Conservatives pledge to scrap Human Rights Act

Last year Prime Minister David Cameroon announced to abolish the Human Rights Act 1988 and curtail the role of the European Court of Human Rights. The Conservative party unveiled their manifesto on the 14th April 2015 for the upcoming elections which confirmed their plan of scrapping the Human Rights Act and replacing it with a Bill of Rights.

The manifesto says that this would break the formal link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights, and, as the Tories hope, make the Supreme Court the ‘ultimate arbiter’ of human rights matters in the UK.

Human rights campaigners and several prominent lawyers criticised and disapproved these proposals terming it as lack of understanding at centre of the Tory party human rights policy.

At Open Counsel, we have successfully represented many clients on the basis of the ECHR article 8 and family and private life in the immigration cases. Last month, barrister Ousman Noor represented a client Ms. F in the appeal and achieved a victory in the court hearing. Our client Ms. F applied for a leave to remain in the UK in August 2014 under the article 8 of ECHR, which was refused by the Home Office. Consequently, we appealed against the decision and it was listed for a hearing on 23rd January 2015 where not only did the judge allow her a right to remain but also decided to make a whole fee award.

Ms. F is one of the many thousand immigrants who depend upon the Human Right Act 1988 to safeguard their rights and avoid unjustifiably harsh consequences. We believe that the Conservatives’ plan to abolish the Human Rights Act 1988 is synonymous to curbing human rights and putting their life in danger.

Victory for Open Counsel: High Court grants permission to a full judicial review hearing

Barrister Ousman Noor represented a client Ms. C, detained at Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre and achieved a remarkable court victory.

Our client, Ms. C claimed asylum in the UK in April 2014 due to persecution on the basis of her sexual orientation in her country of origin. She has been in the detention centre for the last 10 months. It is important to note that she has never been charged with any offence.

After claiming asylum, Ms. C was put on the fast track. Her claim was heard and refused within two weeks. She then appealed against the decision which was decided and dismissed in both the First Tier and Upper Tribunal. Consequently, Ms. C submitted fresh evidence in support of her claim but the Home Office rejected any further submission. Immigration lawyers working on her behalf challenged the Home Office decision but a High Court judge denied any permission to proceed.

Following High Court’s decision, Ms. C’s previous immigration solicitors gave up on the case. At this stage, she contacted barrister Noor to represent her and challenge the court’s decision. Her case was listed for a 1 and ½ hour hearing on 4th February, 2015 at the Manchester Civil Justice Centre. Ousman Noor persuaded a High Court judge to grant permission to challenge the Home Office decision by judicial review. Eventually, the judge concluded that Ms. C had a reasonable case and decided that the matter should proceed to a full hearing.

Ms. C was literally ecstatic when she learned about the outcome of the case. This victory serves as a great success and inspires Open Counsel to continue its endeavours to improve access to justice for the most vulnerable in the society.

Government drops its proposal to raise divorce fee application

The government has decided to drop its proposal to increase the court fee required to apply for a divorce. The government had originally proposed to raise the court fee from £410 to £750, which received massive criticism from divorce solicitors and family law barristers.

The respondents who took part in the consultation did not agree with the government’s plan to increase the fee. According to the Ministry of Justice, the court fee for issuing a divorce was already above the estimated cost of the proceedings which sum up to £270 only.

Moreover, the respondents also argued that there was no compelling justification for an increase in the court fee. The proposed increase in the application fee for divorce was excessive and would deter people from seeking a divorce.

Some people find it hard to pay the current fee of £410. They would struggle even more to pay the increased fee which could result in people being trapped in unhappy or violent marriages or preventing people from forming new relationships.

Following a series of high level criticism from different respondents, the government will not implement the proposed increase to the divorce fee, which will be maintained at £410.

Roadside drug test implemented to combat drug-driving on UK roads

Police officers have been given new powers to test suspected drivers for drugs on the roadside. The new device called ‘drugalyser’ enables police officers to test drivers for drugs within minutes.

Previously, police had to take suspects to the station to make them undergo a drug test. The new device also called “Drugwipe” has been approved by the Home Office. It can test for drugs such as cannabis and cocaine within three minutes by taking a sample of saliva.

Police officers are of the view that the number of tests and the number of conviction are likely to soar with the usage of this device. The government says drivers will not know if they are being tested for drink-drive limit or drugs or both.

Mike Penning, the police minister, said driving under the influence of drink and drugs is a deadly menace and the police force is determined to drive it from the roads.

According to the statistics, every year as many as 200 people are killed by drivers impaired by drugs. A new drug driving offence comes into force in March which will introduce a penalty of up to six months’ imprisonment, 12 months’ disqualification and a fine up to £5,000.

Sex Change woman wins a legal battle after her family refused to accept her new gender

Gillian Simpson previously known as Gareth won a legal battle against her own family who who refused to accept her new identity after she changed sex.

Gillian, who started gender transition treatment in 2009 said that her family stopped her from wearing feminine accessories and clothes at family gatherings or home. Her parents refused to let her continue working at the family’s IT firm. She had been working in the capacity of director at the firm since 1992.

The legal battle started when Giliian sued her family for barring her from working at the family’s firm. Her family counter- sued over expenses such as loss of wages and non payment of loan. Eventually, the judge decided in favour of Gillian Simpson terming the dispute as “Incredibly sad case”.

Gillian Simpson hoped for a reconciliation with her family and all she wants is to be a part of the family again.

Fear of Domestic Abuse: Police Remove 220 Licensed Guns

In order to prevent domestic abuse, the Essex police force launched an operation and removed 220 guns from licensed fire arms holders suspected of being involved in domestic violence.

According to the police sources, the action was taken following a series of incidents where lawful arms were used in domestic related violence ending up in murders and other serious incidents.

The decision of removing guns was prioritised on the basis of the highest risk first, after a due deliberation and victim-based approach where they had the opportunity to express if the family members or partners should be allowed to keep their licensed weapons.

In addition to the seizure of 220 guns and firearms, another 100 owners were given warnings regarding safety and storage of the weapons.

Earlier on, the decision was challenged in court but the Crown Court decided in favour of police forces.

Pre-Charge Police Bail to be Limited to 28 Days

Home secretary, Theresa May revealed the proposal of limiting the police bail to a maximum of 28 days. She considers it to be the greatest reform in the legislation of police bail in the last 30 years.

Currently, there is no restriction on the amount of time that police can keep someone on pre-charge bail. There have been incidents where people were put on a bail for years but never charged.

According to the proposal, only a Justice of the Peace or officer with the rank of chief superintendent or higher can increase and approve a bail beyond 28 days. Campaigners, lawyers bodies and a number of newspapers have expressed their support for these reforms.

Reports suggest that 70,000 people are held on pre-charge bail with almost 5,000 restricted for more than six months in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The demand of reforms was led by the deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg during the cabinet talks.

Supreme Court Challenges Councils' Decisions about Housing of Disabled People

Authorities at the local councils have continuously been deciding against treating the homeless disabled people on priority basis for rehousing.

The Supreme Court is now hearing a case where they will consider a number of decisions by local authorities regarding rehousing of the disabled people. The court will also look into the criteria on which homeless people are judged as ‘vulnerable’ enough for rehousing.

Housing charities along with many other organizations for homelessness will be presenting evidence to the court unveiling the disastrous effects of homelessness.

Reports suggest that certain councils have been ignoring the conditions of vulnerability such as physical disability, mental health and growing age while determining the priority needs.

According to the statistics, there has been a graduate increase in authorities decision to refuse the priority need for people with significant mental health problems.

Now that the Supreme Court is considering this issue, all eyes are fixed on the outcome of the hearing and its effects on housing applications for homeless people with disabilities.

Drink-Drive: Scotland Introduces Law to Cut the Legal Alcohol Limit

Scotland introduced a new law to reduce the legal alcohol limit from 80mg to 50mg in every 100ml of blood. The change has already come into the effect bringing Scotland into line with most of the EU countries.

According to the statistics, one in every 10 road traffic deaths involve the factor of alcohol consumption. The drink-drive limit reduction will surely improve the safety and cut the number of death and serious injuries on Scottish roads.

Following Scotland’s example, Northern Ireland is also considering some changes in the law to cut down legal alcohol limit. On the other hand, England and Wales have no plans to reduce the drink drive limit saying this would have no impact on the offenders.

Road safety campaigners have endorsed the changes in law and drivers are being alerted through a wide scale information campaign.

Currently, the higher alcohol limit in UK is 80mg which means that a driver could leave England under legal alcohol limit but once they enter into the borders of Scotland, they could be charged for breaking the law.

Alleged Secret Monitoring: Google in Court to Stop Legal Action

Google has now challenged a decision made by a High Court judge in January claiming that UK courts were not the appropriate jurisdiction against the charges.

A group of more than 100 people known as Safari users headed by Marc Bradshaw and Robert Hann, who are both IT security company directors, claimed that Google bypassed security settings and breached their privacy.

The technical term used to define the monitoring of users Safari browser is “Clandestine”. According to the filed case, Google’s tracking and collation of internet usage has caused distress amongst UK users.

On the other hand, the internet giant has filed an appeal saying that dissatisfied users of the Apple Safari internet browser should have launched their claims for misuse of private information in the United States, where Google is based.

Earlier this year, a similar case was dismissed in its entirety in the US and the legal representatives of Google still don’t think that this case meets the standards required in the UK for it to go to trial.

The case is of great significance because the Court of Appeal hearing will decide whether British consumers actually have any right to hold Google to account in this country.