MOC (by his litigation friend) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Court of Appeal: Peter Jackson, Singh and Andrews LJJ, [2022] 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

SM (a child, by his father and litigation friend) and another v Hackney LBC

Queen’s Bench Division (Planning Court): Kerr J, [2021] 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 [2021] UKSC 26, [2021] 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.

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R (The Motherhood Plan & Anor) v HM Treasury

Court of Appeal: Underhill VP, Baker and Davies LJJ, [2021] 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 [2021] UKSC 26, [2021] 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 [2021] 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.

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R (Salvato) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Court of Appeal: Underhill VP, Andrews and Warby LJJ, [2021] EWCA Civ 1482, 13 October 2021

This was an appeal from the decision of the High Court discussed in a previous post. In brief, the High Court (Chamberlain J) 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, also because it was irrational. Andrews LJ, with whom Underhill VP and Warby LJ agreed, allowed the Secretary of State’s appeal on both grounds, despite having followed the approach of the Supreme Court in R (SC) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2021] UKSC 26, [2021] 3 WLR 428 (see associated post) to the question of justification. Having stated at §11 that “Much of the Judge’s legal analysis is exemplary”, Andrews LJ concluded nonetheless that “the Judge did fall into material error when he sought to apply the principles he identified to the evidence in this case, and … there are deficiencies in the reasoning which led him to conclude that the Rule was indirectly discriminatory and irrational.” Continue reading

R (Cornerstone (North East) Adoption and Fostering Services Ltd) v OFSTED

Court of Appeal: Peter Jackson, Asplin and Nicola Davies LJJ, [2021] EWCA Civ 1390, [2021] IRLR 993, 24 September 2021

This was an appeal from the decision reported previously in this blog. The claimant was an independent fostering agency which sought to recruit (exclusively) evangelical Christian foster carers whose conduct was consistent with “traditional Biblical Christian” standards of behaviour, which did not include same-sex sex. The High Court rejected its challenge to an Ofsted report which found that its policy of accepting only heterosexual evangelical Christians as the potential carers of fostered children breached the EqA 2010 and the HRA 1998, ruling that the policy discriminated unlawfully on grounds of sexual orientation and was not saved by s193 EqA (see further below) or, because it provided services on behalf of a public authority, by para 2 of Sch 23. It required that Cornerstone alter the policy. Cornerstone was granted permission to appeal the High Court’s ruling on direct and indirect sexual orientation discrimination under the EqA and on the application of s193 EqA, though not on on the application of para 2 of Sch 23. It was also permitted to appeal the High Court’s findings that  that Cornerstone had breached prospective foster carers’ Convention rights, and that Ofsted had not breached Cornerstone’s Convention rights.

The appeal was dismissed on all grounds. (Peter Jackson LJ, with whom Asplin and Nicola Davies LJJ agreed, ruled that Cornerstone’s recruitment policy involved direct sexual orientation discrimination and was disproportionate to the aims pursued, this with the effect that the statutory defence did not apply, the discrimination by Cornerstone breached foster carers’ rights under Article 14 and 8 and Ofsted had not breached cornerstone’s rights under Article 9 ECHR. Continue reading

R (SC) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Supreme Court [2021] UKSC 26, [2021] 3 WLR 428, 9 July 2021

Lord Reed P, Lord Hodge DP, Lady Black, Lords Lloyd-Jones, Kitchin, Sales and Lord Stephens

This is a very important decision of the Supreme Court concerning a challenge brought under Articles 8 and 12 ECHR, read alone and with Article 14, to the restriction of the individual element of child tax credit to an amount calculated by reference to two children.  The Supreme Court rejected the challenges under Articles 8 and 12 and, of more relevance to this blog, rejected arguments about direct and indirect discrimination against children, though it accepted that there were prima facie cases of sex discrimination and of direct discrimination against children living in households with more than two children, as compared with children living in households with two or fewer children.

The challenge ultimately failed on justification grounds but the case, which has been cited extensively in virtually every Article 14 decision of the domestic courts since it was decided, is significant because the Court revisited the “manifestly without reasonable foundation” which had been the orthodox approach to Convention challenges to economic/ social policy in the domestic courts since at least 2012.  The case was also significant in that it reimposed an orthodox approach to the treatment of unincorporated international obligations (here the Convention on the Rights of the Child) and included extensive consideration of the reliance which might be placed by the courts on Parliamentary debates and other Parliamentary material when considering whether primary legislation is compatible with Convention rights.

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Dobson v North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust & Anor

EAT: Choudhury P, UKEAT/0220/19/LA, [2021] IRLR 729, 22 June 2021

The EAT allowed an appeal against a tribunal’s rejection of an indirect sex discrimination claim from the claimant, a community nurse who was dismissed because she was unable to comply with a forced move to flexible working, including at weekends, because of her caring responsibilities for her three children, two of whom are disabled.  The appeal, brought on multiple grounds, and succeeded on the basis that the tribunal had erred in limiting the pool for comparison to the team in which the Claimant worked, whereas it should logically have considered all community nurses across the Trust. Further, and of particular interest, Choudhury P ruled that the tribunal had erred in deciding that there was no evidence of the group disadvantage necessary for an indirect discrimination claim because it had failed to take judicial notice of the fact that women, because of their childcare responsibilities, were less likely to be able to accommodate certain working patterns than men. Continue reading

Smith v Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government & Anor

QBD Planning Court: Pepperall J, [2021] 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

R (MD & Anor) v Secretary of State for the Home Department

Administrative Court: Kerr J,  [2021] EWHC 1370 (Admin), [2021] PTSR 1680, 24 May 2021

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”.

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R (Salvato) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Administrative Court: Chamberlain J, [2021] 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 [2021] EWCA Civ 1482 and later post.

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