Senior judges – ‘Sentencing Council’ will end in injustice

Thursday 30 April 2009 at 10:35 pm | In News | 1 Comment
Jack Straw
Senior judges have attacked Jack Straw, saying his plans for ‘Sentencing Council’ will end in injustice and have accused him of trying to fix sentences in serious criminal trials.

They launched a furious protest over plans by the Justice Secretary to set up a new ‘Sentencing Council’ to guide the courts on how deal with offenders.

Circuit judges who preside at Crown Court trials said the scheme would ‘result in injustice’ and called them ‘unnecessary, costly and unwelcome’.

Times report here

Jeremy Bamber loses prison term challenge

Tuesday 28 April 2009 at 9:45 pm | In News | Post Comment

Jeremy Bamber
Jeremy Bamber, who is serving a life term for killing five members of his family in 1985, has lost his legal challenge against an order that he must die behind bars.

Three judges at the Court of Appeal in London rejected his plea that his “whole-life” tariff should be reduced to a minimum of 25 years to give him some hope of release on parole.

Bamber, 48, who continues to protest his innocence, watched the proceedings via video link from Full Sutton prison in Yorkshire, but showed no reaction when the decision was announced.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, sitting with Mr Justice David Clarke and Mr Justice Wyn Williams, dismissed his application for permission to appeal against his tariff.

He said the reasons for the decision would be given in writing at a date to be fixed.

June Bamber’s niece, Ann Eaton, said after the hearing: “We are confident that the decision made against Jeremy was the right decision.”

Sheila Caffell
Bamber was found guilty in 1986 of shooting his wealthy adoptive parents, June and Nevill, his sister Sheila Caffell, and her six-year-old twin sons Daniel and Nicholas at their farmhouse in Tolleshunt D’Arcy, Essex.

In May last year a High Court judge ruled that the “whole-life” tariff imposed in Bamber’s case in 1988 by the then Home Secretary must remain.

The decision to uphold the tariff was made by Mr Justice Tugendhat following an application by Bamber to have a minimum prison term set, which would have given him the chance of seeking release on parole in the future.

But Mr Justice Tugendhat said the murders were “exceptionally serious” and announced that in his judgment Bamber ought to spend the whole of the rest of his life in prison.

UK legal sector becoming more ‘socially exclusive’

Tuesday 28 April 2009 at 5:33 pm | In News | Post Comment
Jackson LJ
The UK legal sector has been highlighted by the Government as one of a number of professions becoming increasingly socially exclusive.

A Cabinet Office report led by Alan Milburn MP has found that more than half of the UK’s legal profession were independently educated, with this figure increasing to two-thirds of serving judges.

Report in Legal Week, here

UK Government ADR Pledge – success

Tuesday 28 April 2009 at 5:29 pm | In News | Post Comment

Government departments used alternative dispute resolution in 374 cases last year, with 271 leading to settlement – a success rate of 72%, the Ministry of Justice has said. It estimated that ADR saved £26.3m. In the previous year, ADR was attempted in 311 cases and succeeded in 68%.

Full story in Legal Week

Barrister falls down a manhole on jury visit

Tuesday 28 April 2009 at 9:54 am | In News | Post Comment
JURY visits to crime scenes during murder trials can be expected to be dramatic. But they don’t come much more dramatic than one undertaken by a Chelmsford Crown Court jury last Friday.

During the jury visit to the site in Harlow where a 24-year-old woman was killed and her boyfriend left brain damaged by a suspicious fire, barrister James Howard fell down a nine-feet deep manhole breaking bones in his hand.

Full story reported by “thisistotalessex

The Court is Open, a bit

Monday 27 April 2009 at 11:14 pm | In News | Post Comment

The media will have access to the family courts from today. The Times editorial describes this as a `historic step towards justice’ but there are reservations about how open the courts will be to journalists.

Read one journalist’s report on what happens in practice here.

Will a Contingent fund replace Conditional Fees?

Sunday 26 April 2009 at 9:10 am | In News | Post Comment

Lord Justice Jackson, the Court of Appeal judge, is currently conducting a review on the costs of litigation.

The Bar Council of England and Wales has submitted a policy paper proposing a Contingent legal aid fund (Claf) scheme that would pay the client’s lawyers at ordinary rates. The winning claimant would put a proportion of his damages back into a pot to fund future cases.

Clafs have been suggested before, but the current proposal is not to replace legal aid but run alongside it and would ensure that those who don’t presently qualify for legal aid, such as sole traders or pensioners with some assets, can obtain access to the courts. A stumbling block is that a Claf would be seen as a last resort for hopeless cases.

There is concern about the way that some CFAs base lawyers’ fees on the final sums incurred and so the lawyer has no incentive to minimise cost; uplifts of 100% are now common compared with original guidelines of no more than a 25%. The solution is for claimants would pay their own lawyers’ fees.  They would then have a real incentive to keep costs down.

Huge fees are paid by insurance companies and then ultimately by the public, through premiums. A Claf fund would be run as a non-profit-making mutual fund. It would be managed by professional insurers. Institutional defendants, such as the NHS pay excessive fees, because a client who is funded by the CFA is not at risk of costs.

London Court of International Arbitration opens in India

Sunday 26 April 2009 at 7:36 am | In News | Post Comment

The London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) established a branch in the Indian capital New Delhi, this week. The opening ceremony was attended by Lord Goldsmith, QC, the former UK Attorney-General, and Sir Richard Stagg, KCMG, the British High Commissioner to India.

The move will allow disputes involving foreign companies with interests in India to resolve contractual claims under London arbitration rules without having to take disputes to London, Paris or Singapore.

London has had an arbitration court since 1883 and is one of the leading centres along with Hong Kong, New York, Paris and Singapore. The Indian domestic courts are seen as often chaotic and unreliable.

The move will provide American and English law firms a major source of revenue if the law is changed to allow them to compete with local firms. Arbitration has become increasingly popular in recent years as large companies expanded into emerging markets.

With domestic courts in such countries often unpredictable and vulnerable to corruption, companies regarded arbitration as a more reliable and neutral option. Another attraction is that hearings are typically held in private, away from the scrutiny of politicians, shareholders and the media.

No Titan jails

Saturday 25 April 2009 at 8:10 am | In News | Post Comment
Wandsworth Prison

It has been widely reported that Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, has abandoned his flagship proposals for the 2,500-place jails because of the cost.

The total number of prison places will not be cut because the Government intends to build five smaller jails.

A plan to buy a prison ship with 450 places has also been abandoned, after building a traditional jail was found to be 25 per cent cheaper.

The Prison Reform Trust denounced the scheme as a “gigantic and costly mistake that others will live to regret”.

The Howard League for Penal Reform, said the plan was aimed at “delivering justice on the cheap”. Consultation on the proposals also revealed almost universal opposition to Titan jails.

First company charged with corporate manslaughter

Saturday 25 April 2009 at 7:49 am | In News | Post Comment
Alexander Wright aged 27 who died

A company in Gloucestershire is the first to face prosecution under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, which came into effect just over a year ago. The Act holds to account organisations if a workplace death is attributed to the gross failings of managers.

Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings, a geological survey company, is accused of a “gross breach” of duty in connection with the death of Alexander Wright aged 27 who died when a pit collapsed on him while he was taking a soil sample near Stroud in September 2008.

If convicted the company faces an unlimited fine and a judicial “publicity order”, requiring them to advertise their own conviction.

The purpose of the new offence was to try and gain traction on large and medium-sized companies, but this company is quite small.

The case will start at Stroud Magistrates Court on June 17.

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