President Putin has ordered his troops in Ukraine to cease fire for 36 hours over Orthodox Christmas and has urged Ukrainian forces to do the same. However, the move was rejected by Kyiv, and the US state department, as a “cynical trap” and propaganda move. Putin announced the truce, to begin at noon 6 January 2023, after a call by Patriarch Kirill, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Ministers announced legislation that looks to enforce “minimum service levels” in six sectors, including the health service, rail, education, fire and border security. Unions that refuse to do so will face injunctions and could be sued for damages. Employers will be able to sue unions, and dismiss union members who are told to work under the minimum service requirement but refuse to do so. Prime minister Rishi Sunak, however, vetoed more far-reaching measures that would have increased the threshold for strike ballots, doubled the notice for industrial action from two weeks to a month, and banned ambulance workers from striking.
The British Medical Association have informed the government that junior doctors will strike for 72 hours in March if the action is supported in a ballot opening next week. Doctors would not provide emergency care during the strike. The union, which has 45,000 junior doctor members, wants their real-terms pay restored to 2008 levels: a 26.1 per cent increase. The scale of the strike proposed by the BMA is larger than those to be held by nurses and ambulance staff, and will inflame tensions between the unions and the government. The Royal College of Nursing strikes are for 12 hours at a time, and the ambulance unions are holding 24-hour strikes.
The Divisional Court has dismissed the claim for judicial review challenging decisions made by the Home Secretary that asylum claims made in the United Kingdom should not be determined here and that instead the persons who have made those claims should be removed to Rwanda to have their asylum claims determined there. Removal from the United Kingdom in these circumstances involves two decisions: first, a decision that the asylum claim is inadmissible – i.e., that the asylum claim should not be decided on its merits in the United Kingdom; and second a decision to remove the asylum claimant to a safe third country which in these cases is Rwanda. Lewis LJ and Swift J found that the Home Secretary was entitled to rely on assurances provided by the Rwandan government in a specific and detailed memorandum of understanding that Rwanda was a safe third country. They also rejected the argument that the policy was in breach of retained EU law, specifically, Directive 2005/85 art.27(2). Regardless of whether art.27(2) had been breached, there was no breach of retained EU law, by reason of the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020 Sch.1 Pt 3 para.6, the Directive was not retained EU law. The judgment is also interesting on the question of standing. The claimants included individual asylum seekers, charities and a home office officials’ trade union. The Court concluded that neither the trade union nor the charities had standing. The union’s members were not directly affected by the policy in any sense relevant for the purposes of seeking judicial review, and it could not be said that any person working for a public authority had sufficient interest to challenge any decision taken by that authority. The charities claimed that they had surrogate standing in that they represented the interests of those who were not well-placed to bring an action themselves. However, that submission was undermined by the presence of the asylum-seeker claimants, who were better placed to bring the claim.
A&E wards dealt with 2.2. million patients last month, while ambulance services attended 81,655 of the most serious incidents: the highest demand on record for November. Strikes are set for December 15 and 21, as Royal College of Nursing members at hospitals across England will strike over below-inflation pay increases. Paramedics and other ambulance staff in most parts of the country will strike a day later on December 21. Labour have indicated they are “willing to talk” about higher pay rises for NHS staff, and would revisit the pay deal handed to NHS staff.
A Manchester High Court order was made on Friday 16 December by Fordham J, ruling that the Home Secretary acted unlawfully in failing to ensure an adequate rate of support for more than 50,000 asylum seekers. The case, brought by an asylum seeker “CB”, challenged the amount of financial support given to asylum seekers during the cost-of-living crisis. An estimated 58,148 asylum seekers in self-catering accommodation receive cash support for basic needs such as food and travel. The level of support is calculated to be the minimum required for day-to-day survival.
A historic deal has been agreed at the United Nation’s Cop27 summit which will provide funding to vulnerable countries to cope with the impact of climate change. The final cover document did not include commitments to reduce the use of fossil fuels. The deal also used new ambiguous language about “low emissions energy” which experts suggest could refer to fossil fuels including gas.
There has been an investigation following the appearance of sexual abuse victims’ personal details on the Suffolk Police website. Police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore issued an “unreserved apology” for the breach. The published information included victims’ names, addresses, dates of birth and details of the offences committed against them.
On Monday 14 November, the United Nations Human Rights Council released a report which including 302 recommendations demanding that the UK must tackle rising poverty. The report follows new figures revealing that four million children in households on universal credit face big cuts in income if benefits are not increased in line with inflation. Oxfam and the Healthcare Trade Unison, amongst other organisations, have said the UK is “failing to meet its international legal obligations”.
In other news:
The Refugee Council called on ministers to introduce a range of measures to deal with the record delays in processing asylum claims. Currently, government spending is at around £6.8million for housing migrants in hotels. It has also been revealed that at least forty child asylum seekers were placed in a Home Office hotel designated for adults; last month, one child was the victim of a serious stabbing.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has revised its guidance on age-restricted ads online. The new guidelines provide greater protection to children and young people by introducing content, media placement and audience targeting restrictions. The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) provided a principles-based checklists to help limit the exposure of young people and children to age-restricted ads. Advertisers have ultimate responsibility for ensuring compliance with the rules.
Analysts at the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) revealed they found nearly nine-hundred instances of Category A child sexual abuse material in just five days. The research revealed children as young as seven are being coerced by abusers into filming themselves carrying out the most severe forms of child sexual abuse material. The data publication has been used to highlight the need for the delayed Online Safety Bill.
In the courts
In X, Re (Catastrophic Injury: Collection and Storage of Sperm)  EWCOP 48, the Court of Protection dismissed an application by X’s parents, V and W, for a declaration that it would be lawful for a doctor to retrieve X’s gametes to be stored both before and after his death, and an order that V may sign the relevant consents in accordance with the provisions of sub-paragraph 1(2) of Schedule 3 to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 (“The 1990 Act”). Schedule 3 of the 1990 Act deals with the use or storage of gametes, as does Section 4(1) of the 1990 Act; both stress the importance of consent in order that this activity be effectively regulated. X was potentially to be assessed as brain dead within 24 hours of the hearing. Citing Parrillo v. Italy (Application no. 46470/11) the Court held that the ability to give consent in regards to gametes or embryos constitutes a facet of private life. The Court relied upon K v LBX and others EWCA Civ 79 in establishing that for an interference with X’s Article 8 rights to be lawful, it must be necessary and proportionate to achieve a legitimate aim. Having considered all the circumstances, and applying section 4 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, the Court held that it would not be in X’s best interests to make the declarations sought. The Court was not persuaded that the significant interference with X’s Article 8 rights would be necessary or proportionate.
On 18 November, judgement was handed down in AG (A Child), Re  EWCA Civ 1505. The Court dismissed an appeal against the decision of the Divisional Court to refuse to make a declaration of incompatibility between certain provisions of the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964 (DPA) and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 (VCDR) with Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR). The key issue in the appeal was whether the Divisional Court was right to decide that neither Article 3 nor ECtHR jurisprudence required the UK to breach the VCDR. The Appellant, AG, and her 5 siblings were subjected to abuse by both their parents. Their father was an accredited diplomat at the time and thus had immunity from the criminal, civil and administrative jurisdiction of the receiving state under DPA and the VCDR. Barnet, the London Borough where the family lived, tried to intervene on the children’s behalf, and supported AG in the appeal. The Appellant contended, referencing Z v United Kingdom (Application no. 29392/95), that Article 3 includes a systems duty on the state to take effective measures to prevent private acts of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The Court were unpersuaded by this. Relying upon Lord Reed’s judgement in R (AB) v Secretary of State for Justice AC 487, the Court held that they could not be confident that the ECtHR would regard the systems duty in Article 3 as overriding the long-established international law principles enshrined in the VCDR and it was not open to the court to declare Article 3 and the VCDR incompatible.
A woman living with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (“ASD”), absence epilepsy and learning difficulties succeeded in a claim for judicial review against the London Borough of Croydon after a deputy High Court judge ruled that the council had failed to meet her needs contrary to the requirements of the Care Act 2014. The claim in P, R (On the Application Of) v London Borough of Croydon EWHC 2886 (Admin) contended that the council’s decision to fund 35 hours per week of support was unlawful as it failed to meet her needs, and succeeded on three of four grounds.In relation to Ground 1, the Judge observed that it was arguably unlawful for the Defendant to have set a level of required care in an assessment, and then to have provided a Care and Support Plan making assumptions that the required care could be provided by her parents. Grounds 3 and 4 both concerned a failure to comply with The Care and Support Statutory Guidance. The Court held, referring to the standard of proof established in R (Cava Bien Ltd) v Milton Keynes Council EWHC 3003, that the Defendant’s apparent failure to asses the level of care which could and would be provided by the Claimant’s parents did make a substantial difference to the outcome of the Claimant’s care assessment. The Court ordered the quashing order of the Defendant’s February 2022 decision to provide or fund 35 hours of support per week, and the Defendant’s Care and Support Plan dated 14 February 2022. With reference to R (CP) v North East Lincolnshire Council EWCA Civ 1614, the Court maintained that it was not unconcerned with “historic” breaches and the Claimant was entitled to declaratory relief on this aspect of Ground 1.
Dominic Raab has returned to the role of Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor. Brandon Lewis stepped down from the role after 50 days in office; he recently engraved his name on the foundation stone at London’s Justice Quarter, where construction of a ‘super court’ began last week.
On 25 October, Safeguarding Minister Mims Davis announced new provisions, collectively known as ‘Kay’s Law’, to better protect victims of crimes such as domestic abuse and sexual assault. The reforms, coming into force this week, include imposing a duty upon the police force to take into account the views of victims before releasing someone on bail, and encouraging the use of pre-charge bail when necessary and proportionate. These reforms coincide with further measures to support victims, including the ‘ENOUGH’ campaign. The campaign provides information on support services, safe ways to intervene if someone witnesses an incident of violence against women and girls, and offers guidance for individuals worried about their own behaviour.
The ruling has been released in the deportation case of two members of the Rochdale grooming gang. Adil Khan, 51, and Qari Abdul Rauf, 52, lost their appeal against deportation after a seven-year legal battle following their convictions of child sex offences in May 2012. Although the appeal was heard at an immigration tribunal in June, with a decision made in August, judges have only just released their legal ruling. The challenge against deportation on human rights grounds failed; in both individuals’ cases there was a “very strong public interest” in them being removed from the UK.
Lawyers representing TFL have requested permission from the High Court to take legal action against a further 121 named people following the intensification of Just Stop Oil protests. Earlier this month Mrs Justice Yip granted an injunction against 62 named “defendants” and against “persons unknown”, also making an order that the Metropolitan Police should “disclose” to TFL the names and address of individuals arrested as a result of the protests.
In other news
A report, from the Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy, at the University of Cambridge, has stated that live facial recognition technology (LFR) should be banned from use in streets, airports and any public spaces. The study examined three deployments of LFR, one by the Metropolitan police and two by South Wales police; it found that all three failed “to meet ethical and legal standards”.
The Law Society has found that, at the current rate of progress, it will take more than 125 years before there is proper representation within the England and Wales judiciary. Black judges make up just 1.09% of the judiciary, compared with 1.02% in 2014, and it would take until 2149 for their representation to match current estimates for the general population (3.5%). For female representation to be achieved, it is expected to be at least another decade, and for people of Asian ethnicity, that stage in anticipated to be reached by 2033.
For the first time, the information commissioner has issued a blanket warning on the ineffectiveness of ‘emotional analysis’ technologies. The attempted development of ’emotional AI’ is one of four issues that the ICO has identified in a study of the future of biometric technologies. The “pseudoscientific” nature of the field makes it untrustworthy, especially in instances of gathering information related to important decision making.
In the courts
On 21 October the Court of Appeal handed down judgement in Rowe v London Borough of Haringey EWCA Civ 1370. The case concerned HHJ Roberts’ order dismissing the Appellant’s appeal against the London Borough of Haringey’s review decision dated 23 June 2021. The decision stated that the Appellant was not statutorily overcrowded under the requirements of Part X Housing Act 1985 (HA 85) and it was reasonable for her to remain in her accommodation. The dispute arose as to whether Part X HA 85 applied to the house as a whole, as the Appellant contended, or the Appellant’s room, as the Respondent contended. In post-hearing submissions, the Respondent contended whether Part X HA 85 applied at all, arguing instead that the relevant measure was that in Part 2 Housing Act 2004. The Court declined to decide on this issue, instead proceeding on the original submissions that Part X HA 85 applied. The Court held the property was not a ‘separate dwelling’ for the purposes of s.325 and s.326 HA 1985 and that no breach of overcrowding had occurred. Ground 2 of the appeal, assessing reasonableness of occupation was predicated on Ground 1, which had been dismissed. The Court held that the Respondent’s withdrawal of its original decision, via a letter dated 12 May 2022, due to their mistake in not assessing the property’s status as an unlicensed HMO did not render the claim as academic.
On 26 October, the High Court handed down judgement in Three Counties Agricultural Society v Persons Unknown & Ors EWHC 2708 (KB). The case involved an application for a precautionary injunction against ‘Persons Unknown’ by the Claimant, in an effort to curb protest activity at the Three Counties Defence and Security Exposition. The Court stated that the starting point for the grant of an injunction was s 37(1) of the Senior Courts Act 1981. In this instance European Convention rights were engaged, therefore the correct test to apply was the more stringent one laid down in Ineos Upstream Ltd v Persons Unknown  4 WLR 100. The Court held that the injunction to prevent trespass upon the Claimant’s land was appropriate and necessary. In respect of the part of the Order relating to activity on the highway, the Court stated it must strike a balance between the rights of the protestors and the rights of the Claimant to access and egress its land. The Court held that granting the injunction would not unlawfully interfere with Article 10 and 11 rights of the protestors, and that any interference presented by the injunction was proportionate.
Rishi Sunak has formally been appointed the new UK prime minister, following Lizz Truss’ resignation on Thursday 20 October 2022. He is the youngest prime minister for more than 200 years and the first British-Asian prime minister.
A report by Baroness Casey has revealed that claims against Met Police officers of sexual misconduct, misogyny, racism and homophobia have been badly mishandled. According to the report, 1,809 officers – or 20% of all those facing allegations – had more than one complaint raised against them: less than 1% of officers facing multiple allegations had been dismissed from the force. Met Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley says he is ‘appalled’ at the findings and the situation ‘cannot continue’.
The University of Manchester has released a report which finds the judiciary in England and Wales to be ‘institutionally racist’. In a survey of almost 400 lawyers and judges, 95% said that racial bias played some role in outcomes in court and 29% said it played a ‘fundamental role’. The study also showed that judicial discrimination to be directed particularly towards black court users – from lawyers to witnesses to defendants. Since 2020, however, there has been only one published Judicial Conduct Investigations Office decision in which racism was found against a judge.
On Thursday 8 September, Queen Elizabeth II, the UK’s longest-serving monarch, died peacefully at Balmoral aged 96. She is succeeded by her son, King Charles III. He described the death of his mother as a ‘moment of great sadness’ for him and his family, and that her loss would be ‘deeply felt’ around the world. Her state funeral this Monday was watched by around 4 billion people worldwide, and more than a million people lined the streets of London to pay tribute.
On Friday 17 September, the measure known as section 28 was extended to five more crown courts, taking the total number to 63. The policy allows complainants of offences including modern slavery to be cross-examined before trial in front of a limited number of people. Although many barristers support the principle of the policy, some have stated there are insufficient resources for the scheme, particularly in the light of the indefinite walkout over legal aid fees. Many advocates refused to do section 28 cases pre-strike given the amount of extra unpaid work required.
The quarter-of-a-billion-pound IT project rolled out by the Ministry of Justice to increase the efficiency of sharing information between courts, lawyers and police has come under criticism. The Common Platform software system has been accused of putting the justice system ‘at risk’. It is reported the system has been resulting in difficulties for lawyers, unlawful detentions, and wrongful arrests. Whistle-blowers have called the system ‘faulty, unsafe and unfinished’.
The UK government has submitted its argument in the case which may settle whether Members of Scottish Parliament could legislate for a vote on Scottish independence without Westminster’s backing. The submission from the Advocate General precedes a full hearing on 11 and 12 October when oral arguments will be heard. The Supreme Court will rule on whether Holyrood alone has the power to hold an independence vote, which First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wants to hold on 19 October 2023. Last month, the Scottish government published its own case, arguing the referendum is ‘advisory’ and would have no legal effect on the union.
The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee published a report on 4 August recommending the government should improve legal protections for unmarried couples by introducing an opt-out cohabitation scheme proposed by the Law Commission in 2007. The scheme aims to protect eligible cohabitants who are economically vulnerable, preserve individual autonomy, maintain a distinction with marriage and civil partnership, and provide certainty about who qualifies as a cohabitant. The committee said the government should commit to publishing draft legislation for scrutiny in the 2023-24 parliamentary session.
On 10 August, Suella Braverman delivered a speech for the Policy Exchange’s Judicial Power Project stressing the need for the government to better clarify the scope of fundamental rights. She called to curb the influence of the European Court of Human Rights, citing the ‘intensive standard of proportionality under the Human Rights Act’. The speech dealt with issues including the Equality Act, Single Sex Spaces- specifically in schools- convention rights and illegal migration.
On Monday 25 July, the Court of Appeal refused permission to appeal against a decision to end 12-year old Archie Battersbee’s life support treatment. The decision was stayed for 48 hours – until 2pm on Wednesday – to allow Archie’s parents to apply to the European Court of Human Rights for interim relief. On Tuesday 2 August, the family’s fresh appeal to the Supreme Court, based on ‘new evidence’ of Archie attempting to independently take breaths, was also refused.
Also on Monday, the London Central Employment Tribunal ruled in favour of Allison Bailey, awarding her £22,000 in her discrimination case. The Tribunal found that the barrister at Garden Court Chambers (GCC) had been victimised and discriminated against by her employer for expressing gender critical beliefs. The claim against Stonewall Equality Ltd was dismissed; the LGBT charity worked with GCC, which had joined its ‘diversity champions’ scheme. Ms Bailey accused Stonewall of ‘trans-extremism’.
Thursday 28 July marked a historic moment for the UK’s legal system; for the first time, filming and public broadcasting was allowed in the Crown Court. Cameras recorded Sarah Munro QC sentencing Ben Oliver, who killed his grand-father in January 2021. Her judgement, handing down a life sentence with a minimum term of ten years and eight months, was accompanied by an informative explanation.
The recent Health and Care Act 2022 has come under scrutiny for introducing a cap on social care spending. From October 2023, the government will introduce a cap of £86,000 on the amount anyone in England will need to spend on their care over their lifetime. The cap will no longer count contributions from local authorities towards care costs. Disabled people living in the UK already spend an average of £583 a month in relation to their healthcare. The cap is much larger than the £35,000 recommended by the 2011 Dilnot Commission. There are concerns the cap breaches the Equality Act 2010 by discriminating against disabled people and other groups.
In a report published on Tuesday 31 May, the Information Commissioner’s Office highlighted the need to reduce the requirements for complainants in rape and serious sexual offence cases to sign Stafford statements. These forms give officers consent to obtain often highly sensitive third-party materials, including medical, education and counselling records. They are said to be undermining trust and confidence in the criminal justice system. The report also called for police to stop assuming alleged rape victims have consented to searches of their phones and other devices.
An impact assessment paper on the dangers of lifting restrictions on police stop and search powers, dated January 2022, was published on Tuesday. In the equality impact assessment, commissioned by the Home Office, officials warned that easing of conditions could damage community relations and lead to more people from minority ethnic backgrounds being targeted.
On Monday 23, the Russian tank commander Vadim Shishimarin was sentenced to life in prison by a court in Kyviv. He previously pleaded guilty to killing Oleksandr Shelypov, 62. Shishmarin’s trial has been closely watched by investigators collecting evidence of possible war crimes to bring before the international Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague. International law experts will also scrutinise the verdict of the 21-year-old tank commander; a key question arose from the proceedings about how much scope the Kyviv court has now left itself for sentencing Russians for more heinous or numerous offences.
The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care, led by Josh MacAlister, was published on Monday 23 May. The report included more than 80 recommendations and suggested a windfall tax on the 15 largest children’s homes and fostering providers. Projections claim that by 2032 there could be approaching 100,000 children in care costing £15 billion per year. An investigation by The Timeshas demonstrated that many inexperienced or first-time owners of children’s home have opened residences in order to charge as much as £1,000 a day. MacAlister has also encouraged the government to consider adding those with care experience to the Equality Act.
The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill has caused controversy in recent years, with opponents raising concerns about how it could affect the rights of women and girls. On Tuesday, Ellie Gomersall – the first trans person to be elected as the president of NUS Scotland – and Malcom Dingwall-Smith, Sportscotland’s strategic partnerships manager, both gave evidence to the qualities, human rights and civil justice committee concerning its effectiveness. The former, asserted the limited powers of the bill to reduce crime in single-sex spaces, and the latter highlighted that the bill would have no impact on a section of the 2010 Act that allows trans people to be barred from the sports of their acquired gender if the governing body deems it interferes with ‘fair competition or the safety of competitors’.
On Thursday, Britain’s equality regulator announced that it has launched a formal investigation into Pontins holiday parks due to continued concerns about discrimination against Gypsies and Travellers. Last year, Pontins owner, Britannia Jinky Jersey Limited, entered into a 12-month contract with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), following allegations that the company operated a discriminatory booking policy. On the 18 February the EHRC terminated the contract, judging that Pontins had not taken the required steps to prevent unlawful race discrimination or honour its commitments under the agreements. The EHRC has now launched a formal investigation that will consider whether Pontins has committed unlawful acts under the Equality Act 2010.
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