Category: LEGAL TOPICS


International Human Rights, Public Interest Immunity, and Brook House – The Round Up

24 August 2020 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law

In the News:

Internationally there were a number of developments which have significant consequences for human rights. In Russia a prominent critic of Vladimir Putin has allegedly been poisoned. Alexei Navalny, who is known for exposing corruption within the country, suddenly fell ill last week after drinking tea.

Supporters claim the Russian state has tried to silence Mr Navalny’s criticism of President Putin, and then attempted to cover up its actions by stopping Mr Navalny from being treated abroad. Despite initial resistance from doctors, who said that Mr Navalny was too ill to be moved, the leader has now been flown out of Russia. Critics say the developments are part of a wider crackdown on freedom of speech within the country.


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Family Court Guilty of ‘State Sanctioned Abuse’? Plus Hate Speech and Judicial Bias- the Round Up

26 July 2020 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law

In the News:

Scottish_Parliament_Debating_Chamber_2

Credit: Colin

The public consultation on Scotland’s controversial Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill has closed. In summary, the Bill:

  • Adds age as a possible basis for hate speech.
  • Enables ministers to use regulation to add to the list of possible ‘victims’ of hate crime. There are already suggestions that misogyny will be added.
  • The definition of hate crime is extended to include ‘aggravation of offences by prejudice’.
  • Creates a new crime of ‘stirring up hatred’ against any of the groups which the Bill protects.
  • Updates and amalgamates existing hate crime law.
  • Abolishes the offence of blasphemy.
  • In addition, a new offence of misogynistic harassment is being considered.

The Bill was created following Lord Bracadale’s independent review of hate crime law. Official figures show that hate crime is on the rise in Scotland and the Bill seeks to address this.

However, the Bill has caused considerable concern. Many have suggested that the Bill unduly restricts freedom of speech. The President of the Law Society of Scotland, Amanda Millar, said she had “significant reservations” and indicated that “views expressed or even an actor’s performance” could result in a criminal conviction.

Groups ranging from the Catholic Church to the National Secular Society have also spoken against the plans. The Scottish Newspaper Society expressed reservations.

Some have claimed that JK Rowling, who recently tweeted her views about transgender rights/ feminism, could be imprisoned for 7 years under the Bill. Opponents also point to the experience of Threatening Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act 2012, which sought to target football hooliganism. The Act was later repealed due to concerns about freedom of speech and its ineffectiveness.

James Kelly, Labour’s justice spokesman, has pointed out that the Bill would not require ‘intention’ in order for criminality to be found. He suggested that religious views could be negatively affected by the proposals.

In response, the Scottish government points out that the Bill makes clear that criticising religious beliefs or practices does not, in itself, constitute a criminal offence. Ministers have also emphasised that the draft legislation seeks to protect minorities and oppressed groups.

In Other News….

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Changes to Policing, Consent, and Three Landmark Cases- the Round Up

15 June 2020 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law

In the News:

floyd

Credit: Lorie Shaull

Anti-racism protests, sparked by the death of George Floyd, continued across the world. This week much of the focus has been on statues commemorating controversial historical figures. In Bristol, campaigners toppled the statue of a 17th century slave trader called Edward Colston.

The move led to a debate about what ought to be done with such statues. The founder of the Scouts, Robert Baden-Powell, was accused of racism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism. Initially it seemed his statue would be put into storage, but following an outcry it has been boarded up instead. A number of other figures have received similar treatment, including Sir Winston Churchill.

In the US, it seems change is coming to policing. The Democratic Party is proposing a police reform bill which, if passed, would become the Justice in Policing Act of 2020. The Bill would ban chokeholds from being used, limit the use of military weapons, and restrict qualified immunity (the legal principle which has prevented many officers from being sued for alleged misconduct). President Trump confirmed that he ‘generally’ supported ending the use of chokeholds.

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London- the Libel Capital of the World? Plus a Landmark Consumer Rights Case and Changes to US Media Law: The Round Up

1 June 2020 by

In the News:

floyd

Credit: Lorie Shaull

There have been significant protests in the USA following the death of George Floyd. Mr Floyd, a black man, died after his neck was knelt on whilst he was being detained. Mr Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe, but despite this the position was maintained for several minutes.

Derek Chauvin, the white officer who detained him, has been arrested and charged with murder. Three other officers have been sacked. The County Prosecutor has suggested it is likely they will also be charged in due course.

The case has triggered widespread protests about the treatment of black people by the police. Previous incidents, such as the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, exacerbate concerns. Thousands also protested in London, where the march moved from Trafalgar Square to the US embassy (located in South London).

In the US the largely peaceful protests have been marred by looting and arson attacks. The police station in Minneapolis was set on fire. A number of US cities have imposed curfews which have been defied. Police have used tear gas and rubber bullets to try and control crowds.

A black CNN journalist and his camera crew were arrested by police whilst reporting in a protest in Minnesota. The group was later released and the governor apologised for the arrest.

In Other News….

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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:

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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

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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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Corona-vires: Has the Government exceeded its powers?

13 February 2020 by

Diagram of the structure of the Coronavirus

This Government’s key message has been its ability get things done, whether it be Brexit, HS2 or stopping the spread of Coronavirus.

Indeed, if the new high speed trains move as swiftly as the Health Secretary did on Monday, then they might break the sound barrier: the Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 were enacted at 6.50am on Monday and laid before Parliament by 2.30 that afternoon.  Their preamble states that

the Secretary of State is of the opinion that, by reason of urgency, it is necessary to make this instrument without a draft having been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.

One can appreciate the desire to bypass the cumbersome mechanics of Parliament to save the country from a potentially deadly virus. But in the fullness of time, the resulting Regulations might well be held up as an excellent advertisement for Parliamentary scrutiny.


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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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ALBA Conference 2019: A Review (Part 5)

5 November 2019 by

This post, along with those before it, summarises some of the main points of interest arising from the ALBA Conference 2019.

‘Reith Lecture (Judicial Power) Response’ – Chair: Mrs. Justice Thornton; Speakers: Lord Dyson, Sir Stephen Laws, Prof Vernon Bogdanor, Prof Meg Russell, Lord Falconer of Thoroton QC

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Credit: Robin S Taylor

A prestigious panel offered its response to Lord Sumption’s Reith Lectures, followed by a reply from Lord Sumption himself.

In his lectures for the BBC, Lord Sumption argued that judges have excessively increased their power and invaded into the political sphere. The Human Rights Act 1998 and Judicial Review attracted particular criticism.

Lord Sumption’s original lectures are available from the BBC here. A recording of the full discussion is available on LawPod here, so this post draws out some of the key points.


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ALBA Conference 2019: A Review (Part 3)

24 October 2019 by

This post, and those that follow it, summarises some of the main points of interest arising from the ALBA Conference 2019.

‘The Constitutionality of Ouster Clauses’ – Chair: Lord Justice Leggatt; Speakers: Professor Alison Young, Professor David Feldman, Professor Stephen Bailey

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Earlier this year, the Supreme Court gave its judgement in R (on the application of Privacy International) (Appellant) v Investigatory Powers Tribunal and others (Respondents). The case concerned the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (‘IPT’), a specialist tribunal which was established by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (‘RIPA’). The IPT hears complaints about certain public bodies, particularly concerning the Security Services.

s.67(8) of RIPA contains a so-called ‘ouster clause’, which held that “determinations, awards and other decisions of the Tribunal (including decisions as to whether they have jurisdiction) shall not be subject to appeal or be liable to be questioned in any court”.

The issue in Privacy International was whether decisions made by the IPT were judicially reviewable. A majority of the Supreme Court held that s.67(8) did not, in fact, oust the jurisdiction of the court. The panel analysed this crucial case in more detail.


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Interested in this online course?

21 October 2019 by

Cambridge University Institute of Continuing Education

Law in a changing genetic landscape (25 February – 12 April 2020)

Law creates artificial relationships between non-related people and entities. It even gives person-hood to non-biological beings such as companies and partnerships (although not yet to non-human species). Genetics describe the underlying relationship of all biological beings. For centuries, law and genetic science developed in parallel with very little overlap. But as genetic discoveries ride the crest of the technological revolution, law finds itself on the back foot. Legal instruments, such as property law and the law of obligations between non-related individuals were crafted in feudal times with the aim of protecting property beyond the death of the owner. With genetic discoveries, we face a myriad of questions, from ownership of gene editing techniques to the dangers of discrimination based on genetic predisposition for disease.

Read full course description here

Related posts:

Whistleblowing judges: protected by human rights?

18 October 2019 by

Gilham (Appellant) v Ministry of Justice (Respondent) [2019] UKSC 44 – read judgment

The UK Supreme Court has unanimously granted an appeal by a district judge against the Court of Appeal’s decision that she did not qualify as a “worker” under the Employment Rights Act 1996 (the “1996 Act”), and therefore could not benefit from the whistleblowing protections it conferred.

In reaching its judgment, the Court held that the failure to extend those whistleblowing protections to judges amounted to a violation of the appellant’s right under Article 14 ECHR not to be discriminated against in her enjoyment of the Convention rights (in this case, her right to freedom of expression under Article 10 ECHR).


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ALBA Conference 2019: A Review (Part 2)

15 October 2019 by

This post, and those that follow, summarise some of the main points of interest arising from the ALBA Conference 2019.

Article 14 ECHR discrimination challenges to social welfare measures: the second benefit cap case in the Supreme Court: Raj Desai

Jobcentre-007
Credit: The Guardian

Introduction: The ‘Benefit Cap’

Mr Desai examined Article 14 ECHR through the prism of two ‘benefit cap’ cases: R (on the application of DS and others) (Appellants) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Respondent) [2019] UKSC 21 (“DA & DS”) and R(SG and ors) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2015] UKSC 16 (“SG”).

Both were decisions of the Supreme Court concerning the benefit cap. This provides that a household’s total entitlement to welfare benefits cannot exceed an annual limit. The cap is disapplied if a certain amount of relevant work is completed.

In common with many Article 14 ECHR claims, both cases raise complex issues about the proper constitutional role of the courts. SG (the first benefit cap case)


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ALBA Conference 2019: A Review

7 October 2019 by

This post is the first in a series of five reports by Conor Monighan from this year’s conference held by the Administrative Law Bar Association. We will be publishing the next four posts over the next month every Monday.

This year’s ALBA conference featured an impressive list of speakers. There were talks from a Supreme Court judge, a former Lord Chancellor, top silks, and some of the best academics working in public law.

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The conference covered a number of practical and substantive topics. The highpoint was an address given by Lord Sumption, in which he responded to criticism of his Reith Lectures. This post, together with those that follow, summarises the key points from the conference.


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