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News in brief: week beginning 26 May 2014

Right to die, hate crimes, Lord Sugar VULNERABLE CLIENT Right to die: Former Secretary of State for Justice, Lord Falconer of Thoroton QC, will re-table an Assisted Dying Bill (first reading) in the House of Lords on 4 June, which seeks to legalise the choice of assisted dying for terminally ill adults with six months or less to live. The bill was tabled in the last parliament, but will be re-introduced to ensure it has sufficient time to be fully debated at second reading and considered in committee. LEGISLATION Hate crimes: The Law Commission has recommended that hate crime laws should be extended to cover the disabled, transsexuals and sexual orientation. The commission said it “sent the wrong message” that although police can record hate crimes against a number of groups the law does not allow all those offences to receive punishments in the courts.   SOLICITORS You’re sued: Lord Sugar’s property company, Amsprop, has filed a claim at the high court against solicitors which it says botched a property deal. Kingsley Napley is accused of mishandling redevelopment plans on the company’s New Bond Street site, causing it to pay out nearly £1m to a high-end jewellery company.   REGULATORS New chief: The Law Society has begun advertising for a replacement for its chief executive, Desmond Hudson. The successful candidate will ‘ideally be a qualified solicitor’ and demonstrate a track record of achievement at chief executive or equivalent level in a comparable organisation. The salary range is £230,000 to £250,000.   TAX Digital currencies: The UK has announced that it will treat Bitcoins like any other form of payment for tax purposes: VAT will be due in the normal way from suppliers of any goods or services sold in exchange for Bitcoins. The EU has passed no specific legislation relative to the status of the Bitcoin as a currency.   PROPERTY Certified copies: Practitioners applying to change the register of a registered property from 30 June onwards should send in certified copies of documents, not the originals. From that date the Land Registry will copy and destroy any originals it receives. The update to its policy applies only to land and property that is already registered and not to first registrations.   PRIVATE CLIENT Billable hours: New research from the Legal Services Consumer Panel shows that less than 10 per cent of all legal work for ordinary consumers is now billed by the hour. Fixed-fee deals are commonest in will writing, where they account for 71 per cent of transactions, and 65 per cent in power of attorney work. However, probate work is still billed by the hour in about 20 per cent of transactions.   CRIME International bribery: Britain’s Serious Fraud Office has launched a criminal inquiry into GlaxoSmithKline less than two weeks after the drugmaker was accused of “massive and systemic bribery” in China. Chinese authorities accused the group of earning billions in “illegal revenues” through the bribing of hospitals, doctors and government officials to buy its medicines.   LEGAL AID Unlawful consultation: Solicitors specialising in criminal law have issued judicial review proceedings in an effort to challenge the MoJ’s cuts to the legal aid budget. The London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association and the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association are jointly seeking a judicial review and claim that the government consultation on publicly funded criminal defence was unlawfully carried out.   COURT Free internet: Providers and advocates will be able to use Wi-Fi across the criminal court system in England and Wales by March 2016. Installation will start in October 2014 in a number of early adopter areas.   PRIVATE CLIENT Tax evasion: Pinsent Masons has advised that the Swiss government is ready to disclose a list of the top ten countries to which former holders of Swiss bank accounts have been transferring their money. The list is to be handed to HMRC by 31 May, along with the number of UK-resident account holders who moved their money to each of the listed countries.   JUDICIAL REVIEW Children’s education: The Administrative Court has quashed the decision of Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council to abolish free full-time education, free school meals and free school transport for three year olds. The court found that the council’s decision was unlawful because it failed to take proper account of key statutory duties relating to the provision of nursery education and childcare, as well as day care for children in need.   FAMILY Last resort: Justice Minister Lord Faulks has declared that disputes should be kept away from court and resolved using better, quicker and more efficient ways. Speaking at the Civil Mediation Council annual conference in Leeds, Lord Faulks called on the mediation community to help people to resolve their disputes effectively, efficiently and fairly.   EDUCATION AND TRAINING Spot-checks: The Bar Standards Board has started conducting random spot-checks of CPD record cards to ensure that barristers are keeping their record cards up to date and undertaking their set number of CPD hours. The BSB will contact those selected for spot-checking to ask for evidence of completion of their CPD hours and their record card.   LEGISLATION Bribery Act: Valerie Nazareth, head of the BBC’s editorial legal group, told a conference that many journalists may have failed to understand the Bribery Act 2010. A payment to a source for information could be caught by the terms of section 1 of the Act. Nazareth said, “I am not sure that they understand the extent to which this Act affects their activities.”

Commercial property update

Magnus Hassett and Nikolas Ireland discuss whether an injunction is still the appropriate remedy for an interference with property rights, and how to advise business tenants in the face of recent landlord successes

Commercial property update

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Commercial property update

Magnus Hassett looks at the forthcoming changes to the rules on recovery of commercial rent arrears, the introduction of a period of temporary rates relief for empty new build commercial property, and HMRC's recent clarification of last year's VAT changes, affecting landlords who let out property for storage purposes

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