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The Future Lawyer Weekly Update – w/c 3rd September

The Future Lawyer Weekly Update – w/c 3rd September

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

Human Rights

Reported by Dan James

Denial of widower’s allowance to an unmarried mother deemed illegal

The government’s refusal to pay the widower’s benefit has been deemed unlawful by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court decided in a by majority that refusal by the government to not pay £117 a week in the form of benefits to the unmarried mother of four breached the family’s human rights.

A hearing in Belfast earlier this year heard that refusal to supply the benefit to Mrs McLaughlin amounted to a form of discrimination against all children born out of wedlock. Mrs McLaughlin was denied the standard bereavement payment and widowed parent allowance due to not being married or in a civil partnership with her late partner, Mr Adams, who had died of cancer in January 2014.

Although this ruling relates to a case originating from Northern Ireland, it’s effects could be felt across the UK should Ministers decide to amend the law. Extending the widowed parent’s allowance to cohabitants would cost about £26m a year, according to a report by the House of Commons work and pensions.

Lady Hale, in her majority view speech, said: “It is difficult indeed to see the justification for denying people and their children benefits, or paying them at a lower rate of benefit, simply because the adults are not married to one another. Their needs, and more importantly their children’s needs, are the same”.

This ruling will inevitably put pressure on Ministers to act quickly to change the current law surrounding an unmarried couple’s rights should one of the two parties die. The government’s refusal to pay the widower’s benefit has been deemed unlawful by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court decided in a by majority that refusal by the government to not pay £117 a week in the form of benefits to the unmarried mother of four breached the family’s human rights.

A hearing in Belfast earlier this year heard that refusal to supply the benefit to Mrs McLaughlin amounted to a form of discrimination against all children born out of wedlock. Mrs McLaughlin was denied the standard bereavement payment and widowed parent allowance due to not being married or in a civil partnership with her late partner, Mr Adams, who had died of cancer in January 2014.

Although this ruling relates to a case originating from Northern Ireland, it’s effects could be felt across the UK should Ministers decide to amend the law. Extending the widowed parent’s allowance to cohabitants would cost about £26m a year, according to a report by the House of Commons work and pensions.

Lady Hale, in her majority view speech, said: “It is difficult indeed to see the justification for denying people and their children benefits, or paying them at a lower rate of benefit, simply because the adults are not married to one another. Their needs, and more importantly their children’s needs, are the same”.

This ruling will inevitably put pressure on Ministers to act quickly to change the current law surrounding an unmarried couple’s rights should one of the two parties die.

For more information, see here.

Tort Law

Reported by Rui Ci Lee

Raise in personal injury claims limit may deprive employees their right to access justice

The UK government is planning to raise the lower limit for recovering legal costs in small personal injury claims, also known as the “small claims limit”. According to the Ministry of Justice, the limit was previously fixed at GBP 1,000 since the 1990s and will be doubled to GBP 2,000 to reflect inflation.

Some ministers have also been quoted to say that the reforms are necessary due to fraudulent whiplash claims. On the other hand, the reforms may also be unfair for employees who suffer minor personal injuries in the workplace, as they will not be able to recover their legal costs unless they have a claim of up to GBP 2,000. Shadow justice minister Gloria De Piero said that this reform will compel workers to either pay for legal fees out of their own compensation, remain unrepresented while going against large insurers who can afford lawyers, or to simply drop the claim.

MPs have pushed for the small claims limit to be raised up to only GBP 1,500, as inflation would only increase the figure up to this amount. The reform will be introduced through statutory instrument without being debated in Parliament and will be effective in April 2020.

For more information on this story, visit the Guardian.

International Human Rights

Reported by Paige Waters

Social media posts have dire consequences in Russia

A Russian 24-year-old – Maria Motuznaya – is facing up to six years in prison due to reposting memes online. Motuznaya, from Siberia, posted a collection of nuns lighting cigarettes with the caption “quick, while theres no god”.

She has been added to the extremist list which also has terrorists on. Due to being on this list, she is limited in her work as many companies will not employ her due to being on this list. Furthermore, many transactions have not been authorised due to this.

Motuznaya commented on this situation stating “at least im still free and haven’t been locked up yet”. She commented after an outburst of silence stating “Hi everyone, my name is Masha, im 23 and I’m an extremist”.

Motuznaya isn’t the only ‘extremist’ being targeted in Russia. Three other trials are set to be under way through posts on social media. Markin, who is only 19, is set to face up to five years in prison due to her posts on social media. It has been alleged the police are so keen in the social media posts as they are easy to prove and they want to increase the amount of successful prosecutions. However, the police have chose not to respond to the allegations.

For more information, see the Guardian.

Criminal Law

Reported by Sarah Mullane

Legal Access to Social Media Accounts

Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, Cressida Dick, has today called for police to be allowed prompt access to information via social media companies. Her comments, made during an interview with LBC radio, followed a recent high-profile case where Stephen Nicholson, a suspect in the murder case of 13-year old Lucy McHugh, refused to grant police access to his Facebook account.

Referring to the difficulties that Hampshire police faced during their investigation of Mr Nicholson, Commissioner Dick stated that it was not in fact the first time that a police service had approached a social media firm with the hope of gathering evidence, and that is often the case that they have to “go through either a very protracted procedure, or [have found it] impossible to do so.”

Offering her own opinion on the matter, she went on to say that “in certain circumstances [..] law enforcement in the UK ought to have vital evidence which might bring someone to justice,” before going on to accept that, despite her views on where the police “should be,” she respects the complex practical and legal ‘things’ standing in the way.

A spokesperson for Facebook has claimed that the company is in fact working closely with law enforcement on the McHugh case, and is making sure to follow ‘well-established’ legal mechanisms.

The strong public and professional reaction in this recent case brings into question the need for further legislation regarding access to social media accounts during criminal investigations, with many professionals urging for a review on the matter.

Whilst being questioned on suspicion of murder and sexual activity with a child, Stephen Nicholson twice refused to give his Facebook password; he has now pleaded guilty to an offence under the Regulation of Investigatory Power Act, and faces fourteen months’ imprisonment. The investigation into Lucy McHugh’s death is ongoing.

For more information, see the Guardian and Sky News.

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