These are the legal stories which caught our volunteers eyes this week. We’re in the process of getting some original pieces together on the big stories put up on here to follow on from our podcast series last year but until now here are our legal highlights of the week.
Should Schools Ban Tackling In Rugby?
There have been calls for a ban on tackling in rugby at school level backed by a group of more than 70 doctors and sporting experts who have sent a letter to government ministers. The risk of brain injuries caused by head trauma has been a major concern to World Rugby whose Chief Medical Officer has conceded a rule change may be required. At the moment the responsibility for the decision lies with the schools but this is shaping up to be a very contentious debate.
Court of Appeal Overturns Prison Smoking Ban
The Government has successfully applied for the ban on smoking in prisons to be overturned. The ban on smoking in public places does not apply to state prisons and other crown premises in England and Wales according to the appeal court.
Reform to UK Finance Law
Provisions in UK finance law are being expanded to include rogue bankers who will now face lengthy prison terms if they are found guilty of ‘reckless misconduct’ in the course of their business. The new Certification Regime and Conduct Rules will hold bankers accountable at an individual level. Furthermore, the existing provisions known as ‘Senior Managers and Certification Regime’ have been extended to include all sectors of the financial services industry. These developments have been in place since Monday the 7th March 2016. Chancellor George Osbourne is hopeful that these tougher provisions will avoid the financial crises experienced in recent years and to ensure that the banking sector performs to an adequate standard.
Legal Aid Granted for Private Prosecution in the Glasgow Bin Lorry Crash
The relatives of the victims of the Glasgow bin lorry crash have been granted legal aid after seeking a private prosecution against Harry Clarke, the driver of the bin lorry.
The Crown Office refused to charge Clarke, who fainted at the wheel, for the deaths of the six pedestrians, despite a fatal accident inquiry finding that he had lied about his medical history. Erin McQuade and her grandparents, Jack and Lorraine Sweeney, the relatives of the three victims of the Christmas 2014 crash, are seeking the prosecution against Clarke and have now applied directly to the high court for permission to stage the case.
The Scottish government’s justice secretary, Michael Matheson, said legal aid would also be granted to Clarke and to William Payne, who is facing a similar prosecution by relatives of the victims involved in a similar incident in Glasgow city centre in 2010. Matheson said the case can go ahead as it “raises fundamental questions that have not previously been tested in case law.”
However, there has been criticism from people who believe the prosecution should not go ahead, particularly privately. Judges will decide on this within the next week. GCU lecturer in law Andrew Tickell goes behind the headlines with his analysis at http://lallandspeatworrier.blogspot.co.uk/
Demand for Pro Bono Work has Almost Doubled since Cuts to Legal Aid
The number of applications the Bar Pro Bono Unit receives for legal assistance has almost doubled since widespread cuts to civil legal aid was introduced three years ago.
The Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, endorsed pro bono legal work in his first policy, proposing that the UK’s “two-nation” justice system can be improved by persuading “those who have benefited financially from our legal culture … to invest in its roots”.
Increasing demand for free legal representation and advice has applied serious pressures on legal aid charities and the goodwill of barristers and solicitors.
Over 3,600 barristers have committed themselves to helping desperate claimants. Jess Campbell, the unit’s chief executive, said: “We are seeing a 30% increase in applications year on year. The bar has always supported pro bono work and giving unbilled hours. It’s in the nature of the profession to do it.” Approximately 90% of the unit’s funding comes from the bar, chambers and individual barristers.
Legal professionals warn that pro bono work is not there to fill any legal aid gap.
Online Court proposed to resolve claims of up to £25,000
The Civil Justice council has called for an internet-based dispute resolutions system to be implemented within the next two years. The official body that overlooks the Civil Courts has recommended that the UK Justice system should adapt to the shifting patterns of the so called ‘digital age’ with the introduction of an online court system to widen access to justice and resolve claims of up to £25,000. Low-value civil court cases in England and Wales could be dealt with by online disputes which would similar to that already used by eBay. The report’s principle author, Professor Richard Susskind, said that ‘’The current system is too costly, too complex and too slow, especially for litigants in person’’. The online dispute resolution (ODR) model proposes a three-tier process: the evaluation through interactive services and information, discussion between online ‘’facilitators’’ and finally, if no agreement has been reached, then a resolution would be achieved by a trained judge relying on electronic submissions. If it was felt necessary, then a telephone hearings system could also be built in the final stage of the system. Only the judge would have to be legally qualified and rulings by the ‘’online judge’’ would be as enforceable as any traditional courtroom judgment.
Read more into the issue at: http://www.theguardian.com/law/2015/feb/16/online-court-proposed-to-resolve-claims-of-up-to-25000
Judge challenges government over legal representation for vulnerable people
Mr Justice Charles, a senior high court judge, has challenged the government to provide legal assistance and representation for vulnerable people as a backlog of safeguards cases that cannot be tried builds up in the court of protection. The ruling, if applied, will halt the advancement of thousands of sensitive requests a year most commonly involving those with dementia, Alzheimer’s or learning disabilities who need some sort of treatment involving some loss of liberty. The judgement comes as a result of the most recent confrontation in the debate between the legal profession and ministers over how much money should be spent on the justice system in a time of real difficulty.