Human rights and looking good

Last weekend’s Old Firm game was eventful enough but even had something for legal theorists. Alex Massie’s op-ed in the Times drew attention to the issues raised by Police Scotland’s decision to pre-emptively take into custody over the weekend “serial domestic abusers” who were “thought to pose a risk” after the game. This seems entirely justified but the underlying principle is perhaps more troubling. The concept of predictive criminal acts has hitherto been the stuff of science fiction – remember Tom Cruise in Minority Report drawing on Philip K Dick’s novel of the same name. Massie drew a parallel with the controversial “named person” legislation proposed by the Scottish Government whereby all Scotland’s children would have a professional appointed to monitor their wellbeing. Massie points out the potential human rights issues raised by both initiatives. If you like your analytical jurisprudence to be practically focused, Massie is worth a read.  

— Alex Massie, The Times

On the subject of human rights, the Guardian reports that a court in Norway has found that the country has violated the human rights of Anders Breivik, the violent right wing extremist who killed 77 people in July 2011 in the country’s worst atrocity since the Second World War. Breivik enjoys a thee room cell complex with access to video games, TV, books, newspapers and exercise. However, the court found that his solitary confinement offended the European convention on human rights prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment. Breivik is in principle allowed visits from friends and family but, strangely enough, only his mother has visited and she has since died. Norway prides itself on its enlightened rehabilitative penal policy and the decision has perplexed the Norwegian Institute of Human Rights.

Talking of violent Scandinavian right wing extremists, the Swedish drama Blue Eyes on More 4 (Friday and All 4 catch up) is worth a watch. The series follows a young member of the Justice Ministry in the run up to a general election. There are dirty tricks and sinister goings on swirling round the Ministry and the show builds a complex picture of the rise of right wing extremism behind the veneer of Ikea design and eco-friendly Volvos.

The saga of the latest super-injunction dominated press throughout the week. A YouGov survey found 50% of those questioned knew the identity of the “married celebrity” at the centre of the case. Again, the realities of the digital are proving challenging to the courts. And, again, those pursuing injunctions seem only to subvert their original aim, since no scandal in recent times has received so much coverage. 

Few in the legal profession have had to cope with the level of celebrity of British barrister Amal Clooney, since she married a certain American actor. Addressing an audience in Dallas, Clooney talked passionately about her work as a human rights lawyer. She also addressed some of the more surreal aspects of her position, such as the magazine that published a picture of her in her barrister’s wig next to a portrait of George Washington with the eternal question: “Who wore it best?” She won, but only “because apparently I have better teeth”.

For fictional legal sagas, few have proved as enduringly gripping as the French drama Spiral which has been running in France and on BBC4 since 2005. ICYMI, Spiral follows the interweaving lives of key characters in the French judicial system in Paris, from police detectives to prosecutors, defence lawyers and judges. It’s for the comparative jurists to ponder the respective merits of the civilian criminal justice system and the adversarial system. Whatever, the teamwork between the investigating judge, prosecutor and police makes for compelling TV.

— “Writer”

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