Updated, 20 Feb 2012 | Following the news recently it would seem that the UK is convulsed by a raging battle between religious observers and, in the words of Baroness Warsi, militant secularists. On the same day, the High Court ruled that Christian prayers held before a council meeting were unlawful, and the Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the High Court that two Christian hotel owners had discriminated against gay clients by not offering them a double room.
Today’s spat, according to The Guardian, involves a letter sent to the Education Secretary Michael Gove by the Trade Union Congress leader “expressing alarm that a booklet containing “homophobic material” had been distributed by a US preacher after talks to pupils at Roman Catholic schools across the Lancashire region in 2010.” From the quotes provided in The Observer, the book sounds pretty offensive:
On 10th February 2012, the Court of Appeal upheld a Judge’s ruling that a Christian couple, Peter and Hazelmary Bull, had discriminated against Martin Hall and Steven Preddy on grounds of sexual orientation when they refused them a double-bedded room at their hotel near Penzance.
For many years, Mr and Mrs Bull had restricted the use of double-bedded rooms at the Chymorvah Private Hotel to married couples. As devout Christians they believed that monogamous heterosexual marriage was the form of partnership “uniquely intended for full sexual relations” and that sex outside of marriage – whether heterosexual or homosexual – was sinful. To permit such couples to share a double-bed would, they believed, be to participate in promoting the sin (single-bedded and twin bedded rooms were available to all).
Sir Stephen Sedley, until last year of the Court of Appeal, has launched a stinging rebuttal to the speech of Lord Sumption (Jonathan Sumption QC as was) in which the soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice rebuked the judiciary for failing to stay out of the political arena.
This blog covered Lord Sumption’s speech here. Sir Stephen’s response in the London Review of Books takes issue with Lord Sumption’s assertion of excessive judicial interference in political matters, with the words:
there is a repeated insinuation that judicial interference in the political process regularly occurs: ‘The judicial resolution of inherently political issues is difficult to defend.’ It is not only difficult to defend; it does not happen.
R (T) v (1) Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, (2) Secretary of State for the Home Department (Secretary of State for Justice an interested party)  EWHC 147 (Admin) – read judgment.
In July 2002, the Claimant was 11 years old. He received a warning (a private procedure, under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998) from Greater Manchester Police for the theft of two bicycles. His subsequent conduct was apparently exemplary. By section 113B of the Police Act 1997, Enhanced Criminal Record Certificates (ECRCs) must contain all convictions, cautions and warnings. The Claimant, a 20-year old student applying for a sports studies course, obtained his ECRC in December 2010. It contained details of the bike theft warning.
He argued that the inflexible requirement under the 1997 Act for all convictions, cautions and warnings to be disclosed in ECRCs was incompatible with Article 8 of the ECHR. Continue reading →
There are those who think that the Strasbourg Court sometimes talks through its fundament. Others are of the view that the sun shines out of it.
This may of course have something to do with the Court’s jurisdictional basis, whose proper name is the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Be that as it may, over the years the Court has become increasingly inclined to describe so many rules, principles, aspects of people’s relationships with each other and sundry other understandings and agreements of civil society as “fundamental” that the word has ceased to resonate with its original meaning as basic, essential, primary, central, or even foundational.
Hardy & Maile v. United Kingdom, ECtHR, 14 February 2012read judgment
This Strasbourg decision is the end of a long saga. Our applicants Hardy and Maile lived near proposed Liquified Natural Gas terminals at Milford Haven. In 2003 and 2004, an oil refiner obtained various consents to enable the LNG to be imported, and the applicants challenged them in the domestic courts. But the image, and the identity of its participants, will tell you that the LNG started to arrive. But Alison Hardy and Rodney Maile were not easily deflected, and after a long battle through the domestic courts ended up in the Strasbourg Court.
As we will see, they lost in their challenge to the grant of these consents, but not before establishing an interesting point about the reach of Article 8.
Sugar (Deceased) (Represented by Fiona Paveley) (Appellant) v British Broadcasting Corporation (Respondent)  UKSC 4 – Read judgment / press summary
The Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that an internal BBC report into its coverage of the Israeli Palestinian conflict was “information held for the purposes of journalism, art or literature” and therefore need not be released to the public under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Four of the justices were of the view that even if information is held only partly for the purposes of journalism, art or literature, it is outside the scope of the FOIA. Lord Wilson however, was of the opinion that if information is held predominantly for the purposes of journalism, art or literature, it is outside the scope of FOIA and that the Balen Report was held predominantly for those purposes. The BBC will be relieved that the “partly” view prevailed, as the “predominately” test might in practice have brought a lot of internal documents within the scope of the FOIA.
The “Balen Report” was commissioned by the BBC in 2004 by a senior broadcast journalist, Michael Balen. It was commissioned following allegations of bias in the coverage. Mr Sugar, a solicitor, applied to see the report under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The BBC argued that the report was “information held for the purposes of journalism, art or literature” and therefore fell outside of the Act under the terms of section 7 of Schedule 1 to the Act.
The Court of Protection has ruled that an autistic woman with an IQ of 64 does not have the mental capacity to engage in sexual relations, on the basis that she does not understand the implications and cannot effectively deploy the information she has understood into her decisions.
H is a 29 year old woman with mild learning difficulties and atypical autism. Although there is potential for improvement in her conditions, they are life-long.
She had a history of a very early and very deep degree of sexualisation. H engaged in sexual behaviour with others which she did not always consent to, one man having been convicted in 2003 of her attempted rape, and when she did consent the behaviour was still unconventional and exploitative. She had been on the child protection register and had extensive entries in her adult records with the local authority. In short, she is highly sexualised and vulnerable.
65 responses to the Justice and Security Green Paper consultation, which proposes introducing “Closed Material Procedures” – secret trials – into civil courts, have been published on the official consultation website. According to the site there are potentially 25 more to come.
Whilst it is a good thing that the responses have been published at all, the low number of responses is a little depressing. In a country of over 60 million people, and given the proposals could amount to a significant erosion of open justice, 90 responses seems a little thin. Granted, many of the responses are from organisations or groups of individuals, such as the 57 Special Advocates who have called the proposals a “departure from the foundational principle of natural justice“. But the low number surely represents the fact that as yet the proposals have failed to capture the public imagination.
In my previous blog on the Supreme Court’s judgment in Rabone I discussed the central feature of the case, the extension of the operational duty on the state to protect specific individuals from threats to their life, including suicide. Here, I consider the other elements of the case that Melanie Rabone’s parents had to establish in order to succeed in their claim for damages under the Human Rights Act 1998 (“HRA”).
Existence of the operational duty in Melanie’s case
Having established that the operational duty could be applied in Melanie’s case, her parents then had to establish, on the facts, that it was – by showing that there was a “real and immediate” threat to her life from which she should have been protected. Ever since the notion of an operational duty was first enunciated in Osman v United Kingdom (2000) 29 EHRR 245, it has become something of a judicial mantra that the threshold for establishing a “real and immediate” threat was high (see for example Re Officer L UKHL 36, and Savage v South Essex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust  AC 681  and ,). There are good reasons for not imposing the operational duty lightly, given the enormous pressures and complexities involved in running police, prison and mental health services for the community as a whole. However, an overly-stringent test risked making the operational duty an obligation that was more hypothetical than real.
Sanade, Harrison & Walker v Secretary of State for the Home Department  UKUT 00048(IAC) – Read judgment.
This case concerns the application of human rights exceptions to the deportation of individuals who were married to British citizens or who had British children.
The Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) (the “Tribunal”) noted that in Mr. Walker’s case, it was accepted before the Court of Appeal that there was an error of law by reason of the failure of the Tribunal to examine the interests of British national children as a primary consideration in light of the guidance in (ZH) Tanzaniav SSHD  UKSC 4. It found that similar errors existed in the other two cases and, as such, it would set aside and re-make the decisions.
We have posted previously on controversial plans to build a US-style mega pig-farm in South Derbyshire. It will be remembered from that post that Midland Pig Producers (MPP) applied for permission to build the farm – which could house up to 25,000 animals – on a greenfield site west of the historic village of Foston.
The Soil Association formally objected to the plans because of the ‘increased disease risk and poor welfare conditions” of intensive units. Despite being made within the privileged context of planning proceedings, the Soil Assocation received a threatening letter from solicitors Carter-Ruck – acting for MPP – saying its objection was defamatory.
The Guardian now reports that the campaigning local groups, Foston Community Forum and Pig Business, the film makers who exposed the abuses and environmental costs of intensive pig farming, have joined forces with the Soil Association and Friends of the Earth to bolster their original argument with claims under the Human Rights Act. Continue reading →
Welcome back to the human rights roundup, your recommended weekly intake of human rights news. The full list of links can be found here. You can also find our table of human rights cases here and previous roundups here.
In the news
Abu Qatada released on bail
Abu Qatada was released on “very restrictive” bail conditions this Monday in a decision by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission on the basis of both British legal precedent and Strasbourg human rights case-law. This also follows from the recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that he should not be returned to his native Jordan, where torture-derived evidence may be used against him in trial.
At first sight, Article 2 – the ‘right to life’ – seems to be a prohibition on extra-judicial executions and state-sponsored death squads. It does, of course have a role to play in that respect (and one that is not limited to those countries whose signature of the Convention is viewed with scepticism from Western Europe).
But through a combination of logic, inventive legal argument and what can either be characterised as the incremental development of a new area of law, or the expansionist tendencies of Strasbourg judges, the scope of Article 2 has broadened significantly, and can be cited in cases concerning prison administration and coronial procedural law.
In Rabone, the Supreme Court extended the obligations that the Article places on the state and its servants still further, beyond even the existing decisions from Strasbourg. They held that – in the specific circumstances of this tragic case – an NHS Trust had violated the positive duty that it had, under Article 2, to protect a voluntary patient from the risk of suicide.
The focus of this blog post is on yet another challenge to the imposition of a control order. Introduced by the Labour government in the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, a control order is a controversial tool used to restrict and monitor suspected terrorists. They have now been superseded by Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (or “TPIMs”, described by some critics as “control orders lite”), which will in due course have their time in the legal spotlight. For now, there remain a small number of cases brought under the old control orders regime which are being determined. As this decision demonstrates, even their consignment to history has not shielded them from careful judicial scrutiny.
This blog is maintained for information purposes only. It is not intended to be a source of legal advice and must not be relied upon as such. Blog posts reflect the views and opinions of their individual authors, not of chambers as a whole.