The Weekly Round-Up: Dirty money, religious education and victory for Everard campaigners

14 March 2022 by

Historic portrait of Grosvenor Square in Mayfair

In the news:

On Monday, the Independent reported on the words of the Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency of the United Kingdom, Jacob Rees-Mogg. Having earlier tweeted a graph demonstrating that the UK had sanctioned a higher amount of Russian-owned assets in pound-terms than the US or the EU, Labour and Lib Dem politicians responded by pointing out that the graph better demonstrated the UK’s role in storing and laundering money for highly questionable individuals from Russia and elsewhere. Despite the calls for transparency from, for instance, the president of Estonia long before the invasion of Ukraine, the UK and its territories have remained a bastion for billions of pounds of poorly identified foreign wealth, with large numbers of expensive houses in central London standing empty while house prices soar and the number of homeless grows.  

The previously abandoned Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill was suddenly roused from its six-year sleep after the long-anticipated invasion of Ukraine materialised and was fast-tracked through the Commons this week. The new Bill seeks to strengthen Unexplained Wealth Orders, which may require individuals to prove that assets were obtained through legitimate means. More importantly, the Bill also seeks to create a publicly available register identifying the beneficial owners of overseas entities that hold land in the UK. However, legitimate concerns surround the prospective effectiveness of the new measures, considering the historic failures of Companies House to verify basic information supplied to it in the past, the perfectly legal ways of avoiding the legislation, such as breaking up ownership of properties or introducing further intermediaries, and the underfunding of the National Crime Agency to enable the genuine pursuit of evaders. On Thursday, the latest Law Pod UK podcast featured 1COR’s Rosalind English talking in greater detail to writer Oliver Bullough on this issue.

In other news:

  • Reported on Thursday, a poll of 21% of all judicial office holders revealed that one in twelve judges or magistrates have experienced harassment or bullying in the last twelve months, with the majority of the harassment stemming from the bench itself.
  • The Competition Appeal Tribunal ruled on Wednesday that some three-million now dead people can participate in the multi-billion pound group action against Mastercard, for its alleged breach of competition law by charging ‘interchange’ fees to retailers which were then often passed on to consumers.
  • On Wednesday, the Catholic archdiocese of Southwark banned a visit to John Fisher boys’ school in Purley by gay author Simon James Green, and removed governors who supported the event.

In the courts:

  • On Tuesday, the High court dismissed the applications of the Claimant in SMO (A Child) v Tiktok Inc & Ors (Rev1) [2022] EWHC 489 (QB) . The child claimant, represented by the former children’s commissioner for England, Anne Longfield is attempting to claim against the tech giant TikTok for the misuse of personal data of children. Lawyers for the claimant had six months to serve the claim form, but delayed efforts to uncover the estimated time to serve TikTok entities in China until the last minute, when it was revealed that they would need additional time. Litigation, however, will be ongoing.
  • In Leigh & Ors v The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2022] EWHC 527, the original organisers of the vigil for Sara Everard held in Clapham Common scored a victory over the Metropolitan police, after the High court ruled on Friday that the police had failed to conduct an adequate proportionality assessment of the health risks of holding a gathering weighed against the Articles 10 and 11 rights to freedoms of expression and protest.

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