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.

“The prison population is very, very high at the moment. Whether it will continue to rise is always difficult to tell. There are worries that it will. I don’t know whether we can dispense with more [offenders] by really tough, and I do mean tough, community penalties. So I would like to see that done first.”

His comments come as jails in England and Wales endure a turbulent period. This month thousands of prison officers staged a walkout amid claims the system was “in meltdown” after a rise in violence and self-harm incidents in jails. There are more than 85,000 people in prison in England and Wales.

Appearing before MPs on the justice select committee on Monday, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd also warned there was a shortage of high court judges partially because of cuts in their pension rights and that up to 40 would need to be recruited by over the next few years.

Full article here.

Huge rise in hospital beds in England taken up by people with malnutrition

The number of hospital beds in England taken up by patients being treated for malnutrition has almost trebled over the last 10 years, in what charities say shows the “genuinely shocking” extent of hunger and poor diet.

Official figures reveal that people with malnutrition accounted for 184,528 hospital bed days last year, a huge rise on 65,048 in 2006-07. The sharp increase is adding to the pressures on hospitals, which are already struggling with record levels of overcrowding.

Critics have said the upward trend is a result of rising poverty, deep cutbacks in recent years to meals on wheels services for the elderly and inadequate social care support, especially for older people.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said, “these figures paint a grim picture of Britain under the Conservatives. Real poverty is causing vulnerable people, particularly the elderly, to go hungry and undernourished so much so that they end up in hospital.”

“Our research reveals a shocking picture of levels of malnutrition in 21st-century England and the impact it has on our NHS. This is unacceptable in modern Britain.”

Full article here.


World News

Turkey’s Erdogan warns Europe that political snubs could set off new migrant crisis

In March, a two-part agreement was reached to cut the flow of migrants: Turkey would stem the flow of migrants traveling by sea to Greece in exchange for incentives including fast-tracked membership talks, billions of euros in aid for Syrian refugees in Turkey and visa-free travel for Turkish citizens.

The European Parliament’s resolution — made in response to Turkey’s sweeps — is nonbinding and does not force E.U. leaders to change their policies toward Turkey. But it prompted an angry response from Erdogan, who claimed that European leaders “betrayed” their promises.

In Turkey, pro-government forces have arrested or dismissed tens of thousands of people — from high-ranking military figures to teachers and civil servants — after a failed coup in July. The crackdowns have prompted a sharp outcry from international rights groups and others. But Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has claimed the West has failed to stand by its NATO ally in a time of need, and he has resisted appeals to ease the purges.

Turkey’s president warned Europe on Friday that his nation could unleash another migrant crisis in the West, sharply raising the stakes after E.U. lawmakers called for a suspension in membership talks with Turkey.

“If you go any further, those border gates will be opened,” Erdogan said in a televised address, making specific reference to Turkey’s border crossing with E.U. member Bulgaria.

Full article here.

Japan and South Korea sign long-awaited intelligence-sharing deal

Japan and South Korea signed a long-awaited intelligence pact Wednesday, agreeing to share information on threats from North Korea without having to use the United States as an intermediary.

Washington had been urging its two closest allies in Asia to put aside their historical differences so they could cooperate against their common enemy in the region amid stepped-up missile and nuclear tests by the North.

The pact, the General Security of Military Information Agreement, was initially to be signed in 2012 but was postponed because of opposition in South Korea, where memories of Japan’s colonial aggression remain strong.

The deal remains controversial in Seoul, where opposition parties are strongly against it and want the defense minister dismissed for signing it.

It is also unpopular in Beijing, where China’s Foreign Ministry criticized the deal Wednesday, saying that South Korea and Japan were “locked in a Cold War mind-set.”

Full article here.


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