The Government’s response to the equal marriage consultation was published. Although the consultation revealed that a majority supported introduction of equal marriage, there was strong dissent from religious groups. The current plans being floated would allow for an “opt-in” system for religious institutions that wanted to offer same-sex services, with an absolute guarantee that those who did not want to do so would not be compelled to. However, due to their objections it is intended that the Church of England would be completely banned from offering same-sex marriages. Subsequent reports suggest the Church of England may not have been adequately consulted over the proposals, and did not seek complete exemption. MP Ben Bradshaw said of the reaction to the ban:
“The only explanation I can think of was that they thought it would help placate some of their homophobic backbenchers. But it seems to have backfired massively because the rightwing homophobes were out in force anyway and the Church of England now appears to be extremely upset that not only was it not asked, but it’s added to [the] general misery over women bishops and now this. It makes the Church of England look much more reactionary and unreasonable than it actually is.”
Scotland has already drafted a Bill to introduce equal marriage, with measures including allowing civil marriage ceremonies to take place anywhere agreed by the registrar and the couple, and establishing belief ceremonies such as humanist ceremonies as a “third form of marriage” alongside religious and civil events detailed alongside provisions for same-sex marriage.
Julian Assange revealed “significantly advanced” plans to establish a WikiLeaks political party and run for a Senate seat in the 2013 Australian federal election. Assange is not registered to vote but believes he could register in New South Wales or Victoria as an overseas voter.
It was announced that Gary McKinnon will not face charges in the UK for accessing US government computers, after the DPP considered that his chances of conviction were “not high”. However, his US extradition warrant is still outstanding, meaning he has to remain within the UK.
The appointment of the new Senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales was announced. Lord Justice (Sir Peter) Gross will replace Lord Justice Goldring at the end of this year.
Former MP Margaret Moran was given a two-year supervision and a treatment order for fraudulently claiming over £50,000 worth of expenses. She was deemed unfit to stand trial due to mental health reasons. Mr Justice Saunders said of the ruling:
“There will inevitably be feelings among some that Mrs Moran has ‘got away with it’.
“What the court has done and has to do is to act in accordance with the law of the land and on the basis of the evidence that it hears.”
A report by the Public Accounts Committee exposed the “total chaos” caused by outsourcing interpretation services in courts to Applied Language Solutions. The company’s repeat failures to provide interpreters disrupted nearly 200 trials in the first quarter of 2012. Margaret Hodge, who commissioned the report, said:
“When the Ministry of Justice set out to establish a new centralised system for supplying interpreters to the justice system, almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong.
“The ministry awarded the contract to a company, ALS, that was clearly incapable of delivering. The ministry had been warned that ALS was too small to shoulder a contract worth more than £1m, but went ahead and handed them an annual £42m contract covering the whole country.”
The company’s database of interpreters had fictitious names on it, giving the impression there were many more interpreters available to work. The Ministry of Justice estimated a requirement of 1,200 interpreters when in reality only 280 were available when the contract went live.
Naomi Campbell announced she is suing the Telegraph Media Group for libel. The offending article claimed she organised an elephant polo tournament in India, which was described as “completely untrue” by her legal team:
“The simple truth is that there was no plan for elephant polo.”