November 25, 2008

Top judge speaks out against Iraq War

Lord Bingham, the retired senior Law Lord, has delievered a lecture adding his voice to those who think that the War on Iraq is illegal under international law, and claiming that British ministers were under a duty to obey international law based on ministerial responsibility. See the Guardian editorial calling for a full inquiry here.

November 18, 2008

Right to privacy under attack by tabloids

The editor of the Daily Mail launched a fierce attack on the High Court judge who is entrusted with cases that involve the traditional conflict between freedom of the press and individuals privacy. His argument, which you can hear here, is that a democratic society needs a free press and that a free press should also be able to go into individuals private lives. Moreover, he claims, judges should not make laws in a democratic society, as the High Court judge is in his opinion. You can also read a defence of privacy and the role of the judge by Geoffrey Robertson QC here.

October 24, 2008

Abortion Laws Liberalisation not debated in the Commons

This happened in the context of the vote in Parliament of a bill on stem cell research. It shows how time in Parliament is scarce and important (the abortion amendments were not even debated due to lack of time), in part strategically created by the Government itself out of fears that the Bill would be rejected in the Lords or, as suggested by others, in exchange for the votes of the 9 Democratic Unionist party in Northern Ireland which were decisive in passing the now defunct 42 detention provision earlier in the year in the House of Commons.

Chagos Islanders have no right to return home, says House of Lords

Should a government be able to expel people from their homes in the interest of security and friendly relations to other countries? According to a House of Lords narrow judgement (3x2), yes. But Lord Bingham, one of the dissenting judges,  said: "It is not, I think, suggested that those whose homes are in former colonial territories may be treated in a way which would not be permissible in the case of citizens of this country." The islanders now plan to take their case to the ECtHR.

October 22, 2008

Shadow Chancellor under accusation

oA former friend has accused the shadow chancellor of soliciting a donation from a Russian billionaire. Although not an offence (the offence would be the acceptance of the donation, which is illegal), it does raise questions on the appropriate behaviour of an MP and member of the shadow cabinet.

October 18, 2008

Her Majesty on Facebook

Although not an actual development of constitutional law, I thought this sketch of the Queen using facebook broadcated on BBC Radio 4 might amuse some of you. 

Fuel Poverty – Judicial Review by Help the Aged and Friends of the Earth

This is an interesting judicial review case for several reasons. It raises questions of standing (can and should pressure groups apply for judicial review on behalf of individuals?) and will place the judiciary in a difficult position, raising the permanent question of the proper interpretation of the principle of separation of powers (should courts interfere in how the government pursues a social and economic policy such as ending fuel poverty, even if it has been adopted through legislation?  An interesting discussion of this was held at the BBC Radio 4 programme Law in Action.

October 17, 2008

42 days detention without charge – rejection by House of Lords

This is an important development in constitutional law. It raises several important issues such as the role and legitimacy of the House of Lords in the legislative process,  the effectiveness of Parliament (especially the House of Commons) in scrutinising government, and , more broadly, the compatibility of the measure with our fundamental right to liberty (art. 5 of the ECHR, Human Rights Act 1998). As you will remember, in A and Others v Secretary of State for the Home Department (2005), The Belmarsh case, the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords thought that indefinite detention of foreigners without charge was incompatible with article 5. Would they hold the same about 42 days?

You might want to read Shami Chakrabarti's article in the Guardian about this, and others which have come out in the press recently, such as The Economist take on it, Down but Not Out.

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