Advancing human rights and equality
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January 2017

Supreme Court rules that bus company must accommodate wheelchair users by taking reasonable action

FirstGroup Plc v Paulley [2017] UKSC 4

The Supreme Court unanimously found that a bus company’s policy requiring a driver to request that a non-wheelchair user vacate a space without taking any further steps was unjustified.

Disability, Discrimination

Leave for judicial review of decision to prosecute mother who procured abortion pills for her daughter

The High Court granted leave to judicially review the decision of the PPS to prosecute a mother for procuring abortion pills for her fifteen year old daughter who wanted to terminate her pregnancy.

Criminal Law, Local Developments

High Court dismisses application by people in the Niger Delta to bring action against Shell in the UK

The High Court has ruled that 42,000 people in the Niger Delta affected by oil pollution cannot proceed with a legal challenge in the UK against Shell and its Nigerian subsidiary.

Shell has been responsible for oil spills in the Niger Delta.  The UN’s Environment Programme UNEP researched the destruction and produced a report in 2011.  It found that Shell had not taken sufficient action to clean up and set out initial steps to rectify the damage. 

Other Public Interest Cases

Unlawful to imprison debtor without a proper inquiry into means

R (Woolcock & Bridgend Magistrates Court) v Cardiff Magistrates Court and Brigend County Council [2017] EWHC 34

The High Court found that a single mother who was sent to prison by the Magistrates’ Court for 81 days because she was unable to pay her council tax bill, was unlawfully imprisoned.

Criminal Law

RHI boiler owners granted leave to judicially review decision to publish names

The High Court granted leave to hundreds of Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) boiler owners to judicially review government plans to publish their names.

The RHI scheme was set up to encourage businesses and other non-domestic users to move from using fossil fuels to renewable heating schemes.  However, the contracts permitted users to financially profit from the schemes by enabling them to earn £1.60 for every £1 of fuel burned.  This led to many users burning fuel unnecessarily for the purpose of making a substantial profit.

Disclosure, Private Information & Data Protection

Facebook required to pay damages to flag protester about comments regarding the religion of his children

Private Information & Data Protection

Application for asylum not validly made can have no effect, says Supreme Court

Mirza and others v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2016] UKSC 63

The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the applicants’ judicial review of the Secretary of State’s decisions to treat a number of asylum applications as invalid.

Immigration & Asylum

NI Attorney-General cannot refer Ashers case to the Supreme Court

Gareth Lee v Colin McArthur, Karen McArthur and Ashers Baking Company Ltd [2016] NICA 55

In our October Update, we reported that on 24th October 2016, the Court of Appeal found that Ashers Baking Company had directly discriminated against the respondent on grounds of sexual orientation, and religious and political belief, by refusing to fulfil his order for a cake in support of marriage equality.

Discrimination, LGBT

Bereaved cohabitees not entitled to spousal bereavement benefits even if they had children

An Application by Siobhan McLaughlin for Judicial Review [2016] NICA 53

In our March 2016 update, we reported that the High Court had found that the denial of bereavement benefits to a mother on the ground she was not married to her partner at his date of death, and where children were impacted, was unlawful.  The DSD appealed this decision and the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal.

Family Law, Social Security

European Court finds that defamation proceedings taken by a politician breached the right to freedom of expression

Lykin v Ukraine [2017] ECHR 17

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held that comments made about a local politician elected to a post of responsibility within the district Council, in Ukraine, were not defamatory.  Such comments were capable of justification within Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.