The Crime and Security Act 2010, amending the scheme of DNA retention in England and Wales, was given royal assent earlier this month. Following from the decision in S and Marper v UK, as previously blogged about here and here, the UK was forced to revise its scheme of DNA retention in England and Wales.
The S and Marper decision prompted a lengthy consultation process by the Home Office, characterised by a reluctance to amend the law relating to the scope of the database. The consultation paper, Keeping the right people on the database: Science and public protection , ostensibly aimed “to provide a proportionate balance between protecting communities and protecting the rights of the individual”, although the lack of a robust rights-focus is noticeable throughout, while the rhetoric of risk avoidance and public protection is to the fore. The Home Office recommended the implementation of the S and Marper v UK decision through the destruction of DNA samples after six months, whether the individual goes on to be convicted or not; by permanent retention of DNA profiles after conviction; and retention for twelve years after arrest for a serious violent or sexual offence or terrorism-related offence and six years for other offences. These periods were chosen based on the likelihood of offending by people who have been arrested and not convicted, drawing on research included in Annex C to the paper which purports to show that 52% of re-offending happens within six years and two-thirds of re-offending happens within 12 years. Read more…
We are expecting the launch of the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats’ manifestos for the General Election on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week respectively. Human Rights in Ireland will offer some early analysis of each one on the days of their launch to assess just what this election may mean for human rights in Britain and in Ireland.
UPDATE (08.49am): Adam Wagner over at the recently launched UK Human Rights Blog has written this morning that this bill of rights (for the UK, not Northern Ireland) is to be a key election issue. He also draws attention to a piece in the Guardian today critiquing the Conservative Party’s plans for human rights. Unless there’s a major policy announcement between now and then, I will hold my tongue on this until the manifesto announcement at the start of next week.
I have written before on the Civil Partnership Bill 2009 focusing mostly on the introduction through the Bill of civil partnership as a legally recognised relationship form for same-sex couples. We have, however, spent some time on the cohabitation proposals both ourselves and in an excellent guest contribution from Andrew Hayward of Durham University. The last few days, however, have seen a surge in analysis of the cohabitation provisions of the Bill with various voices, including Prof John Mee of UCC, expressing concern about the default protections within the Bill as it stands. Indeed, last night’s Prime Time on RTE featured a long report on the implications of the Bill for unmarried and un-civilly-partnered cohabitants. So what is the cause of this concern?
First of all there is the fact that certain protections, entitlements and obligations kick in automatically following a three-year cohabitation period or, if there is a child of the couple, a two-year cohabitation period. If a couple should manage to live together without getting married or civilly-partnered for two or three years, depending on the context, they will be termed ‘qualifying cohabitants’ and these default provisions will apply. The definition of a cohabiting couple (i.e. a couple in relation to whom we can start to count time in order to see whether they are ‘qualifying’) is contained within s.170 of the Bill. Read more…
And they’re off! The least surprising news story of the day so far has been that Gordon Brown has made the trip to Buckingham Palace to request that the Queen dissolve Parliament, effective next Tuesday (this is to allow the Digital Economy Bill to be rushed through Parliament in the next six days). A General Election will take place on Thursday 6 May.
There are two key human rights issues that may be affected by the outcome of this election – one of which will be of great concern to human rights advocates in Ireland. These are:
Today at 4:30pm the Rio Cinema in Hackney, East London will show the classic Monty Python satire, The Life of Brian. Released in 1979, The Life of Brian is enjoying its thirtieth Easter. The well from which a thousand popular culture references can be drawn, the film was banned in Ireland for eight years (from its release in 1979 until 1987). An old family anecdote has my uncle sneaking a copy of it into the house without my grandmother’s knowledge – the same grandmother asked to borrow the DVD last year to see, at long last, what all the fuss was about. Twenty-three years after the lifting of the ban on Brian it might now fall foul of the Defamation Act 2009 on grounds of criminal blasphemy (see previous posts here and here). Section 36 of the Act makes it an offence to intentionally publish or utter “matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion”. It’s worth wondering if the Life of Brian still has the ability to cause outrage in modern Ireland, but if it did, then a cinema screening it might be caught by the section. However, the Director of Public Prosecutions may enjoy his day off: my quick search of internet listings found no Irish cinema showing the film today. Anyone that may be screening the movie can take comfort that it is a defence to “prove that a reasonable person would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value in the matter to which the offence relates”. After thirty years, the Pythons’ reasonableness is surely beyond doubt. All of us here at HRinI hope you enjoy your Bank Holiday weekend – whatever you’re celebrating.
The Law Reform Commission’s Consultation Paper on Jury Service launched by the DPP earlier this week recommends removal of the discriminatory provisions in the Juries Act 1976 (as amended) which exclude persons with disabilities from jury service. The DPP was supportive of the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission in this regard. The general outline of the Consultation Paper and provisional recommendations are set out in this earlier HRiL blog post. Read more…
The French Conseil d’État, in its capacity as advisory body rather than as administrative court of final appeal, yesterday issued a lengthy report, on the request of the Prime Minister, on the “legal possibilities surrounding the prohibition of the full veil.” This follows controversy and debate in France in recent months surrounding the wearing of the burqa in particular, the publication of the Gerin parliamentary report in January, and the report today that Belgium appears likely to become the first European state to legislate on this issue. In a measured, comprehensive and nuanced report, the Conseil concluded, somewhat predictably, that an outright prohibition on the wearing of the full Islamic veil would like contravene a number of provisions of the French Constitution as well as the European Convention on Human Rights (the report is published online here and the very useful summary here; it is unlikely, however, that either will receive an official translation into English).