The report presents a snapshot of the current state of play in relation to the European Court of Human Rights, makes for very interesting reading (trust me!). Here are some tidbits:
There were 28 judgments involving the UK from 1 August 2011 to 31 July 2012, nine of which the UK lost (UK loses 3 out of 4 cases, anyone?). See the handy table at pages 12-13.
The UK currently has 24 cases before the Committee of Ministers, which means that they have not been implemented.
The UK paid out €454,457 [this originally and wrongly said £] in damages for human rights violations (known as ‘just satisfaction’) in 2011, compared to €371,160 in 2010 (p.58). Fear of this figure ending up in the Daily Mail may be the reason that it is on the last page.
Theresa May had appeared to have bounced back from the Article 50 Supreme Court case with the relatively smooth passing of the Brexit Bill through the House of Commons.
But her woes were clearly not at an end this week when she suffered defeat at the hands of the House of Lords. The peers voted 358 to 256 in favour of amending the Brexit Bill in order to guarantee the rights of EU citizens already living in the UK – the amendment drawing support not only from Labour, Liberal, and Crossbench peers, but also 7 Conservative peers.
What’s the issue?
There are currently over 3 million EU citizens living in the UK. While we are part of the EU they are allowed to move and work freely in whichever Member State area they choose.
It’s time for the human rights roundup, a regular bulletin of all the law we haven’t quite managed to feature in full blog posts. The full list of links, updated each day, can be found here.
by Melinda Padron
In the news
The government announced that a commission would be set up to look into whether the government should bring in a bill of rights in light of all the controversy surrounding the ECtHR. The commission is reported to be composed of experts such as Lord Lester, Helena Kennedy QC and Martin Howe QC, and its merits are already being called into question.
There have been two strong reminders of the importance of maintaining compliance with and membership to the European Court of Human Rights: Aidan O’Neill QC wrote an excellent piece questioning the legal merits of some of Dr Pinto-Duschnisky‘s proposals in his report Bringing Rights back home: making human rights compatible with parliamentary democracy in the UK; while Sir Konrad Schiemann, judge of the Court of Justice of the European Union, made a strong case that by abiding by its decisions, the UK would be serving the greater good of stability amongst its members.
Voyias v Information Commissioner and the London Borough of Camden EA/2011/0007 – Read Judgment
The First Tier Tribunal has overturned a decision of the Information Commissioner and ordered Camden Council to provide information about empty properties in the borough to a former member of the Advisory Service for Squatters.
When one thinks of the term “human rights”, the first example that springs to mind is likely to be the right to life, or the right not to be tortured or enslaved – fundamental guarantees that protect the basic dignity of our human condition. Yet human rights are also intended to serve the core goal of preserving and enhancing the strength and rigour of democratic and pluralistic societies, and so the European Convention of Human Rights (EHCR) also contains provisions guarding against discrimination, and protecting freedom of religion and expression.
Laura Profumo serves us the latest human rights happenings.
In the News:
Michael Gove appeared before the Justice Select Committee last Wednesday, in the first true baring of his political mettle as justice secretary. Overall, it seems, the MP made a largely favourable impression, though legal commentators remain wary. UKHRB’s own Adam Wagner deftly compared Gove’s success to “when they gave Obama the Nobel Peace Prize…because he wasn’t George Bush”. The “post-Grayling Gove-hope” may, then, prove deceptively shallow, defined by the simple relief that Gove is not Grayling.
Yet Gove’s evidence before the committee was laudable – reasonable, measured, and skifully non-committal. Gove’s comments on the Human Rights Act obliquely signalled the “proposals” will be published “in the autumn”, failing to specify whether they would be accompanied by a draft Bill. His substantive points were similarly vague. The Lord Chancellor invoked the “abuse” of human rights as justification for the repeal of the HRA, before conceding he could not offer a “one-hundred per cent guarantee” that the UK would remain a party to the Convention. Such a position suggests a British Bill of Rights may “seek to limit certain rights”, argues academic Mark Elliot, which would, “quite possibly”, precipitate British withdrawal from Strasbourg altogether. Gove also stressed the role of the judiciary in applying the common law to uphold human rights, holding that “there is nothing in the Convention that is not in the common law”. Such a view is “highly contestable at best, plain wrong at worst”, holds Elliot, whilst Conor Gearty finds it stokes the fantasy of “the civil libertarian common law”. Gove seems to suggest that HRA-repeal and possible ECHR-withdrawal would be “far from earth-shattering events”, Elliot notes, as judges could still invoke a panoply of common-law rights. Whilst Gove is right to remind skeptics that HRA-repeal would not leave domestic judges powerless, such “overstatement” of the common-law rights model “might end up hoist on its own petard….ringing hollower than its cheerleaders”. Continue reading →
R (on the application of LG) (Appellant) v Independent Appeal Panel for Tom Hood School (Respondent) & Secretary of State for the Department for Children, Schools and Families (Interested Party)  EWCA Civ 142
CA (Civ Div) (Rix LJ, Wilson LJ, Sir Scott Baker) February 26 2010
An exclusion hearing by a school does not engage the pupil’s Article 6 of the Convention since there is no “civil right” to education recognized as such either by the Convention or by domestic law.
The appellant pupil (VG) had been involved in a fight at the school. He was accused of having a knife, which he denied. The school permanently excluded VG and he appealed. The panel, in accordance with the Education (Pupil Exclusions and Appeals) (Maintained Schools) (England) Regulations 2002 reg.7A, found on the balance of probabilities that he had carried a knife, and upheld his exclusion. VG appealed against a decision ((2009) EWHC 369 (Admin), (2009) BLGR 691) to refuse his application for judicial review of the decision of the respondent panel to uphold a decision to permanently exclude him from a school. He argued that his right to a fair hearing under Article 6 was engaged, either on the basis that the panel had determined his civil right not to be excluded from the school without good reason, or on the basis that the panel had determined a criminal charge against him, and that right had been infringed by the decision to exclude him having been based on allegations established against him on the balance of probabilities rather than on the criminal standard of proof. He also contended that regulation 7A(c), although purportedly made pursuant to the Education Act 2002 s.52, was ultra vires in that a rule about standard of proof was one of evidence and not procedure as permitted by s.52(3)(d).
Welcome back to the human rights roundup, a regular bulletin of all the law we haven’t quite managed to feature in full blog posts. The full list of links can be found here. You can also find our table of human rights cases here and previous roundups here.
by Melinda Padron
In the news:
First, we welcome to the legal blogosphere RightsNI, a new blog relating to human rights issues in Northern Ireland. Human Rights in Ireland wrote a short introduction to the new blog which can be found here.
The UK riots
Now back to August’s hot topic. Last week blogger Charon QC quoted Immanuel Kant: “All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.” Recognising the value of reason in the context of the riots, Charon QC posted several links to various articles which reflect on the events in the midst of all the confusion.
Though strategic litigation and test cases make essential contributions to the rule of law, there’s concern that they’re being abused. And, as funding comes under attack, there’s a greater need than ever for pro bono lawyers to take on test cases to ensure access to justice and accountability.
Following the fall of communism, the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) identified a significant problem with the educational segregation of Roma children in parts of Central and Eastern Europe. Roma children were ending up in what were termed ‘special schools’, supposedly set up for children with intellectual disabilities, and thus segregated from mainstream schooling. In 1998, the ERRC decided to investigate.
To try and bring about reform, it became apparent that the ERRC needed to identify a test case to put before the courts. In order to find the right applicant it interviewed hundreds of Roma families in the region and found 18 Roma children in the Czech Republic to be the test case. The legal angle the ERRC adopted was indirect discrimination: entry tests to mainstream schools were set for all children but they were biased against Roma children because they focused on Czech customs and language. The Roma children often failed and so were subsequently put in the special schools. The centre found that Roma children were twenty-seven times more likely than non-Roma children to be sent to a special school. Continue reading →
Terry Jones, an American pastor who threatened to burn Korans on the 9th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, has been banned from entering the UK “for the public good”.
He has told BBC Radio 5 live that he would challenge the “unfair” decision as his visit could have been “beneficial”. But, as I posted last month, the recent case of an Indian preacher who challenged his exclusion from the UK suggests that the courts would be unlikely to quash the Home Secretary’s decision. The following is taken from my previous post on the topic.
Google Inc v Vidal-Hall and others  EWCA Civ 311 (27 March 2015) – read judgment
This case concerned the misuse of private information by an internet provider based in the United States. Google had secretly tracked private information about users’ internet browsing without their knowledge or consent, and then handed the information on to third parties (a practice known as supplying Browser-Generated Information, or ‘BGI’).
The issue before the Court of Appeal was twofold:
Was the cause of action for misuse of private information a tort, specifically for the purposes of the rules providing for service of proceedings out of the jurisdiction?
C-115/09 Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland, Landesverband Nordrhein-Westfalen eVvBezirksregierung Arnsberg Trianel Kohlekraftwerk Lünen (intervening) – read judgment
The German system of judicial review involves a “careful and detailed” scrutiny of administrative decisions. However, admissibility criteria are such that few are able to access this system, particularly groups bringing actions alleging environmental harm.
At the centre of this case is the highly topical matter, relevant to one of the discussion threads on this site, of the trend towards a new system of environmental justice, heralded by Aarhus and the accompanying EU Directives, where national courts to are required to recognise claims brought by pressure groups alleging infringement of environmental provisions, even where there is no individual legal interest involved. The Trianel case puts into sharp focus the debate as to whether the environment should be protected not as an expression of an individual’s interest, but as a general public interest, enforceable in the courts. Continue reading →
This has been an interesting week for the continuing “debate” over the future of the European Court of Human Rights. Stay tuned for an explanation of the quotation marks.
First, Dominic Raab MP has released a pamphlet with the think-tank CIVITAS entitled Strasbourg in the Dock. Raab, a former lawyer, has been a vocal opponent of the European Court of Human Right as well as the Human Rights Act. The pamphlet can be read here and the press release and summary can be found here. He finds some of the European judges are “woefully lacking in experience” and, as a consequence, “are undermining the credibility and value of the Court“.
This time two years ago two obscure environmental groups, Clientearth and the Marine Conservation Society , took a step that may make more difference to the enforcement of environmental rights in this country than all the recent high-profile “green” NGO campaigns put together.
They submitted a complaint – euphemistically called a “communication” – to the enforcement body of the Aarhus Convention, a treaty which lays down baseline rules for proper environmental justice in the EU, alerting it to various shortcomings in the legal system of England and Wales (inelegantly but conveniently referred to in the report as E & W). Continue reading →
Welcome back to the human rights roundup, a regular bulletin of all the law we haven’t quite managed to feature in full blog posts. The full list of links, updated each day, can be found here.
by Graeme Hall
In the news:
Continuing with their assessment of the UK’s law and legal system, the Law and Lawyers’ blog has produced the latest in its series, No. 4: Juries. This comes at an opportune moment given the recent jailing of a juror for contempt of court after using Facebook to contact an acquitted defendant. This case has seen a possible dichotomy of opinion arise: passionate supporters of trial by jury, such as barrister Felicity Gerry and Tory politician David Davis; or that of Joshua Rozenberg who poses the thorny question; “Whom would you prefer to be judged by – a highly trained, publicly accountable circuit judge? Or 12 people like [jailed juror] Joanne Fraill?”.
This blog is maintained for information purposes only. It is not intended to be a source of legal advice and must not be relied upon as such. Blog posts reflect the views and opinions of their individual authors, not of chambers as a whole.