India and the Rule of Law: In 2021, is India still a Liberal Democracy?

26 February 2021 by

Join expert speakers for this webinar looking at the question of whether India is still a Liberal Democracy on 11th March 2021 at 4.30 – 5.45pm.

Chair:
Marina Wheeler QC

Expert Panel:
Dr Mukulika Banerjee (London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE)
Dr Shruti Kapila (Corpus Christi College, Cambridge)
Professor Tarunabh Khaitan (Wadham College, Oxford)


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Doctors acted unlawfully in deciding on eligibility for drug – Court of Appeal

4 March 2021 by

Nusinersen, marketed as Spinraza

Basma (suing by her mother and litigation friend Sara Basma) v Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust & Anr [2021] EWCA Civ 278

Sophie Basma (“Sophie”) is 10. She suffers from Type 3 Spinal Muscular Atrophy (“SMA”). SMA is a rare, genetic, neuromuscular disease which progressively leads to sufferers being unable to walk or sit unaided with devastating consequences on their quality of life. Sophie can no longer walk. There is medication for SMA sufferers which would have had the potential of helping Sophie regain her ability to work. But the NHS Trust had concluded that Sophie did not meet the eligibility criteria for this new medication, “Nusinersen”.

By her mother she challenged the decision by way of judicial review. The judge below found that the NHS Trust had lawfully reached the decision that they did. This was her appeal against that finding.


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ECtHR orders Russia to release Navalny from prison

3 March 2021 by

On 16 February 2021, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) granted further interim measures against Russia in relation to political opposition figure Alexei Navalny, requiring that Navalny be immediately released from prison due to the risk to his life and health. 

Alexei Navalny during a court hearing in Moscow in February. Photograph: Reuters. Source: The Guardian

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Supreme Court: Shamima Begum may be barred from UK

1 March 2021 by

Image: The Guardian

Special Immigration Appeals Commission and Secretary of State for the Home Department v R (Begum) [2021] UKSC 7

Since 2019 when Shamima Begum was found in a camp in north Syria, her hopes of returning to the UK have ebbed and flowed (see here and here). Stripped of her British citizenship, she brought three sets of legal proceedings. Last week, after a ruling by the Supreme Court, her hopes receded once more. The Home Secretary was entitled to refuse her entry to the UK to pursue her appeal against the loss of citizenship, the Court ruled. So, Ms Begum’s appeal has been stayed, pending some change in her circumstances which will enable her to participate in a hearing – albeit from outside the UK.

The importance of the Judgment goes well beyond Ms Begum’s own circumstances.

It underlines an important constitutional principle about the separation of powers, at a time when the Government is carefully scrutinising such matters: the executive, not the judiciary, is the primary decision-maker when assessing risks to national security.

In failing to acknowledge this, said the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal erred when it ruled last summer that fairness required Ms Begum be permitted into the UK to pursue her citizenship appeal, notwithstanding the national security concerns.


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Parent company owes duty of care in transnational cases – Hague Court of Appeal

1 March 2021 by

Parent company owes duty of care in transnational cases - Hague Court of Appeal

The Hague Court of Appeal has recently handed down a ruling that is of profound importance to environmental lawyers. It is not only the first case at the appellate level in Europe that has resulted in a victory on the merits for the victims, but also the first case to hold that a parent company was under a duty of care with regard to foreign claimants. I will attempt to summarise one of the judgments in the following paragraphs, but readers would do well to look at the detailed analysis of the case by  Dr Lucas Roorda on the Rights as Usual blog: “Wading through the (polluted) mud: the Hague Court of Appeals rules on Shell in Nigeria”.

David Hart QC will follow up my post with a piece on  the UK Supreme Court decision in Okpabi v Shell on 12 February 2021.

There are in fact three judgments in this case Four Nigerian Farmers and Milieudefensie v. Shell; as Dr Roorda says,

The first (‘Cases A and B’) concerns an oil spill from an underground pipeline near Oruma in 2005; the second (‘Cases C and D’) concerns an oil spill from an underground pipeline near Goi in 2004; the third (‘Cases E and F’) concerns an oil spill from a wellhead near Ikot Ada Udo. 

All three cases involve the same legal issues, different claimants and slightly different facts. Dr Roorda focusses on Cases C and D in her post. To avoid unnecessary overlap, I will be referring to Cases E and F, Milieudefensie v Royal Dutch Shell plc (1) and Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd (E), and Shell Petroleum Company of Nigeria Ltd v Friday Alfred Akpan (F) . Milieudefensie is the Netherlands branch of the NGO Friends of the Earth, who supported all of the cases.


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Law Pod UK: AI and the Law

1 March 2021 by

In the latest episode of Law Pod UK Rosalind English talks to Matt Hervey, co-editor with Matthew Lavy of a new practitioner’s text book on Artificial Intelligence. Matt is Head of Artificial Intelligence at Gowling WLG., and advises on all aspects of AI and Intellectual Property, particularly in relation to the life sciences, automotive, aviation, financial and retail sectors. Our discussion ranges across many areas covered by the book, which was conceived a mere three years ago when the only laws we had to deal with machine learning were those to do with self-driving vehicles and automated decision making under the GDPR. This is a very important subject which is why Law Pod UK visits it again and again; Matt compares machine learning to the industrial revolution itself.

The ability to understand patterns in language and sudden unlocking ability of machines to understand language and see things has massive implications.

But there are much greater challenges, particularly on the topics of liability, foreseeability, and the general risks of AI,

a technology that is aiming to replicate or even transcend human abilities.

In the forthcoming months I will be speaking to Matt’s fellow contributors to the book on their specialist subjects, including negligence, liability for physical and economic harm, AI and professional liability, and more on AI and intellectual property, a fascinating subject which Matt touches on in this episode.

Law Pod UK is available on Spotify, Apple PodcastsAudioboomPlayer FM,  ListenNotesPodbeaniHeartRadio PublicDeezer 
or wherever you listen to our podcasts.

Please remember to rate and review us if you like what you hear.

The Weekly Round-Up: Unconventional Harm Reduction and Shamima Begum’s Final Appeal

1 March 2021 by

In the news:

The UK has seen an increasingly falling rate in arrests and prosecutions for cannabis possession over recent years, as police forces no longer see the point in enforcement. The Liberal Democrats have campaigned for its legalisation since 2016, and the first medically-prescribed cannabis was permitted in the UK in 2018. However, crucial NHS cannabis-based medicines for epilepsy remained prohibitively difficult to access for another year, with the majority of self-reported ‘medicinal’ users still turning to the black market. With growing numbers of US states, alongside Canada and South Africa decriminalising recreational use over the past three years, some UK MPs believe that cannabis legalisation will occur in the UK within five to ten years.


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High Court: Covid self-employed support scheme does not unlawfully discriminate against women

26 February 2021 by

R (The Motherhood Plan and Anor) v HM Treasury [2021] EWHC 309 (Admin) read judgment

In a judgment handed down on 17 February 2021, the High Court has ruled that the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (“the Scheme”) introduced during the coronavirus pandemic does not indirectly discriminate against self-employed women who have taken a period of leave relating to maternity or pregnancy in the last three tax years.

Background

On 30 April 2020, HM Treasury (the Defendant) introduced the Scheme in order to provide payments to those who carried on a business which had been adversely affected by the coronavirus emergency. The Scheme was to be based on average trading profits (“ATP”) of the individual business over the preceding three full tax years (i.e. 2016/17, 2017/18, 2018/2019).

Issues

The Claimants’ case was that the Scheme had a discriminatory impact on women who had taken maternity leave during a relevant tax year. The rationale was that trading profits for the year when maternity leave was taken would have been lower, the result being that the payments under the Scheme were less than they otherwise might have been.

The Claimants therefore challenged the Scheme on two main grounds:

  1. The Scheme unlawfully discriminated against self-employed women who have taken a period of leave relating to maternity or pregnancy in the three preceding tax years, contrary to Article 14 read with Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the Human Rights Convention. This discrimination was advanced as taking the form of: (i) “Conventional” indirect discrimination; and/or (ii) discrimination of the Thlimmenos type: the principle that different cases should properly be treated differently.
  2. The Defendant breached the Public Sector Equality Duty in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010.

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Victims of human trafficking: can they be criminals as well?

22 February 2021 by

V.C.L. and A.N. v the United Kingdom (16 February 2021)

Human trafficking is internationally recognised as threatening human rights and the fundamental values of democratic societies. States have taken action to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking and to provide support to victims of what is the third largest illicit money-making venture in the world. But what happens when the victims of trafficking commit a crime themselves? Should they be prosecuted? What factors are relevant in this assessment? And which arm of the State should the assessment of whether someone is a victim of trafficking be entrusted to? This is the first time the European Court of Human Rights has tackled these questions. The Court found that the UK had breached its obligations under articles 4 and 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights by prosecuting two Vietnamese children who were potential victims of trafficking. 

Background

It was only at the turn of the century that the first comprehensive international instrument on human trafficking was adopted. The Palermo Protocol established a number of obligations to prevent trafficking, punish traffickers and protect victims of trafficking. It defines trafficking as:

the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs

There are therefore three elements to trafficking: (i) action (recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt); (ii) means (threat or use of force or other forms of coercion etc.); and (iii) purpose (exploitation). When trafficking involves a child, the ‘means’ element of the test does not apply.


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The Weekly Round-up: Free Speech: Chilling Effects or Phantom Threats?

22 February 2021 by

A number of legal developments put free speech under the spotlight this week.

First, media commentators disputed the significance of the Duchess of Sussex’s successful privacy claim against Associated Newspaper Limited, covered in last week’s round-up. A leader in The Times issued the grave warning that ‘Mr Justice Warby’s judgment creates a precedent that will have a chilling effect on the media,’ not least ‘given that what was at stake…were issues that affect society as whole’. Some media lawyers took a dim view of such alarm, suggesting there was little to be surprised at in Warby J’s carefully reasoned conclusion that no legitimate public interest was to be found in publishing the intimate contents of a daughter’s letter to her father. 

Then came Education Secretary Gavin Williamson’s announcement of a proposed free speech law targeting universities, designed to reverse ‘the chilling effect on campuses of unacceptable silencing and censoring’. Its reception was mixed to say the least. The scheme would impose a statutory free speech duty on universities and student unions, enabling ‘no-platformed’ academics, students and visiting speakers to sue for compensation. Potential infringements would be investigated by a mandated ‘free speech champion’, empowered to recommend various forms of redress. While many academics welcomed the basic principles behind the proposal, others complained that it fomented “phantom fears” of a “cancel culture” crisis. 


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The Weekly Round-up: Phase 2 of the Grenfell Inquiry

16 February 2021 by

Grenfell Tower in June 2017

In the News:

Having been temporarily suspended in early January as a result of an increase in COVID-19 cases, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry hearings resumed on 8 February 2021. The fire killed 72 people.

The hearings are being conducted remotely using a Zoom-based video platform, which the Inquiry describes as “a temporary measure to be used only for as long as absolutely necessary”.

The Inquiry conducted Phase 1 of the investigation, which focused on the events of the night of 14 June 2017, on 12 December 2018. Phase 2 is currently underway, which examines the causes of these events, including how Grenfell Tower came to be in a condition which allowed the fire to spread in the way identified by Phase 1.


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Vaccination and public/private coercion

10 February 2021 by

In an earlier post I discussed the problem of “vaccine hesitancy” and  written evidence to Parliament to Parliament outlining ways in which a vaccination against Covid-19 without consent could be put on a par with capacity under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and with Section 3 of the Mental Health Act 1983.

Since the announcement of successful clinical trials for the vaccination was made in mid-December, the prospect of population-wide vaccinations has become a reality, and, whilst there are still supply problems, there is no doubt that the issue of medical intervention without consent being made mandatory either through private channels has begun to exercise legal minds across the country. Saga cruise line and the airline Qantas for example have indicated their intention to refuse non vaccinated passengers. Such private prohibitions may have almost as broad an effect as the restrictions on civil liberties passed under the Coronavirus Act since lockdown was declared on March 23 2020 (more specifically, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020).

I write this solely to draw attention to the cogent summary of these questions published by Boyes Turner LLP on the 5th February via Lexology: A Shot in the Arm – Can Leisure and Hospitality require a vaccine to access their Services? They ask, whatever the government does, are there legal risks in private vaccination enforcement measures? Their points are, in short:


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When can we go away?

9 February 2021 by

Snowed in while locked down? What would be more cheering reading than news from one of the no-frills airlines that there will soon be a fast track for vaccinated passengers to leave these shores for balmy Mediterranean beaches, or as the ad puts it “sunshine destinations”. Ryanair recently put out the slogan

Jab and Go

This advertising campaign, encouraging consumers to book flights following the roll out of the UK vaccination programme, might have been a perfectly understandable response to the year-long shock of having very few passengers to transport and the equally deranging inability of citizens to travel abroad.

But it turns out that Ryanair were somewhat ahead of themselves, as the Advertising Standards Authority has found that it was misleading for the airline to give the impression that most people who are hoping to take to the air over the Easter or summer holidays this year will have had the Covid-19 vaccination in time to do so.


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Defendants no longer required to state nationality at the start of criminal cases

9 February 2021 by

The change will affect cases heard in criminal courts in England and Wales, from the Magistrates’ Courts to the Old Bailey (pictured)

On 8 February 2020, small but significant changes were made to the Part 3 (Case Management) of the Criminal Procedure Rules and Practice Directions 2020 (“CrimPR”).  These changes remove the requirement that defendants in criminal trials provide their nationality to the court at preliminary hearings. The question is now to be asked only where a court passes an immediate or suspended custodial sentence.


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