Rare species alert: INTERESTING pensions cases in the Supreme Court today

Juicy legal human rights issues, equality and the principle of retrospective effect — with seven QCs getting stuck in

Five justices of the United Kingdom’s top court are listening to two days of argument from a whole host of QCs from Brick Court Chambers, Cloisters, Matrix and 11KBW in two, rather interesting, pensions cases.

Walker v Innospec Ltd and Department of Work and Pensions concerns a male employee who argues he is entitled to ask his employer to pay a pension to his civil partner husband on the same basis that such a pension would be payable if he were married to a woman.

In O’Brien and others v Ministry of Justice — which is being heard together with Walker — the issue is whether the value of a part-time recorder’s pension can be calculated based on his length of service prior to the relevant legislation granting him the full pension.

This is about as exciting as pensions get, and it’s a five-star studded legal cast list.

Walker has the support of Liberty, the human rights organisation, and is represented by Martin Chamberlain QC from Brick Court Chambers. Chamberlain is also known for acting as special advocate for radical cleric Abu Hamza in his appeal to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), challenging the decision to strip him of his UK citizenship.

Perhaps less well-known but just as fascinating is that in 2011 he defended the Mayor of London’s decision to select West Ham as the preferred bidder for the Olympic stadium against challenges brought by Tottenham Hotspur and Leyton Orient.

O’Brien has Robin Allen QC of Cloisters fighting his corner. Allen’s case roster includes successfully representing Mr Preddy and Mr Hall, a gay couple, who were refused a hotel room by a Christian couple in a clash-of-the-discriminations case in the Supreme Court a few years ago.

Much of the legal argument in today’s cases will focus on whether laws can be effective retrospectively, usually a rule of law no-no.

But the cases also raise equality issues: Walker focuses on LGBT rights; Liberty argues that if Walker were married to a woman, his wife would be entitled to receive roughly £45,000 a year for the rest of her life from the pension.

Emma Norton, Liberty’s lawyer, says:

We hope the Supreme Court will drive the law into the twenty-first century and take a huge step towards equal pension rights for same-sex spouses and civil partners.

Legal Cheek also hopes the Supreme Court will actually survive two days of pensions parlance.

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