Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Recent developments

Civil Justice Centre Manchester
Modern British governments are ceaselessly active in relation to legal matters.  Here are just some of the latest developments:

Civil Justice:  The Ministry of Justice has announced a consultation "Solving disputes in the County Courts: creating a simpler, quicker and more proportionate system."  The consultation remains open until 30th June 2011.  There are some 20 associated documents which would need to be considered for a full analysis of the proposals - see Ministry of Justice

Newlove report:  The government’s Champion for Active Safer Communities, Baroness Newlove, has detailed what residents, businesses, local agencies and central government can do to begin a generational shift in the country’s approach to activism and tackling neighbourhood crime.  That rather opaque sentence is taken from the Home Office statement about the report by Baroness Newlove - "Our vision for safer and active communities."  The full report may be read here.  It remains to be seen how the government will go about implementation.

Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme:  The Home Office stated that children "are better protected thanks to the final rollout (from 4th April) to all 43 Police Force Areas in England and Wales of the child sex offender disclosure scheme."  A phased introduction of this scheme began in August 2010 following pilot studies in four Police force areas.  The Home Office has
supported the setting up of the website Parents Protect

: Other legal news :

The Ian Tomlinson Inquest has commenced - The Guardian 29th March.  Mr Tomlinson died following an encounter with Police dealing with the G20 Protests in London on 1st April 2009.

Sentencing Council - Drug Offences:  The Council has issued a consultation on sentencing guidance for drug offences.  The consultation is open until 20th June.

Family Procedure Rules 2010:  From 6th April, family proceedings (including adoption cases) will be subject to the Family Procedure Rules 2010.   These may be seen via the Ministry of Justice website.  The excellent Marilyn Stowe blog on family law has been looking at aspects of the rules - A Guide and Mediation: the devil in the detail.

Expert witnesses no longer have immunity:  The Supreme Court by a majority of 5 to 2 (Lord Hope and Lady Hale dissenting) have held that expert witnesses no longer have immunity from action in relation to advice given in the course of litigation - Jones v Kearney [2011] UKSC 13.  This overturns a long standing rule which protected such witnesses for public interest reasons.  See Law and Lawyers 17th March 2010 ; UK Human Rights blog 30th March and UK Supreme Court blog.  It is difficult to forecast the exact outcome of this decision.  One possible outcome of this decision will be that some expert witnesses will withdraw their services or, alternatively, will insure and pass on the costs to the legal system.  Another possibility is that experts will be more ready to be upfront about any weaknesses they are aware of.

Bribery Act 2010 in force 1st July:  It has been announced that the Bribery Act 2010 will commence on1st July -  Legal Week , Law Society Gazette 30/3/11 and, for an earlier post on the Act, Law and Lawyers.  The Ministry of Justice has issued Guidance for business.

Addendum 31st March 2011:  The interim report of the Norgrove Review on Family Justice has been published - see Ministry of Justice announcement , comment and the report.   The report is now open for comment until 23rd June.  The key recommendations are that a Family Justice Service be established; creation of Local Family Justice Boards and that a single Family Court be created with cases allocated within that court to the appropriate level of the judiciary.  There are many more detailed recommendations such as rebranding "Alternative Dispute Resolution" as "Dispute Resolution Services".  In relation to divorce it is proposed that the two-stage process of decree nisi / absolute be replaced by a single notice of divorce.

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