Monday, 24 January 2011

(1) Man remanded over Yeates murder - (2) Discrimination in provision of services

A man has been charged with the murder in December 2010 of Jo Yeates.  He is Vincent Tabak and has been remanded in custody by Bristol Magistrates' Court.  The actual case may not be discussed since proceedings are "active" but it is of interest to note that, since an amendment to the law which commenced in 2010, a Magistrates' Court may not consider a bail application in a murder case (Coroners and Justice Act 2009 s.115).  Hence, under s.51 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, the magistrates "sent" the case to the Crown Court where it is possible for bail to be considered.  Where a case is triable only in the Crown Courts, the appearance before Magistrates is now very brief and the juridiction of Magistrates is limited.  It is an historical survival of committal proceedings which were previously necessary in all cases.

The first man arrested - but NOT charged - in connection with this murder case was Mr Chris Jefferies who has received what on any view must be unacceptable treatment by the media.  It is unclear whether he still remains on bail as this detail seems to have been forgotten by most media reports.   See Avon and Somerset Constabulary and Channel 4 News.  The Attorney-General issued a "warning" to the media about this publicity.

Last week saw the County Court decision concerning the right of two "gay men" (who are in a civil partnership) to receive goods and services without discrimination.  An excellent coverage of this case by Catriona Murdoch is to be found at the UK Human Rights Blog - "A Cornish Hotel and the conflict between discrimination law and religious freedom."  Catriona Murdoch is a pupil barrister at 1 Crown Office Row.  The owners of the hotel argued that they acted on their religious beliefs but it seems that such beliefs count for little in the face of the law relating to discrimination - Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007.   Some media reports have suggested that this was some kind of "sting" operation but the County Court Judge said there was no evidence to support that.

An interesting "angle" arises as a result of this case.  It is whether human rights are becoming increasingly capable of
having "horizontal effect" (i.e. citizen to citizen) as opposed to just "vertical effect" (i.e. State-citizen).  Law think carried an interesting post on this.  Essentially, the European Convention places obligations on the governments of Member States of the Council of Europe to secure the Convention rights for persons within the Member States.  Discrimination law does not stem directly from the European Convention even though Article 14 requires that the convention rights themselves must be secured without discrimination.  Both the United Kingdom and the European Union have developed anti-discrimination law which operates alongside convention rights.  The latest is the Equality Act 2010.   The securing of convention rights might require States to legislate for the conduct of individuals if the convention rights of others are to be upheld.  In such an indirect way there may be obligations on individuals but this is some way from claiming that the convention in itself has horizontal effect.  An interesting angle but one on which opinion appears to be divided.

The law has come a long way in trying to achieve an absence of discrimination.  An early example involving race and the provision of services was the case of Constantine v Imperial Hotels Ltd [1944] KB 693.  The famous cricketer Learie Constantine was asked to leave a hotel after just one night there.  Other hotel guests (American Service personnel) had objected to his "colour."   The judge, Birkett J,  rejected the hotel's claim that it had not acted in a discriminatory way.  In 1944 there was no legislation dealing with discrimination but Birkett J was able to find in Constantine's favour because of the implied duty of an "innkeeper"  not to refuse accommodation without good cause.  Mr Constantine (later Lord Constantine of Maraval and Nelson) was awarded £5 in damages.

1 comment:

  1. 28th October 2011 - Vincent Tabak was found guilty of the murder of Jo Yeates. He was sentenced to the mandatory life imprisonment with a minimum tariff of 20 years.