Halcyon Chambers Welcomes Rose Oliver

We are delighted to announce that Rose Oliver has joined Chambers.

Rose has been practicing as a Solicitor for 3 years and a Solicitor Advocate for 2 years specialising in General Civil prior to transferring to the Bar.

Please contact the Clerks on 0121 237 6035 or by email clerks@halcyonchambers.com

Can I appeal a Judge’s decision for their behaviour?

Article by Naomh Gibson

There are a number of reasons why individuals may choose to represent themselves as a ‘litigant in person’. The most common motivation is financial, as fewer cases now qualify for public funding than in days gone by.

Despite their increased numbers, some litigants in person are reporting discriminatory and unfavourable treatment by the judges hearing their case. However, as seen in the recent decision in the libel case of Serafin v Malkiewicz & Ors [2020] UKSC 23, if it is severe enough, judicial bullying may be grounds for a trial to be declared unfair, and the decision appealed to be made again fresh with a different judge.

In this case, the claimant sued the defendants for libel in respect of an article which they published about him in a newspaper addressing issues of interest to the Polish community in the UK, in which he was accused of abuse of position and fraud. The Claimant chose to represent himself despite English not being his first language. During the 5 day trial, there were up to 25 identified instances when the High Court judge acted inappropriately.

After considering the transcripts, the Supreme Court held that the “nature, tenor and frequency of the judge’s interventions were such as to render [the trial] unfair”. The Supreme Court commented that while legal professionals will generally be equipped by training and experience to withstand a degree of judicial pressure, judges must not forget that the litigant in person is not likely to have the same level of training and experience, and so judges must temper their conduct accordingly.

The Supreme Court provided a Schedule of these instances, which were held to be examples of inappropriate conduct by Mr Justice Hays. The following themes emerged:-

  • Cutting off a witness when they giving evidence too quickly or without allowing them to explain
  • Using aggressive or sarcastic language 
  • Expressing frustration or irritation with a witness or party
  • Applying pressure: “This does not look great, frankly, because either you were lying to the investors or you are lying to me. If you are lying to me, the consequences can be really awful, because you understand, I do not like being lied to. Which is it? Who were you lying to? Were you telling the truth to the investors and therefore lying to me, or were you lying to the investors and telling the truth to me?”
  • An indication that he had already decided the case outcome before evidence was finished: “…It is not very ethical behaviour, this, but we will see where the weight of the evidence is leading. Because if I conclude that you are acting unethically as a businessman, I am not sure [that] the precise terms of the defamations are going to matter to you much. Do you understand that? You will lose, but there is a lot more evidence yet.”
  • Suggesting a witness or party has done something illegal or immoral when this is not relevant to the case

This is not to say, of course, that a single instance of any one of the above bullet points will automatically render a trial unfair, but this may be the case where there is a wider pattern of bullying behaviour and repeated examples of inappropriate conduct by the judge.

What many litigants in person do not realise is that it is possible to go directly to a barrister without having to involve anyone else (e.g. a solicitor) if they so wish. Halcyon Chambers have a number of our barristers approved by the Bar Council to take instructions directly from members of the public. Pleas contact our clerks on 0121 237 6035 or clerks@halcyonchambers.com for further information.

Naomh is a first six pupil accepting instructions from July 2020 onwards.

[UPDATE] Can I refuse to teach or work in a school?

Article by Naomh Gibson

The role of a teacher is something which is often the subject of debate in education. Certainly, key policy developments in the past decade have seen the duties and responsibilities of teaching staff diversified and broadened.

For example, from 2015 onwards, some teachers have felt that the government’s Prevent strategy, which obliges teachers to refer to Police pupils they suspect of engaging in some sort of terrorist activity or radical behaviour, has turned them into “the secret service of the public sector” (Gary Kaye, NUT 2016 conference). Similarly, while the importance of safeguarding and the connected reported requirements are appreciated, recent developments appear to align teaching staff more closely with doctors and caring professionals rather than educators.

And now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it looks as though the role is about to expand again: to sacrificial lamb. Recently, the Government has proposed an earliest possible date for re-opening of schools, 1 June 2020. The proposal is for a phased return, beyond the children of key workers and vulnerable children who are currently attending, to begin with Primary School pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6.

Understandably, this announcement has caused something of a row between the Government, Academy chiefs, local councils, and teaching unions. On 8 May 2020, a joint statement was released by GMB, NAHT, NASUWT, NEU, UNISON and Unite calling the Government to “step back” from the 1 June date, and setting out principles and tests to be applied and met before schools could be safely re-opened (see full statement here).

As the row rages on and some schools begin re-opening, and it remains to be seen what measures the Government will adopt to ensure teaching staff are safe, many are asking the question: What if I don’t feel safe, can I refuse to teach or work in a school?

There is something a grey area created by the recent advice that anyone who cannot do their job effectively from home should go back to work. Your school might be satisfied with how remote teaching has functioned during the period of closure, and allow this to continue. However, if your school considers that remote teaching is not adequately addressing the school’s needs, they are entitled to ask you to return to work. You are not, however, forced to attend or to do all of your usual duties if you think there is a serious danger.

Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 allows employees to remove themselves from a dangerous workplace with no repercussions or recriminations (note, this will not apply to self-employed contractors like extra-curricular coaches or peripatetic staff). This will require you to have a reasonable belief of ‘serious or imminent danger’ which you could ‘not reasonably have been expected to avert’. With COVID-19 and its ubiquitous infection method, it is hard to imagine what a member of teaching staff could be expected to do to avert the danger – this is not, as a crude example, as simple as mopping up or avoiding a spill that someone might trip on.

Whether or not your school environment is dangerous depends on its particular circumstances, so be prepared to gather information to have that argument if needs be. For example, whether the dimensions of the classrooms or hallways are too small to allow for social distancing, or recording the amount of times during the day there was a breach of the 2 metre limit, or any near-misses. Maintaining social distancing is likely to be the single greatest risk to any re-opened school, especially those working with younger pupils or children with SEN/D, or any otherwise tactile pupil. Oddly enough, 2 of the identified classes for re-opening (Reception, Year 1) are the most likely to struggle with social distancing (see: children swapping lunches, sharing or fighting over toys and resources, hugging one another).

As an employee, you have a right to be made aware of the risks you face as part of your job, and how your employer is controlling them. This assessment of risks is (unsurprisingly) called a risk assessment and is part of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (often referred to as “the Management Regs”).

You have the right to ask your school when their last risk assessment was conducted, what the outcome was, and what new steps they have taken as a result – if they won’t tell you, they are breaking the law. Either your school is not giving you information required by Regulation 10 of the Management Regs, or they haven’t met their duties under Regulation 3 of the same.

Any BAME teaching staff may be especially concerned given the media coverage on the rate of COVID-19 infections and deaths within their community. If concerned, you should write to your employer and ask them to confirm that your BAME identity will be factored into the equality impact assessment of the staffing arrangements, as you are potentially more vulnerable to COVID-19 by merit of the same.

For those considering that a mask or gloves might be necessary for them, for example because you work with pupils requiring Team Teach etc. interventions which cannot be avoided, you do not have to purchase this yourself – your school should provide this under the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992.

If you have a recognised vulnerability, the Government advice for you remains to stay at home. As per the below list, you may be astonished as to which relatively common conditions (such as obesity, asthma, or pregnancy) categorises a person as vulnerable:

  • Aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
  • Under 70 with an underlying health condition such as those listed below
  • Anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds
  • Chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
  • Chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
  • Chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy
  • Diabetes
  • Problems with your spleen – e.g. sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed
  • A weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and Aids, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
  • Being seriously overweight (a BMI of 40 or above)
  • Those who are pregnant

If you are vulnerable for one or more of the above reasons but are still being forced to go in to school, you may be able to claim disability discrimination. To pre-empt any issues, it would be prudent to write to your school and remind them of your vulnerable status and ask them to confirm that they have factored into their planning that you will be unable to attend the premises.

If a member of your household is considered vulnerable, unfortunately it doesn’t look like this automatically exempts you from returning to school, but you should still raise this issue with your manager. You may be able to ask for this as unpaid leave to take care of the person as a dependent, assuming this is within your contract. If this is not an option, you should ask your school to enable you to work from home.

If you have raised your concerns but your school does not agree these are valid reasons and continue to insist that you attend the premises, refusing to do so might prompt them to take disciplinary action on the basis that you are breaching your employment contract.

How schools react to staff concerns (and resistance) will certainly depend on the feedback received from the schools which have re-opened, and whether or not the Government is willing to revise their strategy in light of developing data. If you feel your school is not taking your concerns seriously, you should seek the support of your union. If you are not already a member and have concerns about the cost of joining, some unions offer reduced or delayed joining and membership fees on request.

If you have any queries regarding this article, you can contact Naomh’s clerks on 0121 237 6035 or clerks@halcyonchambers.com. Naomh is a first six pupil accepting instructions from July 2020 onwards.

Revised admissions appeals procedure approved

Article by Naomh Gibson

As per our earlier article, the Government has now updated their guidance on how primary and secondary schools should organise and run their pupil admissions appeals in light of COVID-19. The updated guidance is publicly available online (here).

As of 24 April 2020, temporary changes have been made to the School Admission Appeal Regulations 2012 in order to accommodate appeals during this unprecedented public health crisis. The emergency regulations are called the School Admissions (England) (Coronavirus) (Appeals Arrangements) (Amendment) Regulations 2020, which gives effect to these temporary amendments, and will remain in force until 31 January 2021.

The temporary regulations only apply to appeals lodged between 24 April 2020 and 31 January 2021, unless you lodged an appeal before 24 April which has not yet been decided. It is anticipated by DfE that by 31 January 2021, there will no longer be a need for temporary regulations, however to avoid the expiry of the measures from prejudicing any appeals that are already in progress on this date, the temporary regulations will still apply as long as the appeal was lodged between 24 April 2020 and 31 January 2021.

The temporary regulations take precedence over the Appeals Code if there is a conflict between the two. Much of the usual appeal admissions procedure remain in place, with the general scheme of amendments being to allow for more generous timeframes and greater flexibility on panel quorum to avoid adjournments or delays.

For example, usually when a panel member withdraws from a panel of 3 members, proceedings must be postponed until the return of that panel member, or a replacement must be appointed, and the appeal reheard. However, where COVID-19 has meant this is not reasonably practicable, the temporary regulations allow a panel made up of at least 2 members to continue to consider and determine the appeal.

Further, the admission authority must now allow you at least 28 calendar days to appeal from when they send the decision letter, an increase from the usual 20 school days, and another 28 calendar days’ written notice of any other deadline associated with your appeal. The temporary regulations also mean that admission authorities must review the deadline for lodging an appeal included in any decisions sent to parents after 28 February 2020 where that deadline still refers to ‘school days’, rather than calendar days or a date within that period.

If you have any queries regarding this article, you can contact Naomh’s clerks on 0121 237 6035 or clerks@halcyonchambers.com. Naomh is a first six pupil accepting instructions from July 2020 onwards.

Law in the time of COVID-19: making a successful winding up petition

Article by Naomh Gibson

On 23 April 2020, the Government announced emergency measures to protect commercial tenants, to include a moratorium on evictions and a temporary ban on the the use of statutory demands (made between 1 March 2020 and 30 June 2020) and winding up petitions presented from Monday 27 April, through to 30 June, in circumstances where a company cannot pay its bills due to COVID-19.

At current time, the scope of the intended restriction and precisely how it will be implemented is unclear. This has understandably left some wondering in which circumstances a winding up petition might be permitted to proceed.

The High Court has now provided such guidance, in Shorts Gardens LLB v London Borough of Camden Council [2020] EWHC 1001 (Ch). This case concerned two applications to restrain presentation of two separate winding-up petitions against different companies by Camden and Preston councils. The petitions relate to unpaid liability orders from national non-domestic rates and certain unpaid costs orders arising out of earlier litigation.

The joint applicant (Saint Benedict’s Land Trust (“SBLT”) and Shorts Gardens) denied liability for the rates and sought injunctive relief on the basis that the debts in question were genuinely disputed on substantial grounds or were subject to cross-claims. The applicant also argued that it would be inappropriate for a winding up petition to be proceeded with, ‘until 14 days after COVID-19 has been controlled through vaccination and/or the Government make an announcement that it is safe for the United Kingdom to come out of the lockdown’.

The press announcement from Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy in respect of the emergency measures contained a “Notes to Editors”, which provides as follows (emphasis added):

“Under these measures, any winding-up petition that claims that the company is unable to pay its debts must first be reviewed by the court to determine why. The law will not permit petitions to be presented, or winding-up orders made, where the company’s inability to pay is the result of COVID-19….”

However, upon his analysis, Mr Justice Snowden noted that he did not consider either applicant company to be in financial difficulty from the information provided. In fact, the reverse appeared to be true, as both companies were each disputing the underlying liability orders, and SBLT was asserting a cross-claim. In an earlier hearing, the applicant companies put forward in their written submissions that they were not facing liquidity or operational challenges.

Overall, there was a total lack of financial information to support a finding that the companies were unable to pay their debts due to COVID-19, beyond witness statements from the director/trustee of SBLT and her legal representative. The veracity of these statements no doubt had to be carefully weighed, in light of the fact that a general civil restraint order was made against SBLT at an earlier date as a result of their history of ‘meritless and abusive applications’ in an attempt to avoid payment.

The learned Judge also noted the proposed measures were ‘overwhelmingly likely’ to be limited to companies in certain identified sectors of economic activity, and to relate to statutory demands and petitions based upon claims by landlords for arrears of rent. It was held that these extraordinary measures evidently intend to give relief to those facing genuine hardship, such as tenants in the retail or hospitality industry, and could not be taken advantage of by repeat-offenders like the applicant companies who were the subject of ‘outstanding court orders and longstanding arrears… owing under liability orders to local authorities’.

This decision demonstrates that the Government’s emergency measures are not carte blanche for companies to refuse paying their debts. Any Directors or limited companies facing cash-flow issues from COVID-19 must be very careful in communicating their position to creditors when seeking to buy time to make payment.

If you require any advice on your options during this unprecedented crisis, Halcyon Chambers has a dedicated Commercial and Chancery team and is still taking instructions, including for remote hearings. Please contact our clerks for further information.

Admissions appeals still going ahead subject to revised procedure

Article by Naomh Gibson

While the COVID-19 pandemic rages on and schools currently remain closed, families who have been carefully planning ahead for their child’s education may have received some bad news yesterday. Thursday 16 April 2020 marked National Primary Offer Day, when primary school places were confirmed for thousands of pupils for the academic year 2020/2021, starting September this year. Applications for primary school places were made before the January deadline, when COVID-19 was for many people an international news item with no relevance to life in the UK.

There is always some movement to places offered following National Offer Days for both primary and secondary schools, as parents accept or reject places. You may find that your preferred choice becomes available within several days due to this re-shuffling. The statistics currently available suggest that the rate of successful applications is down from last year due to an increase in applications in major cities, including Birmingham.

For those who are not able to secure their preference through the waiting list process, they may avail themselves of their statutory right of appeal in accordance with the Schools Standards and Framework Act 1998.

The unprecedented situation has many parents and carers wondering whether they will still be able to exercise this right to appeal. The good news: the Department for Education has announced plans to temporarily relax procedural regulations from 24 April 2020 until 31 January 2021 so that hearings can go ahead despite the lockdown.

Appeal panels are usually held in person, which would break the current restriction on gatherings of more than 2 people. Therefore this requirement has been amended so that the hearings will no longer need to be attended in person, and the panel may be reduced from 3 members to 2 if one member has to withdraw for any reason.

DfE have also relaxed the regulations to allow appeals to be entirely paper-based, as in decided only on what written arguments have been submitted. It is not anticipated this will be a popular substitute compared to remote hearings however due to obligations around natural justice and procedural fairness.

The process therefore will be revised as follows:-

In your rejection letter, you will be advised of the appeals process for that particular school – follow this. You may notice a change from previous years that the admission authority for the school has set new or revised deadlines for appeals to be submitted in certain circumstances.

The admission authority must now allow you at least 28 calendar days to appeal from when they send the decision letter, an increase from the usual 20 school days, and another 28 calendar days’ written notice of any other deadline associated with your appeal.

Use this time wisely to prepare an appeal letter with any evidence you think supports your position. At the earliest opportunity, provide the admission authority with your dates of unavailability and preferred modes of remote attendance, to ensure they do not arrange this when you are not available or by a method you cannot use.

Appellants will now be given 14 calendar days’ written notice of an appeal hearing (although appellants can waive their right to this), an increase again from the usual 10 school days. All deadlines for the hearing of appeals must be as soon as reasonably practicable.

The admissions authority may require some date flexibility in order to secure the attendance of suitably independent panel members, if these individuals are unexpectedly engaged in other key worker duties, caring for a sick relative, or have taken ill themselves. Communicate regularly with the admissions authority’s designated clerk to ensure clarity.

If you fail to communicate with the clerk, or cannot take part in a remote hearing and an alternative date is not practical, the appeal may go ahead and be decided on the written information submitted.

While remote hearings can be daunting, you have the ‘home turf’ advantage of being able to attend the hearing in an environment in which you feel more comfortable. Please see our blog post here which details the technologies commonly used for remote hearings (NB: this guide is written for legal professionals but may still help).

Ultimately, your success at appeal will depend on whether the appeals panel consider: firstly, the school’s admission criteria were properly followed; and secondly, the admission criteria complies with the School admissions code (‘the Code’). The Code is statutory guidance that schools are legally obliged to follow when carrying out duties relating to school admissions. This is publicly available online (here). You may ask the admissions authority to provide you with a fresh copy of the school’s admission criteria if required. 

While the procedure for your appeal has to be altered, the way in which your appeal is decided will not be different; Schools cannot use the current situation as an excuse to unfairly deny your child a place.

To use some common examples, this means a child still cannot be rejected because the admission authority:

  • Took into account any other conditions when considering your child’s application, other than the oversubscription criteria published in their admission arrangements;
  • Took into account any previous schools attended by your child;
  • Gave extra priority to children whose parents ranked their preferred schools in a particular order;
  • Took into account reports from previous schools about your child’s past behaviour, attendance, attitude or achievement;
  • Took into account your older children’s behaviour, attendance, attitude or achievement if they attend(ed) your preferred school.

These procedural changes to the regulations will come into effect, subject to legislation, on 24 April 2020. If you require any further information on the timeline of this legislation, you may contact DfE’s designated coronavirus helpline on 0800 046 8687. Lines are open Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm and weekends 10am to 4pm.

If you have any queries regarding this article, you can contact Naomh’s clerks on 0121 237 6035 or clerks@halcyonchambers.com. Naomh is a first six pupil accepting instructions from July 2020 onwards.

Can a civil injunction stop me protesting?

Article by Tony Muman and Naomh Gibson

The United Kingdom has a proud history of protest movements, from the Suffragette marches of the early 1900’s, to the Northern Irish civil rights movement in the 1960’s, to the more recent anti-Iraq war protests in 2003 and last year’s People’s Vote march. Whether in protest against a rogue State (or a visiting President) or against unethical practices employed by private companies, the individual or collective right to hold actors to account through lawful protest is one of the most fundamental rights that we hold dear in a democratic society, and rightly should be cherished.

Everyone’s human right to protest is protected by the European Convention of Human Rights: freedom of thought, conscience and religion (Article 9), freedom of expression and speech (Article 10), and peaceful assembly and freedom of association (Article 11), often referred to as ‘Convention rights’. Our Human Rights Act 1998 enshrines in UK law most Convention rights and makes it unlawful for the government or any public authority to act contrary to them unless it can be proved that the interference is lawful. This often requires considering whether the interference was both necessary and proportionate, and balancing that need against the conduct of the protesting parties.

In what has been dubbed ‘the Birmingham School case’, useful guidance has given by the High Court on how this balancing act plays out for both named and unidentified protestors (also referred to as ‘Persons Unknown’). This article summarises the key principles in respect of both. The case received international coverage, some of which can be found here.

The defendants in this case were represented by the Halcyon Public Law team, who are experts in civil injunctions.

Ramby de Mello and Tony Muman acted for the First to Third Defendants, with the assistance of Muhammad Ul-Haq. Paul Diamond and Thomas Green acted for the Fifth Defendant.

If you are concerned about restrictions on your ability to lawfully protest, or would like further information about this case, please contact the Clerks.

‘The Birmingham School case’

In November 2019, the High Court heard over a five-day trial a test case for civil injunctions to restrict street protests and to prohibit online abuse of teachers at Anderton Park Infant and Junior School in Birmingham. Many of the protestors were parents who were opposed to the School’s decision to educate its pupils, their children, on “LGBT issues”. The School is maintained by the claimant local authority, Birmingham City Council, who applied for the injunctions against the five defendants.

A civil injunction may be granted where the Court is satisfied that an individual has engaged in, or threatens to engage in, conduct capable of causing nuisance and annoyance. If an injunction is granted, engaging in the behaviour prohibited by the injunction can result in the person restrained receiving a fine or at worst, a prison sentence for contempt of court. Before an injunction is made final, an interim injunction will usually be imposed before the final trial of the application is heard where there is a sufficiently real and imminent risk of misconduct before the final trial.

The local authority first brought the claim against four named defendants. Defendants 1-3 could be identified and were characterised in the claim as being the “ring-leaders” of the street protests. They each belonged to the Muslim faith and were opposed to what they saw as the School’s agenda on the basis that it amounted to unlawful discrimination on grounds of ethnicity and/or religion, contrary to the Equality Act 2010, and was a failure to comply with the requirement in the Education Act 1996 to have regard to parental wishes, in that there was a lack of any proper consultation. The second defendant had two children at the School and was concerned about what they were being taught, she said without her consent or consultation, and how the teaching of LGBT might cause confusion for her children given the direct conflict with the family’s religious beliefs.

The fourth defendant to the claim was named as “Persons Unknown”, the scope of which referred to any other protestor not specifically named (i.e. the whole world) with the ultimate intention of preventing anyone else from taking part in protests organised by the first to third defendants within the exclusion zone in ways that would be prohibited.

The fifth defendant was an online Christian activist who later asked to be joined to the proceedings to represent why the claimant’s proposed curtailment on freedom of speech using social media was unlawful and conflicted with his own religious beliefs.

Before the trial, Warby J heard submissions on whether the interim injunctions should continue against each of the named protestors and “Persons Unknown”. He concluded that the defendants’ application for discharge of the existing injunctions should be granted, on the grounds of the local authority’s failures to comply with the duty of full and frank disclosure owed by those who seek injunctions without giving notice to other parties. But he did agree on the local authority’s application to issue fresh interim injunctions against the defendants so that protection remained in place pending trial.

The first judgment dated 26 November 2019 can be read in full here.

Named Protestors>

The claimant made several allegations against each of the first three defendants about the way in which the regular protests outside the School amounted to nuisance and disruption, and how the online abuse of teachers on social media was unacceptable. Through the injunction the claimant sought to restrict the way in which the protests were carried on, including where the protests could take place identifying an exclusion zone around the School which defendants 1-3 were not permitted to enter, except for certain reasons. The injunction was not about restricting what the defendants could say or the subject matter of the protest.

Having heard the evidence Warby J found the allegations against the first three defendants proven and ordered that the interim injunctions against each of the three be made final. In summary, he found that that council had the relevant powers to bring the claim for an injunction, that its reasons for doing do were legitimate and lawful and did not amount to discriminatory treatment contrary to the Equality Act 2010, and that the first three defendants were responsible for the most extreme manifestations of the way in which the protests were carried out. He concluded that the restrictions sought by the council in the injunctions would have the effect of preventing the repeat of the unlawful behaviour and therefore would be a permissible interference with the defendants’ Convention Rights.

In the case of the first defendant, the sole excepted purpose is to enter a specified mosque, from a specified road. The injunction against the second defendant contains the same exception, and two more: taking her children to the School, or collecting them, or for any pre-arranged meeting at the School. In addition to a restriction on entering the exclusion zone, the defendants are ordered not to organise, engage in, or encourage any other person to engage in any protest against teaching at the School within the zone, including by distributing leaflets, and restrained from approaching, contacting or attempt to contacting any member of staff of the School, or any person who supports the local authority’s case.

An application for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal is pending.

What about social media?

The claimant also sought to injunct the use of social media to offend or ‘abuse’ teachers. The local authority’s case was there was unacceptable abuse of teachers on social media via a closed WhatsApp parent’s group and the first defendant’s Twitter account. At trial it became apparent that the local authority and the teachers only came to know of the WhatsApp group through “leaks” from one or more group members.

The Court did not continue the injunction restraining abusive statements on social media and made no injunction against Mr Allman (the fifth defendant), who succeeded in resisting the imposition of any further restriction on his freedom of speech as an online blogger.  The learned Judge ruled that the local authority had failed to present a sufficiently compelling case that there was a pressing social need for a restriction on what was said via social media.

Whilst dealing comprehensively with the conduct of the named protestors, the judgment left open the more difficult question as to who should be included within the definition of “Persons Unknown”, and, if they could be made subject to an injunction, what sort of restrictions could be imposed on such individuals.

This novel attempt to restrain what is said via social media on the internet was a daunting challenge for the claimant local authority, which in the end, rightly, failed. Such applications raise complex points of law, including questions of jurisdiction, which despite being raised in this case for the first time remain unanswered.

Persons Unknown

At the interim hearing before trial, Warby J expressed serious reservation about the lawful inclusion of the fourth defendant (“Persons Unknown”) in the local authority’s case, because of the incredibly broad nature of such a class which would effectively result in an order against the entire world, including the Judge himself, and thus varied the fourth defendant to being “Persons Unknown seeking to express opinions about the teaching at the School”. The interim judgment dated 10 June 2019 can be read in full here.

Despite the soundings at the interim hearing, the claimant maintained its claim against the fourth defendant. Following trial, the learned Judge invited further submissions from the parties as to whether an injunction could properly be made final against “Persons Unknown”.

On 5 March 2020 a decision was handed down by the Court of Appeal in the case of Canada Goose (full decision available here).

Canada Goose is an international retail clothing company which sells luxury winter products manufactured using animal products including fur and/or down. In November 2017, Canada Goose opened a store on Regent Street in London which became the subject of demonstrations by animal rights activists such as Surge, PETA, and other activist groups, who largely organised online.

On the store’s opening morning, dozens of protesters gathered outside the shop holding posters with slogans reading “fur is murder”, “blood on your hands” and “is your vanity worth your suffering?” This continued into a two-year long protest with approximately three demonstrations a week, resulting in legal proceedings when Canada Goose attempted to obtain a final injunction against the “Persons Unknown” protestors.

The High Court declined to grant a final injunction against these unidentified protestors. This is because a basic norm of civil litigation is that a final injunction operates only between the parties to the proceedings, once that injunction has been ‘served’ on them. ‘Service’ refers to how a document is given to another party. If a document is not ‘served’ correctly then it cannot take effect, it will be as if the document did not exist or the other party had never heard of it. For example, unless a party explicitly gives you consent to send something to them by email or fax, you cannot electronically serve on them. Part 6 of the Civil Procedure Rules (usually referred to as ‘CPR’ or ‘the CPR’) outlines the basic requirements for service in civil proceedings (here).

If “Persons Unknown” are not identified, they cannot be added to the proceedings and further cannot be served upon by any of the required CPR 6 methods. A claimant who wants an interim injunction to take effect against “Persons Unknown” must take all reasonable steps to identify them and add these individuals as parties to the proceedings, and then serve on them in line with CPR 6.

The “Persons Unknown” defendant must be people who have not been identified but are capable of being identified and served with the proceedings, if necessary, by alternative service such as can reasonably be expected to bring the proceedings to their attention.

Canada Goose appealed to the Court of Appeal who dismissed their case, ruling that the description of the “Persons Unknown” respondents was too broad as, in its original form, it was capable of including protesters who might never even intend to visit the store. Moreover, both in the interim injunctions and in its proposed final form, the injunction was capable of affecting persons who might not carry out any unlawful activity as some of the prohibited acts would not be or might not be unlawful.

Notwithstanding this clarification of the relevant law, the claimant unperturbed still pressed the Court to extend its injunction against the fourth defendant. To assist the Court, defendants 1-3 and defendant 5 resisted the application on principle, arguing that the key document in the Claimant’s case which must set out the factual and legal basis for their claim, the Particulars of Claim, did not adequately define the target group; and that it was abusive to sue “Persons Unknown” when the individuals whom the claimant truly wished to sue were identifiable, as they did not wear disguise when protesting, and could have been identified and joined by name, had reasonable steps to do so been taken.

In his second judgment, Warby J refused to grant a final injunction against “Persons Unknown” and accordingly dismissed the claim against the fourth defendant. While there are very limited circumstances in which “Persons Unknown” can have a final injunction take effect against them, in line with Canada Goose, the learned Judge held that protester actions do not fall within exceptional category. This is because the facility to sue individuals anonymously as “Persons Unknown” is a significant departure from one of the fundamental tenants of civil litigation and must therefore be carefully restrained.

Further, it is another fundamental tenant of civil litigation that the claimant must ‘make the running’, i.e. prove their case as they have set it out in their pleadings, also known as statements of case. The claimant must do this on the balance of probabilities, by satisfying the Court their version of events is more likely than not.

In addition, a claimant cannot be allowed to claim there has been misconduct by “Persons Unknown” because this is a transient, ever-changing group of people and results in moving goalposts; unlawful acts by those outside of an activist movement assumed to be a part of the movement might result in the entire movement being restrained by an injunction.

The result of Canada Goose, as applied in the Birmingham School case, is that the claimant must tie their colours to the mast and identify specific individuals, and say clearly what those individuals have allegedly done which amounts to serious misconduct requiring an injunction.

The second judgment dated 8 April 2020 can be read in full here.

Conclusion

In this case, using its full resource, the local authority was able to demonstrate evidentially that the conduct of the first three defendants at their regular protests was unlawful and caused distress and harassment to teaching staff, pupils and local-residents. It was this behaviour (and not what was said or the subject-matter of the protest) that ultimately justified the Court’s interference with the defendants’ Convention Rights. That is not something lightly done, but here the need to curtail the illegality of the protests was the pressing need which allowed the Court to make final the injunctions preventing the first three defendants from protesting outside the School and in the manner in which they were doing do (use of amplification devices, speakers etc.)

The Court rejected the defences based on the Equality Act and the defendants’ religious convictions. This aspect of the case may well be the subject of further deliberation by the Court of Appeal.

Although the Court rejected the claim against the fourth defendant (“Persons Unknown”) predictably the restriction against the first three defendants will lead to the cessation of similar protestors by third parties in the exclusion zone. If not, the local authority will have to take steps to identify who the new protestors are and apply for identical injunctions against them.

The key therefore is to maintain good, lawful and structured protest in an organised and controlled manner. Specificity is needed both in respect of what is being protested about – which in turn affects how the protest manifests – and in the response to protest by claimants seeking to restrain this fundamental right through injunctive relief. Of course, some protest by its very nature is meant to be loud and disruptive. Feelings and emotions often run high, not least where the issues relate to parental choice and conviction of religion. But repetitive and concerted behaviour which is unlawful no matter how emotive the subject matter is likely to fall foul of any application for civil injunction, as shown in this case.

One feature of the School protests was the failure to prevent the wild rant of a third party who had travelled to Birmingham to attend the protests. Conversely though, the identity of the ranting individual was known to the claimant local authority and he should have been included by name to the case. This is an example of how the failure to do so in the hope that such persons can be caught by the catch-all “Persons Unknown” group is impermissible.

The second judgment has provided strong and welcome guidance for those seeking to resist draconian “Persons Unknown” blanket civil injunctions. Injunctions or Section 14 Orders (Public Order Act 1986) effectively banning groups from protesting in a wide locale should always be anxiously scrutinised to ensure compliance with the Canada Goose principles. Injunctions with excessive breadth are the kind of powers that public authorities like to wield but must now avoid. An individual with only a passing association with a protesting group may face being caught in the net of a section 14 Order, the effect of which would be an unacceptable curtailment of their individual Convention rights.

As to restrictions on what can and cannot be said on the internet using the platform of social media, the Court wisely rowed away from this issue, which survives for another day. There are strong defences available which raised untested and challenge principles of law.

The defendants in this case were represented by the Halcyon Public Law team, who are experts in civil injunctions.

Ramby de Mello and Tony Muman acted for the First to Third Defendants, with the assistance of Muhammad Ul-Haq. Paul Diamond and Thomas Green acted for the Fifth Defendant.

If you are concerned about restrictions on your ability to lawfully protest, or would like further information about this case, please contact the Clerks.

Immigration analysis: The Supreme Court’s decision on the minimum income requirement (MIR)

Immigration analysis: The Supreme Court’s decision on the minimum income requirement (MIR) for partners of non-European Economic Area (EEA) nationals seeking leave to enter is considered by Tony Muman, barrister, at 43 Temple Row Chambers.

Do you earn enough—Article 8, section 55 and the minimum income requirement (R (on the application of MM (Lebanon)) v Secretary of State for the Home Department and other cases)

An informal event designed for conversation and networking, rather than a formal lecture, attendees will be provided with a written delegate pack containing Tony’s views on the judgment and how to use it to help your clients. There will be refreshments, and an opportunity to network with other Midlands immigration professionals.

The event will be held on Wednesday 8 March 2017 at 5.30pm. The event is completely free of charge, and the City Centre venue will be confirmed shortly.

Please indicate whether you can attend by emailing the clerk’s at clerks@43templerow.co.uk, and we look forward to seeing you.

A Barrister’s tips for giving evidence in the Family Court

Following, Jonathan Bott’s successful lecture at Community Care Live in Birmingham last year, he has recently provided an article for Community Care Inform, the online resource for social work professionals entitled ‘A barristers tips for giving evidence in family cases’. The article is designed to assist social workers when giving evidence and a copy can be accessed here.

This article was published on Community Care Inform – an online resource for social work professionals, which provides guidance and tools, research and legal information to enable robust evidence-based practice and decision-making. © Community Care Inform, 2016.

24 Jan 2017: Supreme Court refuses Government’s Article 50 Appeal.

The Supreme Court has dismissed the Government’s Appeal in R (on the application of Miller), AB Parties v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.

In what has been described as one of the most important constitutional cases for generations, Mr Tony Muman with the assistance of Mr Thomas Green, both of 43 Temple Row Chambers, represented the AB parties in this judicial review to determine the need for Parliamentary authority to give notice of withdrawal from the EU under Article 50(1) of the Treaty of the European Union.

The Supreme Court held that the Government cannot exercise prerogative powers to give notice pursuant to Article 50 without primary legislation been enacted by parliament. Fundamentally, the Court held that it is only Parliament that can pass laws which interfere with the rights of individuals which have been enshrined in law by Parliament.

The Government will now have to introduce legislation to be laid before Parliament. It is for Parliament, in light of the arguments made on behalf of the AB parties, to consider to what extent to protect the fundamental rights of EEA nationals and other residents in the UK before Article 50 is Triggered.

A copy of the Judgment can be viewed here and a copy of the Press Summary can be viewed here.

3 Nov 2016: The Claimants have WON the Brexit Judicial Review challenge.

Full Article 50 High Court judgment available here.

Tony Muman of Counsel instructed on behalf of AB Parties with the assistance of Thomas Green.

Further details to follow.

Tony Muman instructed by Mr. Byndloss as Supreme Court grants Permission to Appeal against ‘Deport First Appeal Later’ provision.

Supreme Court grants Permission to Appeal against ‘Deport First Appeal Later’ provision

The Supreme Court (Lords Kerr, Reed and Toulson) has today granted permission to appeal in R (Byndloss) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2015] EWCA Civ 1020. The Court of Appeal judgment is at http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2015/1020.html

The appeal concerns the correct interpretation of the new ‘deport first, appeal later’ rules under section 94B of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002.

Section 94B gives the Secretary of State the power to certify the human rights claim of a person liable to deportation where she considers that to do so would not be unlawful under section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (public body not to act contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights). The effect of such a certification is that any appeal must be brought from outside the United Kingdom.

Section 94B affects persons whose deportation is said by the Secretary of State to be conducive to the public good. It is part of the overall drive to move appeal rights out of country; an approach expanded in the current Immigration Bill, to other human rights appeals.

The Home Secretary, during the second reading of the Bill, said ‘The 2014 Act shows that “deport first, appeal later” works when foreign criminals make human rights claims. Our manifesto committed us to extending that to all human rights claims. The Bill will now deliver on that commitment, allowing us to remove people with no right to be in the UK before they can appeal, provided that does not breach their human rights or cause serious irreversible harm.’

Mr Byndloss has eight children in the UK. Having had Indefinite Leave to Remain he is liable to deportation.  The Secretary of State certified his human rights claims, focusing initially only on the question of whether removal pending an appeal would cause ‘serious and irreversible harm’.

Those who have been dealing with such cases since section 94B came into force will be familiar with the ‘serious and irreversible test’. Home Office caseworkers have routinely been interpreting the legislation and guidance to remove would-be appellants where it was considered that removal would not breach article 3 ECHR, whilst effectively ignoring article 8 ECHR.

At the Court of Appeal, the Secretary of State conceded that that interpretation of the legislation is wrong. The Court confirmed that ‘Even if the Secretary of State is satisfied that removal pending determination of an appeal would not give rise to a real risk of serious irreversible harm, that is not a sufficient basis for certification.  She cannot certify in any case unless she considers…that removal pending determination of any appeal would not be unlawful under section 6 of the Human Rights Act.’ 

This was markedly different to the approach taken in the Secretary of State’s guidance to caseworkers to date. The Court of Appeal declared that her guidance on section 94B is ‘inaccurate and misleading in focusing as it does on the criterion of serious irreversible harm’ and will now have to be rewritten.

Despite this important ruling on the guidance, Mr Byndloss challenges the certification based on arguments as to procedural protections and the best interests of his children were either rejected on the facts or not confronted by the court, leading his judicial review claim to fail. In the meantime, a stay on his deportation has been granted.

Tony Muman is instructed for Mr Byndloss.

For all enquiries please contact the clerks.

43 Temple Row Barristers Appear in the Supreme Court to Challenge Minimum Income Visa Rules

43 Temple Row Barristers Appear in the Supreme Court to Challenge Minimum Income Visa Rules

 

Thursday 25 February 2016

Over the course of a three day hearing between 22-24 February 2016, a seven judge bench of the Supreme Court has considered the linked appeals in MM (Lebanon) and others v. Secretary of State for the Home Department and SS (Congo) v. Entry Clearance Officer, Nairobi.  A write up of the Court of Appeal’s judgment can be found here and the High Court here.

The appeals concerned the Home Office Minimum Income Rules which require a British citizen, a lawfully settled person or a refugee in the UK, to be earning an income of at least £18,600 per annum, rising to £22,400 with the first child and increasing by £2,400 per child thereafter, before being allowed to sponsor a non-EU national partner or spouse.  In order to demonstrate the £18,600 the Rules prevent the sponsor from relying on savings less than £16,000 or on promises of third party support or an offer of employment that the incoming spouse or partner may have secured.

It was argued that the £18,600 requirement was grossly excessive and unobtainable for the majority of the working population particularly given the restrictions on how it could be met.  Furthermore, the Appellants argued that the Minimum Income Rules disproportionally impacted those in low-income occupations, refugees, women and certain ethnic groups.  The Appellants submitted that the rules were inconsistent with the States’ statutory duty to have regard to the best interests of children and were incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to respect for private and family life) and Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) and that the rules set out by the Secretary of State amounted to significant breaches of individual’s rights which would in many cases last a lifetime.  The Home Office guidance on when to apply discretion in the favour of an applicant who did not meet the Minimum Income Rules was in itself unlawful because it imposed a series of thresholds and tests of exceptionality before it could be considered.

Both MM and SS are refugees.  Master AF is the nephew of MM, although they have a special father/son relationship.  Neither MM or SS are able to return to their home countries to enjoy a family life with their spouses because of a continuing risk to them there.  They argued in part that the Immigration Rules fail to draw this obvious and very important distinction between them and those who are able to enjoy family life elsewhere.  They also pointed out that the Minimum Income Rules were forcing British citizen sponsors out of the UK solely in order to live with their family members whose admission was otherwise barred as a result of not earning the required amounts.

The Supreme Court has reserved its decision and judgment is expected in a number of months.

Tony Muman appeared for the Appellants MM, Master AF and SS

Joseph Neville appeared with Mr Muman for the Appellants Master AF and SS

The pre-entry English requirement for partners and article 8

Tony Muman recently wrote an article for LexisNexis following the outcome of the Bibi case at the Supreme Court which can be viewed by clicking on the link below.

To instruct Tony Muman on any public law or immigration matter, please contact his clerks.

The pre-entry English requirement for partners and article 8

Supreme Court rules on pre-entry English language tests

43templerow

Supreme Court rules on pre-entry English language tests

On 18 November 2015 the Supreme Court handed down judgment in R (on the applications of Ali and Bibi) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2015] UKSC 59. The cases concerned a challenge to the introduction in 2010 of an Immigration Rule. The Rule imposed a requirement that spouses or partners from certain non-EEA countries who wish to marry British Citizens or persons settled in the UK should first learn a certain level of English, and pass a test, before they join their spouses or partners in the United Kingdom.

In a long awaited decision the Supreme Court has not yet finally concluded what the result ought to be. The Supreme Court has decided to invite further submissions on whether it would be appropriate to give declaratory relief on how the Rule ought to be applied to reflect the Court’s concerns which are set out in the judgment.

Through-out the litigation, which started in 2010 in the Administrative Court, the appellants had alleged that the Rule was contrary to the right to respect for family life in the European Convention of Human Rights (Article 8). Although the Rule contains the possibility of an exemption in exceptional circumstances, the appellants had also made submissions at each stage of the litigation that the Secretary of State’s interpretation of ‘exceptional circumstances’, as set out in Home Office Guidance, was too narrow and showed that the Rule would be applied unlawfully in contravention of Article 8. The judicial review claims were dismissed by the High Court and by the Court of Appeal by a 2-1 majority decision.

In the Supreme Court, Lady Hale gave the first judgment, with which Lord Wilson agreed. She said that she would refuse the remedy of striking down the Rule or declaring it invalid because, as framed, it was capable of being applied compatibly with Article 8. But she went on to say that the operation of the Rule, in the light of the Guidance, was likely to be incompatible with Convention rights in a significant number of cases. She concluded that there was likely to be some benefit, both to individuals and to those administering the Rule, in declaring that the application of the Rule would be incompatible with Convention rights in certain types of cases such as where it would be impracticable without incurring unreasonable expense for a foreign spouse or partner to gain access to the necessary tuition or to take the test. Lord Hodge and Lord Hughes also recognised that the Guidance ought to be amended because it would lead in a number of cases to a breach of Article 8.

Lord Neuberger said that he saw considerable attraction in granting declaratory relief to reflect the concerns that the whole Court had about the application of the Guidance. He said that this was an important and sensitive topic, and it would be unfortunate if there was no formal record of the Supreme Court’s concerns. A final decision will however be made after considering further submissions from the parties. The appellants have therefore filed written submissions formally seeking declaratory relief in relation to the Guidance. The Secretary of State for the Home Department has yet to respond.

Whether or not the Court ultimately makes a declaration, the judgment already contains several important judicial statements, such as statements about the substantial interference that will be caused to family life in many cases, the limited value of a pre-entry language requirement in promoting integration, and the inadequacies of the Guidance. These statements should mean that, although the Rule itself has not been declared unlawful, more applications for entry clearance and appeals against refusals should now succeed on Article 8 grounds where the pre-entry English requirement has not been satisfied. The Secretary of State will also have to issue new and modified Guidance which properly reflects the court’s concerns.

 

The first appellant (Bibi) was represented by Manjit Singh Gill QC and Tony Muman, instructed by J M Wilson Solicitors.

The second appellant (Ali) was represented by Ramby De Mello and Abid Mahmood, instructed by Fountain Solicitors.

 

The judgment is available at

 

https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2013-0266-judgment.pdf

Preparation for RTA Trials

  1. Accuracy of Pleadings:
    • Parties should be careful to accurately state the circumstances of the accident in the Particulars of Claim or Defence.
    • Witness Statements should be cross checked with the Pleadings once they have been finalised. If there are inconsistencies, an amendment to the Pleadings should be drafted and agreed with the opposition.  In the event of there being no agreement, an application to the Court should be considered.
  1. Witnesses to the Collision:
    • Witness statements should be taken from any adult inside the vehicle at the time of the collision.
    • Witnesses should not be excluded from the proceedings on the basis that they are a spouse/other family member. The Court will consider the evidence of family members and will not consider that witnesses lack credibility just because they are related.
    • The more witnesses available, the stronger the case will generally be at trial.
  1. Memorandum of Understanding:
    • Insurers should refrain from entering into a MOU as an alternative to the opposition bringing a counterclaim. If there is an MOU, the Court simply needs to be satisfied that the party making the claim has discharged the burden of doing so – this gives the Defendant a tactical advantage.  If there is a counterclaim, the Court will have to choose between the competing versions of events as both parties bear equal burdens of proving their case.
  1. Credit Hire:
    • Should a credit hire claim be included, it is not advisable for the Claimant to tender their own spot hire rates in circumstances where the Defendant does not intend to rely on their own. The Defendant bears the burden of establishing lower rates and, often, the Claimant is doing the work which allows the Court to justify a lower award.

Katie Wilkinson

R (on the Application of SS Congo) v Secretary of State for Home Department

Notice has been received today that permission to Appeal in this case has been granted. The Appeal will be heard with R (on the Application of MM Lebanon) in February 2016.

Tony Muman and Joseph Neville are instructed in these cases.

Supreme Court give permission in landmark human rights case

The Supreme Court has now given permission to appeal the Court of Appeal’s decision in SSHD v SS (Congo) & Ors [2015] EWCA Civ 387. The court has directed that the appeal be heard on 22nd – 24th February 2016, alongside the case of MM (Lebanon).

The two cases deal with the government’s new Minimum Income Rules, which impose a minimum £18,600 income requirement before a non-EEA foreigner may join his or her partner in the UK. If the couple have a dependent child, this amount rises to £22,400, and increases further for every subsequent child. The income of the foreign partner on arrival in the UK is not taken into account, nor is any third party support, free accommodation, or savings the couple might have below the figure of £16,000.

Almost half the UK adult population do not meet these requirements, which are the highest in the world in relative terms, and the second highest in absolute terms. The impact on women, ethnic minorities, and those living in deprived areas is even worse, with a majority being deemed too poor to bring their foreign partner to the UK.

Because of the rules over 15,000 children, the vast majority British, are now living in enforced separation from one of their parents in what the Children’s Commissioner calls ‘Skype families‘. The Office for the Children’s Commissioner says:

“The Government is under a legal obligation to treat the best interests of children as a primary consideration when implementing rules and policies. The current family migration rules fall woefully short of this and children’s best interests are often reduced to a mere exception.
“In an ongoing attempt to reduce migration the Government has introduced rules which are now adversely impacting on British citizen families and children. This must surely be an unintended consequence but one that must now be urgently addressed.
“The result has been the separation of parents and children, heartache and misery. Some families cannot see how they can ever meet the rules and separation may be permanent.
The paper quotes testimony from parents, such as this mother of an 11 year old boy:
I recently had to go to his school because he went through a period of anger … I understand he’s coming up to teenage years, but… he had a few anger issues and [talked] about wanting to smash things and not really hurting himself but wanting to break and smash stuff. He did also mention not wanting to live any more and he did go through a period of “why am I even bothering any more?” The doctor talked about the situation and asked him why he thought he was having those feelings and he said to her, “it’s because of my dad, because I can’t see my dad”. The doctor says we need to give him the tools to cope with his feelings as she knows we can’t fix it.”

There are countless more tens of thousands of British and UK settled residents kept apart from their partners due to their financial circumstances.

The case of MM deals with whether the rules are so harsh that they represent an inherently disproportionate interference in the right to a family life under Article 8 ECHR, or alternatively that they are lawful because the Secretary of State or a tribunal can allow cases on a discretionary basis even where the rules are not met. The case of SS looks at the width of that second stage – Theresa May arguing that consequences such as those identified above by the Children’s Commissioner are simply not good enough to qualify as an exception.

The Minimum Income Rules are the linchpin of the government’s immigration policy. The decision of the Supreme Court is likely to be the most significant human rights cases it has decided in years: in legal terms the extent to which government policy can determine the outcome of assessments of proportionality in Article 8, and in human terms by the tens of thousands of people’s lives it will affect.

43templerow’s barristers Tony Muman and Joseph Neville represent MM, AF and SS, and a number of test cases linked to the appeals presently stayed at the Court of Appeal awaiting the outcome of the Supreme Court judgments.

Costs in the First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber)

 

Following a recommendation in the Report of the Costs Review Group to the Senior President of the Tribunal in December 2011, costs in the First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) can now be awarded in the following circumstances:

  • Where wasted costs have been incurred; or
  • Where costs have been incurred by one party where a person has acted unreasonably in bringing, defending, or conducting proceedings; or
  • In a land registration case.

Jurisdiction is conferred on the Tribunal pursuant section 29(4) of the Tribunal Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 which reads:

Costs or expenses

(1) The costs of and incidental to—

(a) all proceedings in the First-tier Tribunal, and

(b) all proceedings in the Upper Tribunal,

shall be in the discretion of the Tribunal in which the proceedings take place.

(2)The relevant Tribunal shall have full power to determine by whom and to what extent the costs are to be paid.

(3) Subsections (1) and (2) have effect subject to Tribunal Procedure Rules.

(4) In any proceedings mentioned in subsection (1), the relevant Tribunal may—

(a) disallow, or

(b) (as the case may be) order the legal or other representative concerned to meet, the whole of any wasted costs or such part of them as may be determined in accordance with Tribunal Procedure Rules.

(5) In subsection (4) “wasted costs” means any costs incurred by a party—

(a) as a result of any improper, unreasonable or negligent act or omission on the part of any legal or other representative or any employee of such a representative, or

(b) which, in the light of any such act or omission occurring after they were incurred, the relevant Tribunal considers it is unreasonable to expect that party to pay.

(6) In this section “legal or other representative”, in relation to a party to proceedings, means any person exercising a right of audience or right to conduct the proceedings on his behalf.

(7) In the application of this section in relation to Scotland, any reference in this section to costs is to be read as a reference to expenses.”

Pursuant to this provision, Rule 13 of The Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal) (Property Chamber) Rules 2013 now applies to unreasonable conduct arguments in proceedings in agricultural land and drainage cases, residential property cases, and leasehold cases.

If awarded to a party, costs can be summarily assessed by the Tribunal, awarded in an agreed sum, or made subject to detailed assessment.

Applicants and Respondents in the Tribunal should therefore ensure compliance with Orders and Directions, and avoid last minute applications, or risk defending a costs application on the basis of unreasonable conduct.

Katie Wilkinson

Court of Appeal rules on family migration and the minimum income threshold

The Court of Appeal has today handed down judgment in which it has allowed the Home Secretary’s appeal against Mr Justice Blake’s decision in MM and others v Secretary of State [2013] EWHC 1900 Admin. The case concerns the Home Secretary’s controversial rules on family migration requiring that British Citizens or partners lawfully settled in the UK must show that they have an income of at least £18,600 p.a. with additional sums for each child before they can sponsor their foreign partners from outside the European Economic Area. The Court of Appeal has held that the requirements are lawful. The court reached this conclusion essentially on the basis that it was not for the court to analyse the basis of the Secretary of State’s decision to introduce such requirements into the immigration rules which are merely statements of administrative policy.

The test adopted by the court is the same as that which it adopted in Bibi [2013] EWCA Civ 322 (the case concerning the English language requirement), namely that it is enough that the Secretary of State should have a ‘rational belief’ that the policy embodied in the requirements will achieve the identified aim. This is an extremely restrained form of judicial review and suggests a lack of willingness to interfere with governmental decisions. This test seems to conflict with the approach adopted by the Supreme Court in cases such as Baiai [2008] UKHL 53 and Quila [2011] UKSC 45 where the court adopted a rigorous analysis in assessing the evidence and used a test requiring the Secretary of State to show an objective justification. The Supreme Court has already granted permission to appeal in Bibi on arguments which include the argument that the test of a mere rational belief is wrong. It is likely that the present case will also proceed to the Supreme Court on an expedited basis.  Whereas Mr Justice Blake’s decision had properly considered the detailed evidence provided by the claimants’ lawyers, the Court of Appeal barely considered it. The decision comes over four months after the appeals were heard in March 2014 and two years after the rules were introduced.

Since Mr Justice Blake’s decision, the Secretary of State has imposed a stay on considering applications which would otherwise have been refused for failure to satisfy the new rules. That stay will no doubt now be lifted. This will at least give people an opportunity to mount an appeal against negative decisions.  In the meantime, a great many families who are never likely to be a burden on the state will have been kept apart. Applicants may however still succeed under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights even if they cannot satisfy the minimum income requirements under the rules. The Court of Appeal rejected the suggestion in Nagre [2013] EWHC 720 Admin that, if the rules cannot be satisfied, the applicant will need to show an arguable case before the decision-maker can move onto considering Article 8.

The Court of Appeal did not treat the rules on minimum income requirements as constituting a complete code for Article 8 purposes such that there was no need to consider Article 8 separately. Indeed, that was not the Secretary of State’s position. The Court of Appeal also noted the Guidance which had initially been produced in a draft form (only on the fourth day of the hearing before Mr Justice Blake) and the Guidance which had then been promulgated in final form after that hearing. That final Guidance directs caseworkers first to consider applications under the rules and, if the applicant does not meet the requirement of the rules, to move onto a second stage. Under that second stage caseworkers are required to consider  “whether,  based on an overall consideration of the facts of the case,  there are exceptional circumstances which mean refusal of the application would result in unjustifiably harsh consequences for the individual or their family such that refusal would not be proportionate under Article 8.  If there are such exceptional circumstances, leave outside the rules should be granted, if not, the application should be refused”.

The Court of Appeal has ruled that where the relevant group of immigration rules does not constitute a “complete code” then the proportionality test will be more at large, albeit guided by the Huang tests and UK and Strasbourg case law (see paragraph 134). In other words, unlike rules relating to the deportation of criminals, the application of Article 8 to cases which fail to satisfy the minimum income requirements will have to be carried out in any event in accordance with a straightforward Article 8 assessment. This is why the Court of Appeal goes on to say at paragraph 160 that if, as is suggested in the claimants’ evidence, decision makers have not been applying their minds to whether a “proportionality” test has to be used when considering “exceptional circumstances” in individual cases, the remedy lies in pursuing individual appeals and requiring decision-makers to apply the Huang and normal Article 8 tests. There is no other arguability or exceptionality standard.  Therefore, it would seem that, much of Mr Justice Blake’s general comments as to proportionality will in any event be relevant to individual decisions, even if the rules are formally not unlawful.

So all is not lost just yet. The rules have forced significant numbers of British people to go and live in Europe for a reasonable period for time, in exercise of their rights as EU Citizens, before they lawfully come back months later with their spouses under EU law. In other cases, the rules have forced such persons out of the United Kingdom and out of Europe altogether, even though they are British or have been lawfully settled in the UK for many years. The impact on young people, part-time workers and women, particularly those from a racial minority background, who are more likely to be in low-paid jobs, has been particularly severe. The income threshold rules have received criticism from other quarters too. In June 2013, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration issued a report which concluded that the rules were disproportionate. http://www.appgmigration.org.uk/family-inquiry. After the Court of Appeal’s ruling, all factors going to the harshness of the rules will have to be assessed in the context of Article 8 in individual cases.

Tony Muman is instructed on behalf of the First Respondent and the Interested Party and Joseph Neville is instructed on behalf of the Interested Party in this case. To instruct any member of our Immigration & Public Law team please contact the clerks.