On 28 February 2018, LAG director Steve Hynes was among those who gave evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR). The JCHR, which is chaired by the Labour MP and former legal aid minister Harriet Harman, is conducting the Human Rights: Attitudes to Enforcement Inquiry
, looking into the factors that may prevent people from using human rights law.
A number of organisations had already supplied written evidence to the JCHR, which was published on its website prior to the first evidence session. Many of these organisations lamented the negative media coverage of human rights cases. The British Institute of Human Rights, for example, discussed the story
that ran in the Daily Mail
on 15 December 2017 under the headline ‘Another human rights fiasco!’. The paper said in the secondary headline that an Iraqi ‘caught red-handed with [a] bomb’ was awarded £33,000 compensation after bringing a claim for being kept in detention for ‘too long’; only much further down the article was it clarified that the sum comprised awards for beating and inhuman treatment as well as unlawful detention. The alleged possession of a bomb, meanwhile, was found by the court to be a false accusation made by the British army, which had imprisoned the man illegally.1The paper subsequently issued a correction/clarification (20 December 2017) regarding the article and its secondary headline.
In common with many organisations that have given evidence to the JCHR, LAG believes the mainstream media fails to pick up on the many cases demonstrating the positive use of human rights law by ordinary people, such as Mark Neary’s challenge in the Court of Protection over his son Steven’s year-long unlawful deprivation of liberty in a care home (see July/August 2014 Legal Action
The JCHR is interested in hearing evidence on the impact of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 on the enforcement of human rights law. In its written evidence, the Legal Aid Practitioners Group highlighted
the drop in the number of cases brought under legal help and controlled legal representation, as well as the fall in the number of civil legal aid firms (from over 2,500 to under 2,000 in the past four years).