AllAboutLaw Blog: UK arms exports, cyberattacks and the courts, and more

Welcome to the fourth AllAboutLaw weekly blog! This week, we will be looking at last week’s ruling on arms exports to Saudi Arabia, possible criminal trial delays due to cyberattacks, and changes to the Solicitors Qualifying Examination.

  • Last updated Jul 9, 2019 3:57:57 PM
  • Anna Vall Naves
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UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia ruled unlawful

The award of new arms exports licences to Saudi Arabia has been suspended after the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) won a significant legal challenge in the Court of Appeal last Thursday. The organisation argued that the sale of military weapons to Saudi Arabia is unlawful due to likely violations of international humanitarian law by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. 

Under British law, it is illegal to licence arms exports if there is a “clear risk” that the equipment may be used in “serious violations of international humanitarian law”.

Since the war in Yemen began in March 2015, thousands of civilians have been killed in bombings by Saudi Arabia and its allies. The Saudi-led coalition could be guilty of war crimes as it has “targeted civilians [...] in a widespread and systematic manner”, according to the UN.

The UK has licensed £4.7bn in arms exports to the Gulf kingdom since the start of the civil war, with most sales taking place before 2018. Forty per cent of arms produced in the UK are reportedly sold to Saudi Arabia.

The appeal court concluded last week that the government’s decision to sell arms to Saudi Arabia was “wrong in law in one significant respect because the government had failed to conduct any assessment of the danger of British weapons being used against civilians in Yemen”. After this ruling, the government stated that it will not be issuing any new arms licences as it reconsiders its decision-making process, but existing licences will continue. 

The Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, said that halting arms sales to Saudi Arabia will only benefit “the ‘death to America’ crowd”—referring to Iran, which supports Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

Andrew Smith, of the CAAT, said: “The Saudi Arabian regime is one of the most brutal and repressive in the world, yet, for decades, it has been the largest buyer of UK-made arms. No matter what atrocities it has inflicted, the Saudi regime has been able to count on the uncritical political and military support of the UK.”

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“There can be no peace without justice and respect for human rights.” – Irene Khan, Bangladeshi lawyer and former secretary general of Amnesty International

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Firm news

Magic circle firm Slaughter and May has increased its salary for newly qualified (NQ) solicitors to £100k to stay “competitive in the market”.

Fieldfisher announces double-digit revenue gains this year after its third consecutive year of growth. 

Eversheds Sutherland launches training sessions in the field of legal technology for its partners.

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Cybercrime: trials may face delays due to a cyberattack

A cyberattack on Eurofins, the UK’s biggest private forensic company, has caused delays in forensic testing that could impact court cases. Judges and prosecutors have been informed of the attack, and some fear evidence may have been manipulated in the incident. As forensic submissions are redirected to other suppliers, less serious and historical cases may be delayed. 

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Junior lawyers concerned new exams will lower standards

The Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) has written a letter this week to Bob Neill MP, chair of the Justice Committee, requesting an inquiry into the introduction of the new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). The JLD fears the SQE proposals will “result in lower professional standards” and be detrimental to clients using legal services. The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), on the other hand, claims these proposals would make the process cheaper and the profession more accessible. 

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Recommended reading

1. Deutsche Welle’s documentary on Yemen and the global arms trade provides context for the court of appeal’s decision this week.

2. In an opinion piece for The Guardian, Yvonne Roberts writes about alternatives to jail for women who have committed crimes.

3. The UK’s new policy on porn, which requires age-verification on all porn sites, is set to be delayed indefinitely after the government failed to inform the EU of its proposals.

4. In light of recent allegations of the MP’s misconduct, Joshua Rozenberg writes an opinion piece for The Law Society Gazette on Boris Johnson and the limits of the law

5. In Pakistan this week, the country’s top judge has announced that 1,000 special courts will be created to tackle violence against women, as reported by Hugh Tomlinson and Aoun Sahi for The Times.

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