PLUS: Judge shortage threatens court efficiency
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The Times
Thursday April 26 2018
The Brief
Frances Gibb Jonathan Ames
By Frances Gibb and Jonathan Ames
Good morning.

Lawyers for the parents of Alfie Evans returned to court yesterday to hear appeal judges reject their latest attempt to take the terminally ill toddler to Italy for further treatment as the Pope announced that an air ambulance was on standby to transport the child to a hospital in the Vatican.

The hearing at the Court of Appeal in London was fraught with emotion as the barrister for the child's father clashed with judges over whether a private prosecution alleging conspiracy to murder was planned against the medical staff at Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool.

Elsewhere, it’s just one thing after another with City law firms and sex scandals. Allen & Overy, one of the “magic circle” elite in the Square Mile should be thankful that there are no allegations of sex pestery swirling around its lawyers – but it is still copping bad PR over its advice to a chap called Weinstein and a two-decade old non-disclosure agreement.

That and a whole lot more in this morning’s must-read of all things legal, including news, comment and gossip. For more in-depth coverage ...
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Judge shortage threatens courts, warns lord chief justice
Prosecution staff cuts ‘could have triggered disclosure failures’
Online move to create wider diversity on judicial bench
Mother sues government over ‘sky-high’ student loan interest rates
Reluctant witnesses in Scotland face arrest in ‘exceptional’ cases
Blue Bag diary: Why split hairs over legal profession accuracy
In the House: Companies fail to prepare for data protection rule revolution
Analysis: We can’t give up on violent youngsters
Special focus: Flying the flag for Scottish firms
Analysis: Mediation can prevent workplace mischief-making
In today's Times law:
Tweet us @timeslaw with your views.
Story of the Day
Allen & Overy under investigation over Weinstein gagging order
One of the London’s elite law firms is being investigated after insisting that a woman who accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct must sign a gagging order before accepting a pay-off. The head of the solicitors’ watchdog told MPs yesterday that Allen & Overy was under a “live investigation” over its behaviour nearly two decades ago.
Read the full story >
Special focus: Scotland
Flying the flag for Scottish law firms
The big English players may have swallowed up the major practices north of the border, but Linda Tsang finds that the native lawyers are thinking globally
  • Scottish government scheme bids to market legal services overseas
  • Growth in tech start-ups and oil companies likely to keep lawyers busy
  • Fears of a brain drain as Scottish talent is lured by bigger salaries in England
Read the full story >
News round-up
Judge shortage threatens courts, warns lord chief justice
The crisis judicial recruitment crisis is threatening the ability of courts to do their work, the lord chief justice warned yesterday. Lord Burnett of Maldon, the most senior judge in England and Wales, said the abuse hurled at judges on social media and the internet was partly to blame for the crisis.
Read the full story >
Prosecution staff cuts ‘could have triggered disclosure failures’
Police and CPS staffing levels could have triggered a series of recent collapsed trials after crucial evidence emerged at the last minute, the lord chief justice, Lord Burnett (pictured), has told peers. Recent revelations over disclosure failures prompted a review of every live rape and serious sexual assault case in England and Wales.
Read the full story >
Online move to create wider diversity on judicial bench
An online “learning platform” that aims to encourage more diverse applications to the judicial bench has been launched by the lord chancellor. David Gauke (picutured centre left), the justice secretary, unveiled the Pre-application Judicial Education Programme — a joint initiative from the Judicial Diversity Forum, which is made up of the Ministry of Justice, members of the judiciary, the Judicial Appointments Commission, Bar Council, Law Society and Chartered Institute of Legal Executives.
Read the full story >
Mother sues government over ‘sky-high’ student loan interest rates
A single mother with twin daughters who has begun legal action against the government over the ‘sky-high’ interest rate on their student loans (Rosemary Bennett writes). Fiona Kirton has written to Damian Hinds, the education secretary, asking him to investigate the matter after taking pro bono legal advice which suggested ministers had not heeded the small print in the legislation.
Read the full story >
Reluctant witnesses in Scotland face arrest in ‘exceptional’ cases
Warrants in Scotland will only be sought for rape victims who refuse to give evidence in court in “the most exceptional of circumstances”, the solicitor-general has said (Lynsey Bews writes). Alison Di Rollo told MSPs that while the Crown Office could not rule out the possibility that a witness warrant was required, such a situation had not arisen in her decade of prosecuting rape cases in the High Court.
Read the full story >
In Brief
In today’s Times Law … And elsewhere …
  • British twin lawyers charged over drunken ‘assault’ in Dubai – The Times
  • Digitising divorce applications could save 13,000 hours of court staff time – Law Gazette
  • Thousands of apps track children ‘illegally’ – The Times
  • Alfie Evans’ parents should decide his fate, says Jenni Russell – Times comment
We can’t give up on violent youngsters
Budget cuts and privatisation of rehabilitation services are helping to lock young adults in a cycle of violence, writes Graeme Hydari

We must not keep cutting local authority budgets and we must recognise that selling off the probation supervision of so-called low risk offenders to privately run community rehabilitation companies has been a disaster.
Read the full story >
Tweet of the day
Is it massively annoying everyone yet ? #TheSplit #AllyMcBeal was just so much better
Mediation can prevent workplace mischief-making
As well as being quicker than a grievance procedure, the process is less likely to be hijacked by opportunistic advisers, writes Stephen Levinson

Mediation of workplace disputes should be encouraged. It is far more likely to preserve employment, it is less adversarial and speedier than a grievance procedure and the stress generated is less than in traditional disciplinary methods.
Read the full story >
Blue Bag
Why split hairs over legal profession accuracy
Hats off to the creative team behind BBC One’s new legal profession drama series The Split: the fictional lawyers seemed to break half a dozen professional rules before the credits had finished rolling.

Conflict of interest doesn’t seem to be in the lexicon of the perpetually scowling divorce lawyer Hannah Sterne (Nicola Walker), her mother, the divorce law diva Ruth Defoe (Deborah Findlay), or her sister Nina (Annabel Scholey), who is also in the family law game.

In the opening episode on Tuesday Hannah breezily lectures the party on the other side of a divorce about his personal behaviour after he has bizarrely been allowed to barricade himself in one of the meeting rooms in her swish office.

Negligence also seems to be rife at Hannah’s firm, with client files casually dropped on desks to be surreptitiously glanced at by opposing lawyers, who also happen to be relatives.

But then writing an accurate portrayal of family lawyers would probably have audiences switching over to the snooker faster than you could say “he’s got a clear view of the pink for this frame-winning shot”. There is only so much viewers can stomach of lawyers sitting for hours at their computers only pausing to send the occasional text message.

Indeed, on Twitter, an observer who may well be a family lawyer summed up the point succinctly by pointing out that none of the lawyers in The Split had “been to Pret and no one is worrying about chargeable hours. The two key elements in life as a lawyer in London, family law or otherwise”.

Hazel Wright, a partner in the family department at the London law firm Hunters Solicitors, found another fault with the storyline.

“The only one staying late to burn the midnight oil was a male lawyer,” she told The Brief. “That is not the case in any family department I have ever come across and in fact the majority of family lawyers are women. It would have been dull to show family lawyers working at their desks on paperwork or on email, which is how most of us spend our days.”
In the House
Global companies fail to prepare for data protection rule revolution
Most international businesses are not prepared for enhanced EU data protection rules, a survey has revealed.

That woeful assessment came despite evidence that legal chiefs at multinational companies are pressing their boards to take seriously implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force on May 25.

The EU legislation will apply to all businesses internationally that manage or handle data from citizens of countries in the bloc. The regulation includes fines of up to the greater of €20 Million or 4 per cent of corporate annual turnover for firms that do not comply.

The survey of senior lawyers at 448 companies found that 54 per cent said their businesses were not prepared for the rules. The researchers found that third-party arrangements were an “Achilles heel” for businesses. An overwhelming majority within and outside the EU appeared not to have assessed risks involved in potential rule breaches around deals with suppliers.

Only 10 per cent of the organisations surveyed had investigated whether their third-parties complied with the rules. Under the forthcoming regime, third-party data breaches could have a significant financial impact on large organisations that outsource their data processing.

Despite that, the researchers at KPMG, the “big four” accountancy practice, credited in-house lawyers for leading the way on GDPR compliance. The report said that general counsel “were more likely to be responsible for setting data protection compliance policies than any other function leader across the organisations surveyed”.

The research found that legal department chiefs were responsible for setting data protection compliance policies at 34 per cent of organisations, while chief compliance officers were responsible at only 25 per cent.

Other results from the survey showed that fewer than half of employees at the businesses surveyed were mostly or fully aware of their obligations under the rules.
Closing Statement
The alcoholic amateur photographer, the law firm receptionist, and an angry senior partner
The alcoholic solicitor who routinely photographed the law firm receptionist in her underwear and the censorious senior partner at the elegant Georgian building in Holborn in which I rented a couple of rooms were always bound to create a triangle that would do little for any of them (recalls James Morton).

After an earlier afternoon knockings incident between the solicitor amateur-photographer and his subject — which had so upset the senior partner — he took something of what in racing terms might be called closer order on the goings on at the premises.

It was about 6.15pm one day that he found the receptionist and the alcoholic solicitor — who, to be fair, must have had more charm than I appreciated — bottle in hand making their way up the staircase.

“Miss Smith,” barked the senior partner, “I don’t think that’s wise of you. Please come down at once.”

“Mr Jones,” she replied perkily, “it’s after six o’ clock and I’m on my own time so I can do what I want.” And up they fumbled or stumbled.

In those days disciplinary proceedings were not what they are today, and in a flash of magnesium she was no more.

James Morton is a former criminal law solicitor and now author
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