Two Trials hit by Blunders in Quick Succession

Two trials in quick succession have been affected by particularly spectacular blunders – albeit not on the part of legal professionals. One trial in Leeds saw the jury dismissed after they were approached with a remarkable lack of subtlety and offered cash bribes, while another case in Cardiff was disrupted when it turned out that a person in the court was live-streaming the trial.

One of these cases was a trial at Leeds Crown Court over an alleged “cash for crash” scheme which had resulted in the death of a pensioner. 88-year-old Betty Laird was travelling as a passenger in a car when another vehicle, driven by the three defendants and another individual who has already pleaded guilty, drove into the side of it. Ms Laird sustained fatal injuries to her spine in the accident, and it is alleged that the men in the other vehicle caused the accident deliberately with the intention of making fraudulent insurance claims for personal injury.

At one point during proceedings, the court was evacuated because the fire alarm sounded. In this time, some people took the opportunity to approach members of the jury and offer them bribes, with relatively little attempt at subtlety, with some of the attempts being caught on camera. Interestingly, different jurors were offered cash in return for different verdicts. Three jurors were approached together and offered £500 each in return for guilty verdicts. Another was approached by a different individual and offered a cash bribe in exchange for a verdict of not guilty. A fifth juror reported being persistently followed by a man who was believed to be holding a sum of money, quite possibly with the intent of making another bribe offer, but in the end the two did not actually speak.

The case is also notable for the fact that the judge, Mr Justice Goss, not only dismissed the jury as a result of the attempted tampering but decided to continue the trial without a jury. This was done with rarely-used powers contained in the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

Another case in Cardiff was also affected by an attempt at unusual and not exactly intelligent attempt at unlawful conduct. David Davies, 39, ignored the fact that cameras are absolutely forbidden in court and the many prominent notices forbidding the use of mobile phones insude the building. He not only decided that he would use his mobile phone to film proceedings, which he was court doing as one witness provided evidence, but that he would stream that evidence live on Facebook in real time.

A member of the public saw the stream and alerted South Wales Police. Davies has now been jailed for 28 days PC Richard Sellek said that the sentence should “serve as a warning to others who think that the law does not apply to them.”

MOJ Wastes £411,000 on Legal Aid U-Turn

The amount of money wasted on the government’s controversial and ultimately abandoned attempts to introduce legal aid contract reforms has been revealed. In total, the government wasted more than £411,000 on the endeavour.

The proposed measures, which would have introduced two-tier contracts and competitive tendering to the criminal legal aid system, where originally announced by Gove’s predecessor as Justice Secretary Chris Grayling. Grayling, who has been described as one of the most controversial and unpopular Justice Secretaries of recent times, introduced a number of poorly-received measures which have later been scrapped by his successor. The abandonment of the legal aid contract reforms represented the fifth time that Gove had gone back on one of Grayling’s plans.

Under the scheme, 527 duty contracts were to be made available for firms who wished to provide criminal legal aid services, and firms across the country would have been required to bid competitively for the right to hold one of these contracts. Those that lost out could have faced a significant drop in incoming workload and income.

Whilst a number of recent reforms, particularly in relation to legal aid, have proved unpopular, the response to the proposed contracting system from the legal sector was particularly strong. Some top lawyers said that criminal law was set to become a “futureless profession” under the new regime, there were multiple claims of bad practice, and a number of formal legal challenges were launched against the government in an attempt to stop the reforms. In January, 14 months into the procurement process for the new contracts, Gove announced that the new system would not be put into operation after all. At the time of this announcement, the government was fighting a judicial challenge over the changes from the Fair Crime Contracts Alliance, as well as roughly 100 separate claims from law firms across the country.

Some of the costs associated with the attempt to bring about these reforms have been revealed under the Freedom of Information Act, and total more than £411,000. This includes £271,574 spend on agency staff in association with the reforms, £125,933 on legal support regarding the procurement process, and £13,565 in external legal assistance with the drafting of the contracts. This makes for a total cost of £411,072.

This figure does not include the amount spent on defending the proposals from the wave of legal challenges that were made. This information was included in the Freedom of Information Request made by the press to the government, but the Ministry of Justice said that, while it does have the information, “we believe that releasing the information would be likely to prejudice both the administration of justice as well as the department’s commercial interests.”

Blunders Land Police with £20,000 Compensation Payout

20,000 seems to be something of a magic number for that section of the police force which couldn’t quite be described as its “best and brightest.” A few months ago, 20,000 crime records were lost to a blunder in the IT department. Now, £20,000 have been lost in a compensation payout to a rape victim after their handling of her case was filled with blunders.

The victim in question suffered a great deal as a result of the police’s mishandling of her report. She was reportedly driven to self-harm and even attempted suicide as a result of this mistreatment by police on top of the trauma of the attack itself.

The police force in question was Hampshire Constabulary, and the victim has exercised her right to remain anonymous. She had been on a night out with a group of friends when the attack occurred, and a portion of the party had headed back to one of their homes. The victim was part of this group, and so was the attacker.

It was at this house that the attack took place, and the woman later appeared at the police station to report that she had been raped. If there was one bright side, it was that she was pretty sure the attacker had left forensic evidence on her T-shirt which should make it much easier to link him to the assault and bring him to justice. She promptly told this to police.

This was when the blunders began. The police didn’t bother to test for the forensic evidence on her T-shirt, despite the fact she had specifically told them about it. Neither did they rush to try and apprehend the culprit. Instead, they at first ignored the report and then later decided to arrest the victim. They told her she was lying, and threatened to charge her.

According to the mother of the victim, she “couldn’t cope.” Over the course of this ordeal, she twice attempted to end her own life. It was only months after the original report that the police finally tested her T-shirt thoroughly for the evidence that she had told them about, after the Crown Prosecution Service asked them to do so. The evidence was indeed present and the attacker was finally arrested and last year was jailed for five years.

Now, the police have issued an apologetic statement and agreed to pay the victim compensation of £20,000 for the ordeal they put her through in an out-of-court settlement. Hampshire Constabulary also investigated officers who were involved in the blunder-filled handling of her case. Three such officers have been allowed to resign or retire while the investigation was still ongoing – a move the victim’s mother harshly criticised.

While she said she was glad the officers in question had admitted their wrongdoing, she felt that “if you’re in the middle of an investigation and you’ve been named, they shouldn’t let you resign or retire, because you are answerable to that.”

Police Blunder Loses Over 20,000 Records

Police Scotland has confessed to the loss of more than 20,000 stop and search records in an embarrassing blunder. The records reportedly went missing after a careless computer programmer “pressed the wrong button.”

Senior officers made the admission while appearing at the Scottish Parliament before a committee of MSPs. Chief Constable Sir Stephen House, who had to apologise for giving incorrect stop and search information to watchdog the Scottish Police Authority, said that the records had been lost through simple human error.

According to Assistant Chief Constable Wayne Mawson, also present before the committee, 20,086 records were lost in total. The important data disappeared when a “computer programmer pressed the wrong button between May and July last year.”

Mawson emphasised that the records “had been properly put on the system by the officers as a result of stopping and searching people,” but information regarding to the outcome of those stop and search incidents had been lost as a result of the blunder.

He went on to say that Police Scotland had been “working really hard” in their efforts to recover the data which was lost as a result of the blunder. These efforts included follow-up audits, and thousands of emails being sent out to officers that had been involved in the stop and search operations in question. As a result, he insisted, “the vast majority of that data, those results, are now back on the system.”

Nonetheless, the fact that such important data was so quickly and easily lost in the first place and through such a simple blunder, has cast a shadow over the Scottish police force. Chief Constable Sir Stephen acknowledged the mistake, but insisted that this had not eroded the trust that the public has in Police Scotland. Nonetheless, he recognised that as a result of the missing records stop-and-search statistics that were recently released by Police Scotland had not been “100% accurate” and were “not fit for public consumption.”

Sir Stephen also insisted that he had only released the data because he had been forced to by the Information Commissioner. However, this claim was thrown into doubt by emails that took place between the Information Commissioner and Police Scotland, which seemed to show that the latter had released its stop and search figures willingly and voluntarily.

Alison McInnes, a Liberal Democrat MSP and member of the justice subcommittee, was critical of the way Sir Stephen and Police Scotland responded to the issue. She described the response as “incoherent” and said that some of the claims made were “barely credible.”

Speaking to Sir Stephen, she asked: “is it incompetence or do you have a disregard for the authority of the Scottish Police Authority?”

Made a blunder with PPI?

Payment Protection Insurance or PPI can be very complicated. It is not unusual for people to become confused when it comes to complicated financial products.  This has not been helped by when many an innocent borrower was trapped into wrong payment protection insurance policies by the salesmen at the banks and other financial institutions.  They made huge profits from commissions from sales and the insurance premiums people unwittingly were made to pay.

Have you taken an incorrect PPI policy that is of hardly any use to you? If so you are not alone. Millions of people realised that they had a policy that was not suitable for them. Also, many realised that they had been paying for PPI but didn’t even know they were doing so – they were opted into it without their knowledge. Whatever form the mis-selling of the PPI took – a claim for a PPI refund is your legal right.

The bank or the other organization that has entrapped you with the wrong policy will definitely try to prove you wrong or will even try to negotiate the condition and force you to finalize for much lesser that what you should be actually getting.

You are not legally bound to follow either of the terms that the bank proposes to you. In case you are facing difficulties and the bank is making your life hell you can seek the help of the  Financial Service Ombudsmen and acquire the right payment protection insurance policy.

If you have a busy schedule and you cannot afford to spare your time on such issues, you can contact PPI claims service providers at www.PPIClaimsAdviceLine.com. They can help you to get back your money. These PPI claims companies hire legal experts who specialize in such cases and also have full knowledge about the legal proceedings. While you approach any PPI claims service provider make sure to check that the company is approved and accredited by the Ministry of Justice or else you might land up fighting another legal war.

Legal Blunder by the Home Office permits a violent criminal to stay in Britain

A 24 year old Iraqi man was recently sentenced to 17 months in prison for violent disorder. Hazhar Hassan Taha went on to win a legal challenge against deportation, on the ground that it would breach human rights. However, following Taha’s victory, the Home Office launched appeals to a more senior judge. This was clearly part of a policy of determination to battle cases of supposed abuse of human rights legislation. Immigration officials never submitted the legal paperwork and therefore committed a critical blunder in failing to respond to the court’s requests.

The result of this was that the Home Office was dismissed by the judge without a hearing. The judge was Upper Immigration Tribunal Judge Richard Chalkley and his decision means that Taha is able to remain in Britain for as long as he pleases. The issue raised here is the problem of the Home Office’s blunders that are preventing the Government aim to deport more foreign criminals out of Britain.

The Home Secretary Theresa May, in February, slammed judges that had ‘got it into their heads’ that Article 8 of Labour’s Human Rights Act could not be restricted. She has expressed frustration over this topic before, especially regarding immigration judge’s failure to abide by rules that are there to limit the use of the ‘right to private life’. These limitations were introduced by her last summer. She said: ‘Some judges seem to believe they can ignore Parliament’s wishes’.

It can be argued though, that this specific case helps to prove that it is failings within the Home Secretary’s department that are donating to the problem and making it worse. The Conservative MP, Dominic Raab, a human rights campaigner, said of the situation; ‘We sorely need to scale back the spurious human rights claims frustrating our deportation system. But, the Home Office also need to be straining every sinew to remove foreign criminals, and this case suggests the UK Border Agency have taken their eye off the ball’.

Taha, a violent criminal and asylum seeker, Britain is allowed to stay here due to slip ups by the Home Office, and these blunders must stop.