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Sophie Cameron

Features and Opinion Editor, Solicitors Journal

Long-awaited reports and controversial bills dominate

Long-awaited reports and controversial bills dominate


Sophie Cameron takes a look at the news in the April Foreword

March has been a very busy month on the news front, with numerous bills and long-awaited reports published that are likely to have a substantial impact on the legal system.

A notable development was the publication of Baroness Louise Casey’s final report on the findings of her independent review of the standards of behaviour and internal culture of the Metropolitan Police Service. The damning report details the systemic problems identified in how the Met is run and the widespread deep-seated discrimination that has become 'baked into the system'. The final report details the widespread bullying, institutional homophobia, misogyny and racism, and other unacceptable behaviours that has been identified within the police force.

In a similar vein, the National Police Chiefs' Council has invited further public scrutiny by publishing for the first time the violence against women and girls benchmark, assessing the performance of England and Wales police, which is based on data collected between October 2021 and March 2022. The statistics show that more than 1,500 police officers, which equates to 0.7 per cent of the total workforce in March 2022, were accused of violent offences against women and girls during the six-month period. The publication of the figures follows priority actions set in December 2021 by the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the College of Policing to ensure that all police forces in England and Wales are adhering to high standards when responding to violence against women and girls.

Another notable report published this month came in the form of the final report from the Industry Working Group on the Electronic Execution of Documents, which was tasked with reviewing the practical and technical issues associated with eSignatures and to identify potential solutions by making proposals for reform and development. The working group’s final report, published by the Ministry of Justice, sets out a series of recommendations for reform including that the Law Commission should consider reforming the law in relation to deeds and that a review should be carried out into the law of statutory declarations.

On 8 March, the government announced the introduction to Parliament of the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, the new UK version of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which aims to reduce the burden on British businesses. The new version of the Bill: introduces a simple framework that it states will not be difficult or costly to implement – taking the best elements of the GDPR and providing businesses with more flexibility about how they comply with the new data laws; ensure that the new regime maintains data adequacy with the EU, and wider international confidence in the UK’s data protection standards; reduce the amount of paperwork organisations need to complete to demonstrate compliance; support more international trade without creating extra costs for businesses if they are already compliant with current data regulation; provide organisations with greater confidence about when they can process personal data without consent; and increase public and business confidence in artificial intelligence (AI) technologies by clarifying the circumstances when robust safeguards apply to automated decision-making.

The UK government also announced in March the introduction to Parliament of the Illegal Migration Bill, which aims to address challenges in the UK’s asylum system and has proven to be extremely controversial. The Bill, which will legally require anyone who enters the UK illegally and who has passed through a safe country to be removed to a safe country, has been met with widespread criticism from the Law Society, NGOs, MPs and academics. Ahead of a debate on the Bill, a letter with more than 60 professional signatories was sent to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak calling for him to withdraw the Bill due to risks that it will drive modern slavery underground and inflict harm on the survivors of modern slavery and other human rights abusees.

We publish daily news to help keep you up-to-date with the developments that matter. The hard-copy magazine only features a small selection of the news stories we publish, so make sure you visit our website to access all of March’s news.