The decisions by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in Al-Skeini and Al-Jedda, handed down last Thursday, have generally been hailed as leap forward for human rights protection. We have already provided a summary of the decisions and pointed to some of the commentary here.
However, it is worth considering the core parts of these rulings a little more carefully. Without wishing to put too much of a dampener on the initial excitement from human rights campaigners about the outcome, the Court’s reasoning is perhaps not quite the radical breakthrough it first appeared to be. In fact, as Judge Bonello pointed out in his concurring opinion (which has drawn a lot of attention for his comments about ‘human rights imperialism’), the principles governing jurisdiction under Article 1 of the ECHR are not that much clearer following these decisions.
AM v. Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 2486 – read judgment
The Home Secretary Theresa May was lambasted last week for an inaccurate reference to cats, but the more general view expressed by her and most of the media that the Human Rights Act is routinely getting in the way of national security interests is also arguably misleading.
Ironically, in the same week as the Home Secretary was telling the Conservative Party conference that ‘the Human Rights Act must go’ the High Court emphatically upheld her decision to renew a control order on a suspected terrorist.
There is a handy guide to the control orders regime here, and to “TPIMs”, their proposed successor, here. Essentially, control orders are strict conditions imposed on a terrorist suspect such as a curfew, electronic tagging or regular searches. In this case the suspect’s conditions included a ban on any internet access at his home, a ban on using USB memory sticks to transfer any data from his home to his university, restrictions on his access to the internet at university or when he visited his parents, and a requirement to make a phone call every day to a monitoring company.
This was an appeal against the Administrative Court’s dismissal of the appellant’s claim for judicial review of the secretary of state’s decision to allow him to be added to a list of persons subject to sanctions under UN Security Council Resolution 1617. This Resolution required UN member states to freeze the assets on those named on the Consolidated List of members of Al-Qaida and its associates. The relevant UN committee was asked to add the name of the appellant, an Egyptian national resident in the UK, to the list. The secretary of state placed a hold on the appellant’s designation so the UK could consider whether he met the criteria for designation. The Foreign Secretary subsequently accepted that he did meet the criteria and released the hold, which meant that he was added to the list. Once a designation is made, it lasts until all members of the Security Council can be persuaded that it should be lifted.
Procedural fairness is a bit like an elephant. It is difficult to define in abstract, but you know a fair procedure when you see one. So Lawton LJ put it in Maxwell v Department of Trade  QB 523, 539
The trouble is it seems that different courts have different ideas of “elephantness”. Since we know that fairness is a necessarily context-sensitive notion, this, in itself, does not seem to give rise to too much difficulty. But practical problems start to arise when, for example, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) starts to endorse a view of fairness that is binding on the UK courts, but at odds with the approach taken by the UK Supreme Court. Add the facts that a) the UK is required to take into account the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which seems to have a different conception of fairness to that of the CJEU and b) the UK courts themselves do not necessarily speak with one voice, there’s a heady mix.
This brief post attempts to survey the area, and to discern the bumps in the road. Smoothing them out is another challenge in itself, and will probably require more than filling in the odd pot-hole. Continue reading →
Article 6 of the Convention did not require an “irreducible minimum of information” that had to be provided to appellants in proceedings before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission about the risk they posed to national security.
In their appeal against decisions of the respondent secretary of state to deport them on grounds of national security (upheld by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC)) the appellants all claimed that they would be at risk of ill-treatment if they were deported. They had obtained relevant information which had been provided on the understanding that it could only be made available if there were clear guarantees that it would not become known to their national government.
At the end of January the Investigatory Powers Commissioner published his first annual report for 2017. Its coverage of errors provides some very welcome transparency. But one matter remains opaque and exposes a legislative and policy challenge: when serious mistakes are made, who finds out?
In this post I set out what the IPC report says in this regard, explain the legislative framework, and then identify the challenges and choices for both law and policy. The two points I highlight are:
There is a policy choice underpinning the IPC report about what information to present, and what not to present. It would be helpful and appropriate for the IPC to provide more clarity about how often people were affected by errors but notinformed of it.
There are policy and legislative challenges that remain with regard to whether people will – as it currently seems – neverbe informed that they were affected by a serious error.
Angela Patrick of Doughty Street Chambers provides an initial reaction on the implications of the decisions in Tele Sverige/Watson for domestic surveillance and the Investigatory Powers Act 2016.
In an early holiday delivery, the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) handed down its judgment in the joined cases of Tele Sverige/Watson & Ors (C-203/15/C-698/15), this morning.
Hotly anticipated by surveillance and privacy lawyers, these cases consider the legality of data retention laws in Europe, following the decision in Digital Rights Irelandthat the Data Retention Directive was unlawful. Broadly, the CJEU confirms that EU law precludes national legislation that prescribes the general and indiscriminate retention of data. The Court concludes that the emergency data retention legislation passed in a few days in 2014 – the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 – is unlawful. That legislation is, of course, due to lapse at the end of December 2016 in any event.
This morning’s decision comes just too late to have influenced the passage into law of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (“IPA”) – the new domestic bible on bulk surveillance, interception, communications data retention and acquisition and equipment interference – which received Royal Assent in early December. However, what the CJEU has to say about surveillance and privacy may determine whether the IPA – also known by some as the Snoopers Charter – has a long or a short shelf-life.
The powers in IPA are built on the same model as its predecessor and provides for broad powers of data retention with limited provision for safeguards of the kind that the Court considered crucial. Significant parts of that newly minted legislation lay open to challenge. Continue reading →
Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular menagerie of human rights news and views. The full list of links can be found here. You can also find our table of human rights cases here and previous roundups here. Links compiled by Adam Wagner, post by Sarina Kidd.
This week, judicial review continued to take a beating, the Home Office backed down over their ‘Go Home’ campaign and the legal implications behind the twitter threat debacle were considered. And, finally, the immigration and asylum tribunal launched a useful online search service.
At the end of the Wizard of Oz Dorothy manages to find her way back from the land of Oz to her farmstead in Kansas by closing her eyes, clicking the heels of her ruby-red slippers together, and repeatedly murmuring the incantation “There’s no place like home; there’s no place like home …”.
In his Bringing Rights back home: making human rights compatible with parliamentary democracy in the UK (Policy Exchange, 2011)the political scientist Dr. Michael Pinto-Duschinsky attempts a similar feat, seeking to bring human rights back from the Land of Stras(bourg).
On Monday 23rd November, a self-isolating Boris Johnson announced a new system of restrictions to replace the UK’s second month-long lockdown, due to come into effect on Wednesday 2nd December. The new set of rules represents a stricter and no less confusing version of the old three-tiered system.
Non-essential shops, gyms, and hairdressers will be allowed to reopen across the country. People are still encouraged to minimise travel and to work from home where possible. The following additional tiered restrictions will apply:
Tier 1 (Medium Risk):
The ‘Rule of Six’ will apply for both indoor and outdoor gatherings
Pubs and restaurants must shut at 11pm
Limited numbers of spectators may be permitted at sports and music events
Tier 2 (High Risk):
People from different households may not meet indoors
The ‘Rule of Six’ will apply for outdoor gatherings
Pubs and restaurants must shut at 11pm
Alcohol can be served only alongside a substantial meal
Tier 3 (Very High Risk):
People from different households may not mix indoors or outdoors in hospitality venues or private gardens
People from different households may only mix in public spaces like parks, where the ‘Rule of Six’ will apply
Pubs and restaurants must close except for takeaway and delivery services
Travelling into and out of the area is discouraged
These latter “snooping” proposals echo the ill-fated Communications Data Bill 2008, proposed by the Labour Government. After cross-party condemnation and criticism from the Information Commissioner’s Office and others, that Bill was withdrawn, with Home Office officials sent back to the drawing board.
After meeting similar condemnation in the press and online this week, and reservations expressed by the Deputy Prime Minister; it appears we can expect a draft Communications Data Bill to be resurrected in the Queen’s Speech.
Theresa May has been sworn in as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, prompting speculation about the impact her leadership will have on human rights.
The former Home Secretary has been a vocal and long-standing critic of the Human Rights Act. In a 2011 speech she insisted that the legislation “needs to go”, making controversial reference to what legal commentators argued was a “mythical example” of an immigrant who could not be deported because “he had a pet cat”. Her appointment of Liz Truss as Justice Secretary, who has previously spoken out against the HRA, suggests that the Government will continue with plans to replace the Act with a British Bill of Rights.
Nonetheless, it appears that the UK will remain a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, at least in the near future. During her campaign to be Prime Minister, Theresa May stated that she would not pursue pulling out of the ECHR, describing the issue as divisive and lacking majority support in Parliament. Amnesty International have said that they “warmly welcome” this commitment, and have called on the Prime Minister to “turn the corner on human rights” in the UK.
In an examination of “Theresa May’s Eight Human Rights Highs and Lows”, RightsInfo has noted that in 2012 May “came out strongly in support of the proposal to change the law so people of the same sex could marry”. Pink News charts her evolution on LGBT rights to become the “unsung hero” of equal marriage, while pointing out criticisms that conditions for LGBT asylum-seekers have worsened under her tenure as Home Secretary.
On the issue of freedom of religion, commentators have similarly looked to Teresa May’s actions as Home Secretary for an indication of her position. David Pocklington provides an overview for Law & Religion UK, noting her recent launch of an independent review into the operation of sharia law in England and Wales.
Meanwhile, the Government’s review into whether victims of trafficking have effective access to legal advice has yet to be published. Writing in the Justice Gap, Juliette Nash has called on Theresa May to deliver on her promise to tackle modern slavery and implement any recommendations of the review as soon as possible: “the spotlight is now on …the Prime Minister…to ensure that justice is done”.
In other news:
The Guardian: Lawyers acting on behalf of a British citizen are seeking to challenge the lawfulness of the Government triggering Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union without parliamentary approval. We have posted on the “divorce” process here. The UK Constitutional Law Association Blog provides extensive academic discussion of the constitutional issues surrounding the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
Law Society’s Gazette: In a report on the impact of tribunal fees published on 20 June, the House of Commons Justice Committee made a number of recommendations, including that the fees charged in the employment tribunal should be ‘substantially reduced’. In the meantime, Unison has continued to pursue its quest for judicial review of the lawfulness of the fees, with an appeal to the Supreme Court set for December 2016.
BBC: An investigation is under way following the death of 18 year-old Mzee Mohammed in police custody, who had been detained by security staff at a shopping centre. The charity Inquest has called for “the most thorough and robust scrutiny of the actions of the security guards and the police” who were in contact with Mr Mohammed before his death.
Daily Telegraph: Figures released by the CPS show that the number of prosecutions for hate crimes against disabled people has increased by 41.3% in the last year, while prosecutions for homophobic and transphobic crime have risen by 15% over the same period.
This case concerned the refusal of Italian authorities to grant a residence permit to a gay couple, on the basis that they did not constitute family members. The Court found that the restrictive interpretation of the notion of family member applied by the authorities did not take into account the fact that under Italian law the couple were unable to marry. In deciding to treat homosexual couples in the same manner as unmarried heterosexual couples, Italy was in breach of article 14 (freedom from discrimination) taken together with article 8 (right to respect for private and family life).
This case concerned the detention of a businessman for ten months, pending trial on an allegation of attempted fraud. The Court affirmed that judicial authorities were required to give relevant and sufficient reasons for detention, in addition to having a “reasonable suspicion” that the relevant individual had committed an offence. Importantly, this requirement was held to apply already at the time of the first decision ordering detention, and “promptly” after the arrest.
On the particular facts, the Court found that the reasons given for detention had been stereotyped, abstract and inconsistent. As such there had been a violation of article 5 (the right to liberty).
Almost a year ago, I and some other legal bloggers wrote about a phenomenon known as the Freemen on the Land movement. I called the post Freemen of the dangerous nonsense, for that is exactly what the movement is, for those desperate enough to sign up to it. Now a Canadian judge has done many judges around the world a huge favour by exploding the movement’s ideas and leaders (or “gurus”) in a carefully referenced and forensic 192-page judgment, which should be read by anyone who has ever taken a passing interest in this issue, and certainly by any judge faced by a litigant attempting the arguments in court.
The Freemen, alongside other groups with similar creeds, believe that if you change your name and deny the jurisdiction of the courts, you will be able to escape debt collectors, council tax and even criminal charges. As this member of the Occupy London movement, “commonly known as dom” wrote in guardian.co.uk (of all places) “if you don’t consent to be that “person”, you step outside the system“.
As you may have guessed, this magical technique never works in the courts, but judges are often flummoxed when faced with the arguments, which are odd and in many ways risible. But what has been lacking is an authoritative, systematic judgment explaining, in detail, why that is. Until now, that is.
Welcome back to the human rights roundup, a regular bulletin of all the law we haven’t quite managed to feature in full blog posts. The full list of links, updated each day, can be found here.
by Graeme Hall
In the news:
Continuing with their assessment of the UK’s law and legal system, the Law and Lawyers’ blog has produced the latest in its series, No. 4: Juries. This comes at an opportune moment given the recent jailing of a juror for contempt of court after using Facebook to contact an acquitted defendant. This case has seen a possible dichotomy of opinion arise: passionate supporters of trial by jury, such as barrister Felicity Gerry and Tory politician David Davis; or that of Joshua Rozenberg who poses the thorny question; “Whom would you prefer to be judged by – a highly trained, publicly accountable circuit judge? Or 12 people like [jailed juror] Joanne Fraill?”.
‘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.
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.
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.