Male circumcision can be part of “reasonable parenting”, but no form of FGM is acceptable – Family Court

female-genital-mutilation-fgmB and G (Children) (No.2) [2015] EWFC 3 – read judgment

Contemplating the details of different forms of female genital mutilation is not for the faint hearted. But that is what the courts and the relevant experts have to do, not only to protected alleged victims but to defend the interests of those suspected of perpetuating the procedure, whether it is a question of criminal liability under the FGM Act 2003, or determining that a threshold of harm has been passed so as to initiate care proceedings if the victim is a child.

This case concerned the latter; although in the end the court was not satisfied that the evidence was sufficient to satisfy the “significant harm” requirement under the Children Act 1989, Sir James Munby P considered the case sufficiently important to explore the inclusion of FGM, and, more controversially, male circumcision, in the array of cultural and religious rituals that can trigger the state’s intervention in family life.

These were “deep waters” which the judge was “hesitant to enter”, yet, enter them he did, all the better for the clarification of this difficult issue in care proceedings. Continue reading

Monitoring of sex offenders by home visits does not breach human rights – Court of Appeal

_60540582_policevisitsM, R (on the application of) v Hampshire Constabulary and another (18 December 2014) [2014] EWCA Civ 1651 – read judgment

The law governing the monitoring of sex offenders, allowing police officers to visit the homes of registered offenders, did not constitute an unlawful interference with the offenders’ privacy rights under Article 8 of the ECHR.

This was an appeal against a decision by the appellant (M) against a decision by Hallett LJ and Collins J in the Administrative Court that the practice of police officers making visits to the homes of registered sex offenders for the purpose of monitoring their behaviour did not violate the Convention. Continue reading

It is heartless not to assist people to die: Debbie Purdy

UnknownThe multiple sclerosis sufferer Debbie Purdy died in the Marie Curie hospice in Bradford on December 23 2014. Having been denied her right to travel to Dignitas in Switzerland, which would have exposed her husband to the risk of prosecution under the 1961 Suicide Act, she took the only option available to her – refusing food. Death by starvation is not pleasant. The relevant Wikipedia entry describes some of the symptoms:

The body breaks down its own muscles and other tissues in order to keep vital systems such as the nervous system and the heart muscle functioning.
… Early symptoms include impulsivity, irritability, hyperactivity, and other symptoms. Atrophy (wasting away) of the stomach weakens the perception of hunger, since the perception is controlled by the percentage of the stomach that is empty. Victims of starvation are often too weak to sense thirst, and therefore become dehydrated.

All movements become painful due to muscle atrophy and dry, cracked skin that is caused by severe dehydration. With a weakened body, diseases are commonplace. Fungi, for example, often grow under the esophagus, making swallowing painful.

I apologise for introducing such a gloomy subject into the dying embers of 2014, but it is too important to pass by.

Continue reading

Exceptional legal aid funding should not be limited to extreme cases – Court of Appeal

legal-aidR (on the application of) Gudanaviciene and others v The Director of Legal Aid Casework and others [2014] EWCA Civ 1622 – read judgment

The Court of Appeal has ruled that the Lord Chancellor’s Guidance on exceptional funding in civil legal aid is incompatible with the right of access to justice under Article 6 of the ECHR and Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The Court has further decided that this Guidance was not compatible with Article 8 of the ECHR in immigration cases; in other words, that legal aid should not be refused when applicants for entry to the UK seek to argue that refusal of entry would interfere with their right to respect for private and family life.

This was an appeal against a ruling by Collins J in the court below that the appellant Director’s refusal to grant the respondents exceptional case funding under Section 10 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 in their immigration cases was unlawful. Continue reading

Judge orders blood transfusion for Jehovah’s Witness child

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An NHS Trust v Child B and Mr and Mrs B [2014] EWHC 3486 (Fam) – read judgment

I posted earlier this year a discussion of Ian McEwan’s pellucid and moving account of the difficulties encountered by judges when steering between the rock of parental faith and the hard place of children’s best interests (The Children Act, 2014).

This judgment, although handed down four months ago, has just been published, and confirms that judges may be resolute, however politely,  in the face of parents’ insistence that they know what is best for their children. 

Background Facts

The application concerned a very young child (B) who sustained burn injuries in an accident. The clinical team responsible for his care advised that the best practice treatment for his injuries was skin grafting and that there was a significant risk that he would require a blood transfusion . To avoid infection and for the best possible result, skin grafts should be carried out no later than 7 to 10 days from the initial burn. The Court was also told that in the event of a skin graft taking place without the ability to give a blood transfusion, there would be a risk of death as a result of sepsis developing. Continue reading

Cosmetics tested on animals banned in the EU – or are they?

animal-experimentation-rabbit-draize-eye-irritacy-testsR (on the application of the European Federation for Cosmetic Ingredients) v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Attorney General, British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection and the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (intervening)  [2014] EWHC 4222 (Admin) 12 December 2014 – read judgment

Conscientious shoppers who check the labelling of shampoos and other cosmetic products for the “not tested on animals” legend may not be aware that there is in place an EU Regulation (“the Cosmetics Regulation”), enforceable by criminal sanctions, prohibiting the placing on the market of any product that has been tested on laboratory animals. Any comfort drawn from this knowledge however may be displaced by the uncertainty concerning the status of cosmetics whose ingredients have been tested on animals in non-EU or “third” countries. (Incidentally the Cruelty Cutter app is designed to enable consumers to test, at the swipe of a smart phone, whether the product they are contemplating purchasing has been tested on animals.)

This case concerned the question of whether, and if so in what circumstances, that Regulation would prohibit the marketing of products which incorporate ingredients which have undergone testing on animals in third countries. It was a claim for judicial review seeking declarations relating to the marketing of cosmetic ingredients which had been thus tested. Continue reading

Cracking intercepts: the war on terror and difficulties with Human Rights

TheImitationGame-BCLiberty v Government Communications Headquarters ( IPT/13/77/H); Privacy International v FCO and others (IPT/13/92/CH); American Civil Liberties Union v Government Communications Headquarters (IPT/13/168-173/H); Amnesty International Ltd v The Security Service and others (IPT/13/194/CH); Bytes for All v FCO (IPT/13/204/CH), The Investigatory Powers Tribunal [2014] UKIPTrib 13_77-,  5 December 2014 – read judgment

Robert Seabrook QC is on the panel of the IPT and  David Manknell of 1 Crown Office acted as Counsel to the Tribunal  in this case. They have nothing to do with the writing of this post.

This is a fascinating case, not just on the facts or merits but because it is generated by two of the major catalysts of public law litigation: the government’s duty to look after the security of its citizens, and the rapid outpacing of surveillance law by communications technology. Anyone who has seen The Imitation Game, a film loosely based on the biography of Alan Turing, will appreciate the conflicting currents at the core of this case: the rights of an individual to know, and foresee, what the limits of his freedom are, and the necessity to conceal from the enemy how much we know about their methods. Except the Turing film takes place in official wartime, whereas now the state of being at “war” has taken on a wholly different character. Continue reading