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One of the most momentous appointments to Prime Minister Theresa May’s new cabinet was that of Elizabeth Truss as Justice Secretary and, by definition, Lord Chancellor. Ms Truss is the first woman to hold either post – a fact brought to the fore by the Lord Chief Justice. The judiciary is traditionally a male institution, despite strides made recently to address that fact, and the appointment brings with it both a message and a movement forwards.
Gone is the Liz Truss of DEFRA – lampooned for her enthusiasm for pork farming. The new Elizabeth Truss is a person of gravitas with responsibility for preserving this country’s tradition of justice for all.
• The MoJ is still bubbling with new processes and procedures. Following Jackson and LASPO, the introduction of fixed costs regimes and the furore over Legal Aid, there are proposals going forward for the establishment of an ‘online court’ for low-value monetary claims. The proposal, made in Lord Justice Briggs’s final report, is for a system akin to dispute resolution, with a judge making a determination. The Law Society, in its response to the Briggs report, placed its emphasis on the continuing role solicitors must continue to play in ‘helping clients navigate the new system and ensuring that they are able to access justice’.
Maxine Gibbs, managing director of Medicolegal Associates, is undergoing a charity trek across the Arctic Circle driving a husky sled on 11 December for Burning Nights, the Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome charity founded by Victoria Abbot-Fleming.
Victoria sadly had to undergo a double amputation after contracting CRPS ending her promising career as a barrister. Victoria has recently been named ‘Inspirational Woman of 2016’ by Aspire magazine and her journey, both living with this chronic pain condition and devoting her life to helping other CRPS sufferers, is very stirring.
Maxine will be mushing for four days over 200km and sleeping out on the ice during Polar nights - there is at best two hours of daylight a day with temperatures dropping to minus 30 degrees. Maxine herself suffers from chronic fatigue and has been training hard to be able to attempt the challenge.
Donations will be gratefully received for this amazing charity by clicking on the link here. Every penny donated goes directly to the charity.
The government has welcomed the publication of a report into the operational case for the use of bulk powers, as contained in the Investigatory Powers Bill.
The Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC, and his expert team assessed the specific question of whether the operational case for the powers has been made. The review team critically appraised the need for bulk capabilities, considering whether the same result could have been achieved through alternative investigative methods.
The report, published on 19 August, concluded that:
• Bulk interception is of ‘vital utility’ to the security and intelligence agencies and that alternative methods fall short of providing the same results. In one case assessed by the review team, in which a kidnap had taken place in Afghanistan, the report found that: “Without the use of bulk interception, it was highly likely that one or more of the hostages would have been killed before a rescue could be attempted.”
The Law Society has issued a revised Flood Risk Practice Note to solicitors, reflecting increased concerns over homes and businesses in flood-prone areas. The practice note covers the issues and resources that solicitors need to be aware of when acting for buyers: from Environment Agency flood maps and specialist surveys to insurance.
The Environment Agency estimates that one in six homes in England – 5.2 million – are at risk from flooding. In Wales, more than 200,000 properties are at risk from sea or river flooding and 230,000 properties are at risk from surface water flooding.
In December last year, 16,000 properties were flooded in England following storms that hit over the Christmas period, as well as earlier in the month.
Property industry professionals have been urged to be extra vigilant in the wake of recent research that highlighted a 50% increase in mortgage and property transaction fraud in the past year.
Aziz Rahman (pictured), Senior Partner at corporate fraud defence specialists Rahman Ravelli, stressed that “the stakes are too high for those in property to simply plod on, oblivious to the risks” as an Experian study revealed that fraud is becoming more commonplace across the sector.
The research estimated that an average of £76,166 is lost in each example of mortgage or property transaction fraud.
With criminals coming up with increasingly sophisticated methods to defraud, Mr Rahman has warned those who are involved in property deals - from estate agents and surveyors to mortgage brokers and developers - to look out for red flags.
In may the annual conference of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers was addressed by Lord Faulks, then minister at the Department of Justice (pictured). Among the subjects of his address was an appraisal of the first year of operation of MedCo, the body set up by the government to facilitate the sourcing of medical reports in soft tissue injury claims brought under the MoJ’s new Pre-Action Protocol for Low Value Personal Injury Claims in Road Traffic Accidents.
Lord Faulks said: “The new portal introduces much needed independence and breaks the financial links between the solicitors who request medical reports and the medical experts and organisations who provide them. MedCo is also about improving the quality of reports and is introducing a robust new accreditation scheme for medical experts.”
The Law Society of Scotland has scooped a top honour for its ‘Smartcard’ initiative which offers law firms a robust and reliable confirmation of credentials, helping reassure the public they are consulting with a trusted legal advisor.
The professional body – which currently has over 11,000 members - was named winner of the Leading Light Innovation Award at the inaugural Scottish Cyber Awards, ahead of fellow finalists: Net-Defence and Payfont.
Lorna Jack, Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland, was pleased to see the society recognised for their work in reassuring clients and expediting processes like submissions to courts and tribunals.
Research carried out by insurance company Churchill has revealed that 13 million homeowners have needed unexpected building work completed on their property since moving in. Over half of those who had major building work said knowing that in advance would have influenced their decision to buy the property.
Moreover, seven million did not have a survey completed on their current property. This includes 3.5 million people who did not have any type of independent checks completed and 3.6 million who assumed a mortgage valuation was sufficient. According to surveyors the most common three problems that can be detected by a building survey are damp, roof issues and subsidence.
The number of people who have at least a base level survey has increased over time: from 63% cent 20 years ago to 91% in the past 12 months. However, having a comprehensive building survey done has reduced significantly, from 28% 20 years ago to just 6% in the past 12 months.
Last year, amendments to the Dangerous Dogs Act were introduced under the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act. Recently, sentencing under those amendments came into force. The new laws extend both the scope of the Act and where offences can be committed.
According to pet information exchange Pets4Homes: "The original law effectively bans ownership of four breeds of dog within the UK - the Fila Brasileiro, the Dogo Argentino, the Japanese Tosa and the Pit Bull Terrier. However, it also covers the process in law to govern what happens to any dog of any breed that is considered to pose a risk to people, and this is something that not all dog owners are aware of."
Last November a new All Party Parliamentary Group on Alternative Dispute Resolution was formally launched. The group is an initiative of various members of the ADR community, including the secretary of the Civil Mediation Council Iain Christie, Bar Council ADR panel member John Pugh-Smith and parliamentarians Bob Neill MP and John Howell MP.
The objective of the group is to ‘change the climate and culture of dispute resolution in the UK’. The group has set out an ambitious programme of meetings designed to promote awareness of effective dispute resolution processes and how they might be integrated more comprehensively into the system of dispute resolution in the UK to ensure it is meeting current and future needs.
The Law Society has been granted special consultative status by the United Nations. It provides the representative body for solicitors in England and Wales with unprecedented access to member states and the United Nations' system.
The society will have scope to collaborate with member states on issues including human rights and the rule of law, as well as to have input into discussions on the UN's agenda on an international and domestic level.
Consultative status for an organisation allows it to engage actively with the Economic and Social Council of the UN and its subsidiary bodies, as well as with the United Nations Secretariat, programmes, funds and agencies in a number of ways.