Northern Ireland abortion refugees: Supreme Court — UK Human Rights Blog

R (o.t.a A and B) v. Department of Health [2017] UKSC 41, 14 June 2017 – judgment here. Sometimes The Law comes to the rescue. And by this I do not mean constitutional law versus populism or the rule of law versus raw-knuckled fighting. It just happens that, occasionally, litigation drawn from ordinary life encapsulates more political […]

via Northern Ireland abortion refugees: Supreme Court — UK Human Rights Blog

Prank, boredom or tardiness?

Yesterday, I found this note under my door. Is this a prank, evidence of boredom (komkommertijd bij de Engelse politie?) or does this inquiry relate to when I was attacked in July 2007?

Hint: I added two letters to the note.

I think it is a prank. First of all, the police forces here are stretched thin in many ways and the officers don’t have the time to go around inquiring randomly whether persons are fine. That makes no sense.

Also, it just so happens that I stopped by at the police station only a few days ago, with my passport, to inquire about something in relation to an e-mail I’d had from my home country and everything was fine.

Yes, I was attacked by five lads in July 2007, in an incident similar to two others that had just cost the lives of two Britons. (Thankfully, I didn’t know that at the time of the attack; a Briton in my home country later e-mailed me about it.) Local police (Hampshire Police) showed zero interest in what had transpired at the time, which is rather odd in view of the fact that they must have been aware of the other incidents. Or…?

It is hard to imagine them showing up 10 years later!

A while after the attack back then, via the Old Bailey, I got in touch with the widow of one of the other victims, which was probably good for both of us. After all, I merely had a mild concussion – two stones hit my head – and never lost consciousness so I was relatively fine. (I sustained a serious concussion in my teens as a result of two blows to my head during a traffic accident and those knocked me out good. I was carted off by ambulance then, so I knew it wasn’t as bad as that.)

When I found the lads sitting on a wall in front of my home a few days later, I called police in a bit of a panic, but then too, police, well, I guess were completely unaware of the other two incidents that had happened and cost lives? It is the only explanation that makes sense.

So, no, Hampshire Police officers don’t go around inquiring whether people are well, not even after a serious attack, and I am not on a first-name basis with anyone called William either.

So it must be another prank, from anonymous neighborhood folks. I get pranked a lot.

Foreign criminals’ deportation scheme ruled unlawful — UK Human Rights Blog

R (Kiarie) v Secretary of State for the Home Department; R (Byndloss) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2017] UKSC 42 In a nutshell The Government’s flagship scheme to deport foreign criminals first and hear their appeals later was ruled by the Supreme Court to be incompatible with the appellants’ right to respect for […]

via Foreign criminals’ deportation scheme ruled unlawful — UK Human Rights Blog

Human rights for just a few, that’s discrimination. Human rights apply to all human beings.

It has just been the 6th anniversary of an important human rights case, that of Mark and Steven Neary. Steven, who is autistic, was detained in local authority care for over a year before his dad used the Human Rights Act to get him home. RightsInfo has made a powerful short film to mark the […]

via A powerful new human rights film  — UK Human Rights Blog

Abortion

Writing the first edition of my essay “We need to talk about this” – the second edition is in the works – forced me to think about issues I had never thought about before in great depth and I had to leave many of them untouched at the time.

For example, I am a feminist and I have always believed in a woman’s right to abortion. While I was considering how we could regulate the new eugenics, I ran into boundaries. It included having to think about how to fit abortion into the topic. That was a significant hurdle.

I was no longer able to say “of course women should be able to have abortions” – which I had always done in the past – but had to think about why and when they should, regardless of my own personal feelings. Because what I was writing about selecting pre-embryos and fetuses clashed with the general ideas that I had always entertained about abortion but had never examined in detail.

Legislation and protocols can sound very cold to people, but it’s not enough to just state something like “we think this is very very good” or “we think this is very bad”. That wouldn’t work in practice. If you want to make sure legislation is solid and leaves little room for abuse (deliberate misinterpretation), you end up with language that can come across as heartless. But that does not mean that the legislation (or protocol) is heartless or that the people who wrote it are!

It can be difficult to get that across, I have seen in various online comments (on for example the Groningen Protocol). It works the same way for traffic rules or rules for building skyscrapers. The law can’t just say something vague like “drivers should be careful” and “buildings should be safe” and leave it at that.

When Obamacare was introduced, a staunch Republican (and stauncher Libertarian) wrote to me that it was ridiculous that its legislation was taking up more than 2,000 pages or something like that. (Who would ever read that?)

I replied to him that I knew a jurist who works in precisely that area in the Netherlands and explained what that kind of legislation has to include. Fortunately, he listened to that explanation.

Unfortunately, I have found that even people who see themselves as the voice of reason (and sometimes as having absolute wisdom, too) aren’t always willing to listen to what someone “from the other side” is saying.

A certain brand of callousness

In my essay “We need to talk about this” I mention that I have on occasion been shocked by a certain brand of callousness that I have seen (too) often in Britain (both in the media and in real life). Here is one example of what I mean.

 

You can only justify such occurrences by applying a tweaked form of utilitarian reasoning. One person was suffering, but “wasn’t really harmed” and the number of people who were enjoying what was being done to George Cheese was greater than 1, hence these occurrences “increased overall happiness”.

The fact that utilitarianism was associated with the higher classes may have given this type of reasoning or events an unfortunate aura of “cleverness”. It could also explain why anyone who condemns the sort of things that were being done to George Cheese is seen by some as “naïve” and “not quite with it”.

Utilitarianism also attached little importance to individual persons’ rights. It would have stopped short from, say, stabbing someone like George Cheese as opposed to setting his clothes on fire and stuffing him into the trunk/boot of a car. This is the kind of background, I think, that enabled Simon Wright to say “It did not go too far.”

In reality, abuse targets like George don’t get to LIVE. All they are allowed to do is wait for their natural deaths. George Cheese said “FUCK THAT!” and stood up for himself in the only way he had left.

At least there is an inquest. That’s good.

 

 

The Charlie Gard case

Ouch.

I ran into the story a while ago, and couldn’t find too much information about it back then. However, the parents have just been turned down by the next court and now apparently plan to take the case to the Supreme Court. That’s resulted in more attention for the story, with more background.

Here are two places where you can read more about the case if you’re not familiar with it:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-40047485

https://researchingreform.net/2017/04/12/london-live-interviews-researching-reform-on-charlie-gard/

http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/format.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2017/972.html

In the online discussions, I see something that I also recently mentioned in an essay I wrote and I feel the need to say something about that. (I have also submitted a comment elsewhere.)

Yes, it is true that the British medical profession can be extremely arrogant. As a Dutchwoman who previously lived in the US and is now based in Britain (in Ashya King’s city, I might add), I too feel that the medical profession generally still has that ridiculously old-fashioned god status in Britain. I’ve for instance been ridiculed by an ophthalmologist for asking about possible side effects of a medication, only to find that it did cause serious problems for me. (Thankfully, we have the internet now, which can help us solve such relatively minor problems and bypass physicians who don’t like assisting emancipated patients.) Some people have mentioned Ashya King’s case within this context.

Having said that, Charlie Gard’s case – heart-breaking and difficult – also has a strong element of the opposite. We are now in an era in which doctors are increasingly often perceived as “playing God” when they do NOT do everything in their power to prolong a baby or an adult’s life artificially, no matter how high the cost to the individual in question.

Charlie Gard’s case is not comparable with Ashya King’s case.

Charlie was born with a condition that normally means the infant won’t live very long. I understand that of the few children with his condition, his situation is the worst. Ouch. One can ask whom prolonging Charlie’s life benefits, Charlie or his parents. This will sound incredibly harsh to many and I understand that. It is okay to be very angry with me for that comment.

(I understand, really. I grew up with illnesses and deaths in my very close surroundings; it concerned my mother, one of her sisters and one of her brothers. They died of different kinds of cancer. My mother suffered greatly and for many years, after having been misdiagnosed twice. My youngest sister almost died after she was misdiagnosed when she was 4 or 5. She ended up in critical condition and had to be cooled with ice to keep her fever alone from killing her.) If it hadn’t been for the persistence of my dad, she would never have had the chance to develop into the successful business owner she is today. So, yes, I do know about losing people and wanting to hold on to them.)

On the other hand, allowing Charlie the experimental treatment in the US could yield very important information that may not benefit Charlie but could benefit future infants with mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome or even other conditions. Could that be worth it? Hard to say.

What would Charlie want? Can you place yourself in Charlie’s situation for even a moment?

Ashya King, by contrast, was a healthy and much older kid who developed a brain tumor. Even with the traditional treatment, Ashya had a fighting chance and treating Ashya as well as possible was certainly going to benefit Ashya (even though there is never a 100% guarantee).

And it has.

One of our problems is that we badly need global regulations for all kinds of medical situations, regulations that people from all sorts of backgrounds all over the world can agree with. The lack of it currently not only causes medical tourism but also the kind of heartbreak we now see in the Charlie Gard case.

If I put myself in the parents’ shoes, I say that most of the hurt and upset for them is currently coming from the legal process. The uncertainty. Even possibly the knowledge that every day they spend in court is one day on which he is not getting the experimental treatment in the US. Unassisted, nature would have already allowed Charlie to cross the rainbow bridge and be at peace and the parents could have had a more normal mourning process.

Is Charlie at peace now? Is he not? How can we know?

It might be possible to avoid this kind of agony if we had much more clarity about what to do to limit harm to such a child as much as possible. Such regulations will have to be a compromise, obviously, and can never avoid heartbreak (but heartbreak is also a normal part of life; life does not come with guarantees and the losses make us cherish what we have).

Conditions like Charlie Gard’s also play a role in the new eugenics, currently particularly in the selection of embryos for IVF procedures, a rapidly growing practice, and soon in the creation of designer babies. It is an incredibly difficult topic that is screaming for attention. So I just wrote a rather provocative essay on it, in a hurry. It is called “We need to talk about this” (the second edition is already in the works) and includes a definition of what constitutes a life not worth living. I have based it on the principle of humanity, namely that every human being has the right to a life in dignity. During the writing of that essay, I grew very depressed a few times, because it is such a hard and dark topic. But we really do need to talk about this, sooner rather than later.

I wish the judges and the parents wisdom and strength and little Charlie lots of eternal sunshine of every possible kind.

 

 

Hormones and (mental and physical) health

For most women, PMS is an unpleasant but manageable part of their period. But for 5-8% of women (around 80,000 in the UK), their symptoms are so severe they can be fatal.

Laura experienced anxiety and panic attacks into her twenties, and was forced to temp because she couldn’t hold down a job. “Every month I’d get so tired I’d have to sleep 18 hours a day for three days. I started getting suicidal thoughts.”

She was suffering from Severe PMS or, as it is sometimes referred to in the UK, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. The condition is recognised by the NHS.

“PMDD is actually the American Psychiatric Association’s definition of one type of Severe PMS,” says consultant gynaecologist Dr Nick Panay. The UK’s definition is slightly different. “‘Severe symptoms interfere with someone’s ability to function normally.”

This is an important article. Read it:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/item/82dcd957-fb96-422c-b037-ad2645d7d3b7

I mention something similar in my book “We need to talk about this” in relation to a woman whose child was taken from her womb because she was in advanced pregnancy and has bipolar disorder. Hormones can wreak havoc. Blame the hormones, not the women. Don’t punish the women. Support them.

I happen to know a highly intelligent and spunky woman with bipolar disorder. She has a PhD and her own business. She was hospitalized twice. Want to take a guess as to when that happened? Right. When she had her daughter – who is now an adult and doing fantastically well, I might add – and when she was going through menopause.

Cut people some slack. Don’t punish them for their conditions, certainly not when the condition is otherwise highly manageable and well-managed by the woman in question. Punishing someone with bipolar disorder for going through a rough patch is like punishing someone else for having a bad flu.

By the way, Italy has just introduced period leave for women. And in case that makes you wonder about this, the gender pay gap in Italy is lower than in quite a few other European countries.

It’s time to re-evaluate our relationship with animals

From the description (6 May 2014):

Lesli Bisgould is Canada’s first animal rights lawyer. For ten years, she acted for individuals and organizations in a variety of animal-related cases in the only practice of its kind in the country. She has fought for the rights of students who objected to dissection in science class, for critics of facilities where animals are held captive, and for changes in the law to ameliorate the legal status of animals. Lesli is an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto’s faculty of law where she instructs a course on animals and the law. Lesli is the author of “Animals and the Law”, the only Canadian law text on the subject, published by Irwin Law. Lesli was the 2012 international law lecturer for Australian animal protection institute, Voiceless – she undertook a 12-stop lecture tour of Australia, comparing the commercial hunts for seals in Canada and kangaroos in Australia. In recent years, Lesli’s full-time work has been in the human rights and poverty law fields, and she is currently the Barrister at Legal Aid Ontario’s Clinic Resource Office.

BP oil spill settlement (2010, Gulf of Mexico)

Remember the big oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico a few years back? In 2010, that was. 11 people died in the disaster. I used Twitter to get a shipment of Dawn sent to a group of people who were cleaning up oiled sea birds in Florida, back then. (I used to volunteer there in the mid-1990s.)

Cleaning up oiled pelicans after the 1993 oil spill in Tampa Bay. Photo: Dawn Waldt.

Cleaning up oiled pelicans after the 1993 oil spill in Tampa Bay. Photo: Dawn Waldt.

Well, the damages have finally been settled, and approved by a judge. BP will pay the US government and the five affected states up to $18.7 billion in penalties.

Read more about the settlement: here.

There is also a film about the disaster now.

pelican

Pelican cleaned up after 1993 Tampa Bay oil spill. Photo: Dawn Waldt.

Lawyers’ “fat cat” image leads to more LIPs

On 28 March 2016, Citizens Advice published a new report,called

Standing alone.

 

It focuses on going to the family court without a lawyer.

The majority found self representing difficult, time consuming and emotionally draining. As well as a bad experience for court users, it also means litigants in person achieve worse outcomes compared with their represented counterparts.

Nine in ten litigants in person say it affected at least one other aspect of their life. Standing alone: going to the family court without a lawyer explores the four key areas affected: mental and physical health, working lives, finances and relationships.

Confidence in the police

On 30 December 2009, the home office published Home Office Research Report 28: Improving public confidence in the police: a review of the evidence.

On 4 September 2014, a review of police functioning in England and Wales revealed that victims of crimes are being encouraged to investigate themselves, when they report offences to the police, according to the BBC. Other media, including The Guardian and the Huffington Post, also paid attention to the findings of this review.

Although the Association of Chief Police Officers appear to be explaining them as a consequence of austerity, these practices of telling victims to investigate crimes committed against them are not new.

When I reported an incident that according to the police constituted identity theft and harassment, the officer I spoke with informed me that I had to do the legwork myself if I wanted anything done because the police didn’t have the manpower to investigate these high-volume crimes. He also explained that what had happened to me could be very unsettling. He asked me whether I wanted counselling as it was available if I needed it. I appreciated that, but I declined.

That was in October 2008, when austerity measures did not play any role.

According to the BBC, the reviewers (led by Roger Baker) made similar observations, namely that this trend of telling citizens to solve crimes started before the budget cuts.

What may be related to the budget cuts, is that (in my own experience) police officers appear much less likely to offer any assistance with the psychological consequences of crimes people have been subjected to, even in more serious cases (other than standard phrases about victim support in automated recordings and printed information materials).

I think that I can safely assume that confidence in the police is currently worse than it was in 2009.

A September 2014 poll conducted by my local newspaper, the Portsmouth News, showed that only 8% of the respondents believed that police would properly investigate if they’d reported anything other than very serious crimes to the police. This number remained fairly constant during the increase of the number of respondents; the only brief deviation I saw was a percentage of 9.

But what does this low number mean?

In January 20913, the University of Twente in the Netherlands published a Bachelor thesis on the topic (confidence in the police). Notably researchers in the US and other non-EU countries have already conducted a great deal of work in this area.

When the public has a great deal of confidence in its police force, this can lead to increased feelings of safety and a decrease in fearfulness among citizens. Confidence in the police is also a good indicator for the quality of policing and of how well the public accepts the authority of the police as well as its actions.

Four factors play a role in the theoretical model to predict confidence in the police:

  • age;
  • gender;
  • direct experiences (how much contact people had with the police and whether they viewed it as positive);
  • indirect experiences (how much police-related reality TV people watch and how much they like these shows).

These factors also influence people’s fearfulness.

Confidence in the police consist of the following six components:

  • Integrity;
  • Lawfulness/legitimacy (whether police officers observe the laws in their actions;
  • Efficiency and effectiveness;
  • Democracy (fairness, openness about policies and responsibility for actions);
  • Intention (work ethic).

How does the above relate to crime figures?

In October 2014, Portsmouth City Council’s publication Flagship reported that “crime recorded by police is down by 33% since 2007/8 and 8% since last year.” I wonder how these numbers relate to the numbers of actual occurring crimes. Does citizens still report as many crimes to the police as they used to when they have experienced over the years that the police won’t investigate anyway? About 90% of all rapes go unreported, I read the other day.

The Flagship also gave numbers based on a March 2014 survey with 849 respondents. Of those respondents, 2% had experienced burglary, 1% mugging or robbing and 3% was assaulted such as beaten up. It did not mention the percentage of these crimes had actually been reported to the police. It did mention that 40% of the respondents fear burglary, 17% fear mugging/robbery and 14% fear being assaulted or beaten up.

How fearful citizens are of crime and of becoming crime victims is generally related to how much confidence they have in the police.

In essence, the fearfulness among the public does not represent citizens’ “degree of silliness” but reflects police performance and the degree of confidence people have in the police.

How much confidence people have in the police is also related to how much confidence people have in other organisations, in general.

In the Netherlands, how much confidence people have in the police is positively correlated to the quality of the contact they had with the police in the preceding twelve months, but negatively correlated if they were a victim of crime.

The Dutch study at the University of Twente was based on survey data for 125 respondents in the Netherlands.

In the same year, the Erasmus University published an extensive study of trends in the public’s confidence in the police and what they mean.

Thanks for reading. Do you still report crime to the police?

Relief from sanctions, late witness statements and litigants in person

The judgment of Mr Justice Warren in Chadwick -v- Burling [2015] EWHC 1610 (Ch) highlights some important issues in relation to relief from sanctions in general, and the position of litigants in person in particular.

Reblogged from Civil Litigation Brief

Civil Litigation Brief

The judgment of Mr Justice Warren in Chadwick -v- Burling [2015] EWHC 1610 (Ch) highlights some important issues in relation to relief from sanctions in general, and the position of litigants in person in particular.

THE CASE

The applicant in the case was the trustee in bankruptcy and bringing an action for possession and declarations of ownership in relation to a number of properties.  An order was made for the filing of evidence. The respondents did not file any evidence. A peremptory order was made that evidence be served by 5th August 2014 or the respondents be debarred from relying on evidence.

The second-respondent was the former wife of the bankrupt. She did not file evidence. She stated that she did not recall receiving the order, but did not positively state she did not receive it.

An application was made for relief from sanctions. That application was refused by the…

View original post 3,463 more words

What if you click but don’t collect?

Many retail chains offer a click-and-collect service. You select and pay for your purchases online, and on the following day or even later on the same day, you can go to a branch near you, or tube station or community location, and collect your purchases.

tomatoesBut what happens if you don’t collect your goods because another car collides with yours on the way to the store and you end up in hospital? Or simply because your train or plane is delayed? Continue reading

The case of the stolen painting

This claim came before the Court of Appeal in 2003, from the Central London County Court via the High Court. Professor Norman Palmer represented the claimant.

This may be what the painting looked like.

This may be what the Jan Steen painting at the centre of this claim looked like.

If I travel to your town, pick your lock, take a lovely locket from your home and make sure to leave no trace of my presence, go to the post office and post the locket to my home or to someone else’s address, can you sue Royal Mail for having shipped the stolen locket if you somehow find out and can even prove that Royal Mail transported your locket? “Of course not.” I can hear you say it.

Royal Mail was just doing its job for which it had been paid (postage). It had no way of knowing that the box or envelope it shipped contained stolen goods. Royal Mail has no obligation to check whether the contents of a shipment might be stolen. If you tried to take it to court, you likely wouldn’t get far but the whole thing could cost you quite a bit of money. Continue reading

The case of the demolished Robot Wars arena

Another interesting case came before the High Court in January 2010. It took up four days. It bears similarities to the case of the destroyed art, but there are also marked differences.

There were two claimants and two defendants.

Robot Wars TV series

Historic images regarding Robot Wars TV series

Continue reading

Stress and the litigation process: how can lawyers make matters better?

From the original post:
“For us lawyers litigation is a technical process. For the litigants the effect of the litigation can have a major impact on their lives.”

From a comment:
“It still amazes me that to date, as lawyers, we fail to appreciate the importance of actively listening and showing empathy when engaging with clients.”

Civil Litigation Brief

There is a very useful article in the Solicitors Journal on stress and litigation (to avoid hyperbole I will not use the word “brilliant” but it deserves it.)  Hugh Koch analyse the sources of stress for litigants.  This made me think how little attention is paid to the “litigant’s view” of the litigation process. For us lawyers litigation is a technical process. For the litigants the effect of the litigation can have a major impact on their lives. There is little in our training (as barristers or solicitors) that helps us put ourselves in the litigant’s place and examine ways in which we can ease the stress to our clients.

THE ARTICLE

The article examines the 24 main reasons for stress.  Some of which lawyers can deal with, some not.

THE TOP REASONS FOR STRESS

Interestingly the number one reason for stress is “Being asked about the event again and…

View original post 373 more words

The case of the destroyed art

A few years ago, in 2009, an interesting case came before the High Court. It was interesting because like so many claims involving interference with goods, it was a story about people, about mistakes they make, misunderstandings between them. and things that can happen to them. It was also relatively complex because it was a claim against three defendants, with a fourth defendant in a Part 20 claim brought by two of the original defendants, with the first two defendants and the third also pointing fingers at each other.

The claimant was sculptor Terry New.

Nidus Sculpture at The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Nidus Sculpture at The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Continue reading

Yelp trolls

Last year, a New York steakhouse took legal steps to force Yelp to identify who wrote a certain post on Yelp. The writer claimed to be a waiter habitually spitting into the food served at the steak house. The writer used the name of a real person who said he had nothing to do with it and apparently filed a police report about the matter. The steak house took Yelp to court in an attempt to track  down the real poster. (Read more here, here and here.)

Earlier, another company had taken a similar matter to the courts in Virginia, claiming defamation. These cases force the US courts to carry out a delicate legal balancing act. The Virginia Appeals Court initially ruled that Yelp had to reveal the identities of seven posters, but Yelp appealed against that decision (read more here, here and here). The Virginia Supreme Court heard the matter in October 2014.

I haven’t been able to find recent information on the internet about these cases so it’s not clear to me how either of them ended. As there is a great deal of debate about the validity of Yelp reviews and the company’s ability to manipulate reviews, the point may be moot.

 

Family court without a lawyer

I just stumbled upon a series of excellent videos about going to court on your own in family law matters. They are good to watch for litigants in person tackling other areas of law too.

I recommend going to the court at least once before the day of your hearing. That way, you will know where to go on the day of the hearing and you’ll know how long it takes you to get there.

Take into account that a hearing can suddenly be scheduled in a different building for logistic reasons if there are several courts on the same location. Always check with court staff in which room (and which building) your hearing will take place (and listen to any announcements on the public address system, if there is one).

Our Pay-Per-Period assistance package can include some practical training focused on several aspects of going to court on your own. As our assistance is tailored to our clients’ specific needs, this differs from client to client.