Dominic Raab has returned to the role of Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor. Brandon Lewis stepped down from the role after 50 days in office; he recently engraved his name on the foundation stone at London’s Justice Quarter, where construction of a ‘super court’ began last week.
On 25 October, Safeguarding Minister Mims Davis announced new provisions, collectively known as ‘Kay’s Law’, to better protect victims of crimes such as domestic abuse and sexual assault. The reforms, coming into force this week, include imposing a duty upon the police force to take into account the views of victims before releasing someone on bail, and encouraging the use of pre-charge bail when necessary and proportionate. These reforms coincide with further measures to support victims, including the ‘ENOUGH’ campaign. The campaign provides information on support services, safe ways to intervene if someone witnesses an incident of violence against women and girls, and offers guidance for individuals worried about their own behaviour.
The ruling has been released in the deportation case of two members of the Rochdale grooming gang. Adil Khan, 51, and Qari Abdul Rauf, 52, lost their appeal against deportation after a seven-year legal battle following their convictions of child sex offences in May 2012. Although the appeal was heard at an immigration tribunal in June, with a decision made in August, judges have only just released their legal ruling. The challenge against deportation on human rights grounds failed; in both individuals’ cases there was a “very strong public interest” in them being removed from the UK.
Lawyers representing TFL have requested permission from the High Court to take legal action against a further 121 named people following the intensification of Just Stop Oil protests. Earlier this month Mrs Justice Yip granted an injunction against 62 named “defendants” and against “persons unknown”, also making an order that the Metropolitan Police should “disclose” to TFL the names and address of individuals arrested as a result of the protests.
In other news
A report, from the Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy, at the University of Cambridge, has stated that live facial recognition technology (LFR) should be banned from use in streets, airports and any public spaces. The study examined three deployments of LFR, one by the Metropolitan police and two by South Wales police; it found that all three failed “to meet ethical and legal standards”.
The Law Society has found that, at the current rate of progress, it will take more than 125 years before there is proper representation within the England and Wales judiciary. Black judges make up just 1.09% of the judiciary, compared with 1.02% in 2014, and it would take until 2149 for their representation to match current estimates for the general population (3.5%). For female representation to be achieved, it is expected to be at least another decade, and for people of Asian ethnicity, that stage in anticipated to be reached by 2033.
For the first time, the information commissioner has issued a blanket warning on the ineffectiveness of ‘emotional analysis’ technologies. The attempted development of ’emotional AI’ is one of four issues that the ICO has identified in a study of the future of biometric technologies. The “pseudoscientific” nature of the field makes it untrustworthy, especially in instances of gathering information related to important decision making.
In the courts
On 21 October the Court of Appeal handed down judgement in Rowe v London Borough of Haringey EWCA Civ 1370. The case concerned HHJ Roberts’ order dismissing the Appellant’s appeal against the London Borough of Haringey’s review decision dated 23 June 2021. The decision stated that the Appellant was not statutorily overcrowded under the requirements of Part X Housing Act 1985 (HA 85) and it was reasonable for her to remain in her accommodation. The dispute arose as to whether Part X HA 85 applied to the house as a whole, as the Appellant contended, or the Appellant’s room, as the Respondent contended. In post-hearing submissions, the Respondent contended whether Part X HA 85 applied at all, arguing instead that the relevant measure was that in Part 2 Housing Act 2004. The Court declined to decide on this issue, instead proceeding on the original submissions that Part X HA 85 applied. The Court held the property was not a ‘separate dwelling’ for the purposes of s.325 and s.326 HA 1985 and that no breach of overcrowding had occurred. Ground 2 of the appeal, assessing reasonableness of occupation was predicated on Ground 1, which had been dismissed. The Court held that the Respondent’s withdrawal of its original decision, via a letter dated 12 May 2022, due to their mistake in not assessing the property’s status as an unlicensed HMO did not render the claim as academic.
On 26 October, the High Court handed down judgement in Three Counties Agricultural Society v Persons Unknown & Ors EWHC 2708 (KB). The case involved an application for a precautionary injunction against ‘Persons Unknown’ by the Claimant, in an effort to curb protest activity at the Three Counties Defence and Security Exposition. The Court stated that the starting point for the grant of an injunction was s 37(1) of the Senior Courts Act 1981. In this instance European Convention rights were engaged, therefore the correct test to apply was the more stringent one laid down in Ineos Upstream Ltd v Persons Unknown  4 WLR 100. The Court held that the injunction to prevent trespass upon the Claimant’s land was appropriate and necessary. In respect of the part of the Order relating to activity on the highway, the Court stated it must strike a balance between the rights of the protestors and the rights of the Claimant to access and egress its land. The Court held that granting the injunction would not unlawfully interfere with Article 10 and 11 rights of the protestors, and that any interference presented by the injunction was proportionate.
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.
In the news
This week we have further developments in freedom of information (both in terms of the right to free speech and the right to receive information under Article 10 of the Convention) and on the reform of courts, both at home and in Strasbourg. Also making news this week: the new Terrorist Prevention and Investigation Measures and flooding in Vladivostock.
Freedom of speech and freedom of information
This week, judgment was given in the case of Cairns v. Modi, in which Chris Cairns, former New Zealand cricketer, successfully won £90,000 in damages from Modi, the former Chairman of the Indian Premier League, who published a defamatory statement about Cairns on Twitter. Inforrm’s blog provides a case summary with a bit more detail, for those interested. Rosalind English commented on this case, and on libel cases in the context of instantaneous Internet publishing more generally, for the UK Human Rights blog on Wednesday, in which she likens the current judicial attitude to rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic. Continue reading →
West London Mental Health NHS Trust (Respondent) v Chhabra (Appellant)  UKSC 80 – read judgment
It is not unknown for lawyers or doctors to speak on a mobile phone about confidential details of a case while travelling by train. Some of you may even have left case papers out on your seat or table while you hunt down a bacon baguette from the Travelling Chef (formerly known as “Toastie Geoff” prior to rebranding). If so, read on, for this is a cautionary tale…
This appeal by Dr Chhabra was concerned with the roles of the case investigator and the case manager when handling concerns about a doctor’s performance under the disciplinary procedures introduced over eight years ago for doctors and dentists in the National Health Service. The national policy framework is known as ‘Maintaining High Professional Standards in the Modern NHS’ (MHPS), which the Trust had implemented through its own policies.
Decision of the European Ombudsman on complaint against the European Commission, 17 December 2012 – Read decision
The UK secured what Tony Blair described as an opt-out in respect of the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights as part of the negotiations leading up to the Lisbon Treaty – which contains the Charter. Rosalind English has summarised here what the Charter involves, and whether the “opt-out” really changes anything. This recent EU Ombudsman’s decision concerns the attempts of an NGO to extract certain EU Commission documents in the run-up to the Lisbon Treaty. The EU Commission was taking its usual head-in-the-sand approach to disclosure (see various posts listed below), hence the complaint to the Ombudsman. And, as we shall see, the Ombudsman gave the Commission both barrels in this highly critical decision.
When the prime minister criticises judges, he tends to speak from his gut. The prospect of prisoners being given the vote by European judges makes him feel “physically sick”. And now, he is “a little uneasy” about the rise of “a sort of privacy law without Parliament saying so“.
David Cameron’s use of visceral language may reflect what many in the general public (as well as PR man Max Clifford) are feeling about the issue of wide-ranging injunctions granted by courts, seemingly all the time, to prevent salacious details of celebrities’ private lives being revealed. The latest involves a former big brother contestant’s alleged affair with a married Premier League footballer.
British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe returned to the UK on Thursday, after being imprisoned in Iran for spying, which she and the British government deny. Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was originally arrested in April 2016 and sentenced to five years in prison for alleged plots to overthrow the Iranian government, which she also denies. In April 2021 she was sentenced to another year in jail for spying. Attempts by the British government, including the Prime Minister, to secure her release had previously failed but an improving UK-Iran relationship, including the settlement of a £400m debt Iran claimed the UK owed, may have contributed to her release last week. Several more dual nationals remain imprisoned in Iran, including Iranian-British-American wildlife conservationist Morad Tahbaz, charged with “co-operating with the hostile state of the US”.
Amnesty describes the NCP as “totally failing in numerous ways”, with its complaint handling procedure being “inconsistent, unreliable and biased towards businesses” resulting in companies being let “off the hook”. The failures to investigate include allegations of serious abuse, such as claims that Vodafone, BT and others allowed GCHQ to access its networks for the mass interception of phone calls, emails and Facebook posts, which it shared with the US authorities under the Tempora program.
The all-party foreign affairs select committee is currently investigating whether the Foreign Office has downgraded its commitment to defending human rights in favour of trade. MPs on the committee decided to hold an enquiry after the permanent secretary at the Foreign Office, Sir Simon McDonald, commented that human rights no longer had the same profile within his department that they had in the past.
A BIS spokesperson has said in response that their review process meets all the obligations under the OECD guidelines for trading and that there should be no suggestion the government is not committed to human rights.
Last week also saw David Cameron describe UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia as “brilliant” – on the same day that the European Parliament voted for an arms embargo on the country for its aerial bombings on Yemen.
Last week a seven-judge Supreme Court heard a case on whether the minimum-income visa requirements for UK nationals to bring over a non-EU spouse are in contravention of the right to respect for private and family life under Article 8, the Guardian reports. Under the Family Migration Rules, which changed in July 2012, UK nationals must have available funds equivalent to a minimum gross income of £18,600 to bring over a non-EU spouse, rising to £22,400 if they have a child of non-British citizenship. Two of the appellants, Abdul Majid and Shabana Javed, are British and married to Pakistani nationals; another, MM, is a Lebanese refugee; and the fourth, AF (also MM’s nephew) is a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The appellant counsel described the threshold as “completely unachievable” for many. Judgment is expected within six months.
Proposals to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights have been “put on ice”. Though it is claimed that the legislation is finished and “sitting on a desk inside No.10”, Downing Street is refusing to publish it, allegedly due to Gove’s decision to “defect to the Out camp” in the referendum. An unsurprised David Allen Green comments that the Human Rights Act is not likely to be repealed in this Parliament, saying that the hurdles to doing so still remain (such as the Good Friday Agreement), and suggests that the Conservatives may have begun to realise that its repeal and replacement “is not worth the time and effort”.
In the Courts
Civek v Turkey – The Court held unanimously that the Turkish authorities had violated Article 2 (right to life) by failing to protect the life of a woman who had been seriously threatened by her husband, HC. Ms Civek had made continued complaints of harassment to the Turkish authorities yet they had failed to take measures reasonably available to them to avoid her murder. Ms Civek had been subjected to sustained abuse from her husband culminating in 2010 in his remand in custody and a court order to refrain from being violent towards his wife. After his release in November 2010 (under judicial supervision), Ms Civek had complained that he was threatening to kill her. Again in December 2010 Ms Civek lodged a complaint, which led to HC being charged with threatening to kill her – but the State Prosecutor took no practical action, even though the husband could have been legitimately arrested for non-compliance with court orders. The Court found the authorities should have acted to protect Ms Civek’s life, and through their failure, her husband had been able to murder her on a street in January 2011, stabbing her 22 times.
Société de Conception de Presse et d’Édition v. France – An order by the French domestic courts that an unauthorised photograph published by Choc magazine be blacked out was not a violation of freedom of expression under article 10. Choc magazine, published by the applicant company, had published photos of a young man, IH, taken whilst he was in captivity, wearing shackles, and showing visible signs of torture. He had later died from his injuries. The Court found that the photograph had never been intended for public viewing, permission had not been obtained from IH’s relatives, and that its publication showed a grave disregard for the grief of his family. It was therefore a serious interference with the private life of IH’s relatives. The Paris Court of Appeal had ordered that the photograph in question be blacked out in all magazines put on sale, rather than withdrawn completely. The European Court of Human Rights found that such a restriction on freedom of expression was proportionate, as the text of the report remained unchanged, and that in the circumstances the penalty imposed would not have a “chilling effect” on freedom of expression.
Nasr and Ghali v Italy – This case concerned the CIA abduction and extraordinary rendition (the transfer of a person without legal process to another country for interrogation where there is a risk they might be tortured) with the cooperation of the Italian authorities, of the Egyptian imam Abu Omar (also known as Osama Nasr), who had been granted political asylum in Italy. He was held in secret in Egypt for several months in cramped and unhygienic cells where he was periodically interrogated and tortured. An investigation into Mr Nasr’s disappearance had been carried out by the national authorities but this had been ineffective due to the executive’s invocation of ‘State secrecy’ – which resulted in those responsible being granted impunity.
The Court found in respect of Mr Nasr violations of Article 3 prohibition on torture (in previous cases the Court had already held that the treatment of detainees under the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme amounted to torture), Article 5 (right to liberty and security) – due to the unlawful nature of the detention; Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and Article 13 (right to effective remedy) read together with Articles 3, 5 and 8. The Court also found in respect of Ms Ghali, Mr Nasr’s wife, violations of Article 3 (because she had suffered significant non-pecuniary damage as a result of her husband’s sudden disappearance), Article 8 and Article 13.
Unsurprisingly, the coroner has found that the 52 people who died as a result of the bombings were unlawfully killed. She also found that they would have died “whatever time the emergency services reached and rescued them”. The coroner made 9 recommendations (using her power under Rule 43 of the Coroners Rules) for the future prevention of such events, which are reproduced in full below.
In one of its final decisions of 2021, McQuillan, McGuigan and McKenna, the UK Supreme Court addressed challenges to the effectiveness of police investigations into events which took place during the Northern Ireland conflict. The European Court has long maintained that the right to life (Article 2 ECHR) and the prohibition upon torture and inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 3 ECHR) carry with them positive obligations on the state to conduct effective investigations. These “legacy” cases not only draw the Courts into debates over some of the most contentious aspects of the Northern Ireland conflict, in particular the involvement of state agents in killings and the infliction of serious harms upon individuals, but they also pose questions about how human rights law applied in the context of Northern Ireland as a jurisdiction before the enactment of the Human Rights Act 1998.
For reasons of economy, this post will focus on the facts of the McGuigan and McKenna elements of this litigation, which concerned the ill-treatment of detainees who had been interned in the 1970s (while also exploring broader questions which concerned all elements in the litigation). The scope of this ill-treatment, involving the subjection of internees to the infamous “five techniques” (including hooding of detainees to disorient) as part of interrogations, has long been known. Indeed, the resultant case of Ireland v United Kingdom remains a key turning point in the development of the European Convention on Human Rights, demonstrating that the Strasbourg Court would be willing to uphold human rights claims against an important member state even as it sought to tackle political violence. In that decision, although the Court found that the five techniques breached Article 3 ECHR, it discussed them in terms of inhuman and degrading treatment and not torture. Releases of documents by the National Archives (highlighted in a 2014 RTÉ documentary), however, showed UK Cabinet Ministers discussing the extent of the interrogation practices when they were taking place, and led to calls for fresh police investigations into whether there has been a coverup.
The ‘second wave’ of UK coronavirus cases is continuing to surge. The government’s scientific experts have warned that we are at a ‘critical moment’ for handling the pandemic, after daily case numbers doubled this week. In anticipation of a difficult winter, the provisions of the Coronavirus Act 2020 have been renewed for another 6 months; local lockdowns continue in Scotland and in large parts of Wales and the North of England; and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has set out a rescue package for businesses, under which the government will cover 2/3 of salary payments for businesses forced to close.
Meanwhile, we may finally be about to see the contents of Operation Cygnus, the influenza pandemic readiness exercise undertaken by the government in 2016. NHS doctor Moosa Qureshi made a freedom of information request to see the report more than 6 months ago. Following the government’s delays in responding, the Information Commissioner has now taken a dramatic step in ordering the Department of Health and Social Care to provide the document, or explain its reasons for refusing to do so, by 23rd October.
A niggle has broken into a very public row between the British government and the European Commission which may yet become a bare-knuckle fight – not over the Eurozone crisis or bailouts or anything in the headlines, but over the availability or not of certain classes of benefits to EU claimants who do not satisfy this country’s “right to reside” test.
British social welfare arrangments provide for a class of non-means tested benefits such as Child Benefit and Income-based Employment Allowance that are only available to people who have resided legally in the UK for five years. The European Commission has declared this fencing-off to be in breach of EU law since it indirectly discriminates non-UK nationals coming from other EU Member States. EU rules on the social security coordination (EC Regulation EC 883/2004) allow the UK to grant social benefits to those persons who habitually reside in the UK; this EU test is satisfied by those who have been resident in the UK for two years or less. It is a common law test – a question of fact on the balance of probabilities, to be determined by looking at all the circumstances in each case. But those who pass this latter qualification can only claim means-tested benefits.
The consequences of Margaret Thatcher’s administration have been long lasting. In many areas of national life Thatcher took the British Bulldog by the scruff of the neck and house-trained it. In the context of the constitution her impact was no less significant.
But Lady Thatcher did not set out to reform the constitution. Although the 1979 Conservative Manifesto raised the possibility of a Bill of Rights nothing came of this proposal during her administration. In reality Margaret Thatcher was a traditional Conservative who believed in a strong state and had an aversion to any constitutional reform that might limit it. Yet her administration has left long lasting changes to the law and constitution. In fact there are too many to comfortably write about in a quick blog though a number of developments are of particular interest.
Updated | Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was arrested yesterday and refused bail after a hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court.
He was not arrested in relation to the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, but rather on suspicion of having sexually assaulted two women in Sweden. His lawyers have said that “many believe” the arrest was politically motivated.
Al-Saadoon & Ors v Secretary of State for Defence  EWCA Civ 811, 9 September 2016 – read judgment
This is an extremely important judgment from the Court of Appeal on the reach of the ECHR into war zones, in this case Iraq. The CA, with the only judgment given by Lloyd Jones LJ, disagreed in part with Leggatt J – for whose judgment see Dominic Ruck Keene’s post here.
3 main points arose on appeal.
The first was the jurisdictional question under Art.1 of the Convention – were Iraqi civilians killed or injured by British servicemen covered by the ECHR?
The second is the extent to which the UK is under a duty to investigate ECHR violations alleged by Iraqis, under Arts 3 (torture) and 5 (unlawful detention).
And the third is the question of whether the UN Torture Convention could be relied upon in domestic law proceedings.
I shall cover the first point in this post. The blog will cover the other points shortly. The points arose by way of preliminary legal issues in various test cases drawn from the 2,000 or so Iraqi claimants.
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