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Archive for December 10th, 2009

New ombudsman scheme for legal complaints

Ministry of Justice: The Office for Legal Complaints has announced further moves to set up a new ombudsman scheme that will investigate and resolve complaints by consumers of legal services.

The announcement comes on the same day as an order was laid in Parliament to enable the Legal Services Board to begin work as overseeing regulator in January 2010.

Justice Minister Bridget Prentice said:

‘It is essential that people using legal services know that they are well regulated. This ambition is brought a step closer with the establishment of an impartial complaints-handling service and legal ombudsman all under one roof.

‘Customers will see a service that is simpler and quicker and guaranteed to provide impartial redress for when things go wrong.

‘Around 350 new jobs will be created once the Office for Legal Complaints begins operation in late 2010. I do not want to lose the skills and experience built up in old legal complaints-handling and ombudsman system, so staff already working in that system will be given first opportunity to apply for jobs at the new body in Birmingham.

‘The Legal Services Act 2007 introduces a fresh approach to the regulation of legal services and, following the introduction into Parliament today of an Order to give the new Legal Services Board its regulatory powers as of 1 January 2010, represents a significant step forward in creating a better regulated legal services sector.’

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Straw uses FOI veto on Cabinet minutes

Independent: Justice Secretary Jack Straw today blocked the publication of minutes of a 1997 Cabinet committee meeting on devolution.

It is only the second time since the Freedom of Information Act came into force in 2005 that the Government has used its veto following a ruling to release material by the Information Commissioner.

Mr Straw told MPs that disclosure of the information would put the convention of collective Cabinet responsibility for decisions “at serious risk of harm”.

In a written statement to Parliament he said the decision “was not taken lightly”.

Mr Straw said that in his opinion the Information Commissioner “wrongly found that the Cabinet Office had failed to comply” with the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act by withholding copies of the minutes.

The only other time Mr Straw has vetoed publication was in February this year when he blocked the release of Cabinet minutes relating to the Iraq War.

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Former MI5 man loses supreme court case in memoirs fight

Guardian: A former MI5 officer cannot take his battle to publish his memoirs to a court of law, top judges ruled today.

In a move with potentially widespread implications for individuals complaining about the activities of the security and intelligence agencies, the supreme court unanimously dismissed the case brought by the former officer, known only as A.

Instead, the five judges ruled, he must take his case to the investigatory powers tribunal (IPT), a body that meets in secret, sometimes without the knowledge of a complainant. There is no right of appeal and the tribunal is under no obligation to give reasons for its decisions.

Though the former MI5 agent wants to publish his memoirs, he insists on remaining anonymous. He has threatened a high court injunction if the Guardian publishes his identity, though his name is available on websites.

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Call to change ‘criminal conspiracy’ law

BBC: Senior lawyers say the law in England and Wales should be changed to make it easier to prove criminal conspiracy.

The Law Commission says criminals can currently escape prosecution for conspiracy by claiming they did not know what they were doing was illegal.

Instead, it says criminals should be found guilty if they “believed” what they were doing was illegal.

It also wants to abolish the law which prevents spouses being found guilty of conspiring with each other.

The commission has also proposed adults who deliberately starve a child, who then recovers, should be charged with attempted murder.

The Ministry of Justice is considering the report and said it would respond fully “in due course”.

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Ex-BBC presenter Ashley Blake refused leave to appeal

BBC: A former BBC TV presenter who was jailed for two years for hitting a teenager with a pole has been told he cannot appeal against his sentence.

Ashley Blake, who presented Midlands Today, was jailed in September for wounding Greg Jones, 17, and intending to pervert the course of justice.

The Court of Appeal refused his leave to appeal against the sentence, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

His legal team have not appealed against the ruling made last month

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More than 50 MPs flipped second home, new expenses figures show

Guardian: Commons publishes list for first time disclosing which MPs changed location of property they were claiming allowances for

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MPs’ expenses claims published online

Independent: MPs’ second home expenses claims came under fresh scrutiny today as Commons authorities published hundreds of thousands of new receipts.

Documentation relating to claims made during the last financial year was uploaded on to the parliamentary website.

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