Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular menagerie of human rights news and views. The full list of links can be found here. You can also find our table of human rights cases here and previous roundups here. Links compiled by Adam Wagner, post by Sarina Kidd.
This week, judicial review continued to take a beating, the Home Office backed down over their ‘Go Home’ campaign and the legal implications behind the twitter threat debacle were considered. And, finally, the immigration and asylum tribunal launched a useful online search service.
In this week’s episode of Law Pod UK Rosalind English reports from the UK Bar Council’s 19th Annual Law Reform Lecture, exploring the role of law reform in the context of climate change. You will hear excerpts from the speeches given by Inger Andersen, Under-Secretary-General of the UN and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, and Lord Carnwath of Notting Hill, a former UK Supreme Court judge.
Milieudefensie et al. v. Royal Dutch Shell plc (26 May 20212. This ongoing claim is based on the Urgenda decision, which found that the Dutch government’s inadequate action on climate change violated a duty of care to its citizens).
The latest episode in the soap concerning our relationship with Strasbourg may end in a fizzle rather than a cliffhanger, but it has provoked some useful soul-searching about the vision of the good embodied in the ECHR, and its monopoly on the right to govern social life.
Derogating from the ECHR or even pulling out of Strasbourg altogether have ceased to be taboo subjects for discussion, but the fear seems to be that the consequence of such defection would mean reversion to selfish nationalism. Is this a bad thing?
This question is not as facetious as it seems and answering it is central to the long term maintenance of a set of principles by which states agree to live. Continue reading →
R (on the application of Cart) (Appellant) v The Upper Tribunal (Respondent); R (on the application of MR (Pakistan)) (FC) (Appellant) v The Upper Tribunal (Immigration & Asylum Chamber) and Secretary of State for the Home Department (Respondent)  UKSC 28, 22/6/2011 – read judgment; press summary here
Unappealable decisions of the Upper Tribunal are still subject to judicial review by the High Court, but only where there is an important point of principle or practice or some other compelling reason for the case to be reviewed. Unrestricted judicial review in this context is unnecessary and a waste of resources.
This judgment deals with two English cases, while a separate judgment deals with the Scottish case Eba v Advocate General for Scotland. The issue common to all three was the extent to which decisions of the Upper Tribunal, established under the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 (the “2007 Act”), are properly subject to judicial review by the Administrative Court in England and Wales and the Court of Session in Scotland.
In all of them the claimant failed in an appeal to the First-tier Tribunal and was refused permission to appeal to the Upper Tribunal against that decision both by the First-tier Tribunal and by the Upper Tribunal. In all three the claimant sought a judicial review of the refusal of permission to appeal by the Upper Tribunal. Continue reading →
When you breathed in asbestos fibres from your dusty shipbuilding job on the River Clyde in the 1950s and 1960s, some of those fibres stuck around in the lungs. Some may cause the pleural plaques seen on my image, some may cause asbestosis, and some may lead to the highly malignant mesothelioma.
So your doctor (20+ years later when these diseases manifest themselves) would X-ray you and tell you what form of the disease you had. If he told you you had pleural plaques, you would, at first, breathe a huge sigh of relief that it was not mesothelioma. Because pleural plaques are almost invariably asymptomatic and harmless.
But on second thoughts, now you know you have indeed been exposed to asbestos such that you might develop mesothelioma – and you have seen colleagues die a miserable death from that disease. So, when you leave your chest physician’s room, you are worried, not about what you have, but about what you might get. Do you get damages for this? And anyway, where do the human rights in my title – those under Article 1 of Protocol 1 to ECHR, or the right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions – come into this story? Continue reading →
When a Convention right arises in circumstances which also engage EU law, which court is the final arbiter of their meaning and application?
This is not as arcane a question as it appears, since in the UK many cases engage points of EU law, so Convention rights, which are part of the “general principles” of Community law, get in under the wire via the European Communities Act 1972. And in July the Council of Europe published the draft agreement for accession of the European Union as a signatory to the European Convention, which either adds another string to the ECHR bow, or a further layer of constitutional obscurity of interest only to international jurists, or both: – time will tell. Continue reading →
Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular glass menagerie of human rights news and views. The full list of links can be found here. You can find previous roundups here. Links compiled by Adam Wagner, post by Celia Rooney [note from Adam Wagner – a warm welcome to Celia Rooney, our new rounder upper]
This week, Chris Grayling and the Court of Justice go head to head over the domestic status of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, while the ghost of Winston Churchill comes back to haunt the ‘United States of Europe’ debate. Meanwhile, Theresa May’s plans to deprive terrorist suspects of their British citizenship are under fire, while calls for press accountability are repeated.
With Baroness Hale’s recent criticism of the emergency measures taken by the government ringing in our ears, the following information from across the Atlantic might be of interest. The New England firm Pierce Atwood LLP has compiled a list of class actions related to COVID-19 in the United States, including all filed and anticipated cases up to 9 September 2020. Although their survey only covers litigation in the US, a similar trend may be predicted in this country, albeit on a smaller scale, even as the pandemic continues to unfold: indeed Alethea Redfern has made reference to such a likelihood in this week’s Round-Up. The authors of the US report observe that, despite “unprecedented court closures and changing procedural rules”,
class actions have steadily increased and are expected to expand across industries, jurisdictions, and areas of law. The impact of COVID-19 on business operations, consumer activity, and economic forecasts has made clear that the filings to date are only an early indication of what is to come.
The report provides a categorised summary of coronavirus-related class action litigation filed to date, highlighting the core allegations of each complaint. You will find the individual case citations in their post on Lexology.
Laura Profumo runs through the week’s human rights headlines.
In the News:
The Conservative party published its manifesto last week. The document makes for curious reading, writes academic Mark Elliott. The manifesto confirms the party’s pledge to scrap the Human Rights Act and to replace it with a British Bill of Rights, reversing the “mission creep” of current human rights law.
Yet the polarising references to “Labour’s Human rights Act” illustrate the Act’s failure to secure supra-political constitutional status, being tossed between the parties like a “political football”, writes Elliott.
Swift v. Secretary of State for Justice  EWHC 2000 (QB) Eady J, read judgment
This decision involves the intersection of Articles 8 (family) and 14 (discrimination) of the ECHR with the law governing who can recover damages for the death of a relative. This law is the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 (for the text see  of the judgment – embarrassingly, the one freely available on the internet is out of date). One does not to think for very long before realising that the FAA is underpinned by an idea that one ought to respect the rights of the family, and to pay the family when one has negligently caused the death of a family member. But like all such laws, there is the problem of where to stop – where does the family stop for these purposes?
Ms Swift had been living with Mr Winters for 6 months when he was killed at work. She was pregnant with their child. Under FAA rules, her child had a claim for financial dependency against his father’s employer – what he expected to derive from his father had his father lived – even though he was not born at the date of his father’s death. Indeed, her son recovered £105,000. But, says the FAA, Ms Swift does not have a claim. s.1(3) requires an unmarried partner to have been living with the deceased for 2 years before his death before they can become a “dependant”, and no amount of re-writing via s.3 of the Human Rights Act (to make the FAA rights-compliant “so far as possible”) can make “2 years” read as “6 months” . Had she qualified as a dependant, she would have had a claim for about £400,000.
So Ms Swift’s claim was against the Secretary of State for a declaration that the FAA was incompatible with her Article 8 and 14 rights.
Welcome back to the human rights roundup, a regular bulletin of all the law we haven’t quite managed to feature in full blog posts. The full list of links, updated each day, can be found here. You can also find our table of human rights cases here.
by Melinda Padron
In the news – it’s all about the Als
This week the long-awaited judgments of the Al-Skeini and Al-Jedda cases both against the UK before the European Court of Human Rights were finally released. These will undoubtedly be regarded as landmark judgments of the Court.
As we watch the Covid-19 pandemic unfold our attention is naturally on the steps that HM Government (‘HMG’) is taking to mitigate the immediate crisis. The time is approaching, however, when it will be necessary to evaluate HMG’s preparation for, and response to, the pandemic. Calls are being made by the TUC and doctors’ groups for a public inquiry into one aspect of its response, namely failures to procure adequate personal protective equipment (‘PPE’) for NHS staff, at least 100 of whom are believed to have died having contracted the virus while treating patients. HMG is accused of failing to respond to a national exercise in 2016 testing the UK’s resilience to a similar flu pandemic which highlighted an increased need for ventilators. Other criticisms go further. This blog argues that the state owes a duty under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights to investigate some deaths caused by Covid-19. This duty will require not only inquests into individual deaths but also a public inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 to address those systemic issues not suitable for determination by an inquest. The post builds on and responds to posts by Conall Mallory, James Rowbottom and Elizabeth Stubbins Banes. It also foreshadows the need for reform in this area.
AKJ & Ors v Commissioner of Police for the Metroplis & Ors  EWHC 32 (QB) – Read judgment
The High Court has ruled that the Investigatory Powers Tribunal was the exclusive jurisdiction for Human Rights Act claims against the police as a result of the activities of undercover police officers, authorised as Covert Human Intelligence Sources, where such conduct was not a breach of a fundamental right. The Tribunal did not have jurisdiction to determine proceedings brought by Claimants at common law.
The decision of AKJ and related litigation is the latest instalment of the fallout from the activities of undercover police officer or Covert Human Intelligence Source (CHIS) Mark Kennedy and another police officer. Kennedy infiltrated environmental protest groups including those that resulted in convictions following events at Ratcliffe on Soar power station. The convictions were later quashed following revelations about Kennedy’s activities which included allegations he had engaged in sexual relationships with a number of female protestors and other prosecutorial impropriety: R v Barkshire  EWCA Crim 1885 (UKHRB post). A number of those affected by Kennedy’s actions subsequently brought claims in tort (for example alleging deception) and under the Human Rights Act 1998.
One of the candidates running in Ecuador’s upcoming presidential election has been assassinated. Fernando Villavicencio was shot dead at a campaign rally in Quito. His election platform addressed the issues of corruption and government links to organised crime. There is speculation that the powerful Los Lobos gang is behind the killing. This follows the news two weeks ago of the fatal shooting of Agustín Intriago, a popular city mayor. Formerly hailed as one of the safest countries in South America, Ecuador has been overrun in recent years by organised crime and international drug cartels, while democratic rights of protest have been rolled back by the political establishment.
British water companies are facing lawsuits valued at £800 million for failing to report pollution. Class actions claims are being brought against six water companies on behalf of the public. The claimants allege that the companies’ failure to report the discharge of raw sewage into the supply is a breach of competition law and should have lowered the consumer price. Carolyn Roberts, the environmental and water consultant bringing the claims at the competition tribunal, contends that customers have been overcharged as a result of the water companies abusing their power as privatised monopolies.
A group of asylum seekers which refused to board the Bibby Stockholm barge was warned on Monday that government support would be withdrawn if they did not move onto the accommodation. The Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk, commented that the illegality of the proposal was “something that the courts would have to consider” but that it was “unlikely” to be illegal, also remarking that the asylum accommodation was “sparse and […] a bit austere but, frankly, that is not unreasonable.” The charity Care4Calais have criticised the scheme as likely to cause vulnerable people emotional distress. On Thursday, however, all migrants were removed from the vessel after it was discovered that Legionella bacteria had entered the water supply.
On Monday the Ministerial and other Maternity Allowances Act 2021 came into force, allowing the Attorney General, Suella Braverman QC, to be the first minister to take maternity leave. The Act grants cabinet ministers six months’ maternity leave whilst retaining their government post, whereas in the past MPs would have to resign to take time off to give birth. The Act is not without its critics, including those saying it should apply to MPs outside the Cabinet, and include provisions for paternity, adoption and shared parental leave. There was also heated debate in the Lords on the gender-neutral phrasing of the original Bill, with the Lords voting to replace ‘person’ with ‘mother’ in the final Act, despite its potential exclusion of trans and non-binary people.
A new offence of non-fatal strangulation has been included in the Domestic Abuse Bill following a campaign by the Centre for Women’s Justice, other organisations and the Victims’ and Domestic Abuse Commissioners. The Bill is passing through the House of Lords and now includes the offence of intentionally strangling another person or otherwise affecting their ability to breathe. Currently perpetrators are usually charged with common assault, with a maximum of just six months in jail. The Bill also includes amendments strengthening the laws on ‘revenge porn’, making it an offence to threaten to share intimate images of a person with the intention to cause distress, and extends the coercive control offence to situations where perpetrators and victims do not live together. The Victims’ and Domestic Abuse Commissioners welcomed the amendments but urged the Government to go further in creating a defence for people who commit offences due to domestic abuse.
On Friday the Women and Equalities Committee published the Government’s response to its report on the impact of coronavirus on BAME people, in relation to inequalities in health, employment, universal credit, housing, and the no recourse to public funds policy. The Committee’s inquiry found that comorbidities in BAME people place them at risk of experiencing coronavirus more severely and with graver health outcomes. Specific risks to BAME people include difficulty in accessing Government guidance, the disproportionate impact on BAME people of zero-hour contracts and being denied furlough, difficulties in applying for Universal Credit, and overcrowded housing due to housing inequality.
The Department of Health and Social Care on Friday published new guidance for care homes and visitors, to take effect on 8 March. This is not a change in the law, as visits to care homes have never been unlawful, but the new guidance sets out the government’s advice on safe visiting practices. This is that:
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