Legal restrictions breach sex worker safety rights

Canada (Attorney General) v Bedford [2013] 3 SCR 1101 (20 December 2013)


The Supreme Court of Canada has held that criminalisation of certain activities relating to prostitution breach the right to security under section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Court found that the impugned laws imposed dangerous conditions on what is otherwise a legal activity, that of selling sex.

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High Court of Australia recognises constitutional power to legislate with respect to same-sex marriage

The Commonwealth v Australian Capital Territory [2013] HCA 55

The High Court of Australia has held that a law recognising same-sex marriage in the Australian Capital Territory was inconsistent with Commonwealth legislation and therefore was invalid. The High Court also stated unanimously that the Commonwealth has the power to legislate with respect to marriage equality pursuant to s 51(xxi) of the Constitution (the marriage power).

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Prison terms reduced for members of “Criminal Motorcycle Gang” due to “extremely harsh” detention policies

Callanan v Attendee X [2013] QSC 340, Callanan v Attendee Y [2013] QSC 341, Callanan v Attendee Z [2013] QSC 342 (12 December 2013)

The Supreme Court of Queensland recently gave reduced sentences to three accused members of Queensland Criminal Motorcycle Gangs (CMGs) due to a detention policy the Court considered to be “extremely harsh”.

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Excluding same-sex couple from hotel constitutes unlawful discrimination

Bull (And Another) v Hall (And Another) [2013] UKSC 73 (27 November 2013)

The Supreme Court in the United Kingdom recently upheld a ruling by the Court of Appeal that hotel owners Peter and Hazelmary Bull, a Christian couple, discriminated against homosexual couple Martin Hall and Stephen Preddy on the grounds of sexual orientation, when they refused to rent them a double room in their hotel.

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Hair and facial hair grooming policies do not interfere with freedom of expression

Kuyken v Lay (Human Rights) [2013] VCAT 1972 (29 November 2013)

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has dismissed the claims of 16 police officers (the applicants) that they were discriminated against by the introduction, promulgation and enforcement of a new policy which banned male officers from having long hair or facial hair (other than a moustache). VCAT found that the applicants had been directly discriminated against in the enforcement of the policy, by the threat of disciplinary action, and through an email implying the applicants were unprofessional and not trustworthy. However, that discrimination was not found to be unlawful as it was considered to be authorised by the Police Regulation Act 1958 (Vic) (PR Act). A victimisation claim was also dismissed, as was the applicants’ claims that the respondent had failed to properly consider their right to freedom of expression in the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities 2006 (Vic).

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South African Police required to investigate crimes against humanity committed in Zimbabwe

National Commissioner of the South Africa Police Service and Another v Southern Africa Litigation Centre and Another (485/2012) [2013] ZASCA 168 (27 November 2013)

The South African Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) held that, in terms of the Implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Act 22 of 2002 (ICC Act), the South African Police Service (SAPS) is competent and required to investigate acts of torture that constitute a crime against humanity, committed in Zimbabwe by Zimbabweans.

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21 day cell confinement amounts to failure to treat prisoner with humanity and respect for inherent dignity

Vogel v Attorney General & Ors CA 171/2012 [2013] NZCA 545 (7 November 2013)

The New Zealand Court of Appeal has found that sentencing a prisoner to 21 days cell confinement can amount to a breach of the obligation to treat detained persons with humanity and respect for their inherent dignity. The content of the obligation is to be determined not only through international jurisprudence, but by the statutory standards and domestic values and practices in New Zealand. It is not only the potential breach of such standards, but the effect that the confinement would have on the particular individual that must be considered when sentencing them to a period of cell confinement.

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Greece’s exclusion of same-sex couples from civil unions breaches prohibition of discrimination and right to privacy and family life

Vallianatos v Greece [2013] ECHR, Applications nos. 29381/09 and 32684/09 (7 November 2013)

Greece introduced ‘civil unions’ as an official form of partnership other than marriage for different-sex couples only. The applicants challenged the civil union law on the basis that it breached the prohibition on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and the right to respect for privacy and family life under the European Convention on Human Rights (Convention). The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held that the law’s differential treatment of same-sex couples was not proportionate to the aims of protecting marriage and the family “in the traditional sense”. The law therefore breached Article 8 in conjunction with Article 14 of the Convention.

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Non-reviewable immigration detention on secret grounds is “arbitrary” in breach of ICCPR

Al-Gertani v Bosnia and Herzegovina, Human Rights Committee, Communication No. 1955/2010 (6 November 2013) 

An Iraqi asylum-seeker was detained in Bosnia and Herzegovina on the grounds that he was a threat to national security. The United Nations Human Rights Committee found that his prolonged detention was arbitrary in breach of article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, because the State party did not show it was necessary and proportionate, and because he was not provided with the reasons that he was considered a threat and was therefore unable to effectively challenge the detention.

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Nudity is a form of expression, but the right to nudity is subject to limitations

Gough v Director of Public Prosecutions [2013] EWHC 3267(Admin) (31 October 2013)

The High Court of England and Wales has recognised public nudity as form of expression but held that limiting such expression is valid in the public interest. While the Court agreed that public nudity engages Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) being the right to freedom of expression, the court upheld the primary judge's conclusion that there was a pressing social need for the restriction of his right to be naked in the context of this case.

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