HOPEFULLY, the European Court of Human Rights will have won over even some of its knee-jerk Conservative critics by its judgement this week in favour of Nadia Eweida who was appealing against her dismissal by British Airways for insisting on wearing a small silver cross over her uniform. In 2006 Ms Eweida, a Coptic Christian, was working at a check-in desk at Heathrow airport when she was sent home and suspended for refusing to take off her necklace. The judges accepted her claim that subsequently the British government had failed to defend her human rights and awarded her 30'000 euros to cover her legal costs.
At the same time the Court refused a similar claim by a nurse, Shirley Chaplin, who was appealing against Royal Devon and Exeter NHS hospital's ruling that she could not wear a cross on a chain over her nurse's uniform.
The judges quoted health and safety considerations that the necklace could interfere with her work while looking after patients.
These two cases show how this European Court can deal with legal claims on fundamental personal issues as well as the cases that cause political tensions between it and the British government. And in the practical distinction it made between these two cases it showed a welcome common sense in contrast to the complex legal judgements with which it is more usually associated.