(1) DPP thinks extending detention period to 42 days is unnecessary

The Director of Public Prosecutions renewed his opposition to the government’s proposal to detain terror suspects for up to 42 days without charge. He is the man who, under the proposals, would have to authorize the detention of terror suspects beyond 28days. Therefore, he is the best person to know whether the current limit is insufficient or not, and believes that he had “managed quite comfortably” within the current 28-day limit so far.

(2) SFO decides to appeal against BAE court ruling

Robert Wardle, former SFO director, decided to appeal against the High Court judgment, in one of his final acts before leaving office. The new SFO director was said to be in full agreement with the move. However, observers believe that another round of stinging criticism – this time from Britain’s highest court – could inflict permanent damage on the SFO’s reputation.

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(1) Judges set to deliver fresh blow on terror

If the government loses the High Court battle this week over the Government’s powers to freeze bank accounts, stop benefit payments and control the spending of people it has designated as terrorist suspects, it will consider rewriting the Counter-terrorism Bill to include asset-seizing powers. The power to designate people as terrorist suspects and freeze their finances was introduced without parliamentary debate by Mr Brown when he was Chancellor. Therefore, this ruling could exacerbate the tension between the Government and judiciary.

(2) Solicitors face inquiry over insurance fraud kickbacks

Ten solicitors’ firms are being investigated with dozens of accident claims-handling companies for alleged insurance fraud. They are allegedly paying kickbacks to claims-handling companies for work. According to the Insurance Fraud Bureau, even if law firms were unaware that the claims being made were fraudulent, they could still be guilty. The head of unit at the bureau is urging partners of law firms to keep accurate records of clients and cases referred to them by claims management firms.

(3) Succession laws will be left unchanged

After the Solicitor-General, the Attorney General’s fellow minister, made a personal view on the necessity to alter succession laws that would give equal rights of succession to the throne to daughters of a monarch, the Attorney General’s office ruled out any change taking place.

(4) Why the CPS is putting our prosecution standards at risk

There is a strong concern over the Director of Public Prosecutions’ decision to encourage its in-house advocates to prosecute their own cases, because of the way the CPS is implementing its new policy. It is being achieved by requiring CPS areas nationwide to meet arbitrary numerical and financial targets for cases to be prosecuted in-house, and some believe this will compromise the quality of prosecutors’ advocacy skills.

(5) List of top 100 UK lawyers

List of top 100 UK lawyers

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(1) Lawyers fight plans for case-worker trials

The Bar Council, which represents barristers, and the Law Society, which represents solicitors, are both opposing to measures that extend the powers of non-legal Crown Prosecution Service staff to conduct cases before magistrates including minor assaults, driving offences and theft. Barristers and Solicitors fear that case workers will not be properly trained and standards will be put at risk.

(2) Drink-drive offenders could keep licences

The government is planning to lower the alcohol limit for motorists to 50milligrams of alcohol per 100millilitres of blood, from the existing limit of 80mg. But the government is also concerned that if it maintains the automatic 12-month driving ban for breaching the lower limit, thousands more drivers could lose their licences and therefore risk losing their jobs. So they have come up with new plans to abolish the automatic ban and instead introduce a “two strikes and you’re out” rule under which they would receive six penalty points for the first offence and only be disqualified from driving if they reoffended within five years. Road safety groups fear this will send a confusing message to motorists and encourage some to risk drinking and driving.

(3) Call for help for forgotten victims of miscarriages of justice

The Miscarriages of Justice Organisation (Mojo) will hold a two-day conference at Glasgow city chambers to highlight the lack of support provided to victims of a miscarriage of justice and launch a project to provide a permanent retreat where people can stay while they adjust to life outside. Convicted prisoners have a slow release programme which allows them to become gradually accustomed to life outside, but that doesn’t happen with a victim of a miscarriage of justice who is freed by the courts. They tend to fall into depression, drug addiction, alcoholism and a premature death.

(4) Royal succession law may be axed

MPs are now planning to use new equality legislation to abolish a 300-year-old law which gives males precedence in the royal line of succession. Any change may have to be agreed by all countries which have the Queen as head of state.

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(1) New SFO chief shift focus to help victims

Upon taking his office, the new SFO chief said that the SFO should put more energy into helping consumer fraud victims. He said some of his main ambitions were to seize more proceeds of crime to reimburse victims, bring cases to court more quickly and educate people to protect themselves from fraud. However, one of his first tasks will be to respond to last week’s High Court attack on the SFO and the government over the BAE case, but he declined to comment on this.

(2) Spiraling costs of litigation make London an unattractive market

A High Court judge criticised a top City law firm Allen & Overy for charging nine years’ worth of man hours on a five-day trial over BlackBerry patents, in a judgment that will fuel the growing controversy over lawyers’ billing practices. The escalating costs of some disputes in a city put London at risk of eventually pricing itself out of the litigation market. As a result, UK law firms are now under pressure to contain the spiraling costs of litigation, as their corporate clients increasingly look to cheaper jurisdictions.

(3) New laws to protect consumers against sales scam

New rules to protect the public from an array of trading scams will come into force next month whereby banning 31 types of unfair sales practices outright. This is the biggest change in consumer legislation for four decades. The Consumer Protection Regulations are the result of a European Commission directive, and if approved by parliament will come into force on May 26.

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(1) Scale of online distribution of child porn

The Internet Watch Foundation, a watchdog funded by the internet industry, carried out a study and published an annual report revealing the scale and scope of online distribution of child sexual abuse content. They have traced less than 3000 such websites during 2007 hosted around the world. Although the problem is not increasing, the increasingly extreme nature of the content makes disturbing reading. Some IWF reports have led to prosecutions of child sex offenders.

(2) Legal rights of mentally ill people

The Mental Welfare Commission, which oversees the health and wellbeing of mentally ill people and those with learning difficulties in Scotland, said a dozen incidents of mentally ill people becoming victims had been reported to the police, ranging from rape and attempted rape to serious sexual assault, but no action had been taken because victims are considered “unreliable witnesses”. This highlights a wider issue of the legal rights of many other mentally ill people under the UN convention on the rights of disabled people being ignored.

(3) Executions resume in US after supreme court lethal injection ruling

The US supreme court yesterday cleared the way for executions to resume when it ruled that the lethal injection procedure used in Kentucky does not violate the American constitution’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishment. The case was brought by two death row inmates arguing that the procedure of lethal injection, which is intended to knock out, paralyse and then kill, is inhumane. The deciding factor was if it posed a “substantial risk of serious harm”. The plaintiffs had proposed that the standard should be “unnecessary harm” but the court ruled otherwise.

(4) Smith will not cave in over 42-day terror detention plan

Despite growing prospect of defeat in the Commons vote on the Counter-terrorism Bill, the home secretary is to press ahead with moves to hold terror suspects for up to 42 days without charge.

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(1) Domestic violence victims are failed by new law, says judges

The changes in the law to curb domestic violence, which now makes a breach of a non-molestation order a criminal offence, have led to a reduction rather than an increase in the protection afforded to victims of domestic violence. Under the Domestic Violence Act 2007 domestic violence is now a criminal offence and not dealt with in the civil courts. But battered wives and sometimes husbands are reluctant to seek an order for fear of giving their partners a criminal record. A circuit judge raised concerns and said that a community penalty was often best in a family context.

(2) Goldsmith urges appeal against BAE ruling

Lord Goldsmith, the former attorney general, increased pressure on the SFO to appeal against last week’s high court ruling that the government acted unlawfully in blocking a criminal investigation of secret payments made by the arms company BAE systems to Saudi Arabia. He strongly defended his decision to urge the head of the SFO to drop the investigation as it was his duty to consider the public interest and to prevent terrorism.

(3) Cabinet split on 42-day terror detention as Commons defeat looms

Although the home secretary is keen to convince backbenchers, their support for the government on 42-day terror detention appears to be ebbing away – a month before ministers could face bruising defeat by up to 30 votes in the Commons over the issue. Jack Straw, the justice secretary, who has a big Muslim community in his Blackburn constituency, has privately expressed doubts about the government’s determination to insist on 42 days. Among other people that oppose the measure are Lord Goldsmith and the head of the CPS who sees it not only wrong in principle but also is counter-productive because it could alienate part of our community.

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(1) Migrants who came under old rule win right to stay

The High Court judge ruled that the government’s retrospective imposition of tough new regulations to migrants who came to work under the old rules was unfair. A new criterion was introduced were migrants would have to score points based on their education, salary and age.

(2) Rape case to be reopened after police are criticised

After the revelation was made by the Guardian of shortcomings in the prosecution of a rape case, the Crown Prosecution Service told a police force to reopen the inquiry. The newspaper published the graphic diary of Beth Ellis, who says she was raped as a child by her stepfather. She detailed the way police and prosecutors mishandled her case and refused to take any action against her alleged assailant. The CPS principal lawyer said he agreed that the inquiries by South Wales police were “not thorough” and “no of an acceptable standard”.

(3) Case against top Gibraltar judge ‘malicious’

In response to the Gibraltar government’s attempt to unseat chief justice over alleged behaviour ranging from a court conviction for a minor motoring offence to improper interference in constitutional affairs, E. Fitzgerald QC urged a special panel of three retired senior English judges to throw out the government’s attempt. The personal twits to the case show how one of the traditional strengths on which offshore centres sell themselves –their small size and ease of navigability – can become a weakness if those who keep the system running fall out with one another.

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(1) CPS – determined to do more themselves

The director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has embarked on a programme that allows more CPS advocates to take their own criminal cases to court. However, not everyone is so delighted with the plan due to concerns that the increasing use of inhouse advocates [along with legal aid pay] could reduce the numbers entering the Criminal Bar. The DPP said there was plenty of public funded work in our courts for both the CPS and the Bar and competition was not a bad thing for the Bar.

(2) Law firms – clients want diversity

Top City law firms are under growing client pressure to promote women and people from ethnic and other minorities. Some law firms had decided it needed to do better in part because it was receiving an increasing number of requests for diversity statistics from clients to whom it was pitching.

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(1) Prosecuting lawyers could sit in judgment

In a move to make the judiciary more diverse, the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions are both strongly in favour of ending a ban on Crown Prosecution Service employees entering judiciary. At present, Crown prosecutors are barred from becoming part-time judges who sit on criminal trials, because of the sensitivity about preserving judicial independence from the state and a concern that salaried prosecutors, who have seen cases only from the Crown’s point of view, would be biased.

(2) Future of evicted Chargos islanders

The residents of the Chagos island were removed by the British government from their Indian Ocean home in 1971 to make way for military base in Diego Garcia, but the legal battle aimed at giving them the right to return is still continuing. Although Chagosians had three decisions in their favour so far, due to the increased importance of the base for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the UK government is determined to appeal and the case has been allotted five days from June 30, after which every legal avenue will have been exhausted.

(3) UK is not ready for haggling-style plea bargaining

Notwithstanding the clear benefit of saving much money for the government, UK is not ready for the haggling-style plea bargaining that goes on in the US. The UK version of “plea negotiation” as the Attorney General calls it, should be welcomed but the question is whether this initiative will be extended other crimes, terrorism included. Terrorism trials tend to be lengthy and costly, so introduction of plea bargaining would ease the problem. But whether the public is prepared to accept suspected terrorists getting off lightly because they have admitted their involvement is another matter.

(4) New corporate manslaughter law

According to a survey published by a leading law firm, companied prosecuted under new corporate manslaughter rules fear bad publicity almost as much as fines that could reach 10 per cent of annual sales. The new law which came into force is likely to lead to more successful prosecutions and bigger fines, although critics say it will lets individual directors off the hook.

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(1) Pay dispute – barristers’ stand-off

A pay dispute between the Legal Services Commission and the bar Council may have increased the risk of inexperienced barristers handling terrorism and murder trials.

(2) Brown’s about-turn decision on cannabis

Gordon Brown wants to overrule the recommendation by the government’s own drug advisory body and upgrade cannabis to a Class B drug, carrying tougher penalties for its possession. Although cannabis use had fallen significantly since the decision was taken in 2004 to relax the penalties on the drug by downgrading it, there was a strong public concern over the impact on mental health of stronger forms of the drug know as skunk. The prime minister said that the government needed to send out a signal that cannabis use was not just illegal but also unacceptable.

(3) First plea bargaining system to tackle fraud

The first formal “plea bargaining” system in the criminal courts was outlined by the Attorney General, whereby fraudsters could win lower sentences if they admit their crimes. She insisted that this was not US-style “plea bargaining”, in which defendants almost always admit guilt under pressure of severe jail terms if they do not. But the move could dispose of big fraud cases without the need for going to a costly trial.

(4) Ministers lift jail threat on data theft

Ministers decided to drop a longstanding promise to impose jail sentences for data theft in an amendment to the current criminal justice bill. In a compromise with the information commissioner, the clause will remain in the bill but its implementation will be suspended. As a result, tabloid newspapers will be able to carry on using private detectives without fear of jail sentences.

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(1) Lord Chief Justice criticises ‘politicised’ prison policy

During the annual press conference at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, the Lord Chief Justice expressed concern about the politicisation of sentencing and said that the early release of prisoners undermined confidence in the judicial system. He also criticised youth sentencing, claiming that courts were relying too heavily on fixed penalties to deal with antisocial behaviour. He stressed the need to create a clear sentencing structure, where if you imposed a sentence you could see how long that individual might spend in prison and when they would be eligible for parole.

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(1) President of supreme court will be Phillips

It was announced that the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, will be the first president of the UK’s supreme court when it opens in October 2009. The reform hives off Britain’s highest court from the House of Lords, both constitutionally and physically: the 12 law lords will move into a new building and become a separate judicial entity.

(2) Cabinet split over 42-day detention

Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, faced criticism from Labour rebels together with Conservatives and Liberal Democrats on the Counter-Terrorism Bill, who argued that there was not a shred of evidence to support extending the current 28-day detention limit.

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(1) Not enough judges as terror trials loom

Due to a series of delays in appointing new judges after an independent judicial appointments system was set up, the court system is suffering from a shortage of judges that will be made worse by a “considerable number of major terrorist trials”.

(2) The DPP is against the extension of 28-day limit

The Director of Public Prosecutions said that in their experience the 28-day limit is sufficient and hadn’t encountered any difficulties in charging terror suspects. He does, however, back government plans for post-charge questioning of suspects. He was successful in turning around the CPS which was once demoralised, underpaid and the scapegoat for most mistakes in the criminal justice system. The CPS is now a large organization of prosecuting advocates, whose in-house advocates do the bulk of organised crime cases in court, and they recruit the best and the brightest more than ever.

(3) The first UK supreme court

A far-reaching reshuffle of top judicial posts is about to be triggered with the announcement of the next senior law lord. The post is key because that person will become head of the first United Kingdom supreme court when it opens its doors for business in October next year. The supreme court will be independent, both physically and constitutionally, prompting far-reaching changes in the judiciary.

(4) Trained intermediaries to help vulnerable witnesses

The new scheme to use trained intermediaries to act as go-betweens to help vulnerable witnesses during police interviews and in court has started nationally this month, after pilot scheme cases had proved so beneficial.

(5) PM’s sudden u-turn on bill to outlaw press spying

Despite a bill, designed to clamp down on newspapers that illegally buy personal data, has already passed most of its stages in the Commons and the Lords, Gordon Brown has suddenly demanded the scrapping of this bill. This has provoked criticism that he has bowed to pressure from the media. A spokesman for the Daily Mail said that the current unlimited fines work as enough deterrent and that the utterly disproportionate threat of jail would result in a ‘chilling’ effect on legitimate and responsible journalism.

(6) Judges admit they can get round law designed to protect women in rape trials

Judges admitted that in rape cases they still had a wide discretion to allow questions on sexual history, although the law was changed in 2000 to impose severe limits on questioning. The limits on introducing sexual history were intended to prevent defence lawyers from feeding into jury prejudices about rape by making the complainant seem less deserving. Some judges are not prepared to forgo their discretion in these matters regardless of the new legislation; therefore, progressive law reform in the area of rape has been undermined by judicial interpretation.

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(1) Launch of postal penalty notices

The introduction of postal penalty notices will start today so as to allow parking wardens to issue tickets which they had not finished writing before the motorist drove off. The chief adjudicator of the new Traffic Penalty Tribunal, said that many motorists were understandably concerned about council’s new powers, so she was determined to ensure that councils could not ride roughshod over rights of car drivers. Drivers will be given the benefit of the doubt in disputes over parking tickets that arrive by post. Motorists will also be able to have their appeals heard by telephone instead of attending a hearing.

(2) Terrorists ‘radicalising’ prison gangs

According to the National Commission Plan 2008/2009 issued by the Ministry of Justice, there is a concern that convicted Islamist terrorists are exploiting the growing gang culture in eight top-security jails. The Plan also reveals that officials are looking at whether more high-security prison places and high-security courts will be deeded to cope with terrorists.

(3) 42-day terror law – government’s appeal for support & watchdog’s threat to launch a legal challenge

The home secretary renewed her appeal to Labour backbenchers to support the plan to introduce a law that would let police detain terror suspects without charge for 42 days. However, the government’s own human rights watchdog, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, threatened last night to launch a legal challenge to Labour’s plan by arguing that the key part of the counter-terrorism bill goes against human rights law and may breach the Race Relations Act.

(4) New sexual harassment law to protect staff from customers

Employers will be duty-bound from next week to protect their staff from sexual harassment by customers, suppliers and others they encounter in the course of their work. These changes present a new challenge for employers, who will be able to exert far less authority over a customer than over a member of their staff, but failing to take action on this could result in a claim for compensation.

(5) Failure to influence EU law costly for UK business

A study carried out by the British Chambers of Commerce found that ministers’ failure to engage early in the European Union decision-making process and influence new laws has added £45bn to the burden on British business over the past decade. The study said that although the government has invested heavily in the UK impact assessment, the assessment process in the UK came far too late, missing the opportunity to influence the Brussels stage which drives the whole process.

(6) Date rape drug test breakthrough

Concateno, a British drug testing and medical diagnostics company, has developed a retrospective test for the date rape drug gammahydroxybutrate (GHB) that can identify whether it has been in the body going back further than 3 months. This new test holds out the prospect that law enforcement officers will have a powerful new tool for tracing sex offenders who use the date rape drug.

(7) Lehman set to sue one of Japan’s biggest trading firms for Y35bn

Lehman Brothers is commencing legal action against Marubeni to seek recovery of funds it believed to have been fraudulently misappropriated from transaction in which an affiliate provided financing. The US bank fell victim to an alleged fraud perpetrated by two former employees of Marubeni, but Marubeni claimed it was itself a victim of the fraud conducted by a few individuals and said it knew nothing of the scheme until contacted by Lehman. The two employees have been fired but Marubeni has not disclosed the reason.

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