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In the Press

  • Laws governing where and how couples can get married in England and Wales are inconsistent, rigidly restrictive and hopelessly out of date, the Government’s adviser on legal reform insists in a major report calling for a complete overhaul of the system.
    The Law Commission describes the system of registration involving different rules for churches, register offices, hotels and special venues as one effectively trapped in the early 19th century and unfit for a multi-cultural, multi-faith society.
    It follows calls for a complete reappraisal of the system of registering weddings, during the debate two years ago on introducing same-sex marriage.
  • Today Mr Justice Horner reached his final conclusion in the judicial review of abortion legislation in Northern Ireland.
    Reading his final conclusion to the packed courtroom, he acknowledged that to interpret sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, the law which specifically protects the child in the womb, to allow for abortion in cases of rape, incest and when the unborn child has been diagnosed with a life-limiting disability, would be ‘a step too far’. Instead, the judge made a ‘declaration of incompatibility’, meaning that the matter of introducing new legislation is now for the Northern Ireland Assembly to decide.
    Mr Justice Horner’s ruling today does not change the law on abortion in Northern Ireland. There is no obligation on the Northern Ireland Assembly to act on this ruling or to legalise abortion in the above cases.
  • BBC director general Tony Hall has defended Tyson Fury's inclusion on the Sports Personality of the Year shortlist.
    More than 130,000 people have signed a petition calling for the boxer to be removed over comments he made about women and gay people.
    Lord Hall told the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee the list was decided by an independent panel.
    "He's been put on that list because of his sporting prowess," he said.
    "It's now up to the people to judge whether he should become Sports Personality of the Year."
  • Dying people should be treated with respect and compassion and doctors should not make snap decisions about their care, a watchdog has said.
    The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said doctors should seek support to help diagnose dying and should look to create an individual care plan involving the patient and their families.
    Nice’s new guidance on caring for people when death is imminent is an attempt to move away from the heavily criticised Liverpool care pathway (LCP).
    The LCP was phased out last year after an expert review found a “tick-box” culture was leading to dying people being put on the pathway without the knowledge of their families.
    Hospitals were paid millions to reach targets for the numbers of patients dying on the LCP. Families criticised decisions which led to their loved ones having nutrition and fluid withdrawn or receiving such heavy sedation that they could not be roused for a drink.
  • Germany has long complained that major internet services don't do enough to fight hate speech, and it now looks like those companies are going to do something about it. Facebook, Google and Twitter have all promised Germany that, "as a rule," they'll delete criminal forms of hate speech (such as inciting people to violence) within 24 hours. The push for action comes primarily in response to increased racism following Europe's refugee crisis, but it's not unexpected in light of the country's decades-old battle with hate.
    The move is slightly surprising when you consider the tendency of these services to fight censorship tooth and nail. Facebook, for instance, has denied that it recently broke German law by leaving hate speech online. However, the two sides clearly share some common ground. Facebook, Google and Twitter already have policies forbidding hate speech -- to some extent, they're just reconciling those guidelines with Germany's policies.
  • A judge has rejected an application to stop the trial of an evangelical preacher accused of making "grossly offensive" remarks about Islam.
    Pastor James McConnell, 78, of Shore Road, Newtownabbey denies two charges relating to a sermon he gave in a church last year.
    The judge said he was not convinced that there were no circumstances under which the preacher could be convicted.
  • A Muslim academic has spoken outside a Belfast court in support of a born-again Christian pastor who is on trial after denouncing Islam as “satanic” and “heathen”.
    Pastor James McConnell is being prosecuted under the 2003 Communications Act over his anti-Islam remarks during a controversial sermon at his church in Newtonabbey, County Antrim, last year.
    The 78-year-old evangelical Protestant preacher faces two charges – improper use of a public electronic communications network and causing a grossly offensive message to be sent by means of a public electronic communications network – because his remarks, made at Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle, in north Belfast, were posted on the internet.
    But speaking outside Belfast magistrates court to hundreds of McConnell’s supporters, Muhammad al-Hussaini, a senior research fellow in Islamic studies at the Westminster Institute, said he was in the city to back McConnell’s right to free speech.
  • Women who use a contraceptive implant are more likely to have a repeat abortion than those using certain other birth control methods, a UK study suggests. 
    Data from 13,621 women in the Grampian region in Scotland show that 23.4% who had a first termination underwent a repeat termination. The retrospective study found those who used a progestogen implant were more likely to have a second abortion than those using no or unknown contraception methods. Evidence suggested many women fail to renew their implant, which is typically required after three years. 
    At the time of initial conception, there was no link between the type of contraceptive method being used and the risk of a repeat abortion. However, women fitted with a contraceptive implant after an initial termination were 78% more likely to have a repeat termination compared to those using no, unknown or natural methods of contraception. 
  • Sitting in one room, a young Muslim woman tells an elderly cleric about the parlous state of her marriage to a 50-year-old man.
    ‘He oppressed me to the maximum,’ she declares. ‘He is violent, physically, and treats me like a dog.’
    The woman — who looks barely out of her early 20s — describes her spouse as verbally and physically abusive about ‘every little thing’ she does.

    When the husband’s around, he forces her to wear a headscarf. When he isn’t, which is often, he likes to travel to Tunisia, where she suspects he has secretly married several other women.
    For all she knows, she adds, he might have accumulated as many as ten other wives. Fighting back tears, as she finishes this tale of betrayal, the woman glances to the cleric, who has a long white beard, and sits at a raised desk in front of a bookcase full of Islamic texts. Perhaps she’s hoping for a supportive smile, confirming she’s not at fault. Maybe she’s seeking reassurance that the man will hold her misogynistic, wife-beating husband to account.
    Instead, the elderly cleric, whose name is Suhaib Hasan, starts laughing. ‘Why did you marry such a person?’ he chuckles.
  • The Church of England could agree to the genetic modification of human embryos, its medical ethics adviser has suggested.
    The controversial method known as germline editing could be used to cure inherited diseases and treat infertility. There have been concerns, however, that the changes are passed on to future generations.
    Critics of the technology, who include several European governments, have called for a global ban on the grounds that it could be unsafe and might lead to “designer babies” genetically enhanced to have greater strength or intelligence.


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