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ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE
HMCTS reform programme: reform update (uploaded 21 June)
HM Courts and Tribunals Service issues a quarterly newsletter providing an overview of the reform programme and updates on individual projects. The Summer 2019 update was published on 4 June.
‘HMCTS reform programme: quarterly newsletter – June 2019’, available at:
Rebecca Lawrence appointed next CPS chief executive (uploaded 21 June)
Rebecca Lawrence has been appointed as the next chief executive of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). She will join in September 2019, taking over from interim Chief Executive Paul Staff, who is retiring after 28 years at the CPS. The CPS chief executive reports directly to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
New law protecting tenants comes into force today (uploaded 21 June)
The Tenant Fees Act 2019 came into force on 1 June. Documents related to the Tenant Fees Act, which sets out the government’s approach to banning letting fees paid by tenants in the private rented sector are published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/tenant-fees-act (published 1 June)
‘What it’s like to be a security supervisor for HMCTS’ (uploaded 21 June)
This is one of a series of three blogs from the perspectives of different people who use and work in our courts and tribunals. The series is a part of a wider effort to update HMCTS information about court security, its safety processes and the principles which underpin them. To find out more, read Susan Acland-Hood’s blog ‘Five new courts start the roll out of the professional users’ access scheme’ (see below) and ‘HMCTS refreshes court security awareness materials’ to see HMCTS refreshed materials about court security.
Prime Minister appoints new Grenfell Tower Inquiry panel members (uploaded 21 June)
The Prime Minister confirmed, on 30 May, the appointment of Professor Nabeel Hamdi and Thouria Istephan to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry panel for Phase 2 of its work.
Professor Hamdi, an accomplished academic with an international reputation in housing and participatory design and planning, and Ms Istephan, a widely respected partner at Foster + Partners architectural practice, will join the Inquiry panel for Phase 2.
(uploaded 21 June)
An Act to make provision about the registration of marriage; to make provision for the extension of civil partnerships to couples not of the same sex; to make provision for a report on the registration of pregnancy loss; to make provision about the investigation of still-births; and for connected purposes. Royal assent, 26 March; in force 26 May.
Family Justice Council: Interim Guidance on Special Guardianship (uploaded 21 June)
This interim guidance is issued by the Family Justice Council with the approval of the Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division, in response to some of the issues identified in Re P-S (Children)  EWCA Civ 1407. Its primary purpose is to address cases where an extension to the statutory 26-week time limit is sought in order to assess potential special guardians, more fully, within public law proceedings.
Five new courts start the roll out of the professional users’ access scheme (uploaded 21 June)
Susan Acland-Hood writes:
‘I’m very pleased that today we are adding five new courts to our scheme giving easier access to court for legal professionals. These are the first five courts in the full national roll-out of the scheme; you can expect to see more courts added progressively over the rest of the year.
Mental Capacity (Amendment) Act 2019 receives royal assent (uploaded 21 June)
The Mental Capacity (Amendment) Act 2019 – to amend the Mental Capacity Act 2005 in relation to procedures in accordance with which a person may be deprived of liberty where the person lacks capacity to consent, and for connected purposes -received royal assent on 16 May. For further information, see: Tim Spencer-Lane, ‘How the law on authorising deprivation of liberty will change’, Community Care, updated 16 May 2019, available at: https://www.communitycare.co.uk/2019/04/26/law-authorising-deprivation-liberty-will-change/
Dame Vera Baird appointed as new Victims’ Commissioner (uploaded 15 May)
Dame Vera Baird has been appointed the new Victims’ Commissioner and will take over the role from Baroness Newlove in mid-June 2019.
New Solicitor General appointed (uploaded 15 May)
Lucy Frazer QC MP has been appointed as Solicitor General for England and Wales. Alongside the Attorney General, the Solicitor General will oversee the work of the Law Officers Departments which include the Crown Prosecution Service and Serious Fraud Office, and the Government Legal Department and HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate. (published 10 May)
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-solicitor-general-appointed (published 10 May)
Fit for the future: transforming the court and tribunal estate (uploaded 5 May)
Response to ‘Fit for the future: transforming the Court and Tribunal Estate’ consultation document outlining the HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) future strategy and approach to reforming the court and tribunal estate in England and Wales.
The Lord Chancellor announced the strategic approach to future estates reform in England and Wales to be adopted by HMCTS, including: the background to the report; a summary of the responses to the report; a detailed response to the specific questions raised in the report; and the next steps following this consultation.
HM Courts and Tribunals Service launch communications survey (uploaded 15 May)
HMCTS is conducting a perception survey to inform and improve how we communicate with court users. As part of the reform programme, HMCTS has commissioned BMG Research to carry out a detailed piece of research to inform and improve how HMCTS communicates with you.
We would encourage you to take the time to complete the online survey below. It should take around 15 minutes to complete. The deadline for completing this short survey is 15 May 2019.
Professional court access scheme to be adopted nationally (uploaded 15 May)
Legal professionals will soon be able to enter the vast majority of courts and tribunals more easily as a successful pilot scheme is extended nationwide. The ‘professional-user access scheme’ has already been trialled at 10 courts and will now be rolled out by HM Courts and Tribunals Service to an additional five courts in May, continuing nationwide with completion expected in 2020.
Courts and Tribunals (Online Procedure) Bill (Policy paper) (uploaded 15 May)
The Courts and Tribunals (Online Procedure) Bill will create a committee to provide rules of court for online proceedings in civil and family Courts and tribunals. The bill will establish a new Online Procedure Rule Committee to apply to civil, family and tribunal proceedings. The role of the committee will be to provide new, simple rules to support users of online courts services.
Additional year to deliver ambitious court reforms (uploaded 26 March)
HM Courts and Tribunals Service is extending its reform programme. Subject to cross-government approval the proposed finish date of the programme will be a year later, in 2023.
Is social media harming our criminal justice system? (uploaded 26 March)
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/is-social-media-harming-our-criminal-justice-system (published 5 March)
Positive start for online services down to clear vision & openness to adapt (published 26 March)
Susan Acland-Hood is Chief Executive of HM Courts and Tribunals Service. Read her blog post about how a positive start for online services is down to a clear vision and an openness to adapt, as good plans evolve and are based on listening.
Commercial Court annual report (uploaded 26 March)
The Commercial Court has published an annual report for the year 2017-18 which gives details of the work and initiatives of the Court.
https://www.judiciary.uk/announcements/commercial-court-annual-report/ (published 27 February)
Developing the detail: evaluating the impact of court reform in England and Wales on access to justice (uploaded 26 March)
This paper presents recommendations for measuring the impact of court reform in England and Wales on Access to Justice. It identifies an irreducible minimum standard of access to justice – derived from existing case law – that should be used to assess the impact of changes to the justice system. The paper also proposes definitions of ‘vulnerability’ and ‘fairness’ which should be incorporated into any evaluation framework.
https://research.thelegaleducationfoundation.org/research-learning/funded-research/developing-the-detail-evaluating-the-impact-of-court-reform-in-england-and-wales-on-access-to-justice (published 22 February)
HM Courts and Tribunals Service update (uploaded 11 February)
HM Courts and Tribunals Service and the Ministry of Justice responses to the Public Accounts Committee’s recommendations on ‘Transforming courts and tribunals report: fifty-sixth report of session 2017–2019’.
HM Courts and Tribunals Service issues an e-bulletin updating progress on the reform programme on the first Monday of each month. The latest bulletin was added on 6 February. HMCTS says that this ‘external e-mail newsletter will be beneficial to anyone interested in the reform programme, including those who work within the justice system’. To receive the e-bulletin, sign up for HMCTS e-mail alerts: https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/UKHMCTS/subscriber/new?qsp=UKHMCTS_1
Here is a selection of content that HM Courts and Tribunal Service published during the week beginning 3 December: (uploaded 17 December)
Crime reform event 24 January 2019
On 4 February, HMCTS published the video recording of the Q&A from the crime reform event held in Bristol on 24 January.
On 26 February, HMCTS will host a face-to-face event on the impact of reform on tribunals in Exeter.
International forum on online courts, 3 and 4 December 2018
An overview of the first international forum on online courts, jointly hosted by HMCTS and the Society for Computers and Law, including presentations, speeches and reflections from the event.
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/international-forum-on-online-courts-3-and-4-december-2018 (published 3 December)
- At the start of the forum, Lucy Frazer MP spoke to the Guardian about the digital future of court reform. See Owen Bowcott, ‘Online pleas and AI for judges: minister reveals UK law reform plans’, available at: https://www.theguardian.com/law/2018/dec/03/online-pleas-and-ai-for-judges-minister-sets-out-uk-law-reform-plans (published 3 December)
- Susan Acland-Hood blog post: ‘Humanising the justice system’, available at: https://insidehmcts.blog.gov.uk/2018/12/01/humanising-the-justice-system/ (published 1 December)
- People in Swindon will benefit from improved facilities at two of the town’s courts following £2.6m of government funding.
‘Swindon court users to benefit from £2.6m government investment’, HMCTS and Ministry of Justice press release, available at:
Civil Procedure Rules 1998 (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (uploaded 26 March)
The amendments remove provision in the CPR which relates to powers, processes and orders under EU instruments or treaties which will no longer be applicable or available when those instruments or treaties are revoked by the Withdrawal Act or the statutory instruments made under it, or in some cases amend such provision where such instruments are retained in an amended form. The regulations were first published on 13 February 2019. On 5 March 2019, the sifting committees’ decision was added: they agreed with the government that this statutory instrument does not have to have a debate in parliament, though one may still occur. The regulations were first published on 13 February 2019. On 5 March 2019, the sifting committees’ decision was added: they agreed with the government that this statutory instrument does not have to have a debate in parliament, though one may still occur.
CONSULTATIONS (open consultations and consultation outcomes)
Regulation of pre-paid funeral plans: consultation on a policy proposal (uploaded 21 June)
This consultation from HM Treasury seeks views on the government’s proposed regulatory framework for bringing funeral plans within the remit of the Financial Conduct Authority. This consultation closes on 25 August 2019.
Have your say: new consultation launched on cryptoassets (uploaded 15 May)
Responses are invited to a new consultation launched by the UK Jurisdiction Taskforce, chaired by the Chancellor of the High Court, the Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Vos. The ‘Cryptoassets, distributed ledger technology and smart contracts – UK Jurisdiction Taskforce’ consultation is seeking input from stakeholders on the principal issues of perceived legal uncertainty about the status of cryptoassets and smart contracts under English private law.
The broader aim is to provide a dependable foundation for the mainstream utilisation of cryptoassets and smart legal contracts, and give market participants and investors the confidence they need to work with them. You have until 21 June to respond.
President of the Family Division releases draft guidance on reporting in the Family Courts (uploaded 15 May)
The President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, has released draft guidance, for consultation, on reporting in the Family Courts. It follows an appeal in Re R (A Child) (Reporting Restrictions)  EWCA 482 Civ heard on 15 February 2019. Responses can be submitted to his office by emailing [email protected] or by post – marked ‘Consultation on Reporting’ to: The President of the Family Division, Family Division, Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London, WC2A 2LL.The consultation will close on 30 June 2019.
Regulator launches consultation on 2020 Rent Standard (uploaded 15 May)
The Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) is proposing to replace the existing 2015 Rent Standard for registered providers of social housing. The RSH launched a 12-week consultation on a revised Rent Standard that will come into effect from 1 April 2020. The consultation will remain open until 30 July 2019.
Local government pension scheme: changes to the local valuation cycle and management of employer risk (uploaded 15 May)
Consultation seeking views on policy proposals to amend the rules of the local government pension scheme in England and Wales. Consultation ends 31 July.
Support for victims of domestic abuse in safe accommodation (uploaded 15 May)
The Ministry of Communities and Local Government is consulting on a new delivery model for accommodation-based support. This includes the introduction of a statutory duty on local authorities to provide support that meets the diverse needs of victims of domestic abuse and their children, ensuring they have access to provision that is right for them. We welcome views on: the definition of accommodation-based services and support; leadership and responsibilities; local and national accountability; and guidance.
Confidentiality clauses: measures to prevent misuse in situations of workplace harassment or discrimination (uploaded 26 March)
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is seeking views on proposals to improve the regulation of confidentiality clauses, also known as non-disclosure agreements or NDAs. This consultation closes at 11.45 pm on 29 April 2019.
The time is right for commonhold announce Law Commission (uploaded 17 December)
The Law Commission has proposed reforms that would support the expansion of commonhold as an alternative to leasehold. The Commission published its consultation paper on commonhold reform: ‘Reinvigorating commonhold: the alternative to leasehold ownership’. The consultation period is open until 10 March 2019.
https://www.lawcom.gov.uk/project/commonhold/ (published 10 December)
CONVEYANCING PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE
New Notice 25 (Electronic Document Registration Service through Portal – eAP1 applications) has been published in relation to a trial HM Land Registry is running. A minor consequential amendment has been made to notice 20 also.
Adverse possession of (1) unregistered land and (2) registered land where a right to be registered was acquired before 13 October 2003 (PG5) (updated 21 June)
Guidance on adverse possession where a right to be registered was acquired before 13 October 2003 (practice guide 5). Section 7.1 has been amended to make clear that for applications for first registration based on adverse possession of land subject to an unregistered lease, where a squatter is a tenant encroaching from leasehold land and the presumption in Smirk v Lyndale Developments Ltd  Ch 321;  1 All ER 690 is not rebutted, any resulting registration will be with a qualified leasehold title.
Top 200 conveyancers seize record market share as active firms drop below 4,000 (uploaded 21 June)
The consolidation of the conveyancing market continues as the top 200 conveyancing firms now control more of the market (39%) than ever before, according to the Q1 2019 edition of the Conveyancing Market Tracker from Search Acumen, the property data insight and technology provider.
https://www.search-acumen.co.uk/News/Read?Ref=tQubMm (published 30 May)
Government announces it will fund ACM cladding replacement
Housing Secretary, James Brokenshire, announced that the government will fund the replacement of aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding where building owners have failed to act.
The announced fund of £200m will be made available for the removal of unsafe ACM cladding from privately owned buildings. The spread of a catastrophic fire at Grenfell Tower in 2017 has been linked to the use of ACM in its cladding.
SearchFlow launches Residential Abortive Transaction Insurance (uploaded 26 March)
With a recent study by YourMoveNow showing that almost half of all house sales in England and Wales ‘fell through’ prior to completion in the last quarter of 2018, SearchFlow has launched a Residential Abortive Transaction Insurance to provide assurances to legal services firms’ home buying and selling clients. The insurance provides cover on a range of incidences, should a transaction fail to complete in a property chain for reasons beyond the control of the buyer and/or seller. It mitigates the associated risks by reimbursing a range of costs, including legal fees and disbursements, mortgage lender fees and survey fees. (published 6 March)
Complying with a restriction (uploaded 26 March)
From 1 April 2020, the recent update to HM Land Registry Practice Guide 19 section 3.1.1 will take effect. This states: ‘A consent must state it is given to registration of the disposition, rather than simply consenting to the disposition itself.’
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/complying-with-a-restriction (published 5 March)
Law Society publishes latest version of the Code for Completion (uploaded 26 March)
The Law Society has published the latest version of the Code for Completion. It will take effect from 1 May 2019. The Code for Completion by Post has been amended to clarify the position following the Court of Appeal ruling in P&P Property Ltd v (1) Owen White & Catlin LLP and (2) Crownvent Ltd and Dreamvar (UK) Ltd v (1) Mishcon De Reya (a firm) and Mary Monson Solicitors and Law Society (intervener)  EWCA Civ 1082, 15 May 2018.
https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/support-services/advice/articles/code-for-completion-by-post/ (published 15 February)
Guidance on transparency of fees involving property sales: Compliance with the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (uploaded 26 March)
This guidance supplements previous generic advice concerning the application of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPUT Regs) 2008 issued by the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team of Powys County Council, the UK’s regulator under the Estate Agents Act (EAA) 1979. This guidance specifically addresses the issue of transparency of fees, including referral fees, within the estate agency sector and should be regarded as replacing any earlier guidance on the point. This guidance seeks to consider the effect of the EAA and the CPUT Regs on opaque pricing generally – encompassing both referral fees and other practices.
https://www.nationaltradingstandards.uk/site_assets/files/Guidance%20for%20EABSs.pdf (published 28 February)
January 2019 Price Paid Data (uploaded 26 March)
HM Land Registry (HMLR) Price Paid Data tracks land and property sales in England and Wales submitted to HMLR for registration. This month‘s Price Paid Data includes details of more than 99,000 sales of land and property in England and Wales that HMLR received for registration in January 2019.
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/january-2019-price-paid-data (published 28 February 2019)
Guidance on HM Land Registry requisitions (uploaded 26 March)
General advice for conveyancers on how to avoid requisitions. On 26 February 2019, new webinar dates added. HMLR continues to add new sessions and topics to this page. Currently, there are cover six topics, including:
- Execution of deeds (added 27 February 2019);
- Restrictions – entry, removal and compliance (added 29 January 2019);
- General plan requirements for registration, including developing estates (added 7 November 2018);
- First registration enquiries, including copy deeds;
- Requisitions and how you can avoid them; and
- Lodging quality applications through the portal.
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/hm-land-registry-requisitions (published 26 February)
Reminder about changes to SDLT filing and payment time limits (uploaded 11 February)
As of 1 March 2019, all stamp duty land tax returns in England and Northern Ireland will need to be filed and paid within 14 days, as opposed to the current 30-day deadline.
Criminal Procedure (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (uploaded 26 March)
The amendments to the procedure rules made by these regulations omit what will become redundant references to legislation that will be repealed or revoked by the draft Law Enforcement and Security (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 or by the draft Criminal Justice (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, and omit from the Criminal Procedure Rules 2015 SI No 1490 the rules governing requests to the European Court that will not be possible after exit day.
CRIMINAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE
Haphazard embrace of AI puts justice at risk (uploaded 21 June)
The ad hoc use of complex algorithms in the justice system needs urgent oversight, the Law Society of England and Wales said as it released the results of a year-long investigation. The Law Society Technology and Law Policy Commission publishes its report on algorithms in criminal justice alongside an interactive map that allows the public to see for the first time the beginnings of an overview of where algorithms are being used to assist decision-making across the justice system across England and Wales.
‘Algorithm use in the criminal justice system report’, available at: https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/support-services/research-trends/algorithm-use-in-the-criminal-justice-system-report/; and ‘Mapping algorithms in the justice system’, available at: https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/support-services/research-trends/algorithms-in-the-justice-system/ 4 June
Sentencing (Pre-consolidation Amendment) Bill introduced to parliament (uploaded 21 June)
The Sentencing (Pre-consolidation Amendment) Bill has been introduced into parliament. This short technical bill is necessary to pave the way for the main Sentencing Code Bill to be introduced as a consolidation Bill. Once passed, the Sentencing Code will introduce a ‘clean sweep’ of the old sentencing law so that anyone convicted once the Code is in force would automatically be sentenced under the current law. The Ministry of Justice has also provided an interim response to the
Guide to understanding cyber-attacks on law firms
A free guide, ‘The route to client money: law firm scenarios. The essential guide to understanding cyber-attacks on law firms’, published by the Institute of Legal Finance & Management (ILFM) shows how cyber-attacks happen and how to avoid them. The authors, Richard Hill and David Jackson, both currently work in the legal sector as a Practice Director and an IT Manager, they are also trainers for the ILFM on the cyber-crime and Compliance Officers for Finance and Administration (COFA’s) workshops.
EQUALITY, INCLUSION AND DIVERSITY
47 organisations yet to report latest gender pay gap named and shamed (uploaded 21 June)
The Equality and Human Rights Commission writes:
We are naming and shaming 47 organisations that have failed to report their latest gender pay gap following the March and April deadlines.
We notified all 47 organisations that we will commence formal investigations and assessments to determine if they are breaking the law by withholding their gender pay gaps.
The deadline to do so is midnight on 30 March for public sector employers and midnight on 4 April for private and voluntary sector employers. 10,753 organisations have reported their gender pay gaps for this year.
Applications now open for programme to boost judicial diversity (uploaded 15 May)
Applications have opened for an online education programme to better support lawyers from underrepresented groups to become judges. Developed using government funding, the programme is the first joint initiative from the Judicial Diversity Forum, which aims to encourage diversity within the judiciary.
The Pre-Application Judicial Education (PAJE) programme will help lawyers develop their understanding of the role and skills required of a judge, before they apply. The PAJE programme will provide advice to applicants on how to prepare for the next step in their career as well as covering a range of topics necessary to be a judge, including judgecraft, ethics and resilience.
Minister for Equalities Baroness Williams speech at Galop’s national LGBT+ domestic abuse conference (uploaded 15 May)
Minister for Equalities Baroness Williams speech at Galop’s conference Recognise & Respond: Strengthening advocacy for LGBT+ survivors of domestic abuse.
FAMILY AND CHILDREN LAW PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE (personal relationships; relationship breakdown; children and divorce or separation; and children in public law and cross-border disputes)
‘No-fault option will speed up divorce process’: results of poll (uploaded 21 June)
A survey conducted by Sheffield-based Graysons Solicitors found that almost 25% of people think that divorce will be made cheaper by the new no-fault option for divorce proceedings, while almost 20% believe that the change will lead to an increase in the number of divorces.
To understand what the public thinks about the new no-fault option for divorce proceedings, Graysons commissioned a survey asking: ‘What effect do you think having no-fault as an option will have on divorce within England and Wales?’
The question was put to 1,000 men and women aged 18 and over currently living in the UK.
Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc) Act 2019 in force (uploaded 21 June)
An Act to make provision about the registration of marriage; to make provision for the extension of civil partnerships to couples not of the same sex; to make provision for a report on the registration of pregnancy loss; to make provision about the investigation of still-births; and for connected purposes. Royal assent, 26 March; in force 26 May.
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2019/12/contents/enacted (published 26 May)
View from the President’s Chambers: May 2019 (uploaded 15 May)
Rt Hon Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division, writes:
… [I]t is my intention to issue some form of written overview from my perspective as President each year in May … By publishing a written overview, my aim is for this to be available at the same time to anyone and everyone who is interested in family justice, whether or not they may attend any of the events that I have mentioned. I therefore intend to honour that stated intention and to use this, my second ‘View from the President’s Chambers’, to deliver my perspective on the current state of affairs so far as the family justice system is concerned.
Practice Guidance: Publication of Privacy and Anonymity Orders (uploaded 15 May)
This guidance sets out recommended practice to courts and parties concerning the provision of copies of court orders for publication. It is issued as guidance and not as a Practice Direction by the Master of the Rolls as Head of Civil Justice. The document replaces the earlier version. Paragraph 3 was amended on 3 May 2019 in the light of a typographical slip, so as replace reference to CPR r.39.2(4) and (5) with reference to r.39.2(3) and (4).
Family Procedure Rules 2010 and Court of Protection Rules 2017 (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019
The amendments remove provision in the FPR and COPR which relates to powers, processes and orders under EU instruments or international agreements which will no longer be applicable or available when those instruments or agreements are revoked by the Withdrawal Act or the statutory instruments made under it, or in some cases amend such provision where such instruments are retained in an amended form. The regulations were first published on 13 February 2019. On 5 March 2019, the sifting committees’ decision was added: they agreed with the government that this statutory instrument does not have to have a debate in parliament, though one may still occur.
Reports from the Children’s Commissioner
Keeping kids safe: Improving safeguarding responses to gang violence and criminal exploitation
The characteristics of gang-associated children and young people: technical report
Ministry of Justice grant to support victims of domestic abuse in family courts (uploaded 26 March)
The Ministry of Justice has awarded a grant of just under £900,000 to two organisations that provide in-court support to vulnerable victims: the Personal Support Unit (PSU) and the Citizens Advice Witness Service.
Citizens Advice will be using the funding to extend their current Witness Service to selected family courts to provide information and practical and emotional support to victims before, during and after the day of the hearing. PSU will be using the funding to invest in further training of their staff and volunteers and to share learnings on best practice with a range of family justice stakeholders. The funding runs from January 2019 through to 31 March 2020.
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/ministry-of-justice-grant-to-support-victims-of-domestic-abuse-in-family-courts (published 28 February 2019)
Access to compensation scheme for victims who lived with their attacker
More victims of violent crime able to claim compensation, as ministers scrap ‘same roof ‘rule. Victims previously denied awards will also be able to claim. This change is part of a wider review of Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme that is already underway.
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/access-to-compensation-scheme-for-victims-who-lived-with-their-attacker (published 28 February 2019)
HM Courts and Tribunals Service tests fully digital divorce application
A fully online divorce application process, ie, submitting the form, sending the relevant documents and payment, is being tested across England and Wales for the first time. In the first week, HMCTS received 130 online applications.
LEGAL AID AND ACCESS TO JUSTICE
Legal aid guidance (uploaded 21 June)
General information, including on costs assessment and remuneration for civil and crime matters. Updated Civil Finance handbook uploaded on 3 June 2019.
Escape cases electronic handbook (uploaded 21 June)
Instructions on submitting an escape fee case claim as described in sections 4.11 to 4.17 of the 2014 Standard Civil Contract. The updated handbook was uploaded on 3 June 2019.
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/submit-an-escape-fee-case-claim (published 3 June)
Legal Aid Agency civil news: contacting the exceptional and complex cases team by e-mail (uploaded 15 May)
Starting on 1 June 2019, e-mails sent directly to the exceptional and complex cases team should only cover enquiries that are:
- received from an applicant or MP;
- requesting a one-off case contract;
- about paper-based exceptional case funding or CIS certificated work;
- about legal help applications;
- about clearly marked as a complaint; and
- clearly marked with an LAA contingency reference number.
E-mails sent to the ‘contactECCT’ mailbox on Client and Cost Management System (CCMS) matters from 1 June 2019 will not be actioned. This is to eradicate duplication of enquiries. Enquiries that are not about online working in CCMS, should be uploaded via the case enquiry function.
Legal Aid Agency crime news: further drive to boost accurate electronic Crown Court claims (uploaded 15 May)
The Legal Aid Agency has announced that additional Pages of Prosecution Evidence and Special Preparation workshops have been added have been planned to take place in Birmingham, Leeds, London and Newcastle.
- LAA office Birmingham, 16 and 17 May, 11 am to 1.45 pm, 1st floor Cannon House, 18 The Priory Queensway, B4 6BS;
- Newcastle Upon Tyne Combined Court Centre, 29 May 2019, 5 pm to 7.30 pm, The Law Courts, Quayside, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 3LA;
- LAA office Leeds, 11 and 12 June 2019, 11 am to 1.45 pm, Ground Floor, 5 Welling Place, Leeds, LS1 4AP; and
- Canary Wharf, 1, 9 and 10 July 2019, 11 am to 1.45 pm, Auditorium 3.30, North Zone, 3rd Floor, 10 South Colonnade, E14 4QQ.
Criminal legal aid review
In December 2018, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) announced a comprehensive review of criminal legal aid fee schemes. The review will consider criminal legal aid throughout the life cycle of a criminal case and wider changes to the justice, social, economic, business and technological landscape that are impacting on the criminal legal aid system. The MoJ is committed to delivering a final report, including any recommendations, towards the end of the summer 2020.
The review is being overseen by a cross-agency Criminal Legal Aid Review Programme Board. This board is being advised by a Defence Practitioner Advisory Panel comprising representatives from across the legal professions, including the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives.
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/criminal-legal-aid-review (published 3 May)
Civil/crime news: amendments to legal aid eligibility legislation (uploaded 15 May)
Compensation provided to claimants of the Windrush compensation scheme will now be disregarded when assessing civil and criminal legal aid eligibility. The Legal Aid Agency has amended legal aid legislation to ensure that claimants of the Windrush compensation scheme are not disadvantaged in applying for legal aid.
Immigration Telephone Advice Services Contract 2019 (uploaded 26 March)
Contract documents for the 2019 Immigration Telephone Advice Services Contract. First published on 4 March 2019 and updated on same day to link Bullet points to Documents.
Tender for immigration telephone advice services (uploaded 26 March)
Tender opens 4 March to deliver telephone immigration advice to clients in police custody and the bid deadline is 9 am on 3 April 2019.
Work out who qualifies for civil legal aid (uploaded 26 March)
On 4 March 2019, publication of the table of delegated authorities document, ‘Civil Legal Aid Procedure Regulations February 2019.
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/work-out-who-qualifies-for-civil-legal-aid (published 4 March)
Immigration Telephone Advice Services Contract 2019 (uploaded 26 March)
Contract documents for the 2019 Immigration Telephone Advice Services Contract.
Immigration Telephone Advice tender 2019 (uploaded 26 March)
Information for organisations interested in delivering Immigration legal advice by telephone.
Standard civil contract 2018 (uploaded 26 March)
The 2018 Standard Civil Contract governs the provision of face-to-face legal aid services in all civil categories. 1 March 2019 the contract was updated to change the exclusion zones.
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/standard-civil-contract-2018 (published 4 March)
LEGAL AID AGENCY CIVIL/CRIME NEWS: RECRUITMENT EXERCISE FOR LEGAL AID REVIEW PANEL
FCILEx needed to consider appeals against certain LAA decisions
The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) is looking for qualified legal professionals to join a review panel considering appeals against certain LAA decisions including those relating to claims for costs. Successful applicants for the Legal Aid Review Panel are drawn from FCILEx, solicitors and barristers.
Members serve as Independent Funding Adjudicators and Independent Costs Assessors. The LAA expects to allocate panel members with up to 60 hours of work a year and the appeals sent to members will relate to the areas of law in which you specialise. The rate of pay is £52 per hour and reasonable expenses will be reimbursed.
Panel members are not employees of the LAA, and so will not be offered a contract of employment. Members will serve for five years from 1 July 2019.
Further information and an application form is available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-to-legal-aid-appeals-panel (published 5 March)
Further unfairness for injured people under extended fixed costs (uploaded 21 June)
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers writes:
Plans to extend fixed recoverable costs to civil cases valued between £25,000 and £100,000 will tilt the balance of power even further in favour of defendants, APIL says.
In its response to the Ministry of Justice consultation, which closed on 6 June, the association urged ministers to consider a dedicated ‘intermediate track’ for a limited amount of cases that meet a clear set of criteria – as originally proposed by Sir Rupert Jackson. The track should have its own procedure, with specific exclusions.
- APIL’s full response to the Ministry of Justice consultation ‘Extending fixed
recoverable costs in civil cases: implementing Sir Rupert Jackson’s proposals’, available at: https://www.apil.org.uk/files/pdf/ConsultationDocuments/3739.pdf 6 June
Compensation Recovery Unit performance data (uploaded 21 June)
Compensation Recovery Unit data added, on 10 May, for cases registered, settlements recorded and recoveries made in the financial year 2017 to 2018. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/compensation-recovery-unit-performance-data
See also: Neil Rose, ‘Number of PI claims ‘largely static’ over past year’, 31 May, available at: https://www.legalfutures.co.uk/latest-news/number-of-pi-claims-largely-static-over-past-year
Guidance: Bereavement damages: draft remedial order (uploaded 15 May)
This proposed remedial order provides for the award of bereavement damages under section 1A of the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 to be available to a person who has cohabited with the deceased person for a period of at least two years immediately before the death. This rectifies an incompatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights identified by the Court of Appeal. Comments about the proposed remedial order may be sent to the Ministry of Justice at the address given in the document.
‘Small but significant step forward for bereaved people’, says APIL (uploaded 15 May)
Justice ministers have ‘finally caught up with reality’ by taking steps to update the law on bereavement damages for unmarried couples, says APIL:
The government has published a draft remedial order to amend the Fatal Accidents Act 1976. People whose partners are killed because of negligence would be able to claim for statutory bereavement damages, so long as they have cohabited with the deceased for at least two years. The measure implements the Court of Appeal judgment in Smith (suing in her own right and as the surviving partner of John Bulloch, deceased) v Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and others  EWCA Civ 1916.
Electronic filing of applications to be dealt with without a hearing
Direction from the Honourable Mr Justice Popplewell, the Judge in Charge of the Commercial Court, available at: www.judiciary.gov.uk
Practice Guidance: Standard Financial and Enforcement Orders – Update
On 30 November 2017, Sir James Munby, the President of the Family Division, issued ‘Practice Guidance: Standard Financial and Enforcement Orders,  Fam Law 89’. The purpose of this Addendum is to correct a minor error, affecting only a very few forms, available at: www.judiciary.gov.uk
Applying sharia law in England and Wales: independent review
The report of the independent review by Professor Mona Siddiqui and a review panel of experts into the application of sharia law in England and Wales by sharia councils.
WALES: LAW AND POLICY
Lesley Griffiths AM, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs writes:
The Welsh Government’s consultation ‘Brexit and our Land’ sought views on proposals for a new Land Management Programme for Wales. Today I am publishing this summary of responses, along with the Welsh Government policy response, along with an evidence pack – ‘Agriculture in Wales’. I plan to publish a subsequent, more detailed consultation document in advance of the Royal Welsh Show in early July this year. The summary of responses, available at: https://gov.wales/support-welsh-farming-after-brexit The Welsh Government’s policy response, available at: https://gov.wales/brexit-and-our-land-our-response The evidence pack is available at: https://gov.wales/agriculture-wales (published 4 June)
On 21 May 2019, the Deputy Minister and Chief Whip made an Oral Statement in the Siambr: Justice Blueprints.
New Welsh approach to youth justice and female offending launched (uploaded 21 June)
Guidance on a new approach to youth justice and female offending in Wales has been announced today:
Supporting young offenders: How we plan to support young people in or at risk of entering the criminal justice system. https://gov.wales/supporting-young-offenders
Supporting female offenders: How we plan to support females in or at risk of entering the criminal justice system. https://gov.wales/supporting-female-offenders
Commission on Justice online survey findings (uploaded 21 June)
Findings and commentary of the Commission on Justice in Wales online survey. ‘Commission on Justice in Wales online information gathering exercise: Summary briefing’, available at: https://gov.wales/commission-justice-online-survey-findings (published 3 May)
Providing a service to Welsh speakers (uploaded 26 March)
Easy access to HM Courts and Tribunals Service services for Welsh speakers. HMCTS approach, led by its Welsh Language Unit based in Caernarfon, is at the forefront of this work for the Ministry of Justice.
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/providing-a-service-to-welsh-speakers (published 1 March)
UK Supreme Court to sit in Wales this summer/Goruchaf Lys y DU i eistedd yng Nghymru yn yr haf (uploaded 26 March)
The UK Supreme Court (UKSC) will sit in Cardiff, Wales for the first time in July 2019. The UKSC will sit in the Ty Hywel building in the National Assembly in Cardiff for four days of hearings from 22 to 25 July 2019, while the Assembly is in recess.
Lady Hale, President of the Supreme Court, will preside over the cases and she will be joined by the Deputy President, Lord Reed, as well as Lord Lloyd-Jones, Lord Sales and Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd (the former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales who is a member of the Supreme Court ‘s supplementary panel).
Extending the franchise: prisoner voting (uploaded 26 March)
Research report to help develop policy to allow prisoners from Wales to vote in local government elections.
https://gov.wales/extending-franchise-prisoner-voting (published 20 February)
Written Statement: Written Statement on Probation (uploaded 26 March)
Cabinet statement by Jane Hutt AM, deputy minister and chief whip.
https://gov.wales/written-statement-written-statement-probation (published 19 February)
Written statement: Report on the implementation of Law Commission proposals (uploaded 26 March)
Cabinet statement by Mark Drakeford AM, First Minister of Wales.
https://gov.wales/written-statement-report-implementation-law-commission-proposals-1 (published 15 February)
WILLS AND PROBATE
Claim a power of attorney refund
You can get part of your application fee back, if you applied to register a power attorney from 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2017. This applies to lasting powers of attorney and enduring powers of attorney. You can only claim a refund if you made the power of attorney in England or Wales.
WILLS, PROBATE AND INHERITANCE
Letter from Susan Acland-Hood, HMCTS CEO to charities that follows the open letter sent on 31 January 2019. This letter acknowledges the concerns of charities and outlines progress on finding an interim solution for a new service to notify charities when they have been left money in wills.
See also: STEP Industry News, ‘Interim solution’ to keep E&W Wills Notification Service running after Smee & Ford contract ends’, 30 May, available at: https://www.step.org/news/interim-solution-keep-ew-wills-notification-service-running-after-smee-ford-contract-ends; and Institute of Legacy Management, ‘HMCTS responds to joint letter’, 29 May, available at: https://legacymanagement.org.uk/hmcts-responds-to-joint-letter/
The STEP Blog: Probate fee increase on hold for now… (uploaded 15 May)
Daniel Nesbitt, policy executive at STEP, writes:
The status of the EW probate fee order is the same as it has been since February – it is still waiting for its final stage. As it was not scheduled for debate next week, ie w/c 13 May, it will not be possible to bring the new fees in before June.
What’s happening with the EW probate fees order? | The STEP Blog (published 10 May)