In the recent case of David Parris v. Trinity College Dublin, the CJEU found that the ineligibility for a survivor’s pension of an employee’s same-sex partner, in circumstances where the 2011 recognition of their civil partnership by Irish law had come after that employee’s 60th birthday and therefore too late to trigger the pension entitlement, gave rise to neither direct nor indirect sexual orientation discrimination.
The UK Government had made written submissions in Parris, hoping for reasoning that would support its defence of an exception in the Equality Act 2010 permitting unequal survivor’s pensions for same-sex civil partners and spouses. The compatibility of the UK’s exception with EU law and the ECHR will be tested in John Walker v. Innospec Ltd, an appeal to heard by the UK Supreme Court (UKSC) on 8-9 March 2017. For a detailed analysis of the Court of Appeal’s judgment, see R. Wintemute, March 2016, 45(1) Industrial Law Journal 90-100.
Although it is suggested that the CJEU erred in finding no sexual orientation discrimination in Parris, it focussed on a rule of the Irish pension scheme that does not exist in Walker, namely that the employee’s marriage or civil partnership must take place before their 60th birthday. It is therefore suggested that Parris will not help the UK Government in Walker.
Angela Patrick of Doughty Street Chambers provides an initial reaction on the implications of the decisions in Tele Sverige/Watson for domestic surveillance and the Investigatory Powers Act 2016.
In an early holiday delivery, the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) handed down its judgment in the joined cases of Tele Sverige/Watson & Ors (C-203/15/C-698/15), this morning.
Hotly anticipated by surveillance and privacy lawyers, these cases consider the legality of data retention laws in Europe, following the decision in Digital Rights Ireland that the Data Retention Directive was unlawful. Broadly, the CJEU confirms that EU law precludes national legislation that prescribes the general and indiscriminate retention of data. The Court concludes that the emergency data retention legislation passed in a few days in 2014 – the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 – is unlawful. That legislation is, of course, due to lapse at the end of December 2016 in any event.
This morning’s decision comes just too late to have influenced the passage into law of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (“IPA”) – the new domestic bible on bulk surveillance, interception, communications data retention and acquisition and equipment interference – which received Royal Assent in early December. However, what the CJEU has to say about surveillance and privacy may determine whether the IPA – also known by some as the Snoopers Charter – has a long or a short shelf-life.
The powers in IPA are built on the same model as its predecessor and provides for broad powers of data retention with limited provision for safeguards of the kind that the Court considered crucial. Significant parts of that newly minted legislation lay open to challenge. Continue reading
The election of Donald Trump as the next US President has shaken our faith in democracy and is a serious blow to the cause of human rights in the US and around the world. President-elect Trump’s campaign was a repudiation of the political and social progress made under his predecessor. It was an explicit threat to those who are vulnerable – whether because of their religion, race, gender, sex, sexual orientation, or physical abilities. Trump’s election, an ‘American tragedy’, comes at the end of a year in which the values that are said to underpin civic society in the US and Europe have come under significant threat.
When President-elect Trump’s inauguration takes place early next year he will seek to set the tone in the Western hemisphere, and across the globe, for the rest of this decade. It is clear, even before we address specific policies or world-views, that we will miss the grace and poise of President Obama. These are qualities that President-elect Trump revels to reject. We are unlikely to hear an affirmation of rights such as that President Obama made with the alliterative triad of Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall.
What then, for human rights, in the time of Trump? Continue reading
Oversight of the Intelligence Services is a matter of enormous public importance, as counter-terrorism powers are enhanced to combat a pernicious and persistent threat.
A recent Report by the Intelligence Services Commissioner, Sir Mark Waller, assisted by Oliver Sanders of these Chambers, dispels some misconceptions about contact between the intelligence services and Michael Adebolajo, one of 2 men convicted of murdering Fusilier Lee Rigby. It also shines a light on how HMG applies its policy on the treatment of detainees held overseas – in Adebolajo’s case, by a Kenyan partner counter-terrorism unit in 2010. Not all of the Report’s findings make comfortable reading for the Intelligence Services.
HMG’s policy was, and remains, never to assist, condone, encourage, solicit or participate in any form of mistreatment of detainees. The 2010 Consolidated Guidance to Intelligence Officers on the Detention and Interviewing of Detainees Overseas, is intended to guide UK personnel who work with overseas agencies where, by definition, they are unlikely to be in total control of the situation in which detainees are held. Continue reading
R (o.t.a. Johnson) v. Secretary of State for the Home Department  UKSC 56
19 October 2016 – read judgment
In Jamaica in 1985, a baby was born to British father and a Jamaican mother. The child’s parents never married, and at the age of four he moved to the UK with his father. Under the law in force at the time, as an ‘illegitimate’ child, he did not automatically acquire British citizenship. If his mother had been the British parent, if his parents had ever married each other, or if an application had been made while he was a child, he would have become a British citizen. But he did not.
Two decades pass and the Secretary of State attempts to deport that individual, Mr Johnson, following a string of very serious offences. He appeals on the ground that deportation would be unlawful discrimination. If only his parents had been married, he would be a citizen and not be liable for removal.
The Supreme Court agreed. It held that there was no justification for someone in his position being liable to deportation simply through being born out of wedlock, which was an accident of birth over which a child has no control.
The Court also declared that a “good character” requirement for acquiring citizenship which applied only to illegitimate children was unlawfully discriminatory and incompatible with the Convention.
This judgment represents a further step towards equal rights for children born out of wedlock.
On the occasion of the publication of the book Parliaments and the European Court of Human Rights by Professors Alice Donald and Philip Leach, Judge Robert Spano of the European Court of Human Rights comments on the general themes presented in the book and its contribution to the ongoing debate on the European Convention on Human Rights and the Principle of Subsidiarity.
A culture of human rights in national parliaments
The effective implementation of human rights requires a culture of human rights at all levels of government as well as in society in general. Therefore, it is a possibly transformative development in European human rights law that the role of national parliaments in the realisation of human rights protection within the Convention system has increasingly become a focus-point in recent years, both at the level of policy within the Council of Europe, but as well, and importantly, at the level of adjudication of actual human rights cases in the Strasbourg Court.
This new book provides an excellent overview of this important development, by highlighting the arguments in favour of a more parliamentary-focussed human rights jurisprudence, while at the same time identifying the potential risks to be addressed in future cases.
As a serving judge of the Strasbourg Court, I would like to make a couple of remarks on the core of the normative argument in this regard, as developed by the authors, on the relationship between human rights, democratic governance and legitimate authority.
The first is a doctrinal point, while the second is more practical.
Understanding Standing: Post 3 of 3 of Article 263(4) TFEU
This is a final post in a series of three on standing in EU law. It will focus on whether the present position under Art 263(4) TFEU satisfies the principle of effective judicial protection.
Part I) Effective judicial remedies.
Effective judicial protection is of a long pedigree. We can trace an embryonic form of this right in the Magna Carta of 1215 which provides, in Article 29, that “no freeman is to be taken or imprisoned or disseised of his (…) liberties (…) save by lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land. To no-one will we sell or deny or delay right or justice” (See also Arts 11 to 13). It also emerged fairly early on in the jurisprudence of the European Union in the mid-1980s, with the CJEU starting to toy with the idea that the effectiveness of EU law could impose certain obligations at the domestic level in order to ensure that effectiveness, Case C-14/83 Von Colson and more famously Case C-410/92 Johnson. The principle can now can be found enshrined in Art 47 of the Charter, as follows:
Right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial
Everyone whose rights and freedoms guaranteed by the law of the Union are violated has the right to an effective remedy before a tribunal in compliance with the conditions laid down in this Article. (…)
This Charter has equal status to the other two Treaties constituting the EU, the TEU and TFEU (see TEU, Art 6(1)) Thus, as has been stressed on many an occasion, the very applicability of EU law entails the applicability of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Charter. In other words, effective judicial protection is a fundamental postulate of EU law – where there is EU law there must be effective judicial protection. Continue reading