Water companies are public authorities and must therefore disclose environmental information

water_tapFish Legal v Information Commissioner and others (Information rights practice and procedure) [2015] UKUT 52 (AAC) Charles J – read judgment

Water and sewage utility companies are “public authorities” for the purposes of the environmental information regulations, and are bound by them accordingly, the Administrative Appeals Chamber of the Upper Tribunal has ruled.

Fish Legal is the legal arm of the Angling Trust. In 2009 it asked United Utilities Water plc and Yorkshire Water Services Ltd for information relating to discharges, clean-up operations, and emergency overflow. Emily Shirley is a private individual. Again, she asked Southern Water Services Ltd for information relating to sewerage capacity for a planning proposal in her village. All three companies denied that they were under a duty to provide the information under Environmental Information Regulations. Both Fish Legal and Mrs Shirley complained to the Commissioner. In 2010 the Commissioner replied, explaining that as the companies were not public authorities for the purposes of EIR, he had no power to adjudicate the complaints. Continue reading

‘Killer Robots’ and ‘Conversion Therapies’ – The Human Rights Round-up

A scene from the 2003 film Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

This week’s Round-up is brought to you by Alex Wessely.

In the news:
Military chiefs have criticised the influence of Human Rights law in a report published this week, arguing that the “need to arrest and detain enemy combatants in a conflict zone should not be expected to comply with peace-time standards”. This follows a series of cases over the years which found the Ministry of Defence liable for human rights violations abroad, culminating in allegations of unlawful killing in the Al-Sweady Inquiry that were judged “wholly without foundation” in December.

Continue reading

Why we should see Andrew Lansley’s diary in the run up to 2011 NHS reforms

article-2122241-1243AB4D000005DC-216_468x286Department of Health v. Information Commissioner et al [2015] UKUT 159, 30 March 2015, Charles J read judgment Simon Lewis requested that the Department of Health supply him with copies of the ministerial diary of Andrew Lansley from May 2010 until April 2011, via a Freedom of Information request. Mr Lewis’s interest in all this is not revealed in the judgment, but I dare say included seeing whether the Minister was being lobbied by private companies eager to muscle in on the NHS in this critical period. But such is the nature of FOIA litigation that it does not really  look at the motive of the requester – and this case does not tell us what the diary showed. Indeed by the time of this appeal, Lewis was untraceable, and the burden of the argument in favour of disclosure was taken up by the Information Commissioner.   The real interest in this decision is in Charles J’s robust agreement with the First Tier Tribunal that the information should be disclosed. In so doing, he fully endorsed the criticisms made by the FTT of the eminent civil servants who gave evidence before the FTT – in trenchant terms, as we shall see. He also gave an interesting account of how the public interest qualification should be applied in response to FOIA requests. Continue reading

RightsInfo UPDATE… how to get to the launch party and other news

RightsInfo-Logo-RGB-LargeJust a quick update on RightsInfo, my new human rights information project. As you can see, we now have a logo. The design is a clue to the look and feel of the site – all will be revealed when we launch on Tuesday 21 April. 

RightsInfo will provide clear, reliable and beautiful human rights information to share. I am particularly excited that we have been working closely with the amazing Information is Beautiful Studios to build some fantastic infographics and other fantastic resources… I will say no more, just wait until a week on Tuesday!

If you would like to come to the launch party, there are around 20 spaces left and a final invitation will be going out via the RightsInfo mailing list shortly. If you want to receive it, and get general updates, sign up to the mailing list at rightsinfo.org.

You can also follow RightsInfo on Twitter and Facebook.

The Round-up: Black Spiders and Superhero Jurisdictions

Ms Apata with her partner, Happiness Agboro. Photo credit: The Independent

Hannah Lynes brings us the latest edition of the Human Rights Round-up

In the news

A challenge brought against a Home Office decision to deport LGBT activist Aderonke Apata was this week rejected by the High Court. Ms Apata fears a return to Nigeria would mean “imprisonment and death because of her sexuality”, reports the Independent.

 

Ms Apata claimed to be engaged to a long-term partner and the paper reports that she was “so desperate to convince the Government she was gay that she submitted a private DVD and photographs of her sex life as evidence.”

Continue reading

CIA Interrogations: what have we learned in the UK?

12fb9b780ea5561b0f8a349056f9ac2b_400x400When late last year the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence published parts of its 6,700 page report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation programme, it shed light – remarkable light – on how the ‘war on terror’ had been conducted by the US for some time.

It very rightly prompted questions for this country. The most immediate and top level question was, if that is what the US did, what did Britain do? But one need barely scratch the surface of the matter before encountering some difficult questions about method – how do we find out what Britain did? – and about scrutiny – are there lessons to be learned about oversight and accountability?

We review here some of the expert opinions and highlight five issues that, if the experts are right, are likely to lie at the heart of debate for some time to come. Continue reading

On fairness, elephants and principle – Michael Rhimes

elephant-in-room

Procedural fairness is a bit like an elephant. It is difficult to define in abstract, but you know a fair procedure when you see one. So Lawton LJ put it in Maxwell v Department of Trade [1974] QB 523, 539

 The trouble is it seems that different courts have different ideas of “elephantness”. Since we know that fairness is a necessarily context-sensitive notion, this, in itself, does not seem to give rise to too much difficulty. But practical problems start to arise when, for example, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) starts to endorse a view of fairness that is binding on the UK courts, but at odds with the approach taken by the UK Supreme Court. Add the facts that a) the UK is required to take into account the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which seems to have a different conception of fairness to that of the CJEU and b) the UK courts themselves do not necessarily speak with one voice, there’s a heady mix.

This brief post attempts to survey the area, and to discern the bumps in the road. Smoothing them out is another challenge in itself, and will probably require more than filling in the odd pot-hole. Continue reading