This year Law Pod UK celebrates its fifth birthday. In 2017 we were amongst the very first to roll out a specialised series of podcasts about the law in the United Kingdom. And after a brief hiatus we’re back with a bang, with two new presenters and a number of exciting upcoming guests.
Jim has extensive experience across clinical negligence, inquests and inquiries, personal injury, human rights, tax and employment and discrimination.
He is a member of the Attorney General’s Panel of Counsel (‘B’ Panel) and has particular experience of prison law and employment claims, acting on both sides.
In this episode he talks to Clare Ciborowska and Richard Ager at the Brighton Annexe of 1 Crown Office Row about how the family court deals with allegations of ‘alienating behaviour’ by one parent against another. They examine in particular the part psychologists play in that process.
Waiting in the wings is our second new presenter, Lucy McCann. You will be meeting her shortly. Lucy has recently joined Chambers after a stellar pre-pupillage career, including editing the OUP’s practitioner text, Judicial Review: Principles and Procedure and lecturing in public law at City Law School.
Back to Law Pod UK: we now have a strong following amongst lawyers, law students and those interested in legal issues. We recently surpassed 645,000 listens and have hosted guests including Nazir Afzal OBE, Bill Browder, Gráinne de Búrca, Lord Anderson of Ipswich KC, Harriet Wistrich and Joshua Rozenberg, and panels involving Lord Justice Singh and Sir Steven Sedley.
This poignant case tells a sad story, but an instructive one in terms of human rights and the ability of courts to interpret statutes in accordance with these rights under Section 3 of the Human Rights Act 1998.
The judge’s role in these difficult private cases is subject to the “stern test” laid down by Sir James Munby in Samantha Jeffries v BMI Healthcare Limited and others EWHC 2493 (Fam) . Respect for a statute’s obvious does not entail
that the judge must approach a case such as this bereft of humanity, empathy, compassion and sympathy. What it does mean is that the judge cannot allow his judgment to be swayed, or his decision to be distorted, by those very human emotions.
Background facts and law
The statute in question in that case and this was the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, as amended by secondary legislation and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008. More on that later. Here, the applicant sought a declaration that it was lawful for him to use an embryo created using his sperm and the eggs of his late wife in treatment with a surrogate. The embryo was created in 2018 when the applicant and his wife (C) were undergoing fertility treatment to fulfil their wish to have children of their own. The embryo is currently stored at the Centre for Reproductive and Genetic Health.
The applicant and his wife had undergone several unsuccessful cycles of IVF, the latter being private. They had remortgaged their house to pay for the treatment. A positive pregnancy with twin girls was confirmed in November 2018. C developed complications in her pregnancy at 18 weeks, which resulted in a uterine rupture, and she died on 25 February 2019. There was one remaining embryo which the applicant wished to use with a surrogate, to fulfil their joint wish for this to take place in such circumstances. He accepted there was no written consent by C for that to take place but said that they had not been given sufficient information or opportunity to give that written consent. It was that remaining embryo that was the subject of this application.
With the current turmoil in Westminster, attention to the government’s proposed Bill of Rights Bill has temporarily fallen away. But whatever the leadership contest throws up, the debate still rages: do we repeal and replace the Human Rights Act 1998? Leave it in place, or update it? Dominic Raab’s Bill will probably have to wait a while for its second reading in the Commons; in the mean time, Rosalind English combs through its provisions with Andrew Warnock QC, whose practice at 1 Chancery Chambers involves many cases involving claims based on the European Convention of Human Rights and the 1998 Act. Listen to Episode 167 for an in-depth survey of the new Bill’s proposals.
Here are the citations for the cases referred to in the interview:
R (On the application of Elan-Cane) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  UKSC 56
Robinson v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police  UKSC 4
UKHRB followers of a certain age may remember this advertisement for breakfast cereal, which went “viral” in the days before the internet:
Those were innocent times, when we believed that the combination of wheat, fat and sugar in a breakfast cereal was a good start to a child’s day. Now we know that foods high in sugar are major contributors to the child obesity epidemic in this country. Hence the government’s regulations on nutritional foodstuffs, introduced last year.
Background law and facts
The Food (Promotions and Placement) (England) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/1368 – “the 2021 Regulations”) are part of the Government’s strategy to tackle childhood obesity. They introduce restrictions on the promotion, in supermarkets or other large outlets and online, of food which is classified as high in fat, sugaror salt.
Under these Regulations breakfast cereals are included in the categories of food which may be “specified food” and therefore subject to the relevant restrictions. Whether a given product within one of these categories is in fact classified as “less healthy” depends on the score which it is given under the Food Standards Agency’s Nutrient Profiling Model (“NPM”). The NPM requires that the nutrient content of a given product is analysed per 100g of the food or drink itself, rather than taking account of what the food or drink may be consumed with.
Kellogg’s – one of the main players in the breakfast market – relies on agreements with retailers to place its products in parts of stores (e.g. near the checkout, in a queuing area, at the end of an aisle) which maximise sales and to promote its products on the retailers’ websites.
Arguments before the Court
Kellogg’s pleaded claims were based on a number of grounds, the main one being that the Defendant failed to have regard to a relevant consideration, namely the fact that breakfast cereals are typically consumed with milk. This, they maintained was part of the nutrient profile of breakfast cereals.
Kellogg’s fundamental complaint about the 2021 Regulations was that, under the NPM, the fact that a portion of, for example, Kellogg’s “Frosties” would typically be consumed with milk, was not taken into account in assessing whether this product was food which is classified as high in fat, sugar or salt (“HFSS”). If the consumption of milk with breakfast cereal were taken into account, fewer Kellogg products would be classified as HFSS because the nutrient values of the added milk would contribute to the scoring. Kellogg argued that an approach which measured the relative levels of fat, sugar or salt in the product itself, rather than the health impact of the product as typically consumed, was disproportionate and irrational.
“Every day in the UK lives are suddenly, brutally, wickedly taken away. Victims are shot or stabbed. Less often they are strangled or suffocated or beaten to death. Rarely they are poisoned, pushed off high buildings, drowned or set alight. Then there are the many who are killed by dangerous drivers, or corporate gross negligence. There are a lot of ways you can kill someone. I know because I’ve seen some of them at close quarters”
These are the words of Her Honour Wendy Joseph QC in the preface to her book Unlawful Killings: Life, Love and Murder: Trials at the Old Bailey”. Until recently Wendy was a judge at the Old Bailey, trying mainly allegations of murder and other homicides. She practised as a barrister for thirty two years, then sat as a full-time judge until she retired earlier this year. Because she no longer sits as a judge she was able to publish this fascinating book which has been described in reviews as describes the book as a “novel”. And indeed it is, a series of interlinked dramatic human stories leading to a close. She writes with great clarity about the technical processes of the law, and the implications of these for the people before her in Court.
In Episode 166 Rosalind English talks to Wendy Joseph about the human stories that are played out in the Old Bailey.
Voting for the Northern Ireland Assembly took place on Thursday 5 May. This year, for the first time, Sinn Fein looks set to win a majority of the seats. Whether the Democratic Unionist Party agrees to the power sharing arrangement where it is relegated to second place remains to be seen. What continues to be hotly debated is the Northern Ireland Protocol, put in place to avoid a “hard border” between Northern Ireland and Ireland which of course is still part of the EU single market.
But the Protocol isn’t only about trade. Under Article 2 the UK government has made an important commitment regarding the rights of Northern Ireland’s citizens to equality, non-discrimination, transparency and a range of other rights protected under European Union law. Article of the 2 Protocol is a very new provision, applying the acquis communitaire of the CJEU to Northern Ireland, even though NI is part of post Brexit EU.
In our latest episode Rosalind English meets UKHRB Northern Ireland correspondent Anurag Deb in Belfast two days after the elections to discuss what this EU rights provision means for the citizens of Northern Ireland.
In Episode 163, Rosalind English talks to Ariane Adam and Tatiana Kazim of the Public Law Project about automated decision making (ADM) in the public sector, the problems of transparency and automation bias where these decisions affect people’s rights. This interview was held shortly after the House of Lords Justice and Home Affairs Committee published its report on new technologies and the application of the law.
We discuss a number of issues, in particular those that arose in the Post Office “Horizon” accountancy scandal, and the case of R (Eisai Ltd) v National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence  EWCA Civ 438. The defendant, responsible for appraising clinical benefits and cost-effectiveness of health care interventions, had refused to provide the claimant with a fully executable version of the model it used to assess the cost-effectiveness of the claimant’s drugs. The Court of Appeal held that procedural fairness required release of the fully executable version of the model . It rejected the defendant’s claims that disclosure would undermine confidentiality or be overly costly, noting at  that the court should be ‘very slow to allow administrative considerations of this kind to stand in the way of its release’.
The PLP has also published a summary of the JHAC report here.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that states have a broad margin of discretion in applying their criminal law to cases of assisted suicide. The applicant’s conviction may have constituted an interference with his rights, but that interference was prescribed by the Danish criminal law, which pursued the legitimate aims of the protection of health and morals and the rights of others. Denmark had not acted disproportionately by convicting him.
Law Pod UK recently ran an episode with former Court of Appeal judge Sir Stephen Sedley and Trevor Moore, the director of the campaign group My Death, My Decision, in which we dealt with this difficult subject in detail. Sir Stephen is a victim of Parkinson’s disease and his contribution to the debate is profoundly important. I have therefore quoted extensively from the article Sir Stephen wrote for the London Review of Books in October 2021, “A Decent Death”.
Those campaigning for a change in the law in this field object to the use of the word “euthanasia” and I have respected this position in the following case report. It should be noted at the outset that the applicant physician was a member of an association called “Physicians in Favour of Euthanasia”. This is the English translation. The Danish suggests something closer to “assisted dying”: ” Aktiv Dødshjælp”.
In Episode 162 Clare Ciborowska and Richard Ager, both family law experts from the Brighton Annexe of 1 Crown Row, talk about the difficult subject of reproductive coercion where such allegations arise in child contact cases. Fact finding hearings, Scott schedules, safeguarding enquiries and risk assessments are proceedings about children’s interests: how is the court to assess and weigh allegations of reproductive coercion and control, where the victims of such abuse are reluctant to repeat the trauma by reliving the details.
The claimant (FoE) applied for judicial review of the decision by the Secretary of State to provide export finance and support in relation to a liquified natural gas project in Mozambique.
The mission of the International Trade/Export Credits Guarantee Department (UKEF) is to ensure that no viable UK export fails for lack of finance or insurance from the private sector, while operating at no net cost to the taxpayer. It is afforded a significant margin of appreciation when considering factors when deciding whether to provide this finance and support. Indeed it has been the first UK Government Department to assess climate change impacts in the context of a long-term foreign project with many public interest considerations.
The project comprised the development of offshore deepwater gas production facilities connected to an onshore gas receiving and liquefaction facility. It was to be operated by the first interested party (Total Mozambique) and funded via the second interested party (a financing company). UKEF acknowledged that climate change impacts and the Paris Climate Change Agreement were factors that ought to be taken into account alongside other factors in making its decision in relation to the project. A report was prepared summarising the climate change matters considered by UKEF, including that the potential Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions from the use of the project’s exported liquid natural gas would be very high, and that it was unlikely that Mozambique would attract significant international investment into the renewables sector without first being in receipt of financial resources from investment into sectors such as natural gas.
Episode 161: Just days before Russia resigned from the Council of Europe, the Centre of European Law at King’s College London held a rapid reaction seminar considering what role can EU law play in the current conflict in Ukraine. The distinguished panel, chaired by King’s College Reader in Law Oana Stefan, included Professor Takis Tridimas, Professor of European Law at KCL, Roman Petrov, Head of the International and European Law Department at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla, and others. We are very grateful to King’s College for allowing Law Pod UK to summarise the main points made by the experts and raise the question: does EU law present any potential way of this quagmire?
The Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London, is recognised as one of the best law schools in the world. It recently launched its MSc Law and Professional Practice.
Barely two weeks after Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine, the Economic Crime Bill was rushed through the House of Commons. This one of the measures this country has taken to cleanse itself of “dirty money” from Russia and other countries by setting up a register of overseas entities and their beneficial owners and requiring overseas entities who own land to disclose their identities. In Episode 160 Rosalind English talks to Oliver Bullough, a journalist who has lived and worked throughout the former Soviet Union. His latest book, Butler to the World, makes a forceful point about how Britain has become a servant to all comers as long as they pay enough. Not just the banks and estate agents; lawyers are complicit too, in his view:
We have essentially given their oligarchs a back door to a fair dispute resolution process that they can deprive their fellow citizens of
Will these new legislative measures work? Only if our enforcement agencies are properly resourced, says Bullough. Just four “unexplained wealth orders” have been made since they were introduced by the Teresa May government in 2018. Perhaps it takes a crisis like the current one to give this legislation some force.
With clips from Sir Stephen’s presentation of his talk, we consider the contradictions in the law which still renders assisted dying a criminal offence, but allowed Coronavirus restrictions to be lifted to enable people to travel to end their lives at Dignitas in Switzerland; the stressful possibility faced by relatives returning from Switzerland that they are at risk of being prosecuted under the 1961 Suicide Act, and the constant buck-passing of reforms to this Act between the courts and Parliament.
As Sir Stephen commented in his talk, the “historical anathema”, of punishing either unsuccessful suicides or their families, lives on in the undifferentiated crime of assisting a person to commit suicide.
The present-day offence fails – signally – to differentiate between the intervener who, out of self-interest or perversion, helps to ensure that a suicide attempt succeeds, and the individual who, out of compassion, gives a rational fellow being the help he or she needs to end a life that has become medically unbearable.
For those of you who have listened to this episode, here is another reflection from Sir Stepen, on the obligation on family members returning from Switzerland, to protect themselves from prosecution under the Suicide Act by reporting themselves to the police.
On self-incrimination, I think there’s possibly more to be said. The senior police officer or crown prosecutor whose desk the case reaches may be personally (even doctrinally) hostile and decide – armed now with a full ‘confession’ given in the hope of clemency under the DPP’s policy – to prosecute. In that event there is no defence of compassion; the jury may have to convict. I find this a terrifying scenario.
This was an interesting ruling on the matter of standing, something that has fallen rather by the wayside since it formed the subject of much satellite litigation in the 1990s. In essence, the Court ruled that the GLP had no standing to bring this claim. Despite its articles of association, whose purposes include the provision of sound administration and equality, democracy, high standards in public administration, access to justice, preservation of the environment or “any other philanthropic or benevolent purpose ancillary”. Such a general statement of objects could not confer standing on an organisation:
That would be tantamount to saying that the GLP has standing to bring judicial review proceedings in any public law case. 
Arguments before the Court
The GLP and the Runnymede Trust brought a challenge to the government’s decision to appoint two individuals to head Covid projects such as the Test and Trace programme (Baroness Harding of Winscombe (Dido Harding) was one of the individuals named). Mike Coupe, Director of Testing, NHS Test & Trace, was the other.
The claimants contended that the government had a practice of appointing people to positions critical to the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic without open competition, that only candidates with some relevant personal or political connection to the decision-maker were appointed, and that, even though the positions to be filled were senior and strategically important, the person appointed was unpaid. The Claimants said this gave rise to indirect discrimination on grounds of race and/or disability. They made other complaints about the process used by the Defendants.
The Defendants disputed all these claims on their merits. In addition, they contended (a) that the matters complained of had now been overtaken by events rendering the claims academic, and that for that reason, the claims should not be determined by the court; (b) that the claims had been brought too late and should be dismissed for that reason; and (c) that the Claimants lacked standing to bring the claims. There was also one further matter, which the Court considered in the context of the standing issue, although it was conceptually distinct. That was whether the decisions challenged were amenable to judicial review. Each of the decisions challenged in these proceedings was an employment decision. Employment decisions, even when taken by public authorities, are not ordinarily challengeable by application for judicial review.
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