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

Posted on:

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

Posted on:

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

Posted on:

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?

Posted on:

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…

Posted on:

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.

Does The UK Need A Prison Reform?

Posted on:

A Panorama investigation aired on BBC1 recently, showing an undercover reporter filming at HMP Northumberland – a training prison offering a range of educational programmes to prepare inmates for release.

The results were shocking and showed that there is a desperate need for reform at English and Welsh prisons. HMP Northumberland houses 1,348 male inmates and it was quite clear that they were in charge, not the staff.

During filming, viewers could see drugs were rife, there was a lack of control, prison staff were afraid, inmates were able to sneak out and collect drugs and other items thrown over the fence and some prisoners were not even locked in their cells at night.

Ministry of Justice

This all stems from 2014, when the Government aimed to cut £500m from the prison budget. At the time, the Prison Officers Association warned this would result in chaos.

HMP Northumberland was privatised, and is now run by Sodexo Justice Services which has cut jobs to save on spending. The president of the Prison Governors Association, Andrea Albutt, reportedly told the BBC that staff cuts across the board were the cause of the loss of control in prisons.

Justice Secretary, Liz Truss, said there are no ‘quick fix’ solutions and in a speech on Monday (13 February 2017) at the Centre for Social Justice, she said she wants to see a reduction in the prison population by ‘reforming offenders through early intervention and more effective community penalties, and by better managing those who are locked up’.

This comes ahead of the prison and courts reform bill which is set to be published this month. It looks at radical reform and tackling the increasingly unstable and dangerous prison situations in England and Wales. The latest figures recorded show the highest ever level of self-inflicted deaths, assaults and self-harm across UK prisons.

The Ministry of Justice told the BBC: “The justice secretary has been clear that levels of violence and self-harm in our prisons are too high, which is why we are investing an extra £100m annually to boost the front line by 2,500 officers.

“These are longstanding issues which will not be resolved in weeks or months but we are determined to make our prisons places of safety and reform.”

Is it all a bit too late? What do you think about this?

Join us on Twitter @OGarras to discuss further.

Online Dating – Stay Safe

Posted on:

With busy modern day lives, many are now turning to the internet to find potential friends or partners. Tinder, Match.com, e-harmony, Facebook, Twitter and Happn are just a handful of online sites that are geared to helping people connect and form relationships.

However, meeting people online creates potential risks, as the recent Stephen Port case shows. Unfortunately, this is just one of many cases that have resulted in scams, abuse or, sadly, fatalities.

It doesn’t matter about your age, gender or relationship preference, being careful and understanding the risks of online dating applies to everyone. It’s a minefield and can lead to people becoming exposed and vulnerable.

If you’re not aware of the Stephan Port case, he was recently jailed for life for the murder of four young men. Stephen used online sites to lure his victims to his London flat before drugging them with lethal doses of a date rape drug.

The internet is an ever-changing world and so the laws, rules and regulations surrounding online grooming, abuse and exploitation are difficult to keep up with. Old legislations are having to be amended to incorporate new online offences.

One area of major concern is the vulnerability of children. The NSPCC launched a ‘Flaw in the Law’ campaign which led to David Cameron introducing new legislation in 2015 making it an offence for an adult to knowingly send a sexual message to a child and The Sexual Offences Act 2003 now includes sexual grooming. Although action can only be taken by authorities where it can be proved an adult intended to meet a child, increasingly, online abusers have no intention of meeting the child physically. They may, for example, persuade a child to perform sexual acts via a camera function.

Other legislation updates include the ‘Malicious Communications Act 1988’ – it is now an offence to send an electronic message with the intention of causing distress or anxiety and the ‘Communications Act 2003 Section 127’ now states that is an offence to send a message that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character.

While the policies around these issues continue to be improved and developed, there is also a major need for educating the public on staying safe when developing relationships online. There are many support groups and sites out there to help and a bit of research and reading before engaging with someone unknown could make all the difference to someone’s safety.

Join us on Twitter @Ogarras to discuss this topic further.

HO HO HO, Have a Merry Safe Christmas! Drink Driving and the Festive Season

Posted on:

‘Tis the season to be jolly… and sometimes too jolly. Christmas is the time of year where people can get carried away, over excited and, often, easily persuaded. So staying on the right side of the law can often be a battle of wills.

With the party season, usually, comes alcohol. And, if you’re driving to an office bash or gathering with friends and family, that inner voice can start to say, ‘just one more, it’s Christmas’ or, ‘go on then, I’ll have another to celebrate’. But that extra tipple could be the one that pushes you over the edge. People often forget that if they’ve been drinking the night before, they may still be over the limit to drive the next morning.

As it currently stands, the limit is 80mg alcohol/100ml blood but there have been recent calls to reduce the drink-drive limit to 50mg/100ml. The Institute of Alcohol Studies says reducing the legal limit would save at least 25 lives per year and statistics from the Department of Transport show that drink driving costs Great Britain £800m each year. Also, be aware that some constituencies operate on a zero tolerance scheme – something Scotland already has in place and perhaps the rest of the UK may follow suit at some point. It’s definitely worth remembering if you are heading north of the border as their legislation in this area is different.

It’s recommended that people don’t have an alcoholic drink at all when driving but particularly over Christmas when the police are extra vigilant. If you are caught over the limit, the consequences can vary from a caution to points on your licence and a fine, to a lifetime ban. Here at O’Garra’s, we just don’t think it’s worth the risk. But if you have been caught, ensure you seek legal advice as soon as you can. We’re a criminal defence solicitors based in Leeds and we’re on hand 24 hours a day, seven days a week – INCLUDING Christmas and New Year, so do not hesitate to call us on: 0113 247 1477 or, our out-of-office-hours number: 0779 352 7288.

Other cases we can deal with:

  • Death by dangerous driving
  • Speeding
  • Failing to stop
  • Failing to report an accident
  • Use of mobile phone when driving – Messaging, calling or general use
  • Careless driving
  • Dangerous driving
  • Totting up procedures
  • Special reasons and exceptional hardship



Stay safe and have a very merry Christmas from all at O’Garra’s

Things Drivers Should Know About Motoring Laws

Posted on:

We get many clients coming to us having being charged with a motoring offence – yet they didn’t realise they had been doing something wrong. From not keeping your distance from cyclists, to using your mobile phone, we thought we’d put together a list of the ‘top things all motorists should know’.

Mind the gap

Lots of people get road rage when it comes to cyclists. But the following may help you understand their actions better. The DirectGov website states that it is recommended for a cyclist to ride well clear of the kerb – one metre away or in the centre of the left lane. The traffic law says that drivers must pass at a safe distance. That means drivers need to wait until there is room to over take and to leave as much room as they would when over taking a car. When a travel lane is not wide enough to share, safe bicyclists move to the middle of the lane to insure that motorists use the next lane over to pass or wait until it is safe.

Texting while driving

We bet the majority of you reading this have at some point texted while in the car – even if you are stationary in traffic. It is against the law to use a handheld mobile phone when driving which includes using your phone to read messages and using maps for directions. If you’re using hands free, there is still a chance you could be prosecuted if you don’t seem in complete control of your car.

If you’re caught using your mobile phone when driving, you will get six penalty points and a £200 fine. If it has been two years or less since passing your test and you get six points, you will lose you licence. So for a new driver, just one offence would be enough to lose your licence.

Drug driving

Just about everyone knows that driving over the alcohol limit is illegal, but a lot of people hadn’t realised it is also illegal to drive under the influence of drugs – including prescription drugs such as diazepam, methadone and morphine! The law in England and Wales states that it is illegal to drive with legal drugs in your body if it impairs your driving. If you are caught, you could face a large fine, a driving ban and even a prison sentence.

Smoking in cars with children

In October 2015, smoking in a car with children (persons under the age of 18) was banned. This law was brought into effect to reduce the amount of children exposed to second-hand smoke. If you are caught breaking this legislation, you could receive a large fine.
Work Vehicles: Did you also know that smoking in work vehicles has been illegal since 2007?

Causing a splash

If you splash pedestrians with puddles, they actually have the right to take your registration number and report you to the police. It can be classed as careless driving which is punishable by a fine (of up to £5000!) and up to nine points on your licence.

Paper counterpart driving licence
 
As of June 2015, the UK stopped issuing paper counterpart driving licences. Although paper driving licences issued before the photocard was introduced (1988) are still valid, all points and penalties will be recorded online rather than paper. This is something that people should know when applying/starting a job that requires a driving licence.

Making a Plea

The Government is rolling out a new ‘Make a Plea’ service following a successful trial in Greater Manchester. The aim is to reduce the amount of time magistrates spend on minor motoring offences and allows the motorist to make their case online without having to attend court.

There are constant changes being made to road laws – as criminal defence solicitors (based in Leeds), we have experts on hand who work on this day-in, day-out and fully understand the rules and regulations. It’s not unusual for us to meet clients who hadn’t realised they’d committed an offence so if you need further advice, then get in touch and we’ll gladly help. 0113 247 1477

Twitter @Ogarras

SEXTING – WHAT’S THE IMPACT?

Posted on:

Sexting is a relatively new term yet a rapidly rising one and the impact and consequences of it can be very serious – particularly when it comes to youngsters.

With smart-phones and technology taking over and as more and more young people are glued to their screens, there has been a continued increase in minors sexting.

WHAT IS SEXTING?

Sexting is usually referred to as the sending and receiving of:

  • rude text messages or videos
  • naked images
  • underwear poses
  • sexual or ‘dirty’ pictures

This can be done via a number of channels including, text messages, social media, emails and social apps.

What does it mean for minors if they have been sexting, or if they have been exploited?

It can be a bit of a grey area when minors are involved in sexting. Firstly, did you know that under British law, despite the legal age to have sex being 16, it is illegal and a serious offence to take, possess and share indecent images of anyone under 18 years old – including if the person in the picture is yourself?
This is an offence under the Protection of Children Act 1978 and the Criminal Justice Act 1988

One of the main concerns about minor’s sexting is that once a message has been sent, they no longer have control over it, where it goes and where it could end up. Also, minors are more susceptible to being persuaded, guilt tripped or pressured into participating. The reason the law has set the age at 18 is to reduce the amount of young people being exploited. Also, to prevent culprits from participating in an act that they don’t fully understand.

However, it’s easily done and it’s an area where young people can get carried away. So it’s no surprise to us – a criminal defence solicitors based in Leeds – that we have seen a rise in cases involving the above. It is also not a surprise to us that most of our clients prosecuted for sexting involving a minor hadn’t realised they were breaking the law.

If this is a situation you’re in or your child is in, then get in touch. 0113 247 1477
Twitter @Ogarras