When does being not guilty make you innocent? This question arose coincidentally in two rulings, just over a month of each other, from the highest courts of the UK and South Africa respectively.
The Citizen and others v McBride concerned libel proceedings which had been brought against a former member of the armed wing of the ANC. McBride had been convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1986 after killing three women in a bomb attack. Nine years later he was granted an amnesty by the SA Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The question before the Constitutional Court was whether a person convicted of murder, but granted amnesty under the Reconciliation Act, can later be called a “criminal” and a “murderer” in comment opposing his appointment to a public position.
I promised an analysis piece in my post on the Mosley judgment but there has been such an outpouring of comment and opinion on the case that a more useful exercise is to provide some sort of guide through the maze of material already out there.
The Court makes its disapproval of the conduct of the News of the World crystal clear and emphasises the need for a “narrow interpretation” of freedom of expression where sensational and titillating press reports are involved .
The Strasbourg Court has ruled that the United Kingdom has not breached the right to privacy by failing to have in place a “pre-notification” requirement that would have alerted Max Mosley to the News of the World’s impending publication of covertly filmed footage – read judgment.
Adam Wagner’s prediction is bang to rights; although in this particular case the Court agreed that the newspaper had “flagrantly” violated Max Mosley’s right to privacy, it has refrained from ruling that UK law fell short of adequate protection of Article 8. “Particular care” had to be taken when examining constraints which might operate as a form of censorship prior to publication and generally have a chilling effect on journalism.
A new attitude of diffidence characterises this judgment in that the Court expressly refrains from considering the application of Convention rights to the facts of this case, since the UK Court had already decided on it. This suggests that Strasbourg is beginning to take on board criticisms that it is tending to arrogate to itself the role of supra-national court of appeal. There was no reconsideration therefore of the High Court’s assessment of the newspaper’s public interest defence nor of the balancing act that the judge had conducted between the right to privacy and the right to freedom of expression. The focus of this ruling was on the question of whether a legally binding pre-notification rule was required. Continue reading →
Iorworth HOARE v the United Kingdom – 16261/08  ECHR 722 (12 April 2011) – Read decision
Potential future US president Donald Trump once said that “Everything in life is luck“. Sometimes a case arises from such an unlikely factual scenario that it raises questions about the relationship between justice, fairness and luck. This is such a case.
Iorworth Hoare was convicted 1989 for attempted rape. He was a serial sex offender, so was sentenced to life imprisonment. As life in prison does not usually mean actual life in prison, he was released on 31 March 2005. In what could be considered a not quite minor reversal of Hoare’s deservedly poor fortune up to that point, in 2004, while on day release, he bought a National Lottery ticket, and won £7m. Home Office rules allowed prisoners in open conditions to play the lottery.
The decision of the Supreme Court in Jones v Kaney (see earlier post by Rosalind English) removes the immunity previously enjoyed by those who have acted as experts from suit by their former clients. To understand the significance of the decision, a number of important points should be kept in mind.
The immunity from suit for damages for a former client in respect of the retained expert’s activity in a civil action was already a limited one. In Palmer v Durnford Ford,  QB 483, the High Court held that an expert witness was not immune from suit in respect of work done primarily for the purpose of advising the client.
Expert witnesses have, since the decision of the Court of Appeal in Meadow v General Medical Council  QB 462, been liable to disciplinary sanction in respect of their activity and evidence as experts in courts and tribunals. That flows from the public interest in the fitness to practice of the professional (particularly, but not only, a medical practitioner). Continue reading →
We have already reported on this appeal by three foreign nationals who have served sentences of imprisonment in this country (“FNPs”). They were detained pursuant to Schedule 3 of the Immigration Act 1971 and their challenge to the legality of this detention was successful. But the appeal was secured by a majority of 3 with strong dissenting opinions which merit close consideration here.
MGN Limited v The United Kingdom – (Application no. 39401/04) Read judgment
The details of the Court’s ruling are set out in our previous post on this case. The following analysis focusses on the success of the newspapers’ core complaint concerning the recoverability against it of 100% success fees.
This judgment has serious practical implications not just for publication cases but for any civil case not covered by legal aid, and although the ruling is only binding on the government, not on the courts, the potential for its immediate domestic impact cannot be ignored. Defendants challenging costs orders will have this judgment at the head of their arsenal from today; the practical resonances of the case are imminent.
R (Booker) v NHS Oldham and Direct Line Insurance PLC  EWHC 2593 (Admin)- read judgment
The High Court has held that where a claimant agrees a damages settlement that includes an indemnity to fund private nursing care should existing NHS provision be withdrawn, it was unlawful for a primary care trust to cease its funding of the claimant’s care on the basis that her needs would be met through the settlement.
The claimant, B, was a tetraplegic who had sustained her injuries in a road traffic accident. She had received care from the defendant NHS trust (“the Trust”) over a number of years, and there was no dispute that her medical needs made her eligible for future care. In October 2009, B’s personal injury case was settled on the basis of both a lump sum and periodical payments, the latter due to commence from 15 December 2011. In respect of the period between the settlement date and the first periodical payment, a series of “safety net undertakings” were given by both sides in the litigation, and by DLI, the insurer of the injury claim defendant. These were to the effect that B would use her best endeavours to maintain the NHS funded care that she was receiving, but, should it nonetheless be withdrawn, DLI would indemnify B against the cost of providing replacement care. In June 2010, the Trust informed B that it intended to withdraw its provision of care from her with effect from the autumn, on the basis that B had elected to receive private care and hence no longer required NHS services. B sought judicial review of this decision.
We posted last weekon 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.
MAGA v The Trustees of the Birmingham Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church  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.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled unanimously that a local authority’s failure to conduct a risk assessment, which resulted in a child being placed with foster parents, breached the right to respect for family life under Article 8 of the Convention. It also concluded that the mother should have had available to her a means of claiming that the local authority’s handling of the procedures was responsible for any damage which she suffered and obtaining compensation for that damage. As such redress was not available to her, the Court held that she had suffered a violation of Article 13.
The Queen on the Application of MK(Iran) v Secretary of State for the Home Department
CA (Civ Div) (Sedley LJ, Carnwath LJ, Smith LJ) 25/2/2010  EWCA Civ 115
Directive 2004/83, which recognised the right to asylum as part of EU, did not alter the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights that asylum decisions did not constitute determinations of civil rights under Article 6 of the Convention, and consequently a foreign national had no right under Convention law to claim for damages for the delay in processing his asylum application.
When deciding whether to award damages under Article 5(5) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) for breach of Article 5(4), regard has to be paid to Article 8 and the limits on damages in that provision. Articles 5 and 8 are not, however, incompatible. There was no basis for the claim that Article 5(4) compensation can only be monetary, and in some cases a finding of a breach can be sufficient compensation.
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