In a judgment handed down on 1 April 2020, the Supreme Court reversed the decisions of Nicola Davies J (as she then was) and a unanimous Court of Appeal, allowing the appeal on the ground that no vicarious liability can lie for the acts of an independent contractor: Barclays Bank plc v Various Claimants (‘Barclays’). This was one of a pair of decisions, each concerned with a limb of the vicarious liability test: the requisite relationship (Barclays) and the necessary connection between that relationship and the wrongdoing (WM Morrisons Supermarkets plc v Various Claimants (‘Morrisons’)). While much could be said, to use the language of recent case-law, about whether this latest development means that vicarious liability is still ‘on the move’ (Various Claimants v Child Catholic Welfare Society (‘Christian Brothers’)), has ‘come to a stop’ (Cox v Ministry of Justice (‘Cox’)), or has even been thrown into reverse, this post will instead focus on the judgment’s implications for the test(s) for employment or worker status across various contexts. Although Barclays may bring a certain kind of clarity, or at least predictability, to future vicarious liability cases, it nonetheless blurs boundaries in several areas of law. Three of these will be addressed below.
Race and Rights in the UK: Do Black Lives Matter Today?
The recent killing of George Floyd at the hands of US authorities has sparked a global outcry, with individuals and organisations demanding accountability and an end to the racial oppression that black Americans face. Within the United Kingdom, a much-needed debate is also taking root in response to these events, which focuses on systemic racism that denies people their basic rights here. From discriminatory policing, to the racism inherent in the Windrush and Grenfell scandals as well as the disparate racial impacts of COVID-19, evidence of systemic racial injustice within the UK abounds.
Drawing on the knowledge and experience of our panellists, this event hosted by the Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA) tomorrow, will provide a forum to discuss some of these issues and recommend solutions in order to advance this debate at this critical juncture. Presentations will touch on the following four key areas as part of this discussion and will be followed by a live Q&A:
Laurie-Anne Power, 25 Bedford Row (Chair) Judge Peter Herbert OBE, Co-Founder BMELawyers4Grenfell, Chair of the Black Lawyers’ Society Dr Nishi Chaturvedi, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at University College London Martin Forde QC, One Crown Office Row, Independent Adviser to the Windrush Compensation Scheme Zainab Asunramu, Activist and Writer Rohan Samuel, @poet_rs Spoken Word Poet
Event lead and Introduction: Tetevi Davi, HRLA Executive Committee
Enables ministers to use regulation to add to the list of possible ‘victims’ of hate crime. There are already suggestions that misogyny will be added.
The definition of hate crime is extended to include ‘aggravation of offences by prejudice’.
Creates a new crime of ‘stirring up hatred’ against any of the groups which the Bill protects.
Updates and amalgamates existing hate crime law.
Abolishes the offence of blasphemy.
In addition, a new offence of misogynistic harassment is being considered.
The Bill was created following Lord Bracadale’s independent review of hate crime law. Official figures show that hate crime is on the rise in Scotland and the Bill seeks to address this.
However, the Bill has caused considerable concern. Many have suggested that the Bill unduly restricts freedom of speech. The President of the Law Society of Scotland, Amanda Millar, said she had “significant reservations” and indicated that “views expressed or even an actor’s performance” could result in a criminal conviction.
Groups ranging from the Catholic Church to the National Secular Society have also spoken against the plans. The Scottish Newspaper Society expressed reservations.
Some have claimed that JK Rowling, who recently tweeted her views about transgender rights/ feminism, could be imprisoned for 7 years under the Bill. Opponents also point to the experience of Threatening Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act 2012, which sought to target football hooliganism. The Act was later repealed due to concerns about freedom of speech and its ineffectiveness.
James Kelly, Labour’s justice spokesman, has pointed out that the Bill would not require ‘intention’ in order for criminality to be found. He suggested that religious views could be negatively affected by the proposals.
In response, the Scottish government points out that the Bill makes clear that criticising religious beliefs or practices does not, in itself, constitute a criminal offence. Ministers have also emphasised that the draft legislation seeks to protect minorities and oppressed groups.
Ms Sturgess tragically died of Novichok poisoning, having inadvertently opened a discarded perfume bottle containing the nerve agent. Her death came some four months after the highly publicised poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury.
The recent ruling by the Supreme Court that the former leader of Sinn Féin had been unlawfully detained and convicted in the 1970s has elicited some severe criticism from high places, including former Supreme Court judge Jonathan Sumption. Matt Hill of 1 Crown Office Row discusses this case with Rosalind English in the latest episode of Law Pod UK. Matt has worked on a number of cases relating to the Troubles in Northern Ireland. He was involved as an in historian on the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, was junior counsel to the Inquiry on the recent Birmingham pub bombing inquests, and has written about the use of inquiries and inquests in dealing with the legacy of the Troubles. The discussion focusses on the so-called “Carltona” principle regarding the responsibility of ministers to consider each function of administration. Lord Sumption has said that the Supreme Court ruling in the Adams case has “left the law in an awful mess”.
In Sutherland v Her Majesty’s Advocate, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that it was compatible with the accused person’s rights under ECHR article 8 to use evidence obtained by “paedophile hunter” (“PH”) groups in a criminal trial.
PH groups impersonate children online to lure persons into making inappropriate or sexualised communications with them over the internet, and then provide the material generated by such contact to the police. Importantly, they operate without police authorisation.
Per Section 6(1) of the HRA, a prosecution authority – as a public authority – cannot lawfully act in a way that is incompatible with a Convention right. Consequently, there were two compatibility issues on appeal before the Supreme Court:
Were the appellant’s article 8 rights interfered with by the use of the communications provided by the PH group as evidence in his public prosecution?
To what extent is the state’s obligation to provide adequate protection for article 8 rights incompatible with the use by a public prosecutor of material supplied by PH groups in investigating and prosecuting crime?
This case involved the ancient tort of public nuisance. Such a claim is addressed to behaviour which inflicts damage, injury or inconvenience on all members of a class who come within the sphere or neighbourhood of its operation. As Linden J explained, a person may bring an action in their own name in respect of a public nuisance
when they have suffered some particular, foreseeable and substantial damage over and above what has been sustained by the public at large, or when the interference with the public right involves a violation of some private right of the claimant. A local authority may also institute civil proceedings in public nuisance in its own name pursuant to section 222 Local Government Act 1972: see Nottingham City Council v Zain  1 WLR 607.
The case heading (partial screenshot above) provides a pretty comprehensive list of activities that would come within the category of “public nuisance”. I recall John Spencer’s immortal words from his article in the Cambridge Law Review on the subject in 1989:
Why is making obscene telephone calls like laying manure in the street? Answer: in the same way as importing Irish cattle is like building a thatched house in the borough of Blandford Forum; and as digging up the wall of a church is like helping a homicidal maniac to escape from Broadmoor; and as operating a joint-stock company without a royal charter is like being a common scold; and as keeping a tiger in a pen adjoining the highway is like depositing a mutilated corpse on a doorstep; and as selling unsound meat is like embezzling public funds; and as garaging a lorry in the street is like an inn-keeper refusing to feed a traveller; and as keeping treasure-trove is like subdividing houses which so “become hurtful to the place by overpestering it with poor.” All are, or at some time have been said to be, a common (alias public) nuisance.
So as you can see, this tort encompasses quite a range of human enterprises.
The future of the UK response to COVID-19 remains uncertain. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has hinted that things will be ‘significantly normal’ by Christmas, and has emphasised his reluctance to impose a second national lockdown, comparing such a threat to a ‘nuclear deterrent’. Yet the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance says there is a risk we will need another national lockdown in the winter months. Mr Johnson has said the advice on working from home will change on 1st August to ‘go back to work if you can’; Sir Patrick Vallance says there is ‘no reason’ to change that advice. Confusion continues to reign.
Access to justice has been a major casualty of the pandemic, with jury trials suspended and a steady backlog of cases building up in the courts. To address that backlog, the government is now opening 10 temporary ‘Nightingale Courts’, which will hear civil, family, tribunal, and non-custodial criminal cases. Chair of the Criminal Bar Association Caroline Goodwin QC says that these courts are ‘just a start’, and that further buildings and a renewed focus on criminal trails will be needed to clear the backlog. Justice Minister Robert Buckland has already warned that the backlog may not be cleared until 2021.
The Court of Appeal has granted Shamima Begum leave to enter the UK in order to pursue her appeal against the Home Office’s decision to remove her British citizenship, overruling part of the decision made by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission. The court’s ruling is discussed in more detail below, and in an article by Marina Wheeler QC.
On 30 March 2018, whilst working on the demolition of an oil tanker on the beach at Chittagong, Bangladesh, Mr Mollah fell to his death.
There is powerful evidence that essentially manual ship breaking of this sort is extremely unsafe and carries environmental risk given the asbestos and heavy metals aboard: see e.g. the work of NGO Shipbreaking Platform here. It does not take much more than a glance at the photographs to appreciate the problem. Conditions were grim; Mr Mollah was working at least 70 hours a week for long pay. Some 200,000 workers are thought to work under these conditions.
But this litigation is happening in the UK Courts. Mr Mollah’s widow did not even know the name of her Bangladeshi employer and she did not sue the owner of the “yard” there – in practice, the beach.
Begum v Special Immigration Appeals Commission and the Secretary of State for the Home Department EWCA Civ 918
Early last year, after ISIL was dislodged from Raqqah, Shamima Begum was discovered in a refugee camp in Syria. When she expressed a wish to return home to London’s Bethnal Green, Her Majesty’s Government wasn’t welcoming. She had left to join ISIL and HMG did not want her back. It considered her a serious risk to national security and removed her British citizenship. It then refused her leave to enter the UK to appeal that decision. But the Court of Appeal, in the latest legal ruling on the case, has held that fairness requires she be permitted to return to participate in her appeal.
The Court’s decision overturns some, but not all, of the Judgment of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) delivered in February (and reported here).
After something of an hiatus occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic, we are delighted to welcome Catherine Barnard back onto our podcast with her clear and informative account of the legal steps towards Brexit.
In the latest episode of her podcast 2903cb, Professor Barnard talks to journalist Boni Sones about the latest in the trade talks. What is happening with the timetables and deals to get the UK out of the EU by the end of this year? Tune in to Episode 120 of Law Pod UK to find out.
The High Court recently dismissed a claim of incompatibility with Article 5 ECHR arising from a detention of a minor for his own protection in the case of Archer v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis EWHC 1567 (QB).
On 17 February 2012, the Claimant, then 15 years’ old, was struck on the head and stabbed in his back and head by persons he described as members of a local gang, the Deptford Boys. This took place near to his home. He was treated at King’s College Hospital.
But on 22 February 2012, he was arrested on suspicion of violent disorder and possession of an offensive weapon. He was placed in a cell at 7:25am, and by 7:45pm he was charged with those two offences. He was, however, refused bail at 7:53pm. The reasons for refusal by Sergeant Smith are recorded as follows:
[…] it is believed necessary to further detain the person for their own protection, that the detained person has been arrested for a non-imprisonable offence and it is believed necessary to further detain to prevent physical injury to another person, that the detained person has been arrested for an imprisonable offence and it is believed necessary to further detain in order to prevent the commission of a further offence.
The grounds are Dp [sc. detained person] has been involved in a ‘gang’ related fight where he has sustained injuries that required hospital treatment. It is feared that if released on bail there will be repercussions where he may sustain further injuries or inflict violence upon his original intended victims.
On the morning of 23 February, he was taken to Bexley Youth Court, where he was remanded in custody.
It is this period of 13 hours from the refusal of bail to the remand by Court that the Claimant sought to argue was unlawful.
In a recent report entitled “It Still Happens Here”, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) and the anti-slavery charity Justice and Care have found a rise in incidents of domestic slavery, and warned that the problem is likely to intensify in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis.
The campaign group Dignity in Dying has recently brought out a new book called Last Rights: The Case for Assisted Dying, by Sarah Wotton and Lloyd Riley, Director and Policy manager of the campaign group Dignity in Death. The book is designed to restart the discussion on how we provide dying people with greater choice at the end of life.
Even with the best palliative care, some people still suffer terribly at the end of life, as Sarah and Lloyd explain in this discussion. Episode 119 of Law Pod UK highlights the way in which the pandemic has brought death and dying to the centre of pubic discourse and how the time has come again to press for an inquiry on the blanket ban on assisted dying.
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