Monthly Archives: November 2016

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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