Court of Appeal upholds ‘acoustic shock’ and Lord Sumption’s comments on assisted suicide- the Round Up

22 April 2019 by

Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law

L Sumption

Credit: The Guardian

In the News:

Lord Sumption, the recently retired Supreme Court judge, has suggested that the law on assisted suicide ought to be broken.

Lord Sumption said that whilst assisted suicide should continue to be criminalised, relatives of terminally ill patients should follow their conscience and not always abide by it. As he put it, “the law should be broken from time to time”.

The former judge argued that the law’s current position helps prevent abuse, and that any change to it could only be produced by a political process.

His comments were made as part of the Reith Lectures, a series of annual radio lectures on BBC Radio 4. Lord Sumption’s lectures ask whether the legal process has begun to usurp the legislative function of Parliament. His first lecture will be made available on the 21st May.

In Other News….

  • Research has revealed that 55,000 pupils have changed schools for no clear reason during the past five years. A report from the Education Policy Institute suggests some schools have been unofficially excluding students with challenging behaviour or poor academic results, as part of a practice known as “off-rolling”. One in 12 pupils who began education in 2012 and finished in 2017 were removed at some stage for an unknown reason. Just 330 secondary schools account for almost a quarter of unexplained moves. The Department for Education said it was looking into the issue, and that it had written to all schools to remind them of the rules on exclusions. More from The Week here.
  • Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has warned that the rights of detained children are being repeatedly breached. In a report published last Thursday, it recommended that Young Offenders’ Institutions should be banned from deliberately inflicting pain on young offenders and from putting them in solitary confinement. It found that hospitals and jails are restraining children too frequently, and that such techniques are being used disproportionately against ethnic minorities. Around 2,500 young people are in detention at present. More from the Guardian here.
  • The activities of Extension Rebellion, the climate change group, sparked discussion and controversy this week. The organisation has three core demands: greater transparency about climate change, a legally binding commitment to zero carbon emissions by 2025, and the creation of a citizens’ assembly to oversee the issue. The group has staged protests in London for the past week, which has included shutting down a large portion of Oxford Street. Over 800 people have been arrested. The group has been criticised for adding pressure on already overburdened police force, and for the disruption caused to people’s lives and businesses. Extinction Rebellion has announced that it will pause its protests for the duration of next week. More from the BBC here.

In the Courts:

  • H (Abduction: Retention In Non-Contracting State), Re: This case concerned the application of the Hague Child Abduction Convention 1980 (“the Convention”). The question was whether the Convention can be relied on if an abduction takes place in a state which is not a party to the Convention. The Court of Appeal concluded that it is possible to rely on the Convention in these circumstances. This conclusion concurs with the fundamental purposes of the Convention and ensures that it is not construed differently by individual states. If it were not possible to rely on the Convention because an abduction took place in a non-party state, there would be an easy route for parents to evade the effect of the Convention. After applying this reasoning to the facts of the appeal, the court concluded that the applicant was required to return her child to Australia.
  • Walleed, R (On the Application Of) v Secretary of State for Justice: The claimant challenged the Secretary of State’s rejection of a recommendation by the Parole Board that he be moved to open conditions. However, the High Court found against the claimant. The court held that the Secretary of State’s decision was procedurally fair. The defendant was not obliged to attend the Parole Board’s hearing, and by sharing information with the Board he had discharged his duty of co-operation. Although the Secretary of State had delayed in making his decision (thereby breaching his own policies), the claimant had not been deprived of his liberty for a longer period that would have been the case if the decision had been made on time. The High Court also held that the delay did not amount to a breach of Article 5(4) ECHR. The defendant was able to challenge the lawfulness of the decision, either by judicial review or through the Parole Board process. A reliance on Article 5(4) was, therefore, misplaced. (1 Crown Office Row’s David Manknell acted for the Secretary of State).
  • Goldscheider v Royal Opera House Covent Garden Foundation: The Court of Appeal rejected a challenge to the High Court’s decision to make the Royal Opera House liable for acoustic shock suffered by the claimant. The court found there had been a breach of Regulation 6 of the Noise Regulations 2005, which required the appellant to reduce the risk of noise exposure to the lowest reasonably practicable level. This is because, following the respondent’s complaint, the brass instruments had been reconfigured and the noise level reduced as a result. There was no evidence that this reconfiguration had caused any reduction in the artistic standards of the pieces played, indicating all reasonably practicable steps had not previously been taken. The court further held that the applicant had partially breached Regulation 7. The orchestra pit should have been designated, and signposted, as a Hearing Protection Zone. However, it was not reasonably practicable for orchestra players to wear hearing protection at all times because it would have negatively affected their music. Finally, the court upheld the lower court’s finding that acoustic shock was a legitimate medical complaint. The High Court had recognised that the debate was complex, and the Court of Appeal was not in a position to question its findings.

On the UKHRB

  • Anthony Wenton wrote an article considering whether we are living through the UK’s “constitutional moment”.


  • The European Parliament (EP), Elections and Brexit, 23rd April at City, University of London. More information here.
  • The Child and Medical Treatment: the Chance to Live, or Die with Dignity?, 2nd May with Gresham College. More information here.
  • Rethinking Human Rights: a southern response to western critics, 22nd May at the LSE. More information here.

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