The following is a guest post from Jim Loxley. Jim is a Director for compensation claim specialist, My Compensation and has a keen interest in human rights. The firm deals primarily in car accident compensation.
Concerns over human rights in China are something which simmer away in the background and frequently spill their way over into the mainstream press. Amnesty International does a great deal of work in the country and cites on its website that there are currently some 500,000 individuals currently incarcerated without a trial. Recently, the issues have boiled right over and spurred the US into taking action. The Whitehouse has requested that the “deteriorating” human rights of the country must be addressed by the Chinese government. (more…)
A rise in tuition fees – a breach of human rights?
The cost of an education
Tuition fees are the annual sum paid to universities by students in return for receiving an education. The amount universities can charge is capped by the government. Recently the maximum has nearly tripled and now stands at £9,000 per year. The government will loan students this money along with a contribution to maintaining themselves throughout this expensive period of life. However, this loan will need to be repaid and could now easily reach £45,000 before even considering a further master’s degree or professional qualification. Without a university education however people are statistically likely to earn less money and the door to many professional jobs can be locked.
Right to an education
An education is such a fundamental part of growing up and becoming someone that contributes positively to their environment. It cannot be overstated how much in the interests of a country it is to provide their citizens with the best education possible. (more…)
As widely reported in today’s press, there is a conference currently going on in which the UK hopes to secure what the Government says will be a big breakthrough in Human Rights law, and to stop the apparently endless tidal wave of attempts to use Human Rights legislation to delay cases, such as deportations, or to attach human rights principles to override other areas of law.
All indications are that some kind of deal is likely to be reached, which is being termed the “Brighton declaration” and which will be intended to ensure that only the most important cases and principles ever reach the European level and that national state courts decisions on human rights issues will stand.
This is clearly common sense, since what has happened is that cases which are lost in National Courts are now almost routinely pushed up to the European level and there is an absurd backlog of some 150,000 cases waiting for European level adjudication. frankly, short of massively expanding the European court for Huamn Rights, most of these cases are never going to get listed.
The potential problem, and we wait to see what the declaration will say is that, whilst there are over 4,0000 UK cases waiting at European level, this may not be the nub of the issue. The European courts have only rules against the English courts in a handful of instances, but it’s the uncertainty and possible bad PR of ignoring the possible appeal an, for example, in the case of Abu Qatada being seen as in breach of Eiropean law by deporting him before all avenues of appeal are exhausted, that creates the biggest issue perhaps.
It also seems to us that because the threat of being overturned has been high in Judge’s minds, we now have lots of precedents of Human Rights law being successfully used under English law, and until some of the absurd decisions made are perhaps overturned in the future, we are still stuck with a system where human rights arguments, such as a right to family law where tenants are behaving outrageously preventing their eviction are still utilised.
So, in summary, it appears that the laws stay the same, the UK is still bound by them, but that some kind of deal may be struck where it becomes clear that that, except in cases where there is clearly an important principle at stake (quite how that will be defined will be interesting to see) there may be some much tighter rules about being able to appeal cases up to the European level.
No doubt all will become clearer (hopefully) in the next few days.
PRESSURE ON JUDGES TO DEAL WITH ‘RIGHT TO FAMILY LIFE’ EXCUSE
Although the principles developed under the European Convention on Human Rights were aimed at ensuring individuals had basic, protected rights (like the right to family life), recent media coverage has highlighted the fact that a number of foreign criminals are now using these rights as excuses to avoid being deported. These situations are an outright abuse of human rights law, and in particular, Theresa May has been working on ensuring these abuses are stopped.
Theresa May has spoken out publicly about her outrage of the ECHR abuses, and has plans for new immigration laws to be in place by the summer. These new laws aim to prevent foreign criminals from being able to use, amongst other excuses, the ‘right to family life’ argument. Her plans have made it absolutely clear that those that cannot support themselves, or have a committed a crime, will not be allowed to stay in the country.
Her stance on this subject has been further evidenced by her actions in relation to Abu Qatada, the cleric whose deportation to Jordan was inhibited at the beginning of this year by the European Court of Human Rights. She stated, “the public want him to be deported, I want him to be deported”. She has been known for her strong stance on immigration, and believes that the new immigration law changes will obtain support from politicians and the public alike, regardless of their political bearing.
Current government dislike has inflated due to recent issues concerning tax changes, the Budget and claims that MPs fuelled panic over petrol shortages. It is therefore likely that this latest move by Theresa May will boost support for the government. Immigration issues were identified in a number of political surveys last year as being a top priority for the public, and so witnessing changes in government policy that aim to positively tackle this issue will be likely to gain support for the government.
The changes to the use of Article 8 Right to Family Life will be emphasised to judges, highlighting that the Right will not have the power to stop the deportation of someone who has either committed a crime, not complied with immigration law or who cannot support themselves in the country. This will be because Ministers are changing immigration law around the end of July so that the right to family life argument can only be used in exceptional and rare circumstances. Previous dismay has been brought to light over the judges’ failure to use the Article 8 argument properly, ignoring in-built provisions which include the prevention of disorder or crime as a legitimate reason for deportation.
This change to immigration law is needed after Labour passed the UK Borders Act 2007, which greyed areas concerning deportation by allowing an exemption from deportation if there had been a breach of human rights. This change will therefore attempt to make the issue clearer.
In the current economic climate, where unemployment is at a record high, and the general public are worried about their jobs and the economy, the country cannot afford to allow people to stay here who either cannot support themselves (and are therefore a drain on the public resources), or who are committing crimes/not complying with immigration law, and yet are using Article 8 as a way to remain in the country. If Theresa May’s efforts succeed therefore, many would welcome the change.
The increased concerns about terrorism, following the New York, London and Madrid events have left us with an important dilemma of balance between the police powers to actively monitor our personal data and our very basic human right to lead private uninterrupted lives. The recently revealed information, under the Freedom of Information Act, suggests that not only are the authorities using active monitoring to tackle terrorism but also access our correspondence and other personal records to fight more common types of crime.
The report reveals that between 2007 and 2010 only 0.15 per cent of applications for access to communications data were rejected by the South Yorkshire Police forces. By comparison, the Kent Police rejected over 30 per cent of all applications made by the officers. Interestingly, the application process for all forces is evaluated on a regular basis by two bodies, the Office of Surveillance Commissioner or the Interception of Communications Commissioner Office. This raises an important question as to why there are significant differences in rejection levels between the local police units if the process is handled by officers accredited by the same institutions.
The Big Brother Watch, a well-known organisation defending civil liberties and privacy, has expressed concerns for the Home Office’s plans to further expand police powers and cover even more personal information. Nick Pickles from the Big Brother Watch stated that the current regime is highly dysfunctional and lacks of transparency. He recommends that before the government grants more powers to the police and intelligence agencies, the current legal framework should be thoroughly revised and assessed.
On the other hand, officials from the Interception of Communications Commissioner state that the procedures are adequate with the communications data being obtained lawfully and in full compliance with applicable statutory measures. They also believe that the current assessment process allows for impartial and objective decision-making in respect of individual applications.
The proposed new powers include powers to access real-time data related to phone calls, electronic communications, social media and web browsing histories. With increased campaigning against lack of consultation with the public, it has been announced that further consultation will be carried out before the new laws take effect. In addition, the Metropolitan Police has also expressed interest in real-time location tracking technology already utilised by the FBI in the US. The technology is based on a device known as IMSI catcher. The catcher allows its users to locate particular mobile phones in a targeted area. The catcher can not only track movements in real-time but also fully intercept short messages, phone calls and other data such as emails on the phone. Alarmingly, the FBI can rely on the technology without a court order. This brings a significant risk of the IMSI catchers being used for purposes other than those authorised.
The society needs to have right to participate in the decision-making regarding their own privacy. The government agencies have been known in the UK to improperly utilise the already existing powers. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act has been reportedly misused by over 800 different public bodies including the MI5, which officially confirmed making over 1,000 administrative errors only under this piece of legislation.
It is important to observe that the UK is not an exception. Australian authorities have already been provided with the increased power to intercept telecommunication records and the German government is currently contemplating passing legislation to allow police forces to hack suspects’ personal computers.
Being asked to stack shelves – an alleged breach of Human Rights !
In another frankly outrageous attempt at using the Human Rights Act, in this case article 4 (2) which deals with forced or compulsory labour, a long term unemployed young woman is seeking to challenge the Government’s requirement to undertake unpaid work experience as a potential gateway to future employment.
In this case the individual was required, in order to remain eligible for jobseeker’s allowance, to spend 2 weeks working in Poundland, undertaking tasks such as filling shelves or cleaning the floor. She objected to this and claims that such activities, with the underlying sanction for non-compliance of removal of her benefits, are tantamount to a forced labour situation.
Surprise surprise, this will be yet another case brought with legal aid, so that the claimant and the lawyers have nothing to lose. At a time when legal aid looks like it will be withdrawn for many very legitimate and important cases, the fact it is being used for these types of Human Rights claims is really ridiculous, and it should stop immediately in our view.
What do you think ?
Backlog of European Human Rights cases at 150,000
Setting aside the issue of the huge public expense of the unlimited ways in which Human rights issued are being used on cases in England & Wales, there is also the issue of the ludicrous backlog of 150,000 cases lodged in Europe.
It is virtually if not totally inconceivable that this number of cases can ever be dealt with without a massive expansion of resources and even then, we could be looking at decades. This all just shows, in our view, that the Human Rights debacle has now got completely out of control.
Apparently, discussions are ongoing ay Governmental level about what to do with the backlog and it appears that Ken Clarke may also argue Britain’s case that the debate must be extended to a more restrictive approach to the types of issues which can be taken to the European level, not least due to the huge uncertainty the whole process causes as to what the law might be after a case is finally heard at the European level.
From the bizarre to the ridiculous
Yes, we know the phrase is technically “from the sublime to the ridiculous” but we simply couldn’t bring ourselves to use the word sublime in relation to Human Rights law in the way it is being applied in Europe. Readers of this blog will know that we tend to be critics and to highlight the absurd attempts to use the legislation and the fact that the European Court often thinks the attempted applications are meritorious !
In a case reported this week, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decided that in criminal cases if a witness is not available to give oral evidence, either due to refusing or having passed away this is a breach of the accused’s human rights. This goes against UK law which is entirely sensible and provides that where there is a written statement and for whatever reason the witness is not at court for cross examination, appropriate directions and warnings are given to a jury as to the weight which can or should be given to that evidence.
The first instance decision in Europe will either be ratified or overturned by the upper tier of the ECHR this week, and if the decision is ratified, it would on the face of it impose a major change on the English Legal System. If the European ruling is ignored by Judges in England & Wales, then yes, you guessed it, it will lead undoubtedly to a raft of new Human Rights challenges in the UK.
Judging (excuse the pun) by recent comments made by a number of the most senior judiciary in this country, they are becoming sick and tired of the impositions from Strasbourg so it won’t be a surprise if this ends up in a scrap between the UK and Europe. Sound familiar ?!
Human Rights – a judge’s view
Interesting times we are living in generally – on a macro level, will Britain start a slow or quick process of decoupling from the EU or will we perhaps be drawn in further to an ever more centralized Europe ?
On the micro, although not so micro, level, back to the ever thorny issue of Human rights law, which of course has it’s origins in European law.
Judges are masters of using measured words but clearly the Judiciary in the UK are also somewhat troubled by the way Human Rights law is causing such controversy, costing so much money and being argued in such a wide range of cases. In some of the more controversial cases, foreign criminals who commit serious offences are not being deported due to arguments based on article 8 of the Human Rights legislation.
Lord Phillips and Lord Judge spoke for some 90 minutes to a parliamentary committee this week and concurred that the English courts had perhaps, based on respect for the common law system on which English law is founded, been willing to give too much credence to European Human Rights precedents.
Lord Judge also spoke about the prospects of the government seeking to make changes to Human Rights law, perhaps arguing strongly that no country can continue, in the economic conditions of the foreseeable future, to continue dealing with the volume of these cases, as the ECHR apparently has a backlog of over 100,000 uncompleted cases.
More of “Human Rights gone mad”
A convicted fraudster from Nigeria who entered the UK illegally initially (and was allowed to stay indefinitely due to an amnesty) is appealing a deportation order against him because he has a son in this country. He claims that deporting him breaches his and his son’s right to a family life even though he has been in prison for much of his son’s life and the son goes to school 12 miles away.
This is yet another example of liberal politics gone mad, let alone the cost to the taxpayer of these cases which just keep coming.
We obviously understand the needs of the child but a commonsense approach to this issue must surely lead to the conclusion that this person is “taking the piss” for want of a better expression.
We will shortly be running a poll on these sorts of cases, so please check back as we will start collecting data on what the British public really think about these issues. Without prejudging, we have an inkling of what most of you might say !