The restoration of the power sharing executive in Northern Ireland has had a spectacular impact on its legal sector. We have already reported on how the much anticipated Redress Board was up and running with High Court Judge, A Colton appointed as president. Last week also saw the first call of new QC’s to the Bar of Northern Ireland; a move held up by the lack of the Executive.
The new Justice Minister has now confirmed that she is to implement legislation to mirror the domestic abuse legislation activated in England & Wales in 2015 and in Scotland in 2019. The proposed Domestic Abuse Bill is currently with the legislative drafters and it is hoped that the final document could be brought forward within the next few months and with the co-operation of the parties and full Executive it is hoped that the Bill could be introduced by April or May 2020.
Today – 11 February 2020 – marks Safer Internet Day which is annual celebration of the safe and positive use of digital technology for children and young people.
Safer Internet Day is a global event which is coordinated in the UK by the Safer Internet Centre. The Safer Internet Centre is a partnership of three leading organisations: Childnet International, Internet Watch Foundation and SWGfL with a shared mission to promote the safe and responsible use of technology for young people
The aim of Safer Internet Day is to highlight positive uses of technology and to explore ways in which to create a better and safer online community. It also seeks to enable young people to feel more confident about what to do if they are worried about something online.
The global theme for Safer Internet Day is “Together for a better internet”, with this year’s UK campaign entitled “Free to be me.” This will look at how young people manage their online identity, experiment and express themselves.
Safer Internet Day aims to see millions of young people, schools, and organisations across the UK explore online safety and the theme of ‘free to be me’.
It is supported by the Government, schools, charities, the police, football clubs and celebrities some of whom are hosting events to promote discussion on the safe, responsible and positive use of technology. There are also a number of online quizzes and top tips designed to ensure young people are well equipped to keep themselves safe and report any online concerns that they might have.
In July, 2015 Magnus Meyer Hustveit pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court in Ireland to one count of rape and one count of sexual assault committed against his 28-year-old girlfriend between 2011 and 2012.
Hustveit who is Norwegian had sent an email to his former partner, Niamh Ní Dhomhnaill where he admitted to using Ms Ní Dhomhnaill body for his sexual gratification while she was asleep. At the time Ms Ní Dhomhnaill was taking medication that made her sleep heavily.
In June, 2019 Tusla, the Irish Child and Family Agency set out how it intended to respond to new figures that showed the number of cases of retrospective abuse awaiting allocation to a social worker had overtaken the number of cases that had been allocated.
Figures published in January, 2019 by Tusla showed that the number of unallocated cases overtook the number of cases that had been allocated for the first time.
The number of monthly referrals of such cases peaked in January, 2019 at 321, and in February, 2019 the number of open cases of retrospective abuse stood at 2,824.
On 29 November 2019, the Australian Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator the Hon Anne Ruston, hosted the Ministers Redress Scheme Governance Board, which is a meeting of the relevant Ministers with responsibility for the National Redress Scheme (NRS) in their state or territory.
Those in attendance noted that while redress has been paid to several hundred survivors to date (975 as of 03/01/2020) the administration of the NRS is not providing the fast, simple and trauma-informed response survivors deserve.
Strike-out refused in case involving alleged pure omission
The implications of the Supreme Court judgment in CN & GN v Poole BC are slowly being decided.
In CN, Lord Reed (giving the single unanimous judgment of the Supreme Court) emphasised the distinction between causing harm (‘positive acts’) and failing to confer a benefit (‘pure omissions’). A defendant owes a duty of care if it causes harm, or if the matter falls under one of three exceptions. A defendant will not owe a duty of care (the ‘no duty’ rule) if the case involves a pure omission and none of the exceptions applies.
The main questions since CN are (1) how to differentiate between causing harm and failing to confer benefit, (2) how the courts will look at the exceptions, and (3) whether the courts are prepared to strike out some cases.
The third question has recently been considered in the High Court in the case of Chief Constable of Essex Police v Transport Arendonk BVA  EWHC (QB).
A claim was brought by the owner of cargo stolen from a lorry parked in a secluded lay-by at night. The lorry had been left there whilst the police held the driver on suspicion of drink driving. The owner argued that the police were liable, because they had assumed responsibility for the cargo – in that they knew about theft of cargo in the area – but took no step to prevent it. The police force argued it had no duty of care as the loss resulted from the acts of third parties and it had not assumed responsibility for the cargo. The Recorder rejected the police’s request for a strike out, found that it was not clear that the police owed no duty of care, and ordered a trial. The police appealed. On appeal, Mrs Justice Elizabeth Laing agreed with the Recorder. She found that there was no conclusive authority to determine this case. She reviewed the other authorities, many of which had been considered in CN, and decided it would not be right to strike out the claim without making findings of fact. A full trial will be required.
Until more cases have been decided about pure omissions and the exceptions to the ‘no duty’ rule, courts are unlikely to strike out cases
Geneviève Rich, Associate, BLM
The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) has issued advice to its member clubs not to use WhatsApp, in concern about what material is shared, often in error, and how it is controlled. Group chats are often a very useful way of getting out news and arrangements for teams and clubs to the players, their parents and club members. However the ease of access to the chats, the ease of adding material and the potential for errors, makes this a potential banana skin for those who operate the chat.