Schrödinger’s parties. Legal for some, illegal for others
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic we have followed developments of the relevant legislation and guidance. However, the interpretation of the 126 referrals for fixed penalty notices (FPNs) made by the Metropolitan Police to the ACRO Criminal Records Office for breaches of COVID-19 regulations in relation to several parties at No 10 Downing Street is beyond the scope of this blog. Nevertheless, the outcome was succinctly summarized by barrister Adam Wagner of Doughty Street Chambers, whose Twitter thread on these events was prefaced with the comment “I think the outcome of the Met investigation is that the Prime Minister attended 6 illegal gatherings but attended 5 of them legally”.
COVID-19: legislation and guidance update
On Friday, we posted COVID-19: legislation and guidance update from May 2022 which, as the title indicates, is in a slightly different format on account of the few changes which are now being introduced. Until 21 August 2021 we posted updates on a weekly basis but, subsequently, this was reduced to a monthly frequency. Now that little or no new legislation is being introduced, this update “from May” will comprise the latest guidance from the faith bodies, plus any new legislation or guidance which is introduced.
Further, we have updated and revised the blog’s index which appears on the top Task Bar of each post. As the focus of on-going posts has moved away from COVID-19, this is no longer the top item, and the topics are listed in alphabetical order. New topic headings will be added in the future, commencing with Assisted Dying.
Marriages in England & Wales 2019
The Office for National Statistics has published the most recent data on marriages in England and Wales, covering 2019. In brief:
- There were 219,850 weddings in total, a decrease of 6.4% from 2018.
- There were 213,122 weddings between opposite-sex couples, a decrease of 6.5% from 2018 and 6,728 weddings between same-sex couples, a decrease of 2.8% from 2018.
- Marriage rates for opposite-sex couples have fallen to their lowest on record since 1862; in 2019 there were 18.6 weddings per 1,000 unmarried men and 17.2 weddings per 1,000 unmarried women.
- Religious ceremonies accounted for fewer than one in five (18.7%) of opposite-sex weddings, a decrease from 21.1% in 2018 and the lowest percentage on record, while for same-sex weddings, 0.7% were religious ceremonies (though the latter is hardly surprising, given that only a handful of religious bodies conduct same-sex weddings).
- The average (median) age at marriage for opposite-sex couples in 2019 was 34.3 years for men and 32.3 years for women; it was higher for same-sex couples, at 38.1 years for men and 33.8 years for women.
Places of Worship Protective Security Fund
The UK Government has announced that the Places of Worship Protective Security Fund is open for applications. Mosques and Muslim faith schools have been given access to £24.5M for security measures to protect their places of worship and schools and make the streets safer. Muslims continue to experience an increased threat of hate crime. In 2020/2021, 45% of religious hate crimes recorded by the police in England and Wales were targeted against Muslims.
From 19 May 2022, places of worship can bid for funding to put in place security measures to help tackle this threat. This could include the installation of CCTV cameras and perimeter fencing to ensure that adequate measures are in place to protect worshippers. Muslims will be also able to register their interest in security guarding services at mosques, to ensure that their communities can worship safely and without fear.
In addition, £3.5M is available for other faith communities through the Government’s Places of Worship Fund. Applications are now open, and all places of worship that feel vulnerable to hate crime are encouraged to apply. This scheme runs alongside the Jewish Community Protective Security grant, which provides protective security for the Jewish community and was recently renewed for this year.
On 12 April, the Home Office announced that it would continue to grant the Community Security Trust (CST) £14M to help keep members of the Jewish community safe in their daily lives. It has been supporting the Community Security Trust, a charity that monitors and helps protect British Jews against antisemitism, since 2015, following a series of terror attacks against Jewish targets across Europe. The grant will cover protective security for the next financial year at Jewish institutions, including synagogues and schools.
- Anon, CNE NEWS: Acquittal for German pastor Latzel: on the acquittal of a pastor of the Evangelische Kirche for alleged homophobic and hate speech in a marriage seminar that was temporarily published as an audio file on YouTube, 19 May 2022.
- ECtHR: Information note on the Court’s case-law 261, April 2022.
- Philip Jones, Comments on Ecclesiastical Law: A Decade of the Faculty Jurisdiction, 18 May 2022.
- Meg Munn, Chair National Safeguarding Panel: Interim Support Scheme: scrutiny of the Interim Support Scheme by the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Panel, 19 May 2022.
- Russell Sandberg, The Freethinker: How the UK government’s proposed Bill of Rights might affect freedom of religion or belief: needless to say, he is not enthused, 20 May 2022.