Category: News

Call for the release of Alphonse Nteziryayo, unlawfully detained in Niger

Today, 23rd August 2022, marks eight months since Alphonse Nteziryayo and seven other men were first unlawfully detained in Niamey, Niger. All had either been acquitted after trials before the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, or had been released following the completion of their sentences.

After serving his sentence of imprisonment, Mr Nteziryayo spent nearly six years in a safe house in Arusha where the ICTR, and its successor International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, is headquartered. He was refused the chance to be reunited with his family in Europe. The UN eventually negotiated an agreement with the government of Niger to relocate the eight men, but within weeks of their arrival in Niamey, the government of Niger confiscated their identity documents and posted armed police outside their residence. The men have remained unlawfully detained ever since, unable to leave except for medical or similar reasons. The government of Niger has refused to comply with various orders made by a judge of the IRMCT, who has described the situation as “a crisis”.

Iain Edwards, counsel for Mr Nteziryayo, along with lawyers for the seven other men, issued a press release today calling on all countries that respect the rule of law to agree to resettle their clients. Iain said, “The international community, including the UN as an institution, cannot wash its hands of my client or of his long-suffering family. It must recognise that Mr Nteziryayo has served his sentence and should be allowed to live his final years in peace, reunited with his wife and children. I call on all countries that believe in the rule of law to step up and offer a sustainable solution to what risks amounting to an indelible stain on the legacy of the ICTR.”

1MCB Chambers supports days of action

Members of 1MCB Chambers’ crime team fully support taking days of action to prevent further decline to our criminal justice system.

Since 2006, legally aided criminal defence fees have decreased by an average of 28% in real terms.  The Criminal Bar Association’s data shows that, in 2019-20, criminal barristers in their first three years of practice earned a median income of £12,200 before tax; many will additionally be burdened by huge sums in debt from the minimum of five years’ study and training that it takes to qualify into our profession.  The goodwill that has been propping up the failing criminal justice system – our goodwill –  has run dry, leading to a mass exodus from criminal practice.  In turn, the number of trials that cannot proceed because there is either no-one to prosecute or no-one to defend has increased significantly: last year alone, 576 trials were postponed because one party or the other was not represented on the day, leaving complainants, witnesses and defendants placing their lives on hold yet again as they rejoin the queue backlog of 58,000 cases waiting to be heard.  We cannot stand by and continue to watch the decimation of our profession and the laying to waste of the fundamental principles of fairness and open justice.

At 1MCB Chambers, we are especially proud of the diversity of our members.  Yet, criminal practitioners with caring responsibilities often pay to work, pushing women out of the profession at an alarming rate.  Without an immediate improvement in remuneration, there is no prospect of addressing the gender gap at the criminal bar – a gap that is all the more pronounced for women who are black, Asian or from racialised minorities.

None of us takes this action lightly. We recognise the urgent need to safeguard the future not only of our profession, but of the whole criminal justice system.

Court of Appeal rules on the approach to deportation in relation to convictions outside the UK

In Gosturani v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2022] EWCA Civ 779 the Court of Appeal held that a conviction outside the UK for a serious offence could give rise to a public interest in deportation.

The appellant, an Albanian national,  had arrived in the UK in 1997 and had  obtained Indefinite Leave to Remain by using a false name and claiming to be  a Kosovan national.  In 2006 he was convicted in Italy for offences of living off the earnings of female prostitution and attempted blackmail, resulting in a six and a half year prison sentence. He was married and his wife and five children were British citizens.

The appellant argued that the public interest in relation to deportation arising from foreign convictions was not the same as that arising from UK convictions, as the same statutory scheme did not apply.

Dismissing the appeal, the Court of Appeal held that even though the appellant was not a “foreign criminal” within the meaning of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 Pt 5A, the fact that the offence had been committed abroad did not, of itself, indicate that a different, lesser, weight was to be given to the legitimate public interest  of preventing crime and disorder recognised in Article 8(2) ECHR. On the facts of the case, the Upper Tribunal had been entitled to find that the deception that the appellant had used to enter and remain in the UK and his serious criminal offence outweighed the impact of his deportation on his family and private life.

Barnabas Lams represented the appellant.

High Court rules secret Home Office policy on seizure of migrants’ mobile phones unlawful

Relief will be determined in a hearing at the end of June 2022 in the case of R (on the application of HM) v Secretary of State for the Home Department; R (on the application of MA and another) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Privacy International intervening) [2022] EWHC 695 (Admin) which was heard earlier this year.  The case potentially affects thousands of migrants who may be entitled to damages after they were subjected to unlawful policies and practices when they arrived to the UK by small boat and subsequently had their phones seized, their data downloaded, retained and who were then prevented from copying numbers to contact loved ones after crossing the Channel safely.

The case concerned the Home Office’s operation of a secret policy whereby officers were to search all migrants arriving by small boat to the UK; to seize and retain their phones without allowing access to the contents, and to download all data under a secret, blanket policy.  The policy was in operation until November 2020.

The Home Office’s starting position was that no secret, blanket policy existed: it was many months before they admitted they had breached their duty of candour to the Court.  This breach of the duty of candour is due to be considered at the upcoming hearing.

There were other further significant concessions secured, including an acceptance that demanding a PIN on threat of a non-existent criminal offence was unlawful.   Moreover, not only was the seizure and retention of the devices conceded to be unlawful under Article 8 ECHR and the Data Protection Act 2018 as a result of being operated under a blanket policy, but the subsequent complete extraction of the data from the mobile phones was unlawful under the Data Protection Act 2018.

The Claimants went on to successfully argue that the Defendant’s actions were not only unlawful by reason of the policy but also because the Home Office was acting unlawfully by going beyond the legislative power by exceeding the limits set out in section 48 of the Immigration Act 2016 (upon which it relied for the seizure and retention of phones), which authorises the search of premises and the subsequent seizure of items found on the premises, as distinct from a person.

Bernadette Smith was instructed by Deighton Pierce Glynn in this matter.  Geeta Koska and Alex Bennie provided research assistance during the case.

Bernadette recently spoke about the case at Public Law Project‘s conference, Data Law for Public Lawyers, Public Law for Data Lawyers.

1MCB Chambers is moving

We are pleased to announce that, as of 16th May 2022, 1MCB Chambers will be relocating to 5 Chancery Lane.

Located in the heart of legal London, our new premises is just a few minutes’ walk from the Central line and offers much improved conference facilities as well as a modern and efficient working environment for our barristers and staff.

Our telephone numbers and DX address will remain unchanged.

We look forward to welcoming you to our new home.

 

Trial of Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman to open at the ICC

Tomorrow, 5th April 2022, the trial of Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman will open at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Iain Edwards is appointed as associate counsel for the defence.

Mr Abd-Al-Rahman is accused of having been a notorious commander of the Arab militia in Darfur, Sudan commonly known as the Janjaweed. He is charged with 31 counts of murder, rape, forcible transfer, persecution and torture as crimes against humanity, and numerous war crimes, all arising out of the conflict in West Darfur between August 2003 and April 2004.

One of the key issues in the case is the accused’s identity. Most witnesses are expected to testify that the Janjaweed commander was a man called Ali Kushayb. The prosecution claims that Mr Abd-Al-Rahman and Ali Kushayb are the same person but this assertion is vehemently denied.

The prosecution will call or otherwise rely on approximately 125 witnesses. Mr Abd-Al-Rahman has pleaded not guilty to all counts and the trial itself is likely to last for well over a year.

This case is the first at the ICC to deal with the conflict in Darfur. It is also the first case to be referred to the ICC by the United Nations Security Council in respect of a State (Sudan) that is not a party to the Court’s Statute. This has provided a unique opportunity for the defence to advance novel jurisdictional challenges.

The trial will be webstreamed via the ICC website and the ICC YouTube channel.

 

 

1MCB Chambers statement on ‘no returns’

1MCB Chambers’ Crime Team will not be accepting returns from 11th April 2022, in line with the Criminal Bar Association’s ballot.

The government’s proposals fall far short of the recommendations made by the independent Criminal Legal Aid Review, which calls for an immediate increase in remuneration of at least 15% and additional funding to save the criminal justice system from continued decay.

We thank our solicitor colleagues who have contacted us to offer their support as we take this necessary action to safeguard the future of our profession and of the criminal justice system.

Judicial appointment: Rafaquat Hussain

1MCB Chambers congratulates associate member Rafaquat Hussain on his appointment as District Judge.

Rafaquat will sit at Edmonton County Court, with effect from 7th February 2022, having previously sat as a fee paid judge in both the Social Entitlement Chamber and the Immigration and Asylum Chamber of the First Tier Tribunal.

 

 

Asylum seekers challenge Home Secretary’s secret policy to seize mobile phones

This week, the High Court is hearing a claim brought by three asylum seekers in which they challenge the Home Secretary’s secret policy of seizing the phones of those arriving to the UK on small boats. In the case of two of the claimants, it is alleged that once the Home Office had control over their mobile phones, all of their personal data was extracted and processed unlawfully.

Bernadette Smith is instructed by DPG, and represents MA and KH.  She is led by Tom Hickman QC. HM is represented by Gold Jennings Solicitors .

The claimants are challenging the Home Secretary’s blanket policy of seizing mobile phones and the exercise of search and seizure powers upon asylum seekers arriving to the UK.  They further challenge the practice whereby asylum seekers were compelled to provide PIN numbers under the threat of a criminal sanction, the retention of the phones and the extraction of either all data from the phone or all data covering a 30 day period, all of which they say is unlawful. The claimants also allege that the policies violated their rights under Article 8 and Article 1 of Protocol No 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights and breached data protection laws.

The claims raise fundamental issues in regards to the treatment of asylum seekers arriving in the UK. The phones were seized immediately upon arrival, often when the asylum seekers had just stepped off the boat, meaning that the Home Office took away the only opportunity the claimants had to contact loved ones to tell them they were safe, at a time when they had arrived to the UK exhausted, cold and hungry.  They were not allowed to copy down numbers they needed and they were threatened with criminal prosecution if they did not comply with the demand for the PIN.  The Jesuit Refugee Service UK recorded multiple accounts of Home Office phone seizures from asylum seekers and in so doing they began to get the first indication of the scale of this issue, although the true extent of the secret policy did not become known until many more months had passed. JRS UK documented these issues, advocated on behalf of the asylum seekers whose phones had been seized, and brought the issue to the attention of the Home Office. They have provided critical evidence in support of the claimants’ legal challenge.

Privacy International, a charity that defends and promotes the right to privacy, has been granted permission to intervene in the case; providing expert technical assistance to the court.

The blanket policy of seizing mobile phones from newly arrived asylum seekers is believed to have been in place since at least 2019 and continued for well over a year; the Home Secretary’s policy may have affected thousands of asylum seekers who were searched, had their phones seized, had their data extracted and retained unlawfully.

Geeta Koska and Alex Bennie of 1MCB Chambers  provided assistance with research.

The case has been reported on widely, including in The Guardian and The Independent.

 

1MCB Chambers mourns the death of Jocelyn Gibbs

It is with deep sadness that 1MCB Chambers announces the death of associate member, Jocelyn Gibbs.

Jocelyn Gibbs had an illustrious career at the Bar, having represented defendants in a number of high profile cases and made significant contributions to the development of the Bar and the legal sector overall.  She was a member of Chambers from 2000 to 2015 when she retired from practice and remained an associate member of Chambers. We, the members of 1MCB Chambers, are saddened by the sudden loss of our dearly beloved former colleague and friend and wish to pay tribute to her.

Jocelyn was a greatly respected and admired member of Chambers. She was a highly intelligent, selfless and kind person with a reservoir of knowledge both of law and life, which she happily shared. Her soft-spoken and quiet demeanour often concealed her tremendous accomplishments in her field of practice and endeavours.

Jocelyn was called to the Bar in 1972. She had a family at this time and deferred pupillage until 1976, joining 9 Stone Buildings, Lincolns Inn. She later became Joint Head of Chambers. Jocelyn joined two other sets of Chambers, 1 Grays Inn Square from 1990 to 1997 and 8 King Bench Walk, Temple, which later became 1MCB Chambers. In both these sets she was elevated to Joint Head of Chambers. Jocelyn was generous and a person of considerable talent, always ready and willing to give of her time and energy to promote and assist others.

Jocelyn was a pioneering black female barrister defined by her achievements and successes at a time when few women practised at the Bar and even fewer were black. She overcame challenges for herself and others with dignity and professionalism.  Throughout Jocelyn’s life, she always fought hard for racial equality and justice. Her early practice in the magistrates courts was spent fighting what came to be known as “SUS” cases, representing black youths, arrested by the police for so called “loitering with intent to steal” – allegations which were often proven to be totally fabricated. She spent her Saturdays giving free legal advice at the Black People Information Centre on Portobello Road.

Jocelyn was counsel in the Scarman Inquiry into the Brixton riots in 1981. She chaired an inquiry into allegations of racism and harassment surrounding the death of a ten year old boy in Lewisham and a panel inquiry into allegations of abuse at the Nye Bevan Residential Home for the Elderly in Southwark. She also contributed to the Cardiff Three murder trial, a case which led to the requirement for accreditation of all solicitors.

Jocelyn’s expertise led to her chairing numerous conferences on race and the criminal justice system in London and Birmingham organised by the Bar Council, the Commission for Racial Equality, and the Society of Black Lawyers.  Jocelyn sat on the management committee of the Citizens Advice Bureau based in the Royal Courts of Justice. She was an advisory member, and former director and trustee, of the Caldecott Foundation, and sat on the Legal Aid Agency’s Funding Review Committee.

Amongst her many achievements she was appointed an Assistant Recorder on the Midlands and Oxford circuit from 1989-96.  She was very much involved with the Bar Council over many years, sitting on the General Management Committee, the Professional Conduct Committee, and serving as vice-chair of the Race Relations Committee. Her positive intervention was significant for the many disproportionally affected out of the profession by their names on Bar exams.  She ensured that processes were anonymised so that they were fair and meritorious. This paved the way for many who now practice and who could have been similarly unjustly excluded.

Jocelyn was a brilliant barrister and unique talent. She was greatly loved and appreciated by all who knew her. Most of all and closest to her heart, she was the mother of three very successful children, two of whom are lawyers and the third a doctor. Her retirement was a great loss to Chambers and the Bar; her death is a loss to the world and we will miss her.

1MCB Chambers invites applications for tenancy

As 1MCB Chambers continues to grow and build upon its established history, we are looking to recruit outstanding senior (12 years call +) and junior (5 years call +) practitioners across our main practice areas of crime, civil, family, housing and immigration, who are committed to our ethos and want to contribute to chambers life.

We particularly encourage applications from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic candidates, women, persons with disabilities, as well as those returning to the Bar.

1MCB Chambers was founded 40 years ago – dedicated to promoting social justice, civil liberties, and access to justice – and to providing exceptional representation to the communities we serve.

We are fully committed to the Equality and Diversity Code for the Bar, the promotion of equal access to the profession, enabling flexible practices, as well as retaining and supporting women and persons with caring responsibilities.

1MCB Chambers’ efforts  were recognised at the Chambers UK Bar Awards 2021, winning Outstanding Set for Diversity and Inclusion.

1MCB Chambers offers a supportive and flexible approach to life at the Bar. To find out more, please visit our tenancy page.

Please send your covering letter and CV to tenancy@1mcb.com. If you are considering applying and wish to have an informal chat about whether we are the right next step for you, please email tenancy@1mcb.com indicating your main practice area(s) and one of the Tenancy Committee will contact you.

All applications will be treated in the strictest confidence.

Soraya Bauwens elected to the executive committee of the Bar Human Rights Committee

Soraya Bauwens

1MCB Chambers congratulates Soraya Bauwens on her recent election to the executive committee of the Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC).

The BHRC seeks to protect and promote international human rights through the rule of law, by using the international human rights law expertise of some of the UK’s most experienced human rights barristers.  It elects an executive committee every two years to lead on the policy, strategy and delivery of its work.

Soraya practises in crime, international human rights and international criminal law, with a focus on representing victims of egregious human rights abuses.  She is currently on sabbatical, serving as Deputy Director of Reprieve.