The campaign group UK Uncut brought a judicial review claim against HMRC. They argued that it was unlawful for HMRC to reach a confidential settlement in 2010 with the investment bank Goldman Sachs over a multi-million pound unpaid tax bill arising out of a failed tax avoidance scheme. Mr Justice Nicol held that HMRC’s decision was not unlawful, but criticised the actions of HMRC officials and HMRC have acknowledged that the manner in which the settlement was agreed involved several mistakes.
Doogan and Wood v. NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde Health Board  CSIH 36 – read judgment here
The Inner House of the Court of Session (the Scottish civil court of appeal) ruled last week that two midwives from Glasgow could not be required to delegate to, supervise or support staff on their labour ward who were involved in abortions.
The ruling makes it clear that the conscientious objection provision in s.4 of the Abortion Act 1967 has very broad scope. This probably means that the General Medical Council (GMC), the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) will all need to change their guidance on the subject, since the existing versions take a much narrower view. This judgment affects England and Wales as well as Scotland (since the Act covers all three countries), but not Northern Ireland.
The facts of the case, and the original decision of Lady Smith in the Outer House of the Court of Session are covered in our previous blog post here.
Core Issues Trust v. Transport for London 22 March 2013  EWHC 651 (Admin) – read judgment.
In a judgment which is sure to provoke heated debate, the High Court has today ruled that the banning of an advert which read “NOT GAY! EX-GAY, POST-GAY AND PROUD. GET OVER IT!” from appearing on London buses was handled very badly by Transport for London (“TfL”) but was not unlawful or in breach of the human rights of the group behind the advert.
The advert was placed in April 2012 by Anglican Mainstream, a Christian charity, on behalf of Core Issues Trust, another Christian charity which describes its aim as “supporting men and women with homosexual issues who voluntarily seek change in sexual preference and expression” (see website here). It was intended as a response to another advert placed on London buses earlier in 2012 by Stonewall, the gay rights campaign group, which was in support of the proposal to introduce same-sex marriage and read “SOME PEOPLE ARE GAY. GET OVER IT!”
C.N. v. THE UNITED KINGDOM – 4239/08 – HEJUD  ECHR 1911 – read judgment here.
The European Court of Human Rights recently held that the UK was in breach of Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to have specific legislation in place which criminalised domestic slavery.
Thankfully Article 4 cases (involving slavery and forced labour) are rare in the UK. Indeed this is only the fifth post on this blog about Article 4, which perhaps shows just how few and far between they are, and the UK has a proud history of seeking to prevent slavery. Although British merchants and traders, to their great shame, played a major part in the trans-Atlantic slave trade throughout the 1600s and 1700s, Britain was then at the forefront of the abolition of the slave trade and slavery from 1807 onwards and the common law has always considered slavery to be abhorrent (as the famous case of ex parte Somersettin 1772 made clear).
Tragically, however, slavery has not been consigned to the history books. Across the world new forms of slavery are prevalent. The International Labour Organisation estimates that there are a minimum of 12.3 million people in forced labour worldwide, and one particular form of modern slavery – human trafficking – is one of the fastest-growing forms of human rights abuse. The UK, as a major destination country for trafficking victims, is not immune from this trend.
Black & Morgan v. Wilkinson (unreported, 18 October 2012, Slough County Court) – Read judgment
The Christian owner of a B&B in Berkshire was found to have discriminated against a gay couple by refusing to allow them stay in a double-bedded room because of her belief that all sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong.
Although a county court judgment, this case has been splashed all over the headlines, partly because of BNP leader Nick Griffin’s comments on Twitter (about which see more below) but also because it is so factually similar to the high-profile case of Bull v. Hall and Preddy which is currently before the Supreme Court (see our analysis of the Court of Appeal judgment here). This judgment has also come along at a time when the European Court of Human Rights’ decision is awaited in the four conjoined cases of Ladele, Eweida, Macfarlane and Chaplin, all of which involve issues of religious freedom and two of which involve the same potential conflict between the right not to be discriminated against on grounds of sexual orientation and the right to religious freedom (see our posts here, here and here). Moreover, Recorder Moulder’s comprehensive and careful judgment has helpfully been made available online (see link above), so it can be considered in detail.
How is a Member State of the ECHR supposed to react when the UN Security Council tells it to do one thing and the Convention requires it to do another? That is the interesting and important question which the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights was presented with, and dodged, in its recent decision in Nada v. Switzerland.
Mr Nada is an 82-year-old Italian-Egyptian financier and businessman, who in November 2001 found himself in the unfortunate position of having his name added to the international list of suspected funders and supporters of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, which is maintained by the Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council. Mr Nada has consistently denied that he has any connection to al-Qaeda or any other terrorist group, and in 2005 the Swiss Government closed an investigation after finding that the accusations against him were unsubstantiated. However, despite this Mr Nada remained on the list until September 2009. During the intervening 8 years the impact on Mr Nada’s health and his private and family life was severe, so he brought a claim against Switzerland for breach of his Article 8 rights, as well as breaches of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy), Article 3 (right not to be subjected to ill-treatment), Article 5 (right to liberty) and Article 9 (right to freedom of religion).
Another week and another judgment about adoption. This time it is a decision of the Supreme Court about the Scottish family law system. Whereas last week’s post was about a case where children should have been placed into adoption, but were not, this case concerned a mother who opposed an adoption order being made for her child. The mother challenged the legislation which allowed the court to make an adoption order without her consent, arguing that it was incompatible with her Article 8 rights to private and family life. However, the Supreme Court ruled that there was no breach of the Convention.
The appellant mother argued that s.31 of the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007 was incompatible with the Convention. This would mean it was unlawful, as statutory provisions incompatible with the ECHR are not within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament under s.29(2)(d) of the Scotland Act 1998. (This is different to the UK Parliament in Westminster, which is able to legislate contrary to the ECHR, and the most the courts can do under the Human Rights Act is make a declaration of incompatibility.)
The problems of the current system and the effect these have on the lives of individual children was also vividly highlighted in a tragic case in which the High Court held that a series of failures by a local authority constituted a breach of two young boys’ rights under Articles 3 (protection from inhuman and degrading treatment), 6 (fair trial rights) and 8 (family and private life rights).
The very distressing story of the boys’ lives to date is set out in considerable detail at paragraphs 18-102 of Mr Justice Jackson (Jackson J)’s judgment. However, the brief facts are as follows. A and S are brothers who were first taken into care in 1998, aged just 3 and 6 months’ old, after their mother abandoned them. The local authority initially placed them with their aunt, but she was a single woman with six children of her own and could not cope.
Mr Duncan-Smith has already faced opposition to his reform proposals but has made it clear that he is willing to tackle this controversial issue. However, this week’s ruling is a timely reminder that social security law is extremely complex and that the Government will have to tread very carefully to avoid unwittingly causing further instances of unlawful discrimination.
R (Medihani) v. HM Coroner for Inner South District of Greater London  EWHC 1104 (Admin) – Read judgment.
In what circumstances is a criminal trial not sufficient to discharge the State’s duties under Article 2, the right to life, towards a victim of murder? The High Court held last week in this tragic case that a Coroner unlawfully and unreasonably decided not to resume an inquest into the death of a teenage girl where her killer had been ruled unfit to plead at the Old Bailey and handed an indefinite hospital order.
The right to life, protected by Article 2 of the ECHR, has been the subject of several major cases over the past few years, both in the UK courts and in Strasbourg, relating to the extent of the State’s duty to investigate someone’s death. In particular, the courts have emphasised and extended bit by bit the need for a proper examination of the circumstances of a death which occurs whilst a person is in custody, in a mental health institution or otherwise within the State’s care or control.
Hot on the heels of Cameron’s address on Wednesday, the Attorney-General Dominic Grieve gave a speech on Thursday which set out in further detail the Government’s plans for reform of the European Court of Human Rights and the incorporation of human rights into UK law.
The full text of the Attorney-General’s speech is not yet available (although a similar speech he gave last year and his own speech to the Council of Europe can be found here). However, it was interesting to compare his comments with those of David Cameron just a day before.
Edwards v Chesterfield Royal Hospital and Botham (FC) v Ministry of Defence  UKSC 58 – read judgment.
Although not strictly speaking a human rights case, the Supreme Court handed down an important employment law decision this week which has significant impact on employees’ ability to claim damages if they are sacked unfairly or if an internal disciplinary process isn’t properly followed by their employer.
Both cases, which had been conjoined for the purposes of the appeal, dealt with situations where an employee had a contractual right to a particular disciplinary procedure but the procedure was not properly followed. The employees argued that as a result of the flawed disciplinary process, incorrect and highly damaging findings of fact were made against them, which prevented them from finding future employment. In both cases the incorrect findings of fact concerned allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct, in the case of Mr Edwards (a surgeon) with patients and in the case of Mr Botham (a youth worker) with teenage girls in his care, so the employees’ upset is readily understandable.
One of the most popular ideas in crime fiction is the ‘cold case’; the apparently unsolved crime which, through various twists and turns, is brought to justice many years after it was committed. Indeed, at least two recent long-running TV dramas (the American show ‘Cold Case‘ and the more imaginatively and morbidly named British show ‘Waking the Dead‘) have been entirely based on this concept.
But what happens when such cases do turn up in real life, get to trial and the perpetrator is found guilty? In particular, how does a judge approach sentencing for a crime which might be decades-old, in the light of Article 7 ECHR? The Court of Appeal recently provided some answers to those questions.
AM v. Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 2486 – read judgment
The Home Secretary Theresa May was lambasted last week for an inaccurate reference to cats, but the more general view expressed by her and most of the media that the Human Rights Act is routinely getting in the way of national security interests is also arguably misleading.
Ironically, in the same week as the Home Secretary was telling the Conservative Party conference that ‘the Human Rights Act must go’ the High Court emphatically upheld her decision to renew a control order on a suspected terrorist.
There is a handy guide to the control orders regime here, and to “TPIMs”, their proposed successor, here. Essentially, control orders are strict conditions imposed on a terrorist suspect such as a curfew, electronic tagging or regular searches. In this case the suspect’s conditions included a ban on any internet access at his home, a ban on using USB memory sticks to transfer any data from his home to his university, restrictions on his access to the internet at university or when he visited his parents, and a requirement to make a phone call every day to a monitoring company.
R (JG and MB ) v. Lancashire County Council  EWHC 2295 (Admin) – read judgment here.
Public sector cuts are back in the news, with the trade unions warning of their plans to stage the biggest series of strikes in a generation. However, attempts to take the fight against the cuts into the courts as well as onto the streets were dealt a serious blow recently, as the Administrative dismissed an application by two disabled women for judicial review of Lancashire County Council’s decision to significantly reduce their budget for adult social care services.
This case provides a very helpful summary of the courts’ approach to public bodies’ equality duties (now the new general Public Sector Equality Duty in s.149 of the Equality Act 2010). It is also a reminder that the courts are reluctant to interfere with difficult social or economic decisions made by elected officials, as long as there has been proper consideration of the relevant factors, despite other recent cases where such decisions have been struck down.
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