Leth v. Austria, CJEU, 14 March 2013 read judgment
You live very close to an airport. The airport expands without carrying out an Environmental Impact Assessment as required by the EIA Directive. You want to sue the state for loss in value of your property. Can you claim? This is the strikingly simple question the subject of this judgment of the Court of Justice of the EU. And on the day the HS2 ruling came out (post to follow shortly, but compensation consultation unlawful) it is an interesting question to look at.
Dominic Raab MP has tabled an amendment to the Crime and Courts Bill which if passed would stop foreign criminals from using Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right respect for private and family life) to prevent their deportation. The amendment has significant support.
As regular readers of this blog will know, the deportation of foreign criminals has become something of an obsession for opponents of the Human Rights Act, most notably the Home Secretary Theresa May who has attempted, thus far unsuccessfully, to downgrade the effect of Article 8 through the Immigration Rules. The campaign to prevent foreign criminals avoiding deportation has had strong support from the right-wing press, particularly the Daily Mail as well as the Telegraph.
Evans, R (o.t.a of) Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government  EWCA Civ 114 - read judgment
There have been important pronouncements over the years by the Aarhus Compliance Committee (ACC) about whether the UK planning system complies with the UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (the Aarhus Convention). See my post here for the most important ones, and more are likely to follow shortly (see here). The interest in this domestic planning case is in how the Court of Appeal dealt with those pronouncements, where there is domestic case law going the other way.
Today’s Mail on Sunday reports that the Home Secretary is to announce “soon” that the Conservative Party’s election manifesto for 2015 will include a pledge to withdraw from the European Court of Human Rights if the party obtains an overall majority.
I thought it would be useful to answer a few basic questions about what this would might mean for the UK. Bizarrely, the article appears alongside the Prime Minister’s opinion piece in the Sunday Telegraph promising that his party would not “veer right” and also “stick to the course we are on“. Talk about mixed messages. Anyway, let’s concentrate on Strasbourg. For a basic introduction to the Court and what it does, see my recent post: No, The Sun, the Human Rights Act is not the EU and David Hart QC’s A bluffer’s guide to human rights courts.
X AND OTHERS v. AUSTRIA – 19010/07 – HEJUD  ECHR 148 (19 February 2013) – Read judgment
The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (by 10 votes to 7) has found that Austrian law discriminated against a same sex couple as it prevented them from adopting jointly the biological child of one of them (what we would call a second-parent adoption). The Court found a violation of Article 14 (anti-discrimination) in conjunction with Article 8 (respect for private and family life) protection because this was less favourable treatment than if they were an unmarried different sex couple who would have been permitted to adopt together.
The narrowness of the majority might have had something to do with the fact that the father of the Child had been a party to the case in the domestic courts and opposed the adoption (although the fact that the child of the lesbian couple in Gas and Dubois v France had been conceived through anonymous donor insemination had not helped that case). In the event, the Grand Chamber decision was based on the fact that the Austrian Supreme Court had referred to the “legal impossibility” of the proposed same sex adoption in this case.
BETTERIDGE v. THE UNITED KINGDOM – 1497/10 – HEJUD  ECHR 97 – Read judgment
On 29 January the Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights held that convicted rapist Samuel Betteridge’s Article 5(4) rights had been breached due to delays in his cases being considered by the Parole Board, and awarded him damages for his ‘frustration’. The media furore, at varying degrees of accuracy, here and here.
The issue, by the time the matter reached the ECtHR, was whether the High Court (and the Government’s) “acknowledgment” of that Mr Betteridge’s Article 5(4) rights had been violated was sufficient redress. In short, the ECtHR held that it wasn’t, particularly in circumstances where the systemic delays on the Parole Board Review System were caused by the Government’s failure to recognize and plan for the full effects of the IPP sentence (brought into force in the Criminal Justice Act 2003). The ECtHR accepted that putting Mr Betteridge to the front of the Parole Board queue wasn’t the answer: that would simply jump him ahead of those who hadn’t sought judicial review. However, damages could meet the ‘frustration’ he had been caused.
Case C-396/11 Radu  ECR I-0000 - Read judgment
The European Court of Justice’s Grand Chamber has ruled that the Charter of Fundamental Rights does not allow refusal to execute a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) on the basis that the person was not heard by the issuing authority.
With reform of the EAW at the centre of the debate concerning the UK’s big 2014 opt-out decision, all eyes were on the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) when it gave judgment in this case widely seen as an opportunity for it to address some key issues in the operation of the EAW system. There is some disappointment at the outcome.
I was watching the England football team beat Ireland in the World Cup earlier when I was tweeted a cracking bit of legal gobbledegook from The Sun: Youngsters at risk after EU ruling. According to The Sun, Now the “EU could let fiends like him prey on your children“.
For the record, the Court of Appeal, which produced the judgment, is not an EU court. It is an English and Welsh court, based in the Royal Courts of Justice in London. And the EU had absolutely nothing to do with this judgment, which was about CRB checks and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to family and private life); you can find our analysis here. I won’t address the detail if the judgment here; read our summary and see if you think The Sun is right.
Now that the idea of a new UK Bill of Rights appears to be buried, choices re-emerge. The predicted outcome of the London-based Commission’s work was finally confirmed in December. Where now for human rights?
Thinking beyond the European Convention on Human Rights was never confined to this generation or any one process. The limitations of the Convention are well known, and critical material is not lacking. Talk of next steps circles around ‘going beyond’ and ‘building on’ existing achievements in several senses. The feeling that it is possible to improve; that the world of human rights captures more than the HRA or the ECHR. The more ill-defined talk of ‘ownership’ that resembles constitutional patriotism in desperate defence of a union in transition, and the disguised nationalist/unionist positions that occasionally surface.
The European Court of Human Rights got off lightly in the Prime Minister’s In-Out speech yesterday, with just a single passing mention. No surprises there, as the speech was about the European Union, a separate organisation from the Council of Europe, which runs the Strasbourg court. Withdrawing from the European Union would not mean withdrawing from the European Court of Human Rights.
Yesterday was, however, an exception. Ordinarily, the European Court of Human Rights is a large presence in the in-out Europe debate. And, from the amount of coverage and political argument the court generates, you might be forgiven for thinking it rules against the UK hundreds of times per year. The Court has just released its statistics for 2012, and the figures may surprise you.
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami et al v. European Parliament opinion of Advocate General Kokott, 17 January 2013, read opinion, on appeal from the General Court read judgment & my post on it
The EU makes a rule. When can the ordinary person affected seek annulment of the rule on the basis that it is unlawful? This is the big issue tussled with in this important and informative Advocate General’s opinion. You might have thought that if the basic ground for challenge was unlawfulness (and that is a high hurdle in itself), then as long as you were in some way affected by the decision, then you should be able to complain about the decision. That is broadly how we do things here in our UK system of judicial review.
But when you get to the EU Courts very different rules of engagement apply – far fewer people can complain about the illegality directly.
R (Clientearth) v Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, forthcoming Supreme Court appeal against Court of Appeal 30 May 2012 read CA judgment Updated
Back in the late spring, it seemed as if ClientEarth’s claim against Defra in respect of air pollution had run into the buffers. It had been refused by the Court of Appeal, in reasons given extempore: see my earlier post before Bailii received the judgment. Not many such refused cases make it to the Supreme Court, but this one has.
The Supreme Court lets appeals within its doors or denies them in an inscrutable way – it says yea, or, more commonly, nay, with no reasons. But the Justices thought that there was more to this case than had met the eye of the Court of Appeal. Anyway, hearing on March 7 2013, as the excellent Supreme Court website tells us. I am also told that the Court granted ClientEarth a Protective Costs Order.
Decision of the European Ombudsman on complaint against the European Commission, 17 December 2012 – Read decision
The UK secured what Tony Blair described as an opt-out in respect of the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights as part of the negotiations leading up to the Lisbon Treaty – which contains the Charter. Rosalind English has summarised here what the Charter involves, and whether the “opt-out” really changes anything. This recent EU Ombudsman’s decision concerns the attempts of an NGO to extract certain EU Commission documents in the run-up to the Lisbon Treaty. The EU Commission was taking its usual head-in-the-sand approach to disclosure (see various posts listed below), hence the complaint to the Ombudsman. And, as we shall see, the Ombudsman gave the Commission both barrels in this highly critical decision.
One of the stranger and bolder pieces of US legislation slipped into force in November 2012 – The European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011 - sic. This enables the US Secretary of Transportation to prohibit US airlines from complying with EU rules. Those EU rules apply to all airliners which touch down or take off in the EU, and requires them to participate in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme – designed progressively to limit carbon emissions from aviation via a cap and trade mechanism.
The US Act would be odd enough in its lack of respect for the laws of other countries, had the Act’s beneficiaries (the US airlines) not sought to challenge the legality of the EU measure in the EU Courts – and failed: see my post on the judgment of the CJEU. As will be seen, the EU Court expressly rejected claims (by US airlines) that the rules had extra-territorial effect and conflicted with international aviation conventions. Hence, the scheme was lawfully applicable to US airlines – just as to those of all other countries using EU airports.