Year: 2017


With the country going to the polls on 8 June, the Law Society has established our priorities for the next Government on law and justice. We released Our Vision for Law and Justice last week.

Recently I wrote about maintaining legal certainty through Brexit. This week I discuss another of our priorities for the next Government: upholding the rule of law and protecting human rights.

Legislating fundamental rights
The UK has long been a world-leader on human rights issues; from the sealing of the Magna Carta in 1215 to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – in which Britain played a significant role. Fundamental, enforceable rights have been part of the fabric of British society for centuries.

Domestically, we brought hundreds of years of legislation together in the Human Rights Act, consolidating rights that British people had long enjoyed.

We have called on the next Government to ensure that nothing erodes the fundamental rights that we have. This means making sure that they are enforceable through the courts, as well as written down in legislation

The fight against modern slavery
Britain has continued its leadership on human rights issues in recent years with the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and the UK National Action Plan on business and human rights, designed to tackle people trafficking and other forms of modern slavery. The Law Society has worked with the Government and others to make sure that Britain remains a leader on this issue. A great deal of progress has been made, but there is still more to do to make sure that British businesses are world leaders when it comes to having supply chains free from modern slavery.

We have called on the next Government to put fundamental rights at the core of future trade deals, so that expanding our global business does not come at the cost of people’s rights. We have also stressed the importance of delivering on the UK National Action Plan and continuing to support victims of modern slavery.

Protecting human rights defenders
Around the world, many lawyers do not enjoy the safety and security that we do in England and Wales. Many of our colleagues face threats and intimidation and too many have been murdered. This is not just a problem for the individuals and their families and friends, but represent a significant attack on the rule of law and the fundamental rights of all. We have called on the Government to protect and defend lawyers and human rights defenders around the world who are persecuted or harassed in the course of their duties. Read about our work in this area, including our interventions.

*The above article was extracted from:


Along with priorities for the rule of law and Brexit, access to justice represents the third pillar of our Vision for Law and Justice we launched on 5 May.

Access to justice is a fundamental requirement for the rule of law, by which people have their voice heard, exercise their rights, challenge discrimination, and hold decision makers to account. Promoting and protecting access to justice is a constant theme for the Law Society and a core value uniting our profession.

Reinstate legal aid for early advice
To ensure justice is accessible to those who need it, it is important that the next government reinstates legal aid for early advice, particularly in housing and family law. This was removed under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) 2012.

Without free or subsidised early advice, relatively minor legal problems can escalate, creating health, social and financial problems, and placing additional pressure and cost on public services. For example, in housing law, an individual can only get housing advice under legal aid when a problem has become severe, such as serious disrepair of a property, or in cases of actual or threatened homelessness. If free early advice was available, this could resolve such issues before they worsen and become more costly for the individual – and for the public purse.

A lack of early advice has also created problems in the family courts. When removing legal aid for the majority of private family matters, the government hoped to increase uptake in mediation so families could resolve their problems outside of court. However, the numbers of mediation assessments and cases have plummeted, whilst the numbers of litigants in person has risen dramatically – we believe part of the reason for this is because solicitors providing early, valuable advice were a significant source of referrals.

The current situation is not sustainable and increases suffering to the detriment of society. We are keen to work with the next government in order to address this issue.

Scrap moves to increase the small claims limit
The ability to obtain redress for injuries sustained due to the negligence of another is a fundamental principle of English law. We continue to strongly oppose the changes to personal injury reforms introduced by the previous government in the Prisons and Courts Bill.

The Bill did not have time to finish its passage through parliament because of the general election. This does not mean that these reforms will go away as they can be revived under the new government. We are calling for the new government to reconsider proposals to increase the small claims limit, which would make it difficult for people to obtain effective and valuable advice, and to claim compensation for injuries they have suffered because of someone else’s fault. Again, the consequences will be increased cost to other public services.

End the cross-examination of victims of domestic abuse
Over the last few years, the Law Society has worked relentlessly, in partnership with Rights of Women and other organisations, to highlight the problems of victims of domestic violence accessing justice in the family court. We welcome the provisions contained in the Prisons and Courts Bill to stop alleged perpetrators from cross-examining in person a witness who is the victim, or alleged victim, of domestic abuse, and we are determined to continue our work to see the reform implemented after the election.

Legal aid is often the only way someone can bring their case before the courts. In 2015, the House of Commons Justice Select Committee found that 39% of domestic violence victims could not provide the evidence (PDF 1MB) demanded by the Legal Aid Agency (LAA), so they were excluded from legal aid. This is why we are also calling for the new government to implement proposals to increase the flexibility of the rules determining whether a victim of domestic abuse can receive legal aid.

*The above article was extracted from:


News that 21 new deputy high court judges have been appointed by the Judicial Office today prompted the president of the Law Society of England and Wales, Robert Bourns, to congratulate the successful candidates.

“Particularly, congratulations to Rowena Rice and David Stone – both solicitors who will bring their extensive professional experience and valuable perspective to the bench,” said Robert Bourns.

“It is vital that everyone in the legal sector, whatever their background, circumstances or profession, has a line of sight to judicial career opportunities. With 181,000 enrolled solicitors, our profession has a vital part to play ensuring our world-renowned judiciary is as diverse as the society it serves.

“The skills solicitors develop in practice are more and more relevant to the changing court environment. I am confident that an open process of application will find solicitors appointed judges in greater numbers in the future.

“We are encouraged the government is focused on specific measures to ensure the widest possible talent pool for judicial applications, and will continue to work with the judiciary, the Ministry of Justice and law firms to support solicitors in achieving judicial roles.”

The above article was extracted from:


The Court of Appeal has ruled that solicitors should be able to claim protocol costs for claims which did not go beyond the first stage.

In a judgment that has been eagerly awaited by personal injury lawyers, Lord Justice Briggs said law firms were entitled to £400 costs for claims which dropped out before Stage 2.

In the three identical road traffic accident claims, the defendant’s insurer admitted liability and paid the claimant the Stage 1 fixed costs of £400 (as they were before July 2013). But when the claimants took no further steps to advance their cases and they were statute-barred, the insurer EUI Limited (trading under the Admiral name) sought to recover the costs

Sitting in Cardiff County Court, District Judge Phillips had earlier ruled in favour of the insurers on the basis the RTA Protocol conferred a right of recovery of Stage 1 fixed costs where the claims were not continued beyond that stage.

Lawyers for the claimant firm challenged that analysis on the basis there was no express provision for repayment, and no such right could be implied. They added there was no obligation on the claimants’ solicitors, who will have received the costs as part of their retainer, to repay those costs.

The case attracted interventions from both the Law Society and Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, which made submissions in favour of the claimant solicitors.

In J C and A Solicitors Ltd v Andeen Iqbal & Another, Lord Justice Briggs overturned the county court judgment, saying there was no provision in either the pre-action protocol or the Civil Procedure Rules for repayment of Stage 1 fixed costs.

He said it could only be implied insurers had a right to repayment, but in fact the rules ‘implicitly’ treated Stage 1 costs as costs to which the protocol claimant was entitled outright.

Briggs said: ‘The RTA Protocol is a clear, detailed and precise code, negotiated between sophisticated stakeholder groups under the auspices of the Civil Justice Council, into which the court should be slow to imply terms, all the more so where, as here, the drafters have demonstrated an awareness of the concept of interim payments on account of entitlement to damages, and made no similar provision about interim payments on account of an entitlement to costs.’

He said the ‘express aim’ of the protocol was that solicitors should receive the relevant fixed costs at the end of each stage, regardless of what, if anything, happens at a later stage.

Briggs accepted the Law Society’s submission that the underlying objective is to ensure that those who provide legal assistance to RTA claimants should be paid at the end of each stage, rather than the end of the claims.

‘Furthermore a Stage 1 costs entitlement will only arise once there has been an admission of liability on behalf of the defendant, so that something solid will have been achieved for the protocol claimant by the time when the Stage 1 payment becomes due,’ he added.

Briggs said the district judge’s assessment that £400 was generous did not take into account the checks solicitors need to make, not least because of the requirement to produce a statement of truth.

He rejected fears that a so-called ‘400 Club’ would encourage unscrupulous lawyers to seek authority from claimants to commence a protocol claim simply for the purpose of obtaining Stage 1 costs, without any intention of advancing the claim. Briggs said there was no evidence of such a practice developing, and it was not suggested the claimant firm in this case had done anything along these lines.

‘There is now no risk that such a practice might develop and it would be wrong to construe the plain words of the RTA Protocol by reference to a purely theoretical risk of abuse,’ he added.

*The above article was extracted from:


Teachers, nurses and social workers from outside the European Union are set to face criminal record checks before being allowed to work in the UK.

From April, migrants from outside the EU will need to provide a certificate with visa applications disclosing whether they have criminal convictions.

Most employers already require people to self-disclose they have no criminal record and they carry out UK checks.

But the Home Office says the move is designed to “strengthen safeguards”.

The change, which is subject to parliamentary approval, will apply to applicants from non-European Economic Area countries for a Tier 2 visa to take up jobs which involve working with children and vulnerable adults.

They will now be required to provide a criminal record checks certificate from any countries they have lived in for more than 12 months in the past 10 years.

An applicant’s partner, or a partner wishing to join an existing skilled migrant worker in the same sectors, will also be asked to produce a certificate.

The requirement could be waived where it is deemed not “reasonably practicable” to obtain a certificate, such as if a country or authority does not produce such documents.

‘Shortage occupations’

Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill said: “Foreign criminals have absolutely no right to be working with society’s most vulnerable.

“While we already reserve the right to refuse a visa to anyone who is convicted of a criminal offence, the introduction of overseas criminal record checks for those looking to work with children and vulnerable adults add an extra safeguard.”

The government can automatically refuse entry to applicants who have been jailed for four years or more, while those given shorter terms can be barred for up to 10 years after their sentence ends.

Several other new immigration rule measures are due to come in force following a review by the independent Migration Advisory Committee.

Chemistry teachers are being removed from a list of UK “shortage occupations”, but those who teach combined science, computer science and Mandarin are being added to the list, meaning they can be recruited from outside the EEA more easily.

The minimum salary threshold before a Tier 2 visa is granted to experienced skilled workers will rise to £30,000 for most jobs.

*The above article was extracted from: