Khuja (formerly known as PNM) v. Times Newspapers  UKSC 49, Supreme Court, read judgment
The outcome of this case is summed up in its title, an unsuccessful attempt to retain anonymity in press reporting. It is a stark instance of how someone involved in investigations into very serious offences cannot suppress any allegations which may have surfaced in open court, even though no prosecution was ever brought against them.
I posted recently on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill and its approach to rolling over EU-derived laws into our domestic law. But a law is only as good as its enforcement makes it, and so we all need to think how this is going to be done post-Brexit.
NB: there is nothing in the Bill which touches on enforcement; that is for later, if at all.
The issue arises particularly starkly in the environmental field, where there are not so many players with direct legal and commercial interests around (as in, say, equal pay or competition law) to seek consistent enforcement.
A task force within the UK Environmental Law Association (chaired by Professor Richard Macrory and Andrew Bryce, left and right in the pic) has been applying its mind to this enforcement problem, and on 18 July 2017 published a short and powerful report on the issue – Brexit and Environment Law. Its main messages are these.
The Great Repeal Bill has shrunk more prosaically into the EUWB, but its task is technically arduous. The easy bit is clause 1: the European Communities Act 1972 is repealed on (Br)exit day. Job done? No. Job hardly started.
Department for Business, Energy and Industry Strategy v. Information Commissioner and Henney  EWCA Civ 844 , 29 June 2017 – read judgment
As many will know, there are two different systems of freedom of information, the first and better known, the Freedom for Information Act 2000, and the second, the Environmental Information Regulations 2009. From the perspective of the inquirer (Mr Henney, here), the EIRs are the more favourable, and it was the differences between the systems which gave rise to this long-running dispute to do with energy Smart Meters.
The appeal went in favour of Mr Henney, and the Information Commissioner who had ruled in his favour. But the ultimate case is not resolved, as I shall explain.
R (o.t.a. Palestine Solidarity Campaign Ltd and Jacqueline Lewis) v. Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government  EWHC 1502 (Admin) 22 June 2017, Sir Ross Cranston – read judgment
Many people like to have a say over the investment policies of their pension funds. They may not want investment in fossil fuels, companies with questionable working practices, arms manufacturers, Israel or indeed any company which supports Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip – to choose but a few of people’s current choices. And pension funds, left to their own devices, may wish to adopt one or more of these choices to reflect their pensioners’ views.
Hence the significance of this challenge to some statutory guidance which sought to ban some of those pension decisions but to permit others. The context was local government employees (5 million current or former employees). It arose on that ceaseless battleground of government’s direction/intermeddling in local government affairs.
The key bit of the impugned guidance was that those running local authority pensions must not use their policies to
pursue boycotts, divestment and sanctions…against foreign nations and UK defence industries…other than where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the Government.”;
“pursue policies that are contrary to UK foreign policy or UK defence policy”.
The main issue in this challenge was whether these prohibitions went beyond the SoS’s powers under the relevant pension provisions.
No prizes for guessing why the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (in conjunction with War on Want and the Quakers) supported this challenge. The fact that the domestic arms trade got a special unbannability status would provoke many to go to law.
Independent Newspapers (Ireland) Ltd v. Ireland ECtHR, 5th section, 15 June 2017 – read judgment here
The Strasbourg Court has decided that an award of damages in an Irish libel case was disproportionate – but, as I shall explain – it has not told us what a proportionate award would have been.
This odd position was reached in an application by a newspaper group against the Irish state. It was triggered by a massive jury award (1.872m euros) for what by all accounts was a deeply unpleasant libellous campaign by the paper. But the immediate cause of the litigation arose from an appeal to the Irish Supreme Court, who, by a majority, would have reduced the award to 1.25m euros.
Update: On 19 June the parents lodged a substantive application with the Strasbourg Court.
In my last post on this case, I explained that the Supreme Court had granted a short stay to 5pm Friday 9th June to enable the parents to ask the Strasbourg Court to intervene. So far, the courts have ruled in favour of Great Ormond Street’s application to withdraw artificial ventilation from Charlie.
Shortly after my post, on Friday 9 June, the ECtHR ordered an emergency hearing. To that end, it requested the UK to keep Charlie alive until the end of 13 June.
Earlier this week, Rosalind English posted on the Court of Appeal’s decision here. The case was heard by the Supreme Court during the afternoon of 8 June, but the SC agreed with the courts below that the Hospital was entitled to withdraw artificial ventilation.
Lady Hale gave a short explanation of her reasons: see here and my summary below.
FB v. Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust  EWCA Civ 334, 12 May 2017, Court of Appeal – read judgment
All the advocates in this case were from 1 Crown Office Row, Elizabeth-Anne Gumbel QC for the claimant/appellant FB, and John Whitting QC and Alasdair Henderson for the hospital. None of them were involved in the writing of this post.
FB fell ill with meningitis when she was just one. The illness was diagnosed too late, and she suffered brain damage. This appeal was against the judge’s dismissal of the claim against the hospital, where she was seen, some time before she was admitted and the infection treated. All agreed that avoiding the time between being seen and being admitted would have led to the brain damage being avoided.
But should the junior doctor have picked up enough about her condition to admit her?
R (ClientEarth) v Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Garnham J, 27 April 2017, judgment here
Last November (here) the judge decided that the UK’s air pollution plans under EU and domestic laws were not good enough. The case has a long, and unedifying back-story of Government not doing what the law says it should do – see the depressing list of posts at the bottom of this post.
The pollutant was nitrogen dioxide, a product of vehicle exhaust fumes. And as the judge reminded us in this latest instalment, the Department for Transport’s own evidence suggests that 64 people are dying everyday as a result of this pollutant.
The particular issue might seem legally unpromising. Government wanted to delay the publication of its latest consultation proposal from 24 April 2017 (the date ordered by the judge last November) until after the Council elections on 4 May, and, then, once the general election had been called, until after 8 June 2017. It accepted that it had its report drafted, but did not want to release it.
But the only justification for the delay was Purdah.
Poshteh v Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea S  UKSC 36, 10 May 2017 – read judgment
For the last 15 years, whether the right of the homeless to suitable council accommodation is an Art.6(1) ECHR civil right has been argued over in the courts. And the question arose again in today’s judgment of the Supreme Court.
Ms Poshteh had been imprisoned and tortured in Iran, and asked her local council in London to house her as she was homeless in the UK. She then rejected the offer of a flat because she said its windows reminded her of those in her Iranian prison cell. This rejection was held fatal to her housing claim, as we shall see.
To understand the Art.6 point, we need to have a quick look at the council’s housing duties for the homeless.
R (o.t.a T) v. HM Senior Coroner for West Yorkshire  EWCA 187 (Civ), 28 April 2017 – read judgment
A sad story of human frailty posed two difficult problems for the Coroner, and the Court of Appeal.
A 19-year old mother went into hospital, with a shoebox. In the shoebox was the 6-days dead body of her daughter. She told the hospital and the police that she had been raped, hence the shame about reporting the death. She had given birth in her bedroom at home, and she said that the baby had been cold when born. Continue reading →
R (o.t.a P & others) v. Secretary of State for Home Department & others  EWCA Civ 321, Court of Appeal, 3 May 2017 – read judgment
The Court of Appeal has upheld challenges to the system of the police retaining information about past misconduct. It held that the system, even after a re-boot in 2013 in response to an earlier successful challenge, remains non-compliant with Article 8.
The problem is well summarised by Leveson P in the first paragraph of the judgment, namely the interface between a system of rehabilitation of offenders and the minimisation of risk to the public caused by the employment of those with misconduct in their pasts.
R (o.t.a Minton Morrill Solicitors) v. The Lord Chancellor  EWHC 612 (Admin) 24 March 2017, Kerr J – read judgment
This exam-style question arose, in an attempt by solicitors to be paid by the Legal Aid Agency for some work they had done on two applications to Strasbourg. The underlying cases were housing, the first an attempt to stave off possession proceedings, and the second the determination of whether an offer of “bricks and mortar” accommodation to an Irish traveller was one of “suitable accommodation”. Both applications were declared inadmissible by the European Court of Human Rights, and thus could not benefit from that Court’s own legal aid system.
The major question turned on whether the Human Rights Act had “incorporated” the Convention. We all use this as a shorthand, but is it really so?
On Monday 13 March, I went along to the latest Castle Debate, held in conjunctionwith the Environmental Law Foundation: see here for more of the same, all free debates, and fascinating topics for anyone interested in environmental law and policy.
It, and Tom Brenan’s talk in particular, reminded me that, despite it being not long after my last Aarhus post (on private law proceedings, here), it was time to set out the latest rules governing judicial reviews, which came into operation on 28 February. The bone of contention, as ever, is the concept that challenging environmental decisions should not be prohibitively expensive.
Until last month, the rules were relatively simple, and were designed, for better or for worse, to minimise the amounts of arguments about costs in environmental challenges. If you were an individual, £5,000 capped the costs which you would have to pay the other side if you lost.
But Government had become obsessed that environmental challengers were somehow getting a free lunch, and the rules have now been spun into something so complicated that defendants who want to burn off claimants before the claim gets heard have been given a pretty broad licence to do so. For most individuals, committing yourself to paying £5,000 if you lose is a pretty sharp deterrent. But Government does not think so.
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