The Round-up: Saudi Arabia, school protests, and state surveillance

25 June 2019 by

Photo: The Huffington Post

In the news

In a bombshell ruling on Thursday last week, the Court of Appeal (Sir Terence Etherton MR, Irwin, Singh LJJ) held that the UK government’s failure to suspend licences for the sale of military equipment to Saudi Arabia was irrational, and thus unlawful. This was based on a finding that the government had violated Article 2.2 of the EU Common Council Position 2008/944/CGSP, as adopted in the Secretary of State’s 2014 Guidance. Under this instrument, Member States must deny a licence for the sale of arms to other states if there is “a clear risk” that the military equipment exported might be used “in the commission of serious violations of international humanitarian law”. In this case, there was a substantial risk of their use in the conflict in Yemen. The issue will now be remitted to the Secretary of State for reconsideration.

Government misuse of data continues to be a hot topic, as hearings have begun for Liberty’s landmark judicial review under the Investigatory Powers Act 2016. Meanwhile in Parliament, the Joint Committee on Human Rights has launched a new inquiry into ‘Privacy and the Digital Revolution’. The committee received evidence including written submissions from Privacy International, Liberty, the Information Commissioner’s Office. In its findings so far, it has emphasised a widespread lack of knowledge and understanding about how personal data is being used, threats posed by large-scale data collection to freedom of expression and association, and the role of ‘baked-in’ discrimination in data collection algorithms. These findings will supplement the government’s Digital Harms white paper, announced in April.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published a report into legal aid and access to justice for discrimination cases. Its recommendations include reforming the telephone service to make reasonable adjustments for disabled users, adjusting the threshold and financial evidence requirements for financial eligibility, and addressing the asymmetry in terms of claims for legal representation between discrimination and other cases. The full report is available here.  

The Court of Appeal yesterday overturned the decision on Nathalie Lieven J in the Court of Protection that doctors could perform an abortion on an intellectually disabled woman who was 22 weeks pregnant without her consent. The decision had been made despite opposition by the woman’s mother and social worker, and had led to some international controversy, including a transatlantic intervention by US Senator Marco Rubio. Lieven J stated in her judgement that it would be a “greater trauma” for the woman to have a baby removed into care post-pregnancy than to have an abortion, stating “I have to operate in [her] best interests, not on society’s views of termination.” She also suggested that the woman, who was considered to have a mental age of between 6 and 9, wanted a baby “in the same way that she would like a nice doll”. The judgement of the Court of Appeal is not yet published.  

In the courts

  • Liberty, R (On the Application Of) v Director of Legal Aid Casework: in 2017, Poole BC issued a public spaces protection order to prohibit rough sleeping in the town centre. This was issued despite advice from the Home Office that PSPOs could not be used for such a purpose. Ms Sarah Walker, a homelessness worker, sought to challenge the decision under s.66 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, and was refused legal aid for making that challenge. Murray J upheld the Director’s decision to refuse legal aid. Despite submissions about the precariousness of her (and many others’) circumstances, he held that Ms Ward was not seeking a ‘personal’ or ‘material’ benefit as required by paragraph 19(3) of LASPO 2012, read in light of the Ministry of Justice’s 2009 consultation paper. In light of this conclusion, the question of whether a s.66 challenge constitutes ‘judicial review’ under paragraph 19(10) was not addressed.
  • Birmingham City Council v Afsar & Ors: this case related to the recent protests outside Anderton Park School in Birmingham, against the teaching of LGBTQ relationships to young children. Warby J discharged injunctions that had been granted without notice at the end of May, on the basis of a failure to comply with the duty of full and frank disclosure. However, he granted fresh interim injunctions, as he considered that the Council had demonstrated that it would probably succeed at trial in showing a risk justifying an injunction, and that the fresh injunctions would not amount to ‘improper restraint of lawful protest’. A more detailed weighing up of Articles 9, 10, 11 ECHR and Article 2 Protocol 1 awaits in the substantive hearing.
  • Chief Constable of Norfolk v Coffey: a front-line police officer with serious hearing loss applied to be transferred from the Wiltshire Constabulary to the Norfolk Constabulary, but was refused because her hearing fell “just outside the standards for recruitment strictly speaking.” The police officer was awarded compensation in the Employment Tribunal, on the basis of discrimination based on a perceived disability, under s.13 and Sch 1 of the Equality Act 2010. the Chief Constable appealed. In dismissing that appeal, the court emphasised the Chief Constable’s failure to take into account the Home Office guidance, and dismissed any suggestion that front-line duties were different in Norfolk and in Wiltshire as ‘half-baked’.  
  • MacKenzie v The University of Cambridge: a lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the University of Cambridge was dismissed in 2013. Upon a challenge, the Employment Tribunal made an order for re-engagement following unfair dismissal under Part X of the Employment Rights Act 1996. The claimant sought to enforce this decision by issuing judicial review proceedings in the High Court, relying on s.3 and s.6 HRA 1998, Articles 6 and 13 ECHR, and Article 1 of the first Protocol. The court held, however, that ss.115-117 of the Employment Rights Act indicated that an ‘order for re-engagement’ did not create an ‘absolute and indefeasible obligation’ on the employer to re-engage the employee, or an equivalent right in the employee to be re-engaged. Therefore, in the absence of special circumstances, the order was not enforceable in the High Court, and the application for judicial review was dismissed.

On the UKHRB

  • Amelia Walker discusses the investigation into abuse at Brook House.
  • On Episode 85 of Law Pod UK, Emma-Louise Fenelon talks to Jo Moore and Laura Bruce about equality, diversity, and access to the Bar.  
  • Thomas Beasley reviews the Supreme Court’s decision on ‘intentional homelessness’ in Samuels v Birmingham City Council.
  • On Law Pod UK Rosalind English discusses with Alaisdair Henderson the Welsh government’s decision to scrap the M4 Newport relief road.

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