Monthly News Archives: December 2014


It is heartless not to assist people to die: Debbie Purdy

31 December 2014 by Rosalind English

UnknownThe multiple sclerosis sufferer Debbie Purdy died in the Marie Curie hospice in Bradford on December 23 2014. Having been denied her right to travel to Dignitas in Switzerland, which would have exposed her husband to the risk of prosecution under the 1961 Suicide Act, she took the only option available to her – refusing food. Death by starvation is not pleasant. The relevant Wikipedia entry describes some of the symptoms:

The body breaks down its own muscles and other tissues in order to keep vital systems such as the nervous system and the heart muscle functioning.
… Early symptoms include impulsivity, irritability, hyperactivity, and other symptoms. Atrophy (wasting away) of the stomach weakens the perception of hunger, since the perception is controlled by the percentage of the stomach that is empty. Victims of starvation are often too weak to sense thirst, and therefore become dehydrated.

All movements become painful due to muscle atrophy and dry, cracked skin that is caused by severe dehydration. With a weakened body, diseases are commonplace. Fungi, for example, often grow under the esophagus, making swallowing painful.

I apologise for introducing such a gloomy subject into the dying embers of 2014, but it is too important to pass by.

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UK Human Rights Blog – 2014 in review

29 December 2014 by Adam Wagner

WordPress.com, the blogging software we use to make the blog, prepared a 2014 annual report. We had almost a million hits and have crashed through the 2,000 post barrier since our launch in 2010. Thanks for reading and here is for a very interesting 2015. Adam Wagner

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 890,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 38 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Conscientious objection to abortion: Catholic midwives lose in Supreme Court

28 December 2014 by Alasdair Henderson

pic_giant_051713_Therapeutic-Cloning-of-Human-EmbryosGreater Glasgow Health Board v. Doogan and Wood [2014] UKSC 68 – read judgment here.

The Supreme Court recently handed down its judgment in an interesting and potentially controversial case concerning the interpretation of the conscientious objection clause in the Abortion Act 1967. Overturning the Inner House of the Court of Session’s ruling, the Court held that two Catholic midwives could be required by their employer to delegate to, supervise and support other staff who were involved in carrying out abortion procedures, as part of their roles as Labour Ward Co-ordinators at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow.

We set out the background to the case and explained the earlier rulings and their ramifications on this blog here and here. The key question the Supreme Court had to grapple with the meaning of the words “to participate in any treatment authorised by this Act to which he has a conscientious objection” in section 4 of the 1967 Act.

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Birmingham’s Grooming Injunctions: what does the judgment say?

24 December 2014 by Martin Downs

Photo credit: guardian.co.uk

Photo credit: guardian.co.uk

Using the inherent jurisdiction against Child Sexual Exploitation: Birmingham City Council v Riaz & Ors15 December 2014, read judgment

As prefigured on this Blog here, Keehan J has handed down a public Judgment  explaining how he used the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court to make novel and far-reaching Orders against ten men.

The inherent jurisdiction is the power vested in the Higher Courts to maintain their authority and prevent their processes being obstructed and abused. Traditionally this has also included the exercise on behalf of the sovereign as parens patriae of particular powers concerning children – most commonly wardship.

Birmingham City Council were addressing a real and significant issue. This had been highlighted in Rotherham. The gold standard response is to secure criminal convictions as occurred in Bristol. However, in some instances, the evidence will not secure jury convictions and hence the search is on for alternatives.

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EU Court gives the go ahead on certain stem cells – Olivia Hart

22 December 2014 by Guest Contributor

parthenote-stemcellInternational Stem Cell Corporation v Comptroller General of Patents [2014] EUECJ C-364-13, 18 December 2014 – read judgment 

This was a referral to the European Court of Justice (CJEU) requesting clarification of Article 6(2) of Directive 98/44/EC protecting biotechnological inventions (“the Biotech Directive”). We posted earlier about the High Court decision leading up to the referral concerning two GB patent applications that both involve the ‘parthenogenetic activation of oocytes’. The Court asked for clarification on what exactly defines a human embryo and what precisely is the developmental potential of a parthenote

Ever since scientists came upon the idea of using embryonic stem cells for therapeutic purposes there has been a something of an ethical furore around the topic. So the pressure has been on to find alternatives. Parthenotes – products of unfertilised egg division – have been proposed as candidates. However even research using parthenotes may fall foul of the law’s protection of ‘human dignity’. 
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EU judges oppose accession of EU to ECHR

22 December 2014 by David Hart QC

Dog_SeatOpinion of CJEU, 18 December 2014 – read Opinion

Well, here’s a thing. The EU top court in Luxembourg has decided that it is somehow against the EU treaties for it to defer in specific instances to the other European top dog, the ECtHR in Strasbourg.

Accession of the EU to the ECHR has been a very slow-burn process, with the Commission starting things off in 1979 (sic). The breakthrough, or so it appeared at the time, was the entry into force of Article 6 of the Lisbon Treaty of European Union, in December 2009. This (Art.6(2)) makes it a treaty obligation  that the EU

“shall accede to the ECHR”.

Nice and simple then? No, not exactly, when you look at the extremely complex  Draft Agreement on Accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights, concluded in April 2013- my post here. This seeks to make the adjustments to both the EU and ECHR institutions enabling a non-state organisation such as the EU to sign up to the ECHR.

One of the steps contemplated by the draft Agreement was the obtaining of an opinion from the CJEU on whether the Agreement was compatible with the EU Treaties. And the CJEU’s firm “non” to that question will inevitably set back the process, if not lead to its complete derailment.

The Opinion has already been well analysed by Aidan O’Neill QC here and Steve Peers here, neither in terms flattering of the CJEU. It is of some importance, so here is my penn’orth.

 

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Consultation again – this time for dentists

19 December 2014 by David Hart QC

simple-consultation-y200British Dental Association v. General Dental Council [2014] UK EWHC 4311 (Admin) 56, Cranston J, 18 December 2014 – read judgment UPDATED

Philip Havers QC and Jeremy Hyam of 1COR were for the successful Claimants in this case. They had no part in the writing of this post.

The Supreme Court has very recently reviewed the law on consultation and unlawfulness in the Moseley case (read judgment, and my post here). The present case is a good illustration of those principles in practice.

Dentists have to be registered with the General Dental Council. The GDC regulate them and may bring proceedings against them if their fitness to practise is impaired. All that regulation has to be financed by annual fees, and the current challenge by the dentists’ trade union (BDA) was to a decision by the GDC to raise the annual fee to £890 per dentist.

As I shall explain, Cranston J decided that the consultation in advance of that decision was unfair and hence unlawful.

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Employment Tribunal Fees: The evidential ‘hot potato’ to be heard by Court of Appeal

18 December 2014 by Lauren Godfrey

unison-logo-1Unison (No.2), R (on the application of) v The Lord Chancellor – read judgment [2014] EWHC 4198 (Admin)

The Divisional Court (Lord Justice Elias and Mr Justice Foskett) has dismissed Unison’s second-generation attempt to challenge by judicial review the legality of the Employment Tribunal fees system but gave permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal. The “striking” reduction in claims (79 per cent fewer) presented to Employment Tribunals, Lord Justice Elias accepted, was evidence that the system was “extremely onerous” for people in the position of the hypothetical claimants construed by Unison in their legal argument but “not so burdensome as to render the right illusory” (paragraph 53).

Noting the potential infringement of Article 6 rights, Lord Justice Elias was not convinced that the evidence available to the Court surmounted the high threshold set by the European Union case law on effectiveness (paragraphs 23-51; & 60-64); particularly where hypothetical rather than real examples deprived the Lord Chancellor of an opportunity to redress any alleged deficiencies in the scheme (see paragraphs 62-64).
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Exceptional legal aid funding should not be limited to extreme cases – Court of Appeal

17 December 2014 by Rosalind English

legal-aidR (on the application of) Gudanaviciene and others v The Director of Legal Aid Casework and others [2014] EWCA Civ 1622 – read judgment

The Court of Appeal has ruled that the Lord Chancellor’s Guidance on exceptional funding in civil legal aid is incompatible with the right of access to justice under Article 6 of the ECHR and Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The Court has further decided that this Guidance was not compatible with Article 8 of the ECHR in immigration cases; in other words, that legal aid should not be refused when applicants for entry to the UK seek to argue that refusal of entry would interfere with their right to respect for private and family life.

This was an appeal against a ruling by Collins J in the court below that the appellant Director’s refusal to grant the respondents exceptional case funding under Section 10 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 in their immigration cases was unlawful.
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Jehovah’s Witnesses, and judicial review being a last resort

17 December 2014 by David Hart QC

Moston-Kingdom-Hall-20140725101407111R (o.t.a WATCH TOWER BIBLE & TRACT SOCIETY OF BRITAIN) v CHARITY COMMISSION, 12 December 2014, Dove J, no transcript yet available, summary on Lawtel (£)

Judicial review is an excellent and flexible remedy, filling the gaps when statutory and other appeals do not provide a remedy for unlawful administrative acts or omissions.

But there is a flip side, well exemplified by this extempore decision refusing permission for a judicial review – save in exceptional  circumstances, you can only seek judicial review when there is no other available remedy. 

In this case, Dove J decided that the Court had no jurisdiction to seek judicial review of  the Charity Commission’s decision to launch an inquiry and make a production order concerning the Jehovah’s Witnesses charity because the Charities Act 2011 provided for appropriate statutory remedies that the charity should pursue first.

The summary gives only the shortest account of the underlying facts, but it appears as if there are two particular congregations of concern being investigated by the Charity Commission.

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Judge orders blood transfusion for Jehovah’s Witness child

15 December 2014 by Rosalind English

screen-shot-2014-09-01-at-6-26-12-am

An NHS Trust v Child B and Mr and Mrs B [2014] EWHC 3486 (Fam) – read judgment

I posted earlier this year a discussion of Ian McEwan’s pellucid and moving account of the difficulties encountered by judges when steering between the rock of parental faith and the hard place of children’s best interests (The Children Act, 2014).

This judgment, although handed down four months ago, has just been published, and confirms that judges may be resolute, however politely,  in the face of parents’ insistence that they know what is best for their children. 

Background Facts

The application concerned a very young child (B) who sustained burn injuries in an accident. The clinical team responsible for his care advised that the best practice treatment for his injuries was skin grafting and that there was a significant risk that he would require a blood transfusion . To avoid infection and for the best possible result, skin grafts should be carried out no later than 7 to 10 days from the initial burn. The Court was also told that in the event of a skin graft taking place without the ability to give a blood transfusion, there would be a risk of death as a result of sepsis developing.
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Time for human rights to get down to business? – Adam Smith-Anthony

12 December 2014 by Guest Contributor

open-for-business4Businesses, governments and civil society descended on Geneva last week for the 2014 UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, the largest global gathering in the business and human rights field. There were lofty statements of high ambition but the pervasive tone and success of the Forum was more prosaic: nitty-gritty implementation.

It was a conference dedicated to developing and sharing the best practices capable of shifting businesses from showcase philanthropy to real accountability, from vague aspirations to measurable impacts, and from a race to the bottom to a competition to be recognised as world leading. It was a call for real action; as one panel moderator told his coffee-clutching audience early on Day 3: “I want to see dust on everybody’s shoes”.

Implementation of what? 
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Cosmetics tested on animals banned in the EU – or are they?

12 December 2014 by Rosalind English

animal-experimentation-rabbit-draize-eye-irritacy-testsR (on the application of the European Federation for Cosmetic Ingredients) v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Attorney General, British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection and the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (intervening)  [2014] EWHC 4222 (Admin) 12 December 2014 – read judgment

Conscientious shoppers who check the labelling of shampoos and other cosmetic products for the “not tested on animals” legend may not be aware that there is in place an EU Regulation (“the Cosmetics Regulation”), enforceable by criminal sanctions, prohibiting the placing on the market of any product that has been tested on laboratory animals. Any comfort drawn from this knowledge however may be displaced by the uncertainty concerning the status of cosmetics whose ingredients have been tested on animals in non-EU or “third” countries. (Incidentally the Cruelty Cutter app is designed to enable consumers to test, at the swipe of a smart phone, whether the product they are contemplating purchasing has been tested on animals.)

This case concerned the question of whether, and if so in what circumstances, that Regulation would prohibit the marketing of products which incorporate ingredients which have undergone testing on animals in third countries. It was a claim for judicial review seeking declarations relating to the marketing of cosmetic ingredients which had been thus tested.
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Supreme Court finds third way between Strasbourg and House of Lords

11 December 2014 by David Hart QC

ukSupremeCourt_2288070bR (Haney and others) v. Secretary of State for Justice, 10 December 2014read judgment

Indeterminate sentences and the inadequate funding of rehabilitation during them has posed problems since Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentences hamstrung the system. The courts here and in Strasbourg have been in two minds what to do about cases where prisoners have not received the assistance they ought to have received – and hence are not, by domestic standards, ready for release.

Two solutions have been proposed to date. The House of Lords in R (James)  [2009] UKHL 22 decided that this did not amount to a breach of Article 5 of the Convention. When James got to Strasbourg, the ECtHR (2013) 56 EHRR 12 disagreed; continued detention was unlawful.

The Supreme Court found a third way, as we shall see. Another example of our courts’ increasing confidence when confronted with a Strasbourg decision they think to be wrong.
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Restrictions on books in prisons declared unlawful by the High Court

11 December 2014 by Hannah Noyce

Cornerstone-bookshopR (on the application of Gordon-Jones) v Secretary of State for Justice and Governor of HM Prison Send [2014] EWHC 3997 (Admin)read judgment

Contrary to what some media reports would have us believe, Prison Service Instruction (“PSI”) 30/2013 did not impose an absolute ban on books in prisons. It did, however, impose severe restrictions on the possession or acquisition of books which a prisoner can treat as his or her own. The High Court has found that those restrictions could not be justified by the limited provision of prison library services and are therefore unlawful.

The Claimant is a prisoner serving an indefinite sentence for the protection of the public at HMP Send. She has a doctorate in English literature and a serious passion for reading. The books she wants to read are often not the sort which are required by fellow prisoners or readily available through the prison library (the Dialogues of Marcus Aurelius and Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, for example, crop up in the judgment) and she therefore relies on having books sent or brought to her by people outside the prison.

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