Mobile masts and grid references get to Europe

Case C-71/10 Ofcom v. Information Commissioner, Court of Justice of the European Union: Read judgment

I posted previously on the Advocate-General’s opinion in March 2011, Office of Communications v. Information Commissioner, a reference from the UK Supreme Court. An epidemiologist working for the Scots NHS wanted the grid references of mobile phone masts. This was refused, and the case got to the Information Tribunal. It found that two exemptions in the Environmental Information Regulations were in play (public security and intellectual property rights), against which were stacked the public interest of the researcher, who wanted to explore any association between the location of the masts and possible health effects.

But the question was how to stack the exemptions: should one weigh each exemption against the public interest, or should one cumulate the exemptions and weigh their combined effect against the public interest?

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Family courts guide to Media Access & Reporting

Updated | The family courts in conjunction with the Judicial College and the Society of Editors have has published a Guide to Media Access and Reporting. It has been written by two barristers, Adam Wolanski and Kate Wilson.

It seeks to address “the tension between concerns about “secret justice” and legitimate expectations of privacy and confidentiality for the family (update – read Lucy Series’ analysis with a focus on Court of Protection cases).

This is interesting and, on a quick glance through the detailed document, useful. Family judges have been critical of journalists’ reporting of sensitive cases recently, and this guide is clearly an attempt to guide judges on what can and can not be reported, and journalists on how to report responsibly. The guide would benefit from a contents page and executive summary, but aside from that it will no doubt prove useful to practitioners and journalists.

One line I am predictably fond of: “Although it remains a matter for the judge, senior members of the judiciary have encouraged the making of public judgments

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Analysis – Daily Mirror and The Sun in contempt over Jo Yeates murder case

Her Majesty’s Attorney-General Claimant – and – (1) MGN Limited Defendants (2) News Group Newspapers Limited – Read judgment

The High Court has found that the Daily Mirror and The Sun were in breach of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 (1981 Act) in relation to their reporting of the Jo Yeates murder case. The court was strongly critical of the “vilification” of a man who was arrested but quickly released without charge.

The proceedings were in relation to Christopher Jefferies, a school teacher who was arrested early on in the investigation. The court fined the Daily Mirror £50,000 and The Sun £18,000.

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Nuclear test veterans appeal to be heard by Supreme Court

On Thursday 28th July, the Supreme Court heard a “permission to appeal” argument in the British nuclear testing case.  The judgment to be appealed is that of the Court of Appeal Civil Division in Ministry of Defence v AB and others[2010] EWCA Civ 1317 – (Smith and Leveson LJJ and Sir Mark Waller).  

In terse legalese, the issue to be appealed is whether the Court of Appeal – (1) applied the wrong legal test for knowledge in section 14 of the Limitation Act 1980, and (2) adopted the wrong legal approach to the exercise of discretion under section 33 of the Act.  The Supreme Court granted permission for the appeal – see BBC 28th July and The Independent 28th July.
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Police misconduct doesn’t always mean that accused walks free

R v Maxwell [2010] UKSC 48 – read judgment

This case concerned the question of what should happen to a conviction when it turns out that it is based on pre-trial malpractice by the police (this time involving evidence from a “supergrass”), where there is nevertheless other strong evidence of the defendant’s guilt. If the pre-trial irregularity is sufficiently serious materially to affect the trial but not to render the conviction unsafe, should the Court of Appeal retain the power to order a retrial? Or should the conviction should be quashed?

In this case the appellant and his brother were convicted of murder and two robberies at Leeds Crown Court on 27 February 1998. The appellant was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder to be served with concurrent twelve-year terms for the robberies. The main prosecution witness was Karl Chapman, a professional criminal and a supergrass. His evidence was crucial to the arrest and prosecution of the appellant. Continue reading

Public purse stays closed for morbidly obese man

Condliff, R (on the application of) v North Staffordshire Primary Care Trust [2011] EWCA Civ 910 – Read judgment

A morbidly obese man has lost his appeal against his local Primary Care Trust’s (PCT’s) refusal to fund his anti-obesity surgery. The Court of Appeal ruled that the PCT had no obligation under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights to consider social or non-clinical factors when deciding whether to grant a request for exceptional funding.

In his discussion of the case, Lord Justice Toulson began by saying that “Human rights law is sometimes in danger of becoming over complicated“. Underlying this point is the fact that it is already complicated enough. This is a good example: how could a court find that this case, which clearly involves the dignity and family life of a man whose life is difficult and miserable, not engage the protection of human rights law? I will try to explain.

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Just when you thought they were extinct: human rights environmental case succeeds

Update | Thomas v. Bridgend County Borough Council [2011] EWCA Civ 862, Court of Appeal. Read judgment

Conventional wisdom has it that an Article 1 Protocol 1 (the human right to peaceful enjoyment of property) environmental claim faces all sorts of difficulties. The claimants may have a right to the peaceful possession of property, but that right is immediately counter-balanced by the public interest of the scheme under challenge. Furthermore, the court does not look too closely at the detail when applying the proportionality test, as long as the scheme is lawful. Or does it?

Our case is a refreshing example of where manifest injustice was avoided by a successful claim under Article 1 of the First Protocol of the ECHR. It also shows off the muscles of the duty to interpret legislation, under section 3 of the Human Rights Act 1998, in accordance with the ECHR.To find what it was about, we need to go to the Hendre Relief Road in Pencoed, Bridgend and those who live nearby.

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