Law and religion round-up – 12th August

Sharia, religious conversations at work, Brexit and the Irish, IICSA, council prayers – and more.

More on Akhter

Media comment on Akhter continues to vary from the measured to the crass. In Family Law, Siddique Patel and Peter Morris ask Does Akhter v Khan mean that English Law now recognises Shariah marriages? – to which their answer is a firm “No”. For the most ignorant comment we’ve seen so far, try Meira Svirsky of the Clarion Project, who asks, Should This UK Court Rule According to Sharia Law? and reports that “In a landmark decision, a court in the UK ruled according to sharia law for the first time”. Which will no doubt come as news to Williams J who, we imagine, thought he was ruling according to the law of England and Wales. We can’t help wondering whether she actually bothered to read the judgment.

More to the point, we understand that the decision is to be appealed. Patel and Morris suggest that “Akhter v Khan may well have Supreme Court written all over it”. Indeed: and we wonder whether the appeal, if permission is granted, will leapfrog the Court of Appeal.

Sarah Kuteh wins her appeal

Mrs Sarah Kuteh had been sacked by her then employer for having inappropriate conversations about religion with patients; and in Mrs S Kuteh v Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust (England and Wales: Unfair Dismissal) [2017] UKET 2302764/2016 an Employment Tribunal upheld her dismissal – we noted the case here. She then got a job in a nursing home, but she was only allowed to work as a nurse subject to a range of conditions imposed by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

In a judgment delivered on 26 July, however, a Nursing and Midwifery Council fitness to practise committee lifted the restrictions with immediate effect, ruling unanimously that Mrs Kuteh was fit to practise and that it was “in the public interest to return an otherwise experienced and competent nurse into practice”.

The BBC reported the case here: the committee’s reasons are not yet available.

Immigration status of Irish citizens

In a move that is not so marginal to law and religion as one might imagine – think of Irish clergy working in the UK – the Home Office has clarified the position of Irish citizens in the UK after Brexit. According to Free Movement, the Home Office has confirmed that Irish citizens living in the UK are considered “settled” for the purposes of immigration law and that officials who had denied in individual cases that Irish citizens were settled as soon as they took up residence in the UK were wrong to do so. The Home Office has reissued the guidance to ensure that decision-makers are aware of the correct position, as follows:

“Irish citizens have a special status in the UK. The rights of Irish citizens in the UK are rooted in the Ireland Act 1949 but also provided for in subsequent legislation. These rights include the right to enter and remain without being subject to a requirement to obtain permission. Irish citizens are treated as settled from the date they take up ordinary residence in the UK. They are considered to be settled as they are free from any restriction on the period for which they may remain-paragraph 6 of HC 395.

The rights of Irish citizens will be protected as the UK leaves the EU. The Home Office Statement of Intent for the EU Settlement Scheme issued on 21 June 2018 stated:

‘2.6. Irish citizens enjoy a right of residence in the UK that is not reliant on the UK’s membership of the EU. They will not be required to apply for status under the scheme (but may do so if they wish), and their eligible family members (who are not Irish citizens or British citizens) will be able to obtain status under the scheme without the Irish citizen doing so’.”

IICSA Update

This week the IICSA published its report into the Ampleforth and Downside hearings, as part of its investigation into the Roman Catholic Church. The report highlights the evidence heard by the Inquiry of appalling sexual abuse inflicted over decades on children as young as seven at Ampleforth and eleven at Downside. It concludes that there was a culture of acceptance of abusive behaviour and the prioritisation of monks and their reputations over the protection of children.

The next steps in this investigation are: public hearing in relation to the Archdiocese of Birmingham case study 12-16 November 2018 at the Inquiry hearing centre at 18 Pocock Street, London SE1 0BW; a preliminary hearing in relation to the Ealing Abbey case study will take place in the afternoon on Thursday 1 November 2018 ahead of the public hearings which will take place on Monday 4 February 2019.

This week we posted the first of two analyses on the public hearing of the Independent Inquiry Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) into the Peter Ball case study which took place 23 – 27 July 2018. In this, we considered the issues surrounding the appointment of Peter Ball as a diocesan bishop, and his subsequent Permission to Officiate (PTO). The second part, to be posted next week, will discuss: the issue of a police caution and its implications; the sanctions applicable to bishops; misconduct in public office; and mandatory reporting.

On 27 September 2018  the IICSA is holding a one-day seminar which will look at existing obligations to report child sexual abuse in England and Wales, and explore how these differ across professions and institutions; it will also consider how mandatory reporting legislation operates in other countries and the impact such provisions may have had on preventing and responding to child sexual abuse. A second seminar in May 2019 will consider the arguments for and against the introduction of mandatory reporting legislation in England and Wales, and the practical considerations involved in introducing such a law. 

Council prayers (again)

The Barry and District News reports that the National Secular Society has written to the mayor of Barry attacking her plan to introduce religious worship to Barry Town Council meetings: “Barry Mayor, Cllr Janice Charles told councillors at their meeting, on July 23, that prayers would be said in the Barry Town Council chamber five minutes before the start of full council business on October 1”. The article quotes NSS chief executive, Stephen Evans, as saying her plan to hold prayers five minutes before the meeting starts within the council chamber was an “attempt to remain within the law,” or as some might say, “to conform with the law”.

The Christian Institute observes that “Councillor Charles says she wants to host prayers but says they will be separate to the official meeting. ‘As mayor, I’ll be holding prayers before full council meetings and I’ve invited councillors – of all faiths and none – to join me. It’s something that happens before County Council meetings without controversy and of course no-one is obliged to come along’, she said.”

Consistory court petitioners warned on procedure

In the recent judgment Re St Giles Kellamarsh [2018] ECC Der 2, Chancellor Bullimore highlighted a “serious procedural problem”, in that the Public Notice did not adequately summarise the nature of the proposed works, such that someone reading the Public Notice would understand what was proposed. It simply said: “To undertake repairs and refurbishments in accordance with the Schedule of Works ref 1403A prepared by Jane Holt Architect 16.02.18 and accompanying drawings numbered…….” The Chancellor therefore directed the issue of new Public Notices summarising the works and granted an interim faculty for the work to start, subject (inter alia) to a condition that if notice of objection was received, then the work should stop if the Chancellor so ordered.

In addition, he added the following Postscript relating to the Diocese of Derby, although it clearly has wider relevance within the faculty jurisdiction:

“[18] The procedural problem which has arisen in this case, has happened far too often in different cases in the recent past, and in circumstances far more blatant than here, where the petitioners have obviously prepared their petition with care and, on its face, strictly in accordance with the requirements printed on the petition form itself.

I want the practice that I have criticised in this case, to cease, and the wording on the petition itself to be self-contained, and comprehensible and comprehensive, without reference to other documents, drawings, specifications or the like, so that it makes sense to the reader of the public notice, who will have no immediate access to the specification or drawings.

I therefore request that all those who handle petitions at an early stage, or are consulted by petitioners – in particular Archdeacons, the DAC Secretary and Registrar – to have regard to the concerns that I have raised, and ensure, so far as they can, that the works described on petitions are suitable to appear on the public notices.

Insofar as any slip through the net, I will return them to the Registry without further ado, so the deficiencies can be rectified and fresh notices prepared. This earlier remedy of a breach of the Rules will inevitably give rise to delay, which is regrettable, but will avoid time being unnecessarily wasted by those who are grappling to understand in a given case, what it is all about!

[With thanks to the Rev. Raymond Hemingray for the summary of the judgment.]

Bull and another (Appellants) v Hall and another (Respondents)

As part of its Open Days and Open House Weekend, the Supreme Court will be offering a series of interactive workshops during which participants will discuss and debate a real-life case which came before the Court. Led by Dr David Yuratich, a law lecturer at Royal Holloway University, the workshop will consider: how did the case make it to the final court of appeal; what were the issues at stake; why and how did the judges reach their decision and what were the implications of the judgment; do you agree with the final outcome; and how would you have voted on this case if you were a Supreme Court Justice?

One of the two cases chosen for discussion is Bull & Anor v Hall & Anor [2013] UKSC 73, for which the SC provides a short summary and link to the judgment. The workshops will be aimed at those aged 14 and above and no prior knowledge of the law is required. The sessions will take place at 13:00 on Friday 24 August, Tuesday 28 August, and Friday 21 September. Booking is essential.

Of mice and …

…choristers. Many will be familiar with the Astronomical Clock at Exeter Cathedral as the supposed inspiration for the nursery rhyme Hickory, Dickory, Dock; the door below the Clock has a circular hole cut in it between 1598 & 1621, to allow access for the cathedral cat – which was paid 1d per week in food when on mouse/rat catching duties. Apparently, mice were attracted to the animal fat used as lubricant for the clock.

Mice at Salisbury Cathedral appear to have met a different end. As part of her HLF work on bindings and cataloguing rare books, Cathedral Archivist Emily Naish discovered that a Latin textbook, published in 1684, contained the remains of a very flat, dried mouse. The chief suspects of its demise are 19th-century choristers – a suspicion confirmed by a note in the margins of another book which reads “the first mouse we killed was August 2“.

When they sing at Exeter in August, the choristers in David’s choir will be instructed to leave matters up to the present Cathedral cat.

Quick links

And finally…

The admirable Irish Legal News drew our attention to yet another piece of ground-breaking research from the Department of the Bleedin’ Obvious. The Legal Services Board, which oversees the regulation of legal services in England and Wales, has concluded in a report to the Ministry of Justice that people with “stretched” finances who are ineligible for legal aid are the least likely to instruct lawyers when they have legal problems.

In short, the majority of litigants in person are too poor to afford professional legal assistance. We’d never have guessed.

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