Tag Archive | "European Convention on Human Rights"

“Blood on our hands”

The nation will have “blood on its hands” if an NHS hospital bed cannot be found within days for a teenage girl, known only as X, who is at acute risk of taking her own life, according to the UK’s most senior family judge.

Sir Justice James Munby, who sits as president of the High Court’s family division, in his judgment said he felt “ashamed and embarrassed” that no hospital place had been found that could take proper care of the unnamed 17-year-old when she was due to be released from youth custody in 11 days’ time.

The judicial intervention draws attention to the state of mental health provision in the UK. Munby said it demonstrated the “disgraceful and utterly shaming lack of proper provision in this country of the clinical, residential and other support services”. He ordered his judgment in the private case be made public and sent to NHS England and senior Government ministers to expose the “outrage” that is the “lack of proper provision for X – and, one fears, too many like her”.

The judge added: “We are, even in these times of austerity, one of the richest countries in the world. Our children and young people are our future. X is part of our future. It is a disgrace to any country with pretensions to civilisation, compassion and, dare one say it, basic human decency, that a judge in 2017 should be faced with the problems thrown up by this case and should have to express himself in such terms.”

His judgment explains that the girl, named only as X, has made a large number of “determined attempts” on her life. She is due to be released from a secure unit, referred to as ZX for legal reasons, and doctors believe she needs to be placed in further care for her own protection. But, so far, none has been found.

Staff have warned that her “goal is to kill herself” and has intensified in recent weeks, believing that if she is sent back to her home town “it will not take more than 24 to 48 hours before they receive a phone call” saying she is dead. She has attempted to swallow items including stones, screws and clothing to take her own life. She has also attempted to use her hair and clothing to hang herself, and has self-harmed by cutting, banging her head, biting and punching her own body.

Justice Munby said staff were doing their best in a dire situation, but also said the girl’s treatment could violate articles of the European Convention on Human Rights on “inhuman or degrading treatment” and the right to private and family life. “Of course, this is all driven by the imperative need to preserve X’s life, but how is this treatment compatible with her humanity, her dignity, let alone with her welfare?” he asked.

Sir James said: “For my own part, acutely conscious of my powerlessness – of my inability to do more for X – I feel shame and embarrassment; shame, as a human being, as a citizen and as an agent of the State, embarrassment as President of the Family Division, and, as such, Head of Family Justice, that I can do no more for X.”

The judgment In the matter of X (A Child) (No 3) was handed down in Liverpool on 3 August 2017 when Sir James wrote that: “If, when in 11 days’ time she is released from ZX, we, the system, society, the State, are unable to provide X with the supportive and safe placement she so desperately needs, and if, in consequence, she is enabled to make another attempt on her life, then I can only say, with bleak emphasis: we will have blood on our hands.”

Posted in Case Law, Civil LawComments (0)

Civil legal aid

Legal aid will no longer be made available for cases with poor or borderline prospects of success that may have received funding, the government has said.

Last week the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) announced that there would be a new approach to making decisions on prospects of success for ‘poor’ and ‘borderline’ cases. The LAA has changed its approach to assessing merits in civil legal aid to take account of the Court of Appeal judgment in The Director of Legal Aid Casework (DLAC) and Lord Chancellor v IS. The Court of Appeal ruled last month that the agency’s exceptional case funding scheme and merits regulations were lawful.

Although the Court of Appeal ruled in the lord chancellor’s favour, several observations were made about the government’s exceptional case funding scheme. The LAA said that the MoJ was considering what steps to take following the court’s findings.

Under the current merits criteria most cases need to pass a ‘prospects of success test’ before legal aid can be made available. The LAA said:

“The merits criteria state that the prospects of success test is met in cases with ‘poor’ prospects or ‘borderline’ cases where:

  • funding is necessary to prevent a breach of a client’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, or any rights of a client to the provision of civil legal aid or services that are enforceable under EU law; or
  • DLAC considers it appropriate to find that the test is met having regard to any risk of such a breach.”

The change comes as a result of the Court of Appeal finding that it is lawful for the prospects of success test to have a 50% threshold, and this does not breach a client’s rights. “As a result, we are now no longer funding any applications for civil legal aid that are subject to a prospects of success test where the prospects are assessed as poor or borderline,” the LAA said.

The LAA added: “We have also reinstated delegated functions to allow providers to refuse legal aid in cases that they assess as having poor or borderline prospects. This allows Immigration providers to refuse applications for controlled legal representation in these matters without having to revert to us first.”

The ‘Gazette’ reports the Law Society as saying that the change could mean fewer people being entitled to legal aid. “We are therefore disappointed that the Ministry of Justice decided to announce this significant change so soon after the referendum, and without consultation,” a spokesperson for the Society said.

Posted in Civil LawComments (0)

Strange bedfellows

Lord McNally, the veteran justice minister who shepherded the government’s legal aid reforms through the House of Lords, has been replaced by Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes as justice minister.

In a surprise move the prime minister announced that Simon Hughes had been appointed minister of state at the Ministry of Justice following the resignation from government of Lord McNally on his appointment as chair of the Youth Justice Board. Read the full story

Posted in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (0)

Conference policy

Time was when the only place to announce government policy was the House of Commons. Now this has been superceded by press releases, speeches, celebrity interviews, and, of course, party conferences.

Thus it was that justice secretary Chris Grayling chose the Manchester conference to announce a review into the use of all out-of-court disposals, particularly penalty notices. Read the full story

Posted in Civil Liberties, Criminal JusticeComments (0)

The Gareth Williams inquest

Last week the coroner in the Gareth Williams case delivered a damning verdict, highly critical both of the Metropolitan police’s counter-terrorism branch and MI6

Dr Fiona Wilcox levelled excoriating criticism at Williams’s employers at MI6 who failed to report him missing for seven days when he did not turn up for work. It took Williams’s sister, not his workmates, to call the alarm. Wilcox detailed what can only be interpreted as incompetence or callousness by his employers in respect of one of their young high fliers. And these are the very people who are supposed to be looking out for us. Read the full story

Posted in Case LawComments (0)

Legal Aid as a Human Right

The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) is the representative organisation of around 1 million European lawyers through its member bars and law societies from 31 full member countries, and 11 further associate and observer countries. Read the full story

Posted in Civil Law, Civil Liberties, Law UpdatesComments (0)

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