Straw drops secret inquest plans

first_imgPlans to hold secret inquests without juries have been dropped by the government, justice secretary Jack Straw told parliament today. Straw said in a written statement that the move to introduce non-jury inquests on national security issues did not garner enough support among the parties. Clauses 11 and 12 of the Coroners and Justice Bill will be removed, he said. Straw said: ‘The government felt these changes struck a fair and proportionate balance between the interests of bereaved families, the need to protect sensitive material and judicial oversight of the whole process. ‘However, following further discussions in the House and with interested parties, it is clear the provisions still do not command the necessary cross-party support and in the circumstances the government will table amendments to remove clauses 11 and 12 from the bill.’ Paul Marsh, Law Society President, said: ‘We are delighted that this measure is to be dropped because the Law Society firmly believes that there should be open justice in the interests of the relatives of the deceased and the public.’last_img read more

Black cap for judges’ pensions

first_imgEarlier this year I blogged that judges’ generous pension entitlements would end up squarely in the line of fire following fiscal meltdown. And lo, it has come to pass, as the two main parties try to out-macho each other in respect of how severely they can punish public servants who were in no way responsible for the crash. George Osborne, the next chancellor of the exchequer if you believe the opinion polls, proposed a £50,000 a year cap on taxpayer-funded public sector pensions at this week’s Tory party conference. Judges are probably the occupational group that would suffer most. To recap, judges pay just 1.8-2.4% of their salaries to accrue a final salary pension at the rate of 1/40th for each year of service, up to 20 years. This is quite staggeringly generous. Let’s say you’re a judge earning £170,000 a year – halfway up the ladder. For a modest outlay of about £34,000 before tax at current prices, you can retire after 10 years’ service on an annual pension of £85,000 for life. If you live for another 20 years, that’s a cool £1.7m from the taxpayer. Only the governor of the Bank of England (1/30ths) fares better in the public sector. Even better, this is a final salary scheme. Move up and you stand to get far more. A £50,000 cap would soon derail this particular gravy train. Pensions already earned, or already in payment, would appear to be sacrosanct. However, it seems a future Tory government would change existing public sector pension schemes to stop further pension accrual above £50,000 while scheme members are still in employment. At what cost? The Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB) points out that it is ‘important to assess the value of the judicial pension as a substantial part of the reward package’. Quite so, because judges’ salaries – while hefty – don’t come close to what the best of private practice has to offer. Is the prospect of becoming a judge about to become a whole lot less attractive? Or will judges be treated as a special case, as they were when Lord Falconer removed the requirement that tax relief on personal pension savings be limited to the lifetime limit?last_img read more

Lamb to the Slaughter

first_imgIt is pleasing to report that friendly competition still exists between those on either side of the solicitor-barrister divide. Last week Obiter heard Robert Graham-Campbell, chief executive at top commercial litigation set Maitland, and a very brave man indeed, make a daring remark to an assembled crowd of 60 or so City solicitors. Graham-Campbell noted that his silks’ workloads were increasingly dominated by advisory, rather than adversarial work. Then he added: ‘We’re not feeling this economic pressure that’s being written about. Could it be that barristers are considered better value for money?’ Judging by the roar of laughter that immediately followed, the solicitors present demurred. The meeting took place in an elegant meeting room at Slaughter and May – rumoured to pay the highest solicitors’ salaries in the UK (although its partners refrain from announcing publicly how much they earn) and charge what can best be described as ‘blue riband’ rates to clients. Clearly they are not too worried about the competition.last_img read more

Electoral process

first_img The petitioner Liberal Democrat MP (X) contested the election of the respondent Labour MP (W) under section 120 of the Representation of the People Act 1983. Three election addresses were sent to voters shortly before the general election in 2010. The addresses were drafted by members of W’s election team, and W made suggestions as to what should and should not be included, and approved them in final form. The subject matter of the election addresses involved where X lived, his attitude to Muslim extremists and his election expenses. W accepted responsibility for the election addresses. W contended that he was aware of a prohibition against making false statements in relation to a candidate’s personal character or conduct but he denied that the election addresses evidenced any illegal practice contrary to section 106. Held: (1) Section 106, when read with sections 159 and 160, not only empowered the court to declare W’s election void but also prevented him standing for election for three years. Accordingly, article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights was engaged. The restrictions and penalties contained in the act were prescribed by law and directed to the objective of protecting the reputation and rights of others, R v Shayler (David Michael) [2002] UKHL 11, (2003) 1 AC 247 applied and Bowman v United Kingdom (24839/94) [1998] 26 EHRR 1 ECHR considered. Section 106 was directed at protecting the right of the electorate to express its choice on the basis of facts, not false assertions as to the personal character or conduct of the candidates. The interference with the freedom of expression and penalties imposed for breach of section 106 was proportionate to the legitimate aim of the section. Section 106 did not interfere with statements, whether true or not, relating to the political character of a candidate only untrue statements, where there was no reasonable belief of the truth, relating to a candidate’s personal character or conduct. The court should only find an illegal practice contrary to section 106 in the clearest of cases (see paras 41-47). (2) X had the burden of proving W was guilty of the alleged illegal practice and, while the proceedings were civil, the standard of proof was the criminal law standard. That was so because sections 168 and 169 provided for prosecution on indictment of those guilty of corrupt practice. In the absence of public policy grounds, there had to be compelling reasons for any reversal of the burden of proof, R v Johnstone (Robert Alexander) [2003] UKHL 28, [2003] 1 WLR 1736 considered. The fact that the matters to which the burden of proof related were matters within the personal knowledge of W was not of itself a sufficient reason. Allegations of illegal practice in elections were very serious and, in the present case, the reputation of a long-standing MP and former minister of state was in issue. There were no factors justifying a reversal of the burden of proof and section 106 had to be read down so that there was no more than an evidential burden on W (see paras 48-49 and 57-58). (3) Reviewing the addresses and considering what the words would mean to the ordinary and reasonable reader, W had made statements of fact in relation to the personal character or conduct of X which he had no reasonable grounds for believing were true. Those statements were: (a) X had attempted to seek the electoral support of Muslims who advocated violence; (b) X had failed to condemn extremists who advocated violence against W; (c) X had reneged on his promise to live in the constituency. Accordingly, W was guilty of an illegal practice which would be reported to the Speaker as required under sections 144 and 158. W’s election was void pursuant to section 159 because he was guilty of an illegal practice. Had the only breach of section 106 been the statement that X had reneged on his promise to live in the constituency, it might have been questionable whether it was necessary and proportionate to penalise such speech by declaring the election void and disqualifying W from standing for election for three years. However, given the other breaches were of such seriousness such concerns did not arise. Accordingly, the statutory penalties for the illegal practices committed by W were both necessary and proportionate (see paras 61 and 207-209). Petition granted. Helen Mountfield QC, James Laddie (instructed by K&L Gates) for the petitioner; Gavin Millar QC, Anthony Hudson (instructed by Steel & Shamash) for the respondent. Election rules – Freedom of expression – Proportionalitycenter_img Robert Elwyn James Watkins v Philip James Woolas EWHC 2702 (QB) DC (Mr Justice Teare, Mr Justice Griffith Williams): 5 November 2010last_img read more

Is compliance an opportunity or a threat?

first_imgEven before the current outcomes-focused regulations came into force compliance was seen by many as a necessary evil. What firms are going to make of it with the new regulators out in force still remains to be seen. I don’t think that law firms will find OFR easy in spite of the fact that it is supposed to give them more control and more of what they said they wanted. In fact, does OFR really give them such freedom? How do you explain the results of a recent mini-survey? For a seminar we ran on compliance, and the opportunity to become an ABS, we carried out an investigation to see how many of the firms complied with those regulations which can be externally checked, such as website compliance and data registration. It was shocking to note that out of the 40 firms who had signed up only three firms were completely compliant. Needless to say, when these figures were announced the pens and pencils came out with furious note taking burning holes in the notepaper. We found that even large firms hadn’t got it right. Some firms appear to rely on their website creators – whether internal or outsourced – to deal with the appropriate regulations and this has turned out to be a risky business. You would expect the larger firms to have the resources to employ specialists but my impression is that such so-called experts are in the job by default rather than willing enthusiasts for the subject. The owners let them get on with it. If the owners of the business do not have a good grasp of compliance how can they know about what they don’t know? And this is just one example of compliance where there is no choice. So where is the opportunity in such a subject which is often cast to back office functions at a low level without the power to implement easily? Given that that there is a requirement to have a compliance officer for legal practice and compliance officer for finance and administration (no choice there by the way), there is an opportunity to make the firm more commercial in its outlook. Such functions are only the same as those which already exist in the commercial world. Look at the composition of any commercial company board. They nearly always include financial and commercial directors (during a re-structuring process a partner once told me that the title operations director sounded like a surgical appointment in the NHS). Taking on board the regulations should end in more profit as long as well-appointed appointees seize the opportunity to get things right with better operations management and financial understanding. I don’t think that the majority of firms will cope as well as will be hoped unless the right people are appointed and they do not exist in a lot of firms. Many, partners or others, will be moved into the role as a required necessity to be seen to comply – not to move the firm on. My suggestion is that more outsourcing or interim management would help the medium and small firms with what should be regarded as an investment not an expense. The outcome should be to recover perceived costs by better performance and more. Yet another demonstration of compliance working for us n’est ce pas? Mike Gorick is associate director of The Compliance People Ltdlast_img read more

Make it legal

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It never rains but it pours

first_imgSubscribe now for unlimited access Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY 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 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 communitylast_img read more

Jack’s blunder

first_imgSubscribe 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 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? LOGINlast_img read more

A question of recyclability

first_imgGet 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-newsletters 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 communitylast_img read more

What the Poles have done for us

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