High Court of Australia upholds laws that protect people from being accosted and harassed outside abortion clinics

Kathleen Clubb v Alyce Edwards & Anor; John Graham Preston v Elizabeth Avery & Anor [2019] HCA 11 (10 April 2019)

In this landmark decision, the High Court upheld the constitutional validity of safe access zone laws in Victoria and Tasmania, in particular, provisions that prohibit certain communications and protests about abortion within 150 metres of abortion clinics.

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High Court holds that lower caps on third party electoral expenditure breach the implied freedom of political communication

Unions NSW v New South Wales [2019] HCA 1 (29 January 2019)

The High Court of Australia unanimously held that a NSW law that imposed a lower cap on the allowable electoral expenditure for third party campaigners compared with expenditure allowed for political parties and candidates was unconstitutional, as it impermissibly burdened the implied freedom of political communication.

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High Court finds Nauru Tribunal unreasonable to refuse protection application without hearing from the applicant

TTY167 v Republic of Nauru

The High Court of Australia has decided that Nauru's Refugee Status Review Tribunal (Tribunal) acted unreasonably in refusing the appellant's protection application after the appellant failed to appear before the Tribunal at a scheduled hearing. 

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High Court condemns conduct of Victorian police and barrister who informed on her client

AB (a pseudonym) v CD (a pseudonym); EF (a pseudonym) v CD (a pseudonym) [2018] HCA 58

The High Court of Australia demonstrated its reluctance to uphold entitlements to confidentiality and privilege where there are egregious breaches of one’s right to a fair trial and legal professional privilege. The main issue before the High Court was between Victoria’s Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), who wanted to disclose information discovered by Victoria’s anti-corruption commission, and the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police (Police Commissioner), who opposed disclosure because of security risks to a police informant (EF) who was simultaneously acting as a defence barrister for Tony Mokbel and six of his criminal associates (Mokbel and Associates).

The High Court found in favour of disclosure, holding that EF’s actions were “fundamental and appalling breaches of [her] obligations as counsel to her clients and of her duties to the court”. The Court also described the actions of Victoria Police as “reprehensible conduct in knowingly encouraging her” and “atrocious breaches of the sworn duties imposed on every police officer”.

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Victorian Supreme Court holds electroconvulsive treatment ordered against patients’ wishes a breach of human rights

PBU & NJE v Mental Health Tribunal [2018] VSC 564 (1 November 2018)

The Victorian Supreme Court has confirmed that the capacity test under the Mental Health Act 2014 (Vic) (MHA) must be interpreted and applied in a way that is compatible with the human rights of persons receiving compulsory mental health treatment under the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Charter). This decision has significant implications for the human rights of persons with mental illness, and particularly for patients who may be subject to compulsory mental health treatment under the MHA.

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Bakery's refusal to supply cake with messages supporting gay marriage not discriminatory, UK Supreme Court holds

Lee v Ashers Baking Company Ltd [2018] UKSC 49

In a unanimous decision, the United Kingdom Supreme Court overturned the decision of the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal that found a bakery's refusal to supply a cake with the message "support gay marriage" to a gay man amounted to direct discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. The United Kingdom Supreme Court found that the bakery's refusal was centred on promoting the message and the bakers would have come to the same decision regardless of who requested it. In the Court's opinion it did not amount to discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, or religious beliefs or political opinion.

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Human Rights Charter demands access to Koori Court, Victorian Supreme Court holds

Cemino v Cannan and Ors [2018] VSC 535

The Victorian Supreme Court has confirmed that courts must consider the distinct cultural rights of Aboriginal people under the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (the Charter) when making decisions in relation to an Aboriginal person’s request to be heard in the Koori Court. This decision has significant implications for Aboriginal people across Victoria and for decisions in the Courts about whether an Aboriginal person has access to the Koori Court.

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UK Surveillance Regime Violates Human Rights to Privacy and Free Speech, European Court of Human Rights holds 

Big Brother Watch and Others v The United Kingdom (Applications nos. 58170/13, 62322/14 and 24960/15) (13 September 2018)

The European Court of Human Rights has found that the UK's bulk interception regime violates Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to respect private and family life)because of insufficient safeguards governing the selection of intercepted communications and related communications data. Further, the Courtheld that the regime for obtaining data from communications providers violated Article 8 of the Convention because it was not in accordance with EU law that requires data interference to combat "serious crime" (not just "crime"), and for access to retained data to be subject to prior judicial or administrative review. Finally, the Court found that the bulk interception regime and the regime for obtaining communications data from communications service providers violated Article 10 (right to freedom of expression) because of insufficient safeguards for confidential journalistic material. 

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UK High Court finds BBC broadcast breaches Cliff Richard’s right to privacy

Sir Cliff Richard OBE V The British Broadcasting Corporation; The Chief Constable Of South Yorkshire Police [2018] EWHC 1837 (Ch)

The UK High Court has found that the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) infringed the privacy of renowned musician Sir Cliff Richard (Sir Cliff) by broadcasting a raid by the South Yorkshire Police (the SYP) following an allegation of historical sexual offences.

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