Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law
Credit: the Guardian
In the News:
The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has concluded that indefinite detention in immigrations centres must cease. The Committee published a critical report into the issue, which found indefinite detention has a highly detrimental impact upon detainees’ mental health.
The Committee argued that individuals should be held for no more than 28 days. It said this would provide an incentive to the Home Office to speed up case management, thereby reducing costs. Harriet Harman MP, the JCHR’s Chairwoman, noted in an article that the Home Office has paid £20 million over five years to compensate for wrongful detentions. Continue reading →
Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law
Credit: The Guardian
In the News:
This week saw a novel legal challenge which may have significant consequences for the Equality Act 2010. The case arose following the dismissal of Jordi Casamitjana by the League Against Cruel Sports on the grounds of gross misconduct. This was because he released information showing that the pension fund of employees was being invested in firms engaging in animal testing. However, Mr Casamitjana claims he was discriminated against by his former employer because he is vegan.
Mr Casamitjana alleges that he first raised his concerns about the pension investments internally. He says the charity responded by offering staff an alternative ‘ethical’ investment strategy with lower rates of return. Mr Casamitjana subsequently wrote to colleagues saying that their money was still being invested in non-ethical funds, and that there were other alternative investments available with good financial outcomes.
Mr Casamitjana argues that his sacking was due to the charity discriminating against his belief in ‘ethical veganism’. The League strongly deny the allegations and have stated Mr Casamitjana was dismissed purely because of gross misconduct.
The dispute means that an employment tribunal will have to decide whether veganism is a ‘belief’ which should be protected by the Equality Act 2010. It is thought to be the first time this issue has been raised. The ruling could have significant consequences for the provision of goods and services, as well as on employment rights more generally. However, others have warned that recognising too many views as protected characteristics would be excessively restrictive. Continue reading →
The question for the court was whether his case raised “an arguable point of law of general public importance” which ought to be heard by the Supreme Court at this time. Whilst the points of law were undoubtedly arguable, and the public importance obvious, the court concluded “not without some reluctance” that the applicant’s prospects of success did not justify granting permission to appeal. Rosalind English has more detail here.
Stott, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Justice  UKSC 59: The appellant was a prisoner who had been classed as ‘dangerous’ and accordingly given an Extended Determinate Sentence (EDS), under which he would become eligible for parole only after serving two-thirds of the appropriate custodial term. This was in various ways narrower than the ordinary parole eligibility of other categories of prisoner. The appellant claimed unlawful discrimination under Article 14 ECHR, combined with Article 5 (the right to liberty).
In a landmark moment for women’s rights, the Irish electorate has voted in favour of abolishing the 8th Amendment by a stunning two-thirds majority of 1,429,981 votes to 723,632.
Whilst abortion has long been illegal in Ireland under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, the notorious 8th Amendment, which gives the foetus’ right to life absolute parity with that of the woman carrying it, was enacted after a 1983 referendum lobbied for by pro-life activists. By virtue of the amendment:
“The state acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”
Lawyers for Yes emphasised that the amendment created ‘absolute legal paralysis in dealing with crisis pregnancies’ and had to be repealed if women in Ireland were to receive ‘appropriate’ and ‘compassionate’ healthcare. Also on the UKHRB, Rosalind English shares a powerful analysis of the extraordinary nature of the legal obligations imposed on women’s bodies by this provision.
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 →
The Howard League for Penal Reform has called for a review of the “unfair and unrealistic” Criminal Courts Charge, which “ penalises the poor and encourages the innocent to plead guilty”. The mandatory charge of up to £1,200 is imposed on those who admit committing minor misdemeanours, regardless of their circumstances.
The charity has compiled a list of cases where heavy financial charges have been demanded of people convicted of low-level offences. These include the case of a 38-year-old homeless man who admitted persistently begging in Oxford, and breaching an Asbo prohibiting him from sitting within 10 metres of a cash machine. He was jailed for 30 days and ordered to pay a £150 criminal courts charge.
Sims v Dacorum Borough Council  UKSC 63 – read judgment 12 November 2014 and
R (ota ZH and CN) v. LB Newham et al  UKSC 62 – read judgment 12 November 2014
A brace of cases showing the limited role which Article 8 and Article 1 of the 1st Protocol has to play in housing law, so heavily regulated by a combination of statute and contract law. The human right protections conferred, as we shall see, are mainly procedural.
The contract and property issues are well illustrated by the case of Sims. Mr and Mrs Sims had lived in a council property, until Mrs Sims left, she said as a result of her husband’s violence. For her own housing reasons she sought termination of their periodic secure joint tenancy by unilateral notice. Her husband, as the other joint tenant still living in the property, maintained in response to possession proceedings that he was entitled to remain there as a sole tenant; anything else was inconsistent with his Article 8 and A1P1 rights.
Rutherford and Ors v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  EWHC 1613 (Admin) – Read judgement here.
At the end of May, the High Court ruled that the reduction in Housing Benefit under Regulation B13 of Housing Benefit (Amendment) Regulations – commonly dubbed “the bedroom tax” –did not unlawfully discriminate against a family with a disabled child requiring an additional bedroom for overnight careers because the shortfall was covered by discretionary housing payments.
The case involved three Claimants: Mr and Mrs Rutherford and their 14-year-old grandson Warren. Warren suffers from a profound disability requiring 24-hour care from at least two people. Mr and Mrs Rutherford need the assistance of two paid careers for two nights a week. The family live in a three-bedroom bungalow rented from a housing association and specifically adapted to meet Warren’s needs. Mr and Mrs Rutherford sleep in one room, Warren in another, and a third room is used as a bedroom for overnight carers and to store medical equipment.
When can an agricultural landlord turf out his tenant farmer? The answer to this question has ebbed and flowed since the Second World War, but one element of the latest attempt by the Scottish Parliament to redress the balance in favour of tenants has just been declared incompatible with Article 1 of the 1st Protocol (A1P1) as offending landlords’ rights to property. The Supreme Court has so ruled, upholding the Second Division of the Court of Session’s ruling in March 2012.
The reasoning is not just of interest to agricultural lawyers either side of the border. But a brief summary of the laws is necessary in order to identify the invidiousness of the new law as identified by the Court – and hence its applicability to other circumstances.
As will be seen from my postscript, the decision of the court below to the same effect appears to have had tragic consequences.
Michael Sims v Dacorum Borough Council  EWCA Civ 12 – read judgment
This was a property dispute which broke out on the marriage breakdown of two joint tenants of council property. The wife who sought termination of the periodic secure joint tenancy by unilateral notice. The husband, as the other joint tenant still living in the property, maintained that he was entitled remain there as a sole tenant.
In fact, the point had already been settled in the case of Hammersmith and Fulham LBC v. Monk  AC 478 which established that at common law, a periodic joint residential tenancy is terminated automatically, if one joint tenant, without the concurrence of the other joint tenant, or tenants serves a notice to quit on the landlord. Continue reading →
BUCKLAND v. THE UNITED KINGDOM – 40060/08 – HEJUD  ECHR 1710 – read judgment
The ECtHR’s recent decision in Buckland v UKdemonstrates again how wonderfully delphic the subject of housing and Article 8 rights to private and family life has become.
In one sense, the outcome was fairly predictable because the case was determined by the UK Courts before the Supreme Court in Manchester CC v Pinnock established the principles of proportionality in possession claims.
Mr Duncan-Smith has already faced opposition to his reform proposals but has made it clear that he is willing to tackle this controversial issue. However, this week’s ruling is a timely reminder that social security law is extremely complex and that the Government will have to tread very carefully to avoid unwittingly causing further instances of unlawful discrimination.
R (on the application of Maria Gallastegui) v Westminster City Council  EWHC 1123 (Admin) – Read judgment
On 27 April 2012, Maria Gallastegui, a peace campaigner and resident of the East pavement of Parliament Square since 2006, lost her legal battle to continue her 24 hour, tented vigil in protest against the folly of war and in particular the UK’s involvement in armed conflict.
The Court’s main task was to construe a new law enacted to bolster the legal armoury available to control long-term protests in the Square. Section 143 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 – which came into force on 19 December 2011 – gives a local authority the power to stop “prescribed activities” such as using tents (and other structures) to sleep. They are also empowered to seize items used for these prescribed purposes ie the tents.
Mr De A is a Portuguese national. He lived in the UK from 1998 to 2001 and from 2008 to date. He worked during the first period and for a year after his return. Mr De A had contracted HIV and AIDS. His health deteriorated so that he was not able to work. His prognosis in October 2010 was that he had about a year to live. At the time of the first hearing in this case in November 2011, his prognosis was about 6 months.
The City of London has succeeded in its court High Court battle against the Occupy London movement which is currently occupying an area close to St Paul’s Cathedral. As things stand, subject to any appeals, the movement has been evicted.
The Judiciary website will be publishing the full judgment tomorrow morning, but for those seeking it before then, I have uploaded it here. Below is the very helpful summary of the judgment sent to me by the Judicial Office (with apologies for the numbering, which is a quirk of the blog formatting, not the summary).
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