A Local Authority and M (By his litigation friend via the Official Solicitor) v E and A (Respondents)  EWCOP 33 (11 August 2014) – read judgment
It’s been an interesting week for the extreme fringes of maternal care. The papers report a trial where a mother is being prosecuted for administering toxic levels of medication to her daughter for “conditions that never existed” (as the court heard). Let’s see how that pans out.
And now the Court of Protection has published a ruling by Baker J that a a supporter of the discredited doctor Andrew Wakefield embarked on an odyssey of intrusive remedies and responses to her son’s disorder, fabricating claims of damage from immunisation, earning her membership of what science journalist Brian Deer calls the class of “Wakefield mothers.”
On the face of it, the detailed and lengthy judgment concerns the applicant son’s reaction to the MMR vaccination when it was administered in infancy, and whether it was the cause of his autism and a novel bowel disease, the latter being Wakefield’s brainchild. But at the heart of the case lies the phenomenon that we all used to know as Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy.
Google Inc v Vidal-Hall and others  EWCA Civ 311 (27 March 2015) – read judgment
This case concerned the misuse of private information by an internet provider based in the United States. Google had secretly tracked private information about users’ internet browsing without their knowledge or consent, and then handed the information on to third parties (a practice known as supplying Browser-Generated Information, or ‘BGI’).
The issue before the Court of Appeal was twofold:
Was the cause of action for misuse of private information a tort, specifically for the purposes of the rules providing for service of proceedings out of the jurisdiction?
This case concerned a man, KG, who suffered from the human prion disease CJD. As was explained in the judgment, prion diseases are invariably fatal, neurodegenerative conditions.
They are involve the build-up in the brain and some other organs of a rogue form of a naturally-occurring protein known as the prion protein. The rogue protein results from a change in shape of the normal prion protein. Once formed in the body, these rogue proteins (or prions) recruit and convert more of the normal prion protein into the abnormal form, setting off a kind of chain reaction which leads to a progressive accumulation of the rogue protein.
Lambert and Others v. France (application no. 46043/14) – read judgment
In an important step away from Pretty v UK, the Grand Chamber of the Strasbourg Court has upheld the right of to die with dignity by ruling that there would be no violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights if artificial nutrition and hydration were to be withdrawn from a patient in a persistent vegetative state.
Although the facts were very different, it is heartening to see Strasbourg at last allowing the argument that the state’s obligation to protect life also involves a duty to respect people’s rights to exit life with dignity. The importance of this ruling cannot be underestimated, as can be seen in the ferocity of dissent set out in the Separate Opinion annexed to the judgment (discussed at the end of this post.)
The case involved a challenge by some of the patient’s family members to a judgment delivered on 24 June 2014 by the Conseil d’État which authorised this step. The following summary of the facts and judgment is based on the Court’s press release.
Vincent Lambert sustained serious head injuries in a road-traffic accident on 29 September 2008, which left him tetraplegic and in a state of complete dependency. At the time of this hearing he was in the care of a hospital which specialises in patients in a vegetative or minimally conscious state.In 2011 his condition was characterised as minimally conscious and in 2014 as vegetative. He receives artificial nutrition and hydration which is administered enterally, through a gastric tube. Continue reading →
Al-Saadoon & Ors v Secretary of State for Defence  EWHC 715 – read judgment
The High Court has ruled that the ECHR applies to situations where Iraqi civilians were shot during security operations conducted by British soldiers. When taken together with the parallel cases being brought against the MOD for breach of its Article 2 obligations towards its own soldiers, it appears increasingly likely that any operation undertaken by the British Army in the future will lead to legal challenges being brought against almost every aspect of its actions pre, during and post any use of military force.
Mr Justice Leggatt was asked to consider the scope of the UK’s duty under the ECHR to investigation allegations of wrongdoing by British Forces in Iraq. The Secretary of State accepted that anyone taken into custody by British Forces did have certain rights under the ECHR, in particular the right to life and the right not to be tortured. However, the one of two key areas of controversy were whether non detainee civilians who were killed outside the period when the UK was an ‘occupying power’ (1 May 2003 – 28 June 2004), were within the jurisdiction of the UK for the purposes of Article 1 of the ECHR. Continue reading →
The Human Genetics Commission have today published new guidance for direct-to-consumer genetic tests, including a recommendation that children should not be genetically tested by their parents unless the test is clinically indicated. The guidelines highlight that the ethical issues surrounding home-testing are still fuzzy and provide an interesting challenge from a perspective of human rights.
Home DNA testing kits are a fast-growing trend. They have already been on sale direct to consumers for three years by companies such as 23andMe and deCODEme, which advertise home-testing as a means of “taking charge of your health” and “filling in your family tree”. DNA paternity testing has been available for years, but it is the health aspects of home testing which have huge and potentially troubling implications in respect of basic rights.
A speech by Mark Rowley (the outgoing Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police for Specialist Operations and National Lead for Counter Terrorism Policing) to Policy Exchange has been given the front page treatment with headlines like, “Extremists should lose access to their children.” The speech has been made available in full by the Policy Exchange on their website and on Youtube.
Additionally, The Times quotes Mark Rowley as saying, in response to questions from the press in advance of the speech,
We still see cases where parents convicted of terrorist-related offences, including radicalisers, retain care of their own children.
If you know parents are interested in sex with children, or if you know parents believe that people of their faith or their belief should hate everybody else and corrupt children for it, for me those are equally wicked environments to expose children to.
The speech is phrased more tentatively but included this passage,
The family courts and social services now routinely wrestle with child protection and safeguarding cases arising out of terrorism and extremism. However, we still see cases where parents convicted of terrorist-related offences, including radicalisers, retain care of their own children. I wonder if we need more parity between protecting children from paedophile and terrorist parents.
A spokesman for the Taliban has said that working women must stay at home for their own safety as “a very temporary procedure” until systems are in place to ensure their safety. The spokesman also told Afghans not to go to Kabul airport and said the US should not encourage them to leave Afghanistan.
Last week, the former head of religious police for the Taliban confirmed that punishments such as execution and amputation would return to Afghanistan. Prior to the takeover of Kabul, a Taliban judge told the BBC that Sharia law was clear and included punishments of 100 lashes in public for sex out of marriage, being stoned to death for adultery, and “[f]or those who steal: if it’s proved, then his hand should be cut off.”
On Saturday it was reported that the Taliban hung the bodies of four alleged kidnappers from cranes in Herat city square, before moving them to other areas of the city for public display. An unidentified Taliban commander said the aim was “to alert all criminals that they are not safe”.
The patient in these proceedings was a woman in her thirties (“B”). She suffers a learning disability and epilepsy and has considerable social care needs. She currently lives at home where she spends much of her time watching television. She struggles to manage her personal care and hygiene, and, in the judge’s words, she is “grossly overweight.”
She is prone to confrontational behaviour when challenged, and can be physically aggressive. She is assessed as requiring support to maintain her safety when communicating with others; when she receives information which she does not want to hear, she often becomes dismissive, verbally aggressive and refuses to engage.
This hearing concerned her capacity to litigate in these proceedings, to manage her property, to decide where she resides and her package of care, and to decide with whom she has contact. The main focus of the judgment was on the question that arose in the “A” case , as to the capacity of the patient to use the internet and communicate by social media. Closely related to this was the issue of her capacity to consent to sexual relations. Continue reading →
The Intelligence and Security Committee found that the UK had allowed terrorism suspects to be treated unlawfully.
Following a three-year investigation, it published two reports examining the extent to which Britain’s intelligence agencies were aware of the mistreatment of suspects. The reports found no evidence that British officers took part in the torture themselves. Neither was there clear evidence of a policy which sought to deliberately overlook mistreatment.
However, the Committee found that British intelligence officers had witnessed prisoners being tortured. They had seen detainees being mistreated at least 13 times, were told by prisoners that they were being abused at least 25 times and were informed of ill-treatment by foreign agencies 128 times. British agents also threatened detainees in nine cases.
Despite being aware of the mistreatment from an early stage, UK agencies continued to provide questions for interrogations. The Committee chairman, Dominic Grieve, said that the UK had tolerated ‘inexcusable’ actions.
Furthermore, British agencies assisted in the rendition of suspects to countries with ‘dubious’ human rights records. MI5 and MI6 subsidised, or offered to subsidise, the rendition of individuals on three occasions. They also provided information for the rendition of 28 people, proposed/ agreed to rendition in 22 cases and failed to stop the rendition of 23 others (including cases involving British nationals). Continue reading →
Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your recommended weekly dose of human rights news. The full list of links can be found here. You can also find our table of human rights cases here and previous roundups here.
Commentary on the Eweida Christian cross case continued to dominate legal commentary this week, some of it critical of the European Court of Human Rights. Bloggers have also welcomed the go-live of the Supreme Court’s online archive of judgment summaries. Some interesting cases in the courts this week this week relating to attempts to use the European Convention on Human Rights in a housing dispute, as well as (in a similar vein) a local council’s ability to withhold details of vacant properties from potential squatters. Keep an eye out next week for the publication of the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust Public Inquiry on 5th February.
by Daniel Isenberg
If you would like your or your organisation’s response to the Government’s Judicial Review consultation, please email it to Adam Wagner by the end of Monday.
The Colston Four have been acquitted of criminal damage by a jury for their role in pulling down the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol and pushing it into Bristol Harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest in June 2020. Under the Criminal Damage Act 1971, a defendant will have a defence to criminal damage if they can prove they had a ‘lawful excuse’ for their actions. In this case, the four defendants put forward three lawful excuses. First, they argued that they had been acting to prevent the crime of public indecency which was being committed in the retention of the statue after 30 years of petitions to remove it, given the serious offence and distress it caused. Relatedly, they contended that Bristol County Council had committed misconduct in failing to take it down, but this was withdrawn from the jury by HHJ Peter Blair QC as there was insufficient evidence. Second, they argued that they genuinely believed the statue was the property of Bristol citizens, and that those citizens would consent to the statue being pulled down. Finally, they contended that a conviction would be a disproportionate interference with their rights under Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (to freedom of expression and assembly). The verdict has been criticised by some as a politically motivated decision which has no proper basis in law, and a petition to retry the protesters has received over 13,000 signatures. Supporters of the Colston four maintain on the other hand that their excuses have a real foundation in the law, and that therefore it had been open to the jury to find the defendants not guilty.
The approach of juries in protest cases has come under further scrutiny in light of the new proposal in the Police Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill to increase the maximum sentence for the damage of memorials to 10 years imprisonment, irrespective of the cost of the damage. The increase in sentence means that all cases would necessarily be tried by a jury, which some legal commentators have suggested makes it more likely that perpetrators will go free.
The Supreme Court has ruled that two girls, aged seven and four respectively, be returned with their mother to Norway, after she had removed them without the father’s consent. The decision was made largely under the Hague Convention on the Rights of the Child which gives more specific direction to the courts in abduction cases than the European Convention on Human Rights, although, as the Supreme Court observed, a little more reassurance that the necessary safeguards can be enforced in the destination country would make it easier for the courts in the requesting country to make orders protecting the interests of the child.
This blog is maintained for information purposes only. It is not intended to be a source of legal advice and must not be relied upon as such. Blog posts reflect the views and opinions of their individual authors, not of chambers as a whole.