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THE COURTS AND THE ECHR: A PRINCIPLED APPROACH TO THE STRASBOURG JURISPRUDENCE

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 July 2013

EIRIK BJORGE*
Affiliation:
Shaw Foundation Junior Research Fellow, Jesus College, University of Oxford.
*
Address for correspondence: Eirik Bjorge, Jesus College, Turl Street, Oxford OX1 3DW. Email: eirik.bjorge@law.ox.ac.uk.
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Abstract

The way in which the courts in the United Kingdom have interpreted and applied the Ullah principle has created problems in the national application of the European Convention on Human Rights. As is evident particularly in Ambrose, this is partly because Lord Bingham's approach in Ullah has been misunderstood. The article analyses these issues in relation to the notion of binding precedent, finding that judicial authority belongs to principles. The national courts ought not, though that is what the Ullah–Ambrose approach enjoins, to expend their energies seeking to align the case before them with the least dissimilar of the reported cases. Rather they should stand back from the case law of the European Court, and apply the broad principles upon which the jurisprudence is founded.

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Shorter Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge Law Journal and Contributors 2013 

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References

1 Sugar v B.B.C. [2012] UKSC 4, [2012] 1 W.L.R. [59] (Lord Wilson).

2 Cf. for an approach that focuses instead upon British principles: Irvine, D., “A British Interpretation of Convention Rights” [2012] P.L. 237Google Scholar; Klug, F. and Wildbore, H., “Follow or Lead? The Human Rights Act and the European Court of Human Rights” [2010] E.H.R.L.R. 621Google ScholarPubMed.

3 See R. (Ullah) v Special Adjudicator [2004] UKHL 26, [2004] 2 A.C. 323 [20] (Lord Bingham); R. (Al-Skeini and others) v Secretary of State for Defence [2007] UKHL 26, [2008] 1 A.C. 153 [106] (Lord Brown) and [90] (Lady Hale); R. (Smith) v Oxfordshire Assistant Deputy Coroner [2010] UKSC 29, [2011] 1 AC 1 [60] (Lord Philips), [93] (Lord Hope), and [147] (Lord Brown); R. (S) v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police [2004] UKHL 39, [2004] 1 W.L.R. 2196 [27] (Lord Steyn); R. (Quark Fishing) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs [2006] 1 A.C. 529 [34] (Lord Nicholls); R. (Animal Defenders International) v Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport [2008] UKHL 15, [2008] 1 A.C. [37] (Lord Bingham) and [53] (Lady Hale); R. (Al-Skeini) v Ministry of Defence [2007] UKHL 26, [2008] 1 A.C. 153 [90] (Lady Hale) and [105]–[106] (Lord Brown).

4 Ullah [20] (Lord Bingham). Generally: Bingham, T., Lives of the Law: Selected Essays and Speeches 2000–2010 (Oxford 2011), 184Google Scholar; Stirn, B., Vers un droit public européen (Paris 2012), 64Google Scholar.

5 Clayton, R., “Smoke and Mirrors” [2012] P.L. 639Google Scholar; Hale, B., “Argentoratum Locutum: Is Strasbourg or the Supreme Court Supreme?” [2012] H.R.L.R. 65Google Scholar; Sales, P. and Ekins, R., “Rights-Consistent Interpretation and the Human Rights Act 1998” (2011) 127 L.Q.R. 217, 224Google Scholar; Bratza, N., “The Relationship between the UK Courts and Strasbourg” [2011] E.H.R.L.R. 505, 511–12Google Scholar; Kavanagh, A., Constitutional Review under the UK Human Rights Act (Cambridge 2009), 144–64Google Scholar.

6 R. (Ullah) v Special Adjudicator [2002] EWCA Civ. 1856; [2003] 3 W.L.R. 23 [47] (Lord Phillips M.R.).

7 Razaghi v Sweden (Application no. 64599/01), judgment 11 March 2003.

8 Ullah [24] (Lord Bingham).

9 Ullah [35] (Lord Steyn).

10 Ullah [67] (Lord Carswell).

11 Cf. E.M. (Lebanon) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2008] UKHL 64; [2009] 1 A.C. 1198; R. (Limbuela) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2005] UKHL 66; [2006] 1 A.C. 396; G. (Adoption: Unmarried Couple) [2008] UKHL 38; [2009] 1 A.C. 173.

12 Bingham, T., “The Human Rights Act: A View from the Bench” (2010) 6 E.H.R.L.R. 658Google Scholar; Bingham, T., Lives of the Law: Selected Essays and Speeches 2000–2010 (Oxford 2011), p. 177–85Google Scholar.

13 Secretary of State for the Home Department v JJ and others [2007] UKHL 45; [2008] A.C. 385. Also: R. Clayton and H. Tomlinson, “Lord Bingham and the Human Rights Act 1998” in M. Andenas and D. Fairgrieve (eds.), Tom Bingham and the Transformation of the Law: A Liber Amicorum (Oxford 2009), 69.

14 Guzzardi v Italy (Application no. 7367/76) (1980) 3 E.H.R.R. 333.

15 Bingham, T., Lives of the Law: Selected Essays and Speeches 2000–2010 (Oxford 2011), 183.Google Scholar

16 JJ [19].

17 JJ [44]–[45].

18 JJ [84].

19 Bingham, T., Lives of the Law: Selected Essays and Speeches 2000–2010 (Oxford 2011), 184-85Google Scholar.

20 Ambrose v Harris (Procurator Fiscal, Oban) [2011] UKSC 43; [2011] 1 W.L.R. 2435.

21 Ambrose [15].

22 Ambrose [20].

23 H.M. Advocate v Jude [2011] UKSC 55; [2012] S.L.T. 75.

24 McGowan v B. [2011] UKSC 54; [2011] 1 W.L.R. 3121.

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29 Ambrose [128].

30 Ambrose [129]. Lord Kerr amplified his views in the 2012 Clifford Chance Lecture: “The UK Supreme Court: The Modest Underworker of Strasbourg?” 25 January 2012.

31 Ambrose [130].

32 Ambrose [130].

33 JJ [19].

34 Ambrose [102]–[105].

35 JJ [19].

36 Craig, P., Administrative Law (7th ed., London 2012), 586-87Google Scholar. Also: N. Bamforth and L.C. Hoyano, Human Rights Law and Principles in the United Kingdom (Oxford forthcoming); Andenas, M., “Leading from the Front: Human Rights and Tort Law in Rabone and Reynolds” (2012) 128 L.Q.R. 323, 324Google Scholar.

37 R. Cross and J.W. Harris, Precedent in English Law (4th ed., Oxford 1991), 39.

38 F. Pollock, “Introduction” in J. Drake and others (eds.), The Progress of Continental Law in the Nineteenth Century (New York 1918), xliii–xliv. Also: Holdsworth, W., Essays in Law and History (Oxford 1946), 158–59Google Scholar.

39 F. Pollock, “Introduction” in J. Drake and others (eds.), The Progress of Continental Law in the Nineteenth Century (New York 1918), xliv. Also: Close v Steel Company of Wales Ltd. [1962] A.C. 367, 388–89; R. (on the application of Smith) v Secretary of State for Defence [2010] UKSC 29; [2011] 1 A.C. 1 [135] (Lady Hale).

40 In re State of Norway's Application [1990] 1 A.C. 723, 737-38.

41 Dunlop v. Higgins (1848) 1 H.L.C. 381, 9 E.R. 805; Household Fire Insurance Co v. Grant (1879) 4 Ex. D. 216, 218–19. Also: Holland, J and Webb, J, Learning Legal Rules (7th ed., Oxford 2010), 153Google Scholar.

42 Larenz, K., Methodenlehre des Rechtswissenschaft (6th ed., Berlin 1991), 429CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Bell, J., Judiciaries within Europe: A Comparative Review (Cambridge 2006), 141Google Scholar.

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44 J. Bell, Judiciaries within Europe, p. 76.

45 Generally: Terré, F., Introduction générale au droit (9th ed., Paris 2012), 283300Google Scholar.

46 Bell, J., Boyron, S, and Whittaker, S. (eds.), Principles of French Law (2nd ed., Oxford 2008), 2728CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

47 Goodhart, A.L., “Precedent in English and Continental Law” (1934) 50 L.Q.R. 40, 42Google Scholar.

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49 Conseil d'État, Association pour la promotion de l'image et autres, 26 October 2011, No 317827 and others (conclusions Boucher).

50 Importantly the decision also develops the, in origin national, proportionality test relied upon in Abbé Olivier, 19 February 1909 (conclusions Chardenet); Baldy, 17 August 1917 (conclusions Corneille); Benjamin 19 May 1933 (conclusions Michel): see B. Stirn, Vers un droit public européen (Paris 2012), 95–99; Domino, X. and Guyomar, M., ‘Le passeport biométrique au contrôle: empreintes et clichés’ [2012] A.J.D.A. 35Google Scholar.

51 Friedl v Austria, judgment 31 January 1995, Series A no. 305–B [49]–[51]; Peck v United Kingdom, (Application no. 44647/98) (2003) 36 E.H.R.R. 41 at [59]; S. & Marper v United Kingdom (Application nos. 30562/04 & 30566/04) (2008) 47 E.H.R.R.1581 at [67].

52 Guyomar, M. and Seiller, B., Contentieux administratif (Paris 2010), 235–36Google Scholar; B. Stirn, Vers un droit public européen (Paris 2012), p. 120. Cf. S. & K.F. v Secretary of State for Justice [2012] EWHC 1810 (Admin) [58]-[59] (Mr. Justice Sales).

53 Conseil d'État, Assemblée, Boussouar & Planchenault 14 December 2007 (conclusions Guyomar).

54 F. Sudre, “Du ‘dialogue des juges’ à l'euro-compatibilité” in Le dialogue des juges: mélanges en l'honneur du président Bruno Genevois (Paris 2009), 1028.

55 Andenas, M. and Bjorge, E., “Ambrose: Is the Ullah Principle Wrong?” (2012) 128 L.Q.R. 319, 322–23Google Scholar.

56 Rabone & Another v Pennine Care NHS Trust [2012] UKSC 2; [2012] 2 A.C. 72.

57 Andenas, M., “Leading from the Front: Human Rights and Tort Law in Rabone and Reynolds” (2012) 128 L.Q.R. 323Google Scholar.

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59 Rabone [112].

60 Andenas, M, “Leading from the Front: Human Rights and Tort Law in Rabone and Reynolds” (2012) 128 L.Q.R. 323, 325Google Scholar.

61 Reynolds v United Kingdom app. no. 2694/08 judgment 13 March 2012 [63].

62 Sugar [59] (Lord Wilson).

63 JJ [19].

64 Craig, P., Administrative Law (7th ed., London 2012), pp. 586–87Google Scholar.

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