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THE ODYSSEUS TRUST
The Odysseus Trust seeks to promote good governance in the interests of the governed, based upon plural democratic values, public accountability and the effective protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. It seeks legislative, political and social reforms to achieve these objectives.
The Trust supports the activities of Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC in his work as a member of the House of Lords. Anthony Lester is a human rights advocate who has campaigned for a Bill of Rights and for equality legislation in the United Kingdom for some 30 years. The Odysseus Trust has three staff members: two Parliamentary Legal Officers (Zoe McCallum and Clare Duffy) and a Senior Researcher and Administrator (Caroline Baker) who co-ordinate and direct the work of the Trust.
The Trust is a company limited by guarantee. It operates as a non-profit-making body financed solely by voluntary donations.
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION CALL FOR EVIDENCE
The Trust has submitted its response to the Independent Commission on Freedom of Information’s Call for Evidence. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 strikes the correct balance between protecting deliberative space and public transparency. We oppose the introduction of fees, the strengthening of the Ministerial veto and the introduction of absolute exemptions for Cabinet papers and risk assessments. Overall, we believe that the Act represents good value for money and increases the democratic accountability of government. Reform should only be made to strengthen the Act in line with the Justice Select Committee’s 2012 Report.
Our submission can be found HERE.
“TIME FOR A PENAL CODE FIT FOR INDIA”
Lord Lester delivered the Justice KT Desai Memorial Lecture at Bombay High Court on 6 October 2015. The lecture can be read HERE.
Lord Lester and Zoe McCallum have recently written two articles for The Times. The first is on the need to find a balance between the interests of national security and the public’s right to private digital lives which can be found HERE and the second is on freedom of expression and the right to offend and can be found HERE.
PARLIAMENTARY PRIVILEGE (DEFAMATION) BILL
Lord Lester’s Private Member’s Bill the Parliamentary Privilege (Defamation) Bill had its Second Reading debate on 27 June 2014. The purpose of the Bill was to repeal section 13 of the Defamation Act 1996, which provides that “Where the conduct of a person in or in relation to proceedings in Parliament is in issue in defamation proceedings”, he or she may waive the protection of parliamentary privilege given by Article 9 of the Bill of Rights for the purpose of those proceedings.
The Bill did not progress further because a clause (Clause 43) of the Deregulation Bill does exactly the same as Lord Lester’s Bill. The Bill is currently in the Lords but should receive Royal Assent in the near future.
Lord Lester and Emma Fenelon have written a paper on Legislating against caste discrimination which can be found HERE.
JUDICIAL REVIEW CONSULTATION
The Odysseus Trust submitted a response to the Government's consultation on the reform of judicial review. We opposed the Government's proposals to reform judicial review as they were not based on an evidential analysis of judicial review, in some cases would constitute a denial of justice, would disproportionately affect poorer and more vulnerable members of society and Government had not taken into account the crucial role of judicial review in holding the Executive to account and the tangible application of the rule of law. We worked closely with the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law and the Law Society in drafting our response.
Our consultation response can be found HERE.
RAPE IN ARMED CONFLICT
Since the beginning of 2012, Lord Lester has asked a number of Parliamentary Questions on the UK Government's policy on the provision of safe abortions to women made pregnant as a result of rape in armed conflict. Written Answers to those questions demonstrated that the UK policy of allowing the provision of abortions to be determined by national law contravened international humanitarian law which requires all those who are wounded and sick in armed conflict to be provided with all necessary medical treatment on a non-discriminatory basis.
On 9 January 2013, Lord Lester initiated a Dinner Hour debate on the question of abortions for those raped in armed conflict. The debate resulted in a policy change by the Government, specifically an explicit acceptance that international humanitarian law requires the provision of abortion services where medically necessary even if those services are prohibited under national law. The Government committed itself to working to improve access to abortions for war rape victims and to working with international partners to remove the barriers to such access.
The Trust is very grateful to the Global Justice Center who provided crucial information for the drafting of Parliamentary Questions and preparing for the Dinner Hour debate.
JUSTICE AND SECURITY BILL: A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF NORWICH PHARMACAL ORDERS
The Trust is involved in detailed scrutiny of the Justice and Security Bill which is currently in the House of Lords. The Bill which can be found HERE provides for oversight of the Security Service, the Secret Intelligence Service, the Government Communications Headquarters and other activities relating to intelligence or security matters; provides for closed material procedure in relation to certain civil proceedings; and seeks to prevent the making of certain court orders ('Norwich Pharmacal' applications) for the disclosure of sensitive information. The Odysseus Trust has carried out a comparative study of Norwich Pharmacal jurisdiction which can be found: HERE.
THE THREAT TO OUR BASIC RIGHTS
Lord Lester's article The threat to our basic rights on prisoners' voting rights was published in The Times on 6 December as 'Sniping at Strasbourg will only hinder reform'.
WRITTEN EVIDENCE TO THE JOINT COMMITTEE ON PRIVACY AND INJUNCTIONS
DEFAMATION BILL 2010
Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC introduced his Private Member's Bill to reform libel laws on 26 May 2010. The Bill can be found HERE and the Explanatory Notes HERE. The Bill had its Second Reading on 9 July 2010. In their response to the Second Reading debate, the Government announced their intention to introduce their own defamation bill.
DRAFT DEFAMATION BILL 2011
The Government's Draft Defamation Bill was published in March 2011. Lord Lester gave evidence to the Joint Select Committee on the Draft Defamation Bill on Wednesday 27 April 2011. A transcript of his evidence can be found HERE.
DIRECT ACCESS TO THE PARLIAMENTARY OMBUDSMAN CONSULTATION
The Odysseus Trust submitted a response to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman's consultation on direct access to the Parliamentary Ombudsman. The Odysseus Trust strongly supports direct access. Our consultation response can be found HERE.
UK BILL OF RIGHTS COMMISSION
In March 2011 Lord Lester was appointed to the UK Bill of Rights Commission. It is an independent Commission to investigate the case for a UK Bill of Rights and was launched by the Deputy Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Justice. More information about the Commission can be found HERE.
To find out more about the work of The Odysseus Trust download our Annual Report for 2013.
Previous Annual Reports
Last updated October 2015.