Law and religion round-up – 23rd April

A week dominated by…

…the General Election, June 2017

On 18 April we published a short post on the announcement by the Prime Minister of her intention to move a motion for an early election in the House of Commons on the following day, under the provisions of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. The House of Commons Library immediately published a helpful short guide to the election, and for anoraks, it answers the question: Will the Manchester Gorton by-election go ahead? vide infra. The House of Commons Library has also produced a briefing on the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.

On 12:57 pm on 19 April, the Prime Minister moved “That there shall be an early parliamentary general election”. [HC Hansard, 19 April Vol 624 Col 681]. After a 90-minute debate, the House divided: Ayes: 522; Noes: 13.  Continue reading

Supreme Court of Canada to review congregational expulsion: Highwood Congregation v Wall

In Wall v Judicial Committee of the Highwood Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses 2016 ABCA 255 (CanLII), Mr Wall had sought judicial review of his expulsion from the Highwood Congregation. A chambers judge had concluded that the Court of Queen’s Bench had jurisdiction to hear the application and the Court of Appeal of Alberta (Paperny & Rowbotham JJ: Wakeling JA dissenting) upheld that ruling, concluding that

“… a court has jurisdiction to review the decision of a religious organization when a breach of the rules of natural justice is alleged … We note as well that the respondent appears to have exhausted all avenues of appeal within the church so jurisdiction could also be found on that basis” [22].

The case was remitted to the Court of Queen’s Bench to be heard by a judge other than the chambers judge, but on 13 April the Highwood Congregation was granted leave to appeal by the Supreme Court of Canada: see Judicial Committee of the Highwood Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses v Randy Wall, 2017 CanLII 20389 (SCC). Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 5th March

Brexit rumbles on, but perhaps the most important event of the week was the outcome of the Northern Ireland Assembly Election – on which we would not presume to comment…

Son (or more accurately daughter) of Miller?

Gina Miller, who mounted the successful challenge in the Supreme Court to the Prime Minister’s proposal to trigger Article 50 TEU by using the Royal Prerogative, has said that she is looking at launching a new challenge if Parliament is not given a vote on the final terms of Brexit. Speaking to Bloomberg, Ms Miller explained: Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 12th February

Short form judgments, bats, child abduction and polygamy… 

Short form judgments

The Master of the Rolls has asked his colleagues in the Court of Appeal to issue shorter judgments where there are no issues of law or principle or of wider general significance and where all the relevant facts are set out in the judgment of the court below and are not disputed in the appeal. A Judicial Office spokesman said that in such cases:

“it may be possible to avoid reciting all the facts, the course of the proceedings and the judgments below, and proceed, after a brief introduction, to a statement of the decision on the principal arguments on the appeal and the outcome of the appeal.” Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 20th November

A week of necessary and disingenuous anonymity, IICSA disarray, and Brexit sniping

Miller, Brexit and Lady Hale

On 9 November in Kuala Lumpur, Lady Hale delivered the Sultan Azlan Shah Lecture 2016, The Supreme Court: Guardian of the Constitution?, and caused something of a stir. In the course of her lecture, she referred to the recent proceedings in the Divisional Court in Miller and suggested that the European Union Referendum Act 2015 had not produced a result that was legally binding on Parliament. Which, one might think, was a statement of the obvious, because there is no binding mechanism in the Act. ObiterJ has posted a full analysis of her speech on his Law and Lawyers blog.

Nevertheless, there were howls of protest: so much so that there were calls for her to recuse herself from the forthcoming appeal. A “Supreme Court spokesman” made a statement on the matter while, in an exclusive in Solicitors Journal, Lady Hale declared that she would “absolutely not” recuse herself, adding, “I have exhibited no bias and those that suggested that I have are simply mistaken.”

Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, president of the Supreme Court, is the latest to have been accused of bias, this time by pro-Brexit Conservative MPs on account of him being allegedly compromised by his wife’s views.

Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 13th November

Another week dominated by “events, dear boy, events” and the continuing row over the decision of the Court of Appeal on the mechanism for Brexit…

Brexit in the courts – the plot thickens

On Tuesday:

  • the Supreme Court granted permission to appeal in R (Miller & Dos Santos) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and set aside four days, 5-8 December, for a hearing before the full Court of eleven justices;
  • the BBC carried a report that the Lord Advocate is to seek to intervene in the Supreme Court appeal in Miller;
  • Maguire J heard argument in the High Court in Belfast on the stayed matters in McCord: according to Irish Legal News, it also remains to be determined whether an appeal should leapfrog to the Supreme Court – which, apparently, would be a first for Northern Ireland;
  • the Belfast News Letter reported that the Attorney General, John Larkin QC, had issued a notice that the devolution matters raised in Agnew – the other judicial review petition, by a cross-party group of MLAs – are worthy of further judicial consideration and should be referred directly to the UKSC.

On Thursday, the Government published the Grounds of Appeal to the Supreme Court of the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.

Brexit and the Daily Mail

In the run-up to the EU Referendum we indicated that we would be keeping track on “Euro myths and legends” so far as they impact on “law and religion” and cautioned on the increasing amount of misinformation regarding the European Union from the “red tops” and other sources. We also suggested that the blog on the European Commission’s Euro myths web page and Full Fact [“We’ll supply the facts, you supply the opinion”] were essential reading. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 6th November

A week in which everything else paled into insignificance beside… 

…Brexit: a spanner in the works

The big news of the week was that a max-strength Divisional Court of Queen’s Bench [Thomas LCJ, Etherton MR and Sales LJ] ruled in R (Miller & Anor) v The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2016] EWHC 2768 (Admin) that the Government has no power under the Crown Prerogative to trigger the Article 50 process for withdrawal from the European Union without the prior approval of Parliament. Unsurprisingly, a Government spokesperson said that HMG was “disappointed” with the outcome. Equally unsurprisingly, the Government is to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Prime Minister said subsequently that she was “confident” that the Government would win the appeal. But presumably the Government was “confident” of winning at the initial hearing…

Subsequent events

Following the High Court ruling, a number of commentators have suggested that this could result in the Prime Minister calling a “snap election”. However, that possibility  is now governed by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 introduced by the Cameron administration; S2 requires the resolution of a motion of no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government, or a motion for an early parliamentary election supported by two-thirds of the membership of the House of Commons (including vacant seats). Furthermore, the option of repealling the 2011 Act is no simple matter, as explained by Lord Norton; he suggests that whilst this is possible, it is not necessarily simple, or politically feasible.

Barristerblogger, Professor Mark Elliott and others noted that In the wake of the dramatic Article 50 judgment, various Brexiteers have been venting their feelings. On 5 November, the Bar Council, the representative body of all barristers in England & Wales, passed a resolution calling on the Lord Chancellor to condemn the recent attacks on the judiciary. A measured summary of the situation has been produced by Harry Bingham, eldest son of the late Lord Bingham, in an open letter to Liz Truss.  A brief statement was issued by the Ministry of Justice on Saturday afternoon, but this stopped short of condemning attacks on senior judges over the Brexit ruling.

The Supreme Court has indicated that it will hear the government’s appeal over 4 days during the week of 5 December with a larger than usual panel of judges. We suspect that Ms Truss’s cursory dismissal of the media attacks will be further tested in the run-up to the UKSC hearing, and afterwards.

Abortion – or its absence – in Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, unlike the rest of the UK, abortion is only allowed if a woman’s life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her physical or mental health. On Wednesday, an appeal began in the Supreme Court against the judgment in R (A (A Child) & Anor) v Secretary of State for Health [2015] EWCA Civ 771, in which the appellants were a girl, A, and her mother, resident in Northern Ireland. Continue reading