US court takes important step in resolving human/wildlife conflict at sea

Sea Otters

Sea Otters

California Sea Urchin Commission, et al. v Michael Bean, et al, US District Court, Central District of California (September 18 2015) – read judgment

A Californian court has upheld the protection of marine otters over the interests of commercial fishing.

Sea otters are remarkable marine mammals who live their entire lives at sea, giving birth in the water and clutching their cubs to their bellies as they float in rafts of up to a thousand, holding hands while they sleep to avoid drifting off in the ocean’s currents. But they are not just picturesque; they are essential to the health of the seas. A main component of their diet is the ubiquitous sea urchin, which feeds on kelp. As sea otters have been hunted and killed as by-catch over the centuries, their diminishing numbers have led to the proliferation of the sea urchin population and the consequent disappearance of the kelp forests on the seabed. The damage this does to the marine ecosystem has been inestimable.

This somewhat technical judgment, made on a preliminary application for summary judgment by the fishing industry, therefore marks an important step in the judicial response to marine conservation. Continue reading

Injunction and damages in libel case awarded against anonymous website

solicitors-from-hell-co-u-006Brett Wilson LLP v Person(s) Unknown, Responsible for the Operation of the Website, 7 September (Warby J) [2015] EWHC 2628 (QB) – read judgment

This was a claim in libel by a firm of solicitors who acted for another firm which also claimed against the operators of SFHUK, causing the original site to be shut down (Law Society v Rick Kordowski [2011]). In this case the words complained of appeared on a new site, but despite efforts by the present claimants, it was not possible to find out who was operating it. The site alleged various aspects of mismanagement, including incompetence and fraud. It also quoted a client of the claimant firm who alleged overcharging and who refused to pay their fees. (It is worth noting that the site appears to have been taken down since default judgement was given in this case)

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A vegan in charge of agriculture? Herod at the nursery gates!

CO3P2F_UYAIyidu.jpg-largeUpdated: Well, not exactly. But the outrage attending Jeremy Corbyn’s appointment of animal welfare campaigner Kerry McCarthy to the shadow DEFRA post betrays a level of panic which defies logic. What is wrong with someone concerned with humane animal husbandry being in charge of those who regulate it? See Maria Chiorando’s “A vegan shadow agriculture minister is a good move for farming” for a sane assessment of this particular episode in the post-Corbyn drama.

The timing is perhaps apt:  The picture to the left depicts a cow awaiting her slaughter after a long journey through Europe.  To register your objection to this practice, join Compassion in World Farming on 9th October in London:

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The importance of privacy in ancillary relief proceedings – High Court

money_1945490cDL v SL [2015] EWHC 2621 (Fam) 27 July 2015 (Mostyn J)  – read judgment

This was a simple, if contentious, divorce case in which the judge took the opportunity to make a point about balancing the principle of open judgment – allowing media coverage of cases – against the privacy of the parties involved. Whilst he was ready to acknowledge that publicity ensures not only the probity of the judge but the veracity of the witnesses, and that such publicity served promote understanding and debate about the legal process, in some cases privacy should trump the rights of the press.

There are many cases which are heard publicly, or privately with the media in attendance, but where, by a process of anonymisation, the privacy of the parties, and of their personal and other affairs, is sought to be preserved. This compromise, or balance, between open justice and the privacy of the individual has arisen for two reasons. First, the increased recognition that is given to the interests of children who are caught up in the dispute between the adult parties. And secondly, the rise of the idea that privacy is an independently enforceable right. Continue reading

“Widespread incompetence” of fertility regulator and clinics lamented by President of Family Division

One-Happy-BabyA and others (In the matter of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008) – read judgment

This case is best summed up in Sir James Munby’s own words:

This judgment relates to a number of cases where much joy but also, sadly, much misery has been caused by the medical brilliance, unhappily allied with the administrative incompetence, of various fertility clinics. The cases I have before me are, there is every reason to fear, only the small tip of a much larger problem.

These cumulative cases

 must raise questions as to the adequacy if not of the  Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority’s regulation then of the extent of its regulatory powers. That the incompetence to which I refer is, as I have already indicated, administrative rather than medical is only slight consolation, given the profound implications of the parenthood which in far too many cases has been thrown into doubt. This is a matter I shall return to at the end of this judgment.

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Woman’s wish to donate unwanted embryos to scientific research rejected by Strasbourg Court

cdce0842e2fac4bcf0335ab5c367-is-embryonic-stem-cell-research-wrongParrillo v Italy (application no. 46470/11) Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, [2015] ECHR 755 (27 August 2015) – read judgment

The Grand Chamber of the Strasbourg Court has ruled that the Italian ban on the donation of embryos obtained by IVF procedures to scientific research was within Italy’s margin of appreciation and therefore not in breach of the applicant’s right of private life and autonomy, even though she was willing to give the embryos to scientific research, since she no longer wanted to proceed with pregnancy after her partner was killed covering the war in Iraq. By donating these cryopreserved embryos to research she would, she argued, make an important contribution to research into medical therapies and cures. 

A strong dissent to the majority judgment is worth pointing up at the outset. The Hungarian judge, Andras Sajó, found Italy’s general ban quite out of order. Not only did it disregard the applicant’s right to self-determination with respect to an important private decision, it did so in an absolute and unforeseeable manner.

The law contains no transitional rules which would have enabled the proper authority to take into consideration the specific situation of the applicant, whose embryos obtained from the IVF treatment were placed in cryopreservation in 2002 and whose husband passed away in 2003, three months before the law entered into force.

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ISIL child brides: a big care problem for the Family Court?

isis-islamic-state-528116London Borough Tower of Hamlets v B [2015] EWHC 2491 (Fam) 21 August 2015 – read judgment 

When a judge waxes lyrical about a child, garlanded with starred GCSEs, their intelligence, their medical school ambitions, you wonder what is coming. It’s the judicial equivalent of those blurred reproductions in the press of murder victims’  graduate portraits. In this case, a sixteen year old girl “B”, the subject of a careful but nevertheless alarming judgment in the Family Division, turned out to be one of the many girls groomed by their family for exodus to Syria; all of whom appear to be:

intelligent young girls, highly motivated academically, each of whom has, to some and greatly varying degrees, been either radicalised or exposed to extreme ideology promulgated by those subscribing to the values of the self-styled Islamic State.

B herself seemed unoppressed by the situation she was in and indeed wrote to the judge in those terms. She and her family refused to give evidence and sat impassively whilst Heydon J gave judgment.

They have betrayed no emotion; they have been impassive and inscrutable as I have faced the challenge of deciding whether their family should be fragmented and their children removed. Their self discipline is striking. They have listened carefully. The mother has taken careful notes. They have revealed nothing in their responses.

These cases differ from the common run of family abuse cases in that these young women, in the judge’s words, have “boundless opportunities, comfortable homes and carers who undoubtedly love them”. But they have been seduced by a belief that travelling to Syria to become what is known as ‘Jihadi brides’ is somehow romantic and honourable both to them and to their families. Continue reading