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May 2014

NI Justice Minister to consult on possible further changes to the laws on abortion

The Justice Minister for Northern Ireland, David Ford has announced that he is to consult on changes to the abortion laws in Northern Ireland. At present the laws do not extend to providing termination services when a foetus is suffering from a fatal abnormality. At the end of last year there were reports of 2 separate cases where it was necessary for the women in question to travel to England to have a termination.

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Local Developments

NI Health Minister finally lifts ban on unmarried couples being able to adopt

As has been reported on in previous editions of the Update, in June 2013 the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by the Health Minister. This appeal was against a decision of the High Court which held a ban on unmarried couples from being considered as adoptive parents was discriminatory and contrary to human rights.

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Local Developments

Christian care worker loses legal challenge on Sunday working

The Court of Appeal has dismissed the appeal of a Christian children’s care worker against the decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) that a requirement that she work on Sundays indirectly discriminated against her on the grounds of religion or belief.

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Religious Law

Private hotel owners who operate a heterosexual married couples only policy did not have their rights to religious beliefs breached.

Mr and Mrs Bull own a private hotel in Cornwall. They have strong Christian beliefs. They have a policy that states only ‘heterosexual married couples’ can hire a double room.
Mr Hall and Mr Preddy are a homosexual couple. They had hired a double room over the phone (at which stage they were not told of the double room policy). When they arrived at the hotel, they were informed that they would not be able to avail of a double room.

The couple took legal action on the grounds that they had been discriminated against on the grounds of sexual orientation.

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LGBT

Dozens of arrests in Nigeria as anti-gay laws come into force

The President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, signed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act on 07th January 2014. The legislation criminalises same sex marriage and individuals are liable for a maximum of 14 years’ imprisonment. This legislation also criminalises membership of an LGBT organisation. Membership of such an organisation can be for up to 10 years.
The Nigerian legislation was passed shortly after Uganda passed its own Anti-Homosexuality Act.

The US Secretary of State, John Kerry has denounced the spread of anti-gay legislation in the region.

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LGBT

India re-states ban on gay sex

In 2009 the Indian High Court passed judgment that decriminalised gay sex. The case itself continued through the justice system and reached the Supreme Court. The challenge to the High Court’s decision was taken by a combination of Christian and Muslim religious groups, and a far right politician. In December 2013, the Supreme Court overturned the High Court’s decision and reinstated the ban on homosexuality.

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LGBT

Australian High Court overturns state law on same sex marriage

In October 2013, the state legislature of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) had passed legislation allowing for same sex marriages. The law allowed same sex couples from all over Australia to be married in ACT. In 2004, The Federal government had passed legislation defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

The High Court held unanimously that the ACT law could not stand alongside the national law that had already been passed. It stated that the national legislation as it stands only allows for marriage between a man and a woman.

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LGBT

Developments relating to Romanian and Bulgarian nationals’ ability to travel to the UK via the EU

The lifting of EU restrictions as they relate to Romanian and Bulgarian nationals has been a matter of intense media debate in the UK. It has also been a matter of extensive discussion within political circles, especially within the Conservative Party.

In December 2013 it was revealed that the government was seeking to rush into force additional benefits tests relevant to Romanian and Bulgarian nationals. The government intended to bring such measures into force before the relaxation of rules which was scheduled for 01st January 2014.

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Immigration & Asylum

Government proposes further curtailing of judicial review

The government has recently published proposals for further changes to the potential availability of judicial review as a mechanism to hold public bodies to account. The additional proposals include considering changes to the rules on standing, limitations to the costs that can be claimed (particularly at the leave stage) and changes to the definition of procedural impropriety.

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Legal Profession

Judicial review of new professional body for criminal lawyers in England is dismissed

The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) of England and Wales took a judicial review against a number of professional regulatory bodies, including the Bar Standards Board (BSB) and the overall regulator for the legal sector, the Legal Services Board (LSB). As mentioned in previous editions of the Update, other parties such as the Law Society have been granted permission to intervene.

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Legal Aid, Legal Profession, Other Public Interest Cases

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