Category Archives: News Round-up

Weekly News Round-up 09/12/16

UK News

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


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 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

Weekly News Round-up 21/10/16

UK News

UK security agencies unlawfully collected data for 17 years

British security agencies have secretly and unlawfully collected massive volumes of confidential personal data, including financial information, on citizens for more than a decade, senior judges have ruled.

The tribunal said the regime governing the collection of bulk communications data (BCD) – the who, where, when and what of personal phone and web communications – failed to comply with article 8 protecting the right to privacy of the European convention of human rights (ECHR) between 1998, when it started, and 4 November 2015, when it was made public.

The ruling comes as the House of Lords is debating the final stages of the investigatory powers bill – the snooper’s charter – which will put the security services’ mass digital surveillance on a clear legal footing for the first time.

Full article here.

What could happen if the article 50 legal challenge is successful?

Judgment is awaited on whether parliament or the government has authority to give formal notification under article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union of the UK’s intention to leave the EU. The government claims it is entitled to do so under the executive powers it has inherited from the crown under the royal prerogative.

Victory for the claimants would hand responsibility for triggering Brexit to MPs. Whether a majority would have the nerve to delay or defy the referendum result is unknown.

Full article here.

Home Office rules out ‘inaccurate, inappropriate and unethical’ dental checks to verify age of Calais refugee children

Questions have been raised about the ages of 14 refugees who were brought to the UK this week from the “Jungle” migrant camp in Calais.

The Home Office has no way of independently verifying the age of child refugees being brought to the UK. Home Office documents show that if a refugee does not have a birth certificate, a Home Office screening officer can certify them as a child based on their “physical appearance” or “demeanour”.

A spokesman for the Home Office said: “We do not use dental X-rays to confirm the ages of those seeking asylum in the UK. The British Dental Association has described them as inaccurate, inappropriate and unethical.”

Full article here.

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Weekly News Round-up 14/10/16

UK News

Snooping technology ‘used by at least seven police forces’

Controversial surveillance technology that indiscriminately harvests information from mobile phones is being used by at least seven police forces across the country, a far larger number than previously known, according to police documents.

The hardware, known as an IMSI catcher, tricks mobile phone handsets across an area of several miles into connecting to them by impersonating cellphone towers, and can be used to pinpoint phone owners’ locations or intercept phone calls and text messages.

Matthew Rice, an advocacy officer at the campaign group Privacy International, said: “IMSI catchers, by their very nature, operate indiscriminately, gathering information from all individuals in the particular operating area. This collateral intrusion into the private lives of many innocent individuals is deeply concerning in any context let alone one that is, almost deliberately, opaque.”

Full article here.

Legal aid cuts creating two-tier justice system, says Amnesty

Cuts to legal aid are far worse than anticipated and are creating a “two-tier” system which denies the poorest people access to justice, warns a critical report by Amnesty International.

The report calls for all children to be granted entitlement to legal aid regardless of the issues at stake. Some teenagers, it says, are at risk of having to represent themselves in immigration cases where they may face deportation.

One lawyer told Amnesty: “The idea that children and young people can represent themselves just does not work. This is such a vulnerable group. It’s not just that they don’t understand legal processes and legal concepts, which they don’t, but it’s also that they have no idea how to fill forms out properly, what to write, where to send paperwork, where to get advice and who to speak to.”

Full article here.

Government tells non-UK academics not to submit Brexit analysis
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Weekly News Round-up 07/10/16

UK News

Parents are being asked to disclose their child’s nationality of births

Human rights groups are concerned that the data, collected for the first time this year from pupils aged two to 19 as part of the schools census, could be used against children and their families by immigration enforcement.

The Department for Education (DfE) insists that the information will not be handed to the Home Office and that the data is being collected and input to the national pupil database (NPD) to ensure children “receive the best possible education”. However, disclosures under freedom of information laws have shown that the Home Office has been handed NPD data on 18 occasions since 2012, while police requests for information from the dataset were granted 31 times.

Full Guardian article here.

Theresa May speech at the Tory party conference

Mrs May is taking her party rightward and at moments sounded more like Nigel Farage, the doyen of the populist UK Independence Party. She took aim at liberal politicians and commentators who “find your patriotism distasteful, your concerns about immigration parochial, your views about crime illiberal” and “left wing, activist human-rights lawyers”. Companies will be made to declare how many of their staff are foreigners, to shame those who do not hire natives.

Full Economist article here.

Human rights lawyers criticise Theresa Mays plans to opt out of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in future conflicts Continue reading