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.

Does The UK Need A Prison Reform?

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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

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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

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‘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

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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?

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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

Will We Scrap Human Rights Act?

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The Justice Secretary Liz Truss has pledged that the Human Rights Act will be scrapped in favour of a British Bill of Rights.

Liz was interviewed on Radio 4’s Today programme earlier this week (Monday 22 August) stating “That is a manifesto commitment.”

Despite the uproar from the Scottish Government and recent reports that the bill had been ditched, Liz confirmed that the British Bill of Rights, which was included in the conservatives manifesto in 2015, will go ahead.

Prime Minister Theresa May, in a speech earlier this year, expressed her support of the reform saying: “This is Great Britain, the country of Magna Carta, parliamentary democracy and the fairest courts in the world.”

The British Bill of Rights aims to enable UK authorities to undertake actions that the European laws restricted them to do so. These include the UK being unable to deport criminals and suspected terrorists due to complications brought about by the Human Rights Act.

Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon has made in very clear that she will come to blows again with the Prime Minister following Brexit and defend the Human Rights Act. She claims that by weakening human rights protection, the people who will be most affected by this will be the poor, the vulnerable, and the dispossessed.

As criminal defence lawyers, we’re keen to see the Human Rights Act remain. What’s your opinion? Join @Ogarras to discuss the debate further.

Justice Forlorn In Times of Austerity

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In times of austerity, Justice in the UK has been compromised due to cost cutting within the public sector – including the police.

An approach known as community resolutions has been widely used by the police to deal with offences which cuts the time and resource needed to deal with petty crime and anti-social behaviour. Community resolutions is a non-statutory out-of-court disposal and involves the offender accepting responsibility and reaching an agreement with the victim.

Justice for the victim may be dished in the form of an apology, paying compensation or repairing damage. The offender will not receive a criminal record (although this information can be used against them in future). Does this seem like justice is truly given?

Many will agree it depends on the crime. In April 2013 there was a media storm based on data released from 33 police forces in England and Wales. It showed that over 10,000 serious violent crimes had been dealt with informally to ease pressure on the justice system.

Incidents classed as serious violence included: Grievous bodily harm (GBH) with intent; GBH without intent; Assault occasioning actual bodily harm; Malicious wounding; Wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm and Use of substance or object to endanger life. This meant many criminals got away with committing serious crimes.

Here is the most recent bulletin on crime outcomes in England and Wales 2014 to 2015’ which presents statistics on crime outcomes assigned by the police. This is the first bulletin based entirely on the new outcomes framework which was initially introduced in April 2013 and expanded further to a broader framework in April 2014. 
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/445753/hosb0115.pdf

It shows that out of the 43.8% of crimes that had an outcome, 8% were settled through community resolutions. And of that, around 30% were arguably serious crimes such as violence against a person, sexual offences and possession of a weapon. Does this seem like justice is being compromised? We’d like to hear your thoughts on the matter. Join us on twitter @Ogarras

Outstanding results achieved for clients on recent Environmental Law cases

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Our expertise in this area has been welcomed by clients nationwide over recent weeks after our successful representation for them in cases brought by the Environmental Agency.

Our representation has seen the courts accepts our investigative work to demonstrate lesser harm, resulting in lower culpability and reduced fines being issued to clients. Michael O’Garra has worked closely with these clients to ensure they have the best defence possible.

Our environmental case load is growing significantly on the back of the results we have been able to deliver for our clients, which has then seen them recommending us to other businesses facing similar issues.

If you know anyone facing prosecution by the Environment Agency we’re experts in this area if they need help, advice and a strong case to be put forward in their defence.

It’s all change – latest people moves at O’Garra’s

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We’re delighted to welcome Gemma Raines back from maternity leave. Gemma is our prison law specialist and is your main point of contact for any prison related issues.

Bob Bridle has chosen to retire after many great years of service with us. Bob has an amazing track record of successfully opposing applications for the forfeiture of cash seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act from our clients.
Gemma has taken over Bob’s case load and we have enhanced the team to cope with the influx of cases in this area.

All the very best to Bob, we wish him a long and happy retirement, and good luck to Gemma with her new areas of responsibility.