From the Chair
New Chair of the Human Rights Lawyers’ Association
Today we are excited to announce that the new Chair of the Human Rights Lawyers Association will be Angela Patrick, of Doughty Street Chambers.
Angela has served on the Executive Committee since 2011 and was appointed Vice-Chair in January. She brings a breadth of human rights experience to the role, as counsel, as a legal adviser to Parliament and as an advocate and litigator in the third sector.
We are grateful to Emma Fenelon, of 1 Crown Office Row, who will reprise the role of Vice-Chair of the organisation.
Eeva Heikkilä has acted as Chair for over two years and the Executive Committee is grateful to her for her commitment, time and energy.
Accepting her appointment as Chair, Angela Patrick said:
“As human rights law remains under political pressure; the skill, commitment and professionalism of human rights lawyers is needed more than ever.
The Human Rights Lawyers Association plays a crucial role. We bring together lawyers from across the professions; from practice and academia; Government and NGOs; law centres and the city, each using human rights law to protect individual rights and the rule of law.
I am delighted to take the Chair and excited to work with the Executive Committee on a great programme for 2017.”
Executive Committee, The Human Rights Lawyers’ Association
Human Rights Lawyers’ Association hosted on 13 September an event with Baroness Helena Kennedy QC and the newly appointed director of Liberty, Martha Spurrier. In the wide ranging discussion the two eminent legal minds dissected the most pressing human rights concerns of today, Martha Spurrier highlighting in particular the importance to campaign against the repeal of the Human Rights Act 1998, the dangers of Brexit and the need to fight for legal aid. She noted in particular the need to fight abuse of state power in the context of prisons, the police and mental health institutions. She told the audience that Liberty will be focusing on the Counter Extremism Bill and the Investigatory Powers Bill, noting that the Counter Extremism Bill appears to be “an Orwellian attempt to police thought”. There can be no doubt that Liberty will remain at the forefront of protection and promotion of human rights under the leadership of Ms Spurrier.
On 3 May 2016, HRLA and Article 19 co-organised an event on the effects that the UK’s Extremism Bill could have on freedom of expression. In today’s political climate, it is difficult to see a topic that would be more pertinent. The proposed Extremism Bill would outlaw vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs; and introduce legislation to combat groups and individuals who reject our values and promote messages of hate. From the debate it is clear that the terms contained in the Bill are deemed too vague and its scope too broad. It was suggested that while the measures proposed in the Bill may not only be counterproductive, but also unlawful, other, more effective, avenues remain to tackle the ills of hate speech and extremism.
On 9 March the Human Rights Lawyers Association held an event to discuss the right to privacy and the increasing government surveillance. The debate this evening revealed the astounding challenges the governments face in keeping our data protected while at the same time maintaining the ability to intercept our private communications and data to stave off threats to security. We heard how bulk surveillance is not a guarantee of safety; targeted, good quality surveillance is. The judicial standards of interception, oversight and accountability must be set higher than where they are now. The role of the legal community is to make sure the investigatory powers reach only as far as they must. There is not a more dangerous breach of security than wanton trespassing into the lives of private citizens.
Elected Chair of the HRLA
Angela Patrick is a barrister specialising in public law, civil liberties and human rights. She is a member of Doughty Street Chambers. Until 2016, she was Director of Human Rights Policy at JUSTICE and was previously a legal adviser to the Joint Committee on Human Rights. Angela is published widely on human rights and equality issues and is a contributing author to Human Rights Practice (Sweet & Maxwell).