Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law
In the News:
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) heard evidence about Sir Cyril Smith, the former MP for Rochdale. It has been alleged that Sir Cyril Smith abused boys in the 1960s at a school and hotel. The allegations were investigated by the police, but no further action taken.
Lord Steel, the former Liberal leader, gave evidence to the Inquiry. He explained that an article in Private Eye caused him to approach Cyril Smith about the allegations. Lord Steel said that, following this conversation, he “assumed” the allegations were true.
Lord Steel explained he had decided not to act because the accusations were “nothing to do with me”. He “saw no reason to go back to something that happened during his time in Rochdale” and the events happened “before he was even a member of the Liberal Party or an MP”.
Lord Steel’s comments sparked anger and he has been suspended from his party. He has since stated that the matter was properly an issue for the police and the council, and that he was not in a position to re-open the investigation.
KV (Sri Lanka) v Secretary of State for the Home Department UKSC 10
How likely is it that an asylum seeker, in order to support a false asylum claim, invited another person to inflict him with serious burn wounds under anaesthetic?
This startling possibility – wounding “self-inflicted by proxy” (SIBP) in the jargon – was the subject of this extraordinary appeal. The Supreme Court concluded that injury SIBP was “likely to be extremely rare.” In the process, it gave important guidance on the treatment of expert medical evidence in asylum cases.
The Claimant became pregnant in 2012 but, tragically, the baby died in utero and was stillborn in May 2013. The Claimant claimed damages to represent the loss of the pregnancy and also for a psychiatric injury which she suffered due to the stillbirth.
The NHS Trust admitted that their treatment of the Claimant was negligent and that they were responsible for the stillbirth. The only issue in the case was the amount (quantum) of damages.
The application for anonymity
The Claimant applied for an anonymity order
to prohibit press outlets from using her name. It would not have prohibited the
press from reporting on the legal proceedings themselves.
The Claimant argued that this should be granted because the trial included deeply personal matters concerning her mental health, medical history and her relationship with her two children. Identifying her would inevitably lead to identification of her children. It was also added that, in the age of social media, she might face the risk of receiving abuse and that, given her Polish background, this might even extend to racial abuse.
Importantly, the Claimant was not a child or a ‘protected party’ i.e. someone who is judged by a medical professional to not have full capacity. But she was described as a “highly vulnerable individual.”
Frances Gibb recently retired from nearly forty years spent as law correspondent, editor and columnist at The Times. In Episode 72 she tells Rosalind English about some of the more bracing encounters with government lawyers and judges in the past, and reflects on the many changes that have taken place in the media and legal institutions since she took over from Marcel Berlins in the 1980s.
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After some quieter times earlier in the year, last week saw no fewer than two Supreme Court judgements and twenty Court of Appeal (Civil Division) decisions.
However, the dominant legal and political story of the week (the ubiquitous Brexit aside) concerned criticism of the Home Secretary Sajid Javid, after reports emerged about the death of the child of Shamima Begum. The 19-year-old left East London to travel to Syria and join the Islamic State aged 15. Javid had stripped Begum of her British Citizenship on the basis that she was a dual national of Bangladesh. News broke this morning that the Home Office had removed citizenship from a further two individuals who had left under similar circumstances.
The case of Begum has shed light not only on the rights and powers of the Home Secretary to strip individuals of citizenship, but also on the tragic consequences of armed conflict. Child mortality across the whole of Syria was four times that in the UK at 17 per 1000 live births in 2017, with the situation in refugee camps likely far worse given the absence of heating or adequate shelter. Ms Begum’s son appears to have died of pneumonia, an easily preventable disease which remains the biggest killer worldwide of children under five, accounting for 1.4 million fatalities a year. Whilst there may be debate as to the practical ability of the Foreign Office to provide consular assistance in war zones and the legality of her deprivation of citizenship, Ms Begum’s case illustrates the tragic realities of armed conflict and its consequences upon innocent lives.
In a potentially bad week for cabinet ministers, criticism also flowed the way of Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, after she described deaths caused by the police and armed forces in Northern Ireland as “not crimes”. The comments caused consternation amongst nationalists and the relatives of those who had lost their lives and comes ahead of an expected announcement by the Public Prosecutions Service as to whether it will seek prosecutions against soldiers in relation to the deaths of 13 people in Derry on Bloody Sunday.
Jordan, Re for Judicial Review (Northern Ireland)  UKSC 9. In a further legacy case arising from the conflict in Northern Ireland, the Supreme Court allowed the appeal of the father of a man shot dead by the Royal Ulster Constabulary, overturning the finding of the Court of Appeal that his claim for damages in relation to delays to his son’s inquest could not be awarded until the inquest’s conclusion. The Police Service of Northern Ireland had failed to disclose information in a timely manner to the inquest into the death of his son, in breach of the requirement under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights that an investigation into a death should begin promptly and proceed with reasonable expedition. Applying the principle of proportionality to the case, particularly given the fading health of the claimant, the Supreme Court overturned the Court of Appeal decision and awarded him the damages sought.
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal gave judgment this week in nine cases with a human rights flavour. Given the volume, only some of the more interesting are summarised below:
An application for judicial review into the Home Office’s guidance regarding its counter-terrorism “Prevent” strategy, in particular that in relation to speakers at universities and the collecting of data by the Home Office’s Extremism Analysis Unit, was largely rejected in Butt, R (On the Application Of) v The Secretary of State for the Home Department. The appeal against the initial decision to dismiss the application was brought by Dr Salman Butt, editor in chief of “Islam21C”, who has been labelled a “hate speaker” by the Prime Minister’s Office and Home Office. Mr Butt had alleged interference with his right of free speech under both the common law and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as his privacy rights under Article 8.
The Home Office successfully appealed in the case of a Liberian gentleman who had sought a permanent residence card by virtue of his durable relationship with a Czech national. His appeal against the Secretary of State’s rejection of his application had been upheld in the first-tier and upper tribunals. The Court of Appeal however agreed with the Home Office that his entitlement to a permanent residence card only arose five years after the initial granting of a residence card, and did not take effect from an earlier date when he may have been in the country or in a relationship with an EU citizen: Secretary of State for the Home Department v Aibangbee  EWCA Civ 339. The Home Office had continued the appeal to secure the point of law despite the case becoming moot as between the parties, enough time having expired by the time of the hearing to make Mr Aibangbee eligible.
An appeal by the newspaper group MGN limited against the decision of a High Court judge not to vary the terms of an order requiring early disclosure was rejected: Various Claimants v MGN Ltd  EWCA Civ 350. The newspaper group had submitted that the order gave rise to a real risk, in the case of one claimant, that it would have to disclose material which would reveal the identity of a confidential journalistic source, contrary to protections enjoyed by publishers under section 10 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981.
A prisoner convicted of terrorist offences, namely plotting to behead a member of the public around the time of Armistice Day 2015, who alleged that his transfer to a “Managing Challenging Behaviour Unit” constituted a “removal from association” with other prisoners had his appeal dismissed. The Court similarly dismissed the Secretary of State for Justice’s cross-appeal against the findings of an earlier court that such restrictions did amount to an interference with his right to respect for private life under Article 8(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights and therefore required justification under Article 8(2): Syed v The Secretary of State for Justice  EWCA Civ 367.
The Court of Appeal has turned down an appeal against an application seeking judicial review of May’s triggering of Article 50 under the power granted to her by the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017. The applicants sought a declaration that this was unlawful because it was
based upon the result of a referendum that was itself unlawful as a result of corrupt and illegal practices, notably offences of overspending committed by those involved in the campaign to leave the EU
On 10 December 2018, Ouseley J refused permission to proceed with the judicial review on the basis of both delay and want of merit, and ordered the Applicants to pay the Respondent’s costs. This was a hearing for permission to appeal against that order. Permission was refused.
In February 1993, two-year-old James Bulger was abducted, tortured and then murdered by two 10-year-olds, Jon Venables (JV) and Robert Thompson. As Sir Andrew McFarlane P says in the opening words ofVenables & Anor v News Group Papers Ltd & Ors  EWHC 494 (Fam) (4 March 2019): ‘The family of young James Bulger were and are deserving of the greatest sympathy as the indirect victims of this most horrific crime.’ It was James’s father and his uncle who brought the question of publicity – or not – for JV back to court.
Their application was to vary a ‘confidentiality’ injunction. The application was made on the basis – said the applicants – that JV’s name and image are now freely available should any member of the public undertake an Internet search. Details of his identity, and locations with which he has been connected in the past, have therefore become ‘common knowledge’.
Samuel March is a paralegal and is due to start the Bar Professional Training Course later this year.
R (Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 452 (Admin), Spencer J, 01 March 2019, judgement here
The government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy took a hit in a High Court judgement on Friday. Spencer J declared the “right to rent” scheme, laid out in sections 20-37 of the Immigration Act 2014, incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). He also declared that a decision by the Secretary of State for the Home Department to roll out the scheme in devolved territories without further evaluation of its efficacy and discriminatory impact would be irrational and would constitute a breach of s. 149 Equality Act 2010.
The case challenged an element of the government’s ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy, which was recently rebranded the “compliant environment” following criticism.
The sections of the Act relevant to this case contained the provisions of the controversial “right to rent” scheme. This required private landlords to check the immigration status of tenants and potential tenants. Knowingly leasing a property to a disqualified person became a criminal offence, punishable by up to 5 years’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine, or both.
This claim was brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) a small charity seeking to ensure that “immigration law and policy are based on sound evidence, promote the rule of law and are underpinned by respect for human rights and human dignity.” They were supported by interventions from Liberty, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Residential Landlords Association (RLA).
Opinion has been divided this week after a landmark High Court ruling on Friday declared that the government’s right to rent scheme is breaching human rights laws and actively creating racial discrimination in the housing market.
The scheme requires landlords in England check the immigration status of tenants, with fines of up to £3,000 and a potential prison term if they fail to do so. Introduced by sections 20-37 of the Immigration Act 2014, right to rent is a cornerstone of the government’s hostile environment policy, which aims to reduce the number of illegal immigrants in the UK. The High Court said that it would be illegal to roll the scheme out out in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland without further evaluation. Mr Justice Spencer noted that the scheme had ‘little or no effect’ on immigration control, and that independent evidence ‘strongly showed’ the scheme was ‘indirectly’ discriminatory, causing landlords to turn down potential tenants because of their nationality or ethnicity.
In Episode 71 author and barrister Jacob Turner talks to Rosalind English about a world in which algorithms handle all the transactions. His book Robot Rules explains why AI is a unique legal phenomenon, and how we might address the legal and ethical problems it could cause. He argues that AI is unlike any other previous technology, capable of legal agency and holding legal personality. His book goes deep into the questions of liability for the actions and decisions of advanced algorithmic intelligence. As one review comments, Robot Rules incorporates “clear explanations of complex topics”, and will appeal “to a multi-disciplinary audience, from those with an interest in law, politics and philosophy, to computer programming, engineering and neuroscience.”
Law Pod UK is available on Audioboom, iTunes, Spotify, Podbean or wherever you listen to our podcasts. Please remember to rate and review us if you like what you hear.
The International Court of Justice has given a near-unanimous opinion that the separation in 1965 of the Chagos Archipelago from the then British colony of Mauritius was contrary to the right of self determination, and that accordingly the de-colonisation of Mauritius by the United Kingdom had not been in accordance with international law. The ICJ held that Britain’s continued administration of the islands was an internationally wrongful act, which should cease as soon as possible.
This is the latest in a long series of cases concerning the Chagossian islanders, the last domestic one being Hoareau last month, which summarises decisions so far. Also see - of the ICJ’s opinion for the back-story.
The Chagos Archipelago consists of a number of islands and atolls in the Indian Ocean. The largest island is Diego Garcia, which accounts for more than half of the archipelago’s total land area.
Mauritius is located about 2,200 km south-west of the Chagos Archipelago. Between 1814 and 1965, the islands were administered by the United Kingdom as a dependency of the colony of Mauritius. In 1964, there were discussions between America and Britain regarding the use by the United States of certain British-owned islands in the Indian Ocean, in particular in establishing an American base on Diego Garcia.
The fate of Shamima Begum, the British teenager who joined the Islamic State in Syria (ISIS) and has asked to return home, has divided opinion.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s
decision to deprive the 19-year-old mother of her citizenship is apparently
popular: a recent poll
found that 78% support the move.
But others have raised concerns about the propriety of using such a draconian power against a British citizen by birth in circumstances where she may be rendered stateless, also leaving the fate of her child uncertain.
From Bethnal Green schoolgirl to
Ms Begum was born in the UK to
parents of Bangladeshi heritage. She was
one of three 15-year-old schoolgirls from the Bethnal Green Academy who
travelled to Syria via Turkey in 2015 to join ISIS.
The Metropolitan Police
subsequently apologised to the
families for failing to warn them that the schoolgirls were at risk and
suggested that they would not face criminal charges if they returned to the UK.
After arriving in Raqqa, Syria, Ms
Begum married ISIS fighter Yago Riedijk, a Dutch national. She had three children with him, two of whom
died. Her youngest son, Jarrah, was born
in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019.
The press caught up with Ms Begum just before she gave birth and she has given a series of incendiary interviews. She claimed that she had been “just been a housewife for the entire four years” and that she had not done anything “dangerous” or made propaganda. However, she also said she had “no regrets” about joining ISIS and suggested that the Manchester Arena bombings were justified because of the bombing of civilians in Syria.
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 →
In this case Cobb J was asked to make declarations under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 regarding a learning disabled man’s capacity to use the internet and social media. (NB on 21 February judgment was also handed down in a similar case on which we will post shortly: B (Capacity: Social Media: Care and Contact)  EWCOP 3.
The rapid development of the internet and proliferation of social media networks over recent years have fundamentally reshaped the way we engage with each other. We spend more time on our digital electronic devices than we do interacting with other humans and naturally this has brought huge benefits in terms of entertainment, communication and gathering information. The social media ‘apps’ available for instant messaging and networking are mostly easy and free to use, amongst them chiefly Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Facetime, Skype, Instagram, and Twitter. For people with disabilities the internet and associated social media networks are particularly important:
On 20 March Dignity in Dying released a report exposing the fact that those behind the legal challenge to the RCP (detailed below) have a long history of campaigning for pro-life causes and connections to American pro-life lobbyists, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
In January we published episode 63 of Law Pod UK featuring Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying. DID campaigns for a change in the law to allow doctors to prescribe lethal drugs for terminally ill people to hasten their own death in specific situations. Sarah referred in that interview to a poll that was about to be conducted of the members of the Royal College of Physicians, who have hitherto opposed assisted dying. The members are being asked whether they individually support a legal change to permit assisted dying, and what they think the RCP’s position should be. The RCP has said that it will move to a neutral position unless at least 60% of votes in a poll being sent out in the first week of February are either in favour of or opposed to a change in the law. The results will be announced in March but the poll has had a bumpy ride, including a threat of judicial review by one of its members for conducting the exercise as a “sham poll with a rigged outcome.” The Christian charity Duty of Care has called for signatures from doctors and medical students to a petition objecting to the poll.
While that has been going on, DID has supported the family of a man suffering from motor neurone disease. On 7 February Geoff Whaley travelled to Dignitas in Switzerland to end his life.
Before he died, Mr Whaley wrote an open letter all MPs to impress upon them the need for a change in the law after his wife was reported to the police, in an anonymous phone call, as a person potentially assisting someone to end their life. The Whaley’s MP Cheryl Gillan raised the family’s story in the Commons during Business of the House.
Geoff [and his wife] had to suffer the added mental anguish of facing a criminal investigation at a time when the family, and most of all Geoff, wanted to prepare his goodbyes and fulfil his last wish in peace. May I ask the Leader of the House if we can have a debate in Government time so that we can re-examine this area of law, particularly in the light of this amazing man’s efforts to give terminally ill people a choice over the way they leave this world, and to afford protection to their loved ones?
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