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Proceeds of Crime not Being Reclaimed Effectively

March 15, 2016 by Kelly No Comments »

A recent review by the National Audit Office (NAO) has said that the government is failing to reclaim much of the money that it could confiscate from offenders as proceeds of crime. According to the report, the system for reclaiming money that has been earned through criminal activities has “fundamental weaknesses,” which has led offenders now owing the government around £1.6 billion in unreclaimed assets.

Previously, in December 2013, the NAO reported that the government was only reclaiming 26p out of every £100 of assets that had been identified as being earned through criminal activity, or 0.26% of the total. While the watchdog recognises in its more recent report that there have been improvements to the system in the intervening period, it says that these simply “have not been enough” to reduce the debt owed to the state by offenders. On the contrary, the debt in question has increased since late 2013 by a total of £158 million, largely as a result of interest on existing debts, which accrues at an annual rate of 8% as long as that debt remains unpaid.

2014 saw the establishment of the Criminal Finances Improvement Plan, designed to facilitate the reclamation of assets from criminals. However, while the NAO’s recent progress report recognises that this has played some role in encouraging the improvement of enforcement orders, it also remains limited in its achievements. This is partly, the NAO says, down to the plan’s failure to provide clear goals or to set out specific metrics for success. Furthermore, enforcement and prosecution agencies have failed to increase their usage of early-action measures. Usage of orders to freeze criminal assets (restraint orders) has actually decreased, as has the number of professional financial investigators.

The NAO’s recent progress report did recognise some positives, however. It said that on an “operational” level, joint working between agencies and organisations had been improved. Information-sharing and the use of expertise from multiple departments has been improved, partly due to the decision that certain key teams should be based in the same location. The report also praised the government’s efforts to improve the recovery of criminal assets that have been earned in the UK through illegal activities and then transferred abroad.

Furthermore, the watchdog recognised improvements in the way that confiscation orders are administered, but said that the impact of this was limited. Justice agencies need to “address the deeper systemic problems” in this area, the report said, as well as “show more determination and urgency.”

 

AA Leaving Legal Sector

January 20, 2016 by Kelly No Comments »

The AASince Alternative Business Structure (ABS) licenses allowed non-legal businesses to branch out into legal services, a number of major businesses have taken advantage of the opportunity to enter the legal sector. A number of large corporations and household names continue to move into the law, most recently major insurer LV=. However, one of the first major businesses to enter the legal market under an ABS license – motoring organisation the AA – has now announced that it is withdrawing from the sector.

AA Law was first launched in December 2013, just weeks after the business first obtained its license with an initial focus on offering personal injury services. The creation of a legal arm for the motoring services firm was brought about through a partnership with national law firm Lyons Davidson. The goal of the new business was initially to offer legal services that would be of interest to its existing customers and a complement to its motoring services, notably personal injury and other kinds of litigation that might arise from traffic accidents. It was indicated that other services, such as contract services and employment law, would also likely be introduced in the future as a “natural evolution” of AA Law’s services.

At first, the AA’s move into legal services seemed to be a successful one. An annual report, covering the year to 31st May 2014, showed pre-tax profits of around £613,000 and turnover of nearly £2 million. However, while AA Law benefited from a rush of business in its early days, the influx of new work for the ABS has since slowed significantly and this seems to have led its parent business to question the value of continuing operations in the legal sector. It has now been confirmed that AA Law ceased accepting new clients in November.

The company said that: “Following a strategic review the AA decided that the level of customers it was introducing did not justify the maintenance of a standalone business.” The spokesperson delivering this statement went on to clarify that Lyons Davidson was continuing to work on existing cases that had been started with AA Law before the effective closure. It was also said that the firm would “[continue] to work with the AA and on a number of other initiatives for the provision of legal services to the AA and its customers.”

Following the early success of AA Law, a separate legal arm – AA Home Conveyancing – was launched. Whether this part of the AA’s legal operations is also going to cease operating is not currently clear.

 

4 Crucial Tips for Hiring a Disability Lawyer

October 27, 2015 by admin No Comments »

Disability cases are very common. When people become disabled, they expect that Social Security will be there to help them in their time of need. Unfortunately, this does not happen in far too many cases. Even though people spend a lifetime having money deducted from their paychecks to go towards the Social Security system, those same people are often denied their benefits for legitimate injuries. This nightmare happens every day to honest and hard-working people in the United States. If you feel that you have been denied disability benefits that you are rightfully entitled to, do not just sit there and do nothing. Fight for the benefits you have helped to pay for out of your own pocket. Here are a few of the reasons why you need a disability lawyer.

1. They know more than you

You may have heard about some people representing themselves in disability cases. While people do occasionally choose to represent themselves in these types of cases, it is a foolish decision that is ill-advised. Some of these people think it will be an easy task to state their case to the court and get a ruling in their favor. Other people are simply looking for a way to save money and avoid paying the legal fees of a disability lawyer. There is a saying that says a person who chooses to represent himself in court has a fool for a client. Rarely have truer words every been spoken. Disability law can be very complex. The money that you pay a disability lawyer to represent you will be money well spent.

2. They will put together a solid case

In order to win a disability case, it takes a great deal of preparation. This is where disability lawyers really earn their money. A lawyer who only takes a quick look at your case and then tries to argue it in court will lose every time. A lawyer needs to assemble as much evidence as possible in your favor that will prove your disability is legit and your are entitled to a settlement. This often requires your medical records and complete medical history. An medical professional who is an expert in your particular injury may need to testify on your behalf. It can be a long and difficult process. However, it will be worth all of the trouble if you are awarded the benefits you so richly deserve.

3. They will do everything in their power to win

Disability lawyers are people who genuinely care about their clients. They want to see justice prevail by you getting the disability benefits you need to survive. This means that your lawyer will use every legal method at his or her disposal to ensure that you get what is coming to you.

4. They know many legal maneuvers

A good lawyer will know many different loopholes that can be exploited in certain situations. Knowing how and when to use these loopholes to your advantage could be the difference between you winning and losing your case. Lawyers who have been practicing disability law for a long time will be knowledgeable about loopholes in the law that will benefit your case.

 

If you have any questions about long term disability insurance, feel free to contact HSH lawyers today, or for more information about their services, you can visit http://www.hshlawyers.com/expertise/disability-claims/.

 

Personal Injury Funding in a Post Jackson Era: CFA vs DBA

September 10, 2015 by Kelly No Comments »

Recent years have seen the question of legal funding very much under consideration, and under public and government consideration.

2013 saw the Jackson Reforms. Under Lord Jackson’s changes, in many areas of law, legal aid all but disappeared. Many in the legal sector were concerned regarding the cut in funding, as that limited access to justice to those that could afford it. Further, many lawyers and firms working in areas of law that relied upon legal aid funding suddenly found themselves struggling as a business, with fewer clients and less government funding.

Aside from that, 2013 also saw a change to another aspect of funding- the humble Conditional Fee Arrangement (CFA). In existence since 1998, more colloquially referred to as the ‘no win, no fee’ avenue of legal funding, the CFA all but disappeared in 2013.

Since the beginning, a CFA has been a particular favourite way of funding personal injury claims, and accident claims, be they at home, out and about, or in the workplace. Despite increasing efforts and care taken regarding health and safety in the workplace, and stringent health and safety requirements and obligations imposed upon employers, accidents at work still happen on a regular basis. According to HSE figures, 2014 saw an estimated 629 000 in the UK workplace suffering from a workplace accident of whatever nature. Of that, 203,000 injured employees needed over three days of work to recover, with an additional 138,000 requiring more than seven days off work.

According to UK law, those that have a workplace accident, and suffer a personal injury from that, are entitled to make a claim against their employer for the negligence or breach of health and safety that caused the accident to happen. However going to court is often expensive; that is where the CFA funding structure came into its own.

Under a CFA, litigants did not pay their lawyers for their representation, or the work done on their case. Instead, the lawyers will only be paid by the litigant if their case is successful. If unsuccessful, the litigant will not pay the lawyer’s fees. If successful, then the lawyers will also get a ‘success fee’ from any compensation awarded. As such, lawyers undertaking personal injury cases (such as accidents at work) have to ensure that the case will be successful if brought to court.

With that funding structure, many thousands of litigants have been able to seek justice following an event that resulted in a personal injury, be it at work or elsewhere. However, to bring such funding arrangements in line with modern law, the CFA was altered in 2013.

In its place a practically identical method of funding personal injury cases was established- the Damages Based Agreement (DBA). DBA’s have been in existence for a long time, and in 2013 they were allowed to be used to fund personal injury cases. Under a DBA, the rules are more complex, and different. Putting the terms of a DBA in very simplistic terms, lawyer and client agree prior to any work being done that a pre-arranged percentage of any compensation awarded will be paid to the lawyers. This will cover the lawyer’s fees, costs, and ‘success fee.’ This is a fixed, pre-arranged percentage, payable from any compensation awarded, and is capped at 25% of the total awarded to the client.

The structure of the CFA was altered slightly along with the introduction of DBA’s for personal injury cases. However, from the litigant’s perspective, the CFA remains virtually the same. Amongst the subtle changes, many personal injury firms will require the litigants to pay a pre agreed sum to their lawyers at successful resolution of the case, taking into consideration the work and billable hours put in by the lawyers. Such a payment would come out of any compensation awarded, and is again capped at 25% of any financial award made. Further, compensation payments were increased by 10% to reflect this extra payment. As such, the CFA remains virtually the same.

Many personal injury lawyers are unsure regarding DBA’s. Although the DBA is ‘safer’ financially for the lawyer and more guaranteed than a CFA, many feel that it is slightly more complex for the client, and slightly unfair to them. As such, many personal injury firms, such as CompensationClaims.co, taking on an accident at work claim or similar, prefer to use a CFA- but also offer and explain the terms of a DBA additionally.

Amidst the Jackson reforms making getting access to justice harder and more costly, the introduction of DBA’s to personal injury cases was welcomed. Along with the restructuring of CFA’s, personal injury litigants suffering from the effects of accidents in the workplace or elsewhere can still get access to justice, at little or no financial risk to themselves, and with more methods of paying their lawyers now available to them.

 

Better Training of Magistrates Could Prevent “Venue Shopping”

August 19, 2015 by Kelly No Comments »

According to the Law Society, magistrates should be better-trained when it comes to understanding their own powers and accurately apply sentencing guidelines. This, the Society said, could help put an end to a current practice of “venue shopping” among defendants for courts where they are likely to receive a more lenient sentence.

These statements were made in response to a consultation by the Sentencing Council, which set out to examine the matter of whether certain cases should fall to magistrates’ courts or the Crown courts. Better-training magistrates in these areas would, the Society suggested, reduce the risk of cases falling to the Crown courts “inappropriately.”

The reasoning behind this is based on what the Law Society describes as “a common perception of defence practitioners” about the ways in which certain cases are handled. Specifically, it relates to those cases which fall outside of definite Crown court or magistrates’ court territory, and therefore could fall to a court of either type depending on the individual circumstances of the case. Because of the different types of case that the two court types handle, the Society said, it is widely believed that many of these offences are seen as being “very much at the lower end of the seriousness spectrum” by judges in the Crown courts but are seen as much more serious by magistrates.

The result of this is that defendants stand to benefit from being sent to a Crown court in order to have their case heard rather than appearing before a magistrate, as they are likely to receive a more lenient sentence. Knowing this, defendants and their professional counsel may employ a number of methods in order to try and sway the decision of where the case will be heard towards the crown courts.

For this reason, the Law Society said: “There is a need for training for magistrates in the correct application of the sentencing guidelines aimed at eliminating or reducing disproportionate sentencing so that defendants do not ‘venue shop’.”

Alongside the call for improvements in the training magistrates receive with regards to sentencing guidelines, the Society also called for a number of other improvements to practice when it comes to deciding where cases will be heard and sentenced. The Society said that it is “preferable” that sentencing is handled by the same court that hears the case, as “the defendant’s demeanour during the trial may have a significant impact on the sentencing decision.” Furthermore, the Society revealed proposed new guidelines to ensure young offenders are only sent to Crown courts “where it is essential to the interests of justice, irrespective of adult co-defendants.”

 

What is a Statute of Limitations on a Personal Injury Case?

August 14, 2015 by admin No Comments »

Personal injuries are injuries suffered because of another person’s negligence or intent to cause harm. When this kind of injury happens to you or a loved one, then you have a few options for making a case. It’s important to avoid running out of time to do so, since the statute of limitations in some places like Oregon USA could result in you being unable to claim compensation if you wait too long.

What Is the Statute of Limitations?

A statute of limitations is essentially a limit that has been placed by the state for the length of time you’re allowed to file a claim after you’re injured.

An action or claim must be made within the statute of limitation’s time frame to make it legal. If after the limited time runs out a patient still hasn’t filed a lawsuit, then the case will most likely be unable to be taken to court.

Typically, the state of limitations begins from the moment of injury. With medical injuries, the law is slightly different and states that the statute of limitations doesn’t begin until a person realizes he has been injured.

How Long Is the Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury in Oregon?

After you suffer an injury, you have a limited time to file your lawsuit; in Oregon, the limit is two years for most injuries unless they’re based on fraud or deceit, in which case the limitation only begins once the patient discovers the fraud or deceit.

With most typical injuries, you’d know you were hurt right away. That means from the moment of injury, you’ll have two years to file a claim. In medical cases, patients have two years following the discovery of the injury, but most cases must be launched within five years. There is a loophole in which patients can file a case after five years has passed if there was fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. In that case, the patient has two years from the date when that was discovered.

This could result in claims decades after an injury and makes it possible for those injured years before to file claims when they’ve been mistreated or lied to. An Oregon personal injury attorney would be able to look at a case and see how it falls within the regulations of a statute of limitations.

What Are the Lawsuit or Settlement Options?

Once you’re in a position to file a claim within the statute of limitations, there are generally two kinds of options. You’ll likely either receive a settlement offer or take your lawsuit to court.

A formal lawsuit requires you to present your proof of negligence and other information to help a judge decide on your right to compensation. You may have a trial with a jury in some cases, but it’s up to you to make sure your complaint is clear and entered into court. Unlike a criminal case, which is filed by the government, you must file a personal injury lawsuit on your own.

With an informal settlement, your attorney and the defendant’s attorney may discuss the case and propose a settlement. In reality, most disputes for injuries are resolved without heading to court through this process of negotiation.

You don’t have to accept a settlement, but if you do go to court you need to remember that it’s up to the judge to decide how much money you’ll be awarded, while a settlement is designed to be straightforward without a judge or jury’s input.

 

Legal Aid Agency Denies Putting Pressure on Solicitors

June 30, 2015 by Kelly No Comments »

The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) has denied claims that it put pressure on solicitors who were considering direct action in protest against legal aid cuts. Many solicitors around the country were considering taking a form of strike action by temporarily ceasing legal aid work starting tomorrow, but a number have claimed the LAA has put pressure on them to abandon the protest.

Legal Aid has already been on the receiving end of significant and controversial cuts, which many solicitors and legal professionals have criticised for limiting access to legal representation and ultimately to justice. Further cuts are due to come into force this week, prompting solicitors in various parts of the country to warn that they would take direct action. Most recently, East Yorkshire solicitors have agreed to take part in the protest. At a meeting held on Friday for lawyers in the area, the majority of attendees voted to refuse legal aid work when the new cuts come into effect.

The London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA) has received reports from a number of solicitors saying that they been called by the LAA which warned them against taking protest action. According to one solicitor, who was scheduled to work with the Legal Aid Agency tomorrow in Blackpool, was warned that refusing to work out of protest would lead the LAA to take action.

Claims of pressuring solicitors to abandon their protest were denied by the LAA. The organisation did, however, acknowledge that lawyers working with the agency frequently find themselves in conversation with contract managers who may remind them of the arrangements that have been made and their responsibilities “if appropriate.”

As well as those in East Yorkshire, legal professionals in areas such as Birmingham, Cardiff and Merseyside have already agreed to take part in direct action. A number of further meetings are planned so that solicitors and barristers in places like the West Midlands, Manchester, Leicester and Leeds can decide whether they intend to join the protest or not.

The LCCSA and the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association also held a ballot on the matter of Direct Action, which closed at 10.00pm yesterday evening. An indication of the direction this ballot seemed to be going was given on Friday by LCCSA chair Jonathan Black who said that, so far as it had progressed up to that point, the ballot seemed to show that the legal profession was “overwhelmingly in support of action.”

 

“Blanket Ban” on Legal Highs

May 29, 2015 by Kelly No Comments »

The government has announced a “blanket ban” on substances known as legal highs, with offences carrying potential jail terms of up to seven years. Draft laws, announced in the recent Queen’s Speech, are to be published soon and have been described by ministers as a “landmark.”

Legal highs are more properly called “new psychoactive substances.” They are, as their nickname suggests, not illegal under current laws and are therefore commonly sold online and even in brick-and-mortar shops in town and city centres. Some of these are recently-discovered substances not covered under current laws, and many are substances originally intended for purposes other than human consumption but which have been discovered to be able to produce drug-like effects. Many provide effects similar to substances such as cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine, and they have therefore been used by predominantly young people as a legal, more easily-obtainable way to experience these effects.

Many legal highs are dangerous when used in this manner, and they have been linked to a number of deaths. According to ministers, those who make use of such substances are “taking exceptional risks with their health.” A ban on legal highs was previously included by the Conservative party in their election manifesto. The Labour party also promised a ban on these substances in their own manifesto.

The psychoactive substance bill will, the government says, prohibit “any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect.” There will be exceptions for caffeine, alcohol and tobacco as well as for medical products and certain foods. Drugs that are already legally controlled will also be excluded from the new bill and instead will continue to be covered by the laws that already prohibit their use.

Nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, will also be prohibited under the new bill when sold for casual human use. It will, however, still be legally obtainable for medical use, food processing, and use in industrial purposes.

The format of the new bill as a “blanket ban” is a response to the considerable difficulty that has come with policing these substances. The category is a very broad one, and new substances have been appearing on the market faster than they can be identified and outlawed by the government. A broad, general ban on psychoactive substances intended for human consumption has, therefore, come to be considered the only practical way to keep up.

The bill is intended to apply to the whole of the UK. It will provide police with search powers, relating to people, vehicles and premises, and with the ability to seize and destroy any such substances that they find.

 

Parking Fine Could go to Supreme Court

April 25, 2015 by Kelly No Comments »

Recently, the matter of parking penalties in private car parks has been subject to no shortage of controversy amid claims that these are excessive and not legally justified. Now one parking ticket under dispute may be heading to the Supreme Court, in a case which could establish whether these kinds of fine are indeed enforceable under common law or not.

The parking ticket in question has a value of £85, and was handed to chip shop owner Barry Beavis by car park operator ParkingEye. Beavis received the fine when he parked in a private car park with a two hour limit and left his car in place for nearly three hours.

The controversies surrounding these parking tickets and the matter of whether they are justified, valid and enforceable have largely revolved around the value of said tickets. These penalties tend to be very much greater than the legitimate costs of parking in the car park, and therefore much greater than any commercial loss suffered by car park operators. Often, they exceed any actual losses incurred by the motorist overstaying by many orders of magnitude – leading some to criticise them as extremely heavy-handed and others to question whether they can be legally upheld as proportionate to the offence and its impact on the car park operator.

However, Court of Appeal Judges looking at the case of ParkingEye v Beavis decided this week that the penalty issued by the operator was neither “extravagant nor unconscionable.” The judges believed that ParkingEye had not only commercial justifications on its side in handing down the £85 fine to Beavis, but also social justifications. The latter includes the boost that free parking can bring to local economies – something the judges felt must be protected with effective deterrents to prevent motorists from overstaying in such car parks and therefore keeping others from being able to use them.

Beavis was unhappy with this decision. Harcus Sinclair, the London legal firm representing him, has applied for the case to be taken to the Supreme Court for a final and absolute decision.

The executive director of consumer group Which?, Richard Lloyd, responded to the most recent ruling by saying that this decision could potentially “water down the law” on the issue of penalty charges issued by private firms. For example, Lloyd expressed concern that this decision might encourage companies such as mobile phone operators to start introducing hefty penalties for ending a contract early.

Which? has actively intervened in the case of ParkingEye v Beavis and, according to Lloyd, “given the possible ramifications of this case for all consumers, we will be looking to intervene again in the Supreme Court hearing.”

 

Legal Aid Agency Gains Claim to Criminal Assets

March 20, 2015 by Kelly No Comments »

Recent years have seen the introduction of a number of unpopular new legal aid reforms. However, the most recent reform to be announced has proved rather more popular within the legal industry than any of the recent funding cuts and restrictions of access. Under changes outlined by the Ministry of Justice recently, the Legal Aid Agency would gain power over the assets of convicted criminals in order to recoup legal aid costs associated with providing their defence.

Under the new rules, which must gain parliamentary approval before they come into force, “restrained” assets belonging to those who are convicted of the charges against them.  This is designed to offset the cost of providing legal aid to individuals who are, according to the verdict of the court, guilty. Other outstanding defence costs could also be paid by the seizure of such “restrained” assets. Usually, these are profits or items of value gained or believed to be gained as a result criminal activities.

Currently such assets are restrained under 2002’s Proceeds of Crime Act. While restrained, the assets cannot be spent, moved or otherwise utilised by the defendant. If the defendant is subsequently convicted, the court may confiscate these assets.

Other considerations would continue to take priority over the reclamation of legal costs, the Ministry of Justice said. First, compensation and confiscation orders benefitting the victims of the crime will be fulfilled. If any assets are left over when the victims have, as far as possible, had their property returned and/or received all compensation due, the Legal Aid Agency will then have a claim to those remaining assets in order to recoup costs.

The move is designed to relieve strain on the legal aid budget by reclaiming a portion of the money spent on defending the guilty. According to the Ministry of Justice, estimates suggest that this could result in savings of up to £2 million in legal aid costs every year.

Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, welcomed the move. He said: “For too long people convicted of crimes have avoided paying what they owe. Legal aid is taxpayers’ money and we have a duty to make sure it is not being spent on those we believe can afford to pay towards their legal costs.”

Grayling also described the changes as a “vital further step in making the legal aid system fair and credible.”

If they gain parliamentary approval, these changes could take effect as soon as the 1st of June this year.