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UK’s new human rights judge is ‘fox in charge of chicken coop’

Choice is former president of the European Union civil service tribunal

28 June 2012

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Paul Mahoney, a former president of the European Union civil service tribunal, has been elected as the UK’s new judge at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. He replaces the current president of the ECtHR, Sir Nicholas Bratza, who retires this autumn.

Mahoney, who last practised as a barrister in England in 1974, comfortably beat his rivals, well-known civil liberties QC Ben Emmerson and insolvency silk Raquel Agnello, in yesterday’s vote by the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe.

Dominic Raab, Conservative MP for Esher and Walton and a former solicitor at Linklaters, told the Daily Mail today: “Someone who has spent over 30 years working in the Strasbourg court as in-house counsel, at a time of massive judicial legislation, is hardly the guy to rein it in.

“It’s like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop.”

Mahoney was born in London in 1946 and won a scholarship to Merton College, Oxford, to study law. He was called to the Bar and practised for two years at 4 Pump Court, his work covering both crime and civil litigation.

From 1967 to 1973, he was a law lecturer at UCL, London, specialising in Roman law and tort. He moved to Strasbourg a year later, for the next 16 years working as an administrator.

Mahoney then spent a few years as head of personnel at the Council of Europe, before becoming head of division at the ECtHR, supervising the checking and preparation of draft judgments.

In 2005 he was appointed judge and president of the European Civil Service Tribunal in Luxembourg, a court made up of seven judges which rules on cases brought by staff of EU institutions against their organisations.

Mahoney comfortably beat his rivals in the vote at the Council of Europe, winning 83 votes compared to 48 for Emmerson and 27 for Agnello.

Emmerson, based at Matrix Chambers, was appointed Crown Court recorder in 2005 and deputy High Court judge in 2010, specialising in public law cases.

He is also on the roster of judges who determine outstanding appeals and applications at the international criminal tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

His CV states that he has appeared as leading counsel both for and against the government of the UK, in “more than 25 cases in Strasbourg, including many of the landmark decisions of the last decade”.

Agnello, based at 11 Stone Buildings, Lincoln’s Inn, has dual British and Portuguese nationality.

She was called to the Bar in 1986 and specialises in insolvency and pensions, acting for the Pensions Regulator, and also in general commercial litigation.

Agnello became a QC in 2009. Her CV says she encounters human rights issues “primarily in relation to bankruptcy” and her practice gives her a “valuable insight into the operation of human rights in an area which is generally considered to be one of primarily domestic law”.

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