On Wednesday, Amnesty International released its 2020/21 report on the state of the world’s human rights. Amnesty’s UK director, Kate Allen, also called for an inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic and said “the government is now shamefully trying to strip away our right to lawfully challenge its decisions, no matter how poor they are.” The report highlighted human rights concerns related to the government’s response to COVID-19, including health, immigration, domestic abuse and housing. There were also concerns around police conduct around racial discrimination and excessive use of force against protesters; during the first national lockdown in May, 10,000 of 43,644 recorded stop and searches conducted against young black men. Several legal developments were criticised for falling short of human rights standards, including the Immigration Act, the Gender Recognition Act, the Domestic Abuse Bill, the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill, the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill, which would create a “presumption against prosecution” for members of the British Army accused of overseas crimes, including torture, committed more than five years earlier.
In Episode 139 of Law Pod UK Alasdair Henderson of 1 Crown Office Row joins Rosalind English to discuss the recent ruling by the UK Supreme Court that drivers whose work is arranged through Uber’s smartphone app work for Uber under workers’ contracts and so qualify for the protections afforded by employment law, such as minimum wage and paid holiday leave. We also touch upon the challenges brought by the other ride hailing app Ola in the Dutch Courts with respect to automated profiling of drivers. See my post on one of those rulings; this was the first time that a court had found that workers were subject to decision making by AI systems.
The Supreme Court, it will be recalled, concluded that the Employment Tribunal had been entitled to find that the claimant drivers were “workers” who worked for Uber under “workers contracts” within the meaning of the statutory definition. The Court was unanimous in its decision that this was the only conclusion which the Tribunal could reasonably have reached.
As we all know, the acquisition of puppies during lockdown has gone through the roof with the inevitable sad consequences of remorse followed by neglect and even abandonment. Dog theft has spiralled as the market responds by escalating the price of pedigree puppies.
But this case involved a different issue that could have arisen at any time (and indeed the relevant transaction took place over a year before the pandemic hit). The facts can be summarised quite briefly.
On 21 June 2018 the claimant bought an Old English Sheepdog puppy for £1000 from a professional breeder, Ms Pendragon. Ms Coom subsequently discovered that her puppy suffered from two conditions, latent at birth but which manifested themselves within months: hip dysplasia and diabetes.
Applying for a fresh inquest is not straightforward. First, the bereaved have to get permission from the Attorney General. Only once that authority has been granted will they be allowed to apply to the High Court to reopen the inquest (section 13 of the Coroners Act 1988). Often cases are reopened because new evidence has come to light or there has been insufficiency of inquiry, for example where a person is found guilty of the murder of the deceased or new scientific data is provided. Further, it has to be necessary or desirable in the interests of justice that an investigation be (re)opened.
This case does not provide any new legal principles, but it is a strong statement about the importance of testing the evidence before granting the fiat: inquests should not be reopened just to allay the concerns of family members.
(1) Facts and Judgment
This case has a tragic backstory brought about by a complete breakdown of relations between a mother and her daughter-in-law.
Ray Farrell died on 24 October 2016 aged 53 as a result of malignant mesothelioma, which he developed following asbestos exposure working as a mate’s fitter. He had settled a civil claim with his former employer prior to his death. The documentary-only inquest recorded the cause of death as mesothelioma. There was no post mortem or toxicology, as the histology of mesothelioma was considered sufficient.
Concerns were first raised by his daughter, Kelly, who had not been informed of her father’s illness and therefore was shocked to discover his illness and death. Her suspicions were raised by two matters: two carrier bags full of medicines awaiting disposal following his death and a response from the Senior Coroner to her email that there were no toxicology or blood samples because Mr Farrell’s wife, and her stepmother, was very anxious to avoid a post mortem. In fact, it was Mr Farrell who did not want a post mortem.
Her concerns were then taken up by Ray’s mother, Mrs Farrell. She applied for a fresh inquest on the basis that Mr Farrell’s wife, Amanda Burden, hastened his death by deliberately giving him inappropriate medication. Ms Burden and Mr Farrell had been married in February 2016, although they had been in a relationship for eight years. She was, Mrs Farrell alleged, motivated by financial gain. Mrs Farrell applied with the fiat of the Attorney General under s.13 of the Coroners Act 1988 for the quashing of the original inquest due to a lack of appropriate investigation. The Senior Coroner supported the fiat, although doubted whether the outcome would be any different.
On Friday, former Home Secretary Lord Blunkett raised his issues with the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, an enormous piece of legislation that reforms much existing legislation and common law offences. Lord Blunkett pointed to the difficulties the police could face in interpreting the new law, and the sensitive nature of the relationship between the police and protestors. The Bill is currently at the Committee Stage of Parliamentary procedure. Particular attention has been drawn to s.59 of the Bill, which purportedly codifies the common law offence of public nuisance, following the recommendations of the Law Commission’s 2015 report, Simplification of Criminal Law: Public Nuisance and Outraging Public Decency. This section would create an offence of ‘intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance’, defined as where a person’s act or omission causes serious harm to the public or a section of the public. Subsection (2) states that this offence can be constituted where ‘a person’ suffers ‘serious distress, serious annoyance, serious inconvenience or serious loss of amenity’. On indictment, a defendant is liable to imprisonment for a term up to ten years. While the Law Commission’s recommendation that the fault element should be intention or recklessness as opposed to ‘knew or should have known’ was adopted, the significant maximum term is a new addition.
This case has a history: the long running trade mark dispute between Swatch and Apple about the marks ‘I-WATCH’ and ‘I-SWATCH’. I will go back to that in a moment. The dispute in question concerned trade mark applications designating the following signs, covering a wide range of goods including watches and consumer electronic products:
SWATCH ONE MORE THING ONE MORE THING
[Full disclosure: the author of this post was an undergraduate contemporary in the eighties with Iain Purvis QC, the presiding judge in this matter. I have chosen not mischievously to publish this report on 1 April.]
“One more thing” became something of a meme since The well-known Chairman and founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, would reach what would seem to be the end of his keynote address at an industry event chosen for an important announcement, turn as if to leave the stage, and then turn back with the words ‘but there’s one more thing’. In 1998 the first ‘one more thing’ was the return of Apple to profitability. In later years, the ‘one more thing’ would often be a new Apple product. The tradition appears to have lapsed on Steve Jobs’ death in 2011 but was revived by his successor Tim Cook in 2015 for the launch of the Apple Watch.
On 26 March, the Government of the People’s Republic of China announced sanctions against a number of British individuals and entities. Most publicity has been attracted by the inclusion of well-known politicians on the list. But the most sinister inclusion may be “Essex Court Chambers”. Whereas the sanctioning of a politician, who is unlikely to own property in China, is a largely symbolic gesture, the announcement in respect of the set of barrister’s chambers strikes at the heart of the English legal system and the services offered by English lawyers. It also has serious ramifications for all commercial transactions relating to China.
The decision against Essex Court Chambers is understood to be related to the fact that four individual members of those Chambers had together written an opinion concerning the treatment of the Uighur population in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. It appears that that legal opinion was written pursuant to instructions received from the Global Legal Action Network. Each of the four barristers was thus providing independent legal advice for a client pursuant to their professional obligations and qualifications as members of the Bar of England and Wales subject to the regulatory supervision of the Bar Standards Board. According to the chambers’ website, my source for this material, none of those four barristers published that legal opinion.
Home Secretary Priti Patel pledged a ‘fair but firm’ overhaul of the UK’s asylum system in the Commons on Thursday. The proposed measures aim to crack down on the criminal smuggling operations which helped 8,000 people cross the Channel by boat last year.
Under the Home Secretary’s proposals, asylum seekers would have their claims determined according to how they arrived in the UK. Those using ‘safe and legal resettlement routes’ directly from the countries they are fleeing, such as Syria and Iran, would obtain automatic permission to remain in the UK indefinitely. But anyone arriving with the aid of services offered by criminal smuggling gangs would only ever receive temporary permission to remain and would be regularly assessed for removal from the UK.
The Home Secretary declared that such a regime would deter prospective asylum seekers from using the EU countries in which they first arrive as springboards for reaching the UK, and encourage them to make claims there instead.
The appellants’ challenge focused on the alleged participation of undercover MI5 agents in criminality. Particular emphasis was placed upon the infamous killing in 1989 of Northern Irish solicitor, Pat Finucane, who was involved in representing those accused of terrorist activities. Of note, in 2012, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, stated that there was “state collusion” in the murder . This led to a report prepared by Desmond de Silva QC in December 2012, who expressed “significant doubt” that the murder would have occurred without the involvement of “elements of the State”; and suggested that there were “positive actions by employees of the State” to further and facilitate the murder .
In this case, the focus of challenge was a policy document issued by the Security Service in March 2011 entitled, “Guidelines on the Use of Agents who participate in Criminality – Official Guidance” (“the Guidance”). This document delineates the Security Service’s procedure for “authorising” the participation in criminal conduct by Covert Human Intelligence Sources. Ultimately, the Court had to determine the legitimacy of this policy by reference to the provisions of the Security Service Act 1989, which was the first piece of legislation to put the activities of the Security Service on a statutory footing. The Service had previously been governed by the Royal Prerogative.
The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (“the Tribunal”) found by a majority for the respondents, but the minority disagreed on the issue of whether the relevant policy amounted to an unlawful de facto power to “dispense” with the criminal law (and therefore also whether it was compliant with the ECHR).
In The Trustees of the Barry Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses v BXB EWCA Civ 356, the Court of Appeal has offered further guidance on vicarious liability following Supreme Court decisions last year in VM Morrison Supermarkets PLC v Various Claimants  UKSC 12 and Barclays Bank v Various Claimants  UKSC 13.
As set out in these posts by Robert Kellar QC and Anna Williams, the ‘law of vicarious liability is on the move’ (in the words of Lord Phillips). This case, however, illustrates certain settled principles emerging. In this case, the decision that Barry Congregation was vicariously liable for the rape of Mrs B by Mark Sewell, an elder of the Congregation, in 1990, was upheld.
Mark Sewell was convicted of the rape (amongst other offences) of Mrs B in 2014. Mrs B suffered episodes of depression and post-traumatic disorder. She brought a claim against, amongst others, the Trustees of the Barry Congregation for the injuries suffered as a result of the rape claiming they were vicariously liable. There was a second limb to the claim related to the investigation and ‘judicial process’ undertaken by the congregation when Mrs B reported the rape to elders in 1991. However, because the High Court found that the Barry Congregation was vicariously liable, the second limb was not considered.
Last week, the Supreme Court considered an interesting interplay between two competing obligations of the state: on the one hand, the duty expeditiously to return a wrongfully removed or retained child to his home jurisdiction under the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“the 1980 Hague Convention”); on the other, the principle that refugees should not be refouled, meaning expelled or returned to a country where they have a well-founded fear of persecution.
The parties to G (Appellant) v G (Respondent)  UKSC 9are the divorced parents of an eight-year-old girl (“G”). G was born in South Africa, and was habitually resident until G’s mother wrongfully removed her to England, in breach of G’s father’s custody rights. G’s mother fled South Africa when, after separating from G’s father and coming out as a lesbian, her family subjected her to death threats and violence. On her arrival in England, she applied for asylum and listed G as a dependant on her asylum application.
G’s father applied for an order under the 1980 Hague Convention for G’s return to South Africa. At first instance, Lieven J held the application should be stayed pending the determination of G’s mother’s asylum claim. The Court of Appeal considered that the High Court was not barred from determining the father’s application or making an order for expeditious return
Abortion reform in Northern Ireland has had a fraught history, to say the least. Matters appeared to finally come to a head when in 2019, the UK Parliament enacted the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc.) Act 2019 (2019 Act), which created a duty on the Secretary of State to implement abortion reform by following the report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination of Women (CtteEDAW). Nearly two years and two statutory instruments later, Stormont finds itself mired in fresh controversy as long-term abortion facilities in Northern Ireland have yet to be commissioned. So the obvious question arises: what happened?
The route to legal change
At the outset, it should be remembered that when abortion reform was enacted in Great Britain in 1967, it was not extended to Northern Ireland – which was, at that time, the only devolved administration in the UK (with healthcare firmly devolved to Stormont). Nor was abortion reform extended to Northern Ireland when Direct Rule began in 1972. Until 2019, abortions were mostly illegal under sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and section 25(1) of the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 1945. The only exception to this sweeping regime was the so-called “Bourne exception”, derived from the summing up of evidence in the criminal case off in which Mr Justice Macnaghten had said that an abortion may be lawfully carried out “in good faith for the purpose only of preserving the life of the mother”.
An Amsterdam Court has ordered Ola (a smartphone-hailing taxi organisation like Uber) to be more transparent about the data it uses as the basis for decisions on suspensions and wage penalties, in a ruling that breaks new ground on the rights of workers subject to algorithmic management.
James Farrarr and Yaseen Aslam, who won the landmark victory in the UK Supreme Court in February, led the action by a group of UK drivers and a Portuguese driver, who bought three separate cases against Ola and Uber seeking fuller access to their personal data.
The following is a summary of the case against Ola taxis. Anton Ekker (assisted by AI expert Jacob Turner, whom we interviewed on Law Pod UK here) represented the drivers. He said that this case was the first time, to his knowledge, that a court had found that workers were subject to automated decision-making (as defined in Article 22 of the GDPR) thus giving them the right to demand human intervention, express their point of view and appeal against the decision.
Ola is a company whose parent company is based in Bangalore, India. Ola Cabs is a digital platform that pairs passengers and cab drivers through an app. The claimants are employed as ‘private hire drivers’ (“drivers”) in the United Kingdom. They use the services of Ola through the Ola Driver App and the passengers they transport rely on the Ola Cabs App.
Proceedings are pending in several countries between companies offering services through a digital platform and drivers over whether an employment relationship exists.
By separate requests dated 23 June 2020, the first two claimants requested Ola to disclose their personal data processed by Ola and make it available in a CSV file. The third claimant made an access request on 5 August 2020. Ola provided the claimants with a number of digital files and copies of documents in response to these requests.
Ola has a “Privacy Statement” in which it has included general information about data processing.
All references in this judgment is to the AVG, which is Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data (GDPR).
Many of the newly vaccinated booked their appointments with gusto and left with a sense of elation. For others the process wasn’t so simple. We see a snapshot of this in a handful of reported cases from the Court of Protection:
In these cases, examined below, the relatives of three care home residents lacking medical capacity, objected to their receiving the vaccine against Covid-19. The CoP applied the requirements of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and ruled, in each case, that the resident patient’s best interests favoured vaccination.
Mrs E was 80, suffered from dementia and schizophrenia. Her GP approached the subject of the vaccine, but found her unable to understand the nature of the virus, the risks it posed, or the factors weighing for and against vaccination. He considered she lacked capacity but that vaccination was in her best interests. Her accredited legal representative agreed, but her son did not, so the Court was called on to rule.
In Episode 138 Emma-Louise Fenelon speaks to Marina Wheeler QC about the burgeoning field of mediation, and outlines a number of useful tips for practitioners from her own experience as a mediator.
As clinical negligence practitioners will know, in 2016 NHS Resolution became one of the first indemnifiers in the UK to establish a mediation panel with the focus of resolving clinical negligence and personal injury compensation claims. The episode refers to the report evaluating this work so far, available here.
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