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Joshua Rozenberg
Wednesday 14th October 2009
Supreme Ruling: Boy Admitted to JFS

The Supreme Court has published its first judgment, giving reasons for a decision I reported here. It discloses (in paragraph 4) that a boy who had been refused admission to JFS, a Jewish school in London, has now joined the school. "and JFS accepts that he and any siblings of his will stay there regardless of the decision on its appeal".

Reporters had been advised not to publish this inormation in order to preserve the boy's anonymity. There is an injunction in force preventing publication of information that might identify him.

The Supreme Court judges must have been aware of this injunction when disclosing that the boy had started at the school. Indeed, the last sentence of their judgment says;

Nothing is to be published which may tend to identify the child who is concerned in these appeals.  

But since the judges have now disclosed on their website that the boy has been admitted to the school, reporting it cannot be contempt of court.

It would, incidentally, be impossible to undrrstand the ruling properly without this information. One of the reasons why the Legal Services Commission wanted to withdraw the father's funding was that he had already got his son into the school. But the Supreme Court took the view, quite rightly, that there were broader issues at stake.

The substance of the judgment is to be found in paragraph 22:

It should be understood, as a principle of general application, that if the Legal Services Commission decide to fund a litigant whether by way of claim or a defence who is successful in his cause, that decision must ordinarily be seen to carry with it something close to an assurance that the Commission will continue to support him in any subsequent appeal by the unsuccessful party whilst he remains financially eligible.

This will particularly be so where

(a) the withdrawal of support would expose the publicly funded litigant to a substantial risk for future costs,


(b) he retains a significant interest, quite apart from his interest in resisting any future costs liability, in maintaining his success in the litigation and


(c) the issues raised on the appeal are of general public importance which it is in the public interest to resolve and his case on these issues is unlikely to be properly argued unless he continues to be funded by the Legal Services Commission. 

Geeks will be note that Lord Hope has delivered a joint ruling, on behalf of himself and his two colleagues. The law lords were unable to do this for procedural reasons.

The judgment also tells us, for the first time, how we should refer to the judges. It is headed:

LORD HOPE, Deputy President
LADY HALE
LORD BROWN

So no nonsense about calling them "Justice Hale" or "Deputy President Hope". But we have still not yet heard whether the Queen will give new members of the court -- who won't be peers --  the honorary title of "Lord". I would expect her to announce this when she opens the court on Friday.

 

 
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About Joshua Rozenberg

Joshua Rozenberg is an independent legal commentator who presents Law in Action on BBC Radio 4.

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