‘Mock trials’ in Public Inquiries Must End

The chief executive of the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) published a report claiming that the ‘litigation model’ of public inquiries is not quite effective now so it has to be changed embracing alternative methods of dialogue and decision-making.

Karl Mackie, who is the author of this report commented that public inquiries have become ‘increasingly prevalent’.

According to him the ad hoc nature of inquires was a simple model but at the same time it cost much, required long time and in most of the cases did not deliver what has been promised.

Last year CEDR commissioned a study the results of which showed that only 27% of the 2,000 people polled were convinced of the authenticity of the inquiry system and 58% shared that inquiries cost too much.

‘It is now time for a rethink and reform, including pilots of alternative approaches,’ said Mackie.

The suggestion of Mackie is moving away from the “litigation model”, which would provide better conditions for greater dialogue between parties using the techniques of mediation, arbitration and alternative dispute.

In his opinion there were inquiries which had adopted the ‘ambiance of a mock trial’.

Two things need to be done so that the current situation changes- increased training should be given to those judges who chair public inquiries; process has to be divided into two different distinct phrases- investigation and recommendations.

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A Twitter “ban” for MP Sarah Wollaston

Sarah Wollaston was one of the Conservative MP’s warned to stop posting critical comments for the party leadership on Twitter but she refused to do it.

She did not agree with the remark of chief Lynton Crosby in whose statement they had to decide if they were “commentators or participants”.

In this respect Mrs Wollaston told the BBC News website.

“I think it’s important that if you are a backbench MP you’re there to be a critical friend and to scrutinise government policy”.

She called herself a “Cameron Loyalist” in whose opinion talk of leadership challenges should end. Sarah added that she had the right to comment both policy and party leadership when she felt she had to.

The press recently quoted Wollaston’s post on Tweeter saying: “Inner circle still look far too posh, male and white and Cameron is running out of time to fix it”.

She mentioned she just wanted to find out what was the public view over the cabinet.

Mrs. Wollaston was not the only MP criticizing the party leadership on Twitter. Other names that became popular because of this scandal are Michael Fabricant and Peter Bone with their accusations of sending “mixed messages” over immigration and committing 0.7% of state spending to foreign aid was wrong.

For the meeting at Tuesday Tory MPs were urged to focus on selling the party’s message and stop talking about the problems that social media cause to them. The other thing they had to stress on was the fact that on the next elections people would be able to choose between having Mr Cameron or Ed Miliband in Downing Street.

Labour Vice Chairman Michael Dugher said: “Things are so bad for Cameron that he is reduced to gagging his own backbench MPs on Twitter because he is fearful they will tell it how it is.”

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A Ban on Animal Testing for Cosmetics

The EU banned the sale of cosmetic products, which have firstly been tested on animals.

The news of this ban came on Monday. Until now, cosmetic companies were banned from tasting their products only in countries from the EU but the new one will prohibit testing ingredients anywhere in the world.

According to the new rules, companies will not be allowed to test on animals products, which may cause them different allergies and cancer.

Unfortunately in the words of German MEP Dagmar Roth-Behrendt due to a loophole in the ban companies will not stop testing products claiming they were for non-cosmetic purposes as for example for pharmacy.

No matter this view, groups taking care for animal rights assumed this ban as a victory.

Gavin Grant, from the RSPCA, said: “Animal testing in the name of beauty has never been acceptable. This landmark legislation at the end of a long campaign sends out a loud and clear message to other countries and those companies operating outside the EU.”

In the opinion of Troy Seidle, from the Humane Society International, the new ban changed the way people looked at certain products claiming they would not use shampoos or mascaras tested on rabbits.

The ban will not affect those products the ingredients of which were tested on animals before the ban started functioning.

Big companies including L’Oreal have taken the decision to stop selling products tested on animals as a step to stop this practice.

Of course, there are such people who did not like the idea.

According to Colin Mackey it would be difficult for Europe to have any access to new products, as there are no safe alternatives of animal testing.

“Europe’s idea is to put more pressure on other parts of the world to end animal testing, but the science doesn’t match that political timetable,” he said.

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Caste Discrimination Law Needed in the UK

An amendment was recently voted by the Peers in the House of Lords in favour of Hindu people in the UK. After this amendment they would be protected from caste discrimination.

This was tabled by the former bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries, and would just broaden the Equality Act 2010 which is now responsible for discrimination on different bases like race, age and sexual orientation.

According to the equalities spokesperson in the House of Lords, many people were affected by caste discrimination.  In her words the affected people in the UK are about 850,000.

“Labour has promised to tackle this known but hidden problem – and with peers from across the Lords having now voted overwhelmingly in favour of this change to equalities legislation, ministers should now get on with implementing it.”

The government, however, is on the opposite opinion, claiming that even if law changes this would not stop the cases of caste discrimination.

A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said that he did not believe such legislation would help as most of the places where discrimination cases happened were in areas not covered by discrimination law.

Keith Porteous Wood, from the National Secular Society, said that the Government had in fact refused to follow the recommendation that last year UN had made and due to which discrimination had to be considered unlawful .

“Instead, all the Government offered those suffering from caste discrimination was conciliation where there is conflict. The peers, however, were determined to aid the vulnerable more effectively by providing legal protection on caste.”

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A Labour MP Talks about the Protection for Gift Voucher Holders

A Labour MP complained that the law for customers does not protect them well enough when talking about gift vouchers.

Some high-profile chains such as HMV and Jessops, Michael McCann also joint the opinion that this law should give customers more rights in cases when retailers go out of business.

Nowadays usually the administrators of the firms decide on their own whether or not to give their clients any compensation when their firms collapse because they are considered as unsecured creditors and law does not reach them.

HMV changed their politics not to honour vouchers and Jessops said that in almost no way their vouchers will be redeemed.

According to Mr. McCann the law is too old and does not relate to the nowadays £4bn gift card market.

While introducing a Bill to the House of Commons, he mentioned the decision of HMV and said that other big names should also follow its example.

“The law in relation to insolvency does not seem to provide any protection at all and my aim is that, with this bill, we will strengthen the rights of consumers in this area so that… consumers are not left high and dry or at the mercy of administrators in deciding whether or not to honour the commitments entered into.”

In his words most of the retailers do not stop selling vouchers even when the “writing is on the wall”.

In a speech a spokesman for the Department of Business announced that even if they have “great sympathy” for the people who are not able to unable to redeem vouchers, “there are no current plans to amend insolvency law”.

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GCSE Reforms rejected in Wales

After the decision of the Welsh government to rebuff the proposed changes to GCSE exams in England there is a big chance that a schism forms between the English and Welsh educational systems.

While Wales is going to continue in the same way as now, in England GCSE will be replaced by the English Baccalaureate for subjects such as English and Maths.

There is a special system of examinations in Scotland and a review is to be carried out in Northern Ireland.

Jeff Cuthbert, the Deputy Minister of Skills said: “We will retain GCSEs and A-levels. Where necessary we will strengthen and amend these, but ultimately we have confidence in these well-established qualifications, which are recognised around the world.”

He also mentioned he wanted “best for students” in Wales no matter if this meant “diverging from England and the rest of the UK”.

As it was said new GCSEs in English Language, Welsh First Language and Maths will be offered alongside a “revised, more rigorous” Welsh Baccalaureate.

Head teachers in Wales welcomed the decision of their government. In the words of Gareth Jones from the Welsh branch of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) English universities had been taking Scottish students for years.

Another thing that Welsh government refused to accept were the changes to the A-level system in England recently announced by Michael Gove.

The spokesperson of the Department for Education said he cared about the Welsh education system.

“We are solely concerned with doing what is best for English students. That is why we are transforming the education system to raise standards in this country to prepare pupils to compete in a global jobs market.”

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Joint Ownership Causes Problems

Law Society and Land Registry have warned that each solicitor has to encourage people who purchase joint property to say who owns what because otherwise later there may be lots of disputes when let’s say a relationship breaks down.

These will make best if they make a declaration of trust using the Land Registry form JO.

Such problems appear not only between unmarried couples but also between business partners, friends and even family members who own something together.

This practice started because of recent court decisions, Stack v Dowden [2007] UKHL 17 and Jones v Kernott[2011] UKSC 53 according to which joint home buyers have to define what exactly their property is and record their interests in this property.

The Land Registry JO form appears as an alternative way for joint owners to give information about their interests and details of an existing separate declaration of trust, at the time when they acquire the property.

Jonathan Smithers said: ‘I am pleased that the Law Society and Land Registry have worked together to provide detailed and up to date advice to solicitors practicing in what is a complicated area of the law. ‘The note will direct solicitors to the practical implications of statements made in recent cases so that their clients can continue to receive the best advice possible.’

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The Tax Policy of Starbucks Will Probably Change

As the legal avoidance of corporate tax is a very popular topic now, The Legal Stop have learnt there is a chance that Starbucks might change the way it operates in order to stop paying corporation tax in the UK at all..

Regardless of the fact that Starbucks has almost one-third of the UK coffee shop market, researches show that it has paid corporation tax only once in 15 years.All foreign countries have to pay corporation tax on profits made in the UK and UK-based companies pay it on their taxable profits no matter where they were made.

The Public Accounts Committee chairperson Margaret Hodge shared her opinion about the work of HMRC in a report published on Monday. In her statement, she said that HMRC needed to be “more aggressive” because now the level of tax taken from multinational firms with large UK operations was “outrageous and an insult to British businesses and individuals who pay their fair share”.

The best example for this is Starbucks. It sold goods for nearly £400m in the UK last year, but in fact avoided paying corporation tax, due to the fact that they did things like transferring some of their money to a sister company in the Netherlands in the form of royalty payments, buying coffee beans from Switzerland and paying high interest rates to borrow money from other parts of the business.

This sister company in theNetherlandsis currently paid 4.7% of Starbucks’ sales but this will not help reducing the tax liability anymore. HMRC promised that in the future all international companies would pay the tax due “in accordance with UK tax law”.

Starbucks will give their opinion over the changes on Wednesday ahead of Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement. Amazon and Google were also criticized by the Public Accounts Committee’s report because they also did not pay enough corporation tax.

HMRC is promised to get £77m of new money in order to cope with wealthy people and big companies who try to avoid paying taxes.The expected result after these changes is equal to £22bn a year.


Claims Manager Fraud – Jail Sentence

It was recently announced that a claims managers has been sentenced to jail for 21 months. The claims manager has been reported to have made fraudulence claims for insurance.

Asif Mallu, the manager of a claims company, is said to have organized about 10 claims during the months between May and December in the year of 2005. Mr. Mallu has made more than £12,000 according to some sources. This money had come from referral fees of solicitors, courtesy car hire and also the necessary recovery of vehicles. Mr. Mallu was the claims manager for  24/7 Direct Claims Ltd in Bolton. He was also reported to be involved in a crime network, which also included Mohammed Patel, who in 2009 was convicted of deliberately causing about 90 collisions.

It was reported that Mr. patel earned his cash by driving cars that belong to people, who willingly chose to give up their key as well as insurance details. Based on the crime networking scheme, claimants would afterwards demand a compensation for both personal injuries and legal fees. All these expenses are as well covered by the insurers of the other party.

However, the well planned scam was exposed in 2005. The scam was reported by workers of a nearby office at the roundabout in Cheadle. What they noticed was that accidents happened regularly there, always at the same spot. Additionally, workers also noted that the collisions usually happened at a low speed and more often than not involved one and the same driver.

One of the insurance companies affected by the fraud, decided to examine the case. The insurance company presented its finding to Greater Manchester Police and an investigation began, i.e. Operation Contact. The chief inspector of the Greater Manchester Police said that Mr. Mallu’s claims company had been registered according to the terms of the Ministry of Justice. He also said that the company had a visible business in Bolton and that it served as ‘front for fraud’. The chief inspector additionally added that the scam had caused the victims to feel not only cheated, but also violated. The insurance companies involved had also reported that because of the scam, their premiums had increased. That is why, the idea of this sort of crime to be treated as victimless is not justified. As the director of law enforcement at a Bolton-based law firm, Mark Beales, said, the main person to be held responsible is Mr. Mallu as it is his company that allowed so many fraudulent claims to take place. Mr. Mallu has pleaded guilty of charges and as a result was obliged to pay a confiscation of the amount of £7,250 within 28 days.

After the Operation Contract was supported by the Infurance Fraud Bureau, it was reported that more than 50 people were convicted as a result.

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Bullying, Harassment and Discrimination in the Legal Sector

It was recently stated by the Law Society that about every one out of six solicitors has been bullied in a way in the workplace. The main exploratory findings of the society’s 2012 omnibus report suggest that about 17% of solicitors have been harassed at work. The survey reveals a whole tale of cases of workplace bullying, harassment and discrimination. Highest percentage has been reported by those working in government (25%) and those working in commerce and industry (23%). Complains in the private practice are said to be around 16%. More than 1,600 individuals have participated in the survey and about 6% of those people have said that they have experience sexual harassment in the workplace. Another 10% have reported that they have been discriminated. This 10% represents 168 people who have experienced any kind of discrimination white at work. According to the survey, about 64% or nearly two thirds have attributed this to their sex, about 20% attributed it to their ethnic origin, and 19% to their social class and status. Other issues mentioned as reasons for discrimination included things such as religion, pregnancy, any kind of disability and sexual orientation.

The report also surveyed people based on the level of stress in the workplace. Of those 1,600 people, only 5% have reported that they do not experience any stress at work or feel that the environment is hostile and negative. As much as 65% have reported that that do experience either moderate or severe levels of stress. Solicitors who experience extreme stress at work place have been reported to account for only 4%. Last but not least, the survey also revealed that over the past twelve months only about 2% of solicitors have taken time off because of stress.

All the findings from the survey have been presented to the Society’s membership. The report along with the analysis made will serve as a basis for the Society’s membership board to develop a strategy and promote the solicitors’ wellbeing in the workplace. Kate Walmsley, the Society’s corporate responsibility specialist, has written a paper to the members of the board expressing a concern on the preliminary findings of the survey. She stated that the tales of harassment, bullying and also discrimination are too high and actions need to be taken. Ms. Walmsley said that even though rates were not as high as in other sectors, steps have to be made in order to improve the working environment of the solicitors. A strategy needs to be made and to address the question of issues such as discrimination, abuse and sexual harassment. This, as stated by the CSR specialist, is of tremendous importance not only to the people working in the legal sector, but also for the need to reduce any financial and reputational costs both to the profession and to the Law Society as a whole.

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