Legal Services Commission asks crime lawyers to join assessment pilot

first_imgThe Legal Services Commission has called for more criminal lawyers to take part in its scheme to test different methods of assessing advocacy, after too few practitioners signed up. Piloting of the Quality Assurance for Advocates (QAA) scheme began in February at Crown courts in Birmingham, Cardiff, Inner London and Winchester, and will end in August. Although 220 solicitors and barristers have agreed to take part, the LSC needs another 30. It said there is a particular need for female volunteers as well as ethnic minority advocates, those who work part-time or with caring responsibilities, and advocates with a disability or health problem. The pilots will try out assessment options including multiple choice tests, portfolio examination, simulated advocacy and judicial evaluation. Results of the pilot will be published in October, in advance of a consultation on proposals for a QAA scheme in early 2010.last_img read more

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Solicitors in referral tie-up with IFAs

first_imgSolicitors and independent financial advisers (IFAs) have entered into a nationwide tie-up to take advantage of the relaxation of the rules on partnerships between lawyers and non-lawyers. Some 600 law firm members of the 360 Legal Group will be given access to 1,700 IFA members of Positive Solutions, the UK’s largest IFA firm. The joint venture, dubbed the positive partnership initiative, has been set up to help solicitors and IFAs refer business to each other. Members of the 360 Legal Group will be introduced to local Positive Solutions advisers, while Positive Solutions advisers will be able to download advice leaflets setting out where they can assist with private client work and commercial work. Viv Williams, managing director of 360 Legal Group, said the group’s members will be [Positive Solutions’s] first port of call for advice on wills, equity release, remortgages, relationship breakdown and legal support for small business owners. Positive Solutions’ business development director Jonathan Morley said: ‘Close relationships with lawyers have been like the pursuit of the Holy Grail for financial advisers.’last_img read more

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Self-defence is no defence

first_imgPre-election promises aren’t worth the ballot paper they are written on, so don’t take too seriously the sinister spectacle of Labour and the Tories espousing the same populist cause. The populist knee-jerk of the moment is the old chestnut of how far a householder can legally go to protect his property and the people living there. We had all this 10 years ago with Tony Martin, the Norfolk farmer who shot and killed a teenage burglar. Thieves had repeatedly targeted Martin’s isolated farm and, although he had been banned from holding a firearm permit, he had acquired a shotgun. One night he heard intruders and, as they ran off, he shot the teenager in the back. He was jailed for life, but released after just five years. Politicians, policemen and readers of the Daily Mail were outraged that Martin was imprisoned simply for protecting his property. They conceded that the sentence for burglary wasn’t actually death, not yet anyway, but the kid had had it coming and good riddance. The law takes a different view. A householder is allowed to use ‘reasonable’ force in self-defence, it maintains. Shooting someone in the back as they run away, however, does not qualify as self-defence – or even as the ‘reasonable’ use of force. Martin spent the next few years behind bars, a lesson for everyone with a hankering to become a vigilante. We are now having the same debate following the imprisonment of the brothers Munir and Tokeer Hussain. A burglar, abetted by accomplices, had tied up Munir and his family and threatened them with knives. The brothers had somehow got free and chased the burglars out of the house and down the road. They had caught one and beaten him senseless with a cricket bat, leaving him brain-damaged. This was not a ‘reasonable’ use of force, the court held. One brother was given 30 months in prison, the other 39 months – light sentences for the serious offence of causing grievous bodily harm. Innocent men are in prison, some pundits thundered when the sentences were announced. The brothers’ actions arose from the natural and manly impulse to protect loved ones from lowlife scum. They were right to take the law into their own hands. Labour and the Conservatives, sensing a vote catcher, have both now said they will review the law in such cases if they win the next election. Home secretary Alan Johnson, speaking on the BBC on Sunday, said he was ‘uncomfortable’ with the sentences. His Tory shadow, Chris Grayling, has said much the same. Despite these pre-election promises, there are unlikely to be significant changes to the law. The two brothers, of course, had every right to be furious that Munir’s wife and children had been threatened by intruders into his home, but a mark of our civilisation is that the business of punishment is left to the due processes of law. The police will investigate, charges will be brought, a judge will direct and a jury will deliberate. Crazed good guys don’t go around taking out the bad guys. That’s the stuff of Hollywood – or anarchy.last_img read more

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Order of merit

first_imgObiter is pleased to announce the five lucky winners of last week’s competition for a free copy of the first series of Law & Order: UK, by completing the sentence, ‘I think I should star in my own TV legal drama because…’. The best entry came from Paul Nicholls of Smith Jones in Kenilworth, whose answer also fulfilled last week’s request for confessions of courtroom bloopers. He said: ‘… because I feel I am a poor man’s Rumpole. Once before a particularly fearsome judge at Birmingham County Court, I looked down at my notes and froze. I realised I was wearing two different shoes – one brown, one black. I lost my place and had to confess to the judge, who asked me to walk round and show him. We were both tittering so much we had to adjourn to compose ourselves, while I rushed out to buy a new pair of shoes.’ Hopefully Nicholls does not wear a wig in court; otherwise, Obiter can all too easily imagine him accidentally turning up with a giant afro headpiece by mistake. Other winners are David Lunn at Gowen & Stevens, who wants to star in a TV legal drama because ‘to star in an illegal drama would be quite wrong’; Charnjit Sandhu, whose high-street practice (unnamed, perhaps wisely), ‘makes EastEnders seem dull’; David Bywater, commercial insurance lawyer at Weightmans in London who claims he is ‘good at soliciting’; and Adrian Brodkin of Adrian & Co in London, who claims tongue in cheek that he should star in his own drama because ‘I am the only person left in this office who hasn’t lost the plot’. We know how you feel, Adrian. All five winners will receive their DVD shortly. Watch out for another competition to win a copy of series two of the same hit show next month.last_img read more

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Law firms fear school panel axe

first_imgSeventeen law firms signed up to advise local authorities on the Labour government’s lucrative school building project will soon learn whether or not their legal panel is to be scrapped. The Department for Education (DfE)’s £55bn Building Schools for the Future (BSF) project was abolished in July by education secretary Michael Gove, who simultaneously unveiled a review of capital investment in pre-schools, schools, colleges and sixth forms, which is due to report later this year. Work on the BSF project was conducted by firms on the panel of Partnerships for Schools, the body that handles capital investment in schools on behalf of the government. A DfE spokesman said this week that the future of the panel is also being considered as part of the review. Sources from firms on the panel indicated that it might be cut altogether. The firms on the panel are: national firms Addleshaw Goddard, DLA Piper, Eversheds, Pinsent Masons and Mills & Reeve; City firms Beachcroft, Nabarro, Norton Rose and Trowers & Hamlins; London firms Sharpe Pritchard and TPP Law; south-west firms Bevan Brittan and Burges Salmon; northern firms Walker Morris and Ward Hadaway; Birmingham firm Wragge & Co; and Newcastle’s Dickinson Dees. A spokesman for Partnerships for Schools said that the results of the review will determine the use of the panel beyond the BSF programme.last_img read more

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Freeman tops ranking of high-profile solicitors

first_imgDefence lawyer Nick Freeman topped the rankings for the solicitor most frequently mentioned in the national press over the last year, according to figures compiled by Sweet & Maxwell. Freeman (pictured), founder of Manchester firm Freeman & Co and known as ‘Mr Loophole’, was the most high-profile solicitor, featuring in 120 UK national press articles between July 2009 and June 2010. He has gained a reputation for representing celebrities charged with driving offences. Clients have included Jimmy Carr, David Beckham and Jeremy Clarkson. Bruce Buck, partner and head of European practice at US firm Skadden and chairman of Chelsea FC, was second in the list, with 87 mentions; followed by Karen Todner, managing director at London firm Kaim Todner, with 67 mentions. She represented Gary McKinnon, the British hacker whom the US is trying to extradite. Other solicitors in the top ten were Giovanni di Stefano, Fiona Shackleton, Mark Stephens, Julian Young, Phil Shiner, Stefan Cross and Martyn Day. Michael Mansfield QC was the most frequently mentioned barrister, due to his work representing a number of clients in the Bloody Sunday inquiry. He was referred to in 126 articles. Lord Saville, chair of the Bloody Sunday inquiry, topped the list of judges, with 412 mentions.last_img read more

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‘Big fall’ in number of conveyancing practices expected

first_imgProperty specialists are predicting a ‘significant’ fall in the number of conveyancing firms in 2011, as regulatory pressures on the profession rise and transaction volumes drop. Eddie Goldsmith, chair of the Conveyancing Association and a partner at London firm Goldsmith Williams, predicted that two-thirds of firms could be forced to leave the market as solicitors head into a ‘perfect storm’ created by low transaction volumes, and proposed changes to professional indemnity insurance (PII). ‘Everything is heading towards a significant reduction in the number of conveyancing firms,’ he said. Goldsmith said the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s plan to remove claims by lenders from the minimum terms of PII cover will cause an ‘immediate departure from the market’ of those firms that do conveyancing on an occasional basis. Law Society property spokesman Paul Marsh commented: ‘For many firms relying on residential conveyancing, 2011 is going to be a very challenging year. If the SRA presses ahead with its fatally flawed plans for PII, lots of firms will be looking into a black hole.’ He said the number of firms likely to exit the market would vary across the regions. Marsh predicted that transaction volumes would stay depressed for the next two to three years, but said it was not just the decline in work that was the problem, but the way the work is shared around. He said referral fees would continue to ‘tighten their grip’ and serve to contract the market, along with the continued shrinkage in the number of firms on lenders’ panels. David Kempster, strategic marketing director of search company SearchFlow, added that the legal services reforms which will allow new entrants into the market from October will represent a ‘watershed’ for lawyers, and add to the challenges faced by conveyancing firms.last_img read more

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Misleading picture

first_img Kathryn Mortimer, head of Legal Services, DAS Group The President’s Podium gave a very misleading impression of the position regarding the question of free choice of lawyer under a legal expenses insurance policy. The right of free choice, when it arises, was introduced by the 1987 European Directive and has nothing to do with preserving ‘freedom to choose’. Of course, the mere fact that Lord Justice Jackson thinks that legal expenses insurance is a good idea will have no impact whatsoever on the availability of the cover. It is also misleading for the Law Society president to suggest that ‘cover tends to be restricted to initial advice and representation’. This is not correct – LEI deals with a very wide range of complex and expensive cases as well as more routine matters. Likewise, it would be unthinkable that a serious regulator such as the Financial Services Authority would allow any insurer to issue a policy without terms and conditions and financial limits, as this would be completely irresponsible. It is also wrong to claim that ‘current legislation provides that where an individual becomes engaged in litigation, they are entitled to a free choice of lawyer’. The applicable law (both the directive and the 1990 regulations) requires ‘free choice’ to be offered only when proceedings are commenced (most insurers also accept an ET1 in the same way) and that view is confirmed by insurers, the European Commission, the Financial Ombudsman Service and the FSA alike. The Eschig case has no impact on already compliant insurers and the letter to which Linda Lee alludes (sent by the FSA) was subsequently amended to reflect this. Ms Lee’s complaints about referral fees are something of a side issue, but if the Law Society really object to them, why did they permit them in the first place? The truth is that the biggest threat to access to justice comes not from LEI insurers who handle hundreds of thousands of successful cases every year, but from those solicitors who try to overcharge at the expense of insurers and therefore policyholders. If a free choice ‘utopia’ became a reality, the cover that millions currently have would simply become unaffordable and access to justice would plummet. Finally, the FOS statistics Ms Lee quoted are years out of date; the fact is that of all insurance complaints received in the year ended March 2010, less than 1% related to LEI and far fewer still were upheld.last_img read more

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Divorce

first_img AR v AR (ancillary relief: inheritance): Fam Div (Mr Justice Moylan): 11 August 2011 The husband was aged 66 and the wife aged 54. They had one child who was aged 18. The husband also had three children from a previous marriage. The husband and wife met in 1981 and commenced living together in about 1984. They married in 1990. Throughout their relationship, the husband and wife lived in a house at T Farm, a property built by the husband in the late 1970s. In late 2009, the husband and wife separated and the wife commenced divorce proceedings. The wife left the former matrimonial home and moved into a property purchased for her by the husband. In October 2010, decree nisi was pronounced. The husband’s current resources consisted of: (a) T Farm, a property transferred to the husband by his father in 1976 and added to by the husband with the purchase of additional land on various dates since then; (b) land at K purchased by the husband in about 1969; (c) P Farm purchased by the husband in 1993/94 using the proceeds of shares inherited from or given to the husband by his father; (d) a 25% interest in a family property company inherited by the husband on the death of his father in 1992; (e) a share portfolio purchased with inherited gifted assets, originally shares in the company created by the husband’s father; (f) some other more modest investments. The total wealth was in the region £21m to £24m, of which all but approximately £1m was in the husband’s name. The wife’s current resources all originated from the husband. The court heard the wife’s application for ancillary relief. The case raised the issue of the manner in which the court ought to exercise its discretionary jurisdiction when determining an application by a wife when most of the wealth consisted of or reflected resources received by the husband by way of gift and inheritance. The specific issues that fell to be determined were: (i) what constituted a fair and just assessment of the wife’s long-term needs, in respect of both housing and income, for the purposes of determining the award; (ii) whether the sharing principle had any application in the circumstances of the case; and (iii) the manner in which the principle of need ought to be applied in the instant case to achieve a fair and just award which gave proper weight to all the factors under section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. The husband contended that the wife should be provided with resources equal to her housing and income needs, the latter calculated by application of the Duxbury tables. In determining the issues, consideration was given to Dharamshi v Dharamshi [2000] All ER (D) 2121. The court held: (1) In assessing a spouse’s income needs, in particular for the purposes of determining what income fund would be awarded, the analysis was a broad one. The court’s task when addressing that factor was not to arrive at a mathematically exact calculation of what constituted an applicant’s future income needs. It was to determine the notional annual income which, in the circumstances of the case, it would be fair for the spouse to receive (see [70] of the judgment). On the evidence, a reasonable annual income need for the wife was £115,000. That would meet her regular annual income needs, but did not encompass discretionary expenditure, being individual items not included as part of her regular expenditure. In the circumstances, the wife was entitled to be provided with housing of an equivalent standard to that provided by the former matrimonial home. The average of the valuations of the former matrimonial home, provided a good guide to the likely cost of housing of an equivalent standard to the former matrimonial home in a similar area. To that had to be added the costs of purchase and the costs of furnishing such a property, giving a total capital need of £1.1m (see [66], [69] of the judgment). (2) In the instant case, it was clear that the bulk of the wealth was accurately described as non-matrimonial, in other words it was not the product of the parties’ endeavours during the marriage. The form of the wealth had in some respects changed, in particular following the realisation by the husband of his interests in the family company. The former matrimonial home had been lived in and the family had clearly, in part, used the invested income generated from the husband’s inherited wealth. Nothing had happened to the bulk of the wealth which had changed it into matrimonial property or diminished the weight to be attached to it as a factor in the instant case. The principle that best guided the court in its exercise of discretion under section 25 was that of need. The sharing principle did not justify any additional or enhanced award. The bulk of the wealth was easily identifiable as non-matrimonial and there were no factors present which substantially undermined the weight to be attributed to that factor, or which merited the wife receiving a greater share of the wealth than that which she would receive by application of the principle of need. The principal matters relied upon by the wife, namely, the length of the marriage, the wife’s contributions and the standard of living, were all factors which could be given appropriate and sufficient weight within the principle of need (see [81] of the judgment). (3) When justified by the circumstances of the case, a flexible application of Duxbury in the manner, for example, identified in Dharamshi, would better achieve justice with sufficient predictability than the narrow approach which the husband appeared to be advocating (see [96] of the judgment). In the instant case, an award based on the application of the principle of need was fair if the award sufficiently reflected the fact that Duxbury was a guide and also, importantly, that the wife was entitled to be able to incur additional expenditure. In order to give proper weight to all of the section 25 factors, the wife ought to have a measure of financial security above that which would be offered by a simple Duxbury calculation in respect of her income needs. An award of £3.3m represented a fair award under section 25 and one which represented a just application of the principle of need (see [98], [100]-[101] of the judgment). The wife would be awarded £3.3m (see [101] of the judgment). Financial provision – Application – Husband and wife divorcing after 25-year relationshipcenter_img Deborah Bangay QC and Nicola Saxton for the wife; Lucy Stone QC and Mr Isaacs for the husband.last_img read more

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No referral exemption for charities, Lords rule

first_imgThe House of Lords has blocked attempts to exempt charities and trade unions from the referral fee ban. The house was debating proposed amendments to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders bill. Labour peer Lord Beecham told the house there was a ‘world of difference’ between referral fees boosting profits for claims management companies and those providing funds for not-for-profit groups. He agreed with the government’s proposed ban on referral fees for personal injury claims when applied to commercial organisations. Beecham argued charities and trade unions rely on fees paid by solicitors and are not involved in the negative aspects the bill sought to address. But the government comfortably defeated the amendment by 257 votes to 173. Baroness Deech, chair of the Bar Standards Board, described payments by solicitors as the ‘evil of referral fees’. She argued the practice pushed up costs, encouraged poor service and deprived the consumer of choice. She told the house that ‘even where worthwhile charities are concerned, the bad nature of referral fees spreads throughout the system’. Labour also suffered defeat during day five of the report stage when an amendment to make referral fee payment a criminal offence was not moved. The government has said it intends to police the ban through regulators like the Financial Services Authority and Solicitors Regulation Authority. Speaking at the Claims Management Conference in Manchester today, Law Abroad chairman Kerry Underwood said the government’s stance may change if solicitors flout the rules. ‘90% of law firms have never paid a referral fee of any kind so don’t expect any sympathy if you breach the ban,’ he said. ‘If you think it’s clever to find a way of getting round the ban you’re in for a nasty shock. There will be an amendment to the act and you will end up in prison.’ The LASPO bill has its third reading in the House of Lords on 27 March before moving back to the Commons on 17 April.last_img read more

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