human rights


Drelon v France: Collection and retention of personal data concerning presumed sexual orientation was a violation of Article 8

20 September 2022 by

On 8 September 2022, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) handed down its decision in Drelon v France (application nos. 3153/16 and 27758/18).[1] The Court unanimously found a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights in relation to the collection by the French Blood Donation Service, the Établissement Français du Sang (EFS), of personal data relating to a potential blood donor’s presumed sexual orientation and the excessive length of time the data was kept in a public institution.


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Supreme Court Confirms Correct Approach to Deportation Cases

6 September 2022 by

In Secretary of State for the Home Department v HA (Iraq) [2022] UKSC 22, the Supreme Court has confirmed that the Court of Appeal was right to reject the idea that, when assessing whether it would be unduly harsh (and therefore disproportionate) for a person to be deported from the UK, the degree of harshness that would arise from this should be assessed by reference to a comparison with that which would ‘necessarily’ be involved for any child faced with the deportation of a parent. The Court also provided useful guidance concerning the application of the test for whether there are very compelling circumstances rendering deportation disproportionate in a given case.


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Article 2 inquest determination concerning Community Mental Health Services quashed

15 June 2022 by

In R (Patton) v HM Assistant Coroner for Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire [2022] EWHC 1377 (Admin), Mrs Justice Hill quashed a ruling that the Article 2 general (or systemic) duty has not been potentially engaged by the death of Kianna Patton.

Kianna had been found hanging aged 16 at a time when she was under the care of Specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services with a history of self harm. She was living with a friend, whose mother had let her use cannabis. This caused her mother (the Claimant) significant anxiety, given Kianna’s mental health issues. Her mother sought assistance in relation to Kianna from social workers and Police officers before her death. She believes there were serious failings in the way they responded and in the care S-CAMHS provided to Kianna. Following the Coroner’s ruling that Article 2 was not engaged, a Health Board’s report that was disclosed identified several issues with care delivery and the way that Kianna’s risk had been assessed, in particular, noting that safeguarding screening had not been completed once it was identified that she was no longer living at home.


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Privy Council rules on the constitutional status of same-sex marriage in Bermuda

6 April 2022 by

The constitution of Bermuda was the subject of the first case. Image: Flickr

Attorney General for Bermuda v Roderick Ferguson & Ors (Bermuda) [2022] UKPC 5 — Judgment here, links to hearings here

Chantelle Day & Anor v The Governor of the Cayman Islands & Anor (Cayman Islands) [2022] UKPC 6 –Judgment here, links to hearings here

The Bermuda Case

In the Bermuda case, the Attorney General of Bermuda appealed the decision of the Court of Appeal for Bermuda (decision here), which found in favour of the Respondents: a gay Bermudian, OUTBermuda (a Bermudian LGBTQ charity), a lesbian Bermudian, and three Bermudians associated with Bermudian churches, holding that s.53 of the Domestic Partnership Act 2018 (“the DPA”) of Bermuda, which confines marriage to a union between a man and a woman, was invalid under the Bermudian Constitution (“the Constitution”).

Lord Hodge and Lady Arden (Lord Reed and Dame Victoria Sharp agreeing) gave the judgment of the Board, allowing the appeal of the Attorney General. Lord Sales gave a dissenting judgment.

Background

Same-sex marriage is highly controversial in Bermuda. The political backdrop to this case is outlined at [25-30]. Importantly, following a general election in 2017 the Progressive Labour Party introduced the Domestic Partnership Bill, which was subsequently passed, in an attempt to reach a viable compromise on the issue of same-sex marriage. The DPA provides for legally recognised domestic partnerships between any two adults, but s.53 confines marriage to a union between a man and a woman.

The Legislature in Bermuda is bound by the Constitution, summarised at [7-9]. Chapter 1 of the Constitution sets out fundamental rights and freedoms. The Constitution does not confer a right to marry. Section 8 provides for the protection of freedom of conscience:

no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of conscience…the said freedom includes freedom, either alone or in the community with others, and both in public or in private, to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

Although Bermuda is not in Europe, the European Convention on Human Rights (“the Convention”) applies to Bermuda as a matter of international law through declarations made by the UK pursuant to the Convention (when it was responsible for Bermudian foreign policy) and subsequently permanently renewed after Bermuda became independent. Although it does not apply in domestic Bermudian law, as one of the “antecedents” to the Constitution, it is relevant to the interpretation of constitutional rights [10-21].


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Supreme Court dismisses protestors’ appeal over PKK flag conviction

3 February 2022 by

Pwr v Director of Public Prosecutions [2022] UKSC 2 — judgment here

On 26 January 2022 the Supreme Court ruled that s.13(1) Terrorism Act 2000 (“TA 2000 “) is a strict liability offence and that, whilst it does interfere with Art.10 ECHR (freedom of expression), the interference is lawful, necessary and proportionate.

BACKGROUND

S.13 provides that it is a criminal offence for a person in a public place to carry or display an article “in such a way or in such circumstances as to arouse reasonable suspicion that he is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation”. The offence is summary-only and carries a maximum sentence of six months imprisonment.

The three appellants in this case, Mr Pwr, Mr Akdogan and Mr Demir were convicted in the Westminster Magistrates’ Court of an offence contrary to s.13 TA 2000. All three had attended a protest in central London on 27 January 2018. The protest concerned perceived actions of the Turkish state in Afrin, a town in north-eastern Syria. The convictions related to carrying a flag of the Kurdistan Workers Party (the Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê (“the PKK”), an organisation proscribed under the TA 2000. Mr Pwr and Mr Akdogan were given three-month conditional discharges. Mr Demir received an absolute discharge.


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Police powers under Welsh COVID Regulations

18 January 2022 by

The Senedd Cymru. Image: Wikipedia

The pandemic has had a knock-on effect of increasing awareness of devolution. The governments of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have been responsible for navigating the pandemic in their own countries, and the approaches taken have sometimes significantly diverged. With the COVID Regulations affecting the essentials of our daily lives, public attention across the UK has been drawn to the powers of devolved governments to govern differently from Westminster.

One surprising difference between the Welsh and UK Governments – and one that has evaded much public scrutiny – is that the Welsh Regulations created a new power of entry which allows police officers to enter people’s homes in certain circumstances to investigate breaches of the COVID Regulations. No such power has ever been included in the English Regulations, and the power of English police officers to enter people’s homes is more restricted, governed by the provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (‘PACE’) and the common law rules for dealing with breaches of the peace.

The practical issues around the Welsh police power of entry to people’s homes have fallen into the background in recent months, because it mainly arises when there is or has been a suspected unlawful gathering in someone’s home. (Although on 26 December 2021, a new restriction was introduced banning gatherings of more than 30 in homes.) With restrictions hopefully easing again, reflecting on this regulation raises broader questions about human rights and legal scrutiny in Wales.


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Self-Employment Support Scheme appeal dismissed

17 January 2022 by

Image: Wikipedia

R. (on the application of Motherhood Plan) v HM Treasury [2021] EWCA Civ 1703

In a judgment handed down on 24 November 2021, the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal concerning the lawfulness of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (“the Scheme”) which was introduced by the Government in April 2020 during the first lockdown as part of its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Background

The purpose of the Scheme was to provide payments for persons carrying on a trade where their business had been adversely affected by the pandemic. The payments were to be calculated by reference to the average trading profits (“ATP”) of the preceding full tax years (2016/17, 2017/18, 2018/2019).

The First Appellant, Motherhood Plan, also known as “Pregnant Then Screwed”, is a registered charity with aims to end discrimination faced by women and mothers by campaigning to change legislation, raising awareness in the media and working with employers to change business practice and culture. The Second Appellant, Ms Kerry Chamberlain, worked as a self-employed energy analyst. In the tax year 2017-18, she took a 39-week period of maternity leave after the birth of her second child, and, in the following tax year, she took a further 39-week period of leave after the birth of her third child. As a result of her periods away from work, her trading profits were reduced.

They claimed that contrary to Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“the Convention”), read with Article 1 of the First Protocol of the Convention, the Scheme unlawfully discriminated against self-employed women who took a period of leave relating to maternity or pregnancy in any of those three preceding full tax years since the level of support granted to them under the Scheme was not representative of their usual profits.


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Guidance from Divisional Court on Article 2 inquests

4 January 2022 by

Image: Wikipedia

In R (Morahan) v West London Assistant Coroner [2021] EWHC 1603 (Admin), the Divisional Court provided detailed guidance on the circumstances in which an enhanced investigation under Article 2 ECHR may be required at an inquest.

Facts

Tanya Morahan had a history of paranoid schizophrenia and harmful cocaine use. From mid-May 2018 she was an inpatient at a rehabilitation unit operated by the Central & North West London NHS Foundation Trust. She was initially detained under s.3 of the Mental Health Act 1983 but on 25 June 2018 the section was rescinded. On 30 June 2018 Tanya left the unit but didn’t return until the next evening, 1 July. On the afternoon of 3 July 2018, again with her doctors’ agreement, she left the ward but didn’t return. The Trust asked the police to visit her. They visited on 4 July 2018 but she did not answer the door. She was ultimately found dead on 9 July 2018. [para 2].

Background

The Coroner opened an inquest and found that Article 2 was not engaged. The family brought judicial review proceedings, arguing that: (1) the circumstances of Tanya’s death fell within a class of cases which gave rise to an automatic duty to conduct a Middleton inquest; (2) alternatively, that such duty arose because there were arguable breaches of a substantive operational duty (the Osman duty) owed by the Trust to take steps to avert the real and immediate risk of Tanya’s death by accidental drug overdose, a risk which was or ought to have been known to the Trust. [para 3].


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2021 Reviewed

22 December 2021 by

Photo by the author

And so we come to the end of another year. The Covid-19 pandemic has continued to dominate the news, particularly with the very concerning surge of the Omicron variant this month. Many reading this will be separated from loved ones over Christmas. The year has also seen the return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan after the US withdrawal at the end of August, the resumption of military rule in Myanmar and the ongoing persecution of the Uyghurs by the Chinese government, this year recognised by the House of Commons and the US government (as well as many other bodies and organisations) as constituting a genocide. So, one could say that this year has rivalled last year for infamy.

And yet, any year contains light as well as darkness. Also in 2021, researchers at Brown University successfully transmitted brain signals wirelessly to a computer for the first time (hopefully a breakthrough in treatment for paralyzed people), 124,000 new trees were planted in Sumatra as part of reforestation efforts, the WHO gave approval for widespread use of a groundbreaking malaria vaccine and almost nine billion Covid vaccinations have so far been administered worldwide since the first dose given in the UK 12 months ago, for a virus which only arrived 12 months before that.

But what, I hear you ask, about the law? As always, this year has been packed with fascinating and important legal developments — many of which you may have caught, but some of which may have passed under the radar. And so, please refresh your glass (or mug) and join me on another adventure as we review the 10 cases that defined 2021.


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Secret Justice Review: The Special Advocates respond to the Government’s submission

14 December 2021 by

The Special Advocates have responded to the Government’s submission to the statutory Review of closed proceedings being conducted by Sir Duncan Ouseley — but HMG’s submission remains unpublished.

The delayed statutory review into closed proceedings under the Justice and Security Act 2013 (JSA) is reaching its conclusion.  According to the Government’s website, it is estimated that the report “should be laid before Parliament early in 2022”.

A very brief recap:

  • Closed material procedures (CMPs) enable the Government to rely on secret evidence in legal proceedings, without showing that evidence to the other party.  To reduce the unfairness inherent in that, a special advocate is appointed to review the secret material and represent the interests of the party excluded from access to it, including in hearings held in secret.
  • The JSA came into force in June 2013.  Controversially, it included provisions making secret procedures (CMPs) available across the full range of civil proceedings.
  • One of the safeguards required by Parliament during the Bill’s bumpy passage was a review of the operation of CMPs under the Act after it had been in force for 5 years.
  • The 5 year anniversary came and went in June 2018, with no sign of the review being commissioned.  This was highlighted in my post on this blog on 28 January 2020:  “Secret Justice”:  An Oxymoron and the Overdue Review.
  • Another year (with further enquiries as to the position from various quarters in the meantime – summarised here) was to pass before the Government announced that a Reviewer had been appointed:  Sir Duncan Ouseley, a retired High Court Judge and former President of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC – the body responsible for hearing CMPs in statutory immigration appeals), so with wide experience of CMPs from his judicial career.  The call for evidence took place earlier this year, closing just over 3 years beyond the date that the review should have taken place.
  • The Special Advocates (of whom I am one) made a detailed submission to the Reviewer based on our collective experience of CMPs under the JSA.  This was published on this blog here:  Secret Justice – The Insiders’ View.   We highlighted some serious concerns that we had encountered with the practical operation of CMPs under the JSA.  We also drew attention to commitments that the Government had made when the Bill was passing, to improve the effectiveness of the system, which had not been honoured.
  • We have seen no response from the Government to the detailed critique that we set out in our paper, and we do not know whether any attempt at a comprehensive reply by HMG has been submitted to the Reviewer.

What of the Government’s submission to the Review?  In publishing our paper for the Review, in the interests of openness and promoting public debate, the SAs had expressed the hope that HMG’s response (and that of any other Government bodies or agencies) would do likewise:

In a corresponding spirit of transparency, it is hoped that any submissions to this review on behalf of Government bodies or agencies will be published in full, and so made available for wider review and comment.  [para 5 of SAs’ submission of 8.6.21]

That has not been done.  What did happen was that on 29 July 2021 the SAs were sent the Government’s Response by the Reviewer (not HMG) and told that this response was shared in confidence, and was not for onward transmission.


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USA successfully appeals Assange case

13 December 2021 by

In Government of the United States v Julian Assange [2021] EWHC 3313 (Admin), the High Court allowed the appeal of the United States of America against the ruling of Westminster Magistrates’ Court, thereby permitting the extradition of the WikiLeaks founder to the US where he faces criminal charges relating to the unlawful obtaining and publication of classified defence and national security materials.

The High Court held that diplomatic assurances given by the US government regarding Assange’s prospective detention conditions were sufficient to quash the original basis upon which his extradition was initially discharged, namely that his mental condition was such that it would be “oppressive” to extradite him, per s.91 Extradition Act 2003.


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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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Court of Justice of the EU allows prohibition of religious symbols in the workplace

22 October 2021 by

The Court of Justice of the European Union. Image: Flickr

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.

Case Background

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.


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Omagh revisited

19 October 2021 by

One of the most keenly-awaited judgments from the Northern Ireland High Court, Gallagher’s application [2021] NIQB 85 is a roughly-300-paragraph deep-dive into some of the abiding legal controversies surrounding the Omagh bombing of 15 August 1998. The bombing, for which the Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA) later claimed responsibility, killed 29 men, women and children and 2 unborn children and injured many others. It continues to reverberate down the years as the deadliest single incident in the history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Gallagher is a paradigm example of Convention rights at play. As such, it provides food for thought when considered against the scrutiny of both the Human Rights Act 1998 and Legacy litigation. This post sets out some of the main facts before analysing the main Convention-related arguments and the Court’s treatment of them.

Northern Ireland: 1998 Omagh bombing that killed 29 people could have been  prevented, says UK court | Euronews
The aftermath of the Omagh bombing. Copyright AP/Paul McErlane 1998

The facts

First, this case did not determine who was to blame for the bombing. The issue was a challenge to a 2013 decision, by then Northern Ireland Secretary, Theresa Villiers MP, not to order an inquiry into the Omagh bombing. This was important was because of the series of investigations that had preceded the 2013 decision – and failed to answer lingering questions.


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Law and the Culture War

21 September 2021 by

The judgment in Forstater v CDG Europe UKEAT/0105/20/JOJ has forced the courts yet again to grapple with the transgender debate. We have already seen the judiciary face up to the challenging issues of whether children with gender dysphoria can consent to receiving puberty blockers (see recent decision in Bell v Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust [2021] EWCA Civ 1363). In the present case, the issue was whether the Claimant’s belief that biological sex is real, important, immutable, and not to be conflated with gender identity was a “philosophical belief” within the meaning of section 10 of Equality Act 2010 (“EqA”).

Background

The claim arose from the Claimant’s statements on Twitter, which manifested her beliefs on the immutability of sex. Her colleagues found these offensive and complained. Her consultancy contract was not renewed, and she brought proceedings before the Central London Tribunal on the basis that she had been discriminated against because of her belief that sex, rather than gender, is fundamentally important and that there are no circumstances in which a trans woman is a woman or a trans man is a man. At a preliminary hearing, the Judge held that the Claimant’s belief was not a “philosophical belief” within the meaning of section 10 EqA.


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Aarhus Abortion Abu Qatada Abuse Access to justice adoption ALBA Allison Bailey Al Qaeda animal rights anonymity Article 1 Protocol 1 Article 2 article 3 Article 4 article 5 Article 6 Article 8 Article 9 article 10 Article 11 article 13 Article 14 Artificial Intelligence Asbestos assisted suicide asylum Australia autism benefits Bill of Rights biotechnology blogging Bloody Sunday brexit Bribery Catholicism Chagos Islanders Children children's rights China christianity citizenship civil liberties campaigners climate change clinical negligence Coercion common law confidentiality consent conservation constitution contempt of court Control orders Copyright coronavirus Coroners costs Court of Protection crime Cybersecurity Damages data protection death penalty defamation deportation deprivation of liberty Detention diplomatic immunity disability disclosure Discrimination disease divorce DNA domestic violence duty of care ECHR ECtHR Education election Employment Employment Law Employment Tribunal Environment Equality Act Ethiopia EU EU Charter of Fundamental Rights EU costs EU law European Court of Justice evidence extradition extraordinary rendition Family Fertility FGM Finance football foreign criminals foreign office France freedom of assembly Freedom of Expression freedom of information freedom of speech Gay marriage Gaza gender genetics Germany Google Grenfell Health high court HIV home office Housing HRLA human rights Human Rights Act human rights news Huntington's Disease immigration India Indonesia injunction Inquests international law internet Inuit Iran Iraq Ireland Islam Israel Italy IVF Japan Judaism judicial review jury trial JUSTICE Justice and Security Bill Law Pod UK legal aid Leveson Inquiry LGBTQ Rights liability Libel Liberty Libya Lithuania local authorities marriage Maya Forstater mental capacity Mental Health military Ministry of Justice modern slavery music Muslim nationality national security NHS Northern Ireland nuclear challenges Obituary ouster clauses parental rights parliamentary expenses scandal patents Pensions Personal Injury Piracy Plagiarism planning Poland Police Politics pollution press Prisoners Prisons privacy Professional Discipline Property proportionality Protection of Freedoms Bill Protest Public/Private public access public authorities public inquiries rehabilitation Reith Lectures Religion RightsInfo right to die right to family life Right to Privacy right to swim riots Roma Romania Round Up Royals Russia Saudi Arabia Scotland secrecy secret justice sexual offence sexual orientation Sikhism Smoking social media South Africa Spain special advocates Sports Standing statelessness stop and search Strasbourg Supreme Court Supreme Court of Canada surrogacy surveillance Syria Tax technology Terrorism tort Torture travel treaty TTIP Turkey UK Ukraine UK Supreme Court unduly harsh USA US Supreme Court vicarious liability Wales War Crimes Wars Welfare Western Sahara Whistleblowing Wikileaks wind farms WomenInLaw YearInReview Zimbabwe
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