The secretary of state had granted a temporary approval during the COVID-19 pandemic of “the home of a pregnant woman” as a class of places for the taking of Mifepristone, one of the two drugs required for a termination of pregnancy during the first 10 weeks. The appellants challenged this decision by way of judicial review, arguing, inter alia, that it was unlawful as being without the powers conferred by the Abortion Act 1967 (as amended).
The 1967 Act sets out the legal framework under which abortions can be performed in England and Wales. Section 58 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 makes it a criminal offence to administer drugs or use instruments to procure an abortion. Section 59 of the same Act makes the supply of drugs, knowing that they are intended to be unlawfully used to procure the miscarriage of any woman, a criminal offence.
The Act excludes from criminal liability the termination of a pregnancy by a medical practitioner under certain circumstances including maximum term of twenty four weeks and risk to the woman. The Act also stipulates that treatment must be carried out in an approved place.
ELF are acting for acting for local residents in the Forest of Dean on a translocation of pine martens from Scotland. They discuss bats, other protected species and relative success of the introduction of beavers to the British Isles with Rosalind English.
A plethora of reintroductions of various species have been making the news recently, with such charismatic species as White Sea Eagles and Red Kites. Dr Mark Avery from Wild Justice discusses with Carol Day how well these projects are working. They also strike a note of caution about the proposal to reintroduce Hen Harriers in the south. Dr Nikki Gammans of the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust talks about the reintroduction of the Short Tailed Bumble Bee. This species as taken to New Zealand in colonial times, and the population remained there after it went extinct in the UK. The Bumble Bee Trust is running a project to bring them back to this country.
With Baroness Hale’s recent criticism of the emergency measures taken by the government ringing in our ears, the following information from across the Atlantic might be of interest. The New England firm Pierce Atwood LLP has compiled a list of class actions related to COVID-19 in the United States, including all filed and anticipated cases up to 9 September 2020. Although their survey only covers litigation in the US, a similar trend may be predicted in this country, albeit on a smaller scale, even as the pandemic continues to unfold: indeed Alethea Redfern has made reference to such a likelihood in this week’s Round-Up. The authors of the US report observe that, despite “unprecedented court closures and changing procedural rules”,
class actions have steadily increased and are expected to expand across industries, jurisdictions, and areas of law. The impact of COVID-19 on business operations, consumer activity, and economic forecasts has made clear that the filings to date are only an early indication of what is to come.
The report provides a categorised summary of coronavirus-related class action litigation filed to date, highlighting the core allegations of each complaint. You will find the individual case citations in their post on Lexology.
In her latest episode Professor Catherine Barnard of Cambridge University comments on the transition period towards Brexit since the Withdrawal Act was implemented by the government in January this year when we formally left the EU. It was this act that the Internal Market Bill was set up to amend, and it’s the Internal Market Bill that’s been debated in Parliament. Listen to Catherine Barnard on the difficult border problems and other issues in our repost of 2903 CB.
The Russian political dissident Alexei Navalny is still in an induced coma in a hospital in Berlin after being poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok on a flight from Siberia to Moscow on the 20th of August. The last time we heard of this lethal organophosphate was two years ago when two Russian residents in Salsibury, Wiltshire, survived an assassination attempt. Dawn Sturgess, who lived eight miles away, was not so lucky. She died after spraying herself with a discarded bottle of the poison which she thought to contain perfume.
At her inquest, the senior coroner declined to extend the scope of his investigation to the involvement of the Russian state in her death as collateral damage to the assassination attempt. Her family took judicial review proceedings to challenge his conclusion. They were partially successful; the court said the although the coroner couldn’t state, in terms, that the Russian state was liable in civil or criminal law, he could still investigate that matter. They reverted the matter to him. Read the judgment of the Administrative Court on the 24th of July here.
The senior coroner, who must now ask if answering how Ms Sturgess died requires him to look at involvement of Russian state. In the latest episode of Law Pod UK Rosalind English discusses the broader implications of this case with Matt Hill of 1 Crown Office Row. (Apologies – due to a technical error, the wrong episode was posted under “The Salisbury Poisonings” yesterday. The correct episode is now in place.
In this carefully nuanced judgment, the Court of Protection has ruled that although a patient with a chronic eating disorder would in all probability face death she did not gain weight, it would not be in her best interests to continue being subjected to forced feeding inpatient regimes.
AB is a 28 year-old woman who has over many years suffered from anorexia nervosa. She was first diagnosed when she was a teenager of 13 and now has a formal diagnosis of a Severe and Enduring Eating Disorder (‘SEED’).
The NHS Trust and the team of treating clinicians who have been responsible for providing care for AB applied to the COP for declaratory relief pursuant to ss 4 and 15 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 in these terms: (i) it is in AB’s best interests not to receive any further active treatment for anorexia nervosa; and that (ii) AB lacks capacity to make decisions about treatment relating to anorexia nervosa.
Issues before the Court
Litigation capacity: it was not in issue that AB did have the capacity to instruct her solicitors.
General capacity: this was a more difficult question to be decided under Section 3 of the Mental Capacity Act. The key question was, did she have the mental capacity to make a decision about the specific medical treatment proposed. Roberts J had to decide one way or another on whether she should be tube fed, probably under sedation (otherwise she would remove the tube).
The Trust argued that she did not have this capacity, relying on evidence from AB’s treating psychiatrist Dr B. AB said she did have this capacity.
Best interests: was it in AB’s interests to discontinue any tube feeding? The unanimous professional view of her treating team was that palliative care and no further tube feeding was in her best interests. However, since the decision not to have any further forced feeding was a life-threatening one, the case had to be referred to the Court of Protection.
Even in times of emergency, … and even when the merits of the Government response are not widely contested, the rule of law matters.
Thus commenced a lengthy judgment by the New Zealand High Court, Wellington Registry, ruling that the first nine days of New Zealand lockdown were unlawful. The three judge panel found that
While there is no question that the requirement was a necessary, reasonable and proportionate response to the Covid-19 crisis at the time, the requirement was not prescribed by law and was therefore contrary to section 5 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.
The High Court has struck out a claim that the disclosure of certain personal information made by a charity to the claimant’s GP was unlawful. Although only summary, this judgment goes to the heart of what we believe data protection to be about. As you will tell from my somewhat trenchant comments at the end of this post, I find it difficult to accept the main conclusion in this ruling.
The LGBT Foundation provides services including counselling and health advice. The claimant sought to access the charity’s services by completing a self-referral form in 2016. The form gave an option for the self-referring individual to consent to information being disclosed to their GP, and stated that the charity would break confidentiality without the individual’s consent if there was reason to be seriously concerned about their welfare. Mr Scott gave his GP’s details in the form. He also stated in the form that he no longer wished to be alive, detailed a previous suicide attempt, said that he had recently been self-harming and that he continued to suffer problems from drug use.
A sessional health and wellbeing officer at the charity conducted an intake assessment for Mr Scott to ascertain what support would be best for him. She told him of the confidentiality policy, including the provision that any information he disclosed would be passed on if the charity considered him to be at risk. In this interview he gave further details of drug use, self-harm and suicidal thoughts. The health officer paused the assessment and consulted a colleague, who advised her to inform Mr Scott that they would be contacting his GP because they had concerns about his welfare. The charity concluded it was at that time unable to provide him with the services he sought from them because of his ongoing drug use. They passed the information on to Mr Scott’s GP via a telephone call. This information was in due course recorded in his medical records.
Tribunal Administrative de Strasbourg, N°2003058 M. A. et autres
M. Simon, Juge des référés
Ordonnance du 25 mai 2020
This judgment was handed down over two months ago but its relevance to the current rules on face masks in the UK makes for interesting reading. It is available only in French.
A group of individuals brought a challenge to a decree issued by the mayor of Strasbourg obliging citizens over the age of eleven to wear facemarks in the streets and other areas, in particular the Grande-Ile (an island in the centre of Strasbourg), from 10am – 8pm, enforceable by a fine. The obligation was in force from May 21 to 2 June.
The recent ruling by the Supreme Court that the former leader of Sinn Féin had been unlawfully detained and convicted in the 1970s has elicited some severe criticism from high places, including former Supreme Court judge Jonathan Sumption. Matt Hill of 1 Crown Office Row discusses this case with Rosalind English in the latest episode of Law Pod UK. Matt has worked on a number of cases relating to the Troubles in Northern Ireland. He was involved as an in historian on the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, was junior counsel to the Inquiry on the recent Birmingham pub bombing inquests, and has written about the use of inquiries and inquests in dealing with the legacy of the Troubles. The discussion focusses on the so-called “Carltona” principle regarding the responsibility of ministers to consider each function of administration. Lord Sumption has said that the Supreme Court ruling in the Adams case has “left the law in an awful mess”.
This case involved the ancient tort of public nuisance. Such a claim is addressed to behaviour which inflicts damage, injury or inconvenience on all members of a class who come within the sphere or neighbourhood of its operation. As Linden J explained, a person may bring an action in their own name in respect of a public nuisance
when they have suffered some particular, foreseeable and substantial damage over and above what has been sustained by the public at large, or when the interference with the public right involves a violation of some private right of the claimant. A local authority may also institute civil proceedings in public nuisance in its own name pursuant to section 222 Local Government Act 1972: see Nottingham City Council v Zain  1 WLR 607.
The case heading (partial screenshot above) provides a pretty comprehensive list of activities that would come within the category of “public nuisance”. I recall John Spencer’s immortal words from his article in the Cambridge Law Review on the subject in 1989:
Why is making obscene telephone calls like laying manure in the street? Answer: in the same way as importing Irish cattle is like building a thatched house in the borough of Blandford Forum; and as digging up the wall of a church is like helping a homicidal maniac to escape from Broadmoor; and as operating a joint-stock company without a royal charter is like being a common scold; and as keeping a tiger in a pen adjoining the highway is like depositing a mutilated corpse on a doorstep; and as selling unsound meat is like embezzling public funds; and as garaging a lorry in the street is like an inn-keeper refusing to feed a traveller; and as keeping treasure-trove is like subdividing houses which so “become hurtful to the place by overpestering it with poor.” All are, or at some time have been said to be, a common (alias public) nuisance.
So as you can see, this tort encompasses quite a range of human enterprises.
After something of an hiatus occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic, we are delighted to welcome Catherine Barnard back onto our podcast with her clear and informative account of the legal steps towards Brexit.
In the latest episode of her podcast 2903cb, Professor Barnard talks to journalist Boni Sones about the latest in the trade talks. What is happening with the timetables and deals to get the UK out of the EU by the end of this year? Tune in to Episode 120 of Law Pod UK to find out.
The campaign group Dignity in Dying has recently brought out a new book called Last Rights: The Case for Assisted Dying, by Sarah Wotton and Lloyd Riley, Director and Policy manager of the campaign group Dignity in Death. The book is designed to restart the discussion on how we provide dying people with greater choice at the end of life.
Even with the best palliative care, some people still suffer terribly at the end of life, as Sarah and Lloyd explain in this discussion. Episode 119 of Law Pod UK highlights the way in which the pandemic has brought death and dying to the centre of pubic discourse and how the time has come again to press for an inquiry on the blanket ban on assisted dying.
This was an appeal by the secretary of state against a decision of the President of the Family Division concerning the exercise of the family court’s jurisdiction to make a female genital mutilation protection order (FGMPO) under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 Sch.2 Pt 1 para.1. The child concerned (“A”), was under imminent threat of deportation to Bahrain or potentially Sudan. The original FGM protection order in relation to A was made by Newton J in December 2019. He said that
It is difficult to think of a clear or more serious case where the risk to A of FGM is so high.
Section 2 of the Female Genital Mutliation Act establishes the offence of assisting a girl to mutilate her own genitalia, where a person
aids, abets, counsels or procures a girl to excise, infibulate or otherwise mutilate the whole or any part of her own labia majora, labia minora or clitoris.
Section 3 extends this to “assisting a non-UK person to mutilate overseas a girl’s genitalia”.
FGMPOS offer a legal means to protect and safeguard victims and potential victims of FGM. They are granted by the family court and are unique to each case. They contain conditions to protect a victim or potential victim from FGM, including, for example, surrendering a passport to prevent the person at risk from being taken abroad for FGM or requirements that no one arranges for FGM to be performed on the person being protected.
After the order is issued, the police receive a copy, together with a statement showing that the respondents and any other persons directed by the court have been served with the order or informed of its terms.
In this case the President of the Family Division had held that in exercising its discretion about making an FGM protection order, a family court was not bound to take into account, even as a starting point, a previous assessment of risk of FGM made by the Immigration and Asylum Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal in determining an asylum application based upon the risk of FGM upon return.
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