UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

from FaithWorld:

European human rights court faults Ireland on abortion ban

echr (Photo: European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, January 30, 2009/Vincent Kessler)

The European Court of Human Rights ruled against Ireland on Thursday for stopping a Lithuanian cancer sufferer from terminating a pregnancy, in a blow to the predominantly Catholic country and its tough abortion laws. In a final ruling, the rights court found Ireland had not respected the privacy and family rights of the Lithuanian woman, who was living in Ireland and feared a pregnancy could trigger a relapse of her cancer, in remission at the time.

The court, based in the eastern French city of Strasbourg, ordered Ireland to pay 15,000 euros ($19,840) in damages to the woman, who was forced to travel to Britain, where the laws are more liberal, to have an abortion. Terminating a pregnancy has long been a fraught issue in Ireland, where some of the toughest abortion laws in Europe allow terminations only when the mother's life is in danger.

"The Court concluded that neither the medical consultation nor litigation options, relied on by the Irish government, constituted effective and accessible procedures which allowed (her) to establish her right to a lawful abortion in Ireland," it said a statement on the ruling. Here is a court press release and the full text of the judgment.

Ireferendum 1reland's Health Minister Mary Harney said the government would have to introduce a law clarifying when abortion is legal in Ireland. Currently, a woman can have a termination if she has cervical cancer, an ectopic pregnancy or high blood pressure. "Clearly we have to legislate there is no doubt about that," she told national broadcaster RTE.  "I think the essence of the judgment is that we have constitutional provisons and we need to give legal effect to them."

from FaithWorld:

Could Irish abortion case lead to a “European Roe v. Wade”?

echr

European Court of Human Rights,30 Jan 2009/Vincent Kessler

Ireland has defended its strict law against abortion at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg in a case that could overturn that ban if the judges agree with three women who said it endangered their health and violated their rights.  The women, two Irish and one Lithuanian living in Ireland, had travelled to Britain to have abortions because traditionally Catholic Ireland allows the procedure only when the mother's life is in danger. Read our full story on Wednesday's hearing here.

The three women, named only as A, B and C, argued they had to terminate their pregnancies due to medical and social problems, and that being forced to travel abroad for abortions meant submitting to inhumane treatment that violated their right to privacy. They also said the law constituted gender-based discrimination.

from FaithWorld:

Britain muddles through with assisted suicide guidelines

purdyPressure is growing in Europe for some form of legalised euthanasia but few governments have gone as far as the Benelux countries in allowing assisted suicide in clearly defined cases. The mix of growing public support for ending lives of the terminally ill or brain dead but continued prohibitions on it in the law has led to some long and hard-fought legal battles in Italy (Eluana Englaro) and in France (Vincent Humbert). (Photo: Multiple sclerosis sufferer Debbie Purdy, whose case prompted Britain's new guidelines, 2 June 2009/Stephen Hird)

It has also created a legal and ethical twilight zone where for compassionate reasons the law did not really punish the doctors, nurses or relatives who helped someone die. In France, this became clear in a number of court cases where the person accused of assisted suicide were convicted but got only a short suspended sentence. In Britain, a frequently used way to get around the law has been the so-called "suicide tourism" route to the Dignitas suicide group in Zurich.

Do top professions favour the rich?

Photo
-

Professions such as law, medicine and journalism have a “closed shop mentality” and are increasingly open only to those from affluent backgrounds, a report into social mobility says.

Former Labour government minister Alan Milburn, who chaired the study on widening access to top professions, said that young people need better career advice to raise their aspirations and give them greater confidence. Mr Milburn told the BBC: “We have raised the glass ceiling but I don’t think we have broken through it yet.

What rights should terrorism suspects enjoy?

Photo
-

The Law Lords have ruled against the government over the sensitive issue of whether people accused of a crime should have the right to hear the evidence against them.

Three terrorism suspects had claimed it was against their rights to be subject to control orders — which effectively impose a form of house arrest on them – on the basis of secret evidence they have been unable to challenge or even hear.

The right to assist suicide

Photo
-

Former Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt is calling for a change in the law, to allow people to take terminally ill patients abroad for assisted suicide without fear of prosecution.

The law may say it is illegal but in practice, those who do assist suicide abroad are not being prosecuted in practice.

Will paedophile scheme work?

Photo
-

sarah-payne.jpgA new pilot scheme which allows worried parents ask police if someone with significant access to their children is a convicted sex offender has been launched by the government.

The Home Office says it will make it possible for single mothers, for example,  to find out the background of a new boyfriend, or for worried parents to check out babysitters.

Should cannabis be back in Class B?

Photo
-

cannabis1.jpgThe government has decided to tighten the law on cannabis, reinstating it to a Class B drug, because of fears over the high-strength skunk variety now prevalent on the streets.

Cannabis was downgraded to Class C — which includes substances such as anabolic steroids — in 2004. That meant possession of the drug was treated largely as a non-arrestable offence. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs recommended it should stay as Class C.

McCartney divorce: Fair payout?

Photo
-

heather.jpgPaul McCartney has been ordered to pay his estranged wife Heather Mills 24.3 million pounds after their public and highly acrimonious divorce settlement.

She said: “we are very, very pleased.” The ex-Beatle declined to comment.

  •