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Better Legal Protection for Volunteers

June 3, 2014 by Kelly No Comments »

Those who do voluntary work and similar good deeds are set to benefit from better legal protection against liability claims, according to a recent government announcement. Ministers stressed that people should not be put off of helping others by the risk of litigation.

The new law, which is expected to feature in the Queen’s Speech this Wednesday alongside other reforms such as pension changes, would affect volunteers carrying out work in England and Wales. It would encourage judges to look leniently on any such cases that get as far as the courtroom. In particular, judges will be given three factors to which they will be asked to give consideration:

  • Were the person’s actions “for the benefit of society?”
  • Did the person step in to provide help when an emergency arose?
  • Was the person acting in a “generally responsible way?”

If the answers to any or all of the above questions are “yes,” this could work significantly in the person’s favour.

The Ministry of Justice have expressed concerns that the risk of litigation for negligence may be acting as a deterrent to those who may otherwise volunteer to help others and do good works. Research has suggested that around 47% of people who do choose to volunteer are nonetheless concerned over the risks posed by legal liability in the event of an accident or injury.

As an example, the Ministry of Justice pointed towards Street Pastors, who provide voluntary support to those taking part in the nightlife of various UK towns. According to the Ministry of Justice, concerns about health and safety have led to the removal of “dustpans and brushes from street pastors clearing up glass and offering support to town centre revellers.” There have also been claims that demands for public liability insurance, sometimes or values as high as £5 million, have led to the cancelling of community events such as picnics and street parties.

According to Justice Secretary Christ Grayling; “I want a society where common sense is the order of the day, and I believe this measure will help us get there.”

Under the new law, similar consideration will be given to employers when there are accidents or other issues in the workplace that are not actually the employers’ fault. The bill will “put the law more clearly on [their] side,” according to a statement. The Ministry of Justice went on to suggest that this would protect owners of small businesses from the actions of “irresponsible employees” when said business owners have themselves taken a “responsible approach to safety training and procedures.”

 

Wales may ban Public E-cigarette Smoking

April 2, 2014 by Kelly No Comments »

One of the key selling points of e-cigarettes as a tool for giving up smoking has always been that they are legal to smoke in places where real cigarettes are not. However, this may be about to change as Wales considers a law banning their use in enclosed public spaces.

According to ministers, one of the key reasons for considering this ban is that the use of the devices – which often look almost identical to real cigarettes – undermines the enforcement of the smoking ban and normalises smoking as something that can be done publicly. There are also concerns over the fact that while many of the harmful chemicals found in cigarettes are absent from e-cigarettes, the addictive substance nicotine is usually still present.

The proposal was contained in a white paper detailing ideas for legislation to protect public health. The paper also contained ideas such as a minimum price of 50p per unit for alcohol, harsher penalties for retailers who provide tobacco to people under 18, and requirements for local authorities to ensure the availability of public toilets.

Dr Ruth Hussey, Chief Medical Officer, welcomed the proposed ban on e-cigarettes. Dr Hussey said: “On the seventh anniversary of the smoking ban, it is symbolic that Wales is once again at the forefront of a new set of radical proposals to improve public health.”

Many e-cigarette users take a very different viewpoint. They say that there are studies demonstrating that passive smoking from e-cigarettes poses no public health risk. They also point out that if they are combined to designated smoking areas with users of real cigarettes, their own health will be put at risk by passive smoking.

However, Health Minister Mark Drakeford maintains that the proposal is one that will serve the interests of public health. He pointed out that “E-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive, and I want to minimise the risk of a new generation becoming addicted to this drug.”

Drakeford also voiced other concerns about the impact that smoking e-cigarettes in public spaces may have, particularly in terms of the messages it sends out. He said: “I have concerns about the impact of e-cigarettes on the enforcement of Wales’ smoking ban. That’s why we are proposing restricting their use in enclosed public places. I am also concerned that their use in enclosed public places could normalise smoking behaviour.”

The proposed ban, along with all other proposals contained in the white paper, is still subject to consultation. If the ban does ultimately go through, some believe that other parts of the UK may subsequently follow suit.

The potential ban comes soon after another high-profile proposal to ban smoking in cars that contain children, as ministers around the UK continue to focus on matters of public health.

 

New Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme Introduced

March 10, 2014 by Kelly No Comments »

The new Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, aimed at combating domestic violence, has now been introduced. The scheme, commonly called “Clare’s Law” in honour of late domestic violence victim Clare Wood (pictured), allows people to contact police in order to discover whether their partner has a history of domestic violence.

The scheme took effect on 8th March to coincide with International Women’s Day. The introduction of the scheme followed pilots in four areas across England and Wales; Manchester, Wiltshire, Nottingham and Gwent. Since the pilots started in 2012, a reporting number of more than 100 women gained information that could possibly prove life-saving. Based upon this success, the decision was made to roll out the scheme across the UK.

Theresa May, Home Secretary, expressed her pleasure at the introduction of the scheme. “Clare’s Law,” she said, “will give some help to those people who think they have a partner who may be acting in a way which suggests that they are somebody who is violent.” May said that the scheme, through allowing women with concerns to find out if their partners have a history of violence to reassess their situation and safety and be “able to take a decision as to whether to stay with them or not.”

The scheme is named in honour of Clare Wood, who was murdered by a violent ex-boyfriend in 2009. Ms Wood was unaware that her boyfriend had previous convictions for domestic violence, including one that resulted in a three year jail term. As such, she was not warned about the extent of his violent tendencies.

Ms Wood’s father, Michael Brown, has since campaigned enthusiastically for the introduction of a scheme allowing women to obtain information about any previous history of violence in their partners. He believes that his daughter would not have been killed had she been able to find out about her killer’s past.

Mr Brown said that he was “absolutely delighted” that the scheme had been rolled out to “bring protection into the country for half the population.” He also encouraged women to use the scheme without hesitation if they had concerns, saying “It’s there to be used. Get it used, ask! If you are in a domestic violence situation or you think you could be seek advice and get out of there.” In support of this point, he highlighted the fact that 120 women lose their lives to domestic violence annually.

In tandem with Clare’s Law, Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) have also been brought in to bring extra protection to victims. Following a report of domestic violence, DVPOs could prevent offenders from contacting their victims in any way for up to 28 days.

 

 

UK Magistracy is “Shrinking and Ageing”

February 27, 2014 by Kelly No Comments »

According to a report from Transform Justice, the recruitment of lay magistrates in the UK is “facing a crisis.” The report, which was entitled Magistrates: Representative of the People?, found that the UK’s magistracy was “shrinking and ageing.” It also concluded that magistrates in the UK were disproportionately middle class and white compared to the country’s population.

Transform Justice also described magistrate numbers as being in “freefall,” after identifying that they had suffered a decline of 28% compared to 2007. In 2013, nearly 2000 people left the magistracy while only 300 joined. This discrepancy, according to the report, is due to most areas suffering from a “recruitment freeze.” The report claimed that the issue is not being sufficiently addressed at present.

Furthermore, the report discovered that far from simply failing to represent ethnic communities within Britain proportionately, the magistracy is actually becoming less representative. Proportionally speaking, the number of magistrates from ethnic minority backgrounds is 6% lower than the UK population, compared to just 2% in 1999.

Magistrates are also becoming older. In 1999, only 32% of magistrates were over 60. For 2013, the report found this figure had inflated to nearly 56%. In 14 different specific areas, this figure was above 60%.

Social class was found to be another area in which magistrates poorly represented the population of the UK as a whole. More than 50% of lay magistrates were in occupations that would be widely identified as middle class, including managerial, professional, and senior official roles. In the UK as a whole, on the other hand, these people account for only 28% of the population. Furthermore, people who work in customer services or sales roles account for 8% of the UK population but only 1.5% of magistrates.

Measures proposed in the report to deal with these issues include the introduction of positive discrimination and entrusting recruitment to the Judicial Appointments Commission.  The positive discrimination in question would enable recruiters to favour a candidate from an underrepresented group for reasons of better representation when two candidates are otherwise of equal suitability. This measure already exists for the recruitment of salaried judges.

It is also suggested that it should be made easier for working people to serve as magistrates. This, it is suggested, could be done by introducing an absolute right to take time off in order to sit. Further suggestions include a fixed tenure of ten years and greater sentencing powers for magistrates.

The report claims that a key source of these problems is the lack of clear, specific policy regarding magistrate recruitment. While there have been active efforts to improve diversity among the salaried, professional arm of the judiciary, no such agenda has existed for lay magistrates.

 

What to do if you might be owed PPI compensation

January 14, 2014 by admin No Comments »

Because of money-laundering salespersons and insurance companies, many people have become the victim of PPI mis-selling. If you bought a mis-sold PPI, there is a very strong chance that you won’t be getting anything from your payment protection insurance. Nonetheless, if you are a victim of PPI mis-selling, you have every right to get back the money that you’ve placed in your insurance.  You can claim your PPI refund from a claims company that can do all the work for you, or you can choose to try to get the compensation yourself.  Here is how you can file for a PPI claim:

Before Filing a PPI Claim

  • Check Your Validity – Before you start processing your documents for a PPI claim, make sure that you are qualified for a PPI claim in the first place. Contact and ask the company that sold you your loan. Most of these lenders will tell you straight up on the phone if you’ve had a PPI in your account.
  • Gather Your Documents – You won’t exactly need your documents right away when you want to start filing your PPI claim, but you will need them in the long run. You can contact your lender to give you a copy of your terms and conditions.
  • Look Over a PPI Mis-Selling Checklist – The next step would be to find out if you were a victim of PPI mis-selling. Look for a PPI mis-selling checklist on the Internet.
  • Contact the Insurance Company – If you believe that you are indeed one of the many people who bought void PPIs, contact your insurance company and ask for a refund. While it was a lot harder to negotiate with insurance companies before, many are now willing to negotiate even through phone calls.
  • Contact the Financial Ombudsman Service – It is possible that the insurance company will reject your demand for a refund. If this happens, contact the Financial Ombudsman Service and make an official complaint. The Ombudsman will also help you determine if you have a viable case or not.
 

Appeal granted in paralysed RAF man’s compensation claim

December 2, 2013 by admin No Comments »

Robert Uren, 24, sought and won in the region of £6 million in compensation after a long legal battle, appeal and High Court Ruling in his favour in February this year.  The case is now, however, said to be under appeal and his compensation under threat.

The former RAF technician became wheel-chair bound after being paralysed from the waist down, and he also suffers severe spasms.  He sustained these injuries after fracturing three vertebrae in his neck while taking part in an ‘It’s a Knock-out’ style game at an organized event. The game involved jumping into a pool containing 18 inches of water to retrieve plastic fruit. There were rival teams competing and around half of the other competitors were diving into the water in the same manner as Mr. Uren.

Mr Uren took legal action against the Ministry of Defence, for holding the event and Corporate Leisure (UK) Ltd, for providing the inflatable equipment. The compensation claim stems from Mr. Uren believing that the Ministry of Defence and event organisers were to blame for encouraging him, and others, to take part in a dangerous event, one which proved catastrophic for him. Mr Justice Foskett ruled in favour of Mr Uren, stating that the MOD and event organisers were liable for the injuries sustained by Mr Uren as the risk assessment was fatally flawed. He also commented that steps could have been taken to remove the risk of serious injury such as issuing safety instructions.

By ruling in favour of Mr Uren, the door was opened for his compensation claim of £6 million, which it is argued he needs in order to have the lifelong support and assistance that is required for his injuries. Orginally, Mr Uren received a lump sum of over £200,000 from the Compensation Scheme provided by the Armed Forces, and he also received a military pension and an annual payment from the compensation scheme.  This has, however, been described as inadequate as it is not enough to fund suitable accommodation, transportation, equipment and therapies that he now needs after his injuries were sustained.

 

ECHR Condemns UK Newspapers for Misleading Reports

October 20, 2013 by admin No Comments »

British newspapers are on the fray as the European Commission on Human Rights accused them of publishing misleading reports. The ECHR emailed a statement to reporters that it was concerned about the “frequent misinterpretation” of the ECHR’s activities in UK newspapers.

Compensation and Costs

The ECHR pointed out that the press service had taken a “serious misinterpretation” of many variables in the statement. For example, one scenario had one UK newspaper report that Human Rights judges had awarded 202 criminals with taxpayer money amounting to £4.4 million, which means they are given £22,000 for compensation. However, the true amount is only within £1.7 million.

According to the ECHR, the newspapers’ failure to distinguish between compensation and costs, and making the common error of combining the two, creates an impression that people were awarded more than they were actually due. Some newspapers were also accused of writing the sums as if it were for the applicants’ sole benefit.

Most newspapers label even the costs to be part of the compensation of an applicant. Why the amounts of costs and expenses were higher than compensation is because legal fees are very high in the United Kingdom.

Not Even Legal Experts

Erik Friberg, the registrar of the ECHR, said that many newspapers in the United Kingdom had portrayed ECHR judges as “not even legal experts”. Because of the UK media’s interpretation of the judges’ activities, they appear to have a distorted picture of the court’s decisions and the statement they made is a first attempt to correct the situation.

Friberg said that judges were primarily concerned with reporters who had failed to see the proper summaries for their conclusions with the court’s press office and never even bothered to seek a response from the ECHR representatives itself.

Misinterpretation is very common among journalists, but it is often corrected with proper sources. Because courts are “closed”, most media journalists only depend on press duties the courts provide. However, the proper separation of terminologies and the right impression of language and wording is what ECHR is worried about.

However, the ECHR’s complaint is timely as the UK media is set to bring about a human right’s challenge against the UK government for the impending press regulation plans.

 

How to Budget for a Court Case

September 18, 2013 by admin No Comments »

“Budgeting is something which all solicitors by now ought to know is intended to be integral to the process from the start, and it ought not to be especially onerous to prepare a final budget for a CMC (Case Management Conference ) even at relatively short notice if proper planning has been done…….The court must now, as part of dealing with cases justly, ensure that cases are dealt with at proportionate cost and so as to ensure compliance with rules, orders and practice direction……The stricter approach under the Jackson reforms have been central to this judgment…..”

These words (delivered on 1 August 2013) of High Court judge Master McCloud take us straight to where budgeting is in cases of civil litigation at the current moment. At the very heart of litigation of course, following the implementation of the new rules governing civil procedures as recommended by Lord Justice Jackson and which became law 1 April 2013. Central to these new procedures are new rules on costs budgets and costs management. Essentially these are that:

  1. Each party must prepare a costs budget in a standard form, setting out details of the costs incurred to date and the estimated future costs of the litigation.
  2. The court will consider and approve the costs budget. This is set to be done relatively early in the proceedings, usually the first case management conference.
  3. The court then oversees the case to ensure it complies with the agreed costs budget.

So five months on, it is hardly surprising that Master McCloud adopted such a robust attitude to endorsing the reforms. Most lawyers have known of their coming since 2010. No excuses were allowed from the seemingly feckless lawyers for former chief whip Andrew Mitchell M.P. His libel case against The Sun publishers New Group Newspapers now looked pear-shaped, all because they had failed to comply with an order to file their costs budget, prior to the case hearing in June. That failure to comply with the now much more stringent regulations meant the Mitchell claim would be limited to a budget consisting of the applicable court fees for his claim. However,  leave to appeal was granted so this test case is not finished. What it does make clear is that strict budgeting and tight costs management is now the guiding ethos of the court system. The new regime has already been piloted in defamation cases and in the Mercantile Courts and Technology and Construction Court. Several have reached the Court of Appeal. The new rules now apply to most civil cases: although high value commercial cases remain exempt at present it is expected that the tighter costs management will extend there soon.

Certainly a major objective of the Jackson reforms was to curb ever growing costs of legislation and their uncertainty. Part of the new rules emphasised that costs of the case must be proportionate to the claim. For would-be litigants uncertainties over costs, especially for losing parties open to paying the winning side’s costs, have always been the hardest thing to budget for. The reforms have certainly attempted to address this difficulty; from now costs recoverable by the winning party will be linked to the court-approved budget. That this must be done early in the proceedings (each side submitting its first six weeks before the first case management conference) will make for greater confidence of litigants on both sides. That  budgets are reached through the collaboration of both parties and of the judge, should aid transparency in costs awards at the end of the case. A ruling of the Court of Appeal earlier this year helps set out the new ethos:

“The management of costs is the responsibility of all parties to the litigation, and ultimately, of the court as well. The court has a responsibility to manage the proceedings, so it also has a responsibility for managing the costs of those proceedings.

The starting point must be that an approved costs budget is intended to provide “the financial limits within which the proceedings are to be conducted’. They are intended to provide some constraint”.

Although there is much uncertainty ahead as with any new system, the ethos seems secure. Costs budgeting and costs management will be the driving forces in civil litigation. The rules are there for all lawyers to follow and to advise their clients accordingly.  Master McCloud’s strict interpretation of the rules suggests any one failing to do so can expect little leniency. Now that the rules are in place for budgeting, how to do that budget is much easier and clearer.

This post was written by Anne Evans at Vannin Capital. A UK company offering litigation funding for insolvency. For more information, visit the site.

 

David Miranda in Legal Challenge over seized data

August 21, 2013 by admin No Comments »

Legal action is being brought against the police by David Miranda, the man who was detained for a nine hour period at Heathrow this Sunday, in order to prevent electronic personal items from being examined. Miranda was detained under provisions of the Terrorism Act and also happens to be the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald who works for the Guardian. The legal representatives of Mr Miranda have released a statement saying that the legality of the detention is what is being challenged on his behalf.

The Home Office was quick to comment on the situation supporting the detention of Mr Miranda by stating that the police are to act urgently if they have reasons to believe that a person may be in possession of information which can be used to assist terrorism. The Metropolitan Police commissioner as well as the home secretary have received a letter written by representatives from Bindmans seeking an assurance that Mr Miranda’s property will not be inspected, copied, transferred, disclosed or interfered with in any way prior to Mr Miranda’s claim being resolved.

The holding in detention of the 28 year old man has been widely disapproved of across senior political figures in Britain and Brazil as well as human rights groups. David Anderson QC who is the independent reviewer of terrorism law for the United Kingdom has described the time which Mr Miranda was detained for as unusual and is due to meet with the authorities to discuss the situation. Mr Miranda, a Brazilian citizen was detained at Heathrow where he was on his way to board a flight back to Brazil where he resides with his partner. The man was held under the authority of schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 which provides the police to question the suspect for up to a period of 9 hours in relation to any acts of terrorism.

The journalist has been heavily involved in breaking stories regarding Edward Snowden and his leaks which have made state surveillance a hot topic in the media in recent weeks. The police authorities however stand by the detention and justify it as being legal as per the Terrorism Act. A representative from the Home Office made a statement in which they said that the police as well as the government are duty bound to ensure the safety and security of the public and the nation.

 

Compliance: a Legal Career for the Financial Professional

July 17, 2013 by admin No Comments »

The last few years have seen the banking sector under media and governmental scrutiny like never before. In the wake of numerous scandals such as with mis-sold PPI, and the banks’ actions during the financial crisis the last several years, there has been increased transparency, regulation and scrutiny imposed upon the activities of the banking sector.  Due diligence and compliance have suddenly become very important.  There is more importance added to checking banking transactions and business dealings to ensure that they are in line with regulations, and ensuring that everything is done correctly.

In such an era, compliance and related are specialist career fields with stable prospects. Working as part of a small, specialist, dynamic and close knit team in ensuring that the bank’s actions are carried out in a prescribed manner, and staying informed of changes to rules and procedures can be very attractive to the right high calibre individual.

In compliance, you will be checking and keeping up to date with current legislation and regulations, and advising both the financial institution and clients. Additionally, compliance professionals ensure that all financial transactions and deals are done according to rules, both internal bank rules, and regulations imposed by watchdogs such as the Financial Conduct Authority.

In this specialist career field, legal knowledge an be very useful. Not only does it give analytical and problem solving skills that are necessary for the role, but it also gives knowledge and insight to be able to advise the bank and clients, and to ensure that everything is done correctly, and in line with regulations. In law, it is important to keep up to date with legislation and court judgements, and changes in legal practice and theory. It is the same in compliance; especially today, there are a lot of regulations and legislation that are or will be changed and updated. There are also a range of agencies (FCA, FPA, and the SFO, to name but a few), in the UK and in the EU who are involved in scrutinising and overseeing bank activities, to ensure that the excesses of the industry of previous years are not repeated.

Another aspect of a compliance role is risk. Assessing the regulatory and reputation risk of financial deals and transactions is down to a compliance specialist to minimise the financial institutions’ exposure to such risk. Such a role is ideal for someone with a legal background, as law similarly involves minimising legal risk to both clients and company.

Compliance involves supporting and advising both the bank and clients. Often, such advise is given to senior management, so good presentation skills and a confident approach is necessary Most- but by no means all- compliance entry level roles are open to graduates, of any discipline. Obviously, a work or education background in finance, accounting law or related will be very beneficial.

Compliance is a very specialised role, and often can be industry specific depending on the financial institution’s clients. Compliance professionals often have to work closely with industry, and the relevant industry regulators, to ensure that everything is carried out with transparency and in accordance with regulations.

Reviewing terms and conditions and contracts, advising on advertising and similar, ensuring you are up to date with financial legislation and similar are but part of a compliance job description. Overseeing and checking accounts, and ensuring that taxes are filed correctly are also important parts of a compliance department

Compliance is a challenging and fast paced role, constantly changing. It is also seeing an increase due to increasing scrutiny. It is a very complex but very rewarding area to work in. Recruitment companies such as Randstad Financial & Professional inform, guide and assist candidates into this exciting field, see RandstadFP.com.

Due to the skills and specialist knowledge required, and mindset necessary, it is an ideal non- legal alternative career for a law graduate. The law graduate can use their legal knowledge and skills to good effect in a banking and corporate environment.