‘War crimes’ defence against Israel company protest convictions fails in Supreme Court

AHAVA-Caressing-Body-Sorbet-AH-013_largeRichardson v Director of Public Prosecutions [2014] UKSC 8 – read judgment / press summary 

The tactics of protesters engaging in demonstrations, or acts of civil disobedience, frequently raise interesting questions of law. A demonstration by two activists opposed to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories, who entered a shop in Covent Garden which sold produce from the Dead Sea, produced on an Israeli settlement, recently resulted in the Supreme Court addressing two such questions.

First, in what circumstances can someone who trespasses on premises and disrupts the activities of the occupiers avoid prosecution by arguing that those activities were in some way unlawful?; and second (obliquely) is the construction of Israeli settlements on the West Bank an offence under English law? The short answers were (1) only when the unlawfulness is integral to the occupier’s activity; and (2) probably not.

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Back to basics: why a public authority can’t be an HRA victim

SLMRightToProtestFrontSmall.previewDavid Mead, in an interesting post – here - about “publicness” in section 6 of the Human Rights Act, looks at a case in which the Olympic Delivery Agency got an injunction against protesters: Olympic Delivery Authority v Persons Unknown . The ODA was a public authority, and the protesters were advancing defences under Articles 10 (freedom of expression) and 11 (freedom of association). Arnold J dismissed the defences on the basis that these rights needed to be balanced against the ODA’s rights to property under A1P1

As Mead points out, the judge was probably wrong to do so. On the face of it, the ODA had no rights under the Convention, under A1P1 or otherwise, because it was a public authority, and was likely to be acting as such in its protester-clearing role. One can perhaps save the judge’s blushes, by a slightly different route. The right of free speech under Article 10(1) has to be balanced against the protection of the rights of others under Article 10(2), and the latter would cover the ODA’s property rights which it was enforcing.

But the more fundamental question is why public authorities (think local authorities or NHS Trusts) cannot complain that they are HRA victims. After all, they can be unfairly dumped on by central government, can be lied about, can have their finances cut, their functions or their premises taken away (hospital unit closures), can receive an unfair trial, and ultimately lose their “life” in some governmental reorganisation.

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Supreme Court find A1P1 breach in retrospective legislation

19053359-2Salvesen v. Riddell [2013] UKSC 22, 24 April 2013, read judgment 

When can an agricultural landlord turf out his tenant farmer? The answer to this question has ebbed and flowed since the Second World War, but one element of the latest attempt by the Scottish Parliament to redress the balance in favour of tenants has just been declared incompatible with Article 1 of the 1st Protocol (A1P1) as offending landlords’ rights to property. The Supreme Court has so ruled, upholding the Second Division of the Court of Session’s ruling in March 2012

The reasoning is not just of interest to agricultural lawyers either side of the border. But a brief  summary of the laws is necessary in order to identify the invidiousness of the new law as identified by the Court – and hence its applicability to other circumstances.

As will be seen from my postscript, the decision of the court below to the same effect appears to have had tragic consequences.

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HS2 challenges fail, except “unlawful” consultation on compensation

_65547471_65547470R (o.t.a Buckingham County Council and others) v. Secretary of State for Transport, 15 March 2012, Ouseley J  – read judgment – Updated

In a 259-page judgment, Ouseley J has today rejected all but one of the challenges brought to the Government’s plans for HS2. This is the proposed high speed rail link to Birmingham, and potentially beyond.  The host of challengers (including local authorities, local residents and action groups (under the umbrella of HS2AA), and  – wait for it – Aylesbury Golf Club) brought a host of challenges – 10 in all, of which 9 were unsuccessful. I shall do my best to summarise those of wider interest.

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Lost renewables subsidies successfully claimed as human rights damages


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Ofgem (Gas & Electricity Markets Authority) v. Infinis) [2013] EWCA  Civ 70, Court of Appeal 13 Feburary 2013 read judgmenton appeal from decision of Lindblom J Read judgment and my previous post

This decision upholding an award of damages for a claim under Article 1 Protocol 1 (right to possessions) may seem rather straightforward to a non-lawyer. Infinis lost out on some subsidies because the regulator misunderstood a complex legal document.  It could not claim those subsidies any more, so it claimed and got damages from the regulator. But the relatively novel thing is that English law does not generally allow claims for damage caused by unlawful action by the state. And yet the Court of Appeal found it easy to dismiss the regulator’s appeal on this point.

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Joint tenancy rule has nothing to do with Convention rights

first-home-buyersMichael Sims v Dacorum Borough Council [2013] EWCA Civ 12 – read judgment

This was a property dispute which broke out on the marriage breakdown of two joint tenants of council property.  The wife who sought termination of the periodic secure joint tenancy by unilateral notice. The husband, as the other joint tenant still living in the property, maintained that he was entitled remain there as a sole tenant.

In fact, the point had already been settled in the case of Hammersmith and Fulham LBC v. Monk [1992] AC 478 which established that at common law, a periodic joint residential tenancy is terminated automatically, if one joint tenant, without the concurrence of the other joint tenant, or tenants serves a notice to quit on the landlord. Continue reading

The right of property under A1P1- Supreme Court sees that it has teeth

R v. Waya [2012] UKSC 51, 14 November 2012, read judgment

Traditionally, the qualified right to peaceful possession of property conferred by Article 1 of the 1st Protocol (A1P1) has been thought of as a rather feeble entitlement, easily outweighed by public interests. After all, every day of the week, the modern state affects that right – think taxes or planning restrictions, or business bans arising out of public health concerns (e.g. see here), where removal and confiscation or restriction on what we do with property is readily accepted. Last week the Supreme Court ruled that the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) needs a bit of remedial HR surgery as and when its blunderbuss rules would otherwise have a disproportionate effect on those affected. But the importance of the ruling extends far beyond the specific statutory context.

The story is a familiar one. Parliament, quite rightly, decided that we needed a way of taking the benefits of crime away from criminals on conviction – over and above the system of fines. But it also realised that without some set rules this will prove difficult, if not impossible, to administrate. If the exercise were to be to ascertain the net benefit of the crime, then we get into frightful tangles. Can a defendant set off against his profit of crime his expenses – the cash to the getaway driver, the bung to the dodgy public official, or the contract killing payment?  The answer in the statute, and in this decision, is – No. This would be offensive and impractical. So far, so good.

But how far may the answer to the question – what did D really gain from this crime – diverge from the answer given by the statute? This was the conundrum facing the Supreme Court. And it found it very difficult. It had an initial hearing in 2011 in front of 7 judges – but then requested a re-hearing in front of 9. And those 9 split 7-2 in the result, thought the critical reasoning was common to all 9 judges.

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