Julian Assange was granted political asylum by the Ecuadorian government, leading to worldwide diplomatic fallout and a day of minicab firms being duped into sending taxis Heathrow-bound to the embassy of Ecuador.
The Ecuadorean government stated it had granted Assange asylum because it shared his fears of political persecution and the possible consequences of an eventual extradition to the United States. Commentators have also speculated that Ecuador is keen to be seen as an independent country that has a strong commitment to freedom of speech.
The UK has stated it will not allow him safe passage out of the country, resulting in a double bind situation where Assange cannot leave the embassy without being arrested under the Bail Act 1976, and the UK cannot enter the embassy where Assange is staying without breaking the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961.
A letter presented to Ecuador by British diplomats prior to Ecuador announcing its decision was released, which indicates a legal avenue contained in the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987 that would allow the UK to arrest Assange in the embassy. This was perceived as a threat contrary to the international protections contained in the VCDR, which are aimed at safeguarding the immunity of diplomats and embassies across the world. The predominant theory on the matter is that the UK would avoid, if at all possible, setting a dangerous precedent of violating the sovereignty of an embassy, as it could be used against one of its own missions abroad.
The Judicial Office issued guidance on judicial post holders writing blogs. The guidance, effective immediately, states:
“Blogging by members of the judiciary is not prohibited. However, judicial office holders who blog (or who post comments on other people’s blogs) must not identify themselves as members of the judiciary. They must also avoid expressing opinions which, were it to become known that they hold judicial office, could damage public confidence in their own impartiality or the judiciary in general.”
The guidance goes on to say that judicial office holders must adhere to this guidance and should remove any existing content that conflicts with it or they will face disciplinary action. The remit of the guidance covers lay magistrates and the many barristers and solicitors that sit as part-time judges, and extends to publishing material on Twitter.
On Thursday judgment was handed down in R (Nicklinson) v Ministry of Justice  EWHC 2381 (Admin), which concerned two claimants with “locked-in” syndrome seeking declarations of immunity for those who would help them end their lives. Their application was dismissed, with the court stating that the case raised “profoundly difficult ethical, social and legal issues” which meant “any change to the law must be for parliament to decide”. When considering whether The Suicide Act 1961 s 2 was incompatible with ECHR, art 8 it was held that the court was bound by the House of Lords’ decision in Purdy. The UK Human Rights blog has an analysis of the arguments raised.
The Home Office announced reform of the notification requirements of registered sex offenders. Following a consultation it is now necessary for sex offenders to notify the police of their whereabouts in a stricter set of circumstances. The press release states that the new measures have received widespread support from voluntary sector organisations, the judiciary, the Association of Chief Police Officers and a number of public protection units within police forces.
Members of the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot were found guilty of hooliganism driven by religious hatred, and each sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. They had staged an anti-Kremlin protest in a church by performing a song in which they called for the Virgin Mary to protect Russia against Vladimir Putin.
The trial judge said that they had offended the feelings of Russian Orthodox Church believers and shown a complete lack of respect, and the “jerking of limbs” during their performance was proof of hatred towards Christians. Aggravating factors included their choice of venue and the conduct of their “accomplices” afterward, and mitigating factors taken into account were their clean criminal records and the fact two of the defendants have young children.