Category: Margin of Appreciation


UK discriminated by making same-sex relationship mum pay more child maintenance

30 September 2010 by

J M v. The United Kingdom – 37060/06 [2010] ECHR 1361 – Read judgment

The European Court of Rights has declared that rules on child maintenance prior to introduction of the Civil Partnership Act discriminated against those in same-sex relationships.

The events happened nearly a decade ago and the law in relation to same-sex couples has greatly altered since, so it will be of limited relevance to those paying child benefit now. Of more interest is the reasoning of the majority in deciding the case under the right to peaceful enjoyment of property rather than the right to family life.

The case summary is based on the Court’s press release, and is followed by my comment.

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Many European human rights decisions left unimplemented for years

9 August 2010 by

The Strasbourg court

A new Government report on the implementation of European Court of Human Rights judgments has highlighted the vexed issue of the rightful place of such rulings in domestic law. Many decisions, for example on prisoner voting rights, have languished unimplemented for years and it remains to be seen whether the Coalition Government will do any more to fulfil its legal obligations to the thousands affected.

The report sets out the Government’s position on the implementation of human rights judgments from the domestic and European courts. It is a response to the Joint Committee on Human Rights‘ March 2010 report, in which the committee criticised “inexcusable” delays in implementation.

The United Kingdom is obliged to implement judgments of the European Court of Human Rights under Article 46 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In 2009, the UK was found to have violated the European Convention 14 times, which represents 1% of the overall total of violations found by the Court. However, the UK has a high proportion of leading cases outstanding for more than 5 years.

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DNA, home testing and fuzzy human rights

4 August 2010 by

DNA database impact on human rightsThe Human Genetics Commission have today published new guidance for direct-to-consumer genetic tests, including a recommendation that children should not be genetically tested by their parents unless the test is clinically indicated. The guidelines highlight that the ethical issues surrounding home-testing are still fuzzy and provide an interesting challenge from a perspective of human rights.

Home DNA testing kits are a fast-growing trend. They have already been on sale direct to consumers for three years by companies such as 23andMe and deCODEme, which advertise home-testing as a means of “taking charge of your health” and “filling in your family tree”. DNA paternity testing has been available for years, but it is the health aspects of home testing which have huge and potentially troubling implications in respect of basic rights.

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Minimum standards of dignity must be upheld for asylum seekers

29 July 2010 by

R (on the application of ZO (Somalia) and others) (Respondents) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Appellant) [2010] UKSC 36 – Read judgment

The Supreme Court has ruled that the UK must provide minimum standards to asylum seekers, including the right to work, whether or not their first asylum application has failed. Asylum seekers will now be able to work if they have been waiting for over a year for a decision.

The ruling is the latest in a line of court defeats for the Government on its asylum policy, including the recent High Court ruling that part of the fast-track deportation system is unlawful, as well as the Supreme Court’s rejection of the policy of sending gay asylum seekers back to countries where they may face persecution for their sexuality.

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Delay in providing for special educational needs does not breach Convention right to education says Supreme Court

16 July 2010 by

A (Appellant) v Essex County Council & National Autistic Society (Intervener) [2010] UKSC 33

Supreme Court (Lord Phillips, Lady Hale, Lord Brown, Lord Kerr, Lord Clarke) July 14 2010

The right to education under Article 2 Protocol 1 of the Convention was not breached by the delay in catering for the special educational needs of a child. Convention rights must be intepreted pragmatically;  it is not right to equate a failure to provide the educational facilities required by domestic law with a denial of access to education.

This was an appeal against a decision ([2008] EWCA Civ 364, [2008] H.R.L.R. 31) upholding the dismissal by summary judgment of the appellant’s claim that the respondent local authority had breached his right to education under A1P1.

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A good and bad week for gay rights

9 July 2010 by

In two recent but separate developments, homosexuals fleeing persecution have been granted a lower threshold for refugee status and the Strasbourg Court has rejected a complaint by a same sex couple that Austria was in violation of the Convention for not granting them the right to marry.

We posted earlier on the case of HJ (Iran) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2010] UKSC 31 (07 July 2010), in which the Supreme Court ruled as unlawful the government’s policy of sending refugees back to their home countries because they could avoid persecution if they acted discreetly.

There are two questions raised by this judgment and its implications. One concerns the extraterritorial reach of rights observed by signatory states to the Refugee and Human Rights Conventions. The second is the sheer practical difficulty of examining the veracity of a persecution claim based on these particular grounds.

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Master of the Rolls calls for more restraint from Strasbourg judges

6 July 2010 by

The Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger has given the first lecture to the meeting of the newly-formed the European Circuit of the Bar. Along with the contributions of Lord Judge, Lord Hoffmann and Lady Justice Arden, this address forms part of an elegant but increasingly intense debate that reflects unease about Strasbourg.

At the end of his speech Lord Neuberger calls for a “dialogue” with the European Court of Human Rights that

will require from Strasbourg a more acute appreciation of the validity of the differential approaches by Convention states to the implementation of rights…Strasbourg might well benefit from developing the margin of appreciation to take greater account of practical differences which arise between Convention states and their implementation of high level principles.
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Court of Appeal rules on transsexual’s pension rights under EC law

28 June 2010 by

Christine Timbrell v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2010] EWCA Civ 701 22 June 2010

A person who had acquired a different gender was entitled under European law to obtain the legal rights, such as an earlier pension, associated with the acquired gender – read judgment

The appellant had undergone male to female reassignment surgery. In 2002 she applied for a state pension, to be backdated to her sixtieth birthday. The Secretary of State decided that she was only entitled to a state pension from her 65th birthday. On appeal to the tribunal it was found that she had not obtained a full gender recognition certificate under the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (“the GRA”)  and therefore she was not entitled to legal recognition of her new gender. As a consequence she could not qualify for a state pension from the age of 60. Prior to the Act, the United Kingdom had failed to implement Equal Treatment Directive 79/7/EEC to ensure that any national laws, contrary to the principle of equal treatment, were abolished. The Upper Tribunal rejected her appeal finding that she did not satisfy the criteria to be treated as a woman which could entitle her to receive a pension at the age of 60 under Council Directive 79/7.
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Polish religious education breached freedom of conscience rights of pupil

24 June 2010 by

Grzelak v. Poland (no. 7710/02) – read judgment

The European Court of Human Rights has found that A Polish boy who refused to attend religious instruction classes for reasons of personal conviction had been discriminated against human rights because of a policy of reflecting that non-attendance in school reports.

The applicant Mateus Grzelak had been brought up in a non-religious tradition by his parents who were also applicants. Mateus began his schooling at the age of seven, and in conformity with his parents’ wishes, he did not attend religious instruction. Doctrinal classes were scheduled in the middle of the school day, between various compulsory courses.

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Iranian Bank anti-terrorism restrictions order upheld

15 June 2010 by

Bank Mellat v HM Treasury [2010] EWHC 1332(QB) Miity J 25/5/2010 – read judgment

A challenge to the imposition of a Financial Restrictions Order on an Iranian Bank alleged to have supported Iran’s nuclear program has been dismissed as the order was not considered disproportionate in the light of the importance of the public interested protected.

The order, which directed that anyone in the UK financial sector must not enter into or continue to participate in business with Bank Mellat, was maintained despite the Court of Appeal’s refusal to allow the government to rely upon secret evidence in order to prove the bank’s links with the nuclear program (see Court of Appeal launches offensive against secret justice with three linked judgments).

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