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

April 2013 Archives

Amnesty International has threatened legal action if Northern Ireland becomes the only part of the UK not to ratify legal marriage for same-sex couples, reports the BBC.

A debate on whether to legalise same-sex marriage took place at the Northern Ireland Assembly yesterday, amid protests from both pro- and anti-gay marriage groups in the province.

The motion to legalise same-sex marriage was proposed by Sinn Fein. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has indicated it may use a Petition of Concern to veto any proposed legislation. A similar motion was proposed and vetoed last October.

Barristers in Wales agreed to strike over government plans to reform criminal legal aid by asking lawyers to sign up to a new quality regulator and to put criminal legal-aid representation out to tender, reports the BBC.

The government plans were announced earlier this month, as part of the second wave of changes to the legal-aid system in England and Wales that currently costs the UK taxpayer around £2bn each year.

The first tranche of cuts saw legal aid removed from almost all divorce cases, as well as from employment law matters, personal injury claims, most medical negligence cases and some cases involving immigration, debt, housing and benefit problems.

Racism: Man fined for slur for calling Welsh 'sheep shaggers'

A man from Bolton has been fined for racially aggravated disorderly behaviour after calling security staff and an off-duty police officer 'sheep shaggers' in a drunken incident at a Welsh holiday park, reports The Daily Telegraph.

Anthony Taaffe was restrained after becoming abusive when drunk whilst on holiday near Prestatyn, Wales.

After restrained by security guards and sat on by an off-duty police officer, Mr Taaffe is said to have called out the insult.

Unlawful arrest: Former SAS officer to sue Metropolitan police

A former SAS officer is to sue the Metropolitan Police after officers investigating an information leak arrested him at gunpoint, only to drop the charges later, reports The Independent.

The SAS officer, who has retained his anonymity for legal reasons, claims he was treated 'like a terrorist' after armed police surrounded his car to arrest him whilst he was out driving with his young child.

Police were investigating allegations that an SAS officer had leaked confidential information to Sky News.

Employment law: Lords approve shares-for-rights

After a humiliating defeat in the House of Lords on Monday, the Government finally managed to pass a bill allowing changes to employment contracts that will offer employees the chance to swap employment rights for shares, reports Personnel Today.

The proposal to allow a so-called 'shares for rights' contract was first floated by the Chancellor George Osborne in his speech to the Conservative conference last autumn.

The proposal took many by surprise, not least employment law experts who immediately questioned whether allowing companies greater powers to unfairly dismiss employees was the correct direction for new government legislation.

Female Genital Mutilation: Minister says law must be enforced

A senior Home Office minister has called for the current UK laws on female genital mutilation (FGM) to be better enforced in a bid to protect women from being subjected to the horrific cultural practice, reports The London Evening Standard.

The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 is a decade old and yet ten years on the Government shamefully confesses that as of yet there have been no charges brought under its provisions.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach told Parliament this week that Government remained committed to the enforcement of the Act and called for a new campaign to convince those who engage in the practice to stop.

The drawn-out saga to deport Abu Qatada took another twist this week as the Court of Appeal refused the Government's latest attempts to send him back to Jordan, prompting newspapers to report that the Government is considering the UK's future involvement in the European Convention of Human Rights, reports The Financial Times.

The UK Government yesterday announced that it has signed a treaty with Jordan that contains assurances that prosecutions brought within the Middle Eastern state would not use evidence obtained by torture.

In an address to the House of Commons, Home Secretary Theresa May announced the signing of the agreement as the latest ploy by the Government to deport Mr Qatada, something that it has failed to do for more than a decade.

Equality: Government announces law banning 'caste' discrimination

The Government has announced that it will outlaw caste-based discrimination by amending the Equality Act 2010, reports the BBC.

The House of Lords has twice previously backed proposals to outlaw discrimination against over 400,000 'untouchables' of Hindu and Sikh faith that live in the UK.

The House of Commons previously overturned the Lord's vote and the Government had vowed to oppose any further move to protect the untouchables again. However, on Monday the coalition said that after careful consideration they had decided to back the policy.

Irish Health Minister James Reilly has spoken out to deny that new abortion laws will include plans for suicidal women to find six separate medical opinions before they are able to have a legal abortion, reports the BBC.

At present Irish law forbids abortion in almost all circumstances, apart from when there is a risk to the life of the mother, excluding situations where the mother's health is at risk.

A Supreme Court ruling in the case of 'X' in Ireland in 1992 decided that only a risk to the life of a mother was sufficient to warrant an abortion.

The disgraced former cabinet minister was jailed last month after pleading guilty to perverting the course of justice after lying about who was driving his car when caught speeding in 2003, reports the BBC.

It is thought Mr Huhne, who is currently serving an eight-month sentence in prison for the offence, could now be hit with a bill for more than £100,000 from the Crown Prosecution Service for the work they had carried out prior to him changing his plea to guilty.

Mr Huhne was jailed in March alongside his former wife, Vicky Pryce, who blew the whistle on their joint scheme for him to evade a driving ban. She had attempted to use the defence of marital coercion to avoid punishment for her involvement in the scam, but was convicted of perverting the course of justice by a jury, having pleaded not guilty to the charge.

A British grandmother who stands accused of attempting to smuggle drugs into Bali, Indonesia, has been denied government funding to fight her case, reports the BBC.

Police in Bali arrested Mrs Sandiford, from Cheltenham, in May last year whilst smuggling 4.8kgs of cocaine on a flight from Thailand.

She is facing the death penalty by firing squad for her involvement in the affair, although she is claiming she acted at the behest of a drug smuggling gang.

A newborn lamb rescued from a river in Aberdeenshire has become the subject of a legal battle, after a farmer stepped forward to claim the 'pedigree' animal from the sanctuary that has looked after him, reports the BBC.

The lamb, now called River by the Willows Animal Sanctuary where he has been looked after, was found drowning by local schoolgirl Kirstie Finnie in a tributary of the River Dee near Banchory. Ms Finnie, 15, had then contacted Willows to ask if they could take care of the animal.

The sanctuary has looked after him ever since and has used him as part of an assisted therapy scheme for vulnerable adults, who they say have since formed a powerful bond with the animal.

The UK has angered its European counterparts by instigating a legal challenge against a new tax on financial transactions, despite the fact that UK transa ctions are exempt, reports The Daily Telegraph.

The UK Government has launched legal action against the European Commission at the European Court of Justice in protest of a proposed Financial Transaction Tax that has been agreed by 11 EU nations, including Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

The UK has negotiated a position outside of the Financial Transaction Tax. However, the rules will mean that any trade in financial instruments denominated in Euros, or any trade involving a bank from within the 11 signatory nations, will be subject to the tax, meaning that some transactions in London and elsewhere around the world will be affected.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has signaled that he would support any move to change the law to allow opposite-sex couples the right to have a civil partnership instead of a marriage, reports The Daily Telegraph.

The new Archbishop, Justin Welby, made the comment in a meeting with gay-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell at his Lambeth Palace home, in what is considered the first ever meeting between the head of a major world religion and a prominent gay rights campaigner.

The Archbishop accepts that the issue of gay marriage is one that the Church must engage with, and said afterwards that he wanted an open 'dialogue' with gay and lesbian groups.

A report into the practices of businesses on the Channel Island of Jersey has revealed that many are flouting employment law, reports the BBC.

Darren Newman, an employment law expert based on the island, conducted a review of the Jersey Employment Tribunal after it was criticised by employers.

His review concludes that the tribunal process is fair and consistent, but found that many small businesses either ignore completely or struggle with basic principles of employment law, leading to needless litigation and costs.

Britain could see the creation of a new law to create an area where drug addicts can take heroin and crack cocaine without fear of arrest, reports The Independent.

The paper reports that the so-called 'shooting galleries' could be open in the UK within the year, after a proposal from Tony Blair's former Head of Drug Policy Mike Trace and the crime novelist Peter James who sit on an independent commission; the Global Commission on Drug Policies.

The commission published a new report last week, calling for the UK to adopt 'consumption rooms' where addicts can take drugs without fear of arrest. The idea behind the rooms is to create areas where addicts feel safe and to remove drug-taking from the streets and public areas.

Defamation: Reformers pleased as Government supports key bill

Those who want to see libel law reformed in the UK were left in a buoyant mood yesterday after the Government performed a U-turn and ended up supporting House of Lords proposals to prevent companies from suing individuals unless they can show that defamatory comments caused them genuine financial harm, reports The Independent.

The Government had announced on Monday that it would vote against House of Lords proposals to prevent big companies opposing critics by threatening dissent with costly litigation.

However, yesterday Justice Minister Helen Grant indicated that the Government has had a change of heart and is now considering supporting the idea so that it becomes law.

Internet search giant Google is being sued in the UK High Court by rival Streetmap, who claim that their company profile is being damaged because Google's search algorithm preferentially places its own Google Maps ahead of other services, reports Bloomberg.

Streetmap, a UK-based provider of maps for the internet, filed a complaint in the High Court in mid-March this year, contending that Google's search algorithm made its services harder to find.

The news makes Streetmap the second major company to file a lawsuit on similar grounds recently, after UK-based shopping site Foundem launched an action last June.

Property law: Letting agents may be banned under new law

Rogue letting agents are to be regulated under new legal protections provided by a compulsory regulator announced by MPs yesterday, reports The London Evening Standard.

The Government has announced that all letting agents will be forced by law to join a new government-approved ombudsman.

The new law is designed to protect thousands of people who let their properties each year.

Badgers: Cruelty prosecutions double in five years

The number of people prosecuted under the Protection of Badgers Act has doubled in the past five years, although campaign groups say the rise in prosecutions masks an RSPCA campaign to use the law to target hunting, reports The Daily Telegraph.

A parliamentary question has revealed that the number of prosecutions brought under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 has doubled from 30 people in 2007 to 58 in 2011.

However, the Countryside Alliance says that the rise in prosecutions is being driven by a campaign from the RSPCA to target hunting.

Francoise Schein, the artist who created the £5.5m Millennium Clock in Coventry has threatened the council with legal action after it removed the clock for repairs without consulting her and then failed to complete the work, reports the BBC.

The city council removed the clock from Millennium Place last April, placing the clock into storage with the intention of having it restored. They insist the project is on track, but say local construction work has delayed the restoration.

However, the artist has spoken out to say she is contemplating legal action and is disappointed that the council has failed to consult her over their plans.

Employment law: Apprentice winner loses case against Lord Sugar

Stella English, the winner of series six of the BBC television programme, The Apprentice, has lost her claim at employment tribunal against her employer Lord Sugar, reports The Telegraph.

Ms English, 34, sued the Labour peer for constructive dismissal after leaving her £100,000-a-year job that she landed after winning the UK version of The Apprentice.

The highly publicised case concluded a few weeks ago, but in a verdict delivered last Friday, a panel of three employment judges concluded that the claim should never have been brought and that Ms English was ill advised in pursuing the case.

The European Court of Human Rights has courted controversy by awarding a convicted child rapist damages for unlawful deprivation of liberty, reports Sky News.

Mustafa Abdi, from Somalia, arrived in the country in 1995 claiming asylum but his application was refused. He subsequently raped and indecently assaulted a child here in the UK and was sentenced in 1998 to eight years in prison.

The then Home Secretary David Blunkett attempted on several occasions to deport Mr Abdi, failing every time. It is thought he has received tens of thousands of pounds in legal aid to fight his deportation.

A Belfast man wrongly accused of involvement in an IRA kidnapping of a British informer has launched a legal challenge in the High Court to win compensation, reports The Belfast Telegraph.

A total of eight men were arrested over the kidnapping of Special Branch agent Alexander 'Sandy' Lynch in 1990. However, later the convictions of all eight men were quashed, leading to claims for compensation.

Many of those wrongly accused will be offered compensation for their wrongful conviction and detention; however, James O'Carroll, who was sentenced to ten years in prison for his involvement, has been denied compensation due to laws that place a two-year time limit on seeking compensation in such cases.

The inquest into the death of a 31-year-old dentist in Galway last year from obstetric complications has heard that a midwife has apologised for her explanation of why an abortion was not possible, reports Sky News.

Savita Halappanavar had come to University Hospital Galway in October of last year complaining of abdominal pain, 17 weeks into her pregnancy.

Despite being in considerable pain, and requesting a termination, she was denied what could have been life-saving treatment because Ireland's abortion laws do not permit the early delivery of a foetus with a heartbeat when there was no obvious risk to the mother's life.

The Church of England has ruled out offering public blessings to same-sex couples, despite changes to the law to legalise gay marriage, reports the BBC.

The Church secured a 'quadruple lock' from legislators after coming out against sanctioning same-sex marriage. The law will not recognise a marriage conducted by a local priest, and the Equality Act has been amended so that discrimination claims are not possible.

The Government voted to legalise same-sex marriage in a historic vote earlier in 2013.

Dangerous dogs: Law changed after death of teenager Jade Anderson

The owners of dogs who attack people on private property may face jail after new changes to the law unveiled in the wake of the death of Jade Anderson, killed by a friend's dogs two weeks ago, reports The Evening Standard.

Jade Lomas-Anderson, 14, died after being left alone in a friend's property with four animals, two bull mastiffs and two Staffordshire terriers. It is thought the dogs went for her after she entered the room with a meat pie.

The dogs belonged to friend, Beverley Concannon, who was described as a 'heartless monster' by Jade's family, after failing to apologise for what had happened.

The Government is facing a legal challenge to its controversial change to the law on disability benefits, after a group of disabled people declared that the consultation on the changes to the rules was unlawful, reports The Independent.

Three activists have sought permission to seek a judicial review of the Government's decision to replace the Disability Living Allowance with the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) that came into force this week.

The three claim that although the Government consulted properly on their initial proposals, the version of the policy that finally came into force was far more stringent, and was therefore significantly different from that proposed in the initial consultation.

The controversial former government chief adviser on drugs policy, Professor David Nutt, has told the Government that it should allow 'legal highs', drugs that affect the brain but are outside current drug law control, to be sold by pharmacists, so that doctors know whi ch drugs have been taken in overdose cases, reports The Daily Telegraph.

Professor Nutt was sacked from his role as chief adviser to the Government in 2009, after he claimed publically that alcohol and tobacco were more dangerous substances than the hallucinogenic LSD.

Since then he has become well known for advocating the relaxation of laws on various drugs, in a bid to make taking drugs safer and less desirable by removing the criminal elements that controls production and supply.

Two British citizens accused of drug offences in Dubai have been denied a visit by the charity Reprieve, who were hoping to meet with them to discuss their legal cases, reports the BBC.

Reprieve hoped to visit three Britons jailed in Dubai on drug charges last August. However, authorities in Dubai only allowed them to visit the third defendant, Suneet Jeerh, refusing them access to Grant Cameron and Karl Williams who were also arrested on the same charges.

All three men deny the charges levied against them and have claimed that the police have tortured them using electric shocks and beatings, although this account of events is being challenged.

Legal aid: Grayling announces further legal-aid cuts

The Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has announced that migrants will have to wait one year before qualifying for legal aid for qualifying civil claims, reports The Daily Telegraph.

The move comes in a week when the justice secretary is expected to announce the next tranche of cuts to legal aid that are designed to trim a further £300m from the annual legal-aid budget.

This month the last round of controversial cuts came into force, which should reduce the legal-aid budget from over £2bn per year, to around £1.7bn. The latest cuts announced by the justice secretary this weekend should see that figure drop even further, to around £1.4bn.

The Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has announced that legal-aid funding could be axed for prisoners seeking to bring legal complaints against the prison system, in a bid to save a further £4m from the legal-aid budget, reports the BBC.

In a week which controversial and drastic legal-aid changes have come into force, the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has courted further controversy by suggesting that legal aid could be withdrawn in prisoner complaint cases.

Grayling described such cases as 'unnecessary' and said that proper representation for complaint cases could be provided within the prison service.

Several leading MPs have called on the Government to stand firm in opposition to a controversial new financial 'transaction tax' being levied by Europe, which they believe could seriously harm the competitiveness of EU financial markets globally and will have a negative impact on the City of London, reports Reuters.

The so-called EU Financial Transaction Tax (EU-FTT) is being levied by the European Union, although the controversial policy only has support from 11 nations.

The idea was first floated in September 2011 as a way of recovering money lent to financial institutions around Europe during the credit crunch and the subsequent Eurozone crisis.

Figures released by the Office of National Statistics show that the number of workers labouring with no guarantee of hours or pay on so-called 'zero-hours contracts' has reached a record-breaking 200,000, reports The Daily Telegraph.

Zero-hours contracts are used by almost 25% of employers in Britain, allowing them to employ staff without offering a fixed number of hours. This gives them the flexibility to keep staff on their books without the risk of paying wages that they cannot afford.

Zero-hours contracts also benefit employees, who are free to turn work down and to work for a number of different employers to maximize the amount they can earn per hour.

Premier League footballer Carlos Tevez received 250 hours in community service after admitting driving without insurance and whilst disqualified, at Macclesfield Magistrates Court, reports The Daily Mail.

The Argentinian, who plays for reigning Premier League champions Manchester City, had faced up to six months in jail after admitting the serious offence of driving whilst disqualified.

The incident occurred last month when Tevez's distinctive white Porsche Cayenne was spotted at a local golf club and police received an anonymous tip-off. On their arrival Tevez pleaded with the officers that he lived just a short distance away.

Six European countries have launched a process to investigate Google with a view to issuing penalties consistent with their national laws, after it failed to make any changes to its privacy policies, reports Reuters.

Google consolidated more than 60 privacy policies into a single policy last year, to combine data collected about individual users of websites including Google search, Google+, YouTube and Gmail.

At the time 29 data protection agencies in Europe launched a joint enquiry, led by CNIL of France. The group enquiry concluded in October that Google's new policy presented individuals with a 'high risk' of their privacy being breached, and invited Google to make changes to the policy by February.

Policewoman Kelly Jones looks set to continue her legal action against the owner of a petrol filling station after injuring her leg and wrist in a fall on the premises whilst investigating a suspected burglary, reports The Independent.

PC Jones was on the premises at the Nuns' Bridges Filling Station after the burglar alarm sounded when she tripped on a kerb and fell. She was taken to West Suffolk Hospital and was treated for injuries that resulted in time off work.

The policewoman took legal advice and, seven months after the incident, instructed lawyers to seek compensation from the owner of the garage for failing to take appropriate steps to ensure that she was safe whilst on his property.

The former wife of jailed ex-cabinet minister Chris Huhne unsuccessfully used the defence of marital coercion in her trial for perverting the course of justice.

She found herself in jail after a jury rejected the defence and it now it looks likely that the defence may be scrapped, reports the BBC.

The case of Vicky Pryce and ex-husband Chris Huhne made the headlines for lots of reasons; the political prominence of the ex-cabinet minister Huhne, the jury that failed to reach a verdict and had to replaced, and the shock as both Huhne and his wife were sentenced to eight months in jail.