Welcome to The Lawyer Portal Monthly News roundup for November 2020. This month, Joe Biden wins the US Presidential Election, The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) calls for an independent inquiry into unlawful killings by British special forces in Afghanistan and much more. Read on for all the details!
Probably the biggest piece of news in November, Joe Biden won US Presidential Election after days of vote counting. Joe Biden was declared the new President-Elect after winning Pennsylvania, a key battleground state in the battle against Donald Trump. As the election vote counting came to a close Biden only needed to win two of Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania or Arizona whereas Trump needed to win all five of those states to secure victory. Biden crossed the finish line first, taking more than 270 electoral college votes. Whilst in-person votes gave Trump initial leads in many states, as voting continued it seemed hundreds of thousands of mail ballots favoured Joe Biden. It was widely reported that Donald Trump had encouraged his supporters to vote in person instead of via the mail as part of his campaign.
Despite arguing that he will contest the election results, Donald Trump has started to instruct federal agencies to begin preparing Joe Biden for office. After the electoral college vote confirms Joe Bidens victory in December his inauguration is expected to take place on the 20th January 2021.
With Joe Biden comes new vice president Kamala Harris. She will be the first female vice president and the first black and Asian American vice president to take office.
There has been a call for the UK to carry out an investigation into possible war crimes in Afghanistan. It came after a thorough inquiry in Australia over the past four years into their special forces operations in Afghanistan which uncovered some very serious allegations of murder and torture.
The chairperson of the AIHRC, Shaharzad Akbar said that, amongst others, the UK should investigate allegations of violence in Afghanistan. It is argued that it will take a series of independent inquiries in various countries to uncover the true extent of any human rights violations which may have been carried out against Afghan detainees and civilians.
The Ministry of Defence has commented that: “our armed forces are held to the highest standards” and that whilst investigations into alleged misconduct of UK forces in Afghanistan have already been carried out with no prosecutions, the Service Prosecuting authority “remain open” to further investigation should new evidence arise.
The Supreme Court has refused to consider the final appeal of a transgender man seeking to be acknowledged and registered as his child’s father arguing that the case brings up no arguable point of law. Freddy McConnell, who began his transition in 2013, gave birth in 2018 and wished to be registered as his child’s father or parent. Both the High Court and subsequently the Court of Appeal ruled that even though he had a Gender Recognition Certificate proving he was considered by law a man, he could not be named as “father” nor parent on his child’s birth certificate. Lord Burnett argued in the appeal court that it was important that the child know “the biological reality of its birth” and that this took priority over a parental right to be recognised on a birth certificate as their legal gender.
A spokeswoman for the Supreme Court stated that there was no “arguable point of law.” However, McConnell has stated an intention to apply to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to continue his legal challenge against the legal position.
Nancy Kelly, chief executive of Stonewall deemed the decision as “disappointing.” Kelly goes on to state that the “current legislation contradicts the fragile equality trans people currently have, where they have full recognition on some documents, but not on others.”
Lord Dyson has been appointed as the lead in an inquiry into the 1995 Panorama Interview of Lady Diana. Earl Spencer, Princess Diana’s brother has put forward allegations that BBC journalist Martin Bashir used coercion through forged bank statements to convince Princess Diana to carry out the interview. Mr Spencer alleges that Bashir used “false and defamatory claims about senior royals” to gain access to Diana.
Lord Dyson, previous Master of the Rolls, retired in 2016 but has been called back to lead the inquiry. The BBC states that “Lord Dyson is an eminent and highly respected figure who will lead a thorough process.” MP Julian Knight who is the chair of the Digital Culture, Media and Sport Committee has backed the investigation citing the “gravity of the subject” as the reason why the inquiry must proceed.
Bashir has been unable to comment on the allegations.
A challenge is being brought before the Supreme Court this month in a case that could affect 370,000 small businesses affected by Covid-19 lockdown. For many businesses, the lockdown imposed in March 2020 saw significant loss and closures to their business for months. Due to this, many small businesses made claims under their business interruption insurance however, many insurers argued that the policies did not cover the unprecedented restrictions which Covid-19 brought to the fore.
The Financial Conduct Authority brought a test case with eight insurers agreeing to take part. In the High Court, the judges found that the majority of the policies of insurers should pay out to many of these small businesses, providing potential business saving aid during this difficult time. However, for others they have had to wait until this case is heard at the highest level. Of 21 policies looked at in the test case, the rulings on 13 are being appealed. 11 of these are appeals by insurers where the court ruled that their policies should have led to payouts, the remaining two are appeals brought by the FCA where the court ruled that the policies in question should not have paid out.
The Supreme Court is expected to make its ruling a few weeks after the hearing scheduled for late November.
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