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Human rights legal cases

1. Eweida & Chaplin v UK

The ECHR found that Nadia Eweida suffered a breach of her right to religious freedom, in line with the Commission’s intervention submitted to the European Court.

There was potential for confusion for both employers and employees following the ruling, due to the fact that the Court found that Eweida had suffered discrimination but that another applicant, Chaplin, had not.  

The Commission therefore published guidance on this issue for employers and employees, to help them avoid further confusion and potentially costly litigation and is currently undertaking research to enable the government to consider whether to change the law.

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2. Letts v Legal Aid Agency

The High Court ruled that the Lord Chancellor’s guidance on legal aid for representation at inquests incorporates an error of law and also provided a materially misleading impression of what the law is.

The guidance failed to recognise that investigations into certain deaths will automatically require the involvement of the families of the deceased.  It could therefore lead to legal aid being wrongly refused and needed to be revised.

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3. Moore and Coates v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

The High Court ruled that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has indirectly discriminated against Gypsy and Traveller claimants, contravening both the Equality Act 2010 and also Article 6 by deciding to recover each Claimant’s planning appeal for a single pitch traveller site in the Green Belt.

The Court found that the Secretary of State’s recovery of all Gypsy and Traveller planning appeals was unlawful, disproportionate and led to an unreasonable delay in deciding such appeals.

The Commission has written to the Secretary of State without receiving a satisfactory response and is now applying to intervene in an individual case by a Traveller who has had his planning appeal held up, to ensure that the SS takes action in line with the court’s finding.

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4. Bracking and others v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The Commission successfully intervened in a Judicial Review of abolition of the Independent Living Fund. The Court of Appeal overturned the government’s decision to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF), a discretionary fund supporting care packages to help disabled people live independent lives. 

The court found that the decision to close the ILF had been taken without complying with the public sector equality duty (PSED).

After the judgment, the SoS for Work and Pensions retook the decision to terminate the ILF funding and, although we again intervened to challenge the fresh decision, the application for judicial review was dismissed.

However the requirements of the public sector equality duty upon public bodies when making decisions which we submitted in the original case and were adopted in the court’s judgment have set the benchmark for more recent cases on whether a public body has complied with the PSED.

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5.T v Secretary of State for the Home Department

T was eleven when he received two warnings from Greater Manchester Police after being found with two stolen bikes. T, who wanted to be a sports teacher, assumed these warnings had expired, but they showed up several years later when a potential employer and a university carried out a criminal record check.

The Supreme Court ruled that adults should not be haunted by relatively trivial offences committed when they were children as this would breach their human rights and could affect their employment prospects.

As a result of the ongoing proceedings the government acted to rectify problems identified in the 1997 Police Act.

6. Detention Action v Secretary of State for the Home Department

The charity Detention Action brought a general claim to challenge the lawfulness of the policy and practice applied by the defendant in the operation of the Detained Fast Track, DFT.

The Commission intervened to submit that the DFT breached the human rights of those subject to the DFT generally and particularly impacted on certain groups who would find it excessively difficult to compile and present their evidence.

The EHRC supported the submissions of Detention Action, and added submissions on Articles 3 and 5, and Articles 13 and 14, principally the latter.

The claim partially succeeded on the basis that there was no justification for the ‘period of inactivity’ between induction into the DFT and the allocation of lawyers. As a result the conscientious lawyer did not have time to do properly what may need doing.

The upshot was that the DFT carried an unacceptably high risk of unfairness, particularly to vulnerable applicants, which could be removed by the earlier instruction of lawyers.

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7. Smith v MoD

The case was about whether the State should send our troops into battle with sub-standard equipment; it raised issues concerning the extent of protections afforded to British citizens serving in war by the (UK) State.

The Supreme Court ruled that British soldiers killed while serving in Iraq were still under UK jurisdiction and so were entitled to human rights protection to the extent that is reasonable and does not interfere with the demands of active service.

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8. NS v Secretary of State for the Home Department, Court of Appeal

The Commission intervened at the Court of Appeal and the European Court of Justice.

The CJEU’s judgment clarified that the EU asylum system cannot operate on the basis of a “conclusive presumption” that all EU Member States “observe the fundamental rights of the European Union”. 

The Member States, including the national courts, may not transfer an asylum seeker to the ‘Member State responsible’ under the Dublin II agreement where they cannot be unaware that systemic deficiencies in the asylum procedure and in the reception conditions of asylum seekers in that Member State amount to substantial grounds for believing that the asylum seeker would face a real risk of being subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment within the meaning of Article 4 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

9. Burnip v Birmingham City Council and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Concerned the differential impact on disabled people of rules (now partially repealed) preventing local housing allowance being paid in respect of a carer's bedroom.

Commission intervened on the application of the ‘Thlimmenos’  principle: the need for unlike cases to be treated differently.

Established that housing benefit must take into account the extra needs of disabled children and adults. 

10. R v (1) L (2) HVN(3) THN(4) T

The Commission intervened in an appeal against the conviction of T, a 14-year-old Vietnamese boy, who was forced to work in a cannabis factory after being trafficked to England in the back of a refrigerated lorry.

The Commission submitted that Article 4 and UN law required that child victims of trafficking should be given support, assistance and protection and not further victimised by being prosecuted.

The Court of Appeal scrubbed T's conviction and that of three other trafficking victims, whose cases were heard together. The Court accepted the Commission's submission that there is that is a heavy onus on the authorities to thoroughly investigate trafficking allegations, so that unnecessary prosecutions do not happen.

Its judgment further reflected the Commission's arguments that the courts have the power to stay prosecution proceedings where it had not been presented with enough evidence about the age of the defendant and whether they have been a victim of trafficking.

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Last updated: 05 May 2016