R (Williamson) v Secretary of State for Education and Employment

15th July 2015

Paul Diamond represented Philip Williamson and a number of other head teachers at Christian private schools, who wished to use corporal punishment as a disciplinary device in their schools.  Paul took this case to the House of Lords; the judgment in the Court of Appeal is a seminal judgment on manifestation of religious practice.

The case concerned the issue whether the prohibition on mild chastisement (corporal punishment) in the Education Act 1996 s.548 breached freedom of religion under Article 9 ECHR. They were represented by Paul Diamond and James Dingemans QC.

The House of Lords held unanimously that there was a big difference between freedom of religious belief and freedom to manifest that belief. Any interference was deemed justified where, “necessary in a democratic society… for the protection of rights and freedoms for others”

The heads were – Philip Williamson, Michael Bates, Pauline Bolton, Grahame Davies, David Greenwood, Marianne Hosey, Paul Hubbard, Philip Moon, Roy Sammons, Anthony Seaton, Matthew Walker and Colin Wilcock –  The schools were Christian Fellowship School at Edge Hill, Liverpool, Bradford Christian School at Idle, Bradford, Cornerstone School at Epsom, Surrey, and King’s School at Eastleigh, Hampshire.