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News in brief: week beginning 7 July 2014

Practising certificate fees, exploding pavements and George Clooney takes on the Mail Online

11 July 2014

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All hail: The Law Society has welcomed its new president, Andrew Caplen. The Hampshire-based solicitor took office as the 170th president of the society during last week's annual general meeting. He vowed to refocus on access to justice and will "continue to fight the erosion of legal aid".


Religious exploitation: Actor George Clooney has accused the Mail Online of concocting a "false" and "irresponsible" story about his fiancée, human rights barrister Amal Alamuddin. The Mail article claimed that Alamuddin's mother opposed their forthcoming marriage on religious grounds. "To exploit religious differences where none exist is at the very least negligent and more appropriately dangerous", said Clooney.


Reporting restrictions: Mrs Justice Roberts has refused to impose a "blanket ban" on the reporting of a £1bn divorce case. The judge ruled that details of Britain's biggest divorce can be reported despite objections from hedge-fund boss Sir Christopher Hohn, whose wife claims she made him a philanthropist.


Police abuse: An English Romany police officer has brought about a police review after a racism complaint against Thames Valley Police. PC Jim Davies refers to himself as an 'English traveller', but a key issue under scrutiny was whether the term 'traveller', when used by Thames Valley Police, referred to a racial group for the purpose of section 9 of the Equality Act 2010. An out-of-court settlement has been reached between the parties.


Assisted suicide: Lord Falconer's Assisted Dying Bill will have its second reading in the House of Lords on Friday 18 July. The debate comes just weeks after the Supreme Court said that if parliament doesn't address the incompatibility of the law, the courts may well step in. More on this in next week's issue.


Professional alliance: A new multi-disciplinary partnership alliance has been launched between a number of leading independent legal and accountancy firms. The Professional Practices Alliance is a collaboration providing professional services firms with integrated advice in key areas. The members of the alliance are law firms Maurice Turnor Gardner, CM Murray and Hierons, along with chartered accountants Buzzacott.


Practising certificate: The Law Society's governing council has approved a 17 per cent reduction in the individual practising certificate fee for 2014/15. The proposal will now be passed to the Legal Services Board for final approval.


Pro bono : A national charity has teamed up with Northumbria University for the official launch of its new Newcastle-based court support service. The Personal Support Unit (PSU) is a charity with trained volunteers providing assistance to those without representation in civil and family court cases. The PSU operates in courts across England and Wales including its new base at Newcastle Combined Court.


Exploding pavements: Hodge Jones & Allen has endorsed a petition set up by one of its former clients, Cara Perrett, who was injured when a pavement exploded and engulfed her in a fireball. The petition aims to ensure potential explosions are eliminated by essential maintenance and upgrades are carried out across the UK. Firm partner Peter Todd supported the petition in a statement entitled 'Safety ahead of profits'.


Legal capacity: A judge has allowed police to break down the door of a pregnant woman and take her for an enforced caesarean, under sedation, because she could die in childbirth. The pregnant woman has an irrational fear of hospitals. Mr Justice Cobb ruled that the woman clearly did not have the legal capacity to make wise decisions for herself. Her third child was delivered using barbecue tongs and was found severely malnourished. The woman's other five children have already been taken into care.


Foreign students: The government could be set for legal challenges from more than 50 colleges and universities on its decision to strip them of their right to recruit overseas students. Law firm Farani Javid Taylor said that those affected have the grounds to make a strong case against the Home Office decision. The firm recently won a case where Goldsmiths College had its licence returned by the government after a decision at the High Court.


Twitter backlash: A bricklayer from Hull has been found guilty of raping a woman who had fallen asleep on his sofa. Lee Setford was sentenced to five years in prison but was described by the judge as "not the type who goes earching for a woman to rape" and that he "just lost control". The comments have sparked outrage on Twitter, where the judge's words have been described as "horrendous", "ignorant" and "shocking".


Human rights: The Joint Committee on Human Rights has concluded that the impact of the government's proposed legal aid residence test on children will lead to breaches by the UK of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It said it will prevent children from being effectively represented in legal proceedings that affect them.


Righteous indignation: Birmingham law firm SGH Martineau has revised a blog in which it compares the tendency of Uruguayan footballer Luis Suárez to bite opponents with the actions of "insubordinate" star academics. This follows a storm of angry tweets directed at the firm.


Assisted dying: Celebrities Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne have reportedly agreed on a Dignitas 'suicide pact' to cover life-threatening illnesses and Alzheimer's disease. The musician said that if he "can't live my life the way I'm living it now". Meanwhile Robin Ince has lent his support to Dignity in Dying's campaign for an assisted suicide law saying, "Assisted dying is not the first and only option but the final one, when all else has failed and not hope can be glimpsed".


Professional negligence: Lawyers who failed to provide sufficient advice to their clients about potential litigation funding options available to them, specifically the availability of a form of legal cost insurance, could potentially find themselves facing claims from former clients, according to law firm Irwin Mitchell.


Slip rule: John Jenkin was sentenced to life imprisonment for killing his mother and sister with an axe in 2013. A minimum term of 12 years was imposed but this was later varied under the "slip rule" to a minimum term of 6 years. In addition an order was made under section 45A of the Mental Health Act requiring him to be treated in hospital until such time as he was fit to be sent to prison. The sentencing judge on both occasions was Mr Justice King sitting in the Crown Court at Preston.


Subject access: The government has announced that enforced subject access requests will become a criminal offence under new legislation set to be introduced on 1st December 2014. Enforced subject access is where individuals are forced by someone, such a prospective employer, to make a subject access request and reveal the results to them, typically in relation to criminal conviction data.


Solicitor publicity: The SRA has moved to remind in-house solicitor teams of their responsibilities when it comes to publicity. Media reports have involved complaints from the public about misleading information contained in letters and letterheads from a small number of in-house solicitors. The SRA has published a warning notice reiterating the key parts of Chapter 8 of the Code of Conduct.


Safety first: Midlands-based firm, DBS Law, has received national recognition for its ongoing commitment to educate young people in Birmingham about road safety. DBS Law won the Big Tick in the 'Business in the Community' category at the Responsible Business Awards 2014 for its 'Clock on to Safety' initiative, which has provided road safety training for thousands of school children in Birmingham.


Film reward: The family of Adam Hird who died after being restrained by bouncers offers a £1000 reward to woman who they believe filmed incident. Police were called to Club No. 65 in London after reports of a man being restrained by security staff. Paramedics fought to save Hird's life and he was rushed to hospital where surgeons had to remove part of his skull. He died two days later.


Hacked off: Commenting on the sentencing of Andy Coulson in the phone-hacking trial, Salome Verrell, a tutor at the University of Law, said: "Coulson's sentence of 18 months for conspiracy to hack phones is about right although I would have expected it to be closer to the maximum possible sentence of two years given the high number of victims - which is estimated at more than 5,000. The judge also remarked that ignorance could not be used as mitigation in this case as Coulson clearly knew what was going on and failed stop it." SJ

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