Animal Defenders International

 

Animal Defenders International

ADI set to appeal to House of Lords after court refuses applicaton under Human Rights Act

Posted: 4 December 2006

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The Divisional Court has today handed down its judgment on a challenge to the UK’s ban on political advertising. The Court has refused the claimant, Animal Defenders International’s application for a declaration of incompatibility under s.4 of the Human Rights Act 1998. ADI claims that the ban on political advertising on television and radio imposed by the Communications Act 2003 is incompatible with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

However, in a remarkable turn of events the Court has cleared the way for ADI to appeal directly to the House of Lords and leapfrog the Court of Appeal.
Tim Phillips, Campaigns Director of ADI, who was at court said: “Although we were anticipating a tough fight, we are extremely disappointed. This may be the letter of the law but it is not justice. There is a considerable inequity here, with Government and big businesses able to use the broadcast media and their critics like ourselves excluded. This is particularly the case on controversial issues, which are currently legal such as animal experimentation or the use of animals in traveling circuses. It is currently legal to use performing chimpanzees and monkeys to advertise anything from soft drinks to credit cards on television. Yet when we produce an advert questioning this and asking people to consider the suffering of these animals, and how they are trained and treated it is banned out of hand.

“We believe the Court’s decision today to allow us to go straight to the House of Lords is testament to strength of our case. In addition the Government today acknowledged that this was a legitimate case to bring. We believe that time will show that in this case UK law is simply out of step with modern media practice with hundreds of television channels, and also our rights under the European Convention of Human Rights.”
Tamsin Allen of Bindman and Partners, ADI’s lawyers said: “The practical effect of the decision to uphold the current ban on political advertising is to allow commercial organisations freedom to advertise in ways and in media which are not available to NGO’s and campaign groups. In our view this ban is not consistent with the right to freedom of expression guaranteed under the Convention or with guidance from the European Court of Human Rights.
Tamsin added: “It is noteworthy that, for the first time ever, the Government itself was not able to certify this legislation as compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.”

Jan Creamer, chief executive of ADI, says: “We still maintain that the rules which prevent campaigning organisations from expressing their opinion on a matter of controversy in the broadcast media are a breach of the right to freedom of speech. This is not about electioneering but the freedom of a company or organisation to enter into a national debate on television or radio. We will be considering an appeal to the House of Lords for a declaration of incompatibility and beyond that, would need to take the UK to the European Court of Human Rights.”

Potential Impact of the case

A lifting of the ban would potentially see a surge in political advertising by various single interest and non-profit groups, although it’s believed that any change in the law would not extend to advertising on behalf of political parties.

ADI brought the case after a television campaign, fronted by comedian Alexei Sayle, was banned last year. The campaign, called “My Mate’s a Primate”, lambasted the use of primates for commercial interests, such as circuses, films and advertising.

Advertising for the Make Poverty History campaign last year was controversially banned by regulators under the same legislation. Adverts by Amnesty International have also previously fallen foul of the rules.

Should the case prove successful ultimately, the UK government would have to amend the legislation or face a panel of EU judges in Strasbourg who will rule on the case.

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NOTES TO EDITORS
Potential Impact of Court Case

  • If the challenge is successful, analysts indicate a massive boost in advertising expenditure would sweep the UK, as thousands of companies, lobbyists and organisations broadcast pent-up views via increasingly interactive broadcast services .
  • The ADI case is seen in Europe as a test case for how issue advertising will be treated under the Human Rights Convention. If non-profit groups win the right to advertise in Europe, this is expected to open up a major new source of revenue for advertisers.

Court Case

  • ADI is asking the Court to declare that the ban on political advertising in the Act is incompatible with the right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • It will rely on case law from the European Court of Human Rights, which has declared a very similar ban in Switzerland to be incompatible with Article 10.
  • If successful, the Court will make a finding that the ban violates the right to freedom of expression and that the relevant provisions of the Communications Act 2003 are incompatible with the rights guaranteed by the Convention and that the will of Parliament should be overridden.
  • The next stage would be that the Government will either have to amend the legislation immediately, or face proceedings in Strasbourg which would almost certainly come to the same conclusion in which case the Government would then be obliged to take steps to remedy the violation of Article 10.
  • Ultimately the result is expected to be an amendment to the legislation so that those currently defined as political organisations (although possibly not political parties) would be entitled to use broadcast media to advertise.

My Mate’s a Primate Campaign

  • The banned TV ad was part of ADI‘s “My Mate’s a Primate” campaign launched last summer by TV star and author Alexei Sayle to protect primates against their use by commercial interests for entertainment (circuses, films, TV programmes & advertising), the pet trade, in experiments and as bushmeat (wildlife food) and to conserve their habitat.
  • The campaign highlighted how the unprecedented clearing of African forests by logging companies has opened the way for hunters to ‘take’ over $2 billion worth of wildlife a year. This is having a devastating effect on our environment as the ‘empty forest’ syndrome in parts of Africa bears witness.
  • Primates are primarily found in tropical rainforests and play an important part in the ecosystem helping to disperse seeds and pollinate plants. To meet the demands of the global trade in endangered species nearly 40,000 primates are taken out of their habitat. Their removal upsets the balance of nature and presents a major threat to the environment.

For more information about Bindman & Partners contact Tamsin Allen, Partner in the Media and Public Law department at Bindman & Partners on t.allen@bindmans.com . Bindman & Partners was founded in 1974 by a small group of Solicitors specialising in civil liberties and the rights of the individual. These concerns have remained at the heart of the firm as it has grown to its present size of 13 Partners and 65 other staff and is widely regarded as one of the country’s leading human rights practices.

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