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.”

A v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2004]

English Constitutional Law

A v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2004]
‘Freedom’ by Abed Alem

The unlawful detention of individuals suspected of terrorist activity is central to this collective appeal amidst the unprecedented attacks of September 11th 2001 in New York, when in light of this historic event the United Kingdom took swift measures to derogate from their commitment to the Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the Human Rights Act 1998.

Following a number of arrests, there were nine men of various nationalities detained under s.23 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. In order to facilitate such action the Home Secretary had worked closely with Parliament to both execute and enact Part 4 of the 2001 Act, which provided powers to issue freezing orders upon those suspected of threats to the stability or security of the country. To further support this measure, statutory instrument SI/2001/3644 (also known as the ‘Derogation Order’) was drafted as to allow for specific actions peripheral to the Human Rights Act 1998 where those suspected were subject to the terms of the 2001 Act.

Prior to this amendment it was only possible under para.2(2) of sch.3 of the Immigration Act 1971 for the Secretary of State to detain non-British nationals while awaiting deportation, and such action was only deemed justifiable for a reasonable period of time, as this allowed the United Kingdom to remain fully compliant with its obligations to the ECHR, in particular art.5(1) (Right to liberty and security). However, in Chahal v United Kingdom Parliament attempted to circumvent art.3 of the Convention (No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) in order to excessively detain and deport a Sikh separatist on grounds of an affiliation to terrorism, but were overruled by the EU Commission on democratic principles.

In this instance the appellants were challenging the derogation from ECHR principles for the purposes of detainment and deportation of foreign nationals, on grounds that the United Kingdom was not in a state of public emergency as required by art.15(1) of the Convention, and that further clarification of that article had been found in The Greek Case, where the Commission had explained that:

“Such a public emergency may then be seen to have, in particular, the following characteristics: (1) It must be actual or imminent. (2) Its e­ffects must involve the whole nation. (3) The continuance of the organised life of the community must be threatened. (4) The crisis or danger must be exceptional, in that the normal measures or restrictions, permitted by the Convention for the maintenance of public safety, health and order, are plainly inadequate.”

It was thus contended that none of the above elements were visible when derogating from the ECHR and applying the terms of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 in order to both arrest and detain the appellants, and further noted that recent ministerial statements indicated that the United Kingdom was under no immediate threat, and so while alert to international attacks they had no evidence to suggest otherwise.

Having considered the voluminous evidence provided by both sides, and the decision taken by the Court of Appeal, the House of Lords reemphasised the course of action taken by the Secretary of State, who had countered that failure to adopt a pre-emptive state of emergency was tantamount to a breach of national security. And so while no immediate evidence suggested imminent danger to the general public and economic infrastructure, proportionate measures taken, now far outweighed the argument for adherence to Convention policy, despite overwhelming disagreement by the European Commission. 

There was also discussion around unlawful use of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) as provided for in s.24 of the 2001 Act, who were granted exclusive jurisdiction over the rights and appeals of detainees, as opposed to referral to the courts, which was another obvious attempt to circumvent due process under principles of national security.

With knowledge of deviant use of policy and a flagrant appreciation of the English judicial system the House unanimously allowed the appeals, while quashing the Derogation Order and declaring s.23 of the Ant-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 incompatible with arts.5 and 14 of the ECHR on grounds of discrimination through the use of immigration status, before reminding the court that:

“[A] non-national who faces the prospect of torture or inhuman treatment if returned to his own country, and who cannot be deported to any third country and is not charged with any crime, may not under article 5(1)(f) of the Convention and Schedule 3 to the Immigration Act 1971 be detained here even if judged to be a threat to national security.”

Ghaidan v Godin-Mendoza (2004)

English Constitutional Law

 

Smith, Philip Henry, 1924-2008; Flats, 1960
‘Flats, 1960’ by Philip Henry Smith

Same-sex relationships and the discrimination of landlords under death of secured tenants, provokes the wisdom of the judiciary when the progressive interpretation of existing statute is the only salient answer to a claim for devolved rights by the freeholder.

After living together in a committed homosexual relationship for over thirty years, the respondent had been left facing continued occupancy of the flat under the terms of an assured rather than secure tenancy following the death of his partner and secure tenant, thus by falling subject to the lesser of the two tenancies, the respondent had become vulnerable to potentially increased rents and no legal rights to challenge repossession should the freeholder decide to remove him.

Having sought enforcement under sch.2 para.1 of the Rent Act 1977 the appellant landlord argued that same-sex relationships were precluded from the enjoyment of direct succession of statutory tenancy as prescribed, however those surviving death could remain in occupation under an assured tenancy, as was held in Fitzpatrick v Sterling Housing Association Ltd.

Whereupon the respondent argued that as that case was raised prior to the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA), devolution of rights through the application of the 1977 Act constituted a direct violation of arts.8 (Right to respect for private and family life) and 14 (Prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), therefore he was free to remain in occupation under the same rights bestowed those in sch.1 paras.1, 2 and 3 of the 1977 Act, which stated that:

“1.Paragraph 2 or, as the case may be, paragraph 3 below shall have effect, subject to section 2(3) of this Act, for the purpose of determining who is the statutory tenant of a dwelling-house by succession after the death of the person (in this Part of this Schedule referred to as “the original tenant”) who, immediately before his death, was a protected tenant of the dwelling-house or the statutory tenant of it by virtue of his previous protected tenancy.

2. If the original tenant was a man who died leaving a widow who was residing with him at his death then, after his death, the widow shall be the statutory tenant if and so long as she occupies the dwelling-house as her residence.

3. Where paragraph 2 above does not apply, but a person who was a member of the original tenant’s family was residing with him at the time of and for the period of 6 months immediately before his death then, after his death, that person or if there is more than one such person such one of them as may be decided by agreement, or in default of agreement by the county court, shall be the statutory tenant if and so long as he occupies the dwelling-house as his residence.”

Historically the courts viewed para.3 of the Rent Act 1977 as designed to treat unmarried women as family members in order to allow assured tenancies to permit continuous occupancy when no marriage or family previously existed, however Fitzpatrick widened the scope of entitlement when the House of Lords had held that:

“[T]wo people of the same sex can be regarded as having established membership of a family, one of the most significant of human relationships which both gives benefits and imposes obligations.”

In the first hearing the court awarded for the respondent on principle that overt discrimination was not a virtue welcome in English law, while the Court of Appeal upheld the previous judgment before the matter wound up before the House of Lords.

Here the facts were given equal attention before the House dismissed the appeal on grounds that the time was right to embrace the universal nature of close and loving bonds and the freedoms of the Convention without a need for Parliamentary involvement, while further holding that:

“[T]he social policy underlying the 1988 extension of security of tenure under paragraph 2 to the survivor of couples living together as husband and wife is equally applicable to the survivor of homosexual couples living together in a close and stable relationship.”

UK Human Rights law

UK Human Rights law

Human Rights
‘Cuardernos de África” by Miquel Barceló

Human Rights Law

Ahmad v United Kingdom (1982)

English Constitutional Law

Ahmad v United Kingdom
Image: ‘Mosque Muslim Art Painting’ by Richa Maheshwari

While paving the way for a number of similar ‘religious obligations’ versus ‘convention rights’ cases, this protracted legal discourse reveals a number of indiscretions, that in many respects, served to influence legislative and educational policy in the United Kingdom, and illustrate how laws evolve through the integration of cultural norms and progressive state cohabitation.

After working as a supply teacher within the mainstream schools arena for a considerable number of years, the Islamic applicant took issue with the government, upon grounds that his need (or at least doctrinal requirement) to attend a mosque on Friday afternoons was being denied by statute; and that subsequent operational policy created the violation of a number of constitutional rights afforded to all citizens of the United Kingdom.

Citing art.9(1) of the ECHR (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) and art.14 (prohibition of discrimination), the applicant protested that s.30 of the Education Act 1994 stood in immediate conflict with his need to manifest his religious beliefs every Friday between the hours of 1.30pm to 2.15pm. Having been employed by a number of London Borough schools prior to his decision to resign rather than reduce his working hours, the applicant had been given verbal allowances by one school, and shown strict opposition by another, which bore an inconsistent position of unwillingness to accommodate a religious need, which until recently, had never been expressed nor discussed at the time of his original appointment.

When it was submitted that the repeated failure of a Muslim man to attend a mosque (subject to relative distances) would likely result in a beheading in a country such as Saudi Arabia, the applicant expected that the same principles would apply under  domestic jurisdiction, and that those grounds, along with previous (albeit unofficial) allowances were sufficient enough to warrant time taken from his contractual duties, despite any inconvenience to teaching  staff, pupils or the school as a whole.

After failing to find those arguments upheld in the domestic courts, the matter wound up before the European Commission for Human Rights, where it was unanimously decided that the terms of the Convention were constructed in such as fashion as to allow interpretation and consideration of all religions and beliefs, not just those of the applicant; and yet when willingly accepting a position of employment that brings with it a set of express and implied terms, the accepting individual takes ownership of how that agreement might impinge upon their religious requirements or obligations of faith, and must therefore act accordingly, thus the Commission dismissed the application, while holding that:

“[E]ven a person at liberty may, in the exercise of his freedom to manifest his religion, have to take into account his particular professional or contractual position.”

Birth of the Human Rights Act 1998

Insight | February 2017

Birth of the Human Rights Act 1998
Image: ‘Against Forgetting’ by Marcia Bushnell

The Human Rights Act was brought into being as a consequence of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which was first formulated by the Council of Europe in 1950.

Founded upon the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (as used by the United Nations), ten countries first rallied for its formation, including Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The Convention took effect in September 1953, with the primary directive of protecting specific fundamental rights among Member States of the Council of Europe, while the core values of the UK constitution enjoyed presumptions of liberty, representative government and the rule of law.

Before the ECHR became intrinsic to domestic law, Ministers often found themselves abusing discretionary powers, which amounted to a constitution largely beyond reproach, relying instead upon collective political norms for enforcement. This protracted period of neglect gave rise to an increase in administrative jurisdiction, and during the 1980s the courts began to adopt a more concrete conception of the rule of law, preferring instead to propagate such values as ‘freedom of expression’ ‘equality’ and ‘freedom from destitution’. However, presumptions followed that common law infringement upon these values would deem statute intervention unlawful, and it soon became conventional thinking; particularly in the well known R v Secretary of State for the Home Department ex parte Brind, where the domestic courts held that as the ECHR was not part of English law, the government was able to restrict media coverage of Irish extremist groups, despite clear encroachment upon the right to freedom of expression, and a sadly failed appeal by the journalists fiercely defending that right.

In fact, it wasn’t until 1998 that the British constitution accepted that using convention as a means of entrusting civil liberties could no longer be tolerated, and so on 9 November 1998, the Human Rights Act 1998 was enacted by Royal assent. From 2 October 2000 onward, all rights and freedoms previously safeguard by the ECHR were now directly enforceable though UK common law, and the sovereignty of Parliament was agreed.

This upheaval in institutional law was particularly significant, in that for the first time English judicial authority was awarded greater scope for case interpretation, where historically such matters were determined through ministerial debate. This was however, a change that was not without its detractors, nor ignorant of an entrenched inclination to overlook common law in lieu of political fervour.