Barry Bennell was a football coach who sexually abused a number of boys in the 1980s. He is serving a sentence of 34 years imprisonment and, at the age of 68, is likely to die in jail. The Claimants in this case were his victims. Mr Justice Johnson described each as a ‘remarkable’ men, courageously giving evidence and some waiving their rights to anonymity determined to do everything they could to encourage others to come forward and ensure Bennell was prosecuted and, ultimately, convicted.
The issue in this case was not the veracity of their account – the judge made is explicitly clear they were believed and the Defendant did not question the fact the abuse had occurred. The dispute was whether civil liability attached to Manchester City football club for the abuse committed by Bennell. There were two fundamental hurdles for the Claimants: limitation and vicarious liability. On the particular facts, the court found that they failed to overcome both.
The pandemic has had a knock-on effect of increasing awareness of devolution. The governments of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have been responsible for navigating the pandemic in their own countries, and the approaches taken have sometimes significantly diverged. With the COVID Regulations affecting the essentials of our daily lives, public attention across the UK has been drawn to the powers of devolved governments to govern differently from Westminster.
One surprising difference between the Welsh and UK Governments – and one that has evaded much public scrutiny – is that the Welsh Regulations created a new power of entry which allows police officers to enter people’s homes in certain circumstances to investigate breaches of the COVID Regulations. No such power has ever been included in the English Regulations, and the power of English police officers to enter people’s homes is more restricted, governed by the provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (‘PACE’) and the common law rules for dealing with breaches of the peace.
The practical issues around the Welsh police power of entry to people’s homes have fallen into the background in recent months, because it mainly arises when there is or has been a suspected unlawful gathering in someone’s home. (Although on 26 December 2021, a new restriction was introduced banning gatherings of more than 30 in homes.) With restrictions hopefully easing again, reflecting on this regulation raises broader questions about human rights and legal scrutiny in Wales.
In a judgment handed down on 24 November 2021, the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal concerning the lawfulness of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (“the Scheme”) which was introduced by the Government in April 2020 during the first lockdown as part of its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The purpose of the Scheme was to provide payments for persons carrying on a trade where their business had been adversely affected by the pandemic. The payments were to be calculated by reference to the average trading profits (“ATP”) of the preceding full tax years (2016/17, 2017/18, 2018/2019).
The First Appellant, Motherhood Plan, also known as “Pregnant Then Screwed”, is a registered charity with aims to end discrimination faced by women and mothers by campaigning to change legislation, raising awareness in the media and working with employers to change business practice and culture. The Second Appellant, Ms Kerry Chamberlain, worked as a self-employed energy analyst. In the tax year 2017-18, she took a 39-week period of maternity leave after the birth of her second child, and, in the following tax year, she took a further 39-week period of leave after the birth of her third child. As a result of her periods away from work, her trading profits were reduced.
They claimed that contrary to Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“the Convention”), read with Article 1 of the First Protocol of the Convention, the Scheme unlawfully discriminated against self-employed women who took a period of leave relating to maternity or pregnancy in any of those three preceding full tax years since the level of support granted to them under the Scheme was not representative of their usual profits.
Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta platform is under pressure from the UK’s data watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), over reports that their latest virtual reality headset, the ‘Oculus Quest 2’, does not have adequate parental controls, exposing children to harmful content. The ICO said it will investigate whether it violates the so-called ‘Children’s Code’, a set of regulations introduced in the UK four months ago which seeks to protect children online. The campaign group, Centre of Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), conducted research on the device, finding frequent instances of inappropriate behaviour on the app often used by Oculus Quest 2 players, VRChat. This included two ‘heavily breathing’ men following a child’s avatar, and another man joking that he was ‘a convicted sex offender’. If Meta has breached the code, it could be fined up to £2.5bn. However, it is unclear whether the device will be found to have breached the Code even if insufficient parental controls are in place, given that the regulations largely focus on the misuse of data, rather than the content children are exposed to on apps.
In our latest episode I and co-presenter Emma-Louise Fenelon have selected and put together some of our favourite snippets from the past year. This episode ranges from Artificial Intelligence, the government’s abandon with Henry VIII powers, to vicarious trauma in lawyers dealing with traumatic casework and the Henrietta Lacks claim against a pharmaceutical company for profiting from her cell lines in 1951.
This selection is by no means comprehensive and we’ve had to leave many deserving episodes out in the interests of brevity. For those wanting to keep abreast of their CPD requirements or just after a good informative listen, go back to some of our episodes on Medical and Inquest Law, Loss of Chance in clinical negligence, and “Historical” Crimes: Ireland’s unmarried mothers and their children.
We have been building on our impressive audience figures around the world, with listeners in over twenty countries including the United States, New Zealand, Spain, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan. In the summer of 2021 we passed the half a million listeners mark.
As we settle into the new year we have plenty of interesting names and topics in the pipeline for you. Law Pod UK is one of the longest running legal podcasts from barristers’ chambers in the UK and we have commanded sufficient authority and respect to gain access to big names, such as the founder of the Magnitsky Act, Bill Browder, and former chief prosecutor for England and Wales Nazir Afzal OBE.
The Colston Four have been acquitted of criminal damage by a jury for their role in pulling down the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol and pushing it into Bristol Harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest in June 2020. Under the Criminal Damage Act 1971, a defendant will have a defence to criminal damage if they can prove they had a ‘lawful excuse’ for their actions. In this case, the four defendants put forward three lawful excuses. First, they argued that they had been acting to prevent the crime of public indecency which was being committed in the retention of the statue after 30 years of petitions to remove it, given the serious offence and distress it caused. Relatedly, they contended that Bristol County Council had committed misconduct in failing to take it down, but this was withdrawn from the jury by HHJ Peter Blair QC as there was insufficient evidence. Second, they argued that they genuinely believed the statue was the property of Bristol citizens, and that those citizens would consent to the statue being pulled down. Finally, they contended that a conviction would be a disproportionate interference with their rights under Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (to freedom of expression and assembly). The verdict has been criticised by some as a politically motivated decision which has no proper basis in law, and a petition to retry the protesters has received over 13,000 signatures. Supporters of the Colston four maintain on the other hand that their excuses have a real foundation in the law, and that therefore it had been open to the jury to find the defendants not guilty.
The approach of juries in protest cases has come under further scrutiny in light of the new proposal in the Police Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill to increase the maximum sentence for the damage of memorials to 10 years imprisonment, irrespective of the cost of the damage. The increase in sentence means that all cases would necessarily be tried by a jury, which some legal commentators have suggested makes it more likely that perpetrators will go free.
In one of its final decisions of 2021, McQuillan, McGuigan and McKenna, the UK Supreme Court addressed challenges to the effectiveness of police investigations into events which took place during the Northern Ireland conflict. The European Court has long maintained that the right to life (Article 2 ECHR) and the prohibition upon torture and inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 3 ECHR) carry with them positive obligations on the state to conduct effective investigations. These “legacy” cases not only draw the Courts into debates over some of the most contentious aspects of the Northern Ireland conflict, in particular the involvement of state agents in killings and the infliction of serious harms upon individuals, but they also pose questions about how human rights law applied in the context of Northern Ireland as a jurisdiction before the enactment of the Human Rights Act 1998.
For reasons of economy, this post will focus on the facts of the McGuigan and McKenna elements of this litigation, which concerned the ill-treatment of detainees who had been interned in the 1970s (while also exploring broader questions which concerned all elements in the litigation). The scope of this ill-treatment, involving the subjection of internees to the infamous “five techniques” (including hooding of detainees to disorient) as part of interrogations, has long been known. Indeed, the resultant case of Ireland v United Kingdom remains a key turning point in the development of the European Convention on Human Rights, demonstrating that the Strasbourg Court would be willing to uphold human rights claims against an important member state even as it sought to tackle political violence. In that decision, although the Court found that the five techniques breached Article 3 ECHR, it discussed them in terms of inhuman and degrading treatment and not torture. Releases of documents by the National Archives (highlighted in a 2014 RTÉ documentary), however, showed UK Cabinet Ministers discussing the extent of the interrogation practices when they were taking place, and led to calls for fresh police investigations into whether there has been a coverup.
The European Court of Human Rights has, by a majority, declared the application inadmissible. The decision is final.
Background facts and law
The case concerned the refusal by a Christian-run bakery to make a cake with the words “Support Gay Marriage” and the QueerSpace logo on it which the applicant had ordered and the proceedings that had followed. The following summary is based on the Court’s press release.
The applicant, Gareth Lee, is a British national who was born in 1969 and lives in Belfast. He is associated with QueerSpace, an organisation for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Northern Ireland.
Although same-sex marriage had been enacted in the rest of the UK in 2014, it was made legal in Northern Ireland only in 2020.
In 2014, Mr Lee ordered a cake for a gay activist event set to take place not long after the Northern Irish Assembly had narrowly rejected legalising same-sex marriage for the third time. He ordered it from Asher’s bakery. The cake was to have an image of Bert and Ernie (popular children’s television characters), the logo of QueerSpace, and the slogan “Support Gay Marriage”. He paid in advance.
‘A bleak, poorly staffed, highly charged and toxic environment.’ (Callum Tulley)
The Brook House inquiry has recently concluded its first phase of hearings which took place between November 23 and December 10, 2021 at the International Dispute Resolution Centre (IDRC). Brook House is an Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) beside Gatwick Airport, originally managed by the private security company G4S. The inquiry was set up to investigate the actions and circumstances surrounding the ‘mistreatment’ of male detainees at Brook House between April 1 to August 31 2017, and specifically, examining whether the treatment experienced was contrary to Article 3 ECHR (the right not to be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment). This followed the damning footage filmed by an undercover reporter in Brook House during the ‘relevant period’, and broadcast on the BBC Panorama Programme ‘Undercover: Britain’s Immigration Secrets’ which aired on September 4, 2017.
Callum Tulley was employed by Brook House from January 2015 as a detention custody officer. In this role he witnessed the disturbing culture and conduct of employees there and raised these concerns by email to the BBC Panorama team in January 2016. After a 14– month period providing intelligence and completing specialist training, Tulley began to secretly film 109 hours of footage over a three-month period – the contents of which exposed the degrading treatment of detainees by employees.
Tanya Morahan had a history of paranoid schizophrenia and harmful cocaine use. From mid-May 2018 she was an inpatient at a rehabilitation unit operated by the Central & North West London NHS Foundation Trust. She was initially detained under s.3 of the Mental Health Act 1983 but on 25 June 2018 the section was rescinded. On 30 June 2018 Tanya left the unit but didn’t return until the next evening, 1 July. On the afternoon of 3 July 2018, again with her doctors’ agreement, she left the ward but didn’t return. The Trust asked the police to visit her. They visited on 4 July 2018 but she did not answer the door. She was ultimately found dead on 9 July 2018. [para 2].
The Coroner opened an inquest and found that Article 2 was not engaged. The family brought judicial review proceedings, arguing that: (1) the circumstances of Tanya’s death fell within a class of cases which gave rise to an automatic duty to conduct a Middleton inquest; (2) alternatively, that such duty arose because there were arguable breaches of a substantive operational duty (the Osman duty) owed by the Trust to take steps to avert the real and immediate risk of Tanya’s death by accidental drug overdose, a risk which was or ought to have been known to the Trust. [para 3].
This was an application for permission to challenge to the Managed Hotel Quarantine (MHQ) scheme. MHQ was put into place under Schedule 11 to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel and Operator Liability) (England) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021 No.582) (“the 2021 Regulations”). The 2021 Regulations were made on 14 May 2021 and came into force on 17 May 2021. They have been amended at various stages subsequently. Also amended have been the practical arrangements and, in particular, for the purposes of this case, a list of countries known as the “Red List” countries.
The claimants contended that the scheme violated the Article 5 ECHR rights of those who were subjected to it. A particular focus of the proposed claim for judicial review was to identify the category of travellers who came to (or back to) England from Red List countries into the MHQ scheme, and who were required to remain within the scheme, notwithstanding that they could demonstrate that they had been vaccinated.
From 26 December new Covid rules came into effect in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. All three nations have limited the size of public events and face coverings are compulsory in most indoor public spaces. Covid passports or proof of a negative test result is required at many venues. Nightclubs will close in Wales and Scotland from 27 December and in Northern Ireland from 26 December. People in Scotland are also advised to limit social contact to two other households and in Wales social distancing of 2 metres is required in all public and work spaces.
The only change to the current Covid guidance for England is the reduction of Covid self-isolation time from 10 to seven days, provided people have two negative test results. Face masks remain compulsory in most indoor public venues and a Covid passport or negative test result is required for nightclubs and some other venues.
And so we come to the end of another year. The Covid-19 pandemic has continued to dominate the news, particularly with the very concerning surge of the Omicron variant this month. Many reading this will be separated from loved ones over Christmas. The year has also seen the return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan after the US withdrawal at the end of August, the resumption of military rule in Myanmar and the ongoing persecution of the Uyghurs by the Chinese government, this year recognised by the House of Commons and the US government (as well as many other bodies and organisations) as constituting a genocide. So, one could say that this year has rivalled last year for infamy.
But what, I hear you ask, about the law? As always, this year has been packed with fascinating and important legal developments — many of which you may have caught, but some of which may have passed under the radar. And so, please refresh your glass (or mug) and join me on another adventure as we review the 10 cases that defined 2021.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Justice published its full consultation (the ‘Consultation’) on Human Rights Act (the ‘Act’) reform. The Consultation criticises the current application of the Act in the UK and sets out the government’s proposals for repealing the Act and replacing it with a UK Bill of Rights. The 123-page Consultation follows the Independent Human Rights Act Review (‘IHRAR’), which reported to the government in late October, and was published on the government website on the same day as the Consultation.
The Consultation runs through the government’s now familiar issues with the Act, putting significant weight on cherry picked human rights cases which it is eager to summarise in its own words. For instance, R (Ellis) v Chief Constable of the Essex Police 7  EWHC 1321 (Admin),  2 FLR 566 is cited in the Consultation as an example of the application of the Act going ‘too far’. The Consultation presents the issue in the case, of Essex police publicising photographs of convicted offenders in train stations, as one that should clearly be beyond the remit of the Act. It makes no mention of the children and relatives of the offenders whose interests were balanced with the interests of the public in naming and shaming offenders in the hopes of deterring further crime (in the end, the scheme was permitted to continue).
This blog is maintained for information purposes only. It is not intended to be a source of legal advice and must not be relied upon as such. Blog posts reflect the views and opinions of their individual authors, not of chambers as a whole.