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

November 2013 Archives

Plebgate: Mitchell loses bid to have libel fees paid by the Sun

The former Conservative Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell has lost his legal bid to have his lawyers' fees covered by the Sun newspaper, after suing them in the wake of the 'plebgate' scandal, reports the BBC.

Mr Mitchell is suing the Sun newspaper for their reporting of an incident that occurred in Downing Street, London, in September 2012.

The incident involved Mr Mitc hell and police officers stationed at the entrance to Downing Street. Mr Mitchell is understood to have had a row with the officers over use of his bike, which culminated in allegations being made against Mr Mitchell about language he used during the argument.

Sussex University has threatened a group of students with legal action after they occupied a university building to protest against what they see as the privatisation of services on campus, reports The Independent.

The group of students has barricaded themselves into the Bramber House building at the Sussex University campus site at Falmer, near Brighton.

The students are protesting the ongoing privatisation of services by the University of Sussex, which the students see as part of a 'trend' of marketisation in higher education.

Legal highs: Coroner to write to Home Secretary urging banning of AMT

A Salisbury coroner has said he will write to the Home Secretary Theresa May to ask her to legislate against a 'legal high' known as AMT, which caused the death of 23-year-old Christopher Scott.

Scott took two of the 'legal high' tablets known by the brand name 'AMT', whilst on a night out in Swindon, Wiltshire, last July.

AMT is a drug known as alpha-methyltriptamine, and is one of a range of substances referred to as 'legal highs' because they provide those who take them with similar effects to banned substances, but are actually not illegal and can be bought and sold in high street shops.

Badgers: Ex-Queen guitarist launches legal action against badger cull

Brian May, a former guitarist with the band Queen, has announced that his organisation 'Save Me' will fund a legal challenge against the Government's badger cull policy, reports the BBC.

The Government is conducting a national cull of the woodland animals after farmers raised fears that they were responsible for the spread of bovine TB, and a resulting large and rising loss in cattle numbers.

The cull is being administered by government agency Natural England, which is conducting trials in Gloucestershire and Somerset to test the methods of killing for humaneness and to ensure the efficacy of the scheme.

Fraud: Saatchi assistants accuse Nigella Lawson over drugs

Two former kitchen assistants of television chef Nigella Lawson have told a court that she bribed them to keep quiet about her drug habits by allowing them to use her husband Charles Saatchi's credit card, as the two assistants face trial for defrauding Saatchi out of £300,000, reports the Daily Telegraph.

The two assistants, Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, were arrested and charged with defrauding advertising mogul Saatchi out of £300,000, and are currently on trial at Islington Crown Court in London.

However, the case against the pair took an unexpected twist when they revealed that the money spent on Saatchi's credit card was in fact a bribe paid by his wife Nigella Lawson to keep their silence over her predilections for cocaine, cannabis and prescription drugs.

Personal finance: Government announces new law on payday loans

The Government has announced new legislation to cap the amount of interest that payday loan companies can charge for short-term loans, reports the BBC.

Payday loan companies have been in the media spotlight for some time, with the Government threatening to legislate against them unless the industry was able to self-regulate to stamp out bad practice.

Payday loans are short-term finance deals readily available at short notice, allowing customers to borrow against their earnings to alleviate cash flow issues.

Employment law: BBC investigation reveals problems at Amazon

A BBC investigation into employment practices at online retailer Amazon has revealed that staff working for the company face an increased risk of mental illness compared to other workers.

The investigation involved secret filming of a typical night shift by an undercover worker planted into the Amazon warehouse by the BBC.

The footage was then shown to Professor Michael Marmot, an expert in work-based stress, who concluded that the sorts of conditions that Amazon employees were expected to work under would result in higher rates of 'mental and physical illness'.

Matrimonial Survey indicates increase in self representation in court

A dramatic rise in the number of people representing themselves in court is one of the key findings from the latest Matrimonial Survey.

The survey, which canvasses the opinions of family law experts in the UK, suggests that 24% of solicitors believed that the leading issue in family law during the last year was litigant in person (somebody who is not represented by a solicitor or barrister in court).

Multi-millionaire golfer Rory McIlroy has announced the end of a long-running legal dispute with his former sponsor Oakley, reports Reuters.

McIlroy was sponsored by Oakley previously in a deal that concluded at the end of last year, shortly before McIlroy announced a lucrative $200m deal with sportswear giant Nike.

Oakley sued in California, claiming that their agreement with McIlroy entitled them to a first refusal on any potential new sponsorship deal, preempting his ability to negotiate with other companies and allowing them to match Nike's offer.

Litigation: Female RAF recruits win compensation for injuries

Three Royal Air Force recruits have won compensation from the MoD after suffering injuries relating to marching, reports the BBC.

The three women sued the Ministry of Defence after claiming that marching practice that was conducted alongside taller male colleagues had left them over-striding and had caused long-term damage to their backs.

The story, reported in the Mail on Sunday, concludes with the three being understood to have agreed a £100,000 settlement each with the MoD.

The film studio Paramount has threatened legal action against Hummingbird Productions over their proposed sequel to the 1946 film 'It's a Wonderful Life', reports the BBC.

The forthcoming film was recently announced by Hummingbird Productions, and will star Karolyn Grimes, who remarkably starred in the original film 67 years ago.

The film is a Christmas classic, telling the story of a down-and-out businessman, George Bailey, who is visited by an angel on Christmas Eve, who shows him what life would have been like if he had never existed.

Politics: Labour accuse Conservatives over Paul Flowers scandal

The Labour party has accused the Conservatives of an unjustified smear campaign after it emerged that the chairman of the Co-Operative Bank, Paul Flowers, was a serial drug taker, reports the BBC.

The Conservatives questioned how someone like Mr Flowers, who is also a Methodist Church minister, could have been allowed to take up his role in banking, when it is alleged that rumours already existed of his predilection for drugs and pornography.

Reverend Flowers was a former Labour party councillor who rose to prominence as the head of the successful Co-Operative chain of banks.

A long-running legal dispute over the rights of ownership of Bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld has been settled, meaning the famous character could return to the silver screen in future 007 films, reports the BBC.

The character, best known for having a hidden face and appearing stroking a white cat, first appeared in print in the 'Thunderball' story and was a joint creation of author Ian Fleming and Kevin McClory.

However, he was later given prominent roles in several of the Bond films, appearing in From Russia with Love, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Diamonds are Forever, For Your Eyes Only and Never Say Never Again.

Sports: Andy Murray's former adviser sues for piece of Murray fortune

A former adviser of men's singles Wimbledon champion Andy Murray is suing the tennis star and his family for a slice of commercial and sponsorship deals that he claims was promised to him many years ago, reports the Daily Mail.

Andy Murray's former adviser, David Cody, belie ves he is owed up to 10% of some of Murray's commercial earnings because of an agreement reached with the player in December 2003.

Cody, a Texas-based professional career adviser, teamed up with Andy Murray and his parents when Murray was just a teenager.

Healthcare: Hospitals in England to publish safety data

A new government scheme designed to make hospitals safer by forcing them to publish information on short staffing is set to become law next year, reports the BBC.

Hospitals in England will be required to regularly publish data to staffing levels on wards, so that short staffing can easily be identified and monitored.

The move is part of a wide-ranging package of measures recommended by the Francis report into the catalogue of care failures at the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

The Government has rejected a £24.1m settlement from contractor G4S, after the company admitted it had overcharged the Government for home tagging services for offenders, reports the BBC.

G4S made the admission that it had overcharged the Ministry of Justice after an audit suggested they had been billing for prisoners who were either dead or still in prison.

The company performed an internal review, which found that the system for billing the Ministry of Justice was not appropriate, but which also ruled out any wrongdoing or criminal intent in the over-charging.

Employment law: Germany plans boardroom quotas for women

Germany is set to lead the EU with revolutionary new employment legislation that will see companies required to appoint women to at least 30% of their non-executive board seats, reports The Independent.

The country's leading two political parties have been in discussions since agreeing to form a coalition government back in September, after Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party won the country's national elections.

The agreement will see new laws drafted in Germany that will require German companies to appoint women to make up 30% of their non-executive boardroom positions from 2016.

Employment: Inquiry to investigate Trade Union tactics

The Government has launched an inquiry into the tactics of Trade Unions, after a workforce dispute almost resulted in the closure of the largest petrochemical plant in Scotland, reports the BBC.

The Prime Minister has asked Bruce Carr QC to head up an inquiry to look at whether new laws need to be passed to prevent intimidation and harassment of employees by Union officials.

The inquiry comes after events at the Grangemouth Petrochemical plant in Scotland almost led to the closure of the plant and the loss of hundreds of jobs.

Sexual consent: Prime Minister holds firm on lowering age of consent

David Cameron has rejected a proposal by leading public health expert Professor John Ashton to lower the age of sexual consent to 15, reports the BBC.

The legal age of consent to sexual intercourse is currently set at 16 years old in the UK, an age consistent with that of many other countries worldwide.

However, a leading public health expert, Professor John Ashton, has told the Government that society must accept that around one third of 14 and 15-year-olds admit to having had sex.

Intellectual property: Google wins US case over 'book scanning'

IT giant Google has won a US court case brought by the US Authors Guild, who were attempting to block Google from scanning millions of books for free use on the internet, reports the BBC.

The US Authors Guild started a legal action against Google in 2005 for what it said was a huge infringement of copyright.

Google has scanned more than 30 million books, with the intention to provide excerpts of them for free online. Google says the scanning of the books represents 'fair use'.

Litigation: Mike Tyson could face legal action over book claims

Boxing promoter Frank Warren might consider legal action against former world champion Mike Tyson over disclosures made in his book, reports the BBC.

Tyson, who was promoted by Warren for several fights in the late 80s and early 90s, admitted in his book to dodging drug tests by using a fake penis filled with clean urine to give samples.

In 1987 Tyson became the youngest boxer ever to hold the WBA, WBC and IBF world titles, at the age of 20.

The BBC has announced that it will be paying the legal fees of its departing head of Human Resources, Lucy Adams, who is suing the National Union of Journalists for defamation, reports the BBC.

Ms Adams is suing the National Union of Journalists over claims that as head of PR at the BBC she ran a campaign of hacking into employees emails and actively encouraged staff to spy on their colleagues.

The allegations were published a day after Ms Adams revealed that she would leave her role at the BBC in March 2014.

Healthcare: Patients to launch legal action over flu jab side-effect

A group of patients who have developed the sleeping disorder narcolepsy after receiving a swine-flu jab are set to sue the manufacturer of the vaccination, reports The Telegraph.

The 38 British patients who have developed narcolepsy intend to sue pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), for their swine flu vaccination 'Pandemrix'.

The swine flu vaccination was offered to 'at risk' groups in 2010 at the height of the global swine flu pandemic, which is thought to have originated in Veracruz, Mexico, before spreading worldwide.

A survey reported in The Times has revealed that British patients are being offered illegally sourced organs for as much as $35,000 for transplant in a hospital in Sri Lanka, reports The Week.

The Times reports that a secretly recorded conversation with an international organ dealer has shown that some UK patients are being offered illegal organs in exchange for large sums of money.

The newspaper used an undercover journalist posing as the relative of a sick British patient to contact Antonio Kanickaraj, a Bangalore-based dealer working for a company called Mediease India.

A sex attacker could win up to £80,000 in damages after judges ruled he could sue for compensation for being detained for too long whilst he fought deportation from the UK, reports the London Evening Standard.

UK judges have sparked outrage this week after they ruled that a sex attacker could sue for compensation after he was detained by the Home Office for too long during his battle to fight deportation.

The man, who remained anonymous during the trial, is 25 years old and a Sudanese national.

Litigation: Former lover of ex-England manager launches legal action

Nancy Dell'Olio, the former lover of ex-England football manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, has announced a legal action against him for revelations made in his new book, reports the Daily Mail.

Miss Dell'Olio, 52, is a lawyer and socialite in her native Italy. However she took to British television screens to announce that she will sue her former lover for disclosures made in his new auto-biography.

Although claiming not to have read the book, Dell'Olio said that she has commenced litigation against the publishers because she had signed a confidentiality agreement with Mr Eriksson.

Intellectual property: Doctor Who script-writer heir could sue BBC

The son of the author of the first ever Doctor Who television script has threatened to sue the BBC over use of the 'Tardis' time machine.

Stef Coburn, son of script writer Tony Coburn, is claiming that the BBC does not own the intellectual property rights to allow it to use the legendary 'Tardis' machine that Doctor Who uses to travel through time and space in the hit television programme.

Mr Coburn's father wrote the first ever television script for Doctor Who back in 1963, an episode called 'An Unearthly Child'.

Litigation: Ministry of Defence spends £28m on legal fees

The MoD has admitted spending over £28m on legal fees to fight cases brought by injured soldiers and 'torture' victims, reports the Daily Mail.

The Ministry of Defence has admitted employing record numbers of in-house lawyers and contracted legal advice in the face of rising numbers of claims from former servicemen and victims of alleged torture by UK forces abroad.

Last year the MoD spent some £28m fighting cases from servicemen and women who were injured in combat, and from those who believe that their treatment by UK Armed forces amounted to torture.

An important court ruling has gone against the big banks, meaning that compensation claims resulting from their rigging of the Libor rate could soar much higher, reports Reuters.

Both Barclays and Deutsche Bank had gone to court to have their involvement in the Libor rate rigging scandal removed from evidence for two ongoing cases against them.

The Libor rate is the international lending rate that banks use when borrowing money from one another.

Disability law: Five disabled people win fight over living fund

A group of five disabled appellants have won their case at the Court of Appeal, with judges ruling that the Government's decision to abolish the Independent Living Fund (ILF) was unlawful, reports the BBC.

The £320m Independent Living Fund provides support to 19,000 severely disabled people in the UK, allowing them to live independent lives within their communities.

The scheme pays around £300 per week to recipients, who are awarded the money to allow them to stay living at home, to work in their communities and to live life in the same way as an able-bodied person.

A leading committee has told the Government that it should forge ahead with its bid to meet ambitious climate change targets, by producing new laws and regulations to tackle carbon dioxide emissions, reports the BBC.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has told the UK Government in a report that no new scientific evidence produced so far justifies any slackening of efforts to cut UK carbon emissions.

The report was produced after the Chancellor George Osborne suggested that the UK's place in leading the world in tackling carbon emissions was likely to harm the UK's economic competitiveness on the world stage.

Over half of domestic violence victims unable to access legal aid

A recent survey, published by Rights of Women, Women's Aid and Welsh Women's Aid highlights that victims of domestic violence have not had the support they need from legal aid, contradicting a pledge from the Government that legal aid would be available to those who need it.

The Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) came into effect on 1 April 2013 and removed legal aid for a large number of private family law matters. However, domestic violence victims were still entitled to support through the Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) Regulations Act 2012 if they could provide sufficient evidence that they had experienced some form of domestic violence.

Terrorism: Snowden leaked articles could be seen as terror acts

The release of documents by former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden could be deemed acts of terror according to a leading government lawyer, reports the BBC.

The Government's barrister, Stephen Kovats QC, told the High Court in written submissions that the disclosure of confidential information stolen by Edward Snowden would damage national security, endangers lives and could be deemed an act of terrorism.

The High Court submissions were made as part of the case for a judicial review, being brought by David Miranda, who was detained by border officials at Heathrow on his way to Berlin in August.

Welfare: Single mothers lose legal fight over benefits

A group of three single mothers have lost their bid to challenge the Government's £500 per week benefit cap, reports the BBC.

The three women, who kept their anonymity for the trial, all claimed that a new government policy capping their benefits to £500 was illegal because it breached their human rights.

The Government's welfare cap limits payments of housing benefit, child benefit and child tax credit to £500 per week. The cap was introduced in July for both couples and single parents.

Scottish Law: Senior Lord warns against ending law on corroboration

A senior Scottish legal figure has warned against plans to reform the law requiring corroborating evidence from two sources, saying that losing the safeguard could be dangerous, reports the BBC.

The principle of corroboration is unique to Scottish criminal law and requires the prosecution to provide evidence from at least two different sources in order to support the founding of each important fact.

The principle is understood to have originated in biblical times and is referenced in the bible, but has also been found in Roman legal texts.

Litigation: New libel laws could lead to a wave of defamation cases

A leading media law firm has warned that the Government's proposals to lower the costs associated with bringing a libel case could lead to a wave of litigation that could hit small publishers, reports the Financial Times.

The Ministry of Justice is considering plans to change the current rules on libel cases that state that the loser should pay all costs for both parties.

If removed, the cost of bringing an unsuccessful libel case will plummet, which some experts believe may lead to a rash of speculative cases.

US safety officials have announced they are to take legal action against the MGM Grand casino and performance group 'Cirque du Soleil' after the death of a French acrobat during a performance in June, reports the Daily Express.

Sarah Guyard-Guillot, from Paris, was killed after falling from a height of over 28m (94ft) during the final scenes of a performance of Cirque du Soleil's Kà show, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

The audience witnessed Ms Guyard-Guillot being hoisted above the arena along with other acrobats as part of the shows grand finale.

Legal aid: Government cuts further criticised by Bar Council

The Government's ongoing cuts to the legal-aid budget have faced another barrage of criticism, this time from the Law Society, the Bar Council and the Treasury Council, reports the BBC.

The Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales, whilst the Treasury Council is appointed by the Attorney General, the Government's most senior lawyer. The Law Society represents and accredits all solicitors in England and Wales.

In the latest round of cuts to legal aid, the Government is proposing to cut £220m from the annual £1bn criminal legal-aid budget.

Phone hacking: Case against former editors begins at the Old Bailey

The case against former News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson has begun at the Old Bailey with startling revelations from the prosecution who claim they 'must have known' about phone hacking, reports The Independent.

The highly anticipated case sees the two former editors of the now defunct News of the World newspaper in the dock over allegations that they were aware that journalists working for their papers were engaging in illegal hacking of voicemails and bribing of public officials.

Both Brooks, who is a friend of David Cameron, and Coulson, who worked as his press secretary before the scandal, deny any involvement in phone hacking and claim that their journalists were in receipt of phone-hacking information without their knowledge.