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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.


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

A group of Deliveroo couriers are set to take legal action if the high profile food delivery company reject their request for union recognition and employment rights.

The latest move comes after private hire firm Uber lost a legal battle in which two drivers successfully argued that they were employees rather than self-employed operators. The Tribunal ruled that Uber drivers were entitled to holiday pay, rest breaks and the National Living Wage.

Full article here.

Gender pay gap means women ‘working for free from now until 2017’

Women will in effect work for free for the rest of the year because of the gender pay gap, which will take 60 years to close at the current rate of progress, campaigners say.

The Fawcett Society called for more action from the government and employers to tackle pay discrimination, job “segregation” and help women into senior posts.

Full article here.


World News

President-Elect Trump

An Unrepresented special on President-Elect Trump will be published soon.

German coalition agrees to cut carbon emissions up to 95% by 2050

Germany’s coalition government has reached an agreement on a climate change action plan which involves reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 to 95% by 2050, a spokesperson said on Friday.

The plan, which will require German industry to reduce its CO2 emission by a fifth by 2030, and Germany’s energy sector to reduce emissions by almost a half, will be reviewed in 2018 with a view to its impact on jobs and society.

Full article here.

Brazil politicians linked to Petrobras scandal draft bills for ‘self-preservation’

Politicians suspected of profiting from Brazil’s biggest-ever corruption scandal are drafting legislation aimed at letting themselves off the hook, according to the the country’s chief prosecutor.

Brazil’s probe into graft at the state-run oil company Petrobras, which began more than two years ago, has led to charges against nearly 250 people and has already seen the arrest, trial and conviction of some of the country’s most powerful businessmen and political operators.

But bills have been introduced in congress in recent weeks directly aimed at protecting politicians and implicated businessmen from prosecution, while also curtailing the powers of law enforcement agencies to investigate lawmakers.

Full article here.

Rupee note cancellation plunges India into panic

Queues of angry, panicked Indians wound around bank buildings in Mumbai, the financial capital, on Thursday morning, two days after the prime minister, Narendra Modi, announced that 500- and 1,000-rupee notes, worth around £6 and £12, would be taken out of circulation.

Shops, train stations, and taxis stopped accepting 500- and 1,000-rupee notes on Wednesday, interrupting normal trade. Even hospitals, which are exempt from the immediate demonetisation, have reportedly turned down payments in high-value banknotes.

Some complained that Modi’s surprise announcement had completely disrupted normal life. “Nobody is willing to give you change,” said Solanki. “They should have planned this properly instead of springing it upon us.”

Full article here.