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.
Migrant workers have been essential to the operations of the NHS ever since its inception in 1948. Over the decades, many programmes have been used to encourage and find overseas workers and help them migrate to the UK to be employed in the healthcare system, demonstrating our governments acknowledgment of how important they are. As early as 1949, campaigns were made by the UK government in the Caribbean to recruit NHS staff, through advertisements in local newspapers.
However, throughout the current COVID-19 pandemic, many have argued that migrant workers have not been given the rightful respect or recognition in which they truly deserve. Many of them have been putting their lives on the line every single day fighting against a deadly virus, yet still face immigration insecurity.
There are currently 170,000 overseas NHS workers from 200 countries residing within the UK, many of which have to apply every year for five years to renew their work visas. Some are required to have employers provide certificates of sponsorship for them, and if they do not, then they can be deported at any time despite their critical service to the country. These certificates are necessary for those applying for skilled worker visas, to prove that the conditions of the visa have been met. If they are not signed it becomes increasingly difficult for migrants to apply for the visa needed to remain in the UK. As the pandemic has raged on since March 2020, support for a Private Member’s Bill which would grant migrant NHS workers indefinite leave to remain has grown.
Re B’s application  NIQB 76 was a challenge to a decision to prosecute a soldier for offences going back to 1972. Part of the small but politically divisive cohort of prosecutions arising out of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, Re B provides a classic example of how courts approach the issue of fairness in criminal prosecutions for historic offences.
“B” is a former soldier of the British Army who had been serving in Northern Ireland. On 31 July 1972, the Army launched “Operation Motorman” to clear so-called “no-go” areas in Belfast and Derry, which had become highly problematic and dangerous for security forces at the time.
In the early hours of 31 July 1972, B was part of a company of soldiers deployed in the Creggan Heights area of Derry. He was armed with a 7.62 x 51 mm calibre General Purpose Machine Gun. At around this time, three local people were also in the area: Thomas Hegarty, his brother Christopher Hegarty and their cousin Daniel Hegarty. At some time shortly after 4.15 am, there was a burst of machine gun fire. When it stopped, Daniel Hegarty lay dead on the street, having been shot twice in the head. He was 15 years old. Christopher Hegarty was also wounded in the shooting, but survived.
Women’s rights and gender equality issues have been at the forefront of the news this week. The appalling murder of Sarah Everard, abducted when walking home in London, has elicited a huge social media response. In particular, it has highlighted the problematic phenomenon of victim-blaming directed at women, with advice focusing on teaching woman how to avoid being sexually harassed, rather than educating men about how to be better allies in calling out the misogynistic behaviour that enables harassment. These events coincided with statistics published by the World Health Organisation on Tuesday, which found that one in three women have been physically or sexually assaulted by their male partner across the world, and a survey conducted by UN Women UK published on Wednesday, which showed that 97% of women between the ages of 18 and 24 had been sexually harassed. The latter study also revealed that the majority of women don’t report these incidents because they don’t have confidence that the abuse will be dealt with effectively by the police or the legal system. On Tuesday the government unveiled the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which, among other changes, has amended the sentencing laws for sexual offenders, enabling them to be put behind bars for longer. The government stated the new legislation was aimed at ‘restoring confidence in the criminal justice system’. However, given current statistics indicating a diminished number of successful rape prosecutions in the last year, it seems unlikely that the mere possibility of tougher sentences for sexual offenders once convicted is going to improve women’s confidence in the justice system. In fact, the new Bill has been substantially criticised by equality and civil liberties campaigners because it will increase the powers of the police to shut down public protest. Under the new law, the Home Secretary would be able to label particular protests as a ‘serious disruption’, enabling the police to then impose stringent conditions on the demonstration. The first detailed discussion of the Bill in Parliament today comes after accusations that the police were ‘too heavy-handed’ in dealing with demonstrators at the Sarah Everard vigil on Saturday evening. However, the Conservative majority in the Commons will almost certainly ensure that the Bill passes.
Sarah Everard, a 33 year old woman living in London, was walking home from a friend’s house at around 9pm on Wednesday 3rd March 2021 when she disappeared without trace. In the days that followed, public appeals for information and press coverage ensured that the case was widely discussed. A profound sense of unease and desperation for her to be found alive was voiced by many, before the worst news was confirmed. Shockingly, a serving Metropolitan Police Officer has been charged with her kidnap and murder.
The most important thing to say about the case is contained in the statement of Sarah Everard’s family. They describe the sort of person that she was and what she meant to them.
One former colleague of Sarah Everard sharing her own memories of her added
she’s a real person, not some hanger on which to display your views about women.
But the case has prompted a wider discussion about how the risk of violence and harassment against women going about their ordinary business has been normalised and accepted as part of everyday life, such that calculations as to how to minimise that risk have become second nature to many. The MP Jess Phillips, speaking during a parliamentary debate to mark International Women’s Day said: “Killed women are not vanishingly rare. Killed women are common”,before reading the names of every woman killed in the UK in the last year where a man has been convicted or charged as the main perpetrator, that exercise taking more than four minutes.
Against this background, an organisation called “Reclaim These Streets” (“RTS”) stated that they wished to “channel the collective grief, outrage and sadness in our community” and decided to hold “a short gathering on Clapham Common, centred around a minute of silence to remember Sarah Everard and all women lost to violence”.The event was described as a “socially distanced vigil” having regard to the restrictions currently in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It was scheduled to take place at 6pm on Saturday 13 March 2021, close to where Sarah Everard was last seen alive.
Thank you all for joining the expert speakers for our webinar considering the question of whether India is still a Liberal Democracy on 11th March 2021 at 4.30 – 5.45pm. A link to the recording is below.
Why we should replace ‘revenge porn’ with ‘image based sexual abuse’ and reform the mens rea of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015
The digital world is becoming an increasingly dominant part of daily life. This has been thrown into sharp relief by the current public health crisis, which has seen almost every facet of our lives move online; from socialising, to work, to healthcare, to dating and sex. However, regulation of the digital world is struggling to keep pace with technological change (see the UK Human Rights Blog’s technology section for commentary on this phenomenon). Lawmakers simply cannot keep abreast of the reforms necessary to protect victims from online criminality. One area in which Parliament has made some progress is the sharing of private sexual images, or ‘revenge porn’, as it has come to be known. This article will outline recent developments in the law around sharing of private sexual images; interrogate the terminology used in this area; and suggest reforms to the relevant legislation.
In 2014, the Crown Prosecution Service published guidelines on existing legislation, in an attempt to support convictions for the crime of sharing private sexual images without consent. However, after mounting pressure from campaign groups, the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 (‘the Act’) created the offence of ‘Disclosing private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress’, which is punishable by up to two years in prison.
More recently, legislation around sharing private sexual images became the subject of a new campaign, seeking to make the act of threatening to share private sexual images a criminal offence. This campaign was supported by organisations such as Refuge, 44,615 of whose supporters wrote to government ministers requesting a change in the legislation. A reality television star, Zara Mcdermott, added her voice to this campaign in a BBC documentary entitled ‘Zara McDermott: Revenge Porn’. In the documentary, Ms McDermott recounts two instances of having private sexual images shared without her consent. The documentary also covers the harrowing story of Damilya Jossipalenya, who was at university in London when she jumped to her death from the window of her flat. Ms Jossipalenya’s suicide followed a campaign of harassment by her boyfriend, who had threatened to share a video of Ms Jossipalenya with her family in Kazakhstan. This segment of the documentary ends with Ms McDermott explaining why she believes the threat to share private sexual images can be equally as damaging as the act of sharing them.
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.