In R(on the application of UNISON) v Lord Chancellor  UKSC 51, the Supreme Court gave an important judgment regarding the importance of access of justice. The Supreme Court held that the fees imposed by the Lord Chancellor in employment tribunal and employment appeal tribunal cases were unlawful.
Great Ormond Street Hospital v Yates and Gard –  EWHC 1909 (Fam) – read judgment
“A lot of things have been said, particularly in recent days, by those who know almost nothing about this case but who feel entitled to express opinions. Many opinions have been expressed based on feelings rather than facts.”
So said Francis J, when dealing with an unusual application by Great Ormond Street Hospital (Gosh) asking for an order, rather than a declaration, that Charlie Gard should be allowed to slip away quietly. The involvement of the White House, the Vatican, the Bambino Gesu Children’s Hospital in Rome and Dr. Hirano and the associated medical centre in the USA in this story demonstrates the fact that a mere declaration carries too much ambiguity to allow the hospital staff to do what the courts have approved. The terms in which Gosh put its application were unambiguous indeed:
Therefore orders are sought to remove any ambiguity; orders are enforceable. Despite all of the hospitals best endeavours, this appears as potentially necessary. Not for the first time the parents through their solicitors raised the prospect of criminal proceedings against the hospital and its staff. The Hospital understands that no court order best interests proceedings can afford it or its staff from prosecution.
The Unduly Lenient Sentence Scheme
Disgraced surgeon Ian Paterson’s sentence has been referred to the Court of Appeal under the Unduly Lenient Sentence Scheme. Paterson was jailed for 15 years in May, having been found guilty of 17 counts of wounding with intent and three of unlawful wounding. The breast surgeon was accused of negligence in performing so-called ‘cleavage-sparing mastectomies’, an unapproved procedure leaving tissue behind for cosmetic reasons and for some women leading to the return of their cancer, and furthermore, of carrying out unnecessary operations where a simple biopsy would have sufficed.
The Unduly Lenient Sentence Scheme was also in the news this week when the Ministry of Justice announced that 19 terror offences would be incorporated, including encouraging terrorism and sharing terrorist propaganda. The Scheme allows anyone to refer a sentence that they feel was lenient to the Attorney-General, who has the power to refer it to the Court of Appeal for reconsideration. Continue reading
Khuja (formerly known as PNM) v. Times Newspapers  UKSC 49, Supreme Court, read judgment
The outcome of this case is summed up in its title, an unsuccessful attempt to retain anonymity in press reporting. It is a stark instance of how someone involved in investigations into very serious offences cannot suppress any allegations which may have surfaced in open court, even though no prosecution was ever brought against them.
I posted recently on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill and its approach to rolling over EU-derived laws into our domestic law. But a law is only as good as its enforcement makes it, and so we all need to think how this is going to be done post-Brexit.
NB: there is nothing in the Bill which touches on enforcement; that is for later, if at all.
The issue arises particularly starkly in the environmental field, where there are not so many players with direct legal and commercial interests around (as in, say, equal pay or competition law) to seek consistent enforcement.
A task force within the UK Environmental Law Association (chaired by Professor Richard Macrory and Andrew Bryce, left and right in the pic) has been applying its mind to this enforcement problem, and on 18 July 2017 published a short and powerful report on the issue – Brexit and Environment Law. Its main messages are these.
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In doing so the Court has held by its position in S.A.S v. France (2014), where it ruled that a similar ban in France was lawful. In these latest cases the Court was asked to rule on the lawfulness of such bans in Belgium, where the applicants argued it was in violation of Articles 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
This case concerned the compatibility of a Belgian law introduced on 1st June 2011 which banned the wearing in public places of clothing which partially or totally covers the face. The applicants, Samia Belcacemi and Yamina Oussar both claimed that they had chosen to wear the niqab (a veil which totally covers the face except for the eyes) because of their religious beliefs, and that the restriction on doing so had violated their human rights. Ms Oussar in particular argued that since she has decided to stay at home and wear the veil there has been a restriction on her private and social life. Continue reading