Sims v Dacorum Borough Council  UKSC 63 – read judgment 12 November 2014 and
R (ota ZH and CN) v. LB Newham et al  UKSC 62 – read judgment 12 November 2014
A brace of cases showing the limited role which Article 8 and Article 1 of the 1st Protocol has to play in housing law, so heavily regulated by a combination of statute and contract law. The human right protections conferred, as we shall see, are mainly procedural.
The contract and property issues are well illustrated by the case of Sims. Mr and Mrs Sims had lived in a council property, until Mrs Sims left, she said as a result of her husband’s violence. For her own housing reasons she sought termination of their periodic secure joint tenancy by unilateral notice. Her husband, as the other joint tenant still living in the property, maintained in response to possession proceedings that he was entitled to remain there as a sole tenant; anything else was inconsistent with his Article 8 and A1P1 rights.
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.
It is testament to the eagerness with which these reforms are awaited—and the weaknesses which have been detected—that the Open Society Justice Initiative has launched a petition against the direction these proposals are taking.
The Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to a fair trial, is engaged in internal disciplinary proceedings if the will have a “substantial influence” on future proceedings which are likely to determine a civil right.
However, in this case of a teaching assistant sacked for sexual misconduct with a child, the court ruled by a majority that article 6 rights were not available at a school’s internal disciplinary hearing and the man was therefore not entitled to legal representation. This was because the result of the hearing would not have a substantial influence on the secretary of state’s decision whether to place the man on the list of people barred from working with children. Simply, the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) was obliged to make its own independent judgment.
As Martin Downs posted in April, this decision – which supports the previous decision of the court of appeal – will have an important effect on all internal disciplinary hearings held in the public sector, not just those held at schools. It will now be easier for teachers, doctors, dentists, nurses and others to secure the right to legal representation, alongside other rights such as the right to an impartial panel, at disciplinary hearings which will have a substantial influence on their career.
Mr De A is a Portuguese national. He lived in the UK from 1998 to 2001 and from 2008 to date. He worked during the first period and for a year after his return. Mr De A had contracted HIV and AIDS. His health deteriorated so that he was not able to work. His prognosis in October 2010 was that he had about a year to live. At the time of the first hearing in this case in November 2011, his prognosis was about 6 months.
Today MPs will vote on whether to increase the maximum amount universities can charge to £9,000. Contrary to many commentators’ predictions, the student protests against the increase on 10 November have not been an isolated occurrence, but the beginning of a settled campaign. But would the students be able to rely on human rights arguments to resist eviction?
The campaign has been quite literally settled in many cases, as students at (amongst other universities) UCL, SOAS, Oxford, Sheffield, Manchester Met and Newcastle have staged occupations and sit-ins. Some have moved out, but others have occupied lecture theatres since around 24 November and don’t seem to be moving anywhere any time soon. That is, unless the police or university authorities force them out.
The right to protest is covered by Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides that:
Stott v Thomas Cook Operators and British Airways Plc  EWCA Civ 66 – read judgment
If you need reminding of what it feels like when the candy-floss of human rights is abruptly snatched away, take a flight. Full body scanners and other security checks are nothing to the array of potential outrages awaiting passengers boarding an aircraft. Air passengers in general surrender their rights at the point of ticket purchase.
The Warsaw Convention casts its long shadow. It was signed between two world wars, at the dawn of commercial aviation, when international agreement had to be secured at all costs. These strong interests survived the negotiation of the 1999 Montreal Convention, now part of EU law as the Montreal Regulation.
Yet so powerful is the desire to travel, and so beleaguered it is now with the threat of spiralling aviation fuel prices and environmental taxes, that we are happier to surrender our freedoms at airports than we are anywhere else – hospitals, doctors’ surgeries, schools, and even on the public highways.
This is Wessen Jazrawi’s final roundup on the UK Human Rights Blog as she is moving onto pastures new. Thanks to Wessen for her fantastic series of fortnightly roundups – Adam and the UKHRB team.
Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your weekly smörgåsbord 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.
The most significant news of the week has been the decision by the Supreme Court in the case of Yunus Rahmatullah which we consider below. In other news, time is fast running out for the UK government to act on prisoner voting and the European Court displayed the limits of its intervention on domestic violence. Also in today’s roundup is the inaugural list of upcoming UK human rights events – if you would like to add an event to the next roundup, please email.
I will keep this short. David Davies MP (not David Davis MP) has posted on his official blog that the Paris attacks show that the Human Rights Act should be repealed. His reasoning is spurious. He does not understand the law. He misrepresents the Human Rights Act. I will explain why below. But first, here is his post in full: Continue reading →
Valeri Hariev Belov  EUECJ Case C-394/11 20 September 2012 – read opinion
For the first time the European Court of Justice (CJEU) has been asked to address the issue of indirect discrimination based on ethnic origin and the possible justifications for such discrimination.
The question, put before it as a reference on a preliminary issue from the Bulgarian Commission for Protection against Discrimination (the “KZD”), is this:
Is it discriminatory if, in districts which are inhabited predominantly by a people belonging to a certain ethnic minority, electricity meters are suspended much higher than elsewhere?
The Court has thus been given an opportunity to refine its case-law on the ‘anti-discrimination directives’ – in the present case the Directive 2000/43/EC (the “race directive”).
What led to this dispute was the practice in two districts of the Bulgarian city of Montana, of attaching electricity meters to electricity poles at a height of 7 m, whilst elsewhere electricity meters are installed at a maximum height of 1.70 m, such that they are accessible for consumers. The districts in question are inhabited primarily by people belonging to the Roma community, and the question therefore arises whether this practice constitutes discrimination based on ethnic origin.
As the electricity authority’s written observations to the court explained, the measure was taken because of the increasing incidence of unpaid bills in the two urban districts and the frequent offences committed by consumers which impair or threaten the safety, quality and continuous and secure operation of the electrical installations. The AG succinctly describes of the problem, and the solution to it:
Manipulation and unauthorised electricity extraction are undoubtedly made more difficult if electricity meters and distribution boxes are placed at a height of 7 m, which is normally inaccessible for consumers
Lee Carter, Hollis Johnson, Dr. William Shoichet, The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and Gloria Taylor v Attorney General of Canada (2012 BCSC 886) 15 June 2012 – read judgment
Interest in the “locked-in syndrome” cases currently before the High Court runs high. We posted here on the permission granted to locked-in sufferer Tony Nicklinson to seek an advance order from the court that would allow doctors to assist him to die under the common law defence of necessity.
He is also arguing that the current law criminalising assisted suicide is incompatible with his Article 8 rights of autonomy and dignity. The other case before the three judge court involves another stroke victim who is unable to move, is able to communicate only by moving his eyes, requires constant care and is entirely dependent on others for every aspect of his life. (Philip Havers QC of 1 Crown Office Row is acting for him)
The oversight of the conduct of British soldiers in Iraq has been subject of two recent developments. The first is political, as Prime Minister Theresa May has renewed criticism of investigations into allegations of criminal behaviour of British troops. The second is legal, with the Court of Appeal offering clarification as to the role of the ECHR in conflicts abroad. However, comments by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon have since thrown into doubt the future role of the ECHR in conflicts abroad.
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”.
In her lecture at Gresham College last week Baroness Hale speculated how high the human rights tree might grow before it presents a threat to the surrounding constitutional ecosystem. Our words, not hers, but she preferred the arboreal image to the more established but inherently nonsensical notion of a “living instrument” as an expression of the Convention’s adaptability over time. This tree, she suggested, should not be allowed to transmogrify in to a gigantic beanstalk, crashing through the sky, inspiring false dreams and unrealisable ambitions.
The seeds of this tree – or treacherous beanstalk, whichever way one prefers to look at it – were sown in the seventies when the Strasbourg Court chose a “purposive” rather than a literal construction of the language used in the Convention. This means that judges enforcing the norms of the Convention need not confine themselves to the terms as stated or clearly implicit in the written text, nor to the purpose that might be derived from the preparatory materials and the historical context. Thus in the landmark case of Golder v United Kingdom, the Court ruled that Article 6 not only conferred an explicit right to a fair trial but implied that citizens should be granted the right of access to justice, something that could not be discovered within the four corners of the Convention as a document. Continue reading →
Welcome back to the UK Human Rights Roundup, your regular lightening rod 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.
In recent human rights news, the ECJ finds against Internet giant Google, strengthening the so-called ‘right to be forgotten’. In other news, the UK awaits to see if it will be prosecuted before the ICC in relation to allegations of war crimes in Iraq, while the Court of Appeal confronts the issue of legal aid cuts in serious fraud cases as the Operation Cotton scandal continues.
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.