Legal Tea with B – Supreme Court Denies Article 50 Appeal | Grenfell Inquiry Update

Welcome to my selection of interesting legal news and updates. Grab a teabag, some hot water and enjoy!

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Government refused permission to appeal to Supreme Court in Article 50 challenge 

The Supreme Court announced last week (20/11/18) that it had refused the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (the Brexit Secretary) permission to appeal in the matter of Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Appellant) v Wightman and others (Respondents)

The petition to the Court of Session

The Respondents comprised individuals from the Scottish, United Kingdom and European Parliaments who, together with the Good Law Project, had petitioned the Scottish Court of Session to come to a determination over whether and how notification to withdraw from the European Union under Article 50 TEU can be revoked. (Read about their arguments on why Article 50 can be revoked in the national interest here in Legal Tea with B (09/11/18)).

Permission to appeal denied

The Brexit Secretary had hoped to appeal against the request by the First Division of the Inner House of the Court of Session for the CJEU to rule on whether notification under Article 50 can be revoked. However, in their order the Supreme Court held that:

Under section 40 of the Court of Session Act 1988, the only basis on which an appeal against the interlocutors in question might be taken would be if they constituted “a decision constituting final judgment in any proceedings”.

Para, 2.  

Essentially, appeal would only be possible if the Court of Session had come to a final determination over Article 50’s revocability. However, as the Supreme Court made clear, by merely making a preliminary reference to the CJEU under Article 267 TFEU, they had not: 

It is clear that this interlocutor did not constitute a final judgment. Contrary to the Secretary of State’s contention, an interlocutor requesting a preliminary ruling is not “interlocutory in form but final in substance”…The request to the CJEU did not in itself “dispose of the subject matter” of the proceedings: it remains to be seen what remedy, if any, the Court of Session will grant. That will remain the position even after the CJEU has made a ruling on the question referred.

Para, 5. 

Article 50 hearing before the CJEU

Responding to the Supreme Court’s refusal of the application, the Good Law Project called the order “a humiliating defeat for the government”:

The Supreme Court has rejected the government’s last ditch attempt to block our Article 50 hearing before the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg next Tuesday.

It means that we will finally get clarity over whether the UK can revoke Article 50, and a decision from the CJEU would allow MPs to fully understand what choices are available as they vote on the deal.   

Good Law Project, November 20th 2018 

The Good Law Project comes before the CJEU on Tuesday 27th November. Whilst the determination of the CJEU will be instrumental, as the Supreme Court made clear, it is up to the Court of Session to come to a final determination over the question posed to them in respect of Article 50. 

Grenfell Tower inquiry update: Expert Witness pinpoints instrumental cause of fire’s spread

As the Grenfell Tower inquiry continues, further insight into the cause of the fire’s rapid spread through the tower has come to light.

Last week it was reported that expert witness Dr Barbara Lane, a chartered fire safety Engineer and Director of a specialist design group, informed the inquiry that a ‘crown’ of cladding panels that contained combustible materials had been instrumental in causing the fire to spread rapidly through the tower. This architectural feature served a mere aesthetic purpose and was installed at the top of the block during renovations that took place between 2012 and 2016. 

Dr Lane reportedly told the inquiry: “Once the flame got up to level 23 in the first place above Flat 16, it appears then to have been able to travel horizontally in both directions through the crown”. Further, she told the inquiry how the ‘crown’ significantly affected flats at the top of the building that were directly underneath it. Many people at the top of the tower sadly died. 

Dr Lane explained that the blaze spread so quickly because too many external building materials were flammable: “At every turn there is something there that can participate in the combustion process, so all the time the flame front has something that will allow it to carry on.”

72 people died in the fire which took place on the 14th June 2017. The public inquiry into the fire is ongoing. 

Brexit deal agreed by the EU27

It appears that Theresa May’s Brexit deal has been accepted by the EU27. This marks a significant step in the withdrawal process as the deal will now go before the House of Commons who will either vote the deal down or agree to uphold it.

In an open letter to the nation, the Prime Minister asked the country to back the deal, penning the hashtag #BacktheBrexitDeal on Twitter:

Read more about the Brexit process in Legal Tea with B (19/11/18)

Government launches anti-hate crime campaign

A government campaign against in person and online abuse has launched. Carrying the slogan “It’s not just offensive. It’s an Offence, the campaign features images of people being screamed at by a person behind a photo. This appears to be a reference to the phenomenon of people being hateful and divisive online from behind their online profile. 

The website for the campaign (, sets out the Government’s intentions behind the campaign: 

The government is committed to tackling hate crime. We want to raise awareness of what a hate crime is and help people understand that it is not right to target individuals based on their identity.

The Government also put forward the following definition of a hate crime: 

hate crime is any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim, or anybody else, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice towards someone’s:
– race
– religion
– sexual orientation
– transgender identity
– disability

The website also provides videos that show examples of online and in-person hate crimes.

Data published in October 2018 showed a 14% increase in recorded incidents of hate crime in England and Wales since 2016/17. This is part of an overall trend in the increase of recorded incidents of hate crimes since 2011/12. Figures for 2017/18 showed 71, 251 recorded hate crimes whereas 2011/12 figures showed 35,944 recorded incidents. A noticeable spike in the numbers of recorded hate crimes took place in 2016/17.

The EU referendum has been held to be a causal factor in the increase of recorded incidents of hate crime with Full Fact reporting a 41% increase in hate crimes between July 2015 and July 2016. 

Hate crime, England and Wales, 2017 to 2018: data table taken from Gov.UK

2011/122012/132013/142014/152015/162016/172017/18% change 2016/17 to 2017/18
 35,944  35,845  37,575  42,862  49,419  62,685  71,251 14

It will take time to see whether Government’s efforts result in an overall decrease in recorded incidents of hate crime. In any case, the campaign marks a positive step forward in the fight against hate crime. 

#IAmTheBar panel to take place in December 

Finally, on the 5th December the Bar Council’s #IAmTheBar panel discussion takes place. Barristers will gather to discuss social mobility and access to the Bar. Panelists include The Secret Barrister, Chris Daw, QC and Rachel Spearing and Natasha Shotunde – two of the Bar Council’s social mobility advocates. 

Anyone who is looking towards a career in law is invited to submit questions to the live-streamed panel discussion in advance or on twitter during the event. All details are contained on the Bar Council’s twitter (@thebarcouncil).