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Archive for November, 2012

Criminal injuries compensation scheme: upcoming changes
BY Personalinjury.co.uk

The revised criminal injuries compensation scheme is due to come into action on Tuesday 27 November 2012, as confirmed by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).

This follows the initial consultation of ‘Getting it right for victims and witnesses’ which began on 30 January and ended on 22 April 2012. The document put forward a number of changes to the services witnesses and victims currently receive. The reduction of the compensation budget was cited as a necessary cutback due to a lack of adequate funding.

During the consultation period, a number of modifications were made due to opposition from MPs. In July 2012, the Draft Scheme was approved by the House of Lords. However, this also received heavy criticism from Labour and Conservative members when considered by the House of Commons in September 2012, meaning that the proposal then went back to the Ministry of Justice for further consideration.

On Monday 12 November 2012, the revised scheme was finally passed by 275 votes to 231 following the addition of a £500,000 hardship fund for victims whose income would be affected by their sustained injuries.

Currently, the scheme awards compensation to between 30,000 and 40,000 victims who can’t achieve a settlement from any other source. When the new scheme comes into effect on 27 November, 90% of claimants will have their financial support cut or axed. This means that many innocent victims of violent crime will be unable to receive compensation for any physical and psychological damage they have endured.

Up until 23:59 on 26 November, claimants will be able to submit an application for compensation through the existing scheme. Yet, all new applications after the 27 November will be dealt with through the 2012 system, even if the injury was sustained prior to this date.

For victims of violent crime, it is advisable that any compensation claims are submitted prior to the change. To ensure that your claim is successful, you must have co-operated with police, the incident must have taken place in England, Scotland or Wales and you must begin your claim within two years of the event. If you have a criminal record or have received personal injury compensation outside the CICA, this can affect your eligibility.

Both during and after the revised scheme comes into action, victims can also choose to obtain criminal injury compensation advice from personal injury solicitors. As the process can be complex and time-consuming, an experienced legal team can help to manage the process and make sure that your application is accurate to help you achieve the right level of compensation. This guidance can be especially useful if your claim is complicated, involves large amounts of money, if you deem that an initial compensation offer was too low or if your initial claim was dismissed.

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UK Tour Report #10: Professor de Londras – Guantanamo and they key issues in human rights for Europe

We have a Bill of Rights in this country. It’s called the Human Rights Act and is thoroughly British, European and universal in its values”

Shami Chakrabarti, Liberty

Human rights underpins much of our law and we are in the midst of controversy yet again with a government appearing determined to avoid complying with the European Court of Human Rights in relation to prisoner votes and ‘disappointed’ with the recent judgment of SIAC in relation to Abu Qatada.

Today I am talking to Fiona De Londras, professor of law at Durham University. Her research primarily focuses on questions related to effective rights protection with a particular concentration on times of strain and crisis and especially counter-terrorism.

We look at the problems the US President faces with the closure of Guantanamo Bay – promised within a year of his inauguration as President four year ago – as a comparison with the difficulties the British government faces in relation to compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights – and then consider likely developments within human rights law in the United Kingdom in the next few years.

The plans announced yesterday by the government to limit the scope of Judicial review – covered well by Adam Wagner at the UK Human Rights blog: A war on Judicial Review? [updated] – bring into sharp focus the need to examine how Britain will respond to the human rights agenda in the future.

Listen to the podcast

iTunes version of the podcast

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Guest Post: The Legal UK Chambers Guide

The Legal UK Chambers Guide
BY Hughes Carlisle Law

Finding the right solicitor is not always easy. Though there are countless names and numbers in the telephone directory, picking out one solicitor from such a vast selection usually involves a degree of randomness. Of course, when choosing a solicitor, randomness should never be a factor. How can people who are in need of professional legal counsel choose between the lawyers who advertise on television and those whose names appear on high-street billboards? What makes one law firm’s website different from all the others? Does the process have to be so difficult?

In answer to the last question, no. Finding the right solicitor does not have to be such a difficult task, at least not if people use the Chambers UK Law Guide for reference.

Chambers UK Law Guide

Endorsed by British Market Research Bureau (BMRB), the Chambers UK Law Guide is published once a year and includes details of solicitors working in the UK. The guide covers no less than 70 legal specialities, including agriculture, charities, clinical negligence, crime, education, health and safety, local government, personal injury, social housing and tax. Some specialities include subcategories that list niche areas of the law. This is especially useful for people who require a particular type of legal service, as finding experts who specialise in niche fields can be all but impossible in some cases.

Firms throughout the UK, whether its Birmingham, London or Liverpool solicitors who specialise in spinal injury cases, for example, are usually far more difficult to find than non-specialist personal injury solicitors in Manchester. Likewise, if a person or company requires expert legal counsel on an issue as complex and challenging as, say, pensions, there is little use in going to a generalist employment law solicitor; niche areas of the law require specialists.

The Chambers UK Law Guide lists thousands of law firms and solicitors, placing their details in whichever categories and subcategories are relevant to their services. This act alone is immensely useful for any person who needs to find a solicitor, as categorising law firms by speciality enables prospective clients to refine their search criteria.

Assessment

Chambers also produces a law guide for students, which lists the types of training and employment opportunities offered by firms in various parts of the country. Another guide covers barristers, while similar publications exist in other countries, but the Chambers UK Law Guide is undoubtedly the most useful general purpose publication for finding a solicitor in the UK.

One of the main advantages of the Chambers UK Law Guide is that it provides an independent assessment of law firms, listing the strengths and weaknesses of each practice or solicitor. Law firms are only included in the guide if they pass a basic standard of assessment, but most readers will be more interested in the ranking system of the guide.

Every year, the Chambers UK Law Guide includes a new assessment of each solicitor or law firm; reviews published in previous years are not simply updated or revised, so assessments are generally accurate and up to date. A numerical ranking system is used to rate each law firm or solicitor, with six being the lowest rank or band and one being the highest. Of course, band-six law firms are still good enough to be included in the guide, so the rankings only refer to measurable quality beyond a minimum standard, which is actually quite high.

The Chambers UK Law Guide provides readers with an objective, independent analysis of law firms and solicitors in the UK, covering a wide range of specialities. It is an indispensable guide for those who need to find the right lawyer.

Written on behalf of Hughes Carlisle Law

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The problem of costly and spurious  cases clogging up the courts will be tackled by new plans for Trial by Ordeal announced by Justice Secretary  Killaburglar Grayling LC.

The proposals would reduce the number of ill-founded defences so that guilty people can be dealt with more swiftly and effectively.

The changes will not alter the important role the CPS plays in holding the guilty to account   but will instead deal with the unnecessary defence lawyers in the system. The number of not guilty verdicts has rocketed in the past three decades.

Lord KillaBurglar Grayling LC said:

‘The Government is concerned about the burdens that proving guilt in criminal cases are placing on stretched public services as well as the unnecessary costs and lengthy delays which are stifling innovation and economic growth – particularly in the prisons construction sector headed by our friends in the prisons biz, now they have recovered from the Olympics fiasco.

‘We plan to renew the system so that Prosecutions will continue their important role but the courts and economy are no longer hampered by having to deal with defences being put forward and ensure  the defendant knows they have no chance of success. We will publish our proposals shortly.’

The measures which will be considered include:

  • Shortening the length of time following arrest of guilty people so that they can be put to Trial by Ordeal within 24 hours  and stopping people from using tactical delays including the employment of counsel to defend them.
  • Halving the number of opportunities currently available to guilty people to demonstrate their skills by taking forward planned action to bang them up in advance of their actions
  • Reforming the current fees paid to lawyers to such a level to dissuade them from even thinking about acting pro bono

A public engagement exercise on the plans will be carried out shortly and kicked into the long grass for implementation after 2015.

***

Mea culpa – for the nonsense above – but I marvel at times… I really do.

The actual statement made by Mr Chris Grayling LC  – is quite similar to the nonsense above.

Adam Wagner of the excellent UK Human Rights blog – thankfully – had time to deal with this issue of the MoJ plans on Judicial Review – more seriously – an excellent read: A war on Judicial Review? [updated]

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UK Tour report #9:  A view of the changing  legal profession – Jeremy Hopkins, Riverview Law

We’re not doing anything clever. We’re just applying common sense to the legal market

The UK legal services market is valued at approximately £24bn pa. It is highly fragmented with few brands. It’s going through a period of significant upheaval. Changes in regulation and customer expectation provide an opportunity for a more modern, flexible, and customer-centric approach to the provision of legal services.

Riverview Law website statement

Today I talk with Jeremy Hopkins, director of operations at Riverview Law.  Jeremy Hopkins, formerly a senior clerk at well known chambers 3VB, talks about the vision behind Riverview Law and the way they deliver legal services on a fixed fee basis.  We then move on to consider the wider issue of the immediate to medium term future of the legal profession.  The discussion is wide ranging.

Listen to the podcast

iTunes version of the podcast

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UK Tour Report #8 – John Cooper QC on the problems facing the Bar in 2012 and beyond

The Bar, as with the other branches of the legal profession, is having to adapt to the fast changing legal landscape.  As part of this preliminary series of podcasts, in which I try to set the scene for the tour as a whole,  I talk with John Cooper QC, a well known crime and human rights advocate, about the challenges facing the Bar.

We discuss a number of key issues:

(a) The problems being caused by the cuts to legal aid funding.

(b)  The undermining of the rule of law when  defendants cannot afford legal representation.

(c)  The practical difficulties faced by barristers in practice at the crime, family and common law bar.

(d) The debate between the Solicitors Regulation Authority and The Bar Standards Board on which regulator should regulate trial advocates.

(e) The role of the CPS and prosecutors – who will be fully funded by taxpayers.

(f) The complex and controversial issue of ‘referral  fees’.

(g) The role of the Bar Council and whether it is doing enough to represent barristers as a whole.

 

Listen to the podcast

iTunes version of the podcast

Note: Because John is in the middle of a trial outside London we had to record the podcast over Skype.  The sound quality, accordingly, is not as good as for the face to face recordings.  A couple of times, because of time lag or lack of Skype clarity, John had to ask me to repeat the question.  the hesitation in response on occasion was due to the time lag and not to any hesitancy on John’s part.

***

John Cooper QC: 25 Bedford Row, London
Leading in serious crime including murder, serious violence, drug trafficking, terrorism, fraud, human rights and media. Regulatory work including fraud and sports regulation. Inquest work including Judicial Review. John Cooper QC has been named by The Times as one of the Top 100 Influential Lawyers of 2012 in the UK. He is also visiting Professor of Law at Cardiff University and a Master of the Bench at Middle Temple.

John Cooper was lead counsel in the successful Twitter Joke Trial appeal

Chambers : 25 Bedford Row
Blog: Shadow of the Noose
Twitter: @John_Cooper_QC

***

Podcasts in the series coming up in the next two weeks:

1. Jeremy Hopkins, Director of Operations at Riverview Law on his view of the changing landscape from what he sees and hears on the ground.

2. Professor Fiona de Londras, BCL, LL.M, PhD (NUI) – Guantanamo and international human rights.

3. Sheila Bramley, Director College of Law Guildford on the changes in legal education.

4. Sean Jones QC, 11 KBW, on current key issues in  employment law.

5. Nicky Richmond, managing partner at Brecher, on the role of a managing partner in a modern law firm
and her perception of the future legal landscape.

6. Tom Harris MP on the role of the law makers in Parliament  and how laws are made and implemented.

I will publish the podcasts due to be recorded in December shortly.

 

 

 

 

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“All human beings, whatever their cultural or historical background, suffer when they are intimidated, imprisoned or tortured . . . We must, therefore, insist on a global consensus, not only on the need to respect human rights worldwide, but also on the definition of these rights . . . for it is the inherent nature of all human beings to yearn for freedom, equality and dignity, and they have an equal right to achieve that.”
-The Dalai Lama

Human rights law is, arguably, one of the most important foundations upon which our modern society is built – a subject which arouses pride in some, yet irritation and anger in the minds of others when decisions of the courts do not fit with the political or national mood.

The BBC noted some time back: A common misconception is that the European Convention on Human Rights and its institutions have been thrust upon an unwilling UK as part of the wider European project. But the reality is that the UK (which passed the first ever legislation known as a Bill of Rights in 1689) was one of the architects of the human rights agenda that grew out of the devastation of Second World War.

The European Convention on Human Rights has its roots in the philosophical tradition of universal rights which stretches back to the Enlightenment of the 18th century and the French Revolution. But the actual catalyst for creating a model set of rights in the 20th century was the Allies’ determination to bring peace to Europe.”

On a day when Abu Qatada was released on bail following the judgment of SIAC yesterday – it is noteworthy that the Prime Minister commented in clear, negative, terms:

Mr Cameron told BBC News: “I am completely fed up with the fact this man is still at large in our country, he has no right to be there, we believe he’s a threat to our country…We have moved heaven and earth to try and comply with every single dot and comma of every single convention to get him out of this country.

…It’s extremely frustrating and I share the British people’s frustration at the situation we find ourselves in,”

Mr Cameron may well feel that his government has ‘moved heaven and earth’ – but the reality is that SIAC came to a view that the government had not made its case for lawful deportation and blame for that may well lie at the door of Theresa May, the home secretary.

Today, I talk with Carl Gardner, ex government lawyer and author of the Head of Legal blog about the SIAC Abu Qatada decision and the wider implications for our society if we do not continue to uphold the Rule of Law – no matter how inconvenient it may be for politicians.

Listen to the podcast

iTunes version

Useful resources

SIAC judgment: read judgment

Theresa May MP, home secretary: Theresa May’s statement on Abu Qatada winning appeal against deportation:

Carl Gardner: Abu Qatada: what happens next?

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