RSS Feed

Online Criminal Court Plans Spark Controversy

March 15, 2017 by Kelly No Comments »

The government’s plans for an inline criminal court have provoked controversy and criticism. The harshest critic is justice charity Transform Justice, which has attached many aspects of the government’s proposals in a statement released today.

Among the key concerns that Transform Justice has expressed is that “very few measures in the whole bill have been subject to formal consultation,” which runs counter to accepted best practices in the creation of government policy. In its briefing, the charity also criticises the proposals for being poorly-costed and for having used weak evidence as its basis.

The charity also questioned the governments claims that the proposals, which are contained in the Prisons and Courts Bill, would improve access to justice and the quality of justice. “It is asserted,” the briefing says, “that they will make the system more just, proportionate and accessible, but without any supporting research or data, and without citing research which may suggest the contrary.” Transform Justice went on to say that the results of a pilot scheme showed none of the advantages the government has claimed its proposals would bring. Rather, the use of a virtual court in the pilot scheme made it more difficult for lawyers and clients to communicate effectively, and increased the cost of justice processes compared to a traditional courtroom.

Furthermore, the pilot suggested that the digital court might increase the number of guilty pleas and result in longer sentences being issued. Transform Justice was particularly concerned about the suggestion of allowing people charged with offences that do not carry a prison sentence to enter a guilty plea and accept a penalty online. The charity was concerned this might encourage more people to plead guilty without properly understanding the implications of doing so, such as the fact they would be left with a formal criminal record.

The charity stressed that its criticisms of the online courts were not intended as an attempt to stand in the way of progress. In its briefing, it agrees emphatically that the UK’s court system is in need of being “brought into the digital age,” and suggests a number of measures that could help achieve this. For example, it suggests that information and documents should be made available digitally, and that email and text reminders could be sent to defendants ahead of court appearances.

However, the charity was sceptical not just about the government’s specific proposals, but about the entire concept of digital hearings. Specifically, it questioned whether they were actually necessary, insisting that appearing in person at a physical court would be preferable for many witnesses and defendants and that, even following waves of closures, there would be no shortage of courtrooms.


Court Reviews Income Barrier for Foreign Spouses

February 21, 2017 by Kelly No Comments »

A controversial income threshold, which serves as a barrier preventing people from bringing their foreign-born spouses to the UK, is under review by the Supreme Court. It is now up to the court to rule on whether or not this financial obstacle is legally tenable.

The barrier affects couples where one partner is a UK national and the other originates from outside the European Economic Area (EEA). A minimum income threshold must be met before the UK partner can bring their foreign spouse into the country. Unless they qualify on other grounds, the foreign partner can only come to the UK if they are married to a British citizen who earns at least £18,600 a year, a figure which has been in effect since 2012. If there is a child involved and that child does not hold British citizenship, the threshold is increased to a minimum of £22,400. For any additional children, a further £2,400 per child is added to the minimum income required.

There have been a number of criticisms levelled against this rule. Campaigners claim that it unfairly prevents thousands of couples from living together and having a normal family life, and has separated around 15,000 children from their parents. Critics also say that it is a law that unfairly targets poorer people by making the right to bring the person they love and have married to the UK a privilege reserved for people who earn a certain amount of money. The fact that some kinds of income are also excluded from the calculation has also attracted controversy, with some couples who do meet the income threshold still being unable to live together in the UK.

The rule was brought in by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government that preceded the current, Conservative government. At the time of the threshold’s introduction, the government claimed that it was to prevent foreign-born spouses of British people from becoming dependant on UK taxpayer money. Before the introduction of a firm minimum income threshold, there was a vaguer requirement that the couple demonstrate they would be able to reasonably support themselves.

Yet further criticism has stemmed from the fact that the threshold takes into account only the UK-born partner’s earnings. While the rules are ostensibly to prevent foreign nationals from becoming a drain on UK resources after marrying British nationals, the right to settle will be refused to high-qualified individuals who already earn well above the minimum themselves if their UK partner’s income does not meet the threshold in isolation.

A challenge against these rules was initially upheld at the High Court, which described the system as “onerous and unjustified” in a 2013 ruling. However, this decision was later overturned by the Court of Appeal, leading the matter to come to the Supreme Court which is now set to make a final decision.


What Exactly is Accident and Injury Compensation For?

October 28, 2016 by Kelly No Comments »

wet-floor-signIt is quite widely-known that people who have been injured are entitled to claim a financial settlement if another party was at fault. However, a lot of people never claim the compensation they are legally entitled to, and often this is down to a general lack of understanding on any deeper level. One thing that many people are often unclear on is exactly what a compensation payment is for, and what it represents.

The answer to this works on two different levels, because compensation payments are designed to represent two different forms of justice for the injured party. Both of these will be taken into account when calculating the total amount that should be awarded as a result of an accident at work claim or any other kind of personal injury case.

Reimbursement for Expenses

Part of the purpose of compensation is to reimburse you for expenses that have been incurred as a result of your injury, as it is considered only fair that these expenses are met by the person who caused your injury and was at fault. Examples of expenses that might be incurred in this way are any costs associated with medical treatment, such as the cost of having prescriptions filled, and losses incurred as a result of being unable to work. More serious and longer-term injuries may also require you to make adaptations to your home in order to accommodate a reduced level of physical ability, or assistance from private carers. These are also expenses that could be considered for reimbursement when calculating the amount of compensation that is due to you.

Compensation for Suffering

The other purpose of financial compensation is to serve as, quite simply, compensation. In other words, it is designed to make up, at least on some level, for the suffering that your injury has caused. Of course, in many cases no financial settlement could really make up for this, particularly in cases where accidents have resulted in a long-term or permanent disability or even death. Nonetheless, a compensation payment is designed to go some way – as far as reasonably possible – towards making amends for pain and suffering. In some cases, such as where a household’s major wage-earner is permanently unable to work or even deceased, this aspect of the compensation payment is also intended help ensure the financial security of the claimant or claimants in a more general way than the part of the settlement that relates to specific expenses.


Getting Injured at Work – Knowing your Rights

October 17, 2016 by admin No Comments »

Nobody thinks it’ll ever happen to them. Getting injured at work is one of the most unfortunate things that can happen to a person. Not only is there a lot of pain and suffering to contend with, there is a difficult legal terrain to maneuver over the coming hours, days, and weeks. It is important to prepare for this in advance. Hopefully you will never get injured on the job. But if you do, it pays to be prepared by knowing your rights. You can see a complete list of rights related to injury at work – check out this solicitor. Here are a few important examples.

  • An employer has specific responsibilities for the safety and security of their employees. If an employee is injured on the job, damages will be due if the employer is found to have been negligent in this responsibility, or if they employer did not otherwise train the employee in question and accurately assess risk. This may include issues such as un-swept floors, maintenance that was not carried out, or other employees who contributed to the accident because of lack of training.
  • Manual Handling Operations Regulations (1992) is an important piece of legislation to review if you are in a field that requires you to lift. Believe it or not, there are important regulations that inform employers of the proper way for their employees to lift heavy things. There are practices like the two man lift which should be standard for all employee training and general practice. When an accident occurs, and this sort of training is not found to have been present, then the employer will likely be found liable for resulting damages.
  • The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations (1992) is another important piece of legislation to know about before you get hurt. It relates to the neatness and orderliness of a workplace as required by law. It pertains to heating and cooling, workplaces being free of objects that could be tripped over, and general cleanliness. If you were injured because of a mess or general disorder in your workplace, chances are your injury will trigger the implementation of restitution based on this legislation.
  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999). There are other legislative acts to review, but few are as important as this one. This one has to do with risk assessment and training. That might not sound like much, but these regulations actually go into incredible detail of just how employees must be trained and accidents must be averted. If you got hurt on the job because of something that was not your fault, it is likely that the problem is enumerated in this long piece of legislation. It would be worth you reading about, and definitely asking about if you get hurt on the job.

There are many other laws in place to protect workers. If you get hurt, review the first link and the list it leads to.


App Considered as Way to Improve Justice Access

June 15, 2016 by Kelly No Comments »

AppA downloadable app is being considered as a possible way to improve public access to justice. A recent report from Hackney Community Law Centre proposes a number of possible solutions to make justice more accessible, including the possibility of an app.

The report, Finding Better Problems for Better Solutions, was revealed at Hackney Town Hall. The release of the report formed part of a “digital summit” held at that venue recently. The Law Centre’s suggestion of an app follows a number of other recent suggestions to improve access to justice through the use of digital solutions, including online advice platforms and even fully-online courts.

Mark Brown, development director at Social Spider CIC and co-author of the report, said that such an app could help solve problems with the accessibility of justice. In particular, Brown said that those who have legal problems are often reluctant to seek professional advice in person, and consider a legal professional “the last person” they would like to speak to about the issues they are facing.

According to the report, “push” information would be used to keep the app updated with the latest and most accurate legal advice. It would also have the advantage, the report says, of being available at any time when somebody wishes to seek advice.

Hackney Law Centre has some familiarity with digital legal solutions, as the area has had a fair amount of involvement with digital law initiatives that have taken place in the past. For example, Hackney participated in a digital pilot which provided a direct and easily-accessible route through which members of the public could contact and get advice from barristers. Furthermore, in partnership with Legal Geek, Hackney helped bring about the “Hackathon” – an initiative which sees developers and legal professionals working intensively to develop innovative technology solutions for the legal sector. The second such event is due to take place later in 2016, and will specifically focus on the matter of providing access to justice.

The report also suggested that a better process should be developed for the provision of advice by email. The report also states that the working processes involved in this need to be better coordinated in order to more effectively make use of the time given by volunteers.

The report said: “Currently, while there may be people willing to volunteer their time to assist in delivering advice services in the borough, their ability to contribute their time is limited by a mismatch between the times they are available and the times that advice services providers are available to enable them.”


Findings Published From Biggest Ever Legal Needs Survey

May 25, 2016 by Kelly No Comments »

SurveyFindings have been published from an Ipsos MORI survey conducted for the Law Society and the Legal Services Board. Gathering information about nearly 17,000 legal issues from over 8,000 individuals across England and Wales, it has been described as the largest legal needs survey ever carried out in the UK.

One of the key findings of the survey was the number of cases in which the people concerned sought formal, professional legal advice. This was done in less than a third of cases, with people seeking but failing to successfully access legal advice in a further 5%. The issues in which people were most likely to feel the need to seek legal support were divorce, wills and probate, and conveyancing. The areas in which people were least likely to seek support from a legal professional, on the other hand, were problems with neighbours and issues relating to mental health.

Almost half of all legal issues faced by the survey’s respondents, on the other hand, were handled either alone or with the help of family members or friends. In almost a tenth of cases, it was the “fear that doing otherwise would cost too much” that led people to eschew legal advice and go it alone. This stemmed from concerns about court fees as well as the costs of professional legal support.

Younger people – specifically those under 35 – were the least likely to seek legal assistance, according to the survey. 161 individuals in the 11-15 age bracket were also surveyed. 70% of these young people said they had experienced at least one legal issue that fell within the scope of the survey, of which more than two thirds said they would be comfortable to seek legal advice from a teacher. Only 27% would be comfortable accessing legal help from a solicitor, and 32% from the police.

The survey also showed the number of people who had checked whether the professional legal adviser they were dealing with was regulated or not. This was done by less than half of respondents who sought professional legal advice, with those in the over-55 age bracket being the most likely to check. More than 50% of those who did not check whether their primary legal adviser was regulated simply assumed this was the case. 8% reported that they did not know how to find out about regulation, and the same number claimed to not even know what regulation meant in the context of legal services.

Jonathan Smithers, president of the Law Society, expressed concerns about the survey’s findings. Smithers said: “The most trained and qualified providers are the most regulated while those who may have no formal legal training may be unregulated. This can be confusing and can result in people not making informed decisions about the legal services they buy.”


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


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, 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.