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No action to be taken against Judge over 'Harry Potter' comment

The Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO) have dismissed complaints made against His Honour Judge David Wynn Morgan following comments directed at solicitor-advocate Alan Blacker last year.

The circuit judge was sitting at Cardiff Crown Court when he blasted Mr Blacker for appearing in court looking like "something out of Harry Potter."

He added: "I have been practising in these courts since 1978 and I have never seen a barrister or solicitor appear before these courts wearing a medal or with badges sewn onto his gown."

Mr Blacker had appeared before the court to defend bus driver Andrzej Wojcicki, who stood charged with causing the death of a cyclist by dangerous driving.

During the hearing, he had displayed a number of colourful ribbons and badges sewed onto his gown.

When quizzed, Blacker stated that he had earned them for voluntary medical service with St John Ambulance.

Unimpressed, Judge Morgan ended by saying: "If you ever appear before this court again dressed as you are I shall exercise my right to decline to hear you."

A complaint was filed shortly after the incident by Mr Blacker, who argued that he felt what was displayed was judicial bias. However, the JCIO ruled today that the complaints filed regarding the conduct of Judge Morgan are to be dismissed entirely.

In a statement issued by the JCIO, they added: "‘The Lord Chancellor and the President of the Queen’s Bench Division found that HHJ Morgan was entitled to challenge the appearance and status as a legal representative of Mr Alan Blacker, also known as Lord Harley and this did not amount to misconduct.

‘HHJ Morgan has been issued with informal advice regarding how to deal with such situations in future. This is not, however, a form of rebuke or disciplinary sanction.’

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‘like something out of Harry Potter’.
Misconceptions on customer service could be losing law firms business

After reviewing results gathered through research commissioned earlier this year by Business of Law (a subsidiary of publishing giant Lexis Nexis), it is clear to see why more law firms are seeking marketing solutions now than ever before.

Similar to those found in a study covered by myself in a piece posted in May. (See here)

The findings back up a growing realisation that many law firms just do not understand the technicalities of customer service.

Given a 100-page document suffocated in archaic language from a forgotten era? No problem.

Instructed to take on a corporation with a revenue stream large enough to fund a small country? No problem.

But tasked with retaining a client for more than perhaps a few hours of work on an initial case? That is where the real trouble begins...

Plucking but a few of the more startling findings made by Business of Law:

  • 8 out of 10 lawyers believe that they are currently delivering 'above average' service. This is in contrast to the mere 4 in 10 private clients that believe they are actually receiving service at a similar level
  • Lawyers surveyed ranked 'good at listening' 12th out of 14 priorities listed, clients ranked it at sixth
  • Lawyers ranked 'providing progress reports' at 10th in their list of 14 priorities, clients ranked it at second.
  • Lawyers ranked 'demystifying the law' at 4th whereas their clients only ranked it at eighth.

These facts alone are testament to the fact that there is still a significant gap between consumers' expectations of customer service within the legal sector and lawyers' perception of what they believe to be the most important elements of it.

The market continues to change. Private clients are now 'consumers' of legal services and are better equipped in handling legal issues now than they have been at any point in history. The ease of access to online information and the increase of cheaper, internet-based solutions is constantly demanding that the sector evolves in order to keep up with the times.

The traditionalists of customer service within the sector are under relentless pressure to change. More and more law firms will have to choose a proactive approach of addressing their client's priorities at every stage of the client journey, only then will the gap in service begin to close.

The sector is under reform in many ways at present, and a lot of uncertainty exists amongst it's denizens. One guarantee that can be made, is that the consumer will likely be the main winner of any reform made as competition amongst law firms increases.

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“Clients have never had more leverage, but they are not simply looking for the cheapest solution.”
Time travel (of sorts!) sees Greece gain extra second to meet IMF deadline

A decision passed down from the international time-keepers at the Paris Observatory will see an additional second added to the world's clocks as of midnight.

Coincidentally falling on the same day as Greece being expected to pay it's IMF debts, the decision will see the minute leading to the stroke of midnight last 61 seconds instead of the usual 60.

Granted, the Greeks are unlikely to take exceptional comfort from such an 'extension' but they undoubtedly need all the help they can get presently.

As of midnight, Athens is required to either cough up the €1.6 billion it owes or reach some kind of agreement with creditors over a package that has already been five months in discussion.

The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service is charged with ensuring that the time measured on earth keeps pace with atomic time.

Earlier this year it was ruled that a brief pause in earth time was needed to keep the two clocks ticking in an identical manner. The pause being needed to account for a gradual slowing down of the earth's rotation.

Reflecting on the fortunes of Greece, Sebastien Bize, joint director of the Observatory's Space Time Reference Systems (SYRTE) arm commented, "Yes, but one second isn't much time,....and unfortunately, we can't add more than one second."

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"Yes, but one second isn't much time," Sebastien Bize, joint director of the Observatory's Space Time Reference Systems (SYRTE) arm, told Reuters TV. "And unfortunately, we can't add more than one second."
Alton Towers pay up following rollercoaster crash

Merlin Entertainments have begun making initial compensation payments to the victims of the rollercoaster crash that occurred at Alton Towers earlier this month

The payouts come as Stewarts Law, who are representing the victims of the crash, take the total number of victims they are representing to eight.

Representatives from Kennedys, currently advising Merlin Entertainments, have already confirmed that there will be no need for the injured people to litigate as the company has accepted "all responsibility" for the incident.

Stewarts Law were initially approached by three victims of the crash who were said to have suffered "life changing" injuries as a result of the Smiler ride appearing to malfunction on June 2nd.

They begun to investigate the possibility of legal action being taken and have since taken on further clients who were present on the ride when it crashed into another, unmanned carriage.

After meeting with the Health & Safety Executive inspectorate last week, Stewart's partner Paul Paxton said: "The families are satisfied that no expense is being spared in the investigation into what caused the accident on the Smiler ride at Alton Towers. The HSE made it clear that the requisite multidisciplinary expertise was in place. The ride is likely to remain closed for a significant period of time, indeed it may never open again.

“The families are reassured that every angle is being thoroughly covered.”

With only around half of the people injured as a result of the incident having so far sought legal advice, these interim payouts could merely represent the tip of the iceberg for Merlin Entertainments who are already estimated to have lost around £3m in sales alone when closed for six days in the aftermath of the crash.

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“The families are satisfied that no expense is being spared in the investigation into what caused the accident on the Smiler ride at Alton Towers. The HSE made it clear that the requisite multidisciplinary expertise was in place. The ride is likely to remain closed for a significant period of time, indeed it may never open again.
Sony still suffering from legal hangover following cyber hack

A US judge has allowed nine ex-employees of Sony to continue in their attempts to bring legal action against the corporation, following a cyber hack that saw hundred of employees have their personal information publicly leaked.

Sony Pictures Entertainment had attempted to have the legal action dismissed, but the case will now continue after this latest ruling.

The claimants are attempting to sue Sony for not bolstering their cyber security after previous breaches had occurred. They claim that they have suffered economic harm as a result of Sony's negligence.

The sensitive information was leaked in 2014, when a group referring to themselves as the Guardians of Peace hacked their way into the studio's computers.

It was believed that the group carried out this 'attack' in revenge, following Sony's release of The Interview, a comedy depicting the assassination of North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

The claimants argue that Sony Pictures Entertainment violated a Californian confidentiality law by neglecting to strengthen security measures needed to stop the theft of their employees' sensitive information.

Refraining from ruling on the merits of the action itself, US District Judge Gary Klausner said Sony had created a "special relationship" with it's employees by requiring them to provide personal information to be eligible for salaries and benefits.

Commenting on the latest decision, lawyer Michael Sobol who is representing the claimants said, "We are pleased that the court has properly recognised the harm caused to Sony's employees."

The case continues.

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Without ruling on their action's merits, US District Judge Gary Klausner said Sony had created a "special relationship" with its employees by requiring them to provide personal information to be eligible for salaries and benefits.
Clifford Chance consulted as Amazon's e-book investigation begins

Clifford Chance have become the latest law firm in a growing list of big players consulted by Amazon on their growing issue of an antitrust investigation into the distribution of their popular e-books.

Firms already consulted by Amazon on the issue are understood to include: Osborne Clarke, Olswang, CMS Cameron, McKenna, Herbert Smith Freehillds & Latham & Watkins. Clifford Chance have so far refused to comment on the scale of their involvement in the case.

The European Commission decided to launch an investigation in Amazon's distribution of their e-books last week following suspicions that certain clauses present within the contracts held with their publishers may infringe competition laws.

Clauses present within the contracts require publishers to inform Amazon if more favourable terms are being offered to their competitors and then offer them the same deal.

EU competition policy commissioner Margrethe Vestager says: “Amazon has developed a successful business that offers consumers a comprehensive service, including for e-books.

“Our investigation does not call that into question. However, it is my duty to make sure that Amazon’s arrangements with publishers are not harmful to consumers, by preventing other e-book distributors from innovating and competing effectively with Amazon. Our investigation will show if such concerns are justified.”

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“Our investigation does not call that into question. However, it is my duty to make sure that Amazon’s arrangements with publishers are not harmful to consumers, by preventing other e-book distributors from innovating and competing effectively with Amazon. Our investigation will show if such concerns are justified.” 
Gateley make history in becoming the first UK law firm to float on the London Stock Exchange

Commercial law firm Gateley have made history today in becoming the first UK-based law firm to float on the stock market.

The move will undoubtedly be followed very closely by other players in the industry who may also consider floatation if things go well for the firm.

In papers filed with the stock exchange, it was disclosed that the firm's seven partners will split £20m of shares while another 105.2 million ordinary shares will make up the firm's initial public offering. This represents around a 30% stake in the firm.

Legal market guru Alan Hodgart, of Hodgart Associates, predicted that up to half a dozen top-200 law firms outside the top 25 could follow Gateley’s lead in the next two years. ‘Flotation could appeal to firms who do not want to borrow too much or put in too much capital, but still want to expand by acquiring new firms,’ he said.

The very biggest firms are unlikely to see the appeal of new capital, he suggested. ‘Another key issue that partners worry about is “what happens to my profit share if we sell, say 49% of the firm?”.’

It has been suggested that if things go well, Gateley could find themselves subjected to a 'reverse takeover' within the space of 5 years, perhaps by a larger firm essentially looking to cash in on the back of their innovation.

However, despite the initial optimism felt by Gateley, Peter Noyce of Menzies LLP remained coy when commenting on the situation, rating the chances of a 'stampede' being caused by other firms following suit in the near future unlikely.

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Legal market guru Alan Hodgart, of Hodgart Associates, predicted that up to half a dozen top-200 law firms outside the top 25 could follow Gateley’s lead in the next two years. ‘Flotation could appeal to firms who do not want to borrow too much or put in too much capital, but still want to expand by acquiring new firms,’ he said.
'Imminent' phone hacking charges issue timely reminder that this problem won't just go away

A number of journalists, formerly employed by Mirror Group, are expected to face 'imminent' criminal charges for phone hacking over the coming days.

A civil court heard that a number of files containing various documents; including expenses claims for disposable mobile phones, were recently turned over to the Police in relation to the case.

It has previously been claimed that MGN would conduct the majority of their phone hacking using pay-as-you-go phones because they were untraceable and could later be dumped fairly innocuously.

Now in the hands of Operation Golding, the Met's counsel Jonathan Dixie has described the files as "evidence" that has changed the view on whether criminal proceedings will be initiated against a number of individuals who may have been previously arrested in connection with phone hacking.

The judge presiding over the hearing ordered that MGN's representatives hand over copies of the four files to counsel representing hacking victims. An appeal was lodged by the defending lawyers, but this was swiftly rejected.

This follows quite the change in position by MGN on the phone-hacking saga that continues to harass them. Having previously denied all accusations as to their involvement, liability was admitted in a handful of cases last month.

The group has now admitted that 27 published articles related to a number of victims - involving Coronation Street actress, Shobna Gulati and EastEnders duo, Shane Ritchie and Lucy Taggart - are likely to have been the result of coordinated phone hacking.

Anjlee Saigol of solicitors Taylor Hampton said: “After a three-day court hearing MGN has failed to limit the scope of documents it must provide relating to phone hacking. The order for further disclosure could be capable of dealing with what the judge called the 'holes' in MGN’s admissions of liability and the amount of compensation victims might be awarded.”

If you feel that you may have been a victim of phone hacking we here at Contact Law can help.

Taylor Hampton have represented a number of high-profile victims of the phone hacking scandal already and have held a long standing relationship with us at Contact Law. If you would like to speak to them about an incident of phone hacking please call 0808 1597 767 now.

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Anjlee Saigol of solicitors Taylor Hampton said: “After a three-day court hearing MGN has failed to limit the scope of documents it must provide relating to phone hacking. The order for further disclosure could be capable of dealing with what the judge called the 'holes' in MGN’s admissions of liability and the amount of compensation victims might be awarded.”
Divorced father uses "barter" to pay child maintenace

This is an Italian case, but makes interesting reading.

An innovative solution was agreed between parents when it came to child maintenance payments. They agreed the father would pay 70% by way of "credits" which are exchanged for goods and services.

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Marco Grazzini, 43, from Tuscany, a broker by profession, had trouble in paying child maintenance to his former wife, so he decided to barter. He is separated from Eleonora, 39, an insurer and, like many fathers in his position, he was obliged to leave the family home, thereby doubling his expenses. “I was struggling each month to pay maintenance for my child so my ex-wife and I ended up arguing.”

But then Marco found an answer.

“I asked her if she wanted to receive part of the maintenance in credits, which I had maturing.” Marco belongs to a group called Affari Senza Soldi (Business Without Money), an association that brings together tradesmen and professionals willing to sell their goods or services in return, not for euros, but for credits which can be exchanged within the group.
Musician James Rhodes wins court battle over right to publish book

Pianist James Rhodes who had previously been barred from publishing his memoirs, has won a court battle that will now see an injunction lifted, allowing him to publish the book in which he tells of being sexually abused as a child.

The publishers of the book, who had previously been kept anonymous along with Mr Rhodes have been revealed as Canongate.

A ban was placed upon publication of the book after lawyers representing Mr Rhode's ex-wife obtained a temporary injunction stopping it's release.

It had been argued that the book which details the serious sexual abuse that he was subjected to as a young child, would have caused Mr Rhode's son 'catastrophic psychological distress' if he were to ever read it.

Following the high court rejecting his ex-wife's request to have large parts of the book banned, a temporary injunction was imposed by the court of appeal and it was ordered that a trial should take place in which it would have to be decided whose rights took priority, the boy's or his father's.

However, a supreme court ruling has now overturned that decision. Delivering the judgement, Lord Toulson said: “Freedom to report the truth is a basic right to which the court gives a high level of protection, and the author’s right to his story includes the right to tell it as he wishes.

“There is every justification for the publication. A person who has suffered in he way the appellant has suffered, and has struggled to cope with the consequences of his suffering in the way that he has struggled, has the right to tell the world about it. And there is the corresponding public interest in others being able to listen to his life story in all its searing detail.”

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“Freedom to report the truth is a basic right to which the court gives a high level of protection, and the author’s right to his story includes the right to tell it as he wishes..."
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Google begins implementation of the ‘right to be forgotten’ on its search engine

Google has launched a web-form allowing EU citizens to request that their details be removed from search results. This is pursuant to the ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling by the European Court of Justice on 13th May 2014.

The ECJ has decided that search engines are classified as ‘data controllers’ under EU data protection law. This means that they have to comply with the requirement to remove data that is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant”.

Google’s attempts to implement a judgement many considered unenforceable will attract considerable interest.

(more…)

The ramifications of the Government’s criminal legal aid cuts exposed by Cameron’s brother

A serious fraud trial has today (01 May 2014) been halted due to the judge deciding that there was no prospect of a fair trial.

The reasoning is that the defendants will not be adequately represented because no barristers agreed to take on the case.

(more…)

Early conciliation for employment disputes is being made a legal requirement on 6 May 2014, but what exactly is it?

There have been a lot of changes made to employment law recently, mainly with the aim of improving efficiency, reducing the number of spurious cases and ultimately saving the government money.

The latest is the introduction of Early Conciliation, a new requirement that must take place before any claim is made to the employment tribunal.

(more…)

Prince Charles’ letters: a political and legal drama

The recent (March 2014) saga of Prince Charles’ letters to the UK Government is intriguing from a political perspective, and throws up issues going to the heart of UK constitutional law.

Why is it so important to know what Prince Charles has been writing?

(more…)

Could no-win, no-fee agreements be on their way out?

Concerns are mounting over no-win, no-fee agreements after a Legal Ombudsman’s report in late January 2014 highlighted abusive practices by some solicitors.

In 2013 lawyers were ordered to pay nearly £1 million in compensation to clients after agreements went wrong.

(more…)

Are whistleblowers protected enough?

Whistleblowing is a situation in which someone reports wrongdoing at their workplace. This could relate to things like law-breaking, environmental damage, health and safety concerns, or dishonesty.

It is widely recognised to be in the public interest for workers to be able to make disclosures of this nature. However, recent reports suggest that not enough is being done to protect and encourage whistleblowers, especially in the teaching profession.

(more…)

Are Free Schools regulated sufficiently?

A recent development

The Information Tribunal has rejected an attempt by the Department for Education (DfE) to withhold information, concerning the identity of groups who have proposed to open so-called ‘free schools’ in England, as reported by BBC News.

The Information, including the names, location and religious affiliation of such groups, was requested in an attempt to highlight an alleged lack of transparency inherent in the system of proposing and setting up a free school.

(more…)

What is the status of sharia law in the UK?

A recent news story about the exercise of criminal law in Saudi Arabia has generated widespread consternation in the UK. This reaction may, in part, reflect unease about the influence of Muslim rulings in this country, given the recent debate on the Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill in the House of Lords, led by Baroness Cox.

The incident was reported by the Daily Mail and concerns the beheading by sword of a Sri Lankan national, Rizana Nafeek, despite claims that she was only 17 years old in 2005 when the alleged crime was committed. Nafeek was executed this Wednesday for causing the death of a four-month-old baby in her care, while working as a housemaid in Saudi Arabia.

(more…)

Government to re-visit perennial problem of care costs for the elderly?

Norman Lamb, the Coalition Health Minister, has called for the issue of how to fund care for the elderly to be addressed urgently by the Government. In an interview with the Daily Mail this week, Lamb said that legislation must be brought in to address the principal of capping care costs.

The cap was a key recommendation of the Government-appointed Dilnot Commission, charged with making recommendations on how long-term care for the elderly should be funded in the future. The report, published in July this year, advised that the cap, after which the state would fund care, should be set at between £25,000 and £50,000, with £35,000 as the most reasonable figure.

(more…)

Editorial Image

In this section you will find opinionated pieces about topical issues. They are usually based around a news item, with opinions aimed at promoting discussion.

The views in these posts are those of the individual author, and not necessarily of Contact Law.

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