Having failed to keep up with the demands of this blog for most of 2020 I have spent the last couple of weeks attempting to catch up with the case law, if not many other developments, in the field of equality law and have just posted multiple case reports. While less useful than they might have been had they been posted in a timely manner I hope that they will contribute to the blog as a resource for those interested in this area of law. I have also started to provide more information in the tags including as to judges and lawyers involved.
Perhaps the most notable decision is that of the Supreme Court in R (SC) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  UKSC 26,  3 WLR 428, 9 July 2021 in which the Supreme Court admitted defeat in the Article 14 battle between suspect grounds and the “manifestly without reasonable foundation” formulation for justification. Notwithstanding this welcome development, subsequent caselaw suggests that this may have been a pyrrhic victory (see for example R (Salvato) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  EWCA Civ 1482, R (The Motherhood Plan & Anor) v Her Majesty’s Treasury  EWCA Civ 1703 and MOC (by his litigation friend) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  EWCA Civ 1.
Court of Appeal: Peter Jackson, Singh and Andrews LJJ,  EWCA Civ 1, 11 January 2022
This decision concerned a challenge to the suspension of Disability Living Allowance (“DLA”) after an individual in receipt of the benefit has been hospitalised for 28 days. The challenge was brought under Article 14 read with A1P1 to the Convention by MOC, a 60 year old man with complex medical conditions and disabilities whose sister, MG, had been appointed to act as his deputy by the Court of Protection. Prior to his hospitalisation MOC, who had cognitive, mental capacity and mental health issues, Down’s Syndrome, deafness, blindness, dermatological issues, mobility issues, Hirschsprung Disease, double incontinence, dietary issues and severe learning disabilities, had lived with MG prior to his period of hospitalisation and was provided around-the-clock care by MG and her family. When MOC’s DLA was removed he appealed to the First-tier and Upper Tribunal and thereafter to the Court of Appeal. The claimant’s case was that his need for MG to look after his interests and advocate on his behalf did not cease during his period of hospitalisation. His appeal failed. Singh LJ, with whom Peter Jackson and Andrews LJJ agreed, ruled that the claimant had failed to establish the collective disadvantage required for an indirect discrimination claim, and could not rely on (lack of) capacity as a “status” due to its shifting nature, and that any discrimination was in any event justifiable. Continue reading
Administrative Court; Foster J,  EWHC 15 (Admin), 6 January 2022
The claimant challenged the Education (Student Support) Regulations 2011 (as amended) on the basis that they breached Article 14 ECHR read with A2P1 by restricting eligibility for student finance to individuals to would-be higher education students who were “settled in the United Kingdom” for immigration purposes on the first day of the first academic year of their course. The claimant, whose academic course started on 1 September 2020, had made an application for settled status. He had, in respect of previous applications, used the Home Office Super Priority visa application service which granted visas within 24 hours on payment of a fee, the normal turnaround offered by the Home Office for disposal of an Indefinite Leave To Remain (“ILR”) Visa application being six months. The Super Priority scheme, and a related Priority scheme, were withdrawn by the Home Office with only a few days’ notice on 31 March 2020, unknown to the Claimant. He became eligible to apply for ILR on 14 April and did so on 17 May 2020, a day before his previous visa was due to expire. He applied for student finance on 24 August 2020. He was granted ILR on 23 November 2020 but was advised by letter of 18 December 2020 that he was ineligible for student finance. After having unsuccessfully appealed this decision he sought judicial review. Foster J ruled that the discrimination in issue fell within A2P1, that the claimant was entitled to rely on the broad approach to “status” approved by the Supreme Court in R (SC) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  UKSC 26,  3 WLR 428 (see previous post), and that the discrimination was unjustified and unlawful.
Administrative Court; Bourne J,  EWHC 3415 (Admin), 16 December 2021
The claimants relied, inter alia, on Articles 14 and 8 in challenging decisions to deny them citizenship. Both were wrongfully prevented from entering the UK at a time when they had or were entitled to indefinite leave to remain in the UK (“ILR”), subsequently applied under the Windrush Scheme and were granted ILR before applying for British citizenship. These applications were denied on the basis that they failed to satisfy Schedule 1 para 1(2)(a) of the British Nationality Act 1981, which requires that a citizenship applicant has been physically present in the UK five years prior to the application (“the 5 year rule”). The question for the Court was whether the 5 year rule could be challenged by reason of the HRA. Bourne J ruled that the absence of discretion or flexibility within the five year rule amounted to Thlimmenos discrimination against the claimants contrary to Article 14 in conjunction with Article 8, but that a Convention compatible reading was possible under section 3 HRA by permitting the defendant to deem that an individual had complied with the 5 year rule..
Administrative Court: Heather Williams J,  EWHC 3389 (Admin), 15 December 2021
This was a challenge to a decision to close legacy public service pension schemes, including police schemes, and to move all active members to reformed pension schemes. The High Court ruled that the decision was unlawful by reason of failures in the consultation process. In addition, and of more relevance to this blog, she ruled that the decision had been taken in breach of the PSED (s149 Equality Act 2010) because the decision was reached prior to the decision-maker having been provided with a draft of the relevant equality impact assessment or a summary of indirect sex discrimination and other equality-related concerns raised by consultees. As Williams J put it at §171: “the PSED is placed on the Minister personally and what matters is what he or she took into account and knew, not what his officials read or summarised or discussed. As I have indicated when setting out the legal principles, the duty must be fulfilled at a time when a particular policy is under consideration, rather than after it has been adopted. Accordingly, there was a breach of the PSED in this regard”.
Claimant: Andrew Sharland QC and Stephen Kosmin, instructed by Mariel Irvine Solicitors
Defendant and Interested Party: Catherine Callaghan QC , Raymond Hill and Imogen Proud, instructed by Government Legal Department
EAT: Jason Coppel QC, UKEAT/0260/20/AT, 9 December 2021
This is an interesting case in which the EAT rejected an appeal from a finding that the claimant had not been discriminated against because of something arising in consequence of her disability (s15 EqA), or denied reasonable adjustments (s20(3) EqA) when an offer of a secondment in Montenegro was withdrawn on health grounds. The claimant had been the victim of a crime shortly before having been offered the secondment and had had to attend A&E twice thereafter with significant health issues as a result, but refused to make full disclosure of her health condition. A tribunal dismissed her claim on the basis that the adjustments she sought would leave her at risk and that it was reasonable for the employer to withdraw the secondment offer. The situation was complicated by the claimant’s refusal to make full disclosure to her employer’s OH advisers of her medical history. Continue reading
Queen’s Bench Division (Planning Court): Kerr J,  EWHC 3294 (Admin), 7 December 2021
This was an unsuccessful challenge under Articles 8 and 14 and s149 EqA (the PSED) to experimental traffic orders (ETOs) made by the respondent which took effect from 9 November 2020. The applicants complained that they are severely prejudiced by increased car journey times to and from their school. The challenge was brought under paragraph 35, Part VI, Schedule 9 to the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 rather than by way of judicial review, and so did not require permission, but Kerr J pointed out at §4 that the same principles applied. He expressed sympathy for the applicants who he accepted had been disadvantaged by the ETOs but upheld them as proportionate measures in pursuit of legitimate aims of reducing congestion, improving air quality, road safety and accessibility, encouraging active travel to school and social distancing (applying R (SC) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  UKSC 26,  3 WLR 428 [and see earlier blog]. He rejected the PSED claim on the basis that, taken in the round, the respondent had taken sufficient steps to comply with the duty of due regard.
Court of Appeal: Underhill VP, Baker and Davies LJJ,  EWCA Civ 1703, 24 November 2021
This was an appeal from the refusal of a challenge to the lawfulness of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (“SEISS”) introduced by the government during the first Covid-19 lockdown. The claimants argued that the scheme breaches Article 14 ECHR read with A1P1 by discriminating against self-employed women who took a period of leave relating to maternity or pregnancy in any of the three relevant tax years on which SEISS payments were calculated, this because the level of support granted to them under the scheme was not representative of their usual profits. Whipple J had dismissed the claim having considered the extraordinary pressures under which the scheme was introduced (including the imperative to distribute funds speedily) and the fact that the scheme adopted operated on the basis of data already held by the state. She was not persuaded that the claimants had demonstrated indirect discrimination or Thlimmenos discrimination but proceeded to consider justification, upon which she found against the claimants having adopted the “manifestly without reasonable foundation” approach (the correctness of which had been common ground between the parties).
The claimants appealed on the basis that Whipple J had erred in her approach to indirect discrimination, to Thlimmenos-type discrimination, and to justification. The Court of Appeal (Underhill and Baker LJJ, with whom Davies LJ agreed) agreed that the Judge had misdirected herself as to indirect discrimination by failing properly to take into account the disparate impact of the scheme on women who had taken maternity leave. It found it unnecessary to consider the challenge to the Judge’s application of Thlimmenos and (having considered the decision of the Supreme Court in R (SC) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  UKSC 26,  3 WLR 428 (see previous post) dismissed the appeal on the basis that Whipple J had been entitled to find that any discrimination was justified (further, that it was in fact so justified). The case provides further illustration (see also R (Salvato) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  EWCA Civ 1482 and related post) that the movement away from the “manifestly without reasonable foundation” test in cases where suspect grounds are in play is by no means a panacea for claimants.
Divisional Court: Lewis LJ and McGowan J,  EWHC 3114 (Admin), 23 November 2021
The Divisional Court rejected a challenge under Article 14 to the lawfulness of the claimant’s detention following his recall to for failure to comply with the terms of his release on licence. A number of claims were made, including that the application to the claimant of the licence regime imposed by the Criminal Justice Act 2003, rather than its predecessor the Criminal Justice Act 1991, breached Article 14 read with Article 5 and/or 7 of the Convention because he had been treated differently from a prisoner convicted of an identical offence and sentenced to an identical because he had not been in custody at the time that the 2003 Act’s licence regime was imposed, having instead been unlawfully at large.
The Court rejected all the grounds of challenge. As to Article 14, it ruled at §61 that the Claimant was not in fact subject to different treatment by reason of having been unlawfully at large at the material date, rather because of the date on which his offences. At §63, “even assuming differential treatment between the claimant and such a prisoner on grounds of other status, and assuming that they are in an analogous situation, the difference in treatment would be objectively justified. The second defendant wished to move to a different system of release provisions, including increasing the licence period to make it co-extensive with the remainder of the sentence. That was done by making the 2003 Act provisions governing release apply to sentences for offences committed on or after 4 April 2005. The decision to alter the arrangements for early release is objectively justified. The application of the new arrangements to those who committed offences after a certain date is also objectively justified. That conclusion is consistent with the observations of Lord Hughes JSC in R v Docherty (Shaun)  UKSC 62,  1 WLR 181, cited by Lady Black JSC in Stott at paragraph 62”.
Claimant: Philip Rule, instructed by Instalaw
Defendants: Hugh Flanagan, instructed by the Government Legal Department
Court of Appeal: Underhill VP, Moylan and Dingemans LJJ,  EWCA Civ 1572, 2 November 2021
The claimant was a qualified solicitor with “various difficulties and mental health disabilities” who had been unemployed since 2011 and was accepted for the purposes of the litigation as being “vulnerable” as the term is used in the authorities relating to the inherent jurisdiction. He unsuccessfully sought financial orders against the respondents, his parents, requiring them to continue to provide him with significant financial support. His applications failed on the basis that the family court had no jurisdiction to make the orders sought under s27 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 or Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 (because his parents were neither divorced nor separated), and that its inherent jurisdiction was not available to assist the applicant because of the “fundamental principle” that the jurisdiction cannot be used when there was “a comprehensive statutory scheme dealing … with the circumstances in which a child, including as here, an adult child, can make a claim against a living parent”. It further ruled that s3 HRA did not permit an alternative construction. The claimant appealed on the basis, inter alia, that the matters complained of fell within the scope of Articles 6 and 8 and A1P1 and engaged a protected status. Moylan LJ, with whom Moylan and Dingemans LJJ agreed, dismissed the appeal. Continue reading