A defendant has escaped confiscation proceedings because she was unable to find an advocate willing to accept the legal aid rate to represent her. The court’s decision, upheld in the Court of Appeal, will fuel an ongoing dispute over the levels of legal aid fees. The defendant in the case, Susan Jane Campbell, pleaded guilty in February 2008 to one count of money laundering involving a sum of £236,000. By the time of her confiscation hearing in October, her trial advocate had left the independent bar and her solicitors were unable to find a suitably qualified replacement willing to take the case. Under the graduated fee structure, counsel would have received a fixed daily rate of £178.25 with no funding for preparation, which Judge Heath estimated would have taken some 80 hours. He said Campbell could not have a fair trial without representation, stayed the proceedings and made no confiscation order for the sum. The Ministry of Justice told the Court of Appeal that it had established a working group to explore proposals for a revised fee scheme to allow additional funding in ‘the small number of exceptional confiscation cases that cause difficulties’, and will consult professional bodies in the next few weeks. However, Lord Justice Hooper said that ‘the fact that in the future an adequately funded advocate may be available was no justification’. In another embarrassment to prosecutors, the High Court last week ticked off the Crown Prosecution Service for altering charges at a late stage. The court criticised the CPS for its attitude that it can ‘assume to itself the way in which a proceeding will be conducted’. It upheld a magistrates’ court’s decision to refuse a last-minute amendment to a charge that would have denied the defendant a jury trial. The court said the CPS ‘should consider long and hard whether or not it can carry on the assumption that some of its representatives may have’, namely that it can simply assume that at whatever stage of the proceedings before the magistrates it can, virtually as of right, substitute a lesser charge.’
The Legal Services Commission has announced it is to drop peer review as a method of quality assurance for firms seeking to bid for most publicly funded work. From April 2010 peer review will only be used on a risk-based and random-sampling basis, rather than being incorporated into the process of bidding for work. The LSC said it was adopting a more proportionate approach, as the majority of completed peer reviews since 2005 show firms have achieved good standards, scoring three or above. It said the move also reflects the transformation it is making towards becoming a purely commissioning organisation, with quality assurance, accreditation and regulation done by the professions. Providers will need to have Lexcel – the Law Society’s practice management standard – or the LSC’s own Specialist Quality Mark. ‘The changes do not affect the quality standard that we require of providers, but mean that we will get the assurance we need in a different way,’ said the LSC. ‘We will work closely with regulators and representative bodies to ensure that professional standards provide a good baseline of quality which clients can rely on.’ But Carol Storer (pictured), director of the Legal Aid Practitioners Group, said the move added to concerns about the reduction in quality of service and blamed cost considerations. Rodney Warren, Law Society council member and director of the Criminal Law Solicitors Association, said: ‘If we’re not careful this will be the LSC abrogating all responsibility for quality.’
Today’s official (but much leaked) announcement of the government’s plans for Lloyds and RBS comes as both banks are carrying out reviews of their legal panels. Law firms big and small, in the City or in the regions, must be licking their lips at the thought of being party to all this restructuring work.Lloyds will sell 600 of its branches over the next four years, mortgage broker Cheltenham & Gloucester, online division Intelligent Finance, and its TSB brand. RBS will sell 318 of its branches over the next four years, RBS Insurance, its NatWest brand in Scotland, its card payment arm Global Merchant Services, and its stake in commodities trader RBS Sempra Commodities. The severance and subsequent hoovering up of these pieces of bank will generate millions of pounds of legal work across the country, be it through the multi-million pound sale of an entire business unit or the renegotiation of staff employment contracts at a bank branch. Internal reorganisation work at each bank will also generate millions, although that will be left to the City elite. But some of the bigger City firms might be reticent to jump straight onto either bank’s panel. The pieces cut from each bank will need to be bought, and many buyers will demand legal advice untainted by any conflict of interest. True, some general counsel may be more lenient on conflicts, and firms might be allowed to manage conflicts internally, but there is always a limit to their lenience. I would imagine that firms’ relationship partners are checking exactly where they stand at the moment.
Discrimination – Equality and Human Rights Commission – Lay assessors S Deman v Commission for Equality and Human Rights and others: CA (Civ Div) (Lords Justices Sedley, Moses): 6 November 2010 The appellant (X) appealed against a decision that a judge was not required to sit with lay assessors to determine an application by the respondent commission to strike out X’s claim for racial discrimination and victimisation and a decision to strike out X’s claim. X was of Indian ethnic origin. He had applied to the commission for it to support the 17 cases he wished to bring against academic institutions which had not appointed him to posts for which he had applied. While X acknowledged that the commission had provided him with legal assistance and representation to an extent, he commenced proceedings against it, alleging that it had repeatedly failed to support his litigation and had treated him differently and worse than it had treated or would have treated a person of another ethnicity. The commission applied to strike out X’s claim against it. The judge heard the submissions and discharged the attending two lay assessors. In doing so he considered section 67(4) of the Race Relations Act 1976 and found that it did not apply as the proceedings were under the CPR rather than the act. He heard the strike-out application on his own and granted it. X submitted that (1) where one party clearly did not consent to the judge dispensing with the assessors, the court was obliged to sit with the assessors and, if it did not do so, it was unlawfully constituted; (2) there were factors which were or were capable of being material from which a tribunal could conclude that, on the balance of probabilities, the commission had committed an unlawful act of discrimination and the refusal of more assistance and representation was the product of institutional racism in the form of bias against Indian applicants. Held: (1) The application might have been made by virtue of the CPR but the entirety of X’s claim lay under the act. Section 67(4) was not the language of constitutive jurisdiction, laying down when a court was and was not duly constituted. It was more nearly the language of adjudicative jurisdiction, spelling out how a court was to act in determining certain issues. Therefore, where lay assessors were capable of assisting, namely where they could contribute ‘special knowledge and experience of problems connected with relations between persons of different racial groups’, the judge was required to sit with them. Where they could not make such a contribution he was not required to sit with them (see paragraph 12 of judgment).(2) The factors which X relied upon were mostly failures of the commission to provide information or to respond to letters or requests. The demands were part of a barrage of intemperate correspondence to which no organisation, especially one which was publicly funded, could be expected to divert its resources. Further, the claim of institutional racism was based on bare assertion and the judge was fully entitled to decide that the time had come, after X had had many opportunities to put a coherent case together, to call a halt to it. Therefore, the striking out of X’s claim involved no error of law, Anyanwu v South Bank Students Union  UKHL 14,  1 WLR 638 considered (paragraphs 23, 26-27). Appeal dismissed. John Hendy QC, Ghazan Mahmood (instructed by Bevans) for the appellant; Robin Allen QC, Daniel Dyal (instructed by in-house solicitor) for the respondents.
Charitable group the Public Law Project (PLP) has threatened to launch a legal challenge to the Ministry of Justice’s civil costs and funding reforms. London firm Leigh Day & Co has sent a letter before action to the justice secretary Ken Clark on behalf of the PLP, a national legal charity that aims to improve access to public law remedies for those whose access to justice is restricted. PLP seeks to challenge the way the MoJ plans to implement Lord Justice Jackson’s reforms. In particular, it is challenging the MoJ’s decision to abolish the recoverability of conditional fee agreement success fees, without also introducing other key reforms put forward by Jackson to mitigate the impact on access to justice for those seeking judicial reviews. In personal injury cases, the MoJ has proposed the introduction of costs protection for claimants – so-called qualified one way costs shifting – which means loosing claimants do not face the risk of having to pay the substantial legal costs of defendant bodies. The sums awarded for general damages will also increase. But for judicial review claims, the MoJ has decided not to implement the costs protection measure for claimants, with the result that the government and other state bodies will be able to recover costs from citizens who unsuccessfully challenge them. PLP claims this will deter ordinary citizens from mounting challenges and reduce their ability to obtain access to justice. It also claims that it is not lawful for the MoJ to introduce such radical changes to the system on the basis of ‘perfunctory consultation’ and in the ‘absence of any reasoned justification’. PLP also considers that the proposals are unlawful in view of the UK’s common law and international law obligations to ensure access to justice. Its director Diane Astin said: ‘PLP believes that the MoJ’s decision not to implement Lord Justice Jackson’s proposals on costs protection for most claimants in judicial review claims has not been thought through. ‘The proposed changes are likely to have a seriously detrimental effect on the ability of individuals and groups to challenge unlawful conduct by public bodies.’ Astin said the proposals should have been consulted on properly. She urged the government to withdraw its plans pending a thorough consultation on the likely impact on access to justice. Jamie Beagent, solicitor at Leigh Day & Co, said: ‘Access to justice is a fundamental right. The MoJ’s proposals will seriously hamper that right. ‘To undermine a key means by which the public can access the constitutional court of this country without introducing the balancing reforms recommended by Lord Justice Jackson is unjustifiable.’ A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: ‘The government set out its position on the reform of civil litigation funding and costs on 29 March. ‘This followed careful consideration of the responses received during a full public consultation. We have received a letter from Leigh Day and Co and will respond in due course.’
National firm Irwin Mitchell has linked up with a financial advice group to offer legal services directly to its customers. The law firm will offer a range of services for clients using the Guardian Wealth Management (GWM) group. Irwin Mitchell has already stated its intention to seek external investment ahead of Alternative Business Structures coming into force from October. The latest move will add to a growing network of service providers coming together to use existing client lists. GWM commercial director Ian Sweet, speaking at the firm’s annual conference, said: ‘Financial planning will often involve legal issues and it adds value to our proposition to enable our clients to have direct access to the expert legal advice offered by Irwin Mitchell. ‘Guardian Wealth Management Legal Services is part of the raft of new client-focused services which we are introducing. ‘We have already announced our partnership with Bupa and we expect to make another announcement in the near future.’ GMW clients will be able to access advice from Irwin Mitchell on matters including family law, lasting powers of attorney, will writing, taxation services, trust services, probate and estate administration, conveyancing, corporate law and employment law, as well as its general legal advice helpline.
The Immigration Advisory Service, a charity that gives telephone advice to 36,000 clients and opens 7,000 appeal files every year, went into administration over the weekend. Cuts to legal aid are thought to be one reason for the charity’s financial problems. According to its 2009 annual report, the IAS employs 372 people. A Legal Services Commission spokesman said: ‘The IAS’s decision to go into administration is theirs alone. ‘During recent stewardship activities the LSC raised concerns around financial management and claims irregularities, which prompted IAS trustees to conclude that the organisation was no longer financially viable. ‘Our priority now is to work closely with IAS and the administrators to ensure clients of IAS continue to get the help they need, whilst safeguarding public money. ‘We are now identifying alternative advice provision in the areas affected and arrangements for case transfer will follow as soon as possible.’ The IAS has not yet issued a formal statement and was not answering the telephone this morning. The Law Society has warned that thousands of clients will be without representation.
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That frisson of excitement you felt when you met across a crowded photocopier is starting to develop into something more meaningful. Going to work each morning has become a joyous experience, and your exuberance is starting to show. But how should you play it? And what will you do if it all goes horribly wrong? Read on and weep…1. Never toy with emotions. Only get involved romantically with someone at work if you are seriously interested. Innocent flirting is all very well but take it further flippantly and lord knows what frightening repercussions it may have. Beware of the bunny boiler, the serial stalker or the trophy hunter. And if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen/canteen/store cupboard asap. 2. Do your research. Most women don’t need to be told this, but for all those hopeless males out there, it’s a good idea to check out your intended’s personality, so that you can be sure he/she is worth the effort. If you can get your mitts on their HR file, so much the better. Ultimately, it’s best never to have a relationship with someone at work if you can avoid it. Especially with your boss. 3. Try to make sure they don’t have a wife/husband/partner. You don’t want to be beaten to a pulp in the office.4. Try to make sure you don’t have a wife/husband/partner. Unless you want your entire wardrobe shredded and your company car keyed.5. Be discreet. If you are in the early stages of a romantic tryst, it pays to be very, very careful. You don’t want tongues wagging and ruining your chances with your intended. Plus you want to play it cool – if people start gossiping about how keen you are, you’re done for. 6. Keep it hush-hush. However open and broadminded companies claim to be, most would rather you pillow-talked to someone who works elsewhere. So it’s best to keep your ardour under wraps for as long as possible. Obviously, once the wedding bells are ringing, it’s time to come out of the stationery closet and look for a new job.7. Do not commit email hari-kari. Cutesy messages, graphic sexual fantasies or, heaven forfend, a love poem will be recorded for posterity and could be used against you. Furthermore, never send a ‘padded bear’ Valentine. Or write salacious messages on the office birthday card.8. Exercise self-restraint in potentially hairy situations. Like the Christmas party or leaving do’s. The volatile mix of work colleagues and alcohol is a recipe for disaster. Never go past first base in the workplace: couples caught in flagrante on the company’s CCTV are hilarious – unless it happens to be you.9. Try not to chuck him/her before you know that one of you is leaving the company. Otherwise your formerly ‘cute habits’ will be scrawled over company whiteboards, your laptop will be sabotaged and checking your email will become an act of heroism. It will also be time to kiss promotion and perhaps your job goodbye (particularly if your boss is the jilted party).10. “But I’m the one who’s been chucked!” If you’ve been binned, there’s not much you can do… well, actually there is. Lick your wounds in private but in public pretend that life is a bed of roses. Always have a smile at work and laugh uproariously in your ex’s presence who will be so mortified that you’re having a good time that he/she will try to worm their way back into your affections. You pays your money you takes your choice.
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 To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN Subscribe now for unlimited access 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 Get your free guest access SIGN UP TODAY