Public Interest Litigation Update:

2nd October 2014

 

Welcome to the PILS Project's Public Interest Litigation Update. The Update provides you with information on current public interest cases, judgments, news and events.
 
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Immigration
  • NI Court dismisses appeal by polish authorities in extradition case
 The Republic of Poland v RP (2014) NICA 59
 
On 8th September the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by Polish authorities against a Judge’s decision that it would not be proportionate to extradite a polish man (‘A’) on the grounds that it would disproportionately interfere with his son’s rights under Article 8 ECHR. 
 
The Polish authorities sought the extradition of A, who had been sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for a motoring offence, resulting in the death of two people.  Following an unsuccessful appeal of his jail sentence A unlawfully absconded to Northern Ireland in July 2005.  He was arrested in Northern Ireland on foot of the Polish arrest warrant on 30th December 2011 and remanded in custody. 

At the extradition hearing in March 2012 the High Court accepted evidence from expert child psychiatrists that A’s extradition would have significant adverse consequences for his child, who suffers from speech and language delay.  The High Court also took account of the fact that A had served approximately 50% of his prison sentence in Northern Ireland.  The High Court weighed the Article 8 family rights of the child against the public interest in extraditing A and held that extradition was no longer appropriate. 
 
The Polish authorities appealed the judgment, however, the Court of Appeal upheld the decision.  Senior judges opined that, while this was a difficult case as the original offence involved the death of 2 people, there was indisputable evidence that the extradition would present significant challenges to the child’s social, emotional and academic function.  The Court of Appeal was therefore not persuaded that the overall conclusion reached by the lower court that extradition would be disproportionate was wrong.
 
Click here for coverage from The Belfast Telegraph.   
  • Supreme Court rules in favour of trafficking victims’ rights to compensation irrespective of immigration status
Hounga v Allen (2014) UKSC 47

Human trafficking campaigners have welcomed a Supreme Court ruling that victims are entitled to be compensated for mistreatment even if their entry into the UK was illegal.

The case related to a child, trafficked into the UK and exploited as a domestic worker.  Her subsequent claim for damages against her former employer was dismissed by the Court of Appeal on grounds that her employment was illegal and she had consented to that illegality (‘illegality doctrine’).

Anti-Slavery International, represented by Public Interest Lawyers, made an intervention in the case at the Supreme Court.  It identified that the public policies seeking to deter and punish traffickers risked being undermined if, by the application of the ‘illegality doctrine’, traffickers were able to avoid paying compensation to their victims.  

A majority of the judges sitting in the Supreme Court accepted the submission and emphasised that the UK needs to honour its obligations under international law and protect the rights of victims of trafficking irrespective of their immigration status. 
 
Coverage from the UK Human Rights Blog can be accessed here.
 
To find out more about Public Interest Lawyers click here.
Legal aid

September has seen a number of cases successfully challenging the English legal aid reforms introduced by the Legal Aid and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LAPSO). 
  • Criminal legal aid
The Queen on the application of CLSA and LCCSA v The Lord Chancellor (2014) EWHC 3020 (Admin)
On 19th September the High Court ruled that the Ministry of Justice’s consultation process to reform criminal legal aid was unfair. 

The Court held that the Ministry of Justice’s failure to disclose the findings of two key reports on plans to introduce new dual criminal legal aid contracts was ‘so unfair as to amount to illegality’.  The Court held that there should be a ‘relatively short’ reconsultation of the legal profession. 

Click here for commentary from Nicola Hill, President of London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association, one of the claimants. 

Click here for an article from The Law Society Gazette regarding the reconsultation. 
  • Local Welfare Advice Schemes
R(Christian Jump) v (1) Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and (2) Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government CO/1838/2014

The UK government has agreed to reconsider its decision to cease funding for Local Welfare Advice Schemes, which were established in 2012 to provide emergency support for vulnerable and poor English citizens in crisis.

The Government U-turn came following the initiation of a judicial review in which the charity, Child Poverty Action Group, intervened.  Rather than contest the action the government consented to completing an ongoing review of local welfare provision.  It also agreed to consult and take a new decision on funding for local welfare provision for 2015/2016.  These actions are to be completed by December 2014.

Further coverage from The Guardian can be accessed here.
  • Legal Aid for victims of domestic violence
Also on the 19th September the High Court granted permission for a judicial review challenging the lawfulness of legal aid changes affecting victims of domestic violence.

The challenge has been brought by Rights of Women, a women’s voluntary organisation, who argue that changes introduced by LAPSO are preventing victims of domestic abuse getting legal aid for family law cases.  The changes mean that victims are required to provide a prescribed form of evidence in order to obtain family law legal aid. Many women affected by violence do not have the required forms of evidence. Some of the forms of evidence are subject to a 24 month time limit although perpetrators may remain a life long threat to their victims.  Rights of Women, represented by the Public Law Project, and supported by The Law Society, argue that this was not what Parliament intended.  The full hearing is expected to take place before the end of this year.

To read the press release from the Public Law Project click here.

Click here to read the Children’s Commissioner’s report on how legal aid changes affecting children.

Criminal Law The Court of Appeal of England and Wales ruled that a terrorism trial must be partly heard in secret.  The judgment, delivered on 24th September, follows a previous challenge in the same case, which successfully overturned the CPS’s attempt to hold the entire trial in secret and forced the CPS to reveal the identities of previously anonymous defendants. 

The three judges said: ‘We are…satisfied that the solution arrived at in this court means that everything possible has been done to minimise the departure from the principle of open justice.’
Commentary from The Guardian can be found here.
Assisted Suicide
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced on 15th September that a 22 year old woman has been charged with assisting or encouraging suicide contrary to section 2(1) of the Suicide Act 1961.  The accused is the youngest person to be charged under the statute.  It is understood that the prosecution relates to the accused allegedly providing equipment aiding or assisting the suicide of her best friend, a 21 year old woman, who died in January this year. 

This latest prosecution will reignite the debate on assisted suicide.  Indeed the Assisted Dying Bill had its second reading in the committee of The House of Lords on 18th July. 

To read about the progress on the Bill click here.
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PILS Event - PCO Seminar

Thank you to everyone who attended our seminar on Protective Costs Orders on Friday 19th September.  A special thank you to our speakers, Richard Stein from Leigh Day Solicitors and Michael Potter BL.  If you were unable to attend, the discussion notes are available here.
 
Pro Bono

The PILS Project has a register of legal practitioners who are interested in undertaking pro bono work with the PILS Project.  Opportunities range from writing an initial opinion to involvement in a test case, contributing to publications on public interest cases/issues and delivering training and talks to NGOs and legal practitioners. If you would like to join the register and find out more about opportunities to do pro bono work, please email development@pilsni.org to request an application form.

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