‘New era’ for family mediation in London

first_imgThe implementation of the revised President’s Private Law Programme in London this week could herald a ‘new era’ for mediation in the capital and reduce ‘unacceptable’ delays in the court system, according to a leading family lawyer. The guidance, devised in 2004 by the then president of the Family Division, Lady Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, and revised in 2008, sets out best practice for how private law children cases should be dealt with at court. Officers from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) will screen all cases to determine those that should be fast-tracked because the children involved are at risk. They will also identify cases where mediation or parenting programmes might be a suitable alternative to the court process. Christina Blacklaws, senior partner at London firm Blacklaws Davis and child care representative on the Law Society council, said mediation had so far ‘failed to live up to its initial promise’, but with funding from the Legal Services Commission, and given the pressure Cafcass was under, this represented a ‘new era for mediation’. ‘There is a real possibility for us to start changing the culture in respect of how courts are dealing with children cases,’ she said. Blacklaws said the waiting times for hearings in London are unacceptable: ‘It can be four to six weeks for care cases and up to 18 months for financial hearings in private law cases. ‘If more cases are resolved appropriately, using alternatives to the court, it will free up court time to deal with the really difficult cases. It’s about trying to get people to be more child-centred and future-focused.’ A spokeswoman for family lawyers group Resolution said: ‘We welcome any initiative that will open mediation to more people, but have reservations about whether court is the most appropriate venue.’last_img read more

Whitehall to consult lawyers over move to cut fees in libel actions

first_imgThe government has agreed to consult media lawyers on its controversial proposals to cut success fees in libel actions. In a House of Lords debate on a draft order that will reduce the success fees paid to lawyers who win defamation actions from 100% to 10% in conditional fee arrangements (CFAs), justice minister Lord Bach also agreed to review the change after 12 months. The debate was triggered by a ‘motion of regret’ tabled by the former House of Commons speaker, Lord Martin, stating that the measure was being introduced without ‘sufficient time for consultation with all the professional and legal bodies concerned’. Martin withdrew the motion following Bach’s assurances. He told the Gazette the agreement to meet lawyers would ‘even the balance’, given that the government had already met with the media in relation to the reforms. Bach said the CFA order was an interim measure. He added: ‘It is not the solution to the problem of libel law, but it is the best thing to do at this stage.’ Steven Heffer, head of media at City firm Collyer Bristow, said the move to consult lawyers so late in the day was ‘cynical’ and questioned when it would happen, given the proximity of the general election and the government’s desire to implement the change before the election. Heffer claimed the government was ‘being directed by the interests of the powerful media lobby in the run-up to the election’. Government plans to cut lawyers’ success fees in defamation cases suffered a defeat on Wednesday in a House of Commons delegated legislation committee. The proposals seek to limit the uplift that lawyers who take on libel cases under conditional fee arrangements can charge when they win from 100% to 10%. The defeat means the change will now have to be debated by the House of Commons. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice said the government hoped that would happen next week. Steven Heffer, head of media at City firm Collyer Bristow, said: ‘It would be a dangerous move and a stroke of political manoeuvring for Jack Straw to now try to push this through without a vote, in the face of such strong opposition, even from his own ranks. ‘The issue here is whether the government is willing to sacrifice access to justice for the ordinary citizen to look after the press and media. It is only the interests of those groups who are served by this proposal.’last_img read more

New insurer to enter PII market

first_imgA new insurer is to enter the solicitors’ professional indemnity market focusing on firms of up to five partners, the Law Society revealed today. Vision Underwriting Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Liberty Mutual Insurance Europe Limited (LMIE), which is a member of US Group Liberty Mutual Group, will be trading both on a direct basis, and online under the title Legal and Professional Insurance . The insurer has also signed a deal with the Law Society to take over Solicitors Indemnity Fund (SIF) run-off claims. These have been transferred to Vision from Legal & Professional Claims Ltd, which was previously handling the run-off cover. SIF run-off claims are expected to take another ten years to complete, on a declining basis. SIF was the profession’s own professional indemnity provider until it was abolished in favour of an open market for insurers in 2000. The run-off work comprises claims against solicitors which relate to the time when SIF provided the PII cover. The current LPClaims staff of eight will transfer to Vision to continue handling the run-off work. Paul Kurgo, LMIE’s managing director, commercial business UK and Ireland, said: ‘This is an exciting opportunity for Vision as it enters a sector of the solicitors’ market currently experiencing a growing concern about the availability of a competitive market place. ‘I am also pleased that we have been able to secure a professional and highly experienced claims team that has been recognised for the quality of its management of solicitors claims, developed over many years. ‘We aim to build upon this reputation with firms knowing that their claims are in the right hands’. Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson said: ‘The Law Society has secured an excellent result for the profession, which secures the viability of the handling of SIF run-off claims at a reasonable cost and at a time when we are working hard to keep to a minimum the overheads on solicitors. ‘I am delighted that we have been able to reach agreement with Vision Underwriting Limited and that I am also able to welcome the arrival of another insurer for solicitors.’last_img read more

LPC aptitude test risks ‘clones’

first_imgSolicitors have warned that ­proposals to introduce a compulsory aptitude test for law students seeking to enrol on the Legal Practice Course (LPC) could lead to only ‘clones’ being selected to enter the legal ­profession. The Law Society’s education and training committee is examining whether aptitude tests could be used to limit the number of students able to take the LPC. There are currently many more LPC graduates than the number of training contracts available each year, leaving a large number of students unable to qualify into the profession. Sue Nelson, chair of the Law Society’s equality and diversity committee, said: ‘Solicitors do a massively diverse range of work, from the most cerebral ivory tower thinking to virtual social work, and no single test can reflect this. ‘There is a danger that the tests will only select clones that fit the same rigid criteria, recruiting only cautious personalities, for example, at the expense of risk takers, entrepreneurs and those with people skills.’ Kevin Poulter, an executive committee member of the Law Society’s Junior Lawyers Division, said: ‘There are between 10,000 and 20,000 LPC graduates currently looking for training contracts, and they all have student debts. But what are these proposed tests going to measure?’ He added that one uniform test could be detrimental to diversity in the profession. Beth Wanono, JLD representative on the Law Society council, said: ‘The most necessary reform is for the Law Society and Solicitors Regulation Authority to undertake a full review of the law school marketplace. Much of law schools’ income comes from LPC fees. They are not voluntarily going to cut down on student numbers.’last_img read more

New guidelines bring in tougher sentences for burglars

first_imgBurglars will face tougher sentences with the impact on their victims at the heart of the process under proposals published today by the Sentencing Council. The draft guidelines, which cover the offences of domestic burglary, non-domestic burglary and aggravated burglary, introduce a single framework for Crown and magistrates’ courts to increase consistency of sentencing. The guidance says that the victim should be the primary concern in the sentencing process, asking judges to focus on the harm to the victim as well as the culpability of the offender. For example, if a victim is at home when a burglary takes place, or if significant trauma is experienced by the victim, judges are directed towards a more severe sentence. Under the guidelines, those who commit domestic burglaries can still expect a custodial sentence, but community orders may be appropriate for the lowest level of offenders. The statutory maximum sentences for burglary offences remain unchanged. The guidance reinforces the particularly serious nature of aggravated burglary, and proposes that custodial sentences should always be given, with a range of up to 13 years. The guidance increases the recommended sentence for domestic burglary from four to six years, but the sentences for non-domestic burglaries remain in line with those currently being given, with a range of up to four years. The chairman of the Sentencing Council Lord Justice Leveson said: ‘Burglary can have a very serious impact on victims – it is very far from being only a crime against property. ‘As a result, we have ensured that the impact on victims is at the centre of considerations about what sentence should be passed on a burglar.’ He said: ‘The guideline does not reduce the severity of sentences being given to those convicted of burglary. Rather, it reinforces current sentencing practice that burglars targeting people’s homes can expect a custodial sentence.’ The three-month consultation closes on 4 August 2011. The consultation document can be read on the Sentencing Council site. See also Rachel Rothwell’s blog.last_img read more

Did you get the holiday you deserve?

first_img Mainly a)s You are well-adjusted and thoroughly prepared. Are you sure you are a solicitor? Mainly b)s Doing well, but room for improvement. Mainly c)s You need a holiday. Last visit to office a) Did you send a witty postcard on the first day to allow plenty of time for it to get back? b) Did you buy a postcard but only find it when unpacking at home and then hand it in? c) Did you think they would not like it anyway so why bother? On holiday a) Did you forget about work and wonder why you do not spend more time with the family? b) Did you take a few files with you to work on the beach? c) Did you take a copy of the latest guidance on rules, indemnity, to read at night? I have given advice to a client wearing my swimming costume (I mean I was wearing the trunks, not the client). I do not know what the SRA would say about that. They would ask what was the objective and the desired outcome. I also spoke to my bank manager and my secretary in the same attire (separately, if you understand what I mean). We are just coming to the end of the time of year when the holidays we booked months ago, when we still had some money, suddenly loomed up on us. How do solicitors prepare for them? The advocate in you knows that preparation is everything. The choice is to either go through each and every cabinet and write meticulous notes on each file or do nothing and hope for the best. If we decide on the notes option we know of course these holiday notes will sit unread until we return but the good thing is during the process of looking at the files we will find some vital point that has been overlooked. Some files are probably only looked at once a year. In the run-up to the holiday most of us come in to the office even earlier than usual and work later trying to ‘get up to date’ on everything. We work on every file then return to huge pile of correspondence sent no doubt from other solicitors trying to ‘catch up’. If you are technologically adept you can an automated message to pop up to say you are on holiday and when you will be back. The problem is you have to remember to turn the thing off or your clients will think you have retired to Margate or wherever. The problem of technology is it promised an easier life, with instant cheap communication between happy people, delighted to talk to each other. What it has delivered is a world where no-one is ever able to get away from the office as the work place is anywhere there is a portable device. The temptation is to do just that. Park the car, find a nice beach. Unload children, wife, bucket and spade and set up camp like British families on holiday do. The children go off exploring and say I will just be there in a minute and then surreptitiously check the phone for emails and missed calls. With the current business pressures, this will get worse; the temptation is to keep in touch in case of missing out on new work or problems at the office. Everyone expects to be able to contact us on demand. The reality is of course that within hours of getting back we hardly feel we have been away at all. The holiday slips into a distant memory. People have just had to cope without your presence. Somehow they managed fine without you. Clients did not go berserk and run amok, the courts did not list all your cases with no notice, the staff and your colleagues did not seem to miss you much, the office did not burn down (shame?). Still there is always next year. Here, at the end of the holidays, is a simple quiz to test your enjoyment: a) Did you write notes on each file and give a copy to all colleagues knowing no-one will look at it? b) Did you write to all clients saying going away and they must not leave their homes or get into trouble while way? c) Did you leave notes on the piles of papers and files with instructions DO NOT TOUCH? On the beach? Wish you were here? Answers a) Did you buy a nice present for the secretary and goodies for everyone? b) Did you buy a cheap box of biscuits at the supermarket when stocking up after you got home? c) Are you thinking ‘what presents?’? a) Did you study the brochure small print to see how much you can sue the tour company for? b) Did you announce to the armed customs officer you are a solicitor and must not be searched? c) Did you try to recall a case called Swann Tours? Calling the office a) Did you forget about work? b) Did you chat to other lawyers you met on the beach about new cases, and problems with LSC? c) Did you visit the local courthouse/prosecutor and demand a guided tour? a) Did you never think about work – let alone call the office? b) Did you call only if there was an emergency? c) Did you call the office once a day to make sure all is well? a) Did you take a few days off before to pack, buy sun oil, and travel guides? b) Did you leave early on the last day to help with packing? c) Did you call in at office on way to airport/ferry to check a limitation period and post a letter? Keep in touch Switching off a) Did you give your secretary the telephone number of the hotel for emergencies only? b) Did you check blackberry iPhone for urgent cases only? c) Did you plan excursions by reference to hotspots to allow for constant connection? Presents David Pickup is a partner in Aylesbury based Pickup & Scottlast_img read more

Criminal

first_img R v Williams: Court of Appeal, Criminal Division (Lord Justice Richards, Mr Justice Keith, Mr Justice Nicol (judgment delivered extempore)): 23 September 2011 Matthew Groves (assigned by the Registrar of Criminal Appeals) for the defendant. Rupert Gregory (assigned by the Registrar of Criminal Appeals) for the defendant. The police executed a search warrant at the defendant’s home. An initial search with a trained police dog (the initial search) revealed £3,500 cash in the bedroom. The defendant said that he sold, inter alia, ‘stuff’ and ‘watches’ and that he had received a number of loans over the previous two or three years. A second search of the premises (the second search) uncovered, inter alia, 76g of cannabis and some electronic scales in a waste bin. Upon the second search, the drugs were said to have been seized by one officer, but the search book, the original of which was subsequently unable to be produced as evidence, stated that they had been seized by another officer. The defendant denied any knowledge of the cannabis and said that the police had planted the drugs which he subsequently maintained in interview. The prosecution case was that the cannabis belonged to the defendant, that he had intended to supply it and that the cash found was the proceeds of drug dealing. The defendant’s case was that he knew nothing about the drugs, that the police had planted them in his house and that the cash found was derived from loans he had received. The prosecution applied to adduce evidence of three previous convictions of the defendant for possessing a controlled drug with intent to supply (the 1993 convictions) and convictions for simple possession on the basis that the defendant had made an attack on the character of the police. The defendant objected to the application in so far as it related to the 1993 convictions and invited the judge to exclude the 1993 convictions on the basis that there was a danger that the jury would use such evidence as evidence of propensity. The judge allowed the prosecution to adduce the 1993 convictions. The defendant was subsequently convicted, by a majority of 11:1, of possession of the Class B drug cannabis with intent (count one) and possession of criminal property (count two). He was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment in respect of count one and three months’ imprisonment in respect of count two, to be served concurrently. The defendant appealed against conviction. He submitted: (i) that the judge had erred by allowing into evidence the 1993 convictions and that they had had huge potential to prejudice the defendant’s case; and (ii) that, having allowed into evidence the 1993 convictions, the judge, in his directions, had erroneously given the jury discretion to regard the 1993 convictions as relevant to the defendant’s propensity to be involved in drug dealing and that he had failed to ensure that the jury would consider them only in the context of the credibility of the defendant’s attack on the police. The appeal would be allowed. Whilst the 1993 convictions had not been relied upon as evidence of the defendant’s propensity to commit drug dealing offences, there was a clear risk of the jury treating them as such once they had known about them. There was some force in the argument that the prejudicial effect of admitting the 1993 convictions into evidence was liable to outweigh their probative value. It might however have been possible that the prejudice could have been reduced to an acceptable level by sufficient directions by the judge to the jury. Unfortunately, the directions given by the judge had not had that effect. He had not directed the jury in clear terms as to the limited purpose for which the 1993 convictions were before them. His loose terms had left it open to the jury to use the 1993 convictions in an impermissible way. Accordingly, the court was satisfied that the 1993 convictions, if admitted, should have been the subject of much stronger and clearer directions. There had been a failure by the judge to give such directions. The question to be answered was accordingly whether that error had affected the validity of the conviction. At first sight, the case against the defendant appeared to be strong, but there were a number of features which suggested that the case was a finely balanced one, inter alia: (i) the fact that the drugs had not been discovered upon the initial search; (ii) the fact that upon the second search, the drugs had been said to have been seized by one officer, but the search book had stated that they had been seized by another officer; (iii) the fact that original search book had not been able to be produced; and (iv) the fact that the verdict of the jury had been a majority decision rather than a unanimous one. Taking all such matters into account, it had to have been a real possibility that the jury had been inappropriately influenced by the 1993 convictions when reaching their verdict. It could not be said that the error by the judge had had no effect on the outcome of the case. The convictions would be quashed.center_img Character of accused – Bad characterlast_img read more

Jacks of all trades

first_imgGet your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our community To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN Subscribe now for unlimited access Stay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletterslast_img read more

Strength in numbers

first_imgSubscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our community Subscribe now for unlimited access Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN Stay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletterslast_img read more

Is there any value in valuing housing?

first_imgSubscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our community Stay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY Subscribe now for unlimited access To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGINlast_img read more