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Archive for the ‘Human Rights Law’ Category

Court Reviews Income Barrier for Foreign Spouses

February 21, 2017 by Kelly No Comments »

A controversial income threshold, which serves as a barrier preventing people from bringing their foreign-born spouses to the UK, is under review by the Supreme Court. It is now up to the court to rule on whether or not this financial obstacle is legally tenable.

The barrier affects couples where one partner is a UK national and the other originates from outside the European Economic Area (EEA). A minimum income threshold must be met before the UK partner can bring their foreign spouse into the country. Unless they qualify on other grounds, the foreign partner can only come to the UK if they are married to a British citizen who earns at least £18,600 a year, a figure which has been in effect since 2012. If there is a child involved and that child does not hold British citizenship, the threshold is increased to a minimum of £22,400. For any additional children, a further £2,400 per child is added to the minimum income required.

There have been a number of criticisms levelled against this rule. Campaigners claim that it unfairly prevents thousands of couples from living together and having a normal family life, and has separated around 15,000 children from their parents. Critics also say that it is a law that unfairly targets poorer people by making the right to bring the person they love and have married to the UK a privilege reserved for people who earn a certain amount of money. The fact that some kinds of income are also excluded from the calculation has also attracted controversy, with some couples who do meet the income threshold still being unable to live together in the UK.

The rule was brought in by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government that preceded the current, Conservative government. At the time of the threshold’s introduction, the government claimed that it was to prevent foreign-born spouses of British people from becoming dependant on UK taxpayer money. Before the introduction of a firm minimum income threshold, there was a vaguer requirement that the couple demonstrate they would be able to reasonably support themselves.

Yet further criticism has stemmed from the fact that the threshold takes into account only the UK-born partner’s earnings. While the rules are ostensibly to prevent foreign nationals from becoming a drain on UK resources after marrying British nationals, the right to settle will be refused to high-qualified individuals who already earn well above the minimum themselves if their UK partner’s income does not meet the threshold in isolation.

A challenge against these rules was initially upheld at the High Court, which described the system as “onerous and unjustified” in a 2013 ruling. However, this decision was later overturned by the Court of Appeal, leading the matter to come to the Supreme Court which is now set to make a final decision.


Legal Professionals Call for Better Protection From State Surveillance

January 20, 2015 by Kelly No Comments »

Two major professional bodies in the legal industry, the Bar Council and the Law Society, have joined forces with organisations that represent those in industries such as journalism and social work to call for reform in areas of law dealing with the concept of surveillance. In particular, the collection of organisations is calling for better protections to be introduced against surveillance by the state.

The organisations have formed a coalition under the name Professionals for Information privacy. As well as the two legal industry bodies, this coalition includes the National union of Journalists and the British Association of Social Workers.

Yesterday, this coalition released a statement in which they called for stricter controls on the monitoring of communications between professionals and their clientele by state bodies. In this statement, the coalition claims that the current laws dealing with issues of surveillance are “complex and confusing and have been laid down in numerous, badly drafted pieces of legislation, codes and guidance.”

The statement claims that there have been too many instances of legislation dealing with data, communications and surveillance issues being hurried through parliament under the banner of emergency legislation. The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 is cited as the most recent example of this. Passing so much legislation in this rushed manner has, the coalition says, “undermined parliamentary scrutiny and democratic debate.”

The timing of the statement was pointed, as it coincided with the last day for responses to a major government consultation dealing with this aspect of law. Specifically, the government has been consulting on the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) and the codes of practice that are contained therein.

In their statement, the coalition says: “we have come together to call for the existing problems to be addressed in the various reviews still underway.” The organisations that make up the coalition are calling for access to the data held by professionals about their clients should benefit from legal protection, and that there should be oversight for this from independent judicial bodies. The coalition feels that “using codes of practice – such as the draft code under RIPA – undermines the rule of law.”

President of the Law Society Andrew Caplen emphasised the importance of clients being able to completely trust legal professionals and deal with them in confidence. If this is not the case, he said, “the rule of law and the administration of justice are undermined,” in a society where the innocent rely on legal advice for protection and businesses rely on legal advice to “[oil] the wheels of commerce.”


US “Pick up Artist” Denied Entry to UK

November 20, 2014 by Kelly No Comments »

Following a large-scale campaign and a petition amassing over 150,000 signatures, the government has decided to bar controversial US “pick up artist” Julien Blanc from entering the UK in order to hold seminars. In his seminars, Blanc teaches men how to seduce and bed women using tactics which many people have lambasted as abusive.

One Liberal Democrat MP who opposed the idea of allowing Blanc and his company Real Social Dynamics to hold seminars in the UK described some of the statements made by Blanc as “sexist and utterly abhorrent.” Lynne Featherstone,  Minister of State for the Home Office and MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, went on to say that “if [blanc] was allowed to perform in the UK I have no doubt that cases of sexual harassment and intimidation would increase.”

Blanc’s controversial teachings encourage men to play on women’s insecurities in order to persuade them into sex. Blanc has also drawn particular attention for one seminar where, talking about “picking up” women in Tokyo he said that white men could “do what they want” and said he was “romping through the street just grabbing girls, just like, head… on the dick.” This was accompanied by a video of him literally grabbing women on the street and pushing their heads towards his groin. There is now a campaign in Japan to keep him from returning, much like that recently seen in the UK.

Perhaps most shockingly of all, Blanc has even advocated intimidation and physical choking as a “seduction” tactic. He has gone so far as to share multiple photographs of himself choking women as part of his “pick up” efforts. This has inspired Twitter users to highlight such photographs, originally shared by Blanc himself, with the hashtag #ChokingGirlsAroundtheWorld.

In a similar vein, he linked to a chart from his Twitter account that depicted signs of domestic abuse. The chart (pictured right), which was not created by Blanc and was intended to help people identify abusive relationships, included acts of sexual and physical violence along with coercive and threatening behaviour and methods of emotional manipulation, including threats using children. Blanc said that the chart “may as well be a checklist” followed by the hashtag #HowToMakeHerStay.

It is within the Home Secretary’s powers to exclude an individual from the country if allowing them to enter the country would not be “conducive to the public good.” It was on these grounds that the decision was made to deny Blanc a visa to enter the UK and hold his seminars here. This followed similar decisions from other countries such as Australia, as the seminars were intended to form part of an international tour.

On US television station CNN Blanc said “I just want to apologize, you know, to anybody I’ve offended in any way.”


ECHR Condemns UK Newspapers for Misleading Reports

October 20, 2013 by admin No Comments »

British newspapers are on the fray as the European Commission on Human Rights accused them of publishing misleading reports. The ECHR emailed a statement to reporters that it was concerned about the “frequent misinterpretation” of the ECHR’s activities in UK newspapers.

Compensation and Costs

The ECHR pointed out that the press service had taken a “serious misinterpretation” of many variables in the statement. For example, one scenario had one UK newspaper report that Human Rights judges had awarded 202 criminals with taxpayer money amounting to £4.4 million, which means they are given £22,000 for compensation. However, the true amount is only within £1.7 million.

According to the ECHR, the newspapers’ failure to distinguish between compensation and costs, and making the common error of combining the two, creates an impression that people were awarded more than they were actually due. Some newspapers were also accused of writing the sums as if it were for the applicants’ sole benefit.

Most newspapers label even the costs to be part of the compensation of an applicant. Why the amounts of costs and expenses were higher than compensation is because legal fees are very high in the United Kingdom.

Not Even Legal Experts

Erik Friberg, the registrar of the ECHR, said that many newspapers in the United Kingdom had portrayed ECHR judges as “not even legal experts”. Because of the UK media’s interpretation of the judges’ activities, they appear to have a distorted picture of the court’s decisions and the statement they made is a first attempt to correct the situation.

Friberg said that judges were primarily concerned with reporters who had failed to see the proper summaries for their conclusions with the court’s press office and never even bothered to seek a response from the ECHR representatives itself.

Misinterpretation is very common among journalists, but it is often corrected with proper sources. Because courts are “closed”, most media journalists only depend on press duties the courts provide. However, the proper separation of terminologies and the right impression of language and wording is what ECHR is worried about.

However, the ECHR’s complaint is timely as the UK media is set to bring about a human right’s challenge against the UK government for the impending press regulation plans.


US and UK Drones under Investigation by UN

January 23, 2013 by admin No Comments »

The controversial use of unmanned attack drones in war zones across the world has come under intense scrutiny, with the United Nations announcing it is to look closely at the use of the machines in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The investigation will be into both US and UK drones, which it is claimed have inflicted casualties on civilians in many attacks. The unmanned drones are remotely controlled, and many see them as the future of aerial warfare.

The UN has selected between 20 or 30 strikes to examine in detail, and will focus on possible civilian casualties with a view to the severity and ability to avoid such. This is a serious blow to the military which has long maintained that unmanned drones are accurate, and pointed to the fact they do not endanger the life of a pilot in carrying out necessary strategic raids.

Justified Strikes

Both the US and the IK military have called strikes with drones ‘justified’, and are keen to highlight how the technology can be used quickly and efficiently without endangering the lives of servicemen. However, it is with the alleged civilian casualties that the enquiry is concerned, and it is on this that the investigation will focus. The work will be carried out under the guidance of Ben Emmerson, QC, who had the following to say:

“One of the fundamental questions is whether aerial targeting using drones is an appropriate method of conflict … where the individuals are embedded in a local community. One of the questions we will be looking at is whether, given the local demography, aerial attacks carry too high a risk of a disproportionate number of civilian casualties. The explosion of drone technology [raises the question whether] the military dependence on UAVs carries an unacceptably high risk of civilian casualties.”


PM Backs Gay Marriage in Church

December 7, 2012 by admin No Comments »

Despite continued opposition from many Tory MP’s, Prime Minister David Cameron has stated that legislation to allow same-sex couples to marry in church should be put in place. MP’s are understood to be given a free vote on the subject, with the results to be revealed next week. Many MP’s are against the move, but Mr Cameron has said he does not want gay people to be ‘excluded from a great institution’. He also said that nobody would be forced to carry out such ceremonies.

Cameron a ‘Massive Supporter’

In a speech Mr Cameron clearly outlined his support for church-based gay marriages, but it is yet to be seen how the upcoming vote will like. He said:

“I’m a massive supporter of marriage and I don’t want gay people to be excluded from a great institution. But let me be absolutely 100% clear: if there is any church or any synagogue or any mosque that doesn’t want to have a gay marriage it will not, absolutely must not, be forced to hold it. That is absolutely clear in the legislation. Also let me make clear, this is a free vote for Members of Parliament, but personally I will be supporting it.”

Controversy Continues

A previous consultation with MP’s decreed that to allow same-sex marriages in church would go against the tenets of the Christian religion. Many MP’s still remain convinced this is so. It would appear that there is little opposition to the already-permitted civil partnerships, but that actual marriage, using the traditional ceremony, in churches is not seen as permissible by many. Some argue that such legislation would force churches to carry out same-sex marriages against their will, and it remains to be seen just how Mr Cameron intends to overcome this particularly thorny issue.


Homeowners can use ‘Lethal Force’

October 12, 2012 by admin No Comments »

In a landmark move this week the government in the UK has stated it will change the laws surrounding the right to protect property. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has announced that it will be permissible to use ‘disproportionate force’ when confronting intruders in the home. However, the news has been greeted with concern as to what amounts to ‘grossly disproportionate force’ which will, as such, remain outlawed.

Stabbing a Burglar

It has been suggested that a homeowner could be allowed to stab a burglar he or she confronts in the house; however, if the burglar is already disarmed and injured, further force may be regarded as ‘grossly disproportionate’ and the homeowner charged. While the new laws are to be welcomed as being in favour of the householder there is still plenty of detail to be discussed and lines to be drawn. Shotguns, if licensed, are also expected to be permissible.

Prime Minister Burgled

When pressed on the details of the new laws Prime Minister David Cameron resorted to relating a personal anecdote:

‘I’ve been burgled a couple of times when I lived in London, in North Kensington. There was one occasion when I left the keys in my car and they loaded up my Skoda and drove off. It is a horrible feeling when your house has been invaded.’

The lasting memory from that quote will be of the PM driving a Skoda.

Plan Attacked

Despite it being clearly aimed at giving homeowners more right to protect their property the plan has been attacked by civil liberties groups who fear that frightened householders may panic and overstep the mark, thus finding themselves on the wrong side of the law. We await more detail on this confusing yet interesting potential legal change, and wait to see how it actually affects the homeowner in the long run.