Queen’s Bench Division (Divisional Court): Singh LJ and Swift J,  EWHC 298 (Admin),15 February 2022
This decision is most interesting for its approach to standing, in particular that the Good Law Project’s roving approach to JR challenges did not provide it with standing for such challenges. The Court also rejected the claim of the Runnymeade Trust, which it accepted did have standing on a PSED challenge, to standing to challenge as indirectly discriminatory the many informal appointments to positions of responsibility which characterised the approach of the UK Government’s approach under the pandemic. Such claims were in the Divisional Court’s view properly brought by individual litigants who sought to challenge their own exclusion from consideration rather than by either claimant, and were not the proper subject of judicial review. Having decided that the Runnymede Trust did have standing to challenge the defendant’s compliance with the PSED the court concluded that the duty had been breached in relation to two of the appointments. 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 The Super Priority scheme, and a related Priority scheme, were withdrawn by the Home Office with only a few days’ notice on 31 March 2020, unknown to the Claimant.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..
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.
QBD Planning Court: Pepperall J,  EWHC 1650 (Admin) 17 June 2021
The claimant, a settled Romany Gypsy, unsuccessfully sought to challenge Department for Communities & Local Government planning policy issued in August 2015 which removed from the definition of “Gypsies and Travellers” those who had permanently ceased to travel by reason of health, education or old age. She also sought to challenge a decision of the inspector appointed by the Secretary of State to dismiss an appeal against the refusal of planning permission, which refusal flowed from the fact that neither Ms Smith nor any member of her family was recognised as a Gypsy under the policy. The claimant argued, inter alia, that the planning definition in the 2015 policy unlawfully discriminated against elderly and disabled Gypsies, relying both on the ECHR and the EqA. Pepperall J accepted that the policy impacted disparately on the elderly and disabled Gypsies, and acknowledged the extreme disadvantage experienced by Gypsies and Travellers in this and other contexts. He ruled, however, that the policy was justified taking into account the provision made by the planning system as a whole for the “particular needs of Gypsies and Travellers who have retired from travelling”. Continue reading
Administrative Court: Tim Smith (sitting as a deputy judge of the High Court),  EWHC 1177 (Admin), 6 May 2021
In this case the High Court accepted that measures put in place in response to the “Windrush scandal” breached the first claimant’s Article 8 rights and the Article 14 rights of the second to seventh claimants. The case is a useful reminder of the potential for Article 14 to succeed where a claim under the substantive right would not, though the reasoning on Article 14 is succinct to say the least. It is also an example of a case in which a successful application for judicial review resulted in an order for assessment of damages under s8 HRA. Continue reading
Administrative Court: Kerr J,  EWHC 1370 (Admin),  PTSR 1680, 24 May 2021 (This case has been reversed on appeal – see post)
The claimants were single mothers from Albania who had been victims of sex trafficking who had sought asylum in the UK. Prior to the grant of their refugee status they had been denied financial support under the provisions of the Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract in respect of their dependent children because they were asylum seekers in receipt of asylum support. They would not have been so excluded had they not been in receipt of asylum support but had been in receipt of financial support from other sources (universal credit, “legacy” benefits or paid work). The High Court ruled that the claimants’ treatment amounted to discrimination on grounds of sex contrary to Article 14 ECHR read with Article 8 and A1P1. Noting that the different treatment was the result of mistake rather than intention, the Judge ruled that the margin of appreciation available to protect the making of a judgment did not so readily protect against incompetence in its execution, remarking that “a margin of appreciation is not the same thing as a licence to err”. Kerr J was notably critical of the defendant, referring to her evidence being “not of progress towards reform but of corporate amnesia and repeated requests for more time” and submissions made on her behalf as “constitutionally wrong and unfair to the court”. He awarded the claimants under s8(3) HRA, seeing “real force” in the submission that their treatment had been “egregious”.
Administrative Court: Chamberlain J,  EWHC 102 (Admin), 22 January 2021
The High Court ruled that the requirement that the childcare element (CCE) of Universal Credit (UC) could be paid to applicants only after they had actually paid for childcare, rather than becoming liable so to do (“the proof of payment rule”), was unlawful because it discriminated indirectly against women contrary to Article 14 ECHR read with Article 8 and/or A1P1 Further, having scrutinised the justification for the Secretary of State’s approach through the prism of Article 14, he went on to find that it was also irrational as a matter of common law. The decision engages intelligently with the sometimes tricky question of appropriate comparator pools, and shines useful light on the potential for common law rationality to accommodate discrimination-based claims even were direct reliance on Article 14 to become unavailable. Note that this decision was overturned on appeal (see  EWCA Civ 1482 and later post.
EAT: Eady J, Mr D G Smith, Dr G Smith MBE EA-2019-000638-RN, EA-2020-000128-RN, 27 September 2021
Guest blog by Ben Mitchell 11 KBW
In 1933 Erwin Schrödinger took up an academic post at the University of Oxford. This was two years before he created his eponymous thought-experiment, “Schrödinger’s Cat”. He was 48 years old. Too young, if he were teleported to today, to hit Oxford’s current Employer Justified Retirement Age (“EJRA”) of 67. However, had he had cause to consider the EJRA or, more precisely, the EAT’s substantial judgment addressing whether it constitutes age discrimination in Pitcher v University of Oxford, we may now have been able to consider the sequel thought experiment: Schrödinger’s Age Discrimination. Continue reading
Administrative court; Fordham J,  EWHC 2108, 28 July 2021
In this case the High Court (Fordham J) ruled that the respondent had discriminated against the claimant, who was profoundly deaf, by failing to provide of British sign language (“BSL”) interpreters for Government live briefings to the public about the Covid-19 pandemic on 21 September 2020 and 12 October 2020. The claimant challenged the failures on those occasions and also sought to challenge the respondent’s continuing refusal to use ‘on-platform’ as distinct from ‘in-screen’ BSL interpreters for briefings. The claimant sought to establish failures of the PSED imposed by s149 of the Equality Act 2010 in respect of the defendant’s ongoing approach to briefings, as well as failures of the duty to make reasonable adjustments imposed by ss20 and 29(7)(a) of the Act. The PSED claim failed as did the reasonable adjustment challenge to ongoing (‘in-screen’ BSL) briefings. The decision includes a comprehensive discussion of the leading authorities on disability discrimination in the context of services/public authorities. Continue reading