Faced with mounting criticism of his reluctance to impose restrictions on British society in the face of the Covid-19 crisis, this evening Boris Johnson ratcheted up Britain’s response by announcing a strict lockdown across the country. His address to the nation is available in full here.
Good news from the crisis front, although I’m afraid not the one we’re all thinking of: the government’s Agriculture Bill, which sets out its major post-Brexit agricultural policy, has recently passed committee stage and will soon (coronavirus permitting) be presented to the House of Lords. It shows ambition from the government to develop a post-Brexit agriculture policy with laudable commitments to harnessing the power of farmers to help address the climate crisis, and helps to address issues such as food security. Along with the Environment Bill, discussed here, it constitutes some of the core legislation aimed at achieving the government’s Net Zero by 2050 goal.
The government’s haunting refrain, since their 2018 ‘Health and Harmony’ consultation on post-Brexit agricultural policy, has been “public money for public goods”. The bill puts this into practice by giving the secretary of state power to dismantle the subsidy schemes of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and replace it with the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS). Under this scheme, farmers will be awarded for specific activities with ‘public goods’: good practices that further environmental goals in areas such as biodiversity and soil health that the market does not sufficiently incentivise.
Last month European football’s governing body, UEFA, announced that English champions Manchester City had been fined 30 million Euros and banned from the Champions League – the most illustrious competition in European football. The Adjudicatory Chamber of UEFA’s Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) handed down a two-year ban on the basis that Man City had breached Financial Fair Play Regulations. The club have responded fiercely, complaining of a ‘prejudicial process’ and alleging that the case was ‘initiated by UEFA, prosecuted by UEFA and judged by UEFA.’ Against this background it is thought likely that City will rely on human rights arguments in their appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (a somewhat ironic development in the view of some commentators given previous criticisms of the human rights records of the club’s backers).
Following his excellent exploration of the interface between human rights and the quarantine and movement restrictions adopted in response to Covid-19, biolaw expert Niall Coghlan kindly agreed to come on our podcast and expand on the subject. Whilst we have made every effort to get this episode on air as soon as possible, there are bound to be further laws and decrees being rolled out. References to the relevant Italian laws, the Latvian derogation and others can be found in Niall’s post of 17 March. Here are references to the most recent developments.
Canada Goose UK Retail Ltd v Persons unknown and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)  EWCA Civ 303 on appeal from  EWHC 2459 (QB)– Gareth Rhys
All references in square brackets are to paragraphs in the Court of Appeal judgment
The Court of Appeal has articulated the guiding principles that apply when seeking interim and final relief against ‘persons unknown’ in cases of public protests. The decision will be regarded as a win for civil liberties organisations and activist groups given that the Court has greatly restricted the circumstances in which injunctive relief may be sought against unknown protesters. This case has distilled the jurisprudence following the decisions in Cameron v Liverpool Insurance Co Ltd  UKSC 6 and Ineos Upstream Ltd v Persons Unknown EWCA Civ 515.
Canada Goose is an international company that manufactures and sells clothing containing animal fur and down. They brought a claim in damages and injunctive relief against ‘persons unknown’ who protested the use of animal products outside Canada Goose’s Regent Street shop.
Ilias v Hungary (Application no. 47287/15) was the first case in which the ECtHR considered a land border transit zone between two member states of the Council of Europe, where the host state, Hungary, was also a member of the EU and had applied the safe third country rule under the EU asylum regime. The Grand Chamber held that the applicants’ detention did not breach Article 5 (the right to liberty and security of the person).
The applicants, Mr Ilias and Mr Ahmed, were both Bangladeshi nationals who had left Bangladesh at different times and in differing circumstances. They met in Greece and then traveled together to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, then to Serbia, and then to Hungary. On 15 September 2015 they arrived in Hungary and entered the border transit zone at Röszke. They submitted asylum requests on the same day. Within several hours their requests were rejected as being inadmissible and they were ordered to be expelled from Hungary back to Serbia as a safe third country. The applicants then spent 23 days in the transit zone whilst they appealed this decision. On 8 October 2015, following a final decision of the Hungarian courts which rejected their applications for asylum and ordered the applicants’ expulsion, Mr Ilias and Mr Ahmed were escorted out of the transit zone and crossed the border back into Serbia.
Quarantines and lockdowns are sweeping Europe: Italy, France, Spain. Through them, states seek to contain Covid-19 and so save lives. It is difficult to imagine higher stakes from a human rights perspective: mass interferences with whole populations’ liberties on one side; the very weighty public interest in protecting lives on the other; and all this under the shadow of uncertainty and disorder. What, if anything, do human rights have to say?
To begin sketching an answer to this complex question, this post analyses the situation in the European state furthest down this path: Italy. After outlining the Italian measures (I), it argues that Italy’s mass restrictions on internal movement are unlikely to violate the right to free movement but pose problems in respect of the right to liberty (II). I conclude by summarising the tangle of other rights issues those measures raise and making a tentative reflection on the currently limited role of human rights law (III).
Before beginning, I should note that analysing measures’ human rights compliance in abstracto is difficult and slightly artificial: a great deal turns on how measures are implemented in practice and particular individuals’ circumstances. Moreover, my analysis is limited to the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’), and I do not profess expertise in Italian law (which is proving complex to interpret). The aim of this post is therefore to start, not end, debate about human rights’ role as these measures begin to spread across Europe.
Thomas Hayes is a specialist registrar in vascular surgery and forthcoming pupil at 1 Crown Office Row
As teased earlier, the Covid-19 pandemic gives rise to such a volume of material as to justify a slightly more detailed examination of its consequences. In time, the response of governments across the globe to the disease will no doubt be the subject of detailed study by academics across the fields of biology, history and law. For the time being, however, blog readers will have to tolerate the following words of speculation, much of which will probably suffer the cruel fate of being shown to be out of date and/or inaccurate within hours of publication…
The government has announced its intention to bring before Parliament this week emergency laws to help control the outbreak. Whilst at the time of writing, such draft legislation had not been published, press reports suggested it would include new powers to allow the police to detain those breaking quarantine measures. Where the police might take such recalcitrant citizens is not known, however the prospect of detaining in close proximity those suspected of carrying the highly infectious airborne disease presumably fills neither the police nor public health officials with much joy…
The worsening of the Covid-19 pandemic seemed to relegate all other business to a position of relative insignificance this week. Undoubtedly the human, economic and social cost of the outbreak is already severe, with its impact increasingly felt across the globe. However, perhaps more than any other conceivable event, the progression of the disease casts a spotlight on numerous areas of legal controversy. It is hard to recall a post-war phenomenon which so frequently pits the rights and interests of individuals against those of broader society (more here). Indeed, the potential material for upcoming pupillage interview questions seems virtually inexhaustible, assuming that they too don’t fall victim to social distancing measures.
I will be posting a longer article on Covid-19 later today.
Following an Article 2 inquest into the tragic death of Prince Fosu, a vulnerable foreign national detained in an immigration removal centre, a jury has found that Mr Fosu’s death was avoidable and was caused by a number of gross failures on the part of the Home Office and various agencies to provide appropriate care in immigration detention at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre.
Mr Fosu, a car parts dealer from Ghana, entered the UK in April 2012 on a valid business visa. However, on arrival, he was refused leave to enter. His subsequent in-country appeal was rejected in September 2012 and he was booked on a flight to leave the UK on 5 November 2012.
A month after his unsuccessful appeal, he was arrested after walking naked on the road. He continued to act bizarrely at the police station and kept undressing. However, following assessment, mental health professionals at the station determined that he did not need to be sectioned and was fit for detention. When he urinated in his cell, he was seemingly labelled as a “dirty protestor” rather than being re-referred for medical assessment. After three days in police custody, Mr Fosu was transferred to Harmondsworth on the basis that he had overstayed his stay and was liable to immigration removal.
On 26th February, parliament held its second reading of the government’s revised Environment Bill 2020, setting out its agenda for environmental reform and governance post-Brexit. It would provide the secretary of state with powers to create new regulations on air quality, water usage, waste disposal and resource management, biodiversity, and environmental risk from chemical contamination, and would create a new non-departmental public body, the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), as an environment watchdog. The government describes it as the most “radical” environmental legislation to date, and sees the bill as paramount to ensuring both its 25 Year Environment Plan and its Net Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050 goal.
The bill faced criticism both from parliament and from environmental groups. Greener UK, a coalition of 13 major environmental organisation, has said that as it stands, the bill “[would] not achieve what is has promised”, criticising it for lacking ambition and including no legal requirements for the government to prevent backsliding on EU environmental regulation. MPs, both Conservative and Labour, specifically criticised the lack of ambition in air quality. Others criticised the proposed structure of the OEP as being insufficiently independent of the government to match the ambitions of the bill to create “a world-leading environmental watchdog that can robustly hold the Government to account”.
The Bill in Brief
The bill, as it stands, is divided into eight sections, which can be grouped into three major areas: giving the secretary of state the power to amend regulations in areas of environmental concern, legally enshrining biodiversity targets, and creating an environmental watchdog called the Office of Environmental Protection. All three are intimately tied to Brexit, with the government intending to use the bill to “transform our environmental governance once we leave the EU”.
R (on the application of Christie Elan-Cane) v Secretary of State for the Home Department with Human Rights Watch intervening  EWCA Civ 363 – read judgment
When we apply for a passport, we are generally asked to state on the form whether we are a man or a woman, and this is generally reflected in our passports. However, in our modern day and age, there are now more than two genders – some people can choose to define as gender neutral, essentially meaning that they don’t like to describe themselves using the normal terms of “man” or “woman”. MX Elan-Cane is one of those individuals. They sued the Home Office because there was no “X” (as in, no gender neutral) option on the passport form as it was a breach of their Human Rights. The High Court said that yes, this engaged Article 8 of the Human Rights Convention (the right to private and family life), but the current passport policy did not breach that right. The Court of Appeal agreed with the High Court, both that this engaged Article 8, but that the rights to a private life were not breached here.
Ofcom make some unlawful regulations in 2015, under which telecom companies have to pay higher fees. The regulations were quashed in 2017. Four telecom companies want restitutionary damages, being the difference between the sums paid under the 2015 regulations and the sums they would have paid under their predecessors, the 2011 regulations.
Big money washing around: the claim was for over £200m.
Ofcom says – no, you are only entitled to the difference between the 2015 payments and the hypothetical fees which we could lawfully have charged had we done our job properly in 2017.
Sounds quite simple, but the answer goes deep into the intersection between public and private law.
The claim, as I have said, was restitutionary.
Ofcom said that the law of restitution is rooted in the private law of obligations. The private law approach (as with any tort claim) is to apply a “but for” test – what would the telecoms have paid but for the unlawfulness? This involves the counterfactual: what lawful fees could Ofcom have imposed?
The telecoms, and the Court of Appeal, disagreed. Ofcom’s argument offended the principles of legality, and parity (the principle that those who pay voluntarily should not be worse off compared to those who refuse to pay and litigate).
The complexity of EU law, and its status during the Brexit transition period and beyond continues to puzzle many if not most of those tasked with understanding it.
The Constitutional and Administrative Law Bar Association (ALBA) recently held a panel event tackling this very topic. The panel included Lord Anderson of Ipswich, perhaps better known as David Anderson QC, Professor Catherine Barnard, Professor of European Union law at Cambridge University (who will be familiar to listeners from our Brexit series), and Alison Pickup, Legal Director at the Public Law Project.
We are enormously grateful to the Committee and Chair of ALBA, as well as the speakers, for allowing us to reproduce their contributions on the podcast, as Episode 104. This talk is occasionally quite technical, and for this reason we have provided the powerpoint slides provided by each speaker (see the following attachments), which we hope will make it easier to follow along.
ALBA is the professional association for barristers in England and Wales practising in public law. Its members also include solicitors, academics and judges with an interest in public law. Details on joining ALBA can be found here, and their upcoming events here.
In a pithy parting shot to the Home Secretary, Lady Hale has given the unanimous judgment of the Supreme Court on the question of whether a person subject to a home curfew under immigration powers had been falsely imprisoned at common law and whether that concept should now be aligned with the concept of deprivation of liberty in article 5 of the ECHR. The Court decided the case against the defendant, as did every court below (the Blog covered the Court of Appeal’s decision here). The defendant had been required to pay the claimant £4,000.
False imprisonment at common law
The opening sentence sets the scene:
The right to physical liberty was highly prized and protected by the common law long before the United Kingdom became party to the European Convention on Human Rights.
The claimant had been subject to an overnight curfew, enforced by way of monitoring equipment and an electronic tag, under paragraph 2(5) of Schedule 3 of the Immigration Act 1971.
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