Monday, September 30, 2013

Book Recommendation: Lives of the Law: Selected Essays and Speeches: 2000-2010 by Lord Bingham

Tom Bingham (1933-2010) was the 'greatest judge of our time' (The Guardian), a towering figure in modern British public life who championed the rule of law and human rights inside and outside the courtroom. Lives of the Law collects Bingham's most important later writings, in which he brings his distinctive, engaging style to tell the story of the diverse lives of the law: its life in government, in business, and in human wrongdoing.
Following on from The Business of Judging (2000), the papers collected here tackle some of the major debates in British public life over the last decade, from reforming the constitution to the growth of human rights law. They offer Bingham's distinctive insight on issues such as the role of the judiciary in a democracy, the implementation of the Human Rights Act, and the development of the rule of law, in the UK and internationally.
Written in the accessible style that made The Rule of Law (2010) a popular success, the book will be essential reading for all those working in law, and an engaging inroad to understanding modern constitutional and legal debates for the general reader.
Available from Amazon

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How to Prepare a Budget For a Court Case

Brought to you by our friends at Vannin Capital

The process of preparing a budget for a court case has changed in recent months due to the new rules governing civil cases recommended by Lord Justice Jackson, which became law on the 1st of April, 2013.

Changes to the way cases are budgeted for, and the professional obligation that solicitors face to prepare an accurate budget prior to the case, make the process more transparent than ever before and closer to the heart of litigation.

High Court judge Master McCloud delivered the following statement on the 1st of August, driving home the importance of budgeting and how it relates to solicitors dealing with civil cases:

“Budgeting is something which all solicitors by now ought to know is intended to be integral to the process from the start, and it ought not to be especially onerous to prepare a final budget for a CMC (Case Management Conference) even at relatively short notice if proper planning has been done.”

“The Court must now, as part of dealing with cases justly, ensure that cases are dealt with at proportionate cost and so as to ensure compliance with rules, orders, and practice direction.”

The new rules for civil procedures focus primarily on cost budgets and managing the cost of a court case. Some of the most important aspects of the rules include:

1.      Each party is required to prepare a full costs budget in a standard form, with details of the costs that the party has incurred prior to the preparation of the budget and the estimated costs of the ongoing litigation.

2.      The court will review and approve the budget for each party relatively early in the proceedings. This typically takes place at the first case management conference.

3.      In order to ensure that the case complies with the agreed costs budget, the court will oversee the case.

Given that most lawyers have known about the new rules since 2010, it’s far from surprising that Master McCloud has adopted such a focused attitude to endorsing them.

When the rules haven’t been obeyed, as was the case in the recent dispute between former chief whip Andrew Mitchell M.P. and News Group Newspapers – publishers of The Sun – the results can be disastrous.

The failure of Mitchell’s legal team to comply with orders to file their costs budget before the case hearing left them with a very limited claim. In fact, his claims were limited to the applicable court fees – a remarkably pear-shaped outcome.

While leave was granted in this case and the test case isn’t yet finished, the failure of Mitchell’s lawyers to comply with the requirements and the obvious disadvantage it left him with makes it clear how important strict budgeting is for success.

The new requirements have also been used in defamation cases, as well as several cases in the Technology and Construction Court and Mercantile Courts. Several of these cases have reached the Court of Appeal.

Although the rules apply to almost all civil cases, there are some exemptions. High-value commercial cases are currently exempt from the budgeting requirements, but the stringent cost management rules are expected to soon extend there.

One of the purported objectives of the Jackson reforms was to reduce the growing costs of litigation, as well as the uncertainty of the total cost of a case. A major part of the new rules emphasises that costs need to be proportionate to claims.

This gives a greater amount of certainty regarding costs to would-be litigants. The previous rules made it difficult for would-be litigants to accurately estimate what their costs might be, particularly if losing a case would lead to them paying for the winning side’s legal costs.

Under the reforms, these difficulties have been improved, as the costs that winning parties can recover are specified in the court-approved case budget. Since the case budget must be submitted relatively early in the proceedings – the first budget is submitted six weeks prior to the first case management conference – both sides enjoy a greater degree of certainty regarding cost awards at the end of the case.

A recent ruling of the Court of Appeal helps to explain the new rules:

“The management of costs is the responsibility of all parties to the litigation, and ultimately, of the court as well. The court has a responsibility to manage the proceedings, so it also has a responsibility for managing the costs of those proceedings.

The starting point must be that an approved costs budget is intended to provide ‘the financial limits within which the proceedings are to be conducted’. They are intended to provide some constraint.”

Despite the obvious uncertainties of dealing with a new system, the new rules are clear in their requirements and ethos. Effective costs budgeting and management will now become a major force in civil litigation.

With the rules clear, simple and available for all lawyers to understand and follow, and Master McCloud’s rigid interpretation an obvious statement that they will be enforced strongly, lawyers that fail to follow the rules or advise their clients can expect little in the way of understanding or leniency.

The rules, however, make it easier than ever for lawyers to accurately budget and prepare for a case. With straightforward, accurate rules and an enforced system, it’s now clearer than ever before what lawyers need to do in order to prepare a budget for a court case.  

This article was written by Vannin Capital. Learn more about budgeting for a court case on their website. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Book Recommendation: Jez Butterworth Plays: One (Mojo, Parlour Song, The Night Heron, The Winterling) [Paperback]

Jez Butterworth burst onto the theatre scene aged 25 with Mojo, "one of the most dazzling Royal Court main stage debuts in years" Time Out. This first volume of his collected work contains that play plus the three that followed, as well as two short one-person plays, Leavings and The Naked Eye, providing a complete record of his work up to to the multi-award winning international smash-hit sensation Jerusalem.
The four early plays published here for the first time in one volume are: the Olivier Award-winning Mojo, a sly and vicious black comedy set in 1950s Soho clubland; The Night Heron, a funny, sad, haunting, and strangely beautiful play about a group of outcasts gathered in the Cambridgeshire fens; The Winterling, a menacing comedy thriller about a group of misfits waiting out the winter on a moor in Southern England; and Parlour Song, a hilarious investigation of cunning, paranoia, and treacherous desire.
This volume also includes an interview with the playwright about his work.
Available from Amazon

Monday, September 16, 2013

Book Recommendation: Brothers-in-Law by Henry Cecil

Roger Thursby, aged twenty-four, is called to the bar. He is young, inexperienced and his love life is complicated. He blunders his way through a succession of comic adventures including his calamitous debut at the bar. His career takes an upward turn when he is chosen to defend the caddish Alfred Greenat at the Old Bailey. In this first Roger Thursby novel Henry Cecil satires the legal profession with his usual wit and insight.

Available from Amazon

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Leo Houlding: From Amazon to Antarctica Lecture Tour 2013

A big heads-up for top UK climber and adventurer Leo Houlding's 2013 Lecture Tour which has the title Amazon to Antarctica. From the very depths of the Venezuelan Amazon to a mile-high cliff in Antarctica this promises to be as breath-taking as ever. You can read more about Leo and the Tour at his website. See below for a video clip on his incredible ascent of El Capitan.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Book Recommendation: Rose Heilbron: The Story of England's First Woman Queen's Counsel and Judge

Rose Heilbron QC (later Dame Rose Heilbron), was an English barrister, who became a world famous icon of the 1950s and 1960s. She was one of the two first women King's Counsel (later Queen's Counsel) in 1949 and the first woman Judge in England in 1956 when she became Recorder of Burnley. This biography, written by her daughter Hilary, also a barrister and Queen's Counsel, charts her rise to prominence and success against the odds, excelling as an advocate and lawyer and later as only the second female High Court Judge in a career spanning nearly 50 years. She broke down many barriers with a string of firsts in the legal profession. She became a pioneer for women at the English Bar and for women generally, championing many women's causes in an era when it was not fashionable to do so. The biography highlights her role as an inspiring and successful defence advocate in many famous and fascinating cases as well as in cases of great legal importance. These include the Cameo murder case in 1950; the trial of Devlin and Burns for capital murder; the representation of the striking Liverpool Dockers in a case of national importance; the defence of the notorious London gangster, Jack Spot; and the representation, in an early anti-discrmination case, of the world renowned cricketer, Learie Constantine. Also chronicled are her years as a High Court Judge and the wide range of other legal and non-legal activities she undertook as a result of her fame including her appointment by the governmnet in 1975 to chair an Advisory Committee on Rape. With the added insights and recollections of her daughter it portrays a multi-dimensional picture of the young and beautiful Rose Heilbron - barrister, judge, working wife and mother - who not only managed to combine these public and private roles in an era when to do so was extremely rare, but who did so with the combination of warmth, flair and determination which was to make her an internationally acclaimed role model for women. Many people over the years have wanted to write about her: this is the first authorised biography.

Available from Amazon

Friday, September 6, 2013

Charitable grants vs. contracts

Brought to you by our friends at Baker Tilly

Although the accounting arrangements for private businesses can be complicated, the finances of a charity or charitable organisation can be even more complex. Whilst charities, businesses and individuals can enter contracts, charities can also receive financial grants which serve to help them achieve their objectives.

Although the contracts which charities choose to enter may also serve to assist them in achieving their aims, there are clear distinctions between contracts and grants and they must be treated differently. As grants are governed by trust law and contracts by contract law, there are different rules which relate to each type of arrangement as well as differing accounting measures and tax implications.
If a charity enters into a contract they may be agreeing to supply goods or perform services in return for payment. If a grant is given, however, this is a voluntary payment and the charity is not obliged to provide goods or services in return but the grant must be used for its intended purpose.

Many grants given to charities are known as simple grants which often require no more than a report on how the money was spent or the impact it had. A performance related grant is somewhat more complex and allows the donor to have more control over how the grant is spent. The complexities of such a grant mean that it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between a grant and contractual arrangement.

The importance of distinguishing between grants and contracts, however, becomes apparent when we look at the different accounting practices for each. If a grant is received and its intended purpose is to advance the work of the charity, it is recognised in the Statement of Financial Activities. If the grant criteria has yet to be fulfilled and there is uncertainty as to whether they can be, the grant should be carried forward as a liability until it’s certain that the relevant conditions can be met.

Conversely, income which comes from a contractual agreement must be accounted for under the requirements of the Charities Statement of Recommended Practice as well as SSAP 4 and FRS 5. Until the performance of the contract has taken place, the transaction is treated as a payment in advance, providing the payment has been made. Once the transaction is completed the income is recognised in the Statement of Financial Activities.

Although contractual income received by a charity can be subject to certain tax exemptions, charities remain liable to pay tax in some instances. As grants are considered to be a donation they are not regarded as income and are not, therefore, taxable.   These tax implications can affect the way in which a charity operates, particularly as income which exceeds the VAT threshold means the charity must also register for VAT.

Although distinguishing between grants and contracts is essential to ensure accurate charity accounting, it is a difficult and complex area. It is generally recommended that charities, however big or small, access independent advice to ensure they meet the relevant criteria and adhere to the relevant guidelines. In addition to helping charities meet their legislative obligations, specialist charity accountants and advisors can help ensure that charities and charitable organisations are operating as cost effectively as possible whilst minimising risk and maximising their funds.  

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Claiming compensation without accident book evidence

Brought to you by our friends at Direct 2 Solicitors Ltd

By Ian Morris, Direct 2 Solicitors Ltd

One of the most important factors in making a successful personal injury claim is to ensure the details of the incident have been properly recorded. And depending where it happened, this would usually include an entry in an accident book.

An entry will note the type of accident, a slip or trip, for example, and also the injuries sustained, such as a broken bone. It may also confirm that an ambulance has been called or that first aid had been administered.

When combined with medical evidence and witness information, the accident book can be the final piece of the jigsaw that forces a 3rd party to admit liability, or for an employer to admit negligence.

But what if there is no accident book entry?

Can you still make a claim for personal injury compensation if the details of your accident have NOT been recorded within an accident book?  Thankfully, there is no law that states that you cannot make a claim in such circumstances, but for obvious reasons it does become much more difficult to pursue a claim if this is the case.

Without such evidence, the prospects of succeeding with the claim are reduced.  So the first obstacle you face is finding a solicitor willing to run your claim on a No Win No Fee basis. The lack of an accident book entry gives the 3rd party some room for manoeuvre should they wish to deny liability. They could say you were not injured, or even deny any knowledge of the incident, and the onus would then be on you to prove that what you have said is true.

Of course, if the injuries sustained were so serious that the injured party was incapacitated and whisked away from the scene by paramedics, there is a chance that an accident book entry has not been made, especially in a shop. In this case, ambulance records would prove that you were injured in a certain location and therefore this could not be denied. In such cases, you would still have a reasonable prospect of pursuing a claim for compensation.

If details of your incident were not recorded in an accident book, and you still wish to claim, there are things you can do to help prove your case:

       Write to the relevant 3rd party (eg shop or employer) describing your injuries, how they were caused and explaining your accident. Request that they make a record of it within their accident book. Send the letter by recorded delivery and retain a copy for yourself (along with proof of postage). This could become a useful document when it comes to pursuing your claim.
       Contact the 3rd party where you sustained your injuries. Ask if anyone has made a report. Ask if there is any available CCTV footage of the accident and if so, request that it is retained.
       Seek independent witnesses that can support your version of events. The witnesses must be independent as they could be cross-questioned should the claim reach court.  If you can provide details of witnesses and these witnesses can corroborate your version of events, your prospects of successfully claiming personal injury compensation will greatly increase.

       Make sure that you inform your GP, A&E doctors or physiotherapist as to the cause of your injuries. If they have recorded your injuries as being caused at a certain place and in a certain way, again, this helps you with your proving liability against a 3rd party.

Article on suing a restaurant for food poisoning

I've written an article for Bartletts Solicitors on suing a restaurant for food poisoing. You can read the article here

Article on hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS)

I've written an article for Bartletts Solicitors on hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). You can read the article here.

Article on claiming compensation for food poisoning

I've written an article for Bartletts Solicitors on claiming compensation for food poisoning. You can read the article here.

Monday, September 2, 2013