As choirs rehearse for their Epiphany carol service and parliamentarians prepare to return on 6-7 January, the start of 2014 heralded a number of important issues relating to law and religion. Last week we suggested that these are likely to include: the Supreme Court judgment in Nicklinson; appeals in Doogan and (almost certainly) Sharpe; the ECtHR hearing on the French ban on face-coverings in public places; the Northern Ireland consultation on limited reform to the abortion law; the judicial review hearing on the reinterment of Richard III; and General Synod’s further consideration of women in the episcopate.
A DCMS Press Release indicated that it is likely that same-sex marriage may be conducted in England and Wales from 29 March, provided the necessary legislation is in place. However, following the Supreme Court judgement in Bull and Bull v Hall and Preddy, it is uncertain whether this will be taken to Strasbourg. More certain is the timetable for Bills currently before Parliament, for which a complete and detailed list is now available, here. January looks like being a busy time for the Upper House with two important Bills:
Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing: Report stage (HL) provisionally 8, 14, 20 & 22 January 2014.
Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration: Report stage, (HL) provisionally 13 & 15 January 2013; 3rd reading, 21 January 2014.
Legislation coming into force on 1 January 2014 includes most of Defamation Act 2013 in relation to England and Wales, some provisions relating to Scotland, and regulations specific to the operators of web sites. As part of the simplification of the CofE faculty jurisdiction, the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2013 come into force. The latter is the subject of the article The Faculty Jurisdiction Rules: Simpler Process, Equal Protection by Mark Hill QC in the January issue of the Ecclesiastical Law Journal, and we will be covering both in subsequent posts. On 1 February 2014, the word “insulting” will be removed from s5(1) and s6(4) of the Public Order Act 1986 as a consequence of s57 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, for which non-statutory guidance has been produced by the College of Policing.
Other new legislation
Guardian reporters have identified a raft of new regulations, legislation &c for the New Year, of which the following have a link to law and religion or human rights issues, although in some cases this is rather tenuous. Of the “International Years” for 2014 declared by the United Nations , that relating to the Small Island Developing States is of importance in view of their vulnerability to global warming, and the importance of greenhouse gas reduction. Hungary is reported to have introduced measures for the funeral arrangements of the poorer sections of its society with the provision of a free grave, coffin or urn, and even a free shovel for grave digging.
In France meanwhile, under their new code of conduct, police are required to use the more respectful and formal “vous” instead of “tu” when addressing the public and suspects, and have a number on their uniform so they can be identified. In addition, following the adoption by the National Assembly of the 2014 social security finance bill (PLFSS 2014), the so-called “Red Bull tax” of €1/litre will become effective on high-caffeine energy drinks. In theory this could apply to the Buckfast Tonic Wine of the Benedictine Abbey in Devon, currently in a legal dispute with Police Scotland concerning its addition of anti-crime labels to bottles of “Buckie”.
Web sites, church organizations and others concerned with accessing material under copyright will be interested to learn that in Germany, universities and libraries will now be permitted to upload “orphaned” works of art – artworks, photographs or books whose creator can no longer be identified – on to the internet without getting permission.
Chancel Repair Liability
The “slow news” period between Christmas and New Year has seen the media going through old news items, adding a little extra information – preferably relating to a FoI request – and recycling it with an eye-catching headline. Chancel Repair Liability was one such story that was carried by a number of newspapers, but in view of the lack of knowledge associated with CRL, we felt it opportune to publish a little reiteration of our own, here. Comments on our post have highlighted the complexity of this issue, which is one which merits further consideration.
A different aspect of church repair is 400 or so medieval painted rood screens in East Anglia, such as those of SS Peter and Paul, Salle (right), which are deteriorating as the result of a number of factors: leaking roofs; poor climatic control; fungal attack; damage from bat faeces; and death watch beetle. In view of their international significance, the Church of England’s Church Buildings Council, in partnership with the Headley Trust and Hamilton Kerr Institute of Cambridge University, has set up a project to identify the conservation issues surrounding these screens. However, the broader issue is that the significant burden of their care and conservation falls on local parishes, most of which do not have the resources to undertake the necessary work.
New Year Resolutions
The excellent Full Fact [“promoting accuracy in public debate”] made the following suggestions for New Year’s resolutions “to make 2014 a more accurate year for politics”: I will take pride in corrections; I will publish my research; I will not repeat inaccurate claims; I will link to my sources; I will not make bad graphs
 The Commons Christmas recess was 19 December to 6 January; that for the House of Lords was 18 December to 7 January.
 The College was established in 2012 as a Company Limited by Guarantee, with the Home Secretary as the only member. This is a temporary status whilst the College is put on a different statutory footing, here .
 The others being: the International Year of Family Farming; and the International Year of Crystallography.
 Those with a minimum level of caffeine of 150 mg per 1,000 ml, and drinks containing a minimum taurine level of 420 mg per 1,000 ml