The Solicitor - The FindLaw UK Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

Legal aid: Magistrates resigning in court charges protest

Magistrates have started resign for their positions in protests against court charges that have people pleading guilty just to avoid the costs.

In April 2015 the government introduced a Criminal Court Charge system intended to have the courts supported by adult offenders who use them. The charge is incurred whenever an adult offender is convicted of a crime and can range from £150 to £1,2000 depending on the case.

Magistrates, however, are resigning in protest to this charge as the burden in places on those that use the courts is causing people to plead guilty for crimes they did not commit as they cannot afford to be found guilty if their case goes to court. The Criminal Court Charge, along with other fees an offender has to pay including the victim surcharge and a prosecution costs, can turn into a crippling debt for many.

Immigration Law: Home Office to review Ai Weiwei visa rejection

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, has announced she will review the decision to reject Chinese artist Ai Weiwei's application for six-month work visa.

Ai Weiwei had his passport taken from him in 2011 and placed in detention for 81 days by the Chinese government for "economic crimes". Ai was also ordered to pay a $2.4m fine that the government claimed was for unpaid taxes. Many of Ai's supporters consider the detention period and the fine retribution for Weiwei's outspoken criticism of the Chinese communist party.

However, Ai Weiwei's passport was returned to him last week and, on Thursday, he travelled from Beijing to Germany on a Schengen visa, which allows him to enter 26 European countries but not the UK.

Government proposals to take away benefits from people with drug addictions or obesity issues whom then refuse to seek treatment has been criticised by the British Psychological Society.

The Society has argued the new proposals may violate medical ethics and is unlikely to have a positive effect on people's lives.

Official statistics suggest there are approximately 280,000 people on benefits suffering from addiction to opiates and 170,000 suffering from alcoholism. With regard to obesity, 7,440 disability benefit claims suffered from obesity as their main condition.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has issued internet porn sites with a final ultimatum to block access to under-18s or face sanctions to close their sites down, The Telegraph reports.

Under new plans drawn up by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, porn sites that do not voluntarily implement age verification checks before granting access to explicit content on their site will face criminal penalties.

The government's legislative approach would make it a criminal offence for internet companies to publish pornography in the UK without a robust system in place to verify that users are over the age of 18.

The postal regulator, Ofcom, has accused Royal Mail of breaching competition law by proposing raised wholesale prices for bulk mail delivery customers to deter competition, the BBC reports.

The communications regulator, Ofcom, has said that Royal Mail breached competition law by proposing wholesale price increases, which would make it more costly for rival bulk mail delivery firms to function.

In January last year, Royal Mail set out the latest price hikes for bulk mail delivery services, which involves bulk mail being collected by other postal companies from businesses and passed to Royal Mail for sorting and delivery.

The Lord Chancellor has lost his appeal on the High court decision that the detained fast-track (DTF) appeals system is unfair to asylum seekers.

The DTF system is intended to process asylum applications quickly for those who are being detained, and if an applicant is not successful in being granted asylum they have the opportunity to appeal.

However, the charity Detention Action regarded the appeals process of the DTF system ot be unfair and brought a case against Home Office.

The Supreme Court has ruled that holding prisoners for long periods of time in solitary confinement is unlawful if not specifically sanctioned by an external official.

The case was brought to the Supreme Court by imates Kamel Bourgass and Tanvir Hussain. Bourgass is a prison inmate currently serving a life sentence at HMP Whitemoor; while Hussain is serving a life sentence in HMP Frankland.

Both men claimed they were kept in solitary confinement well beyond the 72-hour limit found in rule 45 of the Prison Rules 1999. Bourgass was placed in solitary confinement for seven months in 2010 after an assault occurred on another inmate whom had previously assaulted Bourgass; and Hussain was confined for six months in 2010 "following an incident in which another prisoner was seriously injured".

The Court of Appeal has ruled that not allowing prisoners access to legal aid support could be illegal.

The ruling comes after two charities, the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prisoners' Advice Service appealed to the court after the High Court dismissed their initial legal challenge over the legal aid cuts to prisoners the government had imposed in 2013.

Previously, the High court decided in 2014 that while the legal aid cuts could be seen as unfair and not cost-effective but ultimately the issues were political rather than legal in nature.

The Court of Appeal has denied a mother's final wishes to give all her estate to animal charities in favour of awarding her only child a portion of her mother's estate to prevent her experiencing a life of poverty, The Guardian reports.

Following a 10-year legal battle, the Court of Appeal has awarded a daughter who was cut out of her mother's will a share of her mother's estate.

In a landmark decision, appeal court judges rejected Melita Jackson's original will, which involved leaving the entirety of her £500,000 estate to three animal charities, and awarded her daughter, Heather Ilot, £164,000.

International: Gaddafi's son sentenced to death

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, has been sentenced to death in absentia for war crimes committed against peaceful protesters during the country's 2011 revolution.

Saif's trial began in April 2014 after being captured in 2011 while attempting to flee Libya. Saif was taken to Zintan, a city in the north-west of the country which is now under control of a militia that does not recognise the government based in Tripoli, where he currently remains.

Due to Saif being held in Zintan, the judgement was passed in absentia. Saif's sentence can be appealed and so far it has yet to be confirmed by Libya's high court.

Policing: police may not attend burglaries

The head of the National Police Chiefs' Council, Sara Thornton, has said that due to cuts in the police budget police may not be able to attend all reports of burglary in person.

Thornton, speaking with the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire, said that the police were having to prioritise the cases they could attend in person as cuts the the budget and the changing nature of criminality has left the police lacking in resources.

Thornton went on to explain the situation.

Information obtained from a Freedom of Information Act request has shown that 609 people have had their driving licences revoked since the introduction of new powers authorising the police to suspend a driving licence following a failed roadside eye test, The Guardian reports.

New powers under 'Cassie's Law' have seen the number of people who have had their driving licence suspended exceed 600.

Information released under a Freedom of Information Act request reveals that, since the introduction of Cassie's Law in 2013, which allows the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) to revoke licences more quickly, the DVLA has revoked 609 licences.

Legal aid: Barristers go ahead with strike

Criminal law barristers across the England have gone on strike, starting today, over the cuts to legal aid.

Some barristers had already started striking on 1 July in solidarity with criminal law solicitors and since the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) voted on 15 July to strike following the government's introduction of the 8.75% fee reduction for legal aid cases, many more have joined them.

Moves were made to head off the strike last week with a meeting between lawyers and Justice Secretary, Michael Gove. However, no agreement could be reach and, despite Gove's attempts to woo barristers, the CBA declined to attend.

Family law: UN advises Britain to make smacking children illegal

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has appealed to the UK to ban parents smacking children and promote other 'non-violent forms of discipline,' the BBC reports.

In its first review of the UK since 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) has urged Britain to implement various measures to ensure compliance with international treaties, including a ban on parents smacking children at home.

The recommendations were made by the UNHRC, which is a body of 18 international experts responsible for monitoring the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The High Court has ruled the Charity Commission will face a judicial review after the Commission decided to pressure charities into not funding Cage, an organisation that claims to be "working to empower communities impacted by the War on Terror".

Cage brought the case to the High Court after it discovered the Charity Commission has asked the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (JRCT) and the Roddick Foundation not to fund Cage again.

It is thought the Commission pressured the two charities to cut funding after Cage said Mohammed Emwazi, more commonly known as Jihadi John of the Islamic State, was likely radicalised by the British intelligence services.