Gwawr Thomas returns to chambers following her secondment to Onyango & Co. Advocates in Kampala, Uganda. Gwawr was attached to the firm’s public interest litigation department, which enjoys a formidable caseload of human rights and constitutional law matters and a particular reputation for its high profile work with Uganda’s LGBTI community.
Gwawr worked on a number of important constitutional petitions and public interest cases, including
- a claim seeking redress for the human rights violations suffered by the indigenous Batwa people, who were forcibly displaced from their ancestral forest lands in order to create the Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga national parks and the Echuya forest reserve;
- a petition challenging the constitutionality of the Anti Pornography Act 2014, the enactment of which led to widespread public undressing of women deemed to be inappropriately dressed;
- a claim arising from Uganda’s failure to execute the international arrest warrant outstanding against Omar Al-Bashir, when he was on Ugandan soil to attend the 2016 presidential inauguration;
- a class action brought on behalf of 98 women who were abducted from IDP camps and forced to become ‘wives’ to LRA commanders during the conflict in northern Uganda;
- a petition challenging the compatibility of provisions of the Public Order Management Act 2013 – giving the police wide powers to disperse public meetings – with the right to freedom of speech;
- a challenge to provisions within the HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Act 2014 which permit disclosure of HIV test results to third parties.
Together with colleagues at the firm, Gwawr was also tasked with conducting an independent investigation into the break in at Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF)’s premises, during which a security guard was killed. HRAPF had challenged the legality of Uganda’s Anti Homosexuality Act 2014 before the East African Court of Justice.
Iain Edwards will speak at a Hague Project Peace and Justice conference on 22nd May. Iain will draw on his experiences as defence counsel in international criminal tribunals to address the conference on a new Syrian justice project called the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism, and about proposals for a reformed model of international criminal procedure that better combines common law and Romano-Germanic systems of criminal justice.
Ariane Adam is in Athens this week (22-26 May) volunteering for the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association Legal Support Project for refugees. The project is a four-month pilot from April to July 2017 to provide legal advice and support to refugees and Greek lawyers. In the current crisis Greek lawyers are incredibly overstretched and the majority of refugees do not receive advice or representation before receiving the initial decision on their claim. If their claim is refused there is an exceedingly long delay in processing appeals. Ariane will be assisting in preparing the first stages of the asylum claim, training and building capacity for Greek lawyers, and developing remote support services.
A team of 1MCB barristers (James Murray-Smith, Michael Chambers, Anna Watterson, David Parvin, Bernadette Smith, Nick Bano and Michael Sprack) and family members took part in a 60-mile sponsored bike ride in Hertfordshire on 7th May 2017.
The team was raising money for Evolve Foundation for International Legal Assistance. Evolve is a barrister-led international organisation that improves access to justice, builds capacity within the legal profession through education and training, and promotes fairness, efficiency and integrity within the criminal justice system of Uganda. So far it has assisted almost 500 individuals facing or convicted of a capital offence in sentencing hearings or appeals against conviction as well as pioneering the first pilot scheme of pre-sentence and social inquiry reports in Uganda.
Donations are still very welcome – please visit our JustGiving page.
Catherine Picardo has been invited to train members of the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists. The course aims to develop therapists’ understanding of the legal issues that face clients so that they can be supported during the legal process, and to consider how lawyers and the therapeutic and counselling communities can best work together at times of great anxiety for clients.
The training will be delivered in London and Cambridge.
A specially convened Court of Appeal recently gave judgment in R v Joseph & Others  EWCA Crim 36, which concerns the criminal liability of victims of trafficking who commit offences in the course of their exploitation. The Court was called upon to determined the interplay between the pre-existing law and the Modern Slavery Act 2015, the effect of the UK’s international obligations on the common law defence of duress and the relationship between the Crown Prosecution Service and the Competent Authority.
Although the Modern Slavery Act 2015 now clearly sets out the circumstances in which a criminal defence may arise, the appellants in this case did not fall within the scope of the Act because they had variously not raised the issue prior to their conviction or had been prosecuted prior to the enactment of the 2015 Act. However, they argued that in light of that Act, they should be placed in the same position as those who could avail themselves of the defence contained therein. The Appellants therefore proposed that the common law defence of duress be expanded so as to make it sufficiently broad to encompass the means of trafficking set out in the Palermo Protocol and the UN Convention.
The Court rejected this approach, holding that there was no evidence of injustice sufficient to justify amending the parameters of the defence of duress in human trafficking cases.
The Court went on to confirm that when deciding whether a prosecution should proceed notwithstanding the direct causality of human trafficking/exploitation, the gravity of the offence committed was relevant but fact-sensitive in each case. Furthermore, it was reaffirmed that in the case of trafficked children who could demonstrate a direct link with their exploitation and offence, it was not necessary to demonstrate compulsion as it would be in the case of an adult.
Finally, the Court noted the lack of guidance on co-operation between the Competent Authorities and the CPS on dealing with claims after conviction and observed that the development of such guidance was desirable as the Court will always bear the findings of the Competent Authorities very much in mind.
Jessica Russell-Mitra acted for the second appellant.
Thomas v London Borough of Lambeth (HHJ Parfitt, County Court at Central London, 16th March 2017).
Nick Bano appeared for the successful appellant in a ‘priority need’ appeal against the London Borough of Lambeth.
The Appellant suffered from depression, which included suicidal thoughts and previous attempts at self-harm. The local authority had sought independent medical advice from NowMedical. As is not uncommon in homelessness cases NowMedical carried out a series of ‘desktop examinations’: they accepted that the Appellant suffered from depression for which she received standard treatment. They advised that: “there is nothing to suggest that she has required urgent psychiatric intervention and there is no evidence in this case of a severe or enduring underlying mental illness such that would significantly affect her condition or rational thought”.
HHJ Parfitt at the County Court at Central London quashed the decision. He noted that there was a sliding scale of depressive illnesses, and found that the ‘gist’ of the council’s decision was that the medical evidence did not establish that the Appellant was at the extreme end of that scale and that, accordingly, she is not vulnerable. He said (taken from counsel’s note):
“[The reports] go from a description of the medical evidence provided to say what her condition isn’t, and then to reach a conclusion that she is not vulnerable”.
“I consider that that approach is fundamentally flawed. And it’s flawed because it fails to address directly the Appellant’s medical evidence, which was specifically that: (a) she had depression; (b) that the consequences of her depression would be exacerbated by the threat of homelessness that she faced when she saw the doctor; and (c) that there would be further exacerbation if she was then made homeless. And there is no specific addressing of those facts by the reviewing officer or by NowMedical”.
The judge suggested during submissions that it was a ‘straw man’ argument to say that the Appellant was not vulnerable simply because there are more serious forms of depression from which she does not suffer.
Nick was instructed by the Brixton Advice Centre.
The Court of Appeal has rejected an appeal by Pimlico Plumbers concerning the employment status of a former worker.
Gary Smith worked for Pimlico Plumbers for six years until 2011. His contract was terminated when he asked to reduce his hours following a heart attack. Mr Smith took his case to the Employment Tribunal, which found he was a ‘worker’ and so was entitled to employment rights. Both the Employment Appeal Tribunal and Court of Appeal rejected Pimlico Plumbers’ appeal. In upholding the Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal’s decisions, the Master of the Rolls said:
“This case puts a spotlight on a business model under which operatives are intended to appear to clients of the business as working for the business, but at the same time the business itself seeks to maintain that… there is a legal relationship of … independent contractor rather than employer and employee or worker.”
The Court of Appeal’s decision is expected to affect other workers in the so-called ‘gig economy’, such as delivery drivers.
David Stephenson acted for Mr Smith throughout his protracted legal battle.
A copy of this important judgment can be found on the judiciary website.
The case was reported by the BBC, ITV, Sky News and the Daily Mail, amongst others.
Chambers congratulates Neelim Sultan on her election as Chair of the International Bar Association‘s Human Rights Law Committee (HRLC). The Committee aims to promote human rights in all areas of the legal profession, as well as in the broader community.
Iain Edwards has been assigned by the Registrar of the MICT for the defence of Jovica Stanišić. The client was the head of the Serbian state security service within the Ministry of Internal Affairs from 1991 to 1998. He is jointly charged with his deputy with persecution, murder, deportation and forcible transfer as crimes against humanity, and murder as a war crime.
The client is being retried after he was acquitted on all counts before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The case is temporally and geographically broad in scope, involving alleged crimes committed against Croat, Bosnian Muslim, Bosnian Croat and other non-Serb civilian populations within large areas of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1991 and 1995. The trial is likely to start in the spring.
On Saturday, 4th February 2017, Iain Edwards will be speaking at the annual conference presented by the International Bar Association’s War Crimes Committee at the Peace Palace in The Hague. He will focus on the subject of ‘Refugees as victims of slavery and other crimes’ as part of a discussion panel on the refugee crisis in international law.
Please click here for further details and to register.
1MCB is very pleased to be supporting a fun packed music evening on Friday, 20th January 2017 to raise funds for Evolve – Foundation for International Legal Assistance.
Evolve’s aim is to improve access to justice; build capacity within the legal profession through education and training, and promote fairness, efficiency and integrity within the criminal justice system of Uganda.
The fundraiser will feature The Discount Orchestra, a seven piece speed-folk gypsy-punk band, and is taking place at The Water Rats, 328 Grays Inn Road, London, WC1X 8BZ (near King’s Cross station).
Tickets are £10 each and are available via EventBrite.
If you are able to support this charity or just enjoy a good Friday night music fest then we would very much love to see you there.