Lee Carter, Hollis Johnson, Dr. William Shoichet, The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and Gloria Taylor v Attorney General of Canada (2012 BCSC 886) 15 June 2012 – read judgment
Interest in the “locked-in syndrome” cases currently before the High Court runs high. We posted here on the permission granted to locked-in sufferer Tony Nicklinson to seek an advance order from the court that would allow doctors to assist him to die under the common law defence of necessity.
He is also arguing that the current law criminalising assisted suicide is incompatible with his Article 8 rights of autonomy and dignity. The other case before the three judge court involves another stroke victim who is unable to move, is able to communicate only by moving his eyes, requires constant care and is entirely dependent on others for every aspect of his life. (Philip Havers QC of 1 Crown Office Row is acting for him)
Charlotte Bellamy brings you the latest human rights news
Children in privately-run youth detention centres are being seriously injured whilst being restrained by staff, according to a redacted Ministry of Justice report released to the Director of the children’s rights charity Article 39. The report focuses on four secure training centres (STCs) and two young offender institutions (YOIs) – the worst three of which are all run by G4S.
The report lists ‘restraints-gone-wrong’, where children were injured or suffered breathing difficulties in the process. Rainsbrook SCT – where teenager Gareth Myatt died in 2004 after choking on his own vomit while being restrained – had the highest number of incidents of serious injury. One child vomited from a prolonged restraint whilst being held in a seated position similar to the one used on Myatt. Government guidelines classify vomiting during restraint as a medical emergency.
Carolyne Willow, Director of Article 39, has been engaged in legal proceedings against the MoJ for access to an unredacted version of the manual ‘Minimising and Managing Physical Restraint’, published in 2012, which details the restraint techniques used in STCs and YOIs. However, the Upper Tribunal recently dismissed her appeal in Willow v Information Commissioner & Ministry of Justice , holding that disclosure of the information would threaten the good order and security of prisons, as inmates might develop countermeasures to the techniques. Willow had argued – unsuccessfully – that Article 3(1) of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child required a greater emphasis to be placed on the child’s interests when balancing them against the public interest (see the Panopticon Blog for further analysis).
It came to light last week that Medway SCT – the subject of a BBC Panorama exposé aired in January this year which showed G4S staff appearing to use excessive force on children – is to be taken over by the Ministry of Justice. Four members of staff had been arrested on charges of child neglect in relation to the allegations, following which G4S announced in February it was selling off the contracts to run Medway, Oakhill SCT, and 13 local authority children’s homes.
Andrew Neilson of the Howard League for Penal Reform had called at the time for SCTs to be shut down completely, calling them a “failed model”. The Ministry of Justice is due to announce the findings of the Independent Improvement Board set up by Michael Gove in response to the Medway allegations, which will detail the future of the centre.
A wider review is currently being conducted into youth justice by Charlie Taylor, former head teacher and child behavioural expert, the final report of which is expected in July. The interim findings (available here) recommend an overhaul of the youth custodial estate, replacing youth prisons with smaller secure schools focusing on education.
In addition to the polling day problems in Barnet, it seems that thousands of women living in safe houses and refuges after fleeing domestic violence may have been disenfranchised. Mehala Osborne, a mother-of-one living in a refuge in Bristol, found it impossible to register anonymously as she could not adduce the required evidence to prove her safety would be at risk if her name and address appeared on the register. She estimates that 70% of women in refuges in Bristol and possibly across the country could be in the same situation. The evidence required for Anonymous Voter Registration is a court order or the attestation of an “authorised person” – a Police Superintendent, a Director of Adult Social Services, or the Director General of the Security Services or National Crime Agency. For many in Osborne’s situation, who have fled their homes quickly, there is no time to source such authorisation. The right to vote is protected by Article 3 Protocol 1 ECHR which states that the UK will “hold free elections … under conditions which will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature”. Osborne suggests that refuge and safe house management staff ought to be included in the definition of an “authorised person”.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi last week told a US delegation that human rights in Egypt should not be viewed from a “Western perspective”. Though reportedly keen to emphasise his commitment to democracy, he explained that “differences in domestic and regional conditions” make it difficult to apply the same standards. 237 human rights protestors were arrested last week during a peaceful demonstration in Cairo against the el-Sisi regime, including two journalists – Mahmoud al-Sakka and Amr Badr, who work for the opposition website Bawabet Yanayer – for “spreading false news and endangering national security”. Amnesty International have described el-Sisi’s remarks as “deeply troubling”, saying that “he should stop making excuses … There’s nothing remotely ‘Western’ about basic human rights like the right not to suffer torture or to be able to speak freely without fear of arrest or imprisonment”.
Arthur Scargill, the former miners’ union president, has called for an inquiry into the conduct of the South Yorkshire Police at the 1984 ‘Battle of Orgreave’. Thousands of minors clashed with the South Yorkshire police at the coking plant near Rotherham during the year long minors’ strike of 1984-5. A redacted version of the Independent Police Complaints Commission report into Orgreave was released last year, but the Yorkshire Post has now reported that the redacted sections proved the same senior police officers were involved in the aftermath of Orgreave as Hillsborough. Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham recently said that the full truth of policing at Hillsborough would not be known until there is transparency over Orgreave.
An Italian court has ruled that the theft of a piece of cheese and a wurstel sausage by a homeless man was not a crime because he acted in “desperate and immediate need of nourishment”. Roman Ostriakov had been sentenced by a lower court in Genoa to six months in jail and €100 fine after being arrested for slipping the sausage and cheese into his pocket when buying breadsticks in the supermarket. The Court of Cassation finally found in his favour, after a three-part trial to determine whether the theft of the food (worth about £3.70) amounted to a crime or not, prompting some commentators to lambaste the country’s notoriously inefficient legal system. Others, however, have lauded the judgment as establishing a “sacrosanct principle” that a small theft out of hunger is not comparable to an act of delinquency, and as an act of humanity which showed that in Italy the right to survive trumps property rights – something which would be “blasphemy in America”.
In the Courts
Cerf v Turkey – The Court found a violation of the duty to conduct an effective investigation under the procedural aspect of Article 2 (right to life) into the suspicious death of the applicant’s husband. The applicant’s husband, Serf Cerf, a local politician, was shot outside a café in the town of Yüreğir in 1994 and died on the spot. In 2000, the authorities arrested a man (in the course of operations carried out against Hizbullah, an outlawed organisation in Turkey) who confessed to killing Mr Cerf. Despite criminal proceedings being initiated against him and four others in 2000, they were not concluded until 2009 and 2013. The Court considered the delays to be excessive and incompatible with the State’s obligation under Article 2, which requires proceedings to be initiated promptly and to proceed with reasonable expedition. The delays entailed the conclusion that the investigation had been ineffective.
Abdi Mahamud v Malta – violations of Article 3 and 5. This case concerned a female Somalian asylum seeker detained for more than 16 months in overcrowded conditions, with little privacy and limited access to outdoor exercise. All the care of detained women was carried out by male staff. Ms Mahamud had been detained in May 2012. A decision on her asylum application was not made until December 2012 (when it was rejected). In the meantime she had been frequently hospitalised due several medical conditions. She was interviewed for release on the grounds of ill-health in December 2012, but was not actually released until September 2013. The cumulative effect of the detention conditions was found by the Court to be a violation of Article 3 (degrading treatment); a violation of Article 5 (right to liberty and security) § 1 was found in respect of the length of both periods of detention (seven months pending the asylum decision and the rest pending her removal). The lack of available measure to challenge the lawfulness of her detention was a violation of Article 5 § 4.
The Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights has now responded to the Government’s consultationon the proposals set out in their Justice and Security Green Paper Cm 8194. The idea is to extend “closed material procedures” so as to be available in all civil proceedings, i.e. not just in some highly restricted national security contexts such as deportation appeals before SIAC (the Special Immigration Appeals Commission), control orders, and their successor regime known as TPIMs.
On the one side…
is the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC, who has concluded that secrecy of evidence should be maintained in civil procedures as well; after reviewing secret evidence relating to a small selection of civil claims, he reported that issues in some damages claims could not be determined at all without resort to a closed material procedure.
Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your weekly bulletin of human rights news. The full list of links can be found here. You can also find our table of human rights cases here and previous roundups here.
In the news
Lord Neuberger is to be our next Supreme Court President, replacing Lord Philips who is retiring and pipping rival candidates Lady Hale and Lord Mance. In other news, some interesting cases were decided this week, including the Catholic Church’s loss in a vicarious liability case in the Court of Appeal, and the residents of the Fred Wigg Tower lose their judicial review action challenging the decision to put a missile defence system atop the building for the Olympics. We also have more law reform updates, as the Commission for a Bill of Rights published its second consultation paper, the House of Lords debated the ever-controversial Justice and Security Bill, and a commentator provided an illuminating and worrying discussion of the “snooper’s charter”, the Draft Communications Bill.
The Justice and Security Bill, which proposes to introduce secret ‘Closed Material Procedure’ (CMP) hearings into civil trials, has been published. Here are some useful resources for picking your way through the controversy:
You can access all of the UK Human Rights Blog coverage of the secret trials proposals here, including our exclusive on the Special Advocates’ opposition to the proposals, which became the most damaging aspect of the case against the Green Paper.
2012 has been a busy year on the UK human rights front, never short of controversy, hyperbole and even some interesting points of legal principle along the way.
Here are some of the biggest stories from April to June 2012. The first part of this post, January to March, is here. Feel free to comment on my choices, and add your own if you think something is missing.
Othman (Abu Qatada) v United Kingdom – read judgment| updated (7/2/2012): Abu Qatada is expected to be released from Long Lartin maximum security jail within days. the special immigration appeals commission (Siac) ruled on Monday that Qatada should be freed, despite the Home Office saying he continued to pose a risk to national security.
Angus McCullough QC appeared for Abu Qatada as his Special Advocate in the domestic proceedings before SIAC, the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords. He is not the author of this post.
The Strasbourg Court has ruled today that whilst diplomatic assurances may protect a suspected terrorist from torture, he cannot be deported to Jordan while there remains a real risk that evidence obtained by torture will be used against him.
The applicant, Omar Othman (Abu Qatada), is a Jordanian national, currently detained in Long Lartin prison. He is suspected of having links with al-Qaeda.He arrived in the United Kingdom in September 1993 and made a successful application for asylum, in particular on the basis that he had been detained and tortured by the Jordanian authorities in 1988 and 1990-1. He was recognised as a refugee in 1994, being granted leave to remain until June 1998.
While his subsequent application for indefinite leave to remain was pending, he was detained in October 2002 under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act. When that Act was repealed in March 2005, he was released on bail and made subject to a control order under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. While his appeal against the control order was still pending, in August 2005 he was served with a notice of intention to deport him to Jordan. Continue reading →
Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular glittering galaxy of human rights news and views. The full list of links can be found here. You can find previous roundups here. Links compiled by Adam Wagner, post by Sarina Kidd.
Military intervention in Syria has been greatly discussed this week in the media. Here, we look at how legal it would be for the UK to send troops over. Meanwhile, David Miranda’s hearing continues, and many judicial review claims are due, soon, to move from the High Court to the Upper Tribunal.
Hammerton v. the United Kingdom, Application no. 6287/10 – read judgment.
The European Court of Human Rights has held that the detention of an individual following his breach of a civil contact order, where he had no legal representation, did not violate his rights under Article 5, ECHR (Right to Liberty and Security of Person). However, the decision not to provide compensation to the individual following a failure to provide him with a lawyer during domestic proceedings resulted in a violation of Article 6 (Right to a Fair Trial).
Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular Royal Variety Show of human rights news. The full list of links can be found here. You can also find our table of human rights cases here and previous roundups here.
This week, there was a flurry of comment and critique on the Ministry of Justice’s paper, ‘Transforming Legal Aid’, human rights abuses both past and present are in the spotlight and there have been some notable decisions from the courts.
Figures published by the Ministry of Justice showed that the backlog of crown court cases had risen to yet another record high: by 31 March this year, there were almost 60,000 outstanding cases, a rise of 45 per cent on the previous year. In the magistrates’ courts, that figure stood at 400,000, a rise of 21 per cent.
Waiting times have hiked accordingly: the average crown court case it now taking just under a year, 363 days, to be heard. Some trials are already being scheduled for 2023.
These latest figures follow the Ministry of Justice’s End-to-End Rape Review Report on Findings and Actions, covered on last week’s round-up, which revealed that processing times for rape complainants were particularly egregious, averaging around a thousand days between the commission of an offence and the conclusion of a trial.
Several MPs were quick to diagnose root causes of the criminal justice system’s dismal condition. Shadow justice secretary David Lammy complained that ‘the Conservatives are forcing victims of rape, domestic abuse and violent assault to wait months and years for justice if they get it at all’, blaming the compounded effect of ‘the government’s decade of court closures, combined with its incompetent response to the pandemic’. Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse also pointed to pre-coronavirus underfunding, warning that ‘ministers must not use Covid as an excuse for this backlog, or to undermine the fundamental right to trial by jury.’
There has been much in the press recently about the UK Government being minded to opt out, and/or in, of EU criminal justice measures. The implications of this decision will be significant to the UK’s ability to investigate and prosecute crime. So what does it all mean?
Opting out of what?
The UK managed to negotiate the quite remarkable article 10 to protocol 36 of the Lisbon Treaty which allows for the UK to exercise a power that no other member state of the Union holds. The Lisbon Treaty finally incorporates EU criminal justice measures (which are referred to as the area of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters) into the main body of treaty law.
In order to do so, it allowed a transitional period of five years (which expires in December 2014), at the end of which, all measures adopted under the earlier treaty provisions (in what was known as the third pillar) are ‘Lisbonised.’ What this means is they become directives rather than framework decisions (and various other equivalents). The difference between the two is that directives are enforceable before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and decisions are not.
Marines A & Ors v Guardian News and Media & Other Media  EWCA Crim 2367 – read judgment
On 15 September 2011 a patrol of Royal Marine Commandos were involved in an incident, which resulted in one of them, referred to as “Soldier A”, shooting dead an armed but seriously wounded Taliban fighter. Evidence of the shooting emerged later and five members of the patrol were eventually charged with murder. The charges against two of them were later dropped but the three remaining marines were tried for murder before the Court Martial. On 8 November 2013, Soldier A was found guilty of murder.
Quite apart from this extraordinary facts, the trial was unusual for another reason: publication of the identity of each of the defendants was prohibited at the commencement of the proceedings by an assistant Judge Advocate and later the Judge Advocate General (each of the judge’s in the court martial who considered the issue are referred to throughout as “judge”). The Court Martial Appeal Court (essentially the Court of Appeal Criminal Division sitting under a different name) was later invited to review the orders in respect of reporting restrictions. This was linked to the release of video footage and photographs relied on by the prosecution during the case.
Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular smorgasbord of human rights news. The full list of links can be found here. You can also find our table of human rights cases here and previous roundups here.
This week, the accession of the EU to the ECtHR moves towards finalisation, the Iron Lady continues to cause debate and discussion even in death, Legal Aid Reforms bring both praise and consternation and as the Supreme Court swears in new judges, people ask, ‘Where are all the women?’
Alarmed at the corrosion of the rule of law and standards of public behaviour that the judgment propagates, the author of the article admonishes Bean J for ignoring the moral and social significance of “such insolent defiance” of the Police.
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.