On 17 February 2017, Bindmans LLP published an Opinion solicited from several leading authorities on EU law concerning Article 50 TEU. The so-dubbed ‘Three Knights Opinion’ put forward compelling legal arguments in support of why an Act of Parliament at the end of the Article 50 negotiation process is necessary in order to ensure that Brexit occurs in accordance with domestic and, by extension, EU law. These contentions, and Professor Elliot’s rebuttal, warrant careful consideration.
The proposed change to the rules for bringing on who can apply for international war crimes arrest warrants has predictably generated some strong reactions
The changes will make it necessary to get the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions before an arrest warrant can be granted. The Ministry of Justice say they are changing the rules in order to prevent arrests happening after the presentation of “flimsy” evidence. Those who fear arrest under the current system range from Israeli ministers to the Pope.
On Friday 6 January 2012, a historic case came to a conclusion in Courtroom 7 of Southwark Crown Court. Michael Peacock was unanimously acquitted, after a four-day trial that saw the outdated obscenity law of England and Wales in the dock.
Peacock had been charged under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 for allegedly distributing ‘obscene’ ‘gay’ DVDs, which featured fisting, urolagnia (‘watersports’) and BDSM.
The Prime Minister has said that he is “uneasy” about the development of a privacy law by judges based on the European Convention when this should be a matter for parliament. In our contribution to the continuing debate on this issue we are re-posting this [update – three part!] discussion on the history and future of privacy law from Inforrm’s Blog.
The “law of privacy” has been developed by the English Courts over the past decade. It is a common law development based on case law going back to the mid nineteenth century. But the pace of development has accelerated over recent years. The decisive factor has been the Human Rights Act 1998. In this area the Act has had “horizontal effect” – it operates in cases between two private parties. The action for breach of confidence has been transformed – almost beyond recognition.
The decisions by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in Al-Skeini and Al-Jedda, handed down last Thursday, have generally been hailed as leap forward for human rights protection. We have already provided a summary of the decisions and pointed to some of the commentary here.
However, it is worth considering the core parts of these rulings a little more carefully. Without wishing to put too much of a dampener on the initial excitement from human rights campaigners about the outcome, the Court’s reasoning is perhaps not quite the radical breakthrough it first appeared to be. In fact, as Judge Bonello pointed out in his concurring opinion (which has drawn a lot of attention for his comments about ‘human rights imperialism’), the principles governing jurisdiction under Article 1 of the ECHR are not that much clearer following these decisions.
November saw the publication of the report of the Redfern Inquiry into human tissue analysis in UK nuclear facilities (read the report, here).
The inquiry was the latest in a number of investigations looking at the post mortem removal, retention and disposal of human body parts by medical and other bodies, and the extent to which the families of the deceased knew of and consented to such practices. The Inquiry chairman, Michael Redfern QC, also chaired the Royal Liverpool Children’s Hospital (Alder Hay) Inquiry.
Harry Dunn’s family after meeting with the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, last week. Photograph: Credit: The Guardian, Peter Summers/Getty Images.
The usually obscure concept of diplomatic immunity came to the fore this week after it emerged that the wife of an American diplomat was wanted for questioning in connection with the death of a motorcyclist in Northamptonshire. Anne Sacoolas was spoken to by police after a collision with Harry Dunn in which he was killed whilst riding his motorbike, prior to her return to the United States.
Article 31 of the 1961 Vienna Convention grants immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving state to diplomats, a feature extended to their family members by article 37. However, both the United Kingdom and the United States were this weekend reported as having agreed that diplomatic immunity was no longer “pertinent” in the case of Mrs Sacoolas. This raised the possibility of the UK seeking her extradition, despite President Trump being photographed this week with a briefing card stating that she would not be returning to Britain.
Meanwhile, the country’s attention turned back towards Brexit, with the week ahead promising to, in the Prime Minister’s words, be “do or die” for the prospects of a negotiated deal. At the beginning of the week it was widely reported that talks had faltered, with Downing St leaks suggesting a deal was “essentially impossible”. However, the mood surrounding negotiations changed significantly on Thursday, with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar describing the emergence of a “pathway” to a deal following his meeting with Boris Johnson. Continue reading →
ABC v St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust and Others  EWCA Civ 336 – read judgment
All the advocates in this case are from 1 Crown Office Row. Elizabeth-Anne Gumbel QC, Henry Witcomb QC and Jim Duffy for the Appellant, and Philip Havers QC and Hannah Noyce for the Respondents. None of them were involved in the writing of this post.
In a fascinating twist to the drama of futuristic diagnosis, the Court of Appeal has allowed an argument that doctors treating a Huntington’s patient should have imparted information about his diagnosis to his pregnant daughter to go to trial.
The background to this case is outlined in my earlier post on Nicol J’s ruling in the court below. A patient with an inherited fatal disease asked his doctors not to disclose information to his daughter. The daughter came upon this information accidentally, shortly after the birth of her child, and found, after a genetic test, that she suffered from this condition as well, which has a 50% chance of appearing in the next generation. Had she known this, she would have sought a termination of the pregnancy. She claimed that the doctors were liable to her in damages for the direct effect on her health and welfare.
A claim for “wrongful birth” is well established in law; no claim was made on behalf of the child, who was too young to be tested for the condition. The twist is the duty of secrecy between doctor and patient, which has held very well for the past two centuries. Short of confessions pertaining to homicide or information regarding contagious diseases, the dialogue behind the consulting door should end there.
The problem is that the typical medical relationship only pertains to the pathology of the individual patient. Now that tests are available that make every single one of us a walking diagnosis not only for our own offspring but those of our siblings and their offspring, the one-to-one scenario collapses, along with the limited class of people to whom a doctor owes a duty of care. The pregnant daughter who came across the information about her father’s condition was not the defendant doctor’s patient. In pre-genetic days, that meant there was no duty of care relationship between her father’s doctors and her. But the certainty of hereditability brings her into that circle. Continue reading →
In the current circumstances, this case has important resonances and maybe even implications for future vaccinations. It was an appeal by the parents of a ten year old child against a decision that the local authority, had lawful authority to have the child vaccinated (pursuant to Section 33(3) of the Children Act 1989.
The local authority had made care and placement orders in respect of the child, who was at the time in foster care. The LA argued that it had lawful authority, pursuant to the Children Act 1989 s.33(3), to arrange the vaccination of a child in care notwithstanding the objection of the parents, and that therefore it was unnecessary and inappropriate to refer the decision to the High Court under its inherent jurisdiction. Parental views regarding immunisation had always to be considered but the decision depended solely on the child’s welfare.
Conor Monighan brings us the latest updates in human rights law
In the News:
Credit: The Guardian
The House of Commons has passed amendments which are likely to liberalise the law on abortion and same-sex marriages in Northern Ireland.
The amendments were added to the NI Executive Formation Bill. The first was put forward by Conor McGinn (Labour). It states that if the NI Assembly is not restored by the 21st October, the government must create secondary legislation to allow same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland. This means there will be no further debate in the House of Commons, because the government will make use of regulations. The second amendment, tabled by Stella Creasy (Labour), has a similar effect. However, both are subject to the condition that the Northern Irish Assembly can legislate to change the law.
Prior to the vote, Ms Creasy said “At this moment in time, if somebody is raped in Northern Ireland and they become pregnant and they seek a termination, they will face a longer prison sentence than their attacker”.
The Conservative leadership contenders were split on the vote. Boris Johnson stated that both subjects were devolved matters, whilst Jeremy Hunt voted for both proposals. Karen Bradley (the Northern Ireland Secretary) and Theresa May (PM) abstained.
Unusually, MPs in the Scottish National Party were given a free vote. The party ordinarily abstains from voting on devolved issues in other countries. Continue reading →
Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), 2015 SCC 5 (CanLII) 6 February 2015 – read judgment
The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld a challenge to the constitutionality of the prohibition on assisted dying, saying that since they last ruled on this issue in the 1993 case of Rodriguez (where a “slim majority” upheld the prohibition), there had been a change in the circumstances which “fundamentally shifted the parameters” of this debate.
The Court issued a declaration of invalidity relating to those provisions in the Canadian criminal code that prohibit physician assisted dying for competent adults who seek such assistance as a result of a “grievous and irremediable” medical condition that causes “endurable and intolerable” suffering. These laws should be struck down as depriving those adults of their right to life, liberty and security of the person under Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights (The Constitution Act 1982)
Importantly, the court recognised what has long been proposed by campaigners on both sides of the Atlantic, that the prohibition deprives some individuals of life, as it has the effect of forcing people to take their own lives prematurely, for fear that they would be incapable of doing so when they reached the point where suffering was intolerable. Continue reading →
A historic deal has been agreed at the United Nation’s Cop27 summit which will provide funding to vulnerable countries to cope with the impact of climate change. The final cover document did not include commitments to reduce the use of fossil fuels. The deal also used new ambiguous language about “low emissions energy” which experts suggest could refer to fossil fuels including gas.
There has been an investigation following the appearance of sexual abuse victims’ personal details on the Suffolk Police website. Police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore issued an “unreserved apology” for the breach. The published information included victims’ names, addresses, dates of birth and details of the offences committed against them.
On Monday 14 November, the United Nations Human Rights Council released a report which including 302 recommendations demanding that the UK must tackle rising poverty. The report follows new figures revealing that four million children in households on universal credit face big cuts in income if benefits are not increased in line with inflation. Oxfam and the Healthcare Trade Unison, amongst other organisations, have said the UK is “failing to meet its international legal obligations”.
In other news:
The Refugee Council called on ministers to introduce a range of measures to deal with the record delays in processing asylum claims. Currently, government spending is at around £6.8million for housing migrants in hotels. It has also been revealed that at least forty child asylum seekers were placed in a Home Office hotel designated for adults; last month, one child was the victim of a serious stabbing.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has revised its guidance on age-restricted ads online. The new guidelines provide greater protection to children and young people by introducing content, media placement and audience targeting restrictions. The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) provided a principles-based checklists to help limit the exposure of young people and children to age-restricted ads. Advertisers have ultimate responsibility for ensuring compliance with the rules.
Analysts at the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) revealed they found nearly nine-hundred instances of Category A child sexual abuse material in just five days. The research revealed children as young as seven are being coerced by abusers into filming themselves carrying out the most severe forms of child sexual abuse material. The data publication has been used to highlight the need for the delayed Online Safety Bill.
In the courts
In X, Re (Catastrophic Injury: Collection and Storage of Sperm)  EWCOP 48, the Court of Protection dismissed an application by X’s parents, V and W, for a declaration that it would be lawful for a doctor to retrieve X’s gametes to be stored both before and after his death, and an order that V may sign the relevant consents in accordance with the provisions of sub-paragraph 1(2) of Schedule 3 to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 (“The 1990 Act”). Schedule 3 of the 1990 Act deals with the use or storage of gametes, as does Section 4(1) of the 1990 Act; both stress the importance of consent in order that this activity be effectively regulated. X was potentially to be assessed as brain dead within 24 hours of the hearing. Citing Parrillo v. Italy (Application no. 46470/11) the Court held that the ability to give consent in regards to gametes or embryos constitutes a facet of private life. The Court relied upon K v LBX and others EWCA Civ 79 in establishing that for an interference with X’s Article 8 rights to be lawful, it must be necessary and proportionate to achieve a legitimate aim. Having considered all the circumstances, and applying section 4 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, the Court held that it would not be in X’s best interests to make the declarations sought. The Court was not persuaded that the significant interference with X’s Article 8 rights would be necessary or proportionate.
On 18 November, judgement was handed down in AG (A Child), Re  EWCA Civ 1505. The Court dismissed an appeal against the decision of the Divisional Court to refuse to make a declaration of incompatibility between certain provisions of the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964 (DPA) and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 (VCDR) with Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR). The key issue in the appeal was whether the Divisional Court was right to decide that neither Article 3 nor ECtHR jurisprudence required the UK to breach the VCDR. The Appellant, AG, and her 5 siblings were subjected to abuse by both their parents. Their father was an accredited diplomat at the time and thus had immunity from the criminal, civil and administrative jurisdiction of the receiving state under DPA and the VCDR. Barnet, the London Borough where the family lived, tried to intervene on the children’s behalf, and supported AG in the appeal. The Appellant contended, referencing Z v United Kingdom (Application no. 29392/95), that Article 3 includes a systems duty on the state to take effective measures to prevent private acts of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The Court were unpersuaded by this. Relying upon Lord Reed’s judgement in R (AB) v Secretary of State for Justice AC 487, the Court held that they could not be confident that the ECtHR would regard the systems duty in Article 3 as overriding the long-established international law principles enshrined in the VCDR and it was not open to the court to declare Article 3 and the VCDR incompatible.
A woman living with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (“ASD”), absence epilepsy and learning difficulties succeeded in a claim for judicial review against the London Borough of Croydon after a deputy High Court judge ruled that the council had failed to meet her needs contrary to the requirements of the Care Act 2014. The claim in P, R (On the Application Of) v London Borough of Croydon EWHC 2886 (Admin) contended that the council’s decision to fund 35 hours per week of support was unlawful as it failed to meet her needs, and succeeded on three of four grounds.In relation to Ground 1, the Judge observed that it was arguably unlawful for the Defendant to have set a level of required care in an assessment, and then to have provided a Care and Support Plan making assumptions that the required care could be provided by her parents. Grounds 3 and 4 both concerned a failure to comply with The Care and Support Statutory Guidance. The Court held, referring to the standard of proof established in R (Cava Bien Ltd) v Milton Keynes Council EWHC 3003, that the Defendant’s apparent failure to asses the level of care which could and would be provided by the Claimant’s parents did make a substantial difference to the outcome of the Claimant’s care assessment. The Court ordered the quashing order of the Defendant’s February 2022 decision to provide or fund 35 hours of support per week, and the Defendant’s Care and Support Plan dated 14 February 2022. With reference to R (CP) v North East Lincolnshire Council EWCA Civ 1614, the Court maintained that it was not unconcerned with “historic” breaches and the Claimant was entitled to declaratory relief on this aspect of Ground 1.
Airport expansion has taken a long and winding road, not least at Heathrow. But the proponents of the 3rd runway at Heathrow would have been heartened by the Secretary of State’s decision in June 2018 to set out a policy which preferred Heathrow over Gatwick and which was designed to steer planning processes thereafter in support of the new runway.
It is this decision which has just been declared unlawful by the Court of Appeal.
I am afraid this is where the planning jargon starts and the acronyms proliferate. The challenged decision was an Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS). Under planning legislation, an ANPS “sets the fundamental framework within which further decisions will be taken,” as the CA put it in . Those further decisions include the grant of permission for the particular project, done through the Development Consent Order (DCO) process. But you cannot challenge that fundamental framework later in the DCO process; you cannot say later, for instance, that expansion is not necessary at all, or there is a better alternative, say, Gatwick, if the ANPS has decided otherwise.
The October 2014 Conservative Party proposals promised to:
End the ability of the European Court of Human Rights to force the UK to change the law. Every judgement that UK law is incompatible with the Convention will be treated as advisory and we will introduce a new Parliamentary procedure to formally consider the judgement.
In the event that we are unable to reach that agreement, the UK would be left with no alternative but to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights, at the point at which our Bill comes into effect.” (see proposals here )
The Conservative Party’s manifesto included a much shorter summary of the proposals without the specific details about the relationship with the ECtHR of the Council of Europe and the Queen’s Speech on 27th May promised that there would be a consultation exercise (see summary here) Continue reading →
The Queen’s speech suggests a slowing of the Government’s plans to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights. But recent comments from the Scottish Human Rights Commissioner suggest the Conservatives may be considering removal of HRA protections in relation to English and reserved UK-wide matters only, leaving the Human Rights Act in place in the other devolved areas of the UK.
by David Scott
Much ink has been spilled over the Government’s proposals. This article will take a narrow look at Scotland’s relationship with the Human Rights Act, and how devolution may be a future thorn in the Government’s side.
But wait! I thought the Human Rights Act was enshrined in the Scotland Act. Doesn’t that protect the Human Rights Act in Scotland?
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.