Cash-strapped universities hold out begging bowl

first_imgBritish law students are in for a rough ride, it seems. The Financial Times reported yesterday that top universities are losing money at an astounding rate, pointing to huge deficits in the funding they receive from the government and the actual cost of education. This reminded me of a letter I received a while back from Bill Bryson, the American author. Not a personal letter, mind, but a blanket letter to all alumni of Durham University, of which he is the senior don. He cut to the chase fairly quickly: ‘Please give us money because we don’t have enough.’ He also kindly suggested that Oxbridge alumni are rather more generous when it comes to donations. But does his cash call, and the cash call issued by the universities yesterday, mean that the quality of education in British universities has already slipped because of a lack of funds? And if this is the case, will employers in the ultra-competitive legal market (and especially in the City) shun British graduates and turn instead to foreign law graduates? At the end of last year, Professor Alan Riley, director of the LLM programme at The City Law School, said he had been telling international students to apply for jobs with US firms or go in-house because recruitment practices at English firms favoured UK candidates. This February the Gazette reported that south-west firm Osborne Clarke fell foul of the Employment Appeal Tribunal for automatically rejecting overseas students needing a work permit who applied for training contracts with the firm (specifically, those from outside the European Economic Area, or EEA). It had claimed it would be unable to sign a declaration in the work permit application that it knew of no suitable EEA worker who would be displaced as a result of employing the applicant. Did Osborne Clarke’s policy reflect a culture among some law firms to concentrate on British graduates, and perhaps graduates from inside the EEA? Riley seemed to think so. But if the government and we university alumni don’t address this apparent funding deficit, then where else will there be to look for top-quality graduates but overseas?last_img read more

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Sentencing

first_img The appellant (H), appealed against his sentence of imprisonment for public protection that had been imposed on him for counts of making indecent photographs of children. H had been previously sentenced, on two separate occasions, for offences of making and possessing indecent photographs of children. The offences committed during the second occasion had taken place soon after he had been released on licence in respect of the first sentence. In the present case, H pleaded guilty to offences of making and possessing indecent photographs of children, which were committed after he was released from his second sentence of imprisonment. The pre-sentence report gave details of the offences committed during the second occasion and suggested that H had in the past become involved in actual contact with children. In particular, the report pointed out that H had advertised a fake photography business on the internet, had lured unsuspecting teenage girls to pose for him in skimpy outfits under the pretence of creating a modelling portfolio and had doctored the images to depict semen smeared on the faces of the girls concerned. The sentencing judge held that the higher level of serious harm specified in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 was present in H’s case. The question for the present court was whether the sentence of imprisonment for public protection could stand in light of a subsequent decision in R v Terrell (Alexander James) [2007] EWCA Crim 3079, (2008) 2 All ER 1065. Held: (1) The court in Terrell made it quite plain that serious harm of the level required to justify imprisonment for public protection could be made out where an offender risked progressing to physical contact offences, or becoming a photographer, or a commissioner of indecent images, or playing a more significant role in a distribution network, Terrell followed. Also, it was not enough that there was a possibility of future offending that might occasion serious harm. The risk of such harm being occasioned by future offending had to be significant. That required some evidential basis from which it could be assessed that either serious harm caused in the past would be repeated, or that the offender would move on to more serious offences that gave rise to a significant risk of serious harm, R v Lang (Stephen Howard) [2005] EWCA Crim 2864, [2006] 1 WLR 2509 followed. (2) In the present case, it could not be said that in the past H had in fact committed contact offences as opposed to offences of possession or making images. None of the images arising from the photographic sessions were indecent and the doctored images had not been circulated on the internet for use by others. Disgust caused by the images was not the same as serious psychological injury. Furthermore, there had been no charge of sexual grooming or assault brought against H, and his conduct had not worsened in the short time that he had been at liberty since the second group of offences. The nature of the images that he had collected since his release was overwhelmingly at level one and there were no level five images. Moreover, there was no evidence of attempted contact with children or of circulation of images to other offenders interested in such images. In the circumstances, a sentence of imprisonment for public protection for H’s offences could not be upheld as there was insufficient information from which an assessment of significant risk of future harm by the future commission of specified offences could be sustained. (3) However, the risk of future offending was a substantial one. The potential danger that H presented to young people in general was a real one and certainly the test under section 104 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 was satisfied. Therefore, a sexual offences prevention order with specified terms was imposed on H. Appeal allowed. R v Robert Lwellyn Hicks: CA (Crim Div) (Lord Justice Thomas, Mr Justice Blake, Mr Justice Burnett): 21 April 2009 J Josephs (instructed by Millerchip Murray) for the appellant; S Rippon (instructed by the CPS) for the ­respondent.center_img Imprisonment for public protection – Indecent photographs of children – Risk of re-offending last_img read more

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Warning on the cards for 11,000 law firms

first_imgSolicitors in England and Wales are to be issued with warning cards to help prevent them becoming involved in fraudulent activity. The cards highlight four risk areas – property fraud, undertakings, fraudulent financial affairs and money laundering. They will be issued to 11,000 firms by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. In 2006, the SRA received 215 reports of mortgage fraud, rising to 350 in 2008. In the four years to April 2009, the SRA’s forensic investigation unit has investigated more than 100 firms, where the major findings were of rule breaches in relation to mortgages and property. Other examples of fraud include misleading publicity and ‘traditional’ financial misconduct, such as failure to account. SRA chief executive Antony Townsend said: ‘Even the most conscientious of solicitors may become unwittingly involved in supporting fraudulent activity if they do not take care. The cards should help solicitors identify signs of improper activity and take the necessary action.’ The warning cards are also available at http://www.sra.org.uk/solicitorslast_img read more

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Criminal procedure

first_img Crown Prosecution Service v Susan Jane Campbell: Michael Joseph McInerney v Financial Services Authority: Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency v Graeme Trevor Carlton: CA (Crim Div) (Lord Justice Hooper, Mr Justice Clarke, Judge Roberts QC): 22 May 2009 Jonathan Kirk for the CPS; Dean George for Campbell; Mohammed Khamisa QC, Neil Hawes (instructed by Irwin Mitchell) for McInerney; Simon Gerrish for the FSA; Kennedy Talbot for the MHRA; Nigel Soppitt for Carlton. The appellant (M) appealed against a decision not to vary a restraint order to allow him to pay a contribution to the Legal Services Commission out of his allowance for ordinary living expenses. M was the subject of a restraint order made by the Crown Court under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 in connection with alleged money laundering offences. The order restrained all known assets of M but allowed him £250 per week towards ordinary living expenses. M applied to the LSC for public funding to seek judicial review of the decision of the Financial Services Authority to commence a prosecution of the money laundering offences. The commission offered the requested funding, subject to the condition that M made a contribution of £117.66 per month from his income. That assessment was made on the basis that M’s income was the £250 per week excluded as living expenses from the restraint order. The commission rejected M’s argument that his income should have been assessed as nil because of the restraint order. The FSA took the view that the payment of the contribution would be a breach of section 41(4) of the 2002 act because it was not possible to make an exception to the order for legal expenses. M applied to the Crown Court for a variation of the order which was refused. The secretary of state for the home department, the secretary of state for justice and the Legal Services Commission submitted that it was the intention of parliament that contributions to the commission would not fall foul of section 41(4) because parliament intended public funding on standard conditions to be available, and that contribution payments by M to the commission as a condition of the funding of the legal costs of his proceedings were not ‘legal expenses’ for the purposes of section 41. Held: (1) The wording of the restraint order prohibited M from spending the sum of £250 per week for other than ordinary living expenses. Payments to the commission were not ordinary living expenses and M would be in contempt of court to pay money to the commission and the commission would be in breach of the restraint order to receive it. (2) Section 41(3)(a) of the 2002 act made a distinction between living expenses and legal expenses and, if a contribution to the commission was a legal expense, then it would not be a payment towards ordinary living expenses. A contribution to the commission to institute judicial review proceedings in connection with the offence in respect of which the restraint order was made was a legal expense. It followed that a judge who discovered that a contribution was being made to the commission was likely to impose a condition that no such contribution should be made, if not bound to do so in the light of sections 41(4) and 69. Appeal dismissed. center_img Legal advice – Living expenses – Money laundering – Proceeds of crime last_img read more

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SRA launches tender for new legal panel

first_img dealing with court proceedings arising from interventions into law firms; representation in recovery litigation; defending and pursuing judicial review applications to include human rights challenges; regulatory appeals; and providing legal advice on a variety of subjects such as regulatory issues, data protection, freedom of information, and relevant aspects of European law. The Solicitors Regulation Authority has invited law firms to tender for the provision of regulatory work. The regulator is seeking to appoint a panel for three years that will coordinate: This is the first time that the SRA has conducted a tender for this type of work. Until now the regulator, and previously the Law Society, instructed a small number of firms on an ad hoc basis. Firms wishing to tender can apply for a tender pack by email from [email protected] or for an alternative format contact the SRA’s head of legal Jennifer Johnson on 01926 439706. The closing date for requests is 9 October 2009 and applications must be submitted by 2pm on 30 October 2009.last_img read more

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Solicitor ahoy

first_imgAt this time of year the need for a holiday becomes urgent, but for many it is still some weeks off. Many solicitors will find their gaze wandering from the contract in front of them, through the grimy window of their offices, their minds already picturing the exotic delights of foreign climes. Or Cornwall at the very least. For those who are planning a cruise or yachting trip, the chilly image (pictured) is probably not quite what they have in mind. But Boyd Holmes, managing partner at Cumbrian firm Cartmell Shepherd, is clearly not the pleasure cruise type. He recently took a break from steering his firm through the choppy waters of legal practice by taking to the high seas at the helm of his 37-foot yacht, Damsel – a name that is asking for trouble, surely? With his wife Kitty, Holmes completed an incident-packed 1,500-mile return journey from Scotland to Norway. The intrepid solicitor says he survived run-ins with boat-battering waves, close encounters with killer whales, a mid-sea rescue, and a clash with the Norwegian security forces. Back on dry land, Boyd has been presented with accolades for outstanding performance and endeavour by three of Britain’s sailing clubs. All very impressive. But Obiter will stick to a pedalo in the Med, if it’s all the same to him.last_img read more

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Call to SRA to loosen solicitor conduct rules

first_imgThe Legal Services Consumer Panel has called for the Solicitors Regulation Authority to scrap the conduct provisions that prevent a solicitor from acting for both seller and purchaser, and for both lender and borrower in a conveyancing transaction. Responding to the SRA’s current consultation on its new handbook, which seeks views on the current provisions, the consumer panel said they should be removed, and consumers should instead be protected by the general conflict rule. The panel, which was set up by the Legal Services Board to advise it on the interests of consumers, said there should be safeguards in place to ensure that lawyers understand their responsibilities when acting for both sides, and that they deliver informed consumer choice. However, it noted that allowing one solicitor to act for both sides could ‘minimise inconvenience caused by exchanges of correspondence and reduce avoidable cost’. In its consultation response, the panel said licensed conveyancers had ‘long been permitted to act for both sides, apparently without any problems’.last_img read more

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Legal aid cuts ‘do little to protect public interest’, says bar regulator

first_imgThe government’s proposals for legal aid reform have no positive regulatory impact and do little to protect or promote the public interest, according to the bar’s regulator. In its response to the green paper, the Bar Standards Board said the planned scope and eligibility cuts will have a detrimental effect on the diversity of the legal profession, access to justice, the public’s capacity to exercise their legal rights, and the quality of expert witnesses in court cases. Considering the proposed introduction of a single telephone gateway for the delivery of advice in civil cases, the BSB also warned against the possible provision of unlawful advice by telephone advisers. BSB chair Lady Deech said: ‘The BSB is committed to protecting the public interest and is alarmed that these proposals will disproportionately affect the most vulnerable consumers at a time when they need the most protection. ‘We are deeply concerned that the proposals for legal aid reform do nothing to enhance the regulatory objectives and have made this clear in our response.’last_img read more

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Poppadoms and ‘toot’ with Billy

first_imgFollowing on from last month’s article on the inimitable barrister Billy Rees-Davies, some further recollections are worth sharing, writes James Morton. One problem with Billy was eating with him. It was no impediment to him that he had only one arm. The difficulty was that his remaining one tended to reach out for trifles that were not his. Once in an Indian restaurant with shared tables, he was eating the poppadoms of the man opposite. When I mentioned they belonged to the unfortunate chap, Billy replied, ‘Nonsense, any poppadom in my reach is my poppadom.’ Once, on a rare display of interest in the client, Billy had a conference during the lunch adjournment. This left him only a few minutes for a sandwich. In those days the bar did not go into the public canteen, and when Billy had picked up a ham sandwich, smeared it with mustard and went to pay, the cashier said: ‘I’ve told you before Mr Rees-Davies, you’re not allowed to eat here. You’ve your own place.’ Billy was not fazed. He carefully removed the mustard from the sandwich, which he replaced on the stack, said, ‘Charge the mustard up to me’, and stalked out. One of the greatest regrets in my life is that I did not take up Billy’s offer of a night out in Tiger Bay for what he called a spot of ‘toot’, in the days when that word meant a spree involving women and drink. We were down in a bitterly cold Merthyr Tydfil, in a counterfeiting case before Tasker Watkins VC, when he made the offer. But the leader I had instructed quickly put paid to the idea, saying we should look at some statements that evening. Billy turned up looking very sorry for himself an hour into the case the next day. The leader then asked him if he could have a glass of water, and Billy went up to the judge’s bench, took Watkins’ carafe and walked off saying, ‘Don’t think yer Lordship’ll be needing this’. Billy rarely pulled rank. But once, a member of his chambers had clashed with an Old Bailey judge and was being threatened with the Bar Council. He went to Billy, as head of chambers, to try to get him to intercede. ‘Was he in the Guards with you in the war, Billy,’ he ventured? ‘If he was, he certainly wasn’t an officer’, was the crushing reply. Anyone with more recollections of Billy is invited to contact [email protected] James Morton is a writer and former criminal defence solicitorlast_img read more

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200th firm signs diversity and inclusion charter

first_imgCarmarthen firm Ungoed-Thomas & King has become the 200th firm to sign up to the Law Society’s Diversity and Inclusion Charter. One third of private practice solicitors now work in firms that have signed up to the flagship diversity initiative that was launched last year. The charter is a public commitment by providers of legal services to develop and implement best practice in equality, diversity and inclusion – as employers, as providers of legal services, as purchasers of goods and services, and in their wider roles in society. A central plank of the charter is the protocol on the procurement of legal services, where purchasers of legal services commit to collecting and considering standard diversity information from any law firms tendering for legal work. Firms signed up to the charter follow a monitoring and reporting protocol which provides best practice guidance in the collection and monitoring of workforce diversity information. Law Society President John Wotton (pictured) said: ‘The Charter movement is gaining pace rapidly, confirming the profession’s commitment to achieving greater inclusion in its ranks.’ ‘It is essential that legal services reflect the society we serve today. It makes business sense because it helps to attract and retain the best talent, understand and meet clients’ needs more effectively and it is also, quite simply, the right thing to do,’ he said. Sue Nelson, chair of the Law Society’s equality and diversity committee, said: ‘The Law Society is committed to providing a growing range of practical tools for legal practices to use to overcome the undoubted challenges of achieving inclusion.’ She added: ‘Outcome focused regulation starts in just 10 weeks’ time, and charter signatories can have greater confidence that they will meet the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s requirements.’ This year the Law Society has revised the charter’s reporting standards to make them easier to use and to improve the effectiveness of tracking diversity and inclusion progress. The Law Society has also made it easier for small firms (25 employees or less) to participate in the charter by developing a set of standards specifically for small firms. Wotton said: ‘The Charter is for the whole of the profession. It is still a relatively new initiative and we are constantly listening to our members’ feedback on how effective and user friendly the charter is.’last_img read more

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