The right to be forgotten before the Courts again

NT 1 & Anor v Google LLC [2018] EWHC 261 (QB) (15 February 2018) – read judgment

This was a Pre Trial Review of an application by the claimants to have details about an old criminal conviction and other information removed from Google and associated websites under the “right to be forgotten”. Each of the claimants sought orders prohibiting the defendant (Google) from continuing to return internet search reports which included information about the claimant which he claimed was inaccurate, stale, irrelevant, and thereby infringed his data protection and privacy rights.  The “right to be forgotten” is, in this context,  also referred to as “de-listing”. The two cases are due to be tried by Warby J at the end of February. In order to avoid an own goal at trial, where those very names and convictions would be made public, the parties sought to come up with forms of pseudonym or cipher that would protect them. One proposal was that

 in the NT1 case a co-defendant of the claimant at his criminal trial in the late 1990s should be referred to as “Mr A”, and that certain offshore companies used by NT1 should be referred to as “Companies A and B”. There are also references to “Businesses A, B, C, D, E, F, G and H”. In the NT2 case, the claimant also had a co-defendant, and the proposal is to call him “Mr A”. This is not the same person as the “Mr A” in the NT1 case. “Company A” in the NT2 case is a cipher for “The business in which the claimant [NT2] previously had an interest.” It is not the same as Company A in the NT1 case. The Confidential schedule in the NT2 case also features “Companies F, G, H, I, J, K and H” which are all different from any of those that feature in the NT1 claim.

Warby J was unimpressed with this alphabet soup. He did not relish the prospect of preparing a judgment, or two judgments, using these ciphers. Continue reading

Where are we now on social services liability?

CN and Anor v Pool Borough Council [2017] EWCA Civ 2185, 21 December 2017 – read judgment

Just over six weeks before the Supreme Court ruled that the police owed the public a duty of care in Robinson (see our post here) the Court of Appeal had unanimously rejected the existence of such a duty in the context of social services and vulnerable children. Giving the leading judgment, Irwin LJ said that there were two strong reasons for rejecting the claimants’ case.

 [F]irst is the concern, articulated in X v Bedfordshire in relation to social services and in Hill v West Yorkshire in relation to the police, that liability in negligence will complicate decision-making in a difficult and sensitive field, and potentially divert the social worker or police officer into defensive decision-making. The second is the principle that, in general, there is no liability for the wrongdoing of a third party, even where that wrongdoing is foreseeable. Both of these considerations, in my view, bite on the facts in this case.

In his concurring judgement, Davis LJ observed that “nothing in this case as pleaded requires or justifies it going to a full trial.”

The claimants have sought permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. Continue reading

Two new podcasts on Law Pod UK

The second in Professor Catherine Barnard’s series on the legal milestones of the Brexit process is now up on iTunes and Audioboom. And today we have posted Isabel McArdle talking to Rosalind English about the Supreme Court ruling on police liability in Robinson v West Yorkshire Police. All episodes are freely available for download to your devices.

“Genetic affinity” an actionable head of damage against IVF clinic

ABC v Thomson Medical Pte Ltd and others, Singapore Civil Court of Appeal  [2017] SGCA 20 – read judgment

It is a trite reflection that law should change with the times but every so often we see the hair-pin bends in law’s pursuit of modern technology.  This case from Singapore about reproductive rights and negligence in an IVF clinic is just such an example. As the judge said at the outset, the need for the law to adjust itself to the changing circumstances of life is clearest  in the area of medical science,

where scientific advancement has made it possible for us to do things today which would previously have been unimaginable a few decades ago. This has brought untold prosperity to many, and hope to those who previously had none; but it has also given us greater capacity for harm.

Background facts

The Appellant, a Chinese Singaporean, and her husband, a German of Caucasian descent, sought to conceive a child through in-vitro fertilisation . The Appellant underwent IVF treatment and delivered a daughter, referred  to in the judgment as “Baby P”. After the birth of Baby P, it was discovered that a serious mistake had been made: the Appellant’s ovum had been fertilised using sperm from an unknown Indian third party instead of sperm from the Appellant’s husband. It turned out that the clinic had processed two semen specimens inside one laminar hood at the same time and failed  to discard the disposable pipettes that had been used after each step of the IVF process.  This had resulted in a baby being born on 1 October 2010, whose DNA did not match her father’s. Continue reading

Instagramming your claim form: valid service?

In order to set a claim under way in the civil courts, it is necessary to serve the claim form on the party named as defendant.  The service rules were good fodder for the likes of Dickens or Trollope as they set their tipstaffs in pursuit of the hapless seeking to escape the Marshalsea or similar; things became rather more mundane when society became too populous for personal service.

Continue reading

Water into gas should not go


Southern Gas Networks Plc v Thames Water Utilities Ltd 
[2018] EWCA Civ 33, 25 January 2018 – read judgment

When the supply of gas to your house fails, you are entitled to compensation from the gas undertaker for the inconvenience. If that failure has been caused by another utility’s burst water main, the gas undertaker may seek to recoup its expenses for repair to its own infrastructure and the compensation it has had to pay out to consumers. A simple enough picture.

But behind this straightforward seeming network of liabilities is a labyrinth of common law and statutory relationships whose exploration is not for the faint hearted.  As society’s dependence on the provision of energy, water and sewage services grew, during the Industrial Revolution and beyond, parliament had to think of ways to level the playing field between these increasingly centralised powers. This is not a trend that will go away, as the gas, electricity and fibre optic cables become ever more essential to the way we live our lives. Continue reading

Life sustaining treatment – whose decision?

Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust v Thomas and others [2018] EWHC 127 (Fam) – read judgment

Updated: The Court of Appeal has now ruled that doctors at King’s College hospital, London, could remove Isaiah from the ventilator that has kept him alive since he was deprived of oxygen at birth and sustained catastrophic brain injury. The judges also refused the parents permission to appeal against this ruling. McFarlane LJ said

This case is not about the parents or their hopes. It is and must firmly be about Isaiah and his best interests.

Parental love is to be cherished by society, particularly when a child is sick. But the “flattering voice of hope” is not always in best interests of the object of that love.  So concluded MacDonald J in a recent ruling which has attracted considerable media attention. The judge concluded that it was not in the 11- month old boy’s best interests for life-sustaining treatment to be continued. He was satisfied on the evidence of the court, he said, that the boy, Isaiah, had

 no prospect of recovery or improvement given the severe nature of the cerebral atrophy in his brain

and that he would remain “ventilator dependent and without meaningful awareness of his surroundings”

Perhaps with the Charlie Gard publicity in mind, MacDonald J was careful to emphasise the weight of the medical evidence as against the parents’ assessment of the boy’s condition. The publicity sparked by this case has led to visits to the child by other medical professionals. There are some forceful concluding remarks in this judgement about the inappropriate nature of these possible “clandestine examinations”. These are now a matter for the police.

The judge also rejected the argument that the court should hear evidence from “foreign” experts on the approach from which other cultures might approach this question in terms of its ethics and outcome.  There was a “world of difference” between medical expertise from abroad and a foreign “expert” who simply takes the view that the medical or ethical approach to these issues in this jurisdiction differs from that in their own practice.

It would be extremely unfortunate if the standard response to applications of this nature was to become one of scouring the world for medical experts who simply take the view that the medical, moral or ethical approach to these issues in their jurisdiction, or in their own practice is preferable to the medical, moral or ethical approach in this jurisdiction.

Continue reading