As you enjoy your May Morning champagne breakfast, or engage in a little barley-break, here is a round-up of last week’s news …
… however, there was relatively little law and religion news this week, although at L&RUK we had record daily (and monthly) readership.
Brexit and the ECHR
Last week, Theresa May’s speech on the desirability of withdrawing from the ECHR while remaining a member of the EU set the hares running (or perhaps in her case, a cat): we posted about it here. The Law Society Gazette subsequently reported that ministers at the MoJ are “clear” that the UK will remain a signatory of the ECHR. We wonder whether we’re beginning to lose the plot or whether, perhaps, there’s no longer any plot to lose: however, for a considered analysis, see Mark Elliott’s article in Public Law for Everyone: Theresa May’s case for withdrawal from the ECHR: Politically astute, legally dubious, constitutionally naïve.
On Tuesday, the Isle of Man’s Legislative Council (the Upper House of Tynwald) approved the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Amendment) Bill by six votes to three. The latest version of the Bill, as amended by the House of Keys, is here. It provides that the common law obligation for clergy of the Church of England to solemnise the marriages of opposite-sex couples is not to be extended to same-sex couples.
The Act is to be brought into effect by order of the Council of Ministers. Since both Jersey and Guernsey have voted in principle to legislate for same-sex marriage, Northern Ireland will soon be the last place in these islands in which same-sex marriage will not be legal – at least for the foreseeable future.
Appeals to the Grand Chamber ECtHR
Tomorrow, the sifting panel of the ECtHR is to consider appeal requests in Süveges v Hungary  ECHR 22 and Károly Nagy v Hungary  ECHR 1051. We suggested at the time that Károly Nagy looked like a serious runner for review by the Grand Chamber because it was decided by four votes to three and the majority opinions were so confused. We’ll shortly find out whether or not we were right.
The Journal of the Ecclesiastical Law Society circulated this week includes an article by the Dean of Arches in which he explains the use of neutral citations in the ecclesiastical courts and the advantages of this change of practice, (2016) 18 Ecc LJ 158-164. The Practice Note No.1 of 2016 also issued this week amends the list of neutral citations for consistory courts in this article and in the Schedule to Practice Note No. 1 of 2015, in light of the decision that the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales is to be known henceforth as the Diocese of Leeds. Judgments of its consistory court will be cited as “ECC Lee”.
At the request of the Chancellor of the Diocese of Leeds, for the sake of consistency Ray Hemingray (who maintains the Ecclesiastical Law Association’s database of judgments) has changed the ELA website citations of the three 2016 judgments already handed down in the diocese. They no longer have “WYD” in the titles, but “Lee”. Likewise, we have changed the citation of these three judgments in our monthly round-ups of consistory court cases.
As we prepare for the LARSN Cardiff Festival for Law and Religion on 5 – 6 May, for which on-line registration has now closed since capacity numbers have now been reached, receipt of the latest Ecc LJ this week provided us with two examples of the role of blogging within the “academic publication spectrum”: the ability to provide timely updates on current issues, such as the update to neutral citation above; and the crossover of material from blog to the printed page. In addition to Frank’s Parliamentary Report and a few case notes, there is a joint comment on “Peter Ball and Misconduct in Public Office”, (2016) 18 Ecc LJ 188-195, an extended version of an article that first appeared as CofE Bishops and “public office”. A prequel to our thoughts on the “Meet the editors and bloggers” session was published earlier, and a follow-up to the session will be posted after the event.
Consistory court reports
This has been a bumper month for the publication of consistory court judgments – sixteen in total. Summaries of these, plus recent Cathedral’s Fabric Commission for England (CFCE) determinations, will be posted early next week. In view of the number of cases reviewed, we have added page navigation to assist readers in “cherry picking” topics of interest to them. At the end of the year we will produce a consolidated index with links to cases reviewed in this and in previous years.
Appointing bishops in the C of E
David followed up his post on Bishops: from announcement to installation with Suffragan bishops: from selection to ordination & consecration. Everything you wanted to know about appointing bishops but were afraid to ask… and apparently, quite a few readers did wish to know!
Our post Candles and health & safety generated significant interest and useful comment on the practicalities of lighting and replacing candles in a candelabrum. These were augmented by a chance observation during David’s “church crawling” this week of the solution in the Romanesque church of St Mary, Iffley, Oxford. Where applicable, a simple counterweight would seem to be a more cost effective solution than a £7,000 electronic winch and pulley system, such as that being proposed for St Michael’s Macclesfield. Counterweight systems are widely used in the church in association with font covers.
For anyone who still considers that working at height is not an important issue for churches, on 28 April the Daily Mail reported the findings of an inquest into a 76-year-old priest who fell to his death “while dusting high arches in his church”. The inquest at Preston heard a 12-foot stepladder was found on the mezzanine above where the priest’s body was discovered; he had suffered catastrophic head and back injuries and could have been lying in the aisle all night before his body was found following the fall in February last year.
The Coroner said there were no signs of illness and there was really only one conclusion open to the jury and that was accidental death. However, an environmental health officer who examined the scene said the roof was not intended for standing on, and there were various trip hazards at roof level.
No further comment is necessary.
- Charity Tax Group: Charity Tax Online: searchable site on how individual taxes (VAT, SDLT or whatever) impact on charities [Disclosure: Frank wrote a few small bits of it.]
- Law and Religion Australia: Bathrooms and discrimination: Neil Foster on the growing controversy over the rights of transgender persons and the use of public lavatories in the US and Australia.
- Attorney General’s Office: Naming People on line: What you can and can’t say about people involved in a trial.
Michael Ainsworth concluded his guest post, Thoughts on railways, clergy, religion and the law, with “three anoraky questions” the answers to which are:
- One of the roundels on the eastbound platform still reads “St. James’ Park”: the rest have had new name-plates affixed giving the current spelling and punctuation, “St. James’s Park”;
- Whitechapel is the station at which the Overground runs beneath the Underground, though there are other parts of the network where this occurs;
- “Wapping” has no letters in common with the word “lobster”, [and bonus points to those who also knew that “St John’s Wood” is the only station that does not have any letters in common with “mackerel”].
Readers who liked these might also enjoy the Daily Telegraph’s London Underground: 150 fascinating Tube facts.
And finally …
As a variant on the “closed loop recycling” described in On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at, the words of which were composed by a chapel choir during a ramble and picnic on the moor, some local fishermen to have found an innovative use for cremated remains. The Daily Telegraph reports that while on his deathbed, a fisherman with two of his colleagues agreed that they would take his ashes to the Far East and infuse them with a special bait mix to make “boilies“. They named the bait “Purple Ronnie” after their friend and cast off with it on the end of their lines throughout the nine-day trip. The result was an 82kg Siamese carp – one of the biggest carp in the world.
However, carp are not the only fish to be attracted to cremated remains. An earlier article in Field and Stream reports a story from the Evening Standard of another keen fisherman who was cremated in a coffin made from wicker to look like a fishing basket; a friend mixed his remains with maize, hemp and soya to create 13.6kg of groundbait which was rolled into balls so it could be catapulted into the River Huntspill in Somerset, where he had fished for more than 40 years. “His [widow and daughter] were the first to propel the bait into the water, and it was not long before bream were attracted to the spot to be hooked by [his] fishing friends”.