orders

20 April 2010 by

EH v London Borough of Greenwich and AA and REA and RHA (through their guardian), A (children) [2010] EWCA Civ 344

Read judgment

This was an appeal against the decision of the judge at first instance granting the local authority a full care order and placement order in respect of the appellant mother’s children. One of the children had been admitted to hospital as a baby with a fracture injury that was diagnosed as being non-accidental, following which both children were immediately taken from their parents’ care and placed with their maternal grandmother.

A later fact finding hearing determined that the baby’s injury had probably been caused by her father and that the mother had failed to protect the baby, although the judge did find that the mother had very many good qualities and her parenting abilities, per se, were not in issue, and that apart from the fracture injury there was no evidence that the children had suffered any harm.

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Feature | DNA Database: another key human rights election issue

19 April 2010 by

DNA database impact on human rightsThe National DNA database has become another key human rights issue in the 2010 Election. It is by far the largest such database in the world, with over 1 in 10 people now on the database. The issue of whether innocent people will have their DNA retained has now become highly politicised.

The Tories have now dropped their opposition to the Crime and Security Bill 2010, which has since become law. They had initially opposed provisions which allowed the police to retain the DNA samples of innocent people for up to 6 years. However, they have pledged if elected to bring in early legislation to ensure the DNA profiles of innocent people accused by minor crimes would not be retained.

The Prime Minister and the Home Secretary recently accused the Tories of not being tough enough on crime, whilst appearing at a press conference with Linda Bowman, whose daughter was raped and murdered at age 18. Her killer was convicted in 2008 with the help of DNA evidence. Liberty, the civil liberties organisation, commented that Labour had deliberately confused the issue.

The Conservatives pledge in their manifesto to “Reform Labour’s DNA system with the slimmer and more efficient Scottish system as our model” and “Change the rules on the DNA database to allow a large number of innocent people to reclaim their DNA immediately”.

The Liberal Democrats agree they will “Remove innocent people from the police DNA database and stop storing DNA from innocent people and children in the future, too.”

For their part, Labour say they will “ensure that the most serious offenders are added to the database no matter where or when they were convicted – and retain for six years the DNA profiles of those arrested but not convicted.”

It is probably no coincidence that the criticism of the Tory policy coincides with the Government’s recent concession to strong criticism from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

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New head of Family Court says social workers perceived as “arrogant and enthusiastic removers of children”

13 April 2010 by

Sir Nicholas Wall, the new head of the Family Division, is being sworn in today. The Times reports this morning on comments he made in a recent judgment in the case of EH v London Borough of Greenwich & Ors [2010] EWCA Civ 344.

He said of social workers:

What social workers do not appear to understand is that the public perception of their role in care proceedings is not a happy one. They are perceived by many as the arrogant and enthusiastic removers of children from their parents into an unsatisfactory care system, and as trampling on the rights of parents and children in the process. This case will do little to dispel that perception. (paragraph 109)

A profile of Sir Nicholas in The Times suggests that he arrives at his new post with a reputation as a forthright critic of social services, local council, social workers and politicians. Indeed, it has been suggested that the Justice Minister Jack Straw may have been trying to block the appointment of Sir Nicholas for that very reason.

We posted earlier this week on the issues regarding child protection and the duty of care of local authorities. The courts are often finding themselves having to balance the competing rights of children, who must be protected against abuse, and parents, who are sometimes themselves the victims of overzealous prosecutions by local authorities. It would appear that the pressure on public authorities will only increase once the new Family Division head is in post.

Read more:

Feature | Are the courts taking child protection too far in abuse claims?

8 April 2010 by

Sharon Shoesmith’s court action over her sacking by Haringey Council has once more brought to the fore the sorry account of neglect and mismanagement by police and local authorities of that led to the death of baby Peter Connelly (‘Baby P’). It has also, however, highlighted the increasingly significant role of courts in the UK and Europe in holding public and private authorities to account in claims involving allegations of child abuse.

It is not just local authorities that are under pressure. Allegations of sexual abuse by members of the Catholic church rumble on, occasionally erupting into well publicised court dramas. For example, the recent groundbreaking claim brought against a Catholic priest, Father Clonan, relating to events in Coventry in around 1976 (MAGA v The Trustees Of The Birmingham Archdiocese Of The Roman Catholic Church [2010] EWCA Civ 256).

The claimant (MAGA) was at the time a child of 12 with learning disabilities. The High Court had ruled that the Church was not liable for the abuse as MAGA was not a Roman Catholic, and as such Father Clonan had no business having any dealings with him and was not doing so in his capacity as a priest. MAGA succeeded on appeal because the Court of Appeal accepted that a priest’s duties are very wide, and involve him befriending non-Catholics, such as in the course of his evangelising role.

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Beginning of the end for the “Super Injunction”?

8 April 2010 by

A high profile panel has been formed to review ‘super injunctions’, which have recently been used with varying success to halt media coverage of controversial legal disputes.

Super injunction applications have seen two competing European Convention rights fighting it out; Article 8 (right to privacy) versus Article 10 (freedom of expression).

We have previously posted on the super injunction which was imposed and then swiftly lifted in relation to press coverage of Chelsea footballer and England Captain John Terry’s extra-marital affair.

The committee is to be led by Lord Neuberger, the Master of the Rolls, 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.

According to the Judicial Communications Office, The Master of the Rolls has set up the committee following the recent report by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s report on press standards, privacy and libel and concerns expressed to the judiciary.

Read more:

  • Mr Justice Tugendhat decision in the John Terry case
  • The Judicial Communication Office announcement (including the names of the committee members)
  • Commentary from Liberty Central in The Guardian

Removal of child following faulty diagnosis of injury breached Article 8

2 April 2010 by

AD and OD v United Kingdom (Application No 28680/06), 2 April 2010

Read judgment

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled unanimously that a local authority’s failure to conduct a risk assessment, which resulted in a child being placed with foster parents, breached the right to respect for family life under Article 8 of the Convention.  It also concluded that the mother should have had available to her a means of claiming that the local authority’s handling of the procedures was responsible for any damage which she suffered and obtaining compensation for that damage. As such redress was not available to her, the Court held that she had suffered a violation of Article 13.

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Are civil partnerships compatible with human rights law?

17 March 2010 by

Baroness Deech, the Chair of the Bar Standards Board, has given the second lecture in her series on family law at Gresham College. In this lecture she questions whether the current law of marriage is compatible with human rights law. In particular, homosexual couples cannot legally marry, and hetrosexual couples are disbarred from entering civil partnerships. She said:

“Since [the] acceptance and recognition [of gay rights] has grown, advanced by the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Bill 2010. Gay couples may adopt children (Adoption and Children Act 2002); they have access to fertility services and full parentage of donor conceived children (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008). Same sex childless couples are deemed to be a “family” for the purpose of succeeding a deceased partner to a tenancy (Fitzpatrick v Sterling Housing Association [1998] Ch.304). This trend culminated in the legislative establishment of civil partnerships in the Civil Partnership Act 2004, creating a union almost identical to, but not marriage.”

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Exceptionally serious circumstances must be established to resist extradition order says Supreme Court

5 March 2010 by

Norris v United States [2010] UKSC 9

SC (Lord Phillips, Lord Hope, Lord Rodger, Lady Hale, Lord Brown, Lord Mance, Lord Judge, Lord Collins, Lord Kerr) 24 February 2010

In determining whether interference with an individual’s right to a family life was justified to achieve the aim of extradition, the court should not consider whether the circumstances were exceptional but should consider whether the consequences were exceptionally serious

SUMMARY

The appellant had recently retired from his job as CEO of a company that had been involved in price fixing. He had successfully resisted an extradition order sought by the United States on the grounds that price-fixing in the UK was not illegal (Norris v United States (2008) UKHL 16, (2008) 1 AC 920). However, the court held that the other charge against him – obstructing justice – justified extradition and his case was remitted to a district judge. The district judge decided that he should be extradited. His decision was upheld by the divisional court, which concluded that the obstruction of justice charges were very grave and that a high threshold would have to be reached before the appellant’s rights under Article 8 could outweigh the public interest in extradition ((2009) EWHC Admin 995, (2009) Lloyd’s Rep FC 475).

Read judgment here or

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Do full body scanners breach the right to privacy? [updated x 2]

17 February 2010 by

The Equality and Human Rights Commission have written to the Government urging caution before the introduction of full body scanners at UK airports; not that it has slowed the Government down – apparently, the scanners will be in UK airports as early as next week. Passengers at Manchester Airport have been experiencing full body scans since October, but clearly the recent botched ‘Detroit Bomber’ terrorist attack has speeded up their uptake.

John Wadham, group director legal at the EHRC says:

The right to life is the ultimate human right and we support the government reviewing security in the light of recent alleged terrorist activity. However, the government needs to ensure that measures to protect this right also take into account the need to be proportionate in its counter-terrorism proposals and ensure that they are justified by evidence and effectiveness.

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Admin Court rules that Articles 5(5) and 8 of the Convention are compatible in relation to damages

9 February 2010 by

R (Degainis) v Secretary of State for Justice [2010] EWHC 137 (Admin)

Mr Justice Saunders

When deciding whether to award damages under Article 5(5) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) for breach of Article 5(4), regard has to be paid to Article 8 and the limits on damages in that provision. Articles 5 and 8 are not, however, incompatible. There was no basis for the claim that Article 5(4) compensation can only be monetary, and in some cases a finding of a breach can be sufficient compensation.

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Articles 8, 10 and the ‘Super Injunction’ [updated x2]

1 February 2010 by

There was significant media attention over the weekend on the imposing and then lifting of a so-called ‘super injunction’ against press coverage of Chelsea footballer and England Captain John Terry’s alleged extra-marital affair. Mr Justice Tugendhat reversed a previous decision to impose the injunction (read judgment). Super injunctions not only block publication of the details of the case, but also any mention of the case existing at all. This morning’s Guardian asks whether this decision could be the beginning of the end for the super injunction:

Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights enshrines the right to privacy. But Index on Censorship is concerned that this right is increasingly used as a pre-emptive alternative to a defamation suit. In some ways, a superinjunction works better than a libel suit: after all, in libel cases, the allegations must be published first, and there is a chance (though only slight) that the litigant may actually lose.

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Supreme Court rules rules that terror suspects assets cannot be frozen

27 January 2010 by

Her Majesty’s Treasury (Respondent) v Mohammed Jabar Ahmed and others (FC) (Appellants); Her Majesty’s Treasury (Respondent) v Mohammed al-Ghabra (FC) (Appellant); R (on the application of Hani El Sayed Sabaei Youssef) (Respondent) v Her Majesty’s Treasury (Appellant) [2010] UKSC 2

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Treasury cannot make orders to freeze the assets of terror suspects. The Terrorism (UN Measures) Order 2006 and the 2006 al-Qaeda and Taliban (UN Measures) Order were made under section 1 of the 1946 UN Act in order to implement resolutions of the UN Security Council, and were found by the Court to be unlawful.

As a preliminary point, the Court considered that a press report identifying M would engage article 8. In a separate judgment, the Court repealed all of the suspects’ anonymity orders, finding that these would not breach the suspects’ Article 8 rights to privacy.

Read press summary and full judgment relating to the asset freezing

Read press summary and full judgment relating to the anonymity orders

Court of Appeal rules on entitlement of foreign nationals to treatment for HIV

10 January 2010 by

JA (Ivory Coast) and ES (Tanzania) v Secretary of State for  the Home Department [2009] EWCA Civ 1353 (CA (Civ Div) (Sedley LJ, Longmore LJ, Aikens LJ)
In these two cases, heard together, the Court of Appeal provided clarification of the circumstances in which Art. 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights entitles foreign nationals’ to remain in the UK in order to receive medical treatment.

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