crime


The princess and the actor: two important right to privacy rulings – Inforrm

31 January 2012 by

The European Court of Human Rights has announced today that it will deliver two Grand Chamber judgments, in the cases of Axel Springer AG v Germanyand von Hannover v Germany (No.2) on 7 February 2012.  The cases were both heard more than 15 months ago, on 13 October 2010.

We had a post about the hearing at the time (and an earlier preview).Both cases concern the publication in the media of material which is alleged to be private.  The Axel Springercase concerned the publication in “Bild” of an article about a well-known television actor, being arrested for possession of cocaine. The article was illustrated by three pictures of the actor. The German court granted him an injunction to prohibit the publication of the article and the photos. The applicant company did not challenge the judgment concerning the photos.  The newspaper published a second article in July 2005, which reported on the actor being convicted and fined for illegal possession of drugs after he had made a full confession.

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Extradition of murder accused to US not breach of human rights

19 January 2012 by

HARKINS AND EDWARDS v. THE UNITED KINGDOM – 9146/07 [2012] ECHR 45 – Read judgment

The European Court of Human Rights has found that there would be no breach of Article 3 ECHR (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment) in extraditing two men accused of murder to the US.

The men argued that they face the death penalty or life imprisonment without parole if found guilty. The US had given assurances to the UK government that the death penalty would not be sought. The following summary is based on the Court’s press release (my abridgement):


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Why Stephen Lawrence killers were sentenced as juveniles and under old law

4 January 2012 by

Updated | Two of Stephen Lawrence’s killers Gary Dobson and David Norris have been sentenced to minimum life terms “at her Her Majesty’s Pleasure” of 15 years 2 months and and 14 years 3 months respectively.

There has been surprise, from the Daily Mail amongst others that Dobson and Norris, now in their mid-30s, were sentenced as juveniles. Curiously, they have also been sentenced under historic law dating back to around 1993, which means they cannot be sentenced under harsh new guidance for racially aggrevated crimes.

This may all sound a bit strange, but as readers of this blog will know, the sentencing of criminals convicted in “cold cases” which have heated up can be much more complicated than if the crime happened a short while before trial. This may upset Daily Mail readers, but the reason is partly the European Convention on Human Rights. As Alasdair Henderson posted last month, Article 7 prohibits retrospective punishment, that is punishment using law which was not applicable at the time of the crime:

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Big Brother or crime fighting? DNA evidence under the microscope

10 October 2011 by

DNA database impact on human rightsA proposal to retain DNA samples taken from people who have been arrested but not charged with a crime for up to five years has come under criticism from the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

The committee has been reviewing the Protection of Freedoms Bill for its compatibility with human rights (see our post: Protections of freedom bill under scrutiny and the Committee’s conclusions). The retention of DNA has long been a hot topic.

On the one hand, many people feel strongly that retention of something as personal as someone’s genetic code should never be done when the person has not been convicted of a crime. As DNA analysis gets more advanced, it can reveal increasingly large amounts of information about a person.

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Analysis – Daily Mirror and The Sun in contempt over Jo Yeates murder case

29 July 2011 by

Her Majesty’s Attorney-General Claimant – and – (1) MGN Limited Defendants (2) News Group Newspapers Limited – Read judgment

The High Court has found that the Daily Mirror and The Sun were in breach of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 (1981 Act) in relation to their reporting of the Jo Yeates murder case. The court was strongly critical of the “vilification” of a man who was arrested but quickly released without charge.

The proceedings were in relation to Christopher Jefferies, a school teacher who was arrested early on in the investigation. The court fined the Daily Mirror £50,000 and The Sun £18,000.

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DNA case analysis: The mystery of the missing purpose

24 May 2011 by

We reported last week the Supreme Court ruling in R (on the application of GC) (FC) (Appellants) v The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis (Respondent) in which the majority found that they could interpret the DNA retention provision in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) in such a way that it would be compatible with article 8 of the ECHR.

Not only that; the Court concluded that such a reading could still promote the statutory purposes: ” Those purposes can be achieved by a proportionate scheme.”

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Football “rioter” Garry Mann loses Euro human rights appeal

23 February 2011 by

Garry Norman MANN v Portugual and the United Kingdom – 360/10 [2011] 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.

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The coalition’s quiet legal revolution?

16 February 2011 by

Law by crowd

The new Protection of Freedoms Bill has become the first proposed law to be opened to public comments via the internet. This seemingly small technological advance could have very exciting effects.

The comments system works just like a blog post. Any member of the public can leave comments on any particular provision of the draft law. The deadline for comments is 7th March.

The Prime Minister says that the Public Reading Stage, which is touchingly in “beta”, will “improve the level of debate and scrutiny of bills by giving everyone the opportunity to go online and offer their views” on new laws.” “That”, he suggests “means better laws – and more trust in our politics.”

He might just be right.

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Expenses peer Taylor convicted, but will he be jailed?

26 January 2011 by

Ex-Tory peer Lord Taylor of Warwick has become the first parliamentarian to be found guilty by a jury of making false parliamentary expenses claims. He now faces sentencing. Given the recent case of former MP David Chaytor, it seems unlikely that he will escape jail.

A jury at Southwark Crown Court found Taylor guilty of six counts of false accounting under section 17 of the Theft Act 1968, by a majority of 11 to 1. The expense at issue totalled £11,277. Mr Justice Saunders, who also sentenced Chaytor, presided over the trial.

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United Nations restores sexual orientation clause to extrajudicial killings resolution

21 December 2010 by

Updated | The reference to sexual orientation in a resolution on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions has been restored. The General Assembly voted 93 in favour of the US proposal, with 55 countries voting against and 27 abstaining, with some 16 delegations taking the floor to explain their position.

As previously reported, for the first time since 1999 the resolution would not have expressly condemned such killings on the grounds of sexual orientation following an amendment by the African Group and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

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Failure to deport Philip Lawrence killer was not about human rights

29 November 2010 by

It has been widely reported that Learco Chindamo, who was convicted of killing headmaster Philip Lawrence in 1995, has been rearrested only months after being released from jail. The story has reopened a debate over the Human Rights Act, on the basis that it prevented Chindamo from being deported to his native Italy. But did it?

In fact, what the case really highlights is that the unpopularity of the Human Rights Act is in part due to inaccurate media reporting of human rights cases, even 10 years after it came into force.

The Telegraph reported at the end of last week that Frances Lawrence, Philip Lawrence’s widow, has urged the prime minister to act on his previous pledges to scrap the Human Rights Act, as

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Law to change on terrorist asset freezing after critical Supreme Court judgment

3 November 2010 by

On 1 November 2010 the Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc. Bill received its third reading in the House of Lords. The bill, which started in the Lords, must now be passed by the Commons before receiving Royal Assent.

The Bill represents the coalition government’s response to the Supreme Court’s decision in HM Treasury v Ahmed (incidentally, the first appeal to have been heard in the Supreme Court) concerning the lawfulness of measures enabling the Treasury to freeze the assets of, amongst others, a person whom it has reasonable grounds for suspecting is or may be a person who facilitates the commission of acts of terrorism.

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New “loss of control” defence as murder law reforms take effect

30 September 2010 by

Joshua Rozenberg has written an article in today’s Guardian pointing out that, as of Monday, a major reform of the law of murder will take effect. The measures, which were introduced by the last Government, in effect replace the old partial defence to murder of provocation with a new partial defence of “loss of control”.

As Rozenberg points out, a partial defence reduces an offence from murder to manslaughter, which means that a judge will not have to impose a mandatory life sentence on conviction. The reforms to the law on provocation stem from long-standing criticism that the defence’s archaic origins in the common law have led to it being unduly lenient in instances of hot-headed violence (e.g. a husband killing his wife on discovery of infidelity), while providing insufficient protection for “slow burn” cases (and in particular those where victims of prolonged domestic violence finally kill the perpetrators). In recent years, attempts by the courts to extend the partial defence to “slow burn” cases have led to increasingly strained interpretations of the law in this area, which have furthered calls for reform.

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Turkish authorities did not do enough to protect rights of murdered journalist, says European Court

14 September 2010 by

Dink v. Turkey (applications no. 2668/07, 6102/08, 30079/08, 7072/09 and 7124/09) – This summary is based on the European Court of Human Rights press release.

In the case of Dink v. Turkey the European Court of Human Rights concluded that the authorities failed in their duty to protect the life and freedom of expression of the journalist Firat (Hrant) Dink, a prominent member of the Armenian minority in Turkey who was murdered in 2007.

Dink was a Turkish journalist of Armenian origin, and the publication director and editor-in-chief of Agos, a Turkish-Armenian weekly newspaper.

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Calls for murder law reform may be ignored

14 September 2010 by

Keir Starmer

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, has stated his support for a reform of the law of homicide that would see the introduction of different degrees of murder in this country.

Such a proposal was one of the principal recommendations contained in the Law Commission’s 2006 Report on Murder, Manslaughter and Infanticide (Law Com No 304). Mr Starmer’s predecessor, Sir Ken MacDonald, and the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Lord Blair, have also stated their support for the changes.

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