Round Up


The Round Up: Terrorism, the Parole Board, and… Covid-19

30 March 2020 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law

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In the News:

A landmark piece of legislation was passed this week, with significant consequences for civil liberties. The Coronavirus Act 2020, which was passed in only 4 days, is designed to mitigate the impact of Covid-19.

It gives the police a number of powers, including:

  • A power to restrict events and shut down premises such as non-essential shops (Schedule 22).
  • The ability to forcibly isolate or detain individuals who are thought to be at risk of spreading Covid-19.
  • A reduction in the care duties imposed on Local Authorities.

The Act also produces a number of changes designed to help workers:

  • Employers can reclaim the cost of paying statutory sick pay from HMRC.
  • Employees can claim sick pay from the day they stop working, rather than there being a delay of three days before payments are made.

The Act has attracted criticism for the range of powers it grants to the executive, and the speed with which it was passed. To help address these concerns, the Act will automatically expire after two years. Matt Hancock MP, the Health Secretary, also said that the Act will be debated and voted on every six months. This commitment is reflected in s.98. A statement of compatibility with the ECHR has been made.
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The Round-up 16-3-2020

16 March 2020 by

The worsening of the Covid-19 pandemic seemed to relegate all other business to a position of relative insignificance this week. Undoubtedly  the human, economic and social cost of the outbreak is already severe, with its impact increasingly felt across the globe. However, perhaps more than any other conceivable event, the progression of the disease casts a spotlight on numerous areas of legal controversy. It is hard to recall a post-war phenomenon which so frequently pits the rights and interests of individuals against those of broader society (more here). Indeed, the potential material for upcoming pupillage interview questions seems virtually inexhaustible, assuming that they too don’t fall victim to social distancing measures.

I will be posting a longer article on Covid-19 later today.


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International Women’s Day, the Domestic Abuse Bill and Protest Rights- Round Up

9 March 2020 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law

In the News:

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The Government’s ant-slavery tsar has severely criticised the government for failing to take action on child slavery. Dame Sara Thornton, who was appointed in 2019, said that the government was failing to make changes as promised.

Her concerns relate to the Independent Child Trafficking Guardian (ICTG) scheme, which is designed to give vulnerable children one-to-one support. Under the scheme, guardians assist children with matters ranging from GP appointments to dealing with social services. In 2016 ministers pledged to implement the scheme, but progress has since stalled.

Dame Sara said that she wrote to the Home Secretary in January outlining her concerns and highlighting the fact that the scheme only covers a third of the country. However, she has not received a response.

In a further development, Dame Sara Thornton has said that the power to intervene in child trafficking cases should be taken away from the Home Office. She argues that local authorities are much better placed to provide support. However, others have pointed out that councils lack the resources and power to adequately address child slavery.

The number of children referred to the Home Office as being potential victims of modern slavery appears to be rising. Over 2000 children were identified between September 2018 – 2019, representing a 66% rise on the previous year.

More from the Independent here and the Guardian here.

In Other News….
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Weekly Round up : March Madness

2 March 2020 by

Microscopic view of Coronavirus, a pathogen that attacks the respiratory tract. Analysis and test, experimentation. Sars. 3d render

In the news 

National concern about coronavirus rose further this week, as the tally of UK cases rose to 36. The government has said that it will publish an emergency ‘battle plan’ for tackling the virus, based on existing contingency plans for responding to a pandemic flu outbreak. This will include ministers responsible for coronavirus in each department, as well as a public information campaign run from the Cabinet Office; if the virus spreads further, it could also include banning big events, closing schools, and advising against use of public transport. When questioned yesterday on whether cities will be isolated, as in China, Health Secretary Matt Hancock was emphatic that no tactics are “off the table” in the government’s coronavirus strategy.  

The Johnson government is facing major setbacks elsewhere this week.  


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Round Up 17.02.20 – Detentions, quarantines, deportations and reshuffles….

17 February 2020 by

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Demonstrators protest government deportation flights outside Downing Street. Credit: The Guardian.

The last week provided no shortage of legal controversy, and posed the author of this blog considerable difficulty when trying to identify which developments deserved the most prominence. In analysing this avalanche of legal news, however, certain key themes started to develop.

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The Weekly Round-up: Brexit, Criminal Records, Universal Credit, and the Sultan of Drugs

4 February 2020 by

Photo: Tero Vesalainen

In the news

On Friday, the UK left the EU. In the midst of jubilation, despair, and relief, questions remain about the human rights implications this decision may have, as we continue to negotiate the precise terms of our exit. Clause 5 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 already confirmed that the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights would not be included in ‘retained’ EU legislation after Brexit. Now, the Conservatives may be able to move forward with their long-term commitment to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998 and introduce a ‘British Bill of Rights’. Boris Johnson’s manifesto promise was to ‘update’ the legislation, as part of a programme of constitutional reform, looking at “the relationship between the government, parliament and the courts.”

As the coronavirus continues to provoke anxiety, China has come in for criticism for its handling of the epidemic, in the New York Times and on Human Rights Watch. After concealing new cases in Wuhan in early January, there has been censorship of online posts about the epidemic, bans on speaking to the media and journalists, and the government has been interrogating web users accused of ‘spreading rumours’ and ‘publishing and spreading untrue information online’. 


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Round Up- The Child Sexual Abuse Inquiry reports, Equal Pay, and waiving Article 6

13 January 2020 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law

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In the News:

ICCSA, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, published its report into protecting children who live outside the UK.

It described how there has been “extensive” sexual abuse of children by British nationals whilst abroad. Between 2013 – 2017, 361 UK nationals requested consular assistance between 2013 – 2017 for being arrested for child sex offences. The inquiry suggested this was likely to be a small proportion of offenders committing crimes abroad.

The report highlights the case of Gary Glitter, who was able to travel abroad and abuse vulnerable children even after he had been convicted. Glitter was later sentenced again for abusing two girls, aged 10 and 11, in Vietnam.

ICCSA concluded that travel bans should be imposed more frequently to prevent this behaviour. It noted that Australia bans registered sex offenders from travelling overseas. ICCSA’s report also argued that the burden of proof for imposing travel bans should be reduced, saying that the need for evidence is often overstated by courts and the police.

The inquiry described the global exploitation of children as worth an estimated £27.7 billion, with developing countries being particularly at risk.

The full report can be read here. More from the BBC here.

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The Weekly Round-up: Iran, Technology and the Labour Leadership Contest

7 January 2020 by

Photo: Wikimedia commons

In the news

The news has been nothing if not dramatic this week. US President Donald Trump arranged for the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani by drone strike on Friday. At Soleimani’s state funeral in Tehran, the streets were filled with crowds chanting ‘death to America!’, and a weeping Ayatollah Khamenei promised that a ‘harsh retaliation’ would come to the USA. The media is full of geopolitical speculation: some say that this amounts to a ‘declaration of war’ by the USA on Iran, and will lead to World War III, while others worry about the possibility of nuclear escalation. The BBC has published this relatively deflationary overview of the risks, as the situation stands.

British-Iranian dual citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was imprisoned in 2016 for allegedly ‘plotting to topple the Iranian regime’ and ‘spreading propaganda against Iran’, remains in prison in the country. Her husband has called for an urgent meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. In light of Mr Johnson’s previous mishandling of the situation as Foreign Secretary, and his refusal to condemn the killing, saying on Sunday “we will not lament his death”, Richard Ratcliffe may well consider that he is entitled to a meeting.

International concern continues, too, over the 19-year-old UK citizen held in Ayia Napa in Cyprus, who says that she was compelled to withdraw her allegations of gang rape against a group of Israeli nationals under duress from Cyprus police. She was convicted in 2019 for ‘wilfully indulging in public mischief’, and is now pursuing an appeal process which could take up to three years. Dominic Raab this week urged the Cypriot authorities to ‘do the right thing’ in deciding her case.


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Did the UK violate Article 2 in Kosovo? Plus the Oval Four, and racism in the police

9 December 2019 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law

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Winston Trew and his wife, Hyacinth. Credit: The Guardian.

In the News:

Court of Appeal judges overturned the convictions of the ‘Oval Four’ after it was found that their sentences were based on evidence given by a corrupt police officer.

The ‘Oval Four’ refers to a group of black men who were arrested by officers claiming to have seen the men stealing Tube passengers’ handbags. The men were subsequently convicted in 1972 based solely on the basis of evidence given by those officers. None of the ‘victims’ appeared at the trial.

The case became a focus point for black rights and the treatment of BME people by the police. It was referred to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which ultimately led to the successful appeal.

Whilst the convictions of three of the men were overturned, the fourth member of the ‘Oval Four’ unfortunately cannot be found.

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett, expressed “regret is that it has taken so long for this injustice to be remedied”. Lord Burnett also stated that there was “an accumulating body of evidence that points to the fundamental unreliability of evidence given by DS Ridgewell [the lead officer] … and others of this specialist group”.


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The Weekly Roundup: The Women’s Manifesto, Assisted Suicide, Life Sentences, and Citizenship Appeals

25 November 2019 by

In the news

With an election on the horizon, a coalition of 29 women and human rights organisation has published a manifesto for women and girls. Their stated goals are to “end violence against women and girls”; “secure women’s equal representation in politics”; “promote equality in the workplace and in the home”; “invest in public services”; and “lift women and children out of poverty”.  To achieve these goals, they propose measures including a new ‘Violence Against Women and Girls’ bill to lay before Parliament; funding for high-quality sex and relationships education; improvements to the criminal justice system regarding allegations of rape and sexual assault; equal pay; increased maternity pay and maternity allowances; an end to pregnancy discrimination; and a strengthening of the law on sexual harassment at work, creating a duty on employers to prevent harassment from occurring. The manifesto is available here.

The backlash against internet intermediaries and ‘surveillance capitalism’ continues this week. Amnesty International have released a report entitled ‘Surveillance Giants’, which analyses in detail the human rights threats posed by Facebook, Google, and other technology corporations. The report is available here. Meanwhile, in the courts, Singh LJ granted Ed Bridges permission to appeal the facial recognition judicial review which he lost in September, noting that Mr Bridges’ appeal had a reasonable prospect of success.


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Round Up 11.11.19 – Extinction Rebellion, Article 8 and some big names make appearances in the courts…

11 November 2019 by

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An Extinction Rebellion protester is removed by police in central London. Credit: The Guardian.

As the general election campaign accelerated this week, the political fall out from the publication of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry contributed to some awkward headlines for both politicians and lawmakers. However, this was by no means the only legal news of the week…

Environmental campaign group Extinction Rebellion (XR) succeeded in having the Metropolitan Police’s ban on their “autumn uprising” ruled unlawful at the High Court – Jones & Ors v The Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis [2019].

The case turned on the lawfulness of the exercise of powers by the police under section 14(1) of the Public Order Act 1986 to ban XR’s protests earlier this month. 

The court ruled that in exercising section 14 powers, the police were required to identify a location to be covered by the powers conferred by the Act. Separate gatherings, separated both in time and by many miles, even if co-ordinated under the umbrella of one body, were not held to be one public assembly within the meaning of section 14(1). Consequently, the decision of the police to impose the condition across a wide area of London for several days was unlawful, being outwith the powers conferred by section 14(1). 


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Grenfell, Prisons, and the Inability to Appeal – Round Up

4 November 2019 by

GrenfellThe Grenfell Tower Inquiry released its first report into the disaster. Its findings included:

  • The refurbishment of Grenfell tower broke building regulations because it used a mixture of combustible cladding. This was the main reason the fire spread.
  • Firefighters were let down by poor training, leadership, equipment and plans. Junior firefighters arriving at the scene were “faced with a situation for which they had not been properly prepared”.
  • The ‘stay put’ advice used by the London Fire Brigade was wrong, and cost lives.

The report recommends that national guidelines for evacuating high-rise flats are created. It also seeks for a programme of regular inspections of high-rise flats and lifts

The Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, Dany Cotton, attracted particular criticism from the media. Ms Cotton had said that although she was saddened by the loss of life, there was nothing she would have done differently. Sir Martin Moore-Bick, the Chair of the Inquiry, described her as showing “remarkable insensitivity” and suggested this showed an inability to learn from the tragedy.


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Round Up 14.10.19 – Diplomatic Immunity, Brexit and Immigration

14 October 2019 by

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Harry Dunn’s family after meeting with the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, last week. Photograph: Credit: The Guardian, Peter Summers/Getty Images.

The usually obscure concept of diplomatic immunity came to the fore this week after it emerged that the wife of an American diplomat was wanted for questioning in connection with the death of a motorcyclist in Northamptonshire. Anne Sacoolas was spoken to by police after a collision with Harry Dunn in which he was killed whilst riding his motorbike, prior to her return to the United States.

Article 31 of the 1961 Vienna Convention grants immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving state to diplomats, a feature extended to their family members by article 37. However, both the United Kingdom and the United States were this weekend reported as having agreed that diplomatic immunity was no longer “pertinent” in the case of Mrs Sacoolas. This raised the possibility of the UK seeking her extradition, despite President Trump being photographed this week with a briefing card stating that she would not be returning to Britain.

Meanwhile, the country’s attention turned back towards Brexit, with the week ahead promising to, in the Prime Minister’s words, be “do or die” for the prospects of a negotiated deal. At the beginning of the week it was widely reported that talks had faltered, with Downing St leaks suggesting a deal was “essentially impossible”. However, the mood surrounding negotiations changed significantly on Thursday, with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar describing the emergence of a “pathway” to a deal following his meeting with Boris Johnson.
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The Weekly Round-up: Hong Kong, data privacy, and pensions equality

7 October 2019 by

Image: Studio Incendo

Sam Sykes and Conor Monighan provide the latest updates in human rights law

In the news

This week marked the 70th anniversary of the Community Party’s rule in China. In Hong Kong, there were violent protests and clashes with the police. The unrest which began in the wake of the controversial extradition bill introduced 4 months ago has developed into a wider movement for democracy, and there is no resolution in sight. The situation has caused damage to buildings and transportation infrastructure, and serious injuries: this week, an 18-year-old was shot in the chest – police say that he is now recovering.

Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, invoked the Emergency Powers Ordinance to try and create order. It is the first time in 50 years that such regulations have been created. The regulations ban people from wearing face masks, which protesters use to protect themselves from tear gas, and also to preserve their anonymity. Although many have ignored the rule, the Hong Kong authorities are now bringing the first charges under the new law.  


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Round Up 16.09.19. In fashion this Autumn/Winter – Constitutional Law?

16 September 2019 by

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Flags flutter outside Parliament. Credit: The Guardian.

Very few weeks have given the function of the legal system and the role of the courts as much prominence, nor exposed them to as much scrutiny, as the last week. The decision of the Prime Minster to prorogue Parliament, followed by the granting of royal assent to legislation which would require him to seek an extension to the Article 50 process for exiting the European Union, has launched into the public consciousness areas of constitutional law previously the domain only of law students cramming for exams, public law lawyers and academics in tweed blazers. In what at times made Newsnight look like an hour-long revision seminar for Graduate Diploma in Law students, unfashionable concepts such as justiciability, judicial review and the rule of law took centre stage, framed by the context of Brexit.

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