Libel and slander – Defamatory words. Applying settled law to the facts, an article published in the Times Newspaper, in its true meaning, was defamatory of the claimant senior prosecutor's professional reputation at common law and had a tendency to cause serious harm to her professional reputation. The Queen's Bench Division so ruled in considering three preliminary issues which arose for determination in a libel action. The article in question concerned the decision to prosecute the English cricketer, Ben Stokes, who was later found not guilty of affray in relation an incident outside a nightclub in Bristol.
Medical treatment – Future mental incapacity. The proceedings gave rise to a novel issue, concerning the respondent (CD), a 27-year-old woman who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, because, while it was common ground that she did not currently lack capacity to make decisions in respect of the birth of her baby and the associated treatment, her clinicians considered that there was a substantial risk that she might become incapacitous in relation to such decisions at a critical moment in her labour. The Court of Protection, in allowing the applicant NHS Trust's application for a contingent and anticipatory declaration, authorising a care plan in respect of CD, held that, in the exceptional circumstances, the court had the power to make such a declaration, contingent on CD losing capacity, pursuant to s 15(1)(c) of the Mental Capacity Act 2005. The court further ruled that, where a court was making such an order, it was necessary for it to be made in the declaration itself, and that such a declaration should be made on the face of the court order.
Religion – Discrimination. In dismissing the appellant student's claim for judicial review of a decision to remove him from a social work course for the expression of religious views on social media, the judge had premised his decision on an incorrect finding. That finding was that the respondent University was not suggesting a blanket ban on the freedom of expression of those who might be called 'traditional believers'. The Court of Appeal, Civil Division, allowed the appellant's appeal and held that the disciplinary proceedings were flawed and unfair and the matter would be remitted to a differently constituted fitness to practice panel.
Sentence – Wounding with intent. The judge had made insufficient allowance for totality. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal, Criminal Division, allowed the defendant's appeal against an extended sentence of 26 years, comprising of a custodial term of 21 years and an extension period of 5 years. The appellant would serve half of the three-year sentence for attempted robbery, then concurrent custodial terms of 15 years, eligible for consideration for release on licence after 10 years and, when released, remain on licence for the remainder of his total sentence and a further five years.
Employment – Contract of employment. A clause relied on by the employee in her contract did prohibit shareholdings in any business carried on in competition with the former employer and was impermissibly wide and in restraint of trade, unless it could be severed in some way. The Supreme Court held that applying the severance principle, namely that the words were capable of being removed without the need to add to or modify the wording of the remainder and the removal would not generate any major change in the overall effect of the restraints, the words should be severed and removed.
Town and country planning – Planning permission. On its ordinary and natural meaning, planning permission granted in 2014 under s 73 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, concerning a retail store in London, had to be interpreted as containing a condition restricting the use of the store. The Supreme Court, in allowing the appellant local authority's appeal, held that the 2014 permission had to be seen through the eyes of 'the reasonable reader'. The court considered that, taken at face value, the wording of the operative part of the grant was clear and unambiguous and that there was nothing to indicate an intention to discharge a condition restricting use altogether or, in particular, to remove a restriction on sale of other than non-food goods.
European Union – Finance. The General Court of the European Union had correctly dismissed the applicant credit institution's action, seeking annulment of Decision ECB/SSM/15/1 of the European Central Bank (the ECB) of 5 January 2015, taken under arts 6(4) and 24(7) of Council Regulation (EU) No 1024/2013, conferring specific tasks on the ECB concerning policies relating to the prudential supervision of credit institutions. Consequently, the Court of Justice of the European Union dismissed the applicant's appeal, deciding that the arguments relied on by the applicant lacked merit.
European Union – Community institutions. The applicant companies had commenced proceedings seeking annulment of a decision of the European Medicines Agency (ASK-40399 of 15 May 2018), granting to a third party, pursuant to Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, access to a document containing information submitted in the context of an application for marketing authorisation for the medicinal product 'Ocaliva'. The General Court of the European Union dismissed the applicants' action, deciding that the applicants had failed to show that the report at issue fell within the exceptions regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents set out in the first and second indents of art 4(2) of that regulation, namely the 'commercial interests' provisions and protection of court proceedings.
Employment – Discrimination. The pay progression policy (which applied with effect from 1 April 2011), implemented by the Ministry of Justice (the MOJ) was not discriminatory in relation to the appellant employee's age, because the MOJ had shown that it was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim within s 19(2)(d) of the Equality Act 2010. Consequently, the Employment Appeal Tribunal dismissed the employee's appeal against the employment tribunal's decision.
European Union – Civil and commercial matters. Regulation (EC) No 805/2004 should be interpreted as meaning that, where a court was unable to obtain the defendant's address, it did not allow a judicial decision relating to a debt, made following a hearing attended by neither the defendant nor the guardian ad litem appointed for the purpose of the proceedings, to be certified as a European Enforcement Order. The Court of Justice of the European Union so held in proceedings between the parties concerning a rental debt.
Company – Shares. The claimants' claim and the defendant company's counterclaim both failed, in a dispute concerning the selling of the entire shareholding in the defendant to another company. The Commercial Court held that, on the evidence, an agreement had been made in February 2013, by which the defendant had agreed to pay the claimants £3,135,816. Further, the Companies Act 2006 had not been contravened by an agreement of 2011 that the defendant would be responsible for all tax liabilities and associated costs that the claimants might incur as a consequence of the sale and that it would have no right of recourse.
Criminal law – Misconduct in public office. The judge's decision that there was a proper case to issue a summons against Boris Johnson for three offences of misconduct in public office, based on the allegation that he had endorsed two misleading statements as part of the Vote Leave campaign during the 2016 EU referendum while Mayor of London and an MP, was quashed. The Divisional Court, in allowing Johnson's application for judicial review, held that the proposed application of the offence in the present case would extend the scope of the common law offence.
Ombudsman – Investigation. The defendant ombudsman had not breached the claimant's legitimate expectations in his investigation into her complaint of maladministration against the interested party arising from her request for the medical records relating to her late daughter after her death. The Administrative Court, in dismissing the claimant's application for judicial review, further held that the ombudsman had not acted irrationally in refusing to recommend payment of the claimant's legal costs and had not failed to take into account relevant matters.
Summary judgment – Personal injury. G4S Care and Justice Services Ltd (G4S) appealed against a judge's decision, dismissing its application for summary judgment and/or strike out of the claimant mother's claim (as the administrator of her deceased son's estate) for damages, under art 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, in respect of the son's death of a drug overdose while in a prison run by G4S. The Queen's Bench Division, in allowing the appeal, held that the judge had not applied the Osman test in a way which had paid proper regard to its stringent nature and that, applying settled law to the facts, there was no realistic prospect of the claimant showing that there had been a real and immediate risk to her son's life, of which G4S should have been aware, so as to trigger its operational 'Osman' duty to protect life. Accordingly, the court held that the judge had erred in dismissing G4S's application for summary judgment, and it granted summary judgment in its favour on the claim.
Mental health – Patient. The evidence demonstrated that the respondent (JP), a young lady with learning disabilities, lacked capacity to make decisions as to her antenatal care and the delivery of her baby. Further, the overall balance in the evaluation of JP's best interests was in favour of the proposed treatment plan, provided it was supplemented to address the psychological or psychiatric consequences of giving birth in that way. Accordingly, the Court of Protection declared that it was in JP's best interests to undergo a planned caesarean section and the proposed transfer and postnatal care plan.
Coroner – Inquest. The applicant local authority had not taken all practicable steps to notify the media of its application for reporting restrictions, pursuant to s 39 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, in a forthcoming inquest into the suicide of a 17-year-old girl in custody, and had taken no steps to notify others, including her parents, and there were no compelling reasons why proper notice could not have been given. Accordingly, the Queen's Bench Division held that the failings went to jurisdiction and the threshold criteria, pursuant to s 12(2) of the Human Rights Act 1998, were not met.
Employment – Discrimination. The appellant's position as a non-executive chair of the respondent NHS Trust was terminated after he had made comments in the media expressing his Christian belief that same-sex couples should not adopt. The Employment Appeal Tribunal, dismissing his appeal, held that the employment tribunal had been correct to ask why he had been dismissed and to find that the reason had not been because of his beliefs, but because be had been instructed by the trust not to engage in media interviews without informing it and he had not complied with that instruction.
Employment – Victimisation. The appellant had been dismissed from his office as a lay magistrate following media interviews in which he had stated that he had been reprimanded for his expression of his Christian belief that same-sex couples should not adopt. The Employment Appeal Tribunal, dismissing his appeal, held that the employment tribunal had not erred in finding that there had been nothing that had amounted to a protected act complained of by the appellant and that the tribunal had been right to dismiss the appellant's victimisation claim on the grounds that his actions had amounted to inappropriate conduct in publicly displaying a preconceived bias towards same-sex adopters rather than his Christian beliefs.
Landlord and tenant – Notice to quit. The claimant Secretary of State for Defence's appeal and the defendant landowners' cross-appeal failed, in a dispute concerning the validity of a notice to quit and the possibility of an equitable set-off. The Chancery Division held that the first defendant could rely upon equitable set-off of unliquidated claims for damages in order to invalidate the notice to pay, because it overstated the rent due, and so to invalidate the notice to quit. Further, the Recorder had been right to hold that the tenant could rely upon equitable set-off for unliquidated damages to invalidate the notice to pay (and therefore the notice to quit), subject to certain limiting criteria.
Insolvency – Approval for sale. Where a prior order, (not complied with), was in place over assets sought to be sold by a receiver to third party, it was correct for the receivers to seek approval form the court for the sale. Further, the Chancery Division held that in certain limited circumstances the court had discretion to vary its own order, and in the present situation it would vary its own order, and approve the sale to the third party unencumbered by the earlier order.