The Weekly Round-up: PPE Medpro, the Gender Recognition Bill, and contempt advice concealed
28 December 2022
In the news
The Government has launched legal action to recover £122m from PPE Medpro, the supplier recommended by Conservative peer Michelle Mone. The claim is grounded in a contract for the supply of 25m sterile surgical gowns awarded via the ‘VIP lane’ used during the pandemic to prioritise companies with political connections. None of the gowns purchased were ever used in the NHS as they were allegedly not fit for purpose, although Medpro insist that the gowns passed inspection and will defend the claim. The case will be of significant public interest following the revelation that £29m originating from profits from this contract was paid to an offshore trust whose beneficiaries were Mone and her children. Mone’s husband also profited at least £65m from these government contracts. Mone remains insistent that she had no involvement in Medpro and has not gained financially from the contracts.
The Scottish Parliament have passed the Gender Recognition Bill, allowing people to legally change their gender through a system of self-identification. The Bill seeks to make it easier for individuals to legally change their gender, removing the need for a psychiatric diagnosis of gender dysphoria to gain a gender recognition certificate, and extending the new system to 16 year olds. It also reduces the time someone has to have been permanently living in their acquired gender before they can apply (to 3 months down from 2 years). The Bill has been the centre of a much heated debate, with potent beliefs on either side. While the parliamentary debate itself was disrupted within minutes by protesters shouting ‘shame on you… this is the darkest day’, many have come out in support of the Bill for the protections it provides for trans people.
In other news
- The committee investigating whether Boris Johnson misled the Commons over partygate has refused to allow the further advice provided by Lord Pannick KC and Jason Pobjoy to be published. The development follows the initial advice by Pannick and Pobjoy, which centred on the importance of intent in proving contempt, and the robust rebuttal by the Committee, which rejected Johnson’s position wholeheartedly. Pannick’s reply was, unlike the initial advice, sent to the Committee under the standard procedure in order for it to be published by them. However, for the moment at least, it is not being released to the public. This is an interesting decision, as not only is the debate of significant public interest, but it seems to be the public who are paying for Johnson’s legal representation. It is worth noting, however, that the Committee could well publish the advice further down the line and still remain within its standard procedure.
- In the US, the committee determining Donald Trump’s involvement in the January 6 capitol riots have recommended that he face criminal charges. Trump was accused of ‘fomenting an insurrection’ and ‘conspiring against the government’ over his attempt to subvert the outcome of the 2020 election. The referral is the first time in US history that Congress has recommended charges against a former President.
- A report into the state of the courts in England and Wales has observed that more that two-thirds of the c.600 lawyers surveyed experienced delays due to court conditions. Chairs and floors in a London crown court are reportedly held together with gaffer tape, and reports also detail leaking ceilings, broken toilets, and mould. One solicitor noted that they ‘had a piece of an air conditioning unit fall on [their] head at a magistrates’ court a few years ago and the ceiling fan it fell from still hadn’t been mended when [they] last went’.
In the courts
- In Simpson v SSJ  EWHC 3191 (Admin), the High Court ruled that Dominic Raab acted unlawfully in blocking the release of a notorious prisoner. The Claimant relied on 3 grounds of challenge: (i) the decision took too long, which unreasonably prolonged her detention; (ii) there was no material change in the circumstances that justified departing from the previous assessment that the Claimant should be released; and (iii) the decision departed from policies without having good reason for doing so. In the round, the SSJ’s decision to refer the Claimant’s case to the Parole Board was unlawful for 2 reasons. First, it was concluded that Raab did not believe on reasonable grounds that, if released, the Claimant would pose a ‘significant risk’ to members of the public. Secondly, Raab’s own policy narrowed the circumstances in which the decision could be exercised, and the Claimant’s case did not meet this eligibility criteria. While the policy can be departed from where the is good reason to do so, no such reason was found.
- In Chappell v SSHD  EWHC 3281 (Admin), the High Court dismissed a challenge against the SSHD’s certification of the first ever extradition request to the UK from Japan. There is no extradition treaty between the UK and Japan, and so the proceedings arose under ‘special extradition arrangements’. The request was made in respect of three Claimants who were allegedly involved in a violent jewellery robbery in Tokyo (worth roughly £630,000). The Claimants conteded that the decision to certify the request was unlawful on 3 grounds: (i) the request for extradition did not satisfy the terms of a Memorandum of Cooperation between the UK and Japan; (ii) the SSHD cannot rely on the Extradition Act 2003 to circumvent that non-compliance; and (iii) the SSHD was misdirected in treating the request, which was from the Embassy and not an individual, as being from a person recognised as a diplomatic representative. In respect of (i), it was held that there was nothing to suggest that the incorrect body had issued the request. Regarding (ii), in any event, it was held that nothing in the MoC demonstrated an intention of the parties to modify the 2003 Act, and therefore it applied as usual. Finally, (iii) was also rejected as it was held not to be conducive to comity to expect extradition requests to expressly name the representative individual; such a challenge amounted to a ‘technical objection’.
Elsewhere on the UKHRB
- On Law Pod UK, Emma-Louise Fenelon speaks to Rory Badenoch and Rajkiran Barhey about recent developments in inquest law.
- Also on Law Pod UK, Rosalind English, Lucy McCann, and Jonathan Metzer discuss some of the most important judgments handed out in 2022.