“20 + C + M + B + 22 Chalk marks over doors are not new work by Banksy. Neither do they mark a plague house: Covid Mingling Billet…”
Bishop of Norwich
… although some readers might remember this as the answer to Q1 in our 2017 Boxing Day Quiz.
The Great Strasbourg Bake Off
Perhaps the biggest news of the week was that Gareth Lee lost his appeal to Strasbourg in what has become known in some quarters as the “Gay Cake Case”: by a majority, the Court held his application inadmissible for non-exhaustion of domestic remedies. We published a long guest post on the case by Professor Mark Hill QC, here.
After the decision was announced, Irish Legal News reported that Mr Lee might try to raise the matter afresh. Ciaran Moynagh, who is representing him, said:
“We are disappointed with the court’s ruling this morning. Mr Lee brought the appropriate and only application available to him and dealt with all arguments that arose in the course of appeals. We are clear that Mr Lee’s Convention rights were engaged and put forward during the litigation. Given the position the European court has taken this morning, we will now consider whether a fresh domestic case is progressed.”
In R v Graham & Ors  Bristol Crown Ct (unreported), the jury acquitted Rhian Graham, Milo Ponsford, Jake Skuse and Sage Willoughby on charges of criminal damage after they and others pulled down a statue of the 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston and dumped it in Bristol harbour on 7 June 2020. The prosecution had argued that the case was about criminal damage and the rule of law: the fact that Colston was a slave trader was wholly irrelevant. The four defendants admitted their actions but argued that they had been justified because the presence of the statue was so offensive. They had been motivated by sincere antiracist conviction, frustration that previous attempts to persuade the council to remove the statue had failed, and a belief that the statue was so offensive as to constitute an indecent display or a hate crime.
Subsequently, the Attorney General tweeted:
“Without affecting the result of this case, as Attorney General, I am able to refer matters to the Court of Appeal so that senior judges have the opportunity to clarify the law for future cases. I am carefully considering whether to do so.”
Commenting on the provision in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill currently before Parliament that would let courts take account of the “emotional or wider distress” of criminal damage and increase the maximum sentence to 10 years’ imprisonment regardless of the cost of damage, Professor Tom Lewis, director of the Centre for Rights and Justice at Nottingham Trent University, noted that the Bill would make the trial of those accused of damage to monuments possible only in the Crown Court, before a jury:
“There is a certain irony in the fact that if the [Colston] defendants had been tried before a magistrate they may well have been convicted. But in electing to trial by their peers – a right rooted in Magna Carta itself – they secured an acquittal.”
BarristerBlogger has published the trial judge’s directions to the jury, here.
Clergy discipline in the C of E
The issue of the Clergy Disciple Measure surfaced yet again in the Common when Rachael Maskell (Lab & Co-op, York Central) asked the Second Church Estates Commissioner about progress on the Clergy Discipline Measure review . Andrew Selous replied as follows:
“The Lambeth Working Group on the Review of the Clergy Discipline Measure, chaired by the former Bishop at Lambeth, presented its final paper to the General Synod in July 2021. That paper recommended that the Clergy Discipline Measure be replaced by new legislation which provides for a wider approach to issues of discipline, including the creation of a system which allows for the determination of lesser types of misconduct and grievance. This work is now being taken forward by a smaller Implementation Group, chaired by the Bishop of Worcester. That Group intends to finalise their proposals over the coming months and consult with various interested bodies between February and May 2022 with a view to presenting detailed legislative proposals to General Synod in July 2022.”
The Diocese of Oxford has announced that St Mary the Virgin, Drayton Beauchamp, will be the first church in the diocese to be awarded Festival Church status. The building will now remain open for worship and serve as a welcoming and functional community space. On 1 November, in a service led by the Rt Revd Dr Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham, and the Ven Guy Elsmore, Archdeacon of Buckingham, the church and local community gathered “to mark the transition to a Festival Church and receive the status from Bishop Alan”.
As a Festival Church, St Mary’s will no longer be used for weekly worship services but will remain legally open as a parish church and hold a minimum of six services a year – mainly for Festival and patronal celebrations of the Church including Christmas, Easter, Harvest and Remembrance Sunday as well as baptisms, weddings and funerals. It is anticipated that there will be a service on the first Sunday of each month in addition to Easter and Christmas Services. The church building is also required to be available for the local community to use for a range of events and to serve the needs of the community such as housing the local food bank.
St Mary’s has in recent years seen a dwindling congregation, along with increased maintenance costs, and the PCC made the difficult decision to consult on future options. Following an extensive consultation with the Drayton Beauchamp Parochial Charities Trust, benefice, deanery, local community, the Archdeacon of Buckingham and the Buckingham Archdeaconry Mission and Pastoral Committee it was concluded that the Festival Church model was the most appropriate solution, and this recommendation was subsequently made to the Bishop of Buckingham.
Guidance for the safe use of places of worship
On 7 January 2021, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the Cabinet Office updated Coronavirus (COVID-19): Wedding and civil partnership ceremonies, receptions and celebrations to include the change from 11 January when people in England who receive a positive lateral flow test will be required to self-isolate immediately but will not need to take a confirmatory PCR test. The earlier update on 23 December 2021 stated that if one tested positive or had COVID-19symptoms, it was permissible to stop self-isolating after 7 days instead of 10 days on the basis of 2 negative lateral flow test results on day 6 and 7.
[The COVID-19: guidance for the safe use of places of worship was last updated on 10 December 2021]
- Madeleine Davies, Church Times: Reforms to safeguarding and clergy discipline should be co-ordinated, says Vicar-General: summary of HH Peter Collier’s ELS lecture on the Clergy Discipline Measure.
- Rosalind English, UK Human Rights Blog: Gay marriage-cake case declared inadmissible by Strasbourg Court.
- Joshua Rozenberg, Law Society Gazette: Raab’s resonant rights reformation: in which JR takes apart the MoJ’s latest consultation paper.
- Harriet Sherwood, The Guardian: Nurse ‘victimised’ for wearing cross at work was unfairly dismissed, tribunal rules: we noted the case here.
- Andrew Tettenborn, The Spectator: Have we reached peak human rights?: on the ECtHR’s recent judgment in Lee v United Kingdom.
- Peng et al, Environmental Science and Technology: Practical Indicators for Risk of Airborne Transmission in Shared Indoor Environments and Their Application to COVID-19 Outbreaks. “A model of airborne disease transmission through shared-room air is shown to explain literature outbreaks and can help guide mitigations”. (5 January 2022).