Agnes Collier to Get a Record Personal Injury Compensation

Agnes Collier, who was involved in a car accident five years ago, was awarded £7.25 million atLondon’s high court yesterday. However, this is not all. Taking into account the fact that the crash left her almost paralyzed, besides this sum she will receive tax-free payments of £270,000 each year until the rest of her life. Having in mind how young she is now, her solicitor speculated that the compensation might reach the sum of up to £23 million.

The sad accident happened in March 2009 when Agnes was still 13. Her spine was affected so she lost the opportunity to move her legs and her arms also became stiff and heavy. Unfortunately, her mother died in this crash. The person responsible for the accident is Andrew Norton, a BMW executive. In November 2009, he was given a suspended sentence for driving without paying enough attention and causing death. As he felt unable to drive again, soon after the crash, he left his job.

Agnes was not expected to recover so fast but she soon surprised everyone by passing her AS exams successfully.

After her counsel, William Norris, shared his opinion on the way the injuries changed the young girl’s life, the ruling judge, Mr. Justice Macduff, said back: “It never ceases to amaze me how people can deal with this type of adversity. I can’t turn back the clock, but what I can do is to wish you all the very best for your future.”

Paul Paxton, Agnes’s family solicitor, admitted that the sum of the compensation is a record-breaking one but he also mentioned the girl’s needs were so great that this money would be necessary to cover the expenses on her future care.

Mr. Norton’s insurance company will pay the compensation. As it seems Miss Collier and her relatives have forgiven Andrew and do not blame him for the accident any more.

We sincerely hope Agnes will get better!

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Grayling Announced Mentoring for Short-Term Prisoners

The justice Secretary Chris Grayling is set to announce a new approach towards short-term prisoners. According to his plans, prisoners sentenced to less than 12 months in jail will have to undertake a post-release rehabilitation programme, which will help them get back to normal life and hopefully prevent them from being jailed again.

According to the current legislation, offenders imprisoned for under a year are given #46 upon their release, without being offered any additional support. For that reason Grayling plans to announce a program which will encourage the private sector to involve themselves into the integration of ex-prisoners back to society.

“Nearly half of prisoners themselves say they will need help to find a job when they leave prison,” Grayling is to say in a speech today. “Over a third say they will need help to find somewhere to live when they are let out.

“When all we do is just take those people, release them onto the streets with £46 in their pockets and no other support, why are we surprised that they reoffend again quickly?”

This would be a great change in the criminal justice system and will be used to facilitate the next steps in the government’s “rehabilitation revolution”.

Grayling is not satisfied with the current system and criticises it for “recycling people round and round the system”, that`s why he is determined to change it and involve charities and private companies in the process of rehabilitation for ex-prisoners. In addition, he hopes that older and already re-integrated ex-prisoners will be able to act as mentors to the newly freed ones and help them start a normal life again and to to ensure they get the help necessary to prevent them reoffending.

Charities and private firms will be ‘paid by results’ They will be expected to recruit former inmates to help them meet these targets by ‘mentoring’ prisoners from the second they are released back on to the streets. The program is set to prevent them from “falling back to crime”, as they are not entitled to statutory post-release monitoring by the probation service, because of the less than 12 months sentence.

However concerns have been raised over safety if these services are exclusively handled by private firms. Sue Hall, chairman of the Probation Chiefs Association, warned that “the Government must understand that the public will be put at risk if it goes ahead with its proposal to outsource offender management”.

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Compromise Agreement

A Compromise Agreement (also known as “Termination” or “Severance Agreement”) is an agreement which enables an employee and the employer to agree that the employee will not pursue a statutory claim or claims against the employer in return for compensation.

Compromise Agreements are recognised by statute and they are an exception to the general principle set out in all employment legislation that an individual cannot contract out of their statutory employment rights. They are the only way in which an employee can contract out of their rights under employment law. They enable employees to agree to compromise their own statutory employment rights in return for compensation. The main employment rights most often compromised relate to withdrawing an existing, or subsequently refraining from bringing a, claim to an Employment Tribunal and/or the courts.

Compromise Agreements are becoming increasingly common. They are often used to safeguard the interests of both employer and employee redundancy situations. In these situations it is common practice to offer a compensation payment (also known as “Ex-gratia Payment”) above and beyond the employee’s statutory redundancy payment.

Compromise Agreements are most commonly used:

  •  To settle an existing claim an employee might have against the employer
  • To prevent an employee from claiming before an Employment Tribunal and/or the courts
  • To avoid legal challenge in redundancy situations

Provided that the Compromise Agreement is legally binding once the agreement is signed, the former employee cannot subsequently lodge a case with an Employment Tribunal or the courts. That is a major plus for the employer. In return, the employee receives an ex gratia payment and both parties agree to keep the terms of the agreement secret.

In order for a Compromise Agreement to be valid it must comply with stringent statutory conditions. There are strict and well-defined requirements to be fulfilled to ensure that a Compromise Agreement is valid. A correctly structured Compromise Agreement will be legally binding on both parties.

The following conditions must be satisfied in order for the Compromise Agreement to be valid. If these conditions are not satisfied then the Compromise Agreement is not legally binding:

  • It must be in writing
  • It must clearly identify the complaints being settled. The Agreement must specify what specific claims the employee is agreeing not to pursue
  • The employee must have received independent legal advice
  • It must be signed by a qualified adviser who must have properly advised the employee of the statutory employment rights he has agreed to compromise
  • The adviser must be covered by a suitable insurance policy. The policy must cover the adviser against the risk of a claim for losses because of the advice that has been given
  • The agreement must contain a statement to the effect that the conditions regulating compromise agreements have been satisfied

Compromise Agreements are generally marked “without prejudice and subject to contract” to prevent an employee subsequently using evidence of an offer before an Employment Tribunal or court, should an agreement not be reached between the employer and the employee.

N.B. It is a common mistake to think that, where any payment is made on termination of employment, it is not taxable unless it exceeds £30,000.

The taxation of payments made on termination of employment depends on the type of payment made to an employee. If a payment or benefit is an entitlement under the contract of employment or the payment or benefit derives from the employment, it will constitute employment income and will be subject to tax. If a payment or benefit is not employment income, it is not taxable. Thus, if a termination payment and the value of any post-termination benefits is not taxable, the first £30,000 will be tax free.

Under a Compromise Agreement an employee receives all that is due to them by way of salary and benefits up to the termination date. A payment by way of ‘compensation’ is also made to the employee. In return for this the employee agrees not to bring any claims against the employer whether through the Employment Tribunal or the courts. Effective use of Compromise Agreements helps to prevent lengthy, costly and time consuming litigation by providing the parties with a clean break.

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PM to Crackdown on Legal Challenges Against Government Schemes

In his speech to the CBI (Confederation of British Industries) Prime Minister Cameron announced his intention to to cut the number of legal challenges against government policies, by assigning tighter time limits and higher charges. According to him this “bureaucratic nonsense” was preventing the UK from growth and prosperity. that`s why he declared he will put a stop to it.

The measures to be taken include rise in the cost and short time periods for judicial reviews to be submitted and in addition the number of appeals allowed against a decision will be halved from four to two.

Currently individuals or firms, believing the decision made by the authorities was wrong have the right to demand a judicial review. The Prime Minister sees there judicial reviews as ” an obstacle to economic growth “. A typical example of such a case is the Virgin’s recent legal challenge of First Group’s acquisition of the West Coast Mainline’s franchise.

Mr Cameron cited a Downing Street resource, according to which more than 11, 000 judicial review applications were made in 2011, compared to 160 in 1975.

We urgently need to get a grip on this,’ Cameron said

Together with slashing the ability to bring legal challenges against government policies, Cameron is determined to end the equality impact assessments, ensuring the polices do not discriminate anyone on a gender, race or religious ground.

In his speech he made a good analogy with the WW II. he compared the curent economic situation to the fight with the Nazis in the 40s;

“When this country was at war in the ’40s, Whitehall underwent a revolution,” said Cameron. “Normal rules were circumvented. Convention was thrown out. As one historian put it, everything was thrown at ‘the overriding purpose’ of beating Hitler.

“Well, this country is in the economic equivalent of war today – and we need the same spirit. We need to forget about crossing every ‘t’ and dotting every ‘i’ – and we need to throw everything we’ve got at winning in this global race.”

Although Cameron is very excited about his plans, not everybody shares the same mood about it.

Dan McLean, of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, has hit back, saying: “The system is already stacked against local people trying to protect the areas they love. The only way for local people to oppose a bad development that has already been granted planning permission is through judicial review.”

“This is already very expensive and time-consuming. Putting this option further out of reach for many people will only make it even harder for local people to take a democratic role in planning decisions where they live.”

Iain Duncan Smith To Redefine Poverty

A consultation, which aims at finding a better way of measuring child poverty, has been launched yesterday by Work and Pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith. He said the method that is currently used “does little to represent the experience of those in poverty”.. That`s why new factors, measuring child poverty should be observed, such as debt, drug addiction, school presence and grades.

Probably this move will meet a strong criticism for the government, as this can be considered an attempt to disguise their own inability to meet targets for reducing child poverty. The previous Labour government has set the target to halve the child poverty and the current one should follow the target. This is the reason why such a move is required.

At this stage the only factor, observed for defining poverty is the income of the household. In case the household`s income is less than 60% of average wages, then the household is considered “in poverty”. Estimations show that in 2011, 2.3m children were below the poverty line, which is 300,000 less than in 2010. Unfortunately, this is not due to improvement in the family status, but a result of the average pay decrease.

In his speech yesterday, Duncan Smith said:

“There are many factors that impact on a child’s wellbeing and ability to succeed in life… and measuring income alone does little to represent the experience of those in poverty. As we saw earlier this year – when the child poverty level dropped by 2% – a fall in the median income may lift a family out of poverty on paper.

“Yet at a closer look, real incomes did not rise and absolute poverty was unchanged. For the 300,000 children no longer in poverty according to the official statistics, life was no different.”

On the other hand, Chris Wellings from charity Save the Children, opposed to the move and warned that making the method of measuring child poverty too broad would obscure how much progress was being made. “The previous measure was very sharp, it allowed us to hold the government to account”.

He added, “Any new measure needs to retain income and needs to retain an ability for us to really hold the government to account for their action on child poverty.”

The government will not succeed in trying to mask the failed targets, the shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne warned.

“If ministers move an inch from the Child Poverty Act they supported in opposition, we will know they are – whilst giving an enormous tax cut to the richest in society.”

People are given the chance to comment and share their views  on  the consultation at the Department for Education website.

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Police and Crime Commissioner Elections

The polls for the police and crime commissioner elections are open and all people from England and Wales, except London where the Metropolitan Police is already overseen by mayor Boris Johnson and the Home Secretary, are able to vote until 10pm tonight (15.11.2012-Thursady). Labour and the Conservatives putting forward a candidate in all 41 areas and the results are due on Friday morning.

According to the UK government these elections will serve for the better of UK nation, by making policing more accountable to the public. The newly elected commissioners, who will take the post on 22 November,  will be given the power to set budgets and hire and fire chief constables, however running day-to-day operations will not be included in their responsibilities.

In cases when there is not a single candidate to get the majority of votes, the first top two candidates go to a second round, until one of them is chosen.

Although ministers promote the benefits of the commissioners and say they will cost no more than the existing police authorities, opponents consider the move as a waste of money, especially in such a complicated financial situation.

There are also concerns that the turnout may be very low, with former Home Secretary David Blunkett saying it could be as low as 15%, which would not give “proper legitimacy” to the winners.

Current shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said: “The government, as well as choosing to have the elections in November when they could have waited until May, have simply not provided people with proper information.”

Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps leapt to the defence of the election, saying: “I think it is really important that people know a figurehead, a name of a person that they can turn to when they are concerned about crime and anti-social behaviour in their area. They want to know why the police are costing money on their council tax bill.”This is somebody who will be directly accountable to them for the very first time.”

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No More Different Insurance Rates on Gender Grounds

Almost quarter of the current female drivers might be affected by a new EU ruling, related to car insurances, which will ban companies to charge different insurance rates to men and women. the ruling is expected to come into force in December 2012.

Under the new ruling the UK car insurance market should comply with the EU Gender Directive. This directive aims in fighting discrimination on gender grounds. Women currently pay much less for insurance than men because statistics show them to be less risky drivers. However, under the new ruling, they will be entitled higher insurance premiums, which could mean that about 13 % of the female drivers may not be able to  cover their insurances and about 11% may be forced to sell their cars.

On the other side, the new ruling will have a positive effect on male drivers, who will be entitled to pay lower cost of their premiums.

According to a survey, carried out by a price comparison website, in order to continue driving about one third of the female drivers have to make serious changes. 17% of them say they will sell their current vehicle and exchange it for one, entitled to lower insurance premiums and 14% admitted they will need to drive less, in order to be able to afford a vehicle.

The website`s representative Michael Ossei said: “Statistically more likely to claim, men have grown used to paying hefty motor insurance premiums, but this is all set to change. From next month men will no longer be penalised for their ‘boy racer’ reputation and will be charged the same as women. For the first time ever, men and women will be driving on a level playing field.

“While millions of male drivers will be celebrating cheaper premiums, female drivers need to brace themselves for significant price rises. It’s more important than ever that they shop around to find the best deal at renewal time – with over 100 providers on the market, there is a big difference between the cheapest and the most expensive quote. A little bit of research will go a long way towards limiting the financial impact of this judgment and not being forced off the road due to cost.”

In addition, this EU Gender Directive is related not only to car insurance, but to all insurance products altogether. That`s why from December, using gender as a base for different pricing will be illegal in any insurance field, including life insurances and pension annuities as well.

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Nick Clegg To Announce Flexible Parental Leave

All parents-to-be will be able to share up to an year of parental leave, according to new rules, which are set to come into force in 2015. The new rules will be announced by Nick Clegg and according to them, both parents will be able to share the 52 weeks parental leave in a way suitable for them, with the only exception of the first two weeks after the baby`s birth. After the first two weeks, mothers can get back to work and share the parental leave with their partners.

At the moment, new mothers can take a maximum of 52 weeks of leave after the birth of their child, while fathers are entitled to two weeks of statutory paternity leave of their own.

Nick Clegg says: “From 2015, the UK will shift to an entirely new system of flexible parental leave. Under the new rules, a mother will be able to trigger flexible leave at any point – if and when she feels ready. ”That means that whatever time is left to run on her original year can be taken by her partner instead. Or they can chop up the remaining time between them – taking it in turns. Or they can take time off together – whatever suits them. The only rule is that no more than 12 months can be taken in total; with no more than 9 months at guaranteed pay. And, of course, couples will need to be open with their employers, giving them proper notice.”

Back in time the idea of flexible parental leave has been scrapped, because of a strong opposition from businesses, backed up  by Conservatives. The main reason for that opposition was the fact that estimations showed that this might have a negative effect on the whole business structure , especially for small businesses, having in mind the current economic situation.

In addition to the flexible parental leave, the fathers-to-be will be able to take unpaid leave, in order to attend medical consultations and appointments with the expectant mother “Lots of fathers will tell you that these moments are when it can start to feel real for them,” Clegg will explain. “This new right means no father will ever need to miss out.”


UKBA Backlog Case Closure May Lead to Amnesty for Some Immigrants

MPs have warned that Thousands of illegal immigrants may be given an amnesty to stay in the UK because of the attempts to clear a growing backlog of immigration cases. According to Keith Vaz – the chairman of the Home Affairs Committee the situation was ” spiralling out of control ” as the it was almost the same as Iceland’s population (320,000) During the last 3 months, the unresolved immigration cases have increased with 25,000.
The committee is also concerned about the so called “controlled archives”. These are unresolved applications from people that the UKBA has no contact with. The UKBA has the intention to clear those archives by the end of 2012, however there are warnings from the committee, which concern the scrutiny given to each case. They are afraid the huge number of cases to be closed and the paucity of staff may lead to  unreasonable amnesty for some immigrants.

In its report on the UKBA the Committee said: “We are concerned that the closure of the controlled archives may result in a significant number of people being granted effective amnesty in the United Kingdom, irrespective of the merits of their case.”

On the other hand minister Mark Harper Speaking to the BBC, he said: “We’re absolutely not granting an amnesty. If those people ever show up again we will take very firm action against them. We’re working through that backlog steadily and we’re making good progress.”

He also stated  it was becoming increasingly harder to live illegally in the UK.

In addition there is a “migration refusal pool”, which consists of the cases ( about 174,00 cases) of people, who have been denied the right to stay in the UK, however it is not clear, whether they have left the UK, or they live illegally on its territory.

The report continued: “While many of the people in the backlog of cases will have already left the country, we are not convinced that the agency’s limited checking regime will have picked up all of the applicants who remain in the country.

“For this reason we are concerned that the final checks made on these cases should be thorough and that they should not be rushed to meet an artificial deadline.”

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Multinational Companies Accused of Tax Avoidance

The UK branches of Starbucks, Amazon and Google UK will face questions, because of tax avoidance accusations. All of them have been suspected to have been paying little or no tax on their UK earnings. The overseers of government financial issues , the Public Accounts committee will meet the executives of these companies and investigate the case, where companies have been accused of seeking various means to avoid paying the required amount of taxes, defined by the UK legislation. Matt Brittin, the chief executive of Google UK, as well as Starbucks chief financial officer Troy Alstead and Amazon’s director of public policy Andrew Cecil, will speak before the committee, which is headed by Margaret Hodge.

Generally, multinational companies, like the stated above usually seek ways to pay as low tax as possible. For example they settle the company in low-tax jurisdiction countries, which legally allows them avoid paying taxes in the countries in which they do the majority of their business.

The question is then which country’s tax authorities should get the tax receipts and over what share of the sales.

For that reason there is a great complexity in dealing with tax law issues- it is difficult to define how much tax should each company pay and where.

The investigations over Starbucks, Amazon and Google UK shows that during a 14-year period, Starbucks paid £8.6m corporation tax, they are also found claim  accounting losses when it was profitable. Google UK is claimed to have paid £6m tax in 2011, with a turnover of £395m and Amazon is reported to have paid no tax, despite profits of over £3.3bn, as the company has been transferred to a Luxemborough-based firm.

Starbucks, Amazon and Google UK are not the only multinational companies suspected in tax avoidance schemes. Multinational companies such as eBay, Apple and Facebook also have faced some controversy over their tax contribution to the UK. For example Facebook in the Uk has paid only £238,000 in tax last year, by having its European base in Dublin, where tax is considerably lower than elsewhere in the UK. Apple is reported to have paid less than 2% corporation tax on its profits outside the UK and eBay is claimed to have paid £1.2m in tax in the UK.

Former City minister Lord Myners has claimed that the current tax regime isn’t working, saying: “Corporation tax for an MNC [multinational company] operating in the UK is close to being a voluntary payment.”

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