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Reforming the Advocates’ Graduated Fee Scheme

The MoJ has published a consultation paper on a modernised advocates’ graduated fee scheme (AGFS). The scheme, which was last reformed in 2007, pays criminal defence advocates legal aid for representing those accused of crimes in the Crown court.

Introducing the new proposals, justice minister Sir Oliver Heald said: “Our current payment system does not focus enough on the skilled advocacy that barristers and solicitor advocates demonstrate in the Crown Court. I want to change that. The measures in this consultation package, developed with the assistance of representatives from across the legal profession, set out a simpler, fairer and more modern alternative.” Read the full story

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legal Aid, Legal ITComments (0)

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)

The security of your cloud data is under threat because of this Microsoft case

Major IT and Media Companies move to protect cloud data worldwide in a post-Snowden world

The story so far: 13th December 2013 US Magistrate Judge James Francis granted US authorities a warrant which authorised the search for and seizure of emails stored at premises ‘owned, maintained, controlled or operated by Microsoft’ in relation to a drugs case. Specifically, the warrant relates to emails stored by Microsoft email users on the company’s Dublin servers, currently held to be protected from such intervention under various ‘safe harbour’ treaties. Read the full story

Posted in Civil Liberties, Legal ITComments (0)

You cannot ignore the risks to your hosted data any longer

US District Judge Loretta Preska has told Microsoft that it must hand over customer information being stored in a data centre in Dublin to federal prosecutors. And she made it clear that her decision would stand wherever the data was stored overseas on the basis that ‘It’s a question of control, not a question of the location of the information’. In other words, customer emails and other account information held by Microsoft are business records that can be seized by the feds wherever they are. Read the full story

Posted in Civil Liberties, ilaw, Legal IT, Legal Practice ManagementComments (0)

Does the future of law firms belong to Digital business structures?

When it was announced that the high profile human rights and civil liberties set Tooks Chambers was to dissolve, Michael Mansfield QC, head of the set, was typically trenchant about the reasons. “The dissolution of chambers is the direct result of government policies on legal aid” he said. He added: “The government policies led by justice secretary Chris Grayling are cumulatively devastating the provision of legal services and threatening the rule of law…Of all the justice ministers we’ve had, Chris Grayling has been the most intransigent on this issue” Read the full story

Posted in Legal ITComments (0)

Solicitor Profile: Carl Woolf on Digital Working

As recently as February 2013, Justice Minister Damian Green empathised that there was a specific failure to exploit technology in the legal sector. Carl’s strong business orientation is at the forefront of his practice and he particularly relies on technology within the courtroom environment. The notion of Digital Working is something he embraces and he recognises the link to cutting firm expenditure.

The Justice Secretary’s recent announcement bringing forward the implementation of Best Value Tendering is not welcomed in quite the same light. “Tendering for contracts is an absolute nightmare for everyone”, he says, and this will inevitably result “in the lowest possible price for the service.” He quotes on speculation likening Eddie Stobbart Law operating a Crime ‘Tesco Law’ service and its worrying implications for smaller practices. He also recognises the trend emerging of ‘safety in numbers’ to fight against the emergence of a potential Eddie Stobbart Law firm.

“One has to wonder what incentive there will be to promote justice and quality as opposed to price and profit”, Carl asks.
But he also accepts that digital working will definitely help to cut costs. “If you can have typists that work from home, if solicitors don’t need their travel expenses paying because they can go to a court closer to their home and access their files, dictation and email via iPad then that will hopefully save us substantial amounts.”

The importance of tablet devices in day to day criminal proceedings is empathised more. Carl states he is using his iPad in his current trial to access digital case files via his remote access case management system. All of his papers are scanned and emailed over to his iPad. He rarely drags around big volumes of books and case papers because “everything is there in a convenient bundle”, but only on the proviso “as long as you have a power source.” In 2013 he has not carried one hard copy book because their digital working allows for electronic copies to be accessed.

Visit Meldrum Solicitors – www.meldrumsolicitors.com

Posted in Law Updates, Legal ITComments (0)

Justice through technology – 2

The specific and immediate technology proposals of the Swift and Sure white paper are just the beginning. The white paper makes it clear that: “Our reforms will provide the impetus for the next stage of the CJS Efficiency Programme.” Read the full story

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legal ITComments (0)

Justice through technology – 1

“Technology has a critical role to play in delivering efficient criminal justice. Huge sums of money were spent on IT in the criminal justice agencies during the last decade, in particular the CJS IT programme, but the public did not secure a sufficient return on these substantial investments. Programmes, including LIBRA for the magistrates’ courts, and the C-NOMIS case management system for managing offenders, suffered years of delays, ran massively over budget, and failed to deliver the functionality promised.” Read the full story

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legal ITComments (0)

Jane’s Law

There was rare consensus between the government and the opposition at the start of the ninth day of line-by-line consideration of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment bill at Committee stage in the House of Lords last week.

The occasion was an amendment to the bill, proposed by Lord Beecham, to insert a clause allowing the ‘right to appeal bail decisions’. The government had also put down a similar amendment. Lord Beecham said: “This amendment and the government amendment arise from the brutal murder of Jane Clough, a 26 year- old nurse and mother of a baby daughter, by the partner with whom Read the full story

Posted in Case Law, Criminal Justice, Legal ITComments (0)

New family fee schemes

In the hiatus following the cancellation of family contracts last autumn two new family fee schemes, due for implementation, were postponed. The Legal Services Commission (LSC) has now announced their belated introduction from 9 May. The new schemes are: Read the full story

Posted in Civil Law, ilaw, Law Updates, Legal Aid, Legal ITComments (0)

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