Media By: Guest Contributor


“No revolution” says the Supreme Court as it rules on defamation

17 June 2019 by

Lachaux v Independent Print Ltd and another [2019] UKSC 27

The Supreme Court has unanimously held that the Defamation Act 2013 altered the common law presumption of general damage in defamation. It is no longer sufficient for the imposition of liability that a statement is inherently injurious or has a “tendency” to injure a claimant’s reputation. Instead, the language of section 1(1) of the Act requires a statement to produce serious harm to reputation before it can be considered defamatory.

The factual background

Mr Bruno Lachaux, a French national working in the United Arab Emirates, had an acrimonious divorce from his British wife, Afsana. In January and February 2014 British newspapers published articles making allegations about Mr Lachaux’s conduct towards Afsana, including that he had been violent and abusive, had hidden their son’s passport to stop her from removing him from the UAE and had falsely accused her of abducting him.

Mr Lachaux brought libel actions against three newspapers in respect of five articles.


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Proselytising nurse’s dismissal upheld by the Court of Appeal

30 May 2019 by

Kuteh v Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust [2019] EWCA Civ 818

The Court of Appeal unanimously ruled that a nurse’s dismissal for improper proselytising was not unfair and that the hospital trust’s decision was not in contravention of the claimant’s rights as guaranteed by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The claimant, a committed Christian, had been employed as a band 5 nurse by the Trust since 2007. Following a medication error, she had been given a final written warning and transferred to work in a pre-operative assessment role. In this role the claimant was required to go through a pre-operative form with the patients. The form required the claimant to make a simple inquiry into the patient’s religious beliefs; importantly “it did not open the door to further religious discussion.” [7]

In March and April 2016 several complaints were made by patients about the over-zealous religious preaching of the claimant, with one patient being told shortly before major bowel surgery that he had a better chance of survival if he prayed to God.

Following these complaints the matron gave the claimant both oral and written warning that her proselytising was not acceptable. The claimant confirmed that she would not engage in religious discussion unless prompted by the patient.

Two further complaints were made in May and the claimant was suspended. Whilst suspended a further complaint was made alleging that the claimant had forced a patient to sing Psalm 23 out loud in what he described as a “very bizarre” encounter that was “like a Monty Python skit.”

The trust investigated the claims and after a disciplinary hearing the claimant was dismissed for repeated and inappropriate misconduct, including a breach of paragraph 20.7 of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) code which prohibits nurses from expressing their own personal views in an inappropriate way.


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The GDPR v Machine Learning Algorithms

10 May 2019 by

Matthew Fisher is a doctor and aspiring barrister with an interest and experience in MedTech.

Josef. K the protagonist of Kafka’s novel ‘The Trial’ was an ambitious and successful banker prior to his unexpected arrest. The criminal charges brought against him were never explained because they were beyond the comprehension of all but the most senior judges. Attempting to understand his guilt, consumed K’s every thought – he was distracted at work, subservient to his lawyer and ultimately docile when led to his execution. ‘The Trial’ eloquently argued that transparency is a prerequisite of accountability. In the Age of the Algorithm, Kafka’s novel is now more relevant than ever.

Machine learning algorithms increasingly regulate our lives making decisions about us in finance, education, employment and justice. Ultimately, it will become pervasive in most, if not all aspects of decision making in the foreseeable future. But what is a machine learning algorithm? How does it decide? What rights do data subjects have? This article aims to answer all three of these questions.


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Brexit: Is the UK’s ‘Constitutional Moment’ here at last?

17 April 2019 by

The scene at the signing of the US Constitution

Codified constitutions are most commonly adopted following a major schism with the previous order. For example, following an armed uprising such as the American War of Independence or the French Revolution. The sweeping away of the old regime, of necessity, demands the creation of new fundamental principles and rules to organise the State. A codified constitution also presents an opportunity to set out the core values on which the nation can rally around. It is commonly asserted that the lack of such a critical break in UK history since the 17th century explains the absence of a codified constitution.


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High Court suspends Home Office deportations policy

21 March 2019 by

R (Medical Justice) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2019] CO/543/2019, Walker J, 14 March 2019, written reasons here

The High Court delivered the latest in a series of blows to the Government’s ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy on Thursday.

Walker J granted Medical Justice an interim injunction which will prevent the Home Office from removing or deporting people from the country without notice.


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No Deal Brexit may be unlawful — a view from Rose Slowe

19 March 2019 by

Rose Slowe is an Honorary Research Fellow at University of Bristol Law School, an author on EU law, and a barrister at Foundry Chambers.

Leaving the EU without a deal on 29 March 2019 is not the “legal default”, as has been repeatedly, but wrongly, asserted. It would, in fact, be in violation of the supreme law at both the domestic and supranational level, namely the UK constitution and EU Treaties (or more broadly, the General Principles of Community Law which includes ECJ jurisprudence alongside the Treaties). As such, without an Act of Parliament authorising Brexit in whatever form, the legal default is that the Article 50 notice issued will lapse, if not unilaterally revoked.

Article 50(1) of the Treaty on European Union (‘TEU’) provides that a Member State may decide to withdraw from the EU in accordance with ‘its own constitutional requirements’. The Supreme Court, the highest judicial authority responsible for interpreting our unwritten constitution, confirmed in R (on the application of Miller and another) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2017] UKSC 5, that, as a matter of UK constitutional law, only an Act of Parliament can authorise, and give effect to, changes in domestic law and existing legal rights.

The Miller litigation, while lacking in a critical respect, as discussed elsewhere on the Blog, was an essential source of legal certainty in terms of our constitutional requirements and, specifically, the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty as it pertains to Brexit; judicial clarification at the highest level of legal authority. Of significance, the majority held that the European Communities Act 1972 has rendered EU law a source of domestic law and, now that it has acquired that status, removing it, wholly or in part, is a matter on which Parliament has to legislate.


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Reporting restrictions and the James Bulger murder – David Burrows

7 March 2019 by

In February 1993, two-year-old James Bulger was abducted, tortured and then murdered by two 10-year-olds, Jon Venables (JV) and Robert Thompson. As Sir Andrew McFarlane P says in the opening words of Venables & Anor v News Group Papers Ltd & Ors [2019] EWHC 494 (Fam) (4 March 2019): ‘The family of young James Bulger were and are deserving of the greatest sympathy as the indirect victims of this most horrific crime.’ It was James’s father and his uncle who brought the question of publicity – or not – for JV back to court.

Their application was to vary a ‘confidentiality’ injunction. The application was made on the basis – said the applicants – that JV’s name and image are now freely available should any member of the public undertake an Internet search. Details of his identity, and locations with which he has been connected in the past, have therefore become ‘common knowledge’.


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‘Right to rent’ scheme causes landlords to discriminate, rules High Court

5 March 2019 by

Samuel March is a paralegal and is due to start the Bar Professional Training Course later this year.

R (Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2019] EWHC 452 (Admin), Spencer J, 01 March 2019, judgement here

The government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy took a hit in a High Court judgement on Friday. Spencer J declared the “right to rent” scheme, laid out in sections 20-37 of the Immigration Act 2014, incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). He also declared that a decision by the Secretary of State for the Home Department to roll out the scheme in devolved territories without further evaluation of its efficacy and discriminatory impact would be irrational and would constitute a breach of s. 149 Equality Act 2010.

Background

The case challenged an element of the government’s ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy, which was recently rebranded the “compliant environment” following criticism.

The sections of the Act relevant to this case contained the provisions of the controversial “right to rent” scheme. This required private landlords to check the immigration status of tenants and potential tenants. Knowingly leasing a property to a disqualified person became a criminal offence, punishable by up to 5 years’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine, or both.

This claim was brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) a small charity seeking to ensure that “immigration law and policy are based on sound evidence, promote the rule of law and are underpinned by respect for human rights and human dignity.” They were supported by interventions from Liberty, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Residential Landlords Association (RLA).


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Serious mistakes in exercising investigatory powers – Lawrence McNamara

4 February 2019 by

At the end of January the Investigatory Powers Commissioner published his first annual report  for 2017. Its coverage of errors provides some very welcome transparency. But one matter remains opaque and exposes a legislative and policy challenge: when serious mistakes are made, who finds out? 

In this post I set out what the IPC report says in this regard, explain the legislative framework, and then identify the challenges and choices for both law and policy. The two points I highlight are:

  • There is a policy choice underpinning the IPC report about what information to present, and what not to present. It would be helpful and appropriate for the IPC to provide more clarity about how often people were affected by errors but notinformed of it.
  • There are policy and legislative challenges that remain with regard to whether people will – as it currently seems – neverbe informed that they were affected by a serious error. 

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A draft domestic abuse bill Domestic abuse in 2019 – David Burrows

31 January 2019 by

Domestic abuse is endemic in UK society. The law’s response has consisted of sporadic police prosecutions, a Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (rarely used), and uncoordinated remedies in family proceedings mostly under Family Law Act 1996 Part 4 (the non-molestation and the occupation order). Each is governed by a different set of procedural rules; and different means of enforcement. Views vary as to what is the legal definition of ‘domestic violence’ – still used by the Legal Aid Agency: see Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 – and ‘domestic abuse’, which is now defined by a family proceedings practice direction which deals only with children proceedings (yes, really): Family Procedure Rules 2010 PD12J.

Probably the only definition in law (as opposed to a Practice Direction) is still that of Lord Scarman in Davis v Johnson[1978] UKHL 1, [1979] AC 264 at 276 where of the then Domestic Violence and Matrimonial Proceedings Act 1976 he said:

I conclude that the mischief against which Parliament has legislated by … the Act [there was no definition in the 1976 Act] may be described in these terms: conduct by a family partner which puts at risk the security, or sense of security, of the other partner in the home. Physical violence, or the threat of it, is clearly within the mischief. But there is more to it than that. Homelessness can be as great a threat as physical violence to the security of a woman (or man) and her children….’. I suspect that definition – though it should be – is rarely cited. (Davis v Johnsonremains important: it provides the continuing House of Lords definition of the stare decisisrule.)


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Bangalore Principles on the Domestic Application of International Human Rights Norms

31 January 2019 by

Conference Report by Anthony Wenton

The evolution of international human rights law (IHRL) in the UN era has seen a paradigm shift away from a view of international law as applying solely to states and their relations with other states, to a focus on the rights of individuals and the duties states owe to citizens. As articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, certain rights are so fundamental as to be universal in scope based on our common humanity. As Reisman notes‘no serious scholar still supports the contention that internal human rights are “essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state” and hence insulated from international law.’

The question is how these inalienable rights, expressed so forcefully on the international level, can be transposed into domestic law. One way is through the process of judicial interpretation. However, this poses a challenge in dualist systems where, traditionally, courts do not take international law into account, unless implemented by national legislation. This reluctance to engage with unincorporated IHRL is what the 1988 Bangalore Judicial Colloquium—a group including such luminaries as Michael Kirby, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Lester and P.N. Bhagwati—sought to address. The resulting Bangalore Principles, concluded that:

It is within the proper nature of the judicial process and well-established judicial functions for national courts to have regard to international obligations which a country undertakes—whether or not they have been incorporated into domestic law—for the purpose of removing ambiguity or uncertainty from national constitutions, legislation or common law.


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Closed judgments: security, accountability and court processes

25 January 2019 by

Dr Lawrence McNamara is an academic at the University of York and a Senior Research Fellow at the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law

A new practice direction reveals some valuable progress in the management of closed judgments, but leaves uncertainty and, very worryingly, indicates that some judgments will be destroyed. 

Closed material procedures (CMPs) have become an established option for the government when it wants to rely on security-sensitive evidence in civil litigation.

In immigration matters in the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) and in the full range of civil proceedings under the Justice and Security Act 2013, CMPs permit the state to rely on evidence that will not be disclosed to the other party who may be (for example) subject to deportation or a claimant in an action alleging state complicity in rendition.

Open and closed judgments may be handed down. The latter will not be seen by non-state parties, their lawyers or the public.

In parallel, there have been heavy restrictions on access to and reporting of criminal terrorism cases, most notably Incedal.

CMPs and closed judgments are by nature a departure from fundamental rule of law standards of equality of arms and open justice. The Supreme Court pointed this out in Al Rawi and the Special Advocates have been highly critical of them.  Nonetheless, there is no sign that the CMPs will disappear. Instead, the trend has slowly been towards managing them and finding ways to mitigate some of the deficiencies.

A six-paragraph Practice Direction on Closed Judgments, issued on 14 January 2019, reveals some significant steps in that direction, but it lacks clarity in its scope and reveals a very troubling proposal for destruction of judgments.


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Are English marriage laws compliant with the EHCR? — David Burrows

17 December 2018 by

Wedding rings.jpg

David Burrows is a solicitor advocate, trainer and writer.

Human rights and English marriage

On 10 December 2018 responses were due to the government’s divorce reform proposals, Reducing family conflict Reform of the legal requirements for divorce (September 2018). A reply to responses is due from the Government, says the Ministry of Justice, by 8 March 2019.

My response to the proposals – as I saw things then – is on my blog here. Thoughts of divorce reform throw up two important human rights issues: one a direct Article 6 question; and the other – which it is surely time for law reformers and the government to confront? – is a discrimination point (Art 14).

But first a little history. The then Labour government, on Leo Abse MP’s private member’s bill, passed with (more or less) approval of the Church of England, the Divorce Reform Act 1969 (in force from 1 January 1971). It was consolidated into Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (MCA 1973) which represents the modern law and the modern statutory underpinning for financial distribution on divorce or nullity. Mirror provisions apply for same gender couples: Civil Partnership Act 2004. Wholly different finance rules apply for unmarried cohabitants.

 

Matrimonial causes

The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (MCA) section 1 is very simple. There is one ground for divorce: irretrievable breakdown of marriage (s 1(1)). To prove that ground a petitioner (P) must prove one or more of five facts: adultery; behaviour making it unreasonable for P to live with the other spouse/partner (R); desertion for two years; living apart for two (with consent); or five years.

Reformers – including from their inception, the group of family law solicitors, now Resolution – have objected to the blame inherent in the first two facts, and the tendency which this may produce to leave a nastier taste, than need be, in the mouth of divorcees.

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Expanding the moral circle to nonhuman animals – Joe Wills

12 December 2018 by

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the UN. The UDHR represented a watershed moment in moral progress. Previously, individuals were widely regarded as mere ‘objects’ of states under international law with no rights of their own. 

The atrocities that took place in Europe during the Second World War were a major catalyst for moving away from this state-centred view of international relations. As Johannes Morsink notes in his meticulous historyof the drafting of the UDHR, the Holocaust was the single most important event that shaped its writing.

The UDHR recognises that ‘all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’ regardless of their race, sex, national origin or other status. But did it go far enough? After all, the vast majority of the earth’s inhabitants are nonhuman. Just as individual humans are particularly vulnerable to the excesses of state and other forms of concentrated power, so too are animals particularly vulnerable to abuse at the hands of humans. 

The tyrannical exercise of human power over the other animals is ubiquitous, whether it’s subjecting them to painful biomedical experiments, destroying their natural habitats, forcing them to perform in circuses and aquariums, or industrially rearing and exterminating them for food. Are we systematically violating the rights of animals when we treat them like this? Ought we take steps to rectify this with a Universal Declaration of Animal Rights?


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A tendency to physical abuse: Upper Tribunal clarifies scope of Equality Act in education context — Katie Ayres

26 November 2018 by

book-2022464_1280.pngThe Upper Tribunal decision in of C&C v Governing Body [2018] UKUT 269 (AAC) has provided important clarification to the scope of the Equality Act 2010 in an education context.

A 13-year-old boy, L, was excluded for physical violence at school. L suffered from autism, anxiety and Pathological Demand Avoidance; it was common ground that the episodes of violence were as a result of these conditions.

It was also common ground that, but for the effect of Reg. 4(1)(c) Equality Act 2010 (Disability) Regulations 2010 (‘the 2010 Regulations’), L would meet the definition of having a ‘disability’ found at section 6 of the Equality Act 2010 (‘EA 2010’), as he had physical or mental impairment which had a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

But section 6 of the EA 2010 must be read in conjunction with the 2010 Regulations. The effect of Reg.4(1)(c) of the 2010 Regulations is to carve out from the definition of ‘disability’ those ‘impairments’ which manifest themselves in:

(a) a tendency to set fires,

(b) a tendency to steal,

(c) a tendency to physical or sexual abuse of other persons,

(d) exhibitionism, and

(e) voyeurism.

In C&C the school argued that L’s violent behaviour amounted to ‘a tendency to physical…abuse of other persons’ for the purposes of the 2010 Regulations, thereby removing the protection from discrimination that he would otherwise be afforded by the EA 2010.

 

The Law

Previous cases had decided that behaviour which amounted to a ‘tendency to physical…abuse’ was not protected under the Equality Act 2010 in the case of children with behavioural difficulties.

However, C&C reversed this line of authority.

The First Tier Tribunal had found, in line with the established case law, that L did not fulfil the definition of ‘disability’ under section 6 EA 2010 by virtue of the operation of Reg. 4(1)(c).

On appeal, Tribunal Judge Rowley was tasked with deciding whether the current interpretation of Reg. 4(1)(c) of the 2010 Regulations was compatible with Article 14 read with Article 2 of Protocol 1 (A2P1).

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