By: Matthew Hill


Protecting child claimants from “fortune hunters and thieves”

11 November 2010 by

UpdatedJXF (a child) v York Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust [2010] EWHC 2800 (QB) – Read judgment

Mr Justice Tugendhat has held that the High Court should withhold the identity of a child claimant when approving the settlement of a clinical negligence case.  The decision represents a restatement of the orthodox principle that cases should be heard in public and reported without restrictions, and that anonymity orders should only be granted after careful scrutiny.

His reason for coming to this particular decision was that revealing the name of the claimant would “make him vulnerable to losing the [settlement] money to fortune hunters or thieves.”

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NHS must treat patients despite their personal injury settlements

10 November 2010 by

R (Booker) v NHS Oldham and Direct Line Insurance PLC [2010] EWHC 2593 (Admin)- read judgment

The High Court has held that where a claimant agrees a damages settlement that includes an indemnity to fund private nursing care should existing NHS provision be withdrawn, it was unlawful for a primary care trust to cease its funding of the claimant’s care on the basis that her needs would be met through the settlement.

The claimant, B, was a tetraplegic who had sustained her injuries in a road traffic accident. She had received care from the defendant NHS trust (“the Trust”) over a number of years, and there was no dispute that her medical needs made her eligible for future care. In October 2009, B’s personal injury case was settled on the basis of both a lump sum and periodical payments, the latter due to commence from 15 December 2011. In respect of the period between the settlement date and the first periodical payment, a series of “safety net undertakings” were given by both sides in the litigation, and by DLI, the insurer of the injury claim defendant. These were to the effect that B would use her best endeavours to maintain the NHS funded care that she was receiving, but, should it nonetheless be withdrawn, DLI would indemnify B against the cost of providing replacement care. In June 2010, the Trust informed B that it intended to withdraw its provision of care from her with effect from the autumn, on the basis that B had elected to receive private care and hence no longer required NHS services. B sought judicial review of this decision.

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Courts reluctant to intervene over care for elderly and disabled

2 November 2010 by

Updated | R (McDonald) v Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, [2010] EWCA Civ 1109 – read judgment

The Court of Appeal has held that a local authority was entitled to reduce the care package provided to one of its resident following a re-assessment of her needs, even though this had the effect of forcing her, against her wishes, to use incontinence pads and/or absorbent sheets at night.

In doing so, the authority did not breach Article 8 ECHR (right to privacy and family life), or the relevant disability discrimination legislation. The judgment suggests that the courts will only intervene in disputes about the level of care being provided by local authorities in limited circumstances, something that may be significant in an environment of public spending cuts.

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When, and when not, to prosecute victims of human trafficking

1 November 2010 by

R v M(L) and others [2010] EWCA Crim 2327; [2010] WLR(D) 266 – Read judgment

The Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) has provided further guidance to prosecutors on whether or not they should bring charges against victims of human trafficking who go on to commit crimes. In the same judgment, the Court considered the extent of the obligation on the police to refer such victims to specialist agencies.

The state has a number of duties to victims of human trafficking deriving from the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (CETS No 197).

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Gurkha defeat in claim for equal pension rights

18 October 2010 by

No victory this time

R (British Gurkha Welfare Society and ors) v Ministry of Defence [2010] EWCA Civ 1098 – read judgment

The Court of Appeal has rejected a fresh attempt, based on Article 14 of the European Convention on Human rights (anti-discrimination), to obtain equal pension rights for Gurkhas who served in the British Army before 1997.

The long-running campaign for Gurkha rights has been highly publicised and successful, but it has not ensured equality of treatment in respect of pensions. The MoD continues to calculate  accrued pension rights at a lower rates for Gurkhas than for other soldiers in respect of service performed before 1997, the date on which the majority of Gurkhas ceased to be based in Hong Kong and were instead moved to the UK.

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The Stig revealed: why, and does it matter?

6 October 2010 by

British Broadcasting Corporation v Harpercollins Publishers Ltd & Anor [2010] EWHC 2424 (Ch) – Read judgment

As has been widely reported, the BBC has failed in its attempts to obtain an injunction preventing the driver Ben Collins from revealing in an autobiography that he was The Stig in Top Gear. On 4 October 2010 Mr Justice Morgan handed down his reasoned judgment in the case, which has been summarised on the Inforrm blog.

The judgment itself contains few surprises. Morgan J held that Collins himself was not a party to any contracts with the BBC, the contracts in question having been agreed between the Corporation and a company established to service Collins’ business interests (para.20). It followed that the BBC had no claim in contract law against him personally for an alleged breach of a confidentiality clause. However, Collins was still bound by an equitable duty of confidentiality that prevented him from revealing The Stig’s identity (para. 20). Morgan J considered that this duty would still have applied at the date of the trial if this information had continued to be confidential (para. 50). However, as a result of numerous press reports (para. 52):

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New “loss of control” defence as murder law reforms take effect

30 September 2010 by

Joshua Rozenberg has written an article in today’s Guardian pointing out that, as of Monday, a major reform of the law of murder will take effect. The measures, which were introduced by the last Government, in effect replace the old partial defence to murder of provocation with a new partial defence of “loss of control”.

As Rozenberg points out, a partial defence reduces an offence from murder to manslaughter, which means that a judge will not have to impose a mandatory life sentence on conviction. The reforms to the law on provocation stem from long-standing criticism that the defence’s archaic origins in the common law have led to it being unduly lenient in instances of hot-headed violence (e.g. a husband killing his wife on discovery of infidelity), while providing insufficient protection for “slow burn” cases (and in particular those where victims of prolonged domestic violence finally kill the perpetrators). In recent years, attempts by the courts to extend the partial defence to “slow burn” cases have led to increasingly strained interpretations of the law in this area, which have furthered calls for reform.

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Calls for murder law reform may be ignored

14 September 2010 by

Keir Starmer

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, has stated his support for a reform of the law of homicide that would see the introduction of different degrees of murder in this country.

Such a proposal was one of the principal recommendations contained in the Law Commission’s 2006 Report on Murder, Manslaughter and Infanticide (Law Com No 304). Mr Starmer’s predecessor, Sir Ken MacDonald, and the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Lord Blair, have also stated their support for the changes.

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Value to the community can be taken into account in immigration cases

24 August 2010 by

UE (Nigeria) and Others v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2010] EWCA Civ 975

The Court of Appeal has held that in deciding whether the removal of a person from the UK is compatible with their human rights, their value to the community can and in many cases should be taken into account.

The court ruled that when a decision-maker is undertaking the balancing exercise required to determine whether the removal of an individual from the UK is proportionate under Article 8 ECHR (right to family life), the individual’s value to the community in this country is a relevant consideration to be taken into account. However, this judgment was qualified by indications from the judges that, in practice, this factor is unlikely to carry much weight in the decision-maker’s evaluation.

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Courts entitled to ignore European Court decision on DNA and fingerprint retention

23 July 2010 by

DNA database impact on human rightsUpdated, 1/9/10 | R (C) v Commissioner of the Police of the Metropolis [2010] WLR (D) 193 – Read judgment

When faced with conflicting authorities from the European Court of Human Rights and the House of Lords (now the Supreme Court) on the indefinite retention of DNA profiles and fingerprints by the police, the Divisional Court held that they were bound to follow the House of Lords.

This was so despite clear indications from the previous and current governments that the law would be changed to take account of the Strasbourg decision. However, as leave to appeal was granted, the Supreme Court will now have the opportunity to revisit the issue and determine the law in this controversial area.

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Feature | The duty to investigate deaths under human rights law: Part 2

15 July 2010 by

R (Humberstone) v Legal Services Commission [2010] EWHC 760 (Admin) – Read case

Part 2 of Matthew Hill’s feature on the duty to investigate deaths under human rights law (read Part I).

A recent High Court decision (see previous post) concerning the funding of a party at a coroner’s inquest has highlighted the importance of distinguishing between the two different types of investigative duty that arise under Article 2 ECHR.

It is argued in this post that imprecise terminology and a failure to appreciate that Article 2 is engaged in Jamieson as well as Middleton inquests has confused this area, and that the learned judge in R (Humberstone) v Legal Services Commission [2010] EWHC 760 (Admin) erred by eliding the investigative duties and the case-law from which they emerged.

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Feature | The duty to investigate deaths under human rights law: Part 1

12 July 2010 by

Silih v Slovenia (2009) 49 E.H.R.R. 37 – Read judgment, McCaughey and Quinn’s Application [2010] NICA 13 – Read judgment

This is Part I of Matthew Hill’s feature. Click here for Part II.

A recent decision of the Strasbourg Court has reopened the issue of the State’s obligation to investigate deaths under the European Convention on Human Rights, leaving a tension between the European Court’s view and that of the highest UK court.

In Silih v Slovenia (2009) 49 E.H.R.R. 37, the European Court looked again at the question of whether the investigative obligations under Article 2 ECHR have retrospective effect in domestic law. A majority of the Court held that Slovenia’s failure to provide an effective independent judicial system to determine responsibility for the death of a patient receiving medical treatment violated Article 2 even though the death itself took place before the Convention came into force in that state.

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Spy cameras to be regulated following criticisms

6 July 2010 by

The Coalition Government is to introduce a system of statutory regulation to govern the use of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras, responding to criticism of its scheme in Birmingham which was said to be targeting Muslim residents.

As we posted recently, ANPR cameras were controversially introduced in two predominantly Muslim areas of Birmingham under a scheme funded by an counter-terrorism initiative; the cameras have since been covered with plastic bags while a consultation process is undertaken

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Legal challenge to surveillance of Muslim areas

15 June 2010 by

The Human Rights organisation Liberty is threatening to bring a judicial review challenging a surveillance project that uses 150 automatic number plate recognition (“APNR”) cameras to monitor the roads in two predominantly Muslim areas of Birmingham.

Update 18/06/10 – Muslim area CCTV cameras to be covered by plastic bags [updated]

The Guardian reports that the plan, Project Champion, is funded by the Association of Chief Police Officer’s Terrorism and Allied Matters fund, which is intended to “deter or prevent terrorism or help to prosecute those responsible”. Project Champion provides for three times as many APNR cameras in the suburbs of Sparkbrook and Washwood Heath as are present in Birmingham City Centre. According to the Guardian: “The cameras form “rings of steel”, meaning residents cannot enter or leave the areas without their cars being tracked. Data will be stored for two years.”


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Moving 106-year-old from care home not breach of human rights

7 June 2010 by

Louisa Watts v UK [2010] ECHR 793 (4 May 2010) – Read judgment

A 106-year-old woman has lost her challenge in the European Court of Human Rights to the closure of her care home. This is a latest in a line of unsuccessful human rights challenges by care home residents facing similar scenarios. Are the courts providing enough protection to this vulnerable section of society?

Louisa Watts, a 106 year-old resident of Underhill House, a care home owned and managed by Wolverhampton City Council, challenged the Council’s decision to close the home and move her to alternative accommodation. Her application for judicial review was refused, as was her appeal against that decision to the Court of Appeal. As a last resort, she took her case to the European Court of Human Rights on the basis that her Convention rights, including her rights to life and to respect for private life, had been breached.

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