The Weekly Round-Up: Colston Four acquitted, the new offence of breastfeeding voyeurism, and the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme

10 January 2022 by

In the news:

The Colston Four have been acquitted of criminal damage by a jury for their role in pulling down the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol and pushing it into Bristol Harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest in June 2020. Under the Criminal Damage Act 1971, a defendant will have a defence to criminal damage if they can prove they had a ‘lawful excuse’ for their actions. In this case, the four defendants put forward three lawful excuses. First, they argued that they had been acting to prevent the crime of public indecency which was being committed in the retention of the statue after 30 years of petitions to remove it, given the serious offence and distress it caused. Relatedly, they contended that Bristol County Council had committed misconduct in failing to take it down, but this was withdrawn from the jury by HHJ Peter Blair QC as there was insufficient evidence. Second, they argued that they genuinely believed the statue was the property of Bristol citizens, and that those citizens would consent to the statue being pulled down. Finally, they contended that a conviction would be a disproportionate interference with their rights under Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (to freedom of expression and assembly). The verdict has been criticised by some as a politically motivated decision which has no proper basis in law, and a petition to retry the protesters has received over 13,000 signatures. Supporters of the Colston four maintain on the other hand that their excuses have a real foundation in the law, and that therefore it had been open to the jury to find the defendants not guilty.

The approach of juries in protest cases has come under further scrutiny in light of the new proposal in the Police Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill to increase the maximum sentence for the damage of memorials to 10 years imprisonment, irrespective of the cost of the damage. The increase in sentence means that all cases would necessarily be tried by a jury, which some legal commentators have suggested makes it more likely that perpetrators will go free.


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One date to rule them all: McQuillan, McGuigan and McKenna [2021] UKSC 55

7 January 2022 by

Pictured are nine of the ‘hooded men’. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times
Nine of the Hooded Men. Photo by Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

In one of its final decisions of 2021, McQuillan, McGuigan and McKenna, the UK Supreme Court addressed challenges to the effectiveness of police investigations into events which took place during the Northern Ireland conflict. The European Court has long maintained that the right to life (Article 2 ECHR) and the prohibition upon torture and inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 3 ECHR) carry with them positive obligations on the state to conduct effective investigations. These “legacy” cases not only draw the Courts into debates over some of the most contentious aspects of the Northern Ireland conflict, in particular the involvement of state agents in killings and the infliction of serious harms upon individuals, but they also pose questions about how human rights law applied in the context of Northern Ireland as a jurisdiction before the enactment of the Human Rights Act 1998.

The decisions

For reasons of economy, this post will focus on the facts of the McGuigan and McKenna elements of this litigation, which concerned the ill-treatment of detainees who had been interned in the 1970s (while also exploring broader questions which concerned all elements in the litigation). The scope of this ill-treatment, involving the subjection of internees to the infamous “five techniques” (including hooding of detainees to disorient) as part of interrogations, has long been known. Indeed, the resultant case of Ireland v United Kingdom remains a key turning point in the development of the European Convention on Human Rights, demonstrating that the Strasbourg Court would be willing to uphold human rights claims against an important member state even as it sought to tackle political violence. In that decision, although the Court found that the five techniques breached Article 3 ECHR, it discussed them in terms of inhuman and degrading treatment and not torture. Releases of documents by the National Archives (highlighted in a 2014 RTÉ documentary), however, showed UK Cabinet Ministers discussing the extent of the interrogation practices when they were taking place, and led to calls for fresh police investigations into whether there has been a coverup.


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Gay marriage-cake case declared inadmissible by Strasbourg Court

7 January 2022 by

Lee v. the United Kingdom (application no. 18860/19)

The European Court of Human Rights has, by a majority, declared the application inadmissible. The decision is final.

Background facts and law

The case concerned the refusal by a Christian-run bakery to make a cake with the words “Support Gay Marriage” and the QueerSpace logo on it which the applicant had ordered and the proceedings that had followed. The following summary is based on the Court’s press release.

The applicant, Gareth Lee, is a British national who was born in 1969 and lives in Belfast. He is associated with QueerSpace, an organisation for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Northern Ireland.

Although same-sex marriage had been enacted in the rest of the UK in 2014, it was made legal in Northern Ireland only in 2020.

In 2014, Mr Lee ordered a cake for a gay activist event set to take place not long after the Northern Irish Assembly had narrowly rejected legalising same-sex marriage for the third time. He ordered it from Asher’s bakery. The cake was to have an image of Bert and Ernie (popular children’s television characters), the logo of QueerSpace, and the slogan “Support Gay Marriage”. He paid in advance.


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Brook House Inquiry: Phase 1 Hearings Reviewed – Appin Mackay-Champion

6 January 2022 by

‘A bleak, poorly staffed, highly charged and toxic environment.’ (Callum Tulley)

The Brook House inquiry has recently concluded its first phase of hearings which took place between November 23 and December 10, 2021 at the International Dispute Resolution Centre (IDRC). Brook House is an Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) beside Gatwick Airport, originally managed by the private security company G4S. The inquiry was set up to investigate the actions and circumstances surrounding the ‘mistreatment’ of male detainees at Brook House between April 1 to August 31 2017, and specifically, examining whether the treatment experienced was contrary to Article 3 ECHR (the right not to be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment). This followed the damning footage filmed by an undercover reporter in Brook House during the ‘relevant period’, and broadcast on the BBC Panorama Programme ‘Undercover: Britain’s Immigration Secrets’ which aired on September 4, 2017. 

Background

Callum Tulley was employed by Brook House from January 2015 as a detention custody officer. In this role he witnessed the disturbing culture and conduct of employees there and raised these concerns by email to the BBC Panorama team in January 2016. After a 14 – month period providing intelligence and completing specialist training, Tulley began to secretly film 109 hours of footage over a three-month period – the contents of which exposed the degrading treatment of detainees by employees. 


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Guidance from Divisional Court on Article 2 inquests

4 January 2022 by

Image: Wikipedia

In R (Morahan) v West London Assistant Coroner [2021] EWHC 1603 (Admin), the Divisional Court provided detailed guidance on the circumstances in which an enhanced investigation under Article 2 ECHR may be required at an inquest.

Facts

Tanya Morahan had a history of paranoid schizophrenia and harmful cocaine use. From mid-May 2018 she was an inpatient at a rehabilitation unit operated by the Central & North West London NHS Foundation Trust. She was initially detained under s.3 of the Mental Health Act 1983 but on 25 June 2018 the section was rescinded. On 30 June 2018 Tanya left the unit but didn’t return until the next evening, 1 July. On the afternoon of 3 July 2018, again with her doctors’ agreement, she left the ward but didn’t return. The Trust asked the police to visit her. They visited on 4 July 2018 but she did not answer the door. She was ultimately found dead on 9 July 2018. [para 2].

Background

The Coroner opened an inquest and found that Article 2 was not engaged. The family brought judicial review proceedings, arguing that: (1) the circumstances of Tanya’s death fell within a class of cases which gave rise to an automatic duty to conduct a Middleton inquest; (2) alternatively, that such duty arose because there were arguable breaches of a substantive operational duty (the Osman duty) owed by the Trust to take steps to avert the real and immediate risk of Tanya’s death by accidental drug overdose, a risk which was or ought to have been known to the Trust. [para 3].


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Latest Law Pod UK Episode: Interview with Nazir Afzal OBE

30 December 2021 by

In Episode 155 Emma-Louise Fenelon speaks to Nazir Afzal OBE about his book The Prosecutor. 

His book can be bought here

Nazir’s podcast is available here 

You can read more about his career here

Law Pod UK is available on Spotify, Apple PodcastsAudioboomPlayer FM,  ListenNotesPodbeaniHeartRadio PublicDeezer or wherever you listen to our podcasts.

Please remember to rate and review us if you like what you hear.

Enforced quarantine in hotels: a breach of the right to liberty?

27 December 2021 by

Hotta and others, R(on the application of) v Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and another [2021] EWHC 3359 (Admin)

This was an application for permission to challenge to the Managed Hotel Quarantine (MHQ) scheme. MHQ was put into place under Schedule 11 to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel and Operator Liability) (England) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021 No.582) (“the 2021 Regulations”). The 2021 Regulations were made on 14 May 2021 and came into force on 17 May 2021. They have been amended at various stages subsequently. Also amended have been the practical arrangements and, in particular, for the purposes of this case, a list of countries known as the “Red List” countries.

The claimants contended that the scheme violated the Article 5 ECHR rights of those who were subjected to it. A particular focus of the proposed claim for judicial review was to identify the category of travellers who came to (or back to) England from Red List countries into the MHQ scheme, and who were required to remain within the scheme, notwithstanding that they could demonstrate that they had been vaccinated.


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The Weekly Round-Up: New COVID-19 rules for three nations and no investigation into Met on Downing Street Christmas party

27 December 2021 by

In the news: 

From 26 December new Covid rules came into effect in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.  All three nations have limited the size of public events and face coverings are compulsory in most indoor public spaces.  Covid passports or proof of a negative test result is required at many venues.  Nightclubs will close in Wales and Scotland from 27 December and in Northern Ireland from 26 December.  People in Scotland are also advised to limit social contact to two other households and in Wales social distancing of 2 metres is required in all public and work spaces. 

The only change to the current Covid guidance for England is the reduction of Covid self-isolation time from 10 to seven days, provided people have two negative test results.  Face masks remain compulsory in most indoor public venues and a Covid passport or negative test result is required for nightclubs and some other venues. 

In other news: 


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2021 Reviewed

22 December 2021 by

Photo by the author

And so we come to the end of another year. The Covid-19 pandemic has continued to dominate the news, particularly with the very concerning surge of the Omicron variant this month. Many reading this will be separated from loved ones over Christmas. The year has also seen the return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan after the US withdrawal at the end of August, the resumption of military rule in Myanmar and the ongoing persecution of the Uyghurs by the Chinese government, this year recognised by the House of Commons and the US government (as well as many other bodies and organisations) as constituting a genocide. So, one could say that this year has rivalled last year for infamy.

And yet, any year contains light as well as darkness. Also in 2021, researchers at Brown University successfully transmitted brain signals wirelessly to a computer for the first time (hopefully a breakthrough in treatment for paralyzed people), 124,000 new trees were planted in Sumatra as part of reforestation efforts, the WHO gave approval for widespread use of a groundbreaking malaria vaccine and almost nine billion Covid vaccinations have so far been administered worldwide since the first dose given in the UK 12 months ago, for a virus which only arrived 12 months before that.

But what, I hear you ask, about the law? As always, this year has been packed with fascinating and important legal developments — many of which you may have caught, but some of which may have passed under the radar. And so, please refresh your glass (or mug) and join me on another adventure as we review the 10 cases that defined 2021.


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The Weekly Round-up: Human Rights Act reform, citizenship for Windrush claimants and European parenting rights

20 December 2021 by

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 [2003] EWHC 1321 (Admin), [2003] 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).


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Article 3 in expulsion of mentally ill individuals: risk of harm to others insufficient to engage protection

20 December 2021 by

Savran v. Denmark (Application number 57467/15), 7 December 2021

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”) has held that the risks to the applicant’s psychiatric health posed by his expulsion to Turkey did not reach the threshold for the application of Article 3.

The decision demonstrates the extremely high evidential threshold which applicants bringing such complaints will have to meet in order to establish that there are “substantial grounds” for believing that there is a real risk of a violation of Article 3, i.e., to pass the first stage of the Article 3 analysis articulated in the ECtHR’s case law.

For a detailed review of the Article 3 case law preceding this decision, see the two part analysis here and here and a further extended look on the UKHRB.


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Tackling climate change: human rights campaigners or shareholders? Law Pod UK latest

15 December 2021 by

In this week’s episode of Law Pod UK Rosalind English reports from the UK Bar Council’s 19th Annual Law Reform Lecture, exploring the role of law reform in the context of climate change. You will hear excerpts from the speeches given by Inger Andersen, Under-Secretary-General of the UN and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, and Lord Carnwath of Notting Hill, a former UK Supreme Court judge.

The Paris Agreement of 2015 (United Nations)

References made in Lord Carnwath’s address are to the following cases:

Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, 549 U.S. 497 (2007)

State of the Netherlands v. Urgenda Foundation (Dutch: De Staat Der Nederlanden v. Stichting Urgenda), Supreme Court of the Netherlands, 20 December 2019 (unofficial translation here)

Juliana, et al. v. United States of America, et al.,  947 F.3d 1159 (9th Cir. 2020)

Future Generations vs. Ministry of Environment and Others, Supreme Court of Coloumbia, 5 April 2018

Milieudefensie et al. v. Royal Dutch Shell plc (26 May 20212. This ongoing claim is based on the Urgenda decision, which found that the Dutch government’s inadequate action on climate change violated a duty of care to its citizens).

Full written speeches are available on the Bar Council’s website.

Law Pod UK is available on Spotify, Apple PodcastsAudioboomPlayer FM,  ListenNotesPodbeaniHeartRadio PublicDeezer or wherever you listen to our podcasts.

Please remember to rate and review us if you like what you hear.

Secret Justice Review: The Special Advocates respond to the Government’s submission

14 December 2021 by

The Special Advocates have responded to the Government’s submission to the statutory Review of closed proceedings being conducted by Sir Duncan Ouseley — but HMG’s submission remains unpublished.

The delayed statutory review into closed proceedings under the Justice and Security Act 2013 (JSA) is reaching its conclusion.  According to the Government’s website, it is estimated that the report “should be laid before Parliament early in 2022”.

A very brief recap:

  • Closed material procedures (CMPs) enable the Government to rely on secret evidence in legal proceedings, without showing that evidence to the other party.  To reduce the unfairness inherent in that, a special advocate is appointed to review the secret material and represent the interests of the party excluded from access to it, including in hearings held in secret.
  • The JSA came into force in June 2013.  Controversially, it included provisions making secret procedures (CMPs) available across the full range of civil proceedings.
  • One of the safeguards required by Parliament during the Bill’s bumpy passage was a review of the operation of CMPs under the Act after it had been in force for 5 years.
  • The 5 year anniversary came and went in June 2018, with no sign of the review being commissioned.  This was highlighted in my post on this blog on 28 January 2020:  “Secret Justice”:  An Oxymoron and the Overdue Review.
  • Another year (with further enquiries as to the position from various quarters in the meantime – summarised here) was to pass before the Government announced that a Reviewer had been appointed:  Sir Duncan Ouseley, a retired High Court Judge and former President of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC – the body responsible for hearing CMPs in statutory immigration appeals), so with wide experience of CMPs from his judicial career.  The call for evidence took place earlier this year, closing just over 3 years beyond the date that the review should have taken place.
  • The Special Advocates (of whom I am one) made a detailed submission to the Reviewer based on our collective experience of CMPs under the JSA.  This was published on this blog here:  Secret Justice – The Insiders’ View.   We highlighted some serious concerns that we had encountered with the practical operation of CMPs under the JSA.  We also drew attention to commitments that the Government had made when the Bill was passing, to improve the effectiveness of the system, which had not been honoured.
  • We have seen no response from the Government to the detailed critique that we set out in our paper, and we do not know whether any attempt at a comprehensive reply by HMG has been submitted to the Reviewer.

What of the Government’s submission to the Review?  In publishing our paper for the Review, in the interests of openness and promoting public debate, the SAs had expressed the hope that HMG’s response (and that of any other Government bodies or agencies) would do likewise:

In a corresponding spirit of transparency, it is hoped that any submissions to this review on behalf of Government bodies or agencies will be published in full, and so made available for wider review and comment.  [para 5 of SAs’ submission of 8.6.21]

That has not been done.  What did happen was that on 29 July 2021 the SAs were sent the Government’s Response by the Reviewer (not HMG) and told that this response was shared in confidence, and was not for onward transmission.


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USA successfully appeals Assange case

13 December 2021 by

In Government of the United States v Julian Assange [2021] EWHC 3313 (Admin), the High Court allowed the appeal of the United States of America against the ruling of Westminster Magistrates’ Court, thereby permitting the extradition of the WikiLeaks founder to the US where he faces criminal charges relating to the unlawful obtaining and publication of classified defence and national security materials.

The High Court held that diplomatic assurances given by the US government regarding Assange’s prospective detention conditions were sufficient to quash the original basis upon which his extradition was initially discharged, namely that his mental condition was such that it would be “oppressive” to extradite him, per s.91 Extradition Act 2003.


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Join 1 Crown Office Row for an evening discussing Pupillage Application Tips and Life at the Bar

9 December 2021 by

For all the aspiring barristers interested in Clinical Negligence, Public Law, Professional Discipline, Inquests, Public Inquiries, Environment, Tax and more, 1 Crown Office Row are holding an online talk with their barristers. They will give tips for pupillage applications, life as both a pupil and junior tenant as well as talk more about practice areas and chambers culture.

Interested to learn more? Want to book you place? Details below:

When: 5pm, Wednesday 19th January 2022

Where: via Teams

Programme & Barristers

Free Ticket: Register via Eventbrite

PUPILLAGE APPLICATION TIPS

Don’t forget to listen to our podcast Law Pod UK or visit our Quarterly Medical Law Review (QMLR) for the latest medical law updates.

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