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Expert Witness Blog

Were conciliatory tones just for the occasion - or are we still gearing up for a fight over human rights?

Your Expert Witness blog logoThe legal world has been buzzing with the same subject over the last month as pretty well every other sector of professional life - that election result.

The Law Society had set out its own manifesto, detailing the changes it saw as being essential to the principal of access to justice. Like most of us, the society expected to be dealing with a new government that would include at least two parties - or if not, a minority government that would be vulnerable to third party pressure.

What it got was Michael Gove. It is widely expected that he has been brought in, along with his pugnacious style, to steer through the abolition of the Human Rights Act and its replacement with a 'British Bill of Rights' that would not be beholden to Europe.

That course of action is opposed tooth and nail by the Law Society, which is gearing up for a fight.

At his installation as Lord Chancellor, however, both Mr Gove and the Law Society vice-president sounded uncharacteristically conciliatory. It remains to be seen whether the warmer tones were employed for the pomp of the occasion.

• One issue that has carried over from the last government is that of leasehold extension, the Right to Manage and freehold 'emancipation'. Former Communities Secretary Eric Pickles took an active interest in the issue.

He was also responsible for 'Florrie's Law', restricting the amount councils can charge leaseholders for repairs which are partly publicly funded. It is named after the tragic victim of an astronomical bill for repairs from a council - repairs which had not been costed and which, it turned out, didn't need doing anyway.

• While housebuilding has been the focus of construction activity in this country, at least from a political point of view, internationally there has been a massive burgeoning of infrastructure and major projects in some regions, including well known centres of activity around growing economies. With increased globalisation comes increased complexity around disputes.

To help contractors and major project managers and stakeholders make some kind of sense of what the issues are and where, lawyers Clyde & Co have published a heavyweight guide to dispute resolution across the globe. The watchword, as always, is to make sure you get the right expert advice.

• Here at Your Expert Witness we have been engaged in a campaign to encourage people to leave a legacy to charity in their will - after they have provided for their family and others close to them. The essential precursor to that, of course, is that they should make a will in the first place. Still, half of us haven't made a will, despite being harangued from all sides to do so.

The latest to jump on the soap box is the Ministry of Justice. Its Choice not Chance campaign is aimed at the younger adult age group - those least likely to have thought about such awkward subjects. In addition to encouraging will-writing, the MoJ campaign encourages young people to have 'that difficult conversation' with their parents regarding lasting power of attorney and to consider joining the Organ Donor Register.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 June 2015 13:05

Go west, young man, if you want to make a buck or two; but don’t sleep in the subway

Your Expert Witness blog logoLife for expert witnesses is about to go on the up, according to a report from industry research organisation IBISWorld. The report says: “During the recession, demand for the expert witness consulting services fell due to lower corporate profits and tightened government budgets. However, as the economic downturn’s aftereffects start to dwindle away, demand for industry services will rise as budgets return to prerecessionary levels.

“In the next five years, the industry is set to benefit from an increase in per capita disposable income, government consumption and investment, corporate profit and strengthened demand from law firms.”

One thing: the report specifically refers to the US. Still, you never know.

• Once more, PM Dave’s appointment of senior officials has led him into accusations of ‘inappropriate’ choices. The latest appointee to come under fire from the Opposition is new solicitor general Robert Buckland. His opposite number Emily Thornberry described his appointment as “an insult to lawyers” after it emerged he had failed to mention the fact he had been found guilty of professional misconduct as a barrister.

The story goes back to 2011 when Mr Buckland was found guilty of “a minor breach” of the code of conduct and ordered to pay half of the costs of the hearing, but given no sanction.

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 February 2015 17:10


Legal profession is at war with itself and the medical experts can’t agree, either

Your Expert Witness blog logoThe dispute over paying for criminal advocacy continues to drag itself into more and more phases. With the Bar having withdrawn from the fray over legal aid cuts – however temporarily – solicitors are finding themselves on the front line, now being drawn into a battle with the Legal Aid Agency over actually finding someone to instruct.

The issue centres on very high cost criminal cases, known as VHCCs. Solicitors are suddenly finding it impossible to find an ‘appropriate’ advocate in the time scale required by the LAA – principally because barristers are refusing to take them on.

The LAA has sent a letter to solicitors acting in such cases threatening sanctions if they do not take “all reasonable steps” to secure representation. Such steps could include “…demonstrably exploring all possible, reasonable avenues of instructing an advocate, including approaching the [Public Defender Service] and solicitor-advocates”.

Last Updated on Thursday, 15 May 2014 17:36


M'learned friends are fighting among themselves, while the whiplash bug has come back to bite

Your Expert Witness blog logoThe criminal bar has launched itself into the true spirit of the labour movement, it appears, with a good old-fashioned bout of infighting to go with its new-found militancy.

After two successful days of action by barristers in conjunction with solicitors, the Ministry of Justice announced that a planned fee cut was to be postponed until the middle of next year – after the General Election. The Criminal Bar Association responded by calling off its protest action, including the so-called no returns policy.

There were immediate accusations of selling out and abandoning their solicitor colleagues to their fate. One barrister resigned from the CBA executive committee in protest, calling the deal “entirely the wrong decision”, while others took to the Twittersphere to protest.

Yet another wrote in a resignation letter: “In exchange for a 15-month reprieve, we have abandoned our solicitor colleagues at a uniquely united and strong moment in our history.”

But a fortnight is a long time in political infighting. The response of the Bar Association was to hold a ballot, in which two-thirds of respondents voted to accept the ‘deal’ and call off the action.

The president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association (LCCSA), described the result as 'disappointing’, while noting that a sizeable number of barristers had rejected the deal.

“We look forward to working with them in the future,” she is reported as saying by the Law Society Gazette.

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 April 2014 18:41


Scots start their own legal upheaval and stolen bikes are no joke

Your Expert Witness blog logoHaving watched the justice system in England and Wales going through a protracted programme of reforms – many would argue it to be more a process of death by a thousand cuts – the Scots are now witnessing the beginning of their own potential trauma. On 6 February the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill and the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill were laid before the Scottish Parliament. The former does what it says on the tin: introduce changes to the Scottish system of criminal justice; the latter deals with the process of the civil courts in that country. It attempts to put into effect the recommendations of the Scottish Civil Courts Review, led by Lord Gill and published in 2010.

The review concluded that the civil justice in Scotland was “slow, inefficient and expensive” and recommended reforms which are both structural and functional.

Last Updated on Monday, 17 March 2014 09:05