Parrillo v Italy (application no. 46470/11) Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights,  ECHR 755 (27 August 2015) – read judgment
The Grand Chamber of the Strasbourg Court has ruled that the Italian ban on the donation of embryos obtained by IVF procedures to scientific research was within Italy’s margin of appreciation and therefore not in breach of the applicant’s right of private life and autonomy, even though she was willing to give the embryos to scientific research, since she no longer wanted to proceed with pregnancy after her partner was killed covering the war in Iraq. By donating these cryopreserved embryos to research she would, she argued, make an important contribution to research into medical therapies and cures.
A strong dissent to the majority judgment is worth pointing up at the outset. The Hungarian judge, Andras Sajó, found Italy’s general ban quite out of order. Not only did it disregard the applicant’s right to self-determination with respect to an important private decision, it did so in an absolute and unforeseeable manner.
The law contains no transitional rules which would have enabled the proper authority to take into consideration the specific situation of the applicant, whose embryos obtained from the IVF treatment were placed in cryopreservation in 2002 and whose husband passed away in 2003, three months before the law entered into force.
A Local Authority v SY  EWHC 3485 COP (12 November 2013] – read judgment
A judge in the Court of Protection has ruled that a man who had “exploited and took advantage” of a young woman for the purpose of seeking to bolster his immigration appeal had engaged in an invalid marriage ceremony. The man, said Keehan J, had
“deliberately targeted” the respondent because of her learning difficulties and her vulnerability.
The courts would not tolerate such “gross exploitation.”
This was an application by a local authority in the Court of Protection in respect of the capacity of the respondent, SY, to litigate and to make decisions in relation to her life. Continue reading →
The UK government has submitted its argument in the case which may settle whether Members of Scottish Parliament could legislate for a vote on Scottish independence without Westminster’s backing. The submission from the Advocate General precedes a full hearing on 11 and 12 October when oral arguments will be heard. The Supreme Court will rule on whether Holyrood alone has the power to hold an independence vote, which First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wants to hold on 19 October 2023. Last month, the Scottish government published its own case, arguing the referendum is ‘advisory’ and would have no legal effect on the union.
The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee published a report on 4 August recommending the government should improve legal protections for unmarried couples by introducing an opt-out cohabitation scheme proposed by the Law Commission in 2007. The scheme aims to protect eligible cohabitants who are economically vulnerable, preserve individual autonomy, maintain a distinction with marriage and civil partnership, and provide certainty about who qualifies as a cohabitant. The committee said the government should commit to publishing draft legislation for scrutiny in the 2023-24 parliamentary session.
On 10 August, Suella Braverman delivered a speech for the Policy Exchange’s Judicial Power Project stressing the need for the government to better clarify the scope of fundamental rights. She called to curb the influence of the European Court of Human Rights, citing the ‘intensive standard of proportionality under the Human Rights Act’. The speech dealt with issues including the Equality Act, Single Sex Spaces- specifically in schools- convention rights and illegal migration.
On the face of it, the issue decided by the Tribunal (General Regulatory Chamber, Charity) on 6 July 2023 was a narrow one: whether Mermaids was entitled to challenge the Charity Commission’s decision to register the LGB Alliance as a charity. But its ruling – that Mermaids could not – was highly significant as a robust affirmation of the value of debate in a democratic society.
Montgomery v. Lanarkshire Health Board  UKSC 11, 11 March 2015 – read judgments here
James Badenoch QC of 1COR was for the mother in this case. He played no part in the writing of this post.
An important new decision from a 7-Justice Supreme Court on informed consent in medical cases.
In the mid-1980s a majority of the House of Lords in Sidawaydecided that it was on the whole a matter for doctors to decide how much to tell patients about the risks of treatment, and that therefore you could not sue your doctor in negligence for failing to inform you of a risk if other reasonable doctors would not have informed you of the risk. Thus the principle that the standard of medical care is to be determined by medical evidence (which all lawyers will know as the Bolam principle) was extended to the quality of information to be provided to a patient about a given treatment.
The Supreme Court, reversing the judgments at first instance and on appeal, has now unequivocally said that Sidaway should not be followed.
Rocknroll v News Group Newspapers Ltd  EWHC 24 (Ch) – Read judgment
Earlier this month, Rocknroll came to the Chancery Division. Mr Justice Briggs set out his reasons yesterday for granting Kate Winslet’s new husband an interim injunction prohibiting a national newspaperfrom printing semi-naked photographs of him taken at a party in July 2010 and later posted on Facebook.
In Edward Rocknroll v. News Group Newspapers Ltd, the Judge decided that the Claimant was likely to succeed at a full trial in establishing that his right to respect for his family life (protected by article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights) and his copyright over the photographs should prevail over The Sun’s right to freedom of expression (protected by article 10 ECHR). As such, the photographs cannot be published nor their contents described pending a full trial.
Whilst it was not disputed that Article 14 was engaged both through A1P1 and Article 8, Sir. Patrick Elias did not find that the claimants were in a significantly different situation to that of lone parents with older children such as to constitute indirect discrimination under the Thlimmenos principle . He concluded:
the question is ultimately a narrow one. Are the circumstances of single parents with children under two sufficiently different from other lone parents as to require an exception to be made to the imposition of the benefit cap?… I do not accept that the problems are sufficiently proportionately disabling to these lone parents to make it unjust not to treat them differently.
At first sight, Article 2 – the ‘right to life’ – seems to be a prohibition on extra-judicial executions and state-sponsored death squads. It does, of course have a role to play in that respect (and one that is not limited to those countries whose signature of the Convention is viewed with scepticism from Western Europe).
But through a combination of logic, inventive legal argument and what can either be characterised as the incremental development of a new area of law, or the expansionist tendencies of Strasbourg judges, the scope of Article 2 has broadened significantly, and can be cited in cases concerning prison administration and coronial procedural law.
In Rabone, the Supreme Court extended the obligations that the Article places on the state and its servants still further, beyond even the existing decisions from Strasbourg. They held that – in the specific circumstances of this tragic case – an NHS Trust had violated the positive duty that it had, under Article 2, to protect a voluntary patient from the risk of suicide.
Updated | The Coalition Government’s Programme for Government, launched on 20th May 2010, made a number of commitments relating to information law, including issues about privacy and data protection. It also stated that the Government would introduce a Freedom Bill.
On Friday last week (11th February) the Protection of Freedoms Bill was duly published, with lengthy explanatory notes stating that it implemented 12 specific commitments in the Programme for Government.
McCord, Re Judicial Review  NIQB 85 (28 October 2016) – read judgment
A challenge to the legality of the UK’s departure proceedings from the EU has been rejected by the High Court in Northern Ireland. In a judgment which will be of considerable interest to the government defending a similar challenge in England, Maguire J concluded that the UK government does not require parliamentary approval to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty. This is, par excellence, an area for the exercise of the government’s treaty making powers under the Royal Prerogative.
This ruling was made in response to two separate challenges. One was brought by a group of politicians, including members of the Northern Ireland assembly, the other by Raymond McCord, a civil rights campaigner whose son was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries in 1997. They argued that the 1997 peace deal (“the Good Friday Agreement”) gave Northern Ireland sovereignty over its constitutional future and therefore a veto over leaving the EU. Like the English challengers, they also argued that Article 50 could only be invoked after a vote in Parliament.
At centre stage in the English case is the means by which Article 50 TEU is to be triggered and the question of the displacement of prerogative executive power by statute. While this issue was also raised in the challenge before the Northern Ireland court, Maguire J also had before him a range of specifically Northern Irish constitutional provisions which were said to have a similar impact on the means of triggering Article 50. To avoid duplication of the central issues which the English court will deal with, this judgment concerned itself with the impact of Northern Ireland constitutional provisions in respect of notice under Article 50.
However, the judge had some clear views on the role of prerogative powers in the Brexit procedure, which, whilst respecting the outcome of the English proceedings, he did not hesitate to set out. Continue reading →
The Labour MP Harriet Harman has proposed a change in the law that would prevent rape complainants from being cross-examined in court about their sexual history.
Harman claims that the introduction of a complainant’s sexual history as evidence has “no evidential value.” Describing the practice as “outdated”, Harman said that “it’s based on the old notion that there were two sorts of women – those who were ‘easy’ and those who were virtuous – and if you were easy, you would have sex with anybody, because you were that sort of woman.”
Fighting in Gaza paused this weekend, as Hamas and Israel agreed to a temporary, four-day reprieve. Twenty-six hostages have been released by Hamas and 39 Palestinian detainees held in pre-trial detention have been allowed to return to the West Bank. Under the terms of the agreement negotiated by Qatar, a total of 50 Israeli hostages and 150 Palestinian detainees are meant to be exchanged between the parties. The temporary pause in fighting has also allowed much-needed humanitarian assistance and fuel to reach the Gaza strip.
The Covid-19 Inquiry heard evidence this week from Sir Patrick Vallance (former Government Chief Scientific Adviser), Professor Sir Chris Whitty (Chief Medical Officer for England) and Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam (former Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England). In his statement, Sir Patrick Vallance said the Government’s scientific advisers were not consulted on Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme and ‘didn’t see it before it was announced.’ This undermines written comments made by Rishi Sunak to the Inquiry, where he said that no one raised concerns with him about the policy. Meanwhile, Sir Chris Whitty said in March 2020, ministers mistakenly understood ‘herd immunity’ to be a government policy objective, and he tried to stop the idea from being discussed publicly because herd immunity would have been ‘inconceivable.’ The inquiry will hear further evidence this coming week.
Meanwhile, Ian Fry, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change, has recently condemned the jail sentences for two Just Stop Oil protesters who scaled a bridge on the Dartford Crossing last October. The activists were given two and three year prison sentences for causing a public nuisance, and were refused permission to appeal to the Supreme Court on the basis that their sentences met the ‘legitimate aim’ of deterring others from similar offending. Ian Fry raised concerns about the length of the activist’s sentences, and the political flow-on effect the sentences could have on activists expressing concerns about the environmental crisis ‘and the impacts of climate change on human rights and on future generations’. Fry said the new Public Order Act was a ‘direct attack on the right to the freedom of peaceful assembly.’ There has not been any response from the Government.
In other news
Meanwhile, the National Women’s Prisons Health and Social Care Review was published this week. Established in 2021, the Review is intended to improve health and social care outcomes for women in prison and upon their release. Conducting a review of the 12 women’s prisons in England, the Review found healthcare across women’s prisons to be ‘inconsistent’ and not always ‘gender specific’ or sensitive to women with protected characteristics. It suggests ‘fabric improvements’ across the women’s estate should be made.
Finally, the independent review into Lancashire Police’s handling of Nicola Bulley’s death was also released this week. Bulley went missing in January, and was found three weeks after her disappearance in the River Wyre. Amongst other findings, the report says Lancashire Police should have been better prepared to communicate sensitive medical information about Bulley in a more ‘carefully constructed manner’.
In the Courts
The “Bille and Ogale Group Litigation”. Mrs Justice May handed down the latest judgement in the ongoing litigation between communities and individuals of the Niger Delta, and the oil giant, Shell. The case concerns oil contamination affecting two regions of the Niger Delta – the Bille and Ogale regions. In her judgement, Mrs Justice May held the claimants could bring new causes of action under the African Charter and Nigerian Constitution, which recognise ‘as a fundamental right the right to a clean and healthy environment’. There is no limitation period for human rights claims brought under the Nigerian Constitutional framework. Mrs Justice May also refused the Defendant’s application to strike out the claims. The case continues.
In Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (“IWGB”) v Central Arbitration Committee (“CAC”) and another  UKSC 43the Supreme Court held that Deliveroo drivers are not in an employed relationship for the purposes of Article 11 ECHR (freedom of assembly and association). The case concerned Deliveroo riders in London who became members of the IWGB and sought formal recognition of the Union by Deliveroo for collective bargaining on behalf of Deliveroo drivers in Camden and Kentish Town. The Supreme Court stated that the right to form a trade union arises in the context of an employment relationship. Applying this to the facts of the case, the CAC rightly found there was no employment relationship between Deliveroo and its riders, as the riders can appoint a substitute to take their job, can work or not as convenient to them, and are not prevented from working for Deliveroo’s competitors. Thus, in this case, the riders are unable to rely on the trade union rights conferred by Article 11. The appeal was dismissed.
The Queen on the Application of Medical Justice v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 1710 – read judgment
People who make unsuccessful claims to enter or remain in the United Kingdom cannot be removed without being given sufficient time for a lawyer to prepare a proper challenge to their claim. The government has failed in its appeal against the Administrative Court’s finding that government policy unlawfully provided for expedited removal procedures in certain pressing circumstances – for example where there was a risk that the person concerned, if given advanced notification of his removal, might attempt to frustrate those measures of removal. The policy was quashed because it interfered with people’s right of access to a lawyer.
The Home Secretary is responsible for granting or refusing leave to remain in the United Kingdom for those who do not have the right of abode in this country in accordance with the Immigration Rules. It is an important aspect of maintaining immigration control that a credible enforcement process is in force and that those with no right to remain in the United Kingdom are removed from the jurisdiction while not infringing the accepted rights of those about to be removed. Continue reading →
King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust v C and another  EWCOP 80 read judgment
A woman who suffered kidney failure as a result of a suicide attempt has been allowed to refuse continuing dialysis. The Court of Protection rejected the hospital’s argument that such refusal disclosed a state of mind that rendered her incapable under the Mental Capacity Act. An adult patient who suffers from no mental incapacity has an absolute right to choose whether to consent to medical treatment. Continuation of such treatment is unlawful, even if the refusal seems irrational to others. As the judge said, this rule
reflects the value that society places on personal autonomy in matters of medical treatment and the very long established right of the patient to choose to accept or refuse medical treatment from his or her doctor (voluntas aegroti suprema lex). Over his or her own body and mind, the individual is sovereign (John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859).
The Trust’s further application to be allowed to restrain C “physically or chemically” from leaving the hospital where she was receiving the dialysis was therefore rejected.
The coverage of this case reflects a certain level of social disapproval. “Right to die for socialite scared of growing old” – “Socialite allowed to die was terrified of being poor” run the headlines. Behind them lurks an essentially religious consensus that people should not be allowed to opt out of senescence and its associated poverty and suffering, such matters being for God alone. There is also a measure of censoriousness behind the details brought to court regarding C’s attitude to motherhood and men, the news that she had breast cancer, her love of “living the high life” and her dread of growing old “in a council house”. Continue reading →
Yesterday morning, in a speech to civic organisations in Glasgow, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned that “no responsible government” would consider repeal of the Human Rights Act 1998 due to the numerous negative consequences, both in the domestic and international sphere, that would result from such a move – (see a transcript of the speech here).
by Fraser Simpson
Proposals for Repeal of the Human Rights Act
It has been a longstanding Tory policy to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights. Such a policy is motivated by discontent over a handful of decisions from the European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”) that have allegedly “undermine[d] the role of UK courts in deciding on human rights issues”. In October 2014, the then Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced Tory proposals to treat Strasbourg judgments as “advisory” – irrespective of the potential incoherence between treating judgments in such a way and the UK’s obligations under Article 46, ECHR (see John Wadham’s post here). However, the 2015 Tory manifesto included less specific promises to “scrap the Human Rights Act” in order to “break the formal link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights”. Little substantive information has been provided on the development of these plans, apart from an intention, included in the Queen’s speech, to conduct consultations and publish proposals this autumn. Continue reading →
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