A transgender woman has failed in her claim that the Gender Recognition Act 2004 breaches the privacy of those who have had surgery or other medical procedures towards gender reassignment. Section 3(3) of the Act requires that individuals reveal details of such medical procedures to a Gender Recognition Panel to back up an application for a Gender Recognition Certificate. Yet the Panel is empowered to issue the certificates to people who have had no such procedures as long as they can provide evidence of gender dysphoria and show they intend to live according to their chosen gender for the rest of their life.
A UK High Court judge rejected the claim by Helen Carpenter, who has transitioned from male to female, that the extra burden on those who had had or were contemplating medical procedures was a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights on privacy.
Section 3(3) of the GRA 2014 says that if the applicant for a certificate “has undergone or is undergoing treatment for the purpose of modifying sexual characteristics” or plans such treatment or has had it prescribed then it is required that a doctor’s report on her position “provides details of it”. Mrs Justice Thirlwall said: “Given that this information is necessary to the decision to be taken, that its dissemination beyond the Panel is prohibited, I am satisfied that the provision of the information required in paragraph 3(3) is necessary and proportionate to the legitimate aim. There is no incompatibility with Article 8.”
Filed under Analysis, Comment, ECHR, Equal-opportunities, Equality, European Convention on Human Rights, Human rights, Law, Legal, Politics, UK Law, UK Politics, Uncategorized
Does Britain need a new Bill of Rights? This is a question that very quickly becomes a different question: “Should the state impose wider obligations on its citizens – broader than those set out in general law?”
The answer to these questions, according to Conservative voices pressing for a “United Kingdom Bill of Rights and Responsibilities” is “Yes” – but only as long as the second question is answered “Yes” first. Rights, it is said, must be balanced by obligations to the extent that, arguably, they cease to be “rights” at all. Instead they become citizenship privileges, accessible only to those who meet certain criteria of moral goodness.
The Conservative Party is shortly to publish its UK Bill of Rights, a new constitutional “settlement” that it is said will “detoxify” the human rights issue. [NB: as of early 2016 this hasn’t happened yet]
It is therefore worth looking at an earlier attempt to create a Conservative Bill of Rights – the private member’s Bill promoted by lawyer Charlie Elphicke in 2012. Human Rights Act 1998 (Repeal and Substitution) Bill – publications pdf
This could be the basis of the new official Tory version (Elphicke is on the committee working on the document) – and it is rather revealing. Not only does it seek to dismiss the influence of the European Court of Human Rights in British courts, it creates a utopian vision of a Conservative society in which the people are required to measure up to standards set by the State and the State can, in certain circumstances, avoid human rights obligations to the people. Those rights become contingent rather than absolute.
This new concept of a Bill of Rights is far from the original 1689 version – a set of rights and protections that the people had against the Executive (ie the Government or at that time the Monarch). But it illustrates the problem with many such attempts to write down the constitutional underpinnings of any state – that they say a lot about current political obsessions rather than take an objective view of the likely developing needs of a particular nation.
The intention of the Conservative version, based on what we know of Elphicke’s, is to select a series of items that constitute “British values” – values that will be resistent to the claims of “human rights” made by individuals against the State and its offshoots. We return to this issue below (see “Moral obligations”) but first must look at the Elphicke view of the rule of law.
Filed under Constitution, Criminal law, Equal-opportunities, Human rights, Law, Legal, Politics, Public law, UK Constitution, UK Law, UK Politics, Uncategorized
Amendments to the 2005 Act are set out in full below
The Crime and Courts Bill 2012 has important amendments to Britain’s Constitutional Reform Act 2005 that reduce the independence from the Government of judicial appointments.
In particular the Secretary of State for Justice (aka Lord Chancellor), currently Kenneth Clarke, is to sit on the appointment panel for the President of the Supreme Court (while the sitting president would be removed) and Lord Chief Justice; whole sections on judicial appointments procedure are removed from the 2005 Act; powers to decide how to replace those sections are given to the Secretary of State (quasi-Henry VIII powers); as are powers to decide the make-up of the Judicial Appointments Commission (with a view to increasing the proportion of lay members compared with judicial members).
It is intended that the 12 UK Supreme Court justices should become a “maximum” of 12 (or full-time equivalents) with the Secretary of State deciding exactly what number is required.
There are also amendments intended to increase diversity such as provision for part-time judicial posts and a “tipping point” provision whereby diversity requirements can come into play if two judicial candidates are deemed of equal merit.
The changes are in Schedule 12 to the Bill. Since it is often difficult to read back to the original Act on the basis of amendments, Thinking Legally has stitched together the relevant sections of the 2005 Act with the amendments in the Crime and Courts Bill regarding judicial appointments and also diversity. Continue reading