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July 2014

Former prisoner loses challenge over full body strip searches

The legal challenge over the policy of full body searching of prisoners in Maghaberry was considered by the Court of Appeal on 30th June 2014. 

Previous High Court decisions had ruled that the prison’s policy was proportionate and lawful.  The case came before the Court of Appeal for a decision on whether an inflexible approach was taken by prison authorities in respect of full body searching of non-compliant prisoners.

Local Developments, Prisoners' Rights

High Court dismisses Newtownbreda High School’s judicial review challenge

By way of an update on this case, which was featured in last month’s Newsletter, on 25th June the High Court dismissed an application to stop the amalgamation of Newtownbreda and Knockbreda High Schools.

Full reasons for rejecting the challenge to the Education Minister’s plans, to close both schools and build a new one, will be published by the NI Courts Service in due course. 

Education, Local Developments

Equality Commission intervenes in dispute involving a Christian-owed bakery

The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland has granted assistance to a complainant to pursue a challenge against a bakery who refused to bake a cake bearing the slogan ‘Support gay marriage.’

The Christian owner of the bakery said that he considered the slogan on the cake to be ‘ odds with what the Bible teaches’ and stressed that this was not the first time the company had refused a customer’s order,                                                        

LGBT, Local Developments

Advocate-General rules France’s MSM lifetime blood ban is unjustifiable

Another Advocate-General’s opinion, which is particularly relevant to local government, is that of A-G Mengozzi in a French case involving a lifetime ban on gay men donating blood.

A-G Mengozzi opined that France’s lifetime ban is not justifiable stating that it was too broad and generic.  He said that consideration needed to be given to individual sexual behaviour, and not simply sexual orientation, 

LGBT, Local Developments

‘Severe obesity can be a disability’ - A-G Jaaskinen

The Advocate-General of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has issued a preliminary ruling on a case involving a severely obese Danish childminder who was dismissed from his employment allegedly because of his obesity. 


‘High risk of unfairness’ in fast-track immigration system

On 9th July the High Court of England and Wales ruled that a system for fast-tracking asylum claims has ‘serious failings’ and is therefore being operated unlawfully by the government. 

The Detained Fast-Track (DFT) system keeps asylum-seekers in detention while a decision on their case is quickly processed by the Home Office.  It is used for approximately one-fifth of people claiming asylum in the UK. 

The Judge, while not finding that the system itself was unlawful, declared that the following elements of it were unfair:

Immigration & Asylum

Government’s Back to Work legislation incompatible with ECHR

R(on the application of Reilly (No. 2) and another) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, [2014] EWHC 2182 (Admin)

The High Court of England and Wales ruled that emergency legislation, Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013, interferes with human rights protected under Article 6(1) ECHR. 

Social Security

European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) upholds French full veil ban

In 2010 France introduced a law making it illegal for anyone to cover their face in a public place.  This case was brought by a French woman who argued that the ban on wearing the Muslim full-face veil, known as the Niqab, violated Article 8 ECHR (respect for private and family life), Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) and Article 14 (prohibition on discrimination).

Other Public Interest Cases

Newtownbreda High School challenges Minister of Education’s closure decision

Parents of children of Newtownbreda High School are challenging John O’Dowd’s planned amalgamation of their school and Knockbreda High School.  The intention is to close both schools and create a new one. 

Education, Local Developments