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 UKHL 1,  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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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).
The Scottish Government sets itself apart from its UK counterpart in its approach to protecting human rights. The SNP vocally opposed proposals to withdraw the UK from the ECHR and repeal the Human Rights Act. An expert group appointed by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will report this year with recommendations on how Scotland “can continue to lead by example in human rights”, and appears to be considering incorporating a range of rights from international human rights law into the Scottish legal system.
In environmental rights however, the lack of progress is conspicuous. As David Hart QC explained, the Aarhus Convention aims to protect the right to live in an environment adequate to health and wellbeing – the foundation on which other human rights are built. It recognises the rights of NGOs and members of the public to access information, participate in decision-making, and access justice. These rights encourage citizens to get involved in environmental decision-making. Article 9 requires that NGOs and members of the public must be able to challenge situations where their Convention rights are denied or national environmental laws are broken. Critically, access to justice must be “not prohibitively expensive”.
2018 brings a new development. New protective expenses orders rules for environmental litigation in Scotland were created last week. This post examines these rules, and argues that they remain out of line with the Convention.
The issue in this case was whether the removal of a foreign national from the UK would breach their rights under Article 3 not to be subject to inhumane or degrading treatment where they are in receipt of medical treatment in the UK which is not available in their home country.
In 1997 the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) determined in D v UK(Application no. 30240/96) that, as the applicant was in the advanced stages of AIDS to the extent that he was reliant upon palliative care in the UK and would receive no comfort or moral support in his home country, his removal would constitute a breach of Article 3. This was noted to be a ‘very exceptional’ case.
The current leading domestic authority is N v Secretary of State for the Home Department  UKHL 31. N was also diagnosed with AIDS but owing to the availability of treatment in the UK she was expected to live for decades; however, if returned to Uganda, where such treatment was not available, she would die within one to two years. Lord Hope set out the test for ‘very exceptional’ as follows:
For the circumstances to be […] ‘very exceptional’ it would need to be shown that the applicant’s medical condition had reached such a critical stage that there were compelling humanitarian grounds for not removing him to a place which lacked the medical and social services which he would need to prevent acute suffering while he is dying …” [my emphasis]
Therefore, although N would die much faster in Uganda, as she would not be subject to ‘acute suffering’ whilst dying there was no breach of Article 3. This was held to be the case even though it was accepted that N’s life would be significantly shortened [see Lord Nicholls at para 15]. The issue was declared to be not whether her death would follow removal but whether “there is care available […] to enable [her] to meet that fate with dignity” [Baroness Hale, para. 69]. In N’s case it was considered that such care was available. The Grand Chamber of the ECtHR approved this reasoning in N v UK(Application no. 26565/05).
In K & AM, R v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 2951 Mostyn J was concerned with subsistence payments for victims of modern slavery. The case concerned whether the Home Office’s cut to payments made under this country’s internationally agreed obligations to provide support to victims of trafficking constituted a breach of the rights of the victims. The court gave judgment for the claimants, finding that the cut was unlawful.
As the international media has become full of whispers as to just where Asia Bibi might be offered asylum, discrimination has once again been to the forefront of legal bulletins at home. Most notably, the story of Rehana Popal’s treatment at the hands of solicitors who requested that she return her papers after their client demanded a ‘white, male barrister’, has made waves in the news. Whilst this runs entirely against the solicitors’ code of conduct and, indeed, the Equality Act 2010, Ms Popal, the English Bar’s only Afghan-born female barrister, has stated that this has not been the first occasion upon which she has been subjected to such discriminatory treatment. Continue reading →
The Supreme Court has unanimously allowed the appeal of Michael Darnley in Darnley v Croydon Health Services NHS Trust  UKSC 50, holding that a hospital receptionist owed a duty of care to a patient at A&E, which was breached by providing him with incorrect information as to how long he was likely to have to wait before being seen or triaged.
The case raised questions as to the existence and scope of the duty of care owed by hospitals to patients who attend and are dealt with non-medical staff. The decision has potential implications for all those who are booked in to A&E even if no-one has professionally assessed their need for care.
In this guest article, Dr Linda Roland Danil argues that a new international agreement is needed to prevent us from sleepwalking into serious trouble.
In 2015, 196 Parties came together and agreed to the Paris Agreement, under which they pledged to limit global warming to 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. But the problem is that the Paris Agreement does not contain quantified, legally-binding obligations for the reduction of emissions. It also has no enforcement mechanism, such as an international tribunal. Instead, countries prepare their own national emissions targets – so-called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDC’s – and report to each other on how well they are doing to implement their targets.
The Paris Agreement was undoubtedly an achievement in the realm of international climate negotiations, and although the Trump administration has notoriously recently pledged to withdraw from the Agreement, a withdrawal which cannot take effect until late 2020. 196 Parties, at different stages of economic development, and within a conflicting political context, all agreed on the importance of tackling the threat of anthropogenic global warming.
However, the Paris Agreement’s targets are simply not being met, with the national pledges by the signatory Parties having recently been argued to bring about only a third of the reduction of emissions by 2030 that is required. Continue reading →
On 14th September 2018 the Court of Appeal allowed an appeal by a doctor against a finding that his fitness to practice was impaired by reason of dishonesty.
This case concerned professional disciplinary proceedings against the appellant, Dr Hemmay Raychaudhuri. A complaint had been made in relation to how the appellant had filled in a form to record the medical examination of a child patient. This complaint was referred to a Medical Practitioners Tribunal (MPT). Assessing the scope for misunderstanding between the appellant and other medical staff, the MPT upheld the charge of ‘misleading actions’ rather than ‘dishonest actions’. As such there was no impairment of his ability to practice as a doctor.
The General Medical Council (GMC), however, alleged dishonesty on the part of the appellant. The GMC appealed to the High Court in reliance on section 40A Medical Act 1983. This stipulates the conditions under which the General Council may challenge a decision of an MPT if it believes a disciplinary decision made under section 35D does not sufficiently protect the public.
In the High Court, Sweeney J followed the decision of the Divisional Court in General Medical Council v Jagjivan  EWHC, which held that the High Court had jurisdiction to hear an appeal by the GMC against a ruling by an MPT. He substituted the MPT’s finding to declare that the appellant had in fact behaved dishonestly and that therefore his fitness to practice was impaired.
There were three grounds of appeal before the Court of Appeal.
The High Court has no jurisdiction under Section 40 to hear an appeal by the GMC against a finding by an MPT that a doctor’s fitness to practice is not impaired. This was an invitation to overrule Jagjivan;
The High Court was wrong to substitute a finding that he had behaved dishonestly, where the MPT had acquitted him of dishonesty;
Even if the conduct was dishonest, the High Court was wrong to find his fitness to practice was impaired and was wrong to remit the case to the MPT.
Eurasian Natural Resources Corp, the defendant to the Serious Fraud Office’s application to enforce notices seeking to compel the production of documents, has had a chequered history in the last 10 years since it came to the London market (in January 2014 it delisted and went private). In December 2010, a whistleblower alerted the company by email to serious allegations of corruption, fraud and bribery within its group.
After substantial internal enquiries and investigations on the part of ENRC and professionals instructed by it, accompanied by correspondence and meetings between the SFO and lawyers instructed by ENRC, in February 2016 the SFO issued a Part 8 claim against ENRC. This sought a declaration that documents in for specific categories were not “information or… Any document which ENRC would be entitled to refuse to disclose or produce on grounds of legal professional privilege in proceedings in the High Court” within the meaning of section 2 (9) of the Criminal Justice Act 1987. The SFO’s pleaded case was that neither litigation privilege nor legal professional privilege attached to the documents in the first place, not that any privilege had been waived. Continue reading →
R (AR) v Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police  UKSC 47 – read judgment
The Supreme Court has given important guidance on the correct approach of the appellate courts to assessing proportionality under the ECHR. The main issue before the court was whether an Enhanced Criminal Record Certificate (“ECRC”) issued in respect of the appellant, AR, under s.113B of the Police Act 1997 is compatible with Article 8 of the Convention on Human Rights.
AR was a married man with children, of good character, and a qualified teacher, and worked for a time as a taxi driver. It had been alleged that, in the early hours of 4 November 2009, he raped a 17 year old woman, who was a passenger in his taxi. AR’s defence was that there had never been sexual contact with the alleged victim. In January 2011 he was acquitted of rape by the Crown Court.
AR subsequently applied for an ECRC in connection with an application for a job as a lecturer. The police duly issued the ECRC which contained details of the rape charge for which AR had been acquitted. A second ECRC which also contained this information was later issued in respect of an application by AR to work as a private hire driver.
Having exhausted the various internal appeal mechanisms available to him, AR issued a claim for judicial review. Amongst other matters he argued that the inclusion in the ECRC of information concerning the rape charge and acquittal was procedurally unfair because it had been disclosed without consulting him. It was also said that the disclosure amounted to a substantive breach of Article 8. Continue reading →
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.