Lucy Eastwood – “A law on the move: Are Local Authorities vicariously liable for abuse committed by foster parents against children in their care?”

Supreme Court

“The law of vicarious liability is on the move” proclaimed Lord Phillips in the last judgment he delivered as President of the Supreme Court: Various Claimants v Catholic Child Welfare Society [2012] UKSC 56, (“the Christian Brothers case”). In a judgment recently handed down by the Supreme Court in the case of Armes (Appellant) v Nottinghamshire County Council (Respondent) [2017] UKSC 60, His Lordship has been proved correct.

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Implementation of ECHR judgments – have we reached a crisis point?- Lucy Moxham

In recent years direct challenges to the authority of the Court within a handful of member states have also become more explicit and vocal” and “the Convention system crumbles when one member state, and then the next, and then the next, cherry pick which judgments to implement.

So said Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, last year. This raises the question of whether the Convention system is facing an implementation crisis and what more might be done by the Committee of Ministers, the regional body responsible for supervising the execution of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.

Last month, the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law and Leicester Law School convened a public event that asked an expert panel to consider these issues. Speakers included Merris Amos (Queen Mary University London); Dr Ed Bates (Leicester Law School); Eleanor Hourigan (Deputy Permanent Representative, UK Delegation to the Council of Europe); Nuala Mole (The AIRE Centre); and Prof Philip Leach (EHRAC, Middlesex University London and the European Implementation Network). Murray Hunt (Legal Adviser to the UK Joint Committee on Human Rights and incoming Director of the Bingham Centre) chaired the event.

While a detailed summary of the presentations is available on the Bingham Centre website, this post highlights some of the headline points from the conversation. Continue reading

The role of employee legitimate expectations in unfair dismissal claims – Lauren Godfrey

A recent EAT ruling JP Morgan v Ktorza continues a line of decisions which limit the role of employee expectations in the determination of unfair dismissals claims further curtailing the extent to which employees can rely on public law notions or human rights principles to challenge their dismissals.

In this case HHJ Richardson re-affirmed the correct approach to dismissal claims: (1) it is the employer’s view objectively judged which falls to be considered not the expectations of the employee; (2) the Employment Tribunal is not to substitute its own view; and (3) the s 98(1)-(2) of the Employment Rights Act 1996, gateway of ‘conduct’ as the reason for a dismissal should not be conflated with the band of reasonable responses test under s 98(4).

Background facts and law

Mr Ktorza was a highly paid sales executive in the trading arm of JP Morgan Securities Plc before his dismissal after an incident of alleged misconduct triggering an earlier (unrelated) final written warning. The more recent incident which resulted in JP Morgan deciding to dismiss Mr Ktorza was a practice known as ‘short-filling’ in respect of trades; a practice which carried financial and regulatory risk for JP Morgan. Continue reading

International human rights can help reverse yet another heavy blow on sexual and reproductive health

Koldo Casla  of the Policy, Research and Training Manager of Just Fair @JustFairUK, an organisation that monitors and advocates economic and social rights in the UK

Women’s sexual and reproductive rights are not safe and accessible in all corners of the United Kingdom: see Rosalind English’s post on the Northern Irish situation here and here.

Update: the government has announced its intention to make funding available for women travelling from Northern Ireland to have free termination services on the NHS in England (29 June 2017).

Abortion is still a crime in Northern Ireland. Women who choose to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights have to travel to mainland Britain, but they have to face costs (about £900 in the recent case discussed by Rosalind English) that would not apply if they lived in England, Wales or Scotland.

By a majority of 3 to 2, the Supreme Court ruled that, while this situation does in principle concern the right to enjoy a private and family life without discrimination (Articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights), the difference in treatment is justified because the decision on this matter falls under the powers of the devolved administration of Northern Ireland (paragraph 20 of the Judgment). And therefore the human rights of women living in Northern Ireland are not being breached. Continue reading

Once more unto the breach

The ClientEarth litigation on air pollution rolls into a new phase, six years after they first began proceedings. This post tells the story.

 On 31 May 2017, the environmental NGO ClientEarth announced that it had launched a third round of litigation against the government in relation to air pollution.

ClientEarth have stated that the policy measures set out in DEFRA’s latest draft Air Quality Plan for the UK (the 2017 Plan) do not meet the legal standard, and that more ambitious and far-reaching government action is required.

The 2017 Plan here, which is open to consultation until 15 June (so it ends today), addresses the continuing illegal levels of Nitrogen Dioxide (“NOx”) pollution that are present in both urban and rural areas all across the UK. However, environmental groups have been largely united in their criticism of the 2017 Plan’s limited content. The government had been required by European law to achieve NOx compliance by 2010, but the 2017 Plan now anticipates NOx breaches continuing into the 2030’s.

Currently, 40,000 premature deaths per year in the UK are estimated to be associated with air pollution.

ClientEarth have created an online platform for submitting responses here.

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Breverse: Politically Problematic but Legally Possible, by Rosie Slowe

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On 29 March 2017, Theresa May’s Article 50 letter of notice was delivered to Donald Tusk, thereby formally triggering the Treaty-based process for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. The question remains: is this trajectory irreversible, or can the UK rescind its notification?

While the legal arguments in favour of Article 50’s revocability have already been raised repeatedly in academic discourse, they now merit reconsideration. The results of the UK general election on 8 June have brought about a substantive change of circumstances, and the notion of Breverse no longer seems relegated to the realms of academic hypotheticals. This post explores the legal reality of revocability as a matter of UK constitutional, EU and international law, before considering how the current political situation interacts with this.

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Munira Ali: Examining the dissolution of the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ inquiry into mental health and deaths in prisons: another missed opportunity?

The issues relating to imprisonment of individuals with mental health problems in the UK has attracted considerable attention, as the number of self-inflicted deaths has risen to the highest number since records began in 1978. With a rate of one prison suicide every three days, the director of the Howard League described the current rate as having reached “epidemic proportions”.  The steady rise of deaths in custody has prompted a series of inquiries in recent years, and has drawn scrutiny from UN bodies and Special Procedures, and more recently, UN Member States as part of a periodic review of its human rights performance. However, despite this, little progress has been made.

In view of this reality, the Joint Committee on Human Rights launched an inquiry into mental health and deaths in prison in 2016 in order to determine whether a human rights based approach can help to prevent deaths in prison of individuals with mental health conditions i.e. one that satisfies acceptable standards as laid down by national and international human rights law, and recognises the particular position of vulnerability in which detainees are placed. The inquiry specifically looked at why previous recommendations had not been implemented. To this end, the Committee received both oral and written evidence from authors of the various domestic inquiry reports and individuals whose lives have been directly affected by the issue, including relatives of individuals who had committed suicide in prisons.

However, the inquiry was unexpectedly cut short as a result of the decision to call a snap election.

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