The week ahead: Australian Open, December retail sales, Belfast City Hall protest, Gun Appreciation Day - Press Gazette

The week ahead: Australian Open, December retail sales, Belfast City Hall protest, Gun Appreciation Day

On Monday London Mayor Boris Johnson will have the chance to justify his recent Draft Police and Crime Plan on Monday when he faces the London Assembly Budget and Performance Committee at City Hall, amid headlines warning that the Met could soon be coming to a Post Office or coffee shop near you.

Hulking Adonis Andy Murray bids for a second gram slam at the Australian Open, which kicks off in Melbourne from Monday. Murray, who has been confirmed as the third seed for the tournament, prepared for the first major tournament of the year by taking the title at the Brisbane International last week.

The latest court hearing in the shocking case of the rape and murder of a 23-year-old student in New Delhi is set to take place on Monday. It follows the filing of charges against five of the six men accused in the case, who now potentially face the death penalty.

The European Court of Human Rights is due to rule on Tuesday in the cases of four Christians who have claimed that the Government failed to ‘adequately protect their right to manifest their religion’ in various workplace disputes. The claimants include BA employee Nadia Eweida, who was prevented from visibly wearing a crucifix necklace in line with the airline’s uniform policy, and Gary McFarlane, a Relate counsellor who stated an objection to providing sexual counselling to same-sex couples.

Also on Tuesday, the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court is due to deliver a ruling on the legality of the country’s upper house of parliament, as well as its constituent assembly. The ruling comes at a turbulent time for the country, with a controversial constitution quickly passed at the tail-end of the year and economic woes continuing to bite.

Closer to home Eurostar chairman Richard Brown is up before MPs on the Transport Committee on Tuesday, where he’ll discuss the findings of his recently published review of the Government’s rail franchising policy.  Further Committee excitement follows on Wednesday, with former Education Ministers (men and women with nothing to lose) Tim Loughton, Nick Gibb and Sarah Teather appearing before the Commons Education committee to give MPs frank assessment of the Government’s programme.

In slightly bigger news, the International Monetary Fund’s Executive Board convenes in Washington on Wednesday to discuss its loans to Greece. Specifically, the board will discuss the first and second reviews under the extended arrangement of the extended fund facility. Follows an agreement in November last year to reduce Greece’s debt obligations and provide aid to the stricken country, which is beset by a tragically high unemployment rate and crippling austerity.

After becoming, in January 2011, the first Foreign Secretary to visit Australia since the last Conservative government, William Hague returns down under this week, where on Thursday he delivers what is billed as a ‘major foreign policy address’ in the John Howard lecture at the New South Wales State Parliament.

Press briefings take place in the glamorous locales of Paris and Leeds on Thursday to unveil the details of the 2014 Grand Depart of the Tour de France, which takes place in the Yorkshire city before riders – minus talk show favourite Lance Armstrong, presumably – head on down to London.

Eighteen people are due to be sentenced at the Old Bailey on Friday in what was described in court as the largest case of its type in Europe, which saw two trials, in February and December last year, for the production of high strength cannabis and the supply of equipment for production.

Our Christmas largesse is revealed on Friday when the Office for National Statistics releases December retail sales figures. November’s figures were flat after a surprise 0.8% fall the previous month, so even a late surge in Furby sales may not have been enough to lift retailers’ spirits.

Friday also marks 90 years since the BBC was granted its first broadcast licence by the Postmaster General, who was at the time one Neville Chamberlain.

After weeks of what the Police Service of Northern Ireland euphemistically refers to as ‘disorder’ in Belfast, protests against the decision to fly the Union flag only on designated days are again scheduled outside City Hall on Saturday. Last week saw the flag raised to mark the Duchess of Cambridge’s birthday.

Over in the States, gun owners are being urged to show their support for the sensitively-timed Gun Appreciation Day on Saturday by picketing gun stores, ranges or shows with American flags, copies of the constitution and signs saying ‘Hands off my Guns’.

Rounding off the week, US President Barack Obama takes his second oath of office at a private ceremony in the White House on Sunday, ahead of his formal inauguration on January 21. A private ceremony traditionally takes place where inauguration day falls on a Sunday, with Ronald Reagan among those to have previously taken a private oath.

The ceasefire implemented by Colombian rebel group FARC also expires on Sunday after two months of inactivity while peace talks were undertaken in the Cuban capital Havana. Colombian president Juan Manual Santos has set a deadline of November this year for an agreement to be reached with the leftist group.