Margin of Appreciation in UK Law

Leading Cases
  • R (RJM) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
    • House of Lords
    • 22 October 2008

    Equally, the fact that the line may have been drawn imperfectly does not mean that the policy cannot be justified. Of course, there will come a point where the justification for a policy is so weak, or the line has been drawn in such an arbitrary position, that, even with the broad margin of appreciation accorded to the state, the court will conclude that the policy is unjustifiable.

  • R v DPP ex parte Kebeline
    • House of Lords
    • 28 October 1999

    The doctrine of the "margin of appreciation" is a familiar part of the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights. The European Court has acknowledged that, by reason of their direct and continuous contact with the vital forces of their countries, the national authorities are in principle better placed to evaluate local needs and conditions than an international court: Buckley v. United Kingdom (1996) 23 E.H.R.R. 101, 129, paras. 74-75.

    But in the hands of the national courts also the Convention should be seen as an expression of fundamental principles rather than as a set of mere rules. The questions which the courts will have to decide in the application of these principles will involve questions of balance between competing interests and issues of proportionality.

    In this area difficult choices may have to be made by the executive or the legislature between the rights of the individual and the needs of society. In some circumstances it will be appropriate for the courts to recognise that there is an area of judgment within which the judiciary will defer, on democratic grounds, to the considered opinion of the elected body or person whose act or decision is said to be incompatible with the Convention.

  • Bank Mellat v HM Treasury (No 2)
    • Supreme Court
    • 19 June 2013

    The approach adopted in Oakes can be summarised by saying that it is necessary to determine (1) whether the objective of the measure is sufficiently important to justify the limitation of a protected right, (2) whether the measure is rationally connected to the objective, (3) whether a less intrusive measure could have been used without unacceptably compromising the achievement of the objective, and (4) whether, balancing the severity of the measure's effects on the rights of the persons to whom it applies against the importance of the objective, to the extent that the measure will contribute to its achievement, the former outweighs the latter.

  • Recovery of Medical Costs for Asbestos Diseases (Wales) Bill: Reference by the Counsel General for Wales
    • Supreme Court
    • 09 February 2015

    However, domestic courts cannot act as primary decision makers, and principles of institutional competence and respect indicate that they must attach appropriate weight to informed legislative choices at each stage in the Convention analysis: see AXA, para 131, per Lord Reed, R (Huitson) v Revenue and Customs Comrs [2011] EWCA Civ 893, [2012] QB 489, at para 85.

  • Re G (Adoption: Unmarried couple); Re P and Others (adoption: unmarried couple)
    • House of Lords
    • 18 June 2008

    In such a case, it for the court in the United Kingdom to interpret articles 8 and 14 and to apply the division between the decision-making powers of courts and Parliament in the way which appears appropriate for the United Kingdom. The margin of appreciation is there for division between the three branches of government according to our principles of the separation of powers. There is no principle by which it is automatically appropriated by the legislative branch.

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