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The Future Lawyer Weekly Update – w/c 14th January

The Future Lawyer Weekly Update – w/c 14th January

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

Criminal Justice

Reported by Paige Waters

Abolishment of Six Month Imprisonment Sentences

The prime minister has suggested any sentences of six months or less could be abolished in an attempt to alleviate pressure on the system. This will include burglaries, shoplifting and many more with an exception being made for violent or sex offenders.

This has been suggested following Stewart stating, the jail terms were “very short” and although they were long enough to damage you, they are not “long enough to heal you”.

He further commented, stating, “you bring somebody in for three or four weeks, they lose their house, their job, their family, their reputation. They come (into prison), they meet a lot of interesting characters and then you whap them on to the streets again.”

“The public are safer if we have a good community sentence and it will relieve a lot of pressure on prisons”.

A controversial debate will be started through these suggestions as many will consider a lenient punishment is being given to crimes courts consider to be “less dangerous” or “serious” with the excuse that it relives pressure from the system and rehabilitation is unlikely.

Lenient sentences are very unlikely to reform offenders. Without a strict consistent punishment throughout the system, it will be very unclear on the outcome of cases. As well as the fear of imprisonment being extremely decreased.

Although, this may be seeming to be an educated move to alleviate pressure as since the earl 1990’s, the prison population has doubled from around 40,000 to more than 80,000 in 2018 figures.

A Ministry of Justice spokeswomen commented, stating, “as we have said previously, short sentences are too often ineffective, provide little opportunity to rehabilitate offenders and lead to unacceptably high rates of reoffending. That’s why we are exploring potential alternatives but this work is ongoing and we have reached no conclusions at this time.”

Ideally if the abolishment of six month sentences is to be enforced, a sufficient alternative which would ensure rehabilitation needs to be enforced before the abolishment to prove it is more sufficient in dealing with offenders.

Find out more through the Guardian.

Politics

Reported by Nathan Gore

Government resoundingly defeated in dramatic vote

Theresa May lost a Parliamentary vote yesterday, by the largest margin in history. The vote was concerning her Brexit deal that she put forward to Parliament.

Her ‘Brexit Deal’ essentially represented her strategy on how to exit the European Union and what will happen after we leave. It represented the result of months of negotiating with her European counterparts. 

The Commons defeat, when it came, was by 432 votes to 202. Such a huge margin came as a crushing blow for Mrs May and her government.

Shortly after the vote results were announced, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition, moved to call a Vote of No Confidence (VoNC) in the government. 

This will be debated on during today, and then voted on this evening. The results of this vote could lead to a General Election, a new referendum, or a no-deal Brexit.

However, one senior parliamentary figures suggest that the VoNC is unlikely to succeed, with Northern Ireland’s DUP and Tory rebels saying they will back the PM.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said Brussels “profoundly regrets” how the UK’s MPs voted, after two years of negotiation “based on the red lines of the British government”.

“It is up to the British authorities today or tomorrow to assess the outcome of this vote and up to the British Government to indicate how we are going to take things forward on 29 March to an orderly withdrawal,” he said.

Read more on the BBC and the Independent.

Benefits Law

Reported by Emma Ducroix

A trial won at the High Court against the Department for Work and Pension (DWP) concerning Universal Credit controversy

The Universal credit is a monthly paid method helping people with their living costs if they are low income or out of work in the United Kingdom.
It is a benefit for working-age people, which is replaced and merged them into one payment as income-related employment and housing benefit or child tax credit for instance.

At the beginning, the aim of this was to simplify the system and help people to do without allowances into work. In the new system, benefit payments are reduced at a consistent rate as income and earnings increase. The universal credit is designed to be paid on a scheduled date each month after assessing a person’s monthly income.

The biggest problem of this system is the payment delay. Considering the fact that the Universal Credit is less generous than originally envisaged, this will impact many claimants of having no income for weeks. The wait has led to rent arrears and evictions, hunger, use of expensive credit and mental distress.

And there is concern that Universal Credit cannot deliver its promises: a study found it does not deliver savings, cannot prove it gets more people into work, and has plunged vulnerable claimants into hardship. Ministers have expanded the availability of hardship loans to help new claimants while they wait for payment.

This is why the problem forced four working single mothers to do intent a procedure in order to force the government to radically overhaul the way it operates the controversial universal credit scheme.

Two high court judges ruled the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was wrongly interpreting universal credit regulations after the women were successful in their judicial review.

Women argued they were struggling financially because of how the welfare system worked and that it represents a “fundamental problem” with the scheme. That is to say that their monthly payments varied enormously and they had ended up out of pocket, a problem their lawyers said was likely to affect tens of thousands of people.

Lawyers for Danielle Johnson, Claire Woods, Erin Barrett and Katie Stewart, whose case was brought by Leigh Day and the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), said the problem would arise when claimants were paid by employers on a date that clashed with their assessment period for universal credit. “They have each ultimately questioned why they are even working,” reported the lawyers.

One of the women said that she could not cope with the “stress and anxiety of a constantly fluctuating Universal Credit system.” And what is striking to know is that her outgoings were the same without job so she opted for the ‘stability’ of being unemployed even though she wanted a job.

Another lawyer said: “they are precisely the kind of person universal credit was supposed to help, yet the DWP designed a rigid income assessment system which left one of them £500 out of pocket over the year and spiralling into debt due to a fluctuating income.”

The women pointed out that they sometimes receive a “vastly reduced” universal credit payment because of an early payment in case of a public holiday for instance. The judges had concluded the DWP had wrongly interpreted the relevant regulations and described as “could be said to lead to nonsensical situations”.

A possible appeal from the DWP is expected to discuss costs and the question of compensation.

If the department chooses not to appeal then the women expect to see almost immediate changes to the implementation of the scheme.

Now, working parents on low incomes are witnesses of the loss of the support that parliament intended them to receive because the DWP has designed a rigid process. A rigid process which oppose actual reality with the law.

Read more at the Guardian here.

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