This week’s news includes our Lunch & Learn Campaigning Workshops and a human rights claim over hospital waiting times. 

News from BIHR 

We hosted our second Lunch & Learn Campaigning Workshop 

Our Human Rights Officers, Annie and Lauren, are leading a series of 45-minute Lunch & Learn workshops for anyone who wants to help campaign to protect our Human Rights Act. On Wednesday 25th May, they led the second workshop which focused on the Government’s plans to replace our Act and why we’re concerned. Participants told us, “I've gained a better understanding. This highlights the necessity of winning the campaign.” 

Click here to sign up to the next workshop, which will cover sharing stories and getting involved. 

We asked some questions about the Human Rights Act Reform consultation

On the 8th March 2022, the Government closed its consultation on Human Rights Act Reform (not including the extension granted for those using accessible versions). On the 10th May 2022, the Government announced its plans to replace the Human Rights Act with a new Bill. That means that in 42 working days, they had to read and analyse all the submissions to come up with a plan!

That seemed like a lot of work to us, so we did some maths and worked out they'd have to have read 297 submissions a day! Check it out in our video.

We talked to clinical leads staff about human rights in practice 

As part of our work with public bodies and services, we met with clinical leads staff to talk about human rights in practice. We aim to work with decision-makers to integrate human rights into processes and policies to improve the experiences of people accessing services.   

We attended Human Rights Consortium Scotland’s webinar on the Queen’s Speech 

In the Queen’s Speech, the Government said its new Bill overhauling the Human Rights Act will apply across the UK – but has given little information about how they intend to make this work across the devolved nations. Our Human Rights Officer, Florence, attended a webinar hosted by Human Rights Consortium Scotland discussing issues with the plans for reform. 
Speakers from UK in a Changing Europe, Liberty, Human Rights Consortium Northern Ireland, Wales Governance Centre and Civil Society Alliance talked about the impact these plans will have on all our rights. Click here to read more about our key concerns with the reform. 

News from elsewhere 

Please be aware that the external human rights news BIHR shares weekly contains difficult and potentially triggering issues. This week triggers include cases concerning the police, the asylum system and medical care. 

The Metropolitan Police faces a legal challenge after officers strip-searched a mixed-race and autistic teenage girl 

The family of a mixed-race autistic girl, known as Olivia, has brought a civil case against the London Metropolitan Police after she was strip-searched in December 2020. 
Olivia, who was 15 at the time, was arrested following an argument with two boys who alleged they were victims of attempted knife-point robbery. Olivia’s mum spoke to police over the phone, explaining that Olivia was autistic, had learning difficulties and had a history of self-harm. 

Olivia gave the police a small blade that she said she used to self-harm. While changing to shower at the police station, another sharp stick fell from her clothes. She was then handcuffed by six officers and her underwear was cut off. She was strip-searched in the presence of male officers, despite being on her period at the time. 

Olivia’s mum said the experience has had a “devastating impact” on Olivia’s mental health. 

Source: BBC News 

Our former chair wrote about Human Rights Act Reform 

Geoffrey Bindman, former chair of BIHR, wrote in Guardian Letters about the Government’s plans to replace the Human Rights Act. He asked, “Why persist with a change that would only weaken the public’s right to challenge abuse?” and urged Downing Street to “admit its mistake and withdraw the threat.” 

Source: The Guardian 

Freedom From Torture sent a pre-action letter to the Home Office over the Rwanda policy

Freedom From Torture has sent a pre-action letter to the Home Office about its plans to send people seeking asylum to Rwanda. A pre-action letter is one sent in an attempt to resolve an issue before court proceedings begin.  

The letter says the Home Office’s conclusion that Rwanda is a generally safe third country is “irrational” and that its plans could result in human rights breaches. It also says the Home Office is not meeting its obligations under the Refugee Convention – an agreement signed by the UK among other United Nations member countries to protect the rights of people seeking asylum. 

Freedom From Torture has asked for assurance that no-one will be sent to Rwanda until the Home Office replies to its letter. 

Source: The Independent 

Greater Manchester Police settled a compensation claim with nurses fined for protesting during the Covid-19 lockdowns

In March 2021, nurse Karen Reissmann organised a protest against the Government’s proposed 1% pay-rise for NHS workers. She was told by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) that it could not go ahead because it breached Covid regulations. Karen was fined £10,000. Patricia Gallagher, another nurse and protestor, was arrested and fined £200. 

On Wednesday 25th May 2022, GMP withdrew the fines, admitting that they (and Patricia’s arrest) were unlawful. As explained by Karen and Patricia’s solicitor, “the Covid-19 regulations did not introduce a blanket ban on protest; protest is an important right in a functioning democracy and constituted a ‘reasonable excuse’ for gatherings.” The right to protest is protected under Articles 10 and 11 of the Human Rights Act. 

Source: Bindmans 

Two Northern Irish women have brought a claim against the Department of Health for long hospital wait times  

May Kitchen was diagnosed with cataracts in 2015 but was told the waiting list for surgery was 42 months, so she ended up getting private treatment. Eileen Wilson has been trying to get an urgent appointment about suspected multiple sclerosis since June 2017. Together, they have brought a claim against the Department of Health and Belfast and South Eastern Health and Social Care Trusts over the long waiting times. 

They claim the failure to provide necessary medical care in a reasonable time is a breach of the Article 8 right to private and family life protected by the Human Rights Act. The hearing is ongoing, with the judge saying that although the court cannot interfere with policy matters, it may declare the situation unlawful or that “a plan should be put in place”. 

Source: Irish News