Department of Health v IC, Healey and Cecil(EA/2011/0286 & EA/2011/0287) – Read Decision
In a recent post, Panopticon brought you, hot-off-the-press, the Tribunal’s decision in the much-publicised case involving publication, under Freedom of Information Law, of the NHS Risk Register. Somewhat less hot-off-the-press are my observations. This is a very important decision, both for its engagement with the legislative process and for its analysis of the public interest with respect to section 35(1)(a) of Freedom of Information Act 2000 (formulation or development of government policy) – particularly the “chilling effect” argument. At the outset, it is important to be clear about what was being requested and when.
Risk registers in general
The DOH prepared two “risk registers” documenting the risks associated with implementing the “far-reaching and highly controversial” NHS reforms under what was then the Health and Social Care Bill. The Tribunal heard that risk registers are used widely across government for project planning. They provide snapshots (rather than detailed discussions) combining the probability of and outcomes from any given risk associated with the proposed reform; risks are then classified in red, amber or green terms. According to Lord Gus O’Donnell, who gave evidence in support of the DOH’s case, risk registers are the most important tool used across government to formulate and develop policy for risk management in advising ministers. John Healey MP, one of the requesters in this case, said that he was a minister for ten years and was never shown such a register.
As we inch towards October, the £100m
government campaign to ‘Get Ready for Brexit’ has been launched. But to all intents
and purposes, the government are jumping the gun. By the time businesses have managed
to get themselves ready for Brexit (again), Boris Johnson will probably have
been required to request an extension to Article 50 under the anti-no deal bill
proposed by Hillary Benn, which today was given royal assent and passed into
Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law.
Credit: The Guardian
In the News:
An independent report into building regulations, commissioned by the government in the wake of the Grenfell disaster, has called for the current regulatory system to be overhauled.
However, the report surprised some because it did not recommend a ban on flammable cladding. It also declined to recommend stopping so-called ‘desktop studies’, where materials are tested without setting them on fire. The chairman of Grenfell United expressed disappointment at this conclusion. The Royal Institute of British Architects expressed support for banning inflammable cladding and the government has said it will consult on the issue. The Prime Minister has also pledged £400 million to remove flammable cladding from tower blocks.
The author of the report, Dame Judith Hackitt, said that banning the cladding was insufficient. Instead, she stated that a ‘whole system change’ is needed. Dame Hackitt warned that cost was being prioritised over safety and that ‘banning activities and particular materials […] will create a false sense of security’.
The report recommended fundamental changes to building regulations, saying that the process which drives compliance with the regulations are ‘weak and complex’. Dame Hackitt found that there was a ‘race to the bottom’ in the building industry that was putting people at risk. She also wrote that product testing must be made more transparent, and that residents’ voices were not being listened to.
The Grenfell Inquiry will open this week. For the first two weeks, the lives of those who died will be remembered in a series of commemorations. Continue reading →
The Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs Commitee of the United Nations has narrowly voted to remove sexual orientation from a draft resolution against extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.
In light of the guarantee of the right to life, liberty and security of person in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the resolution condemns all extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and demands that all States take effective action to prevent, combat, investigate and eliminate such executions.
The Campaign Against Arms Trade argued that there was a large body of evidence which demonstrates overwhelmingly that Saudi Arabia has committed repeated and serious breaches of international humanitarian law during the conflict in Yemen. CAAT claimed, in particular, that Saudi Arabia has committed indiscriminate or deliberate airstrikes against civilians, including airstrikes which have used “cluster” munitions, and which had targeted schools and medical facilities.
The Court of Appeal held that the decision-making process had been irrational, as it had not included an assessment as to whether there had been previous breaches of international humanitarian law in the past, without which there could not be a proper assessment of the risk of future breaches.
It must be something in the air. On the day the “Ratcliffe 20” were spared imprisonment for their planned attack on a power station, the Guardian published environmental lawyer Polly Higgins’ call for a new crime of ecocide and the fringe movement Campaign for Real Farming – rival to the mainstream Oxford Farming Conference – were sewing the seeds for resistance to ecologically damaging agricultural laws and practices.
The widespread perception is that the law and its custodians can no longer be trusted to safeguard the environment, or, to put it in the language of rights, that the protection that flows from current forms of rights entitlement is not only insufficient for, but positively damaging to the interests of the natural world.
Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council v KW (by her litigation friend Celia Walsh)  EWCOP 45 – read judgment
Mostyn J has pulled no punches in rejecting an application for a declaration that an incapacitated person, being looked after in her own home, has been deprived of her liberty contrary to Article 5. There is a very full account of the judgment on the Mental Capacity Law and Policy blog so I will keep this summary short.
The first respondent, KW, is a 52 year old woman who is severely mentally incapacitated. She suffered brain damage while undergoing surgery to correct arteriovenous malformation in 1996. This resulted in a subarachnoid haemorrhage and long term brain damage. She was left with cognitive and mental health problems, epilepsy and physical disability. She was discharged from hospital into a rehabilitation unit and thence to her own home, a bungalow in Middleton, with 24/7 support. Physically, KW is just about ambulant with the use of a wheeled Zimmer frame. Mentally, she is trapped in the past. She believes it is 1996 and that she is living at her old home with her three small children (who are now all adult). As Mostyn J says,
Her delusions are very powerful and she has a tendency to try to wander off in order to find her small children. Her present home is held under a tenancy from a Housing Association. The arrangement entails the presence of carers 24/7 [who] attend to her every need in an effort to make her life as normal as possible. If she tries to wander off she will be brought back.
A review of the UK’s extradition laws by a former Court of Appeal judge has found that existing arrangements between the UK and USA are balanced but the Home Secretary’s discretion to intervene in human rights cases should be removed.
The review by Sir Scott Baker was commissioned shortly after the Coalition Government came to power, fulfilling the pledge in its programme for government to ”review the operation of the Extradition Act – and the US/UK extradition treaty – to make sure it is even-handed”. In my September 2010 post I said that the review marked a victory for campaigners against certain extradition agreements, most notably the supporters of alleged Pentagon hacker Gary McKinnon (pictured).
R (Moos and Anor) v The Commissioner of the Police of the Metropolis  EWHC 957 (Admin) – Read Judgment
The High Court has decided that the actions of police in “kettling” climate change protestors during the G20 summit were unlawful.
In the aftermath of the global credit crunch, the second G20 Summit, which was to commence on 2 April 2009, was an obvious target of public frustration and anger in respect of a range of economic and social issues. Thus on 1 April, two large demonstrations took place in the City of London. One was staged near the Bank of England, directed primarily at the (mis)management of the world’s financial markets by banks such as the Royal Bank of Scotland. The other was set up as a “Climate Camp” outside the Carbon Exchange Building in Bishopsgate, and was directed at environmental concerns. Continue reading →
Gurung v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 62 (02 February 2012) – read judgment
In a short but fascinating judgment which lays bare the foundation stones of judicial review, the Court of Appeal has articulated the principles to be applied when considering whether automatic deportation of a foreign criminal was “proportionate” for the purposes of Article 8 of the Convention.
This was an appeal by the secretary of state against a decision of the Upper Tribunal (UT) that the deportation of the respondent (G) would interfere with his family life. The respondent had arrived in the United Kingdom in 2005 to join his father who had been granted indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom at the end of his service with the Gurkhas. Shortly afterwards G was involved in a group attack on a man, which led to the unconscious victim being thrown into the Thames and drowned. G was subsequently tried and convicted of manslaughter, which meant that he was subject to automatic deportation under the UK Borders Act 2007. However, the Upper Tribunal found that automatic deportation would be a disproportionate interference with his right to family life in the UK. Continue reading →
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights (‘the Joint Committee’) has released its report on the Annual Renewal of Control Order Legislation 2010, in which it heavily criticised the control order scheme. The scheme, introduced in 2005, allows courts to put terror suspects under restrictions resembling house arrest by placing them under curfews of up to 16 hours a day and, typically, constraints on their movements and communications. There were 12 suspects subject to control orders in December 2009.
Whereas the Joint Committee has previously criticised the scheme, this is the first time that it has recommended for it to be discontinued. The committee said:
We have serious concerns about the control order system. Evidence shows the devastating impact of control orders on the subject of the orders, their families and their communities. In addition detailed information is now available about the cost of control orders which raises questions about whether the cost the system is out of all proportion to the supposed public benefit. We find it hard to believe that the annual cost of surveillance of the small number of individuals subject to control orders would exceed the amount currently being paid to lawyers in the ongoing litigation about control orders. Finally, we believe that because the Government has ignored our previous recommendations for reform, the system gives rise to unnecessary breaches of individuals’ rights to liberty and due process.
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Mahajna v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 2481 (Admin) (30 September 2011). Read judgment.
1 Crown Office Row’s Neil Sheldon appeared for the Secretary of State in this case. He is not the writer of this post.
The High Court has ruled that detention of a Palestinian activist, whilst he was challenging the decision to deport him on public policy grounds, was lawful in principle. However, the failure to explain to Raed Salah Mahajna the reasons for his detention in a language he could understand rendered the first 35 hours of detention unlawful.
The treatment of foreign nationals pending deportation has provoked a good deal of controversy, as reported recently. These cases are primarily ones where deportation is considered to be conducive to the public good because of serious criminal offences committed by the individual. In this case however, no crime was committed, but a history of activism perceived as anti-semitic preaching was considered a threat to security in the UK.
The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has rejected a challenge to a French law which prohibits the wearing of veils in public. The ruling is, of course, of great political and media interest, but it is also significant from a legal perspective. In a lengthy and detailed judgment, the Court ultimately accepts that, as a matter of principle, a government can legitimately interfere with the rights of individuals in pursuit of social and cultural cohesion.
On 11th April 2011, Law no. 2010-1192 came into force in the French Republic. Subject to certain limited exceptions, the law prohibits anyone from wearing any clothing which conceals their face when in public places, on pain of a 150 euro fine, and/or compulsory citizenship classes. Whilst phrased in general terms, the most obvious effect of the law, and its clear intention, is to ban the niqab (a veil that leaves only the eyes visible) and the burka (a loose garment covering the entire body with a mesh screen over the face).
Ilias v Hungary (Application no. 47287/15) was the first case in which the ECtHR considered a land border transit zone between two member states of the Council of Europe, where the host state, Hungary, was also a member of the EU and had applied the safe third country rule under the EU asylum regime. The Grand Chamber held that the applicants’ detention did not breach Article 5 (the right to liberty and security of the person).
The applicants, Mr Ilias and Mr Ahmed, were both Bangladeshi nationals who had left Bangladesh at different times and in differing circumstances. They met in Greece and then traveled together to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, then to Serbia, and then to Hungary. On 15 September 2015 they arrived in Hungary and entered the border transit zone at Röszke. They submitted asylum requests on the same day. Within several hours their requests were rejected as being inadmissible and they were ordered to be expelled from Hungary back to Serbia as a safe third country. The applicants then spent 23 days in the transit zone whilst they appealed this decision. On 8 October 2015, following a final decision of the Hungarian courts which rejected their applications for asylum and ordered the applicants’ expulsion, Mr Ilias and Mr Ahmed were escorted out of the transit zone and crossed the border back into Serbia.
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