Legal News Round Up: August 2022
Trigger Warning: This article contains references to sexual assault and violence that may be disturbing to some readers. Discretion is therefore advised.
Much like the rest of 2022 thus far, the end of the summer was highly eventful. While barristers' strikes in the United Kingdom which plagued June and July continued, there were a range of exciting new developments across the world. Here are some key headlines to keep an eye on in future months:
Potential Restrictions on Gene Editing
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is seeking to update fertility laws which have been in place for the past 30 years. The Authority anticipates rapid scientific advancements in reproductive treatments in the coming years. As Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, Head of Stem Cell Biology and Developmental Genetics at the Francis Crick Institute, states: "the science progresses much faster than the law" and HFEA wishes to ensure legal protections for procedures.
For instance, scientists are currently working towards growing egg and sperm cells in labs, which would enable same-sex couples to have biological children together. It would also help couples who do not produce viable eggs and sperm themselves. This technique has proven successful in mice and dogs with research on non-human primates expected to swiftly progress and develop. Professor Lovell-Badge claims that this technology will be hugely popular and therefore "it's better to have the regulations... to allow it to happen in a controlled way".
Other procedures include editing the genomes of human embryos, allowing for the treatment of inherited diseases. This is expected to address some of the limitations of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) such as when both parents carry two coppies of a gene. However, this is a highly sensitive and controversial topic and needs extensive research to ensure DNA is not accidentally altered in other ways.
The Authority will put forth a range of reccomendations to the United Kingdom's government to update the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act of 1990.
Taylor Swift Accused of Plagarism
Girl pop group 3LW was accused global pop star Taylor Swift of plagiarising lyrics from their song "Playas Gon' Play" 14 years later for her hit single "Shake it Off".
Songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler are suing Ms Swift on the basis that the lyrics "playas gonna play" and "haters gonna hater" are similar. While the case was dismissed in 2018 for banality, an appeal panel revived the issue in 2021 and a judge refused Ms Swift's subseqeuent request to dismiss it.
Ms Swift responded to the claims in a sworn declaration that the "lyrics to Shake It Off were written entirely by me" and that she had no previous knowledge of the other song or the girl group. Instead, she has stated that she had heard such "commonly used phrases and comments" throughout her childhood. The case will proceed to court.
Archie Battersbee Dies
12-year-old Archie Battersbee, who was the focus of a legal battle between his parents and doctors, had his life support withdrawn and was pronounced dead earlier this month.
Archie was found unconscious at home in April 2022, suffering from severe brain injuries and needing life support such as ventilation and drug treatment in hospital ever since. He did not regain consciousness over four months.
While the hospital stated there were no more avenues available, Archie's parents requested the intervention of the European Court of Human Rights to continue life support. When the ECHR stated it was outside their scope, they requested he be moved to a hospice. The United Kingdom's High Court of Justice stated they reviewed medical evidence and found that Archie was "too unstable to be transported by ambulance" and should remain in hospital.
Archie died with his parents and loved ones by his bedside.
Spain Passes New Sexual Consent Law
Spain has introduced new legislation which states that consent for sexual activity cannot be assumed "by default or silence". The "only yes means yes law" was passed with 205 supporting votes and is being hailed as a great victory towards supporting victims of sexual violence.
Spain's Equality Minister Irene Montero states "from now on no woman will have to prove that violence or intimidation was used" in instances of sexual assault. Consent can no longer be assumed but must be affirmative and must reflect "the person's wishes".
It follows public outcry after an 18-year-old woman was gang-raped by five men during the bull-running festival in 2016. Footage of the woman "immobile and with her eyes shut" was used in court as proof of consent.