Duncan Lewis Solicitors

Updates of Legal Affairs…

The Joint Committee on Human Rights a strong critic of Secret Trials finds support in the Deputy Prime Minister

April 4th, 2012

The joint Committee on Human Rights which is a strong critic of the government’s planned “Secret Trials” has found support in Nick Clegg the deputy Prime Minister.

Mr Clegg has hinted that he was not happy with the government’s plans of secret trials in certain civil cases in its entirety.

The Dy Prime Minister had written to the National Security Council that judges and not the ministers should be deciding what should be kept secret.

Mr Clegg has also said that he believes no inquests should be held in private as first reported in the Daily Mail.

BBC political correspondent Robin Brant said that the Lib Dem was asserting some authority over their coalition partners on the traditional issue of civil liberties.

The MPs and Peers on the Joint Committee on Human Rights said that the government had not given any proper reasons to justify why more cases were needed to be heard in secret.

They said that the inherently unfair plan was based on contaminated belief that the material would be made public.

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke who said proposals were “a common-sense solution to a genuine problem” but will be used in only a very few number of cases involving sensitive evidence from intelligence officers.

Under the plans, special advocates would be able to examine secret documents but would not be able to discuss them with defendants or claimants to get their side of the case.

In a highly critical report, the JCHR said the plans were a “radical departure from long-standing traditions of open justice”, and the government had failed to show there was “a real, practical problem at all” with the current system.

Ken Clarke welcomed the report and stated that it meant there was a compelling case for the changing of the current rules which stop judges from considering any sensitive intelligence evidence at all even when the whole case depended on it.

Human rights campaign groups said the JCHR’s report showed the proposals should be dropped altogether.

Labour said the government had to “properly justify these unprecedented changes to the British legal system”, and should reflect on the concerns raised by the JCHR.

A 14 year old boy murders his mother inspired by a soap opera murder plot – is detained for minimum of 16 years

April 4th, 2012

In a shocking incident a 15 year old boy murdered his mother with a hammer and set her body on fire.

The boy whose identity was not revealed earlier has been lifted by the court when the Nottingham Crown Court sentenced the boy in detention for minimum of 16 years.

Daniel Bartlam the boy had denied murder but admitted the manslaughter of his mother Jacqueline Bartlam, following a row at their Nottinghamshire home.

In a gruesome attack the court was told that the mother was beaten seven times with a claw hammer, fracturing her face and skull. After being beaten her body was padded up with paper and covered in petrol and set on fire, the court was told.

A soap opera murder plot and violent TV clips were found on Daniels computer.

At first the boy made up a story that an intruder had killed his mother but the detectives found a written soap opera plot on his computer which depicted his fantasies of his character carrying out the killing. Daniel was only 14 at the time.

His interests were mainly on the character John Stape from the Coronation Street storyline the court heard.

In the soap, Stape’s character murders a woman with a hammer and then leaves her body in the wreckage of a tram crash.

It was understood that Daniel was watching violent horror movies since he was eight and just before the murder had viewed the film Saw for hours.

The teenager claimed he had been provoked into violence when his mother called him “a freak” during their argument. He was found guilty of murder at Nottingham Crown Court on 9 February. The jury heard authorities raised concerns about the boy’s behaviour in the months before the attack.

Though he told the counselors that he heard voices telling him to do violent things hurting people and was having visions of killing people the experts had concluded and told the court that he was not mentally sick and that he did not pose any risk.

Judge Julian Flaux described the murder as “grotesque” and “senseless” and said it seemed like the teenager wanted to “get away with the perfect murder”.

Det Ch Insp. Kate Meynell, who led the murder inquiry, said the planning and the violence involved in the crime and the extent of lies was not only shocking but was chilling for a boy of 14 to do it.

Child Support Agency pays the legal fees of a man whose case they mishandled

April 4th, 2012

Henry Roy, of Paisley who was locked in a battle with a Child Support Agency (CSA) for more than three years claimed that he could have been sent to prison due to a series of mistakes.

The father of two, who claimed that he had a good relationship with his children and former wife, after their divorce, was paying a regular amount on an informal basis but the trouble started when his ex had made arrangements to get it through the CSA.

He was taken to the court twice for £8000 an amount which he disputed as he was unemployed for a period and eventually the CSA agreed that he owed only a little more than £1000.

The officials of the Child Support Agency in an unusual step wrote to him admitting that they had not dealt the case properly hence they were agreeing to pay more than £1700 towards the legal fees he incurred disputing the sum they pursued him for.

The CSA letter stated that they have re-examined the details of the case and that they agreed there was mal-administration.

Mr Roy, 45, says he is relieved the ordeal appears to be behind him, but has no faith in the “inept” system.

He said in principle, the CSA was a great idea, but the reality was that practice was disgraceful. The system he said was completely incompetent.

He said his and his family’s life over the past few years would have been much easier if the officials had done their jobs right.

He added that it worked for him as he got a lawyer and because he had kept every piece of paperwork involved in the case, but doubted for people who could not be prepared.

A spokesman for the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission said parents were only at risk of jail if a court believed they have willfully or culpably failed to pay maintenance.

They are relieved from the duty to pay for their children if they can prove they have no income and are financially dependent on others. If the CSA has not given them that opportunity, compensation may be pay-able but the reimbursement of legal fees should only be justified in very exceptional, complex

A man working for odd hours took notes from the till as he felt the minimum wage was not sufficient payment – caught in the camera

April 4th, 2012

Brian Raymond Ballantine, 63, who worked at unearthly hours thought the minimum wages that he was being paid was not sufficient for the efforts he put in, the York magistrates heard.

He started taking notes from the till at the W H Smith’s branch at York Railway Station on eight occasions between September 15 and October 10, 2011, but he was not aware that the management secretly filmed him in the act the prosecutor Sandra White told the court.

The employers had set up the surveillance camera after a new manager reported unexplained stock losses and having seen Ballantine putting coins on top of the till drawer which was against the company regulations.

Ballantine, of Postern Close, Clementhorpe, who had previously helped train police cadets, pleaded guilty to eight charges of theft, totalling £140 and was ordered to do 100 hours unpaid work and pay £140 compensation and £85 prosecution costs.

His solicitor for Ballantine said that he was not involved in the stock losses and placed the coins on top of the drawer for speedy service at busy times.

He was a desperate man who was expected to work all hours for a minimum wages having previously been self-employed, the solicitor said.

He took the stupid decision last year to compensate for the work he was putting in and because of the financial difficulties he was in.

Ballantine had an excellent work record and had run pubs and clubs in Lancashire for some years. He then moved to a London pub, but received a beating when he reported drug dealers to police for dealing in his pub. He had then moved to York.

At times, he had to start work at 4.30am and felt he was working over and above what W H Smith asked of him because of staff shortages, the court heard.

The changes to unfair dismissal law would lead to disproportionate discrimination the Trade Union warns

April 4th, 2012

The qualifying period for protection from unfair dismissal from one year to two years coming into effect from 6th April Good Friday, is going to put around 2.7 million workers across the UK to increased risk of losing their jobs.

The Trade Union release has warned that this change in the law would also increase job insecurity, discriminate against younger workers, part time women workers and employees from black and ethnic communities, and would encourage hire and fire culture in the UK.

On the other side the government argued that the diluting the unfair dismissal rights would help boost recruitment as the companies would grow.

Though the qualifying period for unfair dismissal rights in the UK has fluctuated over time, the TUC believes that there was no heard-fast rule that shorter qualifying period has led to job losses or has constrained recruitment. Since 1999 when the qualifying period was last reduced from two years to 12 months, more than 1,750,000 extra jobs have been created in the UK.

This change in the law is also not a top priority for businesses. The union said that the Small Business Barometer commissioned by the Department for Business (BIS) and published in October 2011 had conducted a survey where 500 small and medium-sized businesses were asked about their main obstacles to success.

The majority of them said that the biggest problem was the state of the economy, and other problem was obtaining finance from the banks. Then came taxation, cash flow and competition. Just six per cent of small businesses listed regulation, or ‘red tape’, as their main barrier to growth.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said the government’s proposals to weaken unfair dismissal rights would promote a ‘hire and fire’ culture in the UK and will lead to the creation of insecure employment with no guarantee.

Stricter and longer sentences for knife crimes come into force in Scotland

April 4th, 2012

Longer jail sentences are going to be implemented from today onwards in Scotland for anyone who is arrested with a knife in Scotland’s town and city centres.

The offenders are to be prosecuted before a Sheriff and jury which would mean a potential increase of a maximum prison sentence from one year to four years.

It is being followed up after a pilot was introduced with successful results during the Christmas and New Year festive period aimed to deter knife offences and reduce violence.

The initiative between 12 December, 2011, and 23 January, this year, was deemed a success.

At the end of last year a ‘zero tolerance’ crackdown on knife carrying in Scotland’s town and city centres was enforced by the police.

A Scottish Government spokesman said that the six-week pilot provided a picture of knife related crime and established the importance of making the tougher action a permanent feature in fighting the violence and protecting the communities.

The number of knife crime offences reported to the prosecution service during the pilot was down to 212 an 18% reduction from the same period the previous year.

Out of those committing offences within a town or city centre 58 offenders were placed on petition and face more serious penalties.

The Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland QC, said that he was pleased to see that the prosecution service’s zero tolerance policy to knife crime has resulted in a reduction in the number of cases reported to the COPFS over the same period as last year.

The zero tolerance policy towards those who commit such offences in any Scottish town and city centres would become a permanent part of the prosecution policy.

The success of the policy would be measured by preventing just one act of violence he added

Paedophile who chronicled his sick attacks is sent to prison after his relative finds a list of victims with ratings under his mattress

April 2nd, 2012

Paul Wilson a vile paedophile had the habit of maintaining a sick scorecard of his victims during his ten year campaign of sex attacks.

His sickness came into light when a relative happened to find a twisted list of his child victims which was hidden beneath his mattress. The 30-year-old has been jailed indefinitely for the public protection.

In one such terrifying attack he lured a 10-year-old victim into his Newcastle home with the promise of pocket money and computer games. But once inside he locked the youngster in the home and sexually assaulted him despite his desperate pleas to be let free.

His perverted terror actions dated back to back to 2001 and included a string of attacks on at least three “vulnerable and innocent” children on Tyneside.

In September 2009 he was handed just 21 months after attacking a 13-year-old child. But within months of his release on January 19, 2010, the full scale of his horrifying abuse came to light.

A family member discovered a list of at least 12 victims which were rated by the pervert and eventually lead to his arrest .

Judge Roger Thorn QC sentencing told Wilson that at 30 years of age it was time of his reckoning. In the 15 years of his offending he had become a danger to the public and the risk and harm from him was so grave that he must be imprisoned for the public protection.

Prosecuting, Bridie Smurthwaite, said the police were contacted about the list and they examined the names. It had quite a number of names of individuals and police contacted these individuals.

Wilson, 30, from Newcastle, admitted sexual assault of a boy under 13- years-old, nine offences of indecently assaulting a girl under 16-years-old and five offences of indecently assaulting a boy under 16-years-old.

Wilson was sentenced for minimum of four-and-a-half years before he could be considered for parole and was condemned for life on the sex offenders register.

Det Insp Paul Race, who leads the Rape Investigation Team at Northumbria Police, said the culprit cynically targeted innocent children. The Detective hoped that the sentencing would bring some satisfaction to his victims for starting a considerable sentence which will keep him away from children for many years to come.

A pilot project which became successful for domestic violence victims among migrants has been made permanent

April 2nd, 2012

A pilot which helped 1,522 migrants, including 738 women and children has been made permanent the Home Office has said.

The scheme is to help migrants forced to leave relationship as a result of domestic violence. The plan is being seen to help victims who would otherwise become deprived or have no access to public funds.

Immigration minister Damien Green has said that domestic violence affected people of all ages and backgrounds and that the government was determined to tackle it.

He added that no one deserved to stay in an abusive relationship and the scheme was there to help genuine victims who needed to escape from violence and harm and seek the support they deserve.

The victims of domestic violence who are foreign nationals are provided with access to support services. The government has said that the project would assist an estimated 500 people a year in the UK.

The pilot was started successfully since 2009 and was called Sojourner Project which is to become a permanent feature from April 2012.

Those eligible for the scheme are to be given a limited period of exceptional leave to remain by the UK Border Agency. The victims will be able to access financial and support services such as refuge, and be allowed to apply for UK residency.

The government said that the victims in several cases were not coming forward to seek help as they lacked financial support and were afraid that they would be sent back from UK if their relationship failed.

Jo Clarke, from refuge charity Eaves Women’s Aid, who had co-ordinated the pilot, said the Sojourner Project pilot had been a big success, helping more than 1,000 people, including 12 men, to escape abusive relationships and secure indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

Victims of domestic violence having no access to public funds were the most vulnerable and badly abused and the Sojourner funding had, quite literally, saved many lives.

Clarke added that their findings had demonstrated the need for this escape route and they welcome the introduction of the government’s long-term solution which will mainstream the provision of financial support to this group.

UKBA to start dental profiling of child asylum seeker to establish their age

April 2nd, 2012

A plan which was dropped three years ago is to be revived though being opposed by medical profession and lawyers and children’s commissioners.

 

dentist

The UKBA is to start pilot for dental x rays of child asylum seekers. The agency has started a three month trial of volunteer applicants to establish the ages of asylum seeker who are under 18 and treated differently. The previous labour government had dropped similar plans.

It is estimated that throughout UK such tests would involve hundreds of children and young adults every year.

The children’s commissioners jointly said that it was shocking that such clear breach of the rights of the vulnerable children could be taken which was in fact illegal.
The lawyers also warned that the proposed plans were not only unethical but also an assault on the children.

Chief medical officer Liam Donaldson, for the government in 2008 warned the checks had potential harming effect on the children from ionising radiation especially when there was no provision for clinical benefit.

The dropped plan was revealed in a letter to interested parties from Zilla Bowell, the UK Border Agency’s head of asylum.

She insisted those who chose not to participate would not jeopardise their claims for asylum or humanitarian protection but said that many were aware that difficulties arise when age of the applicant is not established. This plan is to ensure to utilise any appropriate tool which could increase the levels of certainty without having any negative impact she added.

Asylum seekers are usually cared for by local authority social services departments but the agency has complained that young adults claim to be under 18 to avoid removal.
The pilot will involve volunteers who are assessed as adults by Croydon council, in south London, but maintain they are under 18. They will be given the opportunity to have a dental x-ray at Guy’s hospital, London.

Bowell’s letter states that if x-rays indicate that the individual is likely to be under 18, Croydon council will be invited to review their assessment of the asylum-seekers’ age.

The Refugee Council also criticised the trial. Deborah Harris, its chief operating officer, said the fact that numerous professional bodies have previously stated the plan was not a sound method is very concerning for vulnerable children caught in the process.

The big rental boom for neighbours at the Olympics stadium is after all only rumours

April 2nd, 2012
The pre-Olympics rental values that prompted the landlords to jack up rentals many folds and in some cases evicting the existing tenants for getting a better value in wake of the demand due to the October Olympics has suddenly found few takers in the Olympics neighbours in Stratford where the rentals were offered as high as £4,000-a-week.
 
The whole story making rounds that rentals were hitting roof tops seem to be just rumours as in the case of Kate Greenslade and Gary Seabrook who too had believed that they could get a good income of their properties and it was an ideal opportunity for them to embark on a world trip.
 
The couple having a video production company and living in a bright two bedroom parkside flat, a mile from the Olympic stadium, had like other neighbours put their property on the rental websites but after seven months finding no takers have sliced their price form £3,000 per week to £2,500 per week . though there were several inquiries except for two or three night stays and a booking for the week before the Olympics begin no one has taken it for the entire period of the games.
 
With the opening ceremony approaching fast many homeowners are realizing that the sublet windfall as promised by the Games is not looking as profitable as they expected.
 
Camilla Shaughnessy, owner of EventfulStays.com, which offers rentals for sporting and cultural fixtures around the country, says that there is so much of hype around the Olympics, which she says, as “just another event”. She added that it is happening but it’s not the big boom time as yet though it would get busier as it gets closer. Some people are being very greedy when they are renting the properties but the visitors are also clever.
 
Gary Clark, director of London2012rentals.com, agrees that expectations are often wildly unrealistic. Three or four times of the normal rental value can be expected but people are expecting seven eight times that amount. The rooms offered should also be good in décor to fetch a good rental and unrealistic expectations are bound to disappoint he added there are people in Stratford who have been offering their properties at 20 times their normal rental values the Estate Gazette had reported last week.
 
Other things apart experts also pointed out that subletting a property may be forbidden under the terms a mortgage, and might invalidate home insurance.
 
Some local authorities forbid holiday subletting without a costly “change of use” license, which can take several months to acquire. Any rental income, in addition, is also subject to tax.
 
Meanwhile, thousands of homeowners wait and hope that they too can pocket some Olympic gold.