Dr Lawrence McNamara is an academic at the University of York and a Senior Research Fellow at the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law
A new practice direction reveals some valuable progress in the management of closed judgments, but leaves uncertainty and, very worryingly, indicates that some judgments will be destroyed.
Closed material procedures (CMPs) have become an established option for the government when it wants to rely on security-sensitive evidence in civil litigation.
In immigration matters in the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) and in the full range of civil proceedings under the Justice and Security Act 2013, CMPs permit the state to rely on evidence that will not be disclosed to the other party who may be (for example) subject to deportation or a claimant in an action alleging state complicity in rendition.
Open and closed
judgments may be handed down. The latter will not be seen by non-state parties,
their lawyers or the public.
there have been heavy restrictions on access to and reporting of criminal
terrorism cases, most notably Incedal.
CMPs and closed
judgments are by nature a departure from fundamental rule of law standards of equality
of arms and open justice. The Supreme Court pointed this out in Al
Rawi and the Special
Advocates have been highly critical of them. Nonetheless, there is no sign that the CMPs
will disappear. Instead, the trend has slowly been towards managing them and
finding ways to mitigate some of the deficiencies.
A six-paragraph Practice Direction on Closed Judgments, issued on 14 January 2019, reveals some significant steps in that direction, but it lacks clarity in its scope and reveals a very troubling proposal for destruction of judgments.
The latest episode of Law Pod UK features Guy Mansfield QC, who acted for the government in the Mau Mau action against the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In this group litigation over 40,000 Kenyans alleged abuse during the Kenyan Emergency of the 1950s and early 1960s. The various test cases led to a High Court judgments last year dismissing the claims for being out of time under the Limitation Act 1980. See Jo Moore’s post for the case citations referred to in the podcast, and also the more recent decision in Kimathi & Others [November 2018]
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. Continue reading →
R (Johnson, Woods, Barrett and Stewart) v SSWP CO/1552/2018 (11 January 2019) – read judgment
This case was brought by four social security claimants contesting the proper method of calculating the amount of universal credit payable to each claimant under the Universal Credit Regulations 2013. Singh LJ and Lewis J concluded that treating claimants as having “earned” twice as much as they do if they happen to be paid twice within one monthly assessment period is “odd in the extreme” [para 54] and “…. could be said to lead to nonsensical situations” [para 55].
The Legal Proceedings
The four claimants are employees who are paid monthly. As they receive their salaries on or around either the last working day or last banking day of the month, there are times when salaries payable in respect of two months are paid during one assessment period. This means that there were occasions on which the claimants were only allowed to retain a single amount of £192 by way of the work allowance from the combined two months’ salary. The work allowance is the amount of earnings claimants with children or with limited capability for work can keep in full before universal credit is reduced by a proportion (63%) of their earned income under Regulation 22 of the 2013 Regulations. This way of calculating the allowance resulted in fluctuating universal credit awards and “severe cash flow problems” [para 4] for the claimants. Continue reading →
At the age of 85, United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has developed an extraordinary legal legacy while becoming an unexpected pop culture icon. With the documentary ‘RBG’, and the movie ‘On the Basis of Sex’ starring Felicity Jones shortly to go on general release in cinemas, Emma-Louise Fenelon speaks to Mrs Justice Philippa Whipple about her exceptional life and career. Listen to Episode 61 of Law Pod UK.
RBG is Directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen and co-produced by Storyville Films and CNN Films. Details are available here: https://www.rbgmovie.co.uk.
Law Pod UK is available for free on Audioboom, iTunes, PodBean, The Podcast App or wherever you get your podcasts.
Last Friday the UK Human Rights Blog and Law Pod UK Committee and contributors celebrated a fantastic year at 1 Crown Office Row with Vermouth tasting and prize-giving. We were delighted to be joined by special guests David Prest and Simon Jarvis from Whistledown Productions, as well as former 1COR member, Wendy Outhwaite QC.
Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law
In the News:
Credit: The Guardian
The Government is considering whether to abolish prison sentences lasting six months of less.
Rory Stewart, the Prisons Minister, has argued that short jail terms are only serving to increase crime by mixing minor offenders with hardened criminals. He cited research suggesting that community sentences may help reduce the risk of reoffending when compared to short term prison sentences.
In Scotland there is already a presumption against such sentences. Re-offending has fallen to its lowest level for nearly two decades and the Scottish government are looking to widen the scheme.
The change would impact upon around 30,000 offenders, helping alleviate pressure on the overburdened prison system. Exceptions would be made for offenders who were violent or had committed sexual crimes.
The suggestion has already proven controversial. The Ministry of Justice has emphasised it is only exploring options and no decision has been made.
ARB v IVF Hammersmith & Another  Civ 2803 (17 December 2018) – read judgment
Legal policy in the UK has traditionally prohibited the granting of damages for the wrongful conception or birth of a child in cases of negligence. In this case the Court of Appeal has confirmed that this bar is equally applicable to a wrongful birth arising from a breach of contract.
The facts of the case are set out in my podcast on the first instance decision (Episode 12 of Law Pod UK). Briefly, an IVF clinic had implanted the claimant father’s gametes into his former partner without his consent. This occurred after the couple had sought fertility treatment at the clinic resulting in the birth of a son some years previously. Following standard practice, the clinic froze five embryos made with their gametes. Subsequently, the couple separated. Some time after this separation the mother, R, attended the clinic without ARB and informed the staff that they had decided to have another child. The form requiring consent from ARB for thawing and implanting the embyro was signed by R, and the clinic failed to notice the forgery. R went on to give birth to a healthy daughter, E, who is now the sibling of ARB’s son. There is a Family Court order confirming parental responsibility and shared residence in respect of both children. Continue reading →
But what happened in the courts? Oh what an adventure it has been, dear reader. Strap on your seat belts and join me as we take a whistle-stop tour through 10 of the biggest legal battles of the last year.
This case is a salutary reminder to all who conduct litigation about the necessary elements of procedural fairness which continue to underlie our system of civil justice; even in a modern context when a cards on the table approach characterises many disputes from a very early, often pre-action, stage.
In Sait v GMC the context was regulatory proceedings against Mr Sait, an experienced consultant orthopaedic surgeon. At the conclusion of a seven day hearing, the MPTS found certain facts proved against him in a case alleging inappropriate sexually motivated conduct towards a patient. The Tribunal ordered that he be suspended for 3 months.
He appealed against the finding that he did what he did with sexual motivation and therefore against the finding that his fitness to practise was impaired by virtue of misconduct. The grounds of appeal were that the Tribunal failed to observe essential standards of procedural fairness because it was never sufficiently put to the appellant, whether in the course of cross-examination, or in the Tribunal’s own questions, that his conduct was sexually motivated.
2018 provided much food for thought for those practising in inquest law, with significant judgments on the burden on proof in suicide, on scope in relation to the Birmingham pub bombings, on causation in relation to medical negligence, on the relevance of non-causative findings to the record of inquest and on costs. In the most recent episode of Law Pod UK I am joined by Jeremy Hyam QC, who provides a whistlestop tour of this year’s the most significant cases.
Citations for cases mentioned on the podcast and links to related blog articles written by members of chambers are contained below, as is a brief analysis of R (Paul Worthington) v HM Senior Coroner for the County of Cumbria EWHC 3386 (Admin), a decision which was unfortunately handed down too late for consideration in the podcast episode. The episode is a available here.
My response to the proposals – as I saw things then – is on my blog here. Thoughts of divorce reform throw up two important human rights issues: one a direct Article 6 question; and the other – which it is surely time for law reformers and the government to confront? – is a discrimination point (Art 14).
But first a little history. The then Labour government, on Leo Abse MP’s private member’s bill, passed with (more or less) approval of the Church of England, the Divorce Reform Act 1969 (in force from 1 January 1971). It was consolidated into Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (MCA 1973) which represents the modern law and the modern statutory underpinning for financial distribution on divorce or nullity. Mirror provisions apply for same gender couples: Civil Partnership Act 2004. Wholly different finance rules apply for unmarried cohabitants.
The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (MCA) section 1 is very simple. There is one ground for divorce: irretrievable breakdown of marriage (s 1(1)). To prove that ground a petitioner (P) must prove one or more of five facts: adultery; behaviour making it unreasonable for P to live with the other spouse/partner (R); desertion for two years; living apart for two (with consent); or five years.
Reformers – including from their inception, the group of family law solicitors, now Resolution – have objected to the blame inherent in the first two facts, and the tendency which this may produce to leave a nastier taste, than need be, in the mouth of divorcees.
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. Continue reading →
This blog is maintained for information purposes only. It is not intended to be a source of legal advice and must not be relied upon as such. Blog posts reflect the views and opinions of their individual authors, not of chambers as a whole.