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Criminals’ ‘frozen’ assets to be seized to pay legal costs

On 11 March the Ministry of Justice announced amendments to the Crime and Courts Bill allowing legal aid costs to be seized from the 'frozen' assets of defendants, alongside compensation for victims of those convicted and the proceeds of crime. That will make sure, the MoJ says, that the taxpayer is not left to foot the bill and will put an end to "millionaire criminals refusing to reimburse the taxpayer for the free legal advice they receive".

In a statement, the MoJ said: "Under the current system, wealthy defendants can have their assets 'frozen' – making millionaires eligible for taxpayer funded legal aid that is designed to protect the poorest and most vulnerable.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling declared: "The principles of fairness and equality are fundamental to our justice system. It's high time the legal aid system was made fairer to the taxpayer; putting an end to crime bosses getting a free ride at the taxpayers' expense."

The move was welcomed by organisations representing lawyers.

The Law Society's president, Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, said: "The Law Society is delighted that our campaign to see frozen assets of wealthy suspected criminals released to pay defence costs has been successful. We welcome the ministry's amendments to the Crime and Courts Bill to implement this long overdue change."

Her sentiments were echoed by the chairman of the Bar Council, Maura McGowan QC, who commented: "The Bar Council is delighted to hear today's agreement to unfreeze wealthy defendants' assets so that they can be used to meet their legal costs. Since 2010 we have been campaigning for this move to take pressure off a legal aid system, which the government has already squeezed to breaking point.

"We urge the Ministry of Justice to use this opportunity to ensure that those most in need can have effective access to justice."

The announcement followed moves announced the previous week to enforce collection of contributions to legal aid not paid by convicted criminals in defiance of Contribution Orders. The action will include amending Contribution Orders if hidden assets come to light and pursuing criminals for the entirety of the legal aid amount if they fail to provide financial information to assess their liability.

Chris Grayling said at the time: "It is scandalous that each year innocent taxpayers pay more than £20 million towards the defence of criminals who can afford to pay for themselves. This cannot be allowed to continue. Legal aid is not free – it is taxpayers' money."

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Last Updated on Sunday, 29 April 2018 09:22

Criminology expert appointed to Greenwich professorship

Picture of Prof Darrick Jolliffe for Your Expert Witness storyA specialist on the psychology of crime and the development of criminal behaviour has joined the University of Greenwich as its new Professor of Criminology. Darrick Jolliffe is the author and co-author of numerous articles, book chapters and reports on the two areas of expertise. He is also an expert on evaluating whether 'interventions' can help reduce reoffending. His work has assessed the impact of community justice initiatives, high-intensity training for young offenders and methods of policing violence by organised gangs. He is also a lead independent evaluator of the Social Impact Bond at Peterborough Jail, the first 'payment by results' scheme for reoffending in the world.

Formerly a senior lecturer in criminology at the University of Leicester, Professor Jolliffe said: "I am looking forward to being part of the dynamic and enthusiastic team at Greenwich. The university already has a fine reputation for teaching and my ambition is to contribute to the existing upward trend that criminology at Greenwich has for research excellence."

Last Updated on Sunday, 29 April 2018 09:22


DNA ‘sweep’ of historical offenders leads to apology

Illustration of DNA double-helix for Your Expert Witness storyGreater Manchester Police are reported to have apologised to a gay man who was forced to give a DNA sample for a national database under new powers for investigating 'historical' crimes.

The 50-year-old former soldier said the sample was taken because of a conviction 30 years ago for having consensual sex with another man, despite the fact the law under which he was convicted no longer applies.

The incident is one of a number of instances where police have been accused of demanding DNA from gay people convicted of offences decades ago under legislation which has been abandoned. They are part of Operation Nutmeg, being carried out by forces across the country following the introduction of the Crime and Security Act, which became law last year.

Last Updated on Sunday, 29 April 2018 09:22


Social media ‘crimes’: guidelines follow leap in arrests

Picture of Keir Starmer for Your Expert Witness storyFigures published by the BBC under the Freedom of Information Act show that 653 people were charged in 2012 for alleged offences carried out on social media sites – out of a total of 4,908 offences reported to 29 forces in England, Scotland and Wales. That compares with figures of 46 out of 556 in 2008.

The revelations come in the wake of publication by the Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC (pictured) of interim guidelines setting out the approach prosecutors should take in cases involving communications sent via social media. The guidelines are designed to give clear advice to prosecutors and ensure a consistency of approach across the CPS to these types of cases.

Mr Starmer said: "These interim guidelines are intended to strike the right balance between freedom of expression and the need to uphold the criminal law. They make a clear distinction between communications which amount to credible threats of violence, a targeted campaign of harassment against an individual or which breach court orders on the one hand; and other communications sent by social media, such as those that are grossly offensive, on the other.

Last Updated on Sunday, 29 April 2018 09:22


Consultation opens on sentencing for sexual offences

Picture of Justice atop Old Bailey for Your Expert Witness storyThe Sentencing Council for England and Wales is consulting on proposals for how guidance for courts on sexual offences should be brought up to date. It aims to give more focus to the impact on victims and reflect advances in technology, while making sure offenders are dealt with effectively.

Its draft sentencing guideline, which covers offences such as rape, child sex offences, indecent images of children, trafficking and voyeurism, proposes a variety of changes to how offending is dealt with by the courts.

The council believes that as well as physical harm, the psychological and longer term effects on the victim should be more fully reflected. Factors such as stalking and previous abuse, including violence, can make the victim more vulnerable to harm and are set out as factors that can be taken into account.

Last Updated on Sunday, 29 April 2018 09:23