Consistory court judgments and CFCE determinations – October

A summary of recent consistory court judgments and CFCE determinations

Included in this post are: a comment on the proposed Neutral Citation for ecclesiastical judgments, the consistory court judgments listed below, and the CFCE Determinations from the meeting on 30 September 2015.

Consistory Court Judgments

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A Lady Spiritual?

Not a lot to do with law & religion, but nevertheless…

From Monday’s Lords Hansard:

Introduction: The Lord Bishop of Gloucester

2.49 pm

Rachel, Lord Bishop of Gloucester, was introduced and took the oath, supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.

Baroness Northover tabled a perfectly understandable question to the Leader of the House of Lords, Baroness Stowell of Bestow: “What discussions she has had with relevant authorities regarding a gender specific title for the first woman bishop to be introduced into the House of Lords, currently described as the Lord Bishop of Gloucester” [HL2684]. To which Baroness Stowell  replied:

“Following discussions between the Church of England and the Crown Office, it has been agreed that ‘The Lord Bishop’ will continue to be the appropriate designation for all Bishops in the House of Lords.”

In matters like this, institutions can sometimes be quite slow to change. Continue reading

“Three-parent babies” in UK from today?

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Mitochondrial Donation) Regulations 2015 SI 572 came into force on 29 October 2015, and through Part 2, “provides for specified eggs and embryos, which contain donated mitochondria, to be permitted for use in assisted conception treatment under section 3(2) of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 (“the 1990 Act”) in certain circumstances.”

However, as pointed out in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, (HFEA) Briefing Note of October 2014, Parliament’s approval of the draft Regulations did not, per se, directly lead to such treatments being offered in humans; the consequences were that mitochondrial donation became part of the regulatory scheme set out in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act and administered by the HFEA, under which it is required to assess two things:

  • that any clinic that wishes to offer mitochondrial donation is competent to offer it; and
  • that each case of treatment is appropriate, using criteria set out in the Regulations.

The decision will rest with an HFEA committee and will be based on the evidence submitted and the latest scientific advice. The committee will, in effect, carry out a further assessment at the time of the application of the safety and efficacy of the proposed technique. This will, therefore, provide an opportunity for an assessment of the results of the further experiments suggested by the expert panel. Continue reading

Hymns (and other things) to avoid?

The recent news that the Diocese of Chichester had settled a historic sexual abuse claim involving George Bell, bishop from 1929 until his death in October 1958, raises interesting questions about such matters as commemorating in the C of E Calendar someone who appears to have been a child abuser.

In this guest post, Michael Ainsworth muses on some of them…


The Diocese of Chichester’s settlement to an unnamed child abuse victim, over 60 years ago, of Bishop George Bell raises the question not only of whether he should retain his place in the Anglican calendar on 3 October – which the Church of England Liturgical Commission has ‘parked’ for future consideration, meanwhile pointing out that this is an optional commemoration which no-one is obliged to keep – but more immediately, whether we should sing his hymn Christ is the King! O friends, rejoice, which many churches will have chosen for Christ the King Sunday as well as for other occasions. The hymn is fine, and much-loved – as was George Bell himself, until (and even now perhaps despite) these revelations: politically he was progressive and courageous, probably forfeiting promotion to Canterbury because of his principled pacifist stance. Peter Hitchens (who has his own agenda) notes in “Shameful slur on a Christian hero” [scroll down] that because no allegations were made until 37 years after Bell’s death no trial was possible or details made public; and while he has no doubt that the C of E has a lot of apologising to do, queries whether George Bell’s reputation is being too readily sacrificed to save the skin of the Church of England today. Continue reading

Tax credits and the Bishops’ regret motion

Involvement of Lords Spiritual in debate on tax credits

Whilst financial issues are not a mainstream topic for L&RUK, in view of the involvement of the bishops and the Archbishop of York in the debate on the amendments to the Tax Credits (Income Thresholds and Determination of Rates) (Amendment) Regulations 2015, [26 Oct 2015 Vol 765 (56) Col 975], it is pertinent to post a short summary of the relevant parts of the proceedings. The Regulations were made under the Tax Credits Act 2002 which provided that amendments to tax credit legislation could be made by statutory instruments or delegated legislation in order that normal uprating, for example, could be applied.

Draft Regulations

UK Parliament explains:

“These regulations propose that, from April 2016, the income threshold for Working Tax Credit (WTC) should be reduced to £3,850; and the income threshold for Child Tax Credit (CTC) to £12,125. They also propose that the income rise disregard should be reduced to £2,500; and that the taper rate should be increased to 48%. Continue reading

Breaking the link with Strasbourg: Assessing the constitutional implications of a British Bill of Rights

In this guest post (cross-posted from the UCL Constitution Unit’s blog) Professor Roger Masterman of  Durham Law School argues that breaking the link with Strasbourg could have unintended and unpredictable consequences


The debate surrounding the enactment of a British Bill of Rights is in part premised on the belief that the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights – given effect pursuant to s.2(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) – exert too great an influence over domestic courts and domestic law. Critics of the Act argue that the courts’ application of s.2(1) has rendered decisions of the Strasbourg court effectively binding in domestic proceedings, while critics of the Strasbourg court argue that its expansionary tendencies have seen the Convention rights reach far deeper into domestic affairs than was intended by its authors.

Following the election of a Conservative majority administration in 2015 the Queen’s Speech contained the promise that the new government would ‘bring forward proposals for a British Bill of Rights.’ This promise is underpinned by an election manifesto commitment to ‘break the formal link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights’ and entrust human rights decision making to a supreme domestic apex court. This short post explores the nature of the link established by the HRA, and the parallel – and more longstanding – link established by the United Kingdom’s membership of the Convention system more broadly, before considering some options for an amended relationship governed by a British Bill of Rights. Continue reading

Invasive autopsies and religious objections: Rotsztein v HM Senior Coroner for Inner London [revised]

My original post of 4 August (now taken down) was based on the note by Lawtel and media reports: the following is based on a copy of the judgment as approved by the Court 


In Rotsztein v HM Senior Coroner for Inner London [2015] EWHC (Admin) 2764 the issue before the court was the balance to be struck between the duty of a coroner properly to establish cause of death and a family’s desire, out of religious conviction, for the deceased’s body to remain intact.

Following the death of 86-year-old Sarlotta Rotsztein, an Orthodox Jew, in September 2014 at the Royal Free Hospital, there were differing medical opinions about the cause of death: the GP attributed it to acute cardiac failure or myocardial infarction; however, the Specialist Cardiology Registrar did not think that the clinical picture was of a primary cardiac event. Her treating consultant, Dr Nagus, advised referral of the case of her death to the coroner because the cause of death was unclear [4].

The Inner London Coroner noted at the foot of the report of Mrs Rotsztein’s death [5] that

There is a direct conflict between view of hospital doctors and GP, so -> pm.

Jewish law strictly forbids the desecration of a corpse and requires it to be buried promptly: if possible on the day of death. In a signed witness statement the senior Dayan of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations in the UK stated that the avoidance of desecration of the corpse was a stronger imperative than the avoidance of delaying a burial [6]. (According to media reports, the Muslim Council of Britain also made a written submission that the case was of general public importance, “in particular to the religious community in Britain. Muslim families who suffer bereavement share the religious concerns of Jews and members of other faiths. These principal concerns are that burial should take place as soon as practicable after death and that there should be no desecration of the body.”)

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