Edwards v Chesterfield Royal Hospital and Botham (FC) v Ministry of Defence  UKSC 58 – read judgment.
Although not strictly speaking a human rights case, the Supreme Court handed down an important employment law decision this week which has significant impact on employees’ ability to claim damages if they are sacked unfairly or if an internal disciplinary process isn’t properly followed by their employer.
Both cases, which had been conjoined for the purposes of the appeal, dealt with situations where an employee had a contractual right to a particular disciplinary procedure but the procedure was not properly followed. The employees argued that as a result of the flawed disciplinary process, incorrect and highly damaging findings of fact were made against them, which prevented them from finding future employment. In both cases the incorrect findings of fact concerned allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct, in the case of Mr Edwards (a surgeon) with patients and in the case of Mr Botham (a youth worker) with teenage girls in his care, so the employees’ upset is readily understandable.
We all know that these days you cannot just say you want to employ a Muslim or a Catholic without a good reason. But what about the potentially different question as to whether you can choose your own private judge, namely an arbitrator, by reference to his or her religion?
This problem faced the Supreme Court recently. Its answer involved a detailed analysis of what was involved in the whole process of arbitration, and the similarities and difference between it and a more typical relationship between client and professionals. The Court also touches on the exception to the rule against discrimination, based upon the job having a genuine occupational requirement for a person of a given religion.
Dr Mattu was employed by the Trust as a consultant in non-invasive cardiology and general medicine in 1998. In 2002 he was suspended on disciplinary grounds; however, the relevant disciplinary hearing did not occur until 2007 and the suspension was in place until July 2007. Further, Dr Mattu was on sick leave for at least a year from September 2006.
In the midst of all the coverage of the phone hacking scandal and the mounting woes of News Corporation an interesting piece of human rights news from the past week got lost: the announcement by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (“EHRC”) that it is applying to intervene in four cases before the European Court of Human Rights being brought by Christians who claim their Article 9 rights are not being sufficiently protected in UK law.
The applicants are Nadia Eweida, Shirley Chaplin, Lillian Ladele and Gary McFarlane, each of whom has lost claims of workplace discrimination on the grounds of religion and belief in the UK courts over the past couple of years (see our general comment pieces here and here). The EHRC has now said that in its view “Judges have interpreted the law too narrowly in religion or belief discrimination claims” and that “the way existing human rights and equality law has been interpreted by judges is insufficient to protect freedom of religion or belief.”
When a diplomatic employee takes action for compensation for unfair dismissal, the host country’s courts cannot simply rule out the possibility of a claim on the basis that the employer has state immunity. This would impair the very essence of his right of access to a court under Article 6 of the Convention.
The applicant, a French national, had been employed as an accountant in the Kuwaiti embassy in Paris since August 1980. He was promoted to head accountant in 1985. In March 2000, the Embassy terminated his contract as part of a cost-cutting exercise. His application to the local employment tribunal was initially successful but ultimately failed before the Paris Court of Appeals which found that the State of Kuwait enjoyed jurisdictional immunity on the basis of which it was not subject to court actions against it in France. Continue reading →
At the centre of this appeal was the court’s power to order a “closed material procedure” for the whole or part of the trial of a civil claim for damages. The question arose as a “preliminary issue” – a point to be determined on its own – in the appellants’ compensation claim for their alleged detention, rendition and mistreatment by foreign authorities in various locations, including Guantanamo Bay.
In countering the respondents’ claim for compensation, the appellant security services claimed that they had security sensitive material within their possession which they wished the court to consider in their defence but which could not be disclosed to the respondents. They therefore sought a “closed material procedure” for this part of their defence – a procedure whereby a party can withhold certain material from the other side where its disclosure would be contrary to the public interest. Continue reading →
In these appeals the question was whether a claimant in employment tribunal proceedings may be excluded from certain aspects of those proceedings on grounds of national security, without breaching the right to fair trail under Article 6 of the Convention. Mr Tariq had been suspended from his job as immigration officer following the arrest of his brother and cousin for involvement in the suspected transatlantic airline terrorist plot. There was no suggestion that Mr Tariq himself had been involved. Continue reading →
Atapattu, R. (On the Application of) v The Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 1388 (Admin) - read judgment
1 Crown Office Row’s John Joliffe appeared for the Secretary of State the Home Department in this case. He is not the writer of this post.
This case on the wrongful retention of the passport of a Sri Lankan national raises some interesting questions about the scope of the duty owed by the Home Office’s agents when exercising their powers of entry clearance under the Immigration Act 1971.
The question in this case was whether the claimant, who had applied for a United Kingdom student visa, could sue the Secretary of State for the Home Department for damages for conversion under the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977. There were other submissions, that the withholding of the passport breached his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights 1950 and that the Secretary of State was liable to him in negligence. Continue reading →
Two court decisions have upset UK governments this week. One is being appealed in the normal way by the Secretary of State for Education, but the other may lead to a fundamental rethink of the Scottish justice system. As a Bank Holiday special, this post is split into 2 parts.
Starting with the Sharon Shoesmith decision, which has been helpfully summarised by Obiter J. The Spectator reports that the Secretary of State for education Michael Gove intends to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. The reported grounds of that appeal, gleaned from “Whitehall sources”, are interesting. Although Gove “recognises that Balls blundered in the way he dismissed her“,
he also believes that there are important constitutional principles at sake in this case about how Ministers make important and urgent decisions and what the role of the courts is in challenging such decisions. Gove wants the Supreme Court to consider these issues because of the huge importance of judicial reviews, which are being used repeatedly by opponents of the government to try and stymie its agenda.
Shoesmith, R (on the application of) v OFSTED & Ors  EWCA Civ 642 (27 May 2011) – Read judgment
In April 2005, Sharon Shoesmith was appointed as Director of Children’s Services at Haringey London Borough Council. The appointment by a Council of such an officer is a statutory requirement - Children Act 2004 s.18. “Baby P” – who was the subject of a Child Protection Plan put in place by Haringey Social Services – died on 3rd August 2007 aged 17 months.
Those directly responsible for his death were eventually all convicted under the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 s.5. Their trial, at the Old Bailey, ended on 11th November 2008. To say the least, the trial was followed by a media hue and cry demanding that heads roll.
Birmingham City Council v Barker (Equal Pay Act : Other establishments) (Rev 1)  UKEAT 0056_10_0905 (9 May 2011) – Read jugment
One of the allegations made about contingency fees is that they encourage lawyers to cut corners because they are not paid by the hour. It is an allegation which has been specifically made to me in the context of equal pay claims. So I was interested to see this latest Employment Appeal Tribunal decision which deals with a number of mistakes made during high volume equal pay cases.
The first point that is worth making is that it is a reminder of how hard fought these equal pay cases are. A concern about bringing cases under a contingency fee is that opponents can string cases out, or take highly adversarial approaches, to ensure that these cases cost the contingency fee lawyers lots of their time. The longer they take, the harder it is for contingency fee lawyers to make a profit, and the less likely it is to arise in these cases.
R (on the application of Rajiv Puri) v Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust  EWHC 970 (Admin) Judgment of Mr Justice Blair given on 15 April 2011 - Read judgment
This claim for judicial review is the latest skirmish in The Wars of the HC  9 Succession between doctors and NHS trusts about what procedural safeguards they are entitled to if investigated, suspended or dismissed for misconduct since the introduction of Maintaining High Professional Standards in the Modern NHS(MPHS) in 2005.
It is also a blow for those who believe that professionals facing serious allegations that may have adverse consequences for their ability to practise in their chosen field should be entitled to be judged by a panel independent of their employer.
In a decision bound to stir up strong feelings, the Court of Appeal has found that disclosures made by a local authority to other organisations of a person’s conviction for a sex offence against a child and future disclosures proposed by the authority were unlawful. The Court considered that the “blanket” approach to disclosure, even though the person with the conviction and his partner did not work directly with children, was not proportionate to the risk posed. Further, making disclosures without first giving the persons concerned the opportunity to make representations on the matter was unfair. Continue reading →
1. Every citizen of the Union shall have the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States
However a different regime applies to non-economic actors as opposed to workers. Free movement of workers is one of the fundamental underpinnings of the internal market on which the EU is based. The main EU Directives and Regulations giving effect to the right to free movement of workers are Regulation No 1612/68 on freedom of movement for workers within the Community (as amended by Directive 2004/38/EC) and Directive 2004/38/EC on the right of EU citizens and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the member states. But the rights of those who are economically inactive to reside for more than three months in other member states is subject to certain conditions, set out in the 2004 Directive; they must Continue reading →
X v Mid Sussex Citizens Advice Bureau  EWCA Civ 28 – Read judgment
The Court of Appeal has ruled that disabled people are not protected by domestic or European legislation against discrimination when they undertake voluntary work.
In this decision the specific question was whether volunteers at Citizens Advice Bureaus are protected from disability discrimination. X, the anonymised claimant, argued that CAB had terminated her role as a volunteer adviser because she had a disability. She claimed that: