The Law Commission launched a consultation on the possible extension of hate crime offences. The consultation aims to examine whether the sentences given in situations where the offender was motivated on grounds of disability, sexual orientation or gender identity should be brought in line with the higher sentences in place for offences caused by racial or religious hostility. In addition, the Commission is producing an opinion on whether the protection against those who publish material that is intended to stir up hatred on the grounds of race should be extended to include material inciting hatred on grounds of disability or gender identity.

On Wednesday the High Court quashed the original Hillsborough inquest verdict following new evidence unearthed by an independent panel’s report, which found that the FA authorised the Hillsborough ground despite the fact it failed to meet minimum safety standards, and that 58 victims “definitely or probably” had the capacity to survive beyond the 3.15pm cut-off point imposed by the original coroner. The Home Secretary announced a new inquiry, and government funding will be available for the legal representation costs of the families.

Mr Justice Ouseley dismissed a challenge to a refusal by the registrar general of births, deaths and marriages to register a Scientology chapel for the solemnisation of marriages. The application was refused on the grounds that the chapel was not a “place of meeting for religious worship”. The 1970’s Court of Appeal authority of Segerdal held that services in Scientology chapels concerned “instructions in the tenets of a philosophy concerned with man” and so did not constitute “religious worship”. Although the High Court was bound by the Court of Appeal authority, the issue was referred to the Supreme Court for consideration. A case comment is available on the UK Human Rights Blog.

The CPs issued new guidelines for the treatment of those who misuse social media. The new guidance draws a clear distinction between those who use social media to credibly threaten or harass, or breach court orders (such as those designed to protect anonymity), and those who post obscene or offensive statements.

It’s the end of term. The Supreme Court Christmas opening hours are:

Monday 24 December – Wednesday 26 December 2012 – Building closed

Thursday 27 December and Friday 28 December – Building is open from 0930 – 1630

Monday 31 December – Building is open from 0930 – 1400

Tuesday 1 January 2013 – Building closed

The Registries of both the Supreme Court and the Privy Council are closed from today until Monday 7 January 2013. While the Registry is closed, court staff are unable to accept papers. If your time limit for filing documents expires on a business day during the Christmas vacation period, it will be extended automatically until 7 January. For more information please see the Supreme Court website.

We will be taking a blogging break over the holidays, and will see you again in January. The UKSC Blog editorial team would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.