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grayling_2196719bby Joseph Markus

The Criminal Bar go on ‘strike’ today in protest at the Government’s cuts to legal aid, the simple effect of which will be to reduce access to justice and increase the risks of the guilty going free and the innocent going to prison.

This strike is about proposed fee cuts of between 17.5 and 30%. (Don’t forget, as well, the cuts that came in on 2 December 2013 of 47% to civil barrister fees.) Cuts of this level compare particularly unfavourably to the de facto cuts for the public sector workers, where pay rises have been tied to 1%.

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ECHRby Joseph Markus

This comment concerns two recent cases decided by the European Court of Human Rights. Those cases are Babar Ahmad and Others v the United Kingdom (2013) 56 EHRR 1, [2012] ECHR 609 and Vinter and Others v the United Kingdom [2013] ECHR 645. The second of these – Vinter – was decided by the Grand Chamber of the Court on 9 July following a hearing in November last year.

These two cases grapple with starkly similar issues, albeit there is one distinguishing feature. In Babar Ahmad, the applicants faced extradition; in Vinter they did not.

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Theresa-May_1716248cby Joseph Markus

In short, the answer has got to be no.

Theresa May – who is known for advocating withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights and from the jurisdiction of its court – is taking too much from what is really the limited significance of all this. What looks to be taking place is that she is using the deportation as a political football under the cover of the handy cross-party unity over whether it was – broadly defined – “a good thing”.

Let’s take each of her claims in turn.

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border2-thumbnailby Joseph Markus

Contrary to what the BBC has been reporting (it’s now fixed it), the High Court on Friday 5 July upheld claims that aspects of the new Immigration Rules – contained in an Appendix FM to the Rules – fell foul of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In particular, what Mr Justice Blake decided, in a long and detailed judgment, was that the range of new financial requirements for spouses coming to join their partners in the UK (who in this case were either refugees or British citizens) were more than was necessary for the legitimate end of managing migration.

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by Joseph Markus

A human right to wear a cross?

Today a Chamber of the Fourth Section of the European Court of Human Rights released its judgment in the much-anticipated cluster of cases, Eweida and Others v. the United Kingdom. These cases courted controversy in the domestic courts due to what many on both sides of the debate saw as an important and apparently irresoluble conflict between the rights to manifest religious belief and the rights to non-discrimination held by, in these cases, homosexual individuals. Put into legal terms: the cases were about the alleged conflict between the rights of the applicants under Articles 9 and 14 of the Convention and the rights of others (broadly speaking – though never explicitly defined as – falling under Articles 8 and 14).

Four applicants meant four distinct groups of facts, although a number of common threads.

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idsby Joseph Markus

Over the past few days much has been written seeking to predict the course of events in the New Year. Among the left-leaning columnists and writers, social security – a “war over benefits” – tops the list. That this is the case should not surprise anyone. This year will be the year when, for the first time, social security payments will fail to keep pace with the rising costs of living caused by inflation. We have also seen Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, unleashing splenetic attacks on the alleged overspending of the last Labour government, most recently in relation to tax credits. This is the same Mr Duncan Smith that believes in the Romney-esque mantra that the worst possible thing that society can do for the poor and out-of-work is to maintain their “dependency” on the state.

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commission_bruntland_25koby Joseph Markus

Ever since the early 1990s the international development consensus has fixed itself to the idea that development can be achieved alongside human rights. For even longer – at least since the Brundtland Commission report in 1987 – the development community has also essentially, though at times uncomfortably, embraced the parallel concept of “sustainable development”.

Unlike human rights, however, quite what sustainable development means in any given context is pretty unclear. Perhaps driven by the perception that human rights don’t need to challenge the prevailing political-economic consensus – while sustainable development could – we have had Millennium Development Goals addressing human rights since 2000 (along with one goal addressing sustainability that has been far from successful). Conversely the international community has only just got round to considering which Sustainable Development Goals it might like to see in writing, for the first time placing sustainability front and centre.

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