Jason Coppel KC and Tom Cross win Michaela School prayer ban judicial review


The High Court (Linden J) has handed down its much-awaited judgment in R (TTT) v Michaela Community Schools Trust, which concerned the lawfulness of a policy of Michaela School to prohibit prayer rituals for all of its pupils.

The prohibition was challenged by TTT, a female pupil at the School. She alleged that it was contrary to her right to freedom of religion under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and was indirect religious discrimination contrary to the Equality Act 2010. She also argued that, in deciding upon the policy, the School’s Governing Body had breached the public sector equality duty in the Equality Act 2010 by not having due regard to its equalities implications, and finally that two suspensions to which she had been subject had been procedurally unfair.

The High Court upheld the School’s prohibition on prayer rituals. As to Article 9, it decided, applying House of Lords authority, that the prohibition did not interfere with TTT’s right, and was in any event justified in the circumstances of the case. Insofar as it disadvantaged Muslim pupils and was indirectly discriminatory, it was also justified under the Equality Act and therefore lawful. Further, the Governing Body had given due regard to the equalities implications of the ban. The Court found that one of the suspensions had been procedurally unfair but the other had not.

Jason Coppel KC and Tom Cross acted successfully for the School at the hearing, with Oliver Jackson also acting earlier in the case, instructed by Sinclairs Law. The judgment hand down has been widely reported in the press, including by the BBC, Sky News, the Guardian, the Evening Standard and the Telegraph. You can read the judgment here.