FSU invited to intervene in Supreme Court case

We are delighted to announce that the FSU has been granted permission to intervene in the Supreme Court case of Abbasi v Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The decision of the President of the Court, Lord Reed, to accept our submissions confirms FSU’s position as the UK’s primary free speech organisation.

We are delighted to announce that the FSU has been granted permission to intervene in the Supreme Court case of Abbasi v Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The decision of the President of the Court, Lord Reed, to accept our submissions confirms FSU’s position as the UK’s primary free speech organisation.

Abbasi concerns the ability of hospitals to prevent public discussion of what they do. Two families – the parents of Zainab Abbasi and the parents of Isaiah Haastrup – asked for reporting restriction orders to be lifted so they could discuss the care their children received before they died. A strong Court of Appeal bench ruled in favour of the right of the parents, and everyone else, to discuss NHS care of children in end of life cases – a matter that is manifestly of general public interest.

The hospitals now appeal to the Supreme Court. FSU has made powerful written submissions – superbly drafted by barristers Tom Cross and Raphael Hogarth of 11KBW chambers – in support of the Court of Appeal’s judgment.

We argue that interference with speech on a matter of public interest cannot be justified on the grounds advanced by the hospitals – that someone out there might potentially be moved to harass hospital staff if they heard the parents’ story of how their children died. Such remote risks cannot justify prior restraints on speech. Moreover the law already offers adequate (indeed profuse) protections against abuse and harassment – it would be disproportionate to expand restrictions on speech even further.

FSU is represented in this matter by law firm Branch Austin McCormick LLP, who write: “The Free Speech Union is the leading organisation protecting free speech in our country. Our partner Elliot Hammer is delighted to act for the FSU in the Supreme Court in this landmark case on free speech for patients and their families when they are being treated by the medical profession.”

The hearing is scheduled for 15 and 16 April 2024.