“Lamentable”, “egregious” and “wholly indefensible”: High Court lambasts local authority’s conduct of care proceedings

imgres-1Northamptonshire County Council v AS, KS and DS [2015] EWFC 7 – read judgment

A Family Division judge has awarded damages under the Human Rights Act against a local authority in what he described as an “unfortunate and woeful case” involving a baby taken into foster care. Mr Justice Keehan cited a “catalogue of errors, omissions, delays and serial breaches of court orders” by Northamptonshire County Council. Unusually, the judge decided to give the judgment in this sensitive case in public in order to set out “the lamentable conduct of this litigation by the local authority.

On 30 January 2013, the local authority placed the child (known as ‘DS’) with foster carers. He was just fifteen days old. In the weeks prior to DS’s birth, his mother’s GP had made a referral to the local authority due to her lack of antenatal care and because she claimed to be sleeping on the street. The mother then told a midwife that she had a new partner. He was a heroin addict.

After the birth DS’s mother avoided seeing her midwife. She frequently moved addresses and conditions at home were exceedingly poor. Three days before DS was taken into care, his mother told social workers that her new partner was being aggressive and threatening to her. She reported that he was leaving used needles around the house. Continue reading

Acquitted defendants costs regime not incompatible with ECHR

448bbd010e93bd0d21e13a354a3cd82bR (o.t.a Henderson) v. Secretary of State for Justice, Divisional Court, 27 January 2015 – judgment  here

The Court (Burnett LJ giving the sole judgment) has ruled on whether the statutory changes made to the ability of acquitted defendants in the Crown Court to recover their costs from central funds are compatible with the ECHR. 

Its answer – an emphatic yes, the new rules are compatible. This conclusion was reached in respect of the two statutory regimes applicable since October 2012, as we shall see.

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A worrying new anti-terror law is sneaking through Parliament – Angela Patrick

westminsterAs the world’s press and public stand vigil in support of Charlie Hebdo and the families of the victims of Wednesday’s attack, we wake this morning to reports that our security services are under pressure and seeking new powers. The spectre of the Communications Data Bill is again evoked. These reports mirror renewed commitments yesterday to new counter-terrorism measures for the EU and in France.

This blog has already covered the reaction to the shootings in Paris in some detail.   The spectrum of reaction has been about both defiance and fear. The need for effective counter-terrorism measures to protect us all, yet which recognise and preserve our commitment to the protection of fundamental rights is given a human face as people take to the streets to affirm a commitment to protect the right of us all to speak our mind, to ridicule and to lampoon, to offend and to criticise, without fear of oppression or violence.   It is against this backdrop that we might remember that UK Ministers are already in the process of asking Westminster to expand our already broad framework of counter-terrorism legislation.

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Letting in a chink of light to closed material cases : Bank Mellat again

brown-blanket-ray-of-lightBank Mellat v HM Treasury [2014] EWHC 3631 (Admin), Collins J, 5 November 2014 –  read judgment UPDATED POST

Fireworks here from Collins J in making sure that Bank Mellat got some disclosure of information in its fight to discharge a financial restriction order against it.

Bank Mellat is an Iranian bank, initially singled out by an 2009 order which prohibited anybody from dealing with it.  The order was part of sanctions against Iran in respect of its nuclear and ballistic missiles programme. However, it bit the dust, thanks to the Supreme Court:  see judgment. I  did a post on that decision, and followed it up with one (here) on the (dis)proportionality arguments which led to the order’s downfall. 

However the Bank was subject to two further orders, made in 2011 and 2012. They led to the freezing of €183m held by it in London. The 2012 order has since been revoked, but the 2011 one remains. This is the subject of the Bank’s application to set it aside. On any view, as Collins J recognised, it had caused very serious damage to the Bank’s business.

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Strasbourg and why you must give reasons on domestic appeals

MO201110701289983ARHansen v. Norway, ECtHR, 2 October, read judgment

In any system of appeals, there is always a tension between giving everyone a fair hearing and concentrating on the appeals which do stand a reasonable prospect of success. The UK, like many countries, has introduced some filters on civil appeals in relatively recent times, enabling unmeritorious appeals to be dismissed at the threshold. In doing so, it gives short (sometimes very short) reasons for refusing permission.

You might have thought that this was a classic area where Strasbourg would be wary about intervening in domestic practice and striking the balance between speed and fairness. Yet the Court was persuaded that the Norwegians got the balance wrong, and found a breach of Article 6(1). We therefore need to read it carefully to see whether the same could be said about our system.

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The rise of the secret trial: Closed Material Procedures one year on – Lawrence McNamara

Justice and SecurityLast week Justice Secretary Chris Grayling reported on how often closed material proceedings (CMPs) have been sought under the Justice and Security Act 2013 (JSA), as he is required to do annually under the Act. As the first and only official consolidated presentation of how the new CMP regime is being used, this two-page written ministerial statement warrants close attention.

The Secretary of State’s report provides only numbers. In the Bingham Centre’s Review of the First Report by the Secretary of State, we have tried to match cases to those numbers and, when read in light of the cases, have found good reasons to be concern about the difficulty of verifying the accuracy of the report, the ways that CMPs are being used, and the adequacy of the reporting requirements.

What are the reporting requirements?   Continue reading

Secret trials – a little transparency, a lot to worry about – Lawrence McNamara

RCJ restricted accessGuardian News and Media Ltd -v- AB CD – Read preliminary judgment

The Court of Appeal has published its decision in Guardian News Media v AB and CD. It is not a judgment, the Court says. Judgments – plural – will be given “in due course.” Still, the 24 paragraph decision contains the order and explanation of the order, and gives an indication of some of the reasons that will follow.

Is this a good decision? It is better than it might have been, but there are still deeply worrying problems.

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