Now the Divisional Court has delivered its judgment in this controversial and difficult case. On 1 December 2020, it substantially upheld the Claimants’ challenge to the practice of prescribing puberty-blocking drugs to children, some as young as 10, with gender dysphoria.
The first Claimant, Quincy Bell, was born female. At about 15 she was prescribed puberty blocking drugs (PBs) to halt the development of female sexual characteristics. Subsequently she transitioned to a male using “cross-sex hormones” and then underwent a double mastectomy. She told the court her doubts began before the surgery and she now wished to identify as a woman, reverting to the sex on her original birth certificate. “I made a brash decision as a teenager” she said, “… trying to find confidence and happiness except now the rest of my life will be negatively affected…transition was a very temporary, superficial fix for a very complex identity issue.”
The second Claimant was the mother of 15 year old with autismexperiencing gender dysphoria whom she feared would be prescribed puberty-blockers.
The Claimants contended that prescribing these drugs to under 18s was unlawful because they lacked competence to give valid consent to the treatment, and were given misleading information.
D Borough Council v AB  EWHC 101 (COP) (28 January 2011) – Read judgment
In a case which is fascinating both legally and morally, a judge in the Court of Protection has ruled that a 41-year-old man with a mild learning disability did not have the mental capacity to consent to sex and should be prevented by a local council from doing so.
The case arose when a local council, following allegations that a mentally disabled man made sexual gestures towards children, sought a court order stating that “Alan” (a false name) did not have the mental capacity to consent to sexual relations. The council ultimately wanted Alan to be banned from having sexual relations with his former house-mate and sexual partner.
The High Court has ruled in favour of a 28-year-old woman who wanted her late husband’s sperm to be retained even though the correct written consent was not in place. Mrs Justice Hogg (‘Hogg J’) ruled that Mrs Warren has a right under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to respect for private and family life) to decide to become a parent by her deceased husband.
Mr Brewer had put his sperm into storage in April 2005 in order to enable his wife, Elizabeth Warren, to conceive a child by him after his death. However, he was not advised by his Clinic as to the statutory steps he needed to take in order for his sperm to be stored for longer than 10 years. In the event, he sadly passed away shortly before the lawful expiry of his consent, leaving his widow insufficient time to decide whether she wished to conceive his child.
I have posted previously on the logistical difficulties in legislating against genetic discrimination.
The prospect that genetic information not only affects insurance and employment opportunities is alarming enough. But it has many other implications: it could be used to deny financial backing or loan approval, educational opportunities, sports eligibility, military accession, or adoption eligibility. At the moment, the number of documented cases of discrimination on the basis of genetic test results is small. This is probably due to the relatively few conditions for which there are currently definitive genetic tests, coupled with the expense and difficulty of conducting these tests. But genetic discrimination is a time bomb waiting to be triggered and the implications of whole genome sequencing (WGS) are considered in a very interesting and readable report by the US Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues Privacy and Progress in Whole Genome Sequencing.
Why we should replace ‘revenge porn’ with ‘image based sexual abuse’ and reform the mens rea of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015
The digital world is becoming an increasingly dominant part of daily life. This has been thrown into sharp relief by the current public health crisis, which has seen almost every facet of our lives move online; from socialising, to work, to healthcare, to dating and sex. However, regulation of the digital world is struggling to keep pace with technological change (see the UK Human Rights Blog’s technology section for commentary on this phenomenon). Lawmakers simply cannot keep abreast of the reforms necessary to protect victims from online criminality. One area in which Parliament has made some progress is the sharing of private sexual images, or ‘revenge porn’, as it has come to be known. This article will outline recent developments in the law around sharing of private sexual images; interrogate the terminology used in this area; and suggest reforms to the relevant legislation.
In 2014, the Crown Prosecution Service published guidelines on existing legislation, in an attempt to support convictions for the crime of sharing private sexual images without consent. However, after mounting pressure from campaign groups, the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 (‘the Act’) created the offence of ‘Disclosing private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress’, which is punishable by up to two years in prison.
More recently, legislation around sharing private sexual images became the subject of a new campaign, seeking to make the act of threatening to share private sexual images a criminal offence. This campaign was supported by organisations such as Refuge, 44,615 of whose supporters wrote to government ministers requesting a change in the legislation. A reality television star, Zara Mcdermott, added her voice to this campaign in a BBC documentary entitled ‘Zara McDermott: Revenge Porn’. In the documentary, Ms McDermott recounts two instances of having private sexual images shared without her consent. The documentary also covers the harrowing story of Damilya Jossipalenya, who was at university in London when she jumped to her death from the window of her flat. Ms Jossipalenya’s suicide followed a campaign of harassment by her boyfriend, who had threatened to share a video of Ms Jossipalenya with her family in Kazakhstan. This segment of the documentary ends with Ms McDermott explaining why she believes the threat to share private sexual images can be equally as damaging as the act of sharing them.
The Court of Protection has ruled that an autistic woman with an IQ of 64 does not have the mental capacity to engage in sexual relations, on the basis that she does not understand the implications and cannot effectively deploy the information she has understood into her decisions.
H is a 29 year old woman with mild learning difficulties and atypical autism. Although there is potential for improvement in her conditions, they are life-long.
She had a history of a very early and very deep degree of sexualisation. H engaged in sexual behaviour with others which she did not always consent to, one man having been convicted in 2003 of her attempted rape, and when she did consent the behaviour was still unconventional and exploitative. She had been on the child protection register and had extensive entries in her adult records with the local authority. In short, she is highly sexualised and vulnerable.
ARB v IVF Hammersmith & Another  Civ 2803 (17 December 2018) – read judgment
Legal policy in the UK has traditionally prohibited the granting of damages for the wrongful conception or birth of a child in cases of negligence. In this case the Court of Appeal has confirmed that this bar is equally applicable to a wrongful birth arising from a breach of contract.
The facts of the case are set out in my podcast on the first instance decision (Episode 12 of Law Pod UK). Briefly, an IVF clinic had implanted the claimant father’s gametes into his former partner without his consent. This occurred after the couple had sought fertility treatment at the clinic resulting in the birth of a son some years previously. Following standard practice, the clinic froze five embryos made with their gametes. Subsequently, the couple separated. Some time after this separation the mother, R, attended the clinic without ARB and informed the staff that they had decided to have another child. The form requiring consent from ARB for thawing and implanting the embyro was signed by R, and the clinic failed to notice the forgery. R went on to give birth to a healthy daughter, E, who is now the sibling of ARB’s son. There is a Family Court order confirming parental responsibility and shared residence in respect of both children. Continue reading →
A and others (In the matter of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008) – read judgment
This case is best summed up in Sir James Munby’s own words:
This judgment relates to a number of cases where much joy but also, sadly, much misery has been caused by the medical brilliance, unhappily allied with the administrative incompetence, of various fertility clinics. The cases I have before me are, there is every reason to fear, only the small tip of a much larger problem.
These cumulative cases
must raise questions as to the adequacy if not of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority’s regulation then of the extent of its regulatory powers. That the incompetence to which I refer is, as I have already indicated, administrative rather than medical is only slight consolation, given the profound implications of the parenthood which in far too many cases has been thrown into doubt. This is a matter I shall return to at the end of this judgment.
KW (by her litigation friend) and others v Rochdale Council (Court of Appeal)  EWCA Civ 1054 – read judgment
This was an appeal against a ruling by Mostyn J in the Court of Protection concerning a consent order between an incapacitated woman, the appellant, and the local authority ( EWCOP 13). The judge had held that the 52 year old appellant, who had been severely incapacitated following surgery, had not been subject to deprivation of liberty contrary to Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights by her 24 hour care package. In his view, the test for deprivation of liberty in Cheshire West and Chester Council v P  UKSC 19 did not apply. In paragraph 17 of his judgment Mostyn J remarked that it was impossible to see how the protective measures in place for KW could linguistically be characterised as a “deprivation of liberty”. Quoting from JS Mill, he said that the protected person was “merely in a state to require being taken care of by others, [and] must be protected against their own actions as well as external injury”. At para 25, he said that he found that KW was not “in any realistic way being constrained from exercising the freedom to leave, in the required sense, for the essential reason that she does not have the physical or mental ability to exercise that freedom”.
He therefore ordered that it was in KW’s best interests to reside at the address at which she was residing and to receive a package of care in accordance with her assessed needs. The Court of Appeal upheld her appeal against this ruling, holding that the judge had been bound by Cheshire West and had made a material error of law. Continue reading →
In 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.
M, R (on the application of) Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority  EWCA Civ 611 (30 June 2016)
The Court of Appeal has ruled that a 60 year old woman may use her daughter’s frozen eggs to give birth to her own grandchild. Her daughter, referred to as A in the judgment, died of cancer at the age of 28 in 2011. The High Court had dismissed M’s argument that the HFEA had acted unlawfully by refusing to allow the eggs to be exported to a fertility clinic in the United States where an embryo would be created using donor sperm, and implanted in the mother.
The HFEA is bound by statute (the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority Act) to provide services using a person’s gametes only where that person consents. The difficulty here was that while A had consented to treatment for egg removal and storage, including storage after her death, she had not completed a specific form giving details of the use that was now proposed.
The essence of the appellants’ challenge was there was “clear evidence” of what A wanted to happen to her eggs after she died. “All available evidence” showed that she wanted her mother to have her child after her death, the Court was told.
Arden LJ, giving the judgement of the court, found that the judge below had reached his conclusion on the basis of a “misstatement of certain of the evidence” about A’s consent by the Committee. Continue reading →
Updated | On 5 November 2010 judgment was handed down in JIH v News Group Newspapers ( EWHC 2818 (QB)) – Read judgment.
Update, 18 November 2010: The case has returned to the High Court after the Daily Telegraph reported a key detail relating to JIH’s identity. This was contrary – said JIH – to the court order. Mr Justice Tugendhat refused the application by JIH that his/her identity not be disclosed. However, he did sound a warning that “editors and publishers have regard to the “duties and responsibilities” referred to in Art 10(2) itself. These duties and responsibilities include a requirement that they comply with orders of the court, and that they take all necessary steps to ensure that journalists understand this necessity.” If they ignore that warning, warned the judge, they may be found in contempt of court.
This post by Mark Thomson first appeared on the media law blog Inforrm, and is reproduced with permission and thanks
The Christian Institute and others (Appellants) v The Lord Advocate (Respondent) (Scotland)  UKSC 51 – read judgment here
The Supreme Court has today unanimously struck down the Scottish Parliaments’s Named Persons scheme as insufficiently precise for the purposes of Article 8, overturning two previous decisions at the Court of Session (see our previous coverage here).
R (o.t.a Buckingham County Council and others) v. Secretary of State for Transport, 15 March 2012, Ouseley J – read judgment – Updated
In a 259-page judgment, Ouseley J has today rejected all but one of the challenges brought to the Government’s plans for HS2. This is the proposed high speed rail link to Birmingham, and potentially beyond. The host of challengers (including local authorities, local residents and action groups (under the umbrella of HS2AA), and – wait for it – Aylesbury Golf Club) brought a host of challenges – 10 in all, of which 9 were unsuccessful. I shall do my best to summarise those of wider interest.
The Court of Appeal rejected these contentions, as had the judge before them. But Sullivan LJ, a highly experienced planning judge, was far from convinced. He thought that a key question about the SEA Directive ought to be determined by the EU Court (the CJEU) before domestic judges could form a settled view on it.
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