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The Future Lawyer Weekly Update – w/c 26th February 2018

The Future Lawyer Weekly Update – w/c 26th February 2018

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

Corporate Law

Reported by Anna Flaherty

Bidding war predicted over prospective Sky takeover

21st Century Fox’s (ie Rupert Murdoch’s) bid to buy Sky has been challenged by US TV giant Comcast. Comcast already owns NBCUniversal and Universal Pictures. Its motivation to own the majority of shares of Sky is so that it could gain a leading position in the market within the UK, Germany and Italy. Sky’s win of most of the Premier League TV rights for the football seasons between 2019 and 2022 was also a significant factor. Comcast’s bid may also be a retaliation to the rejection it has previously received from Fox, as Fox chose to sell much of its business (including its stake in Sky) to Disney instead of Comcast.

21st Century Fox owns 39% of  shares in Sky. Murdoch had bid £18.5 billion for the other 61%, but Comcast has now offered £22.1 billion to acquire over 50% of Sky shares in order to own the company. Comcast’s bid works out to be 16% higher than 21st Century Fox’s.

With the Competition and Markets Authority’s concerns that the prospective Fox-Sky deal could mean that the Murdoch Family Trust would have too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda, it may perhaps mean that Comcast’s bid is more successful.

However, Jefferies analysts have predicted that Fox is more likely to offer more money, starting a bidding war. As a result, Sky’s share prices have already increased by 22% and may increase further if Fox does bid again as predicted.

For more information, see the BBC, The Financial Times, and Sky News.

Court Practice

Reported by Nathan Gore 

Evidence not being disclosed on a daily basis, legal survey reveals

Over 97% of criminal lawyers in England and Wales have experienced failings related to the disclosure of evidence in the last 12 months, a BBC survey has suggested. More concerning is that, out of the 1,282 surveyed, nearly a third said that they believed these failings had possibly led to wrongful convictions or serious miscarriages of justice. More than half of lawyers surveyed also said they saw disclosure failures on a daily or weekly basis. The survey was carried out by BBC Radio 4’s File on 4.

Half of those surveyed reported such failings in the magistrates’ court – where the majority of crimes are dealt with. Bill Waddington of the Criminal Law Solicitors Association described the results as “shocking”. “It kills the rumour of these problems only happening in the occasional big case that happens to reach the headlines as we’ve seen recently. “Rather than that the reality is that it’s an every day, every week, every year problem”, he said.

In the lead-up to criminal trials, police and prosecutors have a duty to disclose evidence, and to list relevant undisclosed material which may undermine their case/strengthen the defence case. A number of recent rape trials have collapsed after it emerged evidence stored on digital devices had not been shared with lawyers for the defence. Following this, an urgent review into rape and sex assault cases was ordered last year.

The CPS, however, said the survey results were likely to provide a “skewed view of what is happening” given that respondents were likely to apply their own interpretation to what constitutes a “disclosure failing”. It added that a conviction rate of 85% in the magistrates’ courts is indicative of a system that is “producing strong results”. Director of Legal Services Greg McGill said: “I do accept that in some cases we do probably have to improve the timeliness in which we deal with some disclosure. “Disclosure is a problem facing the whole of the criminal justice system. It’s a criminal justice problem, and it requires a criminal justice system response”, he added. Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, recently said she did not believe the problems had led to any miscarriages of justice.

For more information, see the Guardian and the BBC.

Human Rights

Reported by Jutha Cheewat 

First case of its kind: The right to be forgotten

A claimant, referred to as NT1, wants to erase his online information on search engines, namely Google. NT1 was convicted of conspiracy of false account in the 1990s. He wanted Google to remove all search results about his case.

Hugh Tomlinson QC, who is representing NT1 and is chairman of the press regulation campaign “Hacked Off”, proposed to the court that such information caused NT1 to be distressed and upset.

In 2014 the European Union’s court of justice ruled that “irrelevant” and outdated data should be erased on request. However, search engines can reject such requests if it is in the interest of public security, as this would outweigh the individual’s right to privacy.

Antony White QC, representing Google, said that the “right to be forgotten” is “not a right to rewrite history or … tailor your past if that’s what this claimant would like to use it for” as NT1’s conviction was “serious and sustained”.

He continued:

“It involved deceptive and misleading criminal practices,” he said, that led to regulatory interventions and condemnation in parliament. White told the court that the claimant had portrayed himself as a “respected businessman” with a successful career on social media. It was a false picture that has a potential to mislead.

Another “right to be forgotten” claim against Google is to be heard by the high court next month.

Read more here.

Criminal Law

Reported by Paige Waters

Proposals to prevent cross-examining by domestic abusers

Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for the Home Department, has made proposals to prevent domestic abusers from being permitted to cross-examine their victims in family courts.

The charity Women’s Aid welcomed the plans as it had been stated that domestic abuse survivors were still being subjected to ‘abhorrent practice’ of being interrogated by their abusers in family courts.

The chief executive of Women’s Aid, Katie Ghose, has commented on that matter stating that “we know that the cross-examination of victims in the family courts by their abusive former partner is far too common. The Ministry of Justice committed to ban perpetrators of domestic abuse from cross-examining victims in the family court. However, the legislation, set out within the prisons and courts bill last year, fell through due to the general election”.

The consultation is expected to open in March.

Read more here. 

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