Round Up


The Weekly Round-Up: Ministerial Maternity Leave, a New Offence and Guidance on Visiting Gran (pt. 1)

8 March 2021 by

On Monday the Ministerial and other Maternity Allowances Act 2021 came into force, allowing the Attorney General, Suella Braverman QC, to be the first minister to take maternity leave.  The Act grants cabinet ministers six months’ maternity leave whilst retaining their government post, whereas in the past MPs would have to resign to take time off to give birth.  The Act is not without its critics, including those saying it should apply to MPs outside the Cabinet, and include provisions for paternity, adoption and shared parental leave.  There was also heated debate in the Lords on the gender-neutral phrasing of the original Bill, with the Lords voting to replace ‘person’ with ‘mother’ in the final Act, despite its potential exclusion of trans and non-binary people.

A new offence of non-fatal strangulation has been included in the Domestic Abuse Bill following a campaign by the Centre for Women’s Justice, other organisations and the Victims’ and Domestic Abuse Commissioners.  The Bill is passing through the House of Lords and now includes the offence of intentionally strangling another person or otherwise affecting their ability to breathe.  Currently perpetrators are usually charged with common assault, with a maximum of just six months in jail.  The Bill also includes amendments strengthening the laws on ‘revenge porn’, making it an offence to threaten to share intimate images of a person with the intention to cause distress, and extends the coercive control offence to situations where perpetrators and victims do not live together.  The Victims’ and Domestic Abuse Commissioners welcomed the amendments but urged the Government to go further in creating a defence for people who commit offences due to domestic abuse.

On Friday the Women and Equalities Committee published the Government’s response to its report on the impact of coronavirus on BAME people, in relation to inequalities in health, employment, universal credit, housing, and the no recourse to public funds policy.  The Committee’s inquiry found that comorbidities in BAME people place them at risk of experiencing coronavirus more severely and with graver health outcomes.  Specific risks to BAME people include difficulty in accessing Government guidance, the disproportionate impact on BAME people of zero-hour contracts and being denied furlough, difficulties in applying for Universal Credit, and overcrowded housing due to housing inequality.

The Department of Health and Social Care on Friday published new guidance for care homes and visitors, to take effect on 8 March.  This is not a change in the law, as visits to care homes have never been unlawful, but the new guidance sets out the government’s advice on safe visiting practices.  This is that:


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The Weekly Round-Up: Unconventional Harm Reduction and Shamima Begum’s Final Appeal

1 March 2021 by

In the news:

The UK has seen an increasingly falling rate in arrests and prosecutions for cannabis possession over recent years, as police forces no longer see the point in enforcement. The Liberal Democrats have campaigned for its legalisation since 2016, and the first medically-prescribed cannabis was permitted in the UK in 2018. However, crucial NHS cannabis-based medicines for epilepsy remained prohibitively difficult to access for another year, with the majority of self-reported ‘medicinal’ users still turning to the black market. With growing numbers of US states, alongside Canada and South Africa decriminalising recreational use over the past three years, some UK MPs believe that cannabis legalisation will occur in the UK within five to ten years.


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The Weekly Round-up: Free Speech: Chilling Effects or Phantom Threats?

22 February 2021 by

A number of legal developments put free speech under the spotlight this week.

First, media commentators disputed the significance of the Duchess of Sussex’s successful privacy claim against Associated Newspaper Limited, covered in last week’s round-up. A leader in The Times issued the grave warning that ‘Mr Justice Warby’s judgment creates a precedent that will have a chilling effect on the media,’ not least ‘given that what was at stake…were issues that affect society as whole’. Some media lawyers took a dim view of such alarm, suggesting there was little to be surprised at in Warby J’s carefully reasoned conclusion that no legitimate public interest was to be found in publishing the intimate contents of a daughter’s letter to her father. 

Then came Education Secretary Gavin Williamson’s announcement of a proposed free speech law targeting universities, designed to reverse ‘the chilling effect on campuses of unacceptable silencing and censoring’. Its reception was mixed to say the least. The scheme would impose a statutory free speech duty on universities and student unions, enabling ‘no-platformed’ academics, students and visiting speakers to sue for compensation. Potential infringements would be investigated by a mandated ‘free speech champion’, empowered to recommend various forms of redress. While many academics welcomed the basic principles behind the proposal, others complained that it fomented “phantom fears” of a “cancel culture” crisis. 


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The Weekly Round-up: Phase 2 of the Grenfell Inquiry

16 February 2021 by

Grenfell Tower in June 2017

In the News:

Having been temporarily suspended in early January as a result of an increase in COVID-19 cases, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry hearings resumed on 8 February 2021. The fire killed 72 people.

The hearings are being conducted remotely using a Zoom-based video platform, which the Inquiry describes as “a temporary measure to be used only for as long as absolutely necessary”.

The Inquiry conducted Phase 1 of the investigation, which focused on the events of the night of 14 June 2017, on 12 December 2018. Phase 2 is currently underway, which examines the causes of these events, including how Grenfell Tower came to be in a condition which allowed the fire to spread in the way identified by Phase 1.


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The Weekly Round-up: Employment Rights, ‘Spy Cops’, and Abandoned Rape Prosecutions

1 February 2021 by

In the news:

The week began with the first Opposition Day of 2021, with Labour choosing to put council tax and employment rights centre of the Parliamentary stage.  This followed an admission last week by Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng that the government was reviewing certain workers’ rights which had been saved post-Brexit as retained EU employment law.  Responding to allegations that the government planned to scrap the 48-hour maximum work week and change the rules around rest breaks and holiday pay calculation, he tweeted ‘[w]e are not going to lower the standards of workers’ rights’.  During the Opposition Day Debate Mr Kwarteng confirmed the review was no longer happening and that the government would not row back on the 48-hour work week, annual leave entitlement or rest breaks at work. 


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The Weekly Round-up: A British response to Uyghur forced labour

19 January 2021 by

In the news

For several years, China has been enacting a policy of repression and brainwashing against over a million Uyghur Muslims in its northwest Xinjiang province. Reports include instances of forced sterilisation. Its hundreds of ‘re-education’ camps have been revealed as places where contact with relatives, the ability to pray and even when to use the toilet are tightly controlled. A leaked document reveals the state’s use of algorithms to score inmates on a ‘behaviour-modification’ points system, which tells guards when to mete out rewards and punishments. Absent from their homes, Uyghur places of worship are secretly bulldozed en masse.

On Tuesday, the UK government announced new rules that seek to prevent UK companies profiting from forced Uyghur labour. Companies will have to demonstrate that their supply chains are free from slavery. Public procurement rules will also attempt to exclude suppliers with links to human rights violations. This new policy appears to implement Key Proposal no. 5 of the newly created China Research Group, a think tank set up by Tory MPs to ‘counter violations of international universal human rights’. The ERG-style group was formed after China’s coronavirus cover-up operation became clear.


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The Weekly Round-up: domestic abuse, stop and search, computer hacking

11 January 2021 by

In the news:

Last week’s round-up looked at the measures and messaging of the UK’s latest lockdown. This week we ask what it means for vulnerable children and victims of domestic abuse. Are sufficient legal safeguards in place?

For vulnerable children, it unfortunately seems not. On Wednesday, a Guardian investigation revealed that thousands of children were sent to unregulated care homes last year, while local authority provisions were stretched throughout many months of restrictions. These homes include supported accommodation facilities for over 16s, which are not subject to any inspections by regulators in England and Wales. The Children’s Commissioner for England Anne Longfield has warned that the children’s care system has been ‘left to slip deeper into crisis, seemingly unable to stop some of the most vulnerable children from falling through the gaps.’


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The Weekly Round-Up: Lockdown Again (Again)

5 January 2021 by

In the News:

So: here we are again.

Rampant spread, fuelled by a combination of a new variant that is around 50-70% more transmissible, plus a lifting of restrictions at the beginning of December, brings us into another national lockdown.

In many ways, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s first address of 2021 felt unpleasantly like a return to early 2020.

The original “Stay Home” messaging made a comeback. The Prime Minister was deliberately vague about how long lockdown would last. Big Brother Watch criticised the  government for “yet again … evading the democratic process” by denying MPs a meaningful vote on the new national restrictions prior to their televised announcement to the nation, or their coming into force. The new guidance differs from the Tier 4 guidance in emphasis, if not substance.

Ever the optimist, the Prime Minister was keen to emphasise “one huge difference” between this lockdown and the first one: the UK is “rolling out the biggest vaccination programme in its history”. He also managed to get in a jab at the UK having delivered more vaccines than the rest of Europe combined.

There were other, more subtle differences, as No. 10 tweaked its messaging in light of past mistakes.


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The Weekly Round-up: An ‘Attack’ on Human Rights and Two Failed Judicial Reviews

14 December 2020 by

Photo: Andrew Parsons

In the news

This was a busy week. It saw the beginning of a nationwide vaccine roll-out and protracted negotiations in Brussels to stave off a no-deal Brexit (which remains a ‘high probability’ according to the Prime Minister). It also saw the Government announce the appointment of retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Peter Gross to lead the review of the application of the Human Rights Act 1998 in the UK Courts. This review will look at the relationship between UK courts and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg; the impact of the Human Rights Act on the relationship between judiciary, executive, and Parliament; and the application of the Human Rights Act to actions taken outside the UK.

Moving to Brexit, the House of Lords voted on Monday to approve a Labour amendment to the Government’s Trade Bill. The amendment requires that Ministers undertake a human rights impact assessment for any trade deal, and must revoke an agreement in any case where potential genocide is found in a UK High Court ruling. The measure has been proposed in response to allegations that China is committing genocide against the Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province.


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The Round-Up: Some hope remains for Harry Dunn’s family

8 December 2020 by

Credit: Getty Images/Tetra Images

In the news:

On Thursday, Harry Dunn’s family were granted permission to appeal against the High Court ruling handed down on 24 November, which held in no uncertain terms that Mrs Sacoolas did enjoy diplomatic immunity at the time she killed 19 year-old Harry Dunn while driving on the wrong side of the road in August of last year. The US state department has refused to waive her immunity under Article 32 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, stating that to allow the waiver, and thereby the extradition request that would inevitably follow would set an “extraordinarily troubling precedent”. The arrests of diplomats Michael Kovrig in China and Rob Macaire in Iran over the last year highlight the continued importance of the inviolability of diplomatic agents serving abroad. However, where there has been an unlawful killing by a family member of an agent, natural inclinations of justice are upset by the failure of a longstanding diplomatic ally to simply do the right thing.


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The Weekly Round-up: More restrictions and court backlogs

30 November 2020 by

In the news:

On Monday 23rd November, a self-isolating Boris Johnson announced a new system of restrictions to replace the UK’s second month-long lockdown, due to come into effect on Wednesday 2nd December. The new set of rules represents a stricter and no less confusing version of the old three-tiered system. 

Non-essential shops, gyms, and hairdressers will be allowed to reopen across the country. People are still encouraged to minimise travel and to work from home where possible. The following additional tiered restrictions will apply:

  • Tier 1 (Medium Risk):
    • The ‘Rule of Six’ will apply for both indoor and outdoor gatherings
    • Pubs and restaurants must shut at 11pm
    • Limited numbers of spectators may be permitted at sports and music events
  • Tier 2 (High Risk):
    • People from different households may not meet indoors
    • The ‘Rule of Six’ will apply for outdoor gatherings
    • Pubs and restaurants must shut at 11pm
    • Alcohol can be served only alongside a substantial meal
  • Tier 3 (Very High Risk):
    • People from different households may not mix indoors or outdoors in hospitality venues or private gardens
    • People from different households may only mix in public spaces like parks, where the ‘Rule of Six’ will apply
    • Pubs and restaurants must close except for takeaway and delivery services
    • Travelling into and out of the area is discouraged

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The Weekly Round-Up: Three Tiers

19 October 2020 by

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester

In the News:

On 12 October 2020, the Prime Minister made a statement in Parliament and addressed the nation to announce a new three tier lockdown system would be introduced across the country. The Secretary of State for Health introduced three statutory instruments before Parliament which came into force two days later.

In oversimplified terms, the restrictions in place in each tier are as follows:


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The Weekly Round-up: Operation Cygnus, lawyers in the firing line, and a new undercover policing bill

13 October 2020 by

Photo: Richard Townshend

In the news

The ‘second wave’ of UK coronavirus cases is continuing to surge. The government’s scientific experts have warned that we are at a ‘critical moment’ for handling the pandemic, after daily case numbers doubled this week. In anticipation of a difficult winter, the provisions of the Coronavirus Act 2020 have been renewed for another 6 months; local lockdowns continue in Scotland and in large parts of Wales and the North of England; and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has set out a rescue package for businesses, under which the government will cover 2/3 of salary payments for businesses forced to close.

Meanwhile, we may finally be about to see the contents of Operation Cygnus, the influenza pandemic readiness exercise undertaken by the government in 2016. NHS doctor Moosa Qureshi made a freedom of information request to see the report more than 6 months ago. Following the government’s delays in responding, the Information Commissioner has now taken a dramatic step in ordering the Department of Health and Social Care to provide the document, or explain its reasons for refusing to do so, by 23rd October.


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The Weekly Round-Up: Happy (Legal) New Year!

5 October 2020 by

Temple Church

In the News:

On 1 October 2020, the Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland QC, gave a speech at Temple Church to mark the opening of the legal year.  He praised the “enduring success” of our legal system, our “healthy democracy”, and the “commitment to the Rule of Law” which steered the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Lord Chancellor delivered his speech two days after the controversial Internal Market Bill cleared its final hurdle in the House of Commons with ease, by 340 votes to 256. Earlier in September, Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, told the House of Commons that the government’s plans would “break international law in a very specific and limited way.” On September 29, the Lord Chancellor voted against a proposed amendment to the Bill “requiring Ministers to respect the rule of law and uphold the independence of the Courts.” He was joined in doing so by the Attorney General, Suella Braverman, and the Solicitor General, Michael Ellis.


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Aarhus Abortion Abu Qatada Abuse Access to justice adoption ALBA Allison Bailey Al Qaeda animal rights anonymity Article 1 Protocol 1 Article 2 article 3 Article 4 article 5 Article 6 Article 8 Article 9 article 10 Article 11 article 13 Article 14 Artificial Intelligence Asbestos assisted suicide asylum Australia autism benefits Bill of Rights biotechnology blogging Bloody Sunday brexit Bribery Catholicism Chagos Islanders Children children's rights China christianity citizenship civil liberties campaigners climate change clinical negligence Coercion common law confidentiality consent conservation constitution contempt of court Control orders Copyright coronavirus Coroners costs Court of Protection crime Cybersecurity Damages data protection death penalty defamation deportation deprivation of liberty Detention diplomatic immunity disability disclosure Discrimination disease divorce DNA domestic violence duty of candour duty of care ECHR ECtHR Education election Employment Employment Law Employment Tribunal enforcement Environment Equality Act Ethiopia EU EU Charter of Fundamental Rights EU costs EU law European Court of Justice evidence extradition extraordinary rendition Family Fertility FGM Finance football foreign criminals foreign office France freedom of assembly Freedom of Expression freedom of information freedom of speech Gay marriage Gaza gender genetics Germany Google Grenfell Health high court HIV home office Housing HRLA human rights Human Rights Act human rights news Huntington's Disease immigration India Indonesia injunction Inquests international law internet Inuit Iran Iraq Ireland Islam Israel Italy IVF Japan Judaism judicial review jury trial JUSTICE Justice and Security Bill Law Pod UK legal aid legality Leveson Inquiry LGBTQ Rights liability Libel Liberty Libya Lithuania local authorities marriage Maya Forstater mental capacity Mental Health military Ministry of Justice modern slavery monitoring music Muslim nationality national security NHS Northern Ireland nuclear challenges Obituary ouster clauses parental rights parliamentary expenses scandal patents Pensions Personal Injury Piracy Plagiarism planning Poland Police Politics pollution press Prisoners Prisons privacy Professional Discipline Property proportionality Protection of Freedoms Bill Protest Public/Private public access public authorities public inquiries public law rehabilitation Reith Lectures Religion RightsInfo Right to assembly right to die right to family life Right to Privacy right to swim riots Roma Romania Round Up Royals Russia Saudi Arabia Scotland secrecy secret justice sexual offence sexual orientation Sikhism Smoking social media South Africa Spain special advocates Sports Standing statelessness stop and search Strasbourg Supreme Court Supreme Court of Canada surrogacy surveillance Syria Tax technology Terrorism tort Torture travel treaty TTIP Turkey UK Ukraine UK Supreme Court unduly harsh united nations USA US Supreme Court vicarious liability Wales War Crimes Wars Welfare Western Sahara Whistleblowing Wikileaks wind farms WomenInLaw YearInReview Zimbabwe
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