NI legal system plans 'aim for paperless courts'

Mediation and an online disputes service are proposed as alternatives to court hearings. Image caption Mediation and an online disputes service are proposed as alternatives to court hearings

The way courts in Northern Ireland deal with children and family disputes could be radically transformed under new proposals published on Tuesday.

New courts, with a focus on rehabilitating offenders, may also be introduced for some cases involving drugs, alcohol and domestic violence.

Mediation and an online disputes service are proposed as alternatives to court hearings.

There is also to be a much greater use of technology.

The aim is to move to paperless courts.

The recommended changes are the culmination of a two-year review of family and civil justice systems.

404 recommendations

The blueprint for reform was set out by Mr Justice Gillen in a speech to mark the opening of the new legal year at the Royal Courts of Justice in Belfast.

"We cannot remain chained to the present," he told an audience that included judges, barristers, solicitors and others within the criminal justice system.

"The case for reform is both compelling and urgent, and we must acknowledge and apply the fresh thinking that has emerged elsewhere lest we get left behind."

He added:"Just because one group of people in the past set the frame does not mean that others in the future cannot break the mould."

Two reports published on Tuesday contain 404 recommendations for change.

The stated aims are to improve access to justice, achieve better outcomes for court users, particularly for children and young people, and create a more responsive and proportionate system that makes better use of available resources, including new technologies.

In the family sphere, approaches may include counselling, therapy and parenting programmes in a bid to make proceedings much less adversarial.

However, the pace of change is expected to reflect the centuries-old proverb that "the wheels of justice turn slowly".

While stressing the need for the courts system to embrace change, Mr Justice Gillen stressed that this would be done incrementally.

'Exceedingly fine'

Politics and finances will dictate the pace of much of the change, while some proposed changes will require ministerial approval.

At this stage it isn't clear if that will fall to locally elected members of the assembly, or direct rule ministers.

Many of the changes will require some financial investment and bids for funding have not yet been made.

Welcoming publication of the reports, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan announced the creation of a Family Justice Board and Civil Justice Council to oversee the proposed changes.

Mr Justice Gillen will hope the whole of that centuries old proverb is realised:"The wheels of justice turn slowly, but exceedingly fine."...

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UK universities targeted by cyber-thieves

BatteriesImage copyright JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT Image caption Attackers went after work on improving batteries and alternative fuels

British universities are being hit by hundreds of successful cyber-attacks every year, reports the Times.

More than 1,152 intrusions into UK university networks had been recorded in 2016-17, it said.

And thieves were interested in defence technologies as well as research into novel fuels and better batteries.

The newspaper used data gleaned from Freedom of Information requests to gauge the extent of cyber-attacks on the educational institutions.

Tempting targets

The requests revealed that Oxford, Warwick and University College London had all suffered breaches that sought to steal research data and documents.

The newspaper said thieves were either stealing on behalf of foreign powers or looking to get at valuable data they could sell to the highest bidder.

The number of recorded attacks had doubled in two years, it added.

"Universities drive forward a lot of the research and development in the UK.Intellectual property takes years of knowhow and costs a lot," Carsten Maple, director of cyber-security at the University of Warwick, told the paper.

"If someone can get that very quickly, that's good for them."

Mr Maple said the digital defences deployed by UK universities needed to be tightened up.

The information received by the Times revealed attackers used many different techniques to extract either data or cash from the UK's higher education organisations.

Ransomware, phishing and denial of service attacks, which bombard sites with data, had all been employed against universities, it found.

Some organisations were being hit by more than 1,000 attacks a month, it said.

"It is no surprise that universities are suffering from an increase in security breaches," said Dr Anton Grashion, head of security practice at Cylance.

"Their network environments are some of the most challenging networks to manage, with usually smaller security and staffing budgets."

The open networks many universities ran made them a "tempting and easily accessible" target, he added....

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Chinese man jailed for helping net users evade state blocks

Chinese net cafeImage copyright Getty Images Image caption Chinese people face many restrictions on what they can do and say online

A Chinese man has been given a nine-month jail sentence for helping people evade government controls on where they can go online.

Deng Jiewei, from Guangdong, was charged with illegally selling programs known as virtual private networks (VPNs), according to court papers.

VPNs are illegal in China because they let people avoid government monitoring of what they are doing.

The sentence is part of a larger crackdown on the use of VPNs in China.

Secure browser

Deng started selling VPNs in late 2015 and was arrested in August 2016 for selling software which lets users "visit foreign websites that could not be accessed by a mainland IP address", reported the South China Morning Post.[1]

The Chinese government operates a massive monitoring system, known as the "great firewall", that watches what people do and say online.It also blocks access to sites, such as Facebook and YouTube, that are popular outside the country.

Many people in China have used VPNs to skirt the restrictions and visit blocked sites.

A VPN securely directs browsing traffic to off-shore servers so people can browse the web unimpeded.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionEXPLAINED:What is a VPN service?

In January 2017, the Chinese government kicked off a campaign to stop people using VPNs.This meant many commercial VPN suppliers were shut down and many of those making money from selling the software for VPNs were warned that they faced being arrested or fined.

The government crackdown also led Apple to remove 60 apps from its Chinese app store that let people browse the web via a VPN.The firm was heavily criticised for its decision.

In August, five websites including shopping giant Alibaba, were told to remove listings that offered people access to VPNs.

Multinational firms operating inside China were still allowed to keep using VPNs for staff accessing corporate resources....


  1. ^ reported the South China Morning Post. (

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Drone 'sprayed with venom' by Asian hornets at Jersey nest

drone body Image caption Venom from the hornets' stings was sprayed on the drone

A fire service drone was attacked by Asian hornets as it was sent to scout out a nest.

It happened as crews used infrared and high resolution cameras to take a closer look at it on behalf of Jersey's Department for the Environment.

Drawn by the sound of propellers, the hornets "swarmed out", spraying the drone with venom, operators said.

It was the first larger "secondary nest" found in the Channel Islands, thought to contain about 6,000 hornets.

For more stories from across the Channel Islands.[1]

Image caption The nest was hidden 60ft up a tree

The drone, operated by crews from Jersey Fire and Rescue Service, soared up into the canopy of trees near La Crete Quarry, St Martin, to do reconnaissance for pest control as they made plans to remove it.

Frank Raimbault, of Pestokill Environmental, said crews might come back and use chainsaws to get through the tree canopy, before putting a net over the nest and spraying it with pesticides.

Image caption The drone is normally used for detecting hotspots and in missing person searches Image caption The drone came under attack as it approached the nest

Bob Hogge, of the Jersey Beekeepers Association, said:"It is vital that we get rid of the nest in the next few weeks before the queens emerge because there are about 200 queens in each nest and once they're out and mated they're lost to us.And if each one of those makes a nest like this one, very soon the island will be overrun."

Image caption Asian hornets were marked in Jersey to track them

How do you find an Asian hornet's nest?

Mr Hogge said he and colleagues had been using a variety of techniques to track hornets around the island for the past five weeks.

They marked hornets and measured how long it took them to fly between their nest and specialised bait they had put down to find the nest.

When the beekeepers thought they had closed the distance between themselves and a nest, they called the Department for the Environment, which helped them find it.

Image caption A smaller primary nest, found in Jersey in July

He said there could be as many as four other secondary nests on the island, formed after a queen creates enough drones in a smaller initial nest.

Tim Du Feu, of the Department for the Environment, said the hornets were an "environmental risk" to all the island's pollinators, including bees, dragonflies and wasps.

He has asked the public to report any sightings of nests, so they can be removed quickly.

Further nest searches are taking place in the St Brelade's area.

Asian hornet (Vespa velutina)

  • Queens up to 3cm (1.2in) in length;workers up to 25mm (1in)
  • Entirely dark brown or black velvety body, bordered with a fine yellow band
  • Only one band on the abdomen, fourth abdominal segment almost entirely yellow/orange
  • Legs brown with yellow ends
  • Head black with an orange-yellow face

Source:National Bee Unit...

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