Tracking Coronavirus Symptoms

26 May 2020 by

The new contact tracing app (NHSX) is due to be rolled out in the rest of the UK some time after the Isle of Wight trial in May. Is this a way out of lockdown or an irreversible erosion of our privacy? In the latest episode of Law Pod UK Rosalind English talks to Professor Lilian Edwards of Newcastle University, whose Coronavirus (Safeguards) Bill 2020 seeks to address some of these concerns, particularly potential issues of coercion and discrimination. See our previous post reporting on the Webinar “The Covid-19 App – does it threaten privacy rights”  held by Professor Edwards and others on 13 May.


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The Weekly Round-up: Dominic Cummings, Hong Kong, and Immigration Law Challenges

25 May 2020 by

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In the news

It emerged this week that Dominic Cummings drove 250 miles from London to Durham with his wife and child to be with his parents, while his wife was experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. In so doing, Mr Cummings appears to have flouted the government guidance of which he was one of the architects. Leading Tory MPs have called for the Prime Minister to sack Mr Cummings, but he has refused to do so, saying that Mr Cummings “followed the instincts of every father and parent”, and “has acted legally, responsibly, and with integrity”.

Apparently in response to the incident, a rogue Civil Service employee tweeted from the official Civil Service Twitter account “Arrogant and offensive. Can you imagine having to work with these truth twisters?” The Tweet was swiftly deleted, and a Cabinet Office investigation is under way into how it was released.  

The situation in Hong Kong has escalated again this week, as Beijing gears up to enact Article 23 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s ‘mini-constitution’ of 1997, and impose national security laws to prohibit “treason, secession, sedition [and] subversion”. Protesters have been out in force in defiance of coronavirus restrictions, and police have repeatedly made use of tear gas, pepper spray, and water cannons. Notably, protesters have started to call for full independence for Hong Kong, which has not previously been one of the pro-democracy movement’s official objectives.


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New Strasbourg Court President on AI and the law

22 May 2020 by

In the latest episode of Law Pod UK, Robert Spano, who recently commenced his tenure as President of the European Court of Human Rights in the difficult circumstances of lockdown and remote working, discusses with Rosalind English the challenges we face with automated decision making and governmental interference with our lives. The pandemic has sharpened this question, as the lifting of restrictions is made contingent on various automated projects such as the contact tracing app, which we will be considering in the next episode. Spano explains that rapid advances in AI will not just require new legal and regulatory responses. Artificial intelligence will also fundamentally alter the institutional capacities and legitimacy of courts as sources of governance. How will AI reshape our understandings and implementations of law? How will it reshape the internal workings of courts? Listen to Episode 112 to find out more.


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Article 6 applies to challenge to conditions imposed on suspected Al-Qaeda affiliate – an extended look

19 May 2020 by

QX v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2020] EWHC 1221 (Admin)

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.


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Ivory ban upheld by Court of Appeal

19 May 2020 by

Friends of Antique Cultural Treasures Ltd v Department of Environment for Food, Cultural and Rural Affairs [2020] EWCA Civ 649

I wrote up Jay J’s dismissal on the challenge to the lawfulness of trading restrictions in the 2018 Ivory Act here. The details of the appellant’s role and their arguments, as well as the reasoning behind the judge’s decision, are set out in that post. The thrust of the initial claim was that the prohibitions in the Act went too far and were disproportionate under Articles 34, 35 and 36 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (“TFEU”). The question before the Court of Appeal was whether the judge applied the proportionality test correctly.

The overarching complaint was that the evidence base was insufficient. The appellant’s criticisms of Jay J’s analysis can be summarised as follows:

(i) wrongful use of the precautionary principle and the acceptance of inadequate evidence to support the bans;

(ii) failure to take account of the failings in the Impact Assessment which preceded the Bill and the according of too much deference to Parliament; and

(iii) violation of the principle of respect for property and the wrongful failure to require a right to compensation.

The Court of Appeal noted that this appeal has arisen whilst the United Kingdom is in the transition period following exit day from the European Union. It sufficed to record that until the end of the “Implementation Period”, which is presently set at 11pm on 31st December 2020, the same rules apply as they did prior to exit day.


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The Round Up: Pilot Contact Tracing and a Points-Based Immigration Bill

18 May 2020 by

This afternoon, health secretary Matt Hancock made a statement in the Commons updating the house on the government’s response to the crisis.

The health secretary announced that anyone in the UK aged five and over who has coronavirus symptoms will be eligible for a test. From today, recognised symptoms include the loss of smell and taste, as well a persistent cough and a high temperature. Hancock confirmed for the first time that the government has recruited over 21,000 contact tracers, including 7,500 health care professionals, to manually trace and get in contact with anyone who has tested positive.

In addition, he offered a degree of clarification in relation to the government’s new contact tracing app. The function of the app is to alert people of the need to self-isolate if they have come into proximity with an individual who reported coronavirus symptoms.


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Contact tracing – breach of data protection?

15 May 2020 by

In the rush to lift the lockdown with safeguards, the government has given a green light to “contact tracing” via bluetooth apps on our smartphones (provided we own them and are willling to take up the app). See Rafe Jenning’s post on the technology behind this project.

Just to remind us what contact tracing via bluetooth apps means, I will recapitulate what Lord Sandhurst says in his introduction.

The government propose a centralised model, under which, I download the centralised app on to my phone. I will keep the phone, and the app, switched on at all times. It will record the identity of the phone of any person to whom I pass close and save that information. If I learn that I am infected I get that phone to pass that information to the central server of NHSX. The server then sends a message to all people with whom I’ve been in contact within a relevant time period, that tells them that they are at risk of infection but not directly, and from whom

This is a fast moving development and indeed this post may be rendered otiose in a week’s time, particularly as the UK does not, as yet, have entirely reliable antibody tests ( news just in is that this may change.) But on 13 May we had the benefit of a virtual gathering of legal experts in data protection, human rights and constitutional law facilitated by, amongst others, Lord Sandhurst (formerly Guy Mansfield QC of 1 Crown Office Row), on the results of the first test run of the tracing app in the Isle of Wight, courtesty of the Society of Conservative Lawyers.


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The latest critique of the Coronavirus Act 2020

13 May 2020 by

The UKHRB has been at pains to cover all aspects of the CA2020, the various sets of regulations and guidance made under it, in a balanced manner. You will recall that I drew attention to two papers published by Lord Sandhurst (Guy Mansfield QC, formerly of 1 Crown Office Row) and others raising concerns about the constitutionality and legality of these regulations: “Pardonable in the heat of crisis- but we must urgently return to the rule of law.” , followed by “Pardonable in the Heat of Crisis – building a solid foundation for action”


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Courts should consider coronavirus emergency when sentencing, rules Court of Appeal

12 May 2020 by

Manning, R. v (Rev 1) [2020] EWCA Crim 592 (30 April 2020) — judgment here

On 30 April 2019, giving the lead judgment in the Court of Appeal, the Lord Chief Justice considered that the impact of a custodial sentence is likely to be heavier during the coronavirus pandemic than it would otherwise be, and that this was a factor that judges and magistrates can and should keep in mind when sentencing.


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The Round Up: Healthy Jury, Healthy Justice System?

11 May 2020 by

The Old Bailey

Two jury trials will resume at the Old Bailey this week in the first steps toward Crown court cases restarting around the country. It has been almost two months since jury trials were suspended on 23 March amid coronavirus lockdown measures.

In his announcement, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett of Maldon, began by affirming that “the practice of trial by jury sits at the heart of our criminal justice system.” In contrast, the Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland QC, began his statement with a more equivocal comment about a well-functioning justice system being the hallmark of a healthy democracy.


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Digital Contact Tracing Updates from the Human Rights Committee

11 May 2020 by

The Human Rights Committee, reviewing NHSX’s current digital contact tracing app architecture, has recommended that the government’s current privacy assurances are not sufficient to protect data privacy and that legislation must be passed to ensure that. This echoes Professor Lilian Edwards’ call for primary legislation to ensure privacy rights are protected. These recommendations are given special significance NHSX’s choice to adopt the controversial and arguably less secure “centralised” model (an explanation of the different contact tracing models and Prof Edwards’ suggested legislation can be found here). 


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Leviathan Challenged — the lockdown is compliant with human rights law (Part Two)

11 May 2020 by

At present, the lockdown continues. Image: The Guardian

Previously on this blog we published Francis Hoar’s article which argued that the Coronavirus Regulations passed by the Government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic involve breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In the first of two response articlesLeo Davidson argued that the Regulations do not involve any breach of human rights law, as they fall within the executive’s margin of discretion for the management of this crisis.

In this article, Dominic Ruck Keene and Henry Tufnell argue that the challengers to the legislation have not shown that the measures adopted by the Government are disproportionate in the circumstances of the pandemic.

This is a summary of a paper published here and inevitably simplifies the detailed arguments and considerations within it.  The article represents the views of the authors alone.

Note: This post involves examination of the legal provisions that accompany the restrictions on movement of individuals announced by the Government. Legal scrutiny is important but should not be taken to question the requirement to follow the Regulations.

Introduction

The inevitable has finally happened – a letter before action has been sent to the Health Secretary challenging the legality of the various restrictions that cumulatively make up the current Covid-19 lockdown within the UK through the mechanism of the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (England) Regulations 2020 (as amended) (‘the Regulations‘). The letter before action builds on the opinions previously outlined by Francis Hoar both on the UK Human Rights Blog and in a previous paper concerning the compatibility of the ‘lockdown’ with the ECHR. This post seeks to develop Leo Davidson’s earlier analysis of those arguments.

Here, we make the argument that there has not been a breach of all or any of the relevant ECHR rights, namely Articles 5 (right to liberty), 8 (right to private and family life), 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion), 11 (freedom of assembly and association) and 14 (prohibition on discrimination) and by Articles 1 (protection of property) and 2 (right to an education) of Protocol 1. Further, that there is in fact no deprivation of liberty under Article 5.


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Covid-19 and Inquests: an update with Peter Skelton QC on Law Pod UK

10 May 2020 by


In Episode 111 Emma-Louise Fenelon discusses with Peter Skelton QC the recent changes in legislation and guidance concerning the Coronial jurisdiction since the outbreak of Covid-19 and the ways in which Coroners and practitioners are rising to meet the challenges faced in lockdown.

The four most recent Guidance Notes published by the Coroner can be found below, along with a link to the most recent issue of the QMLR:

Guidance Note 34

Guidance Note 35

Guidance Note 36

Guidance Note 37

Quarterly Medical Law Review (QMLR) Special Issue

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