To recap (see also Adam Wagner’s post), section 82 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 places those convicted of a sexual offence and imprisoned for at least 30 months under a life-long obligation once released from prison to notify the police when changing address and travelling abroad (“the notification requirements”). The Supreme Court ruled that the notification requirements violated sex offenders’ Article 8 rights to a private life and issued a declaration of incompatibility.
Hot on the heels of Cameron’s address on Wednesday, the Attorney-General Dominic Grieve gave a speech on Thursday which set out in further detail the Government’s plans for reform of the European Court of Human Rights and the incorporation of human rights into UK law.
The full text of the Attorney-General’s speech is not yet available (although a similar speech he gave last year and his own speech to the Council of Europe can be found here). However, it was interesting to compare his comments with those of David Cameron just a day before.
Theruling by HHJ Murphy in Blackfriars Crown Court this Monday that a defendant in a criminal trial should not be allowed to wear a niqaab (face veil) whilst giving her evidence has prompted calls for a public debate about the wearing of face veils in public more generally. Adam Wagner has already commented on the case here. A summary and analysis of the decision follows below.
The defendant in this case, D, is a woman who is charged with a single count of witness intimidation. When the judge asked D to remove her veil in order to be formally identified for the court’s purposes at a plea and case management hearing, D refused because she believes she should not reveal her face in the presence of men who are not members of her immediate family. As a result, HHJ Murphy listed a special hearing to consider what orders should be made about the wearing of a niqaab during the rest of the proceedings, describing the issue as ‘the elephant in the court room’ which needed to be dealt with early on.
In a complicated but very important decision, the High Court has ruled as a preliminary issue that the procedural protections under Article 6 which require a person to be given sufficient information about the allegations against them so they can give effective instructions to their lawyers will apply to a challenge to conditions imposed by order on a man suspected to have affiliations to Al-Qaeda.
This ‘extended look’ will explain the background to the issues in play and the way that a powerful ‘cocktail’ of rights under Articles 6 and 8 ECHR operates to try to ensure that a balance is struck between the rights of the individual and the collective interest in security.
Temporary Exclusion Orders
The claimant, QX, is a British national. He is married with three children who are all of toddler age. In October 2018, he and his wife were arrested in Istanbul.
On 26 November 2018 the Secretary of State successfully applied to the court for permission to impose a Temporary Exclusion Order (TEO) on QX for two years on grounds of national security. This was granted by the court and on 9 January 2019 QX was returned from Istanbul to the UK under the terms of the TEO.
A TEO is an order which may be imposed under the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (“the 2015 Act”) in order to temporarily disrupt the return and activities of a citizen suspected of being involved in terrorist-related activity abroad to manage the risk that they may pose to the public. It is an offence triable in either the Magistrates’ or the Crown Court with a maximum sentence of 5 years if a person does not comply with TEO conditions without reasonable excuse.
On Friday, the Guardian reported on the earlier Freemovement.org quantitative analysis relating to deprivations of British citizenship. While it has been known and reported upon for some time, the analysis demonstrates a continued trend of increased deprivations, with a significant peak in 2017, when the number of people whose citizenship was removed soared by 600%.
Protected by Article 15 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights following the Second World War, the right to a nationality was described by Hannah Arendt as the very ‘right to have rights’. Nationality underpins individuals’ belonging to states, which can be the only true guarantors of individual self-governance through the medium of inalienable rights.
Prior to 2006, the power to remove citizenship had not been used since 1973. Now, strengthened by the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, which allowed the UK government to order deprivation of citizenship against its citizens where it believes it is ‘conducive to the public good’, 175 people have had their citizenship removed on national security grounds, and 286 due to fraud (even though the latter power relating to fraud was already enshrined in s.40 of the British Nationality Act 1981). The additional power to render individuals stateless was introduced by the Immigration Act 2014, under which the Secretary of State may remove citizenship where she has reasonable grounds for believing that the person deprived ‘is able’ to become a national of another country. This was most visibly achieved in the case of Shamima Begum, considered extensively on the UK Human Rights Blog.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Justice published its full consultation (the ‘Consultation’) on Human Rights Act (the ‘Act’) reform. The Consultation criticises the current application of the Act in the UK and sets out the government’s proposals for repealing the Act and replacing it with a UK Bill of Rights. The 123-page Consultation follows the Independent Human Rights Act Review (‘IHRAR’), which reported to the government in late October, and was published on the government website on the same day as the Consultation.
The Consultation runs through the government’s now familiar issues with the Act, putting significant weight on cherry picked human rights cases which it is eager to summarise in its own words. For instance, R (Ellis) v Chief Constable of the Essex Police 7  EWHC 1321 (Admin),  2 FLR 566 is cited in the Consultation as an example of the application of the Act going ‘too far’. The Consultation presents the issue in the case, of Essex police publicising photographs of convicted offenders in train stations, as one that should clearly be beyond the remit of the Act. It makes no mention of the children and relatives of the offenders whose interests were balanced with the interests of the public in naming and shaming offenders in the hopes of deterring further crime (in the end, the scheme was permitted to continue).
On 30 July 2020, the Crown Prosecution Service published its performance statistics on sexual violence cases for the year 2019-20, which vindicate long-held concerns about the “damning” number of cases being lost amid “under-resourced” investigations.
Whilst many of us would prefer not to dwell on 2020, it was a year that produced many interesting decisions. In Episode 134, Michael Spencer and Jon Metzer talk to Emma-Louise Fenelon about the cases they consider to be 2020’s most significant landmarks.
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.”
On 30 March 2018, whilst working on the demolition of an oil tanker on the beach at Chittagong, Bangladesh, Mr Mollah fell to his death.
There is powerful evidence that essentially manual ship breaking of this sort is extremely unsafe and carries environmental risk given the asbestos and heavy metals aboard: see e.g. the work of NGO Shipbreaking Platform here. It does not take much more than a glance at the photographs to appreciate the problem. Conditions were grim; Mr Mollah was working at least 70 hours a week for long pay. Some 200,000 workers are thought to work under these conditions.
But this litigation is happening in the UK Courts. Mr Mollah’s widow did not even know the name of her Bangladeshi employer and she did not sue the owner of the “yard” there – in practice, the beach.
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