The Joint Committee on Human Rights has published a report on the Government’s proposals for a Counter-Extremism Bill. The Committee cautioned against introducing further legislation in this area, suggesting that the Government should instead use the existing extensive legal framework for dealing with people who promote violence.
Advocate General Saugmansagard Øe of the Court of Justice of the European Union has delivered an opinion in the Watson case on data retention that may have implications for the Investigatory Powers Bill. In the non-binding opinion, AG Øe indicated that bulk data collection may be lawful provided sufficient safeguards are in place, including those covering the purposes for which data is retained.
The Government’s Independent Reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC, has published his review of the bulk powers contained in the Investigatory Powers Bill, in time to inform the Committee Stage debate in the Lords in September. The review looked at the operational case for the powers and concluded that they have a clear operational purpose. It did, however, recommend that the Bill be amended to provide for a Technical Advisory Panel of security-cleared independent academics and industry experts to advise the Secretary of State and the new oversight body on the impact of changing technology.
The House of Lords EU Committee (Home Affairs Sub-Committee) has published a report criticising the Government for failing in its responsibilities towards unaccompanied migrant children, as well as other EU countries. It recommended that a system of independent guardians appointed to act in the best interests of children should be established in the UK and across the EU.
The Home Affairs Committee has published a report following its inquiry into the migration crisis. The report criticises the EU’s attempts to address the crisis and suggests that this failure raises serious humanitarian and security concerns.
The Good Parliament Report by Professor Sarah Childs has made a series of recommendations aimed at making the House of Commons more representative and inclusive, in order to meet the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s gender sensitive parliament requirements.
The new Justice Secretary, Liz Truss, has confirmed that plans to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights have not been abandoned.
Asylum and immigration
Theresa May has been criticised for abolishing the post of minister for refugees in the cabinet reshuffle. The post was created in 2015 to coordinate work across government to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees in the UK. Richard Harrington, who held the post until July, has been moved to the Department for Work and Pensions and has not been replaced.
Police and Prisons
The Government has published a new action plan for tackling hate crime. Aims include increasing the reporting of hate crime and improving support for victims.
The IPCC has published statistics on deaths during on following police contact for 2015/16.
Legal aid and access to justice
The chief coroner has recommended that legal aid should be provided to families at inquests in which the government pays for lawyers to represent police officers or other state employees.
It has been reported that the law firm Public Interest Lawyers is to close down at the end of August, following the announcement that the Legal Aid Agency had terminated its contract with the firm. PIL has been the subject of criticism for its role in bringing claims against the armed forces on behalf of Iraqi civilians following the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The Bar Council has expressed concern that businesses and individuals seeking money owed to them are being priced out of court, following fee increases. Statistics from the Registry Trust show a 19% fall in county court judgments against businesses in the first six months of 2016.
Courts and tribunals
The Ministry of Justice has published the latest quarterly statistics (to June 2016) on civil justice including judicial review. The statistics show that despite transfer to UTIAC, 57% of all judicial review claims in the Administrative Court were immigration and asylum cases.
A decision by the Inner House of the Court of Session (Scotland) has ruled as improper the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s (SLCC) longstanding practice of treating certain complaints against legal practitioners as ‘hybrid’ complaints combining elements of inadequate professional service and professional misconduct. Questions of issues of professional misconduct have to be referred to the legal professional bodies. The SLCC’s Chief Executive expressed concern at the implications of the ruling: ‘The categorisation of whether a complaint is either conduct, service, or both is not just an academic one. Under the current system, if a complaint issue is classified as service or hybrid, the SLCC can award a maximum of £20,000 in compensation. Reclassifying hybrid issues as conduct only will reduce the maximum compensation payable to the complainer to £5,000. Seeing lower compensation in the very cases which could have caused greater cost and impact for clients appears to be a perverse outcome.’
The National Audit Office is seeking evidence on supporting vulnerable consumers in regulated industries. The study will consider the role of ombudsman services and regulators within the wider landscape.
An opinion of the European Data Protection Supervisor has recommended that organisations should periodically disclose aggregate numbers indicating EU and non-EU law enforcement or government requests for information. The review of the ePrivacy Directive concluded that a new legal framework for electronic privacy is required, with an extended scope to reflect technological changes.
The National Institute of Economic and Social Research has published a review of evidence of inequality among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups in the UK. The review, which was commissioned by the Government Equalities Office, found major gaps in the evidence base for an effective assessment of inequality and disadvantage suffered by these groups.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published a response to the report of the House of Lords Select Committee on the Equality Act 2010 and Disability. The report concludes that a new national effort to promote disability rights is required and calls on Government to show leadership by implementing remaining provision of the Act. The Government has also published a response to the report.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies has published research on the gender wage gap, indicating that the hourly wages of female employees are on average 18% lower than male employees, and that the arrival of children accounts for the gradual widening of the gap with age.
The UK Government (Home Office) is consulting on the need for a mandatory reporting duty, which would require certain practitioners or organisations to report on, or take appropriate action in relation to, child abuse or neglect. The deadline for responses is 13 October 2016.
The Scottish Government is consulting on how best to use the new social security powers which will be devolved by the Scotland Act 2016. Transferring the devolved benefits will require a large-scale programme of transition, and the Government has announced its intention to to take an ambitious, new and distinctly different path to the one the UK Government has followed. The consultation and engagement activities will run until 28 October 2016.
The UK Government (Department for Work and Pensions) is seeking evidence in the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment claim process, data sharing and the claimant experience. The Department has appointed Paul Gray CB to undertake this second independent review of the PIP assessment. The deadline for responses is 16 September 2016.
The Scottish Government is consulting on proposed court fees for the Court of Session, the High Court of the Justiciary, the Sheriff Appeal Court, the sheriff court, and others. The consultation also sets out proposed fees for a new simple procedure to replace summary cause and small claims procedures. The deadline for responses is 12 October 2016.
The Welsh Government is consulting on planning appeals procedures and costs. The deadline for responses is 4 November 2016.