That-was-the-weekThe Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 became law after clearing its third reading in the Lords. The Act legalises same-sex unions, whilst not compelling religious organisations to provide solemnisation of these marriages. The “quadruple lock” of protection for religious groups consists of various provisions making it necessary for organisations to expressly opt in to provide same-sex marriages, amendments to the Equality Act 2010 to ensure discrimination claims cannot be brought on the grounds of refusal to marry a same-sex couple, and a complete ban on the Church of England and Wales marrying same-sex couples.

Sir John Thomas, President of the Queen’s Bench Division, was named as the next Lord Chief Justice. He replaces Lord Judge, who will step down at the end of September after holding the position for five years. In his accession statement Sir Thomas addressed the current contentious reforms to the justice system:

“Although in a time of reduced resources significant change must continue, the judiciary will play its leading part in ensuring that justice is delivered fairly and efficiently. It will continue to become more reflective of our diverse society. It will also continue to play a constructive role in its relationships with Government, Parliament and the media, but with the tensions that are inevitable in maintaining the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and the rights of individuals.”

In Project Blue Ltd v HMRC [2013] UKFTT 378 (TC) the First-Tier Tribunal held that the Qatari government owed £50m in stamp duty on its Chelsea Barracks site. An issue in the appeal was whether the appellant company was subjected to religious discrimination, on the basis that it chose to finance its acquisition of the development site in a manner which was Shari’a-compliant and consequently owed more stamp duty then it would have if it had financed the purchase through a conventional loan. HMRC contended that the higher rate of stamp duty was for other reasons – namely because, as well as using Shari’a-compliant finance, the financing exceeded the purchase price and also because the appellant had used a sub-sale.

The Home Secretary gave reasons for the government’s refusal to hold a public inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko, admitting that “international relations” played a part but denying that they were the “decisive factor”. The coroner presiding over the original inquest into the murder had called for an inquiry in order for closed evidence forming a vital part of the investigation to be considered.

A man imprisoned for contempt of court after telling a judge to “shut up”, and who was then ordered out of his own appeal for asking for a sandwich, had his original conviction for contempt of court quashed on technical grounds.