The big news of a busy week was the publication of the Government’s new counter-extremism strategy. Here’s some of the other stuff…
On Monday the Government introduced its new counter-extremism strategy – which did not, as it turned out, include registration of “faith-leaders”. We posted a summary: long, but considerably shorter than the document.
The Psychoactive Substances Bill – again
On Friday the Commons Home Affairs Committee published its Report on the Psychoactive Substances Bill. It concludes, inter alia, that
“The Government is right to legislate on this issue. However, the speed at which the Government has brought forward this legislation, without any consultation on the specific detail of the Bill, has resulted in some weaknesses in the legislation being identified. We would have preferred the concerns to have been addressed in a less piecemeal manner. Communication with the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has been unsatisfactory…” 
The Committee recommends that “the Government reconsider the definition of a psychoactive substance, with the benefit of the advice the ACMD have provided” . The AMCD’s preferred definition was:
“Psychoactive substances which are not prohibited by the United Nations Drug Conventions of 1961 and 1971, or by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, but which may pose a public health threat comparable to that posed by substances listed in these conventions” .
Which, presumably, would not include incense-fumes.
Another historic sex abuse case
On Thursday the Church of England issued a statement about the settlement of a historic sexual abuse claim against George Bell, Bishop of Chichester from 1929 until his death in October 1958. The allegations, dating from the late 1940s and early 1950s, are of sexual offences against someone who was then a young child.
According to the survivor’s solicitor Tracey Emmott, who is quoted in the CofE statement, the survivor first reported the abuse to the then Bishop, Eric Kemp, in August 1995: he offered pastoral support but “did not refer the matter to the police or, so far as is known, investigate the matter further”. It was not until contact with Lambeth Palace in 2013 that the survivor was put in touch with the safeguarding team at the Diocese of Chichester, which referred the matter to the police. Following a meeting between the survivor and Sussex police in 2013, the police confirmed that, had he still been alive, the information from their enquiries would have justified Bell’s arrest and interview on suspicion of serious sexual offences, followed by release on bail, further enquiries and a report to the CPS.
A formal claim for compensation was submitted in April 2014 and was settled in late September 2015 after a thorough pre-litigation process during which further investigations took place including the commissioning of expert independent reports, none of which found any reason to doubt the veracity of the claim. The current Bishop of Chichester has issued a formal apology following settlement.
With thanks to Thinking Anglicans for the lead.
Buildings at risk
On Tuesday Historic England published its annual Heritage at Risk Register. Overall, the latest findings show fewer buildings at risk in the 2015 than in 2014; however, the current total of listed places of worship at risk is slightly higher than in 2014: 930 across all denominations, representing 6.3 per cent of all listed places of worship
Greek Catholic church property in Romania
And on while the subject of buildings, in Greek-Catholic Parish of Lupeni & Ors v Romania  No. 76943/11 [French only] the applicants complained of the infringement of their right of access to a tribunal and of the principle of legal certainty under Article 6 § 1 ECHR (fair trial) and the length of the restitution procedure. They further contended that the Supreme Court’s judgment had violated their right of respect for their property, contrary to Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 and their freedom of religion contrary to Article 9. They also argued that the decision was in breach of the prohibition of discrimination under Article 14. The Third Section dismissed most of their claim but held that the length of proceedings had violated Article 6 § 1.
At its meeting on Monday 19 October 2015 the Grand Chamber sifting panel decided to refer the case to the Grand Chamber. We shall report the outcome in due course – presumably some time in 2016.
So it’s a vote for EVEL after all
Regular readers may remember Bob Morris’s guest post, Deliver us from EVEL? – a side-effect of the devolution debate, on “English Votes for English Laws”: in particular, in relation to Church of England Measures. On Thursday 22 October, the Commons voted by 312 to 270 to support the Government’s proposal for a new procedure, [HC Hansard 22 Oct 2015 Vol 600(55) Col 1252]. The BBC report has a helpful flowchart of how the (very complex) procedure will be expected to work – all of which makes Frank highly relieved that he’s no longer Clerk of Bills in the Commons….
- Office of National Statistics: Civil Partnership Statistics, England and Wales – 2014: following the introduction of marriages of same sex couples in March 2014, the number of civil partnerships formed in England and Wales has fallen by 70% from 5,646 in 2013 to 1,683 in 2014.
Office of National Statistics: Marriages in England and Wales (provisional) – for Same Sex Couples, 2014: a total of 7,366 marriages was formed between same sex couples between 29 March 2014 and 30 June 2015;
- Farrer & Co: Charity Commission: the Role of Charity Trustees in Safeguarding: helpful brief by Sam Macdonald and Hannah Whyatt on “sensible steps for any board (and especially any non-executive board) to take” to make sure that their safeguarding policies are sound.
Theos: Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Religion: Baroness Onora O’Neill of Bengarve’s public lecture on Wednesday 19 October: well worth careful reading.
- Musings, Memories and Miscellanea: Patients, Doctors and the Law (1963-2003): Sir Henry Brooke on the early days when “English law started to struggle for the first time with issues concerned with patients’ rights”.
- Campaign for Fair Rants: Celebrating a prophet: David Emmott on the late, great Ken Leech – nothing whatsoever to do with the law, but well worth reading even it you’re a Quaker.
- St George’s House: Britain, Europe and Human Rights: What Next?: Philippe Sands QC explores in much greater depth and with much greater insight the theme addressed in Frank’s post earlier this week.
Even by the abysmal standards of phishing e-mails, Frank got one this week that deserved a small prize for total lunacy: “Rite Aid [sic] Bonus Points Claim Alert: This notice is to inform you that your current accumulated points will expire by 10/22/15 if not claimed by that date”.
Which led him to wonder: what might an organisation called “Rite Aid” conceivably do if it actually existed? Help you navigate Common Worship? Pick the carols for your Service Of Nine Lessons And…? Explain to television wardrobe departments the correct way to wear a biretta?