At the time of writing the country is in a state of turmoil following the result of the General Election. Two events were due to take place on 19 June: the Brexit negotiations were set to kick off at the same time as The Queen’s Speech was outlining the legislative programme for the government – a government that has a somewhat different complexion from the one envisaged when the event was scheduled. Both events look set to be delayed.
Both will contain elements of interest to the expert witness. While any Queen’s Speech incorporates legislation that will need to be interpreted by judges and lawyers, this one will contain the Great Repeal Bill to incorporate a multitude of EU legislation into UK law following Brexit.
The Brexit negotiations, on the other hand, will determine the extent to which the UK goes its own way. Both events will cause huge headaches for those experts, such as engineers and environmental consultants, who will be tasked with understanding just what has gone and what is left.
Another area where UK law will be taking over from EU law is that of animal welfare. It is a slightly anomalous area because traditionally UK animal welfare legislation has been ahead of the rest of Europe. Nonetheless, it is a subject about which the British public are famously passionate and most people want welfare legislation to be at least as stringent post-Brexit as it is now.
As if to emphasise the extent to which the UK economy has become entwined with that of the rest of Europe, yet another warning has been issued against drifting too far away from the EU in the area of financial services. This time it is the Bar Association that is keen to put its view forward ahead of Brexit talks. Other areas of concern to the barristers’ representative body are the preservation of rights of abode and employment rights.
The election result brought with it an inevitable rethink of Mrs May’s Cabinet reshuffle. A notable casualty was Justice Secretary Liz Truss. Her replacement is David Lidington, an MP who is known to be in favour of fox hunting and opposed to gay marriage.
Concerns about the UK’s role in Europe pale into insignificance against the growing integration of computer systems into a global network. Even the notoriously hidebound British legal system is ‘going digital’, with the e-Judiciary portal marking the gateway to cloud computing. Last November Lord Justice Fulford exhorted experts to embrace change or be left behind.
Information technology brings with it threats as well as benefits, however. On 12 May a visit to the local pharmacy revealed frustration among staff and customers alike at an inability to access electronic prescriptions. As the afternoon wore on it became evident that a major cyber attack had paralysed a substantial part of the NHS in the locality. As more information is unfolding regarding the background to the WannaCry worm, more evidence is emerging that the attack was foreseen. Whether it could have been prevented is another matter.
Cyberspace is also exploited as an environment for covert communications by those who would disrupt and destroy. That fact has been brought home to us repeatedly in recent months by a series of terror attacks across Europe – culminating in the outrages in London and Manchester.
Digital communications leave behind their own trails, which are readily interpreted by a cohort of experts. The more data they have to work with, the better equipped they are to pinpoint and dismantle the threat. Even the humble dashcam is now being drafted in to add its two penn’orth to the sum total.