Law and religion round-up – 1st August

Protect Duty: next steps

On Tuesday, Kevin Foster, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Home Office, answered a Written Question about the impact on places of worship of the requirements of the Protect Duty as follows:

“The responses to the Protect Duty consultation, which closed on 2nd July, provides a basis for Government to consider the scope and requirements of the Protect Duty, alongside assessing the impacts on those parties potentially within scope. These considerations will also consider the potential for unintended consequences and indirect implications of introducing the Duty.

The Government is mindful places of worship differ significantly in the nature of their function and operation from other locations potentially within the scope of the Protect Duty proposals. This is balanced against the threat posed by terrorism, and a need to ensure there are effective security measures at public places, regardless of their nature.

The Government will be carefully considering the issues raised within the consultation and our engagement events, including those discussed with representatives of different faith communities, before considering next steps.”

Church of England COVID-19 guidance

The Press Release issued after the Zoom meeting of the House of Bishops on 26 July 2021 included the following statement:

“The Bishop of London, in her capacity as Chair of the Recovery Group (now concluded) then updated the House on what is now permissible since 19th of July and confirmed that she and her colleagues will continue to monitor the Covid-19 situation carefully as it continues to evolve.”

Readers will be aware that most, but not all, of the Church’s guidance on COVID-19 is issued by the House of Bishops COVID-19 Recovery Group. In view of the ongoing nature of the pandemic in England and the continuing controls initiated by the Government, it seems likely that further guidance may be necessary in the coming months.

Ecclesiastical Judges, Legal Officers and Others (Fees) Order 2021

The Ecclesiastical Judges, Legal Officers and Others (Fees) Order 2021, SI/2021/843, was made on 26 May, laid before Parliament on 27 July and comes into force on 1 January 2022. They do what it says on the tin.

Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) (Amendment) Regulations 2021

The Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) (Amendment) Regulations 2021, SI/2021/840, are made under section 2 of the Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Measure 2009 and amend the Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Regulations 2009. They were made on 13 July, laid before Parliament on 27 July and come into force in accordance with the provisions of Regulation 1.

Part 2 makes provision about residentiary canons. Part 3 relates to salary sacrifice arrangements. Part 4 relates to gender neutrality: Regulation 10 amends the Terms of Service Regulations so as to gender-neutralise the references to bishops.

Advice for Petitioners to consistory courts

In Re St John the Evangelist Hoylandswaine [2021] ECC Lee 4, the petitioners sought to reorder the interior of the church to provide toilets, a kitchen, storage and improved heating. The church was built in 1869 by the architect W. H. Crossland and is Grade II listed, and the PCC’s primary objective was to ensure that the church building stays open for worship for the foreseeable future preventing possible closure and redundancy of the building. However, the Chancellor was highly critical of the evidence presented by the petitioners and concluded:

“[25]. It follows from the evidential deficit in the justification that the balancing exercise can only result in the dismissal of this petition. The reasons advanced for the works are aspirational only, with no sufficient grounding in evidence, and accordingly on the case presented by the petitioners the suggested public benefit remains illusory and is insufficient to outweigh the undoubted harm.”

The case appears to be one for the “don’t do it like this” file; the Chancellor’s detailed observations on the evidential shortcomings are in paragraph 10.

Faculty granted, but…

In Re St Peter Heversham [2021] ECC Car 3, the petitioners sought to introduce inter alia new porch screens in order to create a draught lobby in the church porch with glass doors and stepless access. Chancellor was satisfied that the petitioners had made out a good case for the proposals and granted a faculty, subject to a requirement/restriction relating to bats and nesting birds which had been raised in a report by Envirotech. This proviso requires that: the proposed works are to be undertaken during the months of November to March; prior to commencement of the work, the Petitioners must obtain a European Protected Species Licence in relation to bats, and undertake a check for nesting birds; the works are not to be undertaken in such a way that active bird nesting sites and bats are disturbed; the Mitigation Strategy in the Envirotech report are to be strictly complied with; and external floodlights are not to be used when the bats are roosting.

Bats in churches

Historic England has published new guidance on Building Works and Bats. It reminds readers that all bats and their roosts are protected by law, and begins:

“Always start with the assumption that bats are present in a building or the surrounding site unless a bat survey within the last two years shows that no bats or signs of bats are present.”

Westminster Holocaust Memorial

The National Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre planned for Victoria Tower Gardens in Westminster has been given planning permission by the Government following a public inquiry. In a press release announcing the decision on Thursday, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government announced that work will start on the site later this year with an anticipated completion date of 2025.

Quick links

And finally…

Scottish Legal News reports that moves are afoot to resurrect Rumpole of the Bailey – but this time with a female leadEmily Mortimer, John Mortimer’s daughter, is apparently updating it for “modern times”. So in the new format, will Ms Rumpole refer to her spouse as “He Who Must Be Obeyed”? Somehow, we can’t quite see it ourselves.

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