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

January 2014 Archives

Pub landlord fined £65,000 for breach of football copyright

A pub landlord in Wales has been fined £65,000 for breaching the copyright of the English Premier League by broadcasting matches live using a foreign satellite card, reports the BBC.

Premier League football is big business for pubs and bars, with licences to show live games to a public audience selling for thousands of pounds.

Publicans and bar owners pay large sums to show live games in the knowledge that football brings in customers who then spend money on drinks and meals during the game.

American yoghurt maker Chobani has lost a legal battle in the UK courts, after a judge ruled that it must change the labelling on its Greek yoghurt products because they are manufactured in the US, reports the BBC.

The legal case against Chobani, who are based in New York, was brought by Greek company, Fage. Fage make their Greek yoghurt in Greece and base their operation out of their Athens offices.

The case hinged on whether Chobani could legitimately call their product 'Greek' yoghurt, since it is manufactured in the United States.

House of Lords approves new law on lobbying and campaign spending

The House of Lords has narrowly approved a new bill aimed at reforming the rules on parliamentary lobbying and charity campaign spending, reports the BBC.

The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill is currently undergoing its passage through Parliament, and had previously been amended three times by the upper house, only for all three amendments to be overturned by the House of Commons.

The Lords has the power to amend or reject bills presented to it by the House of Commons but, as the only elected chamber, ultimately the power to drive through new laws rests with the Commons.

Scottish TV advert banned because of helmet concerns

A television advert by Cycling Scotland has been removed from the airwaves following complaints that the cyclist in the advert was not wearing a helmet, reports the BBC.

The television advert was actually devised to encourage safer cycling on Scottish roads, by reminding drivers of the need to give cyclists room on the road and to slow down when passing a cyclist the same as you would when passing a horse.

Although wearing a helmet when cycling is not a legal requirement, the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has ruled that the advert should not be shown on TV again because not wearing a helmet when cycling is 'socially irresponsible'.

Government plans fracking under homes without owners' permission

The Government has admitted that it is considering plans to change the law to allow companies to conduct 'fracking' to take place underneath British homes without property owners being required to give their permission.

The controversial process of fracking frees natural gas locked away inside underground rock, by a process of fracturing the rock with pressurised water. The process results in tiny fractures in the rock, which allow natural gas to escape.

Controversies centre around the fact that little is known about the long-term damage to the substructure of the earth as a result of fracking, leading many to fear the process could lead to earthquakes and ground slides in future if allowed to proceed on a large scale.

Ex-pat Scots citizens demand vote in referendum on independence

Scottish citizens living abroad are demanding the right to be allowed to vote in the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence, and are willing to instigate legal action against the Scottish Government if they don't expand the eligible vote criteria, reports Reuters.

One million Scottish citizens live outside of Scotland, with many settled in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. They are demanding the right to a vote in the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence, and are willing to take the Scottish Government to court over their plans to ban those living outside of Scotland from having a say.

The Scottish National Party, or SNP, has decided that the franchise for the referendum, which will be held on 18 September 2014, will include anyone currently living in Scotland over the age of 16.

Lord Saatchi seeks public support for 'health innovation' bill

The Conservative peer Lord Saatchi has used an article in The Telegraph to appeal to the public to participate in the consultation on his Private Members' Bill on health innovation.

Mr Saatchi, one half of the advertising executive duo Saatchi & Saatchi along with his brother, art collector Charles Saatchi, has called on the public to support his bill, which aims to liberate doctors to trial risky new treatments on patients dying of cancer.

Mr Saatchi's wife, the novelist Josephine Hart, died of ovarian carcinoma in 2011, and Mr Saatchi has subsequently campaigned to change the law so that doctors dealing with incurable conditions such as cancer are able to trial innovative treatment approaches on patients with terminal conditions.

Law firm annual survey shows no increase in 'silver splitters'

Law firm Grant Thornton's 10th annual 'Matrimonial Survey' has revealed lots of information on trends in divorce and family law, but shows that despite some perceptions, there is no upward trend in the ages of divorcing couples.

The survey for 2013 was conducted in a year when several major changes were felt in the family law sector, not least the removal of legal aid for most divorce cases, which was implemented in April.

The Grant Thornton 2013 Matrimonial Survey asked 85 of Britain's leading family law solicitors their opinions on a wide range of issues in family law.

Government announces ban on 'e-cigarettes' for under-18s

The Government has announced plans to introduce new laws to ban under-18s from buying so called 'e-cigarettes', believing their health properties to still be unproven, reports the BBC.

E-cigarettes have proved to be extremely popular, with figures estimating them to be used currently by 1.3m people in the UK. The electronic cigarette allows the user to inhale nicotine vapour without tar.

The devices have until recently been largely unregulated and are manufactured outside of medical guidelines. The e-cigarettes are purchased online, in shops and via adverts in newspapers.

UK Government challenge to EU law on short selling rejected

The UK Government's legal challenge against a proposed new EU law on short-selling has been rejected by the European Court of Justice, reports the BBC.

The UK Government was attempting to limit the extent of the European Union law passed in 2012, which bans certain financial practices including short-selling.

However, the EU's highest court, the European Court of Justice, this week ruled that the EU's new financial rules were within its powers and dismissed the UK's case against them in their entirety.

Pakistani man has 'drone' case against UK Government dismissed

A Pakistani national whose father was killed by a Coalition drone strike has had his case against the UK Government thrown out by the Court of Appeal, reports the Daily Mail.

Noor Khan was seeking to argue in court that a British intelligence agent who provided location information to the US to facilitate a drone strike was effectively 'encouraging or assisting' murder, and that the UK Government could be held responsible for such actions.

Mr Khan's father was a local official who attended a meeting in North Waziristan in 2011 aimed at settling a local dispute. The US targeted the meeting with a drone strike, killing many of the attendees including Mr Khan's father.

Supreme Court rejects legal objection to High Speed 2

The UK Supreme Court has rejected a legal objection to the proposed new 'High Speed 2' rail line, which will connect London with Birmingham and beyond, reports the BBC.

The legal challenge was brought by opponents of the proposed £50bn project that will connect London with Birmingham allowing the journey to be completed in around 50 minutes, compared to one hour 24 minutes at present.

Subsequent stages of the HS2 project will connect other cities in the north of England including Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield. Journey times to Manchester from London's Heathrow Terminal 5 are expected to be around 90 minutes, less than half of the current journey time.

A Conservative MP who organised a Nazi-themed stag party in France in 2011 has escaped legal action by French authorities, but the French remain deeply offended by his actions, reports the BBC.

Conservative MP Aiden Burley organised a Nazi-themed fancy dress stag party in the French Alps back in December 2011 in the resort of Val Thorens, causing a media outrage at the time.

Media reports suggested Mr Burley had organised the trip in his capacity as best man for his friend. On the final night of the trip the party went for a dinner where the groom dressed in a Nazi uniform, and gave a Nazi-themed toast to his guests.

EU halts ground-breaking investment talks with United States

The European Commission has suspended its talks with the United States, which it hopes will provide the largest free-trade agreement in world history. The EU has decided to suspend talks for three months to allow a consultation on rules for businesses, reports the BBC.

The EU and the US announced last year that it would begin negotiation on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

A study commissioned at the end of 2013 concluded that the deal could be worth as much as £100bn to the EU, and around £80bn to the United States, adding around 0.5% to the GDP of both.

Ministers believed to be suppressing legal advice

The Government is understood to be suppressing legal advice it has received about the legality of its plans to implement a new system of press regulation by Royal Charter, reports The Telegraph.

The Government's proposal is to use a Royal Charter to create a new system for regulating the press. The system will impose heavy new fines on those who fail to adhere to the regulators code. The system will also make it easier and cheaper to bring a complaint against a newspaper or media outlet.

It is understood that four leading QCs have told the Government that the proposed plan to regulate the press would run contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights, and will need revision to become law.

Barrister decides to quit job over poor pay

A long-standing barrister has decided to quit her job in the legal profession to set up her own bed and breakfast in Yorkshire, claiming that government cuts to legal aid have meant the barrister's job is no longer financially viable, reports the Daily Mail.

Judith King has spent the past ten years defending clients in criminal cases in Kent.

However, she says the job of barrister was only modestly paid and that she could only afford to drive a small car and to rent a tiny house. She said her salary did not even cover the cost of living and that she was forced to dip into her savings to pay household bills.

Tour de France winner Wiggins in court against management

Tour de France winning cyclist Sir Bradley Wiggins is set to take a dispute over a £740,000 bill from his former management company to court, reports the Daily Mail.

Wiggins is thought to have made over £5m from his Tour de France win, with most of the money coming from sponsorship deals and endorsements. Now Wiggins has received a £741,000 bill from MTC, against his contract with Team Sky.

However, the cyclist believes that the agreement he had with MTC entitled them only to a percentage of his income from contracts negotiated by MTC, and that for the first four years of his career many of his sponsorship deals were negotiated by his wife, Catherine.

Friends of Lib Dem peer threaten legal action

Friends of the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Rennard have threatened the party's hierarchy with legal action if they fail to readmit him to the House of Lords after he was embroiled in a scandal over sexual harassment, reports the BBC.

The Liberal Democrat peer has stood accused of sexual harassment by several women, allegations that led to him resigning the party whip last year, effectively ending his involvement in frontline politics.

However, the peer remains a member of the Liberal Democrat policymaking group, and he is now seeking to return to the Lords.

Fiancée of banker in coma fights for right to harvest sperm

The fiancée of a man on life support has launched a legal action in the High Court in a bid to be allowed to take his sperm so that she can have his baby, something she claims the man would have consented to if he were able to, reports The Telegraph.

The High Court case will feature AB, a woman whose name will be kept from the media throughout the court case. AB was engaged to be married to her fiancé known in the case as 'P', an investment banker.

'P' suffered a series of heart attacks in December 2013, which have left him in what is described by doctors as a 'permanent vegetative state', or PVS.

Family courts facing blockages as legal aid cuts bite

Family courts in England and Wales are becoming overrun after the Government's changes to legal-aid funding for divorce cases begin to have their effect, reports The Independent.

Legal experts have warned that separating couples risk being 'cut adrift' by the Government's changes to legal aid that came into effect in April last year, which brought to an end legal-aid funding for almost all divorce cases.

The number of people accessing mediation services and family law solicitors has plummeted since last April, prompting experts to ponder whether separating couples are now being forced to take on the technical aspects of divorce on their own.

Family call for change in law after pedestrian crossing death

The family of a man who was killed on a pedestrian crossing by a man who was not wearing his glasses have called on the Government to change the law to make regular sight tests compulsory for drivers, reports the BBC.

Laurence Gunn, 32, died after being hit by a car on a pedestrian crossing in Hampstead, London, in March last year. He died after his family took the decision to have his life-support machine turned off.

The driver of the car was 23-year-old Mohammed Rashid, who admitted he had been driving without his glasses on, despite knowing that his vision was very poor without correction.

Payday lenders' fees could be against the law

The fees charged by many 'payday' loans companies to their customers when they miss a repayment could be unlawfully high, according to consumer organisation Which?.

Payday lenders could face legal action after a consumer group survey revealed that many of the companies' charges for default on repayment could be in breach of the law.

Which? investigated 17 leading payday lenders and found that ten had standard default charges of £20 or more, four charged defaulters £25, and Wonga, the popular high-street lender, topped the chart charging defaulters £30.

UK decides to 'opt out' of EU laws on legal highs

The UK Government has announced that it will opt out of proposals put forward by the European Commission to curb the massive expansion in the popularity of so-called 'legal highs', because joining the EU scheme might hinder UK attempts to ban new drugs as they emerge onto the market.

Legal highs have never been far from the media spotlight in recent years, as governments around the world struggle to get to grips with a market that can now produce hundreds of new substances per year, avoiding existing legislation.

The substances are often similar in chemical structure to known, banned drugs, but escape being caught under existing drugs laws because they are essentially different.

British courts most generous with divorce payouts

According to new research, English and Welsh courts are the most generous when it comes to awarding maintenance payouts after divorce cases. Such settlements are not only higher-value than in many other countries, but also longer-lasting. London has earned the nickname "the divorce capital of the world", at least partly due to these high, long-lasting maintenance payments.

The report suggests this could be due to the fact that British judges are given more "judicial discretion" than in other jurisdictions, giving them greater freedom to dictate value and duration of maintenance payments. This holds true when they are compared to their counterparts in mainland European countries, along with those in the US, New Zealand and South Africa. Overall, the report looked at 15 jurisdictions and concluded that judges in Britain had the greatest levels of judicial freedom.

A group of pro-union academics have spoken out to claim that plans by the Scottish Parliament to charge UK students tuition fees if Scotland leaves the United Kingdom could fall foul of EU law, reports the BBC.

Academics Together, a group of academics investigating the implications of a 'yes' vote in Scotland's forthcoming referendum on devolution out of the United Kingdom, claims that charging UK students for tuition could be deemed illegal under EU law.

All people currently living in Scotland will go to the polls on 18 September 2014 to answer the question: 'Should Scotland be an independent country?'

UK ministers could be put in the dock over Iraq war crimes

A group of legal experts have handed in a 250-page dossier accusing the United Kingdom of perpetrating war crimes against 400 Iraqi citizens, which could result in politicians and senior military figures being tried at the International Criminal Court, reports The Independent.

The group, Public Interest Lawyers, together with the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights, has presented a 250-page dossier of evidence to the ICC in The Hague.

In response, the UK Government has stated that a similar call for an investigation was rejected by the ICC in 2006, and that the circumstances of the claims had not changed since then.

Man takes 16-year legal battle over laptop to Supreme Court

A 44-year-old father of two will this month take his case over a laptop to the highest court in the land, hoping to put an end to a 16-year legal battle against PC World, reports the Daily Mail.

Richard Durkin perhaps had no idea the trouble he was letting himself in for when he visited the Aberdeen branch of PC World back in 1998, age 28, hoping to buy a brand new laptop with a built-in modem.

He claims the PC World sales assistant took note of his wishes and presented him with a laptop that would meet his needs. Mr Durkin paid a £50 deposit, and agreed a finance deal to cover the rest of the £1,449 for the PC, on the proviso that if the laptop did not meet his requirements he could return it for no charge.

Victims of Glasgow helicopter crash begin law suit against operator

Some of the families of the victims of the Glasgow helicopter crash that killed ten people back in November 2013 have begun a legal action against the operator of the helicopter, the Bond Aviation Group, reports the BBC.

The helicopter was in use by Police Scotland when it crashed into the Clutha pub on the evening of 29 November 2013, killing ten people in total including the pilot.

Now legal firm Irwin Mitchell has sent a letter on behalf of some of the victims to the helicopter operator, asking for compensation for the relatives of those who died, and calling on the Bond Aviation Group to do more to improve air safety.

Mark Duggan: Family vow to fight on after jury clears Met Police

A jury has cleared Met Police firearms officers of unlawfully killing 29-year-old father of three Mark Duggan in Tottenham, North London, in August 2011, leaving his family outraged and pledging to fight on for justice, reports the BBC.

Mr Duggan's family have said they will continue to fight for justice despite a jury finding the Metropolitan Police had killed Mr Duggan lawfully, by a majority verdict of eight to two.

Amid angry scenes outside the High Court, his aunt Carole told journalists her nephew had been 'executed', and vowed to fight on for justice.

Former chief prosecutor says UK system is 'not fit for purpose'

The former Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Kier Starmer, who left his post late last year, has spoken out against the UK justice system, which he says in its current state is 'not fit for purpose', reports the BBC.

Sir Kier Starmer was head of the UK Crown Prosecution Service from 2008 to 2013, and was widely regarded for his time in the post.

However, just a few months after leaving the post, and being knighted in the New Year's honours list, Sir Starmer used an interview with the BBC's Hard Talk programme to highlight the plight of vulnerable victims, and concluded that the UK justice system is 'not fit for purpose' because it fails the weakest in society.

Online currency launches despite threat from celebrity over name

A new online currency, CoinyeCoin, has launched despite a legal threat from music star Kanye West, over the inspiration for the currency's name, reports the BBC.

The online currency, or cryptocurrency, which will operate in a similar way to pioneering currency BitCoin, was originally to be called Coinye West; however, this was deemed too close to the identity of singer Kanye West, and so the currency's makers changed the name to CoinyeCoin.

It is understood that lawyers representing Mr West wrote to the makers of CoinyeCoin asking them to 'cease and desist' from naming the currency Coinye West, as they believed the name would mistakenly lead the public to think that Kanye West had endorsed the service.

Ombudsman calls for end to 'no win, no fee' agreements

The Legal Ombudsman has called on law firms to bring an end to the phrase 'no win, no fee' in legal agreements, after claiming that customers were often left with unexpected and illegitimate bills, making a mockery of the accepted sales term, reports the London Evening Standard.

The Legal Ombudsman ordered law firms to pay out almost £1m last year in compensation over 'no win, no fee' legal agreements, and now says that the contracts should be renamed, as they are misleading.

The central promise in the 'no win, no fee' agreement is that clients who lose their case will not be asked to pay for their legal costs. However, the reality is that legal expenses break down into several categories of cost, and the 'no win, no fee' agreement only covers legal representation costs, not expenses and certain fees.

A convicted child killer has won the right to receive legal aid to help fund his legal representation at the inquest into the death of schoolgirl Arlene Arkinson, who disappeared in August 1994, reports the BBC.

Robert Howard, 69, had requested for legal aid to pay for his legal representation into the disappearance of 15-year-old Arlene who disappeared after leaving a disco in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland in August 1994.

Ms Arkinson has never been found, nor has a body ever been recovered.

Miliband vows to end UK dependency on cheap labour

Opposition-leader Ed Miliband has vowed to end Britain's reliance on cheap labour should his party be successful at the next General Election in 2015, reports the BBC.

Mr Miliband used an article in The Independent on Sunday to describe the UK's 'chronic' dependency on cheap foreign labour, and vowed to put an end to it if Labour wins the next election.

He specifically targeted low-skilled immigration, saying that it was making the crisis in cost-of-living worse.

Villagers escape footing church repair bill due to ancient law

Villagers in Bywell, Northumberland, have narrowly avoided having to pay for repairs on their local church after learning of an ancient byelaw dating back to the reign of Henry VIII, reports the Metro.

St Peter's Church in Bywell is in need of repairs, but villagers were outraged when they received letters informing them that they may have to foot the bill.

The letters, sent by Land Registry, cite an ancient byelaw that states that people who live on land formerly owned by the church could be made liable for the maintenance of the chapel.

Barristers to stage first ever strike in Stoke-on Trent today

Lawyers working in Stoke-on-Trent and Stafford are staging the first ever walk-out in the profession in protest against government cuts to legal aid, reports The Stoke Sentinel.

Barristers are expected to walk out of four main Crown Courts in Stoke-on-Trent, Stafford, Chester and Knutsford, in protest at the Government's sweeping reforms of the legal-aid system, designed to trim hundreds of millions of pounds from the legal-aid budget.

The first tranche of cuts came into force in April 2013, and saw legal aid removed from a wide range of legal areas including housing, immigration, many divorce cases and employment law.

Head of hospital security blows whistle on 'unlawful detentions'

The former head of security at the Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has blown the whistle on alleged malpractice at the trust, which he says was responsible for the unlawful detention and restraint of some patients, reports The Telegraph.

John Marchant, who was formerly the head of security at the Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said that elderly patients and some children had been locked up in their rooms or restrained in their beds, despite them being of no risk to themselves or anyone else.

Mr Marchant made his revelations in an interview with The Telegraph newspaper, where he claimed that one member of staff had been so concerned about the practice of restraining one child that he had refused to do it and reminded health staff that the practice would be illegal in the circumstances.

King's College London has sacked a senior lecturer in medical ethics and law after he started up a company offering students legal advice to help them challenge exam results, reports The Independent.

King's College London, based on the Strand in the heart of the capital, is ranked 19th in the world by the QS World University Rankings 2013, and lists 12 former or current staff or alumni as Nobel laureates.

The university has terminated the contract of lecturer Daniel Sokol after learning of Mr Sokol's sideline enterprise offering legal advice to students who wish to challenge their university exam results. 

Murderers and other serious offenders could face sentences amounting to hundreds of years in prison as the UK bids to bypass human rights laws that could overturn 'whole-life' sentences, reports The Telegraph.

The news that child killer Mark Bridger could avoid spending the rest of his life in prison came as a shock to many, when it was revealed last month that he would be challenging his whole-life tariff on human rights grounds.

However, The Telegraph has revealed that government ministers are considering an idea to switch whole-life tariffs, and instead use an American-style system in which offenders are given longer sentences, sometimes amounting to hundreds of years in prison. 

Defamation: New libel laws come into force in England and Wales

The much-awaited Defamation Act 2013 finally came into force in England and Wales on 1 January 2014, reports the BBC.

The changes were hailed as a major advancement for defamation law in the UK, which had long been criticised for stifling debate on scientific discoveries and advancements, and for being unfairly biased in favour of the rich who could intimidate others with the money to fund long court cases.

Under the changes contained in the Defamation Act 2013, claimants seeking redress for libel will have to prove to a judge that they have suffered 'serious harm' in order to progress their case.

New law in Ireland clarifies position on abortion

The Irish Government has enacted a new law to help to clarify the circumstances when abortion is permitted within the law, reports the BBC.

Ireland is a strongly Roman Catholic country that has long held strict laws on abortion, which previously was only permitted in circumstances when the life of the mother was in grave danger.

Unlike in the UK, in Ireland the foetus has a right to life that equals the right to life of the mother.