Public/Private


Adjacent flats: a new installation for Tate Modern?

13 February 2020 by

Fearne and others v Tate Gallery  [2020] EWCA Civ 104, on appeal from: [2019] EWHC 246 (Ch)

The Court of Appeal has just dismissed the actions in nuisance by residents of flats adjacent to the the Tate Modern art gallery on the south bank of the River Thames in central London. (Disclaimer: the author of this post has just moved into an apartment in the area but has no association with the flats or the residents central to this appeal.)

At the outset of this judgment, the Court observed that

the case, and this appeal, raise important issues about the application of the common law cause of action for private nuisance to overlooking from one property to another and the consequent invasion of privacy of those occupying the overlooked property.

The following discussion quotes from the Court’s own press report. References to paragraph numbers are in bold.


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No bans on local authority disinvestment decisions

25 June 2017 by

R (o.t.a. Palestine Solidarity Campaign Ltd and Jacqueline Lewis) v. Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2017] EWHC 1502 (Admin) 22 June 2017, Sir Ross Cranston – read judgment

Many people like to have a say over the investment policies of their pension funds. They may not want investment in fossil fuels, companies with questionable working practices, arms manufacturers, Israel or indeed any company which supports Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip – to choose but a few of people’s current choices. And pension funds, left to their own devices, may wish to adopt one or more of these choices to reflect their pensioners’ views.

Hence the significance of this challenge to some statutory guidance which sought to ban some of those pension decisions but to permit others. The context was local government employees (5 million current or former employees). It arose on that ceaseless battleground of government’s direction/intermeddling in local government affairs.

The key bit of the impugned guidance was that those running local authority pensions must not use their policies to

pursue boycotts, divestment and sanctions…against foreign nations and UK defence industries…other than where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the Government.”;

or

“pursue policies that are contrary to UK foreign policy or UK defence policy”.

The main issue in this challenge was whether these prohibitions went beyond the SoS’s powers under the relevant pension provisions.

No prizes for guessing why the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (in conjunction with War on Want and the Quakers) supported this challenge. The fact that the domestic arms trade got a special unbannability status would provoke many to go to law.

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Copying for private use: to be quashed with prospective or retrospective effect?

19 July 2015 by

fva-630-copyright-infringement-dmca-stock-photo-shutterstock-630wBritish Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors and others, R(on the application of) v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and another [2015] EWHC 1723 (Admin) – read original judgment and [2015] EWHC 2041 (Admin), 17 July 2015 read remedies judgment

On 19 June 2015, Green J ruled that an exception to copyright infringement for private use was unlawful, at common law, because of flaws in the consultation process which had preceded its enactment. See Rosalind English’s post here.

The judge left open for further argument what should be done about this unlawfulness.

The Secretary of State agreed that the offending statutory instrument should be quashed, and that he would re-consider whether a further private copying exception should be introduced.

But the parties disagreed about the date from when it should be quashed. Should it be prospective or retrospective? Or, in the Latin that lawyers still love, ex nunc (from now) or ex tunc (from then)? (Auto-correct so wanted those words to be “ex tune” – which would have been very appropriate, but wrong)

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Copying material for private use: is it legal?

20 June 2015 by

fva-630-copyright-infringement-dmca-stock-photo-shutterstock-630wBritish Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors and others, R(on the application of) v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and another [2015] EWHC 1723 (Admin) – read judgment

An exception to copyright infringement for private use has failed to survive a challenge in the High Court. But this may not be the end of the story. Although he accepted part of the claimants’ contentions, Green J observed that

the Claimants’ argument does not sit well or easily with the very unusual and particular circumstances which have led to the decision to introduce the private use exception in the first place. These are that the advent of digitalisation has led to a market where device sellers and consumers assume they may copy and where rightholders have not sought private law remedies against infringers.[my italics]

It is a particular feature of this case that there is a widespread consensus that the law has signally failed to keep up with market reality and with reasonable consumer expectations and indeed has been brought into disrepute by its condemnation as illegal of activities which are now accepted by consumers as lawful and which in actual fact form the basic commercial premise upon which copying and storage devices are actively sold throughout Europe.

Having upheld a small part of the challenge, Green J will now hear submissions as to what flows from this conclusion and from the judgment generally. In particular he will hear submissions as to whether any issue of law that he had decided should be referred to the Court of Justice and if so as to the question(s) that should be asked.
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Consultation process not unfair after all, says Court of Appeal

12 October 2014 by


Aluminum-Warehouse21United Company Rusal Plc (R, o.t.a of) v. London Metal Exchange Trust  [2014] EWCA 1271 (Civ) – read 
judgment

Deciding whether a given consultation process conducted prior to some administrative decision was or was not sufficiently unfair to warrant  challenge is not an easy task. Three connected problems commonly arise:

(1) did the public body provide adequate information to enable properly informed consultation 

(2) was the consultation at a formative stage of the decision-making process, so it was a real rather than sham process?

(3) did the consultation encompass sufficient alternatives?

In this case, the judge said (see my post here) that consultees were missing important information under (1), and, on the particular facts of the case ,it should have consulted on an option which it had rejected, and so found a breach of (3).

The Court of Appeal disagreed. Both findings were wrong. The consultation process was not unfair.

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Public and private law wrongs are not the same – Court of Appeal

15 April 2014 by

110618346_Vincent_398959c Tchenguiz v. Director of the Serious Fraud Office [2014] EWCA Civ 472, 15 April 2014 – read judgment

This judgment is a neat illustration of how important it is to keep the concepts of public law and private law unlawfulness separate – they do not necessarily have the same legal consequences.

It arose thus. The Tchenguiz brothers are high-profile businessmen, and they did not take kindly to being arrested and bailed on charges of fraud at the behest of the SFO. They sought judicial review of the search and arrest warrants. In due course, the Divisional Court ([2012] EWHC 2254 (Admin)) held that the SFO had made material non-disclosure and factual misrepresentations to the judge which vitiated the grant of the warrants, and the brothers have brought a substantial follow-on claim for damages – £300 million according to another recent judgement here.

So the Tchenguiz brothers have established unlawfulness, but, as we shall see, this does not automatically entitles them to damages.

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Backing just one horse in a consultation process can be unfair

28 March 2014 by


Aluminum-Warehouse21United Company Rusal Plc (R, o.t.a of) v. London Metal Exchange Trust  [2014] EWHC 890 (Admin), Phillips J, 27 March 2014  – read 
judgment

Public law principles allow you to challenge a decision of a public authority if the consultation process preceding it was unfair. Unfairness comes in many shapes and sizes, but the commonest one alleged is that it was not carried out at the formative stage. The authority had already made up enough of its mind so the consultation process ceased to mean anything  – it was just going through the motions.

The law is equally clear that an authority does not have to consult on every conceivable option. Indeed it can just consult on its preferred option. 

But this decision shows that if it does so it has to be wary, because on the particular facts that may be unfair.

Enter our cast, challenger in the form of Rusal (proprietor one Oleg Deripaska), and the defendant, the London Metal Exchange.

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Council acted unlawfully in refusing tenancy

29 January 2014 by

Enterprise centreTrafford v Blackpool Borough Council [2014] EWHC 85 – read judgment

The High Court has held that a local authority had abused its powers by refusing to offer a solicitor a new lease of the claimant’s office premises.

The claimant solicitor was aggrieved by the fact that the stated reason for the defendant’s refusal was that her firm had brought claims against the Council on behalf of clients seeking compensation for injuries alleged to have been caused by the negligence of the Council, predominantly in highways “tripping” type claims.

HHJ Davies held that the Council had exercised its “wide discretion” under Section 123 of the Local Government Act 1912 for an improper purpose and was “fundamentally tainted by illegality” on that basis. The Council’s refusal was both Wednesbury unreasonable and procedurally unfair.

Public versus private

The interesting question central to this case was whether or not a public body, acting under statutory powers in deciding whether or not to renew or terminate a contract, was acting under public law duties, and therefore amenable to judicial review, or whether  the relationship between the claimant and the defendant was one governed exclusively by private law, where judicial review has no part to play .
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The difference between public and private law – on a beach near me

1 November 2013 by

article-2228546-001DDD4300000258-451_634x411More naturism and the law, in the light of Mr Gough’s travails: see my post of yesterday.

For many years, the beautiful beach upon which Ms Paltrow was seen in Shakespeare in Love (my pic) has been a haven for naturists, even on the chilliest of days when the wind whips in from the north-east. However, things have changed this year. Initially, naturism was banned from the beach completely. The ban has now been lifted for the area of sand below the mean high water mark, but remains in place for the sand dunes.

How so?

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Freedom of expression – nakedness in a public place

31 October 2013 by

Stephen_Gough_at_lands_endGough v. Director of Public Prosecution [2013] EWHC 3267 – read judgment

Mr Gough wishes to walk up and down the UK naked. Others do not approve of this, so his progress has been somewhat stop-start. This appeal concerns a brief and inglorious autumnal outing in Halifax. He was released from the local nick at 11.30 am on 25 October 2012,  wearing only walking boots, socks, a hat, a rucksack and a compass on a lanyard around his neck. “He was otherwise naked and his genitalia were on plain view.” He then walked through Halifax town centre for about 15 minutes.

In the words of the judgment, he received a “mixed reaction” from its inhabitants.  At least one female member of the public veered out of his way. Evidence from two women was to the effect that they were “alarmed and distressed” and “disgusted” at seeing him naked. One of the women was with a number of children at least one of whom, 12 years old, she reported as “shocked and disgusted”. The district judge found that it caused one of the women to feel at risk, and, further, based on the evidence, that it caused alarm or distress.

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Guerilla gardening in unlawfully occupied property did not give rise to Article 8 rights

8 July 2013 by

GrowHeathrowMalik v Fassenfelt and others [2013] EWCA Civ 798 – read judgment

A common law rule that the court had no jurisdiction to extend time to a trespasser could no longer stand against the Article 8 requirement that a trespasser be given some time before being required to vacate:

The idea that an Englishman’s home is his castle is firmly embedded in English folklore and it finds its counterpart in the common law of the realm which provides a remedy to enable the owner of the castle to secure the eviction of trespassers from it. But what if the invaders occupy for long enough to establish their home within the keep? Whose castle is it now? Whose home must the law now protect?

This was the question before the Court of Appeal in a challenge to a possession order requiring the removal of squatters from private land.

Although there is now some doubt as to whether the leading authority on landowners’ rights against squatters is still good law, Article 8 still does not entitle a trespasser to stay on the land for ever. At its highest it does no more than give the trespasser an entitlement to more time to arrange his affairs and move out.

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Contractual security vetting by the police: public or private law?

3 August 2012 by

A, R (o.t.a A) v. Chief Constable of B Constabulary [2012] EWCA 2141 (Admin), Kenneth Parker J, 26 July 2012, read judgment

The public/private divide still gets lawyers excited, even in an Olympic summer, and for good reason – my image is simply to cool the fevered brow of those fresh from the stadium or the beach. Now for the problem met head on in this case. Generally speaking, parties to a contract may treat the others how they please, as long as that treatment does not offend the terms of the contract or specific consumer protection rules. But, equally generally, a public body is obliged to treat others in accordance with public law rules of fairness, and can challenge unfairness by judicial review. And this case is a good example of the intersection between these principles.

A had run a breakdown recovery service for the police for some years. The police then interposed a main contractor, FMG, who awarded the contract to A for the continuation of the job, now as a subcontractor. But the sub-contract, understandably enough, provided that its award was subject to vetting by the police. And the police then refused to give A clearance. Why? The police would not say, even when A threatened proceedings. And they said that they did not have to. Their line in court was that it was all governed by the contract, and the courts had no business in poking its nose into their reasoning – in the jargon, it was non-justiciable. They relented to some extent in the course of the proceedings, by giving some information, but still said that they were not obliged to do so.

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A robust restatement of the principles of nuisance

27 March 2012 by

Barr v. Biffa, CA, 19 March 2012, read judgment

The reverse suffered by the claimants in the noisy motor racing case case before the Court of Appeal last month was something of a body blow to common lawyers and environmentalists. So this latest development in nuisance litigation should be welcome news.

As David Hart’s report  suggests, the Court of Appeal pulls no punches in its critique of the High Court judgment which dismissed the claims of 152 households on the basis that a landfill operator had abided by the terms of its permit. Reasserting the private law rights of individuals in nuisance actions, Carnwath LJ observes that this case has been

a sad illustration of what can happen when apparently unlimited resources, financial and intellectual, are thrown at an apparently simple dispute such as one about nuisance by escaping smells. The fundamental principles of law were settled by the end of the 19th century and have remained resilient and effective since then.

The common law, he notes, is best when it is simple. And in this judgement he returns nuisance to the simple statement of reciprocity and neighbourliness where it belongs.

There are a few propositions – not many – in Carnwath LJ’s judgment which will serve as a clear, short checklist for the viability of a nuisance action.
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It’s time we packed our bags at Strasbourg, says report

9 February 2011 by

Bringing Rights Back Home is the latest policy document to address the tension between judges and politicians over public policy with human rights implications.

Within hours of  publication of the report,  a hard-hitting academic paper put together by the political scientist Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, criticism started pouring in, and there will be no doubt more huffing and puffing to come.

But before these lofty admonitions stifle them, it is worth considering some of the paper’s objections and proposals.   These are legitimate points made in a political debate which has been masquerading for years as a legal one.  The document is essentially uncontroversial, in legal terms.
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Supreme Court bolsters rights of council tenants threatened with eviction

3 November 2010 by

Updated | Manchester City Council (Respondent) v Pinnock (Appellant) [2010] UKSC 45 On appeal from the Court of Appeal [2009] EWCA Civ 852 – Read judgment / press summary

The following is based on the Supreme Court press summary. Our full case comment is to follow.

The Supreme Court has ruled that Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to family life) requires that a court, when asked by a local authority to make an order for possession of a person’s home, must have the power to assess the proportionality of making the order.

The 9-strong court departed from a series of House of Lords (its predecessor’s) decisions in order to follow a strong line of European Court of Human Rights authority (summarised at para 45 of the decision). The judgment was unanimous, and follows the important recent decision of the European court in Kay and Others v United Kingdom (see our post), as well as that in Connors v UK and others. The decision represents a welcome clarification of the rights of council tenants facing eviction, following a long and tortuous line of conflicting decisions from both the UK and European courts.

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