by Sarah Walker
The UK government and their sympathetic media would have you believe that current legal aid provisions allow unpopular members of our society to greedily grab what they can get, much like an unsupervised child at a pick ‘n’ mix. The truth is that this government is systematically dismantling a safeguard of access to justice that is essential if we are to ensure that the rights of vulnerable members of society are protected.
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.
By Sophie Goodrich
Ne me quitte pas
The debate on the UK’s membership to the EU has been raging this week prompted by indications from Prime Minister David Cameron that he would allow a public referendum on the issue and an opinion poll claiming a majority of Britons would support a withdrawal from the EU. Being a Brit living in Switzerland, effectively an island surrounded by the EU, the Alps provide an ideal place to briefly consider the types of issues which the UK may face if it chooses to withdraw from the EU.
By Kevin Smith
For a glorious, fleeting period spanning late elementary school and the early teenage years, the stylish response whenever objections were voiced regarding one’s playground conduct was to invite litigation.
Well… kind of. But not really. While the response “Oh yeah? So sue me!” was thrown around with casual off-handedness, it was of course a taunt. You don’t like it? So sue me. What are you going to do about it? I took your place at the lunch table? So sue me. I stole your snacks? So sue me. Pretty heady stuff, you’ll agree. Indeed, it’s hardly surprising that this flurry of prepubescent litigiousness was exciting enough to convince a few of those involved to pursue a professional career in the field.
by Stuart Withers
On Tuesday afternoon Theresa May, the Home Secretary, announced that she would block Gary McKinnon’s extradition request to the US. This is certainly joyous news and should be celebrated. But celebrated for what reason? The most alarming aspect about this decision is that in a period of less than two weeks two very starkly different results have occurred for the two highest profile extradition cases in the past decade. Both concerned extradition to the US, and only one extradition request was refused. Why is it that McKinnon’s case appears to be the antithesis of the terrorism cases of Abu Hamza, Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan? What has changed so significantly between the Secretary of State’s decision yesterday and the Home Office’s gleeful extradition rhetoric concerning the other case nearly two weeks ago? In a previous article Sarah Walker and I focussed on the challenges that extradition law faced in the aftermath of the recently extradited terrorist suspects. In light of that article, this one will pick up where we left off, looking at what has changed between now and then and whether McKinnon’s case has actually changed anything for the better.
by Stuart Withers and Sarah Walker
Friday night saw the final instalment in a series of the highest profile extradition cases in the past decade. After the High Court refused to grant permission for judicial review (official summary of judgment here) Abu Hamza, one of the most hated and reviled people in the UK, together with Babar Ahmad, Talha Ahsan and the less notorious Al Fawaz and Abdel Bary, were boarded onto planes at RAF Mildenhall bound for the US. According to the Home Office’s Twitter account they ‘ensured plans were in place so these men could be handed over within hours of the court’s decision.’ Their planes left the UK around midnight.
by Joseph Markus
Estimates put the global number of squatters at 1 billion – a squat in Barcelona
The Crown Prosecution Service confirmed last week that it had secured a first conviction under new legislation criminalising squatting in residential premises. As reported in the Guardian, Alex Haigh was sentenced following a guilty plea to the offence contained in section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. That Act, better known for its evisceration of public funding for legal services, changed the law to make squatting in residential premises a criminal, rather than a civil, issue.
The creation of any new criminal offence implies a number of things. The leading implication, however, is the suggestion that the conduct in question is best dealt with through the criminal law. In other words, usually both that it is a ‘bad thing’ to squat and should be punished and that it is an area of human behaviour in which criminalisation might have some deterrent force.
How did we arrive at this conclusion? It’s worth recounting quickly some of the justifications brought out by the Government.
By Alexander Green
Lubanga: given fourteen years
The answer to this question might seem obvious, but in the wake of the Lubanga Sentencing Decision, which saw a sentence of just fourteen years for the organiser of a child army, it is important to reflect on where international criminal justice is going and why. This is all the more important when one considers that Lubanga will end up serving a maximum of only eight years due to time already spent in custody. Compare this to the United Kingdom, where a convicted burglar can receive up to fourteen years inside. Is sending unnumbered children to war really an equivalent crime to robbing a house by night? Surely it cannot be, so why are we even bothering to sentence war criminals to jail if the punishment is so lax?
A complement to: Financial Suicide: Lessons From Economic Demography
By Alexander Green
In a recent article for this blog, Joshua Mellors highlighted the usefulness of economic demography in letting us know that:
“…if large portions of your population suddenly emigrate, or suicide rates markedly increase, it might be time for a Plan B.”
Now, as a lawyer, I am of a more vindictive and backwards looking sort. When the proverbial substance hits the fan I want to know who to blame and why. Mellors points to a study in the British Medical Journal, which indicates that around one thousand people in England have committed suicide as a result of the recession, due to a combination of rising unemployment and the devaluation of savings. Intuitively, it is clear who is to blame: those that made the choices giving rise to the conditions that prompted these unfortunate individuals to end their lives. This is commonly assumed to be politicians (by imposing austerity measures) and bankers (by prioritising short term profit over sustainability).
By Sam Hawke
Thousands are killed each year as they attempt to reach the shores of the European Union, amidst a forced migration crisis suffered by the global poor and tragically exacerbated by last years’ uprisings across the Arab world. This comes as the EU increasingly militarises its borders and spreads the reach of its enforcement system wider and deeper. But has the EU any right to defend its frontiers against those who demand a share of its privilege?