Bank Saderat Iran v Council of the European Union, EU General Court, 5 February 2013 read judgement
Last week I posted on the Bank Mellat case where an Iranian Bank succeeded in persuading the General Court to unfreeze its assets from orders made by EU institutions. The Bank Saderat case is virtually identical, and annulment was duly granted by the General Court. But it is troubling that the EU Council should go so wrong in wielding its draconian powers more than once. It does rather support the suspicions of the Bank (common to this and the Bank Mellat case) that pressure was brought to bear on the Council ultimately emanating from the US – hence the Wikileaks cables again – such that the EU did not robustly analyse the assertions made to them before making the orders. Basic errors were made again, and, as will emerge, the EU had no evidence for much of what it said.
Remember Pearl Harbour? Not the 1941 attack which propelled the USA into World War II, but the awful 2001 film starring Ben Affleck. What really sticks in the mind wasn’t the film itself, but the critical reaction. It is hard to remember a more gleeful spectacle, captured here, than reviewers falling over themselves to see who could produce the most withering response.
No doubt inspired by the Prime Minister’s own World War II analogy (on reflection, something of a hostage to fortune), legal commentators and organisations have also been falling over themselves, if not gleefully, to express their collective displeasure and disbelief at the poor quality of the Government’s proposals to reform Judicial Review.
Bank Mellat v Council of the European Union (supported by EU Commission), EU General Court, 29 January 2013 read judgment
In October 2009, Bank Mellat, an Iranian bank, was effectively excluded from the UK financial market by an Order made by the Treasury, on the basis that it had or might provide banking services to those involved in Iran’s nuclear effort. The Bank challenged the Order, and the challenge failed in the Court of Appeal, albeit with a dissent from Elias LJ: see Rosalind English’s post and read judgment. The Bank’s appeal to the Supreme Court is due to be heard in March 2013; it raises some fascinating issues about common law unfairness, Article 6, and the right to property under A1P1 , given that the Bank was not told of the intention to make the Order prior to its making.
The current case concerns an EU set of measures initiated in 2010, which led to the freezing the Bank’s assets on essentially the same grounds, namely involvement with the Iranian nuclear effort. And the EU General Court (i.e. the first instance court) has just annulled the measures – for lack of reasons, lack of respect for the rights of the defence, and for manifest error. So keep an eye on these two parallel cases, in the Supreme Court and in the EU Court of Justice on appeal from this decision.
“Marriage of same sex couples is lawful”, begins the Government’s new Equal Marriage Bill, which will, amongst other things, make it legal for gay couples to marry in both civil and religious ceremonies.
Religious communities will not be forced to conduct ceremonies, but will be able to ‘opt-in’ to the new system. However, Church of England communities will not be permitted to opt in even if they want to. The progress Bill can be tracked here – the next reading is in the House of Commons on 5 February. The Bill is summarised as follows:
A Bill to make provision for the marriage of same sex couples in England and Wales, about gender change by married persons and civil partners, about consular functions in relation to marriage, for the marriage of armed forces personnel overseas, and for connected purposes.
AKJ & Ors v Commissioner of Police for the Metroplis & Ors  EWHC 32 (QB) – Read judgment
The High Court has ruled that the Investigatory Powers Tribunal was the exclusive jurisdiction for Human Rights Act claims against the police as a result of the activities of undercover police officers, authorised as Covert Human Intelligence Sources, where such conduct was not a breach of a fundamental right. The Tribunal did not have jurisdiction to determine proceedings brought by Claimants at common law.
The decision of AKJ and related litigation is the latest instalment of the fallout from the activities of undercover police officer or Covert Human Intelligence Source (CHIS) Mark Kennedy and another police officer. Kennedy infiltrated environmental protest groups including those that resulted in convictions following events at Ratcliffe on Soar power station. The convictions were later quashed following revelations about Kennedy’s activities which included allegations he had engaged in sexual relationships with a number of female protestors and other prosecutorial impropriety: R v Barkshire  EWCA Crim 1885 (UKHRB post). A number of those affected by Kennedy’s actions subsequently brought claims in tort (for example alleging deception) and under the Human Rights Act 1998.
It is fashionable at the moment to speak about ‘evidence-based’ policy. The concept has been imported from the sciences by advocates such as Dr Ben Goldacre. In short, policies should be based on empirical evidence, statistics and perhaps even randomised trials. Very sensible. So sensible, you would hope that Government has been doing it anyway.
R (Khan) v Secretary Of State For Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs  EWHC 3728 (Admin) (21 December 2012) – Read judgment
In this unsuccessful application for permission to apply for judicial review, the Claimant sought to challenge the Defendant’s reported policy of permitting GCHQ employees to pass intelligence to the US for the purposes of drone strikes in Pakistan. The Claimant’s father was killed during such an attack in March 2011.
The Claimant alleged that by assisting US agents with drone strikes, GCHQ employees were at risk of becoming secondary parties to murder under the criminal law of England and Wales and of conduct ancillary to war crimes or crimes against humanity contrary to international law. The Claimant sought declaratory relief to that effect and also sought a declaration that the Defendant should publish a policy addressing the circumstances in which such intelligence could be lawfully disseminated. [paragraph 6]
Last month the Prime Minister promised business leaders that he would “get a grip” on people forcing unnecessary delays to Government policy by cracking down on the “massive growth industry” of Judicial Review (JR), the means by which individuals and organisations can challenge poor decisions by public authorities in the courts. He even, in a new twist on Goodwin’s Law, compared cutting down on court challenges to beating Hitler.
The consultation document is detailed and is worth reading. It certainly does not reflect the bombast of the Prime Minister’s statement that “We need to forget about crossing every ‘t’ and dotting every ‘i’ – and we need to throw everything we’ve got at winning in this global race“. What is proposed is a fairly significant reform of the Judicial Review system, and nothing as dramatic as winning World War II. There are, however, some problems with the Government’s analysis which I will come to later.
The Prime Minister has announced his support for gay marriage in religious institutions. Having already said, memorably, that “I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a conservative”, he has now gone a step further and argued that gay couples should be able to marry on religious premises. But, he also made clear, “if there is any church or any synagogue or any mosque that doesn’t want to have a gay marriage it will not, absolutely must not, be forced to hold it“.
The announcement is important in the context of a legal debate which has been taking place since the Government signalled that marriage law reform was on its agenda: namely, whether religious institutions would be forced, as a result of equalities and human rights legislation, to carry out gay marriage ceremonies whether or not they wanted to. In June, when the Government was consulting over the “equal civil marriage” plans, Church of England sounded the alarm that “it must be very doubtful whether limiting same-sex couples to non-religious forms and ceremonies could withstand a challenge under the European Convention on Human Rights”
What is really interesting about the Prime Minister’s announcement is that the Government is now going beyond its original proposals as set out in the June consultation. At that point, the Government was careful to state that the proposals related only to civil (that is, non-religious) marriage and, indeed said:
The Prime Minister is to “get a grip” on people forcing unnecessary delays to Government policy by cracking down on the “massive growth industry” of Judicial Review. David Cameron told business leaders today:
“When this country was at war in the 40s, Whitehall underwent a revolution. … everything was thrown at ‘the overriding purpose’ of beating Hitler. … this country is in the economic equivalent of war today – and we need the same spirit. We need to forget about crossing every ‘t’ and dotting every ‘i’ – and we need to throw everything we’ve got at winning in this global race.”
The detail of the changes is yet to be revealed (update – more detail is now available on the Ministry of Justice website, including the promise of a public consultation), but the PM plans to ” reduce the time limit when people can bring cases; charge more for reviews – so people think twice about time-wasting.”
Clearly some of the PM’s Dunkirk spirit rhetoric is aimed at cheering up business leaders, who need a lot of that at the moment. But putting the rhetoric aside, there is cause for concern here.
The BNP has been a relentless opponent of Human Rights Act and its manifesto for the 2010 General Election made no less than three separate declarations of its intention to scrap the Act and abrogate the European Convention of Human Rights which it described charmingly as being, “exploited to abuse Britain’s hospitality by the world’s scroungers.”
This has not stopped the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) riding to the rescue of one of their erstwhile councilors in Redfearn v United Kingdom
The ECtHR, by a majority of four to three (with British judge Sir Nicolas Bratza being one of the dissenters), decided that, despite the margin of appreciation, the positive obligation placed on the UK by Article 11 (right to free assembly and association) meant that a person dismissed on account of his political beliefs or affiliations should be able to claim unfair dismissal despite not having the qualifying one year’s service then applicable.
There has been much in the press recently about the UK Government being minded to opt out, and/or in, of EU criminal justice measures. The implications of this decision will be significant to the UK’s ability to investigate and prosecute crime. So what does it all mean?
Opting out of what?
The UK managed to negotiate the quite remarkable article 10 to protocol 36 of the Lisbon Treaty which allows for the UK to exercise a power that no other member state of the Union holds. The Lisbon Treaty finally incorporates EU criminal justice measures (which are referred to as the area of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters) into the main body of treaty law.
In order to do so, it allowed a transitional period of five years (which expires in December 2014), at the end of which, all measures adopted under the earlier treaty provisions (in what was known as the third pillar) are ‘Lisbonised.’ What this means is they become directives rather than framework decisions (and various other equivalents). The difference between the two is that directives are enforceable before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and decisions are not.
The panel is excellent, including Tamsin Allen (head of Media and Information Law at Bindmans solicitors), John Cooper QC (amongst many other things, counsel for Paul Chambers in the Twitter joke trial) and Gabrielle Guillemin (legal officer at Article 19). The event is free and open to all, but space is limited so if you would like to come, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Full details below or in a prettier version, here:
The British Academy have today published a very interesting new report by Colm O’Cinneide considering the workings of the UK human rights law, the relationship between the ECHR, UK courts and the Parliament and the potential effect of a bill of rights.
The report (full report / executive summary) had a prestigious steering committee, including Professor Vernon Bognodor, who knows a bit about the British constitution, and Professor Conor Gearty. The conclusions represent – at least in my experience – the mainstream view amongst legal academics, lawyers and indeed judges on the human rights system. In summary, and with apologies if this is an over-simplification of the report’s detailed findings:
Communist prisoners held during the Malaya emergency Photograph: Jack Birns/Time & Life Pictures
Chong Nyok Keyu and ors v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and another  EWHC 2445 (Admin), read judgment
Although the High Court has rejected an attempt to force the Government to hold a public inquiry into an alleged massacre of unarmed civilians by British troops in 1948, the case represents a further example of the use of the Courts to redress historical grievances.
There are two German words for dealing with the traumatic recent past, neither of which has a direct equivalent in English. This linguistic quirk reflects history and national self-identity. The defeats of the Kaiser, the Nazis and the GDR Communists led to national introspection in Germany, whereas the United Kingdom, on the winning side in each of the those three struggles, evaded such soul-searching. The post-war decline was relatively gentle and easy to fit in to the national myth of historical continuity. An Empire absent-mindedly acquired was considered to be the subject of an orderly and benevolent liquidation, with lasting benefits of railways and the rule of law left to the inheritors.
This blog is maintained for information purposes only. It is not intended to be a source of legal advice and must not be relied upon as such. Blog posts reflect the views and opinions of their individual authors, not of chambers as a whole.