Control order breached human rights say Supreme Court [updated]

16 June 2010 by

Secretary of State for the Home Department v AP [2010] UKSC 24 (16 June 2010) – Read judgment

The Supreme Court have given the latest judgment on the controversial control order scheme, and in this case have allowed the appeal of a man suspected of terrorism on the grounds that confinement to a flat 150 miles away from his family amounted to a breach of his human rights.

The Appellant was an Ethiopian national who was the subject of a control order. This confined him to a flat for 16 hours a day in a Midlands town 150 miles away from his family in London.

The Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal, set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal and restored the High Court’s order. Lord Brown gave the leading judgment. Lord Rodger and Sir John Dyson SCJ delivered concurring judgments. The press summary of the judgment can be read here and the summary below is drawn from it.

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Bloody Sunday, human rights and the duty to investigate deaths [updated]

16 June 2010 by

Lord Saville has already come under significant criticism for the time and money which has been swallowed up by the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. Future public inquiries could now be under threat as new Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has accused the Lord Saville of allowing the process to get “ludicrously out of hand“.

The Saville Inquiry Report was published yesterday and can be downloaded here, a summary here and a good analysis here. Lord Saville’s long-awaited inquiry into the Bloody Sunday killings of 30 January 1972 was set up to investigate the events surrounding a march in Derry when 29 protesters were shot by British soldiers, leading to 13 deaths. The Inquiry has been widely criticised prior to its findings.

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Adoptive parents cannot be forced to provide annual photo of child

16 June 2010 by

Oxfordshire County Council v X & Ors [2010] EWCA Civ 581 (27 May 2010) – read judgment

In ordering adoptive parents to provide an annual photograph of the child to the birth parents, the judge below had erred in failing to accept as reasonable the adoptive parents’ fears, that there was a risk of the placement being identified.

The child (J), had been made the subject of an adoption order when she was four months old, due to the mental illness of her natural mother. The natural mother subsequently applied for an order for the provision of a photograph of J on an annual basis. The adoptive parents, backed by the local authority, objected to the provision of a photograph and contended that they should make available a photograph for viewing at the offices of the local authority.

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Iranian Bank anti-terrorism restrictions order upheld

15 June 2010 by

Bank Mellat v HM Treasury [2010] EWHC 1332(QB) Miity J 25/5/2010 – read judgment

A challenge to the imposition of a Financial Restrictions Order on an Iranian Bank alleged to have supported Iran’s nuclear program has been dismissed as the order was not considered disproportionate in the light of the importance of the public interested protected.

The order, which directed that anyone in the UK financial sector must not enter into or continue to participate in business with Bank Mellat, was maintained despite the Court of Appeal’s refusal to allow the government to rely upon secret evidence in order to prove the bank’s links with the nuclear program (see Court of Appeal launches offensive against secret justice with three linked judgments).

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Legal challenge to surveillance of Muslim areas

15 June 2010 by

The Human Rights organisation Liberty is threatening to bring a judicial review challenging a surveillance project that uses 150 automatic number plate recognition (“APNR”) cameras to monitor the roads in two predominantly Muslim areas of Birmingham.

Update 18/06/10 – Muslim area CCTV cameras to be covered by plastic bags [updated]

The Guardian reports that the plan, Project Champion, is funded by the Association of Chief Police Officer’s Terrorism and Allied Matters fund, which is intended to “deter or prevent terrorism or help to prosecute those responsible”. Project Champion provides for three times as many APNR cameras in the suburbs of Sparkbrook and Washwood Heath as are present in Birmingham City Centre. According to the Guardian: “The cameras form “rings of steel”, meaning residents cannot enter or leave the areas without their cars being tracked. Data will be stored for two years.”


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Bill of Rights privilege plea fails parliamentary expenses four

14 June 2010 by

Morley & Ors, R. v [2010] EW Misc 9 (EWCC) (11 June 2010) – Read judgment

Four former Members of Parliament have failed in their initial bid to claim parliamentary privilege in criminal proceedings arising from the parliamentary expenses scandal. The case has highlighted constitutional principles which reach back hundreds of years to the time of Oliver Cromwell, and raises questions of whether parliamentarians are above the criminal justice system.

This will not be the end of the affair, however, as leave to appeal has been granted with the case to be heard by the Court of Appeal as early as before the end of this month

Mr Justice Saunders sitting the Southwark Crown Court ruled that the parliamentary privilege enshrined in the 1688 Bill of Rights does not extend to protecting the four ex-MPs, Elliott Morley, David Chaytor, James Devine and Lord Hanningfield, from prosecutions for claiming inflated expenses.

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Are the courts doing enough to protect religious freedom? [updated]

14 June 2010 by

No entry?

A number of recent cases have ignited an interesting debate on the place of religion in the UK court system, and whether the courts are doing enough to ensure religious freedom as they are obligated to do under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The most notorious example has been McFarlane v Relate Avon Ltd, an unfair dismissal claim brought by a relationship counselor who as a result of his Christian beliefs refused to promote gay sex. The former Archbishop of Canterbury submitted a witness statement stating that cases such of these should be heard by judges with special religious sensitivity. Lord Justice Laws in the Court of Appeal rejected his arguments outright.

We also posted last week on the Hardeep Singh case, in which Mr Justice Eady in the High Court effectively threw out a libel action because it rested upon fundamental principles of legal doctrine which could not properly be examined by a secular court. We posted:

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Home Secretary on offensive as police admit anti-terror mistakes

11 June 2010 by

The Home Secretary has pledged to conduct an “urgent review” of police stop and search powers as it has been revealed that thousands of searches may have been conducted illegally.

Teresa May, the new Home Secretary, has gone on the offensive with a Guardian editorial blaming the previous Government and promising to fix the problem urgently. She says “It has been clear for a decade that the last government held our civil liberties cheap. They introduced the powers that have been abused 10 years ago, and then sat back as they were used more and more frequently.” She is reportedlyincandescent” over the report.

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Bloody Sunday Inquiry findings leaked, killings were “unlawful” [updated]

11 June 2010 by

The Guardian claims to have access to key findings of the long awaited inquiry into the Bloody Sunday killings of 30 January 1972, and some of the soldiers implicated may now face prosecution almost 40 years after the event.

The Inquiry was set up to investigate the events surrounding a march in the Bogside area of Derry in 1972 when 29 protesters were shot by British soldiers, leading to 13 deaths.

Lord Saville’s report, which marks the conclusion of the longest and most expensive public inquiry in British history, “will conclude that a number of the fatal shootings of civilians by British soldiers were unlawful killings“. However, the Guardian has not revealed where its information originates from, or how the shootings were “unlawful”, which could mean a number of different things.

The report is to be published on Tuesday 15 June at 3pm. The Inquiry’s website, which also has transcripts of the hearings, can be found here.

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New feature: Delicious links

10 June 2010 by

You may have noticed a new feature on the UK Human Rights Blog, a box along the right sidebar entitled “Recent selected sources (del.icio.us)”

This box shows five recent news sources selected by our bloggers. You can click on one of the titles to take you to the source, or on “Recent selected sources…” to take you to the full list of links on our Delicious site. Enjoy!

Child protection review ordered by Government in light of crumbling system [updated]

10 June 2010 by

The Government has commissioned an independent review of children’s social work and frontline child protection practice. Child protection services have been widely derided as a result of a series of scandals such as that involving baby Peter Connelly (Baby P), and many lawyers feel the court system is at breaking point.

Update 13/06/10 – The Court of Protection has issued its first annual report, which can be accessed here. The forward to the Report says “The court has had to endure more than its fair share of setbacks, which were caused in the main by a failure to anticipate, prior to the implementation of the Act, the volume of work that would inundate the court during the initial transitional period, and the overall burden it would place on the judges and staff.

According to a Department for Education (DoE) press release, Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, has asked Professor Eileen Munro, a professor of social policy at the London School of Economics, to lead the a “fundamental” review of child protection services. Professor Munro has written widely on child protection and the regulation of child care.

According to the DoE, the Government intends to

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Council of Europe raps UK on prisoner voting [updated]

9 June 2010 by

The Council of Europe has expressed “profound regret” that the UK has failed to implement its 5-year-old European Court of Human Rights ruling against the policy which prevents prisoners from voting in elections.

In a Committee of Ministers decision, the Council, which monitors compliance with European Court rulings, has:

expressed profound regret that despite the repeated calls of the Committee, the United Kingdom general election was held on 6 May 2010 with the blanket ban on the right of convicted prisoners in custody to vote still in place

It also appears to be giving the new Government a chance, expressing

confidence that the new United Kingdom government will adopt general measures to implement the judgment ahead of elections scheduled for 2011 in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and thereby also prevent further, repetitive applications to the European Court;

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Human Rights Act helps fight terrorism says head of Supreme Court

9 June 2010 by

Lord Phillips comes out in support of the Human Rights Act

Lord Phillips

Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the head of the UK Supreme Court, has responded to accusations that the Human Rights Act is hampering the fight against terrorism, and that “respect for human rights is a key weapon in the ideological battle”.

With reports this morning that the Government has written to High Court judges encouraging then not to delay a deportation flight to Bagdad, the speech presents a well timed defence of judicial independence.

The Gresham Special Lecture: The Challenges of the new Supreme Court is available in text and audio format. Lord Phillips used the opportunity to defend the judiciary in light of their regular use of the Human Rights Act to limit the effects of the anti-terrorism laws enacted by the government in the past decade, including controversial measures such as control orders and the Special Immigration Appeal Commission (SIAC). He said:

After 9/11 the British Government decided that the threat of terrorism in Britain was such as to amount to a public emergency threatening the life of the nation and purported, on that ground, to derogate from the Convention.

He continued:

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Hardeep Singh libel case reignites debate on place of religion in the English courts

8 June 2010 by

HH Sant Baba Jeet Singh Ji Maharaj v Eastern Media Group & Anor [2010] EWHC 1294 (QB) (17 May 2010) – Read judgment

The High Court has effectively thrown out a libel action against a journalist who claimed in an article that a Sikh holy man was a “cult leader”. The judge’s reasoning was that the disputed points of religious principle were not questions which a secular court could properly decide. In refusing to rule on such cases, are the courts taking an increasingly anti-religious view, and are they now in breach of the human right to religious freedom?

The decision was reported in mid-May, but Mr Justice Eady’s judgment was made publically available yesterday. It highlights controversial issues of whether religious believes are getting a fair hearing in the English courts, and whether “secular” judges are qualified to decide points of religious principle.

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