The Future Lawyer Weekly Update – w/c 27th November 2017

The Future Lawyer Weekly Update – w/c 27th November 2017

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

Finance Law

Reported by Andrew MacDonald

Venezuelan military appointed to head oil giant

President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela has named a general to lead Venezuela’s largest state-owned oil company – Petroleos de Venezuela (Pdvsa). Major General Manuel Quevedo would assume control of Pdvsa, as well as the energy ministry.

Analysts have claimed that the appointment could exacerbate the heavily indebted country’s economic fortunes.

Pdvsa is the key economic organ to the nation. It accounts for around 95% of the country’s export earnings despite output falls in recent years.

The president has justified the appointment as a step forward in the battle against corruption. In the past months, Maduro’s administration has arrested around 50 people associated with Pdvsa in the supposed anti-corruption purge in the oil industry.

Maduro has declared that “The time for a new oil revolution has come.” Critics, domestic and international, have criticised the decision to allow General Manuel Quevedo to run this organisation which is critical to the economy. The company’s bonds represent 30% of Venezuela’s external debt.

Economic crisis continues in Venezuela in which inflation runs at 4000% and its currency, the Bolívar, has lost 96% of its value this year.

Reuters reported that the General planned to name more military officers to his senior management team. Experts warn that having inexperienced officials at the helm could hamper output levels. General Quevedo was formerly a minister of housing.

Shannon K. O’Neil, a Latin America analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations stated, “Despite Maduro’s rhetoric, this choice was all about political power and control, not the revitalization of production.”

Although having the largest oil reserves in the world, oil-export-dependent Venezuela has seen its production levels plummet from 2.4 million barrels a day in 2016, to 1.9 million barrels a day currently.

Since the 2000s, Venezuela has implemented a populist social welfare system established under former-leader and socialist revolutionary, Hugo Chavez, on the back of oil revenues. However, state excess, corruption and falling oil prices have all but unleashed economic depression in the South American nation.

Read more from the BBC and The New York Times.

Constitutional Law

Reported by Jutha Cheewat

UK Supreme Court to sit in Northern Ireland for the first time

Five justices will sit in the Northern Ireland for the first-time next year. They will be hearing controversial cases including the famous same-sex marriage cake dispute.

This will be the second time that the UK Supreme Court has to sit outside Westminster.

At the end of April, the supreme court president Lady Hale, deputy president Lord Mance, Lord Kerr, Lord Hodge and Lady Black will sit in the Inns of Court Library at the Royal Courts of Justice in Belfast.

Lady Hale also commented:

“My colleagues and I strongly believe that the experience of watching a case in person should not be limited to those within easy reach of London. This is the second time that the court has sat outside London. The supreme court is committed to being one of the most open and accessible in the world and, like all our hearings, our Belfast cases will be live-streamed via our website for everyone who cannot get to see us in person.”

In Lee v Ashers Baking Company Ltd., the judges will decide whether the bakery in question directly discriminated against a customer on the ground of sexual orientation by rejecting the order.

Read more here.

Criminal Law

Reported by Paige Waters

Crown Prosecution Service destroyed sensitive data in high profile case

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have admitted they destroyed key emails in the Julian Assange case. These emails were deleted when the UK lawyer retired in 2014. The emails were conversations between the CPS and their Swedish counterparts over the high-profile case.

The destruction of these sensitive emails comes before the tribunal hearing which is being held in London next week.

It has been held that during these email exchanges, the CPS advised the Swedes not to visit London and interview Julian Assange. However, it has been stated that if the Swedes ignored the CPS and in fact came to interview Assange, it could have prevented a long-running embassy standoff.

The CPS have now denied that there would be any legal implications of the data loss, were the case was to come to court at a later date. The CPS further stated that “we have no way of knowing the content of email accounts once they have been deleted”; therefore implying they have no idea of the data which was destroyed.

Assange was involved in WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks has known to be involved in a plethora of controversial leaks; this including the Iraq war logs, US state department cables and Democratic party emails.

The Swedes wanted Assange on a count of rape, however, the investigation was drpped in May.

The CPS destroying data was discovered by the Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi when it was disclosed in a freedom of information case. Maurizi commented on this, stating “it is incredible to me these records about an ongoing and high profile case have been destroyed. I think they have something to hide.”

Jennifer Robinson, who represented Assange, said, “the missing information raises concerns about the Crown Prosecution Services data retention policy and what internal mechanisms are in place to review their conduct of this case in light of the fact the UK has been found to have breached its international obligations.”

The CPS attempted to defend data being destroyed by their spokesperson stating, “the individual to whom you refer was a lawyer in the CPS extradition unit discussing matters relating to extradition proceedings which concluded in 2012. The case was, therefore, not live when the email account was deleted. Most casework papers and related materials are stored for three years following the conclusion of proceedings, or for the duration of the convicted defendant’s sentence plus three months. In some cases material may be held for longer.”

Read more here.

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