| Govt Anarchy: Every prisoner in Britain could sue for damages over voting ban!

Dominic Grieve: Every prisoner in Britain could sue for damages over voting ban ~ , Senior Political Correspondent, The Telegraph.

Dominic Grieve warns that every prisoner in Britain could sue for compensation at next election because they are being denied their ‘human right’ to vote.

Roll out new guidelines on juror contempt of court, says Attorney General


Tens of thousands of prisoners could be in line for compensation because they have been denied their ‘human right'” to vote, the Attorney General has warned.

Dominic Grieve warned that all 85,000 prisoners in England and Wales could lodge claims with the European Court of Human Rights if they are barred from vote at the next election, costing taxpayers more than £60 million.

He made the comments after the European court announced that it is reopening 2,281 cases involving British prisoners, despite having previously pledged to put them on hold

Mr Grieve said the government is writing to the court for an explanation of the decision which Conservative MPs described the move is “premature” and “disrespectful” of Parliament.

The Attorney General also said that ignoring the rulings of the European court on prisoner voting could lead to international “anarchy”.

In a legal battle dating back to 2004, the European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly ruled that a blanket ban on prisoner voting is incompatible with European law.

Ministers have proposed legislation which will offer MPs a range of options, including retaining the blanket ban. They are expected to vote overwhelmingly in favour of keeping the status quo.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister, previously vowed that inmates would not be given voting rights under his administration and has said that the idea of giving prisoners the vote makes him feel “physically sick”.

Mr Grieve yesterday appeared before a committee of MPs and peers which is drafting a bill on prisoner voting.

Crispin Blunt, a Conservative MP on the committee, said he had calculated that prisoners could sue the government for £60 million in damages.

Mr Grieve said: “The bill is clearly, if nothing is done about this, going to rise. It will start rising next year, and rise again in 2015.

“If every prisoner who is prevented from voting because there is no change in the law then there will be a very large number of claims.”

The ECHR has announced that it is reopening 2,281 prisoner voting cases which it had previously pledged to freeze while Britain prepares new legislation.

Mr Grieve said: “The United Kingdom government isn’t clear why the court has done that in view of the continuing process that is taking place here. We have written to the court to inquire of the court as to why these have currently been reactivated.”

Nick Gibb, the former education minister and chairman of the committee, said after the hearing: “I think it’s slightly disrespectful to the process and to the UK Parliament. I would be very concerned if a single penny was paid to prisoners.”

Mr Grieve admitted that international rules could be “irksome” but said it had been the “settled view” of British governments for centuries that they should meet their international obligations.

He said: “You can always withdraw from an obligation by leaving a treaty or denouncing it.

“But while you are adhering to it, it seems to me that one has to think very carefully about what the consequences are in deciding that you can cherry-pick the obligations that you are going to accept.

“Whilst it may be perfectly possible to disregard them you are creating a degree of anarchy in the international order that you are trying to promote.”

Earlier Thorbjorn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, told the committee that Britain would undermine the European Court of Human Rights if it took the “nuclear possibility” of ignoring the ruling.

He said: “The implications for the Council of Europe would be … that other countries will start to do the same and it will be the beginning of the weakening of the whole convention system.

“If one says that we can pick and choose the judgments that we want to execute, then others will say exactly the same and then this convention will be another convention, for instance like they have in the United Nations.

“They are very weak. They are there but there is no enforcement of the standards.”



| Will the US State Dept Condemn UK’s Attempt to Use ‘Terrorism’ Laws to Suppress Journalism?

Will the US State Dept Condemn UK’s Attempt to Use ‘Terrorism’ Laws to Suppress Journalism? ~ Trevor Timm, Freedom of the Press Foundation.

In a shocking court filing this week, the UK government accused journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda of “terrorism” for allegedly transporting leaked (and heavily encrypted) NSA documents from documentarian Laura Poitras in Germany to Greenwald in Brazil, on a journalistic mission paid for by the Guardian newspaper.

In a statement that should send chills down the spine of every reporter, the government made the unbelievable claim that merely publishing information that has nothing to do with violence still “falls within the definition of terrorism.”

“Additionally the disclosure, or threat of disclosure, is designed to influence a government and is made for the purpose of promoting a political or ideological cause. This therefore falls within the definition of terrorism…”

Think about the sheer breadth of that statement. Not only are several Guardian reporters and editors also guilty of engaging in “terrorism” under the UK government’s logic, but so are New York Times or Pro Publica journalists who have received the same news-worthy documents for publication. If publishing or threatening to publish information for the purpose “promoting a political or ideological cause” is “terrorism,” than the UK government can lock up every major newspaper editorial board that dares write any opinion that strays from the official government line.

No matter one’s opinion on the NSA, the entire public should be disturbed by this attack on journalism. In fact, this is exactly the type of attack on press freedom the US State Department regularly condemns in authoritarian countries, and we call on them to do the same in this case.

For example, in January 2012, in response to Ethiopia jailing award-winning journalist Eskinder Nega, the State Department expressed “concern that the application of anti-terrorism laws can sometimes undermine freedom of expression and independent media.” Again in June State Department released a statement saying, “The Ethiopian government has used the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to jail journalists and opposition party members for peacefully exercising their freedoms of expression and association.”

The 2012 State Department human rights report on Turkey criticizes the country for imprisoning “scores of journalists…most charged under antiterror laws or for connections to an illegal organization.”

In April 2013, the State Department cited Burundi for imprisoning radio journalist Hassan Ruvakuki and three of his colleagues for “acts of terrorism.”

Just last month, in response to respected Moroccan journalist Ali Anouzla being arrested under an anti-terror law for linking to a Youtube video, the State Department said, “We are concerned with the government of Morocco’s decision to charge Mr. Anouzla. We support freedom of expression and of the press, as we say all the time, universal rights that are an indispensable part of any society.”

As the Committee to Protect Journalists noted in their excellent report on the misuse of terror laws, “The number of journalists jailed worldwide hit 232 in 2012, 132 of whom were held on anti-terror or other national security charges. Both are records in the 22 years CPJ has documented imprisonments.”

Warping “terrorism” laws to suppress journalism is the hallmark of authoritarian regimes and deserves to be condemned by all. The Miranda case is a classic example of, as the State Department has put it, “misus[ing] terrorism laws to prosecute and imprison journalists.”

We call on the State Department to apply the same principle they’ve applied to these authoritarian regimes and condemn the UK for misusing its “terrorism” laws to suppress journalism and free expression.

Editor’s Note: Both Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras are founding board members of Freedom of the Press Foundation



| United Kingdom: Halt Attacks on Legal Aid!

United Kingdom: Halt Attacks on Legal Aid ~ Human Rights Watch.

Reconsider Restrictive Proposals; Ensure Access to Justice!


(London) – The United Kingdom government’s proposed legal aid changes would deny access to justice to the most vulnerable people in society and undermine the rule of law, Human Rights Watch said today.

A two-month consultation by the government on the proposed changes ended on June 4, 2013. “If the government is serious about consulting the public on these proposals, it should listen to the overwhelming concern about their negative impact on justice,” said Benjamin Ward, deputy director of the Europe and Central Asia division at Human Rights Watch. “The justice minister says the proposals are fair, but denying justice to those who need it the most is anything but.”

The proposed changes would:

  • Deny legal aid in civil cases to undocumented migrants and anyone who has been a legal resident for less than 12 months;
  • Introduce a price tendering system for legal aid in criminal cases that could deny defendants a choice of lawyer and replace specialist firms with large companies with little or no experience in this type of work;
  • Limit legal aid for people seeking to challenge government laws and policies through judicial review;
  • Deny prisoners legal aid to challenge their treatment in prison, requiring them instead to rely on internal prison complaint mechanisms.

The plans come on the back of large-scale cuts to legal aid for civil cases, which came into force in April. These cuts deny coverage in a wide range of areas such as housing, employment, immigration, and family law, although cases relating to issues such as asylum, domestic violence, child abuse, and immigration detention continue to be covered.

Justice Minister Chris Grayling has sought to justify the new proposals as a necessary cost-saving measure at a time of austerity. Grayling claims the proposals would save the country £220 million a year by 2018-2019, although it is unclear what that estimate is based on.

“These changes would undermine accountability and people’s ability to exercise their rights,” Ward said. “Whatever their impact on public spending, their damage to the rule of law is too high a price to pay.”

The proposed changes have drawn widespread criticism. More than 43,000 people have signed a petition to the justice minister opposing the cuts. The Law Society, which represents solicitors, has called the proposals “economically unworkable and possibly unlawful.” The chairman of the Bar Council has warned that the proposed changes will cause “irreversible damage” to the justice system. A former senior judge has said the reforms will be “absolutely devastating for the justice system as we know it,” and that “they will lead to many problems, certainly to miscarriages of justice.” Ninety senior barristers who specialize in judicial review have called on the government to withdraw those proposals, saying they would grant the government and other public authorities immunity from effective legal challenge.

One of the most controversial changes would be the price tendering system, awarding contracts to firms offering the lowest price, and denying clients any choice in who represents them. Under the proposals, cases could be allocated effectively at random instead of to lawyers with expertise in a particular issue. The proposed introduction of a residence test for civil legal aid is also very worrying, Human Rights Watch said. Under this requirement, only those who have lived in the country lawfully and continuously for at least 12 months at some stage in their life would be eligible. This would exclude many among the most vulnerable, including women fleeing from abuse and children who are victims of trafficking. British nationals who return from overseas and have not lived in the UK continuously for 12 months would also be affected.

In addition, those granted asylum would have to wait for 12 months before they could bring a new civil or family law case. Failed asylum seekers would be excluded from legal aid altogether, even if they cannot go back to their country because they would be at risk of torture or other ill-treatment there.

The proposal, says the government, would “ensure that legal aid would continue to be available where necessary to comply with obligations under EU [European Union] or international law.” In fact, EU and international law require the UK to ensure the right to an effective remedy, which is key in enabling people to enforce their human rights. If the UK makes these changes, it risks breaching these obligations, Human Rights Watch said.

The proposed changes would also significantly curb legal aid for judicial review. Under judicial review, people can challenge decisions by the government or public bodies that affect them. It allows people to hold the government to account.

Under the proposals, people seeking judicial review who do not satisfy the residence test would be ineligible for legal aid, as would be those seeking to challenge their treatment in prison. The proposals would also remove legal aid for “borderline cases,” in which it is not possible to determine whether they would have a 50 percent or more chance of success because of disputed law, fact, or expert evidence.

People seeking to bring complex cases, including those relating to a breach of their rights under the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and asylum cases would no longer be eligible for legal aid if they are considered “borderline.”

Those who are ineligible for legal aid will be left with the choice of representing themselves in complex proceedings against government-funded lawyers, or not bringing a case at all.

“The whole idea of legal aid is to make the system fairer for people who can’t afford to pay for representation, but the government’s proposals would do just the opposite” Ward said. “The government should listen to the objections and take them to heart.”

“If the government is serious about consulting the public on these proposals, it should listen to the overwhelming concern about their negative impact on justice. The justice minister says the proposals are fair, but denying justice to those who need it the most is anything but.”
Benjamin Ward, deputy director of the Europe and Central Asia division



Proposals to limit legal aid for judicial review will undermine the rule of law ~ The Telegraph.

QCs are concerned about the Ministry of Justice‘s plans to further restrict legal aid for judicial review.

SIR – The Government says that a fair justice system with “fair outcomes” is essential in our democratic society, and that legal aid is the “hallmark of a fair, open justice system”. In our justice system, judicial review is the means by which the courts restrain public bodies when they act unlawfully. Access to judicial review is therefore essential to the rule of law.

We are senior counsel who specialise in judicial review. We act for and against public bodies. We are gravely concerned that practical access to judicial review is now under threat. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 already severely limits legal aid for judicial review. The Government acknowledges that the scope for further savings is very small. Nevertheless, only eight days after LASPO came into force, the Ministry of Justice published proposals which would further remove legal aid for judicial review. These include refusing any legal aid to those who do not meet a residence test; refusing to pay lawyers in some cases for work reasonably and necessarily carried out; removing legal aid for complaints of mistreatment in prison; preventing small specialist public law firms from offering prison law advice; removing funding for test cases (whose prospects are by definition uncertain); and cutting rates for legal advice and representation still further.

The cumulative effect of these proposals will seriously undermine the rule of law, and Britain’s global reputation for justice. They are likely to drive conscientious and dedicated specialist public law practitioners and firms out of business. They will leave many of society’s most vulnerable people without access to any specialist legal advice and representation. In practice, these changes will immunise Government and other public authorities from effective legal challenge.

Abuses by UK agents and officials overseas that hitherto have been subject to the scrutiny of British courts will now, in practice attract impunity. People whose lives are affected by the unlawful action of public bodies will have no option but to try to represent themselves. Effective representation will be one-sided: the Government will continue to pay for, and be represented by specialist lawyers.

At the same time, the Ministry of Justice is proposing changes to criminal legal aid which will deny choice and effective representation to those accused of crimes, leading to a rapid and probably irreversible fall in standards of representation. We urge the Government to withdraw these unjust proposals.

Andrew Arden QC

Alex Bailin QC

Kieron Beal QC

Michael Beloff QC

Cherie Booth QC

Paul Bowen QC

Stanley Brodie QC

Paul Brown QC

Monica Carss-Frisk QC

John Cavanagh QC

Richard Clayton QC

Jason Coppel QC

Philip Coppel QC

Charles Cory-Wright QC

Stephen Cragg QC

Tom de la Mare QC

Marie Demetriou QC

Richard Drabble QC

Michael Fordham QC

Alison Foster QC

Danny Friedman QC

Neil Garnham QC

Nigel Giffin QC

Jonathan Glasson QC

Lord (Peter) Goldsmith QC

James Goudie QC

Richard Gordon QC

Eleanor Grey QC

Sam Grodzinski QC

Stephen Grosz QC

Philip Havers QC

Javan Herberg QC

Richard Hermer QC

Mark Hoskins QC

Raza Husain QC

Jeremy Johnson QC

Sean Jones QC

Philippa Kaufmann QC

Hugo Keith QC

Baroness (Helena) Kennedy QC

Tim Kerr QC

Julian B Knowles QC

James Laddie QC

Elisabeth Laing QC

Lord (Anthony) Lester QC

Natalie Lieven QC

Thomas Linden QC

Angus McCullough QC

Lord (Ken) MacDonald QC

Kate Markus (former Chair, Public Law Project)

James Maurici QC

Karon Monaghan QC

Clare Montgomery QC

Fenella Morris QC

Philip Moser QC

Tim Mould QC

Helen Mountfield QC

Gordon Nardell QC

Stephen Nathan QC

Aidan O’Neill QC

Tim Otty QC

Tim Owen QC

Lord (David) Pannick QC

Timothy Pitt-Payne QC

Tony Peto QC

Nigel Pleming QC

Jenni Richards QC

Aidan Robertson QC

Dinah Rose QC

Matthew Ryder QC

Pushpinder Saini QC

Professor Philippe Sands QC

Mark Shaw QC

Clive Sheldon QC

Jessica Simor QC

Kassie Smith QC

Hugh Southey QC

Daniel Stilitz QC

James Strachan QC

Timothy Straker QC

Jemima Stratford QC

Rhodri Thompson QC

Hugh Tomlinson QC

Stephen Tromans QC

Jon Turner QC

David Vaughan QC

Martin Westgate QC

Sean Wilken QC

Ian Wise QC

David Wolfe QC