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Weekly News Summary – 31st July 2017

Welcome to another Lawyer Portal weekly news summary. This week’s post will cover the legal stories from 24th July to 30th July. This week the court battle of the parents of Charlie Gard came to an unfortunate close, there have been questions as to whether an intention by Donald Trump about reinstating the ban on transgender military personnel would hold up in court if taken further, and the Law Commission suggest the creation of a comprehensive ‘Sentencing Code.’

The beginning of the week saw the distraught parents of Charlie Gard finally end their legal battle over treatment for their terminally ill son. The parents, who had previously been asking the court to review fresh evidence in order to allow their son to undergo treatment in New York, told the press that they believed “time was wasted” and now it was too late to save their child – the heart-breaking decision was made after Charlie’s latest MRI showed no chance of the experimental therapy improving his condition.

The initial case had been rejected throughout the courts with the verdict deemed unlikely to change unless new evidence was valuable enough to warrant a different conclusion.

The couple’s last wish and final question to the court was to allow them to be able to take their son home to die for some ‘tranquility’ outside of the hospital. Despite this, hospital managers as well as the legal team for Great Ormond Street Hospital made clear that the practical problems with transferring Charlie – who required round the clock intensive care and complex breathing apparatus – were insurmountable.

After deliberation, Mr Justice Francis ruled on Wednesday 26th July in a detailed order that Charlie would be moved to a hospice where he would spend his final moments. On Friday, the child’s life support was withdrawn per this order.

President Donald Trump made an announcement via Twitter suggesting that transgender people were to be unable to serve in the military “in any capacity.”

This would reverse the historic decision made last year to allow military service. Many US defense officials have since indicated confusion stemming from the informal statements as they themselves learned of the ‘decision’ via social media.

The president’s string of tweets stated that the reasoning for the decision where economic suggesting that medical treatment for transgender people was counterproductive to military success. Tweets have no immediate military or legal effect however as the Commander in Chief of the Military, Donald Trump has cast fear into all transgender people in service and those wishing to enroll.

However, despite these fears The Department of Defense’s ‘Transgender Policy’ still stands. This policy states that transgender people are to be accepted into US military without discrimination. Before this policy was adopted in 2016, the issue was extensively investigated, concluding that service by anyone transgender would not diminish the success of or disrupt the army in any notable way. The evidence shown in this pentagon commissioned-study would mean that any attempt to reverse the policy would prompt great judicial review which would be unlikely to favour reinstatement of the ban.

The courts generally seek to employ strategies of basic equity and inviting a transgender person to serve and then subsequently seeking their removal would go against even the most basic notions of legal fairness. Moreover, the constitutional guarantee of equal protection in the eyes of the law sparks further questions for the president, as the proper political purpose of discriminating against this minority is unclear.

A newly published paper by the Law Commission puts in place a plan to create a comprehensive ‘Sentencing Code’ to replace archaic sentencing laws dating back over 8 centuries. The paper published on Thursday proposes dramatic reforms to the complicated sentencing laws in order to minimize delay and excessive errors within the system.

Sentencing as it stands is subject to numerous statutes dating from the 1300s as well as constant transitional changes having to be applied through modern statutes and statutory instruments. The outcome, according to the commission, is that judges and practitioners are left with a sentencing process which is unclear, incoherent and difficult to put into motion. There has also been evidence given within the proposal that such a code would lessen the high number of unlawful sentences being handed down as a consequence of the complexity of the current sentencing process.  

Therefore, the Law Commission seeks to create a ‘Sentencing Code’ as a comprehensive solution. This has been a welcome suggestion for many in the profession including the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales Lord Thomas and Lord Justice Treacy who have both previously made comment on the difficulties experienced with the current law.

Not only will this simplify the job of legal professionals, the Commission have estimated that it will save approximately £225 million pounds by reducing the number of unnecessary delays and appeals stemming from unlawful sentences.  

Words: Alicia Gibson

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