Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law
In the News:
The long-delayed Domestic Abuse Bill returned to Parliament last week. It contains a number of measures, including a statutory definition of domestic abuse. The new definition will include not only physical violence, but also emotional, coercive and economic harm.
The Coronavirus has highlighted the importance of the Bill. Many have expressed concern about the impact of the lockdown on abused individuals. Victims are trapped in their homes and many domestic abuse services reduced their support.
Disturbingly, the National Domestic Abuse helpline has seen a 25% increase in calls, and the Metropolitan Police has reported a similar increase in charges and cautions.
In Parliament, a number of MPs spoke out about their experience of domestic abuse. Bolsover MP Mark Fletcher described growing up with an abusive stepfather. Rosie Duffield MP, who herself is a survivor, also spoke powerfully.
Conway, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Justice  – read judgment
A man suffering from motor neurone disease has been refused permission to appeal to the Supreme Court in his bid to be allowed to choose when and how to die. He is now wheelchair bound and finds it increasingly difficult to breathe without the assistance of non-invasive mechanical ventilation (NIV). His legal campaign to win such a declaration, on his own behalf and others in a similar position, has met with defeat in the courts (see our previous posts on Conway here,here and here). As the Supreme Court noted in their short decision, Mr Conway
could bring about his own death in another way, by refusing consent to the continuation of his NIV. That is his absolute right at common law. Currently, he is not dependent on continuous NIV, so could survive for around at least one hour without it. But once he becomes dependent on continuous NIV, the evidence is that withdrawal would usually lead to his death within a few minutes, although it can take a few hours or in rare cases days.
But Mr Conway doesn’t see this as a solution to his difficulties, since he cannot predict how he will feel should ventilation be withdrawn, and whether he will experience the drowning sensation of not being able to breathe. Taking lethal medicine, he argued, would avoid all these problems.
In his view, which is shared by many, it is his life and he should have the right to choose to end it in the way which he considers most consistent with his human dignity.
Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law
Credit: The Guardian
In the News:
The Government has announced that civil partnerships will be available to all couples, not just those which are same-sex. The government has said the move will address the “imbalance” of the current system. It will also provide a way of giving couples and their families greater security.
Concerns have previously been raised about the precarious state of cohabiting couples, many of whom incorrectly believe they possess similar rights to married couples. Widening access to civil partnerships may go some way to solving this issue.
Civil partnerships were originally created in 2004, and offer homosexual couples legal and financial benefits resembling those available under a marriage. Marriage for same-sex couples was subsequently legalised by the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, giving them a free choice between the two.
The proposed change comes in response to R (on the application of Steinfeld and Keidan) (Appellants) v Secretary of State for International Development, which was decided by the Supreme Court in June. There, the court ruled that precluding mixed-sex couples from entering into a civil partnership was incompatible with Article 14 ECHR (when read in conjunction with Article 8). The Civil Partnership Act 2004 will, therefore, need to be amended or replaced. Continue reading →
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.
R (o.t.a P & others) v. Secretary of State for Home Department & others  EWCA Civ 321, Court of Appeal, 3 May 2017 – read judgment
The Court of Appeal has upheld challenges to the system of the police retaining information about past misconduct. It held that the system, even after a re-boot in 2013 in response to an earlier successful challenge, remains non-compliant with Article 8.
The problem is well summarised by Leveson P in the first paragraph of the judgment, namely the interface between a system of rehabilitation of offenders and the minimisation of risk to the public caused by the employment of those with misconduct in their pasts.
Bank Mellat v HM Treasury  EWCA Civ 105, 23 October 2015 read judgment
Bank Mellat is an Iranian bank, initially subjected to a 2009 order which prohibited anybody in the UK from dealing with it – until the Supreme Court quashed it: here, and my posts here and here.
The Treasury tried again, by orders made in 2011 and 2012 addressed at all Iranian banks, not just Bank Mellat. The EU has now taken over regulation of these banks.
In the current proceedings, the Bank seeks to set the 2011 and 2012 orders aside. These restrictions are, the Treasury says, addressed at the financing of Iran’s nuclear programme, in which all Iranian banks are complicit. Bank Mellat denies this, and the conundrum in the case is how to make sure that the challenge is fairly tried. Collins J (my post here) thought that the Treasury had not revealed enough about its case, and, in substance, on appeal the CA agreed.
R (ota Lumsdon) v Legal Services Board  UKSC 41, 24 June 2015 (see judgment)
The Supreme Court has reminded us, in a tour de forceby Lord Reed, that there is no such thing as one-stop proportionality. It varies between ECHR and EU law, and the tests of EU proportionality then vary according to the nature of the EU issue in play.
And all this in a case about trying to improve standards for barristers’ advocacy.
Barristers challenged the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates or QASA, on EU grounds. QASA requires barristers in the criminal courts to be assessed by judges before they are allowed to take on certain categories of cases.
Bank Mellat v HM Treasury  EWHC 3631 (Admin), Collins J, 5 November 2014 – read judgment UPDATED POST
Fireworks here from Collins J in making sure that Bank Mellat got some disclosure of information in its fight to discharge a financial restriction order against it.
Bank Mellat is an Iranian bank, initially singled out by an 2009 order which prohibited anybody from dealing with it. The order was part of sanctions against Iran in respect of its nuclear and ballistic missiles programme. However, it bit the dust, thanks to the Supreme Court: see judgment. I did a post on that decision, and followed it up with one (here) on the (dis)proportionality arguments which led to the order’s downfall.
However the Bank was subject to two further orders, made in 2011 and 2012. They led to the freezing of €183m held by it in London. The 2012 order has since been revoked, but the 2011 one remains. This is the subject of the Bank’s application to set it aside. On any view, as Collins J recognised, it had caused very serious damage to the Bank’s business.
Cherkley Campaign Ltd, (R o.t.a ) v. Longshot Cherkley Court Ltd, Court of Appeal, 7 May 2014 read judgment
The Court of Appeal has reversed the robustly expressed view of Haddon-Cave J (see my post here) that the grant of planning permission to a proposed “exclusive” golf club in Surrey should be quashed.
The local planning authority had originally granted permission by the barest of majorities – 10-9, and against its planning officer’s recommendation. The judge had thought that the authority’s decision was irrational, and had misinterpreted or misapplied the concept of “need” in the applicable planning policies.
The Court of Appeal roundly disagreed with these and the other grounds on which the judge quashed the decision.
The European Court of Human Rights has decided that it is a violation of the right to privacy if a country does not have a law prohibiting surreptitious photography of people. The ruling has serious implications for paparazzi, and would have been useful to Princess Diana. A ready-made bill exists in the form of a draft published by the Law Commission for England and Wales in 1981.
On 12 November the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Sweden’s lack of a legal ban on invading personal privacy by surreptitious photographs violated the right to privacy. The case involved a camera hidden in the bathroom by the stepfather of a fourteen-year old girl. (Söderman v. Sweden,application no. 5786/08).
Lanner Parish Council (R ota) v. the Cornwall Council  EWCA Civ 1290 read judgment
This planning judicial review tackles the problem posed by an authority who says one thing in its formal reasons granting planning permission, and another thing in the court proceedings when the grant is challenged.
Coastline wanted to construct 25 affordable dwellings in Lanner. The Parish in Lanner objected, on the basis that 25 was too many. It referred to a local planning policy (H20) which said that there should be no more than “about 12” houses on any new development in a large village such as Lanner.
The planning officer supported the grant of planning permission, and the Council agreed. The Council’s reasons for grant said that the proposal “accords with” policy H20. But it didn’t, because the policy referred to 12 houses, and the proposal was for 25 houses, and this error in the reasons was one of the Parish’s main points on the judicial review.
1 Crown Office Row’s David Manknell acted as junior counsel to the Parole Board in this case. He had no involvement in the writing of this post.
Writing in his magisterial new work, Human Rights and the UK Supreme Court, Professor Brice Dickson noted that the Human Rights Act had created ‘an internationalized system of human rights protection rather than a constitutional one.’ Indeed, there had been a marked resistance on the part of the Supreme Court to use the common law to achieve the same goal of human rights protection. In Osborn v The Parole Board the Supreme Court seemed to resile from this position.
Osborn, and the co-joined appeals, concerned the circumstances in which the Parole Board is required to hold oral hearings. Osborn had been recalled to prison after an immediate breach of his licence conditions. Booth and Reilly had been sentenced to life imprisonment, and in both cases the minimum term had expired. The appellants sought early release and had been denied an oral hearing by the Parole Board under the operation of the statutory regime (detailed in paras 3-17). Instead their cases had been decided on paper by a single anonymous member of the Board.
Cherkley Campaign Ltd, (R o.t.a ) v. Longshot Cherkley Court Ltd, Haddon-Cave J, 22 August 2013 read judgment
This is a successful judicial review of the grant of planning permission to a proposed new golf club in leafy Surrey – where one central issue was whether, in planning policy terms, there was a “need” for the club. The local planning officers had advised the council against the proposal, but the members voted in favour of it (just), hence this challenge. It succeeded on grounds including perversity, which is pretty rare, especially in the planning context, but, when one looks at the judgment, you can readily see why the judge concluded as he did.
The judgment contains some pungently expressed reminders that the planning system is not just about facilitating “business” but requires a proper assessment of the public interest. And dressing up the provision of very very expensive golf to a few very very rich people as “need” does not wash.
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government v San Vicente and Carden  EWCA Civ 817, Court of Appeal, 18 June 2013 – read judgment
There is a curious if not bizarre set of anomalies about planning and environmental challenges. Where they involve an attack on a decision by the Secretary of State (typically in respect of a decision by a planning inspector after inquiry), the route is via section 288 of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990. There is a strict 6 week time limit, with no discretion to extend – but no need for permission to apply as in judicial review. But where there is a challenge to any other decision, the time limit (at the moment) is 3 months, with discretion to extend – but also a discretion to disallow if the application was not “prompt” even within the 3 months (see my post on this last point) and the permission hurdle to clear.
Yet in each case the substantive grounds are effectively the same – but to what extent should procedures differ other than those required by the statutory underpinning?
The conundrum in this case was – what to do about a set of grounds (drafted by lawyers) filed after the s.288 time limit, in substitution for grounds (by the clients doing it themselves) filed within the 6 weeks.
Radical changes are afoot in Strasbourg. Protocol No. 15, whose outlines were agreed at the Brighton Conference of 2012, is primed for ratification, while at the start of 2014, new Rules of Court will come into effect. Both have the potential to have a wide-ranging impact on applicants. Protocol 15 rewrites the Convention’s preamble, emphasising the Court’s “subsidiary” role in the protection of human rights.
It also modifies two of the admissibility criteria for petitions, pairing back the safeguard clauses initially erected around Protocol 14’s new criteria of “no significant disadvantage” and trimming the time available for applicants to lodge their cases from six months to four.
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