In an application by E (on behalf of S (a minor) in relation to decisions by the North Eastern Education & Library Board 
This case relates to a decision taken by the North Eastern Education & Library Board regarding the provision of transport assistance to a schoolchild to help with the costs of travelling to a post-primary school. The applicant attended a school outside the Board’s area and was refused assistance. The applicant’s father alleged that the refusal was discriminatory on grounds of religious belief. The applicant’s parents were Episcopalians and they alleged that Roman Catholic pupils attending a Grant Maintained School received more favourable treatment.
The Board’s decision was based on a Circular issued by the Department of Education [i.e. Circular 1996-41, Home to School Transport]. The legality of the Circular was, thus, also being challenged.
The Circular was issued in 1996; i.e. four years before Section 75, Northern Ireland Act 1998 came into force. At the relevant time, the non-statutory predecessor to Section 75 was in operation; namely, the procedure known as Policy Appraisal and Fair Treatment (PAFT).1 Prior to issuing the Circular, the Department had conducted a PAFT assessment and concluded that it was not anticipated that the proposals would disadvantage any section of the community on the grounds of religious belief.
The applicant applied for a judicial review of the decision on two grounds; i.e.
(a) that the refusal was discriminatory on grounds of religious belief contrary to Section 76, Northern Ireland Act 1998, and
(b) that the Department failed to comply with the Section 75 duty in relation to the Circular.
The Court rejected the religious discrimination allegation. There was no evidence of direct discrimination to make the policy unlawful under Section 76 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (the provision upon which the discrimination allegation was based). Section 76 does not prohibit indirect discrimination, but in any case, the judge considered that there was no evidence to support such an allegation anyway.
In relation to the Section 75 allegation, the Judge said at paragraph 22:
“22. In relation to the case that the Department has failed to have "due regard" to the need to promote equality of opportunity between persons of different religious beliefs, the Department submitted their policy to a PAFT assessment [and] concluded the policy did not cause inequality. The equality of opportunity goal enshrined in section 75(1) must be duly taken into account but the section does not mean that the policy adopted must achieve a particular goal...If there were evidence that the Department had simply failed to have a due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity or had failed to have due regard to its own equality scheme then it would have failed to have taken into account relevant considerations. Here, the evidence indicates that the considerations were taken into account. The question of weight to be attached to the consideration was for the Department.”