Media By: Rosalind English


Timetable for implementing Equality Act Reinstated

23 June 2010 by

The controversial Equality Act, which was designed to replace a number of anti-discrimination laws, was due to come (partially) into force in October. However the intervening change of government since its enactment in April 2009 appeared to threaten the legislation, particularly after the timetable for the gradual enforcement of its provisions was withdrawn.

Some experts speculated that instead of repealing the Act, the new Government would simply not bring certain parts of it into force, notably the provisions on pay reporting and positive discrimination that were unpopular with the Conservative Party. However the Government Equality Office has now reinstated the original timetable, with the core provisions due to commence in October.

There is still some possibility that some parts of the Act will not become law. Introduced as part of the Labour Party’s 2005 manifesto fulfilment, the Equality Act came under fire for some of its sections dealing with equal pay, positive action and addressing socio-economic disadvantage.

Court of Appeal rules on mental health institutions’ obligations to voluntary patients

23 June 2010 by

(1) Richard Rabone (In his own Right & as Personal Representative of the Estate of Melanie Rabone, Deceased) (2) Gillian Rabone(In her own Right) Appellants v Pennine Care NHS Trust 21 June 2010 [2010] EWCA Civ 698 – read judgment

Court of Appeal rules that health trusts did not have operational obligations under Article 2 of the Human Rights Convention to take all steps to prevent the suicide of voluntary patients.

The appellants, parents of the deceased (Melanie) and  administrator of their daughter’s estate, appealed against a decision ([ 2009) EWHC 1827 (QB),(2010) PIQR P2) that the respondent NHS trust had not breached Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights 1950. Melanie had suffered from a recurrent depressive disorder and at the age of  24, she agreed to be informally admitted to the Trust’s hospital. Despite the fact that it had been noted by employees of the trust that she had thought of suicide and self-harm, she was later granted two days’ home leave. During that leave, Melanie committed suicide.  
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Problems entering Palestinian Territories not enough to prevent removal from UK

17 June 2010 by

The Gaza Strip


[2010] UKSC 25, 16 June 2010 – read judgement

The Supreme Court has ruled against a man who challenged his immigration decision to remove him to the Palestinian National Authority on the basis that he could not go back as he would not be allowed back in to the place of his birth.

The challenge was based on the contention that the “country” or the “territory” stated in the notice of the decision was not one that satisfied the requirements of the 1971 Immigration Act 1971, and therefore the decision was unlawful under Section 82 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (“the 2002 Act”)

The appellant, who was born in Gaza in 1985, had been living in Libya since the age of 5. In 2007 he entered the UK clandestinely in a lorry, and subsequently claimed asylum. This was rejected by the Secretary of State. His appeal of this decision was dismissed by the Immigration judge. She also dismissed this appeal insofar as it was based on the contention that the original immigration decision to remove him was “not in accordance with the law”.

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Adoptive parents cannot be forced to provide annual photo of child

16 June 2010 by

Oxfordshire County Council v X & Ors [2010] EWCA Civ 581 (27 May 2010) – read judgment

In ordering adoptive parents to provide an annual photograph of the child to the birth parents, the judge below had erred in failing to accept as reasonable the adoptive parents’ fears, that there was a risk of the placement being identified.

The child (J), had been made the subject of an adoption order when she was four months old, due to the mental illness of her natural mother. The natural mother subsequently applied for an order for the provision of a photograph of J on an annual basis. The adoptive parents, backed by the local authority, objected to the provision of a photograph and contended that they should make available a photograph for viewing at the offices of the local authority.

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Iranian Bank anti-terrorism restrictions order upheld

15 June 2010 by

Bank Mellat v HM Treasury [2010] EWHC 1332(QB) Miity J 25/5/2010 – read judgment

A challenge to the imposition of a Financial Restrictions Order on an Iranian Bank alleged to have supported Iran’s nuclear program has been dismissed as the order was not considered disproportionate in the light of the importance of the public interested protected.

The order, which directed that anyone in the UK financial sector must not enter into or continue to participate in business with Bank Mellat, was maintained despite the Court of Appeal’s refusal to allow the government to rely upon secret evidence in order to prove the bank’s links with the nuclear program (see Court of Appeal launches offensive against secret justice with three linked judgments).

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Feature | A human right to money: will it ever happen?

8 June 2010 by

Prime Minister David Cameron has been busy preparing the country for “painful” cuts to pensions, pay and benefits. In a recent Guardian Article, The changing face of human rights, Afua Hirsch comments with approval on the 2008 recommendation by the Joint Committee on Human Rights that a new UK bill of rights should include the rights to health, education, housing and an adequate standard of living. Rosalind English asks whether the time has indeed come for “economic” human rights.

Ms Hirsch cites a number of examples around the world where such “social and economic rights” have been used successfully to challenge government policy on the distribution of healthcare, housing and benefits. Why, then, she asks, is such an extension of our existing rights so strenuously resisted in this country?

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Child rape case sparks debate on child witnesses in criminal courts

28 May 2010 by

The recent Old Bailey case involving two boys aged 10 and 11 accused of rape on an eight year gold has reignited the long running debate over the treatment of child witnesses in the adversarial courts system.

In a Daily Telegraph article John Bingham and Caroline Gammell report that

More than 1,000 children under the age of 10 are called to give evidence in courts in England and Wales every year.Almost two thirds are themselves the victims of crime, asked to relive a traumatic experience, often as much as a year after the event. Although special measures are in place to make the ordeal of giving evidence in court less stressful, the current system remains open to criticism.There is no legal minimum age to give evidence in court but prosecutors must be satisfied that a child is capable of understanding evidence and being cross-examined before they can be called.

It should be noted at the outset that evidence from children can only be compelled by the courts in criminal prosecutions. We posted recently on the case of Re W (Children) [2010] UKSC 12 , where the Supreme Court ruled that refusing an application for a child to give evidence in a trial may contravene Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Lady Hale said at para 22 of the judgment:  
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Detention of man suspected of insurgency and terrorism was unlawful

27 May 2010 by

HXA v Home Office (King J) [2010] EWHC 1177 (QB) – Read judgment or our full case comment

The authorities’ statutory power to detain pending deportation had to be motivated purely by the need to remove a subject from the United Kingdom, not to ensure his surrender into custody of the authorities operating in the receiving country. A subject detained not only for the purpose of effecting his removal from the UK, but also for the purpose of investigating whether acceptable arrangements could be made to return him into detention in the receiving country, was being detained unlawfully.

The claimant sought damages and declaratory relief against the defendant both at common law for the tort of false imprisonment and pursuant to s. 6(1) and s.7(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998, by reason of a claimed breach of Article 5(1) of the European Convention of Human Rights.


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GMC to announce policy of striking off doctors who prolong the lives of terminally ill patients against their wishes [updated]

20 May 2010 by

If a terminally ill patient has made a “living will”, specifying in advance that they do not want to be resuscitated, doctors must respect these wishes or risk being struck off. The General Medical Council is to announce this guidance in response to the Mental Capacity Act 2005 which gives “living wills” legal status. Doctors must not follow their own personal or religious convictions by prolonging treatment unless there is evidence that a patient may have changed his or her mind.

Update 25/05/10 – The Guidance has been published and can be found here

If a doctor is unwilling to follow the express verbal instructions of a patient – communicated through a friend or relative as legal proxy — they can withdraw from treating the individual. A second medical opinion must sought before hydration and nutrition is withdrawn. Telegraph Medical Correspondent Kate Devlin reports that

Doctors who flouted the guidelines would be forced to attend a fitness to practise hearing before the GMC and would be struck off if the case against them were proved. The rules affect patients deemed to be mentally capable of making these decisions. If they do not have this capacity, or have not designated someone to act on their behalf, doctors are required to make any judgment about treatment in the best interests of the patient. The guidance says that in these cases, when the decision over end of life treatment is “finely balanced”, the patient’s previously stated wishes “will usually be the deciding factor”.

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Terror suspects cannot be deported to Pakistan in case of ill-treatment

19 May 2010 by

Abid Naseer, Ahmad Faraz Khan, Shoaib Khan, Abdul Khan and Tariq Ur Rehman (Appellants) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Respondent), Special Immigration Appeals Commission, 18 May 2010 – Read judgment

Two men suspected of attempting to mount a mass casualty attack can stay in the UK because they risked ill treatment if they were to be sent back to Pakistan. Rosalind English examines whether the extra territoriality reach of Article 3 makes a mockery of the core protections provided by European Convention on Human Rights.

Risk of torture

The alleged operatives appealed against deportation orders/refusals of re-entry on the grounds that they risked ill treatment contrary to Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights at the hands of the Pakistani security services. Appeals against deportation were upheld because the reassurances as to the safety of their return was based on evidence that could not be disclosed in open court.

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Families of asylum seekers entitled to advantageous entry clearance requirements says Supreme Court

13 May 2010 by

ZN (Afghanistan) (FC) and others (Appellants) v Entry Clearance Officer (Karachi) (Respondent) and one other action, UKSC 21. Read judgment

The Immigration Rules, which applied lighter requirements for entry clearance for the dependants of persons granted asylum than for other British Citizens, should be interpreted to mean that a person should always be a refugee for the purposes of Rule 352D even though that status has technically expired on grant of citizenship.

This appeal raised a question  the true construction of the Immigration Rules, House of Commons Paper 395 (‘HC 395’): what rules apply to family members seeking entry to the United Kingdom, where the sponsor has been granted asylum and has subsequently obtained British citizenship. Put another way, the issue was whether the sponsor must enjoy refugee status at the time his spouse or child seeks to join him under the paras 352A and 352D.

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Religious versus other freedoms: the future of Article 9?

10 May 2010 by

McFarlane v Relate Avon Ltd [2010] EWCA Civ B1 (29 April 2010) – Read judgment or our previous post

Case comment

Lord Carey of Clifton, responding to Lord Justice Laws’ observations in MacFarlane, has called this latest dust-up about religion in the courts a “deeply unedifying clash of rights“. It is indeed a clash of rights, but unedifying it is not. It is precisely when these rights collide that some real, hard thinking is generated, not only about the precise content of these rights, but their historical purpose and their proper function in modern society.

It may be that when the architects of the Convention drafted Article 9, guaranteeing freedom of thought, conscience and religion, they did not foresee that its future role would not be so much the protection of oppressed believers against Soviet-style secularisation but instead a thorn in the flesh of public authority employers seeking enforce their legitimate objectives against non-compliant religious employees.

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Medical intervention without parental consent violated child’s and parents’ Article 8 rights says Strasbourg Court

21 April 2010 by

MAK and RK v United Kingdom (Application Nos 45901/05 and 40146/06) European Court of Human Rights March 23, 2010 – Read judgment

The taking of blood samples and photographs of a child by the medical authorities in the absence of the parents violated the child’s and parents’ rights to respect for their private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention, and the inability of the parents to take an action for damages at common law against the hospital breached their right to a remedy under Article 13.

The applicant M.A.K was the father of R.K., who was born in 1989. In 1997 and again in 1998 M.A.K. took her to their family doctor because he, his wife and their daughter’s swimming teacher were concerned about what appeared to be bruising on her legs. This was followed by a visit to a paediatrician who had blood samples and pictures of the girl taken in the absence of either of the parents and despite the father’s indication that any tests should be done in the mother’s presence or with her explicit consent. The paediatrician concluded, after examining the girl’s genitalia and legs, that she had been sexually abused and informed the social workers.

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Judges should consider parents’ interests under Article 8 of the Convention before granting care orders

20 April 2010 by

EH v London Borough of Greenwich and AA and REA and RHA (through their guardian), A (children) [2010] EWCA Civ 344

Read judgment

This was an appeal against the decision of the judge at first instance granting the local authority a full care order and placement order in respect of the appellant mother’s children. One of the children had been admitted to hospital as a baby with a fracture injury that was diagnosed as being non-accidental, following which both children were immediately taken from their parents’ care and placed with their maternal grandmother.

A later fact finding hearing determined that the baby’s injury had probably been caused by her father and that the mother had failed to protect the baby, although the judge did find that the mother had very many good qualities and her parenting abilities, per se, were not in issue, and that apart from the fracture injury there was no evidence that the children had suffered any harm.

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Claims against the Catholic Church: When is there vicarious liability, when is there a duty of care and are the situations different?

16 April 2010 by

Duty of care and the Catholic Church - the MAGA caseWe posted last week on issues of breach of duty in cases involving child protection, and mentioned the MAGA case as an important decision in extending the duty of care to priests in the Catholic church. The lawyers in the case have now written up the judgment.

Case comment by Elizabeth-Anne Gumbel QC and Justin Levinson

(Barristers for the Claimant, MAGA)

MAGA v The Trustees of the Birmingham Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church [2010] EWCA Civ 256, Court of Appeal (Lord Neuberger MR, Lord Justice Longmore and Lady Justice Smith) (read judgment)

This appeal was brought with permission from the trial Judge Mr Justice Jack. The claim arose out of sexual abuse suffered by the Claimant whilst a child living in the area of the Church of Christ the King in Coundon, Coventry. This was a Catholic church under the control of the the Trustees of the Birmingham Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church. The priests appointed to work at that church in the 1970s included a senior priest father McTernan and a younger priest Father Clonan. The Claimant was seriously and repeatedly sexually assaulted over a number of months by the younger priest known as Father Clonan. The abuse took place after Father Clonan befriended the Claimant, invited him to the church youth club and then to the Presbytery where Father Clonan and other priests including the senior Priest Father McTernan lived.

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