Army generals are notorious for fighting the last war instead of the current one. Human rights campaigners may be in danger of the same mistake if they get their strategy wrong for the new coalition government.
The great civil liberties fight of the last decade centered on New Labour’s anti-terrorism measures. Keystone issues such as stop and search, 42-day detention without charge and control orders caught the public imagination and have been the subject of bitterly fought and largely successful campaigns by rights groups.
The other significant fights have been over the so-called surveillance state; for example CCTV, the DNA database and ASBOs, all of which are now being considered for reform by the new government.
Patrick Lawrence Q.C. and Can Yeginsu, also of Four New Square, appeared for UKIP. The judgment was only of tangential importance in respect of human rights, but Coulter addresses this towards the end of her article. The main point was that a court in future would have leeway as to how much it could order a party to forfeit. As such, the court was satisfied that the party funding legislation is sufficiently flexible so as not to contravene human rights law:
Tchenguiz & Ors v Imerman  EWCA Civ 908 (29 July 2010) – Read judgment
The Court of Appeal has ruled that secretly obtained documents can no longer copied and then used in divorce proceedings, overturning a rule dating back almost twenty years. The case will have a significant impact for divorcing couples, but has the court left itself open to a Supreme Court reversal on human rights grounds?
The appeal related to the divorce proceedings between Vivian and Elizabeth Imerman, in which Mrs Imerman’s brothers brothers had downloaded documents from Mr Imerman’s office computer in order to prove that he had more assets than he had disclosed to the court. Mr Justice Moylan ruled in the High Court that seven files of documents should be handed back to Mr Imerman for the purpose of enabling him to remove any material for which he claimed privilege. Mr Imerman appealed against the decision that he would then have to give the documents back, and Mrs Imerman argued that she should be given more control over the privilege process.
AN v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 869 (28 July 2010) – Read judgment
The Court of Appeal has held that control orders of three men suspected of terrorism revoked by the Government should in fact be quashed altogether. The decision opens the door for the men to claim compensation, and deals another blow to the controversial control order scheme.
This is the latest in a long and tortuous series of court judgments which have chipped away at the controversial control order scheme. This latest decision arises from a 2009 House of Lords (now the Supreme Court) decision that it was a breach of the right to a fair trial under Article 6 (the right to a fair trial) to hold someone under a control order without sufficient information about the allegations against him, even where the case against the “controlee” was based on closed materials, the disclosure of which would compromise the country’s national security (see our summary).
R (on the application of ZO (Somalia) and others) (Respondents) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Appellant)  UKSC 36 – Read judgment
The Supreme Court has ruled that the UK must provide minimum standards to asylum seekers, including the right to work, whether or not their first asylum application has failed. Asylum seekers will now be able to work if they have been waiting for over a year for a decision.
The ruling is the latest in a line of court defeats for the Government on its asylum policy, including the recent High Court ruling that part of the fast-track deportation system is unlawful, as well as the Supreme Court’s rejection of the policy of sending gay asylum seekers back to countries where they may face persecution for their sexuality.
The proposed change to the rules for bringing on who can apply for international war crimes arrest warrants has predictably generated some strong reactions
The changes will make it necessary to get the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions before an arrest warrant can be granted. The Ministry of Justice say they are changing the rules in order to prevent arrests happening after the presentation of “flimsy” evidence. Those who fear arrest under the current system range from Israeli ministers to the Pope.
Medical Justice, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 1925 (Admin) (26 July 2010) – Read judgment
The High Court has ruled that a fast-track scheme for the removal of failed asylum seekers with little or no notice is unlawful as it does not provide sufficient access to justice.
Permission to appeal has been granted but the decision could put a stop to the policy being implemented for the time being.
The challenge was brought by Medical Justice, a charity which advises asylum seekers, represented by the Public Law Project, a legal charity which aims to improve access to public law remedies (see their press release here). The policy being challenged came into effect in January 2010, and gives individuals who fall into certain specified categories and who have made unsuccessful claims to enter or to remain in the United Kingdom, little or sometimes no notice of their removal directions.
The Lord Chief Justice has emphasised in two Court of Appeal judgments that the jury-less trials must be a last resort and take place only in truly extreme cases. His comments are clearly aimed at putting the breakers on an accelerating trend of requests for jury-less trials in prosecutions of serious crime, following the ground-breaking but controversial ‘Heathrow heist’ trial.
The Criminal Justice Act 2003 limited for the first time the right to trial by jury in the Crown Court, where trials for serious crimes take place. Section 44 provides for the option of judge-only trials if there is a “real and present danger” of jury tampering.
The Ministry of Justice is proposing to change the rules on who can apply for international arrest warrants for suspected war crimes. The changes will make it necessary to get the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions before an arrest warrant can be granted.
The present system means that the threshold for an arrest for war crimes is low, and as such visiting ex-ministers can be arrested if only limited (or “flimsy” as the MoJ puts it) proof of the alleged crime is presented to a magistrate. The highest profile cases have been those involving ex-ministers from Israel, and in particular Tsipi Livni. As a result of the threat of arrest warrants, Israeli ex-ministers have largely stayed away from the UK.
As the MoJ statement says, war crimes under the Geneva Conventions Act 1957, and a small number of other grave offences, are subject to universal jurisdiction. This enables prosecution to take place here even though the offence was committed outside the United Kingdom, and irrespective of nationality.
This post was written with the kind help of Jaime Lindsey
The Court of Appeal has held that a person who lacks mental capacity can be detained if the Court of Protection considers that it is in their best interests, without having to meet additional conditions under Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
This case was a challenge to the decision of Jonathan Baker J in the Court of Protection and raises issues about the relationship between ECHR Article 5 (right to liberty and security) and the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA). It reinforces the point that it is for the Court to decide what is in an incapacitated patient’s best interests, and that Article 5 imposes no further requirements.
A (A Child) v The Chief Constable of Dorset Police  EWHC 1748 (Admin) (16 July 2010) – Read judgment
The High Court has ruled that the gist of sensitive evidence in a case involving a child being picked up for being spotted with an “inappropriate adult” must be disclosed in order that the child can bring a claim against the police.
The case is probably the first to follow the significant restriction of the use of secret evidence resulting from the Al Rawi decision (see our previous post), in which the Court of Appeal rejected a request by the Government that evidence in a torture compensation claim be kept secret from the public, and emphasised that the interests of open justice would be seriously compromised if this kind of request were ever granted in a civil case, even in very limited circumstances.
The deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats has said that gay couples are likely to gain full rights to marriage under the current Parliament. This would represent a revolution for gay rights, but there is still a long way to go before same-sex couples achieve full rights to marriage as they are arguably entitled to under human rights law.
Simon Hughes MP has told Yoost.com, a question and answer website, that Liberal Democrat MPs would be consulted on the rights of gay couples. He said “I don’t know the answer because we haven’t had the discussion“, but that
I see absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t all be able to support what Nick Clegg said, which is that it would be appropriate in Britain in 2010-11 for there to be the ability to have civil marriage for straight people and gay people equally.
A (Appellant) v Essex County Council & National Autistic Society (Intervener)  UKSC 33
Supreme Court (Lord Phillips, Lady Hale, Lord Brown, Lord Kerr, Lord Clarke) July 14 2010
The right to education under Article 2 Protocol 1 of the Convention was not breached by the delay in catering for the special educational needs of a child. Convention rights must be intepreted pragmatically; it is not right to equate a failure to provide the educational facilities required by domestic law with a denial of access to education.
This was an appeal against a decision ( EWCA Civ 364,  H.R.L.R. 31) upholding the dismissal by summary judgment of the appellant’s claim that the respondent local authority had breached his right to education under A1P1.
Five activists were recently acquitted for causing £180,000 damage to an arms factory after successfully deploying the defence of lawful excuse. But did the judge’s politically coloured summing up of the evidence to the jury render the trial a miscarriage of justice?
Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights guarantee a “fair and impartial tribunal”, and it is sometimes claimed in courts that a judge or judicial panel are biased and therefore cannot preside over a fair trial. While not often successful, the complaints are always taken seriously. As any law student knows, justice must not only be done but also be seen to be done.
To this end, judicial impartiality has been much in the news of late. Cherie Booth QC, an observant Christian, was apparently rapped by the Office for Judicial Complaints for reducing a defendant’s sentence on the grounds that he was a “religious man” who knew what he did was wrong. Meanwhile, in a less successful challenge to a judicial decision, Lord Carey failed to convince the Court of Appeal that a judicial panel of special religious expertise was needed in the case of a Christian marriage councilor sacked for refusing to counsel gay couples.
Hall & Ors v Mayor of London (On Behalf of the Greater London Authority)  EWCA Civ 817 (16 July 2010) – read judgment
The Mayor of London has won a court order to evict a camp of protesters from Parliament Square, with the Court of Appeal upholding a decision of the High Court stating that the Mayor’s response to the protest was proportionate and not a breach of the protesters’ human rights.
The protesters had gained a temporary reprieve by appealing the decision to the Court of Appeal, but that appeal has now been rejected. The BBC report that Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, said “I think it’s wonderful that as a city we can protest. But it is nauseating what they are doing to the lawn“.
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