Government asking for views on civil liberties on “Your Freedom” website

1 July 2010 by

The Coalition Government has today launched the “Your Freedom” website, “giving people the opportunity to suggest ideas on restoring liberties that have been lost, repealing unnecessary laws and stripping away excessive regulation on businesses”.

The website can be accessed here, although it appears to be having some bandwidth issues at the moment. Amongst other things, it asks the public “which current laws would you like to remove or change because they restrict your civil liberties?” According to the Number 10 press release, the answers will be taken into account in the Freedom Bill later this year.

In its Program for Government, the Coalition promised a “Freedom” or “Great Repeal Bill”, which is a marrying together of the two parties’ manifesto promises (the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives respectively). Whether the eventual legislation will be as wide-ranging as the draft Bill published by the Liberal Democrats is not clear, although interestingly a substantial number of the Bill’s proposals made it into the Coalition agreement, notably children’s biometrics, freedom of information, trial by jury, ID cards, DNA, regulation of CCTV and the right to public assembly.

Human rights on the battlefield – a postscript on ‘dicta’ (and ‘dicta’)

1 July 2010 by

Even if technically obiter, it is suggested that the reasoned decision of the majority of the Supreme Court in Smith is likely to be regarded as binding in practice, if not in strict theory.

This is a postscript to Adam Wagner’s post this morning on the UKSC decision in R (Smith) v. MOD (see our post summarising the decision or read the judgment), commenting on the debate as to the authority of the judgment of the majority on the jurisdictional issue.

It may be worth bearing in mind the weight likely to be accorded by any lower court to the views of the majority of a 9 judge constitution of the Supreme Court.  Even if not technically binding, it is hard to imagine any judge at first instance, or even the Court of Appeal, having the courage to depart from the reasoned views of the majority on this point, unless arising in some unforeseen or unusual factual context.

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Stop and search powers under review as European Court reject UK appeal

1 July 2010 by

The European Court of Human Rights has rejected the United Kingdom’s application to appeal its decision in a recent finding that stop and search powers enacted as part of anti-terrorism legislation breached human rights law.

In January 2010 the European Court held that section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (the broad police power to stop and search without suspicion) violates the right to respect for private life guaranteed by Article 8 of the Convention on Human Rights (Gillan and Quinton v. UK 4158/05 [2010] ECHR 28 (12 January 2010)). The claimants received £500 each by way of compensation.


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Was human rights on battlefield decision binding?

1 July 2010 by

It is possible that yesterday’s controversial Supreme Court decision on human rights on the battlefield was merely an academic exercise and therefore not binding on future courts.

There has been significant commentary and conjecture over the decision in R (Smith) v Secretary of State for Defence & Anor (see our post or read the judgment). The Supreme Court seemed to have decided by a 6-3 majority that the Human Rights Act did not apply once a soldier stepped out his or her base, therefore reversing a previous decision by the Court of Appeal that it did.

But the most interesting comments from a legal perspective have been on the question as to whether the decision was in fact binding. Adrian O’Neil QC picked up the point in an interesting commentary piece on the UK Supreme Court Blog.

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Parliament Square protesters evicted: analysis of judgment

30 June 2010 by

The Mayor of London v Hall & Ors [2010] EWHC 1613 (QB) (29 June 2010) – Read judgment

The Mayor of London has won a court order to evict a camp of protesters from Parliamentary Square, with the High Court stating that his response to the protest was proportionate and not a breach of the protesters’ human rights.

The protesters have gained a temporary reprieve by appealing the decision, and according to their website have therefore delayed their eviction until at least 4pm on Friday 2 July

As we posted earlier this month, during the build-up to the General Election a number of protesters erected tents and flags in Parliament Square, a green outside the Houses of Parliament. The protesters named the site “Democracy Village”. Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, launched an action for possession against the protestors, who he claimed were trespassing on Parliament Square.

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Human Rights Act does not apply on the battlefield, says Supreme Court [updated]

30 June 2010 by

R (Smith) v Secretary of State for Defence & Anor [2010] UKSC 29 – Read judgment

The Supreme Court has ruled by a 6-3 majority that the Human Rights Act does not apply on the battlefield and soldiers are not automatically entitled to inquests arising from deaths in foreign conflicts.

The case related to Private Jason Smith, a member of the Territorial Army who died from heatstroke in Iraq in 2003.

The decision has come as a relief to the Ministry of Defence. In recent years, coroners have been highly critical of the armed forces’ protection of soldiers on the battlefield, and this case had the potential to open up the Government to a series of claims for compensation by soldiers and their relatives. However, the Supreme Court has (narrowly) taken the view that the Human Rights Act 1998 was not designed to apply in such cases.

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Parliament Square protesters to be evicted by Mayor

30 June 2010 by

The Mayor of London has won a court order to evict a camp of protesters from Parliamentary Square. The protesters have won a temporary reprieve by appealing the decision.

As we posted earlier this month, during the build-up to the General Election a number of protesters erected tents and flags in Parliament Square, a green outside the Houses of Parliament. The protesters named the site “Democracy Village”.

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, launched an action for trespass against the protestors.

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Box ticking or thinking: what are the duties of planners?

30 June 2010 by

The Queen on the Application of Janet Harris (Appellant) v London Borough of Haringey (Respondent) and Grainger Seven Sisters Ltd (2) Northumberland And Durham Property Trust Ltd (Interested Parties) and The Equality and Human Rights Commission (Intervener) [2010] EWCA Civ 703 22 June 2010 – read judgment

In granting planning permission for redevelopment of a site in an area made up predominantly of ethnic minority communities, a local authority had failed to discharge its duties under the Race Relations Act 1976 s.71(1)(b) as the requirements of s.71 had not formed, in substance, an integral part of the decision-making process –

The appellant challenged a decision to grant planning permission to the first interested party (“Grainger”) for the development of a site in Tottenham which incorporated an indoor market. The grant permitted the demolition of all the business and residential units on the site, and erection of mixed use development with parking and “public realm improvements”.
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Suspect terrorist on bail entitled to continued anonymity in his own interests

29 June 2010 by

Secretary of State for Home Department (Respondent) v AP (Appellant) (no 2) [2009] EWCA Civ 731 Supreme Court 23 June 2010

AP, who had been subject to a control order and who now continued to live at the same address under bail pending a deportation decision on grounds of national security, was entitled to continuing anonymity because of the risks he faced if his identity were revealed – read judgment

We posted recently on a ruling by the Supreme Court that the social isolation of a suspected terrorist suspect subject to a control order rendered the order unlawful. It will be remembered that the appellant, an Ethiopian national, had been suspected of involvement in terrorist activities. The Secretary of State only withdrew her decision to exclude him from the UK when she was granted permission to make a control order against him, which was later modified to prevent him from contacting extremist affiliates in London by moving him to an address in the Midlands.

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School did not breach suspended pupil’s Convention rights, says Supreme Court

29 June 2010 by

In the matter of an application by ‘JR17’ for Judicial Review (Northern Ireland) [2010] UKSC 27

The Supreme Court found that there was no breach of a pupil’s right to education, where he was unlawfully suspended from school but was provided with work to do and home tutoring – read judgment

A pupil was suspended from school after a complaint from a female pupil about the pupil’s alleged misconduct in school. His school fell within the area of the North Eastern Education and Library Board. The Board had prepared a Scheme governing the suspension and expulsion of pupils. It had done so pursuant to the requirement of the Education and Libraries (NI) Order 1986. The principal purported to suspend the pupil in accordance with the Scheme but in fact failed to comply with its requirements. The pupil brought proceedings for judicial review, claiming that the suspension was unlawful and breached his right to education pursuant to Article 2 of the First Protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights, which the Human Rights Act 1998 protects. The Article provides:

No person shall be denied the right to education…

The Court of Appeal made a finding that, although the Scheme had not been complied with, the principal had lawfully exercised a common law power to suspend the appellant.The Supreme Court found that there was no such common law power but that the pupil’s right to education had not been breached by the suspension. During his suspension, work was provided to the boy to do at home and home tuition was arranged.

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Court of Appeal rules on transsexual’s pension rights under EC law

28 June 2010 by

Christine Timbrell v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2010] EWCA Civ 701 22 June 2010

A person who had acquired a different gender was entitled under European law to obtain the legal rights, such as an earlier pension, associated with the acquired gender – read judgment

The appellant had undergone male to female reassignment surgery. In 2002 she applied for a state pension, to be backdated to her sixtieth birthday. The Secretary of State decided that she was only entitled to a state pension from her 65th birthday. On appeal to the tribunal it was found that she had not obtained a full gender recognition certificate under the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (“the GRA”)  and therefore she was not entitled to legal recognition of her new gender. As a consequence she could not qualify for a state pension from the age of 60. Prior to the Act, the United Kingdom had failed to implement Equal Treatment Directive 79/7/EEC to ensure that any national laws, contrary to the principle of equal treatment, were abolished. The Upper Tribunal rejected her appeal finding that she did not satisfy the criteria to be treated as a woman which could entitle her to receive a pension at the age of 60 under Council Directive 79/7.
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Wikileaks founder emerges from hiding

25 June 2010 by

Wikileaks founder  Julian Assange, who has been on the run from the US authorities after being linked to a serious US national security breach, has come out of hiding in Belgium.

The Telegraph reports that trouble started for Assange after a US intelligence analyst bragged about sending 260,000 confidential state department cables about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to the online whistleblower website. Washington tried to stop the classified information being posted online by arresting the analyst, Bradley Manning.  Amid reports that he was the target of a US military manhunt, Mr Assange went to ground for one month.
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Most senior female judge: Human Rights Act hampered by constitutional problems

25 June 2010 by

Baroness Hale of Richmond has spoken to the Salford Human Rights Conference on the development of human rights law, and has lamented the time spent on constitutional wrangling rather than applying the essence of the Act.

Lady Hale is the only female judge on the UK Supreme Court. The speech can be downloaded here, and makes for interesting reading; many thanks to the UK Supreme Court Blog who have provided a useful summary.

Lord Phillips, the head of the Supreme Court also spoke recently on the Human Rights Act, responded to accusations that it is hampering the fight against terrorism. He said that “respect for human rights is a key weapon in the ideological battle”. Lady Hale suggested that the tension between the Government and the courts arising from such cases is preventing judges from doing their job. She concluded:

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Polish religious education breached freedom of conscience rights of pupil

24 June 2010 by

Grzelak v. Poland (no. 7710/02) – read judgment

The European Court of Human Rights has found that A Polish boy who refused to attend religious instruction classes for reasons of personal conviction had been discriminated against human rights because of a policy of reflecting that non-attendance in school reports.

The applicant Mateus Grzelak had been brought up in a non-religious tradition by his parents who were also applicants. Mateus began his schooling at the age of seven, and in conformity with his parents’ wishes, he did not attend religious instruction. Doctrinal classes were scheduled in the middle of the school day, between various compulsory courses.

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Timetable for implementing Equality Act Reinstated

23 June 2010 by

The controversial Equality Act, which was designed to replace a number of anti-discrimination laws, was due to come (partially) into force in October. However the intervening change of government since its enactment in April 2009 appeared to threaten the legislation, particularly after the timetable for the gradual enforcement of its provisions was withdrawn.

Some experts speculated that instead of repealing the Act, the new Government would simply not bring certain parts of it into force, notably the provisions on pay reporting and positive discrimination that were unpopular with the Conservative Party. However the Government Equality Office has now reinstated the original timetable, with the core provisions due to commence in October.

There is still some possibility that some parts of the Act will not become law. Introduced as part of the Labour Party’s 2005 manifesto fulfilment, the Equality Act came under fire for some of its sections dealing with equal pay, positive action and addressing socio-economic disadvantage.

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