Abortion in Northern Ireland: The Ewart Judicial Review Judgment

By Dr. Jane Rooney, Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School)

NB: Abortion law in Northern Ireland is set to change on 22nd October 2019 if the suspended Northern Irish Assembly continues to not function on or after 21st October. This blog post contextualises and recognises the continued relevance of judicial review proceedings challenging the prohibition on abortion in Northern Ireland in cases of fatal foetal abnormality within a dynamic, multi-layered legal, political and social context.

On 3rd October 2019, the High Court of Justice in Northern Ireland decided that Northern Irish abortion law was incompatible with the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) insofar as it prohibited abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality (FFA). Justice Keegan decided to refrain from pronouncing on the remedy before hearing further submissions by the parties involved: she delayed the decision over whether to make a declaration of incompatibility (DOI) pending further submissions.[1]  This judicial review case follows a momentous year in activism, litigation, and legislative reform on abortion in Northern Ireland. The following provides context to the judgment, and a summary of the key reasoning employed. It then focuses on the DOI point which is yet to be concluded. A DOI should be made for two primary reasons. First, this remedy is warranted in the circumstances of the prohibition on abortion in cases of FFA. It can be distinguished from Nicklinson which introduced the idea that a DOI need not be made despite finding an incompatibility. Second, to proceed with refusing a DOI despite finding an incompatibility, and normalising Nicklinson, would have broader consequences for the human rights protection system in the UK. (more…)

Does X mark the spot?

UK Supreme Court clarifies when local authorities have a duty of care to protect victims from harm when carrying out their statutory functions

By Prof Paula Giliker, Professor of Comparative Law (University of Bristol Law School)

The question of local authority liability in negligence for failing to intervene to protect vulnerable parties from harm has been discussed by the highest UK courts in recent years.  Local authorities have statutory powers to intervene to assist citizens in need.  When, then, should they be liable for failing to intervene to protect citizens from harm from third parties?  In recent years, the Supreme Court in two cases relating to the police sought to move away from policy-based analysis (seen famously in the controversial decision in X (Minors) v Bedfordshire CC [1995] 2 A.C. 633) to one based on traditional common law approaches to omissions and precedent: see Michael v Chief Constable of South Wales [2015] UKSC 2 and Robinson v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire [2018] UKSC 4.  These cases draw an important distinction between a defendant who harms the claimant and one who fails to stop a third party harming the claimant. The second situation will not generally give rise to liability unless:

  • A relationship exists between the parties in which one party assumes responsibility for the welfare of another; or
  • The authority can be said to have created the source of danger or
  • The third party who has harmed the claimant was under the defendant’s supervision or control.

The latest Supreme Court decision in Poole BC v GN [2019] UKSC 25, delivered on 6 June 2019, marks an attempt by the Court to provide clearer guidance to litigants, while trying to reconcile somewhat contradictory earlier case-law.  It is a rather complex decision – although given in a single judgment – and an important one.  The purpose of this blog, therefore, is to explain the Court’s reasoning and give some indication of its implications for future case-law development. (more…)

The Models of Parliamentary Sovereignty

By Mr Marc Johnson, Teaching Associate in Law (University of Bristol Law School).

By Mайкл Гиммельфарб (Mike Gimelfarb) – https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5049123

The concept of Parliamentary Sovereignty (also referred to as Parliamentary Supremacy and Legislative Supremacy) deals with several concurrent principles and this makes it a complicated concept to grasp in its entirety. Coupled with this, the media portrayal of this subject through the campaigns on the referendum on exiting the European Union often gave a disingenuous or incomplete view of the Sovereignty of Parliament and as such there are many misconceptions.

This blog piece will address those misconceptions by setting out the models of Parliamentary Sovereignty. These models attempt to explain the way which sovereignty operates, though it may not have escaped the reader’s attention by this blog’s conclusion that each model has positive and negative attributes. This blog offers some opinion on each model of sovereignty to incite further discussion and debate on the topic.  (more…)