Round Up


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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Round Up 16/12/19: The Supreme Court moves towards a new President and the small matter of a general election…

18 December 2019 by

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This week sees Baroness Hale sitting for the final time as President of the Supreme Court. Photo credit: The Guardian.

A brief delay to the publication of this article has helpfully afforded this blogger the opportunity to move beyond the political events of last Thursday and instead focus on much more interesting legal matters (more on those later).

However, it would be remiss not to recognise the consequences of last week’s election, which saw the Prime Minister return newly empowered by a sizeable Conservative majority. At the time of writing, proposals were being made to put the legislation required to withdraw from the European Union back to MPs as early as this Friday.

Sneaking in at page 17 of the Conservative manifesto (one page after a commitment to extend the water rebate in the South West) came the party’s offering on law and order. This included commitments to increase the number of police, enhance the use of “fair and proportionate” stop and search, as well as promote longer sentences and the greater use of electronic tags. The manifesto was however silent on some matters which have drawn attention of late, including court closures, legal aid cuts, and previous suggestions from ministers that the Human Rights Act might be amended to protect soldiers from prosecution for acts performed during their time in service. With such a significant majority however, the Government will be in a position to pursue its chosen agenda with enthusiasm, and so these and other mooted at policies, such as reform of the judicial review process, may not be as fanciful as previously thought.

Moving gratefully on from politics, today saw the first day in the case of XX v Whittington Hospital NHS Trust (appealing [2018] EWCA Civ 2832), which also serves as Baroness Hale’s final case as President of the Supreme Court before her replacement on January 11thby Lord Reed. The case provides an interesting example of a scenario in which factual matters combined with absent or inadequate law require the court to consider matters of a deeply public policy nature.
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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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What is the correct standard to be applied in police misconduct cases? Plus a new inquiry launches, and cake goes to the ECtHR – the Round Up

19 August 2019 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law

cake

Credit: The Guardian

In the News:

An application in the Ashers ‘gay cake’ case has been lodged at the European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”). The case involved a Christian bakery which refused to bake a cake bearing the message ‘Support Gay Marriage’. The Supreme Court found in favour of the bakery, ruling its actions were not discriminatory because the appellants were not under an obligation to express a political view which conflicted with their religious beliefs.

Lawyers representing Mr Lee, the customer whose order was refused, have outlined some of the arguments they will be making. In their submission, merely baking the cake did not mean the bakery, or the bakers, supported its message. They argue that no reasonable person would think that the bakery supported gay marriage simply because they had produced Mr Lee’s cake. Mr Lee described the Supreme Court’s decision as allowing shopkeepers to “pick and choose” which customers they serve.
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The Weekly Roundup: Police powers and freedom of information

12 August 2019 by

Photo by Andrew Parsons

In the news

On Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson set down his stance on law and order in three major announcements, fulfilling his promise to ‘come down hard on crime’. This follows the announcement of 20,000 ‘extra’ police officers a few weeks ago.

Firstly, Home Secretary Priti Patel announced enhanced stop-and-search powers for police officers under s.60 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, on the basis of a ‘knife-crime epidemic’. Under the new rules, an officer need only believe that a violent incident ‘may occur’, not that it ‘will’, and a lower level of authorisation will be required to exercise the power.

Secondly and thirdly, Mr Johnson has promised penal reforms. The Ministry of Justice has allocated £2.5bn to create ‘modern, efficient prisons’, including 10,000 new prison places. Alongside this, Mr Johnson has announced a sentencing review, by which he hopes to increase sentences for violent and sexual offenders, and reduce the use of ‘early release’ on licence – currently available to most offenders after they served half of their sentence, under the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

The resources of this crackdown are welcome, especially with an extra £85m for the chronically underfunded CPS. However, the approach is controversial. Stop-and-search in particular has been heavily criticised in the past. Some say that it is ineffective – a study released by the Home Office in 2016 found that enhanced stop-and-search had not decreased crime when used in key London boroughs. Others say that the policy is discriminatory in its application, and worsens the relationship between the public and the police, drawing links to the 2011 London riots.

The review of the Prevent counter-terrorism initiative is expected to begin today, following the appointment of the independent reviewer. However, the process of appointing the reviewer has been criticised for its opacity – Ed Davey MP has spoken of a ‘whitewash’, while Liberty director Martha Spurrier has suggested that the government are ‘[shielding] Prevent from the scrutiny it desperately needs’.

In further unwelcome news, a report found that a chartered deportation flight lacked ‘common decency’ towards passengers. Passengers were subjected to excessive restraint (up to 14 hours at a time); not allowed appropriate privacy when using the toilet; not appropriately supervised; and subject to long delays. This was followed by revelations that the Home Office used restraint against deportees in 447 cases between April 2018 and March 2019, as reported by Guardian.


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Round Up 22.07.19 – A series of interesting cases decided as the government prepares to depart…

22 July 2019 by

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Outgoing Secretary of State for Justice David Gauke. Credit: The Guardian.

The week ahead will, barring some extreme political drama, give us a new Prime Minister, and with it, the inevitable cabinet reshuffle. Some ministers have already made clear they believe they are unlikely to remain in post after the new PM’s appointment on Wednesday, in particular the Chancellor Phillip Hammond, and the Secretary of State for Justice David Gauke.

Whoever takes over at the Ministry of Justice will have a significant inbox. Cuts to legal aid were brought to the fore this week after it emerged a relative of those killed in the 2017 terrorist attacks at London Bridge was represented pro-bono by lawyers from international corporate law firm Hogan Lovells (see The Independent here). Mr Gauke used his forthcoming departure from post to propose scrapping short custodial sentences in a bid to reduce re-offending rates. However, the incoming Lord Chancellor will still be considerably better off than their new boss, for whom the “to do” list includes getting an oil tanker back from Iran and concluding Brexit.

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Landmark ruling for inquests and Chelsea Manning released from prison: The Round Up

13 May 2019 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law

Manning

Credit: The Guardian

In the News:

Chelsea Manning, the ex-US intelligence analyst, was released from prison last week.

Manning was found guilty of a variety of charges in 2013, including espionage. She was subsequently given the longest sentence for a security leak in US history. After serving an initial period in jail, the remainder of her sentence was commuted by President Obama in 2017 on the basis that it was “disproportionate” to her crimes.

Ms. Manning has since refused to testify to a grand jury about her connections to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange (its founder). She claims that she has already given testimony as part of her trial in 2013, and objects to the grand jury system in principle. However, prosecutors have suggested that her evidence may have been inaccurate. A judge in Virginia ordered her to be taken into custody for 62 days.

She was released last week after the 62 day period elapsed. In the meantime, however, Ms. Manning was served with another subpoena which requires her to appear before a grand jury on May 16th in order to testify about the same issues. It seems likely, therefore, that she will be imprisoned again for contempt of court.
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