Category: Police


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 The Act was later repealed due to concerns about freedom of speech and its ineffectiveness.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:

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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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 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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The third inquest into the death of Pearse Jordan: when “don’t know” is the only available answer

28 November 2018 by

In the latest in the protracted investigation into the death of Pearse Jordan, the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal has upheld the verdict of a Coroner who found himself unable to decide all the relevant facts – Re Theresa Jordan [2018] NICA 34.  The case raises issues around the appropriate burden and standard of proof in inquests, particularly after a significant passage of time.

The Inquests 

On 25 November 1992, Patrick Pearse Jordan was shot and killed at Falls Road, Belfast, by an officer of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, referred to in proceedings as “Sergeant A.”  Mr Jordan was unarmed and was shot in the back.  Three inquests have subsequently been held into his death.
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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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Round Up: Worboys, air pollution, and Germany’s social media law

25 February 2018 by

In the News:

taxi

Credit: Garry Knight, Flickr

Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis v DSD

The Supreme Court ruled that the police have a positive obligation to conduct an effective investigation into crimes involving serious violence to victims, in line with Article 3 of the ECHR.  In this case the obligation had been breached.

The case concerned the police’s investigation into the ‘black cab rapist’, John Worboys. Two of his victims brought a claim for damages against the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), on the basis of an alleged failure of the police to conduct an effective investigation into Worbys’ crimes. The victims were awarded compensation in the first instance. The Court of Appeal dismissed the MPS’ appeal, and the case came before the Supreme Court.
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Prison law failing trans people: the Round-up

23 November 2015 by

 

In the news

LGBT campaigners have called for an urgent reform of the law, following the death of 21 year-old transgender woman Vicky Thompson in an all-male prison. Ms Thompson had previously said that she would take her own life if she were placed in a prison for men.

The system of locating transgender people within the prison estate has recently come into criticism after transgender woman Tara Hudson was placed at HMP Bristol, an all-male establishment. Ms Hudson spoke of being sexually harassed by other prisoners, before a petition signed by more than 150,000 people led to her eventual transfer to a women’s prison. Statistics from the US suggest that transgender women in male prisons are 13 times more likely than the general prison population to be sexually assaulted while incarcerated.

Under the current rules, in most cases prisoners must be located “according to their gender as recognised under UK law”, although the guidance allows discretion where the individual is “sufficiently advanced in the gender reassignment process.” But the case of Vicky Thompson has been said to show that “the law is simply not working. For people living for years as women to be sent to serve sentences in prisons for men is inviting disaster.”

Responding to a question on the issue, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Andrew Selous has stated that the government intends to implement “revised policy guidance… in due course.”

In other news:

  • The Guardian: The Metropolitan Police has issued an unreserved apology and paid substantial compensation to women who were deceived into forming long-term intimate sexual relationships with undercover police officers. The police force acknowledged that the relationships had been “a violation of the women’s human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma.”
  • BBC: Members of the public and journalists will be permitted to attend the majority of hearings in the Court of Protection, where issues affecting sick or vulnerable people are heard. The new pilot scheme is intended to provide greater transparency, whilst safeguarding the privacy of the people involved.
  • MPs on the justice select committee have called for the scrapping of the criminal courts charge, voicing “grave misgivings” about whether it is “compatible with the principles of justice.” The charge of up to £1,200 is imposed on convicted criminals, and is not means-tested. In its report, the parliamentary committee expressed concern that the charge, which is higher for those convicted after pleading not guilty, was creating “perverse incentives” affecting defendant behaviour. The BBC reports here.
  • The Legal Voice: The Ministry of Justice has announced that the introduction of duty provider contracts will be postponed until 1 April 2016. A number of legal proceedings have been issued, challenging the legitimacy of the procurement process. The decision has been welcomed by the Bar Council, which has consistently opposed measures it claims would “damage access to justice and the provision of high quality advocacy services.”
  • BBC: A couple from north west London have been found guilty of keeping a man enslaved in their home for 24 years, in “a shocking case of modern slavery.” The couple had “total psychological control” over their victim, threatening that if he left the house he would be arrested by police as an illegal immigrant.

In the courts

The Court found that a family of asylum seekers evicted from an accommodation centre had been exposed to degrading treatment, in violation of their rights under article 3 ECHR. The family had been left in conditions of extreme poverty, without basic means of subsistence for a period of four weeks. The Belgian authorities had not paid due consideration to the vulnerability of the applicants, who had small children including a seriously disabled daughter.

UK HRB posts

Best interests, hard choices: The Baby C case – Leanne Woods

Hannah Lynes

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The Round-up: Controversy over the Courts Charge and Serdar Mohammed

10 August 2015 by

Photo credit: The Guardian

In the news

The Howard League for Penal Reform has called for a review of the “unfair and unrealistic” Criminal Courts Charge, which “ penalises the poor and encourages the innocent to plead guilty”. The mandatory charge of up to £1,200 is imposed on those who admit committing minor misdemeanours, regardless of their circumstances.

The charity has compiled a list of cases where heavy financial charges have been demanded of people convicted of low-level offences. These include the case of a 38-year-old homeless man who admitted persistently begging in Oxford, and breaching an Asbo prohibiting him from sitting within 10 metres of a cash machine. He was jailed for 30 days and ordered to pay a £150 criminal courts charge.

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‘Killer Robots’ and ‘Conversion Therapies’ – The Human Rights Round-up

14 April 2015 by

A scene from the 2003 film Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

This week’s Round-up is brought to you by Alex Wessely.

In the news:
Military chiefs have criticised the influence of Human Rights law in a report published this week, arguing that the “need to arrest and detain enemy combatants in a conflict zone should not be expected to comply with peace-time standards”. This follows a series of cases over the years which found the Ministry of Defence liable for human rights violations abroad, culminating in allegations of unlawful killing in the Al-Sweady Inquiry that were judged “wholly without foundation” in December.

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Article 11 and the Met’s “pay to protest” proposal

8 March 2015 by

Photo credit: The Guardian

Photo credit: The Guardian

A number of campaigning groups were recently informed by the Metropolitan Police that Scotland Yard would no longer provide traffic management at their planned demonstrations. Instead, these groups would be required to devise their own road closure plans and to pay a private security firm to carry out the task.

One of the groups, the organisers of the Million Women Rise rally, estimated that this would cost them around £10,000. The groups refused, arguing that this would amount to a breach of their right to protest.

The Met ultimately backed down – but what if it hadn’t? What is the legal position?

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Public protest, private rights

6 March 2015 by

imgres

John Catt. Photo credit: The Guardian

R (Catt) and R (T) v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2015] UKSC 9

A majority of the Supreme Court has held that the retention by police of information on the Domestic Extremism Database about a 91 year-old activist’s presence at political protests was (1) in accordance with the law and (2) a proportionate interference with his right to a private life under Article 8(1) of the ECHR.

However, Lord Toulson’s dissent noted that the information was retained for many years after Mr Catt had attended these mainstream political events, and the police had concluded that he was not known to have acted violently. Accordingly, he thought its retention was unnecessary and disproportionate.

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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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