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Experts could fall foul of Jackson reforms, while specialist unit targets internet abusers

Your Expert Witness blog logoThe ramifications of the Jackson reforms are spreading in scope and appear to have become subject to the law of unintended consequences. That is if the analysis by barrister Colm Nugent in an article for the Law Society Gazette is correct.

Mr Nugent argues that the insistence by courts on strict timetables could result in an expert witness report that is submitted after a date set by the court being ruled inadmissible and consequently result in loss to the client. That could in turn result in the expert being sued by the client under the Sale of Goods Act. At the end of his article he goes on to imply that the same principle may apply to counsel. I look forward to the relevant article.

• The activities of internet ‘trolls’ have had a number of tragic consequences in recent years – in particular where young people are concerned. Numerous cases have been reported where teenagers have had their lives ruined by the kind of nasty messages the anonymity of social networking can invoke and even journalist and MPs have been threatened and harassed by such people.

Now, however, there is an even more sinister kind of internet criminal – the online blackmailer. The awful case of Daniel Perry, who threw himself from the Tay Bridge after being targeted, has highlighted the damage these people can do. A report published by the police Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) centre cites a figure of 424 children forced to perform sex acts in front of web cams after being tricked into exposing themselves and then blackmailed. The report says 184 of the victims were British.

We are fortunate in this country to have a team of experts at CEOP, with the skills to understand and target the behaviour of child abusers; otherwise the figure could be much higher.

• Recently-published research commissioned by law firm Slater and Gordon shows that half of women who return to work after having children feel attitudes toward them had changed among their male colleagues, while a quarter felt they had suffered discrimination.

Kiran Daurka, a lawyer at Slater and Gordon said: “Despite the equality legislation in place, attitudes and working practices continue to block women in achieving their career aspirations in the UK.

“This report shows that there are still negative perceptions of women with children and this kind of attitude is short-sighted and bad for business.”

I wonder if UKIP’s Godfrey Bloom has read the report.

• In my last post I referred to the convoluted circumstances surrounding the temporary Chief Constable – formerly Deputy Chief constable – of Cumbria, Stuart Hyde. Mr Hyde has returned to his former post of Deputy Chief Constable, under a new temporary Chief Constable, formerly ‘acting’ Chief Constable, Bernard Lawson. However, as he has completed 30 years of service as a police officer, Mr Hyde will retire in December.

Chris Stokes

Last Updated on Monday, 23 September 2013 09:09

What can coppers do when they stop coppering? And let’s hope Cumbria’s temp doesn’t need legal aid

Your Expert Witness blog logoThe Bill is getting a bit hot under its not inconsiderable collar this week following news that the Home Office is considering placing restrictions on the employment choices of police officers after they leave the force. The proposals were described variously as “outrageous”, “ridiculous” and “nonsense”.

The Police Federation national Vice-Chairman Steve White was quoted in the online newsletter Police Oracle as saying: “It is getting to the point where you are treating police officers like second-class citizens. They already undertake a lot of restrictions on their private lives – as do members of their families. While you are a serving officer this is understandable.

“But when you retire or resign from the service, to have formal restrictions placed on you is frankly outrageous.”

Mark Smith, chairman of Essex Police Federation, said: “I think the government need to stop interfering with people’s private lives.”

After all, that’s his job, isn’t it?

Last Updated on Friday, 30 August 2013 17:11


Young, old and the mentally ill: all are being failed in one way or another

Your Expert Witness blog logoA number of reports have recently suggested that, while there are many experts available to assess the capability or otherwise of individuals in a variety of groups – vulnerable or otherwise – their opinions and advice are often neither sought nor acted upon by those with the authority to decide the fate of such unfortunate individuals.

On 14 August the House of Commons Health Select Committee published the report of its Post-legislative scrutiny of the Mental Health Act 2007, in which the MPs said that the interests of those who rely on mental health services are not sufficiently protected.

Introducing the report, its chair Stephen Dorrell MP said: ““Mental health legislation is designed to protect extremely vulnerable patients but our review has found that many vital safeguards are not working effectively.”

Last Updated on Monday, 19 August 2013 15:54


PI lawyers are alive and well – and in hospital

Your Expert Witness blog logoA lot of words have been written and spoken in the legal press and in Parliament about the plight of a species thought to be in imminent danger of extinction: the personal injury lawyer. Changes to the rules regarding PI claims – particularly with regard to whiplash and legal aid for medical negligence cases – have led to a general feeling of pessimism in the sector.

Now, however, it turns out the PI lawyers are thriving and are to be found in, of all places, hospitals, according to a report in the e-government newsletter Publicservice.co.uk and an investigation by Sky News.

According to the report: “Although they have been told to curtail the use of advertisements for law firms specialising in personal injury compensation, NHS hospitals are continuing to display posters, leaflets and other material from the companies.”

The publication claims to have visited one hospital where the appointment card for a fracture clinic carried just such an advert, and Sky News reported a claim that PI lawyers actually have offices in two NHS hospitals.

Last Updated on Friday, 09 August 2013 17:17


Justice catches up with the wrongdoers, wherever they are – and whatever they are riding

Your Expert Witness blog logoNews from Italy has concerned the guilty verdicts in the manslaughter trial of five crew members of the ill-fated cruise ship Costa Concordia. Sentences ranged from one-and-a-half years to two years and 10 months for the ship’s first and third officers and helmsman and the company’s cabin service director and crisis unit director, although it is thought unlikely any will serve any time. The separate trial of the skipper of the vessel is another matter, with a possible sentence of up to 20 years if he is found guilty.

The sentences were greeted with dismay by campaigners for justice for the five people killed in the disaster. They are angry at the leniency of the sentences. Compare that to the way we in this country deal with those responsible for disasters such as Hillsborough and the scandal at Mid Staffs, or Barrow, or…or…or.

Last Updated on Monday, 19 August 2013 15:55