Author Dr Jaime Lindsey from Essex Law School, researched mental capacity law in practice by observing Court of Protection hearings, reviewing court files, and conducting interviews with social workers, mediators and lawyers, in addition to theoretical and doctrinal analysis.
The Court of Protection can make decisions about a person’s mental capacity and make best interests rulings on financial, health, or welfare matters for people who may lack the capacity to make their own decisions.
This can include a range of decisions across a person’s life, including decisions about medical treatment, where to live, whether a person can have a sexual relationship or whether they can manage their finances.
Analysing the court through a procedural justice lens, she concludes that procedural justice is not always secured for the person at the heart of Court of Protection cases, as they often do not participate, their experiential evidence is discounted and the court is not designed with the person at the centre of its practice.
This impacts upon their ability to secure access to justice.
Dr Lindsey’s book, Reimagining the Court of Protection: Access to Justice in Mental Capacity Law, outlines her main findings and goes on to make a case for reimagining the Court of Protection as an institution that better secures access to justice for its subjects, with specific recommendations for reform.
The book has been shortlisted by the Socio-Legal Studies Association for the Hart SLSA prize for early career academics, and the Hart SLSA book prize 2023.
Dr Lindsey said: “I am delighted and honoured to have been shortlisted for two prestigious SLSA prizes for my book, Reimagining the Court of Protection.
This is an area which impacts so many people daily and this book, looking at the realities of mental capacity law in practice drawing on empirical socio-legal research, shines a light on the work of this important jurisdiction.”
The winning book in each category will be announced at the annual SLSA conference in April.
This story was first published on the University of Essex’s news webpages and is reproduced on the ELR Blog with permission and thanks.
Dr Jaime Lindsey of Essex Law School has recently published a book titled Reimagining the Court of Protection: Access to Justice in Mental Capacity Law with Cambridge University Press. Dr Lindsey provides an original account of the workings of the Court of Protection as one of the first researchers authorized to observe hearings and access the court’s files. Using original empirical data, the book takes a socio-legal approach to understanding how the Mental Capacity Act operates in practice to achieve access to justice.
Dr Lindsey contributes to the call for the reform of this important court from a procedural justice perspective, to ensure a better experience for those who use it, and to meet the requirements of access to justice.
A piece detailing further information about this book was published on Cambridge Blog and can be found here.
What is ‘modern slavery’ and who is responsible for it?
What is the relevance of human rights law, which primarily regulates state conduct, for practices predominantly committed by private actors?
Where can victims seek justice and redress when national authorities fail to protect them?
In her new book State Responsibility for Modern Slavery in Human Rights Law: A Right Not to Be Trafficked, Dr. Marija Jovanovic analyses the role and responsibility of states for addressing ‘modern slavery’ – a diverse set of practices usually perpetrated by non-state actors – against the backdrop of international human rights law. Her work explores the dynamic between criminal law and human rights law and reveals the different ways these legal domains work to secure justice for victims.
In particular, the book considers the ‘absolute’ nature of the prohibition of modern slavery in human rights law, the range of practices covered by this umbrella term and their mutual relationships, the positive obligations of states established by international human rights tribunals owed to individuals subject to modern slavery, and the standards for assessing state responsibility in these situations.
By engaging with the concept of exploitation in human rights law, Dr. Jovanovic glues together diverse practices of modern slavery, including servitude, forced labour, and human trafficking, into a coherent concept.
State Responsibility for Modern Slavery in Human Rights Law: A Right Not to Be Trafficked elucidates the theoretical foundations of this fundamental human right and explains why human trafficking has an independent place within it.
In addition to providing a comprehensive critique of the existing human rights jurisprudence, the book offers a roadmap for the future development of law on this subject, emphasising the limits of human rights law as a tool for addressing modern slavery.
Dr. Jovanovic’s book will be published by Oxford University Press in January 2023.
In October 2022, the Essex Law School launched the Constitutional and Administrative Justice Initiative (CAJI). This builds on and extends the work of the UK Administrative Justice Institute which was established in 2014 with funding from the Nuffield Foundation to kickstart the expansion of empirical research on administrative justice in the UK. Since 2018, the Institute has been funded by Essex Law School to progress the priorities set out in its Research Roadmap.
Establishing CAJI reflects the importance of connecting research and scholarship on administrative justice with Essex Law School’s broader public law scholarship on constitutional justice, judicial review, comparative public law, constitutional theory, social justice and human rights.
CAJI’s core team
Maurice Sunkin KC (Hon), Professor of Public Law and Socio-Legal Studies, is co-director of CAJI and a member of the team that originally established the UK Administrative Justice Institute.
CAJI also has an advisory group comprising of colleagues from the Essex Law School as well as other departments of the University of Essex and external participants from academia and NGOs.
The importance of constitutional and administrative justice
Constitutional justice concerns matters critical to the relationship between the citizen and the state, including adherence to the principles of supremacy of law, accountability before the law and fairness in its application. At its core, it concerns state protection of our constitutional rights such as liberty, equal protection under the law and procedural due process. This requires decision-makers to respect their constitutional responsibilities: that the legislature legislates, and the executive governs according to established constitutional principles and that both branches are politically and legally accountable. Hence, constitutional justice is often discussed in the context of constitutionalism meaning that in serving the people the legislature and the executive are themselves governed by fundamental rules rooted in the consent of the people.
A commitment to the rule of law and avoidance of arbitrary exercise of power by the executive and those acting on its behalf are vital components of constitutional justice and good government. The decisions of independent courts demand respect and play a vital role in providing redress to those adversely affected by state action, constraining the unlawful exercise of state powers, and safeguarding fundamental constitutional values.
The impact of the European Union and the Council of Europe and its advisory bodies such as the Venice Commission have become key in the globalisation of constitutional justice. This development entails the consolidation of constitutional principles common to their signatories and the maintenance of coherent standards of constitutional rights protection. Recent threats to the independence of the judiciary in several European countries show that we cannot assume that appropriate constitutional standards are easily enforced.
At its core, administrative justice is about ensuring that those delivering public services act justly and make correct decisions and about what can be done when things go wrong. It encompasses matters of everyday importance that affect most of us at some point, such as education, health care housing, immigration, land use planning, social security and taxation.
We are interested in how public services are designed and delivered, how legislation is drafted, how people are consulted about laws and policies, how people can challenge decisions by public bodies, how redress bodies consider those challenges, and how learning from such challenges is used to improve delivery and decision-making in the first place. These matters are of vital importance to society.
“The CAJI is a research hub within the Essex Law School that builds on the legacy of the UK Administrative Justice Institute and pays tribute to all the amazing research that colleagues like Andrew Le Sueur and Maurice Sunkin have undertaken in public law and socio-legal studies.
CAJI’s research agenda is ambitious in that it draws on many issues pertaining to the exercise of public authority at all levels with the aim of improving the quality of decision making and access to justice in the UK and at international level.
While it is an active research hub of the Law School, CAJI embraces academics from multiple disciplines and acts as a forum to discuss how we conduct research where the doctrinal meets the empirical.
CAJI is also interested in how academic research can contribute on the ground by advising public bodies and NGOs about pertinent issues of public life and commenting about complex topics in a way that is accessible to the wider public. Questions related to institutional independence, just government, states’ international obligations, modern living environments, provide exciting opportunities for interdisciplinary research and postgraduate research study. Our work dovetails neatly with the University’s research priorities in social deprivation, sustainability and health and wellbeing.
We therefore invite prospective visiting researchers and PhD students to contact us in order to discuss their ideas and potential opportunities for future collaboration.”
La légalisation de la mort assistée, un sujet sociétal au cœur des débats
Ces podcasts correspondent à la deuxième partie d’un projet de recherche sur la légalisation de la mort assistée en France et en Angleterre. Après avoir publié un article décrivant les lois actuelles dans les deux pays et les raisons de chacun de refuser la légalisation de la mort assistée, j’ai eu l’opportunité d’interviewer deux expertes sur ce sujet et d’engager la discussion quant à l’état de la législation actuelle et ses possibles évolutions. Nous avons également abordé d’autres questions comme la responsabilité de l’équipe médicale dans le cadre de la mort assistée.
Aujourd’hui, ces discussions sont d’autant plus importantes qu’en France, le débat sur la législation de la mort assistée est d’actualité. Le 13 septembre 2022, Jean-Luc Godard, cinéaste franco-suisse, a délibérément mis fin à ses jours grâce au suicide assisté, une pratique légale en Suisse. Le même jour, le Comité Consultatif National d’Ethique a rendu un avis sur la fin de vie ouvrant la voie à une «aide active à mourir». Une convention citoyenne sur la fin de vie va également être prochainement organisée. Alors que les discussions sur la fin de vie prennent de plus en plus d’importance, il paraît crucial d’en apprendre davantage sur la législation en vigueur et ses possibles évolutions.
Le premier podcast est une interview de Sabine Michalowski, Professeure de Droit à l’Université d’Essex, co-directrice du projet: Essex Transitional Justice Network. Elle est aussi membre du Human Rights Centre et du Essex Autonomy Project.
Le deuxième podcast contient une discussion avec Aurore Catherine, maître de conférences en droit public à l’Université de Caen Normandie, membre de l’Institut Caennais de Recherche Juridique et présidente du groupe de Réflexion Ethique du Centre de Lutte contre le cancer François Baclesse.
Ces deux podcasts, bien qu’ils traitent des mêmes sujets, présentent deux points de vue différents.
Dans son interview, Madame Catherine commente la loi en vigueur en France. Elle rappelle que le but de cette loi est de soulager les souffrances. Selon elle, il faudrait d’abord s’assurer que cette loi est bien appliquée avant de se pencher sur la légalisation de la mort assistée:
«En 2015, une critique a été soulevée: notre législation était philosophiquement, éthiquement bien fondée, simplement on n’arrivait pas à l’appliquer parce qu’elle était insuffisamment connue des soignants, insuffisamment connue du grand public».
Concernant Professeure Michalowski, il lui semble important de se focaliser non pas sur l’application de la législation actuelle mais sur la nécessité de légaliser la mort assistée. Selon elle, il serait préférable d’adopter une nouvelle loi plutôt que de se reposer par exemple sur l’«état de nécessité», un moyen de défense utilisé lors de certains procès mais qui se révèle «totalement imprévisible». Pour Professeure Michalowski, il est important de laisser le choix aux individus et de leur permettre ainsi de décider de leur vie comme de leur mort. Elle affirme à cet égard que: «Pour certaines personnes, une meilleure fin de vie serait d’avoir accès à la mort assistée».
The Legalisation of Assisted Dying
These podcasts are the second part of a research project on the legalisation of assisted dying in England and France.
In the second interview, I had the opportunity to interview Aurore Catherine, Lecturer in Public Law at the University of Caen Normandie, member of the Institut Caennais de Recherche Juridique and President of the Ethical Debate Group at the François Baclesse cancer centre.
In both podcasts, we are going through different themes on the topic of assisted dying. Similar questions are asked to both interviewees in order to grasp the differences between both jurisdictions.
From the definition of dignity at end of life, to the powers of the courts and the physicians’ responsibilities, we discuss the challenges associated with the legalisation of assisted dying.
Although dealing with the same topic, the two podcasts present two different points of view.
In her interview, Dr. Catherine focuses on the current legislation in France. She recalls that the purpose of the law is to relieve suffering. According to Dr. Catherine, it would first be necessary to apply this law properly before debating on legalising assisted dying:
“In 2015, a criticism was raised: our legislation was philosophically, ethically well-founded, however, we could not apply it because it was insufficiently known to caregivers, insufficiently known to the general public”.
For Prof. Michalowski, the importance of the debate lies in the legalisation of assisted dying. According to Prof. Michalowski, adopting a new law would be a better option than relying for instance on the defence of necessity, a means of defence used in some trials but which turns out to be “totally unpredictable”. She focuses on the idea that it is important to leave everyone to choose and decide about their own life and death. In this regard, she says that “for some people, a better end of life would be to have access to assisted dying”.
Mental capacity law could impact all of us at some point in our lives. When a person’s decision-making capacity becomes impaired, it can lead to a best interests decision being taken on their behalf under the Mental Capacity Act 2005. A best interests decision could be taken by professionals caring for the individual, those with authority to do so such as Deputies, or the Court of Protection (CoP). While health and welfare decisions in mental capacity cases have been increasingly researched, the jurisdiction relating to property and affairs has had much less scrutiny, despite it making up a significant proportion of the CoP’s workload.
Given this gap in focus, the University of Essex School of Law and Human Rights Centre are hosting a hybrid event on 5 October 2022 in conjunction with the Mental Diversity Law Network (MDLN). The MDLN is an interdisciplinary network of approximately 200 people with academic, professional and/or lived experience of mental differences or difficulties, caregivers and other stakeholders with an interest in the law as it relates to mental diversity.
The event will bring together a range of academics, practitioners, individuals with lived experience and others to discuss the role of mental capacity law in helping individuals to manage their property and finances. The event will consider a wide range of issues, including the capacity to contract, capacity to make a will, supported decision-making and safeguards to protect against financial abuse.
The event will consist of two panels.
The first will discuss the role of support in managing property and finances, including issues that arise under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This may include practical barriers individuals face, access to documentation and general accessibility of support and benefit services, as well as what legal responses can be operationalised to better secure support. Speakers on this panel include Clíona de Bhailís from the National University of Ireland, Galway, Professor Rosie Harding of the University of Birmingham, and Support Workers from Outside Interventions, Shonaid and Andy.
The second panel will discuss the role of mental capacity law in England and Wales in this area and include three speakers. John Howard, a lawyer in the Property and Affairs Team of the Official Solicitor and Public Trustee; Gareth Ledsham, Partner at Russell Cooke; and Her Honour Judge Hilder Senior Judge of the Court of Protection.
This free event will be held Wednesday 5 October 13:00 – 17:00 at Wivenhoe House Hotel, Colchester, as well as online via Zoom. Please register in advance here. The organisers welcome questions and interaction from audience members and any queries about the event can be directed to Dr Jaime Lindsey at email@example.com.
Fundamental disagreements between healthcare professionals and family members about the life and death of loved ones are, thankfully, relatively rare. It is even rarer for those disagreements to be resolved through the courts. The Archie Battersbee case has, however, brought this issue to the fore in recent weeks. For his family, their fight on his behalf was played out on the media stage at every turn. It ended in the 12-year-old boy’s death in hospital on 6 August 2022, a devastating outcome for his family. This followed several hearings culminating in an appeal to move him to a hospice being refused by the courts.
Others have already commented on the legal issues arising from that case, centring mainly on the best interests of the child. While we are sympathetic to the view previously put forward by others such as Dominic Wilkinson, and Cressida Auckland and Imogen Goold, of an alternative to the use of the best interests test in cases like these, for example the use of a significant harm threshold, that substantive legal discussion is not the aim of this piece.
Instead, our aim here is to consider whether, when these disputes do arise, there might be better ways to resolve them than going through the courts. For many, the court process is expensive, time-consuming, adversarial and, psychologically and physically exhausting. It is also uncertain, because the parties on both sides of the conflict must await an outcome determined by a third party, the court.
As a result, it has been suggested that mediation might be a better way of approaching these issues when they first arise, not least by Mr Justice Francis in the Charlie Gard case, who remarked that the case was calling out for mediation:
‘I recognise, of course, that negotiating issues such as the life or death of a child seems impossible and often will be. However, it is my clear view that mediation should be attempted in all cases such as this one even if all that it does is achieve a greater understanding by the parties of each other’s positions‘.
Yet despite increasing emphasis on mediation in other broadly similar areas, including family law and clinical negligence, there is limited evidence about its use in medical treatment cases. Furthermore, in medical treatment disputes the aims of the mediation might not be, as they are often in these other areas, settlement rates and cost savings; mediation may require a different approach that instead prioritises the experiences of participants and the potential for a therapeutic outcome.
The use of mediation to resolve medical treatment disputes is the focus of a research project led by Dr. Jaime Lindsey with consultancy from Margaret Doyle and Sarah Barclay, funded by an ESRC New Investigator Grant. This research will consider whether there are any therapeutic, or healing, benefits of using mediation to resolve disputes that arise from health and care contexts, as well as considering the ways in which mediation could become more therapeutic as an intervention.
The research seeks to test, empirically, the various claims about mediation through qualitative analysis of mediation in medical treatment disputes, covering cases involving children (similar to those involving Charlie Gard and Archie Battersbee, for example) and cases involving adults under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (similar to cases such as that of Aintree v James as well as wider health and care decisions). How best to resolve these disputes was also the topic of a project led by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics – Disagreements in the Care of Critically Ill Children – and is being looked at by the UK government, which in the Health and Social Care Act 2022 committed to undertaking a review into how to resolve disagreements in the care of critically ill children and to report within one year.
What is Mediation and Why Might it Help?
Mediation is one type of ‘alternative dispute resolution’ (‘ADR’), which is generally seen as more informal and flexible than court proceedings and has several perceived benefits for those who take part. For example, it can improve communication between parties, enable individuals to feel heard as participants and increase the speed of resolution. It also tends to be less costly than court proceedings and can take place in parallel, meaning that no delay is needed should those involved not reach agreement at mediation. However, cases involving medical treatment disputes, especially involving children, are highly emotive, often involve life and death issues and have evident power imbalances between family members and healthcare professionals, meaning that mediation is not always seen as appropriate. Furthermore, for mediation to work, all parties must voluntarily agree to its use, which is not always possible.
Despite the drawbacks, mediation might help family members come to terms with the issues at the heart of the dispute and help healthcare professionals fully understand family members’ perspectives. The realisation as a parent that you are not legally the final decision maker for your own child can be shocking and lead to a feeling of powerlessness in the interactions with healthcare professionals. It can take time and careful discussion to digest the realities when faced with your seriously unwell or dying child.
Conversely, healthcare professionals may benefit from hearing directly from the family, in a neutral venue, over a period of time, away from the realities of the hospital ward. For both parties, then, mediation might provide an opportunity to hear from and be heard, in a way that is not possible in the ordinary course of the provision of healthcare.
Yet mediation is not a cure-all to the difficulties that arise in these disputes, and it should not be discussed as such. Nor should it be seen as a route to compromise, something neither party in medical treatment disputes could countenance when issues of life and death are at stake.
In such contexts, the ‘stereotypical image of a mediated settlement model, often characterised in terms of a confidential carve-up borne of an unseemly horse-trade, need not apply. Mediation is a flexible tool, in which the ground rules and outcomes can be dictated by the nature of the dispute and the priorities of the parties.’ Unlike in clinical negligence disputes, the remedy sought in medical treatment cases is not a financial settlement, requiring a different ‘sensibility’ of mediation than that commonly used in civil and commercial claims.
One of the concerns, raised by Supperstone et al and other public lawyers, is the confidentiality of mediation when used in disputes with a wider public interest. It is important to draw a distinction between the confidentiality of the mediation discussion and the confidentiality of any agreed outcome. The former is the default position for most mediations, to allow for frank and honest exchange between the parties. The latter, however, is for the parties to agree, and in mediations involving a wider public interest, the parties can agree on a shared public statement on the mediation outcome.
Mediation in medical treatment disputes should be seen as providing a much-needed neutral space for careful discussion between parents and family members and the healthcare professionals, mediated by an independent and highly skilled facilitator. Working with the parties, the mediator tailors all aspects of the mediation process to the needs of all those involved and ensures each voice is heard. Getting the appropriate people to the mediation is important so that questions can be answered, interests explored and, where appropriate, consensual agreements reached on ways forward.
Mediations are often highly emotive meetings, and no more so than in this context. Crucially, any outcomes are ones the parties themselves have decided on, and in that way they are active participants reaching collective decisions. Where the parties in dispute must maintain an ongoing working relationship, this can be invaluable.
As part of our current research on medical treatment mediation, we will be conducting direct observations of mediations, as well as interviewing and surveying mediation participants. Our research will provide much-needed evidence as to whether mediation does provide a more therapeutic way of resolving medical treatment disputes, and if so, in what ways.
The discussion about how best to resolve disputes between healthcare professionals and families will no doubt continue, with some advocating for greater parental rights and others maintaining that the current law is well suited to resolving these matters. What is clear, however, is that the legal process can reinforce disagreement and entrench positions.
Perhaps a different way of approaching healthcare conflict is required – one which values giving all parties the time and space to engage in early communication and to seek agreement on their own terms, with a neutral third party guiding them.
Yet the risks in using mediation are numerous: it is relatively empirically untested as a way of resolving these cases specifically (although the evidence is strong in other fields); it may lead to the interests of one of the parties being prioritised over the other’s; it may cause delay and lead to prolonged suffering for the patient; it may be felt by families that mediation is used merely to persuade them into agreement with the healthcare professionals; it may fail to prioritise the voice of the patient herself.
Using mediation to resolve these cases will not be a panacea. However, its potential is worth considering, and we aim to shine a light on it as a tool for helping to resolve these difficult cases in a more therapeutic way.
If you would like to know more about our research project looking at the use of mediation in medical treatment disputes, please contact Dr Jaime Lindsey, the Principal Investigator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 M. Supperstone, D. Stilitz and C. Sheldon, ‘ADR and Public Law’, (2006) Public Law Summer, 299-319, p. 313.
Cristina Blanco, PhD candidate at the School of Law, University of Essex, was awarded the PhD Fieldwork Grant 2021-22 by the Socio-Legal Studies Association (SLSA). Cristina’s research focuses on the interactions between Amazonian onto-epistemologies, international law (IL) and human rights in the context of an investment project.
In the Amazonian rivers, water flow varies significantly with the seasons. During the dry season, low water levels hinder the navigation of large vessels. Although the peoples inhabiting the Amazon rainforest have travelled and traded using these rivers over centuries, the fluctuating navigability prevents uninterrupted large-scale transport. This is the main reason why the Peruvian state is promoting the “Amazonian Waterway”, an infrastructure project that consists of removing sediments from the bottom of the main Amazonian rivers.
The Amazonian Waterway is far from being an isolated project. It rather reflects the neoliberal developmental paradigm favoured by IL (Escobar 2011, Pahuja 2011, Eslava 2019). In addition to generating serious socio-environmental impacts, the project hides a profound conflict of ways of understanding the world.
The Amazonian indigenous peoples conceive the territory as a space inhabited by human and non-human entities, a conception that challenges the very definition of what we call “nature”. The sharp distinction between humans and non-humans that governs the Western world and underlies modern (international) law is not necessarily present in Amazonian cosmologies (Viveiros de Castro 2004, De la Cadena 2010, Descola 2013).
For the Kukama-Kukamiria people, for instance, the territory is inhabited by different “categories of people” living in a “plurality of worlds” (Tello 2014). The river is an (aquatic) world in itself, inhabited by beings endowed with their own subjectivity and intentionality (Rivas 2011). Therefore, thinking from the Amazon means not only standing in a geographically different place but also thinking onto-epistemically different.
In this scenario, the main problem the research seeks to explore is that IL does not take this onto-epistemic diversity seriously. Instead, it frames the issue as a cultural question of relevance to indigenous collective rights. While such rights play an indispensable role in protecting indigenous worldviews, they are insufficient to prevent their elimination.
This, in turn, has important implications in areas as critical as the Amazon. Trying to make sense of IL from the Amazon, this case study provides the opportunity to explore how to move from the impact of IL in the Amazon (historically aimed at its internationalisation) to enable the influence of Amazonian epistemologies on IL. This exercise of “Amazonising IL” enables us to reveal the epistemological richness of the Amazonian cosmovision and explore its potential for rethinking IL.
The research has three main methodological components. Substantively, it is a socio-legal research that takes as the unit of analysis the interactions between IL, human rights and the Amazonian worldview relevant to the case study. In analytical terms, it has an interdisciplinary approach theoretically informed by Amazonian studies and critical approaches to IL. As for the empirical component, it uses a case study method based on qualitative analysis of documentary and visual information, as well as in-depth semi-structured interviews.
The fieldwork was possible thanks to the valuable support of the SLSA.
By Dr. Koldo Casla, Lecturer in Law and the Director of the Human Rights Centre Clinic
In the 2008 case of McCann v UK, which concerned the eviction of a family renting a house from a local authority in England, the European Court of Human Rights established that:
“(T)he loss of one’s home is a most extreme form of interference with the right to respect for the home. Any person at risk of an interference of this magnitude should in principle be able to have the proportionality of the measure determined by an independent tribunal”.
Para 50, emphasis added
In a decision on admissibility ten years later, FJM v UK, the Court restricted the principle above to evictions in the public sector. Despite the wording in McCann, the proportionality test would not really apply to any person, but only to tenants in the same situation McCann found himself in, namely, social/public housing tenants.
In my new article in European Human Rights Law Review, I argue that the European Court of Human Rights should reconsider the position expressed in FJM v UK, and establish that evictions with no proportionality test are contrary to the right to home of Article 8 ECHR, also in the private rental sector
In FJM v UK, the European Court went as far as to say that, if tenants were entitled to require national judges to examine the proportionality of an eviction before ordering the possession of their home, ‘the resulting impact on the private rental sector would be wholly unpredictable and potentially very damaging’ (para 43, emphasis added).
This article shows that this need not be the case, and that in fact before reaching such a conclusion the European Court should have examined European comparative practice and national legal orders, as well as other human rights obligations. This article makes the case for a proportionality assessment of all evictions, irrespective of public or private ownership. The scope of the margin of appreciation requires an analysis of the common ground that may exist in European comparative practice and in light of other international human rights obligations accepted in the continent. The social function of homeownership provides the ground to achieve a better balance between the right to private property, the right to private and family life, and the right to housing.
Neither Article 11 ICESCR (on the right to adequate housing) nor Article 8 ECHR (on the right to home as part of private and family life) would give tenants a blank check to stop paying their rent or to break the lease in any other way. And giving judges the power to assess the proportionality of an eviction in the private rental sector would not fix all the housing problems. But it would be an important first step towards a more balanced relationship between landlords and tenants.
The amount of the award is £250,000 for a 12-month project, which began in June 2022. The project team involves Dr. Jovanovic as a Principal Investigator (PI), Dr. Patrick Burland of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) UK as a Co-Investigator (Co-I), and a group of researchers from the Hibiscus Initiatives, a non-governmental organisation that works with prisoners.
The project investigates what happens to the survivors of modern slavery who end up in prisons in the United Kingdom and the extent to which the existing legislation and policies provide an opportunity for them to be identified and access the necessary support and assistance.
The project has two central objectives:
First, to provide a critical appraisal of the existing law and policy applicable to survivors of modern slavery in prisons in the UK and consider their compatibility with binding international obligations in this field. In doing so, we will identify the gaps and blind spots of the relevant laws and policies and articulate actions/reforms needed to bring domestic law and policy in line with the UK’s international obligations.
Second, to evaluate current institutional practices, which are meant to give effect to the relevant law and policy. In other words, even if the research finds that the applicable laws and policies are adequate and in line with international law, do practices follow their letter and spirit? We will seek to identify the reasons for discrepancies between the rules and their application and propose actions needed to bring practices in line with the rules.
The research is conducted through both the desktop analysis of the relevant sources using a doctrinal method as well as by interviewing the survivors of modern slavery who have been in prison in the UK and other stakeholders, such as the government officials, civil society actors, lawyers, and members of the prison administration.
This project is part of the portfolio of five projects examining the impact of wider laws and policies on modern slavery funded by the MSPEC. Further details about Marija’s and the other four projects included in the portfolio will be provided in a detailed announcement by the Modern Slavery PEC in due course.
The Modern Slavery PEC is an AHRC-funded, Strategic Priorities Fund Centre, created by the investment of public funding to enhance understanding of modern slavery and transform the effectiveness of laws and policies designed to address it. The Centre funds research and works with funded research to enhance the evidence it creates and maximise its impact potential.