Law and religion round-up – 15th January

Public Space Prevention Orders

Readers may recall that police in Birmingham charged Isabel Vaughan-Spruce with four counts of failing to comply with a Public Space Protection Order in violation of a “buffer zone” around the British Pregnancy Advisory Service’s Robert Clinic in Kings Norton. She stood outside the clinic and may (or may not) have been praying silently. She is due to appear at Birmingham Magistrates Court on 2 February.

In response to a written question from Lord Pearson of Rannoch about her arrest and subsequent charging, and “what steps HMG intends to take to ensure that the rights of (1) freedom of religion, and (2) freedom of thought, are upheld”, Lord Sharpe of Epsom replied on behalf of the Home Office as follows:

“The Government supports Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights that provides everyone with a right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. The imposition of Public Space Prevention Orders is a matter for the local authorities who are required to consider European Convention rights, including Article 8 that provides a right to respect private and family life. Operational matters and charging are matters for the police.”

Food labelling

On 19 December 2022, Henry Smith (Crawley, Con) asked the Secretary of State for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs, whether she planned to publish proposals for the introduction of mandatory animal welfare labelling for food. In response, Mark Spencer, Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, responded on 9 January and said:

“At the end of 2021, the Government ran a call for evidence to gather data on the impacts, cost and deliverability of different types of labelling reforms for animal welfare. Building on this call for evidence, the Government announced in the recent Food Strategy that we will consult on mandatory animal welfare labelling reforms in 2023. Consultation proposals are being co-developed with stakeholders across the supply chain”.

Renumbering of judgments from Liverpool Consistory Court

We have been informed by the Ecclesiastical Law Association that it has been necessary to renumber the neutral citations of the judgments from the Liverpool consistory court for 2022. The correct citations are:

These have been updated in our posts on the monthly and annual round-up of decisions.

Errors in burial (again)

In Re Christ Church Padgate [2022] ECC Liv 3, the family sought the exhumation of the remains of the late Jean Atkinson, which had been interred in July of that year. There had been various errors that may have arisen through “poor communication or misunderstanding”, but Wood Ch stated that that was immaterial since:

“[4]. …The family were required to endure the upsetting experience of an interment which took place seemingly several hours after the funeral ceremony because of the delay in attendance by the gravedigger, and the dislodging of the coffin lid, as the coffin was lowered into the grave space, clearly insufficient to accommodate it.

[5]. …the grave was subsequently overlaid to a very shallow depth, and certainly leaving insufficient space for subsequent interments”.

Although errors such as these did not neatly fall within the “relevant factors” outlined in [36] in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299, they satisfied the general requirement of “special circumstances […] which justify the making of an exception from the norm that Christian burial” [35].

The Chancellor had no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that the necessary criteria for “exceptional circumstances” were fulfilled and that a faculty should issue [7].  Although not material to the judgment, he noted that an application had been made for an exhumation licence from the MoJ, “which of course is unnecessary because the burial took place in consecrated ground” [8].

France, laïcité and statues

On Friday, the Cour Administrative d’Appel de Bordeaux ordered La Flotte, a village on the Île de Ré, to remove a statue of the Virgin Mary from its crossroads. The statue had been erected by a local family after World War II – initially in a private garden – in gratitude for a father and son returning from the conflict alive, but the family later donated it to the town which set it up at the crossroads in 1983. In 2020 it was damaged by a car, and the municipality decided to restore it and put it back in the same place, but this time on an elevated platform.

The court held that the display violated the separation of church and state and gave the municipality six months to remove it.

Leave for prisoners to attend family funerals

In Geantă and Others v Romania [2023] ECHR 36 [in French], the Fourth Section held that a refusal to allow prisoners leave to attend the funerals of close family members violated Article 8(1) of the Convention (respect for private and family life).

Quick links

And finally…

Crux carries a report from Liechtenstein by Elise Ann Allen that the Archbishop of Vaduz has cancelled the traditional mass for the opening of the parliamentary year. Apparently, he took exception to the fact that a large majority of members of the Landtag had voted for a motion asking the Government to draft a bill to provide for same-sex marriage “despite,” said the Archbishop “and in contradiction to, the requirements of reason and the law”.


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