Law and religion round-up – 5th January

A slow week for news, which was presumably why the media gave so much attention to a preliminary ruling on…

ethical veganism 

On Friday, Employment Judge Postle handed down a preliminary judgment, ex tempore, in the case of Mr Jordi Casamitjana Costa, an ethical vegan, who is alleging that his former employer, the League Against Cruel Sports, sacked him unfairly after he disclosed that it invested pension funds in businesses involved in animal testing. EJ Postle concluded on the preliminary point that ethical veganism satisfied the “cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance” criteria in Grainger and qualified as a protected philosophical belief.

The hearing on 2 and 3 January dealt solely with the preliminary issue of the status of ethical veganism: a full merits hearing is planned for February. The BBC reports the initial judgment here and Mr Casamitjana’s solicitors, Slater & Gordon, have a page on the case – including much of the supporting documentation – here. Interestingly, it was EJ Postle who ruled in Conisbee v Crossley Farms Ltd & Ors [2019] ET 3335357/2018 that vegetarianism – as opposed to veganism – was not a protected belief.

The UK Human Rights Blog carries a long and helpful write-up of what we know about the decision thus far. For our part, we’re waiting till we see a written judgment.

Interpreters and asylum cases

We don’t normally note asylum cases – there are too many of them and they rarely engage religion in a manner that raises issues of principle – but TS (interpreters) Eritrea [2019] UKUT 352 (IAC) is unusual. TS, an Eritrean who said that she had a well-founded fear of persecution if returned there because of her Pentecostal Christianity, was challenging the decision to refuse her protection claim. At the initial hearing, she had been provided with an Amharic interpreter but she alleged that the interpreter had not translated the proceedings accurately enough. Furthermore, the interpreter approached Ms TS’s counsel after the proceedings and harangued her about the proceedings – as counsel explained in her subsequent witness statement:

“8.  After the hearing had concluded, I left the court building and waited at the bus stop which is on Faggs Road, located immediately on the left, after coming up from Dukes Green Avenue. I was waiting there for approximately 5-10 minutes for a bus to Hatton Cross tube station.

9. When I arrived at the bus stop, I noticed that the court interpreter from the hearing was at the bus stop. I did not initiate any conversation with her.

10. A few minutes after arriving at the bus stop, the court interpreter approached me in a confrontational or an aggressive manner, and informed me of the following:

(i) My client had been lying because she had interpreted everything accurately during the hearing;

(ii) Eritrea is safe and there is no danger there. The war is over, the borders are open and people are celebrating. My client faces no danger there at all;

(iii) she feels sorry for the judge who has to deal with these types of cases.

11. I did not respond, save for, at first, to remind her that I had not accused her personally of not accurately interpreting, but I was acting on my client’s instructions.

12. I was extremely concerned that this behaviour as it clearly puts into question the independence of the court-appointed interpreter and, on any view, displays a lack of impartiality.

13. I would ask that this information be brought to the attention of [the judge] before a decision in respect of my client’s appeal is made, as, in my view, it directly impacts upon the fairness of the proceedings.”

In the Upper Tribunal, Lane J concluded that “The uninvited comments of the interpreter to counsel raise very grave doubts as to the interpreter’s independence and impartiality. That, in turn, raises serious questions as to whether the interpreter was doing her best to translate what the appellant was saying to the judge” [64]. He set aside the decision of the First-tier Tribunal and remitted the matter to be heard de novo by a different judge – and with a different interpreter. [With thanks to Ian Tympany for drawing the case to our attention.]

Of Bishops

On 5 January 2020, the election of the Ven Cherry Vann as Bishop of Monmouth was confirmed during the public service of choral evensong at Brecon Cathedral, the seat of the Archbishop of Wales, John Davies. The Constitution of the Church in Wales requires all episcopal elections to be confirmed by the serving diocesan bishops meeting in Sacred Synod. This marked the point at which, as Bishop-elect, she becomes, legally, the Bishop of the Diocese.

However, as Matthew Chinery pointed out, “this creates (for a short time) something of an anomaly, as the Bishop of the Diocese may not actually be a Bishop, because their consecration (when they become a Bishop and can, e.g. ordain people) does not happen until a few days (or weeks) later”, which in the case of Bishop-elect Cherry will be at Brecon Cathedral on January 25. Following her consecration, Bishop Cherry will be enthroned at Newport Cathedral on February 1 at 11 am. This anomaly will not arise after the confirmation of the election of the Rt Revd Richard Jackson as Bishop of Hereford at the Vicar-General’s Court in London on Tuesday 7 January, since he is currently consecrated as a bishop in his present position as Suffragan Bishop of Lewes in East Sussex.

Consistory court judgments

Compared with the three consistory court judgments in November, there were twenty three in December and consequently it was necessary to write them up in two separate posts: Part (I) and Part (II). Normally, we would not write posts of this length, but is so happened that twelve were concerned with aspects of reordering, and the others on exhumation and churchyards, and it did not seem logical to fragment these reviews further. The Annual Index for 2019, with links and short summaries of cases, will be posted next week.

Like many of his Twitter followers, we were taken with Matthew Chinery’s end-of-year Twitter thread of his top ten consistory court judgments of the decade and so we rolled it up and posted it here. It was surprising how many non-ecclesiastical lawyers (and others) retweeted Matt’s observations, indicating how interesting they found the subject and asking where they could find out more. His thread concluded: “ecclesiastical law is great fun, and (frankly) we could do with a few more people of my age and younger taking an interest in it. is a fine place to start”. Whether this results in future LLM (Canon Law) students, members of the Ecclesiastical Law Society, or purchasers of Mark Hill’s Ecclesiastical Law book remains to be seen.  However, we look forward to Matt’s delivery of the John Lewis Memorial Lecture to the LLM course in March this year.

David’s Boxing Day Quiz

If you missed the answers yesterday, they’re here. Work is in progress on the 2020 quiz and, to date, we have 4 questions.

Quick links

And finally…I

What is it about Anglican clergy and gin? Ps 140 v5, maybe?

And finally…II

Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] UKHL 100 revisited. The Independent reported “Antiques Roadshow expert drinks 180-year-old urine, rusty nails and a human hair after mistaking liquid for port”, adding “Fiona Bruce also revealed there was a tiny cockle-like creature inside the mystery bottle”. The mysterious little creature was an ostracod, which is like a little cockle. “So [this] was not a bottle of port or wine, but a witches’ bottle. So buried in the threshold of the house as a talisman against witchcraft, against curses, against misfortune coming into the home.” The expert, Andy McConnell, replied: “Yummy. Such good news.”

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