The CPS may find it hard to raise its game as budget cuts bite

first_imgKeir Starmer QC, director of public prosecutions, and his Crown Prosecution Service colleagues hosted a media drinks party last week to demonstrate their enthusiasm for transparency and to show off their new Southwark, London HQ. But subsequent press headlines will have punctured the party mood.They reported the fact that Starmer had apologised to the victim in a case of alleged sexual assault which collapsed due to failings by the CPS. The victim reported a sexual assault in March 2008. Her alleged attacker was due to face trial in March 2009. On the first day of the trial, the CPS barrister mishandled a special measures application for her to be screened while giving evidence, and failed to warn her not to mention in front of the jury that the defendant was already in prison. As a result, the victim gave evidence facing the accused and the jury was discharged when she inadvertently mentioned he was in prison. Instead of applying for a new trial the CPS, without consulting the victim, offered no evidence against the defendant. When she raised her concerns with the CPS, the victim was blamed for the collapse of the trial. She issued a claim for judicial review, seeking a declaration that the CPS had breached her rights under the Human Rights Act and damages. The CPS conceded the claim and admitted it had breached its positive duty under article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to prosecute the alleged assailant. At a mediation in June 2010, the CPS agreed to pay the victim £16,000 in damages and to undertake a series of measures to improve the service. The chief Crown prosecutor for London, Alison Saunders, wrote a two-page letter to the victim in which she apologised for the failings of the CPS in the handling of her case, and indicated that best practice had not been followed. Saunders accepted that the decision to offer no evidence was wrong and in breach of duties under the common law and article 3; that the failure to support the victim by not consulting her or informing her of the outcome was ‘unacceptable’; and that the special measures application should have been dealt with more ‘sensitivity, proactively and competently’. Saunders also apologised for the fact that the CPS had made the alleged victim feel responsible for the collapse of the trial: ‘I accept unreservedly that you were not to blame in any way,’ she wrote. Saunders said the CPS would be assessing whether the barrister instructed, the CPS prosecutor and their manager should continue to be authorised to do sexual cases. Tony Murphy, the victim’s solicitor at London firm Bhatt Murphy, said: ‘Policies designed to improve the prosecution of sexual assault cases have been in place for years. ‘The criminal justice system does not need new policies; it needs transformational change to put those policies into practice. Without this victims will continue to be failed and perpetrators will continue to go free.’ Starmer said: ‘The chief Crown prosecutor has apologised personally and in writing to the complainant. I am extremely disappointed with the way in which this case was dealt with and I am very sorry for the distress these failings have caused the complainant. I am determined this will not happen again.’ Faced with likely budget cuts of at least 25%, however, life is not got going to get any easier for the DPP or his charges. He may have to lose some of his most senior and expensive lawyers; and those who are left will be under greater pressure. How will an already stretched organisation be able to function adequately with reduced staff, let alone be able to make the ‘transformational change’ that Murphy suggest is necessary? Or will we see headlines like Monday’s? For more News blogs go to http://lawgazette.co.uk/blogs/newslast_img read more

AirBridgeCargo fleet grows with arrival of new Boeing 747-400s

first_imgThe latest aircraft is being leased from Air France and joined the ABC fleet on April 13th. This investment is in support of Volga-Dnepr Group’s strategy of continued fleet and network expansion.Tatyana Arslanova, ABC’s executive president, said: “Enlargement of our fleet is one of the core parts of ABC’s strategy, which is targeted at development and enhancement of our service quality.”Bringing in additional aircraft, especially the highly efficient, long-range Boeing 747-400ERF will improve our punctuality and allow us to increase the number of frequencies on all the routes in our network.”By expanding our fleet with these two latest B747-400 freighters, we are also able to take one of our Boeing 747-200Fs out of our scheduled aircraft fleet and reserve it for charter operations. Having this additional capacity in reserve will also help to guarantee ABC’s schedule stability and consistency and produce a positive impact on the airline’s overall service quality.”last_img read more

Long distance successes for Ahlers

first_imgIn the first movement, an Indian customer required Ahlers India and Ahlers China Guangzhou to organise the surface transport of a 6.65 m wide cutting wheel weighing 43 tonnes from a steel plant at Zhuhai, located on the Pearl River. The wheel was moved to a loading quay in Nansha, also on the Pearl River delta. The cargo was then shipped to Chennai, India.The distance of the land transport was more than 500 km and performed at night on Chinese roads made treacherous by heavy rain. The road survey and escort was undertaken by Ahlers China Guangzhou.However, this distance was dwarfed by a 15,000 km shipment organised by Ahlers via Ahlers St Petersburg for Navoi mining. This saw the movement of metallurgical-related items from West Jordan, Utah, USA to Zarafshan, Uzbekistan. A multimodal shipment involving heavy trucks, ocean vessels and railway wagons; with reloading in transhipment ports of Houston and St Petersburg. Ahlers took care of all documentation for the shipment.last_img read more

The long wait for houses is over

first_img 1 of 2 NABEELAH MOHEDEENA 62-year-old man who once had to sleep in an outside toilet for two weeks is among 30 families who have received keys to their homes in Heideveld after decades of waiting.Louis Solomons told how in the late 1980s he would have to get up in the middle of the night and wait outside if someone needed to use the toilet at his brother’s Bishop Lavis home.In 1980, Mr Solomons, who first applied for a house in 1978, moved to Mitchell’s Plain, where he shared a room. Two years later he moved back to Bishop Lavis and shared a house. In 2005, he moved into Wesbank home he has been renting ever since. Now, almost four decades since he first applied for a house, he finally has the keys to his own place.“I feel very good. After 38 years, I finally received my home. I was sleeping at my brother’s place where I slept in the toilet which was outside of the house, so when they needed to use the toilet at night, I would have to get up and wait outside until they’re done. I have lived in Mitchell’s Plain and all over the Western Cape. I am the happiest person here today. My dream has become a reality,” said Mr Solomons.At the hand-over last Tuesday, mayor Patricia de Lille said the new homes, which are next to the N2 (Jakes Gerwel Drive) and painted with a colourful bright stripe, reminded her of District Six. The R105 million project will see 708 more two-bedroom homes, handed over to families by July 2017. The new homeowners have all been on the council’s waiting list for more than 30 years.Ms De Lille and Benedicta van Minnen, mayoral committee member for human settlements, handed over the homes, which will connect residents from Heideveld, Bonteheuwel, Vanguard Estate, Welcome Estate, and Gugulethu. “We are putting together a whole new community. You might not know each other, but you will get to know each other,” said Ms De Lille. “Put your foot down, as a community, to criminal activity. If we find out that one of you is involved with criminal activity, we will put you out. Drugs and alcohol are destroying our communities. We live as if it is normal to sell drugs two doors away from us. It is not normal.”She said the houses had been built with economy in mind – the ceilings are insulated to keep the homes cool in summer and warm in winter to save on electricity costs.“Today you have your own address, where we can send your post to, and your traffic fines,” Ms De Lille joked. “Use this opportunity as a new beginning. We will hand over more houses as soon as more are completed.”She said the project had also created job opportunities for the community. Douglas Solomons, 58, no relation to Louis Solomons, had been living in a backyard in Manenberg. He finally received his home after 36 years. “I am very excited, I am finally settling with a home after so many years. I want to thank the mayor and her team for allowing us to have our own home. “We can finally settle down, and our kids can settle down as well with no more moving around,” said Mr Solomons.last_img read more

Foot loose

first_imgHM Judiciary, represented here by the master of the rolls and lord chief justice, hit a distinctive sartorial note on Monday’s London Legal Walk. T-shirts and trainers were worn, but frequently over double-cuffed shirts and ties, and creased trousers. Exotic headgear was optional. Despite the mature years of some participants, the 10k event passed off without mishap. When one runner took a tumble at Millbank, colleagues were ready with sympathy rather than PI business cards. Some, however, found it hard to switch off. Attorney general Dominic Grieve used the early part of the walk to plan a speech with his assistant. And as for the lawyer who spent 20 minutes on the phone to a client, Obiter is not sure whether to applaud or cry.last_img read more

AA makes move into legal market with ABS licence

first_imgThe AA today confirmed it will start offering legal services within weeks following the approval of its alternative business structure licence.The breakdown recovery and insurance specialist has entered into a joint venture with law firm Lyons Davidson to create AA Law, which will start trading on 1 December.The AA, which applied more than a year ago for ABS status, joins the likes of Direct Line, Ageas and BT as household brands that have taken advantage of non-lawyers being able to enter the legal market. The ABS licence was today granted to AA Law by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.National claims specialist Lyons Davidson is already one of two firms in a joint venture with the insurer Admiral, announced in April.In a statement, the AA said AA Law will initially handle personal injury and other litigation associated with car accidents suffered by its members and customers, thus reducing reliance on a panel of law firms. Employment and contract services are likely to be added as a ‘natural evolution’ of the new business.‘It will enable us to protect our customers from excessive legal costs,’ said Janet Pell, the new head of AA Law. She has been head of legal services at the company since November 2010.‘This is a goal we have been working towards ever since ABSs were announced and I’m delighted that we have been able to do this with the expertise of the widely trusted law firm, Lyons Davidson.‘It is a natural fit for the AA, its legal helpline and its motor legal expenses policy, which is already supported by Lyons Davidson.’The AA already hosts legal documents on its website for legal recourse on a number of issues and the intention is to extend that into more consumer-facing legal services.Pell added: ‘The AA is often asked by home insurance customers for advice in dealing with legal issues such as conveyancing or wills – and we plan to expand into offering services such as these as well.’According to the AA website, the company represents more than 40% of the breakdown cover market, with around 16 milllion customers subscribing to at least one its products. It has written around five million car insurance policies in the past five years.last_img read more

Practitioners to be balloted on legal aid action

first_imgCriminal defence practitioners will be invited to refuse work at ‘derisory’ rates following the Ministry of Justice’s decision this week to press ahead with controversial legal aid reforms.In a joint message posted on their websites last night, Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association chairman Bill Waddington and London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association president Jonathan Black said the profession ‘must stand up and fight for justice or it and we will be swept away’.On Wednesday legal aid minister Shailesh Vara confirmed in a ministerial statement that a second fee cut of 8.75% for solicitors representing those accused will be introduced from 1 July; and the number of contracts for solicitors providing 24-hour cover at police stations will be reduced from 1,600 to 527.Vara said advocacy fees would not be reduced ‘at this stage’.An independent review will commence in July 2016 to assess the impact of the fee cuts and dual contracting model.The practitioner groups said last night they will be holding a ballot – expected to be up and running within the next 24-48 hours – inviting solicitors ‘to refuse work at the derisory rates as no one can properly discharge their professional obligations at those levels’.Waddington and Black said: ‘It is now or never. It is the only language the MoJ understands. Unite or die.’The criminal bar has also been invited to ‘renew their fight following their overwhelming vote in favour of action recently’ and take part in the ballot.Immediately after the MoJ’s announcement Criminal Bar Association chair Tony Cross said the executive of the CBA would be discussing its response ‘at the earliest opportunity’, including further consultation with its members.Waddington (pictured) and Black said Vara’s statement ‘fails to take into account that legal aid lawyers have not had any increase in pay rates for nearly 20 years. What other sector has been neglected for so long? Pious hypocrisy expressed over Magna Carta and human rights are worthless verbiage when the people are denied expert advice to give meaning to them.’We have had enough. Lawyers are by instinct and practice conservative in approach and slow to anger. But we have been pushed too far.‘The government’s refusal to honour their promise to hold a review prior to further cuts is a betrayal of the people. To hold a review after the cuts have been brought in is not a review but a body count after the train crash’.An MoJ spokesperson pointed out that Vara had said in his Wednesday statement: ‘Although the transition will be challenging, the changes we are pressing ahead with today are designed to ensure that we have a system of criminal legal aid that delivers value for money to taxpayers, that provides high-quality legal advice to those that need it most, and that puts the profession on a sustainable footing for the long term.’last_img read more

City NEWS

first_imgOn March 23 the Denver RTD board approved another $7m for design and construction of the 3 km Central Platte Valley light rail branch. With $2m approved earlier this year, this completes the agency’s share of the $40m project, which will branch off the existing line at Auraria station. Serving an amusement park, two sports venues and an aquarium, it is due to open for revenue service towards the end of next year.last_img

Additional Russian Talgo agreement signed

first_imgRUSSIA: An agreement on the services which the All-Russian Railway Research Institute will provide to assist Patentes Talgo with the development of rolling stock suitable for use in Russia was signed in Madrid on February 7. This builds on a January 2012 agreement between the partners.VNIIZhT is to provide advice on Russian technical requirements, terms of reference, component testing and documentation standards. Trials have confirmed that the Spanish firm’s tilting train technology offers the potential for a ‘significant increase in speed’ on 1 520 mm gauge railways, according to Russian Railways. Talgo’s automatic gauge-change system is to be adapted for winter conditions, and its braking systems adapted for 1 520 mm gauge use. ‘We expect the Talgo high speed train to be an additional resource for rapid transportation with the optimisation of infrastructure costs’, said RZD President Vladimir Yakunin at the latest signing ceremony. ‘Such a resource is in particular demand in connection with integrated transport services for the 2018 World Cup.’last_img read more