Monthly News Archives: February 2014


Cap on housing benefit is lawful, says Court of Appeal

26 February 2014 by

Money purse - WalletSG and others, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, 21 February 2014  [2014] EWCA Civ 156 – read judgment

The Court of Appeal has rejected on all grounds a claim that the cap on housing benefit amounted to unlawful discrimination against women.

The appellants were single mothers who claimed that the regulations capping housing benefit discriminated against women generally, and particularly those who were victims of domestic violence. The Divisional Court had dismissed their application for an annulment of the Benefit Cap (Housing Benefit) Regulations 2012 on the basis that the regulations were in breach of Article 14 of the ECHR read with Article 8, and the same Article read with the right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions under Article 1 Protocol 1. The court below had also rejected their submission that the regulations infringed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, or that they were unlawful on grounds of irrationality. In essence, the Divisional Court upheld the Secretary of State’s arguments that the aim of the benefit cap was primarily to bring about a change in culture by giving people some incentive to work, thereby reducing what the Government believes is the debilitating effect of long term dependency on benefits. It also accepted the government’s contention that the cap struck a fairer balance between the interests of taxpaying working households and those on benefits. Any interference with family life and any discriminatory impact of the benefit cap on women generally (and female victims of domestic violence who flee from their homes in particular) was therefore said to be justified and lawful.

The appellants’ appeal against that ruling was dismissed.
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How not to get a pre-inquest review wrong

25 February 2014 by

Coroners-CourtBrown v. HM Coroner for Norfolk [2014] EWHC 187 (Admin) – read judgment

This is the sad tale of a young woman aged 31 dying in mysterious circumstances where the inquest went off entirely on the wrong footing. Joanne Foreman was not a diabetic but lived with a young boy who was. It was suspected that on the night before she died she had drunk heavily and then injected herself with insulin. The inquest proceeded on this basis. Nobody told the expert that the paramedics had taken a blood glucose from Joanne, which was entirely normal.  Once this was known, it was obvious that the court would quash the findings at inquest and order a new inquest.

But the case contains powerful guidance from the Chief Coroner (sitting as a judge on this decision) about how to conduct the pre-inquest review.

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Miranda Detention, Whole Life Tariffs and a Supreme Court ‘Holy Man’ – the Human Rights Roundup

25 February 2014 by

HRR MirandaWelcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular high water mark of human rights news and views.  The full list of links can be found here.  You can find previous roundups here.  Links compiled by Adam Wagner, post by Celia Rooney. 

This week, the detention of David Miranda (pictured) was declared lawful by the High Court, while, in other news, the Court of Appeal has thrown in its lot to the saga of the whole-life tariff and the Supreme Court considered the thorny issue of religion and law.


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Reforming judicial review: cutting pointless delay or preventing legitimate challenge? – Angela Patrick

24 February 2014 by

RCJ restricted accessAs the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill has its Second Reading in the House of Commons today (Monday 24 February), Angela Patrick, Director of Human Rights at JUSTICE considers the Government’s proposals for the future of judicial review.

For law students who slept their way through their first latin 101 lessons in ‘ultra vires’, public law and judicial review may have seemed very detached from the realities of everyday life; less relevant to the man on the Clapham Omnibus than the rigours of a good criminal defence or protection from eviction offered by landlord and tenant law.

The Lord Chancellor may be hoping that the public and Parliamentarians are similarly unfocused.

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How to be fair about transfer to Broadmoor

23 February 2014 by

hospitalR (L) v West London Mental Health Trust; (2) Partnership in Care (3) Secretary of State for Health [2014] EWCA Civ 47 read judgment

Jeremy Hyam of 1 Crown Office Row was for the Trust. He was not involved in the writing of this post.

L, aged 26, was in a medium security hospital for his serious mental health problems. Concerns about his animus towards another patient arose, and the Admissions Panel of Broadmoor (a high security hospital) agreed to his transfer. It did so without allowing his solicitor to attend and without giving him the gist of why his transfer was to be made.

So far, so unfair, you might think, as a breach of the common law duty to come up with a fair procedure.

But the next bit is the difficult bit. How does a court fashion a fair procedure without it becoming like a mini-court case, which may be entirely unsuitable for the issue at hand? This is the tricky job facing the Court of Appeal. And I can strongly recommend Beatson LJ’s thoughtful grappling with the problem, and his rejection of the “elaborate, detailed and rather prescriptive list of twelve requirements” devised by the judge, Stadlen J.

Note, though L eventually lost, the CA considered that proceedings were justified because of their wider public interest. Something for Parliament to deliberate upon when it debates Grayling’s proposed reforms for judicial review: see my recent post.

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David Miranda challenge dismissed in High Court

19 February 2014 by

David Miranda

David Miranda v Secretary of State for the Home Department, the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and three interveners [2014] EWHC 255 (Admin) – read judgment

The High Court has rejected all the arguments supporting David Miranda’s application for judicial review of his detention at Heathrow Airport in August last year. In a highly readable and pungent judgment, Laws LJ has some robust things to say about the vaunting of journalistic interests over public security in the guise of Article 10, and the ‘mission creep’ of requirements demanded by the courts for state action to be considered “proportionate”.

This is the long-awaited conclusion to the substantive hearing since judicial review proceedings were initiated seven months ago; see our posts on previous stages of this saga here, here and here.  It will be remembered that Mr Miranda was detained and questioned by police officers under the Terrorism Act 2000,  and various items in his possession, notably encrypted storage devices, were taken from him. Miranda claims that all this was done without any legal authority.

The claim, which was supported by numerous civil liberties interveners, raised three questions:

  1. Did paragraph 2(1) of Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000 empower the police to stop and question  the claimant for the purpose of determining whether he appeared to be “concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism”?
  2. Even if it did, was the use of the power proportionate to the legitimate aim?
  3. Is the paragraph 2(1) power repugnant to the right of freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 10 of the ECHR?

Laws LJ, giving judgment for the three judge panel, answered the first two in the affirmative, and said a firm “no” to last.

Factual background

The claimant is a Brazilian citizen and the spouse of Glenn Greenwald, a journalist who at the material time was working for the Guardian newspaper. Some months after an initial contact made in late 2012 Mr Greenwald met Edward Snowden, who provided him with encrypted data which had been stolen from the National Security Agency  of the United States. The data included UK intelligence material. Some of it formed the basis of articles in the Guardian on 6 and 7 June 2013 and on later dates. On 12 August 2013 the claimant travelled from Rio de Janeiro to Berlin in order to meet the other journalist involved, Laura Poitras. He was carrying encrypted material derived from the data obtained by Mr Snowden and he was travelling to collect computer drives containing further such material to assist in the journalistic activity of Mr Greenwald. He was stopped at 0805 on Sunday 18 August 2013 at Heathrow on his way back to Rio de Janeiro.

A series of Port Circulation Sheets (PCS) were circulated to counter-terrorism police alerting them that the claimant was  “likely to be involved in espionage activity which has the potential to act against the interests of UK national security”, and requesting them to establish the nature of his activity, assess the risk that he posed to UK national security and to mitigate as appropriate.  A PCS essentially triggers the powers of the police under certain circumstances to carry out a ports stop against a named individual.

The claimant was detained for approximately 9 hours.  According to a statement from the Intelligence, Security and Resilience in the Cabinet Office, the encrypted data contained in the external hard drive taken from the claimant contained approximately 58,000 highly classified UK intelligence documents. Many were classified SECRET or TOP SECRET.

Judicial review proceedings started shortly afterwards, and in November 2013, after various interlocutory hearings, the substantive hearing came before the High Court.

The Court’s Decision: Improper purpose

The Schedule 7 purpose – determining whether [the subject] appears to be a person who “has been concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism” – must be the purpose for which the officers execute the stop if it is to be lawful. It doesn’t make the stop unlawful if there is a subsidiary purpose – “killing two birds with one stone” – but the permitted purpose must be the “true and dominant purpose behind the act” (R v Southwark Crown Court ex p. Bowles [1998] AC 641, [1998] UKHL 16].

The fact that the police officers in question had not been given sufficient information about the intelligence did not mean that they had not executed their instructions in good faith:

Given the context – the possible apprehension of terrorism – Parliament must have enacted Schedule 7 in the knowledge that there might be very good reasons why the examining officers … should not be privy to the whole story. (para 21)

The purpose of the stop thus disclosed was to “ascertain the nature of the material which the claimant was carrying and if on examination it proved to be as was feared, to neutralise the effects of its release (or further release) or dissemination”. Moreover, the proper exercise of the Schedule 7 power did not require that the examining officer have any grounds whatever for suspecting that a person was connected with terrorism within Act’s definition. The Schedule 7 purpose was not to determine whether the subject is, but only whether he “appears to be” a terrorist.  The Schedule 7 power was created by Parliament in order to provide “a reasonable but limited opportunity for the ascertainment of a possibility: the possibility that a traveller at a port may be involved (“concerned” – s.40(1)(b)), directly or indirectly, in any of a range of activities enumerated in s.1(2)”.

Given the facts stated in the last PCS and the National Security Justification, Laws LJ for the Court concluded that the purpose of the stop – to ascertain the nature of the material which the claimant was carrying and if on examination it proved to be as was feared, to neutralise the effects of its release (or further release) or dissemination – “fell properly within Schedule 7 of the 2000 Act on the latter’s true construction.”

Proportionality

The classic three step proportionality test – was the objective important enough to justify limiting a right, was the measure connected to that objective, and was the measure no more intrusive than other necessary – has been elaborated over the past decade, most recently by Lord Sumption in Bank Mellat v Her Majesty’s Treasury (No 2) 3 WLR 170, [2013] UKSC 39. This adds a fourth question, which is to ask whether,  even if the measure in question is not particularly intrusive, did it nevertheless fail to strike a fair balance has been struck between the rights of the individual and the interests of the community? Laws LJ pondered on the implications of such a requirement, and found it not to his liking:

It appears to require the court, in a case where the impugned measure passes muster on points (i) – (iii), to decide whether the measure, though it has a justified purpose and is no more intrusive than necessary, is nevertheless offensive because it fails to strike the right balance between private right and public interest; and the court is the judge of where the balance should lie. I think there is real difficulty in distinguishing this from a political question to be decided by the elected arm of government. If it is properly within the judicial sphere, it must be on the footing that there is a plain case.

Free Speech and the Protection of Journalistic Expression

Laws LJ commenced his consideration of this element of the claim with a brisk dismissal of all the Strasbourg case law on the matter. The idea of free speech has received sufficient emphasis in the law of England –

I do not therefore think it necessary, on this part of the case, to place any reliance on the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights; the common law is a sufficient arena for the debate.

In any event, much of the law on free speech in journalism was of no relevance here since it concerned protection of sources. No such issue arose here. The source was no secret: “Mr Snowden stole the material, and the claimant (however indirectly) got it from Mr Snowden.” (para 48).

Furthermore, the mistaken idea seems to have taken hold that the essential justification of free expression as a fundamental value is the promotion or betterment of democratic government. Freedom of speech may indeed be “the lifeblood of democracy”; but that is not the same thing.

The perception of free expression as a servant of democracy, however, would tend to devalue non-political speech and justify the prohibition or abridgement of speech advocating undemocratic government … This would fuel what is anyway one of exuberant democracy’s weaknesses, namely the intolerance of minorities. Everyone, even democracy’s enemy, must surely be allowed his say provided he advocates no crime nor violates the rights of others. The reason is that free thought, which is a condition of every man’s flourishing, needs free expression; and this is every person’s birthright, in whatever polity he has to live. There are of course undemocratic societies in which free speech is an idle hope. But free speech is not a creature of democracy; if anything, the converse. The critics of democracy may keep democracy on its toes. (para 45)

Turning to the matter in hand, Laws LJ observed that this privileging of political speech over other forms of expression has a distorting effect on the proportionality debate. The claimant, in other words, was seeking a heightened protection for himself, or at least the material he was carrying) on account of his association with the journalist Mr Greenwald. There was no basis for the court to extend such protection:

the application of requirement (iv) in the toll of proportionality – “whether… a fair balance has been struck between the rights of the individual and the interests of the community” – needs at least to be modified. The contrast is not between private right and public interest. The journalist enjoys no heightened protection for his own sake, but only for the sake of his readers or his audience. If there is a balance to be struck, it is between two aspects of the public interest.

The sting of the claimant’s challenge was that the defendants did not believe that the claimant’s possession of the material presented any real danger to national security or risk of loss of life. Whilst acknowledging the limits of evidence not cross-examined, Laws LJ could find “no perceptible foundation” for such a suggestion. The truth of  it was that the claimant’s broader argument on proportionality – that the use of Schedule 7 was in any event unjustified – did not in fact depend on the categorisation of the GCHQ documents as journalistic material. The claimant was trying to make out a case that he had been assisting in the conduct of responsible journalism, and the law’s duty to protect that activity meant that interference with it by the summary and unsupervised process of Schedule 7 was disproportionate and unlawful whether or not any intercepted documents strictly fell within the statutory definition of “journalistic material”:

… given the substantial, often insuperable, difficulty a journalist faces in seeking to determine what classified material may be safely published and what may not (paragraph 58 above), the notion of “responsible journalism” throws little light on the proportionality issue.

The claimant’s essential argument rested on three propositions:

  1. Journalists, “like judges”, have a role in a democratic State to scrutinise action by government.
  2. The function of the free press is inhibited by an insistence that anything (in the security field) which the journalist seeks to publish must be stifled because it may be part of the “jigsaw” from which a knowing terrorist may draw harmful inferences.
  3. There is a balance to be struck, again in the security field, between the responsibility of government and the responsibility of journalists.

But nobody had satisfied the court that there was any constitutional basis for any of these propositions, which would confer on the journalists’ profession a constitutional status which it does not possess:

They suggest … that journalists share with government the responsibility of measuring what is required by way of withholding publication for the protection of national security. Journalists have no such constitutional responsibility. They have, of course, a professional responsibility to take care so far as they are able to see that the public interest, including the security of the State and the lives of other people, is not endangered by what they publish. But that is not an adequate safeguard for lives and security, because of the “jigsaw” quality of intelligence information, and because the journalist will have his own take or focus on what serves the public interest, for which he is not answerable to the public through Parliament. The constitutional responsibility for the protection of national security lies with elected government: see, amongst much other authority, Binyam Mohamed[2011] QB 218per Lord Neuberger MR at paragraph 131.

He concluded, therefore, that the Schedule 7 stop was a proportionate measure in the circumstances. Its objective was not only legitimate, but “very pressing”.

In a press freedom case, the fourth requirement in the catalogue of proportionality involves as I have said the striking of a balance between two aspects of the public interest: press freedom itself on one hand, and on the other whatever is sought to justify the interference: here national security. On the facts of this case, the balance is plainly in favour of the latter. (para 73)

For similar reasons the Court rejected the claimant’s and intervenors’ related submission, that the Schedule 7 power is over-broad or arbitrary, and for that reason not “prescribed by law” under Article 10(2).

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Aarhus: CJEU rules against UK costs regime

18 February 2014 by

F_AarhusConventionCommission v. UK, judgment of CJEU, 13 February 2014  – read judgment – UPDATED

Litigation costs are troublesome, but they are particularly difficult in environmental cases where the claimant is not necessarily pursuing his private interests. This case is the result of a long-running and successful campaign by NGOs to persuade the EU Commission to investigate UK environmental legal costs. The main finding may not bother the UK too much, because wisely it saw this one coming and changed costs rules in environmental public law cases. A subsidiary ruling about cross-undertakings has also been more recently included in a rule change.

 

All of this comes from Article 9 of the Aarhus Convention (to which the EU has subscribed) which says that members of the public should be able to challenge environmental decisions, and the procedures for doing so shall be adequate and effective and “not prohibitively expensive”.
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Loss of capacity does not automatically terminate solicitor’s retainer

18 February 2014 by

Anoxic-Brain-InjuriesBlankley v Central Manchester and Manchester Children’s University Hospitals NHS Trust, Phillips J with assessors, 5 February 2014 – read judgment

Upholding the rights of individuals who lack the mental capacity to conduct proceedings can be a minefield for the unwary or even, as shown by this case, the wary. The point at issue before the court was whether, where a party loses mental capacity in the course of proceedings, such loss of capacity has the automatic and immediate effect of terminating their solicitor’s retainer.
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Strasbourg law does not prevent the imposition of whole life orders for “heinous” crimes

18 February 2014 by

_53452935_005783605-1McLoughlin, R v [2014] EWCA Crim 188 (18 February 2014) – read judgment

The Court of Appeal has today ruled that judges can continue to impose whole life orders in accordance with Schedule 21 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

On the facts of two individual cases, the Court increased the sentence of Ian McLaughlin to one of a whole life term for the murder of Graham Buck. The Court dismissed an appeal by Lee Newell against his whole life order for the murder of Subhan Anwar.

The following is based on the Court of Appeal’s press summary.
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Judicial review changes: inevitably the same result if no unlawfulness?

16 February 2014 by

baconsthorpe-castleNorth Norfolk District Council v. Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, [2014]  EWHC 279 (Admin), Robin Purchas QC sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge, 14 February 2014 – read judgment

In my last post, I explained how Chris Grayling’s proposed reforms might affect planning and environmental challenges, and, hey presto, within the week, a perfect illustration of one of the points which I was making – with implications for all judicial reviews.

One of the proposals in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill (see here) is that a challenge to an unlawful decision should fail if it is highly likely that the outcome for the applicant would not have been substantially different, had the public authority not acted unlawfully. This compares with the current test which is that the decision should be quashed unless it is inevitable that the decision would be the same.

 Cue a proposed wind turbine (86.5m to blade tip) to be placed on one of the highest points of Norfolk and affecting the setting of two Grade I listed buildings (Baconsthorpe Hall and Barningham Hall) and a number of Grade II* churches. The Inspector allowed the turbine on appeal from the local planning authority, which decision the judge has now set aside.
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High Court quashes government’s refusal to proceed with Litvinenko inquiry

12 February 2014 by

alexandr-litvinenko-705.siLitvinenko, R (On the application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2014] EWHC 194 (Admin)- read judgement

Neil Garnham QC and Neil Sheldon of 1 Crown Office Row represented the Secretary of State in these proceedings. They had nothing to do with the writing of this post. 

This was an application by the widow of Alexander Litvinenko for judicial review of the refusal by the Secretary of State for the Home Department to order the setting up of a statutory inquiry into his death in London in November 2006. The Secretary of State had been asked to set up such an inquiry by Sir Robert Owen, the judge appointed to conduct the inquest into Mr Litvinenko’s death as Assistant Coroner.

Factual and Legal Background

Mr Litvinenko was taken ill on 1 November 2006 and died in University College Hospital on 23 November. There appears to be no doubt that the cause of death was radiation poisoning as a result of the ingestion of a radioactive substance, polonium 210. An “extremely thorough” investigation into the death was carried out by the Metropolitan Police Service with the assistance of the Atomic Weapons Establishment, Public Health England, the Health and Safety Executive, the Forensic Science Service and other external experts. 
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Judicial Review Concessions, Gay Olympic Controversy, and Defamation in Europe – the Human Rights Roundup

10 February 2014 by

Anti-Putin protestWelcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular sporting extravaganza of human rights news and views. The full list of links can be found here.  You can find previous roundups here. Links compiled by Adam Wagner, post by Celia Rooney. 

Last week, the Justice Secretary published the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill.  The implications of his revised proposals for judicial review reform are considered in this week’s roundup, along with controversy over gay rights at the Winter Olympics and recent trends in defamation cases before the Court of Human Rights.


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Grayling’s proposals for environmental and planning judicial review

9 February 2014 by

mus_1192620167Sections 50 to 57 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill and Explanatory Notes; the full Government response is here, 4 February 2014

At first sight, proposals full of sound and fury, and signifying not a great deal for planning and environmental challenges. There are some slippery costs changes which we need to look at, but some of the potentially more concerning proposals (see Adam’s post and the linked posts) do not fully apply to this area, as I shall explain. There are also some perfectly sensible proposals about harmonising planning challenges which lawyers have been advocating for years.

This consultation got going in September 2013 when Grayling put forward his round 2 of reform to judicial review in a wide-ranging, and frankly worrying, consultation paper. This week’s announcement and draft bill seeks to take some of these measures forward, but leaves others at home.

Mercifully, the bill does not include the ill-thought out consultation proposal to reform rules about standing in judicial review – who can complain of unlawful action by government? The proposal had been very worrying to those concerned with environmental challenges. It would have led to the rather unsatisfactory position that a NIMBY complaining about a nearby development would have been able to challenge an unlawful decision, but an entirely altruistic concern about unlawfulness affecting, say, birds, bats or habitats would have been dismissed not on the merits, but because the NGO or individual conservationist had insufficient “interest” in the outcome. See my previous post on this.

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

7 February 2014 by

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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Don’t be fooled by the “concessions”, there is still a real threat to Judicial Review

6 February 2014 by

kite grayling (UK Human Rights Blog)The Ministry of Justice has published its response to the consultation on the latest round of Judicial Review reforms. The full response is here and the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill is here.

In my post on the first draft of the MoJ proposals, I warned to beware of kite flyers, and said:

Sometimes, especially with Government consultations, a kite is raised in order to distract from what is really happening on the ground. As with the last phase of JR reform, the rhetoric is more extreme than the reality.

Without wanting to say “I told you so” (oops), don’t be fooled by the seeming concessions. There is still a lot to be concerned about in what remains, as there was in the last round of changes – as Dr Mark Elliott points out, JR, like the NHS (and Communist Russia), now seems to be in a state of perpetual reform.  I do not intend here to analyse the proposals in detail, but I will point you towards some excellent early articles.

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