Has the time come for gay marriage in the UK?

21 July 2010 by

The deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats has said that gay couples are likely to gain full rights to marriage under the current Parliament. This would represent a revolution for gay rights, but there is still a long way to go before same-sex couples achieve full rights to marriage as they are arguably entitled to under human rights law.

Simon Hughes MP has told Yoost.com, a question and answer website, that Liberal Democrat MPs would be consulted on the rights of gay couples. He said “I don’t know the answer because we haven’t had the discussion“, but that

I see absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t all be able to support what Nick Clegg said, which is that it would be appropriate in Britain in 2010-11 for there to be the ability to have civil marriage for straight people and gay people equally.

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Government pushing on with civil liberties policies?

19 July 2010 by

The Coalition Government promised in the first days of its rule to “reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties under the Labour Government and roll back state intrusion“. This policy is now in play and appears to be making quick progress.

The Coalition’s Program for Government contains a long shopping list of civil liberties promises. Some are specific; scrapping ID cards, restricting DNA retention by police and reviewing libel laws. Some more vague, such as the Freedom / Great Repeal Bill, for which Deputy Prime Minister has just launched an online public consultation. As we posted last week, even the Lord Chief Justice is getting in on the act.

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Judicial review as to the need for a single inquiry into Iraqi torture allegations to go ahead, says High Court

19 July 2010 by

Ali Zaki Mousa and others v Secretary of State for Defence and Legal Services Commission 16 July 2010 – Read judgment

Permission has been given to around 100 Iraqi applicants to bring proceedings to compel the Secretary of State to hold a single public inquiry to investigate breaches of Article 3 in relation to each of the claimants with respect to their treatment whilst in detention in Iraq

The claimant was representative of a group of Iraqis numbering about 100 who either have brought, or wish to bring, judicial review proceedings against the Secretary of State for Defence alleging that they were ill-treated in detention in Iraq at various times between 2003 and 2008 by members of the British Armed forces in breach of Article 3. It is possible that up to 100 other Iraqis may wish to join the group in the future.

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Human rights news and case-law roundup

17 July 2010 by

We recently started adding links to interesting new articles and case-law the sidebar under the heading “Selected news sources”. Below is a quick rundown of the most recent links. The full list of links can be found here.

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Delay in providing for special educational needs does not breach Convention right to education says Supreme Court

16 July 2010 by

A (Appellant) v Essex County Council & National Autistic Society (Intervener) [2010] UKSC 33

Supreme Court (Lord Phillips, Lady Hale, Lord Brown, Lord Kerr, Lord Clarke) July 14 2010

The right to education under Article 2 Protocol 1 of the Convention was not breached by the delay in catering for the special educational needs of a child. Convention rights must be intepreted pragmatically;  it is not right to equate a failure to provide the educational facilities required by domestic law with a denial of access to education.

This was an appeal against a decision ([2008] EWCA Civ 364, [2008] H.R.L.R. 31) upholding the dismissal by summary judgment of the appellant’s claim that the respondent local authority had breached his right to education under A1P1.

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“Hell on earth” Gaza acquittal a miscarriage of justice?

16 July 2010 by

Updated – 6/8/10

Five activists were recently acquitted for causing £180,000 damage to an arms factory after successfully deploying the defence of lawful excuse. But did the judge’s politically coloured summing up of the evidence to the jury render the trial a miscarriage of justice?

Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights guarantee a “fair and impartial tribunal”, and it is sometimes claimed in courts that a judge or judicial panel are biased and therefore cannot preside over a fair trial. While not often successful, the complaints are always taken seriously. As any law student knows, justice must not only be done but also be seen to be done.

To this end, judicial impartiality has been much in the news of late. Cherie Booth QC, an observant Christian, was apparently rapped by the Office for Judicial Complaints for reducing a defendant’s sentence on the grounds that he was a “religious man” who knew what he did was wrong. Meanwhile, in a less successful challenge to a judicial decision, Lord Carey failed to convince the Court of Appeal that a judicial panel of special religious expertise was needed in the case of a Christian marriage councilor sacked for refusing to counsel gay couples.

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Parliament Square protesters lose eviction appeal [updated]

16 July 2010 by

Hall & Ors v Mayor of London (On Behalf of the Greater London Authority) [2010] EWCA Civ 817 (16 July 2010) – read judgment

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

The protesters had gained a temporary reprieve by appealing the decision to the Court of Appeal, but that appeal has now been rejected. The BBC report that Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, said “I think it’s wonderful that as a city we can protest. But it is nauseating what they are doing to the lawn“.

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Lord Chief Justice: Government has too much power to pass new laws [updated]

15 July 2010 by

The Lord Chief Justice has lamented the ease with which new laws can be passed without proper scrutiny, comparing new powers to those which were imposed by England’s worst tyrant.

Lord Judge, who is the Lord Chief Justice and head of the judiciary, was speaking at the annual Lord Mayor’s dinner for the judiciary; his speech can be read here.

The thrust of the judge’s speech was his concern at the proliferation of what he called “Henry VIII” clauses, the proliferation of which had “astonished” him. Henry VIII’s 1539 Statute of Proclamations allowed the King’s proclamations to have the same force as Acts of Parliament. Lord Judge compared this to a series of recent Acts which have given the Government licence to enact law without the scrutiny of Parliament.

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Al Rawi disclosure evidence of torture complicity?

15 July 2010 by

http://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2010/07/15/al-rawi-disclo…ure-complicity/The Guardian have published a number of documents which have been disclosed to the High Court as part of a claim for compensation by men claiming they were mistreated abroad with the knowledge of UK security services.

The Guardian claims that the documents reveal the “the true extent of the Labour government’s involvement in the illegal abduction and torture of its own citizens”. Key passages can be found here.

The documents were disclosed as part of the ongoing case of Al Rawi and Ors v The Security Services. Although the case has not yet been heard, it has been the subject of a number of high-profile applications for secret documents which the Government have generally lost. We posted recently on the judgment of Mr Justice Silber leading to the disclosure of some of the most recent documents which the Guardian have published (see also here).

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Feature | The duty to investigate deaths under human rights law: Part 2

15 July 2010 by

R (Humberstone) v Legal Services Commission [2010] EWHC 760 (Admin) – Read case

Part 2 of Matthew Hill’s feature on the duty to investigate deaths under human rights law (read Part I).

A recent High Court decision (see previous post) concerning the funding of a party at a coroner’s inquest has highlighted the importance of distinguishing between the two different types of investigative duty that arise under Article 2 ECHR.

It is argued in this post that imprecise terminology and a failure to appreciate that Article 2 is engaged in Jamieson as well as Middleton inquests has confused this area, and that the learned judge in R (Humberstone) v Legal Services Commission [2010] EWHC 760 (Admin) erred by eliding the investigative duties and the case-law from which they emerged.

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Russian mafia bribe police officer wins battle against the Times

14 July 2010 by

Don't follow the money

Flood v Times Newspapers Ltd [2010] EWCA Civ 804 (13 July 2010) – Read judgment

A Detective Sergeant in the Metropolitan Police accused of taking bribes has won his battle against the Times to prevent the newspaper relying on the Reynolds defence, which allows allegations to be reported even the it they turn out to be wrong, in the interest of media freedom.

In June 2006 the newspaper had published an article entitled “Detective accused of taking bribes from Russian exiles”, leading the detective to sue in libel The Court of Appeal reversed the decision of Mr Justice Tugendhat in the High Court which had said the Times could rely on Reynolds privilege.  The Inforrm Blog has provided an excellent analysis of the judgment. The post sums up the facts as follows:

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Sexual orientation, religion and the courts’ increasingly difficult role

14 July 2010 by

The courts’ relationship with religious principles is rarely out of the spotlight, and recent decisions have provided more fuel for this debate.

Aidan O’Neill QC, writing on the UK Supreme Court Blog, provides an interesting discussion of last week’s Supreme Court decision in HJ (Iran) in the context of a series of controversial United States decisions on sexuality and religion.

We posted last week on the case of HJ (Iran), in which the Supreme Court ruled that policy of sending back gay refugees to their home countries where they feared persecution is unlawful as it breached their human rights. Rosalind English examined the case in the context of a European Court of Human Rights rejecting a complaint by a same-sex couple that Austria was in violation of the Convention for not granting them the right to marry.

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Boost for economic and social rights after landmark Court of Appeal ruling [updated]

13 July 2010 by

R (on the application of S) (Claimant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Defendant) & (1) Amnesty International & AIRE Centre (2) United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (Interveners) (2010) – Read judgment

The Court of Appeal has ruled that the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (“the Charter”)  could be directly relied on in the UK in a decision on the removal of an Afghan asylum seeker to Greece.

This Charter combines the rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights and Freedoms 1950 (“ECHR”) with the fundamental social rights set forth in the European Social Charter and in the Community Charter of Fundamental Social Rights of Employees. The decision could see the introduction of “social and economic” rights into the UK for the first time, but it could also place an unmanageable burden on member states to comply with the wide-ranging charter.

A reference to the European Court of Justice will now be made in respect of the application of the Charter in the context of return of asylum seekers to Greece under the Dublin Regulation. The Regulation is the cornerstone of EU refugee law, establishing a system of determining responsibility for examining asylum claims and ensuring that each claim is examined by one Member State rather than allowing multiple applications for asylum submitted by the same person in several Member States with the sole aim of extending their stay in the EU.

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Detention by British forces in Iraq did not breach constitutional rights

13 July 2010 by

Al Jedda V Secretary Of State For Defence [2010] EWCA Civ 758 – Read judgment

The Court of Appeal has found that there was no breach of the “essence” of a right guaranteed under the Iraqi Constitution to have a prisoner’s detention reviewed by a judicial authority when the reviewing authorities were not judges, but had the necessary judicial qualities.

Mr Al Jedda was detained in Iraq in 2004 by British forces on security grounds. He was suspected of being a member of a terrorist group said to be involved in weapons smuggling and explosive attacks in Iraq. He remained in detention until 30 December 2007 in Iraq but was at no time charged with any offence.

The case has had an interesting route through the courts which is worth summarising briefly.
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“Nazi” jibe DJ loses freedom of expression claim [updated]

13 July 2010 by

Gaunt v OFCOM [2010] EWHC 1756 (QB) (13 July 2010) – Read judgment

The High Court has ruled that OFCOM did not breach a DJ’s freedom of expression rights by finding that he  contravened the Broadcasting Code after calling a guest a “Nazi” during an interview on talkSPORT. The decision by the regulator led to the DJ’s sacking.

Jon Gaunt applied for judicial review of the decision by OFCOM that he had breached rules 2.1 and 2.3 of the Broadcasting Code. Liberty supported his claim. He argued that OFCOM’s decision amounted to a disproportionate interference with his freedom of expression and an infringement of his rights under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

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