Your round-up of the stories that you should discuss at interview this week.
- Criminal Law
Reforms to stop violent fathers from seeing their children
Senior judges at the family courts, aim to end the presumption that fathers must have contact with their child even when there is evidence of their domestic abuse. The reforms are being introduced to ensure neither the child or mother are at risk of violence. Concerns where initially raised by an investigation by the Guardian and charity Women’s aid. Women’s aid formed a campaign regarding the matter and found that in the past 10 years, 19 children have been killed by fathers with a history of domestic abuse, who’ve been granted contact by the courts. One senior judge has requested that the judiciary receive extended domestic violence training to guarantee women and children are protected from fathers with a history of domestic abuse. Mr Justice Cobb has also proposed banning cross-examination of domestic violence victims by alleged preparators in court hearings; a practice already banned in criminal proceedings. Following discussions with Women’s Aid, Justice Cobb announced the changes on Friday. The changes are to be present in the amendments to practice direction 12J – a document offering judicial guidance. Mr Justice Cobb states that the idea that fathers and children have ‘contact at all costs’ needs to be scrapped in cases where involvement of a parent in a child’s life would place the child/other parent at risk of harm. Director of Women’s Aid, Polly Neate, commented ‘There should never be a presumption of contact where one parent is known to be a perpetrator of domestic abuse, as is made clear today.’ The Ministry of Justice has inferred that it is going to be changing legislation to enforce a ban on direct cross-examination.
Read more in The Guardian.
- International Law
Trump withdraws from TTP
Donald Trump has pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. The deal covered 40% of the world’s economy, was negotiated in 2015 to boost economic ties and growth in countries along the Pacific Rim that have a combined GDP of $27.4 trillion. Furthermore, it included provisions to enforce labour and environmental standards.
Trump has been quoted saying “great thing for the American worker what we just did”. This executive order carried out by the President is highly important as the deal has not been ratified by US congress. Furthermore, this is also a huge diversion away from the efforts carried out by former president Barack Obama.
Also, in the same ceremony President Trump signed a directive banning US NGOs which perform abortions abroad from receiving federal funding and imposed federal hiring freezing.
This move will now allow China to negotiate regional trade deals within the region, as the TTP did not include China itself. Trump has openly criticsed China, however this move clearly weakens the U.S’ position relative to China.
Since he was sworn in on Friday, Trump is looking to divert his attention straight back to his policy agenda. “Busy week planned with a heavy focus on jobs and national security,” he tweeted early on Monday.
This move has now left fears that the U.S. – Europe Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership deal may also be scrapped by Trump.
- Commercial Law
Apple sues Qualcomm
On Friday, Apple filed a $1 Billion dollar complaint against Qualcomm. Qualcomm are a major supplier to Apple for the chips that they use in their phones and are one of the biggest creators/suppliers of chips in the world.
The claim revolves around Apple claiming that Qualcomm has abused its dominance in the technology market to unfairly overcharge Apple over the course of their business relationship. In essence, it is claimed that Qualcomm have overcharged apple for the license to use their patented technology in their devices. Apple claim they were left with no choice but to pay the price because there were no other potential providers of the technology that they needed.
This is not the first time that Qualcomm has been in trouble for this either. Earlier last week the US Government sued Qualcomm, and last month South Korea’s government fined the company over $800 Million for a similar issue.
This shows just how important it is for companies to review their anti-competitive strategies and for lawyers at commercial firms to be able to sufficiently advice companies on such issues. This is a perfect example to talk about at interview of where the skills of a competition department within a law firm may be required. As well as this, the issue illustrates how Governments can impose fines on companies if there are not enough companies within the sector for it to be a truly competitive market and that leading company uses its dominance to justify its unfair prices.
Amazon and Apple end exclusive audiobook deal
Sometime before Amazon’s acquisition of Audible, Apple and Amazon reached an agreement which tied them into an exclusive contract for the supply and sale of audiobooks. The terms meant that Audible could not offer audiobooks to any other company, and Apple could only purchase audiobooks from Audible. However, on January 5th, the two companies announced that they had agreed to remove all exclusivity obligations regarding the supply and distribution of audiobooks.
Calls for anti-trust investigations into this deal were made in 2015 from the German Publishers and Booksellers Association. The German Federal Cartel Office opened an investigation into the deal in November 2015. It was alleged that the two companies were abusing their market dominance. The publishers argued that over 90% of all audiobook downloads took place either through Apple’s iTunes service or through Amazon’s or Audible’s own websites. Since the end of the deal, the German regulators have stated that the investigation has closed as there is no further reason to continue it.
Anti-trust regulators are pleased that the deal has been abandoned and they believe it will increase competition in the audiobook market. The European Commission has stated that the end of these obligations “will allow for further competition in a fast-growing and innovative market and allow European consumers broader access to downloadable audiobooks.”
Audible can now supply audiobooks to other companies and Apple can now purchase audiobooks from other suppliers. This may allow publishers to enter into distribution agreements directly with Apple themselves. As a result, consumers may have access to a wider range of audiobooks and lower prices.
- Real Estate
What to expect as a first time buyer
With housing being at such prices that young people cannot hope to currently afford, the question raised is whether this generation will ever own the freehold to a property? Mainly headlines suggest how current schemes are being promoted to help first time buyers, but once you look under the surface, you may see there is little benefit.
For instance, a current option for buyers is shared ownership, where you own half of the house whilst the government owns the other half. This therefore means you will have to continue to pay rent to the government having already paid a great price towards the property. Is this the true extent to which the younger generation can have ownership of their home?
‘Help to buy’ schemes offer very small deposits, but it is likely that the interest rates on the mortgage will make the loan difficult to repay. Any lack of attentiveness on the part of the banks could leave buyers in arrears once they realise they cannot afford the size of the loan, and therefore lead to repossession.
This year, the government is now also planning to build subsidised homes for first-time buyers, putting £1.2 billion towards new developments on brownfield sites. The prospective issues with these builds is that, despite the 20% discount offered, the developers could simply increase the house prices before offering the discount, however unethical this may seem. Buyers looking to seek a profit, rather than build a home, could also sell the house at full precise and pocket the 20% whilst other families continue to suffer. Therefore this policy holds several uncertainties which may not fill first-time buyers with confidence.
The best option is to start saving as soon as possible, with the ‘Help to buy ISA’ giving you some interest on these savings. Another option is to buy a house with another person, whether it be a friend or partner, as this will make a mortgage much more manageable.
Fun Fact: Buying a number 13 house could save you £9000 as long as you’re not superstitious!