John Redwood MP and David Hart QC debate environmental rules

talk_05Is environmental regulation unnecessary and is it crippling our economy? This was the debate which raged last Thursday between a senior Conservative backbencher and one of our regular 1 Crown Office Row contributors to the blog – thanks to the UK Environmental Law Association who organised it and city law firm Simmons & Simmons who hosted lunch. Stephen Tromans QC of 39 Essex Street ably chaired the debate.

The motion of the debate was a broad one which John Redwood narrowed down into an onslaught on climate change subsidies, which he said were pointless and damaging. To find out more about his case, and David’s response, listen to the audio file here.

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Judicial Review Reform: All about the money, money, money?  – Angela Patrick

RCJ restricted accessAs MPs and Peers consider the Civil Legal Aid (Remuneration)(Amendment)(No 3) Regulations and the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, Angela Patrick, Director of Human Rights Policy at JUSTICE considers the Lord Chancellor’s view that proposed judicial review changes do not restrict access to judicial review remedies or restrict the rule of law.

Tomorrow (Thursday), MPs will consider a series of detailed amendments to the Government’s proposed changes to judicial review in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill.  The proposed changes to legal aid for judicial review are not up for debate. The Regulations, which will restrict legal aid to only those cases granted permission, are already made and due to come into force on 22 April.  There will be no debate on those changes, unless MPs and Peers demand one.

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Supreme Court: Strasbourg’s mixed messages about Article 10 and any right to receive information

Kennedy v. Charity Commission et al, Supreme Court, 26 March 2014 read judgment

In judgments running to 90 pages, the Supreme Court dismissed this appeal by Mr Kennedy, a Times journalist, for access to documents generated by the Charity Commission under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 concerning three inquiries  between 2003 and 2005 into the Mariam Appeal. This appeal was George Galloway’s response to the sanctions imposed on Iraq following the first Gulf War, and little Mariam was a leukaemia sufferer. Mr Kennedy’s suspicion, amongst others, was that charitable funds had been used by Galloway for political campaigning.

The Charity Commission had refused the request on the ground that the information was subject to an absolute exemption from disclosure contained in s.32(2) of the FOIA. The Supreme Court (in common with the Court of Appeal) held that the absolute exemption applied and dismissed Mr Kennedy’s request. But the result was a little closer in the SC, with two judges dissenting, essentially on Article 10 grounds.

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No maternity rights for commissioning mother in surrogacy case

Pregnant_woman_silhouette.pngCD v ST (judgment of the Court) [2014] EUECJ C-167/12 (18 March 2014) - read judgment

 Z v A Government Department and the Board of Management of a Community School C‑363/12 – read judgment

The European Court (CJEU) has now considered two requests for preliminary ruling made in proceedings between intended mothers (also referred to as a commissioning mother) who have had babies through a surrogacy arrangement, and their employers concerning the refusal to grant them paid leave following the birth of the babies. It has replied that EU law does not provide for commissioning mothers to be entitled to paid leave equivalent to maternity leave or adoption leave.

I reported on the AGs’ opinions in both cases here, noting that AG Kokott and AG Wahl took a completely different approach in their interpretation of the applicability of Directive 92/85 in surrogacy cases; the Court has clearly decided that granting maternity leave in these circumstances would be a step too far.

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Prisoners’ Legal Aid, Malayan Killings and the Role of the Judiciary – the Human Rights Roundup

prisoner HRRWelcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular springtime blossom of human rights news and views.  The full list of links can be found here.  You can find previous roundups here.  Links compiled by Adam Wagner, post by Celia Rooney. 

This week, a challenge to the legal aid reforms by the Howard League for Penal Reform is rejected, while campaigners seeking an inquiry into the action of British soldiers in Malaya in 1948 face similar disappointment.  Meanwhile, some of the most senior judges in the UK give their views on the role of the judiciary today.

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Anti-fracking protesters’ Convention rights against private landowners

MEN-Anti-Fracking-3701_7113391-6384253Manchester Ship Canal Developments v Persons Unknown [2014] EWHC  645  (Ch) – read judgment

The High Court has ruled that Convention rights may be engaged in disputes between private landowners and trespassers, thereby making it incumbent on the court under Section 6 of the Human Rights Act to balance the trespassers’ rights under Article 8 against the landowner’s rights under Article 1 Protocol 1. 

The claimants, who owned land adjacent to a single track road surrounded by farmland, sought a possession order against the defendant activists who had set up camp close to the road in protest at the drilling program being undertaken by a company to whom the claimants had granted a licence. The protest, which obstructed the road on a number of occasions, was intended to deter the controversial fracking process which the activists feared would ensue. Continue reading

Avoiding the nuclear option: the EU moves to strengthen the rule of law – Justine Stefanelli

Nuclear1-348x196Within the past week the EU Commission has laid down its plans for protecting the rule of law across Europe and, importantly, for punishing member states that fail to meet rule of law standards.  At first glance this appears to be a landmark in the EU’s regulation of the rule of law, fundamental rights and democracy, but is it the solution it claims to be? 

Between political persuasion and ‘the nuclear option’  

In an effort to prevent more proactively systemic breaches of the rule of law and human rights, the EU Commission has published a Communication on its new Framework to strengthen the Rule of Law. The Framework was largely the product of a consultation which was kick-started by President Barroso when he indicated his desire to develop a monitoring mechanism which would offer a middle ground between “political persuasion” and what he called the “nuclear option” of Article 7 TEU.  Continue reading

Mormon Tax, Posthumous Procreation and Stephen Lawrence Spying – the Human Rights Roundup

stephen-lawrence-new-murd-007Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular spring harvest of human rights news and views.  The full list of links can be found here.  You can find previous roundups here.  Links compiled by Adam Wagner, post by Celia Rooney.

In the human rights news this week, Theresa May answered calls for a public inquiry into undercover police officers after the publication of the independent review into spying on the family of Stephen Lawrence.  Elsewhere, Mormons take on the taxman,  the High Court considers how to interpret the law on storing embryos and gametes after death and a House of Lords Committee publishes a major report into the operation of the Mental Capacity Act.

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CA says Prince Charles’ advocacy letters should be produced

article-2218614-15875C88000005DC-566_634x536R (o.t.a Rob Evans) v. Attorney-General,  Information Commissioner Interested Party, 12 March 2014 - read judgment

The Court of Appeal (reversing a strong court including the former Lord Chief Justice – see my previous post) has decided that correspondence between the Prince of Wales and various government departments should be released. A Guardian journalist had made a request under the Freedom of Information Act and the Environmental Information Regulations to see these documents. The Upper Tribunal had agreed that they should be disclosed.

At that point, the Attorney-General intervened and signed a certificate saying “no”.

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Police bid to obtain journalistic material refused – Supreme Court

Met-police-Scotland-Yard-007R (on the application of British Sky Broadcasting Limited) (Respondent) v The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis (Appellant) [2014] UKSC 17 – read judgment

This was an appeal from a ruling by the Administrative Court that it was procedurally unfair, and therefore unlawful, for BSkyB to have had a disclosure order made against it without full access to the evidence on which the police’s case was based and the opportunity to comment on or challenge that evidence.  The following report is based partly on the Supreme Court’s press summary (references in square brackets are to paragraphs in the judgment):

Factual background

Sam Kiley is a journalist who has for many years specialised in covering international affairs and homeland security. In 2008 he was an “embedded” journalist for a period of months within an air assault brigade in Afghanistan, where he was introduced to AB. CD was also serving in Helmand at the same time.  Continue reading

Evidence to Parliament on Criminal Justice and Courts Bill

westminsterI will be giving evidence tomorrow at around 3pm to the Public Bill Committee scrutinising the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill.

I will be giving evidence along with Nicola Mackintosh, Nick Armstrong and Michael Fordham QC, on the potential impact of the Bill on Judicial Review. The session should be available to view online live here. The full programme, which should be very interesting, is listed here.

For more on the Bill, see this recent post by JUSTICE’s Angela Patrick and this one by David Hart QC.

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Police have “Osman” duty to investigate in date rape cases

Met-police-Scotland-Yard-007DSD and NVB v The Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis [2014] EWHC 436 (QB) - read judgment

The police have a duty to conduct investigations into particularly severe violent acts perpetrated by private parties in a timely and efficient manner. There had been systemic failings by the police in investigating a large number of rapes and sexual assaults perpetrated by the so called “black cab rapist” amounting to a breach of the of the victims’ rights under Article 3 of the ECHR.

The claimants were among the victims of the so called “black cab rapist” (W), who over a six year period between 2002 and 2008 had committed more than 100 drug and alcohol assisted rapes and sexual assaults on women whom he had been carrying in his cab. Both DSD and NVB complained to the police, who commenced investigations, but failed to bring W to justice until 2009. Under the common law the police do not owe a duty of care in negligence in relation to the investigation of crime: See Hill v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire [1989] AC 53 per Lord Keith at pp. 63A-64A and per Lord Templeman at p. 65C-E; Brooks v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2005] 1 WLR 1495; and Smith v Chief Constable of Sussex [2009] 1 AC 225.

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Strasbourg on Mormons and their temples

2787465_d39c5a43THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS v. THE UNITED KINGDOM, ECtHR, 4 March 2014 - read judgment

An apparently dry dispute about business rates on one of the Mormons’ temples in Preston (see pic) has reached Strasbourg and raises interesting issues about indirect discrimination on religious grounds. The underlying question was whether the temple was a place of “public religious worship” and therefore exempt from rates. 

 There are over 12 million Mormons in the world, with 180,000 in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Their organisation is important for this application. Local congregations are called wards, and are presided over by a local bishop. Each ward meets in a local chapel. Five to 15 wards constitutes a “stake”. In each stake one of the larger chapels is designated as a stake centre, where meetings from members of all the wards in the stake can take place.

Preston is one of two temples in the UK. Mormons regard these temples as the holiest places on earth – top of the religious hierarchy. But the question was – is worship there “public”?

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Supreme Court brings private nuisance into the 21st century

270866141Coventry v. Lawrence [2014] UKSC 13, 26 February 2014, read judgment

The law of private nuisance is the way of balancing the rights of neighours, the right to be noisy or smelly, and to be free of noise or smells. Hitherto it is has been explicitly a private law remedy, and has slightly odd rules. But it has been struggling with public interests for some years; are they irrelevant, or can they carry the day for claimant or defendant in a private nuisance claim?

Fortunately, enough of the big issues bedevilling this area of the law came before the Supreme Court in one fell swoop. And they have led to an important re-balancing of the rules. In particular, public interest is relevant, but not at the first stage of deciding whether someone has a claim, but later – can they get an injunction to stop the noise or should they be confined to damages?

 And all this arose in the context of some speedway, stock car, banger and motocross racing in an otherwise fairly rural bit of Suffolk.

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Cap on housing benefit is lawful, says Court of Appeal

Money purse - WalletSG and others, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, 21 February 2014  [2014] EWCA Civ 156 – read judgment

The Court of Appeal has rejected on all grounds a claim that the cap on housing benefit amounted to unlawful discrimination against women.

The appellants were single mothers who claimed that the regulations capping housing benefit discriminated against women generally, and particularly those who were victims of domestic violence. The Divisional Court had dismissed their application for an annulment of the Benefit Cap (Housing Benefit) Regulations 2012 on the basis that the regulations were in breach of Article 14 of the ECHR read with Article 8, and the same Article read with the right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions under Article 1 Protocol 1. The court below had also rejected their submission that the regulations infringed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, or that they were unlawful on grounds of irrationality. In essence, the Divisional Court upheld the Secretary of State’s arguments that the aim of the benefit cap was primarily to bring about a change in culture by giving people some incentive to work, thereby reducing what the Government believes is the debilitating effect of long term dependency on benefits. It also accepted the government’s contention that the cap struck a fairer balance between the interests of taxpaying working households and those on benefits. Any interference with family life and any discriminatory impact of the benefit cap on women generally (and female victims of domestic violence who flee from their homes in particular) was therefore said to be justified and lawful.

The appellants’ appeal against that ruling was dismissed. Continue reading