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Letter of the Law
Friday, 21st February 2020
An early morning round up of news for legal professionals across the UK



Prosecutions and sentencing at record low

The average convicted criminal serving a short prison sentence has previously carried out more than 55 offences, police figures reveal. Some repeat offenders are being sent to jail for the first time after committing 100 or more different crimes, according to the Ministry of Justice data. The figures came as it emerged theft prosecutions have fallen 12% in a year to a record low. Overall the number of criminals being sentenced by the courts has dropped to 1.19m, the lowest level in a decade with just 6% sent straight to jail. The number of prosecutions for all crimes fell 1% to 1.37m, its lowest since records began, while police recorded crime rose by 4.7% to pass 6m offences, the highest number since 2004.

The Daily Telegraph, Page: 10 The I The Times, Page: 2 The Sun, Page: 19 Daily Mail, Page: 2


Attorney General seeks clarification over Grenfell witness protection

The Attorney General’s Office has asked the Grenfell Tower Inquiry to clarify its request for protections for corporate witnesses. Suella Braverman, the new Attorney General, is considering whether to allow a pledge that oral evidence given by staff involved in refurbishing the high-rise block will not be used to prosecute them in future. In a letter to the Inquiry, the Office said: “Uncertainty over these issues has the potential to create real practical challenges for the investigation and potential prosecution of any criminal offences arising out of the events.”

Daily Mail





Emergency terror law ‘could increase risk’

An emergency law to keep terrorists in prison for longer could make Britain less safe, an official report has warned. The Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation said current conditions inside jails “suggest that keeping prisoners in custody any longer than necessary may be to expose them to worse influences than if released”. Jonathan Hall, QC, also warned that by removing their right to early release and forcing them to serve longer would reduce their time on licence in the community when probation officers could intervene. He added: "It sets an uncomfortable precedent for retroactive alterations to the release dates for other offenders currently serving sentences of imprisonment.”

The Daily Telegraph The Independent The Times Financial Times The Guardian





Fears raised over UK data security post-Brexit

Privacy activists have criticised Google’s decision to transfer UK users’ data to the US in an effort to avoid legal risks after Brexit, as British users will no longer be covered by EU data protections. The move could mean that the data would be under the control of the current Trump White House, and critics of the decision have argued that this would make people’s data less safe. However, Google claims that the data would be subject to the same regulatory standards as the EU’s GDPR. A Google spokesperson said: “Like many companies, we have to prepare for Brexit," adding, "The protections of the UK GDPR will still apply to these users."

Financial Times, Page: 2 The Independent The Guardian, Page: 20 Daily Mail City AM The Daily Telegraph, Page: 10 The Times, Page: 2





Asylum seekers win deportation reprieve

The Home Office yesterday attempted to deport more than a dozen asylum seekers thought to be victims of modern slavery - with lawyers' intervention giving them a last-minute reprieve. At least 16 were taken off the flight after it emerged that the Home Office had failed to act on indicators that they had been victims of torture and exploitation. Isabella Kirwan, of Duncan Lewis Solicitors, said: "The clients all disclosed indicators of exploitation to the Home Office which should have triggered referrals into the NRM for the Home Office to investigate this further."

The Independent, Page: 3


Terror suspect first to be convicted under new law

A terror suspect has become the first person to be convicted of a new offence of breaching an order under counterterrorism laws. Known as QQ, the defendant had not been charged or convicted of any terror offence when he was made the subject of the temporary exclusion order (TEO), the Old Bailey heard. He failed to register at a police station on the evening of May 20 last year, in breach of the order. Judge Richard Marks QC adjourned sentencing until March 27, saying it was a "novel offence" for which there was no sentencing guidance.

The Daily Telegraph, Page: 10


Lord Janner inquiry stumbling block

An inquiry into how institutions handled child abuse allegations against the late Lord Janner could be halted after an accuser decided to remain anonymous. Brian Altman QC, a lawyer working for the inquiry, said: “This decision will have a major impact on how much of any hearings in this Investigation can take place in public.” Lawyers representing more than 30 alleged victims said the possibility the public inquiry could collapse was of "profound concern".

The Daily Telegraph, Page: 10 Daily Mail


Northern Ireland veteran sues government

A British Army veteran being prosecuted over the killing of a man during the Troubles is taking the Government to court to force ministers to make good the promise to protect former soldiers like him. Dennis Hutchings faces a trial in Belfast next month, despite having twice been cleared of a 1974 shooting. His lawyers, of McCue and Partners, say soldiers are suffering discrimination because they are 54 times more likely to be prosecuted than IRA terrorists, and that ministers have also refused to say how they plan to honour a manifesto pledge to protect veterans from "vexatious legal action".

The Daily Telegraph Daily Express, Page: 27


£300k bill for homesellers for hiding information

A couple who failed to tell buyers of their £1m country home about plans for a neon-lit motel nearby have lost their court battle and now face a bill of up to £300,000. Philip and Elisabeth Ash advertised their property as “a stunning barn conversion with excellent equestrian facilities” in Oxfordshire, but failed to inform Adrian and Lisa Powell that plans had been approved for a diner, motel, car park and huge neon signs nearby. The Powells pulled out of the £1.085m deal and sued the Ashes for the return of their deposit and damages.

The Daily Telegraph, Page: 2 Evening Standard The Times, Page: 11 Daily Express, Page: 21 The Sun, Page: 31 Daily Mirror, Page: 29


‘Broke’ tycoon to pay £6m divorce settlement

A property tycoon who claimed that he had no money has been ordered to pay his former wife almost £6m after a court saw social media posts boasting about his life of luxury. Preston Haskell IV called Alesia Vladimirovna a gold digger, and claimed that he had nothing to give her after their divorce because he owed £55m to creditors.

The Times, Page: 21 The Daily Telegraph, Page: 9 Daily Express, Page: 23


World's largest arbitration award reinstated

Russia has been ordered to pay $50bn to the former owners of Yukos – once the country's largest oil company – after a Dutch appeals court overturned a previous ruling. The decision by The Hague Court of Appeal reinstates the world's largest arbitration award. Zaiwalla & Co had assisted the Russian Government in its the earlier success in The Hague District Court in respect of challenging the awards.

Press Release





Historic law firm advises on deals worth £96m

A law firm which can trace its roots back to 1759 has revealed it advised on £96m-worth of deals last year. Sills & Betteridge's corporate and commercial team worked on 38 deals in 2019. It comes after newly filed accounts for the firm, for the year to 31 May 2019, have revealed its turnover remained static at £11.9m and its operating profit totalled £2.4m.

Insider Media



Winckworth Sherwood has hired Andrea London, who becomes the seventh partner in its employment team. Ms London joins from Fletcher Day, where she was head of employment.

City AM, Page: 15





Chancellor urged to reform stamp duty

MPs, economists and campaigners have called on the Chancellor to use next month’s budget to reform the broken stamp duty. Experts believe that the tax is stopping families from moving and preventing young people from getting on the housing ladder. Rishi Sunak is under growing pressure to introduce sweeping changes such as a higher threshold for paying stamp duty, exclusions for downsizers and a simpler system.

The Daily Telegraph, Page: 1 The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 4





Cost of renting closes gap to mortgages

The gap between monthly rental costs and mortgage payments is at its smallest in a decade, but renters are still paying almost 20% more of their income on housing costs in parts of the country. Nationwide, rents are now just 3% more expensive than mortgage repayments, which save homeowners £227 a year, according to a report by Halifax. This compares to December 2018, when renting was 10%, or £893 a year, more expensive than owning a home.

The Times, Page: 38 City AM, Page: 13 The I, Page: 51


Airbnb hotspots have quarter of homes listed

An explosion in short-term lets means that some parts of the UK now have one holiday listing in every four homes, analysis of Airbnb hotspots by the Guardian has found. The highest incidence of Airbnbs was in Edinburgh Old Town, with 29 active listings for every 100 properties. Devon has the three areas with the highest rate of Airbnb lets in England; in Woolacombe, Georgeham and Croyde, 23 in 100 properties are listed. Critics say the expansion in short-term lets is “out of control” and depriving communities of homes.

The Guardian, Page: 1, 10-11 Daily Mail, Page: 3 The Times, Page: 2





Met refers itself to watchdog over contact with Caroline Flack

The Metropolitan Police has referred itself to the police watchdog following the death of TV star Caroline Flack. Scotland Yard announced that it had been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct due to contact between the authorities and Ms Flack. It was standard practice for a referral to be made when a person who had recent contact with police died, the Met said, adding that no officer has been given restricted duties or suspended.

BBC News Daily Mail The Daily Telegraph The Guardian Evening Standard



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