Legal Aid bill: government suffers defeats in the House of Lords

Legal aid bill: government suffers defeats in the Lords

The government has been defeated in six key votes during the first two days of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Bill’s report stage, and has been forced into offering concessions in several other important areas.

During the first day of debate on Monday 5 March, peers voted three times against the government. First, to insist that the legislation state that people ‘must have access to legal services that effectively meet their needs’; second, to insert amendments intended to protect victims of domestic violence by, among other things, setting out a comprehensive list of eligibility criteria for obtaining legal aid on the face of the bill; and finally, inserting a sub-clause ensuring the independence of the new post of director of legal aid casework from political interference.

Three further defeats were inflicted on Wednesday with peers voting to retain legal aid for welfare benefits appeals, with respect to both reviews and lower tribunal appeals and also with respect to appeals to the higher courts. In the third defeat peers voted to retain legal aid for the cost of obtaining medical reports in clinical negligence cases.

The defeats come on top of several government concessions – in the face of widespread cross-party criticism during earlier stages of deliberation – on clinical negligence for severely injured children, the bill’s definition of domestic violence, the power to means-test police station advice, the retained power only to omit further services from legal aid in the future, on domestic child abduction and for victims of human trafficking.

There are also promising signs of movement from the government on providing legal aid for appellants in cases which are certified as complex or are of substantial public interest.

The report stage is scheduled to continue for a further two weeks, with several more government defeats expected.

Law Society 

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Solicitor Charles Spiropoulos – Southwark Crown Court

Press Release – 6 March 2012

We represent Charles Spiropoulos in proceedings at the Southwark Crown Court where he is charged with a number of others with one count of conspiracy to defraud by false representation, contrary to section 1(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977. Mr Spiropoulos was a solicitor and a partner at Andrews Solicitors in Peckham, London.

Mr Spiropoulos was charged with a number of other people, some of whom we are unable to name for legal reasons. It has always been the defence case that Charles Spiropoulos, whilst working as a solicitor, was randomly approached at Andrews Solicitors by a number of individuals claiming to have been the legal owners and Title holders of:

61 Guy Road, Wallington, Surrey; and

34 Glenn Avenue, Purley, Surrey; and

66 Durnsford Road, Wimbledon, Surrey; and

7 Thirlmere Road, Streatham, London

Those persons purporting to be the owners of these properties presented to Charles Spiropoulos passport identification supporting their claims and appeared to have a detailed knowledge of their respective properties. Mr Spiropoulos conducted all necessary due diligence checks to ascertain that these individuals were who they claimed to be, in accordance with the guidance published at the time by the Law Society of England & Wales and the Solicitors Regulation Authority, in relation to conveyancing transactions. Having had no cause to suspect any malicious intent on the part of those persons he had reason to believe were the owners of these properties, Charles Spiropoulos then proceeded to conduct the conveyancing work associated with these properties and effected the transfers of these properties, in good faith.

Since having been alerted of the fraud, Charles Spiropoulos has assisted the police investigation without hindrance and has co-operated with all law enforcement agencies throughout every stage of their work and investigations, including at the trial. Mr Spirpoulos maintains that he was never in any way involved with or associated with any of the individuals masterminding this complex and sophisticated fraud. Mr Spiropoulos had no knowledge at the time of these frauds that his services as a solicitor were being utilised by a sophisticated gang of criminals intent on defrauding the banks and the innocent genuine owners of these properties. Had he known so, or had reason to suspect that there was any impropriety taking place, he would have ceased to have acted in these transactions immediately and notified the appropriate authorities.

Unfortunately our client has been convicted of involvement in these frauds and was today sentenced to 4 years in prison by His Honour Judge Grieve QC at the Southwark Crown Court. An appeal against conviction has been lodged at the Court of Appeal on behalf of our client and Charles Spiropoulos maintains unequivocally that he is not guilty of these offences. Press reports relating to our client’s involvement in these frauds are unfortunately misleading and do not contain accurate facts. Mr Spiropoulos was taken advantage of by a highly sophisticated gang of fraudsters and never had any knowledge whatsoever of what was happening. His conviction as a conveyancing solicitor is a stark warning to all lawyers involved in property transactions of how easily criminal gangs can target the legal profession, abusing the system, without any knowledge on the part of the lawyers.

Mr Spiropoulos is moved and his faith has been strengthened by the immense support which he has continued to receive from friends and family throughout his continuing ordeal. He has specifically asked that we relay his deepest sympathy to the victims of this despicable fraud.

 

Mansouri & Son Solicitors

Links:

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Today’s Conveyancer

 

NOTE (added 20 March 2012): After having handed out his sentences in this matter, His Honour Judge Grieve relisted the matter at the Southwark Crown Court and pursuant to the Slip Rule the learned Judge amended the sentences he had given to all defendants. All sentences were reduced by the learned Judge and the sentence of our client, Mr Charles Spiropoulos was reduced to 2 years and 9 months.

Multi-million pound drug smuggler is jailed for 30 years

Multi-million pound drug smuggler is jailed for 30 years

05 March 2012

A man who is believed to be responsible for smuggling hundreds of millions of pounds worth of drugs into the UK was jailed for 30 years on Friday 2 March, following an investigation by UKBA and Customs & Excise officers.

Adegboyega Adeniji, aged 48, of Sandmere Close in Hemel Hempstead was stopped by border officers at Heathrow after he arrived on a flight from Amsterdam on 4 April 2011. Searches of his 2 suitcases revealed they contained a huge quantity of drugs – 31 kg of cocaine, 5 kg of heroin and 2 kg of methamphetamine. In total the haul had a street value of over £4million.

When investigators searched a flat he rented in Regent’s Plaza, Kilburn, they unearthed another 23 suitcases, many of which tested positive for traces of drugs. They also found evidence that he had done the same journey to Amsterdam on many previous occasions, travelling under the guise of a businessman who supplied heavy machinery to the oil business in Nigeria.

Jim Jarvie, deputy director, criminal and financial investigation team, UK Border Agency said:

‘Adeniji was clearly a significant figure at the centre of an extensive criminal network. He was involved in the importation and distribution of class A drugs on a grand scale.

‘Although the true amount of drugs he smuggled into the UK will never be known, it is probably safe to assume he has been responsible for the importation of tens – if not hundreds – of millions of pounds worth.’

The flat in Kilburn was the hub of Adeniji’s criminal business, the place where he stored the drugs that he, had smuggled into the UK.

As well as the abandoned suitcases investigators also found scales, a money counting machine, further packages of drugs and around £2,000 cash. Analysis of his mobile phone showed he had regular contacts with associates in Amsterdam. Some of the texts he sent read like shopping lists of illegal drugs and prices.

Adeniji would then use a room in a nearby hotel in Maida Vale or rented apartment to do his drugs deals. Text messages were found inviting others to the hotel, and these matched his pattern of travel to Amsterdam. Many of the names in the texts matched names found on the packages of drugs he was found with at Heathrow.

Checks on his bank records showed unidentified cash deposits of almost £1m had gone into his account.

Since Adeniji’s arrests assets of between £500,000 and £1,000,000 have been frozen by our investigators. They will now be the subject of Proceeds of Crime Act confiscation proceedings.

Adeniji admitted importation charges, but denied conspiring to import class A drugs. A jury at Isleworth Crown Court unanimously found him guilty. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison the same day.

90% of interpreters boycott Applied Language Solutions

90% of interpreters boycott new ‘flawed’ court system

 

A survey, commissioned by the campaign group Interpreters for Justice, states that 90% of 1,206 interpreters who took part in the online survey have not and will not register for the new system administered by Applied Language Solutions (ALS).

Members of the Association of Police and Court Interpreters (APCI) and Society for Public Service Interpreting (SPSI) which are backing Interpreters for Justice, were amongst those who took part in the survey.

They state they will not sign up to the new system because it is flawed, citing a sub-standard assessment process introduced by ALS which has lowered the standards and is devaluing the interpreting business overall. Some interpreters claim that under the new system they will struggle to earn more than £5 per hour after deduction of expenses and they are simply not prepared to work for these fees. The refusal of the APCI and SPSI interpreters to take part in the new system has embarrassed the Government and left hundreds of defendants stranded at court, unable to advance their cases as the newly appointed Applied Language Solutions has failed to provide interpreters to cover those hearings.

The Interpreters for Justice campaign group has been set up with the sole objective of persuading the Ministry of Justice to scrap the Framework Agreement.

Geoffrey Buckingham, Chairman, Association of Police and Court Interpreters and spokesperson for Interpreters for Justice, said:

“ALS is saying they have 3,000 interpreters on their register, but when 9 in 10 of professional interpreters who replied to our survey say they are refusing to sign up, this does not stack up. The result is that people without training, qualifications or legal experience are being used to interpret in court which is creating chaos and higher costs. The Ministry of Justice might say these are teething problems, but we say they are terminal.”

The Ministry of Justice awarded their single Framework Agreement contract for interpreting services to ALS and it came into effect on 30th January 2012.

Interpreters for Justice also say that interpreters are also refusing requests from court officials who have been given permission by the Ministry of Justice to revert to the National Register of Public Service Interpreters.

New List of Queen’s Counsel published 2011-2012

 

The  new list of Queen’s Counsel appointments for the 2011-2012 year period has now been published.

The 88 appointed this year included:

  • 23 women applicants (58% of the 40 who applied). In the competition in 2010-11, 27 women (66% of the 41 who applied) were appointed.
  • 6 applicants who declared an ethnic origin other than white (40% of the 15 who applied – 3 % of all applicants) were appointed, a lower proportion than in 2010-11 when 12 applicants (60%) were appointed.
  • 4 applicants (of 7) who declared a disability were appointed.  In the competition in 2010-11, 5 applicants declared a disability and 2 appointed.
  • 3 applicants aged over 50 at the time of their application were appointed (8% of this age group), compared with 13 successful applicants (27% of that age group) appointed last year.
  • 2 applications were received from solicitor advocates, neither of whom were appointed, compared with one appointed of the 2 who applied in 2010-11.
  • 1 employed advocate (of 3 applicants) was appointed.  In 2010-11, 2 applications from employed advocates were received and 1 was appointed.

The new successful applicants are as follows:

Forenames

Surname

Broad Field of Practice

Lawrence Mark Akka

1

Jacques Max Algazy

1

Zafar Abbas Ali

2

Tracey Anne Angus

1

Kieron Conrad Beal

1

Gary Terence Bell

2

Ranjit Bhose

1

Deborah Jane Bickerstaff

2

Katherine Elizabeth Blackwell

2

Michael David Bools

1

Paul Edward Bowen

1

Damian Robert Brown

1

Ceri Bryant

1

Andrew Thomas Cayley

2

Richard James Lee Coleman

1

James Douglas Collins

1

Edmund William Hector Cullen

1

Adrian Munro Darbishire

2

Adam David Davis

2

Anneliese Mary Day

1

Thomas Orlando De La Mare

1

Marie-Eleni Eliza Demetriou

1

Benjamin Michael Gordon Elkington

1

David Lewis Evans

1

Caspar Hilary Gordon Glyn

1

Paul Andrew Gott

1

Patrick Curtis Green

1

Nicholas John Griffin

1 & 2

Alexander Rupert Gunning

1

Teertha Gupta

3

Sally-Ann Hales

2

Richard Tristan Harrison

3

Frances Margaret Heaton

3

Mark Stephen Heywood

2

Richard Geoffrey Hill

1

Emma Katherine Himsworth

1

Andrew Michael Hunter

1

Alexander Forbes Hutton

1

Zoe Elisabeth Johnson

2

Sean William Jones

1

Chirag Vrajlal Karia

1

Jonathan Shea Kinnear

1 & 2

James Matthew Lang Laddie

1

Taryn Jane Lee

3

Samantha Louise Leek

1

Henry Legge

1

Nicholas James Henry Lumley

2

John William Machell

1

Philip John Marshall

3

Sara Alayna Masters

1

Michael Anthony Mather-Lees

2

Suzanne Elizabeth McKie

1

Fenella Morris

1

Philip Curt Harold Moser

1

Michael John Mylonas

1

Paul Richard Nicholls

1

Hugh Robert Norbury

1

John Arthur Odgers

1

Suzanne Ornsby

1

Robert Michael O’Sullivan

2

Nigel David Poole

1

Andrew John Post

1

Hugh Geoffrey Preston

1

Dominique Jane Rawley

1

Stuart Martin Ritchie

1

Marc Humphreys Rowlands

1

Rebecca Mary Sabben-Clare

1

Nicola Jane Shaw

1

Charles Isaac Sherrard

2

Navjot Sidhu

2

Andrew Duncan Smith

2

Adrian Speck

1

Piers Alistair Stansfield

1

Howard Linton Stevens

1 & 2

Rebecca Stubbs

1

Anne Elizabeth Studd

1

Rebecca Trowler

2

John Alistair Pitt Vater

3

Kieran Patrick Vaughan

2

Andrew Nigel Malcolm Wales

1

Steven John Walker

1

Richard Beaumont Waller

1

Andrew Ronald Warnock

1

Rupert Miles Warren

1

Pete Francis Weatherby

1 & 2

Peter Lazenby Wilcock

2

Claire Louise Margaret Wills-Goldingham

3

David Frederick Harris Wolfe

1

 

We offer our congratulations to the new Queen’s Counsel on their appointments and look forward to working with them in the future.