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May 2014

Nursing homes remain open but for how long?

Edwin Poots announced on 16th April that eighteen NHS care homes that were earmarked for closure are to remain open while residents want to stay in them.  The announcement has been warmly welcomed by the care homes and their residents.  However, questions remain about the long-term future of these homes as the Minister for Health has not reversed his policy of blocking new admissions.  Click here to read the commentary of Duane Farrell, the Director of Polic

Age Discrimination, Local Developments

Calls for age discrimination protection for all

The Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission, the Commissioner for Children and Young People and the Commission for Older People have spoken together publicly to call for people of all ages to be protected under new age legislation covering the provision of goods, facilities and services.

Age Discrimination, Local Developments

Appeals lodged in JR65 case

You may recall the Judicial Review case concerning Northern Ireland’s lifetime ban on gay men giving blood that was covered in our October 2013 Update. 

The Court held that the Northern Ireland Health Minister’s decision to retain the permanent ban on gay men giving blood was ‘irrational’.  He also ruled that the decision to retain the ban should not have been dealt with at Stormont, insisting it was a reserved matter and the responsibility of UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Medical Law

India’s Supreme Court recognises transgender people as third gender

India’s Supreme Court has delivered a landmark judgment creating a third gender category that allows transgendered people to identify themselves as such on official documents.  Prior to the judgment, transgendered people in India had to identify themselves as either male or female. 

The Supreme Court ordered the government to include transgendered people in all welfare programmes for the poor, including education and jobs.  Justice KS Radhakrishan, who headed the two-judge Supreme Court bench, stated:


Same-sex couples in England and Wales tying the knot

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 came into force in England and Wales last July but it was not until 13th March 2014 that couples were able to register their intention to marry under the Act for the first time.  The first same-sex marriages took place on 29th March 2014.  The Prime Minister hailed the introduction of gay marriages in England and Wales as “historic” and offered his “…best wishes to those about to be (married) on this historic day”.Scotland has followed suit with same-sex marriages expected to occur this Autumn. 


Successful challenge over UK government policy on asylum-seeker subsistence payments

The judicial review action was taken by a coalition, led by Refugee Action, who described the payments given to asylum seekers, awaiting decisions about whether they can settle in Britain, as “…cripplingly low”.  Currently asylum-seekers receive £36.62 a week, a sum that has not changed since 2011. 

There are estimated to be more than 23,000 asylum-seekers in Britain.  Refugee Action stated:

Immigration & Asylum

Northern Health Trust’s decision to remove a child from her mother was unlawful

The High Court of Northern Ireland has allowed a Judicial Review action by a mother against a decision of the Northern Health and Social Care Trust (“the Trust”) to remove her child and place her into foster care. 
In April 2013 the Trust exercised its powers under Article 52 of the Children (NI) Order 1995 to remove the child (“X”) from her mother’s care placing her with foster carers. 

Family Law

ECJ declares EU data retention policy invalid

On 8th April the European Court of Justice (“ECJ”) ruled that an EU directive, requiring telecom operators to retain data for two years, is invalid.

Other Public Interest Cases

Criminal Legal Aid: Cuts, Protests and Fall Outs

The debacle over the Ministry of Justice’s plans to slice £215m out of England and Wales’ annual legal aid budget continues.  Criminal solicitors and probation officers staged a two day walk out on 30th March and 1st April.  The combined demonstration’s aim was to bring the criminal justice system in magistrates and crown courts across England and Wales to a standstill. 

Criminal Law, Legal Aid

NI warned about lack of speed in welfare reform

A UK Work and Pensions Minister, Mike Penning, has voiced concerns regarding the slow pace of welfare reform in Northern Ireland.

Mr Penning stated that Northern Ireland has received the best deal on welfare reform and that failure to implement reform could result in a deduction from the block grant for Northern Ireland that could amount to a loss of £5 million per month.

Local Developments