Monthly News Archives: January 2017


The Round Up – Article 50 and the first few days with Trump

27 January 2017 by Poppy Rimington-Pounder

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The government trumped

Tuesday’s Supreme Court judgment held by a majority of 8 to 3 that an Act of Parliament is required to authorise ministers to give Notice of the decision of the UK to withdraw from the European Union.  This blog has covered the case in some detail – see Dominic Ruck-Keene’s post on the central issue in the appeal here, Jim Duffy’s post regarding the court’s findings on the status of the Sewel Convention here, and Rosie Slowe’s guest post on the enduring relevance of the question of the irrevocability or otherwise of an Article 50 notification here.

Trump’s inauguration trumped…but what now?

Donald Trump’s inauguration was met with a rather lukewarm reception on 21st January 2017 when almost 5 million people took to the streets to join the globally organised Women’s March.

The event is estimated to have attracted approximately 4.8 million people across 673 marches. It was organised in support of all those who had been targeted during Trump’s election campaign: not just women, but migrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQ, people of racial minorities, and people with disabilities.

Trump himself seems untroubled by the protests, and responded the following day with a purportedly liberal and tolerant tweet: ‘Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy. Even if I don’t always agree, I recognize the rights of people to express their views’.

Moreover, in no way has he been deterred from his objectives regarding certain women’s rights.
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Defying convention: Supreme Court puts Sewel on the sidelines

26 January 2017 by Jim Duffy

unknownIn the new age of alternative facts, even Sean Spicer might struggle to spin Tuesday’s Supreme Court judgment as anything other than a comprehensive defeat for the government.

Yet, as my colleague Dominic Ruck Keene’s post alluded to, the ultimate political ramifications of Miller would have made the Article 50 process appreciably more turgid had the Justices accepted the various arguments relating to devolution.

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Aarhus Convention update: Government still ignoring private nuisance claims

26 January 2017 by David Hart QC

F_AarhusConventionIn November 2016, the Government responded in rather disappointing terms (here) to a consultation about amending its costs rules in civil cases to reflect the requirements of the Aarhus Convention.

Article 9 of this Convention 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. Aarhus starters may want to have a look at my bluffers guide to Aarhus – here.

First, the limited bit of good news in the governmental response.

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Article 50, the Supreme Court judgment in Miller and why the question of revocability still matters – Rose Slowe

25 January 2017 by Guest Contributor

England Europe

With the Supreme Court having ruled yesterday that Parliament must have a say in the triggering of Article 50 TEU, the ensuing debate regarding the process for exiting the EU will undoubtedly revolve around what is politically considered the most desirable ‘type’ of Brexit, and whether MPs can restrict the government’s negotiation position. This post puts forward the hypothesis that such debates may become irrelevant because, in the event that negotiations fail, the UK has no guaranteed input on the terms of its withdrawal from the EU. At the heart of this problem is the still unanswered question whether an Article 50 notification is revocable.

In R (on the application of Miller and another) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2017] UKSC 5, the Supreme Court rejected the government’s appeal and upheld the High Court’s ruling that the royal prerogative cannot be relied on to trigger Article 50 (see yesterday’s post on this blog which summarised the court’s judgment).  Rather than reliance on executive power, an Act of Parliament is required to authorise ministers to give notice of the UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU. This is based on the premise that such notification under Article 50(2) would inevitably, and unavoidably, have a direct effect on UK citizens’ rights by ultimately withdrawing the UK from the EU. However, this assumption warrants exploration.

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The Brexit Judgment – “The law of the realm cannot be changed but by Parliament.”

24 January 2017 by Dominic Ruck Keene

parliament

Sir Edward Coke’s bold assertion in 1605 of one of the cornerstones of the unwritten constitution of the United Kingdom has been upheld today in a hugely important decision by the Supreme Court. In R(Miller) v Secretary of the State for Exiting the European Union [2017] UKSC 5, the Supreme Court today ruled 8-3 that an Act of Parliament was required to authorise ministers to give Notice of the decision of the UK to withdraw from the European Union.  This post focuses on the decisions made in relation to the more legally significant claim that this Article 50 notice could not be given without Parliamentary approval, rather than those made in relation to the devolution claims – although in terms of practical political impact, a ruling that the devolved assemblies had to approve the giving of notice would have been far more disruptive to the Government’s plans.

Lord Neuberger, with whom Lady Hale, and Lords Mance, Kerr, Sumption, Clarke, Wilson and Hodge agreed), gave the judgment for the majority. He introduced the case by putting the issue very simply “The question before this Court concerns the steps which are required as a matter of UK domestic law before the process of leaving the European Union can be initiated.

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You win some, you lose some…Rahmatullah (No.2) in the Supreme Court

24 January 2017 by Dominic Ruck Keene

iraq-prisoners

In Rahmatullah (No 2) v MOD; Mohammed v MOD [2017] UKSC 1, the Supreme Court gave a further important judgment in the litany of cases arising out of the UK’s intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Court held unanimously that the doctrine of Crown act of state defeated claims brought by non UK citizens seeking to sue the Government in the English courts in respect of alleged torts committed abroad.

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Guest Post: Magistrates struggle (again) with the use of imprisonment for non-payment of council tax – by Sam Genen and Sophie Walker

23 January 2017 by Guest Contributor

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R (Woolcock & Bridgend Magistrates Court) v Cardiff Magistrates Court and Bridgend County Council [2017] EWHC 34 (Admin) (judgment awaiting publication)

There is an exceedingly long line of case law, stretching back beyond the days of the community charge (which was of course better known as the Poll Tax). In those cases, the courts have traditionally quashed custodial orders improperly imposed by magistrates for non-payment of council taxes.

Most recently, the legal charity Centre for Criminal Appeals have picked up the reins as part of their work challenging unduly harsh sentencing practices.  The case of R(Woolcock & Bridgend Magistrates Court) v Cardiff Magistrates Court and Bridgend County Council, a judicial review claim, is the first of the cases supported by the Centre to reach the High Court, and concerned imprisonment of a woman who had failed to make council tax payments required of her.

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Free Trade Agreements and the White House – where are we now?

23 January 2017 by David Hart QC

ceta_signing_qtp_848x480_796869187661Trump’s inauguration seems not a bad moment to be having a look at the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs, actual or potential) which are swirling around at the moment, and their likely reception in the changed world which we face.

First on the list, our own tried, tested, and found electorally wanting, EU Treaties. They are FTAs, but with lots of knobs on – free movement of people, of establishment, level playing fields about employment rights, the environment and consumer protection, to name but a few.

The first thing to say is that FTAs, wherever they are, don’t come all that unencumbered these days.
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Computer algorithm predicts most Strasbourg judgments

22 January 2017 by Rosalind English

brainwigArtificial intelligence … it’s no longer in the future. It’s with us now.

I posted a review of a book about artificial intelligence in autumn last year. The author’s argument was not that we might find ourselves, some time in the future, subservient to or even enslaved by cool-looking androids from Westworld. His thesis is more disturbing: it’s happening now, and it’s not robots. We are handing over our autonomy to a set of computer instructions called algorithms.

If you remember from my post on that book, I picked out a paragraph that should give pause to any parent urging their offspring to run the gamut of law-school, training contract, pupillage and the never never land of equity partnership or tenancy in today’s competitive legal industry. Yuval Noah Harari suggests that the everything lawyers do now – from the management of company mergers and acquisitions, to deciding on intentionality in negligence or criminal cases – can and will be performed a hundred times more efficiently by computers.

Now here is proof of concept. University College London has just announced the results of the project it gave to its AI researchers, working with a team from the universities of Sheffield and Pennsylvania. Its news website announces that a machine learning algorithm has just analysed, and predicted, “the outcomes of a major international court”:

The judicial decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) have been predicted to 79% accuracy using an artificial intelligence (AI) method.

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The long arm of the law: Belhaj and Rahmatullah (No.1)

20 January 2017 by Dominic Ruck Keene

aeroplaneThis blog is the first covering the series of three important judgments given on Tuesday by the Supreme Court on issues arising out of the War on Terror and the United Kingdom’s interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Belhaj and another v Straw and others) and Rahmatullah (No 1) v Ministry of Defence and another [2017] UKSC 3   involved the alleged complicity of United Kingdom officials in allegedly tortious acts of the UK or other states overseas. The torts alleged include unlawful detention and rendition, torture or cruel and inhuman treatment and assault.

The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the Government’s appeals and ruled that the doctrine of state immunity was no bar to the claims, and that the Government and the various officials sued had not, on the assumed facts, shown any entitlement to rely on the doctrine of foreign act of state so as to defeat the claims brought against them.

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Mirza & Ors: The Rules are neither simple nor flexible so don’t leave it too late

11 January 2017 by Suzanne Lambert

Image result for checking off calendar dates

Mirza and others v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2016] UKSC 63 – read judgment and press summary here.

The background to each of these appeals, although unfortunate, is not in any way extraordinary. Indeed, it is perhaps quite common for those applying for leave to remain to fall foul of procedural requirements or to be caught out by one of the many frequent changes in the legislative scheme governing immigration.

Whereas in most cases the solution may be simply to correct the procedural defect and make a further application, matters become much more complicated for those who apply too close to the date on which their leave to remain expires.

The Supreme Court’s recent decision makes clear that s.3C of the Immigration Act 1971 does not automatically extend a person’s leave to remain. Where leave expires in between the defective application and the fresh one an applicant will simply have run out of time for correction. This was the situation in which all three appellants found themselves.

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Professor Robert Wintemute: Same-sex survivor pensions in the CJEU (Parris) and the UKSC (Walker)

9 January 2017 by Guest Contributor

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In the recent case of David Parris v. Trinity College Dublin, the CJEU found that the ineligibility for a survivor’s pension of an employee’s same-sex partner, in circumstances where the 2011 recognition of their civil partnership by Irish law had come after that employee’s 60th birthday and therefore too late to trigger the pension entitlement, gave rise to neither direct nor indirect sexual orientation discrimination.

The UK Government had made written submissions in Parris, hoping for reasoning that would support its defence of an exception in the Equality Act 2010 permitting unequal survivor’s pensions for same-sex civil partners and spouses.  The compatibility of the UK’s exception with EU law and the ECHR will be tested in John Walker v. Innospec Ltd, an appeal to heard by the UK Supreme Court (UKSC) on 8-9 March 2017.  For a detailed analysis of the Court of Appeal’s judgment, see R. Wintemute, March 2016, 45(1) Industrial Law Journal 90-100.

Although it is suggested that the CJEU erred in finding no sexual orientation discrimination in Parris, it focussed on a rule of the Irish pension scheme that does not exist in Walker, namely that the employee’s marriage or civil partnership must take place before their 60th birthday.  It is therefore suggested that Parris will not help the UK Government in Walker.

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Sanctity of life v personal autonomy: Court of Protection

3 January 2017 by Rosalind English

brainmapBriggs v Briggs & Ors [2016] EWCOP 53 (20 December 2016) – read judgment

Apologies for starting the new year on such a sombre note, but there is a shaft of light in that this Court of Protection judgement is a clear indication that judges – or some of them – are prepared to favour an individual’s autonomy over the traditional emphasis on the sanctity of life above all else.

As Charles J points out, this case raises issues of life and death and so vitally important principles and strongly held views. The decision he had to make was whether a part of the current treatment of Mr Paul Briggs, namely clinically assisted nutrition and hydration (CANH), should be continued. Mr Briggs was in a minimally conscious state (MCS) as the result of serious and permanent brain damage he suffered as the victim of a traffic accident eighteen months ago. He was not in a permanent vegetative state (PVS) and so the approach taken by the House of Lords in the Tony Bland case did not apply to him (Airedale NHS Trust v Bland [1993] AC 789). In that case, it will be remembered, their Lordships concluded that the continuation of life in such a state was futile. Problems arose with subsequent advancements in neurological diagnosis, where a less catastrophic condition known as MCS was established. In 2012 a court ruled that a patient in MCS could not be deemed to have made an advance directive regarding medical treatment even though during her lifetime she had made her position very clear that she would not want to continue living in such a reduced state (Re M (Adult Patient) (Minimally Conscious State: Withdrawal of Treatment) [2012] 1 WLR 1653). Her views did not, in their view, encapsulate the state of MCS. See my post on that decision here. Baker J’s refusal of the family’s application to allow treatment to be withdrawn came in for severe criticism in the British Medical Journal (see Richard Mumford’s post on that article). The author took Baker J to task for not according significant weight to the informally expressed views of M on life-sustaining treatment, expressed before she came ill. Charles J took a very different approach in this case.
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