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NEWS - Nov 2006

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Trial by jury

A fresh bid to end trial by jury in complex fraud cases cleared its first parliamentary hurdle despite strong opposition. Tories joined Liberal Democrats, and some Labour backbenchers, in attacking the fraud (trials without a jury) bill. It was given a second reading by 289 to 219 but is certain to face even fiercer opposition in the Lords. The solicitor general, Mike O'Brien, insisted that justice could be served by a High Court judge sitting alone and that major fraud trials placed intolerable burdens on juries.

Guardian

30 Nov

Consumers lay down the law to barristers

Consumers are to have a say in how complaints against barristers are handled under new arrangements announced today by the Bar Standards Board. The board took on the Bar Council's responsibility for regulating barristers at the beginning of this year, ahead of a Bill published last week forcing the legal professional bodies to separate the regulatory responsibilities from their role in representing their members. Its consumer panel, to be headed by the highly-experienced Dianne Hayter, is the first to be set up by one of the legal regulators.

Telegraph

30 Nov

Dominic Lawson: Why artificial intelligence is never enough

A 31-year-old Russian will spend the next seven days attempting to demonstrate that even in the silicon age, a human can still outthink the computer. (Gives hope to us all. UJ)

Independent

29 Nov

Hundreds of wine-lovers lose out as 'posh Farepak' crashes

Wine buffs have been left nursing losses of tens of thousands of pounds from the collapse of an online exchange that aimed to make it easier to invest in rare cases. Victims poured money into buying expensive Bordeaux and Burgundy from the glamorous British website uvine.com, once backed by the former England cricketer David Gower. But they were left high - and dry - when the company collapsed with multimillion-pound losses.

Independent

29 Nov

What the web knows about you

Think you lead a private life? The internet is making that impossible. Danny Bradbury discovers how much of our personal details are now public knowledge.

Have you ever Googled your own name? You might be surprised to see what information the internet holds about you. It's fun to relive career highlights and low-points from years ago, or find embarrassing shots of yourself posing for a team photo with the Sunday League football side you used to play for. The practice even has a cute name, "vanity searching".

Independent

29 Nov

Legal firms criticised over miners' payouts

SOUTH Yorkshire law firms have been named and shamed by a peer who accuses them of exploiting former miners seeking compensation for illnesses. Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract named Beresfords Solicitors of Doncaster, Oxley and Coward of Rotherham, Raleys of Barnsley and Wake Smith and Ashton Morton Slack of Sheffield ,accusing them of cashing in on the scheme. He said the Government scheme, which gives money to those who suffered ill health as a result of the coal industry, had provided a "jackpot win" for legal firms. Some firms are unfairly claiming costs on top of the millions they have already received from the Government for handling the compensation claims for conditions such as chest disease, vibration white finger and deafness, he said.

Sheffield Today

29 Nov

MPs condemn phone-in game shows as tantamount to fraud

Television quiz shows that ask viewers to phone in to win cash prizes are tantamount to a fraud, MPs said yesterday. The chances of winning can be as little as 1 in 5,000. The booming industry in premium rate quiz channels and late-night programmes has generated 100 million calls over three years. But the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee was told that some producers had manipulated participants to maximise the number of people being charged the 75p connection fee.

Times Online

29 Nov

Setback over anti-VAT fraud plan

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Britain suffered a setback to its anti-fraud campaign on Tuesday when France and others opposed a bid by London to change the application of a sales tax to safeguard billions of pounds in revenue. EU finance ministers were due to decide on a British request to introduce a "reverse charge" mechanism on the sale of computer chips and mobile phones, so that value-added tax (VAT) is paid only by the supplier at the end of the chain.

Reuters

29 Nov

Law Soc claims victory on disclosure rules

The Law Society is claiming victory over the Department of Constitutional Affairs (DCA) after preventing the retrospective application of rules on disclosure of documents. The society launched a judicial review against the DCA on 29 September following the amendment of the rules governing court disclosure to allow wider access to particulars of claim and pleadings.

The Lawyer

29 Nov

MPs demand new safeguards after Farepak collapse

The collapse of Christmas savings firm Farepak has highlighted a ‘serious lack’ of protection for consumers, an influential group of MPs warned today. Around 150,000 Farepak customers in the UK each lost an average of £400 when the company went into administration last month. The Treasury Select Committee has called on the government to introduce safeguards so that consumers avoid a similar disaster in future. Launching a report on financial exclusion by the select committee today, Chairman John McFall said: ‘It is vital that people are given confidence that their savings will be protected.

Which?

29 Nov

The Big Question: Are we spending too much on legal aid, and do the right people benefit?

The Government outlined reforms to the legal aid system yesterday that would trim £100m from the annual budget for criminal work in the next two years.

Independent

29 Nov

Muggers commit crimes 'for kicks'

Street robbers often carry out their crimes for the thrill as much as for the financial gain, a report has said. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) study interviewed 120 offenders in England and Wales. The report said previous attempts to explain violent street crime put too much focus on the desire for gain, and not enough on the aspect of pleasure.

BBC

29 Nov

Lords urged to curb bailiff power

Peers are being urged by a community charity to push for tougher rules governing bailiffs.
Citizens Advice says the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Bill will increase bailiffs' powers, but do little to hold them to account. The charity says the current system is outdated and open to abuse, and leaves people in debt with little protection. But the Department for Constitutional Affairs said the bill included a UK framework to regulate bailiffs.

BBC

29 Nov

Legal reform plans are toned down

Proposals to reform the legal aid system have been modified following a storm of protests and threats of strike action from the legal profession. Plans to deny many solicitors payment for time spent travelling to police stations or courts have been shelved. But the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, said many reforms for England and Wales will go ahead. He urged solicitors not to strike over the issue. The Law Society has said the reforms would deny vulnerable people legal aid.

BBC

28 Nov

Should solicitors be paying insurers and estate agents for referalls?

Tough new curbs will be debated by the solicitors’ profession today to stamp out what has become a multimillion- pound trade in “backhanders” paid by solicitors to buy in accident claims and other cases. There is mounting concern that a relaxation of rules three years ago banning such payments has led to a flourishing industry in the “trafficking” of cases — particularly accident claims — which can leave victims short-changed.

Times Online

28 Nov

The end of one law for all?

Ethnic and religious courts are gaining ground in the UK. Will this lead to different justice for different people? Aydarus Yusuf has lived in the UK for the past 15 years, but he feels more bound by the traditional law of his country of birth - Somalia - than he does by the law of England and Wales. "Us Somalis, wherever we are in the world, we have our own law. It's not Islamic, it's not religious - it's just a cultural thing."

BBC

28 Nov

How two violent brothers in arms killed young City lawyer with a life full of promise

Emerging into the crisp January night air, Thomas ap Rhys Pryce patted his inside pocket, checking that he still had his list of wedding venues after an evening entertaining clients at a City bar. As the 31-year-old litigation lawyer walked past the grand facade of the Bank of England, he telephoned Adele Eastman, his fiancée, to say that he was hurrying home.

Times Online

28 Nov

'If we don't do it, there won't be a thriving profession'

Solicitors are up in arms over the changes the Lord Chancellor is making to legal aid. How is he reacting? Hundreds of placard-bearing solicitors will stage protests today throughout England and Wales. It is the latest public backing for the campaign by the Law Society, their professional body, against the Lord Chancellor’s plans for a revamp of the £2 billion legal aid scheme.

Times Online

28 Nov

Legal aid review plan published

The government is due to publish proposals which are likely to dramatically reshape the legal aid system in England and Wales. Ministers hope the reform will save £100 million a year. Under the new plans, lawyers would bid for all legal aid work generated by groups of police stations, rather than be paid by the hour. The plans are already facing opposition from the legal profession which says they would put people out of work.

BBC

28 Nov

BLG calls on Law Soc to address litigation liability limit provision

Professional negligence specialist Barlow Lyde & Gilbert (BLG) is lobbying for a change in the rules preventing solicitors from limiting their liability in contentious matters.

The Lawyer

27 Nov

Police swoop in probe into shares fraud

The Serious Fraud Office has carried out a series of raids in Barcelona as it investigates an alleged multimillion pound international shares swindle, which is said to have defrauded British investors. Officers from Norfolk and Suffolk, backed by Spanish police, targeted three firms allegedly linked to 'boiler room' share frauds in which false claims and high-pressure sales calls were used to sell shares in risky US companies...Emerging Equity Group, one of the companies raided, had been contacting investors in Britain to offer shares in Quest Oil. Company records in the US show that this tiny loss-making California prospecting company, which has no recognised stock exchange listing, now has almost 4,000 shareholders. See also: Alerts section

This is Money

27 Nov

Pensioner in limbo over land gamble

Ms A. T. writes: "United Land Holdings Plc sold plots of land to investors like me, but the Department of Trade & Industry closed it down. My solicitor has been unable to find any further information and I am at my wits' end as I am a pensioner and do not know where to turn to try to recover the £12,000 I invested." I am so sorry that you missed the warning in Financial Mail last year, after I met United Land Holdings boss Martyn Hayes at the field on the edge of Melksham, Wiltshire, where he was selling land in housesize plots. replies Tony Hetherington

This is Money

27 Nov

Landbanking flop ends field of dreams

700 people hoped for an 800% return; instead, they lost a total of £7m writes Tony Levene

One of Britain's biggest landbankers has gone bust, leaving investors who paid a total of £7m for tiny slices of farmland, wondering where their money went. Land Heritage (UK) Ltd told 700 land purchasers this week it was going into liquidation on the "advice" of accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC). It told them to direct future correspondence towards PWC. But when Guardian Money contacted the accountancy firm, it said it had never heard of Land Heritage (UK) Ltd.

Guardian

27 Nov

'Tis the season for Scrooges

If the first prize for PR blundering of the week goes to BA, then BDO Stoy Hayward, the administrator for Christmas savings company Farepak, definitely comes in second. BDO made a profit of £60m in 2005 and will earn a fat fee for raking through the embers of Farepak, so its decision to set up an expensive helpline for impoverished families is inexcusable. Similarly, Royal Bank of Scotland, which provided banking services to Farepak, deserves a Scrooge badge for neglecting to contribute to the relief fund.

Guardian

26 Nov

Trainee solicitor jailed for drug smuggling

A trainee solicitor who was responsible for distributing heroin between the West Midlands and Yorkshire has been jailed for eight years. A jury at Wolverhampton Crown Court heard that Yasser Hussain, 25, of Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, was the mastermind behind the network

Black Online

26 Nov

Gangsters hijack home PCs to choke internet with spam

150,000 Britons have had their computers hijacked by spammers to send billions of e-mails peddling pornography, drugs and shares.

A British internet company is being used by one of the world’s most prolific spammers to produce billions of unwanted e-mails, The Times has learnt. Unsolicited messages have increased by up to 300 per cent over the past four months as criminal gangs step up their attempts to contact computer users. The gangs have secretly taken control of up to one in twelve computers in British homes. The machines are being used to send out thousands of e-mails every day promoting prescription drugs, cheap shares, money- laundering schemes and even wives.

Times Online

25 Nov

Government unveils long-awaited Legal Services Bill

The Government today (24 November) published its controversial Legal Services Bill, signalling the onset of a radical shake-up that promises to make the UK the most liberal legal market in the world. The long-awaited legislation, which was formally announced yesterday in the House of Lords and is expected to take effect from 2008, green-lights radical plans for Alternative Business Structures allowing law firms to form practices with other professionals, such as barristers and accountants, and attract external investment.

Legal Week

24 Nov

Falconer: Legal privilege to extend to non-lawyers

Accountants and other professions will be given legal professional privilege if they work in partnership with lawyers under the terms of the Legal Services Bill, published today (24 November). The shock news is one of the few major changes to the draft legislation which was published in May this year. It follows scrutiny to the draft Bill by a joint committee of Parliament.

The Lawyer

24 Nov

French lawyers to strike over legal aid pay

The French National Bar Council is calling lawyers to arms over pay under the country’s legal aid system, with a nationwide strike timetabled for the 1 December. The members of the National Bar Council have unanimously agreed to strike on 1 December, the day before the senate’s budget vote, arguing that the Government’s plans to increase pay to lawyers providing legal aid are not adequate. This is the latest in a series of strikes that have been staged around the country following the Government’s decision to increase access to legal aid without increasing the budget for lawyers providing the service. The Government chose not to allow an amendment to obtain a 15% increase in the level of legal aid lawyers’ pay without increasing its expenditure.

Legal Week

24 Nov

Lying out of loyalty led to jail

A woman has been jailed for four years for supplying her brother with a false alibi on the night he murdered a wealthy London banker. But what drove her to lie to the police? Loyalty is a much-admired quality in modern society and the desire to protect a close relative or a lover is a powerful motive. But the case of Laura Campbell, 20, proves what can happen when someone puts family loyalty ahead of respect for the law. Damien Hanson was released from prison in August 2004 after serving seven years in jail for shooting a man during a robbery.

BBC

24 Nov

Secretive agency at forefront of the war on crime

The conviction of the forgery gang is a big victory for Britain’s new legal machinery in the fight against organised crime. The investigation into Terrence Riefe’s massive counterfeiting conspiracy was begun by the National Crime Squad, which this year was incorporated into the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca). The new agency, described as Britain’s answer to the FBI, has widespread powers of surveillance and intelligence-gathering and likes to keep its activities secret.

Times Online

24 Nov

Co-op launches telephone law service

The Co-operative Group has launched a free legal services helpline as the company continues to position itself to take advantage of the post-Clementi liberalisation of legal services. The move follows an announcement earlier in the year that the Co-op is to set up a new division, named Co-operative Legal Services, to offer its customers a range of ‘high street’ legal services, including conveyancing, will writing, probate and accident management.

Legal Week

24 Nov

Falconer 'wrong' over ancient job

Lord Falconer has said he now "regrets" campaigning for the historic role of Lord Chancellor to be abolished. The peer had always hoped to be the last to hold the title, ending 1,400 years of tradition. He was forced to do a U-turn in 2005 to get the government's constitutional reforms - including the creation of a supreme court - through Parliament. But he has now said he is glad the title has been preserved and said he was "wrong" to call for its abolition.

BBC

23 Nov

Poor advice 'should cost lawyers'

Lawyers in Northern Ireland who give poor service to clients should pay them compensation, a review has said. It is one of a series of measures proposed by the Legal Services Review Group, which examined how solicitors and barristers are regulated. The group placed strengthened oversight at the heart of their proposals.

BBC

23 Nov

LAWYER'S DRUG DEN

A BARRISTER who teamed up with a gangster to turn his luxury flat into a cocaine factory was jailed yesterday. Hassan Modjiri, 27, was secretly filmed cutting the drug in his kitchen. Police found nearly a kilo of high quality cocaine in the lawyer's home with a street value of £150,000. A car nearby belonging to Modjiri's partner Paul Murdock, 36, contained a mini arsenal of bullets. Judge John Hillen said: "You are an odd couple."

Mirror

23 Nov

ASIC freezes suspected boiler room funds and warns potential investors

ASIC has obtained orders in the Federal Court of Australia freezing bank accounts containing over $3.9 million of funds believed to have been fraudulently obtained from Australian investors. As a result of investigations during the past week, ASIC is concerned these funds are the result of an international boiler-room or cold calling scam with connections to the United States, Malaysia and Hong Kong. Known as HPR Commodities, Capital Marketing Services and Vitol Capital Management, unsuspecting Australians are pressured into purchasing heating oil and other commodity options which are purported to be traded on the non-existent New York Petroleum Option Exchange (NYPOE) or the non-existent International Energy Exchange (INTENX).

ASIC

23 Nov

Chancery Lane complaints arm better but not good enough, says Manzoor

The Law Society has made progress on improving its under-fire complaints-handling function, according to the latest report by an independent watchdog, but Chancery Lane is still failing to provide a satisfactory service to consumers. Announcing the results of a 2006 audit, Legal Services Complaints Commissioner Zahida Manzoor said that response time for dealing with cases had been reduced on average from 95 days last year to 65 days.

Legal Week

22 Nov

UK 'fails to tackle Nigerian fraud'

Financial scams originating in Nigeria are a ‘large and pressing problem for the UK’ but not enough is being done to tackle them, a new report has warned. It says a string of internet scams and reports of credit card fraud, as well as incidents of money laundering are going unchecked by governments in both countries. On one day in 2005 a check at Heathrow airport revealed £20 million worth of forged cheques and postal orders in courier mail from the African country's capital, Lagos. In another incident last year at a parcel centre in Coventry, customs officials seized more than £1 million in cheques hidden in a single handbag sent from the country.

Which?

21 Nov

UK is 'Europe's card fraud capital'
More than seven millions British adults have fallen victim to card fraud, according to a new report. Research from the European Security Transport Association (Esta) found that nearly 20% of the adult population in Great Britain has been targeted as part of a credit or debit card scam. It makes the UK the card fraud capital of Europe, with citizens almost twice at risk of becoming a victim compared to adults in seven other European countries polled as part of the survey.

Guardian

21 Nov

Berlusconi and Mills face trial

The former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is set to go on trial in Milan alongside 12 other defendants, including his former British lawyer, David Mills. Together they are accused of tax fraud and money laundering.

BBC

21 Nov

Libel ruling boosts net providers

Bloggers and US internet providers cannot be liable for posting defamatory comments written by third parties, the California Supreme Court has ruled. It followed the case of San Diego woman sued after posting allegedly libellous comments online about two doctors. Some of the internet's biggest names including Google, eBay and Amazon have supported a woman in a US legal battle that may save them from libel cases. The judges said the ruling would protect freedom of expression.

BBC

21 Nov

City firms hit at legal aid reform

Leading City law firms have launched a stinging attack on a controversial government plan to cut the £2bn annual legal aid bill by introducing market-style reforms. In a letter sent on Friday to Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, 28 firms - including big names such as Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith and Lovells - warned that the proposals were a "real threat to access to justice for some of the most vulnerable people in society". The Law Society-backed intervention is striking because the signatories do no legal aid work themselves, but are weighing in because they think pro bono social law work that they do undertake is plugging gaps already left by legal aid funding shortages.

Financial Times

20 Nov

Riddle of the anonymous fortune found in Spanish banks

Police seek owner of 'laundered' £1.2bn
Cash may be linked to tax fraud in building industry

Giles Tremlett in Madrid and Owen Bowcott in Belfast
Spanish police are looking for the mystery owner of €1.8bn (£1.2bn), held in several banks, after tax inspectors raised concerns that the accounts might contain laundered money. A court order has frozen the accounts, but the owner or owners have yet to step forward. If the cash belongs to one person, it would make them one of the 10 wealthiest people in Spain and owner of one of the world's 500 biggest fortunes

Guardian

19 Nov

Don't wake the auditors - they're asleep

Auditors at Ernst & Young would not notice a black hole if they fell into one. The firm checked the books of collapsed Christmas club Farepak for a number of years, yet failed to raise any alarms of a looming collapse. That will come as little surprise to savers with Equitable Life. Ernst & Young gave the failed insurer a clean bill of health before a £1.5bn chasm opened in its accounts.

Observer

19 Nov

Olswang’s US ally sees ex-lawyer struck off Roll

Greenberg Traurig’s former head of tax, Jay Gordon, has formally resigned from the New York Bar after admitting he took over $1m (£530,000) in kickbacks to refer clients to specific tax shelter schemes. Gordon admits that he cannot successfully defend himself against claims that between 1999 and 2002 he referred five clients to selected tax advisers and received over $1m in payment as a result, without the knowledge of his clients or partners. He resigned from Greenberg, the US ally of Olswang, in 2004, and has not practised law since. In a decision on the 9 November, the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court accepted Gordon’s resignation and struck his name from the roll of lawyers permitted to practice in New York.

Legal Week

18 Nov

Reid attempts to get serious fraud trials held without jury

A move to abolish jury trials in complex fraud cases is set to provoke the first clashes of the parliamentary year, as home secretary John Reid tries to succeed where every other home secretary since 1997 has failed. The battle promises to be a tough one for the government, because the House of Lords has thrown out attempts by Jack Straw, David Blunkett and Charles Clarke to limit jury trials in such cases. Published yesterday, the fraud (trials without a jury) bill gets its Commons second reading on November 29; it is unusual in that it is a bill to implement a piece of legislation which has already reached the statute book in the Criminal Justice Act of 2003.

Guardian

17 Nov

Sun 'releases' Java to the world

Computer giant Sun Microsystems says it will offer programming language Java to the open source community. Java is used in more than 3.8 billion mobile phones, computers and other devices around the world. The decision to release the code under an open licence means the world can now use, develop and share Java for free. The same type of licence also covers the distribution of the core, or kernel, of the open source operating system Linux.

BBC

16 Nov

User paid to uninstall Windows XP

A Sheffield man has won a refund from Dell for not installing Microsoft's Windows XP on a laptop he bought from the PC giant. Freelance programmer Dave Mitchell ordered a Dell laptop on 21 October, and the machine was delivered a few days later. As Mr Mitchell was planning to run the Linux open source operating system on the machine, he had no need for the copy of Windows XP Home that had been pre-installed.

BBC

Feel like trying an alternative operating system?

Try a free, Linux based O/S:Ubuntu

16 Nov

Ex-Computer Associates sales chief jailed

Stephen Richards, 41, a New Zealander and former head of worldwide sales at Computer Associates, has been sentenced to seven years in jail for his role in the company falsely reporting hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. Richards pled guilty to financial fraud charges in April and was sentenced this week to 84 months in prison followed by three years' supervised release.

Accountancy Age

16 Nov

Era of 'Tesco law' is upon us

Plans for a new era of "Tesco law" were formally unveiled today as the Government introduced its Legal Services Bill in the Queen’s speech. The Bill, which will lead to the biggest shake-up in the UK legal profession in a generation, will allow non-lawyers to own and operate law firms for the first time. Until now, firms of solicitors and barristers’ chambers could only be owned by the lawyers themselves as partners.

Times Online

16 Nov

Chancery Lane calls SGM over legal aid concerns

The Law Society is to call its first special general meeting (SGM) in more than four years, as the debate rages on over radical Government plans to overhaul the UK’s ailing £2bn legal aid system. The unusual move was sparked after solicitor Roger Peach — name partner at Southampton practice Peach Grey & Co — this week presented the society with a petition featuring the 175 signatories required by society rules to call the SGM. The motion calls for Chancery Lane to reject competitive tendering and block contracts for legal aid work, one of the key planks of Lord Carter’s controversial review of the legal aid system published earlier this year.

Legal Week

16 Nov

Govt to shake up legal profession
Radical reform 'must not be watered down'

Plans to radically overhaul the monitoring of the legal profession must not be ‘watered down’, Which? has urged. Currently the Law Society of England and Wales handles complaints about solicitors and barristers are kept in line by the Bar Council. But proposals in the government’s new Legal Services Bill would strip these professional bodies of the ability to handle complaints against their members. It proposes setting up an independent Office for Legal Complaints which would then handle complaints against solicitors for poor or negligent service.

Which?

Se also:

Which? Campaign

16 Nov

Queen’s Speech evokes diverse response from legal profession

The legal profession has responded strongly to proposals set out in the Queen’s Speech today (15 November), which outlined the Legal Services Bill’s programme of reforms and plans to abolish juries on complicated fraud trials...The Law Society welcomed reforms to introduce a Legal Service Board (LSB) to oversee frontline regulators, as well as creating a single independent redress service — the Office for Legal Complaints...Louise Restell, a campaign project manager at consumer watchdog Which?, added: “We believe this long overdue measure will help to restore consumer confidence in a system that many feel is letting them down.”

Legal Week

15 Nov

Reform planned for fraud trials

Many complex fraud trials could soon be tried without a jury, with the government introducing such a bill for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Announced in the Queen's Speech, the bill would let prosecutors choose such a trial if it is approved by a High Court judge and the Lord Chief Justice. At the moment the House of Lords and the House of Commons have to give approval for a trial without a jury. Juries often struggle to deal with the complex evidence in fraud cases.

BBC

15 Nov

Full text of Queen's Speech

Here is the full text of the Queen's Speech delivered on 15 November 2006:

"My government will put victims at the heart of the criminal justice system, support the police and all those responsible for the public's safety, and proceed with the development of ID cards"....

BBC

10 Downing St

15 Nov

NatWest shuns ID fraud victims

With identity theft on the increase, the big high street lenders are becoming less willing to accept responsibility. Report by Ali Hussain
Banks are becoming increasingly reluctant to help fraud victims as figures reveal that identity theft has more than doubled over the past five years. Mark Radin of Bank Charge Auditors (BCA), which helps fraud victims and deals with about three complaints a week, said in the past five years the number of cases where banks had refused to help or put pressure on the victims to prove their innocence had nearly doubled from 50 per cent to 90 per cent. “Banks are becoming increasingly reluctant to satisfactorily address complaints based on fraud,” he said. “They have a knee-jerk reaction, saying it’s not their fault.”

Times Online

15 Nov

Crackdown on firms stealing personal data

The information commissioner signalled a crackdown last night on companies that steal and sell sensitive details of people's private lives after a prosecution exposed the growth in data theft.

Guardian

15 Nov

Illegal investigators, a detective agency, and a leading law firm

When Sharon and Stephen Anderson were asked by private detectives to target a failed business tycoon, they went to extraordinary lengths to uncover the state of his finances.

Guardian

15 Nov

Queen's Speech heralds fraud shake-up

There's no such thing as fraud. Not in criminal law - or not directly, at least in England and Wales. There is plenty of fraud in the UK, of course. In the six months between January and June this year, major cases worth more than £650m went through the High Court alone - and most estimates believe the total cost to individuals, businesses and the government each year is many times higher. But until now, there has been no specific criminal offence of fraud.

BBC

15 Nov

Can't get enoughPrisoners who take on the system

Nearly 200 prisoners are to get a total of £750,000 after being forced to stop taking drugs by going "cold turkey". This raises a wider issue of inmates who sue the prison system. Those who argue that the "cold turkey" compensation award is further evidence of the pernicious effects of the Human Rights Act on British public policy are not supported by the facts.

BBC

15 Nov

Law Society plans crisis meeting on legal aid

The Law Society is to call its first special general meeting (SGM) in more than four years, the body announced today (13 November), as the crisis deepens over radical Government plans to overhaul the UK’s ailing £2bn legal aid system. The unusual move was sparked after solicitor Roger Peach – name partner at Southampton practice Peach Grey & Co – this week presented the society with a petition featuring the 175 signatories required by society rules to call the SGM. The motion calls for Chancery Lane to reject competitive tendering and block contracts for legal aid work, one of the key planks of Lord Carter’s controversial review of the legal aid system published earlier this year.

Legal Week

13 Nov

HBOS to offer legal services in Scotland

Scotland's high street solicitors will soon face a serious competitive threat from Edinburgh-headquartered Hbos, the first major bank to enter the legal services marketplace. Hbos, which has 2 million customers and a relationship with two out of every five households in Britain, has launched a new service offering "everyday legal products" to customers at what it claims will be considerably lower fees than those offered by high street solicitors.

The Herald

13 Nov

Watchdog gives Law Society a rare rebuke

Scotland's legal watchdog today issued a new and rare formal rebuke to the Law Society for failing to accept her findings on the way it handled complaints from two clients. In a public notice published in The Herald, Jane Irvine, the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, lambasted the self-regulatory body over the way it handled two cases.

The Herald

13 Nov

Soaring City bonuses 'hit £8.8bn'

More than 4,000 City workers will take home £1m bonuses this year as the stock market has soared and takeover deals have surged, a study suggests. According to the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), the value of bonuses paid to London's financial elite will rise 18% to £8.8bn.

BBC

12 Nov

It is not just Farepak that is sick at heart

The bosses of the Christmas savings club are not the only ones who should be ashamed. Ripping off the poor is endemic in modern Britain.

In Britain, in a century when charity and philanthropy are supposed to oil a creaking welfare state, the absurdly affluent are also the stingiest. The most loaded 1 per cent of the population, which owns a quarter of all wealth, contributes only 7 per cent to the annual £8.2bn that individuals give to charity.

Observer

12 Nov

What happened to ... The Farepak victims

Last Sunday The Observer revealed that HBOS (the merged Halifax and Bank of Scotland) was facing calls for a customer boycott because of its role in the collapse of Farepak, the Christmas savings club that left 150,000 low-income families facing a bleak festive season. Savers lost more than £40m when the firm went into administration after HBOS refused to continue to service the company's overdraft. It has been an encouraging week for Farepak victims, as politicians, retailers and individuals responded to a national outcry...To make a donation, call the Farepak relief fund on 0845 260 1096

Observer

12 Nov

No threat to miners' homes after failure of legal action

FORMER miners whose homes were under threat after failed legal action against a union have been told they will not be forced to sell up. Earlier this year a group of miners, backed up by a London law firm, challenged the Union of Democratic Mineworkers (UDM) and their claims firm Vendside in the High Court over fees that were deducted from compensation payouts. But the judge threw out the case and Vendside sought to claim their legal fees – which ran into hundreds of thousands of pounds – back from the miners. Vendside instructed their solicitors, Leeds-based Brooke North LLP, to secure charging orders against the homes of the miners, essentially meaning that Vendside could apply to sell the homes of former miners and their families. Those legal fees have now been taken care of by the miners' original lawyers, it has been confirmed, and one of the ptimen involved this week spoke of his relief that the affair was over

Worksop Today

10 Nov

The next batch of terrorists are still in the classroom

Understandably, given the secretive nature of the job, the head of MI5 is a reluctant public speaker. So, when the director-general of the security service steps out of the shadows to talk, not in general terms about policy but in specific terms about current operations, it is time to listen. Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller yesterday used the unlikely platform of the Mile End Group, an academic organisation based at Queen Mary College, in east London, to set out in the most graphic – even chilling – detail the nature of the terrorist threat.

Telegraph

10 Nov

Police held on money laundering
Anti-corruption detectives have arrested five serving police officers as part of an investigation into alleged money laundering. The Metropolitan Police officers were arrested in a series of dawn raids at their homes, Scotland Yard said. Four members of the public were also arrested in what police described as a "long running and on-going operation". The nine individuals were arrested on suspicion of money laundering and evasion of liability, which is an offence under the Theft Act.

Guardian

10 Nov

Kenya corruption 'fuels' UK drugs

A British foreign office minister has warned that endemic corruption in Kenya is helping to drive the supply of illegal drugs into the UK. Dr Kim Howells made his comments on a visit to inspect Kenya's anti-terrorist and anti-drug operations. Nearly a dozen drug seizures in Britain so far this year have come via Kenya.

BBC

10 Nov

Lawyers 'can wear veils in court'

Legal advisers and solicitors may wear the Islamic veil in court unless it interferes with the "interests of justice", judges have been told. The judiciary were told to use their discretion to interpret the temporary guidance, which covers all courts. The advice was issued by immigration tribunals chief Mr Justice Hodge after a case had to be halted when a legal adviser refused to remove her veil. The Lord Chief Justice said full rules on the veils issue were being drawn up.

BBC

10 Nov

Radcliffes sues partner over £200k theft claims

Radcliffes LeBrasseur is suing one of its former partners for allegedly stealing more than £200,000 from client accounts. The unusual claim states that (Edited.UJ), who was a partner in its insolvency practice but also advised solicitors facing disciplinary proceedings, transferred funds from a client account containing Solicitors Indemnity Fund (SIF) money into his personal accounts.

Legal Week

09 Nov

Study 'opens up' legal profession

Lawyers are facing a major shake-up in their education and training which could allow more people to take up the legal profession. The Law Society of Scotland is carrying out a "root and branch" consultation on the way solicitors are trained. The web-based consultation, which includes an online questionnaire, will run for three months. The Law Society's Liz Campbell said "We are starting with a blank sheet and open minds about this." She said: "The more views the better." (The Law Society of Scotland Consultation Page)

BBC

09 Nov

Vulnerable 'are denied legal aid'

Vulnerable people struggle to get legal aid and planned reforms will make this worse, the Law Society has warned. Parents fighting to stop children being taken into care and domestic abuse victims are among those who will be unable to find solicitors, it claims. It has launched a campaign 'What Price Justice' backed by 19 groups, including Mind, Shelter and Citizens Advice.

BBC

08 Nov

Christmas cancelled for thousandsFarepak families fund is launched

A new fund is being set up to help the thousands of families affected by the collapse of the Farepak hamper firm. The Minister for Consumer Affairs, Ian McCartney, said the Farepak Response Fund was being established with help from York-based charity Family Fund. He said Tesco had pledged £250,000 and called on other firms to help. Swindon-based Farepak ran a savings scheme for 150,000 people for vouchers and Christmas hampers, but collapsed in October without offering compensation. In another development, Sainsbury's has agreed that Farepak customers can get 25% of the value of their savings in Sainsbury's vouchers. (Any lawyers queuing up to help, or offer pro bono services? Do let me know. UJ) The Department of Trade and Industry has launched an investigation into what happened at Farepak... Administrators appear to be: BDO STOY HAYWARD LLP, KINGS WHARF, 20-30 KINGS ROAD, READING, BERKS RG1 3EX.

BBC

08 Nov

Government Data-Sharing Plans Law Society Warning

Allowing government departments, local authorities and private companies to share more information about suspected fraudsters could create misleading and damaging records, warns the Law Society today. (How responsibly honourable of the Law Society to be worried about such things. UJ)

Managing Information

07 Nov

Solicitors withdraw service in legal aid protest

ONE hundred criminal defence lawyers in the Cardiff area withdrew their services at the weekend in protest at proposed legal aid reforms. There was just one duty solicitor to give advice at police stations in Cardiff and one in Barry last night, and it will remain that way until the protest ends at 9am today. Simon Mumford, chairman of the Confederation of South Wales Law Societies, said, "This is not about us wanting more money, we are just not going to be able to do the job properly. We want to highlight the threat to the public."

IC Wales

06 Nov

Law Soc vows to make M&S hearing public

The Law Society has vowed to fight the conflicts of interest case against Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partners Tim Jones and Barry O'Brien in public, meaning the magic circle's systems and processes will be laid bare to the world. A Law Society Regulation Board spokesman told The Lawyer that the society would resist any attempt to have the Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal hearing held behind closed doors.

The Lawyer

06 Nov

Lord Falconer: Criminal justice system in chaos

Parts of the country's criminal justice system are in "general chaos", the Lord Falconer has said. The lord chancellor, who is responsible for legal affairs, made the remark at a conference of senior barristers in London yesterday. Lord Falconer made the frank comments at a Bar Council gathering in response to a question from one barrister, who claimed that the reputation of the criminal justice system had suffered as a result of poor communication between police, prosecutors and the courts.

Politics UK

 

Call for improved IP justice system

Scotland's attempt to metamorphose into a high-value knowledge-based economy is likely to fail, unless the Scottish Executive commits to creating a more progressive justice system for intellectual property (IP).

The Herald

06 Nov

FSA denies it will block independent complaints body

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has denied that it will intervene to block the planned independent complaints-handling body for Scottish solicitors from scrutinising claims under the Law Society of Scotland's controversial master insurance policy.

The Herald

06 Nov

Solicitors 'deserting' legal aid

Proposed reforms to legal aid in England and Wales are threatening an "incredibly fragile" system, the Law Society has warned. The solicitors' body told BBC Radio's Five Live Report that hundreds are deciding to end legal aid work. The proposals will see lawyers bid competitively for all legal aid work instead of working for set hourly fees.

BBC

05 Nov

Chancery Lane under attack over DTI consultation snub

The Law Society’s ability to represent City lawyers has again been called into question after it emerged that Chancery Lane failed to respond to a major Government consultation with the excuse that it "cannot respond to everything". The Law Society, which has an annual budget of more than £100m, did not make the deadline for replies to the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) consultation paper early last month on the future of US-style class actions in the UK.

Legal Week

03 Nov

How we are being watched

There are up to 4.2m CCTV cameras in Britain - about one for every 14 people - making it one of the most watched places on earth. Legal and logistical obstacles stand in the way of a massive Big Brother-esque database but information is being gathered on almost everything we do.

BBC

03 Nov

1,500 migrants arrive in UK daily

Some 1,500 migrants arrived to live in the UK every day in 2005, according to official estimates...In total, 565,000 people arrived in the UK in 2005 saying they intended to stay for at least a year. At the same time, 380,000 people left - 1,000 people a day - more than half of whom were British citizens. (Saw the light - got the heck out. UJ)

BBC

03 Nov

Overhaul of court actions agreed by judges

Big commercial court actions could be run more tightly under an overhaul planned in response to concerns about the collapse of costly "super-cases" involving Equitable Life and Bank of Credit and Commerce International. Mr Justice David Steel, judge in charge of the Commercial Court, said he expected reforms to flow from a summit this week involving judges, lawyers and big commercial litigants such as banks and insurers.

Financial Times

02 Nov

FSA publishes near final Transparency Directive rules and updates on Investment Entities Listing Rules review

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has today published a policy statement PS06/11 Implementation of the Transparency Directive – Feedback on CP06/4 setting out the near-final rules for the implementation of the Transparency Directive, and outlining plans for further work on the disclosure of contracts for difference (CFD) positions. The feedback statement on the Investment Entities Listing Review will be published in December together with a further short consultation on revisions to the detail of some of the original proposals, and other measures aimed at enhancing the international character of the UK's markets. (Notified by: Chase Cooper, a risk management solutions company that has a focus on the financial sector to provide solutions for Enterprise Risk, Operational Risk (Basel II), Sarbanes-Oxley, Credit and Market Risk.)

Financial Services Authority

01 Nov

Halloween free zoneThe trick is to get us to part with £120m

In the old days Halloween was a rather forgettable entrée to Bonfire Night involving a few bored-looking kids hanging around street corners in the darkness while holding hollowed-out swedes – no pumpkins then – or engaging in the odd, desultory bout of apple bobbing...As befits its American origins, the new "trick or treat" Halloween is an industrial-scale enterprise costing Britain about £120 million this year and involving yet more stress for weary parents already eyeing the looming annual economic meltdown still known by some as Christmas.

Telegraph

31 Oct

Lawyer Mills in corruption trial

The British tax lawyer David Mills is to stand trial charged with corruption alongside ex-Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi, a Milan judge has ruled. The judge said enough evidence existed for a trial to go ahead over a £325,000 payment to Mr Mills, allegedly paid in exchange for favourable court evidence.

BBC

31 Oct

Top judges consider changes after BCCI

IN AN unprecedented move, the country’s most senior judges and lawyers yesterday gathered to discuss a shake-up in the conduct of commercial cases in the aftermath of the 13-year BCCI litigation against the Bank of England. According to a senior litigation lawyer who attended the discussion, a working party will now consider possible changes to rules governing management of cases.

Times Online

31 Oct

Expert witnesses shun the courts for fear of lawyers

THE system for providing medical experts for family law cases should be overhauled radically because doctors are reluctant to participate in trials, the Chief Medical Officer for England has said.

Times Online

31 Oct

 

 

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