Read our brief summary of this week's top UK human rights news, from BIHR and beyond.

News from BIHR

We published our plain language survey on Human Rights Act reform

Want to have your say on the Government’s plans to “overhaul” the Human Rights Act but short on time? You can answer our plain-language survey and we’ll include your views in our response. There are tick-box questions as well as open text boxes where you can choose to share your opinions.

Click here to complete the survey.

Click here for an Easy Read version of the survey.

 

We met people with lived experience to help us design training for NHS staff

We’re working on a new project to provide training to NHS staff about upholding human rights in health and social care services. Because we want all of our work to be informed by people’s real experiences, we ran a workshop with people who have accessed NHS services to build their knowledge and confidence around human rights, and to find out from them what they think should be included in staff training.

On Thursday 17th January 2022, Human Rights Officer, Annie, met with a group of experts-by-experience to talk about what healthcare providers need to know about human rights.

Click here to find out more about our human-rights training.

We spoke to young people from Gypsy, Roma & Traveller communities about their rights

We also ran a virtual workshop in partnership with a charity supporting young people from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. We provided the group with practical information about UK human rights law protects them, with a focus on the right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence (Article 8), and the right to be free from discrimination (Article 14). We really enjoyed supporting the young people to know and use their rights, and they told us the workshop was “very informative” and “really engaging”.

News from elsewhere

The Welsh Parliament rejected the Nationality & Borders Bill

On Tuesday 15th February 2022, the Senedd (Welsh Parliament) voted to withdraw consent for the Nationality and Borders Bill. They said that the proposed changes to the way the age of children seeking asylum is assessed would interfere with Wales’ devolved powers.

Age assessments fall under social care, and social care laws are controlled by the Senedd rather than by the Westminster Government.

The Government has proposed introducing “scientific methods” of age assessments such as X-rays and body scans. However, organisations such as Refugee Council have raised concerns that such methods are “unproven”, ”deeply intrusive” and are “likely to lead to more children being incorrectly identified as adults”.

The Bill can still be passed without Wales’ consent.

Source: Morning Star

The first witnesses gave evidence at the Post Office inquiry

In 1990, the Post Office introduced a new computer system that turned out to be faulty. It looked like money was missing in Post Offices all around the country. Sub-postmasters (who run local Post Offices) told the Post Office that they thought the computer system was wrong, but the Post Office didn’t listen. Instead, it took over 700 sub-postmasters to court, claiming they were guilty of false accounting and theft. Some of sub-postmasters went to prison. Others were so worried about being accused of theft that they used their own money to try and balance the books.

Click here to listen to a BBC podcast series explaining the full story.

After realising the problem was with the computers and the sub-postmasters were innocent, the Government announced it would hold an independent inquiry into what had happened. This became a statutory inquiry in June 2021 under the Inquiries Act 2005. As part of the inquiry, some of the people affected will give evidence about the human impact of the errors.

On Monday 14th February 2022, Baljit Sethi was the first person to give oral evidence. He told the inquiry he and his wife “lost everything we ever had after 20-25 years and this was all thanks to the Post Office.”

Source: Sky News

Human Rights Watch discussed its recent report into child homelessness in London

Writing in The Big Issue on Wednesday 16th February 2022, Alex Firth of Human Rights Watch discussed the organisation’s recent report into the use of temporary accommodation to house families in London. Temporary accommodation is housing provided by local authorities to families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. It is supposed to be on a short-term basis but can often go on for months or even years if the local authority cannot find long-term housing. If a family refuses a house that the local authority says is suitable, they may not be offered anywhere else.

The report found evidence of dampness and lack of ventilation in temporary housing that can lead to toxic mould and health problems. It said, “the Building Research Establishment has estimated that the effects of poor-quality housing cost the National Health Service £1.4 billion per year to treat people.”

It also found “women, and in particular women of colour, are overrepresented within temporary accommodation”. It recommends that the right to housing should be made a human right in UK law and that the Government should conduct an inquiry into the current state of temporary accommodation.

Source: Human Rights Watch

The European Court of Human Rights dismissed a case challenging the inquest into the fatal shooting of a Northern Irish man by British soldiers

In 1990, during The Troubles, Martin McCaughey was shot and killed by British soldiers during a night-time surveillance operation. Martin was carrying an AK47 and wearing a balaclava at the time. In May 2012, an inquest found this was a lawful killing because the soldiers believed their lives were in danger.

In 2018, Martin’s sister, Sally Gribben, lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), stating that the Government did not meet their Article 2 duties to conduct a proper investigation into whether Martin’s right to life was breached. She argued that important evidence was missing.

On Thursday 17th February 2022, the ECtHR declared the case inadmissible because it is “manifestly ill-founded”. This means they will not hear the case because it does not think Sally has not provided enough evidence to suggest there has been a human rights breach.

Source: ECtHR