Northern Irish police officers join gay pride parade in Belfast

Marches are popular in Belfast, and now is the marching season. Since the decline of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland these displays of loyalty have ceased to attract the controversy they did. Until this week, at least, in the run up to the Belfast Pride march on Saturday 5 August.  The Irish Times reports that uniformed gardaí from the Republic of Ireland are due to join their Police Service of Northern Ireland colleagues, also in uniform, at this year’s gay pride parade in Belfast on Saturday.

The PSNI already has confirmed that for the first time its members will be permitted to parade at the Belfast Pride event in uniform. Previously they could march in civilian clothing only.

Now the PSNI has invited the Gardai to accompany them at the parade, an invitation that has been accepted. PSNI vehicles with signs reading “Policing with Pride – Hate Crime is Unacceptable – To Stop It, Report It” will feature at Pride events in Belfast, Newry and Derry.

The local press is loud with criticism of this decision, which, it is said, privileges LGBT discrimination over other forms of hate crime. Critics have  pointed out that the PSNI would be “unlikely” to allow uniformed officers to take part in a Christian march that expressed a view that homosexuality was a sin. The PSNI is governed by a code of neutrality, and they are prohibited from participating in political protests.

The PSNI are supposed to be neutral and are prohibited by their own code of ethics from participating in political activity. There is also a duty on the PSNI, under article 6.2 of their code of ethics, to treat all persons equally regardless of status.  Loyalists have claimed that there is no community that has experienced more hate crime than the Orange community, with hundreds of arson and criminal damage attacks on their halls. “But no one is suggesting that the PSNI should show opposition to these crimes by participating in Orange parades,” Jim Allister of the Traditional Unionist Voice added. Other voices from the loyalist sector have asked whether the “liberal left” would be

so supportive of the PSNI marching alongside a loyalist flute band with a banner saying “End the hatred of Orange culture – report all attacks on Orange Halls”?

The parade, which campaigns, amongst other things, for the legalisation of gay marriage in Northern Ireland, is marked as sensitive on the Parades Commission website.  For this reason questions have been raised about the practical consequences of police participation; how can the event be impartially policed when uniformed officers are amongst the marchers?

Northern Ireland is the only region of the UK where gay marriage remains outlawed.

 

 

The end of a chapter

Great Ormond Street Hospital v Yates and Gard –  [2017] EWHC 1909 (Fam) – read judgment

A lot of things have been said, particularly in recent days, by those who know almost nothing about this case but who feel entitled to express opinions. Many opinions have been expressed based on feelings rather than facts.”

So said Francis J, when dealing with an unusual application by Great Ormond Street Hospital (Gosh) asking for an order, rather than a declaration, that Charlie Gard should be allowed to slip away quietly.  The involvement of the White House, the Vatican, the Bambino Gesu Children’s Hospital in Rome and Dr. Hirano and the associated medical centre in the USA  in this story demonstrates the fact that a mere declaration carries too much ambiguity to allow the hospital staff to do what the courts have approved. The terms in which Gosh put its application were unambiguous indeed:

Therefore orders are sought to remove any ambiguity; orders are enforceable. Despite all of the hospitals best endeavours, this appears as potentially necessary. Not for the first time the parents through their solicitors raised the prospect of criminal proceedings against the hospital and its staff. The Hospital understands that no court order best interests proceedings can afford it or its staff from prosecution.

Continue reading

High Court allows UK government to continue exporting arms to Saudi Arabia

Campaign against Arms Trade, R(on the application of) v The Secretary of State for International Trade [2017] EWHC 1754 (Admin) – read judgment

Angus McCullough QC acted as Special Advocate supporting the Claimant in this case. He is not associated with the writing of this post.

A challenge to the legality of UK’s sale of arms to Saudi Arabia has failed. The claim sprang from the conflict in Yemen and the border areas of Saudi Arabia. It focussed on airstrikes conducted by a coalition led by Saudi Arabia in support of the legitimate government of Yemen against the Shia-led Houthi rebellion.  UK arms export policy states that the government must deny licenses for sale of arms to regimes if there is a ‘clear risk’ that the arms ‘might’ be used in ‘a serious violation of International Humanitarian Law. This in turn is based on the EU Common Position 2008/944/CFSP on arms export control, which explicitly rules out the authorising of arms licences by Member States in these “clear risk” circumstances.

The claimant argued that the body of evidence available in the public domain not only suggested but dictated the conclusion that such a clear risk exists. It was therefore no longer lawful to license the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia.

The High Court dismissed their claim. The CAAT intends to appeal this decision. Continue reading

Whose womb is it anyway? NI Court shrinks from abortion law reform

The Attorney General for Northern Ireland and the Department of Justice (appellants) v The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (respondent)  [2017] NICA 42 (29 June 2017) – read judgment

Although the accompanying image is not in any way intended to suggest that Northern Ireland’s law on abortion parallels the situation obtaining in Margaret Atwood’s fictional Gilead, the failure of the legislature and the courts to overhaul the criminal law to allow women access to termination is a bleak reflection of the times.  The hopes that were raised by high court rulings from 2015 and 2016 that existing abortion laws breached a woman’s right to a private life under Article 8 have now been dashed.

Let me start with a much quoted proposition derived from Strasbourg law.

when a woman is pregnant her private life becomes closely connected with the developing foetus and her right to respect for her private life must be weighed against other competing rights and freedoms, including those of the unborn child.

Really? Does that mean a woman loses her autonomy, the minute she conceives? Does she become public property, subject to the morals and wishes of the majority? Apparently so, particularly when one reads the opinion of Weatherup LJ:

the restriction on termination of pregnancies pursues the legitimate aim of the protection of morals reflecting the views of the majority of the members of the last [Northern Ireland] Assembly on the protection of the unborn child.

Continue reading

1COR Launches New Podcast Series – Law Pod UK

1 Crown Office Row have launched a new regular podcast, Law Pod UK, with presenter Rosalind English, to discuss developments across all aspects of civil and public law in the UK.

It comes from the creators of the UK Human Rights Blog and is produced by the barristers at 1 Crown Office Row. Post production by Whistledown Studios.

Episode 5: Further ruling on NI abortion rights, Charlie Gard, and transgender in Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community (6 July 2017).

 Sarah Jane Ewart and Rosalind English discuss the latest developments in access to abortion for Northern Irish women, the lessons to be learned from the Charlie Gard case, and the difficult decision that the courts had to reach when considering the best interests of children in an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish family, where the father had left the community as a transgender person.

 Episode 4: Supreme Court rules on NI abortion case (19 June 2017)

 Rosalind English discusses the recent Supreme Court judgement on the case of women from Northern Ireland who seek abortions on the NHS in England.

 Episode 3: Negligence Ruling in Meningitis case (28 May 2017)

 David Hart QC and Rosalind English discuss the implications of a recent negligence case involving a young doctor’s failure to diagnose a child with meningitis.

Episode 2: Female terror plot trial, legal aid for unaccompanied minors, Value For Justice & post-Brexit legal landscape (18 May 2017).

Sarah Jane Ewart and Rosalind English discuss the prospect of the first all female terror plot trial, legal aid for unaccompanied minors in immigration cases, the Bar Council’s manifesto “The Value of Justice”, the law post-Brexit, and shift sleeping and the minimum wage

Episode 1: Election pledges on human rights, citizenship for third country EU nationals, CAGE case latest (26 May 2017).

Poppy Rimington-Pounder and Rosalind English discuss party election pledges and the Human Rights Act, the Muslim advocacy group CAGE’s forthcoming legal battle, a freedom of conscience ruling for members of the armed forces in the Bahamas, and citizenship rights for the children of third country nationals in Europe.

You can subscribe to Law Pod UK via Audioboom here. They will shortly be available for subscription and download from iTunes.

Please get in touch if you would like to collaborate on any future episodes.

 

 

Transgender father to appeal for greater contact with ultra orthodox children

J v B (Ultra-Orthodox Judaism: Transgender) [2017] EWFC 4 (30 January 2017) – read judgment

The Court of Appeal has granted permission to the father to appeal against the decision of the High Court earlier this year. Briefly, Peter Jackson J denied a father, who now lives as a transgender person, direct contact with his five children who live with their mother in the heart of a Charedi community of ultra-orthodox Jews.

The judge said that he had reached the “unwelcome conclusion”

that the likelihood of the children and their mother being marginalised or excluded by the ultra-Orthodox community is so real, and the consequences so great, that this one factor, despite its many disadvantages, must prevail over the many advantages of contact.

The appeal hearing, estimated to last one day, will take place on 15 November 2017. Continue reading

Charlie Gard: Strasbourg Court rules parents’ case inadmissible

Yates v United Kingdom –  here

Update: On 27 June the Strasbourg Court ruled the application by Charlie Gard as inadmissible. The full decision is not yet up on the Court’s website but here is the press release detailing the Inadmissibility decision in the case Gard and Others v. the UK – decisions by UK courts endorsed A spokesman for the Great Ormond Street Hospital said:

Today’s decision by the European Court of Human Rights marks the end of what has been a very difficult process and our priority is to provide every possible support to Charlie’s parents as we prepare for the next steps.

The Strasbourg Court by a majority endorsed in substance the approach by the UK courts, saying that they had been “meticulous” in their reasoning. It is likely that Charlie’s life support will now be withdrawn and he will be given palliative care only.

Following the Strasbourg Court’s request for interim measures for the UK – which means the hospital may not take Charlie Gard off life support as the Supreme Court has allowed it to do – the Supreme Court arranged a short hearing to take place Monday 19 June, to give directions. The Strasbourg Court has now put in place a further request that treatment and nursing care be continued beyond its original deadline of 19 June (see the press release from Strasbourg here: Gard and Others v. the UK) . This is because that Court has to consider the parents’ application that the case does not just concern Charlie’s right to die with dignity but their rights under Article 8 as his parents to be afforded respect for their decisions as to what is in Charlie’s interests.

This is a unique situation facing the Supreme Court, and, probably, the judges of the European Court of Human Rights.  As the UK court acknowledges, by granting a stay, even of short duration, it would “in some sense” be complicit in directing a course of action which is contrary to Charlie’s best interests, since this was its last word on the matter. It is no wonder that this is causing some soul-searching. The Strasbourg Court’s interim measures order is directed at the government, not Great Ormond Street Hospital or its doctors. The latter won a ruling from the Supreme Court that they should remove life support from Charlie Gard because it is considered to be in violation of his right to die with dignity, and, of course, not in his best interests.  Continue reading