Human Rights Act


The “unduly harsh” test considered further by Court of Appeal

13 April 2022 by

The question of how to determine whether or not the deportation of a foreign national convicted of criminal offending is a disproportionate interference in the family life that they may share with their partner or child has been explored in a series of cases, including the leading decisions of KO (Nigeria) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2018] UKSC 53 and HA (Iraq) [2020] EWCA Civ 1176 and has been discussed in detail on this blog here, here and here.


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The Independent Human Rights Act Review and the government’s Bill of Rights

24 January 2022 by

Do they have anything in common? Relatively little, says Nicola Barker, Professor of Law at the University of Liverpool.

When the IHRAR was announced by Robert Buckland in December 2020, it was accompanied by some of the usual rhetoric about the courts “rewriting” legislation, but the more hyperbolic claims about foreign criminals and pet cats were absent. The Terms of Reference given to the IHRAR were relatively narrow and the Call for Evidence emphasised that it was ‘not considering the substantive rights set out in the Convention’. Instead, the Review was to focus only the operation of the HRA under two themes: the relationship between domestic courts and the ECtHR; and the impact of the HRA on the relationship between the three branches of the state.

However, in its consultation document, the government’s language once again carries echoes of the pet cat oeuvre with a stance premised on the idea of a ‘broader public interest’ that must be ‘safeguarded’ (para 182) from the HRA. In this, they are articulating a problem that lies not so much with the HRA’s impact on the separation of powers and Parliamentary sovereignty (though those remain too) but with ‘the way in which [Convention] rights have been applied in practice’ (para 184). In other words, the focus is back on how to prevent rights from benefitting the ‘undeserving’ and how to forestall further development of rights through the ‘living tree’ doctrine.

Given that the Review was only commissioned a year ago it is unfortunate to see several reforms proposed in the government’s consultation that could have usefully been included within the remit of the Review but were omitted from the Terms of Reference, not least the proposals in relation to section 6. The government propose to expand the exception in section 6(2)(b) (that applies where a public authority was giving effect to primary legislation that could not be read or given effect in a way that is compatible with Convention rights) to include circumstances where the public authority is giving effect to the clear intentions of Parliament (para 274). This proposal is based on the premise that section 6 has created ‘confusion and risk aversion for frontline public services’ (para 132-140) and undermined public protection as the police and armed forces ‘find operational decisions challenged’ and ‘have a court retrospectively second-guess their professional judgement exercised under considerable pressure’ (para 142). It is regrettable that the Review was not able to consider the accuracy of the premise underlying such potentially far-reaching reforms, which could significantly undermine individual rights protection in the UK.

The more substantive questions of the balance between speech and privacy, between rights and responsibilities, limiting access to Convention rights in the context of deportation, and whether a specific right to jury trial is necessary, could also have been usefully informed by the extensive research, in-depth discussion with a variety of stakeholders, and objective analysis that were characteristic of the Review.

The table below maps the government’s proposals for a new Bill of Rights on to the recommended and not recommended/rejected options in the IHRAR report. The government makes around 40 proposals, though some present alternative options rather than separate and distinct proposals. Green text indicates where the government’s proposals broadly match a recommendation of the IHRAR, while red text indicates that the government are proposing something that the Review explicitly or implicitly cautioned against. Sometimes the proposals do not map in exactly the terms recommended or rejected by the Review, but I have matched them as closely as possible with the language used by each. For example, where the government proposals refer to ‘enabling’ UK courts to take account of case law from other jurisdictions and international bodies (a power they already can and do exercise), the Review did not consider affirming this existing power but rejected ‘requiring’ them to consider such case law. As the table illustrates, the government’s proposals bear little resemblance to the recommendations made by the IHRAR panel. More of the government’s proposals are ideas that were rejected by the Review than were recommended by it and around half of the government’s proposals were not considered by the Review at all, in most cases because they were outside of its Terms of Reference.

The Independent Review recommended first, and in my view most importantly, that there should be more public education about the UK constitution and HRA in schools, universities, and adult education. The Review itself could form the basis of that education. It is a thorough and clear exposition of the Act, its interpretation and use by the Courts, and its impact on the separation of powers, Parliamentary sovereignty, and the relationship between the UK and Strasbourg. However, the government appears to have ignored this recommendation and in general the Review appears to have asserted little influence on the government’s proposals. 

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Nicola.Barker@liverpool.ac.uk

Court of Appeal upholds Universal Credit childcare rules

15 November 2021 by

Image: Flickr

Salvato v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2021] EWCA Civ 1482 — read judgment

The Court of Appeal has allowed the Secretary of State’s appeal against a ruling that the system of calculating childcare for Universal Credit indirectly discriminates against women. The judgment below was reported in the blog here.

Childcare costs under Universal Credit

This is a case about the payment of childcare costs under Universal Credit. Universal Credit claimants can claim an element reimbursing them up to 85% of the costs of childcare while they go to work.

Ms Salvato, a lone parent, claimed that the system for calculating childcare costs indirectly discriminated against her on grounds of sex contrary to Article 14 when read with Article 1 Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Her complaint related to the way in which childcare costs are calculated. Unlike other elements of Universal Credit, such as the housing costs element, the childcare costs element is only payable after the claimant has already paid the costs of the charges, rather than merely incurred them (Ms Salvato’s legal representatives dubbed this requirement the ‘Proof of Payment’ rule). She maintained that the rule placed her (and other women in her position) at a disadvantage, because unlike many men she could not afford to pay the childcare costs upfront. 


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High Court: Differential standards on abortion time-limits do not breach the human rights of disabled persons

25 October 2021 by

In Crowter & Ors, R (On the Application Of) v Secretary of State for Health And Social Care [2021] EWHC 2536 (Admin), the High Court considered the lawfulness of the provision in the Abortion Act 1967 which permits termination of a foetus after 24 weeks where there is a substantial risk that, if born, a child would be “seriously handicapped”.

The Claimants sought a declaration of incompatibility under section 4 of the Human Rights Act in respect of section 1(1)(d) of the 1967 Act. It was their contention that this section is incompatible with Articles 2, 3, 8 and 14 of the ECHR. The Court dismissed the claim in its entirety.

The Claimants

The First Claimant was a 25-year-old woman with Down’s syndrome. The Second Claimant was the mother of the Third Claimant. At 35 weeks’ gestation, the Third Claimant was identified as being very likely to have Down’s syndrome and the Second Claimant’s evidence was that during her pregnancy that she had been made to feel that a life with Down’s syndrome was of no value. The Third Claimant is now two years old has met all his developmental milestones.

The Legal Framework

As is now in force, s.1(1) of the 1967 Act provides that there may be a medical termination of a pregnancy if two medical practitioners are of the opinion that, inter alia, “there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped” (under subsection (d)).

Whereas Parliament has set a general upper time limit for abortions at 24 weeks, this does not apply to abortions on grounds of foetal abnormality.

Whilst there is guidance from public medical authorities on the various factors influencing the severity of a “handicap”, the guidance does not offer a legal definition of “substantial risk” or “serious handicap”.


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ALBA Conference 2019: A Review (Part 5)

5 November 2019 by

This post, along with those before it, summarises some of the main points of interest arising from the ALBA Conference 2019.

‘Reith Lecture (Judicial Power) Response’ – Chair: Mrs. Justice Thornton; Speakers: Lord Dyson, Sir Stephen Laws, Prof Vernon Bogdanor, Prof Meg Russell, Lord Falconer of Thoroton QC

Lord_Sumption_2013
Credit: Robin S Taylor

A prestigious panel offered its response to Lord Sumption’s Reith Lectures, followed by a reply from Lord Sumption himself.

In his lectures for the BBC, Lord Sumption argued that judges have excessively increased their power and invaded into the political sphere. The Human Rights Act 1998 and Judicial Review attracted particular criticism.

Lord Sumption’s original lectures are available from the BBC here. A recording of the full discussion is available on LawPod here, so this post draws out some of the key points.


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ALBA Conference 2019: A Review

7 October 2019 by

This post is the first in a series of five reports by Conor Monighan from this year’s conference held by the Administrative Law Bar Association. We will be publishing the next four posts over the next month every Monday.

This year’s ALBA conference featured an impressive list of speakers. There were talks from a Supreme Court judge, a former Lord Chancellor, top silks, and some of the best academics working in public law.

alba

The conference covered a number of practical and substantive topics. The highpoint was an address given by Lord Sumption, in which he responded to criticism of his Reith Lectures. This post, together with those that follow, summarises the key points from the conference.


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ALBA Summer Conference 2018: A Review (Part 2)

18 September 2018 by

Conor Monighan reviews the Administrative Law Bar Association (ALBA) Summer Conference 2018

alba

‘The relevance of unincorporated international law’. Speakers: John Larkin QC (Attorney General for Northern Ireland) and Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC

The relevance of unincorporated international law (John Larkin QC):

Mr Larkin suggested that the courts’ approach towards international law may be split into three parts:

  1. International law is determinative if it is incorporated.
  2. It ‘may have a bearing’ on the common law.
  3. It may be relevant to the application of Human Rights, via the Human Rights Act 1998.

The HRA 1998:

The orthodox view of unincorporated treaties is that they have no substantive effect. This approach was supported in SG & Ors [2015] UKSC 16, albeit by the ‘narrowest majority’. Lord Reed’s lead judgement held that courts ought to respect the considered opinion of democratically elected institutions, who are best placed to make judgements about proportionality. Miller [2017] UKSC 5 gave further weight to the traditional view that unincorporated human rights treaties have no effect.

However the matter is not entirely clear cut, especially where the HRA 1998 is concerned. In SG & Ors Lord Hughes suggested such treaties may be relevant in a number of situations, including those in which the court applies the ECHR (via the HRA 1998). Support for this view has also been given by Lady Hale and Lord Kerr in the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission [2018] UKSC 27 case [328]. The Vienna Convention states at Article 31(3)(c) that account should be taken of “any relevant rules of international law applicable in relations between the parties”. It is clear, then, that even unincorporated international law still has relevance for human rights.

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ALBA Summer Conference 2018: A Review (Part 1)

13 September 2018 by

alba

Conor Monighan reviews the Administrative Law Bar Association (ALBA) Summer Conference 2018

This year’s ALBA conference featured an impressive list of speakers and they did not disappoint. Delegates heard from a Supreme Court judge, an Attorney General, top silks, and some of the best legal academics working in public law.

The conference dedicated much of its time to public international law, a discipline which is often thought to have little relevance for most public lawyers. In fact, the conference showed that domestic public law is heavily intertwined with international law. This post summarises the key points from the conference, with a particular focus on human rights.
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Your inspiring Human Rights Act stories

18 September 2017 by

On 2 October it is the 17th birthday of the Human Rights Act – it came into force on 2 October 2000.

Rightsnfo is looking for inspiring stories of how people have used the Human Rights Act to publish as part of a birthday feature:

  • Please send your stories to info@rightsinfo.org
  • No more than 150 words per story
  • Send them by end of Friday 22 September
  • Stories welcome from people who have used the Human Rights Act or lawyers who have used it on people’s behalf (please confirm you have your client/ex-client’s authorisation to share the story).
  • If you have photos to share then please do so

Looking forward to seeing what people send in!

Is Strasbourg law the law of England and Wales?

30 March 2017 by


R (o.t.a Minton Morrill Solicitors) v. The Lord Chancellor [2017] EWHC 612 (Admin)  24 March 2017, Kerr J – read judgment 

This exam-style question arose, in an attempt by solicitors to be paid by the Legal Aid Agency for some work they had done on two applications to Strasbourg. The underlying cases were housing, the first an attempt to stave off possession proceedings, and the second the determination of whether an offer of “bricks and mortar” accommodation to an Irish traveller was one of “suitable accommodation”. Both applications were declared inadmissible by the European Court of Human Rights, and thus could not benefit from that Court’s own legal aid system.

The major question turned on whether the Human Rights Act had “incorporated” the Convention. We all use this as a shorthand, but is it really so?

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Suing Facebook is no easy matter

9 November 2015 by

facebook_logoRichardson v Facebook [2015] EWHC 3154 (2 November 2015) – read judgment

An action in defamation and under the right to privacy against Facebook has been dismissed in the High Court. The Facebook entity named as defendant did not “control” the publication so as to allow liability; and even if it did, no claim under the Human Rights Act could lie against FB as it could not be described as any sort of a public authority for the purposes of Section 6 of the Act.

The claimant, acting as a litigant in person, sought damages in respect of the publication in 2013 and 2014 of a Facebook profile and a posting on the Google Blogger service. The Profile and the Blogpost each purported to have been created by the claimant, but she complained that each was a fake, created by an impostor. She claimed that each was defamatory of her, and infringed her right to respect for her private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
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The Round-Up: Lawyers lament UK’s refugee response

12 October 2015 by

imgres-7This week’s Round-up is brought to you by Hannah Lynes.

In the news

  • Call from legal community for urgent action on refugee crisis

More than 300 lawyers have signed a statement denouncing the Government’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis as “deeply inadequate”.

The document, whose signatories include former President of the Supreme Court, Lord Phillips, three former Law Lords and over 100 Queen’s Counsel, describes Prime Minister David Cameron’s offer to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees over 5 years as “too low, too slow and too narrow.”
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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reinforces Scottish opposition to repeal of the Human Rights Act

24 September 2015 by

Nicola-SturgeonYesterday morning, in a speech to civic organisations in Glasgow, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned that “no responsible government” would consider repeal of the Human Rights Act 1998 due to the numerous negative consequences, both in the domestic and international sphere, that would result from such a move – (see a transcript of the speech here).

by Fraser Simpson

Proposals for Repeal of the Human Rights Act

It has been a longstanding Tory policy to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights. Such a policy is motivated by discontent over a handful of decisions from the European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”) that have allegedly “undermine[d] the role of UK courts in deciding on human rights issues”. In October 2014, the then Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced Tory proposals to treat Strasbourg judgments as “advisory” – irrespective of the potential incoherence between treating judgments in such a way and the UK’s obligations under Article 46, ECHR (see John Wadham’s post here). However, the 2015 Tory manifesto included less specific promises to “scrap the Human Rights Act” in order to “break the formal link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights”. Little substantive information has been provided on the development of these plans, apart from an intention, included in the Queen’s speech, to conduct consultations and publish proposals this autumn.
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The round-up – Books, Boycotts, and Gove’s Debut

19 July 2015 by

01_NH10RES_1148962kLaura Profumo serves us the latest human rights happenings.

In the News: 

Michael Gove appeared before the Justice Select Committee last Wednesday, in the first true baring of his political mettle as justice secretary. Overall, it seems, the MP made a largely favourable impression, though legal commentators remain wary. UKHRB’s own Adam Wagner deftly compared Gove’s success to “when they gave Obama the Nobel Peace Prize…because he wasn’t George Bush”. The “post-Grayling Gove-hope” may, then, prove deceptively shallow, defined by the simple relief that Gove is not Grayling.

Yet Gove’s evidence before the committee was laudable – reasonable, measured, and skifully non-committal. Gove’s comments on the Human Rights Act obliquely signalled the “proposals” will be published “in the autumn”, failing to specify whether they would be accompanied by a draft Bill. His substantive points were similarly vague. The Lord Chancellor invoked the “abuse” of human rights as justification for the repeal of the HRA, before conceding he could not offer a “one-hundred per cent guarantee” that the UK would remain a party to the Convention. Such a position suggests a British Bill of Rights may “seek to limit certain rights”, argues academic Mark Elliot, which would, “quite possibly”, precipitate British withdrawal from Strasbourg altogether. Gove also stressed the role of the judiciary in applying the common law to uphold human rights, holding that “there is nothing in the Convention that is not in the common law”. Such a view is “highly contestable at best, plain wrong at worst”, holds Elliot, whilst Conor Gearty finds it stokes the fantasy of “the civil libertarian common law”. Gove seems to suggest that HRA-repeal and possible ECHR-withdrawal would be “far from earth-shattering events”, Elliot notes, as judges could still invoke a panoply of common-law rights. Whilst Gove is right to remind skeptics that HRA-repeal would not leave domestic judges powerless, such “overstatement” of the common-law rights model “might end up hoist on its own petard….ringing hollower than its cheerleaders”.
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