Davidson v Scottish Ministers (No.2) [2004]

English Constitutional Law

Davidson v Scottish Ministers (No.2) [2004]
‘The Prisoner’ by Vladimir Makovsky

The pollution of judicial impartiality was an issue raised by a prison inmate when campaigning for a transfer on grounds of Convention rights and when faced with a verdict that ran contrary to his calculated expectations.

While serving sentence in HMP Barlinnie, Scotland, the appellant took issue with the prison when complaining that his living conditions ran counter to his rights under art.3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) (Prohibition of torture) which explained that:

“1. No one shall be held in slavery or solitude.

2. No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.

3. For the purpose of this Article the term “forced or compulsory labour” shall not include:

(a) any work required to be done in the ordinary course of detention imposed according to the provisions of Article 5 of this Convention or during conditional release from such detention;

(b) any service of a military character or, in case of conscientious objectors in countries where they are recognised, service exacted instead of compulsory military service;

(c) any service exacted in case of an emergency or calamity threatening the life or well-being of the community;

(d) any work or service which forms part of normal civic obligations.”

And so citing he was justified a transfer to a more suitable prison, the appellant raised a petition and an order for specific performance under a claim for damages, while further requesting that the respondents personally arrange for his transfer and compensation.

In the first instance the Court of Session refused to issue orders against them on grounds that s.21(a) of the Crown Proceedings Act 1947 explained that:

“(a)where in any proceedings against the Crown any such relief is sought as might in proceedings between subjects be granted by way of injunction or specific performance, the court shall not grant an injunction or make an order for specific performance, but may in lieu thereof make an order declaratory of the rights of the parties…”

However the court denied such an order while the Extra Division followed suit for the same reasons before the appellant was again denied recourse before the House of Lords until the appellant discovered that one of the presiding judges (Hardie LJ) had been involved in the amendment of the 1947 Act while serving as Lord Advocate, and that his presence contributed to the inclusion of Scottish Ministers when protecting members of the Crown under s.38(2), which stated that:

“”Civil proceedings’’ includes proceedings in the High Court or the county court for the recovery of fines or penalties, but does not include proceedings on the Crown side of the King’s Bench Division;…’’Officer’’, in relation to the Crown, includes any servant of His Majesty, and accordingly (but without prejudice to the generality of the forgoing provision includes a Minister of the Crown and a member of the Scottish Executive.”

Thus the appellant alleged ‘actual bias’ within the reclaim hearing and sought a re-trial under the rule of law for the purposes of objectivity and equity, whereupon the House of Lords referred to Porter v Magill in which they had held that:

“The question is whether the fair-minded and informed observer, having considered the facts, would conclude that there was a real possibility that the tribunal was biased.”

And so after careful examination of the actual degree to which Lord Hardie had been involved in the amending of the statute, the House dismissed the appeal on grounds that the origins of that particular legislative change had stemmed directly from the mind of Donald Stewart MP who was at the time the Secretary of State for Scotland, and that Lord Hardie had merely been representative of those actions within his professional capacity, while clarifying for the parties that:

“[A] risk of apparent bias is liable to arise where a judge is called upon to rule judicially on the effect of legislation which he or she has drafted or promoted during the parliamentary process.”

Thoburn v Sunderland City Council [2002]

English Constitutional Law

Thoburn v Sunderland City Council [2002]
‘The Greengrocer’s Shop’ by Terrick Williams

In a collective hearing the facts surrounding a national transition between imperial and metric measurements for the purposes of trade, gave rise to claims of unlawful application and subsequent challenge within the High Court as below:

Thoburn v Sunderland City Council

In this matter a greengrocer was accused of trading without licensed weighing scales under s.11(2) of the Weights and Measures Act 1985, while it was also alleged that despite repeated warnings to calibrate his scales in line with the legal requirements, the defendant had continued to operate the machines until their seizure by the local authority, and so losing his case in the Divisional Court the defendant later applied for referral to the High Court in order to further discuss the legalities of both imperial and metric measurements.

Hunt v Hackney London Borough Council 

On this occasion another fruit and vegetable trader was accused of a number of offences under s.4 of the Prices Act 1974 and s.28(1) of the Weights and Measures Act 1985 after commercial standards officers made discreet purchases revealing average product weight losses of twenty percent in favour of the defendant. 

Charged in the first instance, the defendant challenged the validity of the legislation and also sought the opinion of the High Court on grounds that he contended the applicability of the 1974 Act and the unlawfulness of displaying goods under the imperial weights system.

Harman and another v Cornwall County Council

This matter involved a market trader and fishmonger, who were both accused of selling their produce using imperial units of cost and thereby violating art.5 of the Price Marking Order 1999, as found under the Prices Act 1974 and sch.1 of the Weights and Measures Act 1985 as amended by The Weights and Measures Act 1985 (Metrication) (Amendment) Order 1994 (SI 1994/1851). 

Here it was alleged that the two defendants had also prevented their attending local authority representative from removing the imperial price stickers when attempting to obtain evidence of their acts, and so having admitted liability the judge was referred to the outcome of Thoburn and raised the question as to the intention that both imperial and metric systems were to continue to run in parallel to one another, and whether the trading standards officers were acting beyond their powers when attempting to obtain pricing stickers from traders despite no suggestion of dishonesty by those accused.

Collins v Sutton London Borough Council

In a slightly different circumstance the appellant had argued that the terms of the renewal of his trading licence had been unlawfully amended by the issuing council, and so applied for a summons under s.30(1)(a) of the London Local Authorities Act 1990 while claiming that under the Weights and Measures Act 1985 (Metrication) (Amendment) Order 1994, Units of Measurement Regulations 1994 and  The Weights and Measures (Metrication Amendments) Regulations 2001 (SI 2001/85) the local authority had instructed the appellant that he must display and charge for his produce under the metric weights system and that such a request constituted a breach of statutory powers and a violation of art.10 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (Freedom of expression). 

To clarify, s.1(1) of the Weights and Measures Act 1963 provided that both the metric and imperial system of measurements were permitted equal presence within the United Kingdom until the creation of the European Communities Act 1972  and the introduction of Directive 80/181/EEC in 1979, after which chapter 1 of Directive 89/617/EEC cited that the metre and the kilogram were to become the single legal measurements of both length and mass, however chapter IV provided that certain goods sold loose in bulk were  allowed to be measured in pounds and ounces until 31 December 1999. 

In the following two years The Units of Measurements Regulations 2001 (SI 2001/55) provided that imperial measures (while unlawful as primary indicators for sale) were still permitted as secondary indicators until 1 January 2010, while contrastingly the Price Marking Order 1999 required traders to indicate unit prices in metric measures, yet anything to the contrary was a criminal offence under para.5 of sch.2 of the Prices Act 1974.

When brought before the High Court the four appellants relied upon a contention that the Weights and Measures Act 1985 (Metrication) (Amendment) Order 1994, Units of Measurement Regulations 1994, Weights and Measures (Metrication Amendments) Regulations 1994 and the Price Marking Order 1999 were all unlawful and thus void under the principle of ‘implied repeal’, which is a process applied when Parliament enacts successive statutes containing inconsistent terms, and where the former is repealed by the latter in order to avoid future binding and confusion of effect, while it was also argued that the 1985 Act had repealed s.2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972 in order to prevent future subordinate legislation, as had been used to replace the imperial system with the metric measurement system. 

Having considered the appellants’ somewhat unorthodox line of argument the Court dismissed the appeals on grounds that while observation of European Community law remained first and foremost to the function of the sovereign, there was nothing in the European Communities Act 1972 that allowed any outside jurisdiction to compromise the supremacy of Parliament, and that the executive measures of the 1972 Act were not subject to repeal by implication but through express and specific decisions, before reminding the parties that:

“Parliament cannot bind its successors, and that is a requirement of legislative sovereignty.”

Council of Civil Service Unions v Minister for the Civil Service [1985]

English Constitutional Law

Council of Civil Service Unions v Minister for the Civil Service [1985]
‘Yarra Bank (Trade Union) Meeting’ by Patrick Harford

Executive powers and national security form the footing of this call for judicial review under the argument that changes to civil servant working conditions were executed without due consideration for those affected.

In a relationship with a chequered history it was decided by the Minister of the Civil Service (aka Prime Minister Mrs Thatcher) that since the previous strike actions of key staff within the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) had proven destructive, it was necessary to execute instructions to ban any affiliation by government employees with trade unions of any sort, and while this unprecedented move was carried out under legitimate sovereign powers, it directly conflicted with the principle that governmental decisions were first offered to consultation with the trade unions as an inherent duty to exercise fairness when carrying out executive function.

On this occasion the instructions were carried out under art.4 of the Civil Service Order 1982 but orally released within the House of Commons, and so greeted with natural anger and confusion, while the aim of this sudden prohibition was simply to circumvent open discussion in lieu of avoiding future strike actions now considered a significant threat to national security.

When heard at court level the presiding judge had held that the instructions were issued on grounds demonstrating no effort toward consultation and were therefore invalid in their application, while under challenge the Court of Appeal had held that the executive action itself was not exempt from judicial review because the order came from prerogative powers rather than statute, and that despite the latter source forming the premise for most reviews, the Court saw no distinction between a self-executed order and that of an act of Parliament.

In response the defence used by the Minister for the Civil Service relied upon operational safety measures, and how under those circumstances it was felt that the same people responsible for the previous compromises were right to be excluded from using consultation as leverage to create further damage, while it was further argued that any discussions between trade unions and Government would have amounted to the same outcome regardless of protests by those affected. 

This position was further supported by the fact that s.(a) and (a)(ii) of art.4 of the Order in Council 1982 allowed the Minister to create regulations controlling the conduct of those employed, therefore denial of trade union membership lawfully fell within those remits.

When the Court upheld the Minister’s actions, the appellants pressed the issue, whereupon the House of Lords sought to establish whether (i) judicial review was necessary, and (ii) whether the respondents had acted in manner that precluded fairness and a duty to follow precedent, after which it was held that while the avoidance of discussion demonstrated a clear breach of that duty, it was not the responsibility of the courts to determine what constituted a threat to national security and that the executive itself was empowered to prove or disprove itself as to its own actions, all of which led the House to conclude that:

“[W]here a question as to the interest of national security arises in judicial proceedings the court has to act on evidence.”