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.

Right to remain silent….. and ask for a solicitor

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According to the Home Office there were 950,000 arrests carried out by police in England and Wales in the year ending March 2015. But how many of them asked for a solicitor?

According to a gov.uk legal aid report from July 2014-June 2015, it showed that legal aid crime lower (work carried out at the pre-charge and police station stage, the early court system and prison assistance) expenditure was £323m – a 7% fall in completed work on the previous year. This correlates with lower crime rates. It could also indicate that not everyone made the most of their rights for free legal advice.

When arrested in the UK, under section 42 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), Police may detain you before being charged. This can be up to 36 hours depending on the situation. Police can apply to magistrates for a further extension of between 60-96 hours without charge.

The Home Office report showed that in the year ending March 2015, there were a total of 3,133 persons detained for more than 24 hours by police in England and Wales. 94% (2,933) of those detained were held for between 24 and 36 hours, before being released without charge, and a further 3% (87 persons) were held for more than 36 hours, before being released without charge. The remaining 113 were detained under warrant for further arrest.

Data from the Home Office report showed a consistency with previous years in that the majority of arrests were male (84%). The majority (80%) of persons arrested considered themselves to be White. Persons who identified themselves as being Black (or Black British) were almost three times as likely to be arrested as those who were White.

As a leading criminal defence solicitors (based in Leeds), we have heard of many cases where the accused doesn’t accept legal help. And it is usually those that believe they have done nothing wrong. This is often the time that you need a solicitor the most – to ensure that message gets across and you can prove your innocence.

We cannot urge and educate people enough on using their human right for free legal advice when arrested. You are by law entitled to free legal advice whether by a solicitor in person or on the phone. And you have the freedom to choose which solicitor. So why not use it?

We provide legal support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And we are ready, prepared and highly experienced in whatever case it may be. So if you need help, get in touch.

We want to know more about your experience if you’ve ever been in the unfortunately situation to be arrested. Did you get offered free legal advice? Did you accept it? Tell us your story… @Ogarras

Rights and entitlements

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/321616/ERDraft3_07-01-14.pdf

Tougher Sentences For Most Serious Cases of Animal Cruelty Proposed

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diCekCfIRNXncGu-800x450-noPadAnimal charities and many others will welcome new proposals for tougher sentences in animal cruelty cases. But what will happen to those accused?

Last week (19 May 2016), the sentencing council unveiled a new proposal to hand out tougher sentences to those found guilty of the most serious cases of animal cruelty. The aim is to ensure that the most serious cases lead to prison sentences.

This is a timely revelation following recent social media and news outbreaks of animal cruelty of two boys violently hurling their dog down some stairs while filming it and some youths beating ducklings to death in Leeds.

Once in affect, the changes will see the most serious of cases lead to prison sentences.

But the changes will also see fewer cases fall into this category which in turn will reduce the number of serious offenders. What we, and those dealing with the cases find is that most cases of serious neglect are from animal lovers who have not carried out intentional acts of cruelty. They may not have the money for a much needed vet visit or for sorting out the environment in which they are kept etc. This over time leads to the problem getting worse and as such the ‘neglect’ seeming worse.

The council is looking to revise guidelines for 27 ‘varied’ offences which will streamline sentencing and ensure all magistrates use the same approach in ’summary only’ offences.

Have you been accused of animal cruelty? If so we’re leading experts in this field. We’re a criminal defence solicitors based in Leeds and work on cases nationwide. We deal with these cases every day and fully understand the changes in the law. Get in touch to discuss how we can help.

Do you agree that the most serious cases should receive tougher punishments? Join us @OGarras to discuss further.

Charged with rape? Should the accused have right to anonymity?

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When well documented, high profile rape cases are brought to the public’s attention, it always creates an argument as to whether the defendant should have the right to remain anonymous.

The UK’s Sexual Offences Act 1976 states that a victim/complainant has the right to remain anonymous for life. With this, it means it is a criminal offence to release or publish information that may lead to the victim being identified. This anonymity under the Act also extends to other various sexual offences.

So our question is, should the defendant have the same right in a society where you are innocent until proven guilty? And should they have the right to remain anonymous if convicted? This is a very grey area. Currently, it is only in exceptional circumstances that the defendant’s identity be kept anonymous. And this is often only because it would lead to the identification of the complainant.

The Sexual Offences Act did grant the same protection to defendants as it did complainants when it was amended in 1976. However this was repealed in 1988. In 2010 the coalition government committed to extending the anonymity of defendants in rape cases but there was a ‘U-turn’ on this decision.

It is a subject that has caused debate among politicians for years. Key argument for it to remain as it is, is that it would affect the reporting and prosecution of rape – this could discourage victims from coming forward. But also if defendants don’t receive the same anonymity for other crimes, why should rapists?

On the other hand, what about human rights? Especially in a country where we are innocent until proven guilty. Being wrongly accused could have huge negative repercussions on someone’s life.

So, what’s your thoughts? Join us @OGarras to discuss further.

If you’ve been accused of rape, we can help. Get in touch to speak to one of our expert solicitors by completing our enquiry form or call: 01132471477

Dangerous Dogs Lead To Harsher Punishments

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As reported in the news last week, this July (2016) will see new guidelines come into effect to reflect the changes in the law made to the Dangerous Dogs Act in 2014.

New sentencing guidelines in England and Wales will see pet owners convicted of dangerous dog offences face much harsher punishments.

For cases where there has been a fatality, the dog owner could face up to 14 years in prison. The changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act covers injuries or death by dog, the possession of a banned breed, attacks which happen on private property and attacks on assistant dogs, for example, guide dogs.

Banned breeds include pit bull terrier, Japanese tosa, dogo Argentino and fila Braziliero.

If you need further information on these changes, please get in touch 0113 247 1477.

Is Your Pet Microchipped?

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In April 2016, a new legislation will come in to effect. It will become law that all dog owners in England and Scotland will have to have their dog microchipped by the time it is eight weeks old.

A recent study commissioned by Pets at Home unveiled that almost three quarters of pet owners are not aware of this new ruling. One in four people still haven’t had their dog microchipped.

Government figures revealed that more than 100,000 dogs are disowned or lost each year costing the taxpayer over £50m. There has also been a recent increase in dog theft. The legislation will be brought into effect on April 6 in the hope of cutting the ever increasing rise in stray dogs, ease the burden on local authorities and animal charities and help to trace any dogs that have been stolen.

Those who do not comply could face fines of up to £500. Dog owners also need to be aware that they are responsible for ensuring details are updated on the chip if they move house – the details on the chip links the dog to their owner’s name and address. A legal loophole might be closed which could see owners being protected from prosecution over an attack on private land.

What is microchipping? It involves a small chip, the size of a grain of rice, being inserted between the shoulder blades of a dog using a sterile needle. It is similar to a standard vaccination so does not require them going under anaesthetic. The chip is bio-compatible glass and won’t be rejected by the dog’s body.

As experts in animal law, we have seen a massive rise over the past year in cases involving animal neglect and welfare. Figures from the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs show that eight children and six adults have been killed in dog attacks since 2005, in the past year more than 3,000 postal workers have been attacked by out-of-control dogs, with 70% of these attacks happening on private property. We agree that micro chipping could help to prevent many dogs becoming stray or mistreated in anyway and urge all dog owners to get their dogs chipped as soon as possible.

What’s your opinion on the new legislation? Join us on Twitter @Ogarras

Joint enterprise law: what is it and why is it controversial?

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Today the Supreme Court has ruled that the joint enterprise law has been wrongly interpreted for 30 years.
But what is it and why is it controversial? Let us explain a little more….

Joint enterprise cases involve crimes where more than one person takes part. The evidence rules enable those who did not strike the fatal blow or pull the trigger nonetheless to be convicted of murder. The joint enterprise law has been used to convict people in gang-related cases if defendants “could” have foreseen violent acts by their associates. However, judges have now ruled that it was wrong to treat “foresight” as a sufficient test.

Joint enterprise cases have become increasingly controversial because of the large number of gang-related killings that have come to court in recent years. A large proportion of those convicted have been young, black and mixed-race men, a recent report by the Commons justice select committee highlighted.

teenagers-1

A campaign group, the ‘Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association’, has argued that the way judges have interpreted the joint enterprise rules have led to widespread miscarriages of justice.
Among well-known joint enterprise cases are the convictions obtained against the killers of Stephen Lawrence, who was stabbed to death in a racist attack in south London in 1993, and Ben Kinsella, a schoolboy knifed in north London in 2008. Both cases, the select committee report says, are “widely referred to as examples where the use of the doctrine of joint enterprise has secured convictions which have met with widespread public approval and support”.

The supreme court ruling specifically identifies mistakes made by judges since 1984 and so will not impact on earlier notorious joint enterprise killings such as the 1952 shooting of a police officer for which Derek Bentley was hanged. Bentley did not pull the trigger but had told his 16-year-old accomplice, Christopher Craig, to “let him have it”. Bentley was posthumously pardoned by the court of appeal in 1998.

The decision by the Supreme Court could pave the way for hundreds of prisoners to seek appeals. It will apply in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and most UK overseas common law territories but not in Scotland, which has its own rules on joint enterprise.
However, the ruling doesn’t mean that those convicted under enterprise are automatically able to appeal, it would need to be shown that they have suffered ‘substantial injustice’.

Lord Neuberger in further remarks to clarify this said:

• The ruling did not automatically mean that all previous joint enterprise convictions were unsafe.

• “A person who joins in a crime, which any reasonable person would realise involves a risk of harm, and death then results, is guilty at least of manslaughter”, the maximum sentence for which is life imprisonment.

• The rule that “a person who intentionally encourages or assists the commission of a crime is as guilty as the person who physically commits it” was not affected.

• It remained open to a jury to decide whether a person intentionally encouraged or assisted a crime, for example through knowledge that weapons were being carried.

If you or someone you know could have a case to appeal a joint enterprise conviction then please contact O’Garra’s for further help and advice.