The 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. Continue reading
Last 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.
Erlam 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”.
The 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)  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.
Photo credit: guardian.co.uk
Using the inherent jurisdiction against Child Sexual Exploitation: Birmingham City Council v Riaz & Ors, 15 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.
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.
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.