Kennedy v. Charity Commission et al, Supreme Court, 26 March 2014 read judgment
In judgments running to 90 pages, the Supreme Court dismissed this appeal by Mr Kennedy, a Times journalist, for access to documents generated by the Charity Commission under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 concerning three inquiries between 2003 and 2005 into the Mariam Appeal. This appeal was George Galloway’s response to the sanctions imposed on Iraq following the first Gulf War, and little Mariam was a leukaemia sufferer. Mr Kennedy’s suspicion, amongst others, was that charitable funds had been used by Galloway for political campaigning.
The Charity Commission had refused the request on the ground that the information was subject to an absolute exemption from disclosure contained in s.32(2) of the FOIA. The Supreme Court (in common with the Court of Appeal) held that the absolute exemption applied and dismissed Mr Kennedy’s request. But the result was a little closer in the SC, with two judges dissenting, essentially on Article 10 grounds.
Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your weekly bulletin of human rights news. The full list of links can be found here. You can also find our table of human rights cases here and previous roundups here.
In the news
This week we have some interesting updates and speculation on the latest twist in the tale of Julian Assange, more commentary on the Justice and Security Bill and on David Anderson QC’s report on UK terrorism law. Across the pond, President Obama had a particularly good week in the courts. Finally, the results are in: the UK’s next Strasbourg judge will be Paul Mahoney.
Together with anti-racism protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, the coronavirus pandemic has continued to dominate the news. Two recently published reports have highlighted flaws in the government’s response in relation to the provision of social security and domestic abuse support during the crisis.
Updated| R (Infinis) v. Ofgem & Non-Fossil Purchasing Agency Limited, Interested Party  EWHC 1873 (Admin) Lindblom J, 10 August 2011 Read judgment
In a recent post, I suggested that successful claims under Article 1 Protocol 1 (the human right to peaceful enjoyment of property) faced all sorts of difficulties, hence the particular interest of that decision in Thomas which bucked the trend. Rash words at the end of a busy legal term: hard on the heels of that judgment of the Court of Appeal, there comes this further example of an A1P1 claim succeeding in the environmental context.
This time, the claim arose as a result of a judicial review, where the judge decided that the regulator had come to an unlawful decision, and hence that unlawfulness gave rise to a damages claim against the regulator.
Trump’s inauguration seems not a bad moment to be having a look at the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs, actual or potential) which are swirling around at the moment, and their likely reception in the changed world which we face.
First on the list, our own tried, tested, and found electorally wanting, EU Treaties. They are FTAs, but with lots of knobs on – free movement of people, of establishment, level playing fields about employment rights, the environment and consumer protection, to name but a few.
The first thing to say is that FTAs, wherever they are, don’t come all that unencumbered these days. Continue reading →
R (ClientEarth No.2) v Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Garnham J, 2 November 2016, judgment here
This is all about nitrogen dioxide in air, an unwanted byproduct of the internal combustion engine. Its effect on UK mortality has been estimated at 23,500 deaths per year.
The long way of telling the story involves circling around 6 hearings, to the Supreme Court, twice, to the CJEU in 2014 (C404-13, my post here), and now to a trenchant judgment from Garnham J.
The short version is this.
The UK has been non-compliant with EU Directive 2008/50 on nitrogen dioxide (et al) over the last 6 years. Art.23 of the Directive requires that the period in which a state is obliged to remedy any non-compliance is to be “as short as possible”.
The UK Air Quality Plan (AQP) produced in 2015 (and responding to the 2nd Supreme Court judgment here) was simply not up to ensuring that urgently required result.
In so concluding, Garnham J started with the construction of Art.23, in response to a Defra argument that it imports an element of discretion and judgment.
What happens when the government changes its mind about an existing law but new law has not yet been enacted?
Easy, really. You have to follow the old law, whatever the government may currently think about it. But it gets more complicated when the area of law, like planning, has a wide area of policy-making and policy-following built into it. So now we have old law, and new policy announced but no new law yet to underpin that policy other than in the broadest sense.
Liz Truss has been confirmed as the new prime minister. She is expected to freeze energy bills at approximately £2,500 a year and to provide a £400 universal handout. She has reportedly ruled out the idea of a windfall tax on oil companies, which was proposed by Labour. She is apparently considering reviewing workers’ rights, as part of her plan to scrap remaining EU regulations by the end of next year.
Ministers plan to introduce legislation to encourage nurses and dentists trained elsewhere to begin working for the NHS. The health secretary, Steve Barclay, is hoping to boost overseas recruitment in health and social care. This move comes after the number of unfilled NHS posts reached a record high of 132,139 earlier this year. Link 5 – ministers to make it easier
Two councils are planning to seek permission to appeal to the Supreme Court following two successful appeals which involved the striking out of negligence claims that had been brought against them. The appeals considered when children being cared for by local authorities under the Children Act 1989 are owed a duty of care by those local authorities and the social workers for whom they are vicariously liable.
Update | Thomas v. Bridgend County Borough Council  EWCA Civ 862, Court of Appeal. Read judgment
Conventional wisdom has it that an Article 1 Protocol 1 (the human right to peaceful enjoyment of property) environmental claim faces all sorts of difficulties. The claimants may have a right to the peaceful possession of property, but that right is immediately counter-balanced by the public interest of the scheme under challenge. Furthermore, the court does not look too closely at the detail when applying the proportionality test, as long as the scheme is lawful. Or does it?
Our case is a refreshing example of where manifest injustice was avoided by a successful claim under Article 1 of the First Protocol of the ECHR. It also shows off the muscles of the duty to interpret legislation, under section 3 of the Human Rights Act 1998, in accordance with the ECHR.To find what it was about, we need to go to the Hendre Relief Road in Pencoed, Bridgend and those who live nearby.
The Plantagenet Alliance Ltd (R o.t.a) v. Secretary of State for Justice and others, Haddon-Cave J, 18 October 2013 (PCO) read judgment, and on permission, 15 August 2013 read judgment
I posted here on the original judgment giving the Plantagenet Alliance permission to seek judicial review of the Secretary of State’s decision to re-bury Richard III in Leicester. At the time, the judge had made a full Protective Costs Order in favour of the Alliance, so that it would not have to pay costs if it lost. The judge had also ordered what he envisaged to be a short hearing to determine in what sum the Alliance’s costs should be capped. if it won.
The judge was then somewhat surprised to be faced by a full-blown attempt by MoJ (Chris Grayling) to discharge the PCO, and seek an order for security of costs against the Alliance. The written argument in support was signed by the top barrister doing work for the Government, and the hearing about it took a day (think of the costs of that).
The application was conspicuously unsuccessful, as we shall see, but what was all this about? Something to do with proposed judicial review changes, I suspect – for reasons which will become evident.
Cornwall Waste Forum, St Dennis Branch v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (2011) QBD (Admin, CO/6088/2011), Collins J, 13 October 2011
An interesting case about who is to decide issues of air quality in a planning case about incinerators/energy-from-waste plants – that choice of terminology depends on whether you are objecting to or applying for permission to construct. Because the judgment is extempore, it is very shortly reported at the moment (on Lawtel for those who have access to this subscription service), though some extracts are to be found on the claimants’ website. Continue reading →
Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular bountiful burst of human rights news and views. The full list of links can be found here. You can find previous roundups here. Links compiled by Adam Wagner, post by Celia Rooney.
This week, the pragmatic, political and constitutional ramifications of the Supreme Court’s decision in the HS2 case are up for debate. Meanwhile, the European Court considers whether the Charter of Rights applies in private disputes, while the domestic courts take on the tricky issue of the justiciability of US drones strikes in Pakistan. And the Court of Appeal rules on TfL’s bus advert ban.
(1) In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law. Judgment shall be pronounced publicly but the press and public may be excluded from all or part of the trial in the interests of morals, public order or national security in a democratic society, where the interests of juveniles or the protection of the private life of the parties so require, or to the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice.
(2) Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.
(3) Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights:
(a) to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him.
(b) to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence.
(c) to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing or, if he has not sufficient means to pay for legal assistance, to be given it free when the interests of justice so require.
(d) to examine or have examined witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him.
(e) to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court.
There is no directly corresponding provision in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Article 20 – the right to equality before the law – is more related to ECHR Art.14, and Article 47, the right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial is based on Art. 13 ECHR which guarantees the right to an effective remedy for human rights violations. However, it has been argued before the European Court of Justice that Article 6 ECHR and Article 47 contain effectively the same fair trial rights (see David Hart’s post on this issue).
The protection of Article 6 ECHR only extends to those disputes that concern a “civil right” (as well of course to the determination of any criminal charge against an individual). The jurisprudence on what does or does not constitute a “civil right” is complex and lengthy but a general rule is that the characterisation of the matter in domestic law is not determinative – Le Compte, Van Leuven and De Meyere v Belgium (1981) 4 EHRR 1 – and while such civil rights could be brought into play either by direct challenge or by administrative action, it was the nature and purpose of the administrative action that determined whether its impact on private law rights was such that a legal challenge involved a determination of civil rights. In R(Begum) v Tower Hamlets London Borough Council  2 AC 430 the House of Lords was prepared to assume that a decision as to housing for a homeless person did involve a “civil right” but in the more recent case of Ali v Birmingham City Council  2 AC 39 the Supreme Court confronted that question and decided that it did not.
A parent’s rights to contact with, and custody of, a child constitute “civil rights” for the purposes of Art.6. This means that they must have a fair hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal. When a mother was refused access to her child by the local authority, and she was unable to challenge that refusal in court, there was found to be a breach of her Art. 6 rights (although the case was settled after it was declared admissible in Strasbourg: Application no. 11468/85, 15 December 1986). A more recent case against Croatia indicated that exclusion of a mother from the adoption (X v Croatia, 17 July 2008).
It is hardly surprising that domestic courts encounter some confusion when they come to determine whether a matter involves a “civil right” or not; Strasbourg case law on the point is far from clear. In trying to determine whether a freezing order on a claimant’s assets affected his civil rights, Sedley LJ observed that the Strasbourg Court is very clear about the concept having an autonomous meaning, but “What is neither certain nor clear is what that meaning is.” (Maftah v FCO  EWCA Civ 350, and see our post on this case here)
Particular difficulties have been caused by the fast-changing Strasbourg case law on employment disputes involving public servants, which until recently have been excluded from the purview of Article 6. The Court decided in Pellegrin v France (2001) 31 EHRR not to allow administrative servants the guarantees of Article 6 because their employment involves important state imperatives, but defining this kind of employment is far from easy, as was demonstrated by the case of an army chaplain who sought redress for alleged unfairness; after considering the authorities Nichol J found that the claimant fell within the Pellegrin exception under the test laid down in Eskelinen v Finland (2007). See our discussion on this judgment here.
The requirements of fairness imposed on Member States by this Article apply to civil and criminal litigation. Art.6 , taken as a whole, has been held to ensure not only a fair trial once litigation is under way but to impose an obligation on States to ensure access to justice (Golder v United Kingdom (1975) 1 EHRR 524: interference with a prisoner’s correspondence with a solicitor constituted a breach of his right of access to court under Art.6 , even though litigation was not pending). Most recent litigation has concerned the matter of costs; whilst the right of access to justice is implied in Article 6(1), the original case on costs, Airey v Ireland (1979), has not been interpreted to impose on states an obligation to provide a legal aid scheme. Legal aid constitutes one avenue to justice but there are others, such as the availability of representation under a contingent or conditional fee agreement. Legal representation is not considered indispensable in all cases. Where there are no particularly complicated points of law, the state is not compelled to provide a publicly funded lawyer (HH (Iran) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 504 ). In environmental challenges, on the other hand, the right of access to (affordable) access coincides with the obligation on states imposed by the Aarhus Convention to avoid prohibitive expense where individuals or groups ask the courts to enforce environmental law. The Aarhus Convention is part of EU law therefore may be relied upon in UK courts, until such time as the UK’s departure from the EU is finalised.
The requirement that the trial be conducted by an “independent and impartial tribunal” is satisfied if an internal disciplinary appeals board consists equally of members of the relevant profession and members of the judiciary: Le Compte, Van Leuven and De Meyere v Belgium (1981)4 EHRR 1.
At the Strasbourg level the most litigated requirement in Art.6 is the obligation on States to ensure that proceedings do not exceed a “reasonable time”. The circumstances of the case may determine the importance of expedition; in AIDS cases the Court’s approach has been stricter than in other areas, since the rapid dispatch of compensation claims is essential in respect to terminally ill patients (X v France (1992)14 EHRR 483). The Court has also take a strict approach to delay in child care cases where the child may have bonded with its new carers: H v United Kingdom (1987) 10 EHRR 95.
The requirement of a public hearing relates to proceedings in courts of first and only instance. The failure to provide a public hearing will not be cured by making the appeal proceedings public where the case is not reheard on its merits: Le Compte .
If the initial hearing (eg by a regulator) does not fulfil the requirements of independence and impartiality, appeal may cure the defect: Bryan v United Kingdom (1996). In any event if the matter is essentially one of policy, the detailed requirements of Art.6 do not necessarily apply: see the House of Lords ruling in Alconbury (2001) and the line of cases preceding the House of Lords’ analysis in R(Begum) v Tower Hamlets London Borough Council .In many administrative fields, such as planning, an administrator may be decision-maker, and not “an independent..tribunal” within the meaning of Article 6(1), but the process will be Article 6(1) compliant, if an aggrieved party has a right of appeal or review from that decision before such a tribunal.
R (Bancoult) v. Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Divisional Court, 21 November 2012 read judgment
I posted recently (here) on two decisions concerning Chagossian refugees in their long-running campaign to be re-settled in the islands from which they were evicted by the UK in the 1960s. The first was a claim for further documentation, the second an application for cross-examination of key Foreign Office witnesses on the basis of a Wikileaks document (read judgment andread judgment).
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