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Eddie Stobart Law - Tony Meisels in the 'London Advocate'

Eddie Stobart. A name synonymous with haulage, lorry spotters and a cheesy reality television series on Channel 5. Now they have moved into providing legal advice by putting members of the public in contact with learned counsel.

The “Stobart Barrister” website suggests that there is no point using a solicitor when you can “deal with a barrister direct”. Solicitors, the site says, are like family GPs, whose expertise is general, rather than specialist. Someone ought to tell them that, these days, very few solicitors dabble in different areas of law. With all the hurdles we have to overcome in a highly regulated profession, we have all tended to become specialists in our chosen field.

Research conducted by the Judicial Studies Board in 2010 indicated that the largest individual category of work among the firms surveyed was the conduct of criminal litigation on its own.

Stobart Website

Returning to the Eddie Stobart website, click on 'bail applications', where it says, “You normally have just one bail application at the magistrates’ court and one before a Crown Court judge”. Perhaps the Bail Act doesn’t apply to them.

And when Johnny is refused bail, who deals with his girlfriend? Or his property? I wonder if counsel will go unaccompanied to see Johnny in the Scrubs. I doubt they even know how to book a visit, let alone provide advice on arranging visits to the client’s family.

Next, the testimonial on the website, about a case of failing to provide a specimen. Reading this left me confused – and I am a solicitor. According to the testimonial, this lady was advised by a solicitor that she didn’t have a defence. Then a barrister came along, said she had a defence in law and proceeded to have a “full day trial involving a Newton hearing”. Err? Now I am really confused. So I guess she did plead guilty, after all? I rather doubt it was a Newton, far more likely to have been a “special reasons” argument.

Direct Access

Eddie Stobart Barristers is not a ProcureCo and was not established in response to the passing of the Legal Services Act 2011. Instead, they utilise the “direct access” provisions introduced in 2004, although their arrangements are unusual, in that paralegal support is actually provided by Eddie Stobart Services. Both the Co-op and BT have launched similar services. Saga, Direct Line and the AA are believed to be considering similar moves.

I think readers of The Advocate will agree with me that solicitors are not afraid of competition or new ways of working. Take, for example, the influx of barristers onto the duty solicitor schemes. But we are opposed to dumbing down, particularly in an area of law where repercussions for the individual concerned can be so serious. We also feel the public should be fully informed when taking decisions about legal representation. There is no mention on the website of an entitlement to legal aid in criminal proceedings, nor of the fact that private representation in the Crown Court no longer results in an award of costs out of central funds if the defendant is not convicted.

What is Needed in Criminal Litigation

Criticism of the Eddie Stobart model has come from a (perhaps) surprising quarter. Michael Turner QC, chair of the Criminal Bar Association, recently gave a speech suggesting that such schemes prioritise profit over quality and lamenting the demise of many traditional solicitors. Some areas of the law may lend themselves to direct access. Alternatively, a client may require advice on a specific issue. But Criminal litigation requires the expertise of a solicitor who will prepare the case thoroughly. Arguably, the job is more than half done when the advocate arrives at court: the matter is prepared and the advocate now has the ammunition to win the case. Like the best retailers, solicitors also offer an “after sale service” and perhaps we should emphasise that more in our dealings with clients. And many readers of The Advocate will have client relationships going back, in some instances, decades and, again, we should perhaps be promoting this continuity.

The Stobart Barrister website trumpets access to an extensive national panel of barristers – including QCs. Instead of spotting those ubiquitous green lorries, now we can spot m’learned counsel around the courts – they will be easily identified by their green robes and perhaps customised green wigs. Maybe they will have names such as Gladys and Genevieve!  Meanwhile, my firm is exploring the possibility of diversifying into international haulage.

This article is reproduced by the kind persmission of the London Advocate. It was originally featured in the London Advocate Magazine.

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Accidents can happen - Laura Saunsbury in Pull! Magazine

It was great to have an opportunity to meet so many coaches recently at the highly successful CPSA Coaching Conference. I have no doubt that CPSA-qualified coaches and instructors do much not only to develop the talent of the next generation of clay shooters but also to instil the values of safe and responsible gun ownership. Despite popular misconceptions, clay target and other shooting sports rank among the safest of all sports, with a far lower level of accidents than, for example, angling − never mind football, rugby or skiing.

Nonetheless, accidents can and do occasionally happen. With that in mind, CPSA Head Office have asked me to tell you about a new insurance policy they have introduced from January 1 2013 for ground owner members, which gives greater protection not only to the grounds and their staff but to everyone who attends and shoots there.

What you need to know if you own, run or work at a shooting ground

This is a CPSA member benefit which complements, but does not replace, your existing public liability insurance. The new policy is designed to provide legal expenses cover for grounds in connection with legal costs arising from a wide variety of claims made against grounds and their staff.The level of excess payable will depend on the tier of membership subscription your ground has with the CPSA. For further details of the policy, please see the CPSA website.

What you need to know if you are an individual member and believe you may have a claim against a ground or individual, or alternatively that a claim may be brought against you by another individual

Report the incident to the ground and ask them to confirm to you when they have notified their insurers. If there is an accident in which you caused injury to another person or damage to their property, one of your longstanding CPSA member benefits is the member’s liability and personal accident insurance which will indemnify you for any such liability. This covers you for any accident while participating in CPSA-recognised and approved activities, which includes not just clay target shooting but virtually all forms of shooting, not only with shotguns but also rifles and airguns. This insurance also provides you with no fault compensation benefits if you are permanently injured in a shooting accident. Not only are individual members covered by this policy, but so too are all CPSA qualified coaches and instructors, safety officers and referees, regional and county officials, committee members and volunteers. In all cases, if there is an incident which you believe could give rise to a claim being made, whether against a shooting ground or an individual member, it should be reported to staff at the ground and recorded in the ground’s incident book.

The ground should ask all staff who were involved to make a detailed written statement as soon as possible after the event while it is still fresh in their mind. Similarly, if you are an individual member and you believe you have a valid claim or may have a claim brought against you, it is important that you and any witnesses who were present write down your recollection of events as soon as possible. In all cases, the insurers should be notified of any potential claim(s) immediately as delay can result in the insurers reducing the amount they will pay out under the policy. Do not admit liability or make any offer of settlement without first consulting the insurers and any legal advisers appointed by them.

Laura Saunsbury Honorary solicitor

This article is reproduced by the kind persmission of the CPSA. It was originally featured in the April 2013 edition of Pull! Magazine.

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Impact of Unauthorised Speed Limit Signs

There have been some interesting stories in the press over the last few days about the likely impact of an error in the design of some variable speed limit signs.

The story was first reported by the BBC, which predicts that thousands of speeding convictions may be quashed as a result of the mistake.

Road Traffic Signs Not Conforming to the Law

The signs in question were displayed on two sections of the M42, to the west of Coventry. They were slightly taller and narrower than the requirements set out in the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions – the document that governs the use of variable speed limit signs.

Signs that do not conform to these requirements are only enforceable if they are approved separately by the Department of Transport – and no approval had been obtained. At least, according to the BBC, no approval had been obtained between 2006, when the signs were installed, and November 2012, when the Crown Prosecution Service raised the issue with Warwickshire Police.

This caused the police to stop using the signs as a means of enforcement and drop pending prosecutions relating to them. However, there is a question mark over the validity of the many thousands of speeding convictions that were imposed previously.

Speaking to the BBC, Warwickshire Police’s Gary Hollis said, "Motorists who have already had their cases dealt with by the courts, conditional offers of fixed penalty or speed awareness courses are advised to take independent advice regarding how this affects their individual cases."

The Department of Transport has now approved the use of the variable speed limit signs, and they have been subject to the usual enforcement action since 1 January 2013.

Contact our Motoring Defence Solicitors

Our motoring defence solicitors based in London are specialists in defending speeding charges and challenging speeding convictions and can help you. Please contact Jeffrey Lewis or Siobhain Egan on 020 7387 2032 or complete our online enquiry form here.

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New EU Money Laundering Rules Proposed

The European Commission recently adopted two proposals to reinforce the EU's existing rules on anti-money laundering and fund transfers. The Commission believes that, as the threats associated with money laundering and terrorist financing are constantly evolving, regular updates of the rules are required.

What is money laundering?

Money laundering is defined by HMRC as:

the exchange of “money or assets that were obtained criminally for money or other assets that are 'clean'. The clean money or assets don't have an obvious link with any criminal activity. Money laundering also includes money that's used to fund terrorism, however it's obtained.”

A series of regulations are in force in the UK to deal with money laundering here, and these implement the Third EU Money Laundering Directive.

EU Proposals

The European Commission has been reviewing the Directive, and has now put forward a package of measures to reinforce the current regime. These include:

  • A Directive on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purpose of money laundering and terrorist financing;
  • A Regulation on information accompanying transfers of funds to secure "due traceability" of these transfers.

Risk-based approach

According to the Commission, the measures will provide for a more targeted and focused risk-based approach.

In particular, the new Directive:

  • improves clarity and consistency of the rules across the Member States by:
    • providing a clear mechanism for identification of beneficial owners;
    • improving clarity and transparency of the rules on customer due diligence; and
    • and by expanding the provisions dealing with politically exposed persons.
  • extends its scope to address new threats and vulnerabilities by ensuring, for instance, a coverage of the gambling sector (the former directive covered only casinos) and by including an explicit reference to tax crimes.
  • promotes high standards for anti-money laundering by going beyond the Financial Action Task Force requirements. It does this by bringing within its scope all persons dealing in goods or providing services for cash payment of €7,500 or more.
  • strengthens the cooperation between the different national Financial Intelligence Units whose tasks are to receive, analyse and disseminate to competent authorities reports about suspicions of money laundering or terrorist financing.

Reinforce sanctioning powers

According to the Commission, the two proposals should reinforce the sanctioning powers of the competent authorities by introducing such things as a set of minimum principle-based rules to strengthen administrative sanctions and a requirement for them to coordinate actions when dealing with cross-border cases.

"Dirty money has no place in our economy, whether it comes from drug deals, the illegal guns trade or trafficking in human beings,” said Home affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström. “We must make sure that organised crime cannot launder its funds through the banking system or the gambling sector.”

Money Laundering Lawyers London

For specialist legal advice regarding the new EU money laundering laws or for criminal defence against money laundering charges or investigations, please contact Jeffrey Lewis or Siobhain Egan on 020 7387 2032 or complete our online enquiry form here.

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Freeholders - consult fully or pay the price!

The majority judgement by the Supreme Court in Daejan investments v Benson appears to have modified the previously strict interpretation of S20 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (as amended). Previously, if a freeholder failed to follow proper procedures to consult leaseholders re major works or renovations then the freeholder was at risk of footing the bill.

This is a huge issue for freeholders and leaseholders alike, particularly in London which has many large ageing mansion flats requiring extensive work programmes. It also affects many "right to buy " purchasers who, having bought former local authority properties can find themselves facing massive renovation programmes to which they must contribute.

The Supreme Court has held that S20 should only apply if the leaseholder has suffered actual relevant prejudice, ie the onus will be upon the leaseholder to prove that had they been properly consulted they could have found a cheaper builder or that they are out of pocket as a result of the failure to consult.

This decision will assist the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT) to clarify the position when considering an application for dispensation for statutory consultation under s20 and indeed it can be argued that this decision has widened the LVT discretion to grant dispensation in these cases.

If a freeholder is in serious breach of S20, as long as they offer to reduce the overall bill so that it accurately compensates the leaseholder for any prejudice and pay their reasonable costs all is not lost.

However, its wise for freeholders/landlords to consult their leaseholders (tenants) in full or prepare to pay the price.

If you have any similar concerns, either as a freeholder or leaseholder: contact Richard McConnell, Janak Bakrania or our property litigation specialist Jasbir Kaur.

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