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MAR
20

Proposed Child Sex Abuse Measures

A package of measures to transform the way the criminal justice system tackles child sexual abuse was announced recently by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC.

We thought that we would take a closer look at the proposals, in the wake of a BBC report that more ‘significant’ arrests for sexual abuse are expected in the near future.

Child sexual abuse statistics

Child sexual abuse is, sadly, far from uncommon. According to the latest statistics (2011) from children’s charity the NSPCC, 24.1% of young adults have experienced sexual abuse of some sort during their childhood.

One in six children between the ages of 11 and 17 have experienced sexual abuse at some point, while 9.4% have experienced sexual abuse in the past year, with 15–17 year old girls having experienced the highest rates of abuse over the previous year.

Jimmy Savile scandal

The issue of child sexual abuse has been highlighted by the Jimmy Savile scandal, and the revelation that the late TV presenter may have committed over 200 sexual offences over a 54 year period.

Subsequent investigations have led to other arrests for historic sexual abuse, and these investigations are continuing.

But the Savile affair is not the only major case to have raised awareness about the sexual abuse of children. In May last year nine men were convicted of grooming and sexually exploiting a number of young girls in Rochdale, while only last week eight men were arrested at various addresses in London and Hertfordshire, suspected of sexually exploiting one young girl.

Issues of approach

According to Keir Starmer, while the recent successful prosecutions demonstrate the effort that has been put in to dealing with sexual abuse cases, the past twelve months “raise fundamental questions about the way in which we investigate and prosecute sexual offences, particularly those involving children”.

These include:

  • “the yardsticks traditionally used by prosecutors for evaluating the credibility and reliability of a victim”. Generally issues such as a delay in reporting abuse, returning to the perpetrators, telling untruths in the past and being affected by drink or drugs, count against the credibility of a witness. This may impact on the likelihood of prosecution in child sexual exploitation cases;
  • Not informing victims that other allegations have been made against the person they are accusing. In the Savile case, for example, this might have given some victims confidence to give evidence against him;
  • Unjustified caution by police and prosecutors in some cases; and
  • Victims being unwilling to come forward, perhaps because of a fear of not being believed or mistrust of the authorities.

Proposals

In response, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) have agreed a package of measures, including:

  • A radical clearing of the decks in relation to policy and guidance. All existing policy will be decommissioned, with one overarching and agreed approach to investigation and prosecution of sexual offences to be applicable in all police forces and agreed by the CPS. The CPS will also draft new guidance to ensure consistent best practice, which will be open to public consultation.
  • Training to ensure that there is no gap between policy and practice. The training will be hands on and provide practical advice to police and prosecutors about when a complainant can and should be told about other complaints, among other things.
  • To propose the formation of a national scoping panel, which will review complaints made in the past which were not pursued by police and prosecutors, if requested.

“We cannot afford another Savile moment in five or ten years time,” said Mr Starmer. “Whatever approach is now agreed, it has to be fully informed, coherent, consistently applied across the country and able to withstand the test of time.”

Contact our sexual offence defence solicitors in London

For specialist criminal defence for sexual offences in London, please click here to read more or contact Jeffrey Lewis or Siobhain Egan on 020 7387 2032.

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MAR
20

Details of the 2013 Budget – by Siobhain Egan

Details of the 2013 Budget are just being announced as I write this. The fundamental theme would appear to be tax. Not just the promised cut in corporation tax which is supposed to promote growth in 2015, but also an increase in the personal allowance to £10,000. All of this is positive.

However, the Chancellor would appear to have decided that tax avoidance, often described by this government as “aggressive", and tax evasion are now one and the same. He intends to name and shame those companies and firms that construct and promote tax avoidance schemes, create a centre of excellence to clamp down on tax avoidance and fraud, close tax loopholes, and form new agreements with the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey. The list goes on and on.

We know that the UK has signed reciprocal agreements with the US and Switzerland regarding the exchange of information relating to the ownership and details of offshore monies; we know that accountants and lawyers specialising in tax avoidance work and schemes have been scrutinised by HMRC.

However tax avoidance is not illegal, far from it. Tax evasion is illegal. What this government has done, following the American example, is to blur avoidance and evasion until they are indistinguishable and intend to frighten the life out of those who create, and are party to, legitimate avoidance schemes. Legitimate, that is until HMRC gets around to declaring them null and void.

Expect a whole series of disclosure facility agreements with the Channel Isles (the Isle of Man facility is already in force) and high profile arrests and search/seizures of accountancy and law firms this year.

If you have any concerns regarding the above contact Jeffrey Lewis or Siobhain Egan.

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MAR
19

False Rape & Domestic Violence Allegations

The first ever study by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) into so-called false allegations of rape and domestic violence was published last week by Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

The report, which examines a 17-month period, shows that false allegations of rape and domestic violence are perhaps more rare than previously thought, and that in only a very small number of cases was it considered that there was sufficient evidence and that it was in the public interest to prosecute a person suspected of making a false allegation of rape or domestic violence.

This publication is part of a wider programme of work for the CPS to improve its handling of cases involving violence against women and girls.

"Victims of rape and domestic violence must not be deterred from reporting the abuse they have suffered. In recent years we have worked hard to dispel the damaging myths and stereotypes that are associated with these cases,” said Mr Starmer. “One such misplaced belief is that false allegations of rape and domestic violence are rife. This report presents a more accurate picture.”

The DPP published new legal guidance on perverting the course of justice in July 2011 and, for a period of 17 months, required CPS areas to refer all cases involving an allegedly false allegation of rape, domestic violence or both to him to consider.

During the period covered by the report, there were 5,651 prosecutions for rape but only 35 for making false allegations of rape. There were 111,891 prosecutions for domestic violence, but only six for making false allegations of domestic violence. There were a further three people charged with making false allegations of both rape and domestic violence.

The report also shed light on the context within which false allegations were made. According to Mr Starmer, a significant number of these cases involved young, often vulnerable people, and sometimes even children.

“Around half of the cases involved people aged 21 and under, and some involved people with mental health difficulties,” he said. “From the cases we have analysed, the indication is that it is therefore extremely rare that a suspect deliberately makes a false allegation of rape or domestic violence purely out of malice. It is within this context that the issue should be viewed, so that myths and stereotypes around these cases are not able to take hold."

Contact our sexual offence defence solicitors in London

For specialist criminal defence for sexual offences in London, please click here or contact Jeffrey Lewis or Siobhain Egan on 020 7387 2032.

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2169 Hits
MAR
18

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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MAR
15

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 www.cpsa.co.uk

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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