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 The Super Priority scheme, and a related Priority scheme, were withdrawn by the Home Office with only a few days’ notice on 31 March 2020, unknown to the Claimant.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..
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.
Supreme Court,  UKSC 27,  1 WLR 3746, 9 July 2021
Lord Lloyd-Jones, Lady Arden, Lords Hamblen, Burrows and Stephens
The question for the Supreme Court was whether the exclusion of victims of human trafficking, from compensation under the 2012 iteration of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (“the CICS”) on the ground of their previous criminal convictions unjustifiably discriminated against them contrary to Articles 4 and 14 ECHR. The Court (per Lord Lloyd-Jones with whom Lady Arden and Lords Hamblen, Burrows and Stephens agreed) adopted broad approaches both to “ambit” and to “other status”. It accepted that the discrimination fell within Article 4 ECHR and that “having an unspent conviction which resulted in a custodial or community sentence is a status for the purposes of art 14”.
Because the claimants’ criminal convictions pre-dated and were unconnected with their status as victims of human trafficking the Court rejected their Thlimmenos claim that they had were entitled, by reason of being trafficked, to be treated differently from other CICS applicants with criminal convictions. The court did accept that the claimants had been discriminated against as people victims of trafficking with relevant unspent convictions, but concluded, having considered the approach of the Supreme Court in R (SC) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  UKSC 26,  3 WLR 428 (see associated blog), that such discrimination was justified. Continue reading
Supreme Court  UKSC 26,  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.