A week in which the Westminster sexual exploitation scandal continued to claim scalps, there was an important report on House of Lords reform – and Brexit rumbled on…
Victimisation and public interest disclosure in school
In Miss S Bi v E-ACT (England and Wales: Public Interest Disclosure: Race Discrimination: Religion or Belief Discrimination)  UKET 1304471/2015, the ET upheld the claim of Ms Suriyah Bi, a Muslim teaching assistant, that her dismissal constituted victimisation under ss.27 and 39 Equality Act 2010 but dismissed her claim that she had been subjected to a further detriment under s.47B Employment Rights Act 1996 by the respondent giving prejudicial, damaging and discriminatory information about her to Birmingham City Council. In March, she had been successful in a claim of unfair dismissal in relation to a protected disclosure,
The latest decision was delivered orally and written reasons have not been given; however, The Guardian reports that Ms Bi was sacked by the Heartlands Academy in Birmingham in 2015 after she had objected to a group of 11-year-olds with special needs being shown footage of people jumping to their deaths from the upper floors of the World Trade Center during the 9/11 attacks. She said that when a warning message appeared on the screen, children asked if they should be watching it, but were told by the teacher to be quiet. She raised the issue on the following day and was dismissed just over an hour later.
According to The Guardian, a safeguarding checklist written three days after her dismissal mentioned that Ms Bi had been Head Girl at Saltley School which, five years after she left, was implicated in the “Trojan Horse affair” (an anonymous accusation that Islamic extremists planned to take over state-run schools in Birmingham). It also said that she had raised concerns about the footage because it offended her as a Muslim. Ms Bi’s reaction was that “Just because I went to a Trojan Horse affair school, which [was involved in the scandal] five years after I left … I was implicated as being an extremist.” Again according to The Guardian, a remedy hearing is expected to take place next year. [With thanks to Paul de Mello Jr.]
President of the Family Division calls for rethink on child prosecutions
The Law Society Gazette reports that Sir James Munby has called for the Family Court to be “revamped” with an enhanced quasi-criminal jurisdiction. At a meeting of the Howard League for Penal Reform he asked:
“Why, for example, could the youth court not be amalgamated in an expanded family court where the process would no longer be criminal and the emphasis could be on problem-solving in the true sense and … for the entire family, rather than on punishment, or so-called rehabilitation, for the child in the custodial estate so excoriated by the Chief Inspector?”
According to the report, he also urged the Crown Prosecution Service to reconsider its current prosecuting policy in relation to children:
“I do not … go so far as to suggest that age alone should immunise children from the appropriate application of the criminal law where there has been really serious offending. However, in less serious cases it is legitimate to ask what advantage there is … in invoking a criminal process in preference to a family court process, especially where the family court is already engaged in careful analysis of and planning for the child’s future.”
Nothing much to do with religion but – as with other matters we have previously noted – an immense amount to do with issues such as morality and children’s rights.
Khaira v Shergill again
The Court of Appeal has handed down another judgment in the seemingly-interminable litigation between Mr Khaira and Mr Shergill; however, anyone who has been following the story will be relieved to learn that this one is solely about costs. So unless costs are your particular interest, you don’t need to read it.
Music in C of E churches: the saga continues
On Monday, the Second Church Estates Commissioner answered a written question from Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): “what the policy is of the Church Commissioners on the playing of secular music in (a) St Sepulchre-without-Newgate Church and (b) all churches.
Precisely what administrative responsibility the Church Commissioners might have for music in churches is not at all clear – perhaps they have occasional lunchtime meetings to discuss the dire musical standards of congregational mass-settings for Common Worship. But be that as it may, Dame Caroline duly replied:
“The Church of England’s ‘Open and Sustainable Churches’ programme operates through its ChurchCare website. This programme offers advice and encouragement to churches on how to use imaginative and strategic ways to make their spaces available for purposes as well as worship. These could be community activities, cultural or even commercial events. There is no specific national policy about the use of churches for concerts, as this is usually left to the discretion of the Vicar and the Parochial Church Council.
Following a decision by the Parochial Church Council of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, the church will end its programme of offering hire space to musicians from 2018. In its place, the church will offer monthly Saturday evening concerts in partnership with external musical groups … From 1 November, the Diocese of London will also launch a website that will provide easy access to hire space and booking options for musicians in London, as well as a tool to promote concerts and events” [emphasis added].
New publication: Islamic Law: Cases, Authorities and Worldview
Islamic Law: Cases, Authorities and Worldview, by Ahmad Atif Ahmad, Professor of Religious Studies at UC Santa Barbara, is a basic introduction to the subject. Though intended for undergraduates, it assumes no prior knowledge of Islamic law and is a helpful starting point for the general reader. Drawing on a comparative approach, it looks at the issues of the application of Islamic law where Muslims live as a majority and where they live as a minority, including the USA, Saudia Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan. It surveys the historical development and the contemporary contexts of Islamic law, covering topics such as the development and transformation of Islamic institutions before and after colonialism, rituals, dietary restrictions, family, contracts and property, lawful and unlawful gain, criminal law and punishments, and what makes a government legitimate in the eyes of Muslim individuals and authorities.
The one obvious drawback for the UK reader is that its common law context is US law rather than English or Scots (); however, though we tend to avoid US law on religious issues because of the distortions (from a UK perspective) that result from the First Amendment, the US examples are not too difficult for a Brit to follow.
On 3 November, the BBC reported that the ashes of Moors Murderer Ian Brady had been disposed of at sea in the middle of the night after a cremation the previous week. For those with an interest in burial law, the report said:
“Brady’s body was collected from Royal Liverpool Hospital’s mortuary by a council official at about 21:00 BST on 25 October … Under police escort, the corpse was taken to Southport Crematorium where the cremation began at 22:00 BST, with no music or flowers allowed. Brady’s ashes were then placed in a weighted biodegradable urn, driven to Liverpool Marina and dispatched at sea at 02:30 BST”.
Also on 3 November, the High Court released the unredacted judgment in Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council & Ors v Robin Makin & Ors  EWHC 2543 (Ch), paragraph 88 of which includes the Court’s directions as to the disposal of Brady’s body.
In a separate report, it was revealed that the remains of the Moors Murderers’ first victim, Pauline Reade, were kept by police for 30 years without her family’s knowledge. The Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said it “recently became aware” some of her remains were kept “for investigative purposes” and has since returned them. Pauline is buried is the same plot as her parents and brother. Her niece said:
“As a family, we want to put all the parts back with Pauline, where they should be. But to do that we will have to disturb all four graves. I think I should get an apology from the police. We will hold second funerals for all of them.”
- David Beamish, The Constitution Unit: Report of the Lord Speaker’s Committee on the size of the House of Lords: a real opportunity for progress on reform: we noted the Lord Speaker’s Committee Report here.
- Council of Europe: Rule of Law Checklist.
- Guide on Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights; and
- Guide on Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights:
- both just updated: now can they please do one on Article 9?
- Cathryn Evans, RightsInfo: What’s Organ Donation Got to Do With Human Rights Anyway?
- David Fardell, Civil Society: How to prepare for the GDPR challenges faced by charities: it’s largely good practice that charities ought to be following already, but well worth reading.
- Paul Goodman, conservativehome: Remaining in the ECHR is a cost of leaving the EU: “most Tory MPs seem to believe that remaining in the ECHR is a price Britain must pay for leaving the EU, at least until the time comes to draft the 2020 manifesto. But if its 2017 predecessor promised no change to the status quo when it comes to the Court, as it did, it also did so with regard to the [EU] Charter of Fundamental Rights”.
- Lynne Townley and Susan Bewley, The Conversation: Why the law against female genital mutilation should be scrapped: counter-intuitive but worth reading.
- Mark Woods, Christian Today: House of Lords reform? Let’s start with the bishops: “There’s no case for places to be reserved in the Lords for Church of England bishops. There is a case for broader religious representation. Who better to make it than those same bishops?”
And Helge Årsheim’s recent cross-post, Being Boring – How Bureaucrats Determine Religious Freedom has been reposted on The Religion Factor with a new title: Deus in Machina: How Bureaucrats Determine Religious Freedom. The site promises that Helge’s piece will be the first in a series of exchanges arising from the recent conference of the Centre for Religion, Conflict and Globalisation at the University of Groningen on ‘Reimagining Difference: Being, Thinking and Practicing [sic] Beyond Essentialism’.
What must surely be the comment of the week, from The Times daily e-mail update, Red Box:
“Maybe I had a sheltered upbringing in darkest Somerset, but as a general rule for starters, if you never take a photo of your private parts and never touch or send fruity texts to someone who isn’t your other half, you tend not to get into any trouble.”