The right to a fair trial is fundamental to the operation of any criminal justice system. For the past 25 years, members of Doughty Street have specialised in representing defendants at every stage of criminal proceedings, both domestically and before the international tribunals in The Hague, as well as before the criminal courts of Northern Ireland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Gibraltar, Colombia, the U.S.A, India, Pakistan, Nigeria, British Virgin Islands and the Caribbean.
The fair trial protection afforded by Article 6 European Convention on Human Rights is multifaceted. It includes the manner in which children are tried by a criminal court and whether a defendant will be able to challenge the evidence against him at trial. An essential aspect of the right to a fair trial is whether a court is independent and impartial. This aspect of Article 6 has, in some cases, raised important questions about the political climate in which a criminal court is situated and whether its judiciary are capable of being independent.
Doughty Street barristers acted in Venables v United Kingdom, which remains one of the most important criminal cases to have been decided in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and was the first time in the history of the Court that Article 6 was considered in relation to criminal proceedings against children. In that case, the Court held that the (then 11 year old) defendants’ right to a fair trial was breached because of their inability to effectively participate in their trial, observing in particular that ‘the formality and ritual of the Crown Court must at times have seemed incomprehensible and intimidating for a child of 11.’
The case of Al Khawaja and Tahery v United Kingdom, in which we also acted, was instrumental in the development of the law concerning hearsay evidence and the provisions of the controversial Criminal Justice Act 2003. That case marked the culmination of a six year battle about whether hearsay evidence from a deceased witness (in Al Khawaja’s case) and an absent witness (in Tahery’s case) had breached the clients’ right to a fair trial. The Grand Chamber ruled that in Tahery’s case, his right to a fair trial was breached. Following the ruling of the Grand Chamber, Mr Tahery’s case was referred back to the English Court of Appeal where his conviction was quashed in 2013.
Currently, the case of Wang Yam is awaiting judgment from the Supreme Court as to whether he can place the detail of his defence – given in a closed court in the first case of its kind – before the European Court. Doughty Street barristers have been representing Wang Yam for the previous nine years.
For more information about Doughty Street’s work in this area please see our crime team page.