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Queen's Speech and Brexit negotiations set to cause headaches for experts

At the time of writing the country is in a state of turmoil following the result of the General Election. Two events were due to take place on 19 June: the Brexit negotiations were set to kick off at the same time as The Queen’s Speech was outlining the legislative programme for the government – a government that has a somewhat different complexion from the one envisaged when the event was scheduled. Both events look set to be delayed.

Both will contain elements of interest to the expert witness. While any Queen’s Speech incorporates legislation that will need to be interpreted by judges and lawyers, this one will contain the Great Repeal Bill to incorporate a multitude of EU legislation into UK law following Brexit.

The Brexit negotiations, on the other hand, will determine the extent to which the UK goes its own way. Both events will cause huge headaches for those experts, such as engineers and environmental consultants, who will be tasked with understanding just what has gone and what is left.


It’s a busy time for the CQC

The troubled Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, which provides mental health services across the South of England, found itself in the spotlight again last month – twice. Early in the month the Care Quality Commission (CQC) announced that the trust would be prosecuted in relation to an incident in December 2015, when a patient fell from a low roof at a hospital in Winchester.

Later, on 16 March, the trust’s remaining four non-executive directors resigned – the fifth had resigned earlier in the month. The shake-up follows a prolonged scandal last year surrounding failures to investigate deaths of patients in its care and the subsequent prolonged resistance on the part of its chief executive to calls for her resignation.

An interim chair, appointed to oversee improvements, is due to complete his appointment in July, after which a new board will take over.

The CQC has also been busy completing its first round of inspections of all the acute non-specialist and specialist trusts and has produced a report detailing its findings.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 April 2017 12:50


Appointment aims to preserve a tradition of justice for all

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’.

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 November 2016 10:28


Was Queen’s Speech legislation distracted by referendum?

Everything stops for the Queen’s Speech. The State opening of Parliament has now fixed itself in May or early June, following the passing into law of the Fixed Term Parliament Act in 2011. That earlier timing – the event used to be later in the year unless there had been a General Election – still catches this writer on the hop.

One of the measures outlined by Her Majesty was the reform of the tax system for small donations to charity.

This will make it easier for smaller charities to claim back the tax on donations. The change comes as a welcome relief for the charity sector, which endured a bumpy ride last year – one commentator remarked after the Budget that the sector could be relieved if only because it wasn’t mentioned!

Nevertheless, legacy giving continues to form a major backbone of charities’ funding, with more organisations than ever mentioned in wills. That is according to research by Smee and Ford, the authoritative voice on the sector. Many of the extra names mentioned last year figured for the first time in a legatee’s wishes.

Last Updated on Thursday, 02 June 2016 09:35


Are increased prosecutions a deterrent to fraud?

In December the National Audit Office (NAO) published the estimate by HMRC of how much was being lost to the exchequer due to tax fraud. The figure was £16 billion – almost half of the ‘tax gap’. HMRC placed a good deal of the responsibility for that fraud jointly at the doors of organised crime and small business.

HMRC has become more proactive in its tackling of such fraud, although the NAO was less than convinced of its claims regarding the deterrent effect of its increased prosecutions. According to the NAO, HMRC must make better use of the data at its disposal. Uncovering and tackling fraud is just one of the roles of the forensic accountant. They are at the forefront of the fight against financial crime – as well as uncovering the financial indicators of other major crimes. And it is an unexpectedly glamourous world, involving high-level sleuthing and the dogged pursuit of the truth.

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 February 2016 16:00