Tag Archive | "Bindmans"

City police recruit law firms tackle cyber criminals


In a pilot programme that could have huge implications for the future of cyber security law enforcement, the City of London Police will be pursuing cyber criminals through civil courts rather than criminal courts.

The force will work with private sector law firms to seize and recover assets from criminals through civil litigation procedures for the recovery of assets. Solicitors will be tasked with recouping the assets using civil litigation, potentially raising the prospect of a panel of firms pursuing cases on a no win, no fee basis or through third-party funders.

The force’s Economic Crime Directorate believes that this method will allow far quicker identification, seizure and return of assets to victims.

The two-year pilot scheme has been launched by the City of London Police. It will be deployed in tandem with asset recovery under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA), adding another weapon to the armoury of law enforcers.

A working group to oversee the experiment has been set up by the City of London police, officers from the National Crime Agency, and Metropolitan police, and law and private investigation firms.

The force says the scheme is a way of more effectively tackling fraud, which is now the biggest type of crime, estimated to cost £193bn a year and overwhelming police and the criminal justice system. The Office for National Statistics said in July that there had been more than 5.8m incidents of cybercrime in the past year, enough to virtually double the headline crime rate in England and Wales.

The experiment, which is backed by the government and being closely watched by other law enforcement agencies, is expected to lead to cases reaching civil courts this year or early next year. Year one of the project will be part-funded through a £157,000 grant from the Home Office’s Police Innovation Fund. Officers have applied for similar funding for year two.

Detective Superintendent Maria Woodall, operational lead for the pilot said: ’This innovative new scheme will hopefully allow us to be more flexible and creative in how we identify and seize criminal assets in certain cases to get those funds back to the victims of crime and out of the hands of criminals.’

In July the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee produced a highly critical report on proceeds of crime, saying the regime is not fit for purpose and calling for radical reform. Its recommendations included more collaboration between public bodies involved in POCA and the private sector, and the creation of a market for private enforcement.

As reported in the ‘Gazette’, one firm that submitted evidence to the committee calling for such a market was Pinsent Masons. Alan Sheeley, head of civil fraud and asset recovery at the firm, described the pilot as a ‘vital step forward’, adding “This is a really exciting and long overdue step for law enforcement agencies in the UK.”

Less convinced, as reported in the ‘Guardian’, is Katie Wheatley, joint head of criminal law at Bindmans, a London law firm. She expressed unease over the proposals, which she said gave police “what they would regard as an easy deterrent, without having the inconvenience of proving an offence to a criminal standard.”

She said the plan risked creating a conflict between private firms’ profit motive and the fairness of the process. “We’ve seen privatisation in this context in other ways, for example prison privatisation,” she said. “We all know how badly that’s gone wrong.”

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legal ITComments (0)

Discriminatory residence test for legal aid summarily thrown out


Our blog on Monday said that the Supreme Court would begin hearing arguments in a case challenging the government’s Legal Aid residence test that day. Remarkably by Monday evening the case was resolved.

The Supreme Court has taken what is believed to be the unprecedented step of allowing an appeal halfway through a two-day hearing. The bench of seven justices in the UK’s highest court abruptly halted the case and announced on Monday afternoon that it had found against the Ministry of Justice.

The government had been seeking to introduce the residence test via secondary legislation. The residence test restricts legal aid to people who are “lawfully resident” in the UK and have been for the past 12 months. The Public Law Project (PLP), which brought the case, said that this is outside the government’s powers and also discriminatory under human rights laws.

As reported in the ‘Gazette’ a brief statement by the supreme court said: “The issues in this appeal were whether the proposed civil legal aid residence test in the draft Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (Amendment of Schedule 1) Order 2014 is ultra vires [beyond the powers of the legislation] and unjustifiably discriminatory and so in breach of common law and the Human Rights Act 1998.

“At the end of today’s hearing the supreme court announced that it was allowing the appeal on ground [of ultra vires] … The supreme court asked the parties whether they wished to address the court on the second issue. The case has been adjourned while this is considered.”

On Tuesday the court confirmed on its website that the hearing ‘has now concluded’. Full written reasons for its decision ‘will follow in due course’.

Law Society chief executive Catherine Dixon said: “This judgment goes some way in reaffirming the philosophy behind legal aid, which is that everyone should have the ability to get expert legal advice and representation to defend their legal rights.

“The court has upheld the vital principle that government must act within the scope of its powers and particular scrutiny must be given where equality before the law is being threatened.”

John Halford, the solicitor at the London law firm Bindmans, which is acting for the PLP, said: “Right now though, it is clear that the Supreme Court believed rationing British justice using delegated legislation was repugnant to British law and it was willing to act decisively to stop that happening.” Should the government want to introduce a residence test in the future, Halford said it would have to propose primary legislation with the residence test in it.

Such a swift ruling is a humiliating setback for the MoJ. Reversals were a regular matter for the previous unlamented justice secretary Grayling, but Gove has had the sense to abandon many unpopular measures introduced by his predecessor. He has blotted his copybook by allying himself with this now thrown out policy. He intended to proceed with plans to introduce the scheme this summer.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “We are of course very disappointed with this decision. We will now wait for the full written judgment to consider.”

Posted in Civil Liberties, Legal AidComments (0)

Legal aid residence test to be challenged


Today, the Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments in a case challenging the government’s Legal Aid residence test.

The residence test restricts legal aid to people who are “lawfully resident” in the UK and have been for the past 12 months. The Public Law Project (PLP), which is bringing the case, says that this is outside the government’s powers and also discriminatory under human rights laws.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has argued that only those who have an established link to the UK should be entitled to legal aid, which is a scarce and costly resource that must be rationed.

Seven justices will hear arguments in a case which insists that no minister has the power to impose such discriminatory regulations and that the residence test, which has yet to be implemented, is unlawful. The supreme court had originally planned to hear the case later this year, but it has been brought forward following justice secretary Michael Gove’s indication that he planned to begin applying the residence test from this summer.

The case has already been before the courts. In 2014, the high court struck down the regulation on the grounds that the then justice secretary, Chris Grayling, did not have the power to introduce it by means of secondary legislation. It also concluded that the residence test was excessively discriminatory.

In a unanimous decision, three senior judges declared the draft regulations then before parliament could not be enacted by means of secondary legislation. They also upheld a complaint on a second ground as part of the judicial review, that it would not be legitimate to discriminate against non-residents solely on the grounds of saving money.

The judgment was a severe setback for the then justice secretary, Chris Grayling, and the way he was introducing wide-ranging changes without primary legislation.

However, last November the court of appeal overturned that judgment, concluding that the earlier ruling placed unjustifiable restraints on the government’s ability to control the legal aid budget. Exemptions to the residence test have had to be made for members of the armed forces serving overseas, children under one year old and asylum seekers.

John Halford, the solicitor at the London law firm Bindmans, which is acting for the PLP, is quoted in the ‘Guardian’ as saying: “In this country, we are rightly proud we have a legal system which, whilst not perfect, seeks to ensure that anyone can enforce important legal rights and enter the courtroom on an equal footing to their opponents….The [justice secretary’s] proposed residence test strikes at the heart of these principles by very deliberately withholding legal aid from those who overwhelmingly will not be British, yet are obliged to obey the law here and so should, equally, be protected by it. We will ask the court to make a definitive ruling that the test is repugnant to British law.”

The ‘Guardian’ also reports that the children’s commissioner for England has intervened in the litigation in support of the PLP’s appeal, as has the solicitors’ professional body, the Law Society.

The case will be decided by seven justices – Lord Neuberger, Lady Hale, Lord Mance, Lord Reed, Lord Carnwath, Lord Hughes and Lord Toulson – because of its constitutional importance.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Legal AidComments (0)

Legal aid contract challenges extended to May


At a hearing on 21 December 2015 it was decided that challenges to the government’s tender process for criminal legal aid will come to court towards the middle of next year. A judicial review, sought by the Fair Crime Contracts Alliance, will be heard in the divisional court by Lord Justice Laws and Sir Kenneth Parker.

More than 100 individual procurement law challenges, sought in accordance with part 7 of the Civil Procedure Rules, will be heard in the Technology and Construction Court by Parker. It was agreed that the judicial review will commence on 7 April and is expected to last seven days. A hearing for the part 7 claims will commence on 3 May and is expected to finish on 16 May. Read the full story

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (0)


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