Outgoing Secretary of State for Justice David Gauke. Credit: The Guardian.
The week ahead will, barring some extreme political drama, give us a new Prime Minister, and with it, the inevitable cabinet reshuffle. Some ministers have already made clear they believe they are unlikely to remain in post after the new PM’s appointment on Wednesday, in particular the Chancellor Phillip Hammond, and the Secretary of State for Justice David Gauke.
Whoever takes over at the Ministry of Justice will have a significant inbox. Cuts to legal aid were brought to the fore this week after it emerged a relative of those killed in the 2017 terrorist attacks at London Bridge was represented pro-bono by lawyers from international corporate law firm Hogan Lovells (see The Independent here). Mr Gauke used his forthcoming departure from post to propose scrapping short custodial sentences in a bid to reduce re-offending rates. However, the incoming Lord Chancellor will still be considerably better off than their new boss, for whom the “to do” list includes getting an oil tanker back from Iran and concluding Brexit.
Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular chocolate selection box 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.
Much of the news this week relating to the media: tweeting, printing and everything in between.Chris Grayling’s thriftiness also maintains the interests of commentators, academics and lawyers; and cases involving the freedom of religion remain at the forefront of the ECtHR as the Strasbourg Court reforms.
Yesterday, Sharon Shoesmith was given permission to appeal in the judicial review of her dismissal by Haringey council as a result of the Baby Peter scandal. The case itself is complex and fascinating, but the detail should not overshadow the open and forward-thinking way in which the case has been dealt with.
The case was always likely to be full of controversy, complexity as well as salacious detail. This is not in itself remarkable; public law is often the cutting edge of social and political issues. What is unusual is the manner in which Mr Justice Foskett (full disclosure: he is a former member of my chambers) approached his task by not just in looking inwards to the legal system, but also outwards to the general public.
The appellant had proposed an alternative scheme for assisted suicide containing certain conditions and safeguards, including the approval of a High Court judge, for those who were terminally ill and had less than six months to live. However, it was held that the alternative scheme would not be effective and raised wide-ranging policy issues that would be better dealt with by Parliament.
The Court identified the origin of the case as being that the Claimant has a prognosis of six months or less to live and wishes to have the option of taking action to end his life peacefully and with dignity, with the assistance of a medical professional, at a time of his choosing, whilst remaining in control of the final act that may be required to bring about his death. However, Section 2(1) of the 1961 Suicide Act makes it a criminal offence to provide encouragement or assistance for a person to commit suicide.
Mr Conway therefore sought a declaration of incompatibility under section 4 of the HRA , on the basis that the ban on assisted suicide was a disproportionate interference with his right to respect for his private life under Article 8 of the Convention (“Article 8”).
Sir Andrew McFarlane upheld Keehan J’s decision to disclose the parents’ initial statement and position statement to the police following the initial interim care hearing.
In family proceedings parents are advised that their evidence is confidential to those proceedings. They are encouraged to be open and frank and to understand that their children’s interests are the Court’s main concern.
But something seems to be eroding these principles, a trend set since the case of Re H (Children)  EWCA.
The Court of appeal approved the test from Re C ( see below) and gave it the “fit for purpose” badge. The decision should be seen in the context of this being a police terrorism enquiry.
The case involved two children aged 2 and 3, born in Syria to parents who were UK Citizens. The parents had travelled to Syria in 2014 against FCO advice, and met there. The family came to the attention of the UK authorities in November 2018 when they were in a detention centre in Turkey, intending to travel to the UK. The Home Secretary made a Temporary Exclusion order against the father. The family returned to the UK in January 2019. The parents were arrested under S. 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000, interviewed and subsequently granted bail. The children were placed in foster care initially under police protection. On 11 January a hearing took place for an application for interim care orders. The threshold was pleaded on the basis of the harm the children were likely to have been exposed to whilst in Syria. The parents did not contest the application, with an interim care plan for placement with grandparents.
On 1 February the police investigating potential criminal activity by the parents made an application to the Family Court for disclosure of the parents’ witness and Position statements. The application was heard by Keehan J on the 8th April, who granted disclosure to the police.
The Lord Chief Justice used a recent lecture to argue that the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) is being given too much respect in the UK courts, with its judgments being cited by lawyers and judges with alarming regularity.
Joshua Rozenberg writing the Law Society Gazette suggests that Lord Judge’s lecture was in fact misunderstood by many in the media, who used the speech to “call for the judiciary to give the good old English common law supremacy over that nasty foreign stuff they make in ‘Alsace, France’”
The issue an important one, as it goes to the heart of the debate over whether the Human Rights Act 1998 should be repealed. The original intention of the 1998 Act was to “bring rights home”; in other words, to prevent decisions on matters of great public importance and local sensitivity being decided in Strasbourg rather than the UK. Before the 1998 Act, the only human rights cases which could be cited were from Strasbourg. But the UK courts now have almost ten years of home-grown human rights case law to consider. The effect of the 1998 Act was therefore to diminish the relevance of ECtHR cases, and the Lord Chief Justice was reminding lawyers of this point.
Analysing the speech, it is clear that Lord Judge’s main complaint was that too many lawyers cite ECtHR authorities at inappropriate times, and that modern technology (including, it would seem, overzealous use of copy and paste) has meant that too many European authorities are creeping back into arguments.
Section 2(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998 states that a court determining a human rights question must “take into account” any “relevant” judgment of the ECtHR. However, as the Lord Chief Justice pointed out, unlike decisions of the European Court of Justice, “the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg do not bind our courts… What I respectfully suggest is that statute ensures that the final word does not rest with Strasbourg, but with our Supreme Court.”
Lord Judge also appears to despair of lawyers and even judges’ use of copy and paste. He said:
Rocknroll v News Group Newspapers Ltd  EWHC 24 (Ch) – Read judgment
Earlier this month, Rocknroll came to the Chancery Division. Mr Justice Briggs set out his reasons yesterday for granting Kate Winslet’s new husband an interim injunction prohibiting a national newspaperfrom printing semi-naked photographs of him taken at a party in July 2010 and later posted on Facebook.
In Edward Rocknroll v. News Group Newspapers Ltd, the Judge decided that the Claimant was likely to succeed at a full trial in establishing that his right to respect for his family life (protected by article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights) and his copyright over the photographs should prevail over The Sun’s right to freedom of expression (protected by article 10 ECHR). As such, the photographs cannot be published nor their contents described pending a full trial.
Updated x 2 | Journalist Christopher Booker reported in Saturday’s Telegraph that an Italian woman was forced by Essex County Council social services to have a cesarean section, and then had her baby taken away from her – all sanctioned by the Court of Protection.
The story has become international news. I was going to write in detail on this, but family law barrister Lucy Reed has done a much better job than I would have been able to do. Her blog is here. Essex County Council have also released a statement of facts, which is here. I also recommend Elizabeth Prochaska and Suesspicious Minds.
I will keep this very simple. It was pretty obvious, based on Christopher Booker and John Hemming’s form (see my blog from 2011), that we were only getting a partial view of the story.
The families of the 96 people who died at Hillsborough in 1989 have been vindicated at last, following a 27-year long fight for justice. An inquest jury has returned a conclusion of “unlawful killing”, in a damning indictment of South Yorkshire Police. The jury unanimously concluded that the behaviour of football supporters had in no part caused or contributed to the disaster.
Following the conclusion a number of questions still remain, including whether former chief superintendent David Duckenfield, the match commander, will now face fresh charges of manslaughter. A private prosecution ended in 2000 after a jury failed to reach agreement. Joshua Rozenburg observes that the inquest findings are clearly prejudicial – but “juries should be trusted to put prejudicial material out of their minds”.
Legal commentator David Allen Green points out that “without the Human Rights Act and ECHR there would not have been this new Hillsborough inquest”. The effect of Article 2 ECHR (the right to life) has meant it is no longer enough for an inquest to decide the means by which a person died; the circumstances in which the death occurred must also be determined. Barrister Michael Mansfield QC further notes that “one of the unusual features of these inquests has been the way the friends and relatives of the deceased have been accorded a central status” – a requirement of the European Court of Human Rights.
It is the jurisdiction of this same Court that Theresa May has declared the UK should leave, claiming this week that “the ECHR can bind the hands of Parliament, adds nothing to our prosperity…[and] makes us less secure by preventing the deportation of dangerous foreign nationals”. Mark Elliott describes the argument as “legally clumsy and constitutionally naïve”, while David Allen Green suggests human rights are being used “as a token in the game of politics”. He goes on to note that examples of the positive influence of the ECHR, such as the Hillsborough Inquests, will make this more difficult in the future: “even superficial politics can lose their shine”.
In other news:
According to a report in the Telegraph, each year up to 40,000 dying patients are having “do not resuscitate orders” imposed on them without the knowledge of their families. In many cases there is no record of any consultation with the patient. Adam Wagner suggests at RightsInfo that this might be in breach of patients’ human rights.
Figures released by the Ministry of Justice indicate a worsening crisis in the UK prison system. Between 2010 and 2015, the number of sexual assaults recorded has more than doubled from 137 incidents per year to 300. In the same period, the number of deaths in prisons has risen from 198 to 257 per year. Campaigners say that serious overcrowding and staff shortages are largely to blame. The Independent reports.
The Bar Council has warned that plans put forward by the Ministry of Justice to increase fees for those seeking justice through the Immigration and Asylum tribunal system by 500% is yet another step towards putting access to justice beyond the means of those who most need it. Further details can be found here.
The Guardian: According to a new report by charity Transform Justice, legal aid cuts have led to a sharp rise in unrepresented defendants. In one example given to the charity, an unrepresented defendant remained silent during his appearance via video link from a police station. Only after he had been sent to prison did it emerge that he was deaf.
The applicant was a Dutch national sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of a six-year-old girl. The Court found that the lack of any kind of treatment for the mental health condition suffered by the applicant meant that his requests for pardon were in practice incapable of leading to his release, since his risk of re-offending would continue to be assessed as too high. Accordingly, the Court found a violation of Article 3 of the Convention (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment).
Last month the Prime Minister promised business leaders that he would “get a grip” on people forcing unnecessary delays to Government policy by cracking down on the “massive growth industry” of Judicial Review (JR), the means by which individuals and organisations can challenge poor decisions by public authorities in the courts. He even, in a new twist on Goodwin’s Law, compared cutting down on court challenges to beating Hitler.
The consultation document is detailed and is worth reading. It certainly does not reflect the bombast of the Prime Minister’s statement that “We need to forget about crossing every ‘t’ and dotting every ‘i’ – and we need to throw everything we’ve got at winning in this global race“. What is proposed is a fairly significant reform of the Judicial Review system, and nothing as dramatic as winning World War II. There are, however, some problems with the Government’s analysis which I will come to later.
Coedbach Action Team Ltd v Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change  EWHC 2312 (Admin) – Read judgment
A recent decision of the High Court, relating to a challenge to planning permission for a power station, could significantly limit access to environmental justice for local community groups.
The Aarhus Convention requires that access to justice and effective remedies be provided to members of the public in environmental matters, and that the procedures be “fair, equitable, timely and not prohibitively expensive.”
Both the UK and the EU are signatories to the Convention; the access to justice provisions are given effect in EU law in the Directive 85/377 EEC, which requires that such access be given to “members of the public concerned” who have a sufficient interest or are maintaining the impairment of a right.
What happens when someone is convicted of a criminal offence and is given a custodial sentence? Sometimes, the individual will serve at least part of their sentence in prison and the remainder on licence. But, what happens after they’ve served the totality of their sentence?
Readers of this blog may be familiar with the changes in disclosure duties for criminal convictions which came about as a result of the cases of Gallagher, P, G & W v Home Secretary  UKSC 3 (see Samuel March’s post on this topic). JR123 looks at another aspect of the framework of rehabilitation: the ability to be rehabilitated in law at all.
JR123 had been convicted of possession of a petrol bomb, arson, burglary and theft in 1980. Having been given multiple custodial sentences, he had been released from custody in 1982 and had served the remainder of his sentences on license. In the years which followed, JR123 had no further involvement with the criminal justice system. However, given the exceptions in the 1978 Order, his convictions could never be spent and thus he could never be rehabilitated. This was problematic on multiple fronts, particularly his employment prospects and personal life. Many things which we take for granted, for example applying for insurance, obtaining a mortgage, renting properties, and so on, become considerably difficult when having to disclose convictions which are almost 40 years old ().
Mr Justice Colton observed of JR123: “He finds the process of repeatedly having to disclose the convictions to be oppressive and shaming” ().
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.
The Court of Appeal yesterday handed down judgment in the case of JIH v News Group Newspapers Ltd ( EWCA Civ 42). In allowing the appeal against the order of Tugendhat J ( EWHC 2818 (QB)) the Court ordered that the claimant’s anonymity should be restored.
Although the Court stressed that each decision is fact sensitive, this approach seems likely to be followed in most types of privacy injunction cases. This eagerly awaited decision adds to the growing body of case law concerning reporting restrictions where an injunction has been granted to restrain publication of information about a claimant’s private life.
Tchenguiz & Ors v Imerman  EWCA Civ 908 (29 July 2010) – Read judgment
The Court of Appeal has ruled that secretly obtained documents can no longer copied and then used in divorce proceedings, overturning a rule dating back almost twenty years. The case will have a significant impact for divorcing couples, but has the court left itself open to a Supreme Court reversal on human rights grounds?
The appeal related to the divorce proceedings between Vivian and Elizabeth Imerman, in which Mrs Imerman’s brothers brothers had downloaded documents from Mr Imerman’s office computer in order to prove that he had more assets than he had disclosed to the court. Mr Justice Moylan ruled in the High Court that seven files of documents should be handed back to Mr Imerman for the purpose of enabling him to remove any material for which he claimed privilege. Mr Imerman appealed against the decision that he would then have to give the documents back, and Mrs Imerman argued that she should be given more control over the privilege process.
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.