Tuesday 30 September 2014

Conservative Party Conference Justice and Home Affairs speeches ~ a brief look.

Speeches today at the Conservative Party Conference in Symphony Hall, Birmingham included Mr Chris Grayling (Justice Secretary) and Theresa May (Home Secretary).

There is much in the speeches to comment about but I will reserve that for a later post.  Neither speech contained any major announcement about any plans relating to the Human Rights Act 1998 and it may be that this is being left for the Prime Minister's speech at the end of conference (Wednesday morning).

According to Grayling,

Monday 29 September 2014

Northern Viewpoint ~ the Secretary of State for Justice has plans !

Updated 30th September with links to relevant blogposts

The Secretary of State for Justice has declared that "Europe will no longer rule our courts" and it is expected that he will reveal Conservative Party plans to scrap the Human Rights Act 1998 and to ensure that the European Court of Human Rights cannot "overrule" the Supreme Court of the UK - see The Telegraph 26th September - Chris Grayling: Europe will no longer rule our courts

Here is a Secretary of State who, along with his two immediate predecessors, has presided over the elimination of legal aid in vast areas of civil law and, in relation to criminal law, the High Court has recently ruled that one of his consultations was so unfair as to be unlawful (Solicitors Journal 19th September and see also Legal Business and the judgment of Burnett J).  The removal of legal aid from many family law cases is having a devastating impact on the lives of many children - (views of the Children's Commissioner - The Guardian 24th September).  His "privatisation" reforms

Thursday 25 September 2014

Labour Party Conference ~ Speech by Sadiq Khan MP (Shadow Justice Secretary)

At the Labour Party Conference held in Manchester (20th - 24th September), the Shadow Justice Secretary delivered a short speech which may be read here.  One clear difference emerged from the stance, at least to date, of the Conservative Party.  This is that Mr Khan gave a commitment to human rights:

'We’ll block attempts to abolish the Human Rights Act – Labour’s Human Rights Act.

.... we won’t walk away from the European Convention on Human Rights.'

Mr Khan also said - ' ... let’s get the European Court working better.'

The speech was essentially headlines of that type and was lacking in detail.  It remains to be seen whether there will simply be maintenance of the human rights status quo or, alternatively, some measure of reform whilst remaining with the core of human rights law.

On the constitution,

Friday 19 September 2014

Scotland voted NO

Updated 22nd, 23rd September, 25th and 26th September

The Scottish Independence referendum was held on 18th September.  The turnout was 84.5% and NO votes totalled 2,001,926 and YES votes totalled 1,617,989.  For more on the results see BBC News Scotland 19th September.    Independence was therefore rejected but, as mentioned in my earlier post, the status quo cannot remain though the historic Union will remain in place and major problems relating to membership of the European Union (EU)  and currency have been avoided. 

The Scottish people have been promised greater devolution of power and this must be delivered but the precise details of those powers remain to be thrashed out and time is relatively short given the General Election in May 2015.  However, it appears that

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Scotland ~ the eve of the referendum

18th September 2014 - Referendum Day in Scotland on the question of independence from the remainder of what is now the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  "The Union" of the separate Crowns of Scotland and England came on 24th March 1603 when King James VI of Scotland also became James I of England.  However, political union of the two Kingdoms did not arrive until 1st May 1707 with the enactment, by what were then separate Parliaments, of the Union with Scotland Act 1706 and the Union with England Act 1707.   The Acts gave legislative force to the Treaty of Union agreed in July 1706.

'That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England shall upon the first day of May next ensuing the date hereof and forever after be United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain  ...........'

Monday 8 September 2014

Ashya King (2)

Mr Justice Baker has handed down judgment in the wardship case of Ashya King - (see earlier post)

Judiciary website - Judgments and Orders

Baker J said that Portsmouth Council had acted "entirely correctly" and the parents had reached a treatment plan for Ashya which was "coherent and reasonable"  Ashya had been admitted to hospital for proton treatment and appropriate funding arrangements were in place.  Ashya was therefore no longer to be a ward of court.  The learned judge chose not to make any comment about the appropriateness of the European Arrest Warrant though he commented that it was not in Ashya's best interests for him to have been separated from his parents in such circumstances.

Friday 5 September 2014

EU ~ Lisbon Treaty ~ the bloc opt-out and selective opt-back-in

"Whether EU measures covered by the so-called '2014 block opt-out decision' continue to apply to the United Kingdom and become subject to the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice from 1 December 2014 is a profoundly significant issue. Some—including the European Arrest Warrant—raise questions affecting public safety and security, as well as the protection of individual rights" - (First Joint Report from the European Scrutiny, Home Affairs and Justice Committee - 19th March 2014).

The UK government had the right under the Lisbon Treaty to opt-out of some 135 EU measures relating to justice and home affairs - (post of 19th October 2012).  They also had the right to select which ones to opt back into and it seems that the government has chosen to opt back into around 35 of those measures including the European Arrest Warrant which came to the forefront of the news this week in the Ashya King case. 

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Ashya King

Update 5th September -  Judiciary - Court Order of 2nd September

Ashya King is a 5 year old boy who suffers from a brain tumour.  He was undergoing treatment at Southampton General Hospital.  According to an article in the Southern Daily Echo 29th August, Ashya was a "long term patient who was permitted to leave the ward under the supervision of his parents as part of his ongoing rehabilitation.  When the length of time he had been absent became a cause of concern to hospital staff ... they contacted police after a search of the site and attempts to contact the family were unsuccessful."  It appears that the parents were hoping to obtain a treatment (proton beam therapy) for Ashya's condition that is available in some European countries but not in the UK. 

The Police eventually obtained a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) (to which Part 3 of the Extradition Act 2003 applies) having discovered that Aysha had been taken, via France, to Spain.   Issues relating to "neglect" were reported to be a basis for the EAW but precise details of any alleged offence were not stated publicly.  Portsmouth Council also took out wardship proceedings in the High Court - see the Order of 29th August. In accordance with the EAW, the parents were arrested in Spain and held in custody.

Monday 1 September 2014

Child abuse independent inquiry panel

Child abuse inquiry

On 7th July, the Home Secretary made a statement in Parliament on child abuse investigations.  

'I can now tell the House that the government will establish an independent inquiry panel of experts in the law and child protection to consider whether public bodies – and other non-state institutions – have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse. The inquiry panel will be chaired by an appropriately senior and experienced figure. It will begin its work as soon as possible after the appointment of the chairman and other members of the panel.'

It was later announced

Rotherham ~ Sexual Exploitation of Children ~ the reports

Updated 3rd September

The last week of August saw an explosion of media comment regarding sexual exploitation* of children in the South Yorkshire town of Rotherham in the years 1997-2013 - see ITV Report finds shocking scale of abuse

See also Rotherham Child Sexual Exploitation Scandal

The Jay Report:

The comment followed a report by Professor Alexis Jay OBE which was commissioned in September 2013 by the Chief Executive of Rotherham Metropolitan District Council - Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham (1997-2013).

The Police and Crime Commissioner:

Much of the media comment demanded the resignation of the Police and Crime Commissioner (Mr Shaun Wright) - for example, The Guardian 29th August.  A number of national politicians also joined in these calls - (e.g. The Independent 28th August).  In 2005 Mr Wright (then an elected councillor) became Rotherham Metropolitan District Council's Cabinet Member for Children and Young People's Services.  The Jay Report notes that,