Richard III: fairness and public interest litigation

King_Richard_III__1666500aThe Plantagenet Alliance Ltd (R o.t.a) v. Secretary of State for Justice and others [2014] EWHC 1662 (QB) 23 May 2014 – read judgment

Some 527 years after his death, Richard III’s skeleton was found beneath a car park in Leicester. The Plantagenet Alliance, a campaigning organisation representing a group of collateral descendants, sought judicial review of the decision taken by the Secretary of State to exhume and re-inter the monarch in Leicester Cathedral without consulting them and a wide audience.

The case had become a bit of a stalking horse for Lord Chancellor Grayling’s plans to reform judicial review: see my post here. Grayling may have backed off for the moment from his specific plans to reform standing rules, though he still has it in for campaigning bodies participating in judicial reviews. As we will see, counsel for MoJ had a go at saying that the Alliance had no standing, but to no avail.

But MoJ had better points, and was successful overall. And this is the moral of the story. You cannot sensibly justify the bringing of entirely meritless judicial review. But it is wrong to seek to defeat a meritorious claim by relying on standing points, without considering the public interest of the underlying case. As I pointed out in my post, the irony of the cases chosen by MoJ last year to make its case that the standing rules were all very awful were ones where government had been behaving unlawfully.

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Chagossians: Wikileaked cable admissible after all

Diego_garcianBancoult v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs  [2014] EWCA Civ 708 – read judgment

Rosalind English (here) has summarised this unsuccessful appeal against the rejection of the Chagossians’ claims by the Divisional Court, and I have posted on this litigation arising out of the removal and subsequent exclusion of the population from the Chagos Archipelago in the British Indian Ocean Territory: see hereherehere and here. The photograph is from 1971 – the last coconut harvest for the Chagossians.

There were three remaining grounds alleged against the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in this judicial review

(i) its decision in favour of a Marine Protected Area  was actuated by an improper motive, namely an intention to prevent Chagossians and their descendants from resettling in the BIOT;

(ii) the consultation paper which preceded the decision failed to disclose that the MPA proposal, in so far as it prohibited all fishing, would adversely affect the traditional and historical rights of Chagossians to fish in the waters of their homeland, as both Mauritian citizens and as the native population of the Chagos Islands; and

(iii) it was in breach of the obligations imposed on the United Kingdom under article 4(3) of the Treaty of the European Union.

I want to look at (i), the improper purpose grounds, and (iii) the TEU/TFEU grounds, because in both respects the CA took a different course than the Divisional Court, even though the outcome was the same.

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Richard III and Chagossian judicial review claims all dismissed

p180vajuda12ijjc57ac1qhh37s1The Plantagenet Alliance Ltd (R o.t.a) v. Secretary of State for Justice and others [2014] EWHC 1662 (QB) 23 May 2014 – read judgment

The facts of this application for judicial review were set out in David Hart QC’s post on the original permission hearing. To recap briefly, the Plantagenet Alliance, a campaigning organisation representing a group of collateral descendants of Richard III were given the go ahead to seek judicial review of the decision taken by the respondents – the Secretary of State, Leicester Council and Leicester University, regarding his re-interment at Leicester Cathedral without consulting them. More specifically, the claimant’s main case was that there was an obligation, principally on the part of the Ministry of Justice, to revisit or reconsider the licence once the remains had been conclusively identified as those of Richard III.

The Divisional Court (of three judges) unanimously rejected this argument on all grounds. It could not be said in public law terms that the Secretary of State failed to act as a reasonable or rational decision-maker when deciding not to revisit the exhumation licence in the light of the information which he already had. The Court hammered the final nail  on the consultation coffin by declaring that there was

no sensible basis for imposing a requirement for a general public consultation, with leaflets, on-line petitions, publicity campaigns, nor for advertisements trying to ascertain who is a relative and then weighing their views against the general public, when there are, in reality, only two possible contenders (Leicester and York)

A short summary of the decision in Bancoult follows.

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Operation Cotton, War Crime and the Right to be Forgotten – the Human Rights Roundup

Right to be forgotten HRRWelcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular lightening rod 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.

In recent human rights news, the ECJ finds against Internet giant Google, strengthening the so-called ‘right to be forgotten’. In other news, the UK awaits to see if it will be prosecuted before the ICC in relation to allegations of war crimes in Iraq, while the Court of Appeal confronts the issue of legal aid cuts in serious fraud cases as the Operation Cotton scandal continues.

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There is a “right to be forgotten” by internet search engines – European Court of Justice

google-sign-9Case C-131/12 Google Spain SL, Google Inc. v. Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (AEPD) and Mario Costeja González – read judgment

The CJEU has declined to follow Opinion of AG Jääskinen in this case involving a challenge under the 1995 Data Protection Directive by a lawyer who objected to a newspaper reference referring to old bankruptcy proceedings against him in a Google search. See my earlier post on the opinion. Lorna Woods’ excellent report on the CJEU’s reasoning can be found on Inforrm’s blog so I won’t replicate her effort here. Suffice it to say that the outpouring of indignation in the press, the references to “hundreds” of requests from celebrities and other people who want to stop harmful information about them appearing, suggests that this ruling has opened a can of worms, not to mention the byzantine difficulties of enforcing the ruling by requiring search companies to become their own data control regulators.

Seizure of worker’s wages breached Convention right – Strasbourg

proceeds-of-crimePaulet v United Kingdom Paulet (application no. 6219/08) – read judgment

The Strasbourg Court has declared, by five votes to one, that the UK authorities had acted unlawfully by seizing the wages of an Ivorian worker who used a false passport to gain employment. The majority ruled that the UK courts should have balanced individual property rights against interests of the general public.

This case on the confiscation of the proceeds of crime raises many difficult legal questions such as the nature of the link between the crime and the proceeds and the distribution of the burden of proof in establishing this link. Mr Paulet complained that the confiscation order against him had been disproportionate as it amounted to the confiscation of his entire savings over nearly four years of genuine work, without any distinction being made between his case and those involving more serious criminal offences such as drug trafficking or organised crime. The Court found that the UK courts’ scope of review of Mr Paulet’s case had been too narrow. The majority objected to the fact that the domestic courts had simply found that the confiscation order against Mr Paulet had been in the public interest, without balancing that conclusion against his right to peaceful enjoyment of his possessions as required under the European Convention. Continue reading

Golf course judicial review case reversed on appeal

22-ep-cherkley-court-2-W1200Cherkley Campaign Ltd, (R o.t.a ) v. Longshot Cherkley Court Ltd, Court of Appeal, 7 May 2014 read judgment

 The Court of Appeal has reversed the robustly expressed view of Haddon-Cave J (see my post here)  that the grant of planning permission to a proposed “exclusive” golf club in Surrey should be quashed.

 The local planning authority had originally granted permission by the barest of majorities – 10-9, and against its planning officer’s recommendation. The judge had thought that the authority’s decision was irrational, and had misinterpreted or misapplied the concept of “need” in the applicable planning policies.

The Court of Appeal roundly disagreed with these and the other grounds on which the judge quashed the decision.

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