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.
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 →
On 3 October 2019 the European Court of Human Rights dismissed an application by former NDP leader Udo Pastörs that his criminal conviction in Germany for making a “qualified Auschwitz denial” in a parliamentary speech infringed his right to freedom of speech under Article 10 ECHR. The Court held that, although interferences over statements made in parliament must be closely scrutinised, they deserve little, if any, protection if their content is at odds with the democratic values of the ECHR system.
…..the graphic opening words of today’s decision by the Supreme Court in a defamation case. The next words are equally clear and arresting: ” What would those words convey to the “ordinary reasonable reader” of a Facebook Post?”
The context was a recently ended unhappy marriage between Mr Stocker (the Claimant) and Mrs Stocker (the Defendant), and a series of posts arising out of a Status Update by a Mrs Bligh (Mr Stocker’s new partner) in December 2015. Mrs Stocker and Mrs Bligh commented on each other’s posts for the next 2 hours 18 minutes. Mrs Stocker did not mince her words: “I hear you have been together 2 years? If so u might like to ask him who he was in bed with the last time he was arrested.”
This was quickly followed by “wouldn’t bring it up last time I accused him of cheating he spent a night in the cells, tried to strangle me..”. This was a reference to an incident which had happened some 12 years before.
Mr S did not take kindly to this attempt “to blacken [him] in the eyes of his current girlfriend and belittle her”: as the Court of Appeal put it.
He sued. He won before the judge, and before the Court of Appeal.
This is the most recent in the long series of legal steps touching on the violent career of Ben Butler, recently convicted of the murder of his daughter, Ellie.
Butler was convicted for Grievous Bodily Harm, and then cleared on appeal. Care proceedings were commenced at the end of which Ellie was ordered to be returned to her parents by Hogg J in October 2012. A year later, on 28 October 2013, Ellie was found dead.
C, the subject of this appeal, is Ellie’s younger sister. In June 2014, Eleanor King J, in the family courts, found that Butler had caused Ellie’s death, Ellie’s mother (Jennie Gray) had failed to protect her from Butler, and C had been the victim of physical and emotional abuse. This judgment had been the subject of reporting restrictions.
Immediately after Butler’s conviction in June 2016, media organisations applied for the release of Eleanor King J’s judgment to Pauffley J in the family court. Pauffley J dismissed this application. Her decision was roundly reversed in this decision of the Court of Appeal.
The human rights clash is the familiar one of freedom of expression under Article 10 versus the right to a fair trial under Article 6 ECHR.
I and Diarmuid Laffan are giving a breakfast briefing this Wednesday 25 May from 8:30am to 9:30am on the aftermath in R v Jogee, the Supreme Court case on the law of joint enterprise in which we both acted as juniors.
The briefing is aimed at solicitors. We have a very few spaces left – if you would like to attend please firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible.
The briefing will:
Explain key parts of the judgment, including the human rights arguments
Discuss how the case is likely to affect future cases and out of time appeals
1 Crown Office Row’s public law breakfast briefings are informal discussions of topical areas of public law. The briefings are short and to the point and discussion and questions are encouraged. The briefing will be chaired by 1 Crown Office Row’s Amy Mannion.
Macklin v Her Majesty’s Advocate  UKSC 77, 16th December 2015 – read judgment
The Supreme Court has unanimously dismissed an appeal against a decision of Scotland’s High Court of Justiciary (available here) in which it refused to overturn a criminal conviction on the basis that the non-disclosure of evidence breached the appellant’s right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
I have blogged before on the Pandora’s box of ethical problems and dilemmas emerging out of our increasing understanding of genetic disorders (see here, here and here), and here is a case that encompasses some of the most difficult of them. Continue reading →
X & Anor v Z (Children) & Anor  EWCA Civ 34 – read judgment
The Court of Appeal has ruled that it would not be lawful for DNA originally collected by the police to be used by a local authority for the purposes of a paternity test.
Factual and legal background
X’s wife had been found murdered. The police took DNA from the crime scene. Some of the DNA belonged to X’s wife and some was found to be X’s. X was tried and convicted of his wife’s murder.
X’s wife had young children and they were taken into the care of the local authority. During the care proceedings X asserted that he was the biological father of the children and said he wanted to have contact with them. He refused to take a DNA test to prove his alleged paternity. The local authority asked the police to make the DNA from the crime scene available so that it could be used in a paternity test. The police, with the support of the Home Secretary, refused on the grounds that they did not believe that it would be lawful to do so. Continue reading →
As prefigured on this Blog here, Keehan J has handed down a public Judgment explaining how he used the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court to make novel and far-reaching Orders against ten men.
The inherent jurisdiction is the power vested in the Higher Courts to maintain their authority and prevent their processes being obstructed and abused. Traditionally this has also included the exercise on behalf of the sovereign as parens patriae of particular powers concerning children – most commonly wardship.
Birmingham City Council were addressing a real and significant issue. This had been highlighted in Rotherham. The gold standard response is to secure criminal convictions as occurred in Bristol. However, in some instances, the evidence will not secure jury convictions and hence the search is on for alternatives.
Islamic Investment Co v. Symphony Gems & Mehta, 19 November 2014, Hamblen J – judgment here
Hamblen J observed that “the facts…are so extraordinary that they could have come from one of A.P. Herbert’s “Misleading Cases”. Yes indeed. A solicitor decided to make up three years of litigation, writing some fake judgments, pretending to instruct barristers, and churning out fictitious correspondence.
Why? It is not clear from the judgment, though one or two clues are given.
The fraud surfaced in a long-running dispute between a claimant finance company seeking repayment of a loan, and the first defendant, diamond traders, and the second and third defendant guarantors. The defendants now owe the claimant $14m. The defendants do not want to pay $14m, and have taken every point in resisting the claimant’s attempts to secure its money – so much so that in October 2010 David Steel J decided that the second defendant, Mr Rajesh Mehta go to prison for his refusal to explain where his assets were, by activating a previously suspended committal order.
The current application was Mr Mehta’s application to set aside all adverse court orders. His reasons – my solicitor had acted against me, and was deliberately trying to prejudice me in my affairs in making up all this litigation.
The news last week was that the Foreign Secretary has proposed a revival of a fourteenth century statute in order to prosecute British jihadists who travel to Iraq or Syria to fight. Cries of foul are coming from the usual quarters, and there’s even a protest that the Strasbourg Court would object, which, given the current controversy surrounding that tribunal, may be a good reason in itself for such a move.
In the current froth over the Convention versus “home grown” human rights, there is much talk of the Magna Carta. So may be of interest to some that in the opinion of one of the greatest legal scholars in history, Edward Coke, the Statute of Treason had a legal importance second only to that of the “Great Charter of the Liberties of England”, piloted by feudal barons to limit King John’s power in 1215.
Politics aside, how would this work? On the face of it, a law which has been on the statute books for centuries, and is found to be applicable to a current state of affairs, is an equum donatum whose dental health should not be examined too closely. Although the last person to be convicted under the 1351 Treason Act – the Nazi propagandist William Joyce (otherwise known as Lord Haw Haw)- was hanged, now any British citizen convicted of the offence could be given a life sentence. Continue reading →
DSD and NVB v The Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis  EWHC 2493 (QB), Green J – read judgment
This is an important summary of the principles applicable to HR damages, particularly in circumstances where there have been other payments already made arguably in respect of the acts in question. So it should be first port of call if you have an HR damages problem, not least because it gathers all the learning together.
Green J decided in March 2014 that the police had a duty to conduct investigations into particularly severe violent acts in timely and efficient manner, and that there had been systemic failings by the police in investigating a large number of rapes and sexual assaults perpetrated by the so-called “black cab rapist”, one John Worboys. This amounted to a breach of the of the victims’ rights under Article 3 of the ECHR. See Rosalind English’s post on the liability judgment here
R (On the application of T and another) (Respondents) v Secretary of State for the Home Department and another (Appellants) – read judgment
The Supreme Court has unanimously declared that government rules regarding the disclosure of spent convictions are unlawful and incompatible with Article 8 of the Convention.
One of these conjoined appeals involved T, who was prevented from employment involving contact with children when a police caution was disclose in respect of the theft of two bicycles when the respondent was eleven years old (see my previous post on the Court of Appeal judgment in T). In JB, the police issued a caution to a 41 year-old woman in 2001 when she was caught shoplifting (a packet of false fingernails). In 2009 she completed a training course for employment in the care sector. She was required to obtain an “enhanced criminal record certificate” or ECRC, which disclosed the caution. The training organisation told JB that it felt unable to put her forward for employment in the care sector. Continue reading →
The Court of Appeal has published its decision in Guardian News Media v AB and CD. It is not a judgment, the Court says. Judgments – plural – will be given “in due course.” Still, the 24 paragraph decision contains the order and explanation of the order, and gives an indication of some of the reasons that will follow.
Is this a good decision? It is better than it might have been, but there are still deeply worrying problems.
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.