Latest Legal News in England and Wales 11th October 2012
Weekly News Wrap from CaseCheck: Flexible courts, degree of force in self-defence and employee-owner employment contracts Flexible Courts
Justice Minister Damian Green has announced a pilot scheme that seeks to speed up cases and modernise criminal justice services. The pilot will see Courts sitting outside of traditional working hours and on weekends and an increased use of video-link technology including prison to court links where suspects can appear in court from prison and from police stations to the court for first hearings, also known as 'virtual courts'. 48 pilots go live over the coming weeks in England and Wales to test five models: i) extending operating hours of magistrates' courts during the week to hear cases earlier and later in the day; ii) Maximising the use of Prison to Court Video links (PCVL) which removes the need for a defendant to be transported from prison to court for specific hearings as the hearing can be conducted via video link; iii) Weekend working to enable courts to open on Saturday and Sundays. There are approximately 100 courts already sit on Saturdays to hear overnight remand cases across England and Wales; iv) Extending the operating hours of the Virtual Court to enable preliminary hearings in the magistrates’ court held over video link where the defendant is located at the police station beyond traditional working hours; v) Introducing a Regional Virtual Court to enable preliminary hearings in the magistrates’ court held over video link to be heard by one court from across a wider area than the current Virtual Courts areas. The press release and a document providing the commencement dates for the 48 pilots can be found here. The Law Society is sceptical of the suggested benefits and is seeking feedback. Further information, advice and how to respond here.
Reform of Laws of Self Defence
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has announced plans to alter the definition of the use of force acceptable when a person defends themselves, protects others, prevents crime or protects property. The current law contained insection 76 Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 provides that householders can use force that is reasonable in the circumstances as they believed them to be to defend themselves or their property, but states that the use of disproportionate force will never be reasonable in the circumstances. However, the proposed change will allow force that is reasonable in the circumstances but in the cold light of day seems disproportionate. The Ministry of Justice reports briefly here. Owen Bowcott at the Guardian reports on the proposed reform and notes that criminal lawyers are not enthusiastic here.
Employee-Owner Employment Contracts
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced plans to introduce a new type of employment contract that would see employees exchange some of their employment rights for shares exempt from capital gains tax in the business they work for. The 'employee-owner' contract is aimed primarily at fast growing small and medium sized companies looking to create a flexible workforce, although companies of any size will be able to use the new contract. In exchange for between £2,000 and £50,000 of shares exempt from capital gains, 'employee-owners' will surrender their UK rights on; unfair dismissal, redundancy, and the right to request flexible working and time off for training, and will be required to provide 16 weeks notice of a firm date of return from maternity leave, instead of the usual 8. Employee-owners receiving full capital gains tax relief on the shares awarded as part of their contract will still be eligible for existing employee share ownership schemes such as the Enterprise Management Incentive. Legislation to bring in the new contract will come later this year so that it is available for use from April 2013. The government is planning to consult on some details of...