Your round-up of the stories that you should discuss at interview this week:
- Employment Law
Reported by Radhika Morally
UK Employment levels at record high
The UK’s unemployment rate is at a four-decade low of 4.3%. Sterling has recently reached $1.41, its highest level against the dollar since the 2016 referendum which has triggered Brexit. Any concern gathered in the few months that employment fell slightly in 2017 has been alleviated by the recent figures given by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), which has reported that the number of people in employment rose by 102,000 between September and November.
The current employment figures are said to indicate by James Athey, senior investment manager at Aberdeen Standard Investments, that ‘the UK economy is on a firmer footing than many had anticipated following the EU referendum vote.’ Still, the Bank of England may be concerned by the fact that the hike in interest rates for the first time in a decade in November failed to have the desired effect of increasing wages as hoped.
It should therefore be noted that despite high employment levels, the real value of earnings continues to decline. According to ONS statistician David Freeman, this is due to the fact that ‘inflation continues to remain higher than pay growth.’ Ben Brettell, an economist at Hargreaves Lansdown, believes that the fall in real wages could ‘feed through into lower economic growth.’
Furthermore, most of the increase in employment came from a rise in full-time employment to the detriment of part-time employment. The ONS have said that 2017 marked a turning point in self-employment, since it fell slightly for the first time since 2000.
- Human Rights Law
Reported by Sara Saquib
Regression and Political Oppression: A case for the UN
Ever since the Spanish referendum last year the situation in Catalonia has remained hostile.
Recently, three leaders of the Catalan independence movement were arrested by the Spanish government and held in pre-trial detention. They were arrested under accusations of sedition, a charge which has been applied arbitrarily and controversially in many cases.
Leading British human rights lawyer, Ben Emmerson, who has taken this case to the United Nations, argued that the Spanish government has unlawfully arrested these men. The lawyer stated that because of the non-violent nature of their actions, the government have no right to punish these men in such a severe way and with such a potentially long sentence of up to 30 years in prison. This is not the first time that the Spanish government have dealt with Catalonian supporters in this way, as in the past they have accused many other Catalan politicians of sedition and rebellion.
The current political climate in Spain and the way the government are fighting opposition has been said to be anything but democratic. Emmerson describes the ordeal as a regression that is strikingly similar to the “bygone era in Spain’s history” referring to when Spain was ruled by the dictator General Francisco Franco.
Although a judgement from the UN would not be legally binding. The three Catalonian leaders as well as Emmerson hope that it will put sufficient pressure on the Spanish government to change the way they are currently treating those in support of Catalonia’s independence.
- Criminal Law
Reported by Sarah Mullane
Tesco Fraud Trial
The trial of former Tesco directors Chris Bush, John Scouler and Carl Rogberg has been abandoned after one of the defendants suffered a heart attack.
After more than four months of trial, Judge Deborah Taylor discharged the jury, stating that it would not be “right and proper” to continue in light of the recent event. Though she sympathised with the jury’s frustration in not reaching a conclusion, the judge went on to explain that whatever was told to the jurors at such a critical stage in the trial was “likely to influence the decision that they made.”
The three defendants, who formerly held the positions of commercial food director, UK finance boss and UK boss, were on trial for fraud by abuse of position and of false accounting. It is alleged that they had dishonestly falsified the digital accounting records of Tesco by relying on incorrect commercial income figures, giving a false account of Tesco’s financial position.
Representation for Carl Rogberg, the defendant who suffered the heart attack, stated that the client had been “very anxious that [the] jury should be allowed to reach its verdict and is desperately sorry that they were prevented from doing so.” Rogberg is currently in hospital awaiting surgery.
Despite the hope that it would be summed up by Christmas, the lengthy trial, which began in September 2017, had been fraught with delays. The judge had fallen ill during her summing up, and there was an additional pause when a juror went on a two-week holiday. At this point, one juror had already been discharged due to an operation. It is believed that the cost of this trial has ranged in the millions.
It is now for the Serious Fraud Office to decide whether or not to pursue a re-trial, they are due to make a decision at the beginning of March. A provisional date has been set for 3rd September.
Reported by Jutha Cheewat
Banks ban use of credit cards to purchase cryptocurrency
Following the suit of Lloyds Banking Group’s actions on Monday, many other intuitions – including Bank of Scotland, Halifax, MBNA and Virgin Money – have announced similar policies, preventing customers from using credit cards to purchase digital currencies. The value of Bitcoin fell by 30% this week, the worst since 2013.
Banks are concerned, not only about customers building up debt, but also about the steep fall in the value of digital currencies – especially Bitcoin. Having said this, the ban only concerns credit cards, not debit cards.
Lloyds stated that this change in their policy will not be sent to every customer, but only those who perform such transactions.
The spokesman said that, “We continually review our products and procedures, and this is part of that”.
The Prime Minister supported the policy, saying that such regulation may be required and that the government will take this matter seriously “precisely because of the way they are used, particularly by criminals”.
The European Commission also launched the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum to “highlight key developments of the blockchain technology, promote European actors and reinforce European engagement with multiple stakeholders involved in blockchain activities”.
Following this trend, Facebook also has recently announced that it would block any advertising that promotes crypto-currency products and services.