Sam Sykes and Conor Monighan provide the latest updates in human rights law
In the news
This week marked the 70th
anniversary of the Community Party’s rule in China. In Hong Kong, there were
violent protests and clashes with the police. The unrest which began in the
wake of the controversial extradition bill introduced 4 months ago has
developed into a wider movement for democracy, and there is no resolution in
sight. The situation has caused damage to buildings and transportation
infrastructure, and serious injuries: this week, an 18-year-old was shot in the
chest – police say that he is now recovering.
Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive of Hong
Kong, invoked the Emergency Powers Ordinance to try and create order. It is the
first time in 50 years that such regulations have been created. The regulations
ban people from wearing face masks, which protesters use to protect themselves
from tear gas, and also to preserve their anonymity. Although many have ignored
the rule, the Hong Kong authorities are now bringing the first charges under
the new law.
This post is the first in a series of five reports by Conor Monighan from this year’s conference held by the Administrative Law Bar Association. We will be publishing the next four posts over the next month every Monday.
This year’s ALBA conference featured an impressive list of speakers. There were talks from a Supreme Court judge, a former Lord Chancellor, top silks, and some of the best academics working in public law.
The conference covered a number of practical and substantive topics. The highpoint was an address given by Lord Sumption, in which he responded to criticism of his Reith Lectures. This post, together with those that follow, summarises the key points from the conference.
The Court of Appeal has ruled that a claimant can recover damages for loss of control of their data under section 13 of Data Protection Act 1998 without proving pecuniary loss or distress. The first instance judge, Warby J, had dismissed Mr Lloyd’s application for permission to serve Google outside the jurisdiction in the USA, so preventing the claim getting under way.
The central question was whether the claimant, Mr Richard Lloyd, who is a champion of consumer protection, should be permitted to bring a representative action against Google LLC, the defendant, a corporation based in Delaware in the USA. Mr Lloyd made the claim on behalf of a class of more than 4 million Apple iPhone users. He alleged that Google secretly tracked some of their internet activity, for commercial purposes, between 9th August 2011 and 15th February 2012.
A short examination of whether the policy endorsed by the Labour Party as part of its pledge to support social justice can be justified in law or is a flagrant contravention of human rights. This article was first published in Counsel magazine.
It didn’t take long for some rather well-known lawyers to point out there may be a flaw in this plan. Lord Lester QC of Herne Hill in a letter to the Times that weekend pithily explained that as long ago as 1982, he and David Pannick had advised the school governing bodies that ‘Labour’s plan would violate the European Convention on Human Rights and its first protocol. Our opinion was published. No one disputed our advice and the policy was dropped.’ He expressed surprise about the plan being reignited and continued to be of the view that the plan would violate the European Convention on Human Rights (‘the Convention’).
Emma-Louise Fenelon talks through the recent Supreme Court ruling that prorogation was unlawful with Jonathan Metzer, Commissioning Editor of the UK Human Rights Blog, and Jo Moore, Head of Outreach at 1 Crown Office Row in Episode 94 of Law Pod UK
In a historic decision, a panel of 11 justices of the Supreme Court has held that the decision of the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to prorogue Parliament for 5 weeks from 9 September to 14 October 2019 was unlawfulon the basis that it constituted an unjustified frustration of the constitutional principles of Parliamentary sovereignty and accountability.
Giving the summary of the Court’s reasons for the decision, the President of the Supreme Court, Lady Hale, said that
when the Royal Commissioners walked into the House of Lords it was as if they walked in with a blank sheet of paper … Parliament has not been prorogued.
It follows, said Lady Hale, that the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Lord Speaker of the House of Lords “can take immediate steps to enable each House to meet as soon as possible”.
The verdict is in. The Supreme Court has unanimously held that Boris Johnson’s advice to the Queen to prorogue Parliament until October 14 was ‘unlawful, void and of no effect’, since it had the effect of frustrating Parliament. As such, the prorogation was itself void.
In Episode 93, Emma-Louise Fenelon speaks to Isabel McArdle about the ways in which taxation and human rights overlap, with a particular focus on how this has arisen domestically in relation to the licensing of wholesale alcohol trading.
Flags flutter outside Parliament. Credit: The Guardian.
Very few weeks have given the function of the legal system and the role of the courts as much prominence, nor exposed them to as much scrutiny, as the last week. The decision of the Prime Minster to prorogue Parliament, followed by the granting of royal assent to legislation which would require him to seek an extension to the Article 50 process for exiting the European Union, has launched into the public consciousness areas of constitutional law previously the domain only of law students cramming for exams, public law lawyers and academics in tweed blazers. In what at times made Newsnight look like an hour-long revision seminar for Graduate Diploma in Law students, unfashionable concepts such as justiciability, judicial review and the rule of law took centre stage, framed by the context of Brexit.
The High Court has dismissed an application for judicial review regarding the use of Automated Facial Recognition Technology (AFR) and its implications for privacy rights and data protection.
Haddon-Cave LJ and Swift J decided that the current legal regime is adequate to ensure the appropriate and non-arbitrary use of AFR in a free and civilised society. The Court also held that South Wales Police’s (SWP) use to date of AFR by has been consistent with the requirements of the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) and data protection legislation.
Nonetheless, periodic review is likely to be necessary. This was the first time any court in the world had considered AFR. This article analyses the judgement and explores possible avenues for appeal.
The Scottish Court of Session (Inner House) today ruled that the Prime Minister’s advice to the Queen to prorogue Parliament was unlawful. The High Court of England and Wales today handed down its judgment on the same issue – and came to the opposite conclusion.
How can these two conflicting judgments be resolved? They
can’t, so it’s off to the Supreme Court on 17 September.
Before we delve into the decisions of both courts, a
reminder of some of the key issues:
Prorogation: The act of discontinuing a parliamentary session, until the State Opening of Parliament which commences the next session. It is unlike recess, which is a break in the parliamentary session when parliamentary business is merely suspended, and MPs can be more easily recalled if required. It is also unlike dissolution, which occurs before an election and mean that every MP must re-stand for election.
When Parliament is prorogued, all business comes to an end. Bills which remain in progress (i.e which have not become law) lapse and must be restarted when Parliament is re-opened.
The Prime Minister decided on 28 August 2019 to advise the
Queen to prorogue Parliament. An Order in Council was made that day by the
Queen, effecting the Prorogation. Parliament was prorogued on 9 September 2019,
and – as it stands – will not sit again until 14 October 2019.
Justiciability: The concept of a matter being susceptible to, and capable of, review by the courts. ‘Non-justiciability’ encompasses a number of principles. In Shergill v Khaira,  UKSC 33 the Supreme Court has distinguished two categories of non-justiciability, (1) issues with no basis in domestic law and (2) issues in respect of which judicial restraint will be exercised, due to the separation of powers and judicial competence. The latter is in issue in these cases. Political questions, and certain matters involving the exercise of the Royal Prerogative, are often argued (and held) to be beyond the reach of judicial review. Recent decisions show that the concept is not absolute, even with regard to prerogative powers.
The question of whether non-married partners and wider dependent relatives (e.g. grown-up children) of EEA nationals (known as ‘extended family members’) have a right of appeal against a decision by the Home Secretary to refuse them a residence card under the EEA Regulations has had a fraught recent history.
As we inch towards October, the £100m
government campaign to ‘Get Ready for Brexit’ has been launched. But to all intents
and purposes, the government are jumping the gun. By the time businesses have managed
to get themselves ready for Brexit (again), Boris Johnson will probably have
been required to request an extension to Article 50 under the anti-no deal bill
proposed by Hillary Benn, which today was given royal assent and passed into
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