R (o.t.a A and B) v. Department of Health  UKSC 41, 14 June 2017 – judgment here.
Sometimes The Law comes to the rescue. And by this I do not mean constitutional law versus populism or the rule of law versus raw-knuckled fighting. It just happens that, occasionally, litigation drawn from ordinary life encapsulates more political debating points than a week’s worth of press analysis.
If you want to hear the real deal about devolved government, Northern Ireland, sexual assault, the meaning of “England”, abortion, federalism, the power of the state, healthcare, medical tourism, women’s rights, discrimination, nationality, social security or the NHS, you need do no more than read this case. As for the majority judgments and the two dissenters, pay close attention to the language because within the phrasing other truths emerge.
Yates and Anor v Great Ormond Street for Children  EWCA Civ 410, 23 May 2017 – read judgment
On Thursday 8 June the Supreme Court will be asked to grant permission to appeal in this case of a seriously ill 9 month old child whose parents wish to take him to the USA for experimental treatment that may slow his deterioration.
The human issues are all over the press – this post will concentrate on the legal arguments in the Courts below, including the very recently published judgment of the Court of Appeal.
Perhaps the most interesting question in this case is not the statutory or human rights background, but the issue of jurisdiction. The court has as part of its inherent jurisdiction to rule on the child’s fate on the basis of his best interests. The appellants were arguing that this was not the test; that the question at the core of the consideration was that of “serious harm”. The parents argue that
the hospital’s application to prevent the delivery of a therapy which it did not, itself, intend to provide, was outside its powers as a public authority, and the court had no jurisdiction to uphold the hospital’s position.
FB v. Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust  EWCA Civ 334, 12 May 2017, Court of Appeal – read judgment
The UK Human Rights Blog is not only for the reading eye. Here’s an audio version of David Hart’s post on the case of a junior doctor, a sick baby and the question of what we expect of senior house officers on busy Accident and Emergency admissions.
These audio files will soon be searchable in iTunes or wherever you like to find your podcasts for download onto your phone, to listen to on the train, in the gym, on your bike or gardening. We will let you know as soon as they become available.
Here’s an audio version of Poppy Rimington-Pounder’s post this week where she expands on some of the developments and news items she covers in conversation with Rosalind English. We hope soon to have a podcast platform for these news roundups and other interviews with members of 1 Crown Office Row: watch this space.
Paradiso and Campanelli v Italy (Application no. 25358/12), 24 January 2017 – read judgment
The Strasbourg Court ruled earlier this year that the prohibition on commercial surrogacy arrangements did not justify the Italian authorities’ actions in removing a 9 month old child from its non-biological parents and taking him into social care. Although they found no right to family life applied in the circumstances, there was a right to private life which the Italian authorities had breached.
The majority judgment as well as the dissenting and partially concurring opinions summarised below reveal very different approaches to the concept of family life across the Strasbourg bench. Continue reading →
In a few weeks’ time we hope to have regular podcasts of our roundups and other legal news available from iTunes for subscription or one off downloads. In the meantime here’s a link to my interview with Sarah-Jane Ewart, where we’re talking about the events and cases she has covered in her most recent roundup for the UK Human Rights Blog. I’ve converted this audiofile to MP3 format so it should be easy to download onto any device and does not take up much room. We will let you know as soon as the full UK Human Rights Podcast series is launched for download onto your smartphone or wherever you like listening to audio.
ABC v St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust and Others  EWCA Civ 336 – read judgment
All the advocates in this case are from 1 Crown Office Row. Elizabeth-Anne Gumbel QC, Henry Witcomb QC and Jim Duffy for the Appellant, and Philip Havers QC and Hannah Noyce for the Respondents. None of them were involved in the writing of this post.
In a fascinating twist to the drama of futuristic diagnosis, the Court of Appeal has allowed an argument that doctors treating a Huntington’s patient should have imparted information about his diagnosis to his pregnant daughter to go to trial.
The background to this case is outlined in my earlier post on Nicol J’s ruling in the court below. A patient with an inherited fatal disease asked his doctors not to disclose information to his daughter. The daughter came upon this information accidentally, shortly after the birth of her child, and found, after a genetic test, that she suffered from this condition as well, which has a 50% chance of appearing in the next generation. Had she known this, she would have sought a termination of the pregnancy. She claimed that the doctors were liable to her in damages for the direct effect on her health and welfare.
A claim for “wrongful birth” is well established in law; no claim was made on behalf of the child, who was too young to be tested for the condition. The twist is the duty of secrecy between doctor and patient, which has held very well for the past two centuries. Short of confessions pertaining to homicide or information regarding contagious diseases, the dialogue behind the consulting door should end there.
The problem is that the typical medical relationship only pertains to the pathology of the individual patient. Now that tests are available that make every single one of us a walking diagnosis not only for our own offspring but those of our siblings and their offspring, the one-to-one scenario collapses, along with the limited class of people to whom a doctor owes a duty of care. The pregnant daughter who came across the information about her father’s condition was not the defendant doctor’s patient. In pre-genetic days, that meant there was no duty of care relationship between her father’s doctors and her. But the certainty of hereditability brings her into that circle. Continue reading →
We have finished an overhaul of the Convention rights pages to reflect recent political and legal developments since they were last reviewed. The most important of these is the vote to leave the European Union and what implications this might have for the UK’s obligations under the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. For the moment I have left in place the editorial material matching each of the Charter rights with the Convention rights but the Charter and the role of the ECJ in UK legal affairs may be one of the first features of the post-Brexit landscape to change (see Marina Wheeler’s post on how that court might have overstepped the mark with the Charter, and David Hart’s discussion on the topic of ECJ muscle-flexing here, here and here).
Conway, R(on the application of) v The Secretary of State for Justice EWCA Civ 275
The Court of Appeal has overturned the refusal of the Divisional Court to allow a motor neurone disease sufferer to challenge section (1) of the Suicide Act. He may now proceed to seek a declaration under section 4(2) of the Human Rights Act 1998 that the ban on assisted dying is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. The background to this appeal can be found in my post on the decision from the court below, which focussed on the vigorous dissent by Charles J.
Briefly, Mr Conway wishes to enlist the assistance of a medical profession to bring about his death in a peaceful and dignified way at a time while he retains the capacity to make the decision. His family respect his decision and choices and wish to support him in every way they can, but his wife states she would be extremely concerned about travelling to Switzerland with Mr Conway so he can receive assistance from Dignitas.
The main argument in support of the permission to appeal was that it was self-evident from the division of opinion in the Divisional Court that there would be a realistic prospect of success. Mr Conway’s legal team also argued that the issues raised about Mr Conway and those in a similar position to him were of general public importance and that this was a compelling reason for the appeal to be heard. Continue reading →
Conway, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Justice  EWHC 640 – read judgment
Noel Douglas Conway, 67, is a victim of motor neurone disease. He has just been refused permission to seek judicial review of the criminalisation of physician-assisted suicide under the Suicide Act 1961. The High Court considered that Parliament has recently examined the issue following the Supreme Court decision in the 2014 Nicklinson case , and two out of three judges concluded that it would be “institutionally inappropriate” for a court to declare that s.2(1) of the Suicide Act was incompatible with the right to privacy and autonomy under Article 8 of the ECHR. Charles J dissented (and those who are interested in his opinion might want to look at his ruling last year in the case of a minimally conscious patient).
Background facts and law
The claimant, whose condition worsens by the day, wishes to enlist the assistance of a medical professional or professionals to bring about his peaceful and dignified death. But Section 2(1) of the Suicide Act criminalises those who provide such assistance. The question of whether someone would be prosecuted for assisting suicide is governed by a detailed policy promulgated by the Director of Public Prosecutions. That policy was formulated in 2010 in response to the decision in R. (on the application of Purdy) v DPP  UKHL 45, and was refined in 2014 following the decision of the Supreme Court in Nicklinson. A similar declaration of incompatibility had been sought in Nicklinson, but by a majority of seven to two the court refused to make the declaration on the grounds that it was not “institutionally appropriate” to do so. The court, however, encouraged Parliament to reconsider the issue of assisted dying.
In the instant case, the court had to determine whether the circumstances which led the Supreme Court to refuse to grant the declaration in Nicklinson had changed so that a different outcome was now possible.
The Court concluded – with an interesting dissent from Charles J – that this was a matter for parliament. A declaration of incompatibility would be institutionally inappropriate in the light of the recent Parliamentary consideration of Nicklinson. The claim was unarguable and permission was refused.
Hand and Anor v George  EWHC 533 (Ch) (Rose J, 17 March 2017) – read judgment
The Adoption of Children Act 1926 s.5(2) had the effect that adopted children were not treated as “children” for the purposes of testamentary dispositions of property. The continuing application of this provision was a breach of the rights guaranteed by Article 14 in combination with Article 8 of the Convention. Therefore, the contemporary version of that provision, Adoption Act 1976 Sch.2 para.6, had to be read down so as to uphold the right not to be discriminated against.
Background Facts and Law
Henry Hand died in 1947. He was survived by his three children, Gordon Hand, Kenneth Hand and Joan George. In his will dated 6 May 1946, Henry Hand left the residue of his estate to his three children in equal shares for life with the remainder in each case to their children in equal shares. The question at the centre of this claim was whether adopted children count as “children” for the purposes of this will. Under Section 5(2) of the Adoption of Children Act 1926, which was in force at the relevant time, adopted children were not included as “children” for the purposes of a testamentary disposition of property.
The claimants, the adopted children of Kenneth Hand, accepted that under the domestic law in force, they were not included and their father’s share of the Henry Hand trust would go to the their cousins the defendants. However, the claimants maintained that they can rely on their rights under Article 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights in conjunction with Article 8 to override the discriminatory effect of that domestic law so that they are treated as equals with the birth grand-children of Henry Hand. The defendants argued that the ECHR could not be applied to interpret an instrument that was drawn up at a time before it existed. Continue reading →
Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority v First Tier Tribunal (Social entitlement Chamber) and Y by his mother and Litigation Friend  EWCA Civ 139
The predictability of genetic disorders continues to challenge existing law. Here, the Court of Appeal had to consider whether a child born as a result of incestuous rape could claim compensation under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS) for his congenital disabilities. These were 50% predictable as a result of the nature of his conception, as opposed to 2-3% in the general population.
The court ruled against eligibility for such claims, partly because English law does not recognise so-called claims for “wrongful life”, and partly because harm caused before birth which has consequences after birth cannot be treated as an injury sustained by a living person. But the main reason for keeping the gates closed for compensation in these circumstances is that the child concerned never had, nor could have, any existence save in a defective state. Continue reading →
John (A Minor: Vaccine Damage Payments scheme), Re  EWCA Civ – read judgment
As commentators to my previous post on immunisation have pointed out, vaccinations are not cost-free. But the benefit of eliminating pathogens through herd immunity is generally agreed to outweigh the occasional risk to individuals. Acknowledging that there are such risks, the government has run a modern compensation system since 1979 for people who are “severely disabled” as a result of vaccination (now the 2012 Vaccine Damage Payments Scheme). The initial scheme was put in place in response to side effects of the whooping cough vaccine.
The question before the Court of Appeal in the present case was whether the determination of the severity of a person’s disablement could take account of prognosis. If an individual has been assessed as having a lifelong condition, is the state obliged to compensate them for future disabilities?
Yes, said the Court of Appeal: this is not speculation, our legal system is used to it. It is the “very stuff” of personal injury litigation.
Vaccine in vial with syringe. Vaccination concept. 3d
SL (Permission to Vaccinate), Re 2017 EWHC (Fam) EWHC (30 January 2017)  EWHC 125 (Fam)
The alleged risks attending on vaccination were outweighed by the benefits of immunisation by a clear margin, the Family Court has ruled.
The seven month old baby SL was subject of an interim care order. The mother (the third respondent) objected to immunisations on the basis that her other children had suffered adverse reactions from them in the past. The local authority applied under the court’s inherent jurisdiction for a declaration that it was in the child’s interests for it to be given permission to arrange for him to receive the Haemophilus Influenza Type b (Hib) vaccine and the pneumococcal conjugate (PCV) vaccine. Continue reading →
Artificial intelligence … it’s no longer in the future. It’s with us now.
I posted a review of a book about artificial intelligence in autumn last year. The author’s argument was not that we might find ourselves, some time in the future, subservient to or even enslaved by cool-looking androids from Westworld. His thesis is more disturbing: it’s happening now, and it’s not robots. We are handing over our autonomy to a set of computer instructions called algorithms.
If you remember from my post on that book, I picked out a paragraph that should give pause to any parent urging their offspring to run the gamut of law-school, training contract, pupillage and the never never land of equity partnership or tenancy in today’s competitive legal industry. Yuval Noah Harari suggests that the everything lawyers do now – from the management of company mergers and acquisitions, to deciding on intentionality in negligence or criminal cases – can and will be performed a hundred times more efficiently by computers.
Now here is proof of concept. University College London has just announced the results of the project it gave to its AI researchers, working with a team from the universities of Sheffield and Pennsylvania. Its news website announces that a machine learning algorithm has just analysed, and predicted, “the outcomes of a major international court”:
The judicial decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) have been predicted to 79% accuracy using an artificial intelligence (AI) method.
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