Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) measure brain activity and can be used to control digital devices. The focus of BCI development has been on using the technology to allow patients to control assistive equipment such as wheelchairs or prostheses. Beyond medicine they are under development for applications in entertainment, marketing and defence. This POSTnote looks at the underpinning technology, its applications and the associated ethical and regulatory challenges.
Non-custodial sentences are those that do not include imprisonment, such as discharges, fines and community orders. When sentencing an individual, criminal courts judge whether an offence is serious enough to impose a custodial sentence (either immediate imprisonment or a suspended sentence) or a non-custodial sentence. Criminal justice is devolved, so this POSTnote focuses on non-custodial sentences in England and Wales. In the year ending June 2019, 90% of sentences in England and Wales were non-custodial. This POSTnote presents sentencing trends and describes the non-custodial sentences currently used for adults and young people in England and Wales. It also reviews evidence on the effectiveness of non-custodial sentences and discusses policy considerations.
Drones (also known as unmanned aircraft) are flying systems that do not carry a pilot. As the technology has become cheaper and more sophisticated, the use of drones for recreational and commercial purposes has grown, with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) reporting a significant increase in the number of permissions obtained for operating commercial drones in the UK. Despite their potential to reduce costs, improve efficiency and provide new services, drones may be misused accidentally or for malicious purposes. For example, reports of drone sightings at Gatwick Airport in December 2018 grounded around 1,000 flights for almost 36 hours, affecting more than 140,000 passengers.
In 2018, the Government introduced new limits on where drones can be flown and new registration and education requirements for drone operators and pilots. In January 2020, the new Government introduced an Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill to Parliament that included new police powers for enforcing aviation laws (such as the power to issue a fixed penalty notice for certain drone offences). This POSTnote looks at civilian drones and their applications, focusing on potential misuse and possible responses.
Critical materials (CMs) are key to UK manufacturing, including for the aerospace, automotive, energy and chemical sectors, which rely on materials typically extracted and processed abroad. CMs are vital components of several emerging technologies, including electric vehicles, renewable energy infrastructure such as wind turbines, and digital technologies such as computers and smartphones. The UK imports most of its CMs and faces international competition for key resources. This POSTnote looks at the demand and supply of CMs in the UK and ways of improving supply security.
Witness testimony is a written or oral statement given by an individual who has experienced an incident. It is collected during criminal investigations (including through investigative interviews, facial composites and identity parades). However, inaccurate witness testimony (such as the incorrect identification of a suspect) can lead to innocent people being wrongfully convicted. Wrongfully accused or convicted individuals are at risk of discrimination, relationship damage and poor mental health. Wrongful convictions are also costly, with a miscarriage of justice costing up to £1 million in compensation, and cause reputational damage to the police and legal system. Furthermore, the real perpetrators are not caught and may continue to harm society by committing further crime.
Fishing is dependent on marine food webs that are sensitive to overexploitation and climate change. This POSTnote focuses on marine fisheries, including wild capture and farming (aquaculture) of fin- and shellfish, and their processing. It summarises impacts on oceans and fisheries of changes including ocean warming, acidification, deoxygenation and storms, and explores how fisheries may adapt.
Wildfire is any uncontrolled vegetation fire that requires a decision, or action, to suppress it. This POSTnote summarises management of wildfires in the UK, how projected climate changes may affect UK wildfire behaviour, and the environmental, economic, and health impacts of this. It also outlines policy options for increasing the UK’s resilience to wildfires.
UK power generation from wind has increased in recent years due to sharp reductions in the costs of constructing and operating wind power facilities. Onshore wind power provides the cheapest electricity of any form of new generation built, and offshore is expected to continue to reduce in cost. Generating wind power does not emit greenhouse gases, hence future growth will help the UK meet its GHG emissions reduction targets. This POSTnote examines the innovations that have enabled wind power cost reductions, associated policy considerations and challenges for future deployment.
The soil microbiome, communities of microorganisms in soils, underpin natural processes in soil habitats and are affected by environmental and land use change. This POSTnote gives an overview of the benefits provided by the soil microbiome, ways of assessing the soil microbiome, and measures to improve its condition.
Agriculture is highly vulnerable to climate change impacts, which has implications for food security. This POSTnote examines measures to reduce the impacts of food production and agricultural land use on climate change (mitigation) and to adapt agricultural land use to that change (adaptation).
Violent crime includes a range of offences, from assault to murder. It can be any action that intentionally inflicts (or threatens) physical or psychological damage. Over the past decade overall crime has decreased, and violent crime is down by 69% since 1995. However, homicides and crimes involving knives or sharp instruments have risen since 2014. This has been reflected in an increase in hospital admissions for assaults with knives or sharp instruments. Violent offences are disproportionately concentrated in metropolitan areas, such as London and cities in West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands. This POSTnote outlines types and prevalence of violent crime. It describes risk factors associated with involvement as a victim or perpetrator of violent crime. It then presents evidence on the effectiveness of early interventions to counter these risk factors and prevent violent crime.