One of the most popular ideas in crime fiction is the ‘cold case’; the apparently unsolved crime which, through various twists and turns, is brought to justice many years after it was committed. Indeed, at least two recent long-running TV dramas (the American show ‘Cold Case‘ and the more imaginatively and morbidly named British show ‘Waking the Dead‘) have been entirely based on this concept.
But what happens when such cases do turn up in real life, get to trial and the perpetrator is found guilty? In particular, how does a judge approach sentencing for a crime which might be decades-old, in the light of Article 7 ECHR? The Court of Appeal recently provided some answers to those questions.
Enables ministers to use regulation to add to the list of possible ‘victims’ of hate crime. There are already suggestions that misogyny will be added.
The definition of hate crime is extended to include ‘aggravation of offences by prejudice’.
Creates a new crime of ‘stirring up hatred’ against any of the groups which the Bill protects.
Updates and amalgamates existing hate crime law.
Abolishes the offence of blasphemy.
In addition, a new offence of misogynistic harassment is being considered.
The Bill was created following Lord Bracadale’s independent review of hate crime law. Official figures show that hate crime is on the rise in Scotland and the Bill seeks to address this.
However, the Bill has caused considerable concern. Many have suggested that the Bill unduly restricts freedom of speech. The President of the Law Society of Scotland, Amanda Millar, said she had “significant reservations” and indicated that “views expressed or even an actor’s performance” could result in a criminal conviction.
Groups ranging from the Catholic Church to the National Secular Society have also spoken against the plans. The Scottish Newspaper Society expressed reservations.
Some have claimed that JK Rowling, who recently tweeted her views about transgender rights/ feminism, could be imprisoned for 7 years under the Bill. Opponents also point to the experience of Threatening Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act 2012, which sought to target football hooliganism. The Act was later repealed due to concerns about freedom of speech and its ineffectiveness.
James Kelly, Labour’s justice spokesman, has pointed out that the Bill would not require ‘intention’ in order for criminality to be found. He suggested that religious views could be negatively affected by the proposals.
In response, the Scottish government points out that the Bill makes clear that criticising religious beliefs or practices does not, in itself, constitute a criminal offence. Ministers have also emphasised that the draft legislation seeks to protect minorities and oppressed groups.
According to the President of the Supreme Court, the judiciary not only has a right but an obligation “to speak out on mattersconcerning the rule of law.” In recent months, it is a duty from which Lord Neuberger has not shirked, and last night’s lecture to the Institute of Government was no exception. Its focus was the importance of legal aid, which Neuberger described through the prism of the UK’s constitutional set-up and the respective roles of the legislature, executive and judiciary within it.
This is not the first time that the UK’s most senior judge has intervened in the debate surrounding the Transforming Legal Aid consultation, which closed on 4 June. Back in March, he warned that proposals intended to save £350 million a year by 2015 could end up costing the Government more, with greater numbers of litigants appearing in court without legal assistance, and longer hearings.
Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular fracktastic frisson 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.
In recent weeks, the Prime Minister’s cabinet reshuffle has sparked fears of human rights reform, while Parliament has come under fire for the speed at which it passed emergency legislation on data retention. In other news, the residence test for legal aid faced legal challenges, while Lindsay Sandiford lost her final appeal in the UK courts in her attempt to stop her execution in Indonesia.
Theruling by HHJ Murphy in Blackfriars Crown Court this Monday that a defendant in a criminal trial should not be allowed to wear a niqaab (face veil) whilst giving her evidence has prompted calls for a public debate about the wearing of face veils in public more generally. Adam Wagner has already commented on the case here. A summary and analysis of the decision follows below.
The defendant in this case, D, is a woman who is charged with a single count of witness intimidation. When the judge asked D to remove her veil in order to be formally identified for the court’s purposes at a plea and case management hearing, D refused because she believes she should not reveal her face in the presence of men who are not members of her immediate family. As a result, HHJ Murphy listed a special hearing to consider what orders should be made about the wearing of a niqaab during the rest of the proceedings, describing the issue as ‘the elephant in the court room’ which needed to be dealt with early on.
Updated | It all started with the reporting of an injunction, supposedly obtained by former Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive, “preventing him being identified as a banker”. A mildly interesting story, made marginally more so by the fact that the injunction had been breached by an MP during a Parliamentary debate.
But there is more to the story. As bloggers Anna Raccoon, Charon QC and Obiter J have reported, on a Parliamentary debate on Thursday the same Liberal Democrat MP, John Hemming, revealed the details of a number of other (what he called) “hyper” injunctions. The common feature was that courts had ordered not only that the parties to litigation were to be prevented from revealing details of their cases to the public, but also to their MPs.
The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) sparked controversy with its recent judgment passed down in IX v Wabe eV and MH Müller Handels GmbH v MJ. This case required the CJEU to again consider the right to freedom of religion. It ruled that employers can ban workers from observing religious symbols, including headscarves, to maintain a neutral image in front of its customers.
This ruling was brought by two Muslim women in Germany who were suspended from their jobs because of wearing a headscarf. IX and MJ, were employed in companies governed by German law as a special needs caregiver and a sales assistant respectively. They both wore the Islamic headscarf at their workplaces. The employers held the view that wearing a headscarf for religious purposes did not correspond to the policy of political, philosophical, and religious neutrality pursued with regard to parents, children, and third parties, and asked the women to remove their headscarf and suspended them from their duties on their refusal to do so. MJ’s employer, MH Müller Handels GmbH, particularly instructed her to “attend her workplace without conspicuous, large-sized signs of any political, philosophical or religious beliefs.”
IX and MJ brought actions before the Arbeitsgericht Hamburg (Hamburg Labour Court, Germany) and the Bundesarbeitsgericht (Federal Labour Court, Germany), respectively. The courts referred the questions to the CJEU concerning the interpretation of Directive 2000/78. This directive establishes a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation.
Free speech is under attack. Or so it seems. The last few weeks have been abuzz with stories to do with free speech: a Supreme Court ruling on the Reynolds defence to libel; contempt of court proceedings against an MP for comments made in a book and the latest in a growing line of criminal trials for Twitter offences. The diversity of media at the heart of these stories – print news, traditional books and online ‘micro-blogging’ – indicates the difficulty of the task for the legal system.
Flood v Times: how does this affect calls for libel reform?
On 21 March, the Supreme Court affirmed the Times newspaper’s reliance on the Reynolds defence to libel – often referred to as Reynolds privilege or the responsible journalism defence – to a claim by a detective sergeant in the Metropolitan Police.
R (o.t.a Henderson) v. Secretary of State for Justice, Divisional Court, 27 January 2015 – judgment here
The Court (Burnett LJ giving the sole judgment) has ruled on whether the statutory changes made to the ability of acquitted defendants in the Crown Court to recover their costs from central funds are compatible with the ECHR.
Its answer – an emphatic yes, the new rules are compatible. This conclusion was reached in respect of the two statutory regimes applicable since October 2012, as we shall see.
COVID-19 continues to dominate the news this week. The death toll in Europe has now risen to over 100,000, with the UK accounting for more than 16,000 of those. Although there appear to be signs that the infection curve is slowing elsewhere in Europe, and vaccine trials are now underway, it seems likely that we are in this for the long haul. UK government chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance has written in the Guardian this week, explaining the challenges of ensuring any proposed vaccine is safe, and of scaling it up as required.
Pressure is building for the government to publish the findings of ‘Exercise Cygnus’, a three-day flu pandemic readiness exercise conducted in October 2016, as critics note the government’s apparent ill-preparedness for the coronavirus outbreak. According to the Observer, the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) recommended that the government:
Develop a ‘pandemic influenza concept of operations’ to improve coordination between the ‘complex network of partners’ involved;
Plan for ‘legislative easements’ to deal with the pandemic;
Work on ‘better understanding of the public reaction to a reasonable worst-case pandemic’; and
Strengthen ‘surge capability and capacity in operational resources in certain areas’, especially in respect of excess deaths, social care, and the NHS.
Lib Dem MP Philip Lee has urged Matt Hancock and Michael Gove to answer “when did they read the Cygnus report that has not been published and, having read that report, why did they conclude not to increase testing, PPE, and ventilator capacity in January?”. The Department of Health has insisted that the UK is “one of the most prepared countries in the world for pandemics.”
Concerns about criminal justice during the coronavirus pandemic continue. As the backlog builds up, DPP Max Hill QC has instructed the CPS to seek out-of-court solutions where possible, so as to limit the ‘expanding pipeline’ of cases waiting to be heard. Mr Hill and other voices such as James Mulholland, vice-chair of the Criminal Bar Association, have stressed the importance of deterrent sentences for offences related to COVID-19 and deliberate infection. However, ex-DPP Ken MacDonald QC has urged the courts not to mete out excessive jail term, arguing that prison is not the place for ‘nuisances’.
Lockdown is causing serious damage to family life too. There has been a surge in urgent care proceedings in the family courts, as increased drinking, money worries, and domestic violence put vulnerable children at risk. Unicef has released guidance for authorities on the protection of children during the COVID-19 pandemic. In light of the rise in domestic violence, Home Secretary Priti Patel this week launched an urgent awareness campaign, pledging £2m for domestic violence charities and the Domestic Abuse Commissioner.
R (on the application of the European Federation for Cosmetic Ingredients) v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Attorney General, British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection and the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (intervening)  EWHC 4222 (Admin) 12 December 2014 – read judgment
Conscientious shoppers who check the labelling of shampoos and other cosmetic products for the “not tested on animals” legend may not be aware that there is in place an EU Regulation (“the Cosmetics Regulation”), enforceable by criminal sanctions, prohibiting the placing on the market of any product that has been tested on laboratory animals. Any comfort drawn from this knowledge however may be displaced by the uncertainty concerning the status of cosmetics whose ingredients have been tested on animals in non-EU or “third” countries. (Incidentally the Cruelty Cutter app is designed to enable consumers to test, at the swipe of a smart phone, whether the product they are contemplating purchasing has been tested on animals.)
This case concerned the question of whether, and if so in what circumstances, that Regulation would prohibit the marketing of products which incorporate ingredients which have undergone testing on animals in third countries. It was a claim for judicial review seeking declarations relating to the marketing of cosmetic ingredients which had been thus tested. Continue reading →
The evolution of international human rights law (IHRL) in the UN era has seen a paradigm shift away from a view of international law as applying solely to states and their relations with other states, to a focus on the rights of individuals and the duties states owe to citizens. As articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, certain rights are so fundamental as to be universal in scope based on our common humanity. As Reisman notes‘no serious scholar still supports the contention that internal human rights are “essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state” and hence insulated from international law.’
The question is how these inalienable rights, expressed so forcefully on the international level, can be transposed into domestic law. One way is through the process of judicial interpretation. However, this poses a challenge in dualist systems where, traditionally, courts do not take international law into account, unless implemented by national legislation. This reluctance to engage with unincorporated IHRL is what the 1988 Bangalore Judicial Colloquium—a group including such luminaries as Michael Kirby, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Lester and P.N. Bhagwati—sought to address. The resulting Bangalore Principles, concluded that:
It is within the proper nature of the judicial process and well-established judicial functions for national courts to have regard to international obligations which a country undertakes—whether or not they have been incorporated into domestic law—for the purpose of removing ambiguity or uncertainty from national constitutions, legislation or common law.
The US Supreme Court’s term begins today, and race relations is at the top of the court’s agenda. The US press hails Fisher v University of Texas as the most important case the Court has agreed to hear thus far. Word is out that it could sound the death knell for affirmative action in the United States.
The justices are being asked to decide whether race-based affirmative action in college admissions is still constitutional. The petitioner is a white student who was turned down by the University of Texas in 2008. She claims she was a victim of illegal race discrimination under their policy of affirmative action.
In 1997 the Texas legislature enacted a law requiring the University of Texas to admit all Texas high school seniors ranking in the top ten percent of their classes. Whilst this measure improved access to tertiary education for many, the colleges protested at having their hands tied with regard to highly talented students who showed promise in certain subjects but did not come in to the top ten percent (including minority students in highly integrated high schools). To redress this balance the Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that universities could consider a minority student’s race as a “plus factor” in admissions. The Court based its ruling on the need for colleges to ensure a diverse student body. Following this judgment, the University of Texas added a new affirmative action policy to go along with the automatic admission rule with race being a “plus factor” in admission. Continue reading →
The Ministry of Justice is calling for evidence on the Review of the Balance of Competences between the United Kingdom and the European Union, specifically relating to fundamental rights. The consultation document is here and main website here.
The deadline for responses is 13 January 2014, but if you want to take part in one of the four discussion groups (three in London, one in Edinburgh), you need to email by tomorrow – all details below.
And don’t let the obscure-sounding title put you off. This review is potentially very important. Just look how broad question 1 is: Continue reading →
This article was originally published by the UK Constitutional Law Association, and can be found here.
There is an old joke, in which a man is driving through the countryside, lost. He stops his car in a small village to ask a local for directions. The local responds by saying: ‘you want to get where? Oh, to get there, I wouldn’t start from here.’
It’s a joke my children wouldn’t get, from another era, from an age before satnav and Google maps. Perhaps it should be retired. But it remains of contemporary relevance at least as a way of understanding the recent judgment of Richard v BBC. This is because it highlights the issue of framing: the way one perceives an issue dictates, to some extent, the way one attempts to deal with it. Framing is well known in journalism, as the way a journalist perceives an event – frames it – influences the way she will report on it. It also can be helpful in law. The way an advocate persuades a tribunal to perceive an event – frames it – dictates, to some extent, the conclusion the tribunal will reach. Every advocate knows that to get to a particular destination, it’s important to get the judge or jury to start from the right place.
Reading the 454 paragraphs of Mann J’s clear prose in Richard v BBC, we are left with little doubt how he framed the case. A well-beloved celebrity, Sir Cliff Richard, was unfairly accused of a horrendous crime, and was investigated, as was only right, by the police. But the police told the BBC this private information, which they shouldn’t have done, because they were pressurised into doing so by the BBC. The BBC prepared a report, dispatched a helicopter to shoot video through Sir Cliff’s windows of policemen searching his flat, and then published this to the world. This harmed Sir Cliff, who sued the police for informing the BBC, and the BBC for informing the world. Justice was done to Sir Cliff when Mann J resolved the dilemmas with which he was presented in favour of Sir Cliff.
Indeed, Mann J seems to have resolved all the dilemmas with which he was faced in favour of Sir Cliff. Many of these findings might be challenged, and some are supported by stronger reasoning than others. The BBC has indicated that it is considering appealing. This blog concentrates on one finding that can be challenged, as it is one that potentially has the most impact on public interest journalism. This is Mann J’s conclusion in paragraph 248 that a person under police investigation has a prima faciereasonable expectation of privacy in respect of that fact. The blog argues that, while an understandable conclusion given Mann J’s framing of Sir Cliff’s case, this finding erects a significant and substantial hurdle for those undertaking public interest journalism. That is a problem.
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.