Secretary of State for Work and Pensions v M: HL 8 Mar 2006

The respondent’s child lived with the estranged father for most of each week. She was obliged to contribute child support. She now lived with a woman, and complained that because her relationship was homosexual, she had been asked to pay more than someone in a heterosexual relationship.
Held: The claim failed. The regulations had now been updated by the 2004 Act. In 1991 the discrimination was in accordance with the views and standards current at the time. As to the claim for infringement of her right to respect for family life: ‘Ms M’s case on respect for private life also fails, for similar reasons. There has been no improper intrusion on her private life. She has not been criminalised, threatened or humiliated. The Tribunal respectfully recorded that she and her partner ‘were living in a very close, loving and monogamous relationship.’ Her complaint is that the state has calculated her liability to contribute to her children’s maintenance under a formula which is different from (and on the particular facts of her case, more onerous than) that which would have been used if she had been in a heterosexual relationship. The link with respect for her private life is in my view very tenuous indeed. ‘ and ‘the CSA is concerned as an official intermediary, but it is enforcing a personal obligation of the absent parent. It is no more expropriating property than . . . when the civil justice system enforces a private contract by converting a contract debt into a judgment debt which can be recovered by the process of execution. ‘
Lord Walker examined the Strasbourg case law on Article 8 in the context of private life and found that ‘the unique feature’ of Article 8 in that context was that: ‘it is concerned with the failure to accord respect. To criminalise any manifestation of an individual’s sexual orientation plainly fails to respect his or her private life, even if in practice the criminal law is not enforced (Dudgeon v United Kingdom 4 EHRR 149 and Norris v Ireland 13 EHRR 186); so does intrusive interrogation and humiliating discharge from the armed forces (Smith v United Kingdom 29 EHRR 493 and Lustig-Prean v United Kingdom 29 EHRR 548). Banning a former KGB officer from all public sector posts, and from a wide range of responsible private-sector posts, is so draconian as to threaten his leading a normal personal life (Sidabras v Lithuania 42 EHRR 104). Less serious interference would not merely have been a breach of article 8; it would not have fallen within the ambit of the article at all.’


Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe, Baroness Hale of Richmond, Lord Mance


[2006] 2 AC 91, [2006] UKHL 11, Times 14-Mar-2006, [2006] 2 WLR 637, [2006] 1 FCR 497, [2006] 2 FLR 56, [2006] UKHRR 799, [2006] 36 Fam Law 524, 21 BHRC 254, [2006] HRLR 19, [2006] 4 All ER 929




Child Support Act 1991, European Convention on Human Rights 14, Civil Partnerships Act 2004, Child Support (Maintenance Assessments and Special Cases) Regulations 1992 (1992/1815), Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Act 2000


England and Wales


CitedFitzpatrick v Sterling Housing Association Ltd HL 28-Oct-1999
Same Sex Paartner to Inherit as Family Member
The claimant had lived with the original tenant in a stable and long standing homosexual relationship at the deceased’s flat. After the tenant’s death he sought a statutory tenancy as a spouse of the deceased. The Act had been extended to include as . .
CitedMata Estevez v Spain ECHR 10-May-2001
The claimant complained that the state did not give proper recognition of his relationship with his deceased same sex partner.
Held: The court noted the growing tendency in a number of European states towards the legal and judicial recognition . .
CitedKehoe, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions HL 14-Jul-2005
The applicant contended that the 1991 Act infringed her human rights in denying her access to court to obtain maintenance for her children.
Held: The applicant had no substantive right to take part in the enforcement process in domestic law . .
CitedSidabras and Dziautas v Lithuania ECHR 27-Jul-2004
Former KGB officers had been banned from employment in a range of public and private sector jobs, including as lawyers, notaries, bank employees and in the teaching profession. They complained of infringement of Article 8 taken alone and also in . .
CitedGhaidan v Godin-Mendoza CA 5-Nov-2002
The applicant sought to succeed to the tenancy of his deceased homosexual partner as his partner rather than as a member of his family.
Held: A court is bound by any decision within the normal hierachy of domestic authority as to the meaning . .
Appeal FromLangley v Bradford Metropolitan District Council and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions CA 15-Oct-2004
It was discriminatory to treat differently homosexual and heterosexual couples when considering liability for child support payments. Sedley LJ: ‘The broad effect of the material provisions is to allocate the financial responsibility of separated . .
CitedBotta v Italy ECHR 24-Feb-1998
The claimant, who was disabled, said that his Article 8 rights were infringed because, in breach of Italian law, there were no facilities to enable him to get to the sea when he went on holiday.
Held: ‘Private life . . includes a person’s . .
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 . .
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 . .
CitedRelating to certain aspects of the laws on the use of languages in education in Belgium (Belgian Linguistics) No 2 ECHR 9-Feb-1967
The applicants, parents of more than 800 Francophone children, living in certain (mostly Dutch-speaking) parts of Belgium, complained that their children were denied access to an education in French.
Held: In establishing a system or regime to . .
CitedAbdulaziz etc v The United Kingdom ECHR 28-May-1985
Three women, all lawfully settled in the UK, had married third-country nationals but, at first, the Secretary of State had refused permission for their husbands to remain with them, or join them, in the UK.
Held: The refusals of permission had . .
CitedNational Union of Belgian Police v Belgium ECHR 27-Oct-1975
Hudoc No violation of Art. 11; No violation of Art. 14+11
The Belgian Government failed to consult a municipal police union about legislation affecting public sector employment rights. The union’s direct . .
CitedConnors v The United Kingdom ECHR 27-May-2004
The applicant gypsies had initially been permitted to locate their caravan on a piece of land owned by a local authority, but their right of occupation was brought to an end because the local authority considered that they were committing a . .
CitedGoodwin v The United Kingdom ECHR 11-Jul-2002
The claimant was a post operative male to female trans-sexual. She claimed that her human rights were infringed when she was still treated as a man for National Insurance contributions purposes, where she continued to make payments after the age at . .
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 . .
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 . .
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 . .
CitedAbdulaziz etc v The United Kingdom ECHR 28-May-1985
Three women, all lawfully settled in the UK, had married third-country nationals but, at first, the Secretary of State had refused permission for their husbands to remain with them, or join them, in the UK.
Held: The refusals of permission had . .
CitedRegina v Secretary of State for Defence Ex Parte Smith; Regina v Same Ex Parte Grady Etc CA 6-Nov-1995
A ban on homosexuals serving in the armed forces was not irrational, and the challenge to the ban failed. The greater the policy content of a decision, and the more remote the subject matter of a decision from ordinary judicial experience, the more . .
CitedLogan v United Kingdom ECHR 6-Sep-1996
The complaint was that the mandatory child support payments meant that the father could not visit his children as often as he was entitled under the court’s order to do. The complaint of a direct breach of article 8 failed because he could not show . .
CitedGammans v Ekins CA 1950
The plaintiff had lived with a woman tenant for over 20 years and they had been regarded in the neighbourhood as man and wife.
Held: He could not thereby be deemed a member of her family for the Act of 1920. If their relationship was sexual . .
CitedDyson Holdings Ltd v Fox CA 17-Oct-1975
The defendant had lived with the tenant for 21 years until his death. They were unmarried and had no children. Reversing the County Court judge, the Court of Appeal ruled that she was a member of his family. It was absurd to distinguish between two . .
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 . .
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: . .
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 . .
CitedRegina (Reprotech (Pebsham) Ltd) v East Sussex County Council Reprotech (Pebsham) Ltd v Same HL 28-Feb-2002
The respondent company had asserted that the local authority had made a determination of the issue of whether electricity could be generated on a waste treatment site without further planning permission. The council said that without a formal . .
CitedBellinger v Bellinger CA 17-Jul-2001
Transgender Male may not marry as Female
Despite gender re-assignment, a person born and registered a male, remained biologically a male, and so was not a woman for the purposes of the law of marriage. The birth registration in this case had been correct. The words ‘male and female’ in the . .

Cited by:

CitedSmith v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Another HL 12-Jul-2006
The House considered whether under the 1992 Regulations a self-employed parent could use for his child support calculation his net earnings as declared to the Revenue, which would allow deduction of capital and other allowances properly claimed . .
CitedWilkinson v Kitzinger and others FD 31-Jul-2006
The parties had gone through a ceremony of marriage in Columbia, being both women. After the relationship failed, the claimant sought a declaration that the witholding of the recognition of same-sex marriages recoginised in a foreign jurisdiction . .
CitedAssociated Newspapers Ltd v Prince of Wales CA 21-Dec-2006
The defendant newspaper appealed summary judgment against it for breach of confidence and copyright infringement having published the claimant’s journals which he said were private.
Held: Upheld, although the judge had given insufficient . .
CitedMurray v Express Newspapers Plc and Another ChD 7-Aug-2007
The claimant, now aged four and the son of a famous author, was photographed by use of a long lens, but in a public street. He now sought removal of the photograph from the defendant’s catalogue, and damages for breach of confidence.
Held: The . .
CitedAL (Serbia) v Secretary of State for the Home Department; Rudi v Same HL 25-Jun-2008
Each claimant had arrived here with their parents, and stayed for several years. They were excluded from the scheme allowing families who had been here more than three years to stay here, because they had attained 18 and were no longer dependant on . .
CitedGallagher (Valuation Officer) v Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints HL 30-Jul-2008
The House considered whether certain properties of the Church were subject to non-domestic rating. Various buildings were on the land, and the officer denied that some fell within the exemptions, and in particular whether the Temple itself was a . .
CitedG, Regina (on the Application of) v Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust Admn 20-May-2008
The applicants were detained at Rampton. The form of detention denied the access to space in which they would be able to smoke cigarettes to comply with the law.
Held: The claim failed. The legislative objectives were sufficiently serious to . .
CitedRodriguez v Minister of Housing of The Government and Another PC 14-Dec-2009
Gibraltar – The claimant challenged a public housing allocation policy which gave preference to married couples and parents of children, excluding same sex and infertile couples.
Held: The aim of discouraging homosexual relationships is . .
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 . .
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 . .
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 . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Child Support, Human Rights, Discrimination

Leading Case

Updated: 07 February 2022; Ref: scu.238923