In re P and Others, (Adoption: Unmarried couple) (Northern Ireland); In re G: HL 18 Jun 2008

The applicants complained that as an unmarried couple they had been excluded from consideration as adopters.
Held: Northern Ireland legislation had not moved in the same way as it had for other jurisdictions within the UK. The greater commitment to traditional family structures did not however justify the difference. The rules were unlawful discrimination.
Lord Hoffmann said: ‘the House is free to give, in the interpretation of the 1998 Act, what it considers to be a principled and rational interpretation to the concept of discrimination on grounds of marital status. For the reasons I have given earlier, I would declare that notwithstanding article 14 of the Order, the appellants are entitled to apply to adopt the child.’
He went on to point out that ‘Convention rights’, as defined in section 1 of the 1998 Act, were ‘domestic and not international rights’, and that the duty of domestic courts under section 2 of that Act was to ‘take into account’, rather than to regard themselves as bound by, decisions of the Strasbourg court, but that there were normally ‘good reasons why we should follow the interpretation adopted in Strasbourg’. However, different ‘considerations apply in cases in which Strasbourg has deliberately declined to lay down an interpretation for all member states, as it does when it says the question is within the margin of appreciation’. In such cases, ‘it is for the court in the United Kingdom to interpret [the relevant article or articles of the Convention] and to apply the division between the decision-making powers of courts and Parliament in the way which appears appropriate for the United .Kingdom’. He expanded on this by adding that ‘[t]he margin of appreciation is there for division between the three branches of government according to our principles of the separation of powers’.
Baroness Hale said that ‘lack of marital status is as much a ‘status’ for the purpose of article 14 as is the status of marriage itself.’
and ‘it is clear that the doctrine of the ‘margin of appreciation’ as applied in Strasbourg has no application in domestic law. The Strasbourg court will allow a certain freedom of action to member states, which may mean that the same case will be answered differently in different states (or even in different legal systems within the same state). This is particularly so when dealing with questions of justification, whether for interference in one of the qualified rights, or for a difference in treatment under article 14. National authorities are better able than Strasbourg to assess what restrictions are necessary in the democratic societies they serve. So to that extent the judgment must be one for the national authorities.’
Lord Hope said that even in an area of social and economic policy, falls within the constitutional responsibility of the courts: ‘Cases about discrimination in an area of social policy, which is what this case is, will always be appropriate for judicial scrutiny. The constitutional responsibility in this area of our law resides with the courts. The more contentious the issue is, the greater the risk is that some people will be discriminated against in ways that engage their Convention rights. It is for the courts to see that this does not happen. It is with them that the ultimate safeguard against discrimination rests.’
Orse – In re G (Adoption: Unmarried Couple)

Judges:

Lord Hoffmann, Lord Hope of Craighead, Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe, Baroness Hale of Richmond, Lord Mance

Citations:

[2008] UKHL 38, Times 23-Jun-2008, [2008] UKHRR 1181, [2008] Fam Law 977, [2008] 2 FCR 366, [2009] 1 AC 173, [2008] NI 310, [2008] 24 BHRC 650, [2008] 2 FLR 1084, [2008] HRLR 37, [2008] 3 WLR 76

Links:

Bailii, HL

Statutes:

Adoption (Northern Ireland) Order 1987 (SI 1987/2203(NI 22)) 13, Human Rights Act 1998 1(1), European Convention on Human Rights 14

Jurisdiction:

Northern Ireland

Citing:

CitedVon Lorang v Administrator of Austrian Property 1927
Viscount Haldane said: ‘[T]he marriage gives the husband and wife a new legal position from which flow both rights and obligations with regard to the rest of the public. The status so acquired may vary according to the laws of different . .
CitedJames and Others v The United Kingdom ECHR 21-Feb-1986
The claimants challenged the 1967 Act, saying that it deprived them of their property rights when lessees were given the power to purchase the freehold reversion.
Held: Article 1 (P1-1) in substance guarantees the right of property. Allowing a . .
CitedPM v The United Kingdom ECHR 19-Jul-2005
A father complained that tax deductions which were granted to married fathers but not to unmarried fathers were discriminatory. He had paid maintenance for his daughter, but was not allowed to set the payments off against his income tax in the way . .
CitedCarson, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions; Reynolds v Same HL 26-May-2005
One claimant said that as a foreign resident pensioner, she had been excluded from the annual uprating of state retirement pension, and that this was an infringement of her human rights. Another complained at the lower levels of job-seeker’s . .
CitedHooper and Others, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions HL 5-May-2005
Widowers claimed that, in denying them benefits which would have been payable to widows, the Secretary of State had acted incompatibly with their rights under article 14 read with article 1 of Protocol 1 and article 8 of the ECHR.
Held: The . .
CitedFrette v France ECHR 26-Feb-2002
A single homosexual man complained that the respondent state had made it impossible for him to adopt a child.
Held: The claim was within the ambit of article 8 as regards respect for family life, but the court dismissed the claim under article . .
CitedDu Toit and Vos v Minister for Welfare and Population Development 10-Sep-2002
(South African Constitutional Court) Prospective adoptive parents were a same-sex couple who challenged laws preventing them from adopting. The court said: ‘In their current form the impugned provisions exclude from their ambit potential joint . .
CitedEB v France ECHR 14-Mar-2007
A homosexual woman complained that she had not been allowed to adopt a child. Her application was rejected by the French administrative court on grounds based substantially upon her sexual orientation.
Held: The provision was an unlawful . .
CitedRegina v Special Adjudicator ex parte Ullah; Regina v Secretary of State for the Home Department HL 17-Jun-2004
The applicants had had their requests for asylum refused. They complained that if they were removed from the UK, their article 3 rights would be infringed. If they were returned to Pakistan or Vietnam they would be persecuted for their religious . .
CitedIn re McKerr (Northern Ireland) HL 11-Mar-2004
The deceased had been shot by soldiers of the British Army whilst in a car in Northern Ireland. The car was alleged to have ‘run’ a checkpoint. The claimants said the investigation, now 20 years ago, had been inadequate. The claim was brought under . .
CitedRegina v Director of Public Prosecutions, ex parte Kebilene and others HL 28-Oct-1999
(Orse Kebeline) The DPP’s appeal succeeded. A decision by the DPP to authorise a prosecution could not be judicially reviewed unless dishonesty, bad faith, or some other exceptional circumstance could be shown. A suggestion that the offence for . .
CitedRegina v British Broadcasting Corporation ex parte Pro-life Alliance HL 15-May-2003
The Alliance was a political party seeking to air its party election broadcast. The appellant broadcasters declined to broadcast the film on the grounds that it was offensive, being a graphical discussion of the processes of abortion.
Held: . .
CitedT, Petitioner IHCS 1997
The House discussed the duties of a court in adoption cases: ‘There can be no more fundamental principle in adoption cases than that it is the duty of the court to safeguard and promote the interests of the child. Issues relating to the sexual . .
CitedBellinger v Bellinger HL 10-Apr-2003
Transgender Male to Female not to marry as Female
The parties had gone through a form of marriage, but Mrs B had previously undergone gender re-assignment surgery. Section 11(c) of the 1973 Act required a marriage to be between a male and a female. It was argued that the section was incompatible . .
CitedBurden and Burden v The United Kingdom ECHR 12-Dec-2006
Sisters,Together always not Discriminated Against
(Grand Chamber) The claimants were sisters who had lived together all their lives and owned property jointly. They complained that the Inheritance Tax regime treated them worse than it would a married couple, and was discriminatory.
Held: . .
CitedBelfast City Council v Miss Behavin’ Ltd HL 25-Apr-2007
Belfast had failed to license sex shops. The company sought review of the decision not to grant a licence.
Held: The council’s appeal succeeded. The refusal was not a denial of the company’s human rights: ‘If article 10 and article 1 of . .
CitedMarckx v Belgium ECHR 13-Jun-1979
Recognition of illegitimate children
The complaint related to the manner in which parents were required to adopt their own illegitimate child in order to increase his rights. Under Belgian law, no legal bond between an unmarried mother and her child results from the mere fact of birth. . .
CitedS, Regina (on Application of) v South Yorkshire Police; Regina v Chief Constable of Yorkshire Police ex parte Marper HL 22-Jul-2004
Police Retention of Suspects DNA and Fingerprints
The claimants complained that their fingerprints and DNA records taken on arrest had been retained after discharge before trial, saying the retention of the samples infringed their right to private life.
Held: The parts of DNA used for testing . .
CitedKarner v Austria ECHR 24-Jul-2003
A surviving same-sex partner sought a right of succession to a tenancy (of their previously shared flat). Interveners ‘pointed out that a growing number of national courts in European and other democratic societies require equal treatment of . .
CitedPretty v The United Kingdom ECHR 29-Apr-2002
Right to Life Did Not include Right to Death
The applicant was paralysed and suffered a degenerative condition. She wanted her husband to be allowed to assist her suicide by accompanying her to Switzerland. English law would not excuse such behaviour. She argued that the right to die is not . .
CitedGhaidan v Godin-Mendoza HL 21-Jun-2004
Same Sex Partner Entitled to tenancy Succession
The protected tenant had died. His same-sex partner sought a statutory inheritance of the tenancy.
Held: His appeal succeeded. The Fitzpatrick case referred to the position before the 1998 Act: ‘Discriminatory law undermines the rule of law . .
CitedHandyside v The United Kingdom ECHR 7-Dec-1976
Freedom of Expression is Fundamental to Society
The appellant had published a ‘Little Red Schoolbook’. He was convicted under the 1959 and 1964 Acts on the basis that the book was obscene, it tending to deprave and corrupt its target audience, children. The book claimed that it was intended to . .

Cited by:

CitedAge UK, Regina (On the Application of) v Attorney General Admn 25-Sep-2009
Age UK challenged the implementation by the UK of the Directive insofar as it established a default retirement age (DRA) at 65.
Held: The claim failed. The decision to adopt a DRA was not a disproportionate way of giving effect to the social . .
CitedAXA General Insurance Ltd and Others v Lord Advocate and Others SCS 8-Jan-2010
The claimant sought to challenge the validity of the 2009 Act by judicial review. The Act would make their insured and themselves liable to very substantial unanticipated claims for damages for pleural plaques which would not previousl or otherwise . .
CitedJohns and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v Derby City Council and Another Admn 28-Feb-2011
The claimants had acted as foster carers for several years, but challenged a potential decision to discontinue that when, as committed Christians, they refused to sign to agree to treat without differentiation any child brought to them who might be . .
CitedNicklinson v Ministry of Justice and Others QBD 12-Mar-2012
The claimant suffered locked-in syndrome and sought relief in a form which would allow others to assist him in committing suicide. The court considered whether the case should be allowed to proceed rather than to be struck out as hopeless.
CitedMoohan and Another v The Lord Advocate SC 17-Dec-2014
The petitioners, convicted serving prisoners, had sought judicial review of the refusal to allow them to vote in the Scottish Referendum on Independence. The request had been refused in the Outer and Inner Houses.
Held: (Kerr, Wilson JJSC . .
CitedMathieson v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions SC 8-Jul-2015
The claimant a boy of three in receipt of disability living allowance (‘DLA’) challenged (through his parents) the withdrawal of that benefit whilst he was in hospital for a period of more than 12 weeks. He had since died.
Held: The appeal . .
CitedNicklinson and Another, Regina (on The Application of) SC 25-Jun-2014
Criminality of Assisting Suicide not Infringing
The court was asked: ‘whether the present state of the law of England and Wales relating to assisting suicide infringes the European Convention on Human Rights, and whether the code published by the Director of Public Prosecutions relating to . .
CitedSG and Others, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions SC 18-Mar-2015
The court was asked whether it was lawful for the Secretary of State to make subordinate legislation imposing a cap on the amount of welfare benefits which can be received by claimants in non-working households, equivalent to the net median earnings . .
CitedGaughran v Chief Constable of The Police Service of Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland) SC 13-May-2015
The court was asked as to to the right of the Police Service of Northern Ireland to retain personal information and data lawfully obtained from the appellant following his arrest for the offence of driving with excess alcohol.
Held: The appeal . .
CitedSteinfeld and Another v Secretary of State for Education CA 21-Feb-2017
Hetero Partnerships – wait and see proportionate
The claimants, a heterosexual couple complained that their inability to have a civil partnership was an unlawful discrimination against them and a denial of their Article 8 rights. The argument that the appellants’ case did not come within the ambit . .
CitedSteinfeld and Keidan, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for International Development (In Substitution for The Home Secretary and The Education Secretary) SC 27-Jun-2018
The applicants, an heterosexual couple wished to enter into a civil partnership under the 2004 Act, rather than a marriage. They complained that had they been a same sex couple they would have had that choice under the 2013 Act.
Held: The . .
CitedBrewster, Re Application for Judicial Review (Northern Ireland) SC 8-Feb-2017
Survivor of unmarried partner entitled to pension
The claimant appealed against the rejection of her claim to the survivor’s pension after the death of her longstanding partner, even though they had not been married. The rules said that she had to have been nominated by her partner, but he had not . .
CitedTigere, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills SC 29-Jul-2015
After increasing university fees, the student loan system was part funded by the government. They introduced limits to the availability of such loans, and a student must have been lawfully ordinarily resident in the UK for three years before the day . .
CitedMichalak v General Medical Council and Others SC 1-Nov-2017
Dr M had successfully challenged her dismissal and recovered damages for unfair dismissal and race discrimination. In the interim, Her employer HA had reported the dismissal to the respondent who continued their proceedings despite the decision in . .
CitedHuman Rights Commission for Judicial Review (Northern Ireland : Abortion) SC 7-Jun-2018
The Commission challenged the compatibility of the NI law relating to banning nearly all abortions with Human Rights Law. It now challenged a decision that it did not have standing to bring the case.
Held: (Lady Hale, Lord Kerr and Lord Wilson . .
CitedMcLaughlin, Re Judicial Review SC 30-Aug-2018
The applicant a differently sexed couple sought to marry under the Civil Partnership Act 2004, but complained that they would lose the benefits of widowed parent’s allowance. Parliament had decided to delay such rules to allow assessment of reaction . .
CitedMcLaughlin, Re Judicial Review SC 30-Aug-2018
The applicant a differently sexed couple sought to marry under the Civil Partnership Act 2004, but complained that they would lose the benefits of widowed parent’s allowance. Parliament had decided to delay such rules to allow assessment of reaction . .
CitedCrowter and Others, Regina (On the Application Of) v Secretary of State for Health And Social Care Admn 23-Sep-2021
Foetus has no Established Human Rights
The Claimants sought a declaration that section 1(1)(d) of the Abortion Act 1967, as amended, is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’), as well as some other remedies. The claimant had Down’s Syndrome, and complained the . .
CitedDA and Others, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions SC 15-May-2019
Several lone parents challenged the benefits cap, saying that it was discriminatory.
Held: (Hale, Kerr LL dissenting) The parents’ appeals failed. The legislation had a clear impact on lone parents and their children. The intention was to . .
CitedDA and Others, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions SC 15-May-2019
Several lone parents challenged the benefits cap, saying that it was discriminatory.
Held: (Hale, Kerr LL dissenting) The parents’ appeals failed. The legislation had a clear impact on lone parents and their children. The intention was to . .
CitedRR v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions SC 13-Nov-2019
Housing benefit regulations had been found unlawful and were amended. The Court now considered what payments should have been made before the amendments came into effect.
Held: The appeal was allowed, and RR’s housing benefit entitlement is to . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Adoption, Human Rights, Constitutional

Leading Case

Updated: 09 May 2022; Ref: scu.269988