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March 2016

Clintyclay Primary School decision remitted back to trial judge

The High Court is required to reconsider its decision to quash the Minister of Education’s decision to close Clintyclay Primary School, the first Catholic school in Northern Ireland attempting a transformation to integrated status.

The Minister had announced his decision after considering a proposal for closure and a proposal for transformation to integrated status.  He considered that low enrolment numbers (of 30 children) meant that it was no longer sustainable.  Due to this long term situation, switching to integrated status was not considered feasible.

Education, Local Developments

Minister of Health can decide on deferral period from giving blood for males who have sex with other males

On 16th March 2016 the Court of Appeal made a ruling that the Northern Ireland Minister of Health is the correct person to make a decision on the appropriate deferral period from giving blood for males who have sex with other males.

Health, LGBT

No requirement to publish prosecution guidance regarding assisted suicide: Scots Law

This case concerned an appeal under Scots Law from a decision of the Lord Ordinary on a petition for judicial review.  The petitioner suffered from Parkinson’s disease and anticipated that eventually he would require assistance to end his life.  He sought clarification as to the factors that would be taken into account in deciding whether or not to prosecute the person who assisted him.

Criminal Law, Medical Law, Suicide

Denying bereavement benefits to cohabitees not justified where children impacted

McLaughlin’s (Siobhan) Application [2016] NIQB 11

An unmarried mother challenged the decision of the DSD to refuse to provide her with benefits under the Social Security Contributions and Benefits (NI) Act 1992, following the death of her partner.

Family Law, Social Security

Prison policy of filming forced strip searches breaches ECHR

On 15th March 2016, Mr Justice Treacy allowed a judicial review which challenged the Prison Service Policy that permits forced strip searches to be recorded and retained for a period of six years. 

Rule 16 of the Prison and Young Offenders’ Centre Rules (NI) 1996 permits forcible searching where prisoners refuse to provide consent.  However, prisoners must not be required to undress in the sight of another prisoner or any person other than the officers conducting the search.

ECHR Art. 8, Local Developments, Prisoners' Rights

Court of Appeal rules that Smoking Ban does not apply to prisons

On the 8th March 2016 the Court of Appeal of England and Wales decided that the smoking ban does not apply to prisons. 

A prison inmate sought to challenge the Secretary of State’s decision to refuse to provide access to the NHS Smoke-Free Compliance Line at HMP Wymott, a state-run prison in which he was detained. 

Prisoners' Rights

Supreme Court rules that joint enterprise law was misinterpreted for thirty years

The cases heard were appeals against murder convictions which had been based on the principle of joint enterprise.  The appellants alleged that the cases of Chan Wing-Siu (1985) and Powell and English (1999) and the cases which followed them had been wrongly decided.

In Jogee’s case, it was alleged that he encouraged his co-defendant to commit murder, although he was not inside the house when the incident took place. 

Criminal Law, Miscarriages of Justice

Court sets aside conviction for refusing to answer

The appellant was stopped in his car by police on 11th March 2014 under the Justice and Security Act 2007.  When asked to provide details of his movements, he stated that he was going to his mother’s home but refused to provide her address.  The police informed him that it was an offence to refuse to give them this information under the 2007 Act.  He refused and was arrested under the Police (NI) Act 1998 for obstruction of a police officer in the due execution of his duty and fined £50.

Criminal Law, Local Developments

High Court sets limits on the use of police interview working tapes

On 3rd March 2016 the High Court ruled that police interview tapes of persons detained under the Terrorism Act can only be used in certain circumstances: for criminal or civil proceedings and for the purpose of investigating a complaint of ill treatment in relation to the interview itself.  The tapes cannot be used to progress other cases or to inform future investigations.

Criminal Law, Northern Ireland High Court

Permission granted to judicially review PSNI over custody death

On 12th January the High Court granted leave to a mother to judicially review a PSNI decision taken following the death of her son.

David McGowan was arrested and taken to Lisburn police station in May 2014.  He died while being held within the custody suite.  Subsequent to the death, the PSNI made the decision to reinstate the officer who dealt with Mr McGowan in custody. 

Northern Ireland High Court