Access for Northern Ireland women to free abortion in England: R (A and B)

By a 3-2 majority, the Supreme Court has dismissed the appeal in R (A and B) v Secretary of State for Health [2017] UKSC 41.

Background

In 2012, A, a 15-year-old woman resident in Northern Ireland became pregnant. She used the services of a private clinic in England to secure an abortion accompanied by B, her mother (and litigation friend), at a total cost of £900 including travel. She did so because she reasonably believed that she would not be able to obtain an abortion in Northern Ireland or through the NHS in England because she was ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland.
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Living next to a cemetery: Tonyuk

In Tonyuk v Ukraine [2017] ECHR 492 the applicant, Yustyna Tonyuk, a Ukrainian national born in 1941 and living in Yaremche, in the Ivano-Frankivsk Region, complained about the existence and use of a cemetery that had been created adjacent to her home. Ms Tonyuk had obtained two judgments from the national courts banning the use of the cemetery for future burials on the ground that its proximity to her home was in breach of the applicable sanitary standards. Her house was some ten metres from the cemetery boundary, her yard was separated from the cemetery by a wire mesh fence and the nearest row of graves was about a metre from the fence (some eleven metres from her house) and clearly visible from her yard [7]. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 28th May

A very, very sad week – and not one for flippant straplines…

The atrocity in Manchester

The appalling news from Manchester is beyond words. How society might react to it, however, is a legitimate matter for concern: there have already been calls in the social media for mass internments (of whom, precisely?) – and worse. Possibly one of the most measured reactions on Twitter was from Adam Wagner:

“1/ A few thoughts on the horrendous terror attack on my brilliant home town of .

2/ Terrorism isn’t just senseless violence. It has a purpose, which is to terrorise us. We, the public who watch in terror, are victims too.

3/ It’s totally natural to respond to terror with fear, anger, sometimes even a need for revenge; an ‘eye for an eye’. That’s what they want.

4/ The very best human societies are open, tolerant, multicultural. Terrorism makes us close up, retreat into our safe, small groups.

5/ In times of fear and retreat we must trust the rule-based system we build in better times. It’s insurance against our worst natures.”

Church of Scotland on same-sex marriage

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has agreed in principle to the report of its Theological Commission, An Approach to the Theology of Same-Sex Marriage. Continue reading

Conservative religious views, parental access, the ECHR – and blogging: A v Cornwall Council

In a rather unusual case, Dingemans J has had to consider whether the moral attitudes – as revealed by his blog posts – of a father who was estranged from the mother of his son supported the Family Court’s decision not to allow him parental access.

The background

In A v Cornwall Council [2017] EWHC 842 (QB), A believed that abortion and same-sex relationships were both wrong. A’s relationship with M had broken down and he was refused contact with their son, S. A claimed that the Council had prevented him having direct contact and had not supported his application to have S live with him because of the views he had blogged about abortion and same-sex marriage – and that the Council had violated his Convention rights. The Council denied the claim and said that it had conducted proper safeguarding inquiries about S and had made proper recommendations to the Family Court that had taken the relevant decisions [1]. Continue reading

Assisted dying: appeal allowed in R (Conway)

As regular readers will be aware, Mr Noel Conway suffers from motor neurone disease, and while he retains the capacity to make the decision, he wishes to enlist the assistance of a medical professional to bring about his death in a peaceful and dignified way. He applied unsuccessfully for judicial review to seek a declaration under s 4(2) Human Rights Act 1998 that s 2(1) of the Suicide Act 1961 – which provides that a person commits a criminal offence if he or she does an act capable of encouraging or assisting the suicide or attempted suicide of another person and their act was intended to encourage or assist suicide or an attempt at suicide – is incompatible with the ECHR. S 2(1). In [2017] EWHC 640 (Admin), Burnett LJ and Jay J refused his application: Charles J dissented. We noted it here.

In this latest judgment however, R (Conway) v Secretary of State for Justice [2017] EWCA Civ 275, McFarlane and Beatson LJJ concluded that permission to appeal and permission to apply for judicial review should be granted, and they remitted the matter to the Divisional Court to hear and determine the case. Continue reading

Assisted dying again: R (Conway)

By 2:1, the Administrative Court has dismissed the application of Mr Noel Conway for a declaration that s 2(1) of the Suicide Act 1961 breached his human rights under Articles 8(1) and 14 ECHR.

Background

In R (Conway) v Secretary of State for Justice [2017] EWHC 640 (Admin), Mr Conway, aged 67, had been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. A time would come when he would be told that he had less than six months to live and he wished at that point, while still able to make the decision himself, to die with medical assistance. Continue reading

Opposite-sex civil partnerships? Steinfeld & Anor in the Court of Appeal

S 1(1) Civil Partnership Act 2004 stipulates that only a same-sex couple may conclude a civil partnership: “A civil partnership is a relationship between two people of the same sex…”. In June 2014 the Coalition Government published the results of its second consultation on the future of civil partnership: Civil Partnership Review (England and Wales) – Report on Conclusions. After considering the responses to that consultation, the Government decided that it would not be making any changes at present.

Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan were refused permission to register a civil partnership at Chelsea Town Hall registry office and sought a declaration that, as a result of the enactment of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, the bar in the Civil Partnership Act 2004 on opposite-sex couples registering as civil partners had become incompatible with Article 14 ECHR (discrimination) taken in conjunction with Article 8 (respect for private and family life). Their claim for a declaration of incompatibility was unsuccessful at first instance: see Steinfeld & Anor v The Secretary of State for Education [2016] EWHC 128 (Admin) and Adam Wagner’s very helpful summary on RightsInfo. On appeal, they lost by two to one. Continue reading