Posts Tagged ‘United Kingdom’

Great moments in U.K. hate speech law

After a professor’s denunciation, West Midlands police in the United Kingdom recorded as a reported “hate incident” a cabinet minister’s speech to a Conservative Party conference. In the speech, Home Secretary Amber Rudd, whose duties include the oversight of policing itself as well as immigration and citizenship, had “suggested tightening rules that allow UK firms to recruit workers from overseas.” Oxford University professor Joshua Silver reported the speech as a hate incident, and later explained himself in a BBC2 interview, “It’s discriminating against foreigners – you pick on them and say we want to give jobs to British people and not to foreigners. It was interpreted that way.” Britain’s hate speech law is a departure from centuries of free-speech tradition in the island nation; under relevant police guidelines, “Where any person… reports a hate incident … it must be recorded regardless of whether or not they are the victim, and irrespective of whether there is any evidence to identify the hate element.” The West Midlands police are reported to have “assessed” the claim without launching a formal investigation, and say no crime was committed. [BBC]

English Court of Appeal: litigation funders on hook for fee shift

Casting aside traditional prohibitions on champerty and maintenance, the United Kingdom has of late thrown open its doors to “litigation finance” enterprises that fund legal actions as an investment in exchange for a share of the proceeds. But now a very important constraint may be developing as a corollary: backers of legal action may find themselves on the hook for the fee shifts that are payable to successful opponents under the country’s loser-pays (“costs follow the event”) rules. “Litigation funders will be liable for indemnity costs where these are awarded against their funded client, even if the funder itself has been guilty of ‘no discreditable conduct’, the Court of Appeal ruled today in Excalibur Ventures v Texas Keystone and others [2016] EWCA Civ 1144.” [Law Gazette]

“RSPCA should be stripped of prosecution powers, say MPs”

Discontents of privatized prosecution: “The RSPCA should be stripped of its powers to routinely prosecute animal welfare cases, according to MPs.
The Commons environment committee said there was a “conflict of interest” between the charity’s power to prosecute and its role in investigating cases, campaigning and fundraising…. Evidence heard included testimony from the Self-Help Group (SHG) for farmers, pet owners and others experiencing difficulties with the RSPCA which said some people felt alienated by the charity’s ‘targeting of vulnerable, ill or elderly people” and the removal of their animals.'” [BBC]

Free speech roundup

  • Guidelines urge UK prosecutors to charge those who “egg on others” to violate social media speech laws [The Register]
  • Mississippi county’s ban on clown costumes probably violates the First Amendment [Eugene Volokh]
  • Propositions placed before voters in Washington, Oregon, Missouri, South Dakota would require nonprofits to disclose donors. Chilling effects ahead should they pass [Tracie Sharp and Darcy Olsen, WSJ]
  • Blogger critical of Houston cancer researcher put through FBI investigation (and cleared) following dubious complaint [Ken White, Popehat]
  • And they’re right. “New York law to combat Citizens United is ‘constitutionally unsound’ says NYCLU” [Ronald K.L. Collins] Would Michael Moore’s anti-Trump film have run afoul of pre-Citizens United law? [Trevor Burrus]
  • Trying to count how many journalists Donald Trump has threatened to sue “quickly turned into a fool’s errand.” [Trevor Timm, Columbia Journalism Review, earlier here, etc., etc.; related, Steve Chapman on corrections] And: Trump libel threat clock resets to zero each time the mogul threatens to sue a journalist or critic. Even more: fearful he will sue, ABA stifles report critical of Trump’s litigation [New York Times]

Free speech roundup

  • “EEOC to Gadsden Flag Lovers: Shut Up or Face Costly Lawsuits” [Hans Bader]
  • Ellen de Generes raises First Amendment defense in suit by real estate agent with joshed-over name [Ronald Collins]
  • Background: in England (generally unlike U.S.), tasteless jokes and online insults have been prosecuted as crime [Guardian on moves there to classify “misogyny” as hate crime]
  • Melania Trump’s defamation suit against U.K.-based Daily Mail is filed in Maryland, also names obscure blogger from that state [Mike Masnick, TechDirt]
  • Tale of ginned-up out-of-state defamation lawsuit meant to aid in “reputation management” takedowns gets even weirder [Paul Alan Levy, earlier]
  • University of Tennessee, a public institution, cites First Amendment in dropping probe of Prof. Glenn Reynolds over controversial tweet [Robert Shibley, FIRE]

U.K.: cross-examination before jury deemed too hard on vulnerable witnesses

New court reforms proposed by the U.K.’s Ministry of Justice would do away with many criminal defendants’ right to cross-examine accusers before a jury. The rules provide that what are deemed “vulnerable” victims and witnesses, mostly in sex cases, will instead be allowed to undergo cross-examination recorded in advance for later play in court. [BBC] Here in the U.S., the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause might have a thing or two to say about that.

Labor Day and forced labor

The Venezuela regime of strongman Nicolas Maduro has issued a decree providing that, to quote CNBC, “workers can be forcefully moved from their jobs to work in farm fields or elsewhere in the agricultural sector for periods of 60 days.” It’s shocking, yet as I note in a new post at Cato, “in fact elements of forced labor have cropped up in socialist experiments even in nations with strong track records of constitutional government and civil liberties, such as postwar Britain.” Happy (free and unbound) Labor Day!