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

May 2014 Archives

New taxi 'app' service faces High Court challenge

A new taxi service operating via a mobile phone app in London is facing a legal challenge in the UK High Court after licenced taxi drivers complained that the app infringes on their lawful trade, reports the BBC.

The new service operated by Uber runs in 100 countries around the world, and works by matching a nearby taxi driver to a fare. The app allows customers to compare the fares of nearby drivers in order to get the best deal.

It has faced stiff criticism from London's black cab drivers, who believe that because the app has a second layer which calculates fares based on distance it essentially amounts to a taximeter, something which private vehicles are not allowed to use.

EU drugs agency reveals soaring access to 'legal highs'

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has revealed a soaring number of new psychoactive substances, also known as 'legal highs' in a recent report, reports the Independent.

The EU drug watchdog monitors the access to and use of drugs across the European Union and reports on trends.

Its latest report reveals that the use of legal highs across Europe is reaching levels not seen before, with more than 650 websites selling 250 substances to users in all countries.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) says businesses in the service sector, which include law firms, are growing again and that data shows they are taking on new staff, reports the BBC.

Businesses in the service industries are reporting that the economic outlook is more positive now than at any time recently, with the Confederation of British Industry reporting that the sector is now employing more new staff than before.

The service sector includes consumer service businesses such as hotels, bars and restaurants, which report levels of business comfortably above normal expectations, a sign of a growing economy.

The rise in the number of multi-million pound construction projects involving joint ventures between companies is leading to an increasing number of legal disputes as partners fall out over contract details, reports the Financial Times.

Joint ventures are separate legal vehicles, which are often created by two or more companies who use the newly created vehicle for the completion of a specific contract or project.

The aim of a joint venture is to separate out the costs and profits from a specific project, allowing several corporate partners to collaborate to deliver a large project, sharing in the costs and revenues as well as any assets procured for the project.

Leader of Northern Ireland party takes legal action

The leader of Northern Ireland's newest party has said he is to launch an unspecified legal action after a falling out with his deputy leader, reports the BBC.

Basil McCrea is the leader of Northern Ireland's NI21 party, and spoke after falling out with his deputy John McCallister, to say he is intending to take an unspecified legal action after being made the subject of allegations of inappropriate sexual activity, which he denies.

The BBC reports that the incident surrounding Mr McCrea started when the party changed its designation from representing a Unionist view, to one of simply 'other' at the last moment before the recent elections.

Apple seeks retrial in Samsung patent infringement case

The electronics giant Apple has requested a retrial in America after a judge ordered Samsung to pay it $119m in damages for breach of two of Apple's patents, reports the BBC.

The war between Apple and Samsung has waged for many years, with Samsung seemingly now well ahead in the marketplace for 'smartphones' worldwide with a market share globally of around 30%. Apple is some way off with a market share of around 15%.

The two have also been locked in an intellectual property legal battle in America for many years.

Mum takes Education Secretary to court over holiday plans

A disgruntled mother has decided to sue Education Secretary Michael Gove over his policy aimed at cracking down on parents who take their children out of school during term time, reports the Western Daily Press.

Karen Wilkinson, a mother of three from Bath, Somerset is leading a campaign against the crackdown by Conservative Minister Mr Gove.

The campaign is called 'Parents want a say', and follows on from a petition against the government proposal, which attracted 200,000 signatures.

Probate: Legal experts want law change over burial wishes

Legal experts are seeking a change in the law to allow individuals to specify their wishes on how they would like to be buried, to avoid problems with interpretation of last wishes, reports the Independent.

The news follows on from a court decision that the remains of Richard III, recently discovered under a car park in Leicester, are to be interred in Leicester and not moved to York.

The ruling has prompted legal experts to call for a change in the law to allow individuals to document their wishes regarding burial.

A northern Irish woman stabbed 26 times by a man at a medical centre in Belfast has lost a legal challenge against the investigation carried out into the attack, reports the BBC.

Mary McReynolds, who was 40 at the time, was attacked at the Grove Wellbeing Centre in Belfast in August 2011 by Darren Todd, a 26-year-old from County Down.

Eye witnesses saw Mr Todd attack Ms McReynolds from just 20 or 30 feet away and required counselling after the event.

The family of a British man who died after being given a lethal dose of a powerful painkiller have expressed their disbelief that the doctor responsible will not be extradited to the UK to face charges, reports the BBC.

David Gray from Cambridgeshire died in 2008 after being given a dose of the painkiller diamorphine that was ten times the standard dose by Dr Daniel Ubani from Germany.

Dr Ubani returned to Germany after the incident, where he faced prosecution for death by negligence and served a nine-month suspended sentence.

The UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has won an appeal against a decision by a Crown Court to dismiss a £5m fraud trial against a group of men after their lawyers had successfully argued that the case should be dropped because government legal-aid cuts meant no barristers were prepared to take their case.

Three Court of Appeal judges have quashed the earlier decision of Judge Anthony Leonard, who told Southwark Crown Court that it would be a 'violation' of legal process if a multi-million pound fraud trial were allowed to proceed because there was a lack of suitably qualified barristers to take on the defence case.

Reversing the decision, the Court of Appeal judge Sir Brian Leveson said that the row over whether experienced and suitably trained barristers could be found to act in the trial was standing in the way of justice.

The former head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Dominique Strauss-Kahn has instructed his lawyers to sue the makers of a new film based on a real-life sex-scandal involving a sexual assault on a maid in a New York hotel in 2011, reports Reuters.

Mr Strauss-Kahn was arrested after a maid at a New York hotel claimed he had sexually assaulted her in 2011. The allegations led to him resigning his post as the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), an international body which aims to provide information to governments to enable global economic stability.

The criminal case against Mr Strauss-Kahn was dropped by the maid in question, after he agreed to settle a civil case out-of-court.

Petroleum giant BP has lost an American court appeal over whether businesses should have to prove that they were directly harmed by the oil spill generated by the Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010, reports the BBC.

The explosion at the oil rig, the Deepwater Horizon, in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 created one of the largest marine disasters in history, and resulted in the deaths of 11 crew members and the spillage of 210 million gallons of oil into the ocean with devastating effects on marine life and the economy of the region.

BP set aside almost $40bn in order to settle claims made against it by individuals and businesses harmed by the effects of the oil spill, as well as claims made by the US Government itself.

East Sussex school decides to sue over Ofsted report

A school in East Sussex has decided it will take legal action against the school's inspector Ofsted over a damning report it received about the education it provides, reports the BBC.

Northease Manor School based near Lewes in East Sussex was given a rating of 'inadequate' in all areas of inspection following a visit by Ofsted in February this year.

The school is an independent day and weekly boarding school for potentially able students with Specific Learning Difficulties, such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and Autistic Spectrum Disorders including autism and Asperger's.

Gay rights: Channel island petition for equality gains momentum

A petition launched in the Channel Islands calling for equality for the lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender community is gaining momentum with around 800 signatures already gained, reports the BBC's Guernsey service.

The Channel Islands are said to be many years behind the rest of the UK with regards to its policies and laws surrounding the treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens.

The UK already has the Equality Act 2010 which prevents discrimination on several grounds including sexuality, gender and race. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, which came into force earlier this year, now provides for marriage for same-sex couples.

Switzerland citizen's reject highest minimum wage in world

The citizens of Switzerland last week rejected a proposed change in their national law which would have seen the national minimum wage in Switzerland set at the highest rate in the world, reports The Independent.

The Swiss are already known for being the home of Swiss banks, and a nation where the cost and standards of living are famously high.

This weekend citizens were asked to vote on a proposal to set the Swiss national minimum wage at 22 Swiss Francs per hour, the equivalent of £14.67 per hour, a rate more than double the UK National Minimum Wage of £6.31 per hour for over 21s.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague is set to investigate claims against British troops stationed in Iraq between 2003 and 2008 amid claims that troops may have committed war crimes in their abuse of prisoners, reports the Daily Mail.

Prosecutors based at the ICC have announced that they will begin to investigate claims made by Iraqis against British troops during the allied occupation of Iraq between 2003 and 2008.

The ICC made the decision after studying details of over 400 claims made against British troops by Iraqi civilians. The claims concern a variety of abuse including beatings, sexual assaults, mock executions and electric shock treatment.

EU court supports the 'right to be forgotten' online

An EU court has ruled that Google and other search providers must do more to amend their search results to allow for old data to be lost, supporting an individual's 'right to be forgotten' online.

The European Court of Justice has ruled that internet search companies should do more to prevent old and 'irrelevant' data from showing up in modern searches, and should remove content at the request of an individual or group if they wish for the data to no longer exist.

A Spanish national who complained that a search result showing his repossessed home infringed his right to privacy, brought the case against Google.

The UK Court of Appeal is hearing a case concerning a decision to drop a high-profile fraud case, after it emerged that many of the accused could not obtain appropriate legal representation because of cuts to legal aid funding, reports the BBC.

The appeal is being brought by the Financial Conduct Authority, who spent years compiling a case against several men accused of conducting a £5m fraud through the practice of land banking.

The case, R v Crawley and Others, has previously been adjourned on a number of occasions, as the defendants have repeatedly tried and failed to find barristers willing to take the case on in light of the recent government cuts to the legal aid budget.

Parliament votes in favour of outlawing unpaid internships

The UK Parliament has voted in favour of a new law that would see unpaid internships banned, preventing employers from exploiting the goodwill of those willing to show off their talents for free.

Many companies have viewed unpaid internships as an excellent opportunity to size up various candidates in order to choose the one most suited to a particular job role.

For many unemployed, however, unpaid internships often amount to little more than exploitation, with prospective employees asked to work long hours for no pay to complete tasks that would otherwise be carried out by a salaried employee.

Pfizer makes legal pledge over AstraZeneca takeover

US drug company Pfizer has said it will make a legally binding commitment to support UK jobs in the science industries if its proposed £63bn takeover of UK firm AstraZeneca is approved by the UK Government, reports the BBC.

It emerged last week that Pfizer was considering a $106bn deal to take over the UK based pharmaceutical firm, to create the world's largest pharmaceutical firm.

Pfizer announced a £50-per-share bid for AstraZeneca around ten days ago, claiming that its aim was to create a 'UK-based' international powerhouse.

The Prime Minister was forced to condemn the actions of Take That band member Gary Barlow, after the signer and composer was found guilty of tax avoidance, alongside fellow band members and others, reports Reuters.

Mr Barlow, a holder of an Order of the British Empire (OBE), was found alongside band mates Howard Donald and Mark Owen, and their manager Jonathan Wild, to have invested millions of pounds in a partnership called Larkdale LLP in 2010.

The band added £20.8m in money borrowed from various sources including Barclays Bank, and claimed in court that the venture was created to fund small-scale investments in the music industry through a scheme run by Icebreaker Management.

Ex-minister Chris Huhne ordered to pay £77,750 over speeding

Former Liberal Democrat cabinet minister Chris Huhne has been told by a court that he must pay £77,750 in costs after being found guilty of perverting the court of justice when he transferred motoring penalty points to his wife, reports the BBC.

Mr Huhne admitted charges relating to the transfer of motoring penalty points to his wife in avoid to avoid a disqualification at a case heard at Southwark Crown Court in March last year.

Although he had strenuously denied the charges against him, at the eleventh hour Mr Huhne changed his plea to guilty, accepting an eight-month prison sentence as a result. His wife, Vicky Pryce, was also jailed for her role in the matter.

A leading family lawyer who acted in one of the first UK law cases to recognise the value of pre-nuptial agreements has revealed to the Daily Mail that she herself has a pre-nuptial agreement in place before her forthcoming marriage

Ayesha Vargad played an important role in the case of heiress Ketrin Radmacher, a German national who divorced her husband in 2010, in which the UK Supreme Court recognised for the first time the ability for a pre-nuptial agreement to have an influence on the financial settlement of a divorcing couple.

Lord Justice Thorpe said in that case: "In future cases broadly in line with the present case on the facts, the judge should give due weight to the marital property regime into which the parties freely entered."

Lib Dem leader criticises government policy on knife crime

The deputy Prime Minister has drawn the ire of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and the Mayor of London after claiming that the Conservative proposals to imprison those caught carrying a knife for the second time are more about grabbing headlines than dealing with knife crime.

Nick Clegg wrote a piece in the Guardian newspaper this week, in which he sought to distance his party from the current Conservative policy, that would see anyone caught carrying a knife on two occasions automatically jailed for six months.

Chris Grayling says the new law is needed to curb knife crime, in the wake of the shocking murder of schoolteacher Ann Maguire, who was knifed to death by one of her pupils at a school in Leeds last week.

The High Court in London has ruled that women from Northern Ireland are not legally entitled to receive free abortions in England under the NHS.

The High Court was hearing a case brought by a 17-year-old girl and her mother, both from Northern Ireland, who hoped to come to the mainland to receive an abortion on the NHS.

Abortions are not widely available in Northern Ireland and are only offered in extreme circumstances when there is a serious threat to the life of the mother.

EU court annuls vetoed law on driving offences

A European Union court has annulled a law permitting the exchange of data relating to motoring offences, but has ruled that once revised the law will apply across all 28 EU member states, including the UK, who had previously opted out of its provisions, reports the BBC.

EU directive 2011/82 provides police forces across the EU with greater power to share information relating to certain driving offences, including speeding, failing to stop at a red light and drink driving among others.

The UK, Ireland and Denmark had previously opted out of the law using their national veto.

UK policy banning books sent to prisoners may face challenge

A UK Government policy that prohibits the sending of literature to prisoners is to be challenged by a woman serving a life sentence, who claims the ban on books has left her in despair, reports the BBC.

The ban on books was introduced in November last year by the Ministry of Justice, and is part of a raft of measures designed to restrict what can be sent in to prisoners in parcels.

The policy is known as the Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme, and was introduced in November as part of a reform to the way that prisoners earn privileges.

'Do not resuscitate' orders face Court of Appeal verdict

The use of controversial 'do not attempt resuscitation' (DNAR) medical directives is to face the scrutiny of the justices at the Court of Appeal, after a case was brought by the family of a lung cancer sufferer, who died in hospital in Cambridge three years ago, reports the BBC.

Janet Tracey was suffering from incurable lung cancer, and died as an inpatient at the Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge in March 2011. She was in hospital after being involved in a serious car crash, suffering from injuries unrelated to her cancer.

Mrs Tracey, from Ware in Hertfordshire, was subjected to a DNAR order, which effectively bars medical professionals from attempting cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if a patient who is subject to such an order goes into cardiac arrest.

A man from South Wales has admitted sending offensive messages via Twitter concerning the murder of school teacher Ann Maguire, and is due to be sentenced at Swansea Crown Court, reports the BBC.

Robert Riley, of Port Talbot in South Wales, appeared in a magistrates' court in Leeds charged with sending a message of a grossly offensive, abusive or malicious character.

The 42-year-old posted a string of offensive messages on Twitter, some of which concerned the murdered school teacher Ann Maguire, who was stabbed to death by a 15-year-old student at Corpus Christi Catholic School in Leeds last week.

The Government is facing the first legal challenge against clinical commissioning, the new method for procurement of NHS services, after a group demanded a judicial review into the way the Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group spends its £500m budget, reports the BBC.

Clinical commissioning was the brainchild of former health secretary Andrew Lansley, and represents the biggest change to the way health care is delivered within the NHS for the past 60 years.

Under the new model, brought into force by the Health and Social Care Act 2012, the procurement of NHS services is now carried out by Clinical Commissioning Groups run by General Practitioners.

A leading family judge, Sir James Munby, has spoken out in favour of allowing couples to obtain fast divorces at a registry office in fault-free situations, saying that couples should not need the approval of a judge to dissolve their relationships, reports the Daily Mail.

Sir James lent his support to the idea that 'fault-free' divorces should be made the sole reason for divorce, allowing couples to quickly end a marriage without either side having to take the legal blame for the breakdown of the relationship.

Although parties can divorce at present without fault, they must wait a minimum of two years living separately in circumstances where they agree to divorce, and five years living apart if one party does not agree to the split.

The Home Secretary has announced that the Government will review police powers to stop and search, in a bid designed to ensure that fewer people are subjected to the practice, reports the BBC.

Currently the police have the power to stop and search any individual they have reasonable grounds to suspect is carrying an illegal weapon, drugs, stolen property or any object which they believe could be used to commit a crime.

The power to stop and search is included in section one of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE).

The UK has failed in its first attempt to block an EU-wide transaction tax, after a court in Luxembourg ruled that the UK's objections to the tax were against a 'future' proposal that has yet to be agreed, reports the Financial Times.

EU member states including France, Germany, Italy and Spain are bidding to levy a small financial transaction tax in order to raise billions from EU financial transactions to help fund future economic crises.

The UK opposes such tax, principally as the majority of EU financial business is conducted from the City of London, and the UK believes imposing such a tax will make Europe, and London, less competitive in global financial markets.