The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill is back before Parliament today for the “Report Stage”. The latest version of the Bill is here, updated explanatory notes here, and the full list of proposed amendments here. Predictably, the amendments are the focus of much controversy.
I have written a new article for the New Statesman on some of the myths and realities surrounding the debate - you can read it here. It’s all a bit complicated, as you might expect.
Our previous coverage is linked to below. Hopefully, party politics won’t end up derailing this important bill. As the New Yorker recently predicted
One day, not long from now, it will be hard to remember what worried people so much about gay and lesbian couples committing themselves to marriage.
Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular legal melting pot of human rights news. The full list of links can be found here. You can also find our table of human rights cases here and previous roundups here.
Not the right to life, but the right to die dominates the human rights headlines this week, with separate litigation in Strasbourg and the Strand. Commentary abounds on not just the ECHR’s role in domestic law, but how proposed reforms comply with EU law, particularly on the immigration front. Finally, a wide range of human rights approaches to much of the coalition’s plans for this Parliament.
Updated, 19 May 2013 | Last night, lawyers, academics, NGOs and even the President of the Supreme Court gathered in a basement conference room in central London. Their purpose was to discuss the UK “without Convention Rights”, a possible future that some might view as post-apocalyptic, and others as utopia. Either way, given recent political developments, the event could not, in the words of the Chair, Lord Dyson, “be more timely or topical.”
The seminar was hosted by city law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP and presented by the Human Rights Lawyers Association and the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law. Lord Dyson, who is the Master of the Rolls (the second most senior judge in England and Wales), introduced three speakers:
- David Anderson QC, the Government’s Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation since 2011;
- Professor András Sajó, the Hungarian Judge at the European Court of Human Rights; and
- Professor Hugh Corder, Professor of Public Law at the University of Cape Town.
R (on the application of) Sir David Barclay and Sir Frederick Barclay v Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, The Committee for the Affairs of Jersey and Guernsey and Her Majesty’s Privy Council  EWHC 1183 (Admin) – read judgment
The power of the ruling body to alter the remuneration of the judicial “Seneschal” was open to arbitrary use and therefore incompatible with Article 6 of the Human Rights Convention.
The claimants last challenged the independence of Sark’s governing and judicial bodies in successful judicial review proceedings in 2009. Continue reading
One of the most contentious proposals in the Consultation Paper on the transforming legal aid is the removal of client choice in criminal cases. Under the proposals contracts for the provision of legal aid will be awarded to a limited number of firms in an area. The areas are similar to the existing CPS areas. The Green Paper anticipates that there will be four or five such providers in each area. Thus the county of Kent, for example, will have four or five providers in an area currently served by fifty or so legal aid firms. Each area will have a limited number providers that will offer it is argued economies of scale.
In order to ensure that this arrangement is viable the providers will be effectively guaranteed work by stripping the citizen of the right to choose a legal aid lawyer in criminal cases. Under the new scheme every time a person needs advice they will be allocated mechanically by the Legal Aid Agency to one of the new providers. It may not be the same firm the person has used before. The citizen will therefore not be able to build up a relationship with a solicitor. From a human rights perspective this, of course, begs the question would the removal of choice be compatible with the ECHR?
Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular chocolate selection gift box of human rights news. The full list of links can be found here. You can also find our table of human rights cases here and previous roundups here.
This week, the Government announced plans to curb Article 8 of the ECHR, Grayling continues to cause controversy with his reforms of both the Criminal Justice System and of judicial review, and Qatada may soon be leaving us for pastures new.
PC (by her litigation friend the Official Solicitor) and NC  v City of York Council  EWCA Civ 478 – read judgment
It may seem strange that the same individual, with learning difficulties, can be considered to have capacity to marry, but not the capacity to decide whether to live with the person they have espoused. What, in essence, is marriage, that puts it on such a different footing to informal cohabitation?
The question arose because the woman in question (PC) had married NC after he had been convicted and sentenced for serious sexual offences. She had briefly cohabited with the him before he was convicted and married him in 2006 while he was in prison. He was due for release on licence in 2012. It was common ground that he posed a serious risk to PC in her capacity as a cohabiting wife. The local authority obtained a declaration from the Court of Protection ( Med LR 26) that although PC had had capacity to marry and to understand the obligations of marriage, she did not have the capacity to decide whether to cohabit with NC upon his release. What Hedley J said was this:
She is undoubtedly within section 2(1) [of the Mental Capacity Act] requirements of impairment. Applying the section 3(1) test I am not satisfied that she is able to understand the potential risk that NC presents to her and that she is unable to weigh the information underpinning the potential risk so as to determine whether or not such a risk either exists or should be run, and should, therefore, be part of her decision to resume cohabitation. Continue reading
Holland v. Information Commissioner & University of East Anglia, First Tier Tribunal, 29 April 2013 - read judgment
In 2009 someone hacked into e-mails belonging to the Climate Research Unit at UEA and leaked them widely. Climate change sceptics whooped with delight because they thought that the e-mails showed attempts to suppress or gerrymander climate data (see e.g. this example from James Delingpole with some of the ticklish e-mails, and for more background, less tendentiously put, my post on an earlier UEA case). And the CRU data was important; it had made its way into the highly influential IPCC reports.
UEA understandably thought that something needed doing in response to the leaks, and commissioned an inquiry, the Independent Climate Change E-mail Review. ICCER reported in 2010: see here for the report and here for a short summary. ICCER concluded that there had not been any systematic manipulation of data, though there had been a lack of openness by CRU in dealing with requests for information.
This recent decision concerns a campaigner’s efforts to get copies of the working papers of the Review. The First Tier Tribunal (as the Information Commissioner before it) refused to order UEA to produce them. UEA did not “hold” them, ICCER did. And ICCER was not a public authority capable of being ordered to produce them.
Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular assortment of human rights news. The full list of links can be found here. You can also find our table of human rights cases here and previous roundups here.
Not a particularly noisy week on the human rights front, but some interesting summaries and analyses. The House of Commons Library has compiled a summary of UK cases before Strasbourg since 1975, as well as on the prisoner voting issue. Some commentary on the issue of secret justice, in particular the role of the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, and the powers of the court of protection in contempt proceedings.
In the News
The Legal Aid cuts are set to continue – see Adam Wagner’s post on the latest consultation, which closes on 4 June 2013. As with previous consultations, we will be collating responses so please send us yours (to email click here).
Doogan and Wood v. NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde Health Board  CSIH 36 – read judgment here
The Inner House of the Court of Session (the Scottish civil court of appeal) ruled last week that two midwives from Glasgow could not be required to delegate to, supervise or support staff on their labour ward who were involved in abortions.
The ruling makes it clear that the conscientious objection provision in s.4 of the Abortion Act 1967 has very broad scope. This probably means that the General Medical Council (GMC), the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) will all need to change their guidance on the subject, since the existing versions take a much narrower view. This judgment affects England and Wales as well as Scotland (since the Act covers all three countries), but not Northern Ireland.
The facts of the case, and the original decision of Lady Smith in the Outer House of the Court of Session are covered in our previous blog post here.
R (ClientEarth) v Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs  UKSC 25, Supreme Court, 1 May 2013 – read judgment
on appeal against Court of Appeal 30 May 2012 read CA judgment
The Supreme Court has taken the UK’s lack of compliance with EU legislation, Directive 2008/50 (limiting the amount of nitrogen dioxide in air) much more seriously than the courts below. It has made a declaration that the UK is in breach and has referred questions of interpretation concerning the Directive and remedies to the CJEU.
The UK has been in breach of Article 13 the Directive since 1 January 2010, because at that date 40 “zones and agglomerations” had nitrogen dioxide at concentrations greater than the limit values set out in the Directive. ClientEarth, an environmental NGO, sought to enforce the Directive in the national courts. Defra admitted breach of Article 13 and, given the admission, the Court of Appeal said that there was no point in granting any declaratory relief. It was for the EU Commission, if it wished, to take infraction proceedings.
This seemed to me like a cop-out – it is for the Commission and the courts to enforce directives, as I suggested in my previous posts (e.g. here) on this case.
The Government abandoned its plans to repeal the ‘general duty’ of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) under the Equality Act 2006 (the Act) last week, but insisted upon amendments to the EHRC’s duty to monitor progress on equality and human rights.
The general duty in section 3 of the Act sets out why the EHRC exists and the aims towards which it should be working, namely that it:
shall exercise its functions…with a view to encouraging and supporting the development of a society in which
(a) people’s ability to achieve their potential is not limited by prejudice or discrimination,
(b) there is respect for and protection of each individual’s human rights,
(c) there is respect for the dignity and worth of each individual,
(d) each individual has an equal opportunity to participate in society, and
(e) there is mutual respect between groups based on understanding and valuing of diversity and on shared respect for equality and human rights.
Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular potpourri of human rights news. The full list of links can be found here. You can also find our table of human rights cases here and previous roundups here.
This week, in order to deport Abu Qatada, there have been mumblings of a temporary departure from the ECHR. Furthermore, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s legal services reforms lead to a strike in the North, and the recent ECHR decision to allow the UK’s ban on political advertising continues to generate discourse.
Y and Z (Children), 25 April 2013  EWHC 953 (Fam) – read judgment
Having children is a lottery. No judge or court in the land would sanction the regulation of childbearing, however feckless the parents, unsuitable the conditions for childrearing, or unpromising the genetic inheritance.
Adoption on the other hand is stringently regulated, set about with obstacles for prospective parents, and strictly scrutinised by an army of authorities backed up by specialist family courts and a battery of laws, statutory instruments and guidance papers. Usually the filtering is in one direction only: the suitability of the parents to the child or children up for adoption. But sometimes it goes the other way, and this case raises the fascinating and somewhat futuristic question of whether children’s chance of finding a suitable home might be increased by genetic testing.
The circumstances were somewhat exceptional here, since the local authority had ascertained from the biological father of the two young boys in question that they might have a chance of inheriting a rare genetic disorder of the central nervous system. Huntington’s Chorea is caused by a single gene mutation on chromosome IV and causes damage of the nerve cells and areas of the brain which in due course leads to severe physical, mental and emotional deterioration. Anyone whose parent has the disease is born with a fifty per cent chance of inheriting the gene. Anyone who inherits the gene will, at some stage, develop the disease. Continue reading