Presentation on theme: "Using the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities"— Presentation transcript:
1Using the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Phoebe KnowlesSecondee LawyerPILCH Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic and Human Rights Law Resource Centre(03)
2Outline Creating the space to use the Charter: Step by Step guide in oral submissions before VCAT (or any other Victorian court);in advocacy with the other side; andin written submissions.Step by Step guideKey messages:Be boldDo your homework: back up your arguments with evidence and analysis
3Case studyFacts:Client: Bec is a pregnant, single mother to two children and lives in community housing.Landlord: The landlord is community housing association. Its sole function is the provision of community housing and it receives substantial assistance and funding from local and State Government.Procedural background: Bec fell behind in rent and so following a VCAT proceeding, entered a payment plan to repay arrears.Potential breaches by client:Bec is currently in arrears.Following an inspection, the landlord requested Bec clean some hand marks and scrapes from the walls and clean 3 stains on the carpet. Bec has cleaned the walls and intends on cleaning the carpets as soon as possible.Her ex-partner has caused disruption at the property in the past. Bec took out a restraining order against him.Shortly after the inspection of the property took place Bec was served with a 120 notice to vacate under s 263 of the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA). Section 263 of the RTA enables a landlord to evict a tenant without reason.
4Getting startedScenario: client telephones with a complaint. What do you do?In order to use the Charter in oral or written submissions, some answers must first be found:Is there a human right which is engaged? Which one?Is your respondent a public authority?What are their obligations under the Charter, other statutes and at common law?What are the weaknesses of your case?Is the limitation on human rights justified?What do you want to achieve?
5Identifying the rights (1) Step 1: Does the action complained of engage one of the following concepts?F reedom: movement, assembly, expression, religion, association, libertyR espect: life, protection of families, cultural rightsE quality: non-discrimination, equal recognitionD ignity: torture, cruel treatment, privacy, reputation, humane treatment in detention
6Identifying the rights (2) Step 2: Identify the right in the CharterLook through the Charter! Take some time to consider the matter and the issues it brings up.Right to life (s 9)Right to live with human dignityRight to liberty and security of person (s 21)Homelessness means people live without the protection of a safe and secure place to live, adequate food, clothing and shelter.Protection from cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment (s 10)Physical and mental integrity and dignityRight to privacy (s 13)Arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy, family, home or correspondenceProtection of families and children (s 17)
7Against whom can you bring the arguments? Step 3: Is the entity complained about a “public authority”?Definition found in section 4 includes core and functionalStart researching your respondent. Look at their website and public profile.What is the function they perform? Do we identify this function with the state?Do they receive public funding?Do they maintain a relationship with the state?Step 4: If the respondent is a public authority, what are its obligations under the Charter?How should your client have been treated?
8Step back Step 5: Are there other causes of action available to you? Consider your respondent’s obligations under statute and at common law (e.g. Housing Act, OH&S, Wrongs Act, TPA, RTA)Step 6: Deal with the facts and weaknesses of your caseAt this point, you should have a sense of your case – step back, are your arguments sensible and honest?Reality check your position and potential arguments.
9Is the action a reasonable limitations on human rights? Step 7: Analyse the action to ascertain whether it is a justified limitations 7 Human rights – what they are and when they may be limited…(2) A human right may be subject under law only to such reasonable limits as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom and taking into account all relevant factors, including –(a) the nature of right; and(b) the importance of the purpose of limitation; and(c) the nature and extent of the limitation; and(d) the relationship between the limitation and its purpose; and(e) any less restrictive means reasonably available to achieve the purpose that the limitation seeks to achieve
10Pulling everything together (1) Step 8: Collate your findings and develop your argumentsStep 9: What does your client want?From the court:Human rights compatible interpretation of legislation: s 32(1). This is a new, overarching principle of statutory interpretation.Consideration of international and comparative human rights law and jurisprudence: s 32(2).Declarations of Inconsistent Interpretation: s 36.Judicial review, injunctive and declaratory relief: s 39(2).From the public authority:Obligations under the Charter on public authorities (s 38):give ‘proper consideration’ to human rights in decision-making processes and act compatibly with human rights; andinterpret their statutory obligations compatibly with human rights (s 32)Public Administration Act 2004 (Vic) (s 37) requires public officials to respect, promote, implement and support human rights.
11Pull everything together (2) Step 9: What does your client want? (cont’d)From the OmbudsmanConsequential amendments to the Ombudsman Act 1973 (Vic): Ombudsman may enquire into or investigate whether any administrative action is incompatible with human rightsRemedial powers include recommendation that authority:ApologiseChange policy, procedure or practiceCompensateInstitute disciplinary or criminal proceedingsStep 10: go for it!
12General Tips… Know your audience Know your stuff Know your client Know the rightsKnow the lawKnow your clientHuman rights lawyering focuses on the individual whose rights have been violated. It’s not about the cause.
13Research tools - International Jurisprudence UN Treaty Body DatabaseUN Human Rights CommitteeUN Special RapporteursOther treaty bodies
14Research tools - Regional Jurisprudence European Court of Human RightsInter-American Commission on Human RightsInter-American Court on Human RightsAfrican Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
15Research tools - Comparative Domestic Jurisprudence CommonwealthACT – Human Rights Act 2004UK – Human Rights Act 1998New Zealand – Bill of Rights Act 1990Canada – Charter of Rights and Freedoms 1982
16PILCH Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic Further InformationPILCH Homeless Persons’ Legal ClinicLevel 1, 550 Lonsdale StreetMelbourne VIC 3000(03)The Human Rights Law Resource Centre has an excellent website for human rights research: