On 16 May, the Home Secretary announced in a letter to police forces that she is permanently lifting restrictions on the use of stop-and-search powers under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, which give police officers the right to search people without reasonable grounds in an area when they expect serious violence, and to look for weapons before they can be used, or those used in a recent attack. The new changes will lengthen the periods for which the powers can be in force and by which they can be extended, and a lower rank of officer will be able to authorise their deployment. In addition, the officer will now only need to anticipate that serious violence “may” occur, not that it “will” occur. Concerns have consistently been raised around the powers on the basis that they disproportionately affect black and minority ethnic communities. For instance, in the year to March 2021, black people were seven times and Asian people two-and-a-half times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people.
In the first Ukraine war crimes trial since the invasion by Russia, a Russian tank commander has pleaded guilty to shooting dead a 62-year-old civilian. Even in light of the guilty plea, for the suspect to be convicted and sentenced, the three judges hearing the case will have to reach a unanimous verdict. The suspect faces life in jail.
The Queen’s Speech was delivered by Prince Charles on Tuesday, setting out the legislative agenda for the year to come. The controversial Bill of Rights was announced, which would overhaul the Human Rights Act with a vision to ‘restore the balance of power between the legislature and the courts.’ However, more than 50 groups including Amnesty, Liberty, and the British Institute for Human Rights have written to Boris Johnson warning of the ‘significant implications’ of repealing the Act. Other bills in the speech include: a Public Orders Bill (designed to target environmental protesters); a Brexit Freedoms Bill (ending the supremacy of EU law by making repeal easier); and a National Security Bill (tightening up official secrets law).
The first legal action against the UK-Rwanda asylum plan has been launched, based on an Iranian asylum seeker who claims he would face extreme hardship if sent to Rwanda. The challenge is that the scheme breaches international law, the UN refugee convention, and data protection laws. The legal action comes as the UN refugee agency expressed serious concerns that the policy will be taken up throughout Europe.
Voting for the Northern Ireland Assembly took place on Thursday 5 May. This year, for the first time, Sinn Fein looks set to win a majority of the seats. Whether the Democratic Unionist Party agrees to the power sharing arrangement where it is relegated to second place remains to be seen. What continues to be hotly debated is the Northern Ireland Protocol, put in place to avoid a “hard border” between Northern Ireland and Ireland which of course is still part of the EU single market.
But the Protocol isn’t only about trade. Under Article 2 the UK government has made an important commitment regarding the rights of Northern Ireland’s citizens to equality, non-discrimination, transparency and a range of other rights protected under European Union law. Article of the 2 Protocol is a very new provision, applying the acquis communitaire of the CJEU to Northern Ireland, even though NI is part of post Brexit EU.
In our latest episode Rosalind English meets UKHRB Northern Ireland correspondent Anurag Deb in Belfast two days after the elections to discuss what this EU rights provision means for the citizens of Northern Ireland.
On 2 May, a draft majority opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States was leaked, suggesting that the court has voted to strike down the landmark decision of Roe v Wade and sparking widespread anger. In the opinion, Justice Samuel Alito states that “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start” and that “it is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.” This is the first time in history that a draft decision has been disclosed publicly while a case was still pending. On 3 May, Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the authenticity of the decision, which would remove federal constitutional protection of abortion rights and leave the decision in the hands of each state.
Under a new pilot scheme, victims could have the right to attend full Parole Board hearings from as early as next month. The Parole Board will also be required to take into account victims’ submissions and victims will be allowed to ask questions. Currently, victims can ask to read a statement in person but are not allowed to hear the rest of the evidence.
Police are investigating a gathering attended by Sir Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner in April 2021. Having initially decided to take no action, Durham Constabulary has now begun conducting an investigation into potential breaches of Covid-19 regulations in light of “significant new information”. Durham Constabulary had previously stated that it had a policy against retrospective Covid fines, after allegations of lockdown breaches by Dominic Cummings.
On 4 May, foreign secretary Liz Truss announced in a press release that there will be a ban on services exports to Russia, covering services such as accountancy, consultancy and PR advice. Lawyers, however, will still be able to service Russian clients.
The High Court (Bean LJ and Garnham J) held in R (Gardner) v Secretary of State for Health  EWHC 967 (Admin) that the Government’s March 2020 Discharge Policy and the April 2020 Admissions Guidance were unlawful to the extent that the policy set out in each document was irrational in failing to advise that where an asymptomatic patient (other than one who had tested negative) was admitted to a care home, he or she should, so far as practicable, be kept apart from other residents for 14 days.
About 20,000 residents of care homes in England died of COVID-19 during the first wave of the pandemic in 2020. Two of them were Michael Gibson, father of the First Claimant, and Donald Percival Maynard Harris, father of the Second Claimant. Mr Gibson died in a care home in Oxfordshire on 3 April 2020; Mr Harris in a care home in Hampshire on 1 May 2020.
The Claimants sought declarations that particular policies of the Defendants (the Health Secretary, NHS England and Public Health England) during the relevant period constituted breaches of their fathers’ rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, or alternatively were unlawful and susceptible to judicial review on common law principles.
Last week saw an influx of legislation approved before Parliament’s Thursday end-of-session deadline. Some include:
The Nationality and Borders Act. Three of the most controversial provisions are: to allow asylum claims to be handled at overseas facilities (offshoring asylum); criminalising those who knowingly arrive in the UK illegally; and treating asylum seekers differently depending on how they enter the UK.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act. Another turbulent journey to Royal Assent, this grants police extra powers to quash disruptive demonstrations. This is done by increasing restrictions on protests where ‘noise’ could cause ‘serious disruption’, and by criminalising activity which causes ‘serious distress, serious annoyance or serious inconvenience’ without ‘reasonable excuse’.
An independent review by Jonathan Hall QC has concluded that terrorists in prison ‘enjoy high status’ within a culture of fear and violence across English and Welsh jails. The review details examples of ‘Islamic gang-like activity’, exacerbated by the 27% cut in staff between 2010 and 2017. A separate report by Hall also discovered that the Government does not keep a record, ‘officially or unofficially’, of the number of prosecuted terrorists returning to the UK from Syria.
Victims of sexual offences are subject to the longest waiting period on record, with an average of 9 months for cases to go through Crown Courts. Data also demonstrates that the speed of cases depends on their location, with cases in Leicester taking the longest to complete (on average 15 months).
The government has come in for a certain amount of criticism about its deal to allow migrants who arrive in the UK illegally to be sent to Rwanda for assessment of their asylum applications.
Priti Patel’s Rwanda asylum plan has been challenged in Parliament by Theresa May, who questions its ‘legality, practicality, and efficacy’, as well as its potential for increasing the trafficking of women and children. The legality of the scheme, which proposes to send those with rejected UK asylum claims to Rwanda, has been defended by Patel, who points to immigration rules introduced last year. However, the backlash has now infiltrated the Home Office itself, with staff threatening to go on strike over concerns of illegality and racism. This prompted the permanent secretary, Matthew Rycroft, to reassure the civil service that implementing it would not be ‘racist or illegal’. Rycroft himself, however, doubts whether the plan would provide taxpayer value for money, and has refused to sign it off.
In Episode 163, Rosalind English talks to Ariane Adam and Tatiana Kazim of the Public Law Project about automated decision making (ADM) in the public sector, the problems of transparency and automation bias where these decisions affect people’s rights. This interview was held shortly after the House of Lords Justice and Home Affairs Committee published its report on new technologies and the application of the law.
We discuss a number of issues, in particular those that arose in the Post Office “Horizon” accountancy scandal, and the case of R (Eisai Ltd) v National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence  EWCA Civ 438. The defendant, responsible for appraising clinical benefits and cost-effectiveness of health care interventions, had refused to provide the claimant with a fully executable version of the model it used to assess the cost-effectiveness of the claimant’s drugs. The Court of Appeal held that procedural fairness required release of the fully executable version of the model . It rejected the defendant’s claims that disclosure would undermine confidentiality or be overly costly, noting at  that the court should be ‘very slow to allow administrative considerations of this kind to stand in the way of its release’.
The PLP has also published a summary of the JHAC report here.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that states have a broad margin of discretion in applying their criminal law to cases of assisted suicide. The applicant’s conviction may have constituted an interference with his rights, but that interference was prescribed by the Danish criminal law, which pursued the legitimate aims of the protection of health and morals and the rights of others. Denmark had not acted disproportionately by convicting him.
Law Pod UK recently ran an episode with former Court of Appeal judge Sir Stephen Sedley and Trevor Moore, the director of the campaign group My Death, My Decision, in which we dealt with this difficult subject in detail. Sir Stephen is a victim of Parkinson’s disease and his contribution to the debate is profoundly important. I have therefore quoted extensively from the article Sir Stephen wrote for the London Review of Books in October 2021, “A Decent Death”.
Those campaigning for a change in the law in this field object to the use of the word “euthanasia” and I have respected this position in the following case report. It should be noted at the outset that the applicant physician was a member of an association called “Physicians in Favour of Euthanasia”. This is the English translation. The Danish suggests something closer to “assisted dying”: ” Aktiv Dødshjælp”.
The question of how to determine whether or not the deportation of a foreign national convicted of criminal offending is a disproportionate interference in the family life that they may share with their partner or child has been explored in a series of cases, including the leading decisions of KO (Nigeria) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  UKSC 53 and HA (Iraq)  EWCA Civ 1176 and has been discussed in detail on this blog here, here and here.
Russia has been suspended from the Human Rights Council following a UN General Assembly resolution adopted on Thursday. 93 nations voted in favour of Russia’s suspension, 58 abstained and 24 voted against. The resolution was adopted in a meeting of a special emergency session on the war in Ukraine. Before the vote, Ukranian ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya alleged that “thousands of peaceful residents [of Ukraine] have been killed, tortured, raped, abducted and robbed by the Russian Army”. Following Russia’s suspension, Russian Deputy Permanent Representative Kuzmin announced that Russia had decided to leave the Council before the end of its term and that the Council was monopolised by states that “for many years have directly been involved in blatant and massive violations of human rights”. Earlier last week, Twitter limited content from over 300 official Russian government accounts, including that of President Putin.
On Wednesday the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act (2020) came into force, introducing no-fault divorce to domestic law. Couples no longer need rely on adultery, unreasonable behaviour or years of separation as legal reasons for divorce and can instead separate by mutual agreement and avoid “unnecessary finger-pointing”. The Act also removes the possibility of disputing a decision to divorce and introduces a minimum 20-week period from the start of proceedings to the granting of a conditional order of divorce.
In Episode 162 Clare Ciborowska and Richard Ager, both family law experts from the Brighton Annexe of 1 Crown Row, talk about the difficult subject of reproductive coercion where such allegations arise in child contact cases. Fact finding hearings, Scott schedules, safeguarding enquiries and risk assessments are proceedings about children’s interests: how is the court to assess and weigh allegations of reproductive coercion and control, where the victims of such abuse are reluctant to repeat the trauma by reliving the details.
Attorney General for Bermuda v Roderick Ferguson & Ors (Bermuda)  UKPC 5 — Judgment here, links to hearings here.
Chantelle Day & Anor v The Governor of the Cayman Islands & Anor (Cayman Islands)  UKPC 6 –Judgment here, links to hearings here.
The Bermuda Case
In the Bermuda case, the Attorney General of Bermuda appealed the decision of the Court of Appeal for Bermuda (decision here), which found in favour of the Respondents: a gay Bermudian, OUTBermuda (a Bermudian LGBTQ charity), a lesbian Bermudian, and three Bermudians associated with Bermudian churches, holding that s.53 of the Domestic Partnership Act 2018 (“the DPA”) of Bermuda, which confines marriage to a union between a man and a woman, was invalid under the Bermudian Constitution (“the Constitution”).
Lord Hodge and Lady Arden (Lord Reed and Dame Victoria Sharp agreeing) gave the judgment of the Board, allowing the appeal of the Attorney General. Lord Sales gave a dissenting judgment.
Same-sex marriage is highly controversial in Bermuda. The political backdrop to this case is outlined at [25-30]. Importantly, following a general election in 2017 the Progressive Labour Party introduced the Domestic Partnership Bill, which was subsequently passed, in an attempt to reach a viable compromise on the issue of same-sex marriage. The DPA provides for legally recognised domestic partnerships between any two adults, but s.53 confines marriage to a union between a man and a woman.
The Legislature in Bermuda is bound by the Constitution, summarised at [7-9]. Chapter 1 of the Constitution sets out fundamental rights and freedoms. The Constitution does not confer a right to marry. Section 8 provides for the protection of freedom of conscience:
no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of conscience…the said freedom includes freedom, either alone or in the community with others, and both in public or in private, to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
Although Bermuda is not in Europe, the European Convention on Human Rights (“the Convention”) applies to Bermuda as a matter of international law through declarations made by the UK pursuant to the Convention (when it was responsible for Bermudian foreign policy) and subsequently permanently renewed after Bermuda became independent. Although it does not apply in domestic Bermudian law, as one of the “antecedents” to the Constitution, it is relevant to the interpretation of constitutional rights [10-21].
The United Kingdom and other NATO allies have begun ramping up arms deliveries to Ukraine to assist them in the ongoing conflict against Russia. Deliveries of hitherto purely ‘defensive’ weapons systems will now be bolstered by armoured vehicles and long-range artillery. The UK has also provided cutting edge portable Starstreak air defence systems to Ukraine, with a verified report on Saturday confirming that a Russian helicopter had already been destroyed by the system. The Starstreak system is developed by Belfast-based Thales Air Defence Limited, which specialises in short-range air defence weapons. Starstreak launchers can be shoulder-mounted, attached to a vehicle, or fired from a ground launcher, but the UK has only sent units of the shoulder-mounted version to aid rapid deployment. These weapons follow lethal aid already sent to Ukraine by the UK, including over 4,000 Swedish made NLAWs and some US produced Javelin missiles, both powerful anti-tank weapons capable of destroying heavily armoured Russian main battle tanks.
The claimant (FoE) applied for judicial review of the decision by the Secretary of State to provide export finance and support in relation to a liquified natural gas project in Mozambique.
The mission of the International Trade/Export Credits Guarantee Department (UKEF) is to ensure that no viable UK export fails for lack of finance or insurance from the private sector, while operating at no net cost to the taxpayer. It is afforded a significant margin of appreciation when considering factors when deciding whether to provide this finance and support. Indeed it has been the first UK Government Department to assess climate change impacts in the context of a long-term foreign project with many public interest considerations.
The project comprised the development of offshore deepwater gas production facilities connected to an onshore gas receiving and liquefaction facility. It was to be operated by the first interested party (Total Mozambique) and funded via the second interested party (a financing company). UKEF acknowledged that climate change impacts and the Paris Climate Change Agreement were factors that ought to be taken into account alongside other factors in making its decision in relation to the project. A report was prepared summarising the climate change matters considered by UKEF, including that the potential Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions from the use of the project’s exported liquid natural gas would be very high, and that it was unlikely that Mozambique would attract significant international investment into the renewables sector without first being in receipt of financial resources from investment into sectors such as natural gas.
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