Law and religion round-up – 14th July

A busy week on the blog and at the IICSA…

… with helpful background and analysis from the House of Commons Library, which earlier in the year issued No-deal Brexit and WTO: Article 24 explained for the benefit of MPs and others. This week the importance of reading the full document was not restricted to paragraph 5(c) GATT: Article XXIV, and included the attention paid by commentators to s.20 Parochial Registers and Records Measure 1978 to the exclusion of s.2(3), below.

Abortion and same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland

On Tuesday, the Commons added two New Clauses to the Northern Ireland (Formation of Executive) Bill the effect of which would be to oblige the Westminster Government to bring forward legislative proposals to reform Northern Ireland’s abortion law and to make provision for same-sex marriage unless a Northern Ireland Executive is formed before 21 October 2019. We noted the details here: The Conversation has a helpful explainer.

Abortion and mental capacity

We noted on 30 June that Lieven J, sitting in the Court of Protection, had ruled in an unreported judgment that a pregnant woman in her twenties with limited mental capacity should have an abortion, on the basis that the balance of the evidence was that termination would be in her best interests and that the Court of Appeal had reversed Lievens J after the woman’s mother had sought a review of her decision.

The judgment of the Court of Appeal became available on Thursday: we will publish a guest post on Re AB (Termination of Pregnancy) [2019] EWCA Civ 1215 later in the week.

Independent Review of FCO support for persecuted Christians

On Monday, the Bishop of Truro published his Independent Review for the Foreign Secretary of FCO support for Persecuted Christians. The BBC reported the Foreign Secretary as welcoming the review – as did his rival for the Conservative leadership.

Charity Commission inquiry into Sikh Youth UK

The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into funds held by and raised in connection with Sikh Youth UK. Sikh Youth UK is not a registered charity, but the Commission has jurisdiction because the funds are charitable. West Midlands Police notified the Commission last October about concerns relating to the organisation’s receipt and use of charitable funds and the Commission opened a statutory inquiry in November, but it has been unable to announce its investigation before now so as to avoid prejudicing criminal proceedings.

The inquiry is examining whether those in control of charitable funds have properly exercised their legal duties and responsibilities under charity law in the administration of charitable funds held by the organisation; the financial management of the organisation; whether there has been any private benefit to the trustees of the organisation; the organisation’s partnerships with other charities; and the conduct of the trustees. Most interestingly from the point of view of charity law, the inquiry will also examine the organisation’s status in order to determine whether it is a charity in law. The people running the organisation have not applied to register with the Commission.

Apart from any other considerations, this case is a salutary reminder that it is possible for an organisation to be a charity under the law of England and Wales even if it was not the intention of those who established it to set up a charity at all. If all the objects of a voluntary organisation are charitable under the Charities Act 2011, then there is a strong likelihood that it is a charity in law, willy-nilly: see our post – and the subsequent exchange of comments – on Churches as charities: some basics.

IICSA hearings, Week 2

Days 6 and 7 heard evidence on sampling and safeguard management within the Church; Ms Meg Munn, Independent Chair of the National Safeguarding Panel, gave evidence on the Tuesday afternoon. Her evidence concluded with the following exchange [Day 7, [159/12]

Q. Do you believe that bishops and senior clergy should have any role in decision making in individual safeguarding cases?

A. No, I don’t think they should, because I don’t think they’re qualified to do that.

On Day 8, oral evidence was given on Safeguarding Management and Clergy Discipline by the Revd Matthew Ineson and Mr Adrian Iles, the Designated Officer for Clergy Discipline, and by Archbishop John Sentamu, Archbishop of York. The questioning explored the Church’s approach towards victims of abuse; Thinking Anglicans includes links to the extensive media coverage, the allegations raised and the response of the witnesses.

Mr Graham Tilby, National Advisor on Safeguarding, Bishop Peter Hancock, Bishop of Bath & Wells, and Archbishop Welby gave evidence on Thursday, who said that “We had a discussion on Sunday after the safeguarding discussion at synod. I am convinced that we need to move to mandatory reporting for regulated activities”, [Day 9, 216/4]. “As with the Archbishop of York, we now both believe in mandatory reporting” [Day 9, 217/2].

In addition to the planned closing statements planned for Friday further witnesses were called: David Bonehill, Claims Director of EIG and John Titchener, Group Compliance Director of EIO. Full details of the Week 2 timetable are available here, and links to the transcripts of evidence and other documents are here.

Safeguarding in the Roman Catholic Church

Perhaps the most significant item of legal news this area came from the Vatican,  which on 8 July announced that the Holy See had revoked the diplomatic immunity of the Apostolic Nuncio to France, Archbishop Luigi Ventura, clearing the way for the diplomat to face criminal charges in that country. In a July 8 statement, interim head of Vatican communications Alessandro Gisotti said:

“I can confirm that the Holy See renounces jurisdictional immunity enjoyed by the Apostolic Nuncio in France, Msgr Luigi Ventura, by virtue of the Vienna Convention of 18 April 1961 on diplomatic relations, for the purposes of criminal proceedings concerning him”.

The Catholic News Agency explains that “in recent years, the Holy See’s practice has generally been to recall diplomats accused of civil crimes in their host countries. Once back in Vatican City, they are tried both civilly and canonically, and may later be stripped of diplomatic immunity so they can also be prosecuted by the host country.” However, this was not the case for former diplomat Msgr Carlo Alberto Capella; he faced charges related to child pornography in both the United States and Canada but was recalled from the Washington Nunciature in September 2017.

Law Commission of England and Wales: surrogacy public consultation events

The Law Commission is hosting a number of public consultation events to hear people’s views on its recently-published consultation paper: “Building families through surrogacy – a new law”.  A full copy of the Consultation Paper is available here, alongside a short summary document in English here and in Welsh here. Full details of the project can be found on the Commission’s website here. The details of the consultation events in England and Wales are as follows:

  • Wednesday 17 July – Manchester (16.30)
  • Friday 19 July – Exeter (09.30)
  • Monday 22 July – Brighton (16.00)
  • Tuesday 23 July – Cardiff (16.00)
  • Tuesday 03 September – Birmingham (16.30).

The events are free to attend; full details, and how to sign up for each event, are here.

Office for Tackling Injustices

On Friday, the Prime Minister announced the creation of “a new independent body responsible for challenging social injustices and creating a fairer country has been announced”. Her intention is that the Office for Tackling Injustices (OfTI) will present future Governments with a “more effective, data-driven, evidence-based challenge to help drive forward reforms to tackle wide-ranging disparities in society”.

Presumably, this is intended to be part of Mrs May’s “legacy”. Perhaps it could start by having a look at the provision of civil legal aid, particularly in family law cases.

Recognition of UK divorces in Ireland?

Irish Legal News reports that, according to a briefing paper drawn up by the Bar Council of Ireland, divorces obtained in the UK may not be recognised in Ireland after Brexit. Automatic recognition of UK divorces is governed by an EU Regulation of 2005 that will cease to apply after the UK leaves the EU; and the briefing paper warns that domestic legislation may be required to “address this particular category of foreign divorces”. Should that analysis be correct, those who were divorced in the UK would be unable to remarry in Ireland until there was new legislation in place; however, the Department of Justice has said that it will legislate “quickly to specifically address any negative impact that a no-deal Brexit might have on recognition of UK divorces”.

Readers’ queries and comments

On Tuesday we posted the June/early-July summary of our answers to readers’ queries and comments. The questions listed follow the order in which they were received, and when answering the first query on “godparent canon law”, we had no inkling of the debate in the media which arose in relation to withholding the names of the godparents of Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor and his baptism in the private chapel at Windsor Castle. Whilst we covered the public/private baptism issues in our post in July 2015 on Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, we did not explore the issue of godparents and the interpretation of the Parochial Registers and Records Measure 1978. Most commentators cited the legislation, but few, if any, provided a satisfactory explanation or identified that it was not within the gift of the Palace to withhold information in the registers.

Quick links

And finally…

“They’ve got Ivanka, we’ve got Stanley Johnson. When did politics become a family affair?” asked Catherine Bennett in last Sunday’s Observer.

Er, William Pitt the Elder and William Pitt the Younger? John Adams and John Quincy Adams? Or, for that matter, Henry VII and Henry VIII?

2 thoughts on “Law and religion round-up – 14th July

  1. Tackling injustice and the provision of civil legal aid

    You suggest (rightly) that the new Office for Tackling Injustices (OfTI), the creation of which was announced last week by Theresa May, “could start by having a look at the provision of civil legal aid, particularly in family law cases.”

    Readers may be interested to know that a Private Member’s Motion in the following terms, tabled by Carl Fender, a barrister and lay member of the General Synod representing Lincoln Diocese, has now attained the 100 signatories necessary for it to be considered by the Business Committee for debate by the Synod. Hopefully, it will be included in the agenda for the next group of sessions in London in February 2020.

    “That this Synod, mindful that a justice system should be open and free from barriers of any kind, and also provide easy access to enable the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in our society to seek professional help in bringing their claims before our courts and tribunals:
    (a) recognise our legal aid system as an essential public service and fully endorse its preservation for the benefit of the nation;
    (b) welcome the reports by Amnesty International and the Bach Commission about the impact of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 and note both their findings about its impact on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in our society and their recommendations for reform of the current system; and
    (c) call on Her Majesty’s Government to respond positively to these reports and explore ways of alleviating the impact that the 2012 Act has had on these groups.”

  2. Pingback: Abortion and same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland | Law & Religion UK

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