Your round-up of the stories that you should discuss at interview this week:
- Gender, Sexuality and Law
Reported by Sarah Mullane
Campaigners call for “upskirting” law
Campaigners across England and Wales have called for there to be “an effective criminal law” in cases of ‘upskirting’ – the act of taking intimate photos of a victim underneath their clothing, usually under a skirt or a dress.
Following a freedom of information request, it emerged that seventy-eight cases of upskirting have been recorded by the police within the past two years, with only a fifteen of the forty-four police forces responding with records. It has been suggested that, due to only a third of police forces across England and Wales holding data on the matter, the real figure may be significantly higher. In total, eleven charges related to the practice have been made in the last three years, with one reported incident involving a child as young as ten years old.
The act of taking these pictures is not currently banned by specific law, which has prompted calls for urgent action to be taken to criminalise the act. Though it had been said that the law in this area was “under constant review”, a Ministry of Justice spokesperson has stated that there is sufficient power to enable prosecutions in the area, and so a change in the law was not necessary. It has been said that it is for “prosecutors to decide if there is sufficient evidence [..] to move forward” and indication has been made that the practice is currently covered by alternative avenues of prosecution, such as voyeurism or indecency.
Though victims may find recourse through these alternative avenues, campaigners argue that more should be done to stop these “horrific crimes” – potentially mirroring the movement for clearer laws in legal grey areas, such as in the case of revenge porn legislation.
- Criminal Law
Reported by Paige Waters
Has the HDC been simplified for prisoners to gain early release?
It has emerged from the government that they intend to increase the number of inmates who will be released early from prison under the new rules in relation to the strict home curfew.
The Ministry of Justice has issued the revised guidance for its home detention curfew scheme. This now looks at those prisoners who are eligible to be released under strict monitoring conditions such as having a tag and a requirement to be home between the hours of 7pm to 7am. However, this is limited; any prisoners, who are serving more than four years for any offence, will not be eligible and neither will sex offenders.
The prisons and probation service has commented on the change, stating, “the reason for the change is that the previous process had become overly bureaucratic and tended to frustrate the objectives of the scheme, meaning that only a minority of eligible offenders were being released on the home detention curfew”.
So far, there has only been 21% of the 35000 prisoners eligible that were released. This is around 9000 prisoners.
The home detention curfew was introduced in 1999. It sees that prisoners are being released from prisoner between two weeks and four and a half months before their automatic release date.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice stated: “we are not expanding the scheme to allow the release of any prisoner who was not already eligible and could be released on the home detention curfew. We are simplifying the process, reducing the number of forms used in the assessment process and maintaining the strict eligibility and suitability tests. This will mean governors can make well-informed, more timely decisions and ensure robust risk management plans are in place for offenders released under the scheme.”
Furthermore, they have stated they wanted the curfews to be “a normal part of release”.
- Employment/Equality Law
Reported by Radhika Morally
Equality commission survey reveals overt discrimination in the workplace
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which is the public body tasked with enforcing laws that protect people’s rights, has recently released figures from a survey of managers’ attitudes towards pregnancy and maternity discrimination.
The results, described by the Chief executive of the EHRC as ‘depressing’, suggest that many employers were “living in the dark ages” according to the commission. More than one third of private sector employees in the UK believe it is acceptable to ask female job candidates about their plans to have children, despite the fact the practice has been illegal since 1975.
Furthermore, over half thought that asking whether women have young children was acceptable, and almost 60% misguidedly believed that a woman should have to disclose whether or not she is pregnant during the recruitment process.
The laws that have been in place for more than 40 years to protect women from discrimination are therefore counteracted by the discriminatory attitude of employers towards pregnant women and new mothers; two fifths of employers said that pregnancy in the workplace puts an “unnecessary cost burden” on the organisation. According to employers, this negative attitude extends to employees; just over half of employers said employees within their company feel resentful towards women who are pregnant or on maternity leave.
Consequently, Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the EHRC, has stated: “It’s clear that many employers need more support to better understand the basics of discrimination law and the rights of pregnant women and new mothers.” Equality campaigners such as Rosalind Bragg, director of Maternity Action which advises pregnant women and new mothers on their rights, also call for changes to be made. She adds that “government action to address the disturbingly high rates of maternity discrimination is long overdue.”
Although the government committed to review legal protection against unfair redundancy for new mothers 12 months ago, it has yet to begin. However, it is clear, as highlighted by a spokesperson for the Women’s Equality Party, that there is a need for “businesses and the Government to look at how they can make sure there is true equality in the workplace.”
- Criminal Law
Reported by Megan Kearns
First “hurt core” paedophile convicted by British police is sentenced to 31 years.
Matthew Falder, a 29 year-old Cambridge graduate and geophysics lecturer at the University of Birmingham, has been sentenced to 32 years after committing 137 offences against 46 victims. “Hurtcore” is a subculture of paedophilia, which aims to “hurt the individual to their very core.” Falder engaged in the latter by blackmailing both males and females over the internet with indecent images of themselves to carry out depraved sexual and physical acts. In some instances, he forced victims to film themselves licking toilet seats, eating faeces and encouraged the rape of a young child.
Under the account names “evilmind” and “666devil” Fadler used the dark web to share the disturbing images of his victims with other users where he was branded at “rapist” membership status. Judge Philip Park QC described Fadler as “an internet highwayman who was warped and sadistic and whose behaviour was cunning, persistent, manipulative and cruel.” Three victims had considered killing themselves as a result of Falder’s actions. When one disclosed the desire to “end it all” Fadler responded that “the images would still be circulated so what good is that going to be to you.”
Falder had been undetected for almost four years and the National Crime Agency (NCA) seeked assistance from the UK police, GCHQ, US homeland security, Australian federal police and Europal in order to detain him. Senior investigating officer at NCA said that “in more than 30 years of law enforcement I’ve never come across an offender whose sole motivation was to inflict such profound anguish and pain. Matthew Falder revelled in it.”