McLaughlin's (Siobhan) Application

JurisdictionNorthern Ireland
CourtCourt of Appeal (Northern Ireland)
Writing for the CourtWeatherup LJ
JudgeWeatherup LJ
Judgment Date2016
Neutral Citation[2016] NICA 53
Date13 December 2016
1
Neutral Citation No. [2016] NICA 53 Ref:
WEA10095
Judgment: approved by the Court for handing down Delivered:
13/12/2016
(subject to editorial corrections)*
IN HER MAJESTY’S COURT OF APPEAL IN NORTHERN IRELAND
________
ON APPEAL FROM THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE IN NORTHERN IRELAND
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QUEEN’S BENCH DIVISION (JUDICIAL REVIEW)
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AN APPLICATION BY SIOBHAN McLAUGHLIN FOR JUDICIAL REVIEW
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Before: Morgan LCJ, Gillen LJ and Weatherup LJ
________
WEATHERUP LJ (delivering the judgment of the court)
[1] This is an appeal from a decision of Treacy J dated 9 February 2016, neutral
citation No. [2016] NIQB 11, by which he found that the decision of the Department
for Social Development, in refusing the applicant a Widowed Parents Allowance on
the ground that she was not married or a civil partner at the date of her partner’s
death, involved discrimination on the ground of marital status, contrary to Article 8
when read with Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Mr
McGleenan QC and Mr Luney appeared on behalf of the appellant and Mr McMillen
QC and Ms McMahon appeared on behalf of the respondent.
The decision on payment of bereavement benefits.
[2] The grounding affidavit of Ms McLaughlin states that she lived with her
partner John Adams as man and wife for over 23 years until his death on 28 January
2014. Ms McLaughlin and Mr Adams were unmarried and had four children
together who were aged 19, 17, 13 and 11 years at the date of his death. The couple
had two brief periods of separation, the first being in 2004 for one year and the
2
second in December 2013 for a couple of days. The four children continued to live at
home with Ms McLaughlin after the death of Mr Adams.
[3] Ms McLaughlin claimed Bereavement Payment and Widowed Parents
Allowance. She was refused both benefits because she was neither married to nor a
civil partner of Mr Adams at the date of his death. Bereavement Benefit and
Widowed Parents Allowance are contributory State benefits based on payments
made by a deceased from occupational income and payable under the Social
Security Contributions and Benefits (Northern Ireland) Act 1992. Had Ms
McLaughlin qualified for payment she would have received a lump sum of £2,000
and weekly payments for herself and her children.
[4] Ms McLaughlin sought an order quashing the decision of the appellant to
refuse payment of the benefits, a declaration that the bereavement provisions in the
1992 Act should be read so as to extend the benefits to unmarried cohabitees and a
declaration that, if the 1992 Act cannot be read and given effect in a way that was
compatible with Convention rights, the provisions of the 1992 Act are incompatible
with Convention rights.
The grounds for Judicial Review.
[5] The original grounds for judicial review, amended on the appeal as appear
below, were
(a) The decision unlawfully discriminated against the applicant on the basis
of marital status contrary to section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 and
Article 14 in conjunction with Article 8.
(b) The decision unlawfully discriminated against the applicant on the basis
of marital status contrary to section 6 and Article 14 in conjunction with
Article 1 of protocol 1.
(c) The decision failed to have any or adequate regard for the applicant’s
private or family life and her personal autonomy, as required by section 6
and Article 8 in choosing not to enter into a marriage with Mr Adams.
(d) The Department ought to have read and given effect to the 1992 Act in a
way that was compatible with the applicant’s Convention rights, in
accordance with section 3 of the 1998 Act. In particular, it should have
interpreted the word ”spouse” as including a person in the position of Ms
McLaughlin having regard to her relationship with Mr Adams.
[6] The Court at first instance issued a Notice of Incompatibility pursuant to
section 4 of the Human Rights Act 1998 and Order 121 of the Rules of the Court of
Judicature notifying the Citizens Advice Bureau, acting on behalf of Ms McLaughlin,

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