High Court Decision Highlights Interaction Between Domestic Law and Human Rights in Criminal Cases

Citation: [2024] EWHC 111 (Admin)
Judgment on

Introduction

In the case of Director of Public Prosecutions, R (on the application of) v Manchester City Magistrates’ Court (Consequential Matters), Mr. Justice Fordham and Lord Justice Popplewell preside over the High Court of Justice’s determination regarding three consequential matters that arose from the case’s main judgment ([2023] EWHC 2938 (Admin)). This article aims to dissect the provided summary, highlighting the key topics, the relevant legal principles, and the outcomes derived from this case.

Key Facts

The case concerns a legislative interaction between domestic law - specifically section 4A of the Public Order Act 1986 - and international human rights law encapsulated in Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The crux of the argument revolved around whether a Magistrates’ Court is required to perform a fact-sensitive proportionality assessment when these rights are engaged during the trial of an offense.

Further, the case involves an application by the Claimant for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, as well as issues surrounding the legal costs regime in which an application was made by the Interested Parties for the recovery of their costs.

The summary highlights several legal principles, including:

  1. Certification of a Point of Law: Justice Fordham granted the application to certify a point of law regarding the necessity of a proportionality assessment by a Magistrates’ Court under specific circumstances. This certification implies that the question raised is of general public importance and is involved in the decision, satisfying statutory conditions.

  2. Application for Leave to Appeal: The refusal of the Claimant’s application for leave to appeal by Justice Fordham emphasized the typical route for such matters, wherein the Supreme Court would consider the appropriateness of an appeal on a certified point of law. Justice Fordham identified “other powerful reasons” to refuse the leave.

  3. Costs in Criminal Cases: The discussion about costs falls under section 51 of the Senior Courts Act 1981, with consideration given to whether the circumstances are exceptional enough to warrant application of civil costs regimes in criminal cases. Justice Fordham found that in this instance, due to the case’s ‘test case’ status and the shifting positions of the prosecution, it was just to order the costs as sought by the Interested Parties. The principle of safeguarding the interest of justice and the public interest was also underlined.

  4. Stay of Execution of Orders Relating to Costs: The stay of execution relating to cost orders pending determination by the Supreme Court indicates that the case’s outcomes may have broader implications, and any immediate financial burden would be suspended pending a final resolution.

Outcomes

The outcomes from the summary of the case include:

  1. Certification of a point of law that may impact the breadth of cases where section 4A is challenged under ECHR rights.

  2. Denial of leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, which indicates that the Court’s view is the matter may not require further review at this stage.

  3. A decision on costs which favors the Interested Parties, thus aligning with cases like Murphy v Media Protection Services Ltd and others listed. The determination is that the circumstances are indeed exceptional and, therefore, the civil costs regime is applicable.

  4. Payment orders to the Interested Parties, with the specifics of those payments being justified and unopposed.

Conclusion

The case of Director of Public Prosecutions v Manchester City Magistrates’ Court (Consequential Matters) is significant for illustrating the interaction between domestic criminal law and human rights protections. The decision rests on the importance of proportionality assessments when ECHR rights are engaged, reinforcing the need for courts to consider these rights within the context of domestic cases. The judgment also confirms that in exceptional circumstances, such as a ‘test case’, the typically separate criminal and civil cost regimes can intertwine, reflecting the sometimes complex nature of legal proceedings that straddle issues of public importance and individual rights. The litigation’s outcomes have potentially set a precedent for how courts will navigate similar issues in the future.

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