Legal Aid U-Turn Means Defendants Will Be Able To Choose Their Solicitor

There is a great probability that legal aid defendants in criminal cases would not be able to choose their own lawyer for the future. If they want they can also go for a fixed-fee legal advice online.

This plan appeared as an opposition to the idea of the justice secretary to cut legal aid.

In the words of Chris Grayling money could be saved as young and inexperienced lawyers are hired for legal aid cases. This meant that taxpayers would not keep on paying for a “legal ‘Rolls-Royce’” to defend the people who receive legal aid.

Critics, on the other hand, claim that less experienced solicitors could harm justice seriously.

However, critics pointed out that this would leave legal aid defendants in their access to justice.

Last Thursday Tory MPs declared that the state should be banned to choose a defendant’s solicitor or barrister.

The Commons Justice Committee chairman received a letter from Mr. Grayling in which he claimed he was ready to reconsider part of his plans on legal aid only if these could help to reduce legal aid spending.

“The rationale for proposing this change was to give greater certainty of case volume for providers, making it easier and more predictable for them to organise their businesses,” he wrote.

“However, I have heard clearly from the Law Society and other respondents that they regard client choice as fundamental to the effective delivery of criminal legal aid.”

He added he would think carefully once more and define whether clients receiving criminal legal aid have to be allowed to choose a solicitor or not.

The Law Society and Bar Council were both pleasantly surprised by the news.


More Courts on Camera Under Government Plan

If for the future a government scheme goes as planned sentencing in Crown court in England and Wales could be televised.

More and more people recently argue whether or not court proceedings should be broadcasted.

As a step towards improving the transparency in courts from October, broadcasters will be allowed to film the Court of Appeal. Many legal documents will be required for each party, however we hope it is worth it

Justice Minister Damian Green announced that if this happened Crown court would also permit recording of its sentencing. He said this step was expected to improve transparency due to which public confidence in the criminal justice system would also increase.

“We are working with broadcasters to ensure that any costs from broadcasting are not met from the public purse. Subject to passage through Parliament we intend to allow broadcasting from the Court of Appeal from October 2013, with a view to extending this to sentencing decisions in the Crown court in due course,”.

Crown courts are those who deal with serious criminal cases. The sentence is decided by a 12-person jury and a judge. Filming is already allowed in the Supreme court and is used as the final means for such people who wish to appeal their cases.What is expected to happen later this year is the allowance of filming the process of lawyers’ arguments and judges’ decisions.  This filming of court proceedings is nothing new to Scotland as it was allowed many years ago. Everyone who wishes to record a certain case could bring cameras into Scottish court ever since 1992.

Despite this, Scotland have to change many things as the most senior Scottish judge announced that modern technologies required a review of the filming policy.


David Cameron ‘warned he cannot stop pay rise for MPs’

BBC found out that the Prime Minister David Cameron will most probably not succeed to block plans for a big pay rise for MPs.

The salaries of the backbench MPs’ are expected to increase from £66,000 to more than £70,000.

PM did not agree with these plans but he could do nothing to stop these.

In the words of the BBC’s political editor the recommendation of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority’s (Ipsa) would make voters angry because the time was such of pay restraints in the public as well as in the private sectors.

Later this month Ipsa is going to announce its initial recommendations. Before it publishes them. MPs and members of the public would be given the possibility to participate in a consultation and right after it finishes the final plans would come into force.

Several newspapers published that the expected increase of backbench MPs salaries is of 15%. Obviously many business documents will be signed before we see it working, but let`s see what the PM thinks.

Speaking in Pakistan, Mr Cameron said:

“Anything would be unthinkable unless the cost of politics was frozen and cut, so I’ll wait and see what Ipsa have to say. What I said to Ipsa was that restraint is necessary.”

Nick Robinson said that in case the government decided to ignore Ipsa’s recommendations MPs would not support its decision.

Last year the Commons agreed to extend the pay freeze into 2013.

However, due to an anonymous online survey 69% of the MPs who were asked were underpaid. They suggested an average salary of £86,250.

Former Labour minister and chairman of the Home Affairs select committee Keith Vaz said: “The last thing on earth MPs should be talking about is their own pay.”


UK Courtrooms Will Go Completely Digital By 2016

By 2016 nobody in the UK courtrooms will use papers anymore as this is considered outdated. The plan of the government is to make everything digital. The Legal Stop favours the idea and provides legal documents online, which you can simply download to your computer and use in digital format.

Courts will have their own secure wi-fi networks so that they may easily find any document they need. Evidence and documents used during trials will be displayed on digital monitors.

Police officers will also stop bringing notebooks with them as they will get mobile devices.

The amount the government will spend on these changes is £160 million.

The first court which has now been trying this new concept is the Birmingham Magistrates Court. From March until now it has dealt with 80 cases.

The changes should soon start functioning throughout whole England and Wales. The expected results are that this would improve the work of different courts.

Justice minister Damien Green has to announce the plans today in a speech at the Policy Exchange.

He started his speech mentioning that each year courts use 160 million sheets of paper.

“Stacked up this would be the same as 15 Mount Snowdons – literally mountains of paper. If we are to win in the global race this must change,” said Mr Green. “It is time we move the court system into the 21st Century.”

In his opinion courts would function in a qualitative way only when they got rid of the old system and became more modern.

On the other hand, many lawyers are uneasy with this new system saying that if an eventual system crash happens they would not lose a single file but all the documents of the court may disappear.


Fraud Sentences Could Focus on Harm

The Sentencing Council has prepared new guidelines related to the sentences for some of the financial crimes in England and Wales. According to these, the final sentences on such crimes could be based on the harm to victims.

What is considered as important nowadays is not the impact on victims but the amount of money involved in the crime.

The offenses, which the proposals cover, range from fraud and insurance scams to money laundering and bribery. Don`t forget to check our Anti-Bribery and Corruption Policy Template.

The council does not have any legislative power- this is a matter for Parliament. What it can do is only issue new guidelines.

In the opinion of BBC legal correspondent Clive Coleman it would not be an easy task for courts to measure how harmful the crime had been to victims.

“For instance, a rogue trader who scammed a pensioner for £2,000 of roof repairs, severely damaging her confidence, would have faced a sentence ranging from a community order to 26 weeks in prison under existing guidelines,” he said.

Such rating is difficult because there are lots of cases in which victims’ loss is not that big but it has a great impact on them.

Only in 2012, the UK economy has lost £73 billion from fraud. This sum is bigger than the entire budget for state education.

Due to data of the Sentencing Council, employees and suppliers often claim false expenses which cost companies £45.5bn in 2011.

When talking about fraud we include many offences in this conception- offences like fake car crashes, complex VAT frauds and many others.


Scrapped UKBA Failed to Track Asylum Seekers in Bungle “from beyond the grave”

An independent inspector announced that immigration authorities did not follow up more than  3,000 leads on missing asylum seekers.
He managed to prove that UKBA had neglected important information given by the police, which could have helped it solving 3,077 of the cases with asylum seekers who had disappeared.
While investigating the failings of UKBA, John Vine, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders of Immigration, found it had marked a great number of the cases as “unreliable”. There are legal documents, which should serve in favour of this.
Vine stated that the number of similar cases is 42,000 as many of them date back since more than 10 years. He added the current whereabouts of many of these people are unknown.
It was also found, that UKBA did not use the databases of the Police National Computer, which contains really useful information which could be considered while investigating.
As the UKBA was demised in March, the report of the inspector included the period from the beginning of the year until the date of the demission.
Talking on the matter John Vines said: “I believe the Home Office needs to demonstrate to applicants, Parliament and the public that it has taken all reasonable action to identify whether individuals remain in the UK illegally.
What is expected from the Home Office for the near future is to publish a real timescale accounting the detection of asylum and migration cases.
Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, Keith Vaz, stated that UKBA was not competent enough and with the time many of their mistakes were becoming evident.

Liverpool landlord seeks compensation over Anfield redevelopment

A local landlord may cause Liverpool Football Club serious problems standing on their way to the expansion of their stadium. He called for a significant compensation or he would not allow the knocking down of his houses. For those of you, who would prefer to avoid being in a similar situation – use the deed of gift template.
The planned expansion is by 15,000 seats, which means they have to demolish some streets surrounding the stadium in order to complete their aim.
The number of the houses, which will have to be destroyed is 72.  Liverpool Football Club already owns 51 of them and tries to buy the rest.
Graham Jones owns two of the remaining houses. He claims that the club damages the area as it only buys houses and leaves them empty afterwards.
“Anfield was your average working-class area until Liverpool began buying houses and leaving them empty because they wanted the streets knocked down,” said Jones.
He added that he has had serious difficulties in finding tenants because of the decline of the area. According to his calculations, this has cost his partner and him about £500,000 in rent over the years.
Council leader Joe Anderson confessed there were lots of mistakes in the preparation for the stadium’s enlargement saying that residents were not protected enough.
However, he shared he did not quite well understand the motives of landlords.
“It is worth noting that the only owners with whom we have not reached agreement on acquisition are private landlords who do not live in the area and whose interests are purely financial,” said Anderson. “We will not allow a handful of private landlords to stand in the way of plans which will benefit everyone.”

Former Undercover Police Officer Reveals Attempts To Smear Stephen Lawrence Campaign

The Prime Minister David Cameron insisted on an investigation considering the rumors that police attempted to discredit the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, which is against many laws and HR policies.

A former undercover police officer called Peter Francis gave interviews for the Guardian and Channel 4 claiming he was told he had to infiltrate the campaign to get justice for Stephen Lawrence in order to gather “any intelligence that could have smeared the campaign”.

He added he was a part of the police plan aiming to turn public’s view against the campaign.

“I wasn’t successful, no SDS officer was successful, in finding anything really concrete. It was really just a bit of hearsay, tittle-tattle.”

What else Francis gave away was that police monitored the Lawrence family home so that it had concrete information about how the campaign would proceed.

In his words Met police had been “scared” of the campaign.

The mother of Stephen shared that all the members of her family had thought there was something wrong in the intentions of the police .

“Somebody sitting somewhere, calculating what, you know, what they’d be doing to look at and infiltrate our family. It’s like we’re treated as if to say we’re not human beings.”

A spokesman for No 10 announced that the Prime Minister was “deeply concerned” of these rumors and insisted on an immediate investigation.

Jack Straw, the former secretary said this matter had to be referred to the IPCC so that it could become evident who had ordered all this.

In October 2011 an independent investigation was launched against a separate undercover officer but there are still no results.

Work Programme Not Doing Enough for Sick and Disabled

According to the providers of the government’s flagship Work Programme, the scheme does not have so incomes so that to take care of the sick and disabled jobseekers into employment.

Figures of the BBC show that only a third of those who have been on the scheme, for at least a year, have later found a permanent job.

However the percentage of those from the most challenging group who have found work is only 10%.

The association representing the providers announced that people receiving ESA have complex health and skills requirements so the Work Programme can not manage to solve all their problems.

“The costs of helping jobseekers on ESA back into work are significant and cannot all be met by the Work Programme,” says the Association’s chief executive, Kirsty McHugh.

The Department for Work and Pensions stated it had already agreed with Work Programme providers to support them financially.

These jobseekers have many barriers in front of them which was proved by the figures of ERSA pointing out that about a quarter of them have been unemployed for at least 11 years.

However, the opinion of the Labour Party is that the fact the Work Programme asked for so much money meant there was something wrong with it.

Liam Byrne, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said this in fact showed that the system was not working properly and the government did not make any efforts in order to fix it: “Three quarters of unemployed on the scheme haven’t even started a job, and half of young people still haven’t found their way into a single day’s employment.”

The 58 years old Julia Page, who had not worked for more than 30 years because of her clinical depression and anxiety, and has now spent more than 12 months learning how to attend an interview.

“It takes a heck of a lot of time to get through it but unless the government is willing to help, people like me and others aren’t going to have that support and I will end up back on the dole.”




Report Calls For Reckless Bankers To Face Criminal Charges

A resent report stated that senior bankers who commit reckless misconduct should face criminal charges and should be forced to fill in a great variety of legal documents, explaining their actions.

The view of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards on this matter is that bankers in top positions should clearly lay down their responsibilities and in case of ignoring them they need to be sanctioned with prison sentences. HR policies should be applied here, as well.

The intention of these changes is to put an end to the tendency of people standing higher in the hierarchy to deny taking wrong decisions.

“Too many bankers, especially at the most senior levels, have operated in an environment with insufficient personal responsibility,” claims the report.

It also says these knew there would not be any consequences for their actions as they used either ignorance as an excuse or the fact that decisions had not been taken individually so no single person could be blamed.

The length of the report is 571 pages. There are many other recommendations trying to help the banking sector remedy its situation.

One of the suggestions towards banks is to change the way they estimate the bankers’ bonuses. The latter should not be deferred with more than ten years. When the time comes they have to be based on the work of the bank during this period.

This way, errant bankers would not be able to get their bonuses.

Another point in this report suggests that a new set of banking regulations has to be accepted. These would apply to such people whose position permits them to cause severe harm to the bank.

The Treasury has commented: “Where legislation is needed, we have said we will support it, and the banking bill currently before Parliament can be amended to ensure they are quickly enacted.”