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Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School - Green Background

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United Kingdom and Northern Ireland

  • Yemshaw v. Hounslow LBC, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, United Kingdom Supreme Court, 2011.
    The appellant (Y) appealed against a decision that the respondent local authority had been entitled to find that she was not homeless. Y had applied to the local authority for housing assistance, claiming that although her husband had not physically assaulted her or threatened to assault her she was scared that he would, and had left him. Under the Housing Act 1996 s.177(1) a local authority was obliged to rehouse a person where it was not reasonable for that person to continue to occupy accommodation if it would lead to domestic violence. The local authority decided that it was still reasonable for Y to occupy the matrimonial home. A review of that decision was unsuccessful as the panel considered the probability of domestic violence to be low. Upon appeal, the county court and the Court of Appeal concluded that the term "violence" in s.177(1) required some sort of physical contact. The issue in the instant appeal was whether the word "violence" in s.177(1) included other forms of violent conduct.
  • A-G Ref (No. 44 of 2010), United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, United Kingdom Court of Appeal, 2010.
    Two offenders were convicted at first instance of (i) trafficking AH, a 19 year old girl, from Romania to the UK for sexual exploitation (s 57(1) of the Sexual Offences Act 2003) and (ii) controlling the prostitution of AH for gain (s. 53(1) of the Sexual Offences Act 2003).   The first offender received a sentence of 30 months imprisonment for the first offence and 24 months’ imprisonment for the second offence.  The second offender was sentenced to 24 months imprisonment for the first offence and 18 months imprisonment for the second offence.  The Attorney General appealed to the Court of Appeal to review the sentences on the grounds that the judge at first instance had not taken account of aggravating factors and the impact of the offences on AH.  The Court of Appeal agreed that the sentences did not reflect the totality of the offences, which involved bringing AH into the UK by deception and then coercing her to work as a prostitute and corrupting her in the process.  Therefore, the Court of Appeal imposed a harsher sentence of 4 years’ imprisonment on the first offender and 3 years’ imprisonment on the second offender for the first offence.   The sentences in relation to the second offence were not changed. 
  • Regina v. Shahnawaz Ali Khan, Raza Ali Khan and Perveen Khan, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, United Kingdom Court of Appeal, 2010.
    The defendants recruited nine men from the Middle East and the Indian continent between 2004 and 2008 to work in a restaurant owned by one of the defendants. The men were found to have been subjected to economic exploitation, including many or all of the following: having their documents taken away from them by the defendants upon arrival in the UK, being required to work 12 hours or more a day for 6-7 days a week without adequate recompense for overtime and in some cases without receiving even the basic salary, being asked to arrive with bond money (which was not returned) or accept deductions from income, not being provided with national insurance numbers or wage slips, not being registered with the NHS, being discouraged from visiting the town or talking with customers. The Crown Court convicted the defendants of conspiracy to traffic people for exploitation under s. 4 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants etc) Act 2004 and sentenced each to three years’ imprisonment. The Attorney General and the defendants appealed against the sentences.
  • R v. O, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, United Kingdom Court of Appeal, 2008.
    O, a Nigerian national and apparently only 17 years old, appealed against a conviction for the offence of possessing a false identity document. One of the submissions on her behalf, supported by a senior outreach worker for The Poppy Project, was that she had been the victim of trafficking for sexual exploitation and used the false identity document in an attempt to escape. The Court of Appeal granted her appeal, stating that it regretted that neither the prosecution nor the defense had considered her age or the possibility that she might have been a victim of sex trafficking at first instance. It was unlawful to impose a prison sentence as such on a person aged 17. Further, the Court of Appeal noted that common law and article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights alike require far higher standards of procedural protection than were given to O at first instance. The Court of Appeal expressed the hope that the case would drive home the message that proper inquiries need to be made where there is doubt about the age of a Defendant who is a possible victim of trafficking.
  • Ms. N.S.F. v. United Kingdom, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, CEDAW Committee, 2007.
    N. S. F., a Pakistani national, experienced repeated ill-treatment from her husband, including marital rape, until they divorced in 2002. Although N. S. F.’s husband continued to harass her after she moved to a nearby village, the police did not offer her any protection. When her ex-husband came to her new home with other armed men and threatened to kill her, N. S. F. fled to the United Kingdom and applied for asylum, claiming that her forced return to Pakistan would constitute violations of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. N. S. F. appealed the dismissal of her application for asylum by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate of the Home Office, and on appeal the Adjudicator denied N. S. F.’s application on the grounds that N. S. F. could relocate further away from her husband within the country, and that she would receive protection in Pakistan on account of her being divorced from her husband. The Immigration Appeal Tribunal rejected N. S. F.’s application for permission to appeal, and the High Court of Justice, Queens Bench Division, Administrative Court affirmed the decision upon challenge. Her complaint alleged that the asylum and human rights-based procedures were not fair, and that if deported back to Pakistan, N. S. F.’s husband would kill her and put her children’s education at risk. Although the Committee found the complaint inadmissible because N. S. F. did not exhaust all domestic remedies, the Committee noted that the complaint raised concern for women who have fled their country because of fear of domestic violence. It recalled its General Recommendation No. 19 on violence against women, and concluded that Pakistan’s assertion that N. S. F.’s claims do not amount to an allegation of sex discrimination needed to be reconsidered in light of this Recommendation. The Committee suggested that N. S. F. apply to the High Court for judicial review of her application for asylum, and that the Court take her allegations of sex discrimination under consideration.
  • Salgado v. United Kingdom, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, CEDAW Committee, 2007.
    Constance Ragan Salgado, a British citizen, moved to Colombia with her husband, a Colombian, and gave birth to a son. Salgado attempted to obtain British nationality for her son, but the British Consul in Bogotá stated that British nationality passed only though the paternal line. Although the British Nationality Act of 1981 amended British law to confer equal rights to men and women, Salgado’s son did not qualify because he was over 18. The Legislation again changed in 2002 with the passage of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act which allowed children born to British mothers between 1961 and 1983 to register as British nationals if they satisfied certain other conditions. Salgado’s complaint alleged sex-based discrimination under the British Nationality Act of 1948 which restricted nationality descent to British fathers. Salgado raised issues under article 2 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which calls for the elimination of all discriminatory laws, regulations and customs that discriminate against women, and article 9 paragraph 2 under which State parties must grant women equal rights with men with respect to the nationality of their children. She claimed that the discrimination was ongoing because her son failed to qualify for citizenship under the various amendments to the Act. Although the Committee held that the complaint was inadmissible ratione temporis because the events occurred before the Covention’s entry into force in the United Kingdom, it based its decision on the fact that Salgado’s son had reached the age of majority, at which time he could have applied for British nationality on his own. The Committee noted that the United Kingdom had enacted the challenged legislation prior to the Optional Protocol’s entry into force. The Committee also recommended that Salgado challenge the legislation by way of judicial review in the British High Court before turning to the Committee for further redress.
  • Fornah (FC) v. Secretary of State for the Home Department, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, House of Lords, 2006.
    The appellant arrived in the UK in March 2003, aged 15, and claimed asylum on the basis that she would be at risk of subjection to female genital mutilation if she was returned to Sierra Leone.   The House of Lords held that women in societies who practiced female genital mutilation were 'members of a particular social group' for the purposes of the Refugee Convention and affirmed that FGM was considered a form of torture.  
  • P. and M. v. Secretary of State for the Home Department, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Court of Appeal, 2004.
    The first appellant, P, was seeking asylum from being returned to Kenya on the grounds of a fear of persecution because of the violence that both she and her children had suffered from her husband in Kenya, especially as domestic violence tends to be accepted in Kenya and the police had not effectively protected her against her husband.   The second appellant, M, seeks asylum on the grounds of fearing that she would be subjected to female genital mutilation at the hands of her father, who is a member of the Mungiki sect that practices FGM, and who had already previously performed FGM on her mother, causing her mother's death. The Court allowed both appeals for asylum, but did stipulate that not all cases of either domestic violence or FGM would automatically give rise to a claim to protection and asylum. 
  • M.Z. (Rape, Stigma, UNHCR Advice) Kosovo, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, UK Asylum and Immigration Tribunal, 2002.
    The applicant arrived in the UK in January 2000, claiming asylum on arrival, and appealed a decision to have her removed to Kosovo following the refusal of her claim to asylum after she was raped by a Serbian soldier.  The Tribunal acknowledged that adequate facilities for rape victims exist in Kosovo but in light of the stigma attached to rape victims and the applicant's very real fear that her husband would leave her on finding out about the rape, granted her request for asylum.
  • R. v. K, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, House of Lords, 2001.
    The appellant, K, was convicted of a single count of indecent assault against a girl aged 14; his defense was that the intercourse between the two was consensual and that she had told him she was 16.   The House of Lords allowed the appeal on the grounds that the appellant's honest belief that the complainant was over the age of 16 was a defense to the charge of indecent assault.
  • B. v. Director of Public Prosecutions, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, House of Lords, 2000.
    The appellant, a 15 year old, was charged with inciting a girl under 14 years old to commit an act of gross indecency for asking a 13 year old girl to perform oral sex with him several times; the girl repeatedly refused.  The defense argued that the appellant honestly believed the girl was over 14 years old.  The prosecution submitted the offense was one of strict liability.   The Lords held that a reasonable belief, even if mistaken, as to the victim's age was a defense to the charge
  • Driskell v. Peninsula Business Services & Others, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Employment Appeal Tribunal, 2000.
    D described, amongst others, how her manager suggested the day before her appraisal interview that, at that discussion, she should wear a short skirt and a low-cut or see-through blouse – the inference being that doing so would further her chances of a favorable appraisal. The EAT held that the “lewd words” acted as a detriment. The Court concluded that the correct approach when dealing with a course of conduct of harassment should be to limit judgment to the finding of all facts that are prima facie relevant. The judgment said that the facts of a case in which harassment is alleged “may simply disclose hypersensitivity on the part of the applicant to conduct which was reasonably not perceived by the alleged discriminator as being to her detriment... no finding of discrimination can then follow”. The Court confirmed that the ultimate judgment of whether there was sexual discrimination reflects an objective assessment by the tribunal of all the facts, however important the applicant’s subjective perception.
  • Chalmers v. Johns, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Court of Appeal (Civil Division), 1999.
    Mr. Johns, the appellant, and Ms. Chalmers, the respondent, began their relationship in 1972; it has become increasingly troubled, in part from the respondent's alcoholism, leading to Mr. Johns being charged with assault, of which he was later acquitted.   Ms. Chalmers obtained an occupation order requiring Mr. Johns to vacate their family home, which he appeals.   The Court held that the circumstances of this case were a mild form of domestic violence and an occupation order was an unjustifiably drastic measure to take and that occupation orders are only justified in exceptional circumstances.
  • R. v. Immigration Appeal Tribunal and Another Ex Parte Shah (A.P.), United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, House of Lords, 1999.
    The two conjoined appeals both involve married Pakistani women who were forced by their husbands to leave their homes and seek asylum in the UK as refugees on the grounds that they fear being falsely accused of adultery and thus in danger of flogging or being stoned to death on being returned to Pakistan.   The Lords granted the appeals, giving the appellants refugee status, on the ground that the appellants are part of the particular group as women in Pakistan who fear being accused of adultery.
  • Reed & Bull Information Systems v. Stedman (1999, IRLR 299 EAT), United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, , 1999.
    S was employed by Bull as a temporary secretary and was subsequently given a permanent placement responsible to the Marketing Manager, R. S resigned on the ground that she found working with him intolerable as R allegedly sexually harassed her. S never confronted S nor made any identifiable protests about his behavior with the exception of complaint she made about him telling dirty jokes to colleagues in her presence. But she had made complaints to her mother and colleagues at work. Although the tribunal decided that no single incident was serious enough to be capable of constituting sexual harassment, they did find that there had been a series of sexual inferences with a pervading sexual innuendo and sexist stance and that R realized that they were unwanted and were bullying in nature. With regard to the liability of Bull, the tribunal found that colleagues in the personnel department were well aware of the applicant's deteriorating health and that she had made complaints to other members of staff which had been dismissed. In those circumstances there should have been an investigation into the cause of the illness and the complaints that had been made. By failing to implement this, Bull committed a repudiatory breach of contract as they failed to deal with the issue of sexual harassment adequately. The tribunal concluded that the applicant was entitled to compensation for unfair dismissal by reason of sexual discrimination. The Employment Appeal Tribunal dismissed the appeal and added that whilst not “gross: the behavior of R towards S was most inappropriate in the workplace. The EAT placed the burden on the victim to place the harasser on notice that she does not welcome his conduct and endorsed the reasonable person perspective in assessing a victim’s rejection. The question at issue should be was the victim subjected to a detriment on the grounds of her sex. A one-off ace may suffice. The Court also directed tribunals to pay attention to the impact of totality of successive incidents, individually trivial.
  • Vent-Axia v. Wright (1999, EAT), United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, , 1999.
    A department head accused of harassing four women was not permitted to learn the names of his accusers due to confidentiality issues. The EAT re-affirmed that the primary test when ordering disclosure of documents is whether disclosure is necessary for fairly disposing of the proceedings, not whether the document is confidential in nature. The Court ruled the alleged harasser must demonstrate that this information is necessary in the context of his specific case.
  • Case C-243/95, Hill and Stapleton v Revenue Commissioners [1998] ECR I-3739, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, European Court of Justice, 1998.
    Job-sharing was introduced into the Irish Civil Service in 1984. Job-sharers work half the number of hours of full-time workers and are paid the same hourly rate. The scale of annual incremental salary increases for job-sharers are parallel to that for full-time workers with each point on the job-sharers scale representing 50% of the corresponding point on the full-time scale. 98% of job-sharers in the Irish Civil Service are women. According to the national referring tribunal a job-sharer can acquire the same experience as a full-time worker. When H and S transferred from job-sharing to full-time work they were initially assimilated to the same point on the full-time incremental scale as that which they had occupied on the job-sharers' scale. They were both subsequently reclassified at a lower point on full-time scale on the grounds that two years on the job-sharers' scale represented one year on the full-time scale. The questions posed to the ECJ by the Labor Court in Ireland arose from the decision by H and S to contest their reclassification. The Court took the view that workers who transferred from job-sharing, where they worked 50% of full-time hours and were paid 50% of full-time pay, to full-time work, were entitled to expect both the number of hours that they worked and the level of their pay to increase by 50%, in the same way as workers converting from full-time work to job-sharing would expect these factors to be reduced by 50%, unless a difference of treatment can be justified. Such development did not occur in this case, with the result that, as former job-shares are paid less than twice their job-sharing salary, their hourly rate of pay as full-time workers is reduced. Within the category of full-time workers, therefore, there is unequal treatment, as regards pay, of employees who previously job-shared, and who regress in relation to the position which they already occupied on the pay scale. In so finding, the Court observed that the use of the criterion of actual time worked during the period of job-sharing fails to take account, inter alia, of the fact that job-sharing is a unique category of work, given that it does not involve a break in service, or of the fact that a job-sharer can acquire the same experience as a full-time worker. Furthermore, a disparity is retroactively introduced into the overall pay of employees performing the same functions so far as both the quality and quantity of the work performed is concerned. In such a case, application of provisions of the kind at issue before the national tribunal result in discrimination against female workers which must be treated as contrary to Article 119 of the Treaty. The Court of Justice concluded that it would be otherwise only if the difference of treatment which was found to exist between the two categories of worker were justified by objective factors unrelated to any discrimination on the grounds of sex. It added that it is for the national tribunal to decide if any such objective factors exist.
  • R. v. Ireland; R. v. Burstow, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, House of Lords, 1998.
    In the Ireland case, the appellant was convicted of three counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm for harassing three women by making repeated silent telephone calls to them.   In the Burstow case, the appellant was convicted of unlawfully and maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm for harassing a women after she broke off their relationship, in behavior ranging from silent telephone calls, offensive notes, taking photographs of her and her family, and being frequently at her house and place of work.   The House of Lords held that silent telephone calls can amount to an assault as long as the victim is made by them to fear some physical harm.
  • R. v. Malone, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Court of Appeal (Criminal Division), 1998.
    The appellant appealed his conviction on the count of rape for allegedly having sexual intercourse with the complainant without her consent when she was too drunk to put up any physical resistance.   The Court upheld the conviction and the sentence on the grounds that the complainant's evidence was sufficient for a jury to find that the appellant was reckless as to the question of the complainant's consent, even if he did not know at the time that she was not consenting.
  • Burris v. Azadani, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Court of Appeal (Civil Division), 1995.
    Mr. Azadani, the appellant, was under an injunction not to go within 250 yards of a specified address, after he had repeatedly sought a close and intimate relationship with Ms. Burris, which she refused, leading to repeated telephone calls and threats. Ms. Burris sought and obtained an interlocutory injunction prohibiting Mr. Azadani from pestering or contacting Ms. Burris, her children or her friends, or of going within 250 yards of her house. He breached the injunction and was committed to prison; he appeals the injunction. The Court held that an order prohibiting the defendant from being in a defined area in which the plaintiff's home was situated was possible in support of an injunction forbidding tortious harassment.
  • Carole Louise Webb v. EMO Air Cargo (UK) Ltd., United Kingdom, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, European Court of Justice, 1994.
    Carole Louise Webb v. EMO Air Cargo (UK) Ltd., United Kingdom, European Court of Justice, 1994. Gender discrimination, employment discrimination. Mrs. Webb learned that she was pregnant two weeks after starting with EMO Air Cargo, where she was hired to cover for another employee, Mrs. Stewart, during her maternity leave. Mrs. Webb expected to stay with EMO Air Cargo after covering for Mrs. Stewart, but was dismissed from the company after notifying EMO of her pregnancy. A letter from EMO clearly stated pregnancy as the reason for her dismissal. An industrial tribunal and the Court of Appeal dismissed Mrs. Webb’s claims of direct and indirect discrimination on the grounds of sex. An appeal to the House of Lords was referred to the European Court of Justice, and the European Court of Justice determined that Mrs. Webb’s dismissal was contrary to Article 2(1) and Article 5(1) of the Equal Treatment Directive. The ECJ also noted that Article 2(3) of the Equal Treatment Directive recognizes the importance of protecting women during pregnancy and after the birth of children, by allowing individual Member States to introduce protective legal provisions. Lastly, the ECJ acknowledged that the dismissal of pregnant women during pregnancy and maternity leave is prohibited, noting that exceptions to this prohibition are available only in exceptional cases in which the dismissal is unrelated to the pregnancy.
  • R. v. R., United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, House of Lords, 1992.
    The defendant appeals his conviction for attempted rape on the grounds that a husband cannot rape his wife.   The House of Lords overturned the old common law rule that marriage automatically gave consent for sexual intercourse and held that a husband could be convicted of rape or attempted rape of his wife where she withdrew her consent to intercourse.
  • Bracebridge Engineering Ltd. v. Darby, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Employment Appeal Tribunal, 1990.
    Sexual harassment. Two of Mrs. Darby’s male supervisors, Mr. Daly and Mr. Smith, grabbed and sexually assaulted Mrs. Darby in the works manager’s office at Bracebridge. Mr. Smith threatened Mrs. Darby with a written warning when she attempted to get away from him, but she was eventually able to run away from the men. Mrs. Darby reported the incident, but the general manager did not take action against the men and Mrs. Darby subsequently resigned. An Industrial Tribunal upheld Mrs. Darby’s complaints of sex discrimination and unfair dismissal, awarding £3,900 to Mrs. Darby. Bracebridge appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, and the Employment Appeal Tribunal dismissed Bracebridge’s appeal. The EAT found no error in the Industrial Tribunal’s finding of sex discrimination by Bracebridge, noting that the single incident of sexual harassment was sufficiently detrimental to Mrs. Darby and therefore no pattern of harassment was necessary to reach this finding. The EAT also noted that the incident took place in the workplace and was perpetrated by Mrs. Darby’s supervisors, further supporting a finding of sex discrimination under s.6(2)(b) of the Sex Discrimination Act. The EAT also found no error in the Industrial Tribunal’s finding of constructive dismissal (unfair dismissal) by Bracebridge, because the company failed to respond appropriately when Mrs. Darby reported the incident and Mrs. Darby left her position at the company as a result of Bracebridge’s failure to act.
  • Johnston v. Chief Constable, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, European Court of Justice, 1986.
    Employment discrimination
  • Case of Abdulaziz, Cabales and Balkandali v. the United Kingdom, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, European Court of Human Rights, 1985.
    Three lawfully and permanently settled residents of the UK challenged the Government's refusal to permit their husbands to join or remain with them on the basis of the 1980 immigration rules in force at the time. The rules applied stricter conditions for the granting of permission for husbands to join their wives than vice versa. These conditions did not apply to the wives of male permanent residents. The Court found that Article 8 encompassed the right to establish one's home in the State of one's lawful residence, and that being forced to either move abroad or be separated from one's spouse was inconsistent with this principle. On this basis the applicants claimed that, as a result of unjustified differences of treatment in securing the right to respect for their family life, based on sex, race and, in the case of Mrs. Balkandali, birth, they had been victims of a violation of Article 14 of the Convention, taken in conjunction with Article 8. The applicants claimed there was no objective and reasonable justification for the difference in treatment, rather the Government's claims ignored the modern role of women and the fact that men may be self-employed and create rather than seek jobs, as in the case of Mr. Balkandali.
  • Commission of the European Communities v. United Kingdom, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, European Court of Justice, 1983.
    Employment discrimination
  • Regina v. Olugboja, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Court of Appeal (Criminal Division), 1982.
    The defendant was convicted of rape and appealed on the grounds that there could only be an absence of consent if the victim's mind had been overborne by fear of death or duress.   The victim only began to struggle in earnest after penetration had occurred. The Court held that it is not necessary for the prosecution to prove that what appeared to be consent was actually submission induced by fear, force or fraud, but only that the jury should be instructed to focus on the victim's state of mind immediately before the act of sexual intercourse, in light of all the circumstances.  The conviction was affirmed.
  • Davis v. Johnson, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, United Kingdom House of Lords, 1978.
    The House of Lords ruled that in domestic violence cases, no distinction should be made between married and unmarried couples and that the Domestic Violence and Matrimonial Proceedings Act 1976 s.1 gave jurisdiction to all county courts to grant an injunction and exclude a violent person from the home, whether married or not, irrespective of any property right vested in the person excluded. However, this exclusion should only be temporary until other arrangements have been made. Such an injunction can be permanent, but will in most cases be temporary.
  • Bebb v. Law Society, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Court of Appeals, 1914.
    Gwyneth Bebb, upon being denied admission to the Law Society to take the preliminary examination to become a solicitor, took the matter to court. In Bebb v. Law Society, the Court of Appeal stated that the question of whether the gender-neutral language of the statutes meant that women could gain admission to the bar was settled through “long usage” in the common law and found that women were not included under “persons” in the Solicitor’s Act of 1843. Additionally, women were considered to have an additional disability at common law, namely that after marriage they are not able to enter into contracts with third parties. As every woman held the potential of being married, this disability was also applied to unmarried women.
  • Hall v. Incorporated Society of Law Agents, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Court of Sessions, 1901.
    Margaret Hall appealed to the Court of Sessions regarding the decision of the Society of Law Agents in Scotland to deny her permission to take the preliminary examination for the Society. Hall argued that she should be given permission because the statute permitted “persons” to become law agents and so, by its terms, did not exclude women. The Society had found that women did not have a legal right to practice law given that “[a]ccording to inveterate usage and custom in Scotland, that practice has in all departments of the law been hitherto confined exclusively to men.” Upon Hall’s appeal, the Court of Sessions also refused to grant her permission because the statute did not explicitly include women, even though it did not explicitly exclude them either. In support of its decision, the court stated that the word “persons” had to be interpreted according to its customary usage; because women had been ineligible to become law agents when the statute was enacted in 1873, the court found the customary usage of “persons” to mean “male persons” and accordingly refused Hall’s appeal.