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DEC
12

Thinking of Entering the Buy-to-Let Market?

There is a huge boom in the buy-to-let market, fuelled by the recent price war (and subsequent reduction) in buy-to-let mortgage rates and rent hikes.

There have been seven consecutive months of rent rises, and London investors have seen an average of 7% investment returns annually. These returns cannot really be matched elsewhere.

There are differences between this buy-to-let boom and the previous one. This time, capital gains in the price of property are not really to be seen, therefore anyone investing at this stage has to be looking at the rental return and take a ten to fifteen year view of these investments.

Additionally, there is much more regulation and compliance for a landlord to deal with, particularly if dealing with houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).

Contact our property & conveyancing solicitors in London, Richard McConnell or Janak Bakrania for advice if you are considering such an investment.

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DEC
11

One Way to Avoid Extradition to the US: Buy Your Way Out of it!

News broke on 28 November 2012 that Richard O’Dwyer, who was in the process of appealing his Extradition to the US on copyright charges (which carried a maximum custodial sentence of ten years), has signed a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the US authorities. He will travel to the US, pay an as yet undisclosed sum, and avoid a term of imprisonment.

This would appear to be another blow against the US and UK extradition agreement; one wonders whether we will see more of these DPA agreements for those facing extradition who can afford to pay.

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DEC
10

HMRC: More Prosecutions on the Way – by Siobhain Egan

Recent articles in the Financial Times and the Telegraph report that HMRC have increased their yield from investigations into avoidance and evasion by one third to a record £21 billion. Such has been their success that the Treasury has further ordered that they increase that figure by an additional £7 billion by 2014-15.

So how are they doing this, bearing in mind that they have had their budget reduced by 25% and there has been an exodus of senior staff?

Who are they currently targeting and what should you do if HMRC come a-calling?

The current economic crisis has seen a huge change in approach from HMRC e.g. they have specialist elite units targeting various sectors and the wealthy; in short their answer to the SAS!

They use data mining programmes; an analysis programme called Connect; informants (particularly ex-spouses, business partners, whistle-blowers), they have increased their payments to informants by 21%; close inter-governmental agency file sharing; massive increase in property inspections (both domestic and commercial), and much improved international co-operation.

They have announced that they are going to increase criminal prosecutions to 1,500 per annum; in 2011-12 they prosecuted 545 individuals and secured 413 convictions. So far they have focused upon doctors, lawyers, traders, restaurateurs, landlords and the building industry.

We are currently advising individuals facing tax & VAT criminal investigations and prosecutions.

They have also turned their attention to the holders of off-shore accounts in Switzerland (Swiss HSBC) and more recently Jersey. They did successfully secure a conviction against one individual who had an account in Switzerland and, if reports are true about the activities of some of the HSBC Jersey account holders, others will surely follow.

Nobody can afford to be complacent about the Revenue’s intentions. If you have undeclared monies in an offshore account, disclose as early as you can with the help of a specialist accountant, avail, where possible, of the LDF which has been extended to 2016.

Generally, self-reporting (disclosure) and the payments of financial penalties would mean that a criminal prosecution is unlikely to follow. HOWEVER that may NOT be the case if criminal activity, money laundering or other POCA offences are suspected.

We are currently advising a number of individuals with offshore accounts who are facing criminal investigations both in the UK and abroad. So check with specialist solicitors such as ourselves before disclosure to ensure that you are fully advised about potential criminal proceedings.

If you require any advice please contact Jeffrey Lewis or Siobhain Egan at our head office on 020 7387 2032 or find out more at lewisnedas.co.uk.

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DEC
06

New Sentences & Criminal Offences

A number of new criminal offences and sentences came into effect on 3 December 2012, as part of a wide range of provisions introduced in the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012.

The provisions include:

  • ‘Two strikes’ – a mandatory life sentence for people convicted of a second very serious sexual or violent offence;
  • New Extended Determinate Sentence – a new sentence for dangerous criminals convicted of serious sexual and violent crimes, with no automatic release from prison halfway through their sentence. They will only be released when they have served at least two-thirds of their prison sentence and may be kept inside prison until the end of their term;
  • Knife possession – new offences to target those who use a bladed or pointed article or offensive weapon in a public place or school to threaten and cause immediate risk of serious physical harm to another. These offences will be subject to a maximum penalty of four years’ imprisonment. They will also carry a minimum six month prison sentence for adults or a four month Detention and Training Order for 16 – 17 year olds;
  • Dangerous driving – a new offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving with a maximum sentence of five years in prison;
  • Tough new sentences for hate crime – there will be a starting point of 30 years in prison for people convicted of murder motivated by hatred or hostility towards disability or transgender people, up from 15 years. This will bring it in line with murders aggravated by race, religion and sexual orientation;
  • Tougher community sentences – an increase in the maximum length of a curfew requirement in a community sentence from six to 12 months, increasing the maximum period of time criminals can be subject to a curfew from 12 to 16 hours per day; and
  • Bail decisions – allowing prosecutors to challenge Crown Court bail decisions where there is serious risk of harm to a member of the public.

Contact our Criminal Lawyers in London

To arrange a consultation with our top criminal lawyers in London please contact Jeffrey Lewis or Siobhain Egan.

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DEC
03

SAS Soldier Released on Appeal for Firearms Offence – by Laura Saunsbury

A fortnight ago I posted a blog about the case of soldier Sgt Nightingale, who was sentenced to 18 months military detention for illegal possession of a pistol which he had presented to him as a war trophy by Afghan soldiers while he was serving in Afghanistan.

Last Thursday his appeal against this sentence was heard by the Court of Appeal. I was delighted to learn that the appeal was successful; Sgt Nightingale was given a suspended sentence instead and so was released immediately.

I would be bound to agree that this is a fair and proportionate result since a suspended sentence is precisely what I observed was the appropriate penalty in my previous blog. Perhaps what is more interesting is just how widely this outcome was welcomed by the media and the general public.  

Sgt Nightingale is fortunate that his family had the wherewithal to generate and drive a campaign of public support for his cause. There are however many others who have fallen prey to Britain’s harsh firearms laws, often with no malicious act or intent, and quite inadvertently, yet whose cases have gone largely unnoticed by the media or general public.

Whilst the furore of media attention over Sgt Nightingale’s case won’t help those who have gone before him, hopefully it might have served to highlight the dangers of adopting such a simplistic and draconian approach as successive UK governments have chosen to do with the law on firearms.    
 
There is indeed something deeply and inherently unjust about combining mandatory minimum sentences with strict liability offences that require no criminal intent, or even knowledge that the act or omission is an offence. In my view, the court that has heard all the facts of the particular case should surely have complete discretion to determine the appropriate sentence in all the circumstances.

In the current economic climate, where many other things have far greater political priority, a root and branch review of the country’s firearms laws is almost certainly too much to hope for. But perhaps, there is room for a little optimism that this cause célèbre might at least lead to a gear shift in approach on the part of those involved in the administration of justice, and particularly the prosecuting authorities, who can be somewhat overzealous when it comes to any offence concerning firearms.

The tendency has been to adopt a very hard line, zero tolerance policy in all such cases, quite possibly on the assumption this would be universally supported by those in Government, the media and the general public. The case of Sgt Nightingale has demonstrated that the application of some discretion and sense of proportion in dealing with firearms offences, much as in other areas of criminal law, would in fact be widely welcomed.

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