MOD ban on gays may be resolved in European Court

THE GOVERNMENT'S decision to continue the ban on homosexuality in the armed forces looks set to cause a clash between it and the European Court of Human Rights.

The decision by the Ministry of Defence is expected to be announced later this month when the internal review of the policy is made public. The report will be passed to the all-party Armed Forces Select Committee for consideration before the matter comes before MPs.

Defence Minister Nicholas Soames refused to comment on whether the reports that the ban would remain were true but he said in the House of Commons last week: “The view of the service chiefs and of Ministers is not based on any moral judgment but on the impracticality of homosexual behaviour, which is clearly not compatible with service life.”

The furore over the ban on homosexuals began last year when four former servicemen and women were dismissed for their homosexuality. The four failed last June to persuade the Divisional Court that the blanket ban on lesbian and gay men serving in the Armed Forces “outrageously defies logic or accepted moral standards”.

Since then their appeal has been rejected by the Court of Appeal but will continue through the House of Lords and if necessary to the European Court of Human Rights.

Ruth Harvey, employment solicitor at Barnett Alexander Chart, said: “This issue needs to be dealt with by the European Court. At the moment it is like asking the discriminators whether it is right to discriminate or not.

“My belief is that eventually the issue will be cleared up under the Equal Treatment Directive of the European Court of Justice.”

A matrimonial mediation group has been formed to address the problem of practising mediation while maintaining a client base for solicitors.

Although mediation has been welcomed by family lawyers, some say it will result in the demise of client business.

Newly-formed Resolve offers panel membership to all solicitors in England and Wales who wish to retain their matrimonial client base but who want to refer suitable cases to independent lawyer mediators.

Panel members will continue to advise clients on property, financial and family matters, while independent lawyer mediators assist parting couples to reach a negotiated settlement of the issues between them.

Resolve also offers mediation training for solicitors. For clients, the organisation offers a counselling service and a register of independent consultants for financial advice.

Brian Hughes co-founder with his wife Annette said: “The service is to provide a partnership in care between solicitors who wish to refer clients to mediation and the lawyer mediators who are involved in the mediation process.”

Information: 01277 633800.