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

August 2013 Archives

Home Secretary Theresa May holds that the police must improve their handling of domestic violence cases, reports the BBC.

Noting the current discrepancies in the handling of domestic violence cases by the police, the Home Secretary has called for a number of improvements to be made to protect vulnerable individuals.

Approaching Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, Theresa May has begun to discuss a new approach and improved training strategies for officers responding to domestic abuse cases. It is her opinion that higher standards ought to be sought after in order to reduce the risk to current victims. However, Mrs May will not be requesting a public inquiry into the issue because it would be too long a process.

Pakistan officials have called for the retrial of Bin Laden's doctor, overturning his original sentence, reports the BBC.

Doctor to the late Osama Bin Laden, Shakil Afridi was recruited by the CIA to provide information regarding the terrorist and his whereabouts in the build up to Bin Laden's assassination.

Convicted under local tribal law for treason, Mr Afridi was sentenced in May 2012 to 33 years in jail. He has been serving his time at Peshawar Central Jail and will be continued to be held there in the lead up to his retrial despite the original sentence being quashed.

Following a legal challenge to his hospital's enforced no-smoking policy, a mental health patient won his case in court, reported the BBC.

The State Hospital at Carstairs in Scotland enforced a smoking ban on its patients, prohibiting anyone from smoking either in the building itself or anywhere in its grounds. This ban prevented patients from smoking at all given that they remained in the hospital grounds 24 hours a day.

When the ban came into effect in December 2011, mental health patient Charles McCann challenged it immediately. He brought his case before court and has been successful in pleading his argument based on his fundamental human rights.

As Government put forward their plans to intervene in Syria to the United Nations Security Council, questions over the legality of such actions are beginning to arise, reports the BBC.

Given the difficulty in determining the legality of military intervention with regard to international law, it is generally agreed that countries seeking such action must refer to the UN Security Council to ultimately authorise it.

Despite the lack of an international court to determine outright whether certain military intervention is legal, there is a framework to refer to: the Responsibility to Protect, which endorses military force when such action is based upon humanitarian principles.

A US court has ruled in favour of Facebook users once again in another privacy breach by the site, reports The Independent.

The case, first brought to action in 2011, related to the 'sponsored stories' element of the Facebook site. It occurred that users who 'liked' a particular brand could potentially then have their data used by the company in advertisements on the social networking platform.

Data used by companies appear to have been users' names and photographs. Users did not give their permission for these companies to handle their personal information or pictures.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve has approached the Court of Appeal to review the seemingly lenient sentence of a convicted sex offender, reports the BBC.

Sentenced to just twelve months imprisonment, 41-year-old sex offender Neil Wilson has seemingly been given a lenient sentence, in the view of the Attorney General's office. Dominic Grieve has therefore used his powers to refer the case to the Court of Appeal.

It is the wish of Dominic Grieve that the 'unduly lenient' sentence of the man be reviewed. Despite admitting to the crimes of sexual activity with a minor, creating indecent images of a minor and possessing extreme images of abuse, Mr Wilson has escaped the maximum sentence of 14 years for such offences with a mere twelve months.

Fraud: Conwoman steals from client to fund lavish lifestyle

A 41-year-old woman pilfered £17,500 from a client's account in order to live the lifestyle she had always dreamed of, reports the Daily Mail.

Working as an accountant for 16 hours a week, the defendant, Sarah Coles, abused her position to transfer money from a client into her personal account. The fraudster had been earning a salary of £10,400 a year, which disappointed her. Dreaming of living a millionaire's lifestyle, Mrs Coles sought instant gratification through theft.

Upon transferring £17,500 into her account, Mrs Coles rented a luxurious property in Rackheath, Norwich. Although the rent was by no means extortionate at £1,750 per month, it was well beyond her family's means.

The number of women applying to have their babies in prison whilst they are serving their sentences is beyond current capacity, reports the Daily Mail.

Given the significant increase in the number of female prisoners over the years, many more pregnant women are applying to the courts to bring up their children behind bars. Each year around 260 women apply.

Since 2010, The Ministry of Justice has reported more than 710 applications from convicted expectant mothers, but just 220 have succeeded in their request not to be parted from their child when he or she is born.

An outstanding number of cases brought before court are individuals who have failed to pay their TV licence fee, reports the Daily Mail.

Official figures have shown a dramatic increase in the number of TV licence fee evasion cases coming before court. In the last year, the number of individuals prosecuted has increased by almost 30,000. There were around 3,700 prosecutions each week for the offence. This seems disproportionately high when measured against the total cases brought before a magistrate's court which totalled 193,049.

Given the sheer volume of these cases entering the courts, there has been ample criticism regarding the offence being criminal.

Banks, credit card providers and CPP insurance services have been ordered to pay compensation to victims of mis-sold CPP products, reports the BBC.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has determined that insurance products from CPP were mis-sold to millions of customers. The relevant products sold related to card protection and identity theft policies.

Victims received information on CPP's products through a number of high-street banks and credit-card providers and CPP's direct number was even printed on many credit cards.

A surprise inspection of a Surrey prison has left reviewers horrified, reports the BBC.

During an unannounced inspection of HMP Bronzefield in April this year, officials were appalled to discover the terrible conditions and treatment some female prisoners were being subjected to.

In one case, a female prisoner had been kept in isolation for over five years. Not only was she separated from other prisoners, but she did not leave her cell for any reasonable length of time on any given day and her living quarters were described as 'squalid'.

Human Rights: ECHR challenges Britain's whole-life sentences

A recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has deemed whole-life sentences 'inhumane', reports the BBC.

Following a ruling from the ECHR in July this year, Arthur Hutchinson, now 73 and convicted of three murders, is the first Briton to challenge his whole-life sentence.

The ECHR ruled that a whole-life sentence, without the possibility of parole, was 'inhumane and degrading'. This ruling followed the case of three murderers appealing to the court to have their sentences reconsidered.

Fraud: Teenager dupes travel companies out of thousands of pounds

A teenage boy used travel agents' accounts to enjoy business-class flights and luxury hotel stays around the world, reports the Daily Mail.

Deceiving his former employers, Thomson Travel, 19-year-old Reece Scobie, used company accounts and passwords to book himself onto a number of business-class flights and into luxury hotel rooms around the world. Despite only working for the company for two months, the defendant was able to continue to access the company account remotely.

It was not until the teenager was in Los Angeles that his bookings were flagged and cancelled. From there, he was forced to borrow money to purchase a return flight home.

Terrorism Act: Scotland Yard defends detention of David Miranda

Following the highly criticised detention of David Miranda at Heathrow last weekend, Scotland Yard has defended the actions of its staff stating that his detention was legally sound, reports the BBC.

The detention of David Miranda, partner of The Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, has received much press and criticism.

Miranda was detained under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 at Heathrow airport on Sunday. Officers interviewing Miranda used the maximum detention time of nine hours, as allowed under the Act. Upon his release, Miranda raised his concerns and complaints to both his partner and officials in his home country of Brazil.

In an unprecedented ruling, the Court of Protection has ordered that a man suffering from grave learning difficulties be prevented from having any more children through permanent sterilisation, reports The Telegraph.

The first in the UK to provide this ruling, the case of the man in question, referred to only as DE, has sparked much interest and debate.

Previously unheard of, the Court of Protection has ordered the man, who has been assessed to have a mental age of a child between the ages of six and nine, to have a vasectomy.

Law suits filed against Google are being opposed by the search engine giant who claims that they are not bound by UK law, reports the Daily Mail.

Following a colossal law suit in America over Google's hacking of security settings on Apple web browser, Safari, more than one hundred British Apple customers are now approaching courts to take action against the company.

Google was found to have evaded Safari's security settings in order to track users' browsing history and sell this information on to third parties, it has been revealed. When this practice was discovered in America, it was immediately shut down. Furthermore, the company was forced to pay £14.4 million in fines to regulators.

The wife and son of a Sussex pensioner have been arrested following accusations regarding their motives at assisting the gentleman in ending his life at Dignitas, reports the BBC.

A lady, aged 65 and her son, aged 25, are accused of encouraging her husband, his father, to take his own life at the Dignitas centre in Switzerland. The issues surrounding this particular case relate to the questionable motives behind the act.

The 71-year-old gentleman's ability to make this decision himself is being investigated after concerns over his potential suffering from dementia have been raised.

Corruption: Trial date for Bo Xilai has been set

A court date for the trial of ex-Communist leader, Bo Xilai, has now been set, reports the BBC.

Former Chinese politician and communist party leader Bo Xilai was publically disgraced when his former chief of police absconded to the US consulate in February 2012.

Despite being convicted himself and currently serving a 15-year prison sentence, this man prompted an investigation into Bo Xilai's involvement in the murder of Neil Heywood, a British businessman. His wife, Gu Kailai, was found guilty of poisoning Mr Heywood and is now awaiting her public execution following sentencing.

Medical law: Current ban on NHS staff suffering from HIV has been lifted

Medical staff being treated for their HIV infection will now be able to perform procedures on patients that they have previously been prohibited from doing, reports the BBC.

In an attempt to bring medical law into the 21st century, the country's chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, has banished the current law preventing medical staff with HIV from carrying out certain procedures.

She cited the relevance of the laws being created in the 1980s, long before the advances of modern science and increasingly effective treatment had come into play.

Taiwan has revised its law governing the power of its military to punish its own workforce, reports the BBC.

Following countless cases reporting gross misconduct by the military towards their own staff, Taiwan has taken the monumental decision to remove their power.

The military will no longer be able to prosecute and determine their own penalties for their staff or carry out these punishments within their own detention centres.

Legal review: Jail terms for worthy criminals only

Legal expert, Professor Andrew Ashworth, has called for a reform of prison sentencing, advising that thieves should not take up valuable beds in jail, reports the BBC.

Although his time advising the judiciary on sentencing is over, Professor Ashworth is still intent on making his opinions on the country's legal system known.

Reviewing the offences of theft and fraud, he observed that punishments of fines or community service would be more appropriate and more beneficial than prison sentences. This judgement is based on both rehabilitation and financials.

A rise in the number of mentally ill patients who are detained has prompted a review of the current administration system, reports the BBC.

Despite changes to mental health laws in 2007, the number of patients who are detained has increased significantly. The reform of legislation governing the sectioning of mental health patients six years ago was passed with the intent of easing the pressure and demand on psychiatric units. This was made possible by the establishment of Community Treatment Orders which allow those who are capable to receive outpatient treatment in hospitals whilst continuing to live in their local communities as an alternative to being detained.

Last year, the number of patients being held in psychiatric units had risen to 44,894. Concern has arisen as to whether the safeguards that were put in place to protect patients who lacked capacity were being rightly observed given this increase.

New careless driving offences will come into force on Friday threatening on-the-spot fines and licence penalty points, reports the Daily Mail.

Government has reassessed driving offences and improved current legislation to include new careless driving offences.

Under this new law, drivers could be fined and given three points on their licence for remaining in the middle or outside lanes of a motorway and for tailgating other drivers. This change reflects and supports the Highway Code which clearly states that the middle and outside lanes are for overtaking only.

Two British women, Melissa Reid and Michaella McCollum Connolly, caught attempting to smuggle cocaine out of Peru have provided an informal confession and face three years imprisonment before their trial even begins, reports The Independent.

Arrested earlier this week, Melissa and Michaella are accused of attempting to smuggle six kilograms of cocaine out of Peru on a flight bound for Madrid. It is believed that from there they intended to take an internal flight to their final destination, Majorca. The street value of this exceptionally large quantity of cocaine is thought to be in the region of £1.5 million.

Recently released video footage, showing the two women moments before their arrest, show Melissa Reid stating that she was forced to take the bags on the flight and that she was not aware that they contained illegal drugs.

Leeds County Council has revoked several licences following a large number of complaints about the city's taxi drivers, reports the BBC.

Fourteen taxi drivers in Leeds have had their licences revoked following a record number of complaints. Since the beginning of this year, there have been some 225 complaints made about taxi drivers in the city regarding their 'driving standards and inappropriate behaviour'.

Every council has the power to revoke a taxi driver's licence with immediate effect if there is concern for passenger safety, thanks to Section 52 of the Road Safety Act 2006.

A new code of practice regarding the use of CCTV and number plate cameras has come into effect with the aim of protecting members of the public from being 'spied' upon, reports the BBC.

Concerned about the potential for misuse of public cameras, the Home Office has established a new code of practice to guard against such cases and to offer further protection to the individual's right to a private life. This code has been added to the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

Along with the Act's institution of the position of a surveillance camera commissioner, the Home Office believes these new measures will go far in further protecting individual rights.

Campaigners for gay rights are protesting the winter games taking place in Russia following an anti-gay law that came into effect in June, reports the BBC.

Despite Russia decriminalising homosexuality 20 years ago, the country has passed a law, which many would view as prejudiced, to penalise anyone who issues information regarding homosexuality to those under the age of 18.

In objection to the introduction of this law, gay rights campaigners seek to move the winter games to a more liberal country.

The much-disputed UK-US extradition order has been called into question following America's attempt to extradite two men involved in the 'London Whale' bankers case, reports The Telegraph.

Britain's previous Labour Government signed an extradition agreement between Britain and the US in the form of the Extradition Act 2003. This treaty came into force in 2007 following US endorsement.

The agreement allows America to extradite suspects even when there is no criminal investigation into the individuals in question taking place in the UK.

Criminal: Mafia boss wanted for 20 years finally found

Fugitive Mafia boss, Domenico Rancadore, has been a wanted man for more than 20 years and is now under arrest, though his arrest warrant may be questioned for its enforceability, reports the BBC.

Wanted in Italy for crimes related to his involvement with the Mafia, Domenico Rancadore, has resided in England for the past 20 years. Finally found and arrested at his home in Uxbridge, the defendant has been remanded in custody whilst he awaits a court hearing to decide upon bail.

Known in his home country to be head of a criminal family embroiled in drug, fraud and extortion-related activities, the 64-year-old fled to Britain to evade arrest.

Cyberbullying: Push to boycott irresponsible websites

Prime Minister David Cameron urges users to boycott websites which allow cyber bullying to take place without stringent monitoring, reports the BBC.

As part of the Government's crackdown on inappropriate websites, David Cameron has shown his full support for making websites take account for extreme bullying that they allow to take place under their watch.

Responding to the recent suicide of school girl Hannah Smith, who was just 14 years of age when cyberbullying pushed her to her extreme and tragic actions, the Prime Minister has pushed websites to 'clean up their act'. If those concerned do not take further action to prevent another case such as the above from happening again, David Cameron encourages a public boycotting of these websites.

Criminal law: Call for sentencing reform for irresponsible dog owners

Government has called for harsher sentencing for irresponsible dog owners, reports the Daily Mail.

With a reported 16 deaths in the past eight years as a direct result of dog mauling, ministers have called for harsher punishments for owners who are clearly not in control of their animals.

The current law imposes a maximum sentence of two years for the dog owners. There is now a push to amend this law to inflict harsher penalties.

The new law issued in Vietnam to restrict the communication about current affairs has been deemed by the US as opposing fundamental freedoms, reports the BBC.

Due to be enforced from September, Vietnam's Decree 72 prevents internet users from freely discussing their political persuasions. This is an attempt by the Vietnamese Government to exert more control over the lives of the country's inhabitants, no doubt founded upon its communist principles.

Under the decree, social media users will only be permitted to exchange personal information with one another. They will not be allowed to discuss opinions openly, as is often encouraged on these sites elsewhere.

Following a review into the standards of practice at the NHS, a significant call for change has been made, reports The Telegraph.

Prime Minister David Cameron ordered a review of the NHS following the much-publicised Stafford Hospital disgrace.

Leading the review, Professor Don Berwick found significant problems with the healthcare service that demand addressing immediately.

Human rights: Sick employee spied on by fire service employer

Anthea Orchard, a 35-year-old mother-of-two, was spied upon during her sick leave from work, reports the BBC.

Suspicious employers, the West Yorkshire Fire Service (WYFS), hired an external monitoring agency to spy upon their employee, Anthea, when she was signed off work with stress and hyperthyroidism.

Believing Anthea was using the time away from the office to work upon her personal pursuits running a balloon decorating business, the WYFS broke basic human right laws by having her watched.

Criminal law: 1973 Murder trial reopened

The 1973 murder case of 18-year-old Marian Beattie is to be reopened following a review, reports the BBC.

After 40 years since the murder took place, no one expected the investigation into the death of the teenager in Aughnacloy, County Tyrone, to be reopened.

However, following a review of the case by the Police Service of Northern Ireland's serious crime branch, a reopening was demanded in search of new leads.

The trial of more than 270 individuals who have been accused of conspiring to topple Turkey's Government should reach a verdict today, reports the BBC.

Believed to be driven by religious motivation, an uprising of so-called 'terrorists' have been charged with attempting to overthrow the Islamic AK Party Government (AKP).

Taking a strong stand against the group, the Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has demanded the harshest of punishments for 64 of the accused: life imprisonment.

The ban on the importation and sale of certain Apple products has been overturned by Obama, reports the BBC.

Despite a ruling by the International Trade Commission (ITC) regarding the infringement of intellectual property rights pertaining to the technology used in certain Apple products, President Obama has used his 60-day veto allowance to lift the importation ban.

The ITC had found Apple technology to breach a patent of its Korean arch-rival, Samsung. The patent in question relates to the ability of 3G technology to accurately deliver multiple services at the same time. With the ITC ruling in Samsung's favour, a suspension was enforced on the importation of certain Apple products and the sale of those same products by US company AT&T.

Legal advice: Regulator warns against unregulated legal advice

The Legal Ombudsman has warned that cut-price, unregulated legal advice leaves people with nowhere to go if things go wrong, reports the Metro.

The Ombudsman's report identifies more than 130,000 agencies in England and Wales, offering 'alternative' legal advice at reduced rates or sometimes free of charge.

These providers operate outside of the security of regulation, something that the Ombudsman warns make them a risky option. 

Legal aid: Offenders face losing vehicles in legal-aid clampdown

The Justice Secretary has announced plans to recover the costs of legal-aid fees by seizing vehicles owned by defendants, reports The Daily Mail.

The Government's attack on the legal-aid budget looks set to continue, as the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has announced plans to recover the cost of providing legal aid from some defendants by seizing their motor vehicles.

The Government is targeting those found guilty of a crime, who must then ordinarily pay back the cost of their legal-aid representation. 

Housing: Benefit law challenge turned down by High Court

A legal challenge to the latest changes on social housing benefit has been rejected by the High Court, reports the BBC.

The legal action was brought by a group of disabled people, against a new government law that would force them to rent out a spare room in their home to cover a reduction in social housing benefit.

The so-called 'bedroom tax' became law in April this year, as part of the Welfare Reform Act 2012. 

Discrimination: Caste law facing major delays

A new law banning caste-based discrimination in the UK looks set to face major delays, reports the BBC.

The caste-system is a major feature in countries including India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It is predominantly a feature of the Hindu faith, although versions also exist in South East Asia.

Under the caste system, society is divided according to status, family background and sometimes religious beliefs as well.