Media By: Martin Downs


Equality won’t wait – Supreme Court rules in Equal Civil Partnership

28 June 2018 by

Civil-partnership-sign-495x495As predicted on this Blog, the Supreme Court has made a declaration of incompatibility covering sections one and three of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 (to the extent that they preclude a different sex couple from entering into a civil partnership).

In Steinfeld and Keidan, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for International Development (in substitution for the Home Secretary and the Education Secretary) [2018] UKSC 32 (27 June 2018) the Court found that the provision was contrary to article 14 of ECHR taken in conjunction with article 8 of the Convention.

To an extent, this was not a surprise as, by the time the case reached the Supreme Court, the government had conceded that the current situation in which same sex couples have had a choice between marriage and civil partnership since 13th March 2014, whereas heterosexual couples only have the option of marriage, is discriminatory.

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The ‘straight civil partnership’ challenge: All you need to know before the Supreme Court Judgment

25 June 2018 by

supreme courtThe Supreme Court will hand down Judgment on Wednesday 27th June 2018 in R (on the application of Steinfeld and another) v Secretary of State for the International Development (in substitution for the Home Secretary and the Education Secretary).

The claimants are Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan who contend they were unlawfully refused an opportunity to register a Civil Partnership at Chelsea Town Hall on the grounds that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 reserves that status strictly for same sex couples. They do not want to enter into marriage as they say that it is patriarchal and is not consistent with their values.

The Civil Partnership Act 2004 created a regime for the recognition of same sex relationships modelled on that in Vermont which pretty much entirely replicated the rights and responsibilities available through marriage. One of the only anomalies was a less favourable provision for survivor benefits from an occupational pension but even that was equalised courtesy of the Supreme Court in Walker v Innospec Ltd.

The exclusion of different sex couples from Civil Partnership started to appear somewhat anomalous when the government opened marriage up to same sex couples by way of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. The effect of that was that same sex couples in England and Wales (and Scotland – but not Northern Ireland) had a choice of marriage and civil partnership but different sex couples only had the former option.

This Blog has covered the story of the Steinfeld from the very beginning. The original hearing was in front of Mrs Justice Andrews and the arguments were examined by Professor Rob Wintemute in these pages. Ultimately, as reported by Adam Wagner, Mrs Justice Andrews ruled that the current law does not breach the human rights of opposite-sex couples who cannot obtain a Civil Partnership.

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Should civil partnerships only be available to same sex couples?

13 May 2018 by

Following on from the UK Supreme Court’s special session in Belfast hearing the “Gay Cake” case, the Court now gathers in London to hear oral arguments in the Equal Love litigation whose factual origins are somewhat closer to Parliament Square in more ways than one.

Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan contend they were unlawfully refused an opportunity to register a Civil Partnership at Chelsea Town Hall on the grounds that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 reserves that status strictly for same sex couples. This exclusion started to appear somewhat anomalous when the government opened marriage up to same sex couples by way of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. The effect of this is that same sex couples in England and Wales (and Scotland – but not Northern Ireland) had a choice of marriage and civil partnership but different sex couples only had the former option.

What then is to be the future of the status of Civil Partnership created in 2004 (and covering the whole of the UK)? Most countries, upon enacting, same sex marriage abolished civil partnership schemes or barred new entrants to their schemes (like the Republic of Ireland). A few countries like the Netherlands, where civil partnership regimes are open to different sex couples as well, left couples with a choice of arrangements. Uniquely England, Wales and Scotland have (at present) left in place a situation in which same sex couples can choose between Civil Partnership and marriage but different sex couples only have the latter available to them.
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Police Anti-terrorism “Lead” calls for children to be protected from terrorist parents on a par with paedophilia

1 March 2018 by

A speech by Mark Rowley (the outgoing Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police for Specialist Operations and National Lead for Counter Terrorism Policing) to Policy Exchange has been given the front page treatment with headlines like, “Extremists should lose access to their children.” The speech has been made available in full by the Policy Exchange on their website and on Youtube.

Additionally, The Times quotes Mark Rowley as saying, in response to questions from the press in advance of the speech,

We still see cases where parents convicted of terrorist-related offences, including radicalisers, retain care of their own children.

If you know parents are interested in sex with children, or if you know parents believe that people of their faith or their belief should hate everybody else and corrupt children for it, for me those are equally wicked environments to expose children to.

The speech is phrased more tentatively but included this passage,

The family courts and social services now routinely wrestle with child protection and safeguarding cases arising out of terrorism and extremism. However, we still see cases where parents convicted of terrorist-related offences, including radicalisers, retain care of their own children. I wonder if we need more parity between protecting children from paedophile and terrorist parents.

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Northern Ireland Court of Appeal to consider same-sex marriage challenge

25 February 2018 by

The Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland will sit this week to consider an appeal against the refusal of the High Court to give recognition to the marriage of a gay man from Northern Ireland who had married his husband in London under the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. The original decision by Mr Justice O’Hara was published last August and reported as Re X [2017] NIFam 12. Under the terms of the 2013 Act, same sex marriage in England and Wales is treated for the purposes of the law of Northern Ireland as a civil partnership (in accordance with the Civil Partnership Act 2004). The Petitioner wants recognition of his marriage as such and argues that the denial of recognition is a breach of his Convention Rights.

When civil partnerships were being introduced for England, Wales and Scotland, Northern Ireland was going through one of its periods of direct rule from London. The UK government embarked upon a lightning consultation exercise and subsequently decided to include Northern Ireland in what came to be the Civil Partnership Act 2004. That meant that civil partnership was a UK wide arrangement. In fact, by a quirk of the law, the first civil partnership ceremony in the UK took place in Belfast, between Shannon Sickles and Grainne Close (who have also been refused a High Court Declaration that they can get married in the North). 
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EU Law provides Pension Equality

18 July 2017 by

Image result for uk supreme courtEU Equality law had its moment in the sun in the week after London Pride with the UK Supreme Court Judgment in the case of Walker v Innospecalbeit that the front page treatment in The Metro was not exactly the same as that in The Telegraph.

Many commentators had feared that the ECJ decision in David Parris v Trinity College Dublin would  be a problem but Professor Rob Wintemute argued in this Blog earlier this year that it could be distinguished – and he was proved right. He also had quite a big walk on role in Supreme Court Judgment (see below).
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From England (to Northern Ireland) with love

8 November 2015 by

northern-ireland-flagThe High Court in Belfast will sit on Monday 9 and 10th November to hear a challenge by a same sex couple now living in Northern Ireland who seek recognition of their English marriage. The current legal dispensation in the Province is that an English same sex marriage is recognised as a civil partnership in Northern Ireland.

The Petition is resisted by the Attorney General and government of Northern Ireland and the (UK) Government Equalities Office (which reports to Nicky Morgan, the Minister for Women and Equalities). It is anticipated that Judgment will be reserved.
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The consequences of Ireland’s Vote for Equality

31 May 2015 by

CFuJJAyXIAAMQIdLast week the people of the Republic of Ireland voted in a referendum to amend its constitution to allow marriage by two persons “without distinction as to their sex” by 62 – 38%.

The exuberance of the moment was captured by a tweet from the Irish Minister of State for Equality, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD stating, “Ireland hasn’t just said “Yes” Ireland has said “F❤CK YEAAHHHH”

The media was awash with celebratory images. Prominent in these were two Irish Senators who played their part by bringing test cases. Decriminalisation had only come about in Ireland in 1993 after Senator David Norris had challenged the previous discriminatory law in the European Court of Human Rights and won (in 1998) with the assistance of his Counsel, then Senator and subsequently President Mary Robinson.

The recognition of same sex partnerships in Ireland really came to prominence when Senator Katherine Zappone sought recognition of her Canadian marriage (with Ann Louise Gilligan) within the tax system. The High Court ruled that the constitution defined marriage as being between a man and a woman and the stage was set for battle to commence. In the meantime the government had started to take evasive action and defined marriage in the Civil Registration Act 2004 as being between a man and a woman (it was previously undefined). This was the year that the UK Parliament passed the Civil Partnership Act – which covered Northern Ireland. In 1998 the Irish Government in the Belfast Agreement committed to bringing,

measures brought forward would ensure at least an equivalent level of protection of human rights as will pertain in Northern Ireland.

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Spiritual Injury voids Mayor’s Election

3 May 2015 by

0BCCE818000005DC-3052100-image-m-33_1429813413592Erlam et al v. Rahman et al, Richard Mawrey QC, April 2015, judgment here

The Guardian has reported that Lutfur Rahman, the former directly elected mayor of Tower Hamlets is “exploring the possibility” of judicially reviewing the judgment of the Election Commissioner, Richard Mawrey QC declaring his 2014 election void and barring him from standing in the mandated repeat of the poll.

The only surprise is the qualified nature of the statement as his website had already announced his decision to appeal two days before. This site also directs readers to a petition which describes the case as, “a politically-charged stitch up and an anti-democratic coup.” The Guardian quotes the Head of the Tower Hamlets branch of UNITE as describing the judgment as “an undemocratic assault on the people of Tower Hamlets” which was both “racist” and “Islamophobic”.

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Appointment to the bench is not a licence for judges to be gratuitously rude to those appearing before them

1 February 2015 by

helmet3The target of this barb was the case management style of HHJ Dodds. The author, one of three Judges of Appeal empanelled in Re A (Children) [29 January 2015] (we will have to await a full judgment to discover which as – so far – only a Lawtel summary is available).

HHJ Dodds is well known to readers of this blog. His style of case management was also analysed (and found wanting) by the Court of Appeal the following day in Re S-W (children) [2015] EWCA Civ 27 (30 January 2015). The judgments leave one to ponder whether these cases are a product of the stresses that have emerged from the greater expectations now put on the shoulders of judges to case manage litigation or whether, as previously discussed in this blog by David Hart QC here, it is a problem that arises with clever judges who find that they are, by temperament, not inclined to listen patiently to other people (generally considered to be a core part of the job description).

In Re S-W (children), HHJ Dodds made final care orders concerning three children at a hearing designated for case management less than three weeks after the application was made. The Court of Appeal overturned the orders (no party supported the judge’s actions) deeming care proceedings to be inapt for summary judgment in all but the most exceptional of circumstances (e.g. consent). Amongst the enumerated problems were that, the father of one of the children had not been served with notice of the proceedings, the children’s Guardian had not seen the children and there were no final care plans before the court. The judge did not even give a reasoned judgment. The Court of Appeal had to look at the transcript instead. This revealed that the judge had made his settled (and trenchantly expressed) view known within minutes of the hearing commencing. According to the court,

All the parties crumbled under the judge’s caustically expressed views.

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Birmingham’s Grooming Injunctions: what does the judgment say?

24 December 2014 by

Photo credit: guardian.co.uk

Photo credit: guardian.co.uk

Using the inherent jurisdiction against Child Sexual Exploitation: Birmingham City Council v Riaz & Ors15 December 2014, read judgment

As prefigured on this Blog here, Keehan J has handed down a public Judgment  explaining how he used the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court to make novel and far-reaching Orders against ten men.

The inherent jurisdiction is the power vested in the Higher Courts to maintain their authority and prevent their processes being obstructed and abused. Traditionally this has also included the exercise on behalf of the sovereign as parens patriae of particular powers concerning children – most commonly wardship.

Birmingham City Council were addressing a real and significant issue. This had been highlighted in Rotherham. The gold standard response is to secure criminal convictions as occurred in Bristol. However, in some instances, the evidence will not secure jury convictions and hence the search is on for alternatives.

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Couple launch challenge to heterosexual bar on Civil Partnerships

9 December 2014 by

Charles-Keidan-and-Rebecc-012

Photo credit: guardian.co.uk

For some reason, this post originally appeared in the name of Colin Yeo. It is not by Colin Yeo, but by Martin Downs. Apologies for that.

The future of civil partnerships is again in the news. In October, Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan tried to register a Civil Partnership at Chelsea Town Hall but were rebuffed on the grounds that the Civil Partnership Act 2004 reserves that status strictly for same sex couples. Their lawyer, Louise Whitfield of Deighton Pierce Glynn Solicitors has announced their intention to seek a judicial review and the couple have also started a petition.

Steinfeld and Keidan have rightly identified that CPs provide virtually the same rights and responsibilities as marriage that it is within the gift of government to provide. One of the few differences concerns pension rights and even this will be considered by the Court of Appeal in February 2015.

However, the couple are attracted by civil partnership as a social construct that comes without the historical baggage of patriarchal dominance/subjection of women. They also take aim at the sexist customs that surround it such as “giving the bride away,” virginal white dresses and hen and stag do’s.

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Inherently Uncertain: Is there authority for that? Questions over Birmingham’s Grooming Injunctions

1 December 2014 by

Photo credit: guardian.co.uk

Photo credit: guardian.co.uk

Over the last month Mr Justice Keehan has made a series of injunctions at the behest of Birmingham City Council designed to protect a vulnerable child in care from being groomed. It seems that the Orders are of such breadth that they are believed to have entered uncharted territory but there are questions whether there is any authority for this development.

Much attention has been given to a series of hearings in October and November during which the press have having been permitted to name six of the men (in the teeth of opposition from West Midlands Police) subject of these injunctions. However, no Judgment has yet been placed in the public domain. On that basis, there appears no choice but to try and piece together what has occurred from the media coverage.

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Challenging adoption order using human rights

2 October 2013 by

Adoption blueThe recently released statistics from the Department for Education showing an increase of 15% in the adoption of looked after children in the last year further highlights the government’s preferred strategy for ensuring the welfare of children in care.

In my recent post, I considered the main thrust of the decision of the Court of Appeal in Re B-S which concerned the rigour which was expected of evidence, hearings and Judgments before a Placement Order was made.

However, the Court also dealt with the issue which had concerned Lord Justice McFarlane  when he gave permission to appeal  namely, where a Court has already made an order that a child may be placed for adoption and that has happened and the prospective adopter has applied for an Adoption Order, in what circumstances can a parent seek to stop it going ahead?

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When adoption without parental consent breaches human rights

1 October 2013 by

adoption-network-law-centerRe B-S (Children) [2013] EWCA Civ 1146 – Read judgment 

is the latest Judgment of the Court of Appeal on non-consensual adoption since the Supreme Court authorized a closer scrutiny of first instance decisions In re B (A Child) (Care Proceedings: Threshold Criteria) [2013] UKSC 33, [2013] 1 WLR 1911 (see comment by Rosalind English here)

It is also the most authoritative (the case was allocated to Lord Dyson MR, the President of the Family Division and Black LJ) and uses to strong language about the current inattention to Human Rights in care and adoption proceedings.

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