28 January 2022

BIHR’s round-up of the week's top human rights news, from BIHR and beyond.

News from BIHR

We asked the experts about the Government’s planned Human Rights Act reform

On Wednesday 26th January, we hosted an online event giving individuals and organisations the opportunity to ask experts from across all four nations questions about the Government’s planned Human Rights Act reform.

We heard from distinguished speakers including:

  • Martha Spurrier, Director of Liberty
  • Professor Francesca Klug OBE, Visiting Professor at LSE Human Rights and an Academic Expert at Doughty Street Chambers.
  • Charli Clement, Lived Experience Expert Consultant at BIHR
  • Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Director of the Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association
  • Mhairi Snowden, Director of Human Rights Consortium Scotland
  • Brian Gormally, Director of the Committee on the Administration of Justice

Thank you so much to all who attended! We’ll be sharing a recap and clips from the event soon.

Our next event will be on Monday 31st January from 4.30pm to 5pm and will be hosted by our Human Rights Officers. They’ll explain what’s happening, why it matters and what we can do together.

Click here to save your space and find more resources about the reform.

We held an open-access workshop on human rights in CAMHS units

On Tuesday 25th January, our Human Rights Officer and Lived Experience Expert Consultant hosted an online workshop for children and young people accessing Children and Young People’s Mental Health Inpatient Services and those supporting them.

We received great feedback from our participants, with one saying: “it was a whistle-stop tour of human rights with very knowledgeable trainers and practical ways of using the HRA to support & advocate for young people and help improve their rights, particularly in care settings.”

Our next events will be on Thursday 10th March, Monday 16th May and Wednesday 13th July.

Click here for details and to sign up.

We’re partnering with the Scottish Recovery Consortium on a new project

BIHR are working with the Scottish Recovery Consortium (SRC) to co-develop an exciting 5-day Rights in Recovery Leadership Programme to advance awareness on rights-based addiction recovery in Scotland. The Programme will consider human rights frameworks in Scotland, and how they apply to people in all stages of recovery.

Click here to read more about the project.

We joined the National Union of Journalists to talk about reporting on the Human Rights Act

On Wednesday 27th January, our Head of Policy & Programmes, Carlyn Miller, spoke to attendees at the National Union of Journalists’ webinar about how the Human Rights Act operates and why it matters. Her top tips to the journalists included using the Act to hold the state to account; telling stories of how the Act is used in everyday life; and talking about human rights law, not principles or values.

Click here to read our live tweets from the event.


News from elsewhere

The Constitution Unit released its findings on public attitudes to democracy in the UK

On Tuesday 25th January, UCL released a report setting out the findings of its survey of public attitudes to democracy in the UK. The report found that “most people showed notably higher support for judicial interventions than is often supposed”. Where there are disputes between government and parliament over legal authority on a matter, “more people thought that judges should [decide] than the combined total saying…ministers or…politicians.”

Source: UCL

Environmental activist awarded compensation in the landmark “spycops” case

In 2018, Kate Wilson brought a case against the police after she was deceived into a long-term relationship with undercover officer, Mark Kennedy. In September 2021, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal found the police had violated Ms Wilson’s Article 3 right to be free from inhumane and degrading treatment and her Article 8 right to private and family life. It also ruled that the disproportionate impact of allowing undercover officers to enter sexual relationships on women breached the Article 14 right to be free from discrimination. On 24 January 2022, the Tribunal awarded Ms Wilson approximately £230,000 in compensation.

Source: The Independent

The Equality and Human Rights Commission released its consultation response on banning conversion therapy

On Wednesday 26 January, the Equalities & Human Rights Commission released its response to the Government’s consultation on banning conversion therapy. The response states that “some of the more extreme forms of conversion therapy involving violent acts” could amount to breaches of the Article 3 right to be free from torture or inhuman or degrading treatment. The response also recommended the Government produces a Human Rights Memorandum explaining how new legislation will balance the rights to private life, freedom of thought and religion, and freedom of expression.

Source: EHRC

The Met Police issued an apology to a lecturer for “sexist, derogatory and unacceptable language” used by officers who strip-searched her

On Monday 24th January, the Guardian published footage of offers using “sexist, derogatory and unacceptable language” after strip-searching Dr Konstancja Duff. Dr Duff was “held down on the floor and [had] her clothes cut off” after “trying to hand a legal advice card to a 15-year-old caught in a stop-and-search sweep in Hackney”. Dr Duff pursued a claim under Article 3 of the Human Rights Act – the right to be free from inhumane and degrading treatment. The police issued an apology and a compensation payment, and Dr Duff stated accepting this offer was her “only viable option” because of the prohibitive costs of taking the case to trial.

Source: The Guardian

Inquest finds inadequate communication among mental health staff contributed to the death of a 22-year-old patient

On Thursday 27th January, a jury inquest found that failings by Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust contributed to the death of 22-year-old patient, Zoe Wilson. Ms Wilson died by suicide while accessing inpatient services in June 2019. The reported failings included an insufficient risk assessment and a lack of communication between staff.

Source: BBC News

Three asylum-seekers have brought a case against the Home Office for their policy of seizing phones

On Tuesday 25th January, three asylum-seekers brought a judicial review case to the High Court regarding the Home Office’s policy of seizing phones on arrival. They state that many individuals were “bullied” into giving officials their PIN numbers and had to wait months to retrieve their phones, being told to call a number that was “never answered”. They claim the policy breaches human rights and data protection laws.

Source: The Guardian