The last week has doubtless been a tiring one for legal aid minister Jonathan Djanogly (pictured), as he prepares to wade his way through the hefty 5,000 responses the Ministry of Justice received to its legal aid consultation. This must surely be the only explanation for the minister’s two recent parliamentary blunders. The first came in the House of Commons last week, when Djanogly was asked what progress had been made on recouping the whopping £1.3bn in court fines that remains uncollected. Djanogly’s response was impressively defiant and detailed, but unfortunately it was all about legal aid, and nothing to do with unpaid court fines. This prompted shouts from the chamber and a call for order before the Speaker cuttingly alerted Djanogly to his error: ‘The minister delivered his answer with admirable force and self-confidence, but I think it suffered from being the wrong answer,’ he sniped. The next day, Djanogly found himself before the House of Commons’ Justice Committee, where he faced some pretty feeble questioning from MPs. His performance was faltering and characterised by an unwillingness to deal with any specifics. But there was one accidental moment of candour. Labour MP for Islwyn, Chris Evans, asked if Djanogly agreed with the Legal Action Group’s assertion that the cuts would mean legal aid ceased to be a viable national service. ‘Absolutely’, was the minister’s confident reply. Again, Djanogly did not register his error, and it was left to the committee chair, Sir Alan Beith, to suggest that the minister’s answer ought to have been ‘absolutely not’. Obiter hopes the legal aid minister will get his act together in time to prepare an error-free response to his consultation; otherwise, as Beith pointed out, he could end up being judicially reviewed by people funded by legal aid.
A network of worldwide Islamic finance lawyers is to launch next week. Luxembourg-based Islamic Finance Lawyers (ISFIN) said it is looking to recruit more lawyers to provide Sharia-compliant investment advice worldwide. The network aims to bring together specialist lawyers from member law firms to advise Islamic banks, sovereign funds, and private and public investors from asset-rich Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Oman and Bahrain. The lawyers will advise on investments in developing nations, including India, China and Brazil, and also on tax structuring in offshore territories, such as Jersey, Guernsey, British Virgin Islands and elsewhere. ISFIN chief executive Laurent Marliere said: ‘We are seeking and cherry-picking the best Islamic finance legal teams in the market. ‘High energy prices and the fact that Islamic banks have been protected from the credit crunch due to their (Sharia) ethical approach has provided Islamic investors with huge liquidities of around £55bn. This capital now needs to be invested.’ ISFIN’s initial meeting will take place on 12 May at the Islamic Finance Service Board summit in Luxembourg. Membership is restricted to one firm per jurisdiction. The network aims to have 50 members in time for the ISFIN meeting at the International Bar Association conference in Dubai in November.
The House of Lords debate which took place on 30 January revealed divided opinion on key issues in the proposed legislation in Part 2 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill. We now know the changes will be delayed. And emphasis was placed on the fact that the reforms are not actually ‘pure Jackson’ but only embody selected parts of Lord Justice Jackson’s report. For example, consider the replacement of after-the-event legal expenses insurance by ‘qualified one-way costs shifting’ (QOCS). Liberal Democrat Lord Thomas of Gresford made a damning attack on exclusion of QOCS from the bill in favour of its introduction via the Civil Procedure Rules. He said ‘…The Civil Procedure Rules will come out of the air from somewhere and will not have any proper parliamentary scrutiny. They will have been drawn up as a result of discussion between the Executive and the Civil Procedure Rule Committee, which is entirely made up of judges and lawyers. I would have thought that there would be a constitutional position. It is more serious than anything else in the bill.’ Crossbench peer Baroness Butler-Sloss agreed, saying: ‘Perhaps the minister will not mind if I add a very few words. I had not intended to intervene but, as a former chairman of a rules committee, I have to say that I have considerable faith in the good sense of the way in which it does its work. But the points that have been made are extremely relevant. It is not really the business of a rules committee to change something so dramatic.’ Lord Beecham pointedly said to Lord Wallace of Tankerness, who was representing the government: ‘Perhaps, as he develops his reply, he would deal with the point of restricting this significant change to personal injury cases when Lord Justice Jackson advocated it across the piece.’ This raises clear professional conduct issues for the lawyer members of the Civil Procedure Rule Committee. If the Ministry of Justice provides notice under the Civil Procedure Act 1997 that rules be put in place, then the committee is required to do so. On the other hand, if there is a risk that it is being asked to breach constitutional law by exceeding its legal powers, then it has an impossible conflict of interest. Clearly there is little likelihood that any civil procedure rules will be drafted until this issue has been decisively resolved. The Civil Justice Council confirmed to me by email on 31 January: ‘The Council was asked by the Ministry to come up with practical proposals on implementing QOCS (Part 36 and Proportionality). A working party was set up chaired by Alistair Kinley to look at these issues. The subsequent report was handed over to the Department in October; a workshop was convened to discuss the report attended by Departmental officials. The Council has had not been asked to carry out any further work since then’. Lord Prescott meanwhile, the former deputy prime minister, focused on the role and impact of the press and media in bringing about the reforms. He said: ‘A survey has just come out – I do not know whether members have seen it – of 16 press organisations. It was conducted by the MoJ. Question one was: “Do you agree that CFA success fees should not longer be recoverable from the losing party in any case?”. ‘The answer was: “Yes, for the reasons set out in the response enclosed. UK law also needs to be amended to comply with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights” – and that is quite apart from being shattered from our people claiming the human rights when they are spending most of the time trying to defeat it. But the point is that there are 16 identical replies – every one of the replies from television, radio, the Guardian, the Mail, Sky, BBC, was exactly the same, to all 60 questions. All of a sudden, when they are usually divided about many issues, when it comes down to money, all 60 answers are that they should keep their position. Even the good old liberal Guardian sided with Dacre, for God’s sake – that takes a bit of thinking about. ‘They are now agreed that they should be able to keep more of their money, even though they are the ones that transgressed in this situation. ‘For those 16 to get together-some lawyer has written the answer to every one of them. If a trade union did that, we would be in trouble. It would be all over the front pages: “60 identical replies, it must be a conspiracy”. Of course it is a damn conspiracy. That they have come together in this survey to give exactly the same answers is perhaps not a crime, but it is near to it. They have the power for to do it.’ He went on to say: ‘Believe me, this press is not going to go away; it is still going to be committing the same offences. We have a Press Complaints Commission that is particularly useless and will continue to be unless we make fundamental changes. Anyone listening to the Leveson inquiry must hear that the press has not changed its mind; it is still going to go ahead and do the same things because that is how it sells newspapers.’ In what seemed to be a significant Conservative ‘about-turn’ Lord McNally replied: ‘We have to await the outcome of the Leveson inquiry.’ Alluding to the encouragement of ‘professional rogues’, Lord Bach observed: ‘It is only common sense that we should not seek to legislate for a system of litigation that allows professional people to prey on their impecunious and weak clients. The Committee today is full of professional people of one sort or another and the House is even more full of them when it is sitting. ‘As we all know, being in a profession is a privilege. When a professional takes on contractual fiduciary and moral duties to do their best to help their clients, they take on an important responsibility. We have professions in our society because we need experts who specialise, whether it is expertise in finance, in my example, the law, engineering or medicine. ‘They should know that society takes seriously if and when they act negligently, with malice, or breach their duty of care. Should we make it so difficult for the individual to take action and claim back their damages in full? Would that not have a corrosive impact on trust in the professions and their regulation, which is something that professions and the professionals themselves should not and do not welcome. ‘We think that the answer to this dilemma is to listen to what Lord Justice Jackson said and extend one-way costs shifting to all litigation, not just keep it to personal injury.’ He continued: ‘Should we fail to do this, and leave the bill unamended, the perpetrators of the Payment Protection Insurance mis-selling scandal – the mortgage mis-selling scandal of the 1980s and 1990s which noble Lords will remember – and thousands of other instances when rogue professionals have abused their position of trust, will go unpunished and unheard. ‘Their victims will multiply in a system where those who have been wronged are dissuaded from taking action against rogues, knowing that parliament will have legislated to substantially limit their rights to redress. It would be something of a rogues’ charter. ‘I end what I have to say about this amendment by citing the views of the president of the Professional Negligence Lawyers Association, who said that many litigants face the dilemma of having had their trust betrayed by one professional adviser and that their only redress by way of litigation is to risk remaining assets and perhaps insolvency by trusting another – meaning another professional adviser – to win their case. That is not a satisfactory position and we ask the government to think again.’ The government has already conceded that personal injury claims including claims against medical professionals will have the benefit of qualified one way costs shifting. However, the justification to sweep away recoverable success fees and ATE premiums from every other category of civil litigation without even providing ‘qualified one way costs shifting’ in their place is becoming harder and harder to understand. The legal aid cuts in Part I were all justified by the government’s need to cut the costs to the tax payer. The inability of the Conservatives to justify Part 2 (as seen above there is a clear difference in the Liberal Democrat position in the Lords) by reference to any savings to the taxpayer leaves open to speculation the question of they wish to bring about these reforms at all. Lord Prescott is the only one who seems to have an explanation. If he is right, then these reforms are being implemented for reasons of political expediency for which ordinary people – like us – are expected to sacrifice our ability to enforce our civil rights. It is perhaps mischievous to suggest that if the Conservatives would go this far – would they go one step further and reintroduce slavery? Katy Manley, is president of the Professional Negligence Lawyers Association
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Subscribe now for unlimited access Stay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters Get your free guest access SIGN UP TODAY To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our community
The senior family judge has insisted the Court of Appeal has not ‘caved in’ at the ‘first sign of obduracy’ following the release of a 71-year-old jailed for contempt.Sir James Munby this week approved a consent order setting aside a provision made in a Court of Protection order last year that required Teresa Kirk to provide Devon County Council with a signed written declaration of authority in relation to MM, an elderly man who lacks capacity. Her failure to comply with that provision led to her imprisonment for contempt.This week’s Court of Appeal judgment states that MM was born in Madeira but lived in the UK for many years. He had been removed to Portugal, where he remains, by Kirk. A number of judges found that his best interests would be served by his return to his familiar surroundings in the UK.The judgment states that Kirk failed to comply with the order made in June 2016 and refused to sign the required document. The local authority then applied for her committal. In August Kirk was found guilty of contempt and sentenced to six months in prison. The committal order was quashed by the Court of Appeal in November and Kirk was released from prison.In this week’s judgment, Munby felt compelled to say more on Kirk’s failure to comply with the court.He said: ‘On one view of the matter, Ms Kirk has achieved her objective by remaining adamantly obdurate in the face of the court’s orders; and the court now is simply caving in to her demands. It is a point which has troubled me, whatever her reasons may be for the stance she has adopted (a matter which there is no need for me to explore).‘I am persuaded, however, that this is not a reason why, in the particular circumstances of this case, I should refuse to approve the consent order.’Munby said it is well recognised that ‘there will come a point when even the most obdurate and defiant contemnor has to be released, despite continuing non-compliance with the court’s order’.In Kirk’s case, ‘it is important to note, the court is not caving in at the first sign of obduracy’. Munby said. ‘Ms Kirk remains seemingly determined on her course despite having been taken to prison and, indeed, despite having spent some seven weeks incarcerated in what must for her have been most unfamiliar and very unpleasant conditions.‘Is there any real reason to believe that a further dose of this medicine might induce compliance within the kind of time it might be appropriate… to require her to serve? I very much doubt it.’‘Further attempts at coercion are most unlikely to be successful. Pressing on hitherto is likely to be an exercise in futility. In the circumstances the consent order marks out the appropriate way forward.’Quashing the committal order last month, Munby questioned in the judgment whether Kirk could have been released earlier if the official solicitor still had responsibilities in relation to contemnors.A direction requiring the official solicitor to review all cases of those committed to prison for contempt of court and report back to the lord chancellor was revoked in November 2012 by the then lord chancellor, Chris Grayling.Munby said: ‘As can be seen, the process of quarterly review by an officer of the court, instituted in 1830, continued until 2012. It served contemnors, and more generally the system well. Not the least of the merits of the involvement of the official solicitor was the fact that he was not dependent upon instructions from the contemnor and indeed could, and did, act even though the contemnor did not want him to.’
Famously outspoken family judge Sir James Munby has berated the government over legal aid restrictions which left a divorced couple labelled as bigamists through no fault of their own.The retired family division president, sitting as a High Court judge in M v P (2019), said the state had ‘declined all responsibility’ for helping the parties despite ultimately landing them in this predicament.The couple had assumed their divorce was finalised by decree absolute in 2014 and each went on to marry again. But the process had been subject to fundamental errors by district judges who granted the decrees despite an administrative mistake on the petition which stated the couple had lived apart for two years. In fact they had actually only been married for 22 months, and the court was now required to decide whether the decree absolute was void or voidable.Munby said ‘serious mistakes’ were made by the court and by judges in not spotting and rectifying the original error, which was caused by one of the parties ticking the wrong box in the petition. Sir James MunbySource: The TimesThe ‘human realities’, as Munby put it, were that not only might the couple have committed an offence, but in one case the wife had married a Brazilian national who might no longer be able to enter the UK.Munby ruled that the decrees were voidable and not void, partly due to there being no previous case to rely on, and partly due to the language and context of the legislation being discussed. Both remain valid and documents could be varied to reflect this.‘Parliament surely cannot have intended the injustice which will inevitably flow, not just to M and P but also to their new spouses, if the decrees are void,’ said Munby. He said the parties were the ‘innocent victims of failure by the court itself’ who had remarried in good faith and in reliance upon court orders.If judges were compelled to overturn such a court order then ‘surely the modern judicial conscience would revolt’, he added.Munby explained that P had been refused exceptional funding by the Legal Aid Agency on the basis she had an available net monthly income of £625.87 and her aggregate income exceeded the limit by £37. The idea these figures should justify her not receiving state aid was ‘unnourished by sense’, said the judge.Munby added: ‘What I was faced with here was the profoundly disturbing fact that P does not qualify for legal aid but manifestly lacks the financial resources to pay for legal representation in circumstances where, to speak plainly, it was unthinkable that she should have to face the Queen’s Proctor’s application without proper representation.‘The state has simply washed its hands of the problem, leaving the solution to the problem which the state itself has created to the goodwill, the charity, of the legal profession.’Munby reserved praise for the ‘professional dedication, commitment and sense of duty’ of Janet Bazley QC and Katherine Dunseath, instructed by Sundeep Budwal and Paul Nuttall of national firm Duncan Lewis, who represented the couple pro bono.But he added: ‘There is something profoundly distasteful when society, when government, relies upon this as an excuse for doing nothing, trusting to the professions to do the right thing which the state is so conspicuously unwilling to do or to provide for.’
Rape complainants need their right to fair treatment radically overhauled to stem the dramatic fall in rape convictions, shadow attorney general baroness Chakrabarti has told the Gazette. She criticised the ‘automatic’ access sought by police to a complainant’s phone and all the information contained on it. This entails a ‘digital strip search’ during which investigators are not proficient at ‘challenging the relevance’ of information encountered.In sexual offence cases, complainants need protections and legal advice akin to that secured for suspects by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), Chakrabarti said. By contrast, evidence-gathering from suspects is more closely regulated by PACE, she pointed out. She was critical of the significance attached to the relevance of behaviour ‘all people do’, including the ‘consumption of alcohol’ and the way the complainant is dressed. ‘We rightly have protections for suspects in relation to their privacy and self-incrimination,’ she says, so ‘there ought to be some protection for complainants.’ Chakrabarti notes that when a complainant’s mobile phone is handed over they are asked to sign ‘a very lengthy form’ while in the police station ‘with no access to legal advice’, but with the possibility that ‘incriminating or embarrassing, or just personal material will be seen by others and used in whatever way’. ‘In the digital age, complainants need protection in the police station too’. Baroness ChakrabartiSource: Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment‘Complainants need their right to fair treatment radically overhauled’An official policy whereby someone making an allegation of rape is ‘discouraged’ from seeking therapy to help cope with the distress, in case their memory becomes ‘tainted’ testimony, was discredited by professionals and should be ended, she added. The time from reporting a crime to charge and trial was ‘a long time to be without therapeutic support’, Chakrabarti added.In February the victims commissioner for London, Claire Waxman, began a review of the impact on rape victims of police seizures of their mobile phones. In a separate move the Metropolitan police has said it will pilot a data inspection system designed to limit invasion of privacy.Chakrabarti, a former director of human rights campaign group Liberty, was talking ahead of ‘The Rape Audit’, a public meeting at the London School of Economics this Friday evening which will assess ways in which ‘society is failing victims of rape’. Chakrabarti will chair a panel that includes Harriet Wistrich, director of the Centre for Women’s Justice, Sarah Green director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, and Lewis Power QC, who is representing a British teenager who was convicted in Cyprus of falsely accusing 12 Israeli men of rape after agreeing to drop her rape allegation against the men.In November last year the Gazette revealed that an undisclosed rape prosecutions target used by the CPS (termed a ‘level of ambition’) had led the CPS’s own inspectorate to censure CPS areas that had seen an increase in rape conviction numbers when charges that led to a conviction dropped below 60%.
Originally from North Carolina, Scotty McCreery first came to many UK country fans’ attention when he won American Idol back in 2011, aged just 17. Since then he’s had three top five albums in the US – most recently 2018’s Seasons Change, which produced the chart-topping singles Five More Minutes and This Is It. Audiences here have been eagerly anticipating him performing in the UK and last night they finally got their chance to see him live, as he played the first of three UK shows as part of Country Music Week 2019.Along with his four piece band, McCreery arrived on stages to huge cheers and applause from the audience. He opened with See You Tonight, from his 2013 album of the same name. The song was a perfect choice to start things off with its upbeat, slightly poppy vibe and showed off McCreery’s distinctive vocals. Right from the start he was dancing along on stage and the crowd were singing every word, which he looked completely blown away by.Throughout his 90 minute performance McCreery played songs from across all three of his albums, as well as several classic country covers including a version of Garth Brooks’ Papa Loved Mama that showed off the belt in his voice, his spin on George Strait’s Check Yes Or No, and a full, rocky rendition of the Eagles’ classic Take It Easy. However the standout of these for me was a medley of country classics that covered everyone from Conway Twitty to John Michael Montgomery via Alan Jackson, Johnny Cash and Randy Travis. McCreery seemed completely at home belting these songs out and his voice felt like it could easily have come from any era alongside these greats.One thing which struck me throughout the early part of McCreery’s set in particular was just how much energy he had. He rattled through uptempo numbers like Wherever You Are, the toe-tapping, thumping rhythm of In Between, Boys From Back Home with its touch of gravel in his vocals, the optimistic Seasons Change, Walk In The Country (supposedly inspired by Keith Urban), the rocky Bad For Good and thw laid-back BlueJean Baby. Additionally, he frequently broke off to jam out with his band and encouraged the audience to join in throughout. He also came across as incredibly relaxed and friendly, telling stories about how he started out on American Idol as well as his wife and family.However, some of McCreery’s best moments came during the slower songs. The detailed, romantic ballad This Is It, which McCreery wrote for his now-wife, was an early highlight (with the crowd singing a version after he had to fix his microphone stand!). Meanwhile, Home In My Mind was full of emotion and performed with huge conviction by McCreery, particularly on the soaring chorus, Love You This Big saw him bring a fan on stage to join him and The Trouble With Girls gave him a chance to show off some impressive vocal runs with its tongue-in-cheek lyrics.For me the absolute standout moment of the set was Five More Minutes. McCreery introduced as ‘the song that changed my life’ before talking very movingly about his grandfather who inspired it. It’s got a great anthemic feel about it and I love the storytelling in the lyrics, giving you snippets of the character’s life. The audience sang along to every word and he got the loudest cheer of the night when he finished the song.McCreery closed the main portion of his set with the uptempo Feelin’ It. Almost rapping the quickfire lyrics in places, in contrast to the traditional country instruments he’d used throughout his set, he had the crowd clapping, dancing and joining in on the huge singalong chorus. As he finished the song and walked off stage, he was met with a volley of applause and loud demands for an encore, which he happily obliged with a cover of Josh Turner’s Your Man. It’s the song that started it all for him on American Idol and still suits his voice and personality absolutely perfectly, combining a light, playful feel with plenty of depth and drawl.Overall Scotty McCreery made it worth the wait for UK fans with one of the standout performances of Country Music Week so far. He delivered a high-energy, fun and entertaining show with plenty of personality, excellent vocals and warm, easy-going stage presence, all adding up to create an absolutely electric atmosphere at Bush Hall. It’s clear that the UK audiences absolutely love him and based on their response last night hopefully it won’t be too long before he’s back here – and playing to even bigger venues…Set list: 1. See You Tonight 2. Wherever You Are 3. Boys From Back Home 4. Mama Loved Papa (Garth Brooks cover) 5. This Is It 6. Seasons Change 7. Take It Easy (Eagles cover) 8. In Between 9. Check Yes Or No (George Strait cover) 10. You Make That Look Good 11. The Trouble With Girls 12. Walk In The Country 13. Blue Jean Baby 14. Five More Minutes 15. Hello Darling (Conway Twitty cover)/Forever And Ever Amen (Randy Travis cover)/Folsom Prison Blues (Johnny Cash cover)/Chattahoochee (Alan Jackson cover)/Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident) (John Michael Montgomery cover) 16. I Love You This Big 17. Home In My Mind 18. Feelin’ It 19. Your Man (Josh Turner cover) Performance date: 26th October 2019See Scotty McCreery live in the UK this October:Sunday 27 October – Academy 2, ManchesterMonday 28 October – Bush Hall, London (SOLD OUT)
Mary Chapin Carpenter will release her new album The Dark and the Stars on 7th August 2020 through Lambent Light Records via Thirty Tigers.The album is produced by Ethan Johns (Ray LaMontagne, Paul McCartney) and was recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Resl World Studios in Bath. Take a listen to the title track below:The album finds the singer-songwriter pondering life’s intimate, personal moments and exploring its most universally challenging questions at an unprecedented time. It was written at her rural Virginia farmhouse before lockdown and the songs celebrate invaluable experiences and irreplaceable wisdom, while also advocating exploration of the best in all of us.Of the music, Carpenter shares, “The writer Margaret Renkl once said, ‘We are all in the process of becoming.’ That doesn’t stop at a certain age. To be always a student of art and music and life, as she says, that, to me, is what makes life worth living. It’s certainly what makes me want to still write songs. No sugar coating, the songs are very personal and they’re difficult in some ways, and definitely come from places of pain and self-illumination, but also places of joy, discovery and the rewards of self- knowledge. They arrived from looking outward as much as inward, speaking to life changes, growing older, politics, compassion, #metoo, heartbreak, empathy, the power of memory, time and place. So, I suppose I could say there are many themes, but they all come back to that initial idea that we are all constantly ‘becoming’ through art and expression.”In celebration of the release, Carpenter will continue her successful “Songs From Home” virtual concert series throughout the summer.The track list for The Dirt and the Stars is:1. Farther Along And Further In2. It’s Ok To Be Sad3. All Broken Hearts Break Differently4. Old D-355. American Stooge6. Where The Beauty Is7. Nocturne8. Secret Keepers9. Asking For A Friend10. Everybodys Got Something11. Between The Dirt And The Stars