Government considers law on ‘right to disconnect’

The Government is considering giving legal backing to the right to switch off from work emails.

In 2017, France introduced regulations that set out hours when staff should not read or answer emails.

Business Minister Heather Humphreys is now looking at similar legislation.

Digitisation

The Irish Government is weighing the changes in light of the increased digitisation of the Irish workforce. It is considering introducing clearly-defined rules on when staff should log on and off work email accounts.

Responding to a parliamentary question, Minister Humphreys said: “As part of their work programme, I will ask the Interdepartmental Steering Group to examine the French approach referenced by the deputy.

“Given the increasing digitalisation of the workforce, I believe it is important from a work-life balance perspective that there are clearly defined guidelines regarding workers’ rights to switch off after office hours”.

Benefits

The French regulations give “tangible benefits for employees including improving their work-life balance”.

“It also provides solutions for those who would otherwise take unpaid parental leave but cannot afford to do so,” she said.

EU law already states that workers are entitled to an 11-hour continuous break from their work demands.

North judge rebukes police for seizing papers from journalists

Northern Ireland’s top judge has delivered a stinging rebuke to the Police Service of Northern Ireland for raiding the homes and offices of two journalists who investigated a notorious - and unresolved - massacre during the Troubles.

The lord chief justice of Northern IrelandDeclan Morgan, said on Friday that police had obtained “inappropriate” search warrants and ordered them to return laptops, phones, documents and other material seized from Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey.

The judge vindicated the journalists, saying they had acted in “perfectly proper manner” in protecting their sources for the documentary No Stone Unturned, which investigated the June 1994 murder of six Catholics in Loughinisland, Co Down, by Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) gunmen.

Birney and McCaffrey embraced their lawyers and supporters and called the judge’s decision a huge relief.

“Today restores our faith in the checks and balances of the court system,” Birney said outside the high court in Belfast on Friday. “It’s a damning indictment of the police investigation.”

Seamus Dooley, the assistant secretary general of the National Union of Journalists of Ireland, hailed the judge’s decision. “It’s a good day for journalism and a good day for human rights in Northern Ireland, ” he said.

No one has been charged for the atrocity at Loughinisland, where three masked gunmen entered the Heights pub and opened fire on customers watching the Republic of Ireland play Italy in the World Cup. The oldest to die was Barney Greene (87). The youngest was Adrian Rogan (34).

Reconstructed

The 2017 documentary, directed by Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney, reconstructed the attack and the police investigation, named the main suspects and questioned murky contacts between police and loyalist paramilitaries.

Rather than follow up leads in the documentary, police targeted the journalists. They arrested Birney and McCaffrey in dawn raids last August on suspicion of stealing an unredacted police ombudsman investigation into the massacre.

The pair, who have remained on bail without charge, challenged the legality of the search warrants in a judicial review.

Sir Declan Morgan signalled his decision at a hearing on Wednesday when he said the court was “minded to quash the warrants on the basis they were inappropriate”.

On Friday, he repeated that the warrants were inappropriate and absolved the journalists. “The material... which was subsequently demonstrated to us does not indicate that the journalists acted in anything other than a perfectly proper manner with a view to protecting their sources in a lawful way.

“We consider that in any event in the light of the legal authorities that the execution or granting of the search warrant was inappropriate.”

The judge said the seized material, which includes millions of pages of documents, should be returned. He said the journalists should retain Loughinisland material of potential interest to the police. The pair remain under investigation pending a police decision to continue or drop the case.

Niall Murphy, a solicitor for the men, said evidence presented this week had exposed the “warped mindset” of police who pursued journalists rather than murderers. “Senior police must now reflect on their actions and and stop this farce of an investigation.”

Raids

The raids against the men were overseen by officers from Durham constabulary, after being asked to take over the case by the Police Service of Northern Ireland due to a potential conflict of interest.

Chief constable Mike Barton, from Durham Constabulary, said in a statement on Friday that due process was followed in applying for the warrants. “We respect the outcome of today’s hearing and the judge’s decision, and we will consider its implications,” he said.

Chief constable Barton is due to accompany the PSNI chief constable George Hamilton at a meeting of the Northern Ireland policing board on June 6th.

The case has become a cause célèbre among press freedom campaigners, who have drawn comparisons with the UK government’s attempts to encourage journalistic freedoms overseas.

It has also created unusual alliances. The journalists’ legal team includes John Finucane, a solicitor and Sinn Féin councillor who was recently elected lord mayor of Belfast.

A high-profile political supporter is David Davis, the Conservative MP and former Brexit minister who is a veteran campaigner for press freedom.

After attending the hearings on Wednesday and Friday, Mr Davis commended the judge for upholding press freedom. “You could hardly ask for a better judgement,” he said.

McCaffrey thanked the Tory for swapping Westminster for Belfast to show his solidarity. “If there’s one person that went above and beyond it’s David Davis.” - Guardian

Credit Irish Times

Girl scalded by hot chocolate settles for €150,000.

An eight-year-old girl who suffered second-degree scald burns when a cup of hot chocolate tipped in to her lap on a Ryanair flight has settled her High Court action for €150,000.

American Sriya Venkata Neti was travelling on a Ryanair flight from Rome to Krakow, Poland with her parents, when she took a sip of the hot chocolate but recoiled from the hot liquid and the paper cup fell on top of her.

Her Counsel Hugh Mohan SC told the High Court the little girl suffered significant burns.

A medical report handed in to the court said the hot liquid pooled on the seat causing extreme burning pain and the child's mother had to unbuckle her from the seat and her clothing had to be removed. Where the liquid had hit, the mother reported her daughter's skin was gone and blisters were forming in other areas and the child was crying.

Upon landing in Krakow the girl was airlifted to hospital and was then transferred to Toronto, Canada where she spent eight days being treated as an outpatient for her burns before returning home to California.

Sriya Venkata Neti, who is now 11 years old, and lives in Freemont, California had through her father Srinivas Neti sued Ryanair over the accident on the Rome Krakow flight on June 25, 2016.

She had claimed she had been served a hot chocolate at such a high temperatures that the liquid could and did cause severe scalding and burns to her and there was an alleged failure to provide a safe method of service of hot beverages in particular hot chocolate suitable for minors.

It was further claimed there was an alleged failure to warn the little girl of the known danger posed by the temperatures at the which the chocolate was served.

It was also alleged there was an alleged failure to provide any or any adequate assistance to the child and her family post spillage and that after a time it was allegedly requested the little girl be moved to a toilet for treatment so as not to disturb other passengers.

The alleged failure of the cabin crew it was claimed to prove any adequate assistance to the girl or her parents allegedly resulted in the burns suffered being exacerbated.

In particular, it was claimed the alleged failure to provide any or any adequate means of cooling the burns worsened the injuries considerably.

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Ryanair denied all the claims.

The girl's counsel Hugh Mohan SC told the court it was a slightly unusual case in that  under the Warsaw Convention if a passenger on an international flight can show that bodily injuries were caused by an accident, an unexpected or unusual event that is external to the passenger, then the passenger need not show negligence or fault as against the airline.

The young girl suffered burns to her thighs and buttocks and has been left with scarring, the court heard.

In an affidavit to the court, the girl's father Srinivas Neti said the scarring has now substantially improved and whereas the injuries sustained were extremely serious, his daughter has made a good recovery and the condition of her injuries has improved considerably.

Approving the settlement Mr Justice Kevin Cross said when Sriya was scalded it must have been extremely painful. The young girl has also been left with scarring but the court heard she has made a good recovery. He also took in to account that the family now wanted to get on with their lives and to put the incident behind them.

Credit Irish Independent

Source: https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/cour...

Artificial Intelligence and Law

Dublin house auction in  world first for AI

Four bidders entered an auction room on Friday 5 October to buy a detached house on Sweeney’s Terrace in Dublin.

The auctioneer ran the process as usual, greeting the bidders, interacting with them, and encouraging offers by lowering the bid increments. Around 20 minutes later, the auctioneer closed the sale to the winning bidder for €345,000 – well above the €250,000 guide price.

This wouldn’t normally be news, except only the bidders and the house were real. The room was virtual, and the auctioneer was computer code. 

 

An artificial intelligence (AI) tool controlled the entire auction process, which took place in real time – unlike other existing auction sites like eBay, for example. 

“As far as I’m aware, we’re the first in the world to use AI technology for a property auction,” says Gary Jacobs, director of property firm Allen & Jacobs, which handled the sale.  

One location

The online auction platform, called ‘clicktopurchase’, had a section containing all of the legal documents relating to the property.

This meant there was one location where bidders’ solicitors could check the deeds, removing the need to send physical copies by post or courier. If a bidder wanted to offer, they asked their solicitor to verify their identity and, once that happened, they were allowed into the auction room. 

Legally binding

There was no initial deposit required at the auction stage, but the transaction became legally binding once the offer was accepted.

Following the sale, there was a 48-hour period for the winning bidder to pay 10% to the vendor’s solicitors. All of the parties involved in the sale digitally signed the contract to make it legally binding. According to Jacobs, all of the other paperwork, such as transfer of title deeds, still happens in the traditional way.  

Tamper proof

“Because the transaction is done electronically, it is completely beyond manipulation of any sort,” says Neil Singer (CEO of clicktopurchase, pictured above), which developed the AI tool.

“There is absolute proof of the transaction taking place at €345,000. For the bidder, buyer and seller, it is completely transparent. Everyone can see the process.” 

Clicktopurchase recorded the transaction on a private blockchain, which is a tamper-proof digital database. 

Jacobs says there were two main benefits to handling the auction online with AI. “Online can be used anywhere, and the bidder can be anywhere in the world. There’s no big paper trail where you have people requesting documents from solicitors. Everything is online to be dissected by the other party, and at that point they decide to bid or not,” he says. 

Jacobs says he would definitely use the technology again. “It gives transparency and also speeds up the conveyancing process. The feedback we got was that people liked the convenience of it, and the fact they didn’t have to take two hours out of their Friday afternoon to come to an auction room in the city centre. 

Looking to the future

Singer believes that AI can work to solicitors’ benefit. “The role of solicitors in checking ownership will be removed going forward, thanks to blockchain, but it will not mitigate their requirements to interpret the legalities around the property.

Blockchain is all about absolute proof and trust – as soon as the title registers are tokenised [a digital code represents each title], ownership of title will be recorded in one’s digital wallet. It will be like opening your physical wallet and showing someone your €20 note inside.

This will show absolute proof of ownership -- and this is where the solicitor’s role in checking that someone owns a property they wish to sell will be removed.

“The solicitor will still need to interpret the title in advising a buyer, but their role will be easier, faster and more efficient.

Lawyers will still have an invaluable role. Digital signatures and blockchain will simply make it far easier to transact.” 

New business avenues

The technology could also open up new avenues of business for solicitors beyond just conveyancing – for example, they could make an AI tool and online auction room available to clients.

What is the Injuries Board?

The Injuries Board is an independent body set up by statute to assess personal injuries claims– be it a road traffic accident, a workplace accident or slips and falls or any other kind of injury before any legal claim can be taken through the courts

Because they are independently mandated by law they do not represent someone who is involved in an accident, nor do they deal in any way with apportioning fault – they will merely take the medical and out of pocket evidence and make a determination as to what level of compensation (if any) may be appropriate based on these

Can the Injuries Board assess every personal injury claim or are there circumstances where the injury is outside their remit?

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