The Round-up: Fee hikes, JR funding and the death of Sidaway

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Photo credit: Guardian

Alex Wessely brings us the latest edition of the Human Rights Round-up

In the news

Planned increases in court fees have been given the green light after successfully clearing the House of Lords. As the Law Gazette reports here a 5% charge will be added to all civil claims valued above £10,000, with an aim to raise £120m per year for the court service. ObiterJ writes that “for many people in need of the law, access to justice will now be a forlorn hope”. Whereas Lord Faulks, a Minister behind the reforms, argued that litigation is “very much an optional activity”, this was disputed by Lord Pannick – “litigation is often a necessity to keep your business alive or to maintain any quality of life”. Joshua Rozenberg, writing in the Guardian, bemoans the lack of attention paid to these significant increases, which shows that “the public has very little interest in what is being done in its name”.

Court fees, this time in the Employment Tribunal, are also the subject of Professor Sir Bob Hepple QC’s article as part of the “Equality Agenda in 2015”. He examines evidence showing people with genuine claims are being prevented from lodging them due to an inability to pay, and calls for an increase in preliminary hearings to help reduce the time and cost of employment cases.

Other news:

  • Brighton activist John Catt has lost his attempt to have his personal details removed from an extremism database. 1COR’s Dominic Ruck Keene covers the implications of this here, as does Panopticon here.
  • A House of Lords select committee has concluded that UK extradition procedures may be in breach of human rights.
  • BBC: The legal framework surrounding UK surveillance “lacks transparency” – Intelligence and Security Committee.
  • Pink News: A High Court judge has granted permission for an opposite-sex couple seeking a civil partnership (currently only available to same-sex couples) to proceed in their case against the Government.

In the courts

Controversial changes to JR funding have themselves been successfully judicially reviewed. The Lord Chancellor’s proposals were to make payment for JR work conditional on permission being granted by the court. As Giles Peaker explains, Chris Grayling once again found himself on the wrong end of an Administrative Court judgment, the effect of which has yet to be seen: the court has still to decide upon what relief to grant. But the Law Society president has hailed the decision as “a welcome result” as “the regulations would have made access to judicial review much more difficult for some of the weakest and most vulnerable in society”.

The appellant was a severely mentally ill homeless man who challenged a possession order made against him on the grounds that it constituted disability discrimination and a breach of his human rights. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal on the facts, but did clarify that the protection against disability discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 was different and additional to that afforded under the ECHR. As summarised here and here, no landlord is entitled to evict a disabled tenant because of something arising out of a disability, unless they can show this to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim (the statutory defence under Equality Act 2010). This protection is “plainly stronger” (Lord Neuberger) than that given under Article 8, not least because the burden of proving that defence lies with the landlord.

Deporting a Kyrgyzstani man suffering from chronic kidney failure would not violate his Article 3 rights (the prohibition on inhuman or degrading treatment), despite his concerns over receiving adequate treatment in Kyrgyzstan. The court noted that he had already received treatment twice in Kyrgyzstan, that he was was on a government waiting list for dialysis and that the ‘exceptional’ grounds for blocking a deportation on health grounds under Article 3 were not made out.

Turkey’s refusal to allow a transsexual to undergo gender reassignment surgery on the grounds that the person in question was “not permanently unable to procreate” violated Article 8 . The Court reiterated that it was “[not a] controversial question” to insist that transsexuals have the full enjoyment of Article 8’s protection in terms of their physical and moral integrity and right to personal development.

Sidaway –  a case about what consitutes ‘informed consent’ in medical procedures – “is dead”. David Hart QC analyses the significance of the Court’s judgment in Montgomery here.

Events

  • The Slynn Foundation

The subject of the 2nd Open Forum organised by The Slynn Foundation will be “Does human rights law mean that the days of national boundaries are numbered?” It will be held on 23rd March 2015, and the line-up of speakers is Dominic Grieve QC MP, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Lord Pannick QC and Sir Maurice Kay. Register here.

  • McCann v UK

Dr Stephen Skinner of Centre for European Legal Studies is hosting a conference at Doughty Street Chambers to reflect upon the influence of McCann v UK 20 years on. It will be held on 25th March, and further details can be found here.

  • Time to repeal the HRA?

BPP University, Waterloo, is hosting a symposium on “What has the European Convention on Human Rights ever done for us: Is it time to repeal the Human Rights Act?” The event is free and on 27th March. More information here.

 

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