The judges are only the ‘enemies of the people’ when it suits the government

14th April 2021

For the government. and its political and media supporters, the judiciary are the ‘enemies of the people’.

The view is that that it is no business of activist judges to interfere with what ‘the people’ want.

It is a view that led the London government to oppose the supreme court determining the two Miller cases.

It is also a view that informs the current attempts by the government to limit judicial review and the scope of the human rights act – to the claps and cheers of many who (frankly) should know better.

But it is a shallow view, adopted out of convenience and partisanship.

For, when the political boot is on a different constitutional foot, the government suddenly values an independent judiciary being able to assess the constitutional propriety of a measure:

See Joshua Rozenburg’s detailed piece here.

Also note the response of the London government’s former chief legal official:

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From a political perspective, this referral prompts mixed feelings.

My political view is that a Scottish parliament can and should be co-equal with the Westminster parliament – as the legislatures in Canada and Australia are, even if nominally under the same head of state.

As such, it is frustrating to see the emphatically supported view of the Scottish parliament potentially stymied in this way.

But a political view is not always the same as a constitutionalist perspective.

And under the current constitutional arrangements of the United Kingdom, this is a question that can be referred to the supreme court – and as such there is nothing unconstitutional about the London government doing so.

(Whether those should be the constitutional arrangements is a different question.)

It is sheer hypocrisy – and there is not other word – for the London government, and its political and media supporters, to pick-and-choose when the supreme court gets to determine constitutional questions.

Either the supreme court is a constitutional court or it is not a constitutional court.

And it should not be regarded as only a constitutional court when the London government wants to face down Edinburgh, Cardiff, or Belfast.

A constitutional court is not and should not be regarded as an imperial court.

***

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The Good Friday Agreement and Brexit

12th April 2021

Before the Brexit referendum, one British politician made an emphatic statement about the impact of Brexit on the position of Northern Ireland:

‘Relations between London and Dublin are by far the warmest they have ever been since Irish independence, and the people of Northern Ireland are among the beneficiaries of that.

‘For that, the credit goes to a whole succession of British and Irish leaders, and to the tireless diplomacy of the United States. Yet it has also partly been facilitated by both countries being part of a common framework.

‘If the UK were not in the EU, the impact on such close relations, though hard to quantify, would certainly not be positive.

‘The Good Friday Agreement was based on the assumption that the two countries would be in the EU together, and the various cross-border institutions it established are built on that.

‘Hundreds of millions of euros of European funds are currently diverted into the border region through a special peace programme.

‘Most important of all, the open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic would be called into question.’

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The key sentence of that passage bears repeating:

‘The Good Friday Agreement was based on the assumption that the two countries would be in the EU together, and the various cross-border institutions it established are built on that.’

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Who was this politician?

Was it some starry-eyed Europhile writing in some left-wing magazine?

No, it was former Conservative foreign secretary William Hague writing in the Daily Telegraph on 9th May 2016.

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Hague’s warning was not the only one – and he was also not the only one to make the connection between the European Union and the Good Friday Agreement.

The then Taoiseach Enda Kenny said, just days before the referendum:

‘When the Good Friday agreement was concluded 18 years ago, the detail of the negotiations and the agreement itself were brought about as a result of intensive engagement by the British and Irish governments in conjunction with the Northern Irish political parties.

‘But often underestimated was the international support for the process, not least that of the European Union.’

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And if one looks at the Good Friday Agreement itself, you will see the following recital:

‘The British and Irish governments […]

‘Wishing to develop still further the unique relationship between their peoples and the close co-operation between their countries as friendly neighbours and as partners in the European Union’

The agreement also expressly provided that the north-south ministerial council ‘consider the European Union dimension of relevant matters, including the implementation of EU policies and programmes and proposals under consideration in the EU framework. Arrangements to be made to ensure that the views of the Council are taken into account and represented appropriately at relevant EU meetings’.

Indeed, there are eight mentions of the European Union in the agreement.

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Of course, an agreement made in 1998 did not and could not have anticipated the United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union in 2016 and then leaving in 2020.

But that shared membership of the European Union was a presupposition cannot be sensibly denied.

As Hague also points out about Gibraltar, shared membership of the European Union was a handy and effective solution to tricky cross-border issues.

The European Union was a useful geo-political work-around for many otherwise insoluble problems. 

And so be departing from the European Union, such advantages of membership were removed.

This should not have been a shock.

Hague set this out plainly in the Brexit-supporting Telegraph, and the Taoiseach also put his name to articles explicitly stating this.

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Brexit, of course, is not in and by itself a contradiction of the Good Friday Agreement – in that the Good Friday Agreement still is in force now that the United Kingdom has departed the European Union.

In the first Miller case, the supreme court was asked to rule against the Article 50 notification, and they stated in respect of the legislation implementing that agreement:

‘In our view, this important provision, which arose out of the Belfast [Good Friday] Agreement, gave the people of Northern Ireland the right to determine whether to remain part of the United Kingdom or to become part of a united Ireland.

‘It neither regulated any other change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland nor required the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland to the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.’

As such continued shared membership of the European Union may well have been a presupposition of the Good Friday – but it was not (as a lawyer may say) a condition precedent.

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The Good Friday Agreement is, in terms of its practical importance, perhaps the most significant single constitutional instrument in the politics of the United Kingdom.

It is of far more practical importance than, say, Magna Carta.

It shapes what is – and is not – both politically permissible and politically possible.

It largely explains the curiously elaborate – and, for some, counter-intuitive – nature of Brexit in respect of Northern Ireland.

It meant that the clean absolute break with the European Union sought by many Brexit supporters did not happen.

The Irish border was to be kept open.

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But the Good Friday Agreement does not only protect the nationalist community, it also should protect the unionist community.

And the Brexit arrangements – with a trade barrier effectively down the Irish Sea – is seen as much as an affront to the unionists as a visible land border infrastructure would have been an affront to the nationalists.  

There is no easy answer to this problem – perhaps there is no answer, easy or hard.

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It took membership of the European Union to make the Belfast Agreement possible.

Perhaps there is no alternative geo-political workaround to take its place.

Had the United Kingdom stayed within the single market and the customs union, even if as a matter of legal form it would not technically be a member of the European Union, then perhaps this problem could have been averted.

But the fateful decision by then prime minister Theresa May in the months after the Brexit Referendum that Brexit would mean leaving the single market and the customs union meant that problems in respect of the position of Northern Ireland would become stark.

And as nods to the articles by Hague and Kenny show, it cannot be averred that the United Kingdom government was not warned.

***

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Whoopsie: the government did not get the commission report on judicial review that it was hoping for

 19th March 2021

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‘Toulouse’s suggestion was not what Audrey wanted to hear.’

– Moulin Rouge

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Sometimes – just sometimes – in the world of law and policy there are moments when welcome things do happen.

Back in August 2020 this blog covered the government’s announcement of an ‘independent panel to look at judicial review’.

It did not seem a promising move: just an attempt by the government to find cover for an assault on judicial review by means of a hand-picked commission.

But.

It is sometimes strange how things turn out.

The commission has now reported – and just a skim of the report shows that the government did not get the report it was hoping for.

In large part, the report appears to be an affirmation of the current position of judicial review – with minor changes that it is hard to feel strongly about.

(A close read of the report may dislodge this happy impression – but that is this blog’s preliminary view.)

The concluding observations of the report could have even be a post on this very blog:

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In receipt of the report, the Ministry of Justice decided that it would try harder to find people to tell them what they wanted to hear.

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‘We want to keep this conversation going.’

We can bet they do.

Like a frustrated news show producer who cannot find any talking-head expert to say the desired things, the Ministry of Justice is now resorting to a Vox Pox.

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At bottom, the problem here is a mismatch, a dislocation – such as those recently discussed on this blog.

The discrepancy is between the heady rhetoric of ‘activist judges’ – a rhetoric that has a life of its own – and the mundane reality of what actually happens in courts.

The commission, to their credit, looked hard and reported on what they saw.

Yet those Ministry of Justice, to their discredit, want to keep on until they are told what they want to hear.

Perhaps the Ministry of Justice will get what they want – and then move to limit judicial review.

One can never be optimistic about law and policy for very long, and the illiberals and authoritarians are relentless.

But this report is a welcome break from the push towards populist authoritarianism in our political and legal affairs.

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For a more detailed account of the just-published report, see Paul Daly’s blogpost here.

***

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The problem of the dislocation between political language and policy substance

17th March 2021

The problem of political language not being tied firmly to particular meanings is not a new one:

‘From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:

WAR IS PEACE

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH’

Indeed, it is no doubt a problem as old as political discourse itself.

But the fact that it is not a novelty does not make it any less irksome.

And nor does it mean that its instances should be left unremarked.

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Currently there is a severe dislocation between political words and things.

Those ‘free speech warriors’ who decry ‘cancel culture’ often seem at ease with a government putting forward legislation that is capable of prohibiting any form of effective protest.

There are also the ‘classical liberals’ who commend ‘free trade’ who are in support of Brexit, which is the biggest imposition of trade barriers on the United Kingdom in modern history – and has even led to a trade barrier down the Irish Sea.

And there are the champions of the liberties under Magna Carta and of ‘common law rights’ who also somehow support restrictions on access to the court for judicial review applications and sneer at imaginary activist judges.

Like a gear stick that has come loose, there seems no connection between the political phrases and the policy substance.

But the phrases are not meaningless – they still have purchase (else they would not be used).

The phrases are enough to get people to nod-along and to clap and cheer.

It is just that they are nodding-along and clapping and cheering when the actual policies then being adopted and implemented have the opposite effect.

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Can anything be done?

An optimist will aver that mankind can only bear so much unreality – and that people will realise they have been taken in by follies and lies.

That, for example, Americans will realise that politicians who seek support to ‘make American great again’ have made America anything but.

Or that those who said they would ‘get Brexit done’ have instead placed the United Kingdom in a structure where Brexit will be a negotiation without end.

Or there will be a realisation that a government is seeking greater legal protections for statues than for actual human beings.

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A pessimist will see the opposite – that the breakdown of traditional media and political structures (with traditional political parties and newspapers seeming quaint survivors from another age) – means that it will be harder to align words with meanings.

Meaning the dismal prospect of liberals and progressives having to also adopt such insincere approaches so as to counter and defeat the illiberals and authoritarians.

Whatever the solution, it needs to come rather quickly – at least in the United Kingdom – as the current illiberal and authoritarian government is in possession of a large parliamentary majority and is showing itself willing and able to push through illiberal and authoritarian laws and policies.

While pretending to itself and others that it has ‘libertarian instincts’.

And so it may not just be the gear stick which has come loose but also the brakes as well.

Brace, brace.

***

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The European Commission launches legal proceedings against the United Kingdom – a guided tour

 16th March 2021

The European Commission announced yesterday that it had ‘launched legal proceedings’ against the United Kingdom.

What has happened is that a formal legal notice has been sent by the European Commission to the United Kingdom.

To say this is ‘launch[ing] legal proceedings’ is a little dramatic: no claim or action has been filed – yet – at any court or tribunal.

But it is a legally significant move,  and it is the first step of processes that, as we will see below, can end up before both a court and a tribunal.

This blogpost sets out the relevant information in the public domain about this legal move – a guided tour of the relevant law and procedure.

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Let us start with the ‘legal letter’ setting out the legal obligations that the European Commission aver the United Kingdom has breached and the particular evidence for those breaches.

This is an ‘infraction’ notice.

As the European Commission is making some very serious allegations – for example, that the United Kingdom is in breach of the Northern Ireland protocol – then it is important to see exactly what these averred breaches are.

This information would be set out precisely in the infraction letter – informing the ministers and officials of the United Kingdom government of the case that they had to meet in their response.

But.

We are not allowed to see this letter.

Even though the European Commission is making serious public allegations about the United Kingdom being in breach of the politically sensitive Northern Ireland Protocol, it will not tell us the particulars of the alleged breaches.

This is because, I am told, the European Commission does not publish such formal infraction notices.

There is, of course, no good reason for this lack of transparency – especially given what is at stake.

The European Commission should not be able to have the ‘cake’ of making serious infraction allegations without the ‘eating it’ of publishing them.

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And so to work out what the alleged breaches are, we have to look at other, less formal (and thereby less exact) sources.

Here the European Commission have published two things.

First, there is this press release.

Second there is this ‘political letter’ – as distinct from the non-disclosed ‘legal letter’.

What now follows in this blogpost is based primarily on a close reading of these two public documents.

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We start with the heady international law of the Vienna Convention on the law of treaties.

Article 26 of the Vienna Convention regards the delightful Latin phrase Pacta sunt servanda.

In other words: if you have signed it, you do it.

Agreements must be kept.

You will also see in Article 26 express mention of ‘good faith’.

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We now go to the withdrawal agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union.

There at Article 5 you will see that the United Kingdom and the European Union expressly set out their obligation of good faith to each other in respect of this particular agreement:

So whatever ‘good faith’ may or not mean in a given fact situation, there is no doubt that under both Article 26 of the Vienna Convention generally and under Article 5 of the withdrawal agreement in particular that the United Kingdom and the European Union have a duty of good faith to each other in respect of their obligations under the withdrawal agreement.

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The European Commission not only allege that the United Kingdom is in breach of its obligation of good faith but also that the United Kingdom is in breach of specific obligations under the Northern Ireland protocol (which is part of the withdrawal agreement).

The press release says there are ‘breaches of substantive provisions of EU law concerning the movement of goods and pet travel made applicable by virtue of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland’.

The ‘political letter’ says:

So it would appear that the relevant provisions of the withdrawal agreement are Articles 5(3) and (4) of the Northern Ireland and Annex 2 to that protocol.

Here we go first to Annex 2.

This annex lists many provisions of European Union law that continue to have effect in Northern Ireland notwithstanding the departure of the United Kingdom.

Article 5(4) of the protocol incorporates the annex as follows:

‘The provisions of Union law listed in Annex 2 to this Protocol shall also apply, under the conditions set out in that Annex, to and in the United Kingdom in respect of Northern Ireland.’

As such a breach of Article 5(4) is a breach of the European Union laws set out in that annex.

Article 5(3) of the protocol is a more complicated provision and it is less clear (at least to me) what the European Commission is saying would be the breach:

My best guess is that the European Commission is here averring that the United Kingdom is in breach of the European Union customs code (which is contained in Regulation 952/2013.)

As regards the specific European Union laws set out in Annex 2 that the European Commission also says that the United Kingdom is in breach of, we do not know for certain because of the refusal of the commission to publish the formal infraction notice.

On the basis of information in the press release and the ‘political letter’ it would appear that the problems are set out in these three paragraphs:

Certain keyword searches of Annex 2 indicate which actual laws the European Commission is saying being breached, but in the absence of sight of the formal infraction notice, one could not know for certain.

The reason the detail of what laws are at stake matters is because each instrument of European Union law may have its own provisions in respect of applicability, enforceability and proportionality that could be relevant in the current circumstances.

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So: what next.

Two things – the European Commission is adopting a twin-track, home-and-away approach.

One process will deal with the substantive provisions of European Union law – and the other process will deal with the matter of good faith.

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In respect of the alleged substantive breaches of European Union law, the European Commission has commenced infraction proceedings – as it would do in respect of any member of the European Union.

As the ‘political letter’ pointedly reminds the United Kingdom:

The United Kingdom is still subject to the supervisory and enforcement powers of the European Union in respect of breaches of European Union law in Northern Ireland.

You thought Brexit meant Brexit?

No: the government of Boris Johnson agreed a withdrawal agreement that kept in place the supervisory and enforcement powers of the European Union – including infraction proceedings of the European Commission and determinations by the Court of Justice of the European Union.

And so in 2021 – five years after the Brexit referendum – the European Commission is launching infraction proceedings against the United Kingdom under Article 258 of the Treaty of Rome:

This means there could well be a hearing before the Court of Justice of the European Union.

One does not know whether this would be more wanted or not wanted by our current hyper-partisan post-Brexit government.

One even half-suspects that they wanted this all along.

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The other track – with the European Commission playing ‘away’ – is in respect of the general ‘good faith’ obligation – as opposed to the substantive European Union law obligations under Annex 2.

Here we are at an early stage.

In particular, we are are at the fluffy ‘cooperation’ stage of Article 167:

If this fails, then the next stage would be a notice under Article 169(1):

Article 169(1) provides that such a formal notice shall ‘commence consultations’.

And if these Article 169 consultations do not succeed, then we go to Article 170:

The arbitration panel – and not the European Commission nor the European Court of Justice – would then determine whether the United Kingdom is in breach of its general obligation of good faith.

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We could therefore end up with two sets of highly controversial proceedings.

The European Commission has intimated the processes for both to take place in due course.

From a legalistic perspective, the European Commission may have a point – depending on what the alleged breaches actually are.

A legal process is there for dealing with legal breaches – that is what a legal process is for.

But.

When something is legally possible, it does not also make it politically sensible.

A wise person chooses their battles.

And if the European Commission presses their cases clumsily, then the legitimacy and durability of the withdrawal framework may be put at risk.

Brace, brace.

***

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Under the hood: how the United Kingdom state authorises people to commit criminal offences and then protects them from prosecution

12th March 2021

A recent court of appeal case has provided an insight into how the United Kingdom state both authorises people to commit criminal offences and then protects them from prosecution.

To show how this is done is not necessarily to condemn – or endorse – such governmental practices.

You may well believe that it is right that in certain covert operations those acting on behalf of the state should be able – as part of their cover – be able to break both the criminal and civil law for the greater good.

Or you may believe it should not be legally possible and that such things have the effect of placing state agents above the law.

In either case there is value in understanding just how it is done.

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The starting point is to know – in general terms – about the two-stage ‘code’ test for bringing criminal prosecutions.

The first stage is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence against a defendant – this is called the evidential test.

The second test – treated as a routine formality in most every-day cases – is whether, distinct from the evidential test, there is a public interest in a prosecution – this is called the public interest test.

The notion is that there is a presumption that a prosecution is in the public interest unless there is a reason why such a prosecution was not in the public interest.

And it is at this second stage that state-authorised criminals are protected from prosecution.

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But it is important to note that this protection is not a legal immunity.

Oh no, not at all, definitely not, how could you think such a thing?

The contention is that because in theory a prosecution can still occur then state agents are not technically above the law.

And placing state agents above the law would be a bad thing, and such a bad thing would never happen.

An authorisation for a state agent to break the law does not confer immunity from prosecution – it instead provides a factor which a prosecutor takes into account when making the decision whether a prosecution is in the public interest or not.

In this elaborate – and for some, artificial – form the state has both its cake and a file inside it.

State agents are protected from prosecutions for their criminal acts – but are not given immunity.

It is just that the prosecutions will not happen.

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The court of appeal case is the latest (and perhaps last) stage in an important public interest case which, among other public benefits, has led to the disclosure of hitherto secret guidance on authorising state agents to commit criminal effects.

The judgment at paragraph 14 even published a redacted version of the guidance.

One paragraph of that guidance describes the legal effect and consequences of an authorisation (which I break up into smaller paragraphs for flow):

‘9. An authorisation of the use of a participating agent has no legal effect and does not confer on either the agent or those involved in the authorisation process any immunity from prosecution.

‘Rather, the authorisation will be the Service’s explanation and justification of its decisions should the criminal activity of the agent come under scrutiny by an external body, e.g. the police or prosecuting authorities.

‘In particular, the authorisation process and associated records may form the basis of representations by the Service to the prosecuting authorities that prosecution is not in the public interest.

‘Accordingly, any such authorisation should, on its face, clearly establish that the criteria for authorisation are met, in terms which will be readily understood by a prosecutor.

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To a certain extent the court of appeal case is of historic interest, because the government has now legislated to place part of this system on a statutory basis.

In the grand tradition of giving important legislation complicated and forgettable names, this is the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Act 2021.

This inserts the glamorous-sounding ‘section 29B – Covert human intelligence sources – criminal conduct authorisations’ into the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, including this definition:

‘A “criminal conduct authorisation” is an authorisation for criminal conduct in the course of, or otherwise in connection with, the conduct of a covert human intelligence source.’

You will note – perhaps worryingly – that there is no limit on what criminal actions may be authorised.

And here on should bear in mind the circumstances of the murder of Pat Finucane.

(And those circumstances explain why the Pat Finucane Centre were one of the groups bringing the legal challenge.)

 

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On the face of it: murder and other serious criminal offences can be authorised by the state: there is no express limit.

But, of course, such things would never happen.

Ahem.

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Paragraph 113 of the judgment also reveals something interesting:

‘The undisputed evidence generally was that the Security Service works closely with the police in counter-terrorism operations. The evidence also reveals that there is, for example, a Memorandum of Understanding between the Security Service, the police and the Counter Terrorism Division of the Crown Prosecution Service.’

This memorandum of understanding, of course, does not seem to be in the public domain.

As a ‘memorandum of understanding’ this would be a formal, legal-looking document – complete with pompous earnest language and paragraph numbers – but it is as much an imposter as any covert agent.

The purpose of a memorandum of understanding between government entities is to have the effect of a binding agreement – but without any of the inconveniences of it actually being a legal instrument, such as transparency.

There are memorandums of understanding all over the state (and between the United Kingdom and other states) – many of which are secret – but all of which are crucial in the conduct of government and public affairs.

The court of appeal’s helpful mention of the existence of this memorandum of understanding tells us how – as a matter of process – the authorisations are in practice converted into decisions not to prosecute.

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Again: you may take the view that all this is not something to worry about and that government is doing what it has to do so as to keep us all safe.

Nothing in this post should be taken to gainsay such an entirely valid view.

The purpose of this post is to use information in the public domain so as to show how the state goes about doing what it does.

And there is even a reason to welcome the 2021 act even if one is a liberal or progressive.

The more of what the state does that is placed on a public statutory basis the better in any democratic society that values the rule of law.

So although the various public interest groups failed in their appeal, their dogged-determined litigation has led to certain things becoming public knowledge and perhaps being placed on a statutory footing that were not public knowledge before.

Just because some things should be covert it does not mean all things have to be covert.

And there is not a good reason why the ways and means by which the state authorises criminal conduct and then protects its agents from prosecution should not be in public domain – and in a democratic society that values the rule of law there is a good reason why it should be.

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EDIT

The first version of this post had a mention of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme – but the point I made now appears to be incorrect – so I have deleted that section so I can consider it again.

Apologies.

***

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Each post on this blog takes time, effort, and opportunity cost.

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When constitutional norms are for other people: Boris Johnson and the danger of constitutional indifference

11th March 2021

Yesterday the prime minister Boris Johnson misled the house of commons twice.

As you read that, you may perhaps shrug: so what? 

This post sets out the ‘so what’.

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The constitution of the United Kingdom is comprised to a significant degree of conventions.

In short: a constitutional convention is a thing that should happen in a given constitutional situation – and has a purpose – but which one could not get any court to order its enforcement.

As such constitutional conventions are distinct from the laws of the constitution which, in principle, would admit of a judicial remedy in the event of a breach.

A breach of a convention, however, is not a matter for any court.

This means that matters of compliance and breach of constitutional conventions are usually a law-free zone – and the means of compliance and sanctions (if any) for breach are dealt with other than by lawyers and judges.

That a prime minister – or any member of parliament – is honest in parliament is one such constitutional convention.

It is a powerful convention – for example, one implication of the convention is members of parliament cannot call each other liars in the house of commons.

The fiction is that there should never be a need to call another ‘honourable’ member a liar as there is a general obligation not to lie.

But the convention is even more powerful than this.

The convention that ministers shall not lie means that the entire system of parliamentary accountability is possible – debates have meaning, oral and written questions have a point, and so on.

Take away the obligation not to lie, and we would have even less practical accountability in our parliamentary system than we do already.

It would poison the wells.

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For Johnson, however, such concerns must seem quaint.

For Johnson any given encounter is a game for him to win – and if he breaches any norm then he will seek to get away with it.

So confident is he in his ability to get away with any breaches of norms that he does not care even for the moral hazard of such breaches being opportunities for others.

(That one should comply with a rule because it means others would also have to comply with that rule is only an incentive if it matters to you whether others break the rules.)

It is not so much that Johnson wants to break the rules as an end in and of itself – he will comply with rules if it suits him,

Instead it is a general indifference to the rules – they will be broken or complied with as it suits him personally and politically.

*

Such an approach will always be attractive to certain politicians from time to time.

And so because of the possibility of such indifference, there has to be some means of enforcing constitutional conventions – or sanctions for breach.

These cannot be legal sanctions, as they are not matters for a court.

But not all checks and balances are legal mechanisms.

The problem with Johnson’s indifference is that there seems to be no effective means of enforcement or sanction.

Johnson does not care for the ministerial code and has already shown he will disregard it (as in the case of the home secretary).

The old stand-by of ‘being responsible on the floor of the commons’ has no purchase, as it is his conduct on the floor of the house of commons that is the problem.

And if the speaker of the commons – or anyone else – seeks to hold Johnson accountable, then the hyper-partisan bullies among Johnson’s political and media supporters will seek to attack the intervention.

So in effect, Johnson is immunised from being held accountable for misleading elected politicians in the house of commons.

And if that matters to you, that is your problem, and not his.

He will get away with it, and he knows he will get away with it.

*

And this is a problem – a meta-problem – that cannot be solved with demands for a written constitution.

Writing down conventions and publishing them does not give them life.

The issue also is not about his indifference – as this approach will be adopted from time to time by a certain type of politician.

The problem is about a lack of willingness to make this matter – for such a breach to have such consequences that the Johnsons of the political world do not see it as a viable political practice.

And it is the absence of practical checks and balances – of gatekeepers and of those credited with authority – that is the constitutional problem here.

Until and unless it can be made to matter that a minister should not lie to the house of commons – and by non-legal means as it cannot be a legal matter – then it will just carry on, because it can.

It is a depressing prospect.

***

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A close reading of public domain information regarding the settlement between Philip Rutnam and the Home Office

5 March 2021

*

 ‘Time to form a square around the Prittster’

– prime minister Boris Johnson, as reported on 20th November 2020

*

‘Expected value is the product of variable such as a risk multiplied by its probability of occurrence’

– Central Government Guidance on Appraisal and Evaluation (‘the Green Book’), 2020 edition, p. 140

*

We now know what appears to be the financial value of a square formed about the Prittster.

According to my Financial Times colleague, the well-connected Sebastian Payne, the cost of yesterday’s settlement of the claim brought by Philip Rutnam against the home offic is at least £340,000 plus £30,000 of legal costs.

There would also be other costs incurred by the home office, including for its own external counsel.

This is a substantial – indeed extraordinary – amount of money for a settlement of a claim – especially when on other matters the home office are often somewhat parsimonious over similar amounts of money

*

So what can be worked out about this settlement?

Let us start on a light note with how the news of the settlement was released.

Here we should imagine a zoom call discussion between a home office lawyer and media advisor:

Media adviser – How do we spin – I mean present – the settlement with Rutnam?

Lawyer – We can say we have settled without admitting liability

Media adviser – Doesn’t that just mean the same thing as the case has settled?

Lawyer – Yes, but political reporters will not know that

Media adviser – Ok – but can we pad it out even more?

Lawyer – We can also say that we were right to defend the case

Media adviser – But isn’t that just another way of saying no liability is admitted?

Lawyer – Yes 

Media adviser – So we should say in effect that we have settled because we settled because we settled?

Lawyer – Exactly

Media adviser – And that will fill up their ‘breaking news’ tweets leaving little room for anything else – oh, that is genius

Lawyer – Thank you, that is kind

Ahem.

All that government statement says in that statement is that the home office has settled the case, three times.

*

More important – and interesting – is how that settlement amount was authorised.

The home office released this statement yesterday:

‘The government and Sir Philip’s representatives have jointly concluded that it is in both parties’ best interests to reach a settlement at this stage rather than continuing to prepare for an employment tribunal.’

This statement shows that a decision was made by the government to settle rather than to proceed to trial.

The statement also expressly states that this decision was made in the government’s best interests.

This indicates – if not demonstrates – that the decision to settle was made in accordance with the principles set out in the ‘Green Book’ – the common name for Central Government Guidance on Appraisal and Evaluation.

The Green Book sets out how a government department should approach dealing with liabilities and risks.

In essence, the Green Book provides the basis for how cost-benefit analyses are conducted in Whitehall.

In civil service speak: ‘[e]xpected value is the product of variable such as a risk multiplied by its probability of occurrence’.

The ‘concluded…best interests’ language of the home office statement means that a decision was made that settlement was more beneficial to the home office than the risks of proceeding with the case.

Or more bluntly: the home office realised it was likely to lose at trial and to lose badly.

Only if this decision was made on that basis, would – absent a ministerial direction overruling officials – such a payment be permissible in accordance with Green Book principles.

And the ‘concluded…best interests’ language tells against any ministerial direction (which, in any case, would one day be disclosed).

So, if this assumption is correct, then the case was closed down not (just) to save a minister from embarrassment but because of the real risk of a heavy defeat at the tribunal – a defeat which ran the serious risk of costing the home office more than £370,000.

The prime minister may have wanted a square to be formed around the Prittster – but that would not itself explain a payment made in accordance with Green Book principles.

*

And so we come to the claim.

The amounts recoverable from most employment tribunal claims are capped, and so an employment tribunal claim even by a highly paid senior civil servant would not normally result in compensation in the area of the amount paid in this settlement.

And employment tribunals do not normally award costs – in lawyer speak, costs do not ‘follow the event’.

So what was different here?

If we go back to the statement made by Rutnam’s trade union when the claim was launched, there is a clue:

‘This morning, Sir Philip, with the support of his legal team and the FDA, submitted a claim to the employment tribunal for unfair (constructive) dismissal and whistleblowing against the Home Secretary.’

This was, in part, a whistleblowing claim.

And as such – under sections 103A and 124(1A) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (as amended) there is no cap on compensation if the reason – or principal reason – for the dismissal is in respect of a protected disclosure.

On this basis, and given the settlement amount, the claims made were regarded (at least potentially) as principally a whistleblowing case.

*

But – is not this case more about bullying than whistleblowing?

Here a passage in this Guardian report may be relevant:

‘Rutnam’s case was expected to focus on his claims that in late 2019 and early 2020 he challenged Patel’s alleged mistreatment of senior civil servants in the Home Office, and that he was then hounded out of his job through anonymous briefings.

‘Reports claimed that a senior Home Office official collapsed after a fractious meeting with Patel. She was also accused of successfully asking for another senior official in the department to be moved from their job.

‘Rutnam, a public servant for 30 years, subsequently wrote to all senior civil servants in the department highlighting the dangers of workplace stress. He also made clear that they could not be expected to do unrealistic work outside office hours.’

Under section 1 of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 there are many ways a disclosure can qualify for legal protection – but the key thing is that such disclosure can be internal to a workplace, even to a boss, and not external disclosure to, say, the press.

On the face of the available information, and on the assumptions made above, it would appear that:

(a) in 2019-20 Rutnam made one or more disclosures internally within government in respect of workplace bullying;

(b) his claim for unfair dismissal in April 2020 had as a principal ground that such disclosure was the main reason for his constructive dismissal; and

(c) by March 2021 it was plain to the home office that this principal ground would be likely to succeed at trial.

Unless these (or similar) facts are true, then it is hard to explain why the home office, following Green Book principles, would settle this claim, for this amount, and at this time.

*

And so now: timing.

The obligations under the Green Book are constant and so would have been just as applicable when the claim was made as they are now.

But the home office waited nearly a year before settling the claim.

And a trial was fixed for September this year.

So something must have happened for the claim to have settled now rather than before now or later.

Something must have tipped the Green Book decision-making in favour of settlement.

There is more than one possibility for this.

It may well be that this was just when the settlement negotiations happened to come to an end, and the Green Book decision happened some time ago.

Or, if you are a conspiracy theorist, you can posit political pressure and even intervention – even though there is no evidence of a ministerial direction.

Or it could have something to do with the judicial review just launched by the FDA trade union in respect of bullying and the ministerial code.

But the most likely explanation is that something has happened in the litigation process that has changed things.

In civil litigation such a shift can sometimes be explained by some sort of costs tactic – where one side springs an offer with such costs implications which, in the words of the noted jurist Don Vito Corleone, is an offer that the other side can’t refuse.

But such costs traps are (I understand) uncommon in employment tribunal cases where there is a special costs regime.

*

So if not costs, then evidence.

At this stage of this sort of claim, there would be what is called a ‘disclosure’ exercise where the parties ascertain and share the relevant documentary and witness evidence.

It is the one moment when the parties get to see the actual strengths and weaknesses of their cases.

Other than in respect of costs traps, it is the one stage where claims are most likely to suddenly settle.

On this basis, the most plausible explanation for a claim that launched in April 2020 and was scheduled to be heard in September 2021 to settle in March 2021 is that some documentary or witness evidence has emerged – or has failed to come up to proof.

And given the nature of the claim and the amount at which the parties have settled, this development in respect of documentary or witness evidence would have to be in respect of a protected disclosure under the Public Interest Disclosure Act.

*

So if this is a whistleblowing case, does that mean the settlement silences the whistle?

Here one answer is given by section 43J(1) of the Employment Rights Act 1996:

‘Any provision in an agreement to which this section applies is void in so far as it purports to preclude the worker from making a protected disclosure.’

A similar answer is given by the Cabinet Office Guidance on Settlement Agreements, Special Severance Payments on Termination of Employment and Confidentiality Clauses:

‘Staff who disclose information about matters such as wrongdoing or poor practice in their current or former workplace are protected under PIDA, subject to set conditions, which are given in the Employment Rights Act 1996. This means that confidentiality 4 Settlement Agreements – guidance for the Civil Service – 18-July- 2019 clauses cannot and should not prevent the proper disclosure of matters in the public interest.’

On this basis, it is unlikely that the settlement agreement will contain such a confidentiality clause or, if it purports to do so, whether it would be enforceable.

The whistle is not silenced – at least at law.

It may well be that Rutnam believes his internal disclosures were sufficient.

Or it may well be that there may be another appropriate opportunity for disclosure, perhaps related to the FDA judicial review case.

We do not know.

*

But what we do know that the government has gone from this (as reported in the Guardian):

‘After a report in the Times highlighted tensions between Rutnam and Patel, sources close to Patel were quoted in several newspapers as saying that Rutnam should resign.

‘In an article in the Times, allies of the home secretary said he should be stripped of his pension, another source in the Telegraph said he was nicknamed Dr No for negative ideas, while one in the Sun likened him to Eeyore, the pessimistic donkey from Winnie the Pooh.

‘At that time the prime minister’s official spokesman said Johnson had full confidence in the home secretary and in the civil service, though the same guarantee was not given to Rutnam specifically.’

To this, in yesterday’s statement:

‘Joining the civil service in 1987, Sir Philip is a distinguished public servant. During this period he held some of the most senior positions in the civil service including as Permanent Secretary of the Department for Transport and the Home Office. The then Cabinet Secretary wrote to Sir Philip when he resigned. This letter recognises his devoted public service and excellent contribution; the commitment and dedication with which he approached his senior leadership roles; and the way in which his conduct upheld the values inherent in public service.’

And:

‘The government regrets the circumstances surrounding Sir Philip’s resignation.’

We can bet they do.

*

So, on the basis of the above we can perhaps understand how and why the government has settled at such a high payment.

The amount is not only ‘substantial’ – it is extraordinary.

And it can be explained best by an understanding of the Green Book as applied to the effects of relevant employment and whistle-blowing law in this particular case.

But what is perhaps most notable in yesterday’s statement from the government is what it does not say.

In his resignation statement, Rutnam said:

‘In the last 10 days, I have been the target of a vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign.

‘It has been alleged that I have briefed the media against the home secretary.

‘This – along with many other claims – is completely false.

‘The home secretary categorically denied any involvement in this campaign to the Cabinet Office.

‘I regret I do not believe her.’

As well as several other serious accusations against the home secretary.

Not one of these accusations is withdrawn – not even ‘clarified’.

The home office instead now commends ‘his devoted public service and excellent contribution; the commitment and dedication with which he approached his senior leadership roles; and the way in which his conduct upheld the values inherent in public service’.

If any square has formed, it is now around Rutnam and not the Prittster.

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How the power of the home secretary to deprive a person of their United Kingdom citizenship is creating a second class of United Kingdom citizens from immigrant families

3rd March 2021

Despite modern political discourse being dominated by demands of what the ‘state’ should and should not do, there is often little in practice that ministers can do towards their political objectives.

Laws may be passed that may or may not have wanted effects; revenues can be raised and resources allocated that may or may not have any desired impact; international agreements may be made – or broken – that may or may not have certain effects; speeches can be made, and lines spun.

But a good deal of this activity and inactivity is at least one step removed from ensuring any real social and economic change (or lack of change), for government and administration is not an exact science.

And for anything that actually affect the rights of individuals, there would then be the pesky courts with their activist judges and scoundrel lawyers.

Over the last decade, however, one government department realised there were things it could do.

The home office has hit upon the one area of policy where it can make decisions that have direct social and economic consequences, but in a largely law-free way.

The home office could take people’s citizenship and residency rights away.

*

Certain manifestations of this general policy approach can be seen with the Windrush scandal and in the deportation of those with certain criminal convictions.

And so on.

*

Just as important as these executive actions, of course, was the threat of such executive actions.

This was not an accident – it was the design of the policy.

That policy was the ‘hostile environment’.

As the former home secretary Theresa May said candidly in a 2012 interview:

“The aim is to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration.”

*

Billboards and signs on vans are one thing, but ready and easy use of executive powers are another.

And the home office – like any addict – began to use this legal power of international displacement more and more.

The home office could do things – and (more-or-less) get away with them.

The next step from stripping people of any residency rights they may have was to deprive them, when possible, of their citizenship rights.

From removing illegal immigrants, to removing those who were from immigrant families but were in the United Kingdom lawfully and indeed were citizens of the United Kingdom.

And so this is what they did.

*

The outstanding Free Movement blog has compiled this table:

According to Colin Yeo, in this detailed and informative survey of the use of the power to deprive a United Kingdom citizen of their citizenship:

‘until quite recently, the power to deprive a person of their British citizenship on the grounds of behaviour was almost moribund, having been used against perhaps a handful of Russian spies…in practice, ‘deprivation powers were not used at all between 1973 and 2002’.

The cases mentioned by Yeo will show why many might not mind many of the deprivations – unpleasant individuals who have done highly unpleasant things.

Many would even clap and cheer and shout good riddance.

But each case is also an instance of simple executive power – a ministerial decision, rather than a prior judgment by a court or tribunal – that strips a person of their citizenship of the United Kingdom – even if that person was born a United Kingdom citizen.

Under section 40 of the British Nationality Act 1981 (as amended heavily over the years), the right of citizenship of a person is entirely at the satisfaction of the home secretary.

(See this blog’s post here.)

And once the home secretary is satisfied that you should lose your citizenship then the citizenship is lost, by instant operation of law.

The person affected may seek to appeal such a decision – but they do so from the position of no longer being a United Kingdom citizen.

The decision takes effect before – sometimes long before – it can be considered by any court or tribunal.

This is what raw executive power looks like.

And the home office likes it this way.

*

Because of the international law in respect of ‘statelessness’ (which this blog set out here), this executive power is usually used (or should be used) only where the person affected already has the status at law of citizenship of another country.

This means it can be used against people with dual citizenship.

And this means it can be used most readily against those who are from first or second generation immigrant families.

So there are now two classes of United Kingdom citizen.

A first class of those who have no other nationality, and so against whom the home secretary cannot (or should not) use their power to deprive them of their citizenship of the United Kingdom.

And a second class of those who will also have another nationality and so can have their citizenship of the United Kingdom instantly removed at the satisfaction of the home secretary.

These second class citizens will primarily be comprised of those from first or second generation immigrant families.

This means, in turn, that many of those affected will tend to be those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

On this basis, the operation of this law and policy would be discriminatory against those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

The very structure of this law and policy would mean it cannot work any other way.

And so a citizen of the United Kingdom – born in the United Kingdom and with no personal relationship with any other country – can have their citizenship instantly removed by a government minister without any prior judicial step just because they are from an immigrant family.

And the home office likes it this way.

**

This post is part of a series of posts on the Shamima Begum case.

There is something wrong – very wrong – about the legal situation of Shamima Begum.

That is, at least on the basis of information in the public domain – which is, of course, the only information on which the public can have confidence in the relevant law and policy.

The legal case is, however, complex – at least on the face of it, with sets of legal proceedings and appeals that have resulted so far in a number of lengthy judgments by variously constituted courts.

So to get to the wrongness of this situation, this blog will be doing a sequence of posts, each on a different element of the case.

Previous posts have included:

  • initial thoughts on the illiberal supreme court decision (here)
  • the parallel of the supreme court decision with the 1941 case of Liversidge v Anderson (here)
  • the legal power of the home secretary to deprive a person of United Kingdom citizenship (here)
  • statelessness and the law and the case of Shamima Begum (here)

Further posts will show how the home office and the courts dealt (and did not deal) with important issues in this case.

The purpose of this Begum series of posts is to promote the public understanding of law.

The posts in this Begum series on this blog will be every few days, alongside commentary on other law and policy matters.

*****

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Comments are welcome, but they are pre-moderated.

Comments will not be published if irksome.

The Real Citizens of Nowhere – statelessness and the law and the case of Shamima Begum – looking closely at the Begum case part 2

not 2nd March 2021

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‘…you’re a citizen of nowhere.’

Theresa May, then prime minister of the United Kingdom, Birmingham, 2016

*

What is a stateless person – a person who is (literally) a citizen of nowhere?

The best starting point for answering this question – a question that is relevant in the topical case of Shamima Begum as well as important generally – is the declaration of human rights of the United Nations.

Article 15 of the declaration provides:

‘(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.

‘(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his [or her] nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.’

A stateless person would thereby a person without nationality, either because they have never had one or because they have been deprived of any nationality that they did have.

That person would be an alien in every country on the planet, without a government obliged to offer protection or help, and without anywhere where they can reside as of right.

Such a predicament would be fundamentally inhumane.

And so that is why the rights to a nationality and against being deprived of any nationality arbitrarily are in the United Nations declaration.

*

You will notice that article 15(2) of the declaration is not an absolute prohibition on a person being deprived of nationality, but a bar on such deprivation being done ‘arbitrarily’.

This would be most relevant when a person has more than one nationality, when one or more of those nationalities is being removed.

But the basic right under article 15(1) is not subject to exceptions: the ‘right to a nationality’ is a right for ‘everyone’. 

And that, for what it is worth, is the fundamental position under international law.

*

The next step is a 1954 convention of the United Nations – the Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons – which took effect in 1960.

The key provision of the 1954 convention is article 1(1), which provides a legally significant definition of a ‘stateless person’ (and thereby ‘statelessness’):

‘For the purpose of this Convention, the term “stateless person” means a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law.’

*

This definition in article 1(1) of the 1954 convention repays careful consideration.

Indeed, as you will see later, this particular definition matters a lot.

Note what the definition does not say.

For example (omitting certain words and replacing ‘by’ with ‘of’) it does not say:

‘For the purpose of this Convention, the term “stateless person” means a person who is not […] a national [of] any State […].’

So what difference do the omitted words make?

The difference is the crucial phrase (perhaps known better in other contexts): ‘the operation of law.’

This phrase means that, regardless of the facts of a person’s predicament, their nationality is a matter of law.

Not a matter of fact, or of opinion – but a matter of law.

*

So, for example, imagine person [Y].

If the law of country [X] provides that person [Y] is a national of that country, then the legal position is that person [x] has nationality and is not stateless.

It does not matter if person [Y] has never been to country [X].

It does not matter if person [Y] has no personal connection to country [X] and, for example, does not speak the language of country [X] and may even be persecuted or tortured if they were to go to country [X].

It also follows that the mere opinion of anybody involved does not matter.

Even if the government of country [X] opines that person [Y] is not a national, that opinion does not matter if, as a matter of law, person [Y] is a national of country [Y].

All that ultimately matters on the issue is what the law of country [X] provides on the issue, and nothing else.

And once it can be ascertained that person [Y] is, as a matter of law, a national of country [X] then that person is not stateless.

Person [Y]’s personal relationship with country [X] and the state opinion of the government of country [Y] are all irrelevant.

*

This absolute priority for the legal position – above the practical facts of the situation – is, as you will see, a feature of this area of law.

Some lawyers will use the Latin phrases de jure and de facto as respective labels for the position as a matter of law and the situation as a matter of fact.

Adopting such terms, the law is that one’s nationality in respect of statelessness is de jure rather than de facto.

Even if the relevant country is far away and about which you know nothing.

*

So, in practice: a government of a country (for example, Bangladesh) may well say a person is not a national (or not wanted as a national) – yet what makes that person stateless is not that mere statement by the government, but whether that person is stateless by operation of law of that country.

When the government of a country (for example, Bangladesh) says one thing about whether a person is a national, but the law of that country says another, then the law trumps the government.

The rejection by a government (for example, Bangladesh) may make a person (for example, Begum) stateless de facto but not de jure.

You will see the consequences of this (legalistic) approach in some of the relevant cases (for example, the case of Begum).

And this (legalistic) approach is hard-wired into the very wording of article 1(1) of the 1954 convention.

Let us look at it again (with emphasis added): 

‘For the purpose of this Convention, the term “stateless person” means a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law.’

*

Our next step is another United Nations convention – the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness – of 1961 and which took effect in 1975.

The 1961 convention provides at article 8(1):

‘A Contracting State shall not deprive a person of its nationality if such deprivation would render him [or her] stateless.’

This right looks robust and unequivocal, with no deft legalistic exceptions or qualifications.

This right is subject to exceptions under the article 8(2) of the 1961 convention (which relate to those who obtain nationality by naturalisation) and under the article 8(3) of the 1961 convention (certain disloyal activities).

You did not think that countries would make it that easy for a person to rely on the right under article 8(1) of the 1961 convention, did you?

Of course not.

Article 8(2) and article 8(3) envisage some situations where a person themselves fulfils a condition that allows a country to deprive a person of their nationality.

The notion is that they will only have themselves to blame.

(As for the position under the law of the United Kingdom at the time the 1961 convention took effect, see section 20 of the British Nationality Act 1948 – the predecessor of the current 1981 Act)

However, in the case of Begum, article 8(2) and article 8(3) are not (supposedly) directly relevant, as the position of the government of the United Kingdom in respect of the Begum case is, of course, that depriving her of her United Kingdom citizenship does not render her stateless.

*

The position of the government is that Begum is de jure a citizen of Bangladesh.

This is, in part, because the government takes statelessness to mean as it is defined in the 1954 convention – that is as statelessness de jure not de facto.

And so, in his letter of 19th February 2019, the home secretary Sajid Javid said (emphases added):

‘As the Secretary of State, I hereby give notice in accordance with section 40(5) of the British Nationality Act 1981 that I intend to have an order made to deprive you, Shamima Begum of your British citizenship under section 40(2) of the Act. This is because it would be conducive to the public good to do so.

‘The reason for the decision is that you are a British/Bangladeshi dual national who it is assessed has previously travelled to Syria and aligned with ISIL. It is assessed that your return to the UK would present a risk to the national security of the United Kingdom. In accord with section 40(4) of the British Nationality Act 1981, I am satisfied that such an order will not make you stateless.

The emphasised text is crucial.

Without that text, the home secretary may have be barred by section 40(4) of the British Nationality Act 1981:

‘The Secretary of State may not make an order under subsection (2) if he is satisfied that the order would make a person stateless.’

And so, if Begum – by operation of law – is indeed a citizen of Bangladesh then she can – in principle – be deprived of her United Kingdom citizenship without that deprivation being barred by section 40(4) of the 1981 Act (and thereby contrary to international law).

*

But it is no longer just the view of the home secretary of the United Kingdom.

The question of whether the deprivation would be such as to render Begum stateless has also been considered by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, in paragraphs 27 to 139 of its decision.

The commission heard expert evidence on both sides and decided that the law of Bangladesh would be that Begum would be a national of Bangladesh, regardless of the lack of any personal connection with that country.

This is paragraph 121 of the commission decision:

The commission has held that Begum was a citizen of Bangladesh by operation of the law of Bangladesh – regardless of what the government of Bangladesh has said and does say.

Begum has not, according to the commission decision, been rendered stateless.

The commission may be wrong: perhaps the expert evidence was wrong, or the wrong weight has been placed on the evidence, or the commission has applied the wrong legal tests, or the commission has applied legal tests incorrectly.

But, as it stands, the view of the home secretary that the deprivation decision has not made Begum stateless has also been endorsed by an independent body.

This issue of whether Begum would or would not be rendered stateless has, however, been decided only as one preliminary issue – there are several other issues – and there still has not been a final decision by the commission on Begum’s overall appeal of the deprivation.

The recent appeals up to and including the supreme court have been in respect of Begum’s ability to participate in this appeal and on a separate policy matter (which we will look at in another post).

The substantive appeal of the deprivation order is still incomplete (and at the moment it appears that it may be indefinitely stayed  – that is, in effect, adjourned).

The appeal before the commission is in limbo, as is – of course – Shamima Begum.

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This post is part of a series of posts on the Begum case.

There is something wrong – very wrong – about the legal situation of Shamima Begum.

That is, at least on the basis of information in the public domain – which is, of course, the only information on which the public can have confidence in the relevant law and policy.

The legal case is, however, complex – at least on the face of it, with sets of legal proceedings and appeals that have resulted so far in a number of lengthy judgments by variously constituted courts.

So to get to the wrongness of this situation, this blog will be doing a sequence of posts, each on a different element of the case.

Previous posts have included:

  • initial thoughts on the illiberal supreme court decision (here)
  • the parallel of the supreme court decision with the 1941 case of Liversidge v Anderson (here)
  • the legal power of the home secretary to deprive a person of United Kingdom citizenship (here)

Further posts will show how the home office and the courts dealt (and did not deal) with important issues in this case.

The purpose of this Begum series of posts is to promote the public understanding of law.

The posts in this Begum series on this blog will be every few days, alongside commentary on other law and policy matters.

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