Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law.
Credit: The Guardian
In the News:
An independent report into building regulations, commissioned by the government in the wake of the Grenfell disaster, has called for the current regulatory system to be overhauled.
However, the report surprised some because it did not recommend a ban on flammable cladding. It also declined to recommend stopping so-called ‘desktop studies’, where materials are tested without setting them on fire. The chairman of Grenfell United expressed disappointment at this conclusion. The Royal Institute of British Architects expressed support for banning inflammable cladding and the government has said it will consult on the issue. The Prime Minister has also pledged £400 million to remove flammable cladding from tower blocks.
The author of the report, Dame Judith Hackitt, said that banning the cladding was insufficient. Instead, she stated that a ‘whole system change’ is needed. Dame Hackitt warned that cost was being prioritised over safety and that ‘banning activities and particular materials […] will create a false sense of security’.
The report recommended fundamental changes to building regulations, saying that the process which drives compliance with the regulations are ‘weak and complex’. Dame Hackitt found that there was a ‘race to the bottom’ in the building industry that was putting people at risk. She also wrote that product testing must be made more transparent, and that residents’ voices were not being listened to.
The Grenfell Inquiry will open this week. For the first two weeks, the lives of those who died will be remembered in a series of commemorations. Continue reading
Image credit: Guardian
DA & Orss, R (On the Application Of) v The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions: The Court of Appeal by a 2:1 majority allowed the government’s appeal against a ruling that their benefits cap unlawfully discriminated against lone parents with children under the age of two.
Whilst it was not disputed that Article 14 was engaged both through A1P1 and Article 8, Sir. Patrick Elias did not find that the claimants were in a significantly different situation to that of lone parents with older children such as to constitute indirect discrimination under the Thlimmenos principle . He concluded:
the question is ultimately a narrow one. Are the circumstances of single parents with children under two sufficiently different from other lone parents as to require an exception to be made to the imposition of the benefit cap?… I do not accept that the problems are sufficiently proportionately disabling to these lone parents to make it unjust not to treat them differently.
Photo credit: Guardian
In the News
UK charity Migrants Rights Net have been granted permission to proceed with their challenge to the data-sharing agreement between the Home Office, the Department of Health and NHS Digital. The agreement has meant that the Home Office may require the NHS to hand over patients’ personal non-clinical information, such as last known address, for immigration enforcement purposes.
Currently, the Home Office makes thousands of requests per year, of which only around 3% are refused. A joint response from Home Office and health ministers suggested that opponents of the agreement had downplayed the need for immigration enforcement, and that it was reasonable to expect government officers to exercise their powers to share this kind of data, which ‘lies at the lower end of the privacy spectrum.’ However, critics of the agreement argue that it compromises the fundamental principle of patient confidentiality, fails to consider the public interest, and results in a discrepancy in operating standards between NHS Digital and the rest of the NHS. The good news for Migrants Rights Net was twofold: the challenge will proceed to a full hearing with a cost-capping order of £15,000.
Immigration law featured heavily in courts in the past week, with judgments in two cases handed down by the justices.
The first, MM and others, concerned the Minimum Income Rule, which requires a minimum income of £18,600 to sponsor a foreign spouse’s visa to live in the UK.
The second, R (on the application of Agyarko), saw the Supreme Court uphold the treatment of those unlawfully in the UK who have formed relationships with British citizens.
Re: W (A child)  EWCA Civ 1140 – read judgment
A Family Court judgment was severely critical of two witnesses and the applicant local authority. In an oral “bullet point” judgment at the end of the hearing, the Judge found that the witnesses, a social worker (‘SW’) and a police officer (‘PO’), had improperly conspired to prove certain allegations regardless of the truth, or professional guidelines.
Those matters were not in issue before the court or put to those concerned. Limited amendments were subsequently made to the judgment following submissions by those criticised. Unsatisfied, they went to the Court of Appeal.
The Court considered (1) whether they were entitled to appeal at all (2) whether their appeal based on Articles 8 and 6 of the Convention succeeded and (3) the appropriate remedy.
The Court held that the appellants’ Convention rights had been breached by the manifestly unfair process in the court below, so they had a right to appeal under the Human Rights Act 1998. The defective judgment was not cured by the amendments, and the findings were struck out.
The judgment addresses some interesting procedural questions regarding appeals. This post focuses mainly on the human rights issues, but the judgment of McFarlane LJ, described as “magisterial” by Sir James Munby, merits reading in full.
The Christian Institute and others (Appellants) v The Lord Advocate (Respondent) (Scotland)  UKSC 51 – read judgment here
The Supreme Court has today unanimously struck down the Scottish Parliaments’s Named Persons scheme as insufficiently precise for the purposes of Article 8, overturning two previous decisions at the Court of Session (see our previous coverage here).
Judgments in best interests cases involving children often make for heart-wrenching reading. And so it was in Bolton NHS Foundation Trust v C (by her Children’s Guardian)  EWHC 2920 (Fam), a case which considered Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health guidance, affirming its approach was in conformity with Article 2 and Article 3 ECHR. It also described, in the clearest terms, the terrible challenges facing C’s treating clinicians and her parents. Continue reading