Round Up 6.7.20 – A quiet week in the courts but not in the news…
6 July 2020
Protesters in Hong Kong. Credit: The Guardian.
It has been a quiet week in the courts from a human rights perspective. The Supreme Court gave judgment on a divorce case and a social security fraud, and whilst the Court of Appeal and High Court were more forthcoming in terms of the number of decisions made, family law and commercial cases dominated. Legal buffs may however be interested to note Scales v Motor Insurers’ Bureau  EWHC 1747 (QB), in which the High Court applied Spanish law in a road traffic accident case, whilst celebrity watchers and students revising for their civil litigation exams may appreciate seeing how the court applied the test from Denton to grant Johnny Christopher Depp II relief from sanctions (who knew there was a Johnny Christopher Depp I?) – Depp v News Group Newspapers Ltd & Ors  EWHC 1734 (QB).
A quiet week in the courts did not however extend to a quiet week in the news…
- China imposed its new security law on Hong Kong. The law was approved by legislators despite the fact it was not made available for them to read in advance. The exact provisions of the law are covered in some detail by the BBC here, but amount to a full frontal assault on established legal protections in the territory. In response to the prospect of trials without a jury conducted by politically appointed judges, the UK took steps to afford citizenship rights to 3 million holders of British National Overseas passports.
- Whilst protesting the loss of jury trials in Hong Kong, the Government took steps to restrict the right to trial by jury in the UK. The measures, which the Government assures are to be temporary, aim to help clear the developing backlog of criminal cases caused by a long-standing lack of court capacity. The situation has been further exacerbated by the closure of courts during the Covid-19 pandemic.
- The Commercial Court ruled against Nicolas Maduro’s attempt to have the Bank of England release stores of Venezuelan gold held in the bank’s Threadneedle Street vault – Deutsche Bank AG London Branch v Receivers Appointed By the Court & Ors  EWHC 1721 (Comm). The United Kingdom recognises the opposition of Juan Guaido, however Mr Maduro had claimed that circumstances on the ground, including the UK’s ongoing diplomatic presence in Caracas, made him the countries de facto leader.
- In response to a rise in the number of coronavirus cases in Leicester, the Government introduced a local “lockdown” in the city. Ministers appeared to concede that restrictions were for the time being effectively voluntary, and suggested they would seek to bring forward secondary legislation giving the lockdown legal effect in the next few weeks.
- A former professional cricketer failed to have his conviction for rape overturned – Hepburn v R.  EWCA Crim 820 (30 June 2020). Alex Hepburn mounted his appeal on the basis that text messages he had sent prior to the offence in which he discussed participating in a game with his friends to collect as many sexual encounters as possible should not have been placed before the court as evidence against him. His counsel argued that they were unfairly prejudicial as they did not show he was willing to have sex without consent. The Court of Appeal held that their inclusion did not make his conviction unsafe.
- In the United States, the Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law which would have likely left the state with only one abortion clinic – June Medical Services L.L.C Et Al v Russo, Interim Secretary, Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. The law would have resulted in the closure of many units by requiring doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.
On the UK Human Rights Blog:
- Matthew Flinn examines the United States Supreme Court judgment in Bostock v Clayton County, Georgia, outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity (here);
- Rosalind English considers how the courts approach the concept of “best interests” when an adult making a proposed medical donation with the potential to cause lasting harm to the donor lacks capacity (here), and the case of University Hospital and Warwickshire NHS Trust v K and another  EWCOP 31 (here).