European states will not be forced to allow gay marriage

Schalk and Kopf v. Austria (application no. 30141/04) – Read judgment / press release / press release 2

The European Court of Human Rights has refused permission to appeal in a challenge to the ban on gay marriage in Austria. The effect of the decision is to make the court’s rejection of the same-sex couple’s claim final.

The decision means that the European Court of Human Rights will not force states to allow same-sex couples to marry, for now at least. This has a potential bearing on the UK, where a number of same-sex and heterosexual couples are currently bringing claims against UK laws which permit civil partnerships for same-sex couples but prevents them from marrying.

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Costing the planet: should environmental cases have a free run?

Big business between government and property developers may be at risk from public interest challenges in the courts if current obstacles are removed.

Following  critical findings by a UN environmental body, the Government has set out its latest proposals for allocating the costs burden in environmental cases.  The current position is that an applicant who seeks to dispute the lawfulness of a decision, say, to grant permission for a development, will only  get a court order preventing commencement of construction if they are prepared to pay for the developer’s loss should their claim fail at the full trial of the merits.

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Failure to deport Philip Lawrence killer was not about human rights

It has been widely reported that Learco Chindamo, who was convicted of killing headmaster Philip Lawrence in 1995, has been rearrested only months after being released from jail. The story has reopened a debate over the Human Rights Act, on the basis that it prevented Chindamo from being deported to his native Italy. But did it?

In fact, what the case really highlights is that the unpopularity of the Human Rights Act is in part due to inaccurate media reporting of human rights cases, even 10 years after it came into force.

The Telegraph reported at the end of last week that Frances Lawrence, Philip Lawrence’s widow, has urged the prime minister to act on his previous pledges to scrap the Human Rights Act, as

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Lies and damned lies: the standard of proof in asylum cases

MA (Somalia) (Respondent) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Appellant) [2010] UKSC 49 – read judgment (press summary in earlier post)

The Supreme Court has ruled that where the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal (AIT) had directed itself correctly as to the impact of an asylum seeker’s lies on his claim, the Court of Appeal should have been very slow to find that it had gone on to apply that direction incorrectly.

This case brings to the fore the very difficult task facing immigration judges trying to determine the veracity of claimants’ testimony in asylum cases. The Supreme Court declined to express a conclusive view on the standard of proof in this area, a point which was acknowledged to be “both difficult and important”. It was left for an authoritative decision by that Court – but when such an occasion arise? The importance of settling this point cannot be overstated. Continue reading

Asylum tribunal must think properly about private life

HM (Iraq) v The secretary of state for the home department [2010] EWCA Civ 1322 – Read judgment

The Court of Appeal has overruled the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal’s decision to deport a 25-year-old Iraqi citizen who had lived in the UK since he was 12 and had recently been sent to prison for drug dealing, on the basis that it did not think carefully enough about his human rights to private and family life.

The decision – which is unusually concise and easy to follow – highlights the careful balancing exercise which an asylum and immigration tribunal must undertake in order to weigh up whether a person’s human rights to private and family life outweigh the public good of sending them back to their home country. In this case, although HM won his appeal, his case must now be reheard – for a third time – by an asylum tribunal.

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Was local authority responsible for harassment campaign against vulnerable adults?

Application no. 32666/10 by X, Y & Z against the UK, lodged on 8 June 2010 – Read statement of facts

In a potentially landmark case, the European Court has been asked to determine the extent to which a local authority is under a duty prevent a breach of a person’s rights under Articles 3 (against inhuman and degrading treatment) and 8 (home and family life) in a case where two people with learning difficulties were violently harassed and threatened by a group of teenage youths.

The case concerns vulnerable adults who rely on social services. X and Y, who are married, both have learning difficulties. Z is the mother of X, and acted as a carer and advocate for both X and Y. X and Y lived in Hounslow Borough with Y’s two young children. Three local authority departments were involved with X and Y’s family, providing for their housing needs and allocating social workers for both the adults and children. Over a period from August 1999 until November 2000, X and Y were continually harassed and threatened by a group of teenage youths, who used the flat as a general ‘doss house’, dumping stolen goods, having sex and staying overnight.

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Asylum seeker’s lies relevant to outcome of claim, says Supreme Court

MA (Somalia) (Respondent) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Appellant) [2010] UKSC 49. Read judgment

Update,  26 November – Rosalind English’s case comment is here

The following report is based on the press summary provided by the Supreme Court.

The issues raised in this appeal were: (1) the correct approach to the relevance of lies told by an asylum seeker in the assessment of real risk of persecution on return to his or her country of origin; and (2) how far it is legitimate for an appeal court to interfere with the assessment of facts made by a specialist tribunal on the grounds of error of law.

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