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Uniform decision of Law Lords

Date:24 MAR 2006

In R (on the application of Begum) v Head Teacher and Governors of Denbigh High School [2006] UKHL 15 the House of Lords decided on 22 March 2006 that Art 9 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 1950 (the European Convention) did not require that a person should be allowed to manifest her religion at any time and place of her own choosing. Shabina Begum, now aged 17, contended that the appellants, the head teacher and governors of Denbigh High School in Luton, excluded her from that school so unjustifiably limiting her right under Art 9 of the European Convention to manifest her religion or beliefs and violating her right not to be denied education under Art 2 of the First Protocol to the European Convention.

Their Lordships said that it was settled law that what constituted interference would depend on all the circumstances of the case, including the extent to which in the circumstances an individual could reasonably expect to be at liberty to manifest her beliefs in practice. In the instant case, the claimant's right was not infringed because there was nothing to stop her from going to school where her religion did not require a jilbab or where she was allowed to wear one. Even if there had been an infringement of Shabina's rights under Art 9, the infringement was justified under Art 9.2. The school was entitled to consider that the rules about uniform were necessary for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. See May [2006] Fam Law for the full news article.