Gay rights issues, and particularly issues of equality of treatment for gay people living in the UK have created a flurry of headlines in recent months. In January, two of the conjoined cases Eweida v UK (Ladele v UK and McFarlane v UK) involved clashes between rights to religion (Article 9 ECHR) and equality legislation (now contained within the Equality Act 2010) protecting gay people from discrimination (protected under Article 14 ECHR). In these cases, the European Court of Human Rights noted that the claimants did have religious objections to being involved in civil partnerships as a registrar and in advising gay couples as a relationship counsellor, but found that the UK had needed to “balance” the competing interests. Continue reading “Would You Adam and Eve it? The DUP and the Gay Marriage Debate”
Advice on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, submitted to the Secretary of State by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission in 2008, was roundly rejected by the UK government in 2009 and there seems to be little appetite within the Northern Ireland Office for revisiting the issue in the foreseeable future. In London, the coalition government’s Commission on a UK Bill of Rights, set up in 2011, reported in 2012 but could not suggest an agreed way forward on a UK basis. In Scotland, on the other hand, bearing in mind the forthcoming referendum on independence in 2014, there is renewed interest in whether legislation should be passed by the Scottish Parliament to guarantee a range of social and economic rights. The Republic of Ireland, for its part, is currently re-examining its Constitution and has recently voted in a referendum to enhance the protection of children’s rights.
As the nature and extent of the protection of rights continue to vary within these islands, we think it is worthwhile putting forward a list of options for what might next be done in this context within Northern Ireland. We are doing so under the auspices of the Human Rights Centre in the School of Law at Queen’s University Belfast. The Centre is keen to play a leading role in promoting critical thought and further Continue reading “Options on the way forward for human rights in Northern Ireland”
Every four years the world watches, expecting to be wowed by national performances. This summer is no exception, with Great Britain and Northern Ireland facing a weight of expectation to improve upon its 2008 performance (and largely delivering). Unlike the Olympic and Paralympic Games, however, the UN Universal Periodic Review of human rights in the United Kingdom failed to garner many headlines when the draft report was published in June. With London basking in the glow of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (pictured left), it is worth reconsidering the UK’s performance (not least because the UK delegation was keen to point to London’s hosting of the Games, apparently as evidence of the UK’s human rights credentials, in its response to the review (See Draft Report, UPR p.15)). Continue reading “Human Rights Olympics? The UN Universal Periodic Review UK Report”
Judges in England and Wales have long been sensitive of the boundaries of their authority under the Judicial Review jurisdiction. Lord Hope recently sought to highlight the limits of the judicial role in the Axa Insurance (2011) case, by contrasting it with the focus of Parliament (at ):
While the judges, who are not elected, are best placed to protect the rights of the individual, including those who are ignored or despised by the majority, the elected members of a legislature of this kind are best placed to judge what is in the country’s best interests as a whole.
Today the High Court provided a nuanced judgment in a judicial review action brought over the raise in university tuition fees to a maximum of £9000 which will be introduced in September 2012. Although the claimant teenagers (Katy Moore and Callum Hurley, pictured above left) were unsuccessful in their bid to have the Court quash the Higher Education (Higher Amount) Regulations 2010 which introduced the fees, the judges did recognise that ministers had failed to fully carry out some of their Public Sector Equality Duties (PSEDs), which require that consideration be given to whether the decision to increase tuition fees had a disproportionate (and hence, potentially indirectly discriminatory) impact on protected groups within society. Continue reading “Resource Allocation Revisited: Higher Education Fees and the Courts”
The UK Supreme Court has found in Cadder v Her Majesty’s Advocate that the use of material obtained in a police interview in Scotland without legal representation is in breach of Article 6(1) and 6(3)(c) of the ECHR.
Under the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, a police constable may detain a person whom he has reasonable grounds to suspect has committed an imprisonable offence for up to six hours, during which time he may be questioned. Although the detainee is entitled to have a solicitor informed of his detention, he has no right of access to a solicitor. Cadder had been detained and interviewed without a lawyer being present, and he made a number of admissions which were admitted at trial. He was convicted in the sheriff court in Glasgow.
The relevant ECHR case is Salduz v Turkey where the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights unanimously held that Articles 6(1) and 6(3)(c) of the ECHR were breached by virtue of Salduz not having legal advice when in police custody. Nevertheless, in a subsequent Scottish case, Her Majesty’s Advocate v McLean, the High Court of Justiciary (sitting with a bench of seven judges) held that Articles 6(1) & 6(3)(c) were not violated by the reliance on admissions made by a detainee who did not have access to a solicitor. This was predicated on the view that a fair trial was guaranteed by safeguards in the Scottish criminal process, such as the requirement that all evidence be corroborated and the absence of inference-drawing provisions. Cadder sought to appeal against his conviction, but leave to appeal was refused in Scotland based on McLean. Continue reading “The UK Supreme Court and the right of access to a lawyer in Scotland”
Several weeks ago Liam, Máiread and I introduced you to the various manifestos for the upcoming UK General Election (see Labour, Liberal Democrats, Conservative and alternative manifesto commentaries). The various manifestos can be downloaded in PDF form at these locations: Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat. Throughout the past few weeks, human rights have not featured heavily in popular debate despite being implicitly discussed through the key issues of the the economy, crime and justice, education, health care, immigration and the relationship with the EU. As the General Election looms large at the end of next week, it’s worth reconsidering five key human rights issues. Below, I ask the questions, examine the manifestos and offer some thoughts you might use to challenge your candidate over the next few days. Continue reading “UK General Election: 5 Human Rights Questions”