Have we lost sight of J.S. Mill’s concept of the right to liberty? Article 5 in the Court of Protection

Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council v KW (by her litigation friend Celia Walsh)   [2014] EWCOP 45 – read judgment

JohnStuartMillMostyn J has pulled no punches in rejecting an application for a declaration that an incapacitated person, being looked after in her own home, has been deprived of her liberty contrary to Article 5. There is a very full account of the judgment on the Mental Capacity Law and Policy blog so I will keep this summary short.

The first respondent, KW, is a 52 year old woman who is severely mentally incapacitated. She suffered brain damage while undergoing surgery to correct arteriovenous malformation in 1996. This resulted in a subarachnoid haemorrhage and long term brain damage. She was left with cognitive and mental health problems, epilepsy and physical disability. She was discharged from hospital into a rehabilitation unit and thence to her own home, a bungalow in Middleton, with 24/7 support. Physically, KW is just about ambulant with the use of a wheeled Zimmer frame. Mentally, she is trapped in the past. She believes it is 1996 and that she is living at her old home with her three small children (who are now all adult). As Mostyn J says,

Her delusions are very powerful and she has a tendency to try to wander off in order to find her small children. Her present home is held under a tenancy from a Housing Association. The arrangement entails the presence of carers 24/7 [who] attend to her every need in an effort to make her life as normal as possible. If she tries to wander off she will be brought back.

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Irish Supreme Court struggles with outcome of surrogacy arrangements

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M.R. and D.R.(suing by their father and next friend O.R.) & ors -v- An t-Ard-Chláraitheoir & ors [2014] IESC 60 (7 November 2014) – read judgment

The definition of a mother, whether she is “genetic” or “gestational” for the purpose of registration laws was a matter for parliament, not the courts, the Irish Supreme Court has ruled.

At the core of the case was the question whether a mother whose donated ova had resulted in twin children born by a surrogacy arrangement should be registered as their parent, as opposed to the gestational mother who had borne the twins.

The genetic mother and father sought her registration as “mother” under the Civil Registration Act, 2004, along with a declaration that she was entitled to have the particulars of her maternity entered on the Certificate of Birth, and that the twins were entitled to have their relationship to the fourth named respondent recorded on their Certificates of Birth. Continue reading

Family pressure group “had no business” in applying for habeas corpus on behalf of mother

6a00d83451ccc469e201a73e196361970dJustice for Families Ltd v Secretary of State for Justice [2014] EWCA Civ 1477 – read judgment

An  application for habeas corpus by a pressure group was completely “hopeless” and “entirely misconceived”. The appellant’s challenge to the decision of the judge below was equally devoid of merit.  Third party applications are only appropriate where the prisoner is incommunicado or where the impediment preventing the prisoner from acting is ignorance or disability. It was entirely inappropriate in these circumstances, where the prisoner had been represented by counsel throughout the proceedings which resulted in her imprisonment, or where her detention had already ended before the application for habeas corpus was made.

The principle of “habeas corpus”

The right of a stranger to apply for habeas corpus is a rather singular thing since it does not depend on that third party to be instructed by the prisoner on behalf of whom the application is being made, nor even on the knowledge of the prisoner that someone has decided to act in his/her interest in such a way.

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Government may weigh rights against national security without courts’ interference

Mujahedin-e-Khalq-OrganizatR (on the application of Lord Carlile of Berriew QC and others) (Appellants) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Respondent) [2014] UKSC 60 – read judgment

The exclusion of a dissident Iranian from the UK, on grounds that her presence would have a damaging impact on our interests in relation to Iran, has been upheld by the Supreme Court. (My post on the Court of Appeal’s ruling is here).

At the heart of the case lies the question of institutional competence of the executive to determine the balance between the relative significance of national security and freedom of speech. The exclusion order was imposed and maintained because the Home Office is is concerned with the actual consequences of Mrs Rajavi’s admission, not with the democratic credentials of those responsible for bringing them about. The decision-maker is not required by the Convention or anything else to ignore or downplay real risks to national security where they originate from people acting for motives which are contrary to the values of this country.

The following summary of the facts is partly based on the Court’s press release. References in square brackets are to the paragraphs in the judgment. Continue reading

Be wary of judicial slogans – Jonathan Sumption

SumptionIn his lecture to the Administrative Law Bar Association  earlier this month, Lord Sumption surveys the concept of “anxious scrutiny” – a judicial method which he characterises as a forerunner to the principle of proportionality. The term was actually coined by Lord Bridge in Bugdaycay (1986), and was meant to apply where the rights engaged in a case were sufficiently fundamental, and stretched the traditional “Wednesbury” test to public authority decisions or actions which were not, on the face of it, irrational. (The citation given in the PDF of the speech incidentally is incorrect). The same way of thinking had been arrived at in the US courts a few years earlier, with their “hard look” doctrine, but to Lord Sumption there was something peculiarly English about the “crab-like” way in which our courts approached and eventually acknowledged this doctrine, hitherto alien to the judicial toolbox.

But if we apply anxious scrutiny to the doctrine itself, Sumption suggests, it raises more questions than it answers. Continue reading

Delays in prisoner rehabilitation did not breach Convention – Strasbourg Court

man_in_prisonDillon v United Kingdom  (no. 32621/11)  – read judgment  and David Thomas v United Kingdom (no. 55863/11) - read judgment 

Two prisoners have failed in their human rights protest against prison rehabilitation courses in the United Kingdom.

Dillon

The applicant Dillon, currently detained in HMP Whatton, had been given an indeterminate sentence following his conviction for sexual assault. He was given a tariff period of four years. His release after the expiry of this tariff period was subject to the approval of the Parole Board.

He completed the core Sex Offenders Treatment Programme (“SOTP”) in March 2009 and had been assessed as suitable for the extended SOTP in 2010. But then the  prison authorities concluded that he was insufficiently motivated to undertake the extended course.  He complained that the only way that he could address the risk he presented to the public was by completing the extended SOTP, but his access to this course had been delayed.   Continue reading

Removal of subsidy for spare room not unlawful

Bedroom taxCotton and others, (R on the application of) v Minister for Work and Pensions and others, 15 October 2014  [2014] EWHC 3437 (Admin) – read judgment

Whether you call it the “spare room subsidy” or the “bedroom tax”, the removal of this type of housing benefit has been nothing short of controversial. There have been several previous legal challenges to the Regulations, as well as to the benefit cap introduced as part of the same package of welfare changes. The outcome of these cases was not promising for these claimants, in particular the decision of the Court of Appeal in R (MA) v Secretary of State for Work & Pensions [2014] EWCA Civ 13. Another important case is R (SG (previously JS)) v Secretary of State for Work & Pensions [2014] EWCA Civ 156.

Now the High Court has settled one aspect of the matter by ruling that these amendments did not breach the  rights of singe parents under Article 8 ECHR  who looked after their children under shared care arrangements where they received discretionary housing payments to make up the shortfall. Continue reading