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The Future Lawyer Weekly Update – w/c 8th October 2018

The Future Lawyer Weekly Update – w/c 8th October 2018

Your round-up of the stories that you should discuss at interview this week:

Legal Aid

Reported by Anna-Mei Harvey

Legal Aid: A Matter of Rights and Wrong

The Law Society have written and released a report focusing on the detrimental effects of the significant cuts made to legal aid over the past 6 years since the implementation of Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO.)

The report was written as the Law society’s response to the introduction of the legislation ahead of the release of the Ministry of Justice’s LASPO Part 1 post implementation review are there was little positive light cast over the effects of the Act from the Law society.  Christina Blacklaws, the society’s president commented that British justice now existed “only for the wealthy, or the small number on very low incomes lucky enough to find a solicitor willing and able to fight a mountain of red tape to secure legal aid.”

It is fair to say that cuts in legal aid funding have indeed created huge problems in terms of the access to justice with legal aid now considered on a means tested basis, except for cases regarding mental health tribunals, children in care or child abduction. Last year it was reported that the number of providers of legal aid had fallen from 2,991 to 2,393 since 2012, blamed by Blacklaws on solicitor’s unwillingness to ‘battle the bureaucracy and uneconomic rates of pay.’

Eligibility for legal aid is so restricted that the government is being warned it is leaving thousands of people out in the cold in their times of need putting people in a position that has effectively removed their ability to ‘enforce and defend’ their rights. If this is allowed to continue, as stated by Blacklaws, “for all practical purposes those rights do not exist.”

For more information, see The Law Society, The Guardian (here and here), and the Government Website.

Homelessness

Reported by Anna Flaherty

449 homeless people have died during the last 12 months in the UK

At least 449 homeless people have died over the course of the last 12 months in the UK. The investigation made by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) has been the first of its type attempted. In response to the results of the investigation, a spokeswoman from the Ministry of Housing told the press that £1.2 billion was being invested to tackle the problem, and that this money should be able to end rough sleeping by 2027. The causes of death vary, but include illness, suicide, drug overdoses and assault. One of the cases investigated showed the cause of death to be prolonged starvation. Other bodies had decomposed to the point that forensic tests were needed to be able to identify the individuals.

Polly Neate, the chief executive of Shelter (a charity that campaigns to end homelessness and bad housing in England and Scotland), said that “We see, first-hand, the suffering [homelessness] causes […] From families trapped in cramped and dingy B&Bs, to those forced to endure the dangers of sleeping rough.” She continued to criticise the government, on the basis that housing benefits are not enough to cover the rent in many areas of the UK. The chief executive of St Mungo’s (a charity registered in England to help homeless people), Howard Sinclair, went further by saying that the investigation had revealed a “national scandal” and that the deaths of these people was “entirely preventable”.

For more about homelessness in the UK, read a previous article from The Student Lawyer here.

For further information on the investigation, see the BBC and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Defamation

Reported by Megan Kearns

Defamatory Statements Force Magazine to Print a Front-Page Correction

Women’s Own magazine has been forced to print a front-page correction statement making false claims about Denise Welch. Denise Welch, who is famous for her roles in Coronation Street and Waterloo Road, said the article was written to “purely to humiliate, degrade and embarrass.”

For this complaint to arise, Women’s Own published a series of “diva demands” supposedly requested by Welch over two pages of coverage in their magazine. They quoted this information from an anonymous source earlier this year along with allegations that her fellow panellists on Loose Women “don’t even want her back full time” on the day-time television programme.

Following the publication, Welch complained to IPSO (the press regulator) who investigated the claims. The magazine told IPSO they hadn’t approached Welch for a comment before the publication as the source had been accurate in the past.  IPSO declined Women’s Own’s offer to publish a correction on page three of a future edition and ordered a message was to be printed uniform with the original headline – on the front page with the same font size.

This ground-breaking move from Welch could result in repercussions for other gossip publicists who may think twice before publishing hearsay from anonymous sources to avoid similar scenarios and complaints.  Welch comments that “We may not have a right to privacy in the way other people do but we have a right that a source cannot wake up one day and make up two pages of lies which is trailed on the front page,” She hopes other celebrities will now speak up and stop accepting what gossip magazines write about them.

For more information, see here.

Employment

Reported by Zara Smith

Employment Tribunal Fees Remain Unpaid to Claimants  

Thousands of claimants previously paid fees to bring a claim to the employment tribunal. The Supreme Court case ruled that the rendered fees were unlawful. One year on and claimants still haven’t been refunded over 80% of the money that they’re owed.

Refund programs were set up in October 2017 for those who had paid a fee. In May 2018, it was reported that the government had only refunded £2.8 million. The government then went back on its decision not to contact the eligible claimants directly, as justice secretary David Gauke stated that ‘further action was necessary’ to ensure refunds were made in a timely fashion for them. Now it has been reported by the Ministry of Justice that still only a mere £6.6 million out of the expected £33 million has been refunded.

HM Courts and Tribunals Service said: ’Since launching our refund scheme we have been working hard to process refunds to those eligible. We are working with trade unions to get the message out and have also been sending around 10,000 letters a month to those people we think may be eligible.’

The claimants were all wronged by the injustice of the heavy fees they paid. Christina McAnea, assistant general secretary Unison, stated: ‘Putting right this huge wrong should have happened faster. The government must make much more of an effort to pay back the money it owes to thousands of people”.

For more information, click here.

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