Russia has been suspended from the Human Rights Council following a UN General Assembly resolution adopted on Thursday. 93 nations voted in favour of Russia’s suspension, 58 abstained and 24 voted against. The resolution was adopted in a meeting of a special emergency session on the war in Ukraine. Before the vote, Ukranian ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya alleged that “thousands of peaceful residents [of Ukraine] have been killed, tortured, raped, abducted and robbed by the Russian Army”. Following Russia’s suspension, Russian Deputy Permanent Representative Kuzmin announced that Russia had decided to leave the Council before the end of its term and that the Council was monopolised by states that “for many years have directly been involved in blatant and massive violations of human rights”. Earlier last week, Twitter limited content from over 300 official Russian government accounts, including that of President Putin.
On Wednesday the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act (2020) came into force, introducing no-fault divorce to domestic law. Couples no longer need rely on adultery, unreasonable behaviour or years of separation as legal reasons for divorce and can instead separate by mutual agreement and avoid “unnecessary finger-pointing”. The Act also removes the possibility of disputing a decision to divorce and introduces a minimum 20-week period from the start of proceedings to the granting of a conditional order of divorce.
In Episode 162 Clare Ciborowska and Richard Ager, both family law experts from the Brighton Annexe of 1 Crown Row, talk about the difficult subject of reproductive coercion where such allegations arise in child contact cases. Fact finding hearings, Scott schedules, safeguarding enquiries and risk assessments are proceedings about children’s interests: how is the court to assess and weigh allegations of reproductive coercion and control, where the victims of such abuse are reluctant to repeat the trauma by reliving the details.
Attorney General for Bermuda v Roderick Ferguson & Ors (Bermuda)  UKPC 5 — Judgment here, links to hearings here.
Chantelle Day & Anor v The Governor of the Cayman Islands & Anor (Cayman Islands)  UKPC 6 –Judgment here, links to hearings here.
The Bermuda Case
In the Bermuda case, the Attorney General of Bermuda appealed the decision of the Court of Appeal for Bermuda (decision here), which found in favour of the Respondents: a gay Bermudian, OUTBermuda (a Bermudian LGBTQ charity), a lesbian Bermudian, and three Bermudians associated with Bermudian churches, holding that s.53 of the Domestic Partnership Act 2018 (“the DPA”) of Bermuda, which confines marriage to a union between a man and a woman, was invalid under the Bermudian Constitution (“the Constitution”).
Lord Hodge and Lady Arden (Lord Reed and Dame Victoria Sharp agreeing) gave the judgment of the Board, allowing the appeal of the Attorney General. Lord Sales gave a dissenting judgment.
Same-sex marriage is highly controversial in Bermuda. The political backdrop to this case is outlined at [25-30]. Importantly, following a general election in 2017 the Progressive Labour Party introduced the Domestic Partnership Bill, which was subsequently passed, in an attempt to reach a viable compromise on the issue of same-sex marriage. The DPA provides for legally recognised domestic partnerships between any two adults, but s.53 confines marriage to a union between a man and a woman.
The Legislature in Bermuda is bound by the Constitution, summarised at [7-9]. Chapter 1 of the Constitution sets out fundamental rights and freedoms. The Constitution does not confer a right to marry. Section 8 provides for the protection of freedom of conscience:
no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of conscience…the said freedom includes freedom, either alone or in the community with others, and both in public or in private, to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
Although Bermuda is not in Europe, the European Convention on Human Rights (“the Convention”) applies to Bermuda as a matter of international law through declarations made by the UK pursuant to the Convention (when it was responsible for Bermudian foreign policy) and subsequently permanently renewed after Bermuda became independent. Although it does not apply in domestic Bermudian law, as one of the “antecedents” to the Constitution, it is relevant to the interpretation of constitutional rights [10-21].
The United Kingdom and other NATO allies have begun ramping up arms deliveries to Ukraine to assist them in the ongoing conflict against Russia. Deliveries of hitherto purely ‘defensive’ weapons systems will now be bolstered by armoured vehicles and long-range artillery. The UK has also provided cutting edge portable Starstreak air defence systems to Ukraine, with a verified report on Saturday confirming that a Russian helicopter had already been destroyed by the system. The Starstreak system is developed by Belfast-based Thales Air Defence Limited, which specialises in short-range air defence weapons. Starstreak launchers can be shoulder-mounted, attached to a vehicle, or fired from a ground launcher, but the UK has only sent units of the shoulder-mounted version to aid rapid deployment. These weapons follow lethal aid already sent to Ukraine by the UK, including over 4,000 Swedish made NLAWs and some US produced Javelin missiles, both powerful anti-tank weapons capable of destroying heavily armoured Russian main battle tanks.
The claimant (FoE) applied for judicial review of the decision by the Secretary of State to provide export finance and support in relation to a liquified natural gas project in Mozambique.
The mission of the International Trade/Export Credits Guarantee Department (UKEF) is to ensure that no viable UK export fails for lack of finance or insurance from the private sector, while operating at no net cost to the taxpayer. It is afforded a significant margin of appreciation when considering factors when deciding whether to provide this finance and support. Indeed it has been the first UK Government Department to assess climate change impacts in the context of a long-term foreign project with many public interest considerations.
The project comprised the development of offshore deepwater gas production facilities connected to an onshore gas receiving and liquefaction facility. It was to be operated by the first interested party (Total Mozambique) and funded via the second interested party (a financing company). UKEF acknowledged that climate change impacts and the Paris Climate Change Agreement were factors that ought to be taken into account alongside other factors in making its decision in relation to the project. A report was prepared summarising the climate change matters considered by UKEF, including that the potential Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions from the use of the project’s exported liquid natural gas would be very high, and that it was unlikely that Mozambique would attract significant international investment into the renewables sector without first being in receipt of financial resources from investment into sectors such as natural gas.
British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe returned to the UK on Thursday, after being imprisoned in Iran for spying, which she and the British government deny. Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was originally arrested in April 2016 and sentenced to five years in prison for alleged plots to overthrow the Iranian government, which she also denies. In April 2021 she was sentenced to another year in jail for spying. Attempts by the British government, including the Prime Minister, to secure her release had previously failed but an improving UK-Iran relationship, including the settlement of a £400m debt Iran claimed the UK owed, may have contributed to her release last week. Several more dual nationals remain imprisoned in Iran, including Iranian-British-American wildlife conservationist Morad Tahbaz, charged with “co-operating with the hostile state of the US”.
Episode 161: Just days before Russia resigned from the Council of Europe, the Centre of European Law at King’s College London held a rapid reaction seminar considering what role can EU law play in the current conflict in Ukraine. The distinguished panel, chaired by King’s College Reader in Law Oana Stefan, included Professor Takis Tridimas, Professor of European Law at KCL, Roman Petrov, Head of the International and European Law Department at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla, and others. We are very grateful to King’s College for allowing Law Pod UK to summarise the main points made by the experts and raise the question: does EU law present any potential way of this quagmire?
The Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London, is recognised as one of the best law schools in the world. It recently launched its MSc Law and Professional Practice.
In the politically-charged and at times feverish aftermath of the Brexit referendum, Gina Miller became a “magnet for hatred” for exercising her right of access to courts and winning two landmark public law cases against the UK Government. The magnitude and ferocity of abuse directed at Gina Miller made those who followed in her footsteps wary enough to seek anonymity. In Yalland and others v Brexit Secretary, 4 claimants were granted anonymity in relation to a judicial review claim concerning UK participation in the European Economic Area Agreement.
Anonymity in Northern Ireland is not uncommon where some part of a claimant’s deeply personal life or history play a role in the determination of their claim. JR80 for example involved a claimant who had suffered egregious institutional abuse as a child, while JR123 involved a claimant with ancient convictions which disproportionately impacted his life.
Leigh & Ors v (1) The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and (2) Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Interested Party) EWHC 527
A year after the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard by serving Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens, the Divisional Court has given its judgment on the MPS response to the proposed vigil for Ms Everard organised by #ReclaimTheseStreets on Clapham Common, near where she was last seen alive.
The aim of the vigil was to highlight risks to women’s safety and to campaign for a change in attitudes and responses to violence against women. However, it was at a time when Regulations imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic prohibited a gathering of more than 30 persons in a public outdoor place in a Tier 4 area such as London.
MPS would not sanction the plan for the vigil and it was cancelled (as discussed here). The Claimants alleged that this was because the Met had unlawfully thwarted the plan. The Court agreed.
The judgment is a comprehensive victory for the Claimants, hailed by them as a “victory for women” and an “absolute vindication”. It is also a landmark decision in the context of debate as to the impact of the Covid regulations on the fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in primary legislation pursuant to the HRA. It contains a granular analysis of the requirements of the proportionality assessment to be undertaken in such cases. It has particular resonance given controversial changes to the way police are able to control protests currently being debated in parliament as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
On Monday, the Independent reported on the words of the Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency of the United Kingdom, Jacob Rees-Mogg. Having earlier tweeted a graph demonstrating that the UK had sanctioned a higher amount of Russian-owned assets in pound-terms than the US or the EU, Labour and Lib Dem politicians responded by pointing out that the graph better demonstrated the UK’s role in storing and laundering money for highly questionable individuals from Russia and elsewhere. Despite the calls for transparency from, for instance, the president of Estonia long before the invasion of Ukraine, the UK and its territories have remained a bastion for billions of pounds of poorly identified foreign wealth, with large numbers of expensive houses in central London standing empty while house prices soar and the number of homeless grows.
Barely two weeks after Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine, the Economic Crime Bill was rushed through the House of Commons. This one of the measures this country has taken to cleanse itself of “dirty money” from Russia and other countries by setting up a register of overseas entities and their beneficial owners and requiring overseas entities who own land to disclose their identities. In Episode 160 Rosalind English talks to Oliver Bullough, a journalist who has lived and worked throughout the former Soviet Union. His latest book, Butler to the World, makes a forceful point about how Britain has become a servant to all comers as long as they pay enough. Not just the banks and estate agents; lawyers are complicit too, in his view:
We have essentially given their oligarchs a back door to a fair dispute resolution process that they can deprive their fellow citizens of
Will these new legislative measures work? Only if our enforcement agencies are properly resourced, says Bullough. Just four “unexplained wealth orders” have been made since they were introduced by the Teresa May government in 2018. Perhaps it takes a crisis like the current one to give this legislation some force.
Human Rights in a Turbulent Era with Gráinne de Búrca In Episode 159, Emma-Louise Fenelon talks to Gráinne de Búrca about her recent book, Reframing Human Rights in a Turbulent Era. The book is available to purchase here.
Law Pod UK is grateful to Rafe Jennings for his assistance in the preparation for this episode. Lord Carnwath’s talk can be viewed here.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has dominated the news since the conflict began. The human rights implications of the conflict will be far reaching and devastating, and this Weekly Round-Up will no doubt examine the impact of events as they unfold. This week, our focus is on the UK government’s approach to Ukrainian refugees. The Home Office is still insisting that only those refugees with family ties to the UK will be able to satisfy visa requirements to enter through the ‘Ukraine Family Scheme’. Those who successfully use this route will have the right to work and to claim benefits. However, they will not be able to access other assistance, such as accommodation, as was offered to refugees from Afghanistan, for example, because the Home Office assumes they will be offered support by UK relatives. This approach has been widely criticised as unduly restrictive, given that many European countries have dropped their visa requirements altogether so as to enable a greater number of Ukrainians quickly to reach safety. The Home Secretary rejected this more permissive policy earlier this week, arguing that security and biometric checks imposed by the visa system were essential to prevent extremists and Russian agents entering the UK. But with one million refugees reportedly having fled their homes already, and four million more predicted, many campaigners have pointed out that a fast route to safety is urgently needed. On Friday, the Home Office stated that they were working on an ‘unlimited sponsorship route’ which would not be dependant on family ties, but it remains unclear when this will be launched, or what support it will offer.
In other news:
The House of Lords has defeated the controversial Nationality and Borders Bill for the fourth time, removing clause 11. This measure would have divided refugees into two groups depending on how they arrived in the UK, potentially excluding those who took a route outside the law. For example, those who arrived on small boats through the Channel could have their asylum application automatically ruled inadmissible, face up to four years in prison, be banned from accessing public funds, and have family members banned from joining them. Peers had previously struck out a clause allowing the government to strip individuals of their British citizenship without warning. The changes made by the Lords will now be sent back to the Commons, who can either accept or amend them.
A leaked report has suggested that the Environment Agency has only prosecuted 7% of the serious incidents of pollution investigated between 2016 and 2020. Agents within the organisation prepared case papers for 495 serious incidents in the period, all of which they recommended for prosecution. However, only 35 cases actually reached court after managers intervened. The others were either dropped entirely, or dealt with using less serious sanctions such as a warning letter. These were all incidents of the most serious form of waste pollution, for example, those involving illegal discharges of raw sewage, and some incidents were known to be perpetrated by organised crime groups. Workers within the Agency have linked the lack of action to the severe cuts to the Agency’s resources. The Environment Agency responded to the report by stating that they follow the Code for Crown Prosecutors, which states that prosecution should only be pursued where there is a realistic prospect of a successful conviction, and when it is in the public interest.
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has been sent a letter before action by the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP) and non-profit legal group Foxglove, who claim that the department’s use of a computer algorithm to decide who should be investigated for fraud unlawfully discriminates against disabled people. The two groups claim that there is a lack of transparency about how the algorithm works, and called on the DWP to explain how it prevents discrimination in its use of the algorithm. The DWP responded by saying that human agents always review cases of suspected fraud, and thus the effects of the algorithm were being carefully monitored. The government’s statement on Transparency in Automated Decision making can be found here.
In the courts:
U3 v The Secretary Of State for the Home Department : The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) dismissed an appeal by U3, a joint British-Moroccan citizen, against the decision of the Home Secretary to remove her British citizenship in 2017, and prevent her entry clearance in 2019. U3’s citizenship was withdrawn because the Home Office determined that her links with ISIL in Syria implied that she posed a national security risk. In 2019, U3’s children were repatriated to the UK, and U3 sought entry clearance to be reunited with her children, relying on her Article 8 right to respect for her private and family life. Entry clearance was denied, with the Home Secretary claiming that her Article 8 rights were not engaged, and even if they were, her separation from her children was proportionate to the risk she presented to national security. The key issues in this appeal were as follows. First, on what grounds could the SIAC interfere with the SSHD’s decision; Second, whether U3 in fact posed a risk to national security, given that if she did, precedent established that the separation from her children was likely to be proportionate. Concerning the first issue, the court found, following Begum, the SIAC can interfere with the SSHD’s decision even where it concerns national security on the usual grounds available for judicial review. Thus if it was shown that the decision was flawed according to the public law standard of review, and the outcome, but for the error, would have been different, the SIAC could reverse the decision. On the second issue, counsel for the Claimant argued that given the accepted factual evidence of the coercive and abusive relationship U3 had with her husband, with whom she travelled to Syria in 2014, her decision to live in an ISIL-controlled part of Syria did not demonstrate that she was ideologically aligned with ISIL, nor that she had become radicalised. However, the court found that the SSHD could rationally find that U3 herself was aligned with ISIL in light of evidence that she left for Turkey of her own accord, and that she had a good knowledge of the ideology of the group and of the atrocities it had committed. Given this finding, the SSDH’s decision was proportionate, and the appeal was dismissed.
On the UKHRB:
David Burrows discusses the new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act.
R (on the Application of the Counsel General for Wales) v Secretary of State for business, Energy and Industrial Strategy  EWCA Civ 118
The Court of Appeal decision handed down on 9th February 2022 is an important case concerning devolved powers.
The judgement concerns an application for permission to apply for judicial review made by the Counsel General for Wales to seek a declaration in the following terms:
The amendment of Schedule 7B of GoWA by section 54(2) of UKIMA, to add UKIMA to the list of protected enactments, does not amount to a reservation and does not operate so as to prevent the Senedd from legislating on devolved matters in a way that is inconsistent with the mutual recognition principle in UKIMA.
The application was dismissed, and the appellant appealed on the grounds that the Divisional Court was wrong to refuse permission on the grounds of prematurity.
The European Convention 1950 guarantees the right to a fair trial. Everyone knows that. At article 6.1 the Convention says:
Right to a fair trial
1. In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law….
What everyone does not know is what is a ‘civil right’. And in the present context – namely divorce of civil partnership dissolution – do you have a right to query the assertion of your spouse or civil partner that your marriage or civil partnership has irretrievably broken down?
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 simplifies the divorce and civil partnership dissolution process by changing the law to make irretrievable breakdown – as now – the only ground for divorce or dissolution. But to prove that, there was no longer any need to establish one or more facts: adultery (marriage only), unreasonable behaviour or living apart for varying periods. One, or both, parties can file a statement of irretrievable breakdown. The procedure for this is likely – no commencement date has been confirmed – to be in force from 6 April 2022. All so far so civilised.
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