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

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions v Akhtar

Court of Appeal, Underhill VP, Macur and Moylan LJJ, [2021] EWCA Civ 1353, 10 September 2021

The Court of Appeal allowed an appeal against the decision of the Upper Tribunal that the exclusion from entitlement to Bereavement Payment (“BP”) under ss 36 of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 of those whose marriages were recognised for religious purposes, and not in English law, breached Article 14 read with A1P1. There was some disagreement between the Court of Appeal judges as to the law relating to polygamy but all were agreed that the claimant was not analogously situated to someone whose religious marriage (conducted abroad) was so recognised, further that the discrimination was justified in any event, the decision of the Supreme Court in R (SC) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions having little impact in this case. Continue reading

Forstater v CGD Europe & Ors

EAT: Choudhury P, Mr C Edwards and Mrs MV McArthur) UKEAT/0105/20/JOJ, [2021] IRLR 706, 10 June 2021

The EAT allowed the claimant’s appeal against a finding of the employment tribunal (Employment Judge Tayler) that the claimant’s “gender critical” views fell outwith the protection afforded by the EqA to “belief”. The EAT ruled that the tribunal had misapplied the test in Grainger plc v Nicholson (2009) the fifth element of which (which concerned whether a belief was worthy of respect in a democratic society) imposed a very low threshold which served to exclude from protection only those beliefs which would excluded from the protection of Articles 9 and/or 10 ECHR by Article 17 thereof. Continue reading

R (Colchester) v Secretary of State for Education

Administrative Court: Clive Sheldon QC sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge, [2020] EWHC 3376 (Admin), 8 December 2020
This case concerned a renewed application for permission in a PSED challenge to the Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education (England) Regulations 2019 and associated guidance, which impose obligations upon schools to provide mandatory relationships and health education to all children, this by contrast with sex education from which parents can chose to remove children. Continue reading

R (Cornerstone (North East) Fostering & Adoption Services v Ofsted

High Court: Julian B Knowles J, [2020] EWHC 1679 (Admin), 7 July 2020

The case was brought by a charitable adoption and fostering agency which sought judicial review of a report by Ofsted which found that its policy of accepting only heterosexual evangelical Christians as the potential carers of fostered children breached the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998, and required that Cornerstone alter the policy. Cornerstone, which had contractual relationships with a number of local authorities, challenged Ofsted’s findings that its carer recruitment policy involved unlawful discrimination because of sexual orientation under the EqA and the HRA, and unlawful discrimination on grounds of religion or belief contrary to Article 8 and 14 ECHR. It also claimed that Ofsted had discriminated against Cornerstone on grounds of religion. Julian B Knowles J accepted that Ofsted had erred in deciding that Cornerstone had discriminated against potential foster carers on grounds of religion in view of the defences  provided by the EqA, and because the discrimination was justifiable under Article 14. He otherwise rejected the Cornerstone’s claim. (Note that Cornerstone’s appeal was rejected by the Court of Appeal: [2021] EWCA Civ 1390, [2021] IRLR 993, and see subsequent post.) Continue reading