On Liberty, by Shami Chakrabarti

October 1, 2014

Liberty’s director is a great communicator, both in front of an audience and in the media; and partly because of that, this book is a little bit disappointing. The jacket calls On Liberty a “frank and personal book” and there are flashes of the personal about it. Chakrabarti talks to some extent about her son and her parents, […]

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What might the Tory human rights plan be?

September 29, 2014

#97434491 / gettyimages.com Although Tory hostility to human rights law is obvious, there’s been vagueness till now about what actual policy a Conservative government would pursue. For a long time the plan was to draft a “British Bill of Rights” the content of which was unclear – and the idea hasn’t gone away. There’s been talk […]

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Britain can lawfully attack “the Islamic State” in both Iraq and Syria

September 26, 2014

For once, there’s no legal controversy about American and potential British military action in Iraq. I don’t think anyone’s claiming it’d be unlawful for the RAF to carry out air strikes on “Islamic State” targets in Nineveh province, or near the borders of Iraqi Kurdistan. Not even the Stop the War Coalition raises international law […]

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Chelsea Manning’s “cruel and unusual punishment” legal argument

September 25, 2014

Private Chelsea Manning, currently serving 35 years in a US military prison for offences relating to the disclosure of classified documents to Wikileaks, is now taking legal action against the US Department of Defense and others to compel them, by means of an injunction, to allow her treatment for gender dysphoria, including hormone treatment. The Guardian has published […]

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Let’s avoid a huge constitutional talkfest

September 24, 2014

The main constitutional business that ought to be on MPs’ minds at the moment is how to deliver the party leaders’ “Vow” to grant “extensive new powers” to the Scottish Parliament. The extent of powers to be transferred, and particularly the extent of power over tax that will be devolved, is far more urgent and […]

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Two types of constitutional convention

September 24, 2014

The phrase constitutional convention has two distinct meanings, something it’s useful to be aware of when reading about plans for constitutional reform in the UK. The first is what I call the modest sense, corresponding to Oxford Dictionaries meaning number 1, of an unwritten understanding or practice by which people feel bound. In the context […]

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The Children Act, by Ian McEwan

September 6, 2014

Fiona Maye is sixty – and a judge in the Family Division of the High Court. Her husband’s about to leave her for a younger woman, she fears, as a case comes before her that will test both her values, and her judgement. A seventeen year old is refusing desperately needed treatment that would save […]

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Julian Assange: do recent changes to extradition law make any difference?

August 18, 2014

In a word – no. In a press conference this morning, Julian Assange told reporters a Wikleaks spokesman could confirm that I am leaving the embassy soon and the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister, according to the Guardian referred to recent changes to the extradition laws in the UK which he believed would mean Mr Assange would not […]

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Dominic Grieve as Attorney General, 2010-2014

July 15, 2014

The first time I came across Dominic Grieve, he made a fool of the Labour shadow justice minister, Paul Boateng. It was in the 1990s, at a Liberty conference on human rights. Paul Boateng opened by attacking Grieve and the Conservatives, for opposing the incorporation of European human rights into our domestic law (a Labour […]

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Assisted suicide, human rights and Parliament: a wrong turning by the Supreme Court

July 8, 2014

In their recent ruling on assisted suicide, in R (Nicklinson) v Ministry of Justice and R (AM) v DPP, our highest judges have for the second time settled on a fudge. The first time they did so, in 2009, was bad enough – they got the DPP to sort-of tinker with the law by stealth. Worse, this time, they’ve […]

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