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News in brief: week beginning 11 August 2014

Pre-Raphaelites in the judiciary, Slater & Gordon's impressive profits and Manchester firm shut

18 August 2014

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Rural crime: Agricultural crime cost the UK's rural economy £44.5m in 2013, an increase of 5.2 per cent from 2012. NFU Mutual, an insurer that provides cover for three quarters of farmers in the UK, found that criminals are stealing flocks of sheep and high-value vehicles, tools and farm chemicals.


Paper mache: President of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger, has compared judges to Pre-Raphaelites and Impressionists. Judicial Pre-Raphaelites, he said, read all the paperwork in advance of a case, whereas judicial Impressionists read very little, "often just skimming the skeleton arguments." Neuberger said he was tied to the latter category.


Meticulous suicide: A right-to-die campaigner made detailed plans before committing suicide which included leaving a letter addressed to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Elizabeth Egan had reportedly campaigned in favour of right-to-die for 20 years and made arrangements before her suicide as to not incriminate her family. The coroner described the planning as "meticulous."


Luxury living: The High Court has ordered a former white-collar criminal to pay £650,000 after the Crown Prosecution Service argued that Terry Adams lived a luxury lifestyle, despite claiming to be penniless. Adams was ordered in 2007 to pay back over £4m under the proceeds of crime act and for his publicly-funded defence. Adams however applied for a certificate of inadequacy in order to get the debt written off.


Super turnover: Australian firm Slater & Gordon has announced an impressive turnover increase for the 2013/14 financial year. Net profit after tax rose 47. 2 per cent to £33.7m, £15.1m of which was attributed to activity in the UK. Group managing director Andrew Grech reportedly said the acquisitions made in the UK were "running smoothly" and that the "integration of all acquired firms is well-progressed."


Human rights: The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that ten Scottish prisoners who were denied the right to vote in the 2009 European elections should not be paid compensation. However, the ECHR did rule that prisoners rights' were breached by disallowing them the vote.


Unworkable fees: Resolution has criticised new enforcement fees applicable to Child Maintenance Service Collect and Pay cases. The new system will charge parents who ask for help in collecting maintenance from paying parents who have failed to contribute. Stephen Lawson, Resolution family lawyer, said the charges will have a "disproportionate impact on vulnerable families."


Approachable website:
North west-based firm Fletchers Solicitors has launched, an online legal service aimed at reaching out to victims of medical negligence. Head of the website's legal team said it is "designed to be much more approachable and supportive than the offering from most traditional law firms."


Firm shut: A Manchester-based firm has been closed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) due to suspected grounds of dishonesty. Robert Meaton & Co's website now automatically redirects to the law firm Stephensons, who are handling client files for the firm.


Firm expansion: The headcount in legal departments is on the rise, according to research by legal recruitment consultancy Laurence Simons. Statistics show an increase of 65 per cent in the number of legal departments, and that over a quarter of departments have already recruited externally in 2014. Forty-five per cent of departments are also set to increase internal budgets.


Anglers v canoeists:The Angling Trust has taken legal action against various Canoe bodies, demanding them to stop publishing information saying that canoeists have a general right of navigation. Fish Legal is representing the trust who are threatening to take the canoeists to court to seek "declaratory relief" over statements on their websites which they claim have encouraged an "upsurge in unlawful canoeing."


Record year: The London Legal Support Trust (LLST) has now beaten 2013 for funds raised during the London Legal Walk. An impressive £533,185 was raised from the walk in May, £3,185 more than the previous year. SJ raised £771.25 in total towards the fund. The LLST has asked for any previously undeclared funds to be sent to the organisation as soon as possible.


Fringe forbidden:A musical parody of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy has received a legal challenge after its opening night at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival because producers failed to clear copyright with the work's author, E.L. James. EU law introduced on 29 July would allow the production of parodies, however the legislation was delayed to 1 October.


Level field: The Institute of Economic Affairs says governments should allow competition on a level playing field between all alternative forms of money. Kevin Dowd, a professor of finance and economics at Durham University, says that bitcoin is the first currency that governments can't shut down. A level playing field may include allowing taxes to be paid in cryptocurrencies.


Marriage conversion:
The government has tabled a draft statutory instrument before parliament to amend the Same Sex Couples Act 2013, so that wills are not revoked when a civil partnership is converted to a same sex marriage. Section 18 of the Wills Act 1838 revokes all wills after a marriage unless the person who wrote the will clearly states that they expect to be married to their new spouse. SJ