Media By: Thomas Hayes
14 October 2019
Harry Dunn’s family after meeting with the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, last week. Photograph: Credit: The Guardian, Peter Summers/Getty Images.
The usually obscure concept of diplomatic immunity came to the fore this week after it emerged that the wife of an American diplomat was wanted for questioning in connection with the death of a motorcyclist in Northamptonshire. Anne Sacoolas was spoken to by police after a collision with Harry Dunn in which he was killed whilst riding his motorbike, prior to her return to the United States.
Article 31 of the 1961 Vienna Convention grants immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving state to diplomats, a feature extended to their family members by article 37. However, both the United Kingdom and the United States were this weekend reported as having agreed that diplomatic immunity was no longer “pertinent” in the case of Mrs Sacoolas. This raised the possibility of the UK seeking her extradition, despite President Trump being photographed this week with a briefing card stating that she would not be returning to Britain.
Meanwhile, the country’s attention turned back towards Brexit, with the week ahead promising to, in the Prime Minister’s words, be “do or die” for the prospects of a negotiated deal. At the beginning of the week it was widely reported that talks had faltered, with Downing St leaks suggesting a deal was “essentially impossible”. However, the mood surrounding negotiations changed significantly on Thursday, with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar describing the emergence of a “pathway” to a deal following his meeting with Boris Johnson.
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16 September 2019
Flags flutter outside Parliament. Credit: The Guardian.
Very few weeks have given the function of the legal system and the role of the courts as much prominence, nor exposed them to as much scrutiny, as the last week. The decision of the Prime Minster to prorogue Parliament, followed by the granting of royal assent to legislation which would require him to seek an extension to the Article 50 process for exiting the European Union, has launched into the public consciousness areas of constitutional law previously the domain only of law students cramming for exams, public law lawyers and academics in tweed blazers. In what at times made Newsnight look like an hour-long revision seminar for Graduate Diploma in Law students, unfashionable concepts such as justiciability, judicial review and the rule of law took centre stage, framed by the context of Brexit.
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5 August 2019
New President of the Supreme Court Lord Reed: Credit The Guardian.
In the week after the appointment of Lord Reed as the new President of the Supreme Court, the final week of July brought with it the end of the legal term and a flurry of judgements in the senior courts.
In the Supreme Court, the case of Cape Intermediate Holdings Ltd v Dring (Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK)  UKSC 38 (29 July 2019) gave the court the opportunity to examine the principle of open justice, in particular how much of the written material made available to the court ought to be accessible by those not directly party to proceedings. The case came about after an asbestos victim support group, not party to the initial proceedings, made an application to have access to all the documents from a settled personal injury asbestos case. The defendant from the initial trial appealed against the granting of such an order under the common law and the provisions of CPR rule 5.4C. The Media Lawyers Association intervened, advancing arguments based on the importance of media reporting to maintaining open justice, and the reliance such reporters have on access to documents subsequent to the conclusion of proceedings. In deciding to remit the matter back to the High Court, the court provided a good summary of the principles concerning open justice laid down in R (Guardian News and Media Ltd) v City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court (Article 19 intervening)  EWCA Civ 420;  QB 618.
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22 July 2019
Outgoing Secretary of State for Justice David Gauke. Credit: The Guardian.
The week ahead will, barring some extreme political drama, give us a new Prime Minister, and with it, the inevitable cabinet reshuffle. Some ministers have already made clear they believe they are unlikely to remain in post after the new PM’s appointment on Wednesday, in particular the Chancellor Phillip Hammond, and the Secretary of State for Justice David Gauke.
Whoever takes over at the Ministry of Justice will have a significant inbox. Cuts to legal aid were brought to the fore this week after it emerged a relative of those killed in the 2017 terrorist attacks at London Bridge was represented pro-bono by lawyers from international corporate law firm Hogan Lovells (see The Independent here). Mr Gauke used his forthcoming departure from post to propose scrapping short custodial sentences in a bid to reduce re-offending rates. However, the incoming Lord Chancellor will still be considerably better off than their new boss, for whom the “to do” list includes getting an oil tanker back from Iran and concluding Brexit.
In the courts, it was a busy week for human rights observers in the Court of Appeal. The court rejected an appeal bought by a Pakistani gentleman against the decision of the Upper Tribunal to deport him after he was imprisoned for manslaughter – MA (Pakistan) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 1252. After his conviction, the Secretary of State had written to him and advised that the department would not, at that time, seek to deport him. The appellant had argued, amongst other grounds of appeal, that this had given rise to a legitimate expectation that he would be allowed to remain in the country, subject to him not being brought to the authorities’ adverse notice. All grounds were rejected by the court, including that deportation would infringe his Article 8 rights.
In other cases…
MAB (Iraq) v The Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 1253 – An Iraqi doctor who worked for Saddam Hussein’s military intelligence agency succeeded in his appeal against the conclusions of the First Tier Tribunal that he was excluded from protection by the Refugee Convention by virtue of Article 1F of that convention. Article 1F disqualifies from the provisions of the Convention those considered to have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity. The court had heard evidence that the appellant, in his medical role, had provided treatment to torture victims and in doing so had facilitated their ongoing torture by the security services. In granting his appeal, the court held that the consequences of Article 1F required its application to be undertaken with caution, involving “a close examination of the facts” and “a carefully reasoned decision as to precisely why the person is excluded from protection under the Convention”. The First Tier Tribunal had failed to perform a sufficiently “detailed and individualised examination of the facts” to support the conclusion arrived at of the appellant’s complicity in human rights abuses.
An application to appeal brought by displaced inhabitants of the Chagos Islands succeeded on some of the grounds advanced – Hoareau & Anor v The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs  EWCA Civ 1254 . The Court held that the recently published advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, ‘Legal Consequences of the Separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965’, contained arguments with a real prospect of success which ought to be heard. The appellants also succeeded in contesting the approach taken by the Divisional Court to the appropriate degree of intensity of review of the Foreign Office’s decision making in the matter, and successfully challenged whether or not Ministers were mislead about the basis on which the quantum of existing compensation was arrived at.
ASK, R (On the Application Of) v The Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 1239 – In a lengthy judgement, the Court gave a detailed examination of the powers of the Home Secretary to detain those suffering from mental health conditions prior to their removal from country. The individuals concerned submitted that by virtue of their diagnosis they were either unfit to be removed and/or be detained in an immigration removal centre, or lacked the mental capacity to challenge their detention. The appeals failed on grounds concerning alleged breaches of Articles 3 and 8 of the ECHR and the application of applicable immigration policy. However, the appellants succeeded in respect of claims for damages brought under the Equality Act 2010.
The long-term partner of a senior RAF officer succeeded in her appeal against the decision of the Upper Tribunal that her claim for benefits under the Armed Forces (Compensation Scheme) Order 2011 be disallowed because she remained married to another man, notwithstanding her long term committed relationship with the deceased – Langford v The Secretary of State for Defence  EWCA Civ 1271. The appellant successfully relied upon Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the recent decision in Re Brewster to show that a person in an exclusive relationship with a scheme member who would otherwise qualify for the benefit could not be excluded simply by reason of having failed to secure the formality of divorce. The court held that to do so would be discriminatory.
In other news, the Ministry of Justice reduced the discount rate on compensation in personal injury cases from -0.75% to -0.25%. The continuation of a negative rate surprised many, particularly defendants and insurers.
Finally on Episode 87 of LawPod UK, Catriona Murdoch speaks to Rosalind English about a new app designed to help professionals in the investigation of international crimes.
10 June 2019
Dennis Hutchings outside the Supreme Court. Credit: The Guardian.
In a week where the Prime Minister’s departure seemed to make barely a ripple, sifting out the key developments could be considered something of an unenviable task. Luckily, establishing the importance of the weeks events was made considerably simpler on Thursday, after judgement was handed down in the case of Poole Borough Council (Respondent) v GN (through his litigation friend “The Official Solicitor”) and another (Appellants)  UKSC 25. The case concerned alleged negligence on behalf of Poole Council in placing a family in social housing on an estate next to neighbours known to persistently engage in antisocial behaviour, and the council’s liability for subsequent harm suffered by the vulnerable children in that family. Elizabeth-Anne Gumbel QC, Iain O’Donnell, Duncan Fairgrieve and Jim Duffy of 1 Crown Office Row represented the family, with Philip Havers QC and Hannah Noyce appearing on behalf of the AIRE Centre and Martin Downs making written submissions for the Coram Children’s Legal Centre.
In the Court of Appeal, the council’s application to strike out the family’s claim that they were owed a duty under the common law given the statutory backdrop of the Children Act 1989 was allowed. In that judgement, the court identified two issues as being of chief importance. Firstly, as articulated in X (Minors) v Bedfordshire County Council and Hill v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire  AC 53, the court recognised the risk that allowing liability in negligence would serve to complicate decision-making in a difficult field and potentially drive social workers towards defensive decision-making. Secondly, the court held that there was no liability for the wrongdoing of a third party, even where such behaviour is foreseeable. This reflected the decisions in Mitchell v Glasgow City Council and Michael v Chief Constable of South Wales.
The Supreme Court undertook a rigorous analysis of the case law pertaining to the liability of local authorities for harm caused by failure to perform their functions under statute, in particular in relation to the exercise of statutory duties owed to children. Of principle importance was the nature of any assumption of responsibility for the claimant’s plight accepted by the local authority or pubic body.
The court concluded that the public policy defence illustrated in X v Bedfordshire, which dismissed on pure policy grounds the existence of a duty of care owed by local authorities towards children with whom they came into contact in the performance of their functions under the Children Act 1989, was no longer good law. The existence of any duty instead required examination of the specific facts of the case applied to the general principles outlined in Robinson v Chief Constable West Yorkshire Police. These were summarised as:
- The law should adopt an incremental approach to novel situations, guided by established categories of liability, rather than basing decisions on their assessment of the requirements of public policy.
- Consideration ought to be given to the distinction between harming the claimant and failing to protect the claimant from harm.
- Public authorities are generally subject to the same general principles of the law of negligence as private individuals and bodies, except as specified to the contrary in legislation.
The court concluded that although the local authority could be liable, the necessary grounds were not satisfied in the present case. In particular, it was held there was no evidence to suggest the council had accepted responsibility for the claimants, statutory obligations being insufficient in themselves to create a duty of care. Furthermore, the council’s failings did not amount to a breach of duty. Consequently, although the family’s case may serve to protect the rights of individuals in similar circumstances, their individual case failed on the facts.
In a further Supreme Court decision this week, a retired British soldier’s appeal against the decision of the Northern Ireland courts that he should be tried by a judge rather than a jury was unanimously rejected – In the matter of an application by Dennis Hutchings for Judicial Review (Northern Ireland)  UKSC 26. The case concerns the fatal shooting in 1974 of John Pat Cunningham by soldiers of the Life Guards after the Legacy Investigation Branch concluded Mr Hutchings should face prosecution over the incident. The court held that trial by jury should not be assumed to be the only means of achieving fairness in the criminal justice process. The decision is likely to further fuel the developing controversy surrounding the prosecution of soldiers for historical actions in Northern Ireland.
In the Court of Appeal, judgement was handed down in the case of KA (Afghanistan) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 914. KA claimed asylum after describing threats made against his safety by the Taliban due to his father’s service in the Afghan Army. However, the circumstances of his fleeing Afghanistan were rejected by the Upper Tribunal as lacking credibility. Allowing his appeal, McCombe LJ held it would be unsafe to reject the appeal of a vulnerable minor on such grounds when the Respondent and the First Tier Tribunal based their assessment on a flawed interpretation of the test set out in s. 8(4) of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004.
In the news this week…
The Prime Minister officially stood down on Friday, remaining only in post until a new Conservative leader is appointed. The first days of what might become a lively campaign to replace her saw former Linklaters associate Dominic Raab suggest Parliament could be prorogued to prevent the House of Commons attempting to thwart a no-deal Brexit, former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson represented by a QC in the High Court in relation to (now dismissed) charges of misconduct in public office, and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs admit to class A drug use two decades ago.
The week also saw Donald Trump undertake a state visit to the United Kingdom, part of which was devoted to remembrance services for the 75th anniversary of the D-day landings. The Peterborough by-election saw Labour narrowly keep the seat vacated after the conviction of Fiona Onasanya, defeating the challenge of the Brexit Party candidate by under 700 votes.
Finally, concerns about the rule of law in the Middle East came to the fore again after the main witness in the case of a Russian businesswoman convicted of embezzlement in Kuwait was jailed for forging documents crucial to the verdict. Maria Marsha Lazareva was previously sentenced to 10 years hard labour by a Kuwaiti court on charges of embezzlement which are widely considered spurious.
Hamad Al-Allayan, the auditor of the Kuwaiti State Audit (Chamber of Accounts) was sentenced this week to six months’ imprisonment by the Kuwaiti Court of Appeal. He was found guilty of forging documents decisive to the conviction of Lazareva.
The Kuwaiti Criminal Court has quashed Lazareva’s initial conviction and set a new trial date for June 9th. However, she remains in detention pending her re-trial. As the mother of a US citizen, her plight has attracted international concern and the interest of prominent Americans, including the brother of former President George W Bush, who was quoted as saying:
“I’d hate to see U.S.-Kuwait relations damaged by this incident. But there are forces within the government that are creating this horrible situation.”
The case joins an increasing number of detentions of western nationals in middle eastern states on charges often considered to be motivated by domestic concerns. These include those of West Hampsted mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and former British Council worker Aras Amiri in Iran, and now released British academic Matthew Hedges in the United Arab Emirates.
On the UKHRB:
- Rajkiran Barhey gave a detailed account of the decision in Poole Borough Council v GN and another
- Rosalind English reported on Jonathan Sumption’s recent Reith Lectures and reviewed Jamie Metzl’s new book “Hacking Darwin”
- Sapan Maini-Thompson discussed the ongoing protests concerning LGBT teaching in a Birmingham School.
On LawPod UK:
- Brexit’s effects on citizens, human rights and immigration, 11th June at City University. See here.
- The Prosecution of International Crimes in the UK, 18th June with the Human Rights Lawyers Association. See here.
- Foundational Concepts in Constitutional Theory, 10th-12th July with the UCL Faculty of Law. See here.
28 May 2019
Theresa May resigns during a speech in Downing Street, May 24th 2019. Credit: The Guardian
It would be virtually impossible for readers of this blog, unless they have recently returned from the International Space Station, awoken from a coma or been rescued after two weeks in the Hawaiian jungle, to have failed to notice this week’s political developments. Dispensing with them briefly, this week saw the Prime Minister announce her departure, and the subsequent commencement of a Conservative leadership campaign to appoint a new PM. Into this mix was thrown Sunday’s European Parliament elections, which saw Nigel Farage’s World Trade Organisation terms advocating Brexit Party finish first, albeit in a poll that saw advocates of a “no-deal” Brexit obtain fewer votes than those committed to preventing Brexit, if you take the combined Brexit Party and UKIP vote compared to combined Liberal Democrat, Green Party and Change UK vote.
More on Britain’s political machinations can be found courtesy of wall-to-wall coverage available pretty much everywhere.
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7 May 2019
Former Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson. Credit: The Guardian.
Despite the return of the courts on Monday, it was another relatively light week in terms of decisions in the fields of public law and human rights. However, the High Court decided a number of interesting clinical negligence cases, whilst the Court of Appeal gave judgement in the case of TM (Kenya), R (On the Application Of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 784.
TM (Kenya) concerned a 40 year old Kenyan woman who faced deportation after her applications for leave to remain and asylum were rejected by the Home Office. She had been detained at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in advance of proceedings to remove her from the country, during which time she had been uncooperative with staff. In light of her behaviour and in advance of her removal to Kenya, she was removed from free association with other detainees. Such detention was authorised by the Home Office Immigration Enforcement Manager at Yarl’s Wood, who was also the appointed “contract monitor” at the centre for the purposes of section 49 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
She sought judicial review of the decision to deprive her of free association. The initial application was refused. She appealed to the Court of Appeal where she advanced three grounds, including that her detention was not properly authorised.
The court found no conflict in the dual positions held by the manager at Yarl’s Wood. The Home Secretary had legitimately authorised her detention under the principles described in Carltona Limited v Commissioners of Works  2 All ER 560. In addition, there was no obligation to develop a formal policy concerning removal from free association, as Rule 40 of the Detention Centre Rules 2001 was sufficiently clear to meet the needs of transparency.
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29 April 2019
Mourners including Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald, DUP leader Arlene Foster and SNP leader Ian Blackford give a standing ovation after Fr Martin Magill’s speech at the funeral of journalist Lyra McKee in Belfast – April 24th 2019. Credit: The Guardian.
This week saw the senior courts continue their Easter vacation between the Hilary and Easter Terms. Consequently, neither the Supreme Court, Civil Division of the Court of Appeal or Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court recorded any new decisions in the week commencing April 22nd.
Luckily for the writer of this Blog, the European Court of Human Rights does not share the relaxed attitude of the domestic courts towards Easter working, and on the April 25th gave judgement in the case of VM v United Kingdom (No 2).
The case concerned a Nigerian woman who entered the United Kingdom illegally in 2003. She subsequently pleaded guilty to cruelty to her son and was sentenced to twelve months imprisonment with a recommendation she be deported at the end of her sentence. Pursuant to this, upon her release, she was detained under immigration powers for two years and ten months.
In the latter part of this period of detention, the claimant instructed a clinical psychologist to evaluate her case. They concluded that she gave a plausible history of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her uncle; that she suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder; that she was not receiving appropriate treatment for her mental health problems in detention; that release would benefit her mental health; and that her deportation was likely to precipitate further suicide attempts. Equipped with this report, her representatives challenged her ongoing detention.
The case subsequently came before the immigration tribunal, where bail was initially refused, before the intervention of a further medical expert prompted her release in July 2011. Between March and July 2011, six reviews of her position were undertaken by the Home Office, during which the caseworker commented on “yet another psychiatric report” whilst appearing to fail to take account of the most recent medical submissions. On each occasion, the officers concluded that the risk of the applicant re-offending and absconding outweighed any presumption in favour of release.
VM sought to initiate judicial review proceedings regarding this decision but was refused by the High Court in 2012. Ultimately, she appealed, and her case ascended through the court hierarchy. In April 2016, the Supreme Court concluded that whilst there were procedural errors in relation to the consideration of her medical evidence which may have made her detention technically unlawful, she would not have been released earlier had such evidence been considered appropriately. She brought proceedings in the Strasbourg Court contending that her detention had been arbitrary as the authorities failed to act with appropriate “due diligence”, and seeking damages given the alleged failure of the domestic courts to provide sufficient redress for the period of her unlawful detention.
The ECtHR agreed, stating that they had difficulty “accepting the Government’s submission that because the necessary practical arrangements had not been made, the applicant could not have been released sooner and in particular that her detention would have been lawful until such arrangements had been made”. Upholding that there had been a violation of Article 5(1) of the convention, the court awarded her €3,500 damages and €10,700 in costs.
Meanwhile, in the news…
- Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party committed to new talks aimed at restoring the Stormont Executive following a joint announcement to that effect by UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. The process saw new momentum after the funeral of murdered journalist Lyra McKee during a riot in Derry on April 18th.
- The Government announced a leak inquiry after details of discussions by the National Security Council regarding Chinese telecoms company Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s 5G network found their way into the Daily Telegraph. The revelations raised concerns that cabinet ministers had become so accustomed to leaks they were briefing against each other using material covered by the Official Secrets Act. Swift denials were issued by many ministers including Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson.
- The Foreign and Commonwealth Office issued new guidance advising against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka following bombings in the country on Easter Sunday. The death toll was revised down this week to approximately 253 people.
- Climate change advocacy group Extinction Rebellion continued a series of protests across London, causing disruption to public transportation and blockading sites including the Treasury and London Stock Exchange.
Finally on the blog, Rosalind English interviewed Dr Cherry James, coordinator of the Erasmus Programme at London South Bank University, for the 76th Episode of Law Pod UK. Dr Cherry discussed her views on the concept of a “European Citizen”.
11 March 2019
Home Secretary Sajid Javid. Credit: The Guardian
After some quieter times earlier in the year, last week saw no fewer than two Supreme Court judgements and twenty Court of Appeal (Civil Division) decisions.
However, the dominant legal and political story of the week (the ubiquitous Brexit aside) concerned criticism of the Home Secretary Sajid Javid, after reports emerged about the death of the child of Shamima Begum. The 19-year-old left East London to travel to Syria and join the Islamic State aged 15. Javid had stripped Begum of her British Citizenship on the basis that she was a dual national of Bangladesh. News broke this morning that the Home Office had removed citizenship from a further two individuals who had left under similar circumstances.
The case of Begum has shed light not only on the rights and powers of the Home Secretary to strip individuals of citizenship, but also on the tragic consequences of armed conflict. Child mortality across the whole of Syria was four times that in the UK at 17 per 1000 live births in 2017, with the situation in refugee camps likely far worse given the absence of heating or adequate shelter. Ms Begum’s son appears to have died of pneumonia, an easily preventable disease which remains the biggest killer worldwide of children under five, accounting for 1.4 million fatalities a year. Whilst there may be debate as to the practical ability of the Foreign Office to provide consular assistance in war zones and the legality of her deprivation of citizenship, Ms Begum’s case illustrates the tragic realities of armed conflict and its consequences upon innocent lives.
In a potentially bad week for cabinet ministers, criticism also flowed the way of Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, after she described deaths caused by the police and armed forces in Northern Ireland as “not crimes”. The comments caused consternation amongst nationalists and the relatives of those who had lost their lives and comes ahead of an expected announcement by the Public Prosecutions Service as to whether it will seek prosecutions against soldiers in relation to the deaths of 13 people in Derry on Bloody Sunday.
Returning to the courts, in the Supreme Court…
- Jordan, Re for Judicial Review (Northern Ireland)  UKSC 9. In a further legacy case arising from the conflict in Northern Ireland, the Supreme Court allowed the appeal of the father of a man shot dead by the Royal Ulster Constabulary, overturning the finding of the Court of Appeal that his claim for damages in relation to delays to his son’s inquest could not be awarded until the inquest’s conclusion. The Police Service of Northern Ireland had failed to disclose information in a timely manner to the inquest into the death of his son, in breach of the requirement under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights that an investigation into a death should begin promptly and proceed with reasonable expedition. Applying the principle of proportionality to the case, particularly given the fading health of the claimant, the Supreme Court overturned the Court of Appeal decision and awarded him the damages sought.
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal gave judgment this week in nine cases with a human rights flavour. Given the volume, only some of the more interesting are summarised below:
- An application for judicial review into the Home Office’s guidance regarding its counter-terrorism “Prevent” strategy, in particular that in relation to speakers at universities and the collecting of data by the Home Office’s Extremism Analysis Unit, was largely rejected in Butt, R (On the Application Of) v The Secretary of State for the Home Department. The appeal against the initial decision to dismiss the application was brought by Dr Salman Butt, editor in chief of “Islam21C”, who has been labelled a “hate speaker” by the Prime Minister’s Office and Home Office. Mr Butt had alleged interference with his right of free speech under both the common law and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as his privacy rights under Article 8.
- The Home Office successfully appealed in the case of a Liberian gentleman who had sought a permanent residence card by virtue of his durable relationship with a Czech national. His appeal against the Secretary of State’s rejection of his application had been upheld in the first-tier and upper tribunals. The Court of Appeal however agreed with the Home Office that his entitlement to a permanent residence card only arose five years after the initial granting of a residence card, and did not take effect from an earlier date when he may have been in the country or in a relationship with an EU citizen: Secretary of State for the Home Department v Aibangbee  EWCA Civ 339. The Home Office had continued the appeal to secure the point of law despite the case becoming moot as between the parties, enough time having expired by the time of the hearing to make Mr Aibangbee eligible.
- An appeal by the newspaper group MGN limited against the decision of a High Court judge not to vary the terms of an order requiring early disclosure was rejected: Various Claimants v MGN Ltd  EWCA Civ 350. The newspaper group had submitted that the order gave rise to a real risk, in the case of one claimant, that it would have to disclose material which would reveal the identity of a confidential journalistic source, contrary to protections enjoyed by publishers under section 10 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981.
- A prisoner convicted of terrorist offences, namely plotting to behead a member of the public around the time of Armistice Day 2015, who alleged that his transfer to a “Managing Challenging Behaviour Unit” constituted a “removal from association” with other prisoners had his appeal dismissed. The Court similarly dismissed the Secretary of State for Justice’s cross-appeal against the findings of an earlier court that such restrictions did amount to an interference with his right to respect for private life under Article 8(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights and therefore required justification under Article 8(2): Syed v The Secretary of State for Justice  EWCA Civ 367.
18 February 2019
Renu Begum holds a photograph of her sister Shamima, taken prior to the then school girls travel to Syria to support the Islamic State. Credit: The Guardian
Immigration cases have dominated human rights case law this week. However, perhaps the greatest controversy concerned the Home Secretary’s intervention in the case of Shamima Begum. News broke on Sunday morning that the nineteen-year-old had given birth in Syria to baby boy, having travelled to the country to support ISIS as a school girl three years ago.
The Times newspaper’s report earlier in the week that Miss Begum wished to come back to the UK prompted Sajid Javid to tell the same paper that he “would not hesitate to prevent” her return. International law may be an obstacle; Article 8 of the UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness 1961, to which the UK is a signatory, prevents a government from depriving an individual of their nationality if it would render them stateless.
However, UK law does permit the removal of citizenship under certain conditions. Section 66 of the Immigration Act 2014 allows the removal of citizenship where that status results from naturalisation, the Secretary of State is satisfied that deprivation is conducive to the public good and there are reasonable grounds for believing the person is able to become a national of another country or territory. The Supreme Court has been happy to allow an individual to become de facto stateless, but not de jure stateless – Pham v Secretary of State for the Home Department  UKSC 19 (25 March 2015).
The key difference in Miss Begum’s case is that she appears to lack citizenship of another country. In R (Bancoult) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (No 2)  UKHL 61;  AC 453 (Paragraph 70), Lord Bingham cited Sir William Holdsworth’s ‘A History of English Law (1938’), vol X, p 393:
The Crown has never had a prerogative power to prevent its subjects from entering the kingdom, or to expel them from it
Similarly, Laws LJ, at paragraph 39 of the judgement in Bancoult (No 1), stated:
For my part I would certainly accept that a British subject enjoys a constitutional right to reside in or return to that part of the Queen’s dominions of which he is a citizen.
Mr Javid may well find that preventing Miss Begum’s return is more difficult than giving a hard-line soundbite to The Times. It is not difficult to imagine a whole array of different grounds on which to challenge such a decision, including her age at the time she left the United Kingdom, positive secondary duties owed under Human Rights law and obligations owed to her child, who appears to automatically inherit British citizenship through his mother.
In other news…
- 1 Crown Office Row’s Sarabjit Singh QC represented the government in a judicial review of circumstances surrounding an application for indefinite leave to remain. The review was brought by a Somali asylum seeker who had been subject to deportation orders after his conviction for wounding with intent – Guled, R (On the Application Of) v The Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 92. G. sought an order compelling the Home Secretary to grant him indefinite leave to remain, his deportation proceedings having extended over 12 years during which time he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He alleged there was no realistic prospect of effecting his safe removal to Somalia under such circumstances. Ultimately, the Court of Appeal instructed the Home Office to reconsider his application, however it stopped short of granting a mandatory order compelling the Home Secretary to grant indefinite leave to remain.
- Bhandari & Anor v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 129 – The appeal of a Nepali woman against the decision to refuse her application for leave to remain as a Tier 4 migrant was rejected by the Court of Appeal. She had paid £9500 to a fraudulent third party in order to secure a ‘Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies’ document after she made what she thought was a valid application to study at King’s College London. Whilst sympathetic to her circumstances, the court found itself unable to support her appeal.
- SB (Sri Lanka) v The Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 160 The appellant had put forward evidence suggesting his life would be endangered were he returned to Sri Lanka due to purported activities he had undertaken in support of Tamil fighters in the country’s civil war. All his evidence had been dismissed as lacking credibility by both previous tribunals. The Court of Appeal remitted the case back to the First tier Tribunal to go before a different judge.
21 January 2019
Photo credit: The Guardian
In his 1748 text ‘The Spirit of the Laws’, Montesquieu proposed his initial concept of what would ultimately become known amongst political scientists as the separation of powers. Mercifully, for both the writer of this blog and the time poor reader, this weekly round-up of events need only concern itself with one of those branches of government…
Despite best efforts however, the topic of European politics is never truly out of the picture. This week saw judgement given in a series of cases by the European Court of Human Rights concerning Article 6 rights in Hungary – Boza and Others, Kurmai and Others, Csontos and Others, Kvacskay and Others, Bartos, Kovács-Csincsák and Komlódi, and Borbély and Others v. Hungary. The EU member state has increasingly been the focus of continent-wide concerns about the rule of law in central Europe, which in particular relate to the policies of Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his Fidesz party. Similar concerns have spread to neighbouring countries including regional heavyweight Poland, where the ruing Law and Justice Party has repeatedly clashed with both Brussels and the country’s judiciary over suggestions that judicial appointments have become politically motivated.
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17 December 2018
This week the eyes of the United Kingdom, and quite possibly the whole of Europe, were trained on Luxembourg for an eagerly awaited judgement from the Court of Justice of the European Communities. However, before we embark on a lengthy and forensic analysis of the German/Slovakian case of AlzChem v Commission (State aid – Chemical industry – Judgment)  EUECJ T-284/15 (13 December 2018), we should pay some attention to the week’s legal Brexit developments…
The CJEU this week delivered judgement in the case of Wightman and Others – (Notification by a Member State of its intention to withdraw from the European Union – Judgment)  EUECJ C-621/18 (10 December 2018). The case had been referred to the Luxembourg court by the Inner House of the Court of Session and addressed the feasibility of unilateral revocation of Article 50 TEU. The UK government sought to have the application ruled inadmissible on the grounds that the question posed was hypothetical, no such revocation of Article 50 having been attempted or even contemplated. The European Council and Commission meanwhile contended that although revocation was possible, the right was not unilateral. They appeared to fear abuse of Article 50 by member states who could unilaterally seek to terminate their membership of the European Union, revoke that termination and then repeat the exercise as necessary to circumvent the two-year time limit imposed by Article 50 on withdrawal negotiations.
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26 November 2018
New Interpol President Kim Jong-Yang – credit The Guardian
From Strasbourg to the Strand, this week saw a plethora of judgements delivered in cases with notably interesting facts. However, arguably the most widely reported legal news concerned two stories, neither involving judgements in the UK courts. The case of six-year-old girl sexually assaulted by other pupils at a primary school made headlines after a local authority, whilst not admitting liability, settled her claim following a round table meeting in March this year. The High Court has now approved this settlement to make it binding on the parties (a necessary move when one party is a child to prevent them seeking further damages when they attain a majority) in litigation which some consider may contribute to legal precedent. More on that here. Meanwhile, the case of Matthew Hedges, a British academic jailed for life in the UAE on spying charges widely considered unfounded, appears to be resolved. Reports this morning indicate Mr Hedges has been unconditionally pardoned and is likely to be released imminently. This case raised profound questions about the rule of law and reliability of the judiciary in a Middle East country considered one of the West’s closest and most reliable partners.
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4 November 2018
After the flurry of excitement we were treated to earlier in October, last week afforded observers of the Supreme Court and legal news an opportunity to relax and catch their breath. However, the Court of Appeal proved to be a bountiful source of judgements, and reliable as always, Brexit continued to occupy the minds of journalists, politicians and lawyers alike.
However, perhaps the biggest story of the week originated in Pakistan. The case of Asia Bibi raises not only profound questions regarding the protection of human rights in the country, but also more substantial concerns about the rule of law, constitutional balance and ability of the government and courts to impose their will in a nuclear armed state at the forefront of some of the world’s most acute geo-political challenges.
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14 October 2018
Baking takes up supreme court time on both sides of the Atlantic, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees makes an appearance in the Court of Appeal, Unexplained Wealth Orders make an entrance and more…
The biggest news of the week arguably came out of Northern Ireland. However, mercifully this blog can ignore the ongoing speculation regarding a Brexit settlement, the attitude of DUP MPs, the potential presence of border infrastructure and whether or not veterinary inspections and customs checks are of loose equivalence (well, at least for now…).
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