Contact Law blog

November 2011

Benefits claims threaten Government’s pledge to lower welfare bill

A significant number of extra judges have been hired across the country in order for the courts to deal with the great number of appeals being brought by individuals taken off benefits. At the moment, these appeals can take around twelve months to be processed, during which the individual still receives benefits. It is hoped that the additional judges will help to get appeals heard more quickly.

However, the additional judges are not only here to serve individuals with faster access to justice. The Government hopes that their work will create significant financial savings. The high case-load is expensive as benefits must be paid out until the appeal has been settled. As such, the Government is struggling to implement its savings on the Welfare Bill. (more…)

Positive action to increase minorities in top judicial posts

In a recent interview with the Times yesterday, Lord Neuberger, the Master of the Rolls, said that there is not enough diversity at the top of judiciary. To rectify this, he said that active steps needed to be taken so as to increase the presence of women and ethnic minorities.

Lord Neuberger suggested that a change in the constitution of the members making up the top judiciary could be achieved by applying section 159 of the Equality Act. The section allows for ‘positive action’ in relation to recruitment and promotion in England, Wales and Scotland. (more…)

Lord Patten argues against statutory regulation of press

The News of the World phone hacking scandal continues to dominate headlines. The outrage that followed it saw several calls for further regulation of the press. However, the Chairman of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten, has stressed that in protecting privacy, caution is needed to maintain freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Lord Patten has said that he does not believe that a legislative framework would be an appropriate form of regulation of the press. He considers that such a legislative structure risks having adverse effects on free speech and the effective operation of newspapers. (more…)

Christian hoteliers who discriminated against gay couple to appeal

Earlier this year, a judge at Bristol county court ruled that hotel owners, Peter and Hazelmary Bull, had acted unlawfully when they did not allow an unmarried gay couple to share a double bedroom. The Bulls appealed the decision, insisting that the ban applied to all unmarried couples, regardless of their sexual orientation. The court of appeal is currently considering the case.

Martyn Hall and his civil partner, Steven Preddy, said that they had been victims of “direct discrimination”, on the ground of their sexual orientation. The Christian Institute is said to be funding the Bulls’ appeal. (more…)

Fathers’ rights to shared equal custody suffers blow

The Family Justice Review, which is still to be fully published, is not to recommend that fathers’ rights to shared equal custody become a statutory enshrined right. The Government has previously acknowledged that the area of family law needs to be fundamentally reformed. However, such reform has not been a priority in the report, rather, it has highlighted the importance of not making custody disputes a too time-consuming matter for the courts.

The review was led by former pensions regulator and civil servant, David Norgrove. Interestingly, his final recommendations are completely different from those he expressed in an interim report, which was published earlier this year.

Back then, in light of mothers often being the ones awarded custody, Norgrove said that there should be a “statement in legislation to reinforce the importance of the child continuing to have a meaningful relationship with both parents, alongside the need to protect the child from harm”. (more…)

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