30 Sep

Nationwide signs up to probate protocol

first_imgThe Law Society has this week published a new joint protocol with the Nationwide Building Society to assist in the winding up of estates. The protocol is the first such agreement to be reached with a building society, although similar arrangements are already in place with HSBC and Lloyds TSB. Further discussions are underway with other financial institutions. The protocols aim to assist solicitors in dealing with the different administrative procedures of banks, where they are holding assets which form part of a deceased’s estate. The agreements have been drawn up by the Law Society together with the Society of Trusts and Estates Practitioners. Law Society president Robert Heslett said: ‘These practice protocols are a significant achievement, since managing relationships with banks and building societies has long been a problematic aspect of probate practice.’ He added that ‘regular administrative delays’ when dealing with banks could cause ‘extra costs due to the difficulty in finalising inheritance tax or income tax liability’.last_img read more

30 Sep

Criminal solicitors and barristers unite against the MoJ

first_imgThe rise of solicitor higher court advocates and the perception that barristers have come off better than solicitors in legal aid fee cuts has, over the past couple of years, led to frostiness between the two branches of the profession. And the government has doubtless used a divide and rule strategy to its advantage as it has sought to implement its unrelenting programme of reform. But over recent months, as the relationship between the Ministry of Justice and the Legal Services Commisson has chilled (culminating in the former commissioning a report on whether the latter is actually fit for purpose), the relationship between criminal solicitors and the bar has warmed slightly. The cause of this thaw is the MoJ proposal to cut the fees of defence advocates by 23%. For criminal barristers and solicitors already feeling hard hit, this plan has proven one step too far. Following the principle my enemy’s enemy is my friend, the professions have united to fight the MoJ. Last week saw the first ever joint meeting of the Criminal Law Solicitors Association and the Criminal Bar Association (CBA). The meeting heard that the Bar Council and the Law Society are working together to see how best to challenge the proposal. CBA chairman Paul Mendelle QC said: ‘Let’s stick together – we’re all in this together. This is not a time to fight among ourselves.’ And Law Society chief executive Des Hudson told delegates that Chancery Lane stands ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with the Bar Council. Delivering the Kalisher lecture earlier this month, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge also advocated unity. There is, he said, no point in the legal professions ‘arguing with each other or indeed self-destructing’. This new-found desire for unity is a testament to the anger felt by both sides of the profession over the fee cuts proposed by the MoJ and the manner in which it has sought to implement them. It remains to be seen how long this cordiality lasts – presumably until one side cosies up to government and stuffs the other.last_img read more

30 Sep

The age of criminal responsibility is much too low

first_imgFollowing the sentencing of two 11-year-old boys at the Old Bailey for the attempted rape of an eight-year-old girl, the Law Society has called for the age of criminal responsibility to be increased.Since 1998, children in England, Wales and Northern Ireland can have been held legally responsible for criminal actions from the age of 10. Previously, there was a rebuttable presumption that those aged 10 to 14 could not form the necessary criminal intent and could not, therefore, be held criminally responsible for their actions. England has one of the lowest age thresholds for criminal responsibility in Europe. On the continent, the threshold ranges from seven in Switzerland to 18 in Belgium. Some states in the US have no age criterion. The justification for an age threshold is to prevent the prosecution of children who are too young to understand the nature or seriousness of their acts, even if, to an adult mind, the acts are very wrong and clearly criminal. That has to be right – young children cannot be held to the same standards of understanding and behaviour as adults. But where the acts are very serious, such as murder or rape, this principle can be severely tested, on the basis that it is incredible that the perpetrator could not have known the enormity of their actions. I would argue that it is in these very difficult cases, where it is most important, that there is an age threshold. As Law Society chief executive Des Hudson said: ‘The hallmark of a civilised society is the way in which it deals with hard and difficult cases – and not least how it deals with children who come into conflict with the law. While it’s important that the justice system can deal with older children it would be wrong to criminalise the very young,’ he said. But where does one draw the line? I’m no expert on child development, but there seems to be a level of agreement among those who are that 14 is about right, and that is what Chancery Lane is calling for. As children develop differently, perhaps turning the clock back to the pre-1998 position would allow for a certain amount of flexibility. This leads on to another issue. Where young children are to be tried, is it ever appropriate or necessary for their trials to take place in an adult court like the Old Bailey, when there are more suitable facilities available at the youth court?last_img read more

30 Sep

Good boys in court

first_img James Morton is a writer and former criminal defence solicitor Probably the most fearsome judge I ever saw was Melford Stevenson, writes James Morton, but there again I never saw the Lord Chief Rayner Goddard, who was reputed to begin to pick his nose when he was bored and about to dismiss an appeal. Entering court, Stevenson would stand, a Nietzsche-like figure, while counsel – some very senior – would see who could be first to rap their head on the bench in front of him in tribute. It did them little good. A couple of divisions down the judicial hierarchy was Ewen Montagu, the man who played a great part in devising ‘The Man who Never Was’, which tricked the Germans into believing the D-Day landing would take place further up the French coast. Montagu sat at what was then Middlesex Quarter Sessions, and I remember him saying that if one client of mine, a confidence trickster known as The Major, did not take off his Guards tie (to which, naturally, he had no entitlement), he would allow the prosecution to put in his character. It was ironic that a new one had to be purchased for him at the Army and Navy stores. Defendants always wore ties in those days. Montagu had no time for character witnesses, particularly relations. ‘Whenever a mother steps into the box I always write GBAH on my pad,’ he confided. It stood for ‘Good Boy at Home’. If (which was often) Montagu began to get bored early in the proceedings, he did not hide it, throwing himself around the bench, gasping, sighing and exclaiming. On one occasion in 1962, he fell foul of the Court of Appeal over this behaviour, but it was apparently not bad enough for them to say the defendant had not had a fair trial. Indeed, they regarded him as having been provoked by the defendant in person [The Times, 20 June 1962]. I think the only barrister I saw get the better of Montagu was Wilfrid Fordham, who looked, spoke and dressed rather like Sydney Greenstreet in The Maltese Falcon. Late one afternoon, he was mitigating for a client of mine, when Montague began to shift his buttocks and sigh. ‘I hope your Lordship isn’t getting bored,’ said Wilfrid. ‘I’m trying not to’, said Montague. ‘Then I hope your Lordship will try a little harder,’ came the killer blow. I expected there to be an explosion, but none came. last_img read more

30 Sep

Can CFAs replace legal aid?

first_imgAs housing and other social welfare lawyers face the prospect of legal aid being withdrawn from their sector under the government’s reforms, many are looking at whether their practice could adapt to operate under ‘no win, no fee’ agreements instead. No doubt the Ministry of Justice is hoping that the successful move from legal aid to conditional fee agreements in personal injury cases back in 2000 – with the huge savings that created for the legal aid budget – will be replicated in other areas. But speaking to personal injury lawyers who themselves made the transition from legal aid to conditional fee agreements (CFAs) in 2000, it is clear that times were very different then. For one thing, the CFA rules introduced in 2000 were (and, for the time being, still are) quite favourable for claimants, with lawyers’ success fees and clients’ after-the-event insurance premiums recoverable from the losing party, that is to say the insurer. Indeed, some would argue that this was actually too advantageous for the claimant side, ultimately prompting the pendulum to now swing right back to favour insurers through the Jackson reforms, which will abolish the recoverability of success fees and ATE premiums. Not only were the right rules in place to assist claimant lawyers back in 2000, but the economic environment was also good for firms, and – for better or worse – legal costs were going up, meaning more cash for lawyers. So everything fell into place to make CFAs very successful for claimant lawyers in personal injury cases. But in 2012, those housing, social welfare, and other legal aid lawyers seeking to rely on CFAs once legal aid is abolished in their sector face a very different set of circumstances. Not only will the CFA rules themselves be less accommodating, but there will be other difficulties as well. One crucial issue for firms will be cash flow. They can kiss goodbye to Legal Services Commission payments on account (despite the notorious LSC payment delays, guaranteed cash flow remains one of the key benefits of legal aid work); instead, if they want to use CFAs they will need good capitalisation and a large overdraft facility. Back in 2000, banks were happy to lend to the legal services sector, which was considered a safe bet. But as anyone who has followed the high-profile Halliwells collapse will know, that is no longer the case. Banks will not necessarily want to provide the finance required, and it certainly won’t come cheap. Compounding the problem, the small high-street firm which is the mainstay of legal aid does not tend to have high levels of capital within the firm. As readers know all too well, once profitable conveyancing work has still not returned, and even income from client account interest (previously a valuable source of additional income for many small firms) has tumbled as a result of record low interest rates. Many firms are already in a precarious state, and it is not uncommon for partners to pay themselves less than their own fee-earners to keep things going. These practices are in no financial position to start offering CFAs. But if CFAs cannot fill the gap left by the removal of legal aid in social welfare law, the result will be a crisis in the provision of legal advice that will hit some of society’s most vulnerable. Rachel Rothwell is former Gazette news editor and a freelance writer Follow Rachel on Twitterlast_img read more

29 Sep

Hazarding an opinion

first_imgSubscribe now for unlimited access Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our community Stay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAYlast_img read more

29 Sep

Houses of horror

first_imgSubscribe now for unlimited access Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY Stay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our community To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGINlast_img read more

29 Sep

Back issues A wonder of the world: the reading room at the British Museum

first_imgTo continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our community Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY Subscribe now for unlimited access Stay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletterslast_img read more

29 Sep

Home sellers push up asking prices

first_imgSubscribe now for unlimited access To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY Stay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our communitylast_img read more

29 Sep

The witness protection scheme

first_imgStay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our community To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN Subscribe now for unlimited access Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAYlast_img read more