It wasn’t all doom and gloom. #2016

On 15 July 2016, I convinced myself to switch off from the world for an evening, ‘nothing ground-breaking would happen.’ That night, I switched on my phone to find the Turkish army had attempted a coup d’état against the government and President Erdogan.

And so is the story of the year that was 2016.

From Brexit and President-Elect Trump to Aleppo and Brussels, we have all followed the major news stories of the past year, through real and fake news.

But here are four stories you might have missed which show 2016 was not without hope.

1. Snooper’s Charter deemed unlawful

In November this year the UK government passed a law, the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) 2016, which gave them shockingly sweeping and unprecedented powers of surveillance. These included the right to retain all our communications data and internet history, as well as the right to hack our communications and devices.

The legality of surveillance laws was challenged in the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), which ruled that Member States (including the UK until Brexit materialises) may not impose a general obligation on telecomms companies to retain communications data.

The CJEU did not specifically address the IPA 2016, but it means  parts of the IPA 2016 are no longer compatible with EU law and will need to be amended in line with the judgment:

  • governments have a duty to ensure communications data is kept confidential
  • this can only be interfered with for the purpose of safeguarding national security or fighting serious crime
  • national laws providing for general retention of communications data for everyone are unlawful
  • access to data should only be granted where individuals are suspected of involvement in crime
  • a court should review the request to access data

2. Bedroom tax deemed partly unlawful

A year of austerity, 2016 saw the introduction of many unfair measures including the bedroom tax. Introduced in April, the bedroom tax reduced the housing benefit of families with ‘spare bedrooms’ in their homes, to encourage people to move out of homes they are ‘under-occupying’.

A family with two parents, two teenage boys and two teenage girls, for example, are only entitled to three bedrooms. If each of the teenagers had their own rooms, these will be considered ‘spare bedrooms’.

The tax, however, was found to impact people with disabilities and children disproportionately. The UK courts decided the bedroom tax was unlawful for the following:

  • adults who needed a spare room for overnight carers
  • children with disabilities – they should not be forced to share rooms
  • adults with disabilities – they should not be forced to share rooms

3. Hillsborough victory for families

In 1989, 96 football fans were crushed to death at a Liverpool FC football match. The police and media unjustly blamed the fans for the tragedy, claiming they had broken an exit gate and forced their way into the crowded stand, causing a crush at the front.

For 27 years, their brave families fought for the truth about their deaths. Thanks to the Human Rights Act 1998, which protects the right to life and imposes a duty on the police to investigate loss of life, an inquest jury was set up to investigate the Hillsborough Disaster.

The jury concluded the 96 were killed unlawfully based on the following findings:

  • the police owed a duty of care to the 96
  • they were in breach of that duty
  • the breach caused the deaths
  • the breach amounted to gross negligence.

4. UN resolution against Israeli settlements

The United Nations Security Council has adopted a resolution calling on Israel to cease all settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The Security Council declared Israel’s establishment of settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 had no legal validity. These settlements constituted a ‘flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the vision of two States living side-by-side in peace and security, within internationally recognized borders.’

The Council reiterated its demand that ‘Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.’

Full UN article here.

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Weekly News Round-up 09/12/16

UK News

Brexit In The Supreme Court: Everything You Need To Know In Plain English

Source: RightsInfo.org

Full article here.


Private schools in England propose 10,000 free places

Independent schools in England have pushed to restart the assisted places scheme, by offering 10,000 free places to children at state schools in return for a government subsidy.

The move is a response from private schools to the government’s recent green paper on expanding the number of grammar schools, which threatens to strip charitable status from private schools that fail to help run state schools.

The Ofsted chief inspector, Michael Wilshaw, criticised the ISC’s new proposal as not going far enough. “I think they can do better than that and if I was government I would be asking them to do more as a quid pro quo for their tax privileges,” he told BBC Radio 4.

The ISC countered that the move would be the equivalent of building 10 new state secondary schools, and represented a considerable saving for the government.

Full article here.


Segregation at ‘worrying levels’ in parts of Britain, Dame Louise Casey warns

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Weekly News Round-up 25/11/16

UK News

Legal aid cuts have created a ‘two-tier justice system’ benefiting the wealthy, damning report finds

The Bach Commission on access to justice states that poor people are being left without advice or professional support due to cuts which strictly limit the type of cases for which which legal aid can be applied.

Changes to eligibility rules mean most cases involving housing, welfare, debt, immigration, medical negligence and family law no longer qualify for assistance.

Labour’s shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon said: “Since 2010, the Conservatives have implemented unprecedented cuts to legal aid – putting justice beyond the reach of thousands. There is much of substance in the report, which will be welcome to all those who value the principle of access to justice.

“I am particularly excited by the idea of enshrining in law a minimum standard for access to justice. A basic threshold for access to justice has the potential to be a historic advance in our law which could improve the lives of thousands.”

Full article here.

Sikhs in UK are ‘invisible to government’ despite hate crime increase

According to the UK Sikh Survey 2016, almost one in five Sikhs has encountered discrimination in a public place over the past year and one in seven has directly experienced workplace discrimination.

The report found that Sikhs who wear religious iconography or clothing are most likely to experience abuse, with men more vulnerable than women. The most common places where discrimination is experienced are airports and public transport.

The report says the government and public bodies have “systematically failed the minority Sikh community by not adequately responding to the disproportionate impact of racism and hate crime targeting Sikhs since 9/11”.

Hate crimes against Sikhs are wrongly recorded as Islamophobic incidents by police suggesting religious illiteracy and throwing doubt on the accuracy of recorded data, it adds.

Full article here.

Top judge urges tougher community service as alternative to prison

Fewer criminals should be jailed and tougher community punishments developed as an alternative to imprisonment, the lord chief justice has urged.

“There’s an awful lot we can do to avoid sending certain people to prison provided that the orders are properly carried out by the probation and rehabilitation companies,” he said.

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Weekly News Round-up 18/11/16

UK News

Investigatory Powers Bill: ‘Snoopers Charter 2’ to pass into law, giving Government sweeping spying powers

The main objections to the bill centre around the vast new powers that the government is given to spy on its citizens. It includes powers to force companies to make their phones less secure so that they can be listened in on by spies, and others that would allow the government to ask companies like Apple and Google to help them break or hack into phones.

Perhaps the most controversial measure will require internet service providers to keep detailed information on their customers’ web browsing for the last year. There will be no way of opting out of that and the data will be collected on everyone, leading to fears that it could be stolen and leaked, especially given the huge scale of the Talk Talk hack earlier this year.

Despite criticism from almost every major technology and internet company – including usually reticent ones like Apple – and from senior parliamentary committees the legislation has received little opposition in parliament. The House of Lords’ agreement to the text now means that it just awaits Royal Assent [a formality], at which point it will become law.

Full article here.

Challenges to Heathrow runway and HS2 to be hit by law lifting cap on legal costs

Environmental legal challenges face being hit by the “chilling effect” of new government rules that remove a cap on claimants’ costs, according to campaigners, lawyers and politicians. They warn that the changes could deter organisations and individuals challenging projects such as fracking wells, HS2 and the Heathrow third runway for fear of racking up huge court costs.

Individuals and organisations who bring such cases currently pay no more than £5,000 and £10,000 respectively of defendants’ costs, in addition to their own costs. Under the Ministry of Justice’s plans published on Thursday, there will be no fixed cost, and the costs could go up or down, depending on the claimant’s finances.

The government argues that the changes would still allow valid challenges and checks on public authorities, but deter ones without merit. But groups involved in supporting and bringing such judicial reviews warned the move would put off valid future cases.

Full article here.

British Medical Journal calls for legalisation of drugs

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Weekly News Round-up 11/11/16

UK News

Court rules segregation in faith schools does not offend Equality Act

The issue before the court was whether a mixed school unlawfully discriminated against its male and/or female pupils by making “parallel arrangements” for their education in the same building or by applying a regime of “complete segregation” for all lessons, breaks, school clubs and trips.

There was no evidence that either girls or boys were treated unequally in terms of the quality of the education they received (in the sense of one sex receiving a lower quality of education than the other).

Full article here.

Lib Dem plot to force Government to hold a second referendum on Brexit terms

More than 80 MPs are plotting to stage a Parliamentary vote calling for a second Brexit referendum.

In a move that prompted anger from Conservative ministers a coalition of MPs led by Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, said that they now intend to force a vote calling for another referendum of the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU.

Full article here.

Thousands of mothers ‘missing out’ on pension rights

Tens of thousands of parents – and mothers in particular – are in danger of missing out on some of their state pension rights, according to a study.

The reason is that they have decided to stop claiming child benefit. Stay-at-home mothers who claim the payments are given national insurance (NI) credits towards their pension, as if they were still at work.

But since January 2013, any parent earning more than £60,000 has had to pay child benefit back to the government, through the tax system. As a result, some people are no longer bothering to claim it in the first place.

Full article here.

Bedroom Tax Breaches Human Rights Laws Says Supreme Court

A number of disabled people appealed to the Supreme Court over the application of the bedroom tax to their cases.

Mrs Carmichael can’t share a bedroom with her partner because of her disabilities. Under the scheme, her family isn’t entitled to an extra room although a child in the same situation would be.

The Supreme Court said that the difference in treatment between children and adults was a breach of the human rights not to be discriminated against (article 14) and the protection of family and private life (article 8). The policy was “manifestly without reasonable foundation”.

Full article here.

Amazon drivers ‘work illegal hours’

Amazon delivery drivers regularly work “illegal” hours and receive less than the minimum wage, it has been claimed.

Drivers for agencies contracted by the internet giant told an undercover reporter they were expected to deliver up to 200 parcels a day. Some admitted breaking speed limits to stay on schedule, while others said time was not allowed for toilet breaks.

Amazon said it was committed to ensuring drivers drive safely and legally, and are “fairly compensated”.

The retailer could face questions in parliament over the working conditions at the company.

Full article here.

Deliveroo Couriers Look For Employment Rights Following Uber Victory

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Brexit judgment – what does it mean?

On Thursday, the UK High Court decided that the Government did not have the power to trigger Brexit negotiations and needed approval from Parliament before doing so.

Why was this in court?

Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union allows a member state to notify the EU of its withdrawal and obliges the EU to try to negotiate a ‘withdrawal agreement’ with that state.

The Government argued that they could use their ‘prerogative powers’ to trigger Article 50.

These are a very old source of law which grants specific powers to the government (technically, the Queen). One example of prerogative powers is the making and unmaking of international treaties.

That is permissible because generally exercising those powers has no effect on domestic law, so there is no collision with parliamentary legislation, and parliamentary sovereignty is not affected.

However, the government cannot use prerogative powers to override legislation. Only legislation can override legislation.

By enacting the 1972 European Communities Act, which took the UK into what was then the European Economic Community, now the EU, Parliament made EU law part of our law.

More here.

What did the court rule?

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Weekly News Round-up 28/10/16

UK News

Date set for court challenge to ban British arms sales to Saudi Arabia

A date has been set for a High Court court challenge that could halt British arms sales to Saudi Arabia – amid mounting accusations the country is committing war crimes

Saudi Arabia is conducting a military operation in Yemen and has been accused by UN bodies, human rights groups, and other NGOs of committing war crimes. Reports on the ground say it has bombed civilian targets including funerals, international hospitals, schools, and food factories.

The Government’s own arms export conditions say that licences should not be issued if there is a possibility they could be used to commit war crimes.

Ministers have however refused to consider suspending arms exports to the country – and sensationally claimed that Saudi Arabia is best-placed to investigate its own alleged atrocities. Saudi Arabia has repeatedly cleared itself of any significant wrongdoing when it has investigated its own military.

Full Independent article here.

Northern Ireland High Court rejects Brexit challenge

A challenge to the Prime Minister’s power to trigger Brexit negotiations has been dismissed at Belfast High Court.

A cross-party group of politicians had claimed the country should have a veto on an exit and said the Stormont Assembly should have a say on whether to trigger negotiations with Europe. The Brexit challengers said it would be unlawful to trigger Article 50 without Northern Irish consent and that leaving the EU would undermine the Good Friday agreement, the peace process and other fundamental rights.

But the High Court ruled against the challenge saying that it was not viable that NI could veto Brexit for the rest of the UK.

Full ITV article here.

UK’s Prevent counter-radicalisation policy ‘badly flawed’ Continue reading