What happens in Rome, may not stay in Rome

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Most people know that if you commit a criminal offence in the UK, the police will record details of that offence and any subsequent sentence so that it is revealed during any future PNC (Police National Computer) check.

But what about offending abroad, can that be kept a secret?

The answer depends on where the offence has been committed.

Offences in the EU

The UK is part of EU Council Framework Decision 2009/315/JHA; this means that if the foreign offence has an equivalent offence in England & Wales which is deemed “recordable”, it will be notified to ACRO (Automating Conviction Requests Office) who will add it to the PNC.

If a link to Scotland or Northern Ireland is identified in the transmitted data through place of birth or address, the information will be forwarded to the Scottish Police Services Authority (SPSA) and/or the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) for their information.

Despite this clear framework, it is still often the case that offence information is not, for whatever reason, always reported back to the UK.

What is a “recordable” offence?

Where a foreign offence is received by the UK police it will be updated on to the PNC if it is listed as being a “recordable” offence as set out in The National Police Records (Recordable Offences) Regulation 2000.

The Regulation states that recordable offences are those punishable with imprisonment and those specified in the Schedule to the Regulation.

Offences committed outside the EU

If you have been convicted in a country outside of the EU, the conviction details may be forwarded to the UK if you are a UK national. Much will depend on which country is involved and how committed it is to the exchange of criminal records data, but as outlined below, even if the information hasn’t been automatically supplied to UK police, it may still be requested at a later date.

Police requests

The UK is part of the International criminal conviction exchange, which enables police forces to easily exchange relevant information, on request.

When a foreign national is arrested in the UK, for the majority of police forces the process of requesting a foreign criminal records check is now automated, taking around 10 minutes to process.

Similarly, even if an offence committed outside of the UK has not been communicated to UK police, a request may still reveal it.

And what about foreign nationals who commit offences in the UK?

The UK will exchange records with foreign police forces in accordance with the above rules. To give you an idea of the popularity of criminal records exchanges, between March and November 2017 ACRO received more than 70,300 requests from EU countries alone.

Impact

Competent solicitors will advise you as to the impact of UK convictions if you are a foreign national and will also recognise that checks during criminal proceedings in the UK may reveal convictions from abroad.

This is important as the information could be used as part of a bad character application and may also be relevant to sentencing. Also, it will be important in multi-handed cases to ensure that the full criminal past of any co-defendant has been explored, as this may provide evidence in your favour.

What happens in Rome, or London, or anywhere else for that matter, may be a secret for now, but once criminal proceedings commence it is an altogether different story.

How can we help?

All of our lawyers recognise the International aspects of criminal justice; if you are facing investigation or proceedings for any offence, it is important that you get in touch with us as early as possible so that we can best protect your interests.

Contact us now on 0113 247 1477, or email [email protected].

Got a comment? Chat with is on Twitter – @OGarras.

Dogs – Avoiding a death penalty

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It is often said that there is no such thing as a dangerous dog, only a dangerous owner.

While we often refer to ‘dangerous dogs’ in criminal law, the actual offences relate to dogs ‘dangerously out of control’.

Section 10 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 states that:

‘A dog shall be regarded as dangerously out of control on any occasion on which there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will injure any person (or assistance dog), whether or not it actually does so.’

The penalties for ‘dangerous dog’ offences are severe, with imprisonment of up to 14 years available where death is caused, but what is not often understood is that an offence may lead to the destruction of the dog.

In relation to some offences the court may order destruction, but in others, the court must order destruction unless assured (by imposing strict conditions) that the dog would not constitute a danger to public safety.

When deciding whether a dog would constitute a danger to public safety, the court—

(a) must consider—

(i) the temperament of the dog and its past behaviour, and
(ii) whether the owner of the dog, or the person for the time being in charge of it, is a fit and proper person to be in charge of the dog, and

(b) may consider any other relevant circumstances.

Avoiding destruction

In all cases where a court is considering destruction, attention must be drawn to the court’s power to order instead ‘contingent destruction’, this will prevent the dog’s destruction provided that the conditions imposed are met.

The key case remains R v Flack [2008] EWCA Crim 204 where the following criteria were established:

“The relevant principles that can be made in respect of a dog whose owner has been convicted under section 3(1) of the 1991 Act of failing to keep a dog under control in a public place are that:

(1) The court is empowered under section 4(1) of the 1991 Act to order the destruction of the dog.

(2) Nothing in that provision shall require the court to order destruction if the court is satisfied that the dog would not constitute a danger to public safety: section 4(1)(a) of the 1991 Act.

(3) The court should ordinarily consider, before ordering immediate destruction, whether to exercise the power under section 4A(4) of the 1991 Act to order that, unless the owner of the dog keeps it under proper control, the dog shall be destroyed (“a suspended order of destruction”).

(4) A suspended order of destruction under that provision may specify the measures to be taken by the owner for keeping the dog under control whether by muzzling, keeping it on a lead, or excluding it from a specified place or otherwise: see section 4(a)(5) of the 1991 Act.

(5) A court should not order destruction if satisfied that the imposition of such a condition would mean the dog would not constitute a danger to public safety.

(6) In deciding what order to make, the court must consider all the relevant circumstances which include the dog’s history of aggressive behaviour and the owner’s history of controlling the dog concerned in order to determine what order should be made.”

What we can do

It is unlikely that legal argument alone will suffice to convince a court to order contingent destruction. In almost all cases you will need the assistance of an expert in dog behaviour, alongside expert advocacy. We can arrange for the preparation of suitable expert reports.

How we can help

If you are facing criminal proceedings, contact us as soon as possible. Our solicitors are well versed in this aspect of the law and will ensure your best defence.

Get in touch at [email protected] or on 0113 247 1477. Join the chat on Twitter – we’re @ogarras.

Police roll out portable identity checking

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Police roll out portable identity checking

The government this week announced that West Yorkshire Police has signed up to a new identity checking service.

The new service, already being used in a select number of force areas, with a further 20 going live before the end of this year, will remove the need for suspects to be taken to a police station to check identity.

It is anticipated that this will reap benefits for frontline officers and suspects alike, freeing up police to continue with other duties and reducing needless detentions.

Police leaders have commented:

“Early examples of the new system in action include a firearms unit, who detained a driver after a short pursuit and were able to identify him as a disqualified driver, despite him giving false details. He was issued with a summons for three offences and his vehicle seized. The armed response unit returned to patrol within ten minutes, and without the mobile fingerprint scanner this could have resulted in the unit being out of action for four hours taking the individual to a custody suite.”

The new service works by connecting a small fingerprint scanner to a mobile phone App. Within seconds of taking a print the suspect’s identity can be checked across the two main police databases, allowing police after that to deal more appropriately with the suspect.

While this technology has been available for a few years, reduced pricing has now made it affordable enough for a national rollout. Scanners that previously cost around £3,000 can now be purchased for under £300.

Liberty, the leading human rights organisation has been less enthusiastic, commenting that:

“This scheme is part of a pattern of the police using radical privacy-invading technology without proper public consultation or meaningful parliamentary oversight. Much like the facial recognition technology that is increasingly being deployed by police forces, it is being presented to us after the event and with little fanfare and is being made available to more and more officers across the country. In this case, we learned about it via a sneaky gov.uk post early on a Saturday morning.”

There are important protections for suspects that are to be found in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. If you have any concerns about the use of these powers, please contact us to discuss further. Where fingerprint identification is being used evidentially by the prosecution, we always take particular care to ensure that the law has been complied with.

How We Can Help

If you are a professional person facing criminal proceedings, contact us as soon as possible. Our solicitors are well versed in this aspect of the law and will ensure your best defence. Get in touch at [email protected] or on 0113 247 1477. Join the chat on Twitter – we’re @ogarras.

Government snooping ruled unlawful

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In a legal challenge brought by the MP Tom Watson, and supported by campaign group Liberty, the High Court ruled that a major plank of the government’s surveillance strategy is unlawful (Secretary of State for the Home Department v Watson MP & Ors [2018] EWCA Civ 70).

When Theresa May was Home Secretary, she brought before parliament the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers At 2014, and the current case was a challenge to that law. Initial proceedings were referred to the European Court of Justice who agreed with our courts that the powers were far too extensive. This case is the final judgment from the Court of Appeal.

As a result of those early legal losses, the legislation was repealed and replaced by The Investigatory Powers Act 2016. So, given that the legislation being challenged is no longer in force is this judgment relevant?

There is a challenge about the new Act underway already, and that case will be heard later this year, but what is interesting is that the new Act contains some of the provisions now ruled to be unlawful.

The government has already indicated that it will again seek to amend the law, but it appears that the current proposals do not go far enough. If that analysis is correct, then the government will once again be forced into a corner so far as its surveillance programme is concerned.

At stake is the indiscriminate targeting of citizens, not just people suspected of criminal activity, but every day snooping on the lives of everyone to build up a database of information for future use. Fears over access to that database and how it might be used for different purposes in future, not just national security, are at the heart of objections to the government’s plans.

The current law is objectionable as it:

  • Did not restrict access to this data, in the context of the investigation and prosecution of crime, to the purpose of fighting serious crime.
  • Let police and public bodies authorise their own access, instead of subjecting access requests to prior authorisation by a court or independent body.

Some, of course, say that if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear, but campaigning group Liberty counters with this chilling observation:

“Since this legal challenge was launched in 2014, the Investigatory Powers Act has not only re-legislated for the powers found unlawful today, but gone much further.

The Act dramatically expanded powers to gather data on the entire population while maintaining the lack of safeguards that resulted in this legal challenge. It also legalised other unprecedented mass surveillance powers – including mass hacking, spying on phone calls and emails on an industrial scale and collecting huge databases containing sensitive information on millions of people.”

How we can help

Surveillance evidence is often a feature of serious criminal cases; our solicitors are well versed in this aspect of the law and will ensure that only evidence lawfully obtained is used in court proceedings against our clients. If you’ve got a case you’d like to discuss further, please get in touch on 0113 247 1477 or email at [email protected]. You can also find us on Twitter at @ogarras.

Revenge porn can be an expensive business

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“Revenge porn”, the criminal act of posting online intimate sexual pictures/video of a person without their consent, carries a potential prison sentence of up to 2 years, so already there is every reason to think twice before exacting this type of revenge on a former lover.

However, celebrity vlogger Chrissy Chambers has taken the matter one step further in launching an action in the High Court designed to secure no further infringement of her rights, and substantial financial damages.

Her ex-partner allowed six sexual videos to be uploaded to the adult site redtube.com, with Ms Chambers being identified by name in 3 of those videos.

The videos were filmed in her home, but without her consent, and showed sexual activity between her and her partner.

She argued in court that this had caused her ‘serious distress’, resulting in post-traumatic distress disorder.

In the 19 months that the videos were online a large number of people had viewed them, including some people who wrote to her expressing their displeasure at the belief that she was ‘intentionally involved in pornography’, to such a degree that they did not wish to watch her offerings on YouTube.

In a settlement agreed by the High Court on 18th January 2018, her partner accepted that the posting of the videos was in breach of confidence, misuse of private information and a breach of her article 8 rights (the right to privacy).

To provide future protection, copyright in the videos was transferred to her.

While this is not the first action of its kind (singer Tulisa Contostavlos brought a similar case in 2012), it is notable that Ms Chambers has actively sought publicity about this case, when she could have chosen anonymity.

The legal action was funded by way of a crowd-funding campaign, itself designed to raise public awareness of this issue.

By doing so, she has put this issue into the public domain, and it may well act as a deterrent to those thinking of doing something similar in future, but also a reminder to victims that there could be an easy route to substantial damages, provided of course that the person committing this unlawful act has the means to pay them.

We can assist

To discuss this, or any other matter, please contact O’Garra’s on 0113 247 1477 or [email protected] for prompt specialist advice.

Got a comment? Join us on twitter (@ogarras) to let us know your thoughts.

A Case Of Life Or Death – Denial Of Treatment And Assisted Dying

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Assisted dying is a hot topic in the press at the moment with two cases bringing it to the lime light: Charlie Gard and Noel Conway.

In the UK, it is illegal to commit suicide or assist the death of someone. Assisted dying meaning ‘allowing a dying person the choice to control their death if they decide their suffering is unbearable.’ Both are illegal under the terms of the Suicide Act (1961) and are punishable by up to 14 years’ imprisonment.

Fighting for life

However, with the highly reported case of Charlie Gard, his parents are being denied the chance to let him live. His parents are currently in their latest stages of a high court battle to fight for treatment for their terminally ill baby who is 11 months old.

Charlie suffers from a rare genetic condition and brain damage and his parents (Chris Gard and Connie Yates) are fighting to allow Charlie to be transferred to the US for a therapy trial with top New York specialists.

Chris and Connie have already lost a number of rulings which have favoured with Great Ormond Hospital, where Charlie is currently based, to let him die with dignity and turn off his life support.

With new evidence appearing following the examination of Charlie by a US specialist, a judge is to review the information and direct the case from there.

But what does this case mean for assisted dying and human rights? Should parents be given more rights to allow their child to live, does the court’s rulings constitute as assisted dying?

On the flip side, 67-year-old Noel Conway is fighting a high court battle to allow him to die. Noel has motor neurone disease and wants the right to take a lethal dose when his health deteriorates.

He believes he should have the right to die when the time is right for him and his family rather than turning into a ‘zombie-like’ state. This way he can say goodbye to loved ones rather than being a burden on them when he can no longer think or move for himself.

His campaign is to change the law on allowing assisted dying but it would only apply to those who are terminally ill with less than six months to live and wish to control when they would like to die.

In 2015, MPs voted against the change in law re assisted dying. The outcome of Noels latest High Court hearing is yet to be published.

Dignity in Dying and other organisations continue to campaign hard to change the law in England and Wales alongside the many people who want to have control over how they die. Many people agree it’s a breach of human rights to be denied that choice. What’s your opinion? Do you agree that parents should have more rights on decisions about their child’s life and do you agree that those facing an inevitable and painful journey towards death should have the right to die as they wish?

Join us on Twitter @OGarras to discuss further.

Brexit and The Law – Criminal Defence Solicitors

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BREXIT AND THE LAW

So the Theresa May’s Conservative Party have have managed to cling to power following the General Election which saw them lose their majority and turn to the DUP to form a ‘Supply and Demand’ agreement. This will see key Conservative policies voted through – including, of course, Conservative Brexit plans.

PM Theresa May called a snap General Election in the hope she would win more seats in Parliament and allow her to push through a hard Brexit. However, that’s now not the case and as Brexit negotiations have now started, what does this mean for UK law?

Unravelling legal ties which have been in place for 40 years is a mean feat for anyone. It’s going to take some time before our legal system is completely separated from the EU, and at what cost? It’s important we don’t undermine vital areas of cooperation and security gained from our relationship with the EU, and with a softer Brexit approach, it will be easier to ensure that.

According to the Law Society, key issues for the legal sector include:
• recognition and enforcement of judgments
• the EU-wide arrest warrant, a vital tool in fighting crime
• maintaining legal certainty throughout the Brexit process
• practice rights continued to the mutual advantage of all.

Thanks to our EU membership, benefits for the British law industry currently include the ability to offer cross-border services, UK lawyers can appear before EU courts and their clients are entitled to confidentiality. Law firms have also been able to set up and operate subsidiaries in other EU countries. Losing these could be detrimental to a very successful and powerful arm of our trade.

Another major concern is to ensure businesses and individual’s rights are still applied and disputes arbitrated. Post Brexit UK needs to work with the EU to form a deal that ensures the safety and human rights of the British people.

It’s going to be an interesting journey and one we’ll be watching very closely. Keep an eye on the blog as we follow the negotiations and how they will affect British law.

What do you think about Brexit?

Join us on Twitter @OGarras to discuss further. The O’Garra’s team are experienced Criminal Defence Lawyers – get in touch today to see how we can help with your case.

Terror Alert – What It Means For Britain

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Manchester, 22 May 2017. 22 people left dead, and many more injured after a suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena. Immediately after the event, the government raised the terror threat to critical – the highest possible level, meaning a further attack was considered imminent.

While the threat level has since been downgraded to ‘severe’, we wanted to take a look at the different ratings and what they mean for Britain.

What does this mean?

The decision to raise the level to critical came as a result of investigations which claim the bomber was acting as part of a wider and dangerous terrorist network of British jihadists fighting for Islamic State extremists in Syria and Iraq. A number of arrests have since been made, including family members of the British-born bomber, Salman Abedi.

The critical level is the highest seen in 10 years.

Terror threat ratings were brought into play in the UK by security chiefs in 2006 and it has never fallen below ‘substantial’. Those ratings, described by MI5, are:

MI5 Threat level descriptions:

LOW means an attack is unlikely

MODERATE means an attack is possible, but not likely

SUBSTANTIAL means an attack is a strong possibility

SEVERE means an attack is highly likely

CRITICAL means an attack is expected imminently

Announcing a ‘Critical’ state has seen up to 5000 British soldiers deployed across key locations in the country including Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street. Troops will replace officers at key public and sporting events. This move also frees up the public services to deal with the investigation at hand. Security will also be increased at other possible targets such as railway stations and airports.

What this means for the general public is, for the foreseeable future, everyone is to remain vigilant and careful.

If you suspect someone is involved in terrorism in any way, you should call the police, or report your suspicions to them online. You have the right to remain anonymous.

What happens now?
The investigation will continue and the UK will remain at a severe level until the government can be sure the possibility of another attack is less likely.

If want to discuss this further, join us on Twitter @Ogarras

What Will The General Election Mean For The Law?

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Earlier this month (April 2017), the Prime Minister, Theresa May, called a snap election which is to take place on June 8, 2017.

Parliment broke up on May 3 meaning formal business will come to a halt and the Queen will officially dissolve parliament.

So, what does this mean for UK law?

The big news in the legal sector at the moment is the Prison and Courts bill being scrapped. The bill which was put forward by former Justice Secretary, Michael Gove would have seen an overhaul of the courts, changes to the personal injury market, prisons reform, prison inspections on the use of mobile phones by inmates, and a new online dispute resolution system.

The reason it’s been shelved is MPs and peers felt there wasn’t enough time to examine the bill. This has received a mixed response, especially from those who have campaigned to see much needed changes in UK prisons. The bill will be free for the next government to pick it back up – but there are concerns at how long that could be.

The Criminal Finance bill is also facing uncertainty. This legislation has had 50 amendments filed against it which could slow down the process of seeing it become law. It will see changes such as new powers to oblige suspects to explain the source of their assets, and allow authorities to seize the proceeds of crime whether it is being kept in a bank account, or has been used to buy property and other goods. It would also allow companies facilitating tax evasion to be prosecuted and it will bring new measures on combating terrorist finance.

The government has also announced it is dropping the new probate proposal until after the election, with the possibility it could be dropped altogether.

The proposal laid out by the Ministry of Justice was set to raise an extra £300m a year by increasing probate fees. The fate of this scheme will also be in the hands of the next government.

There’s a lot resting on the outcome of the next election and so it remains to be seen what lies ahead for UK law following May’s snap decision.

What are your thoughts? Join us on Twitter @Ogarras

ARE YOU BREAKING THE LAW WITHOUT KNOWING? TEN WEIRD LAWS YOU WEREN’T AWARE OF…

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Since the Government triggered Article 50 last week, we’ve seen many debates about what will happen to EU laws in Britain over the next two years and beyond.

So we thought we’d have a look at some of the more ‘bizzare’ laws which apply in England & Wales. Some of which probably should have been scrapped, but have slipped under the radar… Take these for example:

1. Did you know it’s illegal to be drunk in a pub? How many of you have broken the law? This was brought into effect in 1872.

2. It is illegal to carry a plank of wood along a pavement (as well as any ladder, wheel, pole, cask, placard, showboard or hoop) in the Metropolitan Police District, London. This has been a law since 1839.

3. Who enjoyed a game of knock-a-door-run when they were a kid? Did you know that knocking on someone’s door and running away has been illegal since 1839?

4. Here’s one for all you London commuters. Have you ever jumped the queue in the tube ticket hall? Well, that’s illegal as well!

5. It is illegal to handle salmon under suspicious circumstances – this law was brought into effect in 1986.

6. Did you know that if you get an alarm fitted at home, it is against the law to activate it without nominating a ‘key-holder’ who can switch it off in your absence?

7. It is illegal to shake or beat a rug, carpet or mat (except doormats before 8am) in a thoroughfare in the Metropolitan Police District.

8. Any beached whales must be offered to the reigning monarch and automatically becomes their property. This has been in forced for hundreds of years, since 1322!

9. Did you know that it is illegal to wear armour in parliament? We’re guessing this won’t be an issue for most of you. This dates back to 1313 and was issued during a period of turmoil in English politics.

10. And one for all you countryside folk, don’t be herding cows while intoxicated. It’s illegal to manage cattle while drunk!

How many of these offences are you guilty of?

Of course, we see many court cases which leave the mind boggling – and wonder how on earth they ended up in court in the first place.

Now, it’s not unheard of for people to seek compensation for physical abuse or being attacked. But in 2014, Cathie Kelly (59) in 2014, claimed she’d fallen down and hurt herself after a seagull assaulted her. She claimed it came for her at full speed, straight towards her. As a result, Mrs Kelly demanded £7,000 from the landlords of her workplace. She claimed it was their responsibility to deal with the birds, which became aggressive when their chicks were born.

In another crazy case, Cathy McGowan got lucky and won a car when she entered a competition run by her local radio station. She was obviously overjoyed until she found out it was a 4inch long model of the motor when she was expecting a full-sized Renault Clio. She decided to sue the station for £8,000 – the price of a new car. The judge in Derby said a contract had been formed between the station and the winner and they were ordered to pay her.

So there we have it 10 unusual laws that are still in place in England and Wales today and some crazy court cases. Do you think any of these will form part of the Brexit divorce discussions?

Let us know
Join us on Twitter @OGarras on Twitter if you have any bonkers laws or cases you’d add to this list.