Re B’s application  NIQB 76 was a challenge to a decision to prosecute a soldier for offences going back to 1972. Part of the small but politically divisive cohort of prosecutions arising out of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, Re B provides a classic example of how courts approach the issue of fairness in criminal prosecutions for historic offences.
“B” is a former soldier of the British Army who had been serving in Northern Ireland. On 31 July 1972, the Army launched “Operation Motorman” to clear so-called “no-go” areas in Belfast and Derry, which had become highly problematic and dangerous for security forces at the time.
In the early hours of 31 July 1972, B was part of a company of soldiers deployed in the Creggan Heights area of Derry. He was armed with a 7.62 x 51 mm calibre General Purpose Machine Gun. At around this time, three local people were also in the area: Thomas Hegarty, his brother Christopher Hegarty and their cousin Daniel Hegarty. At some time shortly after 4.15 am, there was a burst of machine gun fire. When it stopped, Daniel Hegarty lay dead on the street, having been shot twice in the head. He was 15 years old. Christopher Hegarty was also wounded in the shooting, but survived.
A cross-party group of MPs is seeking to put an end to indefinite detentionin immigration centres. Led by Harriet Harman MP, the Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the group are backing an amendment to the Immigration and Social Security Coordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill, which will make it illegal for people to be held for more than 28 days in an immigration detention centre, unless a judge issues a 28-day extension.
The Human Rights group Liberty has published two important reports. The first report highlights the failings of the UK military justice system, including a lack of transparency and a practice of downgrading offences to as to deal with them internally; the report recommends a new independent supervisory body for the Service Police. In connection with the report, Liberty has launched an Armed Forces Human Rights Helpline.
The second Liberty report evaluates the use of ‘predictive mapping’ by the police to identify crime hotspots and to conduct ‘individual risk assessments’. The report concludes that this system threatens privacy and freedom of expression, and encourages discrimination and racial profiling.
Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular full brass band of human rights news and views. The full list of links can be found here. You can find previous roundups here. Post by Sarina Kidd, edited and links compiled by Adam Wagner.
This week, Lord Neuberger implied that even if the Human Rights Act were to be abolished, the court would continue to uphold human rights, perhaps foreshadowing the Supreme Court’s decision in Osborn. Meanwhile, the controversial Immigration Bill now has its overarching documents available, LSE are looking to create a written constitution and the Daily Mail are in trouble, again.
Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular bustling bonanza 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.
After a long wait, the European Court of Human Rights delivered its judgment on state immunity in civil proceedings in Jones and Others v UK. Meanwhile, an atheist has been granted asylum on religious grounds and the Supreme Court ruled that a child’s views are relevant to the evaluation of their habitual residence.
The New Zealand Parliament seems about to drop that country’s commitment to the rule of law from the Act underpinning the judicial branch. Retiring Supreme Court judge (and former Solicitor-General) Sir John McGrath thinks that’s worrying. He’s right. There’s still time for ex-pat Kiwis to lobby the Minister of Justice.
One of the first legislative measures of the young South Pacific colony, back in 1841, drafted in part by the Birmingham born first Chief Justice, Sir William Martin, was the creation of what is now known as the High Court of New Zealand.
That legislation has been updated over the years, significantly in the 1880s before consolidation in 1908 in the Judicature Act. That Act was overseen by the country’s fourth Chief Justice, the remarkable, Shetland born, Sir Robert Stout. Continue reading →
(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. Judgment shall be pronounced publicly but the press and public may be excluded from all or part of the trial in the interests of morals, public order or national security in a democratic society, where the interests of juveniles or the protection of the private life of the parties so require, or to the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice.
(2) Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.
(3) Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights:
(a) to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him.
(b) to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence.
(c) to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing or, if he has not sufficient means to pay for legal assistance, to be given it free when the interests of justice so require.
(d) to examine or have examined witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him.
(e) to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court.
There is no directly corresponding provision in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Article 20 – the right to equality before the law – is more related to ECHR Art.14, and Article 47, the right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial is based on Art. 13 ECHR which guarantees the right to an effective remedy for human rights violations. However, it has been argued before the European Court of Justice that Article 6 ECHR and Article 47 contain effectively the same fair trial rights (see David Hart’s post on this issue).
The protection of Article 6 ECHR only extends to those disputes that concern a “civil right” (as well of course to the determination of any criminal charge against an individual). The jurisprudence on what does or does not constitute a “civil right” is complex and lengthy but a general rule is that the characterisation of the matter in domestic law is not determinative – Le Compte, Van Leuven and De Meyere v Belgium (1981) 4 EHRR 1 – and while such civil rights could be brought into play either by direct challenge or by administrative action, it was the nature and purpose of the administrative action that determined whether its impact on private law rights was such that a legal challenge involved a determination of civil rights. In R(Begum) v Tower Hamlets London Borough Council  2 AC 430 the House of Lords was prepared to assume that a decision as to housing for a homeless person did involve a “civil right” but in the more recent case of Ali v Birmingham City Council  2 AC 39 the Supreme Court confronted that question and decided that it did not.
A parent’s rights to contact with, and custody of, a child constitute “civil rights” for the purposes of Art.6. This means that they must have a fair hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal. When a mother was refused access to her child by the local authority, and she was unable to challenge that refusal in court, there was found to be a breach of her Art. 6 rights (although the case was settled after it was declared admissible in Strasbourg: Application no. 11468/85, 15 December 1986). A more recent case against Croatia indicated that exclusion of a mother from the adoption (X v Croatia, 17 July 2008).
It is hardly surprising that domestic courts encounter some confusion when they come to determine whether a matter involves a “civil right” or not; Strasbourg case law on the point is far from clear. In trying to determine whether a freezing order on a claimant’s assets affected his civil rights, Sedley LJ observed that the Strasbourg Court is very clear about the concept having an autonomous meaning, but “What is neither certain nor clear is what that meaning is.” (Maftah v FCO  EWCA Civ 350, and see our post on this case here)
Particular difficulties have been caused by the fast-changing Strasbourg case law on employment disputes involving public servants, which until recently have been excluded from the purview of Article 6. The Court decided in Pellegrin v France (2001) 31 EHRR not to allow administrative servants the guarantees of Article 6 because their employment involves important state imperatives, but defining this kind of employment is far from easy, as was demonstrated by the case of an army chaplain who sought redress for alleged unfairness; after considering the authorities Nichol J found that the claimant fell within the Pellegrin exception under the test laid down in Eskelinen v Finland (2007). See our discussion on this judgment here.
The requirements of fairness imposed on Member States by this Article apply to civil and criminal litigation. Art.6 , taken as a whole, has been held to ensure not only a fair trial once litigation is under way but to impose an obligation on States to ensure access to justice (Golder v United Kingdom (1975) 1 EHRR 524: interference with a prisoner’s correspondence with a solicitor constituted a breach of his right of access to court under Art.6 , even though litigation was not pending). Most recent litigation has concerned the matter of costs; whilst the right of access to justice is implied in Article 6(1), the original case on costs, Airey v Ireland (1979), has not been interpreted to impose on states an obligation to provide a legal aid scheme. Legal aid constitutes one avenue to justice but there are others, such as the availability of representation under a contingent or conditional fee agreement. Legal representation is not considered indispensable in all cases. Where there are no particularly complicated points of law, the state is not compelled to provide a publicly funded lawyer (HH (Iran) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 504 ). In environmental challenges, on the other hand, the right of access to (affordable) access coincides with the obligation on states imposed by the Aarhus Convention to avoid prohibitive expense where individuals or groups ask the courts to enforce environmental law. The Aarhus Convention is part of EU law therefore may be relied upon in UK courts, until such time as the UK’s departure from the EU is finalised.
The requirement that the trial be conducted by an “independent and impartial tribunal” is satisfied if an internal disciplinary appeals board consists equally of members of the relevant profession and members of the judiciary: Le Compte, Van Leuven and De Meyere v Belgium (1981)4 EHRR 1.
At the Strasbourg level the most litigated requirement in Art.6 is the obligation on States to ensure that proceedings do not exceed a “reasonable time”. The circumstances of the case may determine the importance of expedition; in AIDS cases the Court’s approach has been stricter than in other areas, since the rapid dispatch of compensation claims is essential in respect to terminally ill patients (X v France (1992)14 EHRR 483). The Court has also take a strict approach to delay in child care cases where the child may have bonded with its new carers: H v United Kingdom (1987) 10 EHRR 95.
The requirement of a public hearing relates to proceedings in courts of first and only instance. The failure to provide a public hearing will not be cured by making the appeal proceedings public where the case is not reheard on its merits: Le Compte .
If the initial hearing (eg by a regulator) does not fulfil the requirements of independence and impartiality, appeal may cure the defect: Bryan v United Kingdom (1996). In any event if the matter is essentially one of policy, the detailed requirements of Art.6 do not necessarily apply: see the House of Lords ruling in Alconbury (2001) and the line of cases preceding the House of Lords’ analysis in R(Begum) v Tower Hamlets London Borough Council .In many administrative fields, such as planning, an administrator may be decision-maker, and not “an independent..tribunal” within the meaning of Article 6(1), but the process will be Article 6(1) compliant, if an aggrieved party has a right of appeal or review from that decision before such a tribunal.
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends” said Martin Luther King in the context of White America’s silence with respect to the struggle for civil rights. The Prime Minister considers it relevant that the alleged murder of George Floyd occurred thousands of miles away – “in another jurisdiction” – yet the former colonies that now compose the United States of America is a jurisdiction which owes its common law legal system and heritage to the United Kingdom. St. George Tucker, in the appendix to his 1803 edition of Blackstone’s Commentaries, wrote that
the common law of England, and every statute of that Kingdom, made for the security of the life, liberty, or property of the subject … were brought over to America, by the first settlers of the colonies, respectively; and remained in full force therein .
The Black Lives Matter movement illuminates an incontrovertible chasm in the application of the rule of law in liberal democracy. The basic premise of the rule of law, which in Joseph Raz’s conception is that it should be capable of guiding behaviour, includes the necessary restriction on crime-preventing agencies from perverting the law. A society in which those tasked with upholding and applying the law – under the powers of stop-and-search and arrest – are instead themselves regular perpetrators of racist discrimination and violence, is one in which the rule of law can become a randomised hope that is more or less likely to be realised depending on the race of the citizen in question.
In the week that saw the UK Human Rights Blog reach half a million hits, we welcome you 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. You can also find our table of human rights cases here.
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.
This week saw some commentary on Lord Sumption’s latest speech, which may indicate further advances into the domain of the government by the judges, and on secret justice and vicarious liability for Catholic priests. There have also been two important new decisions on child tax credit for separated parents and when costs will be awarded in settled judicial reviews under the Housing Act.
UKHRB Seminar Podcasts Available
The podcasts and full presentations by 1 Crown Office Row barristers Shaheen Rahman, Adam Wagner and Matthew Hill for UKHRB’s million-hit seminar are now available. The major topics: the Brighton Declaration, Article 8 and when States are complicit in torture. Check them out here if you missed the seminar.
Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular LS Lowry matchstick panorama 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 Daniel Isenberg.
With the continuing progress of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill through Parliament, focus was turned this week to the same issue in the USA. Meanwhile, it was extra-judicial scrutiny being meted upon Chris Grayling’s money-making proposals, and the Sun was censured by the PCC over an EU-ECtHR mix-up.
The Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) v Secretary of State for Justice and G4S Care and Justice Services (UK) Ltd and Serco plc  EWHC 8 (Admin) – read judgment
Although certain restraining measures had been taken unlawfully against young people in secure training centres for a number of years, the court had no jurisdiction to grant an order that the victims of this activity be identified and advised of their rights.
The claimant charity alleged that children and young persons held in one or other of the four Secure Training Centres in the UK had been unlawfully restrained under rules which approved certain techniques of discipline. It sought an order requiring the defendant to provide information, to the victims or their carers on the unlawful nature of restraint techniques used in Secure Training Centres (“STCs”) and their consequential legal rights.
Updated | The UK Supreme Court has released guidance on the use of “live text-based communications” from the court. Put simply, tweeting will be allowed in most cases.
The UK’s highest court of appeal has sensibly said that since its cases do not involve interaction with witnesses or jurors, subject to limited exceptions “any member of a legal team or member of the public is free to use text-based communications from court, providing (i) these are silent; and (ii) there is no disruption to the proceedings in court“.
A number of reports and warnings on working conditions for junior judges, the criminal justice system’s treatment of victims of sexual violence, and prison sentencing for individuals with mental health issues have been published this week.
The Criminal Bar Association has warned that junior judges are being put on what are in effect zero-hours contracts, as their working days have been slashed and requests are being made for them to sit at the bench at impossibly short notice. The Guardian’s legal affair correspondent Owen Bowcott attributes the worsening working conditions to ‘a fresh round of austerity’, noting that the Ministry of Justice has suffered deeper cuts than any other Whitehall department since 2010. Conversely, the MoJ insists that the reason for the change is that the number of cases going to court has fallen and therefore fewer recorders are required. Caroline Goodwin QC, vice-chair of the Criminal Bar Association, said: ‘Exactly how recorders are to fulfil their sitting obligations and maintain any real career progression simply beggars belief.’
Baroness Newlove, the outgoing victim’s commissioner for England and Wales, has warned in her annual report that there has been a ‘breakdown in confidence between victims of sexual violence and the criminal justice system’. She cited recent data that suggests fewer than 2% of victims of sexual assault will see their perpetrator convicted in the courts. Arguing that the criminal justice system had become a ‘hostile environment’ for victims, Newlove called for them to be offered free legal advice before consenting to handing over their phones or personal records, expressed concern over defence barristers cross-examining victims on their previous sexual history, and echoed Sir John Gillen’s call for a ‘large-scale publicity campaign and training for juries’ to counteract rape myths and stereotyping.
In the Guardian, Fern Champion, a survivor of sexual violence who is campaigning to ensure access to specialist counselling services, observed that rape crisis centres and services are being forced to turn thousands of women away because high demand and long-term underfunding have resulted in waiting lists as long as 14 months. She expressed concern that the Tory leadership candidates Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt demonstrate ‘clear inability to understand’ the extent and severity of the crisis. In the same paper, Emily Reynolds called for a duty to be imposed on employers to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
Ten years since the publication of the landmark Bradley Report, a new report by the Centre for Mental Health has recommended further change to ensure that people who suffer from mental ill-health and addictions are not sent to prison when alternatives are more effective. The report finds too many people are sentenced to short prison sentences without any pre-sentence report on their needs, and recommends that Liaison and Diversion services should be resourced to enable effective screening of all those who come into police custody or attend voluntarily.
In Other News
China, North Korea and Hong Kong have been in the headlines this week for a number of diplomatic developments which engage human rights issues.
At the G20, President Trump and Xi Jinping agreed to restart trade talks, with the US president saying he would not impose threatened tariffs on Chinese goods, and indicating his readiness to lift a ban on American companies selling components to Huawei. Writing in the Times, Philip Sherwell observed that the American president ‘seemed most at ease among authoritarians’ and deflected questions about human rights abuses in Russia and Saudi Arabia.
An impromptu early morning tweet at the G20 led to President Trump becoming the first United States leader to enter North Korea, during a hastily arranged meeting with Kim Jong-un at the border with South Korea. The two men then crossed the border to greet the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in. Four months after the failure of Trump and Kim’s last summit in Vietnam, the three leaders talked for just under an hour before announcing that teams of North Korean and US diplomats will resume negotiations on denuclearisation. Kim stated that the meeting indicates an intention to ‘bring an end to the unpleasant past and build a new future’, while Trump said it would ‘start a process and we will see what happens’, and Moon characterised it as ‘a significant milestone in the peace process on the Korean peninsula’.
Responses have been mixed. Professor Robert Kelly of South Korea’s Pusan National University derided the meeting as a ‘photo op for the 2020 election’ driven by Trump’s ‘lust for optics and drama rather than substance’. Taking a similar tone, Victor Cha, a former American negotiator with North Korea, said ‘theatrics are no substitute for denuclearisation’. In contrast, Pope Francis praised the meeting as a ‘good example of the culture of encounter’.
In the Times, Richard Lloyd Parry observed that the ‘gaping divide’ between the ideology of the two sides could render ‘Mr Trump’s hop across the border’ meaningless: ’Kim does not want western style capitalism, because of the danger that it would unlock unrest in his cowed and isolated population’. As with Trump and Kim’s February summit, there was no discussion of North Korea’s woeful record of ‘systemic, widespread and grave human rights violations’, in the words of a 2014 UN Report into conditions in the country.
In Hong Kong, around two million people marched to demand the resignation of leader Carrie Lam a day after she pulled back from a bitterly unpopular proposed law that would allow extradition to China. Lam’s apologises and offers to ‘postpone’ the measure did little to settle public outcry against the bill, which could allow China to exert more influence in Hong Kong to silence critics, undermine civic discourse, and erode the independence of the judiciary.
In the Courts
In Z & Aanor, R (On the Application Of) v London Borough of Hackney & Anor  EWCA Civ 1099, the Court of Appeal unanimously rejected an appeal against a Divisional Court ruling that the Agudas Israel Housing Association’s arrangements for the allocation of social housing, which are currently allocated only to members of the Orthodox Jewish community, were lawful. In his judgement, Lord Justice Lewison pointed with approval to Hackney’s evidence that ‘AIHA’s allocation arrangements are valuable for the purpose of alleviating high levels of child poverty in the Orthodox Jewish community’.
In Lawson, Mottram and Hopton, Re (appointment of personal welfare deputies) (Rev 1)  EWCOP 22 Mr Justice Hayden identified a number of principles determining whether permission should be granted in applications for the appointment of personal welfare deputies. The three young people on whose behalf the applications were a non-verbal 24-year-old man with autism, epilepsy and severe learning difficulties; a 24-year-old woman with Down’s Syndrome and a learning disability; and a 20-year-old man with severe autism, requiring constant supervision. In his judgement, Mr Justice Hayden emphasised that the ‘defining principle’ of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 was the ‘recognition of the importance of human autonomy’ in the presumption set out at Section 1(2) that ‘a person person must be assumed to have capacity unless it is established that he lacks capacity’.
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