The Shamima Begum affair has – inevitably – prompted another outing for those who want Britain’s treason laws updated and reinvigorated. There seems no particular law to deal with someone who leaves Britain to marry into Isis, so why not dust off the medieval notion of treason and make it apply to Begum and her ilk?
It is an error to think that the treason law has never been modernised since the original Statute of Treasons of 1351 (still on the Statute Books here). In fact over the centuries it was updated to protect particular English and British monarchs or to deal with particular threats as and when they came up, such was the dissent that accompanied the countries’ oft-changing regimes. This list counts nearly 100 statutes as Treason Acts, some reforming legislation such as the 2013 Succession to the Crown Act, which extends the protection to female heirs apparent, others intended to crack down on the latest threat. Continue reading
Filed under Analysis, Comment, Constitution, Criminal law, European Convention on Human Rights, History, Human rights, Law, Legal, Politics, UK Law, UK Politics, Uncategorized
Note: details of a potential “overhaul” of the Human Rights Act, clause by clause, appear below for those who prefer to get straight to the nitty gritty: “Conservative Rights and Obligations – point by point”
The 2022 Queen’s Speech has underlined the intention of the Secretary of State for Justice, Dominic Raab, to “reform” the UK Human Rights Act with a new British “Bill of Rights” (consultation document here).
It is likely that Raab will craft what he calls a distinctly British version of human rights that swings the legal regime subtly in favour of the executive and public bodies, albeit without seeking to withdraw from the broad obligations of the European Convention of Human Rights.
But whether the changes will be acceptable to the European Court of Human Rights is a moot point. If not, Raab will relish the fight, and will point outthat the court already accepts a “margin of appreciation” for the exercise of human rights in individual countries ie the idea that they might be affected by the history and constitutional outlooks of individual nations and hence are not homogenous across all signatories.
Filed under Constitution, Criminal law, Equal-opportunities, Human rights, Law, Legal, Politics, Public law, UK Constitution, UK Law, UK Politics, Uncategorized
A UK Parliamentary committee has issued further criticism of Home Secretary Theresa May’s attempts to get flawed British immigration rules accepted by the courts.
May placed 290 pages of immigration code of practice rules in the House of Lords in an apparent kneejerk reaction to the Alvi case where the rules were struck down by the Supreme Court (reported here).
The court took the view that the Home Office was trying to treat the code as law for the purpose of barring immigration and for deportations even though they had passed through no proper parliamentary procedure. The day after the case, on 19 July, May sought to gain some sort of parliamentary sanction for the code by placing it before the Lords – a few days before their summer recess (the House of Commons was no longer sitting).
The House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee has questioned this latest move on the grounds that the rules “may imperfectly achieve their policy objective”. Under the 1971 Immigration Act S.3(2) to count as legislation, such rules should lie in both Houses of Parliament for 40 days to allow parliamentarians to object or debate them if they wish – the so-called “negative procedure”.
A UK parliamentary committee has expressed concerns about the procedure used by Home Secretary Theresa May to give enhanced democratic credibility to tougher action on immigration.
Her new Immigration Rules have been presented to Parliament in a constitutionally innovative manner that may have no legal validity. This involved not simply passing the rules through the two Houses of Parliament by the traditional means for secondary legislation but having an additional debate (with no vote) in the House of Commons (but not the House of Lords) to assert the legal power of the Rules against the claims of international human rights law.
The intention behind the Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules (HC 194) was to use the debate “as a vehicle to gain Parliament’s endorsement of its approach to Article 8 of European Convention on Human Rights to assist the courts when deciding appeals on immigration matters”, noted the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee of the House of Lords. (Committee Report 4.3 pdf)
However, the committee implies that the procedure was of dubious validity and constitutionally unlikely to have the desired effect – to force judges to reduce their reliance on Article 8(1) when judging immigration and deportation cases.
The UK Supreme Court Julian Assange European Arrest Warrant case has been delayed for two weeks for new legal arguments to be put regarding the meaning of the UK legislation that enacted the EAW system. Those arguments may draw on the minority pro-Assange judgment of Lord Mance who made interesting use of the principle in Pepper v Hart  UKHL 3 (summarised below) – that judges may consult speeches in Parliament to establish the purpose or meaning of statutes.
The issue at stake is whether “judicial authority” (the words used in the 2003 Extradition Act) for the purpose of issuing the arrest warrants can include mere prosecuting authorities, as is the practice in some European countries.
Sweden’s prosecutors are seeking Assange’s arrest to question him on allegations of sexual offences. If UK law requires a court or judge to issue the warrants, then Sweden cannot have him. It is a question of how the words “judicial authority” are interpreted, and Mance cited parliamentary debate on the Extradition Bill in Hansard to suggest that MPs were clear in their minds that they were voting for judges and courts, not for prosecutors. Continue reading