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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.

 

New Law Outlaws “Revenge Porn”

February 12, 2015 by Kelly No Comments »

A new law in England and Wales has made it illegal to post images and videos of a type that has become known as “revenge porn.” This phrase refers to explicit images and videos taken by or given to a partner for personal use, but which that partner posts online after a breakup without the permission of the person depicted.

Some existing laws already had the potential to be used to prosecute revenge porn, but often legal action has not been taken in relation to such incidents. Now, the act of posting these images or videos online without the permission of the former partner involved has been made a specific criminal offence in England and Wales, and it is hoped that this will lead to greater numbers of successful prosecutions against perpetrators.

The concept of revenge porn is not entirely new, though the phrase has only recently been coined. In the past, there have been reports of exes sending explicit photos to pornographic magazines without the permission of the subject, or simply posting copies through the doors of friends and family to humiliate their former partners. However, advancing technology has amplified the problem in recent years.

The internet and its bustling market for user-uploaded videos and images has made it easier for people to share images of former partners, and has meant that they can now potentially be shared on a worldwide scale. As such, the problem of revenge porn has become bigger and more widespread, and websites have sprung up that are entirely devoted to sharing this kind of material. Social media has also made things easier for those vengeful exes who choose to share images with their immediate social circle and beyond.

At the same time, technologies such as digital photography and, in particular, the advent of smartphones with good-quality cameras have made it easier to create explicit images and to share them with a partner. Once people needed a dedicated camera and, unless they were content with a small Polaroid image, had to worry about where to get such a photo developed. Now, photos and even videos can now be captured digitally on a device that most people keep to hand at all times, and which is able to upload directly to the internet if the owner chooses.

The new law covers distribution offline as well as over the internet, including distribution of physical copies of the image. It covers any images “which show people engaged in sexual activity or depicted in a sexual way or with their genitals exposed, where what is shown would not usually be seen in public” and which have been shared without the permission of the subject with the intention of causing harm.

The Scottish Government says that it plans to consult on the possibility of introducing a similar law in Scotland. The Northern Irish Department for Justice emphasises that revenge porn is illegal under existing laws, but also intends to consider the case for making it a specific offence.

 

Legal Professionals Call for Better Protection From State Surveillance

January 20, 2015 by Kelly No Comments »

Two major professional bodies in the legal industry, the Bar Council and the Law Society, have joined forces with organisations that represent those in industries such as journalism and social work to call for reform in areas of law dealing with the concept of surveillance. In particular, the collection of organisations is calling for better protections to be introduced against surveillance by the state.

The organisations have formed a coalition under the name Professionals for Information privacy. As well as the two legal industry bodies, this coalition includes the National union of Journalists and the British Association of Social Workers.

Yesterday, this coalition released a statement in which they called for stricter controls on the monitoring of communications between professionals and their clientele by state bodies. In this statement, the coalition claims that the current laws dealing with issues of surveillance are “complex and confusing and have been laid down in numerous, badly drafted pieces of legislation, codes and guidance.”

The statement claims that there have been too many instances of legislation dealing with data, communications and surveillance issues being hurried through parliament under the banner of emergency legislation. The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 is cited as the most recent example of this. Passing so much legislation in this rushed manner has, the coalition says, “undermined parliamentary scrutiny and democratic debate.”

The timing of the statement was pointed, as it coincided with the last day for responses to a major government consultation dealing with this aspect of law. Specifically, the government has been consulting on the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) and the codes of practice that are contained therein.

In their statement, the coalition says: “we have come together to call for the existing problems to be addressed in the various reviews still underway.” The organisations that make up the coalition are calling for access to the data held by professionals about their clients should benefit from legal protection, and that there should be oversight for this from independent judicial bodies. The coalition feels that “using codes of practice – such as the draft code under RIPA – undermines the rule of law.”

President of the Law Society Andrew Caplen emphasised the importance of clients being able to completely trust legal professionals and deal with them in confidence. If this is not the case, he said, “the rule of law and the administration of justice are undermined,” in a society where the innocent rely on legal advice for protection and businesses rely on legal advice to “[oil] the wheels of commerce.”

 

ASA Bans Three E-Smoking Adverts

December 24, 2014 by Kelly No Comments »

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned three television adverts for electronic smoking products after receiving over 200 complaints. The ban on these adverts comes only a few weeks after the law was first changed to allow adverts where people use e-smoking products to be shown on television.

E-smoking or “vaping” is billed as a healthier alternative to traditional smoking. Instead of smoke, a vapour is produced which often contains a flavouring. Frequently, this is a tobacco flavouring in order to provide the closest experience possible to smoking. E-liquids, which are used to produce the vapour, are available without nicotine or with various concentrations. As a tool to give up smoking, this allows smokers to enjoy an experience that is very close to smoking a cigarette but lacks many or all of the harmful chemicals contained in tobacco smoke. By using progressively weaker nicotine concentrations, many smokers aim to wean themselves off the experience entirely.

However, e-cigarettes are not entirely uncontroversial. Though they seemingly lack the health risks associated with smoking, they still look and are used much like a traditional cigarette. This has led to concerns that such devices could glamorise or normalise smoking. This has, until recently, meant that the use of such products could not be advertised on TV, and has even led to some places such as Wales considering a ban on the public use of these products.

However, their apparent lack of real health risks and value as a tool to help smokers quit has led electronic smoking devices to get their fair share of praise as well, and since November manufacturers have been allowed to advertise their use on television. However, there are still some strict rules that must be followed. These adverts must not encourage non-smokers to take up electronic smoking, and they must not target young people. Neither must the adverts be seen to promote tobacco use.

The ASA decided that the three banned adverts fell afoul of these rules. One of them, an advert produced for Vape Nation, was claimed to be encouraging non-smokers to use electronic smoking products. The advert featured a man claiming to have taken up e-smoking after quitting cigarettes, rather than as a tool to quit, leading to concerns that the advert would encourage non- and former smokers to try e-smoking.

The other two adverts, both promoting the VIP e-cigarette brand, were held to be glamorising tobacco use. They showed a woman exhaling a cloud of vapour – something which is visually extremely similar to traditional smoking.

 

US “Pick up Artist” Denied Entry to UK

November 20, 2014 by Kelly No Comments »

Following a large-scale campaign and a petition amassing over 150,000 signatures, the government has decided to bar controversial US “pick up artist” Julien Blanc from entering the UK in order to hold seminars. In his seminars, Blanc teaches men how to seduce and bed women using tactics which many people have lambasted as abusive.

One Liberal Democrat MP who opposed the idea of allowing Blanc and his company Real Social Dynamics to hold seminars in the UK described some of the statements made by Blanc as “sexist and utterly abhorrent.” Lynne Featherstone,  Minister of State for the Home Office and MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, went on to say that “if [blanc] was allowed to perform in the UK I have no doubt that cases of sexual harassment and intimidation would increase.”

Blanc’s controversial teachings encourage men to play on women’s insecurities in order to persuade them into sex. Blanc has also drawn particular attention for one seminar where, talking about “picking up” women in Tokyo he said that white men could “do what they want” and said he was “romping through the street just grabbing girls, just like, head… on the dick.” This was accompanied by a video of him literally grabbing women on the street and pushing their heads towards his groin. There is now a campaign in Japan to keep him from returning, much like that recently seen in the UK.

Perhaps most shockingly of all, Blanc has even advocated intimidation and physical choking as a “seduction” tactic. He has gone so far as to share multiple photographs of himself choking women as part of his “pick up” efforts. This has inspired Twitter users to highlight such photographs, originally shared by Blanc himself, with the hashtag #ChokingGirlsAroundtheWorld.

In a similar vein, he linked to a chart from his Twitter account that depicted signs of domestic abuse. The chart (pictured right), which was not created by Blanc and was intended to help people identify abusive relationships, included acts of sexual and physical violence along with coercive and threatening behaviour and methods of emotional manipulation, including threats using children. Blanc said that the chart “may as well be a checklist” followed by the hashtag #HowToMakeHerStay.

It is within the Home Secretary’s powers to exclude an individual from the country if allowing them to enter the country would not be “conducive to the public good.” It was on these grounds that the decision was made to deny Blanc a visa to enter the UK and hold his seminars here. This followed similar decisions from other countries such as Australia, as the seminars were intended to form part of an international tour.

On US television station CNN Blanc said “I just want to apologize, you know, to anybody I’ve offended in any way.”