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Factsheets on defendants’ rights

The European Commission has made available to the public, on the European e-Justice portal, national factsheets on the rights of defendants in all 27 Member States of the EU. The European Commission’s e-Justice portal aims at facilitating access to justice by citizens and businesses across Europe. It is also aimed at reinforcing judicial co-operation, on the basis of existing legal instruments, and at bringing e-Justice closer to the legal profession and all interested parties.The factsheets were prepared by the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) working together with experienced criminal defence lawyers, the CCBE's member Bars, Ministries of Justice and qualified legal translators. They list in a simple but comprehensive way the rights available to defendants in criminal proceedings in all the EU Member States. They are available in all of the EU’s official languages.The factsheets cover the following areas: obtaining legal advice; rights during the investigation of a crime (arrest, questioning and police investigation, searches, first court hearing, preparation for trial); rights during the trial; rights after the trial; and road traffic offences.The CCBE believes that the factsheets provide a very useful source of information for suspects and defendants in cross-border situations. For example, a Portuguese national who is charged with a crime in Germany can now access information in Portuguese on his rights throughout the German court process.

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7867 Hits

Murder case to be reinvestigated under Double Jeopardy legislation

The Crown Office has announced that it is to review the murder of Surjit Singh Chhokar, who was killed in 1998. Strathclyde Police have now been instructed to carry out further investigation into his murder under the Double Jeopardy legislation introduced in November last year.The Double Jeopardy (Scotland) Act 2011 came into force in Scotland on 28th November 2011. Key elements of the Act include:

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27916 Hits

Concerns at moves to block accession to Human Rights Convention

Representatives of the the Parliamentary Assembly of the 47-nation Council of Europe (PACE) and the European Parliament have urged national governments – notably the UK and France – not to stand in the way of the EU signing up to the European Convention on Human Rights.Kerstin Lundgren (Sweden, ALDE), PACE rapporteur on the impact of the Lisbon Treaty on the Council of Europe, and Barbara Lochbihler MEP, Chair of the European Parliament Sub-Committee on Human Rights, have issued the following statement:“EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights will close a gaping hole in European human rights protection as, for the first time, the laws and actions of the EU itself will be subject to the same external scrutiny as those of 47 countries across Europe – including all of the EU member states.“The Lisbon Treaty has significantly increased the scope for EU action in areas which directly or indirectly affect human rights. With this increased responsibility, it is only right that there should also be increased accountability.“EU accession to the convention is also needed to fully ensure consistency in the work of the Strasbourg and Luxembourg courts. This is a vital first step towards creating a ‘common European space’ for human rights, and has the full backing of both the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.“We are therefore deeply concerned that the accession process – which is a legal obligation for the EU under the Lisbon Treaty – is currently being sidetracked by political objections from the UK, and to a lesser extent France.“We cannot risk this process being derailed, as failure to fully incorporate the EU could serve to weaken the existing European system for human rights protection which has been put in place by the Council of Europe over the last 60 years and is envied worldwide.“Intense negotiations since June 2010 show that the complex technical and legal issues involved in this process can be resolved. What is needed now is clear and unequivocal political commitment on the part of all 27 EU member states.”

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5874 Hits

Court rules against deportation of Abu Qatada to Jordan

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in the case Othman (Abu Qatada) v. the United Kingdom, which is not final, that Omar Othman (also known as Abu Qatada) would be at real risk of a grossly unfair trial if deported to Jordan, where he is wanted on terrorism charges.The European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that, if Mr Othman were deported to Jordan:

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4826 Hits

ECHR rules life imprisonment is not inhuman or degrading

In a Chamber judgment in the case Vinter and Others v. the United Kingdom, which is not final, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has unanimously held that there had been no violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of any of the three applicants.The case concerned the applicants’ complaint that their imprisonment for life amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment as they had no hope of release.The applicants, Douglas Gary Vinter, Jeremy Neville Bamber and Peter Howard Moore, are British nationals  currently serving mandatory sentences of life imprisonment for murder.When convicted by the English courts, the applicants were given whole life orders, meaning they cannot be released other than at the discretion of the Secretary of State on compassionate grounds (for example, if they are terminally ill or seriously incapacitated). The power of the Secretary of State to release a prisoner is provided for in section 30(1) of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997. Under this Act it was practice for the mandatory life sentence to be passed by the trial judge, who – along with the Lord Chief of Justice – then gave recommendations to the Secretary of State to decide the minimum term of imprisonment (the “tariff” part of the sentence) which the prisoner would have to serve to satisfy the requirements of retribution and deterrence and be eligible for early release on licence. In general, the Secretary of State reviewed a whole life tariff after 25 years’ imprisonment. With the entry into force of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, all prisoners whose tariffs were set by the Secretary of State are now able to apply to the High Court for review of that tariff.Relying in particular on Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), all three applicants complained that their imprisonment without hope of release was cruel and amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment.The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 11th December 2009.The Court held that in each case the High Court had decided that an all-life tariff was required, relatively recently and following a fair and detailed consideration. All three applicants had committed particularly brutal and callous murders. To date, Mr Vinter had only served three years of imprisonment, Mr Bamber 26 years and Mr Moore 16 years.The Court did not consider that these sentences were grossly disproportionate or amounted to inhuman or degrading treatment. There had therefore been no violation of Article 3 in the case of any of the applicants.

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54143 Hits

Calls for independent judicial inquiry into torture allegations

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has announced that for the time being no one from the security or intelligence services will be charged over British complicity in torture. However, according to the human rights organisation Liberty, the CPS clearly vindicated concerns that British security agencies provided questions for Binyam Mohammed’s interrogation in Morocco between 2002 and 2004.The CPS has also decided that suspicions about Britain’s involvement in rendition to and torture in Libya are serious enough to warrant an immediate criminal investigation. In addition, there may be further criminal investigations into other aspects of the rendition scandal.Liberty first expressed concerns in November 2005 that the UK government may be complicit in alleged torture practices if secret “torture flights,” carrying suspects to third countries where they may face torture, transited UK airports. Liberty has always insisted that an inquiry into the allegations must be fair, independent and its findings presented openly and transparently.When the Evidence Protocol for the ‘detainee inquiry’ was published in July 2011 – a year after the inquiry was announced – it was clear that the crucial final word on whether material could be made public rests not with a Judge but with the Cabinet Secretary, the Government’s chief civil servant. A covering letter received by Liberty also makes clear that the Government proposes that torture victims should not be able to put questions to those allegedly complicit in their abuse - even by way of their legal representatives. In light of this all the non-governmental organisations involved – including Liberty – and the torture victims withdrew their participation from the process.Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, said:“We of course welcome the criminal investigation into Britain’s suspected involvement with torture under the Gaddafi regime. But the criminal law is not the only way of correcting grave injustices in a great democracy. It is now even more important that the victims, security agencies and wider public benefit from a full and independent judicial inquiry into one of the worst scandals of recent memory.”

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14623 Hits

Human trafficking study

Glasgow Caledonian University lecturer Dr Kiril Sharapov, an expert in the field of human trafficking, is to undertake the biggest study ever into the public’s attitude towards the problem – and how consumers’ spending habits contribute towards it.Dr Sharapov says that there is a widespread misconception that human trafficking is only associated with the illegal sex trade, where people are forced into prostitution after being trafficked across borders.He believes a growing demand for cheap goods and services, and lack of public awareness of trafficking, obscure our concern for the welfare of the migrant workers involved. Such demand and lack of awareness fuel the exploitation of migrant workers, many of whom work in a wide variety of everyday situations, including care homes, hotels, construction, the service industry and the UK’s meat and poultry processing sector. “Trafficking is not just the issue of badly controlled borders, or economic migrants or criminals. It should be looked at from the perspective of why people are smuggled and trafficked here – there is a demand for cheap and exploitable labour. The rising costs of energy and raw materials and the continuing economic downturn are having a direct impact on the price of consumer goods,” said Dr Sharapov.“This creates downward pressure on wages and an increasing demand for cheap labour that can be easily intimidated, for example by physical violence, threats of deportation or to the security of family back home, and exploited.”Dr Sharapov’s work will focus on the UK (where people are trafficked to), Ukraine (where people are trafficked from) and Hungary (where people are trafficked through).

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4348 Hits

First prosecution and conviction under the Bribery Act 2010

The first prosecution and conviction under the new Bribery Act 2010, which came into effect on 1 July 2011, took place on 14 October 2011 following the guilty plea of 22 year old Munir Yukub Patel. Patel was subsequently imprisoned for 3 years on 18 November 2011 in respect of this conviction, which was discounted given his early guilty plea. In sentencing Patel, HHJ McCreath stated that if the case had gone to trial Patel would have received 4-5 years’ imprisonment out of a potential maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment. Patel was also sentenced to 6 years’ imprisonment in respect of misconduct in public office. The sentences are being served concurrently.

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27040 Hits

First Cadder-related referral

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (‘the Commission’) has made its first referral to the High Court in the wake of the Cadder ruling. The case concerned is that of Ryan McCallum, who was convicted of rape on 19th May 2009, and later sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. The Commission has decided to refer the case to the High Court because it considers that, in light of the decision of the Supreme Court in Cadder v HMA, and that of the European Court of Human Rights in Taxquet v Belgium, Mr McCallum may not have had a fair trial.

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27128 Hits

ECHR rules on the use of hearsay evidence

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has found that the use of hearsay evidence does not automatically prevent a fair trial.

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10013 Hits

MEPs call for EU common standards for detention conditions

Urgent measures are needed to remedy the “alarming" state of prisons across the EU, the European Parliament has said in a recent resolution. MEPs have called for action to protect prisoners' fundamental rights and minimum common standards for detention conditions in all EU countries.

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3845 Hits

Commission publishes report on criminal liability of partnerships

The Scottish Law Commission has recently published its Report on criminal liability of partnerships. 

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33291 Hits

Human Rights Day

Tomorrow, 10th December 2011, is Human Rights Day. The event is celebrated every year on 10th December - the birthday of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was created 63 years ago.

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2825 Hits

EU-wide protection rules for crime victims

Crime victims who are granted protection in one EU Member State will be able to get similar protection if they move to another, under new European Protection Order rules endorsed by the Civil Liberties and the Women's Rights Committees of the European Parliament. Protection would be available to, for instance, victims of gender violence, harassment, abduction, stalking or attempted murder.

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3704 Hits

A "letter of rights" to ensure fair trials

Anyone suspected or accused of having committed a crime in the EU must be promptly informed of his or her procedural rights in easy-to-understand language, according to a draft law endorsed by the Civil Liberties Committee of the European Parliament.

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4307 Hits

Commission launches Human Trafficking in Scotland report

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (the Commission) has launched the findings from its inquiry into human trafficking in Scotland. The inquiry focused on trafficking for the purposes of forced labour, domestic servitude and criminal exploitation, but more explicitly on commercial sexual exploitation. 

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5318 Hits

Carloway Review Report published

A package of proposals to overhaul Scots criminal law has been unveiled following a year-long independent review by the High Court Judge, Lord Carloway.

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38834 Hits

Commission submits evidence to the Universal Periodic Review

The Scottish Human Rights Commission (the Commission) has made its submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council on the human rights record of the UK as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process.

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5010 Hits

Submission on a UK Bill of Rights

The Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has emphatically rejected the proposal of a UK Bill of Rights. This was the primary question posed in the consultation process of the UK Government appointed Commission of Inquiry on a Bill of Rights, which closed on Friday 11th November.

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6371 Hits