28 May, 2004

Getaway wants name to get away

A high court judge who on Friday imposed four life sentences on a man who raped his 15-year-old stepdaughter - impregnating her last year - expressed the view that many people got away with such crimes largely because of family pressure (IOL 2004-05-24).

Environmental lobby group Biowatch sought in the Pretoria High Court to compel the government to divulge information about genetically modified organisms (GMO) in South Africa (News24 2004-05-24).

A family-owned publishing company has taken legal action against a big rival for allegedly copying one of its titles. Ramsay, Son & Parker, publisher of Getaway, has objected to Wegbreek, an Afrikaans-language title published by Media24. Wegbreek went on sale in March, the same month that Getaway celebrated its 15th anniversary (Sunday Times 2004-05-23).

The Italian parliament has passed legislation that introduces some of the harshest penalties anywhere in the world for illegally downloading copyrighted content. Italians found to have downloaded or uploaded music, film or any other copyrighted content over the internet now face up to three years in jail for their transgression (DMEurope 2004-05-24).

United Kingdom
As women in a sexual assault case have discovered, no fee doesn't mean no cost. The system to replace legal aid often ends up with demands to pay huge bills whatever the outcome of your day in court. Their case collapsed when a High Court judge ordered an urgent investigation into their solicitor, Jane Loveday, and her handling of their multi-million pound compensation claim in February (Guardian Unlimited 2004-05-23).

A "child of the eighties" has been born to a couple using sperm frozen for a record 21 years, scientists have revealed. The father was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1979 when he was 17 years old and his sperm was frozen before cancer treatment began. Later, when he and his wife decided to have a family, there was a delay of seven years until their baby was born, because of waiting lists and three unsuccessful attempts at fertility treatment (Telegraph 2004-05-25).

United States
Last week, Oklahoma judges considered a fundamental question - the status of international law in state courts in the US. And they made a paradigm-shifting decision.
Not only did they properly treat a US treaty as binding law, they also relied on a March decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. The result was to halt an execution that would have taken place on May 18 of a Mexican national whose right to assistance from the Mexican consulate was not honored by the US (FindLaw 2004-05-24).

Texas prison officials executed a killer who was a diagnosed schizophrenic. Kelsey Patterson was killed by lethal injection. His execution brought to an end a case that had ignited debate over condemning the mentally ill to die (LA Times 2004-05-19).

Police can search a parked car for drugs, guns or other evidence of a crime while arresting a driver or passengers nearby, the Supreme Court ruled Monday. The high court has already ruled that officers can search a car when arresting someone inside, and the same rule now applies if a motorist or passenger gets out of the car. The 7-2 ruling addressed a common situation, in which police pull over a suspicious car or come upon it while it is parked. Sometimes motorists get out of the car before an officer approaches, and it was not clear until now whether police had leeway to search the car (FindLaw 2004-05-24).

The arrival of Viagra appears to have spurred a huge increase in demand for impotence remedies using seahorses as a cheaper alternative to the western wonder drug that was making headlines around the world. Twenty-five million seahorses a year are now being traded around the world - 64 percent more than in the mid-1990s - and environmentalists are increasingly concerned that the booming trade in seahorses is putting the creatures at risk (IOL 2004-05-24).

Flying condom fights for family rights

In an effort to ensure compliance, how does a company effectively manage and store a vast amount of e-mail - also taking into account corporate governance requirements? Grant Morgan considers this subject in two articles : Managing e-mail to avoid liability and ensure compliance, and, Overcoming e-mail chaos (E-strategy 2004-05).

Indexing files by looking at their audio features is still a work in progress for big search engines (CNet News 2004-05-27).

South Africa prides itself on having established a democracy that is firmly rooted in a healthy respect for human rights. Yet the rulers of our country have conveniently looked away on at least three occasions when the rights of South African residents or citizens have been in danger of being gravely violated (The Star 2004-05-21. Editorial).

An Indonesian court has sentenced a South African man to death for smuggling heroin. Okonkwo Kingleys was sentenced on Wednesday by the district court in the North Sumatra provincial capital Medan (IOL 2004-05-21).

United Kingdom
Two men were charged with threatening behaviour in connection with the flour-throwing incident during Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday. Outlining their motivation for the incident in the House of Commons, one of the men said: "It was never our intention to frighten anybody in the public or in the House. It was to draw attention to the evil family court system and the damage it is doing to our children, parents and grandparents in this country and to make this change happen (Telegraph 2004-05-21).

1 833 motorists took part in the Internet survey on what occupies their thoughts when traffic comes to a standstill - only ten percent think of finding an alternate route (IOL 2004-05-21).

United States
The special commission weighing revisions to the American Bar Association's code of judicial conduct seems to have missed the lesson that Americans don't appreciate it when judges behave in ways that undermine the judicial system's fairness and integrity (New York Times 2004-05-22).

26 May, 2004

Domestic woes

The Supreme Court of Appeal will on Thursday hear an appeal by Mary Alexandra Hancock against her conviction in the Randburg regional court for the murder of her husband (News24 2004-05-20).

Statistics showed that one in every four women in SA was in an abusive relationship, with one woman being murdered by her partner every six days. This pattern was similar worldwide, Amnesty International secretary-general Irene Kahn said (Business Day 2004-05-20).

The Road Accident Fund (RAF) is technically bankrupt and is operating on a technical deficit of about R16.6bn says forensic investigator Ignatius Leopoldus Rautenbach (News24 2004-05-18).

Edging closer to a direct confrontation with Microsoft, Google, the Web search engine, is preparing to introduce a powerful file and text software search tool for locating information stored on personal computers (New York Times 2004-05-19).

YouSearched.Com has unveiled a search engine designed to be fully accessible to people with disabilities. Search is the second most used application on the Internet after Email but people with disabilities have not been able to fully utilize the capabilities of search engines. "The team at YouSearched.Com believe individuals using the Internet who are disabled, who are blind, who have difficulties distinguishing colours, have low vision, suffer tremors, or varying degrees of paralysis, and others living with disabilities, are as important as any other user", says YouSearched.Com founder Khalid Karrar (Search Engine Guide 2004-05-20).

A six-year moratorium on imports of genetically modified foods was lifted by the European Commission yesterday as it bowed to pressure from the United States. Brussels approved the import and sale of tinned and frozen GM sweetcorn from crops produced by the Swiss firm Syngenta, so long as it is clearly labelled as a bio-engineered product. The decision, which brought protests from environmentalists, comes after years of wrangling and gives a boost to the new technology, opening the way for imports of GM food and animal feed (Telegraph 2004-05-20).

United States
Within twenty-four hours of Mother's Day this year, a California appeals court held that EG, a woman who gave birth to twins conceived with her lesbian lover's eggs, was the sole legal parent of those twins. The ruling came as a terrible disappointment to KM, whose eggs had been used to conceive the twins. KM had petitioned to establish her parental relationship with the children, but the trial court, affirmed by the appellate court, dismissed KM's petition. The court based its conclusion largely on a consent form that KM signed, waiving parental rights prior to the retrieval of her eggs. The decision in this case exposes the complexity of defining the term "mother" as well as the discriminatory impact that traditional default rules can have on a nontraditional family
(FindLaw 2004-05-19).

The donkey's driving, dude

The motorist who shot an alleged robber acted in a lawful manner and won't be arrested for murder ; Johannesburg police said the man acted in self-defence. The law makes provision for a person to defend his own life and property, and the life or property of another person (News24 2004-05-20).

The widow of a taxi passenger who died in an accident involving a special haul truck can sue the Road Accident Fund (RAF) in terms of a Supreme Court of Appeal ruling this week (News24 2004-05-18).

The row around the dispensing of medicines has taken a new and ugly twist that pits thousands of pharmacists against medical doctors. The Pharmaceutical Society of South Africa (PSSA) has called on its 5 000 members to oppose doctors' dispensing licence applications (IOL 2004-05-20).

Reinhardt Buys writes that e-mail and the internet make life faster, easier and more productive, but businesses are learning that they can also bring about legal risks and reputational ruin (News24 2004-05-19).

A 32-year-old Johannesburg man was found guilty on Monday of loading a virus on to the computers of Edgars, which the company claims cost them R20 million and affected up to 700 stores. Because the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act governing what employees may legally do with company computers is not yet in force, Berend Howard of Morningside Manor was charged with malicious damage to Edcon property (Witness 2004-05-18).

Ten tertiary education institutions offering Masters in Business Administration (MBA) qualifications have had their MBA courses scrapped, the Council for Higher Education said on Thursday. Six existing business schools received full accreditation. They are the Gordon Institute of Business Science at the University of Pretoria, the Wits Business School, the Graduate School of Business at the University of Stellenbosch, the Graduate School of Business of the University of Cape Town, the Graduate School of Leadership at the University of SA (Unisa) and the Graduate School of Management at the University of Pretoria (News24 2004-05-20). See also How much is your MBA worth? (IOL 2004-05-21).

The Star has published a guide to how local government works (2004-05-18).

Newly-appointed Environment Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk has been asked to intervene in the row over the shooting of Table Mountain's tahrs (News24 2004-05-20). The war of words over the killing of tahrs escalated into death threats on Wednesday when Table Mountain National Park chief Brett Myrdal was told that he would be murdered if National Parks killed another tahr (IOL 2004-05-20).

A man was fined about R2 100 for drunk driving a donkey cart in a small South African town, and then telling police he was unconcerned "because the animals knew the way home" (IOL 2004-05-20).

Australian, US and other foreign firms paid a secret commission to former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's government to secure contracts under the UN oil-for-food programme (Business Report 2004-05-20).

United Kingdom
The world's first embryonic stem cell bank opens in Britain on Wednesday, breaking new ground in one of the most controversial areas of medical research (IOL 2004-05-19).

An e-crime study by the IPPR think-tank says there is a huge backlog of so-called e-crimes and a serious shortage of skills to deal with them. The report also calls for a nationally recognised computer-related qualification for people across the criminal justice system, including investigators and lawyers. If police skills are not improved the study warns of increased 'vigilantism' as the public sector and individuals take the law into their own hands (BBC 2004-05-18).

Britain's first three-dimensional cyber church has been forced to tighten security after a slew of abusive visitors ranted from the pulpit and swore in the aisles. The church said the first two days of the site, which launched last week, had been very noisy ; in one case, a person logged in as Satan, entered the pulpit and started to blaspheme (IOL 2004-05-19). Visit the site at http://www.shipoffools.com/church/.

The father of a 10-year-old boy filed a police complaint of vandalism after a circus elephant picked up his child's bicycle for a closer look and then dropped it on the ground and trampled it (IOL 2004-05-20).

United States
The Bush administration wants the United Nations Security Council to renew on Friday a controversial resolution exempting American peacekeepers from prosecution by the new International Criminal Court (IOL 2004-05-20).

An American judge on Wednesday acquitted environmental protection group Greenpeace on charges it conspired to break the law by sending activists aboard a freighter carrying illegally felled mahogany two years ago. The politically charged case dusted off a law not used since 1890 to bring the first criminal prosecution by United States authorities of an advocacy group for civil disobedience (IOL 2004-05-20).How much is your MBA worth? (IOL 2004-05-21).

25 May, 2004

Acid test

The Constitutional Court will hear an application on Thursday morning 20 May of a woman who wants to be paid maintenance from her unmarried partner’s estate. The decision is particularly significant as research has shown that more than two million South Africans (and in all probability significantly more than two million) are in non-marital relationships with their intimate partners (Women's Legal Centre. Media release 2004-05-19).

Hate crimes against lesbians are on the increase, mainly in areas such as Soweto and Alexandra, the chief executive officer of the Forum for the Empowerment of Women has said (IOL 2004-05-19).

The South African lawyers for the Zimbabwe detainees have now given President Thabo Mbeki an ultimatum : either help bring them back or face court action (The Star 2004-05-19).

The thorny issue of the Table Mountain goatlike tahrs may be headed for court again following a threat by the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) to seek an urgent interdict (Mail & Guardian 2004-05-18).

The decision by the South African Bureau of Standards to ban asbestos products in automotive products has sparked a heated debate about the safety of white asbestos used in brake pads, gaskets and buildings (Business Report 2004-05-19).

The Government has signalled that it is willing to breach the first of its "red line" safeguards on the European constitution by agreeing to cede Britain's veto over sensitive areas of criminal justice. The shift in policy raises fears that Brussels could acquire the power to interfere with the common law tradition of habeas corpus, trial by jury, and rules of evidence (Telegraph 2004-05-19).

The al-Qaida-linked website that first posted a video of American civilian Nicholas Berg's beheading has been shut down by the Malaysian company that hosted it - because it was drawing too much traffic. A senior officer of the company said it was not aware that the site, www.al-ansar.biz, may have been connected to al-Qaida or that offensive material had been posted on it (FindLaw 2004-05-13).

A man in northern China became suspicious when the beautiful woman he had married two years earlier gave birth to an ugly daughter last year. The disgusted husband divorced his wife and sued her for deceit after discovering that she had had plastic surgery before they met (IOL 2004-05-19).

Blow by blow

What an abysmal start to a daily service!

Our staff complement has come frighteningly close to being decimated by various viruses of the biological type in the last week or two. Having served my term for a few days last week, I've joined the team of survivors and hope that within a day or two I will have caught up on all the activity that went down in my absence.

In the meantime, if you have an interest in the 'affirmative action' judgment that was handed down in the Constitutional Court (SA) on Thursday last week, please e-mail our librarians at help@lawlibrary.co.za or keep an eye on ConCourt's website : http://www.concourt.gov.za/.

Stand by for the Big Catch-up of 2004 . . .