But is mediation a knight in shining armour or a trendy buzzword used as an excuse to keep people out of the expensive court system? The debate is often heard but rarely goes beyond anecdotal evidence. Lord Neuberger, our highly active Master of the Rolls, has given an excellent speech on the topic, entitled Has mediation had its day?, which presents the evidence on both sides, including references to a number of research studies.
The Coalition Government is only a few days old but it is already receiving a cautious welcome from civil liberties commentators and bloggers, with all eyes on significant policy commitments in the Con-Lib deal. The previous government enacted major civil liberties legislation within a year of taking power; the question now is whether the Coalition has the time, will and co-operative potential to fulfil its lofty promises.
In its final years, New Labour was regularly criticised on civil liberties issues, particularly in relation to anti-terrorism law. But it is undeniable that within around a year of coming to power it had enacted a major piece of civil liberties legislation in the Human Rights Act 1998, which was followed shortly after by two others; the Data Protection Act 1998 and Freedom of Information Act 2000. Some, such as the Human Rights in Ireland Blog, say that sadly this was a high water mark and not to be repeated.
The Con-Lib coalition has already made significant early promises. The focus of commentators has been on the cabinet appointees who will influence law and order policy, as well as the surprisingly full civil liberties section in the Con-Lib Coalition agreement. Just as important, however, is what has been left out.
Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular Olympic opening ceremony 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 Daniel Isenberg.
Blow out the candles and wish a very happy 60th birthday to the ECHR. That celebration has been the cause of much reflection and commentary, including looking at the UK’s future relationship with the Convention and the Human Rights Act. Elsewhere, the MoJ has released consultations on new criminal legal aid plans and further proposed changes to judicial review.
Stratas JA has said, “Administrative law matters”. Every individual’s life is affected, in some cases profoundly, by administrative decisions. Judicial oversight of administrative decisions engages questions of importance and sensitivity in democracies where separation of powers is an intrinsic principle. In the view of the Supreme Court of Canada, the act of judicial review by a court is a constitutional function that ensures executive power is exercised according to the rule of law. At the same time, review must be exercised without undermining the democratic legitimacy of the executive or the intention of the legislature. The standards applied by courts to determining the lawfulness of administrative decisions are therefore of central importance to the proper functioning of our country.
Disclaimer here, to apply to this and the next post. The views expressed here are purely in a personal capacity, as I am now counsel with the UK charity, Justice.
This and the following post will consider what a ‘reasonableness’ standard of review means in the contexts of Canadian and UK administrative law. The standard has recently been given new emphasis by the handing down of the judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada in Vavilov  SCC 65 in which the court restated its conception of reasonableness and how a decision should be analysed in light of that standard.
In the UK, a series of cases has revealed that jurisdiction’s Supreme Court grappling with reasonableness primarily in its relationship with the other standard of review, proportionality. As this essay will show, both Canadian and UK courts have struggled ever since the advent of judicial oversight of administrative decisions to formulate a standard of reasonableness which ensures unlawful decisions do not stand but does not allow the court to remake the decision that is the proper remit of the administrator.
The Federal Court of Justice in Germany (the Bundesgerichtshof, or BGH) has ruled against the social network provider that deleted posts and suspended accounts amid allegations of “hate speech”.
The ruling was handed down on the 29th of July (Bundesgerichtshof, Urteile vom 29. Juli 2021 – III ZR 179/20 und III ZR 192/20) and at the time of writing this post, the full judgment had not been published. The following summary is based upon the Bundesgerichtshof’s press release. NB the quotes from the plaintiff’s Facebook entries are in the judgment, i.e. the public domain, in other words no offence is intended by repeating them here.
Judgments of July 29, 2021 – III ZR 179/20 and III ZR 192/20
The III Civil Senate of the German Federal Court of Justice has ruled that Facebook’s terms and conditions of April 19, 2018 for the deletion of user posts and account blocking in the event of violations of the communication standards set out in the terms and conditions are invalid. This was because the defendant provider had not undertaken to inform the user about the removal of his post at least subsequently and about an intended blocking of his user account in advance, had not informed them of the reason for this and had not given them an opportunity to respond with a subsequent new decision. If, due to the invalid terms and conditions of the provider’s contract, a user’s contribution was deleted and their account temporarily subject to a partial blocking, the user should be able to claim the activation of the deleted contribution and, an undertaking that there would be no further account blocking or deletion of the contribution upon its renewed posting.
The parties disputed the legality of a temporary partial blocking of the plaintiffs’ Facebook user accounts and the deletion of their comments by the defendant.
The plaintiffs each maintained a user account for a worldwide social network operated by the defendant’s parent company, whose provider and contractual partner for users based in Germany was the defendant. They claimed against the defendant – to the extent still relevant for the appeal proceedings – in respect of activation of the posts published by them on the network and deleted by the defendant, for an injunction against renewed blocking of their user accounts and deletion of their posts, and – in one of the appeal proceedings – for information about a company commissioned to implement the account blocking.
Updated | George Bathurst-Norman, the judge at the centre of the controversial acquittal of five activists against the 2008/9 Gaza war, has been officially reprimanded by the Office for Judicial Complaints.
At short notice, the judge assigned to try a politically sensitive trial at Hove Crown Court on 28 and 29 June 2010 was unable to sit. To avoid an adjournment, His Honour Bathurst-Norman agreed to replace to him.
A number of complaints were made about some of the observations he made during the trial and summing up. An investigation found that a number of these observations did not arise directly from the evidence at trial and could be seen as an expression of the judge’s personal views on a political question. This was an error.
Former Member of Parliament David Chaytor has been sentenced to 18 months imprisonment by Mr Justice Saunders after pleading guilty to 3 charges of false accounting in relation to his Parliamentary expenses.
The sentence marks the end of a long legal road for Mr Chaytor, whose case – along with two others – has already reached the Supreme Court without any criminal trial taking place. In a fascinating case for those interested in the British constitution, the Supreme Court was asked to rule on whether a court could try a Member of Parliament in relation to the submission of an allegedly dishonest claim for Parliamentary expenses. The men claimed it could not, relying on Article 9 of the 1688 Bill of Rights, which states:
That the Freedome of Speech and Debates or Proceedings in Parlyament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or Place out of Parlyament.
In a case that was described as “the first such case to have come on for hearing before this court” and one that shares many similarities with the tabloid-grabbing story of Shamima Begum (discussed on the Blog here), Mr Justice Pepperall refused permission to bring judicial review proceedings on behalf of an Islamic State combatant whose citizenship had been revoked by the Home Secretary.
A father (Mr Islam) brought judicial review proceedings on behalf of his son (Ashraf) challenging the Home Secretary’s decision to revoke Ashraf’s British citizenship because of his involvement with the Islamic State / Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (referred to in the judgment as ISIL).
Ashraf was born in London and is a British citizen by birth. He has lived and studied in both Bangladesh and the United Kingdom throughout his life and was studying in Dhaka at the time of his disappearance in April 2015. Shortly after his disappearance, Mr Islam learned that his son had crossed into Syria and joined ISIL.
Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular tour de force 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 Celia Rooney.
This week, the role of Lady Butler-Sloss in the forthcoming inquiry into child abuse is challenged, while the government pushes for emergency legislation to monitor phone and internet records. Meanwhile, the European Court of Human Right upholds France’s niqab ban and the Tories get closer to announcing their plans for human rights reform.
According to research released by the Home Office, large increases in stop and search operations have no discernible effect on crime reduction. The official study examined crime rates across 10 London boroughs in the first year of Operation Blunt 2, which led to a surge in the number of searches from 34,154 in the year before to 123,335 in 2008/2009.
The findings are likely to lend support to the position of the Home Secretary, Theresa May who in 2014 introduced new measures to curtail reliance on the powers. She has previously been critical of claims by the Metropolitan Police that a rise in knife crime in recent months is linked to a drop in the use of stop and search, warning against a “knee-jerk reaction.”
Police powers to conduct the searches have proved highly controversial, with campaigners arguing that ethnic minority groups are disproportionately targeted. An analysis by the Independent found that between December 2014 and April 2015, black people were more likely to be stopped than white people in 36 out of 39 police forces. Continue reading →
Garry Norman MANN v Portugual and the United Kingdom – 360/10  ECHR 337 (1 February 2011) – Read judgment
Garry Mann, a football fan who was convicted to two years in a Portuguese jail for rioting after an England match in 2004, has lost his appeal to the European Court of Human Rights against his conviction and extradition.
Mann has always denied taking part in the riot. The full background to the case is set out here. The case has been subject to a number of court hearings in the UK, including two judicial review hearings against his proposed extradition to Portugal to serve his prison sentence. He has also already had a claim in the European court rejected.
Evans, R (o.t.a of) Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government  EWCA Civ 114 – read judgment
There have been important pronouncements over the years by the Aarhus Compliance Committee (ACC) about whether the UK planning system complies with the UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (the Aarhus Convention). See my post here for the most important ones, and more are likely to follow shortly (see here). The interest in this domestic planning case is in how the Court of Appeal dealt with those pronouncements, where there is domestic case law going the other way.
On 30 July 2020, the Crown Prosecution Service published its performance statistics on sexual violence cases for the year 2019-20, which vindicate long-held concerns about the “damning” number of cases being lost amid “under-resourced” investigations.
The UK’s exit from the European Union raises many questions for continuing cross-border arrangements and the legal proceedings that follow. This is no less the case in the area of police and judicial cooperation. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) has governed all arrangements since January 2021. Since people accused of crime will continue to travel, what does this mean for an individual’s ability to challenge requests from EU member states to UK authorities? These arguments are well known in the UK: how can we return people to Poland for prosecution of such minor misdemeanours as dessert theft? Should we be returning people to Lithuania given the appalling prison conditions?
Part 3 TCA introduced a new “surrender” arrangement with the EU to replace the European Arrest Warrant (EAW). It also replaced the other measures that in 2014 the UK concluded were necessary for law enforcement when it exercised the Protocol 36 to the Lisbon Treaty option to depart from police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, and then opted back into 35. Alongside the EAW, these included the European investigation order, supervision order, instrument on transfer of prisoners and various others. These measures resulted from the mutual recognition project that sought to make law enforcement speedier and more effective. Part 3 TCA now provides for cooperation with Europol and Eurojust, operational information exchange and mutual assistance.
The Lord Chief Justice has lamented the ease with which new laws can be passed without proper scrutiny, comparing new powers to those which were imposed by England’s worst tyrant.
Lord Judge, who is the Lord Chief Justice and head of the judiciary, was speaking at the annual Lord Mayor’s dinner for the judiciary; his speech can be read here.
The thrust of the judge’s speech was his concern at the proliferation of what he called “Henry VIII” clauses, the proliferation of which had “astonished” him. Henry VIII’s 1539 Statute of Proclamations allowed the King’s proclamations to have the same force as Acts of Parliament. Lord Judge compared this to a series of recent Acts which have given the Government licence to enact law without the scrutiny of Parliament.
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.