Latest twist on standard of review in Aarhus cases

_88207153_treeR (o.t.a. Dilner) v. Sheffield City Council [2016] EWHC 945 (Admin), Gilbart J, 27 April 2016, read judgment

A quick note on the latest Aarhus Convention point to come before the domestic courts.

In November 2015, I posted on the decision by Ouseley J in McMorn here that a gamekeeper’s challenge fell within the scope of Aarhus, and that as a result there should be a more intense scrutiny of the underlying merits of the claim than would typically be allowed under domestic public law principles.

The current case bears on the standard of review point. Mr Dilner and other environmental campaigners challenged the tree-felling policies of Sheffield City Council, and one of his arguments was that tree-felling required an environmental assessment under the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive. This environmental claim fell within the protections conferred by the Aarhus Convention, and hence, it was said, required such an intense scrutiny. Mr Dilner relied upon Ouseley J’s reasoning.

Gilbart J robustly rejected the argument, and did not follow Ouseley J’s ruling.

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Local authorities, Article 5 and the rehabilitation of prisoners

https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/c624b9fa79a40052c891aa39f280bbb3ab5e2511/211_0_2485_1491/master/2485.jpg?w=620&q=85&auto=format&sharp=10&s=d187687d2fb2d6635e099fbafe85a132

Photo credit: Guardian

Ansari, Re Judicial Review, [2015] CSOH 168 – read judgment.

The Outer House of the Court of Session has held that the duty imposed under Article 5, ECHR to afford prisoners a reasonable opportunity to rehabilitate themselves, recognised by the Supreme Court in R (on the application Haney and Others) v. The Secretary of State for Justice, [2014] UKSC 66, does not extend to local authorities.

Background

The petitioner, Yousef Ansari, is currently serving a sentence of life imprisonment. The punitive part of his sentence, set at nine years, expired in March 2005. In his petition for judicial review, Mr Ansari claimed that the local authority, Aberdeen City Council, and the Scottish Government, had failed to afford him a reasonable opportunity to rehabilitate himself. A duty to offer opportunities for rehabilitation had been previously recognised as implicit in the scheme of Article 5 by the Supreme Court in Haney (see previous UKHRB post here). The hearing before Lord Glennie was restricted to the question whether the council owed such a duty.

Mr Ansari’s case

The starting point for the petitioner was the duty recognised in the Supreme Court decision in Haney. He argued that the duty required both the provision of opportunities for rehabilitation, which was the responsibility of the Scottish Ministers, and the provision of opportunities for the prisoner to demonstrate that they no longer posed an unacceptable risk to the public. This latter aspect of the Haney duty required the active cooperation of the local authority. Mr Ansari argued that Aberdeen City Council had failed to satisfy this duty. Whilst in the “Open Estate”, he was provided with the opportunity to return to the community – an important step in proving he no longer posed a threat. However, during this reintegration he was placed under extensive supervision by the local authority which, in his submission, undermined his ability to demonstrate he posed a reduced risk to the public.

Additionally, his ability to be temporarily released into the community was contingent upon the ability to provide the local authority with an appropriate “home leave” address. Mr Ansari claimed that during the vetting process the local authority had incorrectly considered his brother’s residence as inappropriate. Further, if no other address had been suitable, the local authority had a duty to provide him with accommodation under Part II, Housing (Scotland) Act 1987. On his case, these shortcomings had prevented Mr Ansari from temporarily returning to the community and therefore denied him the opportunity to demonstrate that he posed a reduced risk to the public.

In the alternative, Mr Ansari submitted that the duty would, in any event, extend to the local authority. The duty was imposed upon the “state” and, by virtue of s.6, Human Rights Act 1998, this would extend to public bodies such as Aberdeen City Council. As a result, they were bound by the requirements of Article 5, which included the duty recognised in Haney.

Imposing the Haney duty on the local authority, from the petitioner’s perspective, was a natural conclusion. Whilst the functions of the Scottish Ministers and the local authority differed, they both played an important role in the rehabilitation of Mr Ansari. A number of functions of the local authority, especially in the process relating to preparation for release, could not be carried out by the Scottish Ministers acting through the Scottish Prison Service. Extending the duty to provide reasonable opportunities for rehabilitation to the local authority would ensure that the Haney duty was “practical and effective” due to the important “real and practical sense” in which the local authority was involved in Mr Ansari’s rehabilitation.

The City Council’s submissions

The first respondent submitted that they did not owe the petitioner any duty under Article 5 as interpreted in Haney. The duty to provide opportunities for rehabilitation is not a freestanding duty, but instead stems from the decision of the state to detain an individual following conviction by a competent court. In James, Wells, and Lee v. the United Kingdom, [2012] ECHR 1706, the European Court of Human Rights recognised that part of the purpose of an indeterminate sentence was to rehabilitate the prisoner. Consequently, the Supreme Court in Haney recognised the need to provide reasonable opportunities to rehabilitate in the event that the state attempts to justify continued detention under Article 5(1)(a). The first respondent submitted that as they had no power to detain the prisoner, or order his release, it would be inappropriate to impose such a duty upon them.

Decision

Lord Glennie held that the duty recognised in Haney could not be extended to Aberdeen City Council. In line with submissions made by counsel for the first respondent, Lord Glennie held that the Haney duty is only imposed on states in the event that they have detained a prisoner and rely upon Article 5(1)(a) as justification. However, the local authority is in an entirely different position and has no powers to detain or release the prisoner. The first respondent was not required to justify the detention of the prisoner and, therefore, there was no reason to impose the Haney duty upon them.

In the petitioner’s submissions, reference was made to Lord Glennie’s decision in Reid, Re Judicial Review, [2015] CSOH 84 (read previous UKHRB post here). In Reid, Lord Glennie held that as part of the duty recognised in Haney, the Scottish Ministers had a duty to take “reasonable steps to procure” the cooperation of the local authority during the rehabilitation process (see paragraph 30). Lord Glennie clarified that in providing various services to the Scottish Ministers that aid the rehabilitation process, the local authority could only be considered to owe a duty to the Scottish Ministers, not the individual prisoner. As a result, Reid provided no support for the submission that the Haney duty should be extended to the local authority.

Lord Glennie also noted that certain statutes may impose specific duties upon a local authority. For example, s.27, Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 (detailing the functions relating to the supervision and care of those released from prison) and the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 outlined relevant functions and duties of the local authority. However, these did not assist the argument that the general Haney duty arising from the operation of Article 5 could extend to the local authority. These duties existed independently from any duty to afford opportunities for rehabilitation. Any failures relating to these duties could be challenged by Mr Ansari in separate proceedings.

Gamekeeper’s environmental Aarhus claim to shoot buzzards?

Buteo_buteo_-Netherlands-8McMorn (R, on the application of) v Natural England [2015] EWHC 3297 (Admin) – read judgment

An interesting point arose in this judicial review (for which see Rosalind English’s post here). Could the claimant could get the benefit of an order that any costs he might have had to pay were capped at £5,000? The original judge, Thirlwall J, when granting permission, had refused this costs protection. Ouseley J granted it, though, because the claimant won, the order is academic (short of a successful appeal by the defendant). 

This kind of costs protection only applies when the claim is an environmental claim covered by the Aarhus Convention: see a whole list of posts at the end of this one, including the true bluffer’s guide here. The UK has been dragged kicking and screaming into compliance with the Aarhus costs requirements, that environmental challenges not be “prohibitively expensive”, thanks to a combination of the Convention’s own enforcement body and the EU Court in Luxembourg.

But the domestic courts have had some difficulty in deciding what is or is not comes within an environmental challenge.

As we will see, the judge also thought that an Aarhus claim requires a more intensive review of the substantive decision than might have been applied had the claim been a typical domestic challenge on grounds of irrationality. I deal with that point first.

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Buzzards should not be protected any more than herring gulls and cormorants: High Court

buzzard06McMorn (R, on the application of) v Natural England [2015] EWHC 3297 (Admin) – read judgment

Public opinion regarding raptors and pheasant shoots should not influence the authorisation of buzzard control, the Administrative Court has ruled. Any derogations to the EU protection of wild birds should apply equally across wild avian species, irrespective of their popularity.

This was a gamekeeper’s challenge to the refusal by the defendant statutory body (Natural England) to grant him a licence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to kill buzzards which he said were destroying such high numbers of game birds as to render his shoot unviable.

At the heart of the claimant’s challenge was his contention that NE treated raptors differently from other wild birds, making it far harder, well-nigh if not quite impossible, for anyone to meet the statutory conditions for the issue of a licence.
He maintained the defendant treated these licence applications differently because of the public controversy which the grant of a licence for the killing of buzzards would engender. This was because of perceived adverse public opinion about the protection of a pheasant shoot. Hence, the decision was based on unjustified inconsistencies in NE’s treatment of raptor and other birds equally protected under the law.  Continue reading

Challenge to prosecution policy on assisted suicide in Scotland fails – Fraser Simpson

Holyrood-GettyRoss, Re Judicial Review, [2015] CSOH 123 – read judgment

The Outer of House of the Court of Session has refused an individual’s request for clarification of the prosecution policy relating to assisted suicide in Scotland.

Factual Background

The Petitioner, Mr Ross, suffers from Parkinson’s disease and currently resides in a care home due to his dependence on others. Although not wishing to currently end his life, Mr Ross anticipates that in the future he will wish to do so and will require assistance.

In July 2014, the Petitioner requested from the Lord Advocate – the head of the prosecution service in Scotland – guidance on the prosecution of individuals who assist others to commit suicide. The Lord Advocate replied that such cases would be referred to the Procurator Fiscal – the Scottish public prosecutor – and dealt with under the law of homicide. The Lord Advocate further stated that decisions regarding whether prosecution would be in the public interest would be taken in line with the published Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service Prosecution Code (“COPFS Code”). However, he admitted that it would often be in the public interest to prosecute such serious crimes as homicide. Continue reading

When can the courts rule on the legality of future behaviour?

toad_white_natterjackKent & others v Arun District Council and others [2015] EWHC 2295 – read judgment

Iain O’Donnell of 1COR acted for the Council in this case: he played no part in the writing of this post.

This case concerned the application of the law in relation to future conduct, in particular, the role of the judicial review procedure in determining what precisely is meant by the prohibition on the selling of live animals under the Pet Animals Act 1951.

This is a detailed statutory provision inspired by welfare and conservation concerns. It has a complicated legislative history, and essentially the judge hearing the application was being asked to decide whether certain future activities might be caught by it.

For the record, the statute was introduced to protect the welfare of animals sold as pets. It requires any person keeping a pet shop to be licensed by the local council, which will only license such a business if they are satisfied as to the suitability of the accommodation, nutrition and safety of the animals concerned. Section 2 bans the selling of animals in the street, including on barrows and markets.

Councils are responsible for enforcing the law in this area. Continue reading

Local authorities and judicial review: they should not put their heads completely in the sands

728631_de6cf1deMidcounties Co-Operative Ltd v. Forest of Dean [2015] EWHC 1251 (Admin) 6 May 2015, Singh J, read judgment here

Out of what some may think to be an everyday spat between the Co-Op (existing  supermarket) and an out-of-town supermarket proposer, comes a salutary reminder from Singh J that local authorities cannot behave like private litigants when they are judicially reviewed. Different rules apply.

A little bit of context. Cinderford, like many small towns, has been subject to supermarket wars for some years. Unfortunately, the local planning authority got its reasons for supporting an out-of-town project wrong. And they were successfully challenged on judicial review – once, and then twice, and then, as we shall see, for a third time. And the response on this last occasion to the challenge – we disagree with the challenge, but we won’t appear to dispute it, and will leave it all to the supermarket to whom we gave planning permission to say why we were not unlawful in granting them permission.

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