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

April 2014 Archives

Online currency: MtGox customers make out-of-court settlement

North American customers of failed online currency MtGox appear to have settled out of court, avoiding the potential for a large class-action lawsuit against the Japanese currency operators, reports the BBC.

MtGox was an online currency exchange allowing customers to exchange currency such as pounds, dollars and yen for BitCoins, that could be used globally and which saw big surges in value.

However, MtGox suffered from a series of hacks, which resulted in the theft of millions of dollars worth of BitCoins. The company revealed earlier this year that it had suffered thefts amounting to £238m worth of BitCoins.

Old style £50 note will cease to be legal tender from tomorrow

The £50 note featuring the face of the first governor of the Bank of England Sir John Houblon will cease to be legal tender today, prompting the Bank of England to encourage those holding the note to exchange them for newer notes as soon as possible, reports the BBC's Magazine Monitor.

The Bank of England periodically removes notes from circulation in order to make currency harder to copy, and today sees the end of the distinctive £50 note featuring the image of Sir John Houblon.

The Bank estimated earlier in April that there were still around 53 million of the £50 notes in circulation, with a total value of over two-and-a-half billion pounds.

The QC brother of Prime Minister David Cameron has tried to have a £5m fraud case thrown out, criticising the Government's legal aid reforms as none of the accused could afford to hire proper legal representatives, reports the Daily Mail.

Alex Cameron QC told the court that a £5m fraud trial should be thrown out, saying that legal aid reforms meant that his four clients - who he has agreed to represent for free - could not otherwise afford proper legal representation.

The case is against defendants Dale Walker, 53, Scott Crawley, 35, Daniel Forsyth, 30, Ross Peters, 27, Aaron Petrou, 46, Ricky Mitchie, 24, Adam Hawkins, 28 and Brendan Daley, 38, who are all accused of conspiracy to defraud during a £5m scam involving three companies; Plott UK, European Property Investments and Stirling Alexander.

Woman with Buddha tattoo to sue Sri Lankan authorities

A woman who was deported from Sri Lanka because of a tattoo of the deity Buddha on her shoulder has revealed that she intends to sue the Sri Lankan authorities who deported her, reports the BBC.

Naomi Coleman from Coventry had visited Sri Lanka for a holiday, but was shocked when the authorities in the country refused to permit her entry and instead sent her back to the UK because of the tattoo on her arm.

Ms Coleman was surprised by the move by Sri Lankan authorities, as she has visited the country twice before, with the tattoo, and had never had any problems previously.

Paedophilia: Government to make downloading 'manuals' illegal

The Government has announced new laws to tighten the net on paedophiles, making it illegal to download 'manuals' describing how to groom children in order to commit sexual offences, reports the BBC.

The National Crime Agency has reported that its investigations had discovered online 'manuals' designed to assist those who wish to commit sexual offences against children by telling them how to go about it.

It is understood the proposed changes to the law will be included in the Queen's Speech at the State Opening of Parliament on 4 June. This is the final session of Parliament before next May's general election.

Major reform hits family courts in England and Wales

A major family justice reform has taken effect in England and Wales, which has extensively overhauled the way that the family courts system will operate. Changes are intended to result in a greater focus on the needs of children and a significant reduction in delays.

The changes stem from the Children and Families Act, and have resulted in changes such as a new combined Family Court. They are heavily influenced by the findings of an independent review in 2011 which identified a number of issues with the family justice system in England and Wales as it previously stood. The review found that long delays in cases relating to care and supervision of children were leaving the young people concerned with their "futures undermined". The length of time it took to resolve these cases was averaging at 56 weeks.

A judge in the Unites States has dismissed a claim by film director Quentin Tarantino against gossip website Gawker, after it released a script for a forthcoming film, bearing the preliminary title 'The Hateful Eight', reports the BBC.

Mr Tarantino filed a law suit seeking around £1m in damages from the website Gawker, which specialises in the publication of gossip, under the banner 'today's gossip is tomorrow's news'.

The news of the leaked script broke in January, when Gawker published links

to two third-party sites hosting links to a script purporting to have been written by Quentin Tarantino. The script presented a Western called 'The Hateful Eight', that was to be shot in old-school 70mm film.

Cornwallians to be given protected minority status

People from the county of Cornwall in the UK's South West are to be afforded protected status as a national minority under European Union rules, reports the BBC.

People in Cornwall are to be given the same protected status as those from Wales, Scotland and Ireland, after the Government announced that the Cornish will be afforded protection under the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

The Framework Convention is a piece of European Union legislation that requires member states to consider those people included within its provisions when making decisions.

Families take to representing themselves in child-related cases

New statistics suggest that more than 50% of cases brought before family courts involve parties with no formal legal representation, reports the Law Society Gazette.

The news comes one year after the Coalition Government implemented sweeping cuts to legal aid, which included axing legal support in the vast majority of family law cases, save those involving domestic violence.

The cuts were the first tranche of austerity measures to hit the legal aid budget, and were designed to trim £350m from the then £2bn+ legal aid budget described by the Government as 'the most generous in the world'.

Conservationists demand tougher laws for puffins

Conservationists have demanded greater legal protection for puffins on the Channel Island of Alderney, saying that local dog walkers are threatening the species, reports the BBC.

The Alderney Wildlife Trust would like tougher laws to be introduced to protect the 340 puffins that roost on the island each year.

The colourful birds, famous for their triangular eyes and brightly coloured beaks, have suffered from huge losses in their numbers after a tough winter that saw some 16,500 birds die.

'Out of court' settlement draws union criticism

An out-of-court settlement made between a rail company and a wealthy fare-dodger has drawn criticism from a union which claims it is one rule for the rich and another for everyone else, reports the BBC.

The Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) has reacted angrily to the news that a hedge fund manager was able to settle a case of fare-dodging out of court, avoiding a prosecution.

The passenger in question was caught by Southeastern Rail avoiding a fare from Stonegate in East Sussex into Central London.

The Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has criticised the use of legal-aid budgets by foreigners, saying the taxpayers' money should not be used to fund cases that are aimed purely to block government decisions, reports the Daily Telegraph.

Chris Grayling has launched an attack on pressure groups and legal representatives who he says plunder legal-aid budgets to fight cases on behalf of foreigners whose agenda is to block legitimate government decisions.

Mr Grayling wrote an article for the Daily Telegraph, in which he described how he feels that the UK justice system is being 'brought into disrepute'.

Gangs are using old-fashioned firearms legislation to bring guns onto the streets of London, exposes the London Evening Standard.

The newspaper has revealed how criminals are using a legal loophole in order to import guns into Great Britain, and claims that those weapons are then being used in robberies and firearms offences.

Gangs are purchasing firearms at weapons fairs in Europe. The firearms are antiques, often dating back to the World Wars, but are high-powered, and perfectly lethal.

The Home Office has released figures for 2013 that suggest that of all the arrests made for immigration purposes, around one third led directly to the deportation of the arrested person.

The Home Office statistics show that of the 4,535 arrests made in 2013 for immigration offences, 1,585 led directly to the deportation of the arrested person. The statistics reveal that only 15 cases led to a criminal prosecution.

The figures have been seized upon by the Labour Party as a sign that the Government has not got a grip on immigration, as they believe the arrests should lead to a greater proportion of deportations and criminal prosecutions.

Woman tells of 'ruin' after discovering valuable vase in garage

A woman has told the Daily Mail about her two-year legal hell, after she discovered a valuable vase in her garage. The lady sold the vase but became embroiled in a legal battle with her former mother-in-law which has left her distraught, reports the Daily Mail.

Andrea Calland, who is 47, told the Daily Mail how she had found a Chinese vase in her garage back in 2009. Although she had expected it to sell for around £500, it was in fact bought by an Oriental art dealer for a staggering £228,000.

However, rather than being a life-changing event in a positive way, the sale of the vase kicked in motion a nightmare chain of events.

Nigel Farage to take legal advice over EU expenses

The leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) is taking legal advice after being accused of misappropriating EU expenses, after a former party aide claimed that £50,000 of EU funding was paid directly into a personal bank account of the UKIP leader, reports The Independent.

Mr Farage has responded to the accusations that he may have misappropriated EU funds by claiming they are 'outrageous' and has announced that he is taking legal advice over the matter.

It is understood that Mr Farage received £15,500 each year from the EU Parliament at Brussels, where he sits as a Member of the European Parliament. It is understood the money is given to pay for his constituency office at Lyminster in West Sussex.

'War Horse' musicians lose legal fight after sacking

Five musicians sacked from the hit West-End musical 'War Horse' have lost a legal fight to have their sacking suspended whilst a breach of contract case is heard, reports the BBC.

The five musicians were released by the producers of War Horse after they decided to replace live music with recorded music for certain parts of the show.

The musicians have decided to challenge the decision as they believe it was a breach of contract, and had asked the High Court to grant an injunction that would have allowed them to continue working until their case is heard.

A London private school is facing uncomfortable questions in the media after the Daily Mail reported an incident in which a teacher told a Jewish student she would be 'sent to the gas chambers' for jumping the lunch queue.

The Daily Mail reported the incident, which took place at North London Collegiate School, a £6,000 per term independent school catering for children from four through to 18. Frances Mary Buss founded the school in 1850.

The incident is alleged to have taken place earlier this year, and involved a teacher reprimanding a 17-year-old Jewish student who had cut in at the queue for meals, by telling her that she could be 'sent to one of her gas chambers' for her actions.

Korea state insurance firm sues tobacco companies

The South Korean state insurance company has initiated legal proceedings in Asia against cigarette manufacturers in a bid to have them pay for smoking-related treatment costs, reports the BBC.

The unprecedented legal action pit the South Korean National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) against the heavyweights of the cigarette industry, British American Tobacco, Philip Morris and South Korean maker KT&G Corporation.

The insurance company is seeking a payment of $52m against annual costs of treating smoking-related illnesses of more than $1.6bn.

The former deputy speaker of the House of Commons Nigel Evans MP has demanded that the Crown Prosecution Service pay his £130,000 legal bill after being acquitted in a trial over a string of sexual offences, reports the BBC.

Mr Evans faced a criminal trial over allegations of repeated sexual assaults and one count of rape against various men who either worked at Westminster or were social acquaintances of Mr Evans.

The trial heard that Mr Evans was a 'high-functioning alcoholic' who enjoyed drinking and socialising, and who was prone to crossing boundaries that on more than one occasion led to sexual advances on men that were rebuffed.

Gay marriage: Chaplain defies rules to marry partner in England

A hospital chaplain has defied Church of England rules to marry his long-term partner this weekend, despite the move being censured by his church, reports the BBC.

Same-sex marriage became law in the UK last year, and the first ceremonies were conducted amid scenes of jubilation around the UK back at the end of last month.

However, despite widespread support from the public, politicians and campaigners, there remains staunch opposition to the right of same-sex couples to marry, particularly among religious groups.

'Top Gear' venue loses fight over unrestricted flying rights

The owners of Dunsfold Park Aerodrome have lost their legal fight to secure the right to conduct unrestricted flying at the venue, in a blow to the producers of the Top Gear programme that is filmed there, reports the BBC.

The owners of Dunsfold Park had claimed that permanent and unrestricted planning permission had been granted allowing unrestricted flying on the site as long ago as 1951.

Dunsfold Park Aerodrome was built during World War Two by the Canadian Army for use as an emergency landing strip. After the war the site was used by Hawker Siddeley for bomber testing, and became owned by British Aerospace in 1977. The site was sold to the Rutland Group and Royal Bank of Scotland in 2002, and is now owned under the vehicle Dunsfold Park Limited.

Legal challenge to GP exam fails in High Court

The High Court has ruled that the examinations set by the Royal College of General Practitioners is lawful, but rules that it is time for the profession to address the differences in pass rates between white and non-white candidates, reports The Independent.

The legal challenge was brought by the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), who claimed that examinations set by the Royal College of General Practitioners discriminate against non-white candidates.

The challenge concerned a practical element of the examinations which doctors must pass before becoming fully qualified as a GP. The section is known as the Clinical Skills Assessment, and pits candidates against an actor in a pre-determined scenario.

Three-year freeze on asylum seeker benefits to be reviewed

The Home Secretary has been asked to review the amount of money given to asylum seekers as benefits after the High Court ruled that the decision to freeze benefits for three years was based on insufficient evidence, reports The Independent.

The Home Secretary has kept the amount of money offered to asylum seekers in benefits at the same level for three years, representing a real-term cut in benefits after taking into account the rising cost of living.

This led to the charity Refugee Action mounting a judicial review of the situation, which this week culminated in the High Court demanding that the decision be revisited.

Legal case to decide whether doctor's training is discriminatory

A large group of Black and Asian doctors are to mount a legal challenge against the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and the General Medical Council (GMC) amid claims that the examinations set for GP trainees are inherently discriminatory against non-white doctors, reports The Independent.

The doctors are taking their case to the UK High Court, claiming that the RCGP and the GMC are guilty of breaking equality laws in the way they set the examinations for qualification into General Practice.

The British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) is supporting the case, bringing a judicial review to look at whether the examination discriminates against candidates from ethnic minorities.

MPs and peers have called for the new anti-slavery legislation being drafted by the Government to be strengthened to give more attention to the victims of human trafficking, reports the BBC.

The Government is working on a new law to outlaw slavery, which to this day remains a huge problem, with figures released by the Home Office last year suggesting that the number of victims was up by 25% in the year from 2012.

The problem was highlighted last year when three women were rescued from a property in Brixton, London, after being held against their will for over 30 years by a couple in their late 60s. One of the women rescued, a 30-year-old, is thought to have been born in captivity.

NHS charged £83k legal bill for a £1k claim sparking outrage

The NHS Litigation Authority chief Catherine Dixon has lifted the lid on the charges levied by solicitors during compensation claims against the NHS, to reveal how some charge up to 80 times more than the value of the claim they are seeking, reports the Daily Mail.

According to the Mail, the NHS is launching a 'crackdown' on excessively high bills levied by solicitors representing patients with claims for compensation.

The head of the NHS Litigation Authority, Catherine Dixon, has highlighted the shocking extent of the size of legal bills in relation to compensation claims.

Rail Union threatens legal action over East Coast line

The Rail Maritime and Transport Workers union (RMT) has threatened the Government with legal action over its proposed reprivatisation of the East Coast mainline, as well as the Thameslink and Great Northern lines, reports the BBC.

The RMT is calling for a court to consider the process for awarding the franchises for operating rail services on these three lines, as part of a judicial review process.

The RMT is being joined in the legal action by the Associated Society for Locomotive Engineers and Firemen Union (ASLEF), which represents train drivers, and the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association Union (TSSA), which represents other rail workers.

UK law to permit sale of home HIV testing kits

The UK Government is to legislate to allow the sale of 'home-testing kits' for HIV infection in the UK, despite the fact that no such device exists in the UK market at present, reports the BBC.

The Government has passed a law that will in future allow UK citizens to buy a home-testing kit to diagnose HIV infection, without the need to visit a doctor's surgery, hospital or sexual health clinic.

The law has been passed despite the fact that no such device exists in the UK market, and none has received approval by European regulators either.

New laws to regulate the behaviour of bailiffs came into force yesterday, aimed at cracking down on aggressive tactics that can leave some debtors living in fear, reports the BBC.

The reforms come as part of a package of changes made to the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcements Act 2007, which came into force on 6 April 2014.

Under the new laws, bailiffs are banned from entering any home at night and are now completely banned from using any physical force against debtors. The rules also prevent bailiffs from entering property when only children are at home.

Government decides to go for law on plain cigarette packaging

The UK Government has decided it will introduce a new law to force cigarette manufacturers to package their products in plain boxes with prominently displayed health warnings, in a bid to further remove the attraction of smoking, reports the BBC.

The Government has been considering 'plain packaging' for cigarettes for some time, and considered introducing a new law earlier in this parliamentary session, only for the Conservatives to back down on the matter.

That prompted anti-smoking campaigners to accuse the Government of being in the pay of the powerful tobacco lobby, who have campaigned vehemently against plain packaging laws in every country where they are being proposed.

Irish court denies pub-goer legal claim after sex-toy injury

A Dublin court has ruled that a woman injured in a stampede to claim a sex toy on a night out at her local pub could not claim damages for her injuries from the pub's owners, reports the Belfast Telegraph.

A Dublin woman has lost her legal fight for compensation after being injured in a stampede at her local pub, as drinkers fought one another to claim a sex toy 'spot prize' that had been thrown into a crowd during an organised promotional event.

Sylvia Deehan took action against the owners of the Lough Inn, Loughlinstown Inn Limited, who had held an 'Ann Summers' party on their premises.

MPs warn that legal cases against Army are undermining troops

The Defence Select Committee of MPs has warned that the current trend for litigation against the Army is undermining the troops and could lead to commanders withholding forces from the battlefield, reports the BBC.

The Defence Select Committee cited the unprecedented number of legal cases against the Armed Forces as causing potential problems with future troop deployment, which in turn could lead to more civilian casualties as airstrikes could replace troops on the ground.

The report cited a Supreme Court judgment last year that opened the door for military personnel and their families to sue the MoD for negligence if a troop is injured or dies.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) has completed a study which has shown that more than 4,500 people have been prosecuted for 'joint enterprise' murders, where several people are convicted of the same offence, reports the BBC.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism used Freedom of Information Act requests to gather data on the number of murder prosecutions involving two or more defendants for the same crime.

Their study revealed that there were 4,590 prosecutions for murder between 2005 and 2013 with at least two defendants, and of those 1,853 involved four or more defendants.

Cinderella law to criminalise child cruelty being considered

The Government is considering the introduction of a new criminal offence of committing emotional cruelty towards children, reports the BBC.

The proposal will see existing neglect laws changed to incorporate a new criminal offence of emotional cruelty. The proposal was first mooted by charity Action for Children, and has been nicknamed the 'Cinderella law'.

Child cruelty is currently a vague offence, founded in the principle of neglect, and stemming from the duty of care owed by parents and guardians to their children. Beyond this, child cruelty is then defined by social workers, but it is not written into statute law.