Category: Family


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 The Act was later repealed due to concerns about freedom of speech and its ineffectiveness.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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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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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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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: 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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The Round Up: Grenfell, lost DVDs, and a Deputy Judge who erred in law.

21 May 2018 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law.

Grenfell

Credit: The Guardian

In the News:

An independent report into building regulations, commissioned by the government in the wake of the Grenfell disaster, has called for the current regulatory system to be overhauled.

However, the report surprised some because it did not recommend a ban on flammable cladding. It also declined to recommend stopping so-called ‘desktop studies’, where materials are tested without setting them on fire. The chairman of Grenfell United expressed disappointment at this conclusion. The Royal Institute of British Architects expressed support for banning inflammable cladding and the government has said it will consult on the issue. The Prime Minister has also pledged £400 million to remove flammable cladding from tower blocks.

The author of the report, Dame Judith Hackitt, said that banning the cladding was insufficient. Instead, she stated that a ‘whole system change’ is needed. Dame Hackitt warned that cost was being prioritised over safety and that ‘banning activities and particular materials […] will create a false sense of security’.

The report recommended fundamental changes to building regulations, saying that the process which drives compliance with the regulations are ‘weak and complex’. Dame Hackitt found that there was a ‘race to the bottom’ in the building industry that was putting people at risk. She also wrote that product testing must be made more transparent, and that residents’ voices were not being listened to.

The Grenfell Inquiry will open this week. For the first two weeks, the lives of those who died will be remembered in a series of commemorations.
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Headline- Round Up: Sir Cliff Richard’s case against the BBC reaches the High Court

23 April 2018 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law

cliff

Credit: The Guardian

In the News:

The legal battle between Sir Cliff Richard and the BBC has begun in the High Court.

In August 2014, police raided Sir Cliff’s home based on an allegation of historic child sexual abuse. The BBC broadcast live footage of the raid filmed from a helicopter. The singer was interviewed under caution, but never charged.

Sir Cliff alleges that the BBC’s coverage of the police raid on his home was a serious invasion of his right to privacy, for which there was no lawful justification. He also alleges breaches of his data protection rights. The singer seeks substantial general damages, plus £278,000 for legal costs, over £108,000 for PR fees which he spent in order to rebuild his reputation, and an undisclosed sum relating to the cancellation of his autobiography’s publication. He began giving evidence on the first day of the hearing.
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Immigration and Minimum Income Requirements – “significant hardship” caused, but still ECHR compatible

6 April 2017 by

money_1945490cSS (Congo) v Entry Clearance Officer, Nairobi, [2017] UKSC 10 – read judgment. 

The Supreme Court has ruled that, in principle, the need for spouses or civil partners in the UK to have an annual minimum income of £18,600 in order to obtain entry clearance for their non-EEA spouse/civil partner to be compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”). However, the Supreme Court stated that the relevant Immigration Rules relating to such Minimum Income Requirements (“MIR”) failed to adequately take account of the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children when making an entry decision. Finally, the prohibition on taking into account prospective earnings of the foreign spouse or civil partner when applying the MIR was inconsistent with the evaluative exercise required under Article 8, ECHR.

by Fraser Simpson

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Best interests, hard choices: The Baby C case

19 November 2015 by

Royal courtsJudgments in best interests cases involving children often make for heart-wrenching reading. And so it was in Bolton NHS Foundation Trust v C (by her Children’s Guardian) [2015] EWHC 2920 (Fam), a case which considered Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health guidance, affirming its approach was in conformity with Article 2 and Article 3 ECHR. It also described, in the clearest terms, the terrible challenges facing C’s treating clinicians and her parents.
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“No union more profound”: The US Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage

30 June 2015 by

Photo credit: Guardian

Photo credit: Guardian

The Supreme Court of the United States has decided that same-sex couples have a constitutionally protected right to marry.

In the history of American jurisprudence, there are a handful of cases which are so significant that they will be known to all US law students, much of the domestic population at large, and even large segments of the international community. Brown v Board of Education, which ended racial segregation in schools, is one example. Roe v Wade, which upheld the right of women to access abortion serves, is another. To that list may now be added the case of Obergefell v Hodges.

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“Lamentable”, “egregious” and “wholly indefensible”: High Court lambasts local authority’s conduct of care proceedings

1 February 2015 by

imgres-1Northamptonshire County Council v AS, KS and DS [2015] EWFC 7 – read judgment

A Family Division judge has awarded damages under the Human Rights Act against a local authority in what he described as an “unfortunate and woeful case” involving a baby taken into foster care. Mr Justice Keehan cited a “catalogue of errors, omissions, delays and serial breaches of court orders” by Northamptonshire County Council. Unusually, the judge decided to give the judgment in this sensitive case in public in order to set out “the lamentable conduct of this litigation by the local authority.

On 30 January 2013, the local authority placed the child (known as ‘DS’) with foster carers. He was just fifteen days old. In the weeks prior to DS’s birth, his mother’s GP had made a referral to the local authority due to her lack of antenatal care and because she claimed to be sleeping on the street. The mother then told a midwife that she had a new partner. He was a heroin addict.

After the birth DS’s mother avoided seeing her midwife. She frequently moved addresses and conditions at home were exceedingly poor. Three days before DS was taken into care, his mother told social workers that her new partner was being aggressive and threatening to her. She reported that he was leaving used needles around the house.
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Conscientious objection to abortion: Catholic midwives lose in Supreme Court

28 December 2014 by

pic_giant_051713_Therapeutic-Cloning-of-Human-EmbryosGreater Glasgow Health Board v. Doogan and Wood [2014] UKSC 68 – read judgment here.

The Supreme Court recently handed down its judgment in an interesting and potentially controversial case concerning the interpretation of the conscientious objection clause in the Abortion Act 1967. Overturning the Inner House of the Court of Session’s ruling, the Court held that two Catholic midwives could be required by their employer to delegate to, supervise and support other staff who were involved in carrying out abortion procedures, as part of their roles as Labour Ward Co-ordinators at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow.

We set out the background to the case and explained the earlier rulings and their ramifications on this blog here and here. The key question the Supreme Court had to grapple with the meaning of the words “to participate in any treatment authorised by this Act to which he has a conscientious objection” in section 4 of the 1967 Act.

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Birmingham’s Grooming Injunctions: what does the judgment say?

24 December 2014 by

Photo credit: guardian.co.uk

Photo credit: guardian.co.uk

Using the inherent jurisdiction against Child Sexual Exploitation: Birmingham City Council v Riaz & Ors15 December 2014, read judgment

As prefigured on this Blog here, Keehan J has handed down a public Judgment  explaining how he used the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court to make novel and far-reaching Orders against ten men.

The inherent jurisdiction is the power vested in the Higher Courts to maintain their authority and prevent their processes being obstructed and abused. Traditionally this has also included the exercise on behalf of the sovereign as parens patriae of particular powers concerning children – most commonly wardship.

Birmingham City Council were addressing a real and significant issue. This had been highlighted in Rotherham. The gold standard response is to secure criminal convictions as occurred in Bristol. However, in some instances, the evidence will not secure jury convictions and hence the search is on for alternatives.

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Couple launch challenge to heterosexual bar on Civil Partnerships

9 December 2014 by

Charles-Keidan-and-Rebecc-012

Photo credit: guardian.co.uk

For some reason, this post originally appeared in the name of Colin Yeo. It is not by Colin Yeo, but by Martin Downs. Apologies for that.

The future of civil partnerships is again in the news. In October, Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan tried to register a Civil Partnership at Chelsea Town Hall but were rebuffed on the grounds that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 reserves that status strictly for same sex couples. Their lawyer, Louise Whitfield of Deighton Pierce Glynn Solicitors has announced their intention to seek a judicial review and the couple have also started a petition.

Steinfeld and Keidan have rightly identified that CPs provide virtually the same rights and responsibilities as marriage that it is within the gift of government to provide. One of the few differences concerns pension rights and even this will be considered by the Court of Appeal in February 2015.

However, the couple are attracted by civil partnership as a social construct that comes without the historical baggage of patriarchal dominance/subjection of women. They also take aim at the sexist customs that surround it such as “giving the bride away,” virginal white dresses and hen and stag do’s.

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Inherently Uncertain: Is there authority for that? Questions over Birmingham’s Grooming Injunctions

1 December 2014 by

Photo credit: guardian.co.uk

Photo credit: guardian.co.uk

Over the last month Mr Justice Keehan has made a series of injunctions at the behest of Birmingham City Council designed to protect a vulnerable child in care from being groomed. It seems that the Orders are of such breadth that they are believed to have entered uncharted territory but there are questions whether there is any authority for this development.

Much attention has been given to a series of hearings in October and November during which the press have having been permitted to name six of the men (in the teeth of opposition from West Midlands Police) subject of these injunctions. However, no Judgment has yet been placed in the public domain. On that basis, there appears no choice but to try and piece together what has occurred from the media coverage.

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