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The Future Lawyer Weekly Update – w/c 6th March 2017

The Future Lawyer Weekly Update – w/c 6th March 2017

Your round-up of the stories that you should discuss at interview this week.

Criminal Law

Councils and fire authorities urge the reduction in the drink-drive limit

It has been reported that councils and fire authorities in England and Wales are urging the government to lower the drink-drive limit to reduce alcohol-related incidents. Currently, the limit in England and Wales is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. However, it’s been requested the government reduce the limit to 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood as did Scotland in December 2014.

The Local Government Association predict that a reduction in the limit could save 170 lives in the first year; rising to 300 lives by the sixth year. Furthermore, a lower limit could save the government £300million per year by eliminating the number of 999 call outs and hospital admissions caused by drink-drive incidents. By failing to reduce the limit England and Wales will continue to have the highest drink-drive limit in Europe. The chairman of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, Simon Blackburn, comments this statistic “is not sending the right message to motorists”. He continues to say that “The government should be leading by example by toughening up drink-drive laws in line with other European countries which will make roads safer and save lives. A lower alcohol limit would help to deter motorists from drinking at all before getting behind the wheel and encourage them to have ‘none for the road.”

Nonetheless, as per last year, the government have said that they are not planning to reduce the drink-drive limit to fall in line with Scotland. The government in fact described UK roads as “amongst the safest in the world”. A spokesman from the Department of Transport also expressed that ‘rigorous enforcement and severe penalties’ were more effective in deterring drink-driving than lowering the drink-drive limit. He also said, “Those over the current drink driving limit cause a disproportionate amount of harm. These are the people we need to focus our efforts and resources upon. Our roads continue to be amongst the safest in the world because we crack down on those who break the law.”

Read more on the BBC.

Human Rights Law

China has launched an attack on foreign media

China has launched an attack on foreign media, branding claims that a leading human rights lawyer was tortured by government agents as fake news.

Xinhua, the government’s official news agency, accused the overseas media of “hyping” a series of “cleverly orchestrated lies” by publishing reports about the plight of attorney Xie Yang, who was detained in July 2015 at the start of a crackdown known as China’s war on law.

Reports of torture surfaced on foreign human rights websites. China’s communist party launched criticisms over the claims that Xie had undergone such human rights violations. It stated that the news had been fabricated by another human rights lawyer Kiang Tianyong.

Furthermore, an “independent” investigation by legal authorities found Xie had not been tortured, state media said. However, Xie’s lawyer, Chen Jiangang , told Reuters the torture accounts were genuine, adding that he had also interviewed Xie and been told the same thing.

Read more in The Guardian or The Independent.

Technology

A typo by an Amazon employee caused numerous websites to go offline

Amazon, one of the largest online retailers in the world, currently offers cloud computing web hosting.  The service is called Amazon Web Services, and websites such as Quora, Down Detector, Giphy, Q&A and approximately 150,000 others utilise these services. At some point last week, Amazon was carrying out a routine debugging of a part of the service’s billing system. However, an input command for this was entered incorrectly, resulting in a typo, which deactivated a larger set of servers than initially intended. This caused numerous websites and apps to go offline. The employee in question only intended to remove a small number of servers. The issue affected Amazon’s Northern Virginia region.

It resulted in a five-hour outage of some of Amazon’s Web Services, which Amazon has apologised for in an online statement. Amazon further stated that its service had experienced exponential growth over recent years. The restarting of the services, carrying out the required safety checks and ensuring the integrity of the metadata was maintained therefore took longer than expected.

The particular element of the services that was impacted was called S3, which is a simple storage solution. Companies such as Business Insider and Medium were impacted, whilst other customers discovered that they could not activate their internet-connected lightbulbs because certain automation services were impacted by the outage. Amazon has stated that the debugging was required because the billing service for S3 was running slowly.

Read more in The Telegraph, The Guardian and the BBC.

Real Estate

Can empty houses solve the housing crisis?

However, whilst these approaches sound like a solution to the housing crisis, government figures suggest that there are only around 600,000 empty properties in England. Two thirds of these properties are only temporarily vacant, expecting to soon be filled. The government has estimated that a further 250,000 houses would need to be available to solve the crisis.

Further to this, some areas are deemed to be undesirable, with people not wanting to live in these houses. This is often to do with the economic reasons, such a job availability in the community.

Furthermore Savills, the estate agents, have said that two thirds of foreign buyers are investors. They do not intend to do anything with the property, such as live in it or renting it, it is a simple investment. The Australian state of Victoria have tackled this issue by recently introducing a vacant property tax, in order to encourage the sale of empty houses. This move has been made in order to help renters and first-time buyers. Some local authorities in the UK have a similar scheme, however they wait two years until charging extra council tax. It is not a separate tax as it is in Australia.

A new approach that local authorities in the UK may take, is to create compulsory purchase orders to seize empty houses, compensate the owner, and turn them into social units. Instead of helping first-time buyers and renters, this scheme has a greater social approach, helping the people who are on the long waiting list for council housing. A recent trial with Louth County Council has been successful, with many other councils considering adopting this approach.

Read more in The Times, The Guardian and the BBC.

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