Your round-up of the stories that you should discuss at interview this week:
- Election Law
Reported by Anna Flaherty
The Electoral Commission is expected to say that the Vote Leave Campaign, which supported Britain’s exit from the European Union, is guilty of breaking the law.
Evidence was recently found which exposed the illegal actions of the campaign; an email was found, containing correspondence between the main Brexit campaign and a major donor to said campaign, which contained proof of the campaign’s wrongdoing. These wrongdoings included the inaccurate reporting of expenses for the campaign, and colluding with other campaign groups to get around the the spending cap which is set out in law. BeLeave was one such campaign – this organisation received over £600,000 in donations in the final few weeks running up to the referendum. The donation was received following the given advice of Dominic Cummings, the Vote Leave director. The cap on Election costs is £7 million, with the Vote Leave campaign only reporting expenses of £250,000.
In response to the anticipated decision by the Electoral Commission, the Vote Leave campaign has said that ‘this is a clear violation of the commission’s duty to act fairly’. As a result of the Commission’s findings the campaign will receive fines.
- International Trade
Reported by Andrew MacDonald
Australia Wins Ruling Concerning Cigarette Packaging
Australia has won a major trade dispute concerning its plain tobacco packaging law. World Trade Organisation (WTO) judges rejected arguments brought by Cuba, Indonesia, Honduras and the Dominican Republic claiming that the law violates international trade.
Australia made it compulsory for cigarettes to be sold in packets that carry health warnings in 2011. The law also bans logos and coloured cigarette packaging in favour of drab olive packets while brand names are to be printed in smaller fonts.
Unless there is a successful appeal from the disputing nations, the decision is expected to serve as a landmark ruling which could encourage similar regulations around the world. It’s been reported that similar laws are also scheduled to come into effect in Burkina Faso, Canada, Georgia, Romania, Slovenia and Thailand.
Cuba, Honduras, Dominican Republic and Indonesia (all major tobacco producers) complained to the WTO that the law constituted an illegal barrier to trade and infringed upon trademark and intellectual property rights. Ukraine was initially among the complainants but later dropped out.
Honduras has stated that it is likely to appeal the recent WTO decision.
This is not the first time Australia has seen a major tobacco packaging case. In July 2017, producer Philip Morris was forced to pay millions of dollars in legal fees to Australia after its failed case against the same plain packaging laws.
- Family Law
Reported by Dan Petch
Prospective Wait of Up to a Year For “Streamlined” Divorces
The chief of a Reading firm, Tony Roe, has highlighted the extent of delays currently faced by divorce practitioners. Official figures suggest couples can be waiting up to 51 weeks for a divorce to be finalised, despite the recent introduction of online application forms designed to speed up the process.
Roe stated that couples finding themselves in divorce proceedings seek quick resolution to allow closure on what can be a difficult part of their lives.
Roe decided to contact the HMCTS chief-executive after delays his clients were facing at a regional divorce centre, which covers London and the South West.
The chief-executive responded, stating that “we know this is not good enough”. Later explaining that this particular divorce centre had been facing a period of staff shortages and that more staff have now been brought in to address the situation.
The Ministry of Justice last month announced it had introduced an online divorce application process which was predicted to cut down on 13,000 hours of court time spent by staff checking divorce petitions.
The Ministry of Justice’s latest family statistics stated that between January and March this year, divorce petitions decreased by 4% compared to the same period in 2017. However the average time taken for an absolute decree by the courts was 51.3 weeks.
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