Legal Funding For Personal Injury Still Available – Despite Legal Reform

“The removal of legal aid will start to undermine the rule of law. People will feel like the government isn’t giving them access to justice and that will either lead to frustration and lack of confidence in the system, or it will lead to people taking the law into their own hands.”


Such was the opinion of Lord Neuberger, the President of the Supreme Court, prior to the 2013 enactment of the much maligned and criticised “Jackson Reforms,” enshrined mostly in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO).

In the post- LASPO world, civil litigation has become increasingly of concern for the legal sector, and civil rights campaigners. A key part of LASPO was to reduce legal aid funding. Consequently, a great majority of people are now, quite simply, unable to take their cases to court. The cost of going to court, of obtaining legal representation, in most cases now has to be met by the parties concerned. With no recourse to legal aid, more and more are simply unable to obtain justice.

The secondary impact of that has been to radically reform the legal sector in other ways. Small law firms have had great struggles in a post LASPO world, as fewer civil litigants are coming to them. Many law firms have either gone under, merged, or diversified. For both litigants and lawyers alike, the post LASPO legal landscape has been greatly damaging. Indeed, a 2014 Ministry of Justice select committee investigation was damning in the scale of the damage done to the provisions of civil justice.

However, LASPO has not been a total disaster across the board; some sectors have remained relatively unscathed, or have suffered little, due to the Jackson Reforms. Immigration is one such area. Although only specific immigration cases can now be handled under a legal aid certificate, many immigration matters (predominantly asylum) are still eligible for public funding. Another such area of civil law is personal injury, and certain areas of employment law.

However, personal injury (PI) has for a long time funded itself in many cases outside the provisions of legal aid. Since 1998, until 2013, the majority of PI cases were funded under a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA). With a CFA, the lawyers and court costs are only paid after the case is settled, and on the understanding that the litigant will win their case. If the litigant does not win, then they themselves do not pay their legal costs. The same year that LASPO was enacted saw the CFA structure alter, but although changed, the essential details remained the same. Consequently, PI is one area of civil law that is still very much accessible for the average person regardless of financial means, due to CFA’s.

Personal injuries can often arise as the result of accidents at work. Despite the best safety procedures, and strict health and safety guidelines, and regular inspections, it is only too easy to have an accident at work- often with a long lasting medical impact. Employment law itself has had varied fortunes following LASPO. Discrimination cases are still eligible for public funding- with many discrimination cases often starting in the workplace. Many workplace issues and disputes now end up in arbitration or workplace mediation, or dealt with by the relevant Trade Unions, prior to an Employment Tribunal or civil court, and it is before such mediation that most settlements are actually arrived at. As such, the need to go to court regarding an employment dispute has in many instances fallen. Accidents at work, and matters of employer liability in that area, still remain one of the greatest sources of workplace related litigation. Accidents at work, though, are often still handled under CFA’s, being as they are PI cases.

As such, in some areas of civil law (such as employment law, immigration, and PI), litigants are still able to get access to justice, if only via mediation or alternative funding means. However, in a great many civil cases (notably family), the Jackson reforms have ushered in an era of limited access to justice.

That limited access to justice, criticised roundly by many in all areas of the legal sector, is set to stay for the time being. Law firms and lawyers will suffer as fewer seek legal representation due to the cots involved. However, it is the would be litigant who will suffer the most, as they are driven away from seeking their absolute right of a legal remedy to a civil dispute, in most cases.

High Court Denies Disclosure for Thai Death Penalty Case

ConfidentialityA high court judge has ruled that a UK police report should not be made available for a case in Thailand that could result in two Burmese nationals receiving the death penalty. Mr Justice Green described his “very considerable unease” in passing this judgement, but reached the decision on the basis of the UK government’s policy of not assisting overseas authorities with death penalty cases.

The two men on trial are accused of murdering two British tourists, Hannah Witheridge and David Miller, last year. They confessed their alleged involvement in the murders to Thai police, but have since claimed that they only made these confessions as a result of being subjected to torture.

The Metropolitan Police, acting on a request from the Prime Minister, examined the case and produced a report. This report was intended to be used for briefing the families of the victims rather than as an investigatory tool.

Nonetheless, the defendants requested access to the report. They requested that they be provided with information pertaining to themselves under the Data Protection Act, as well as seeking access on the grounds that the report could prove useful to their defence.

The police denied the two men access on the grounds of public interest, and the application made its way to the High Court in the case of Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, where Mr Justice Green passed judgement upholding the police’s refusal to release the report.

One of the conditions under which Thailand cooperated with the report was a strict agreement that the report be kept confidential. Furthermore, the judgement points out that the Metropolitan Police’s involvement with the case was not an investigatory one, but rather limited to “observing and recording the investigation” which was being carried out by their Thai counterparts.

Green described how the case required careful balancing of the interests of both police and claimants, with valid and important considerations on both sides. The claimants submitted that the report could potentially have a real bearing on their defence, and the fact that the case carried a possible death penalty should override many other considerations. The police, meanwhile, claimed that going against confidentiality agreements could have “a very serious adverse effect” upon the way that police forces work together across national borders.

Ultimately the judge ruled that “there is nothing in the personal data which would be of any real value to the claimants,” and that this meant that the interests of the police outweighed those of the claimants in this situation. Nonetheless, he described his unease in reaching the judgement, especially as he was required to work out for himself how the defence might be structured and evidence tendered in order to accurately gauge how useful the document would be. “This has not been a comfortable process,” he said.

Representing Clients from Out of the Country- 3 Common Situations

Let’s say you are practicing law in Australia. As you know, there are more people who are not from Australia than those who were born there. Being a large and beautiful nation/continent, with diverse flora and fauna, not to mention cultural attractions, places like this have a tremendous number of tourists showing up on their shores. Tourists are notoriously unaware of local laws and customs, at least that’s what the stereotype would have us believe. As such, they frequently work themselves into pickles with the law, meaning that you might one day find yourself representing the legal interests of someone who lives overseas.

So, if you get contacted after a worried tourist finds your contact information after Googling “criminal lawyers in Sydney”, don’t be shocked. It happens everyday, but representing someone from out the country presents its own unique challenges. Being in touch with multiple lawyers and studying this phenomenon as a hobby of my own, here are three of the most common issues I see.

  • Time. Because many of these individuals do not reside in the nation where they are standing trial, they need to get away to take care of things back home. This can present a challenge. Depending on the severity of the charge, they may be restricted in their movement across the country, as flight risk is a serious concern. Depending on the severity of the infraction, this may not be a consideration, but the defendant’s responsibilities back home certainly are. As such, the process may be permitted to be expedited. In fact, this is what I would recommend for anyone representing such a client. Get it over with as fast as possible, try to reduce it to a fine, do what you can to get the client’s life back to normal as soon as possible.
  • Money. International exchange of currency may present a difficulty when representing a foreign client. In general, I try to recommend my clients the cheapest possible currency transfer services, but sometimes there simply isn’t money to spare. In situations like this, there may be remuneration on the part of the state, or a situation which allows your client to more or less go free, pending specific action.
  • Language Barrier. In addition to ignorance of local law and custom, your client may not speak the local language. This may present a difficulty, but it may help your client to be able to get home without too much trouble also. If it can be argued to your judge that a client and the wronged party would be better served to let the client return home, then this is a desirable outcome. If the case must be brought to trial, then necessary translation services must be obtained, and the defendant made aware of his or her rights and the details of the case.

Travelers get in trouble overseas all the time, but this doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be well-represented. Acquaint yourself with the details of their situation, and you and they should be able to move beyond the present trial without too much trouble.

Learning Management Platforms Bring Law Students into the Digital Age

As law students gear up for the upcoming fall semester, they can expect a number of technological innovations that are changing the ways college courses are conducted. The University of Oregon has already used a learning management system called “Blackboard” for a number of years. With the online platform, students are able to access course syllabi, readings, assignments, notes, and quizzes with the click of a button. Law students enjoy the efficiency of the program, which allows them to reach out to fellow students in their classes, email professors, and keep track of their homework. But what about those long, exhausting hours of study?

Digital Platform Makes Legal Study More Manageable

Albany Oregon attorneys are particularly interested in technology and its role in the legal world, anticipating more digital enhancements to law programs in the Pacific Northwest region. A recent article detailed an application growing in popularity. LearnLeo is a learning management system specifically engineered for legal education. Since its launch in 2012, LearnLeo has been involved with 20 of the country’s top law schools. In lieu of bulky textbooks and endless sticky notes, diligent graduate students have access to an online program that lets them read, highlight, and organize materials without the hassle of paperwork.

Among other scholarly fields of study, B.A. to J.D. programs are notoriously tedious when it comes to course workload. Students find themselves sifting through endless information while preparing for assignments, exams, and mock trials. Experts predict that digital platforms like LearnLeo can save scholars hours of study time a week. Instead of compiling, organizing, and outlining case notes, eager learners have more time to actually take in the information and understand it. The virtual classroom also streamlines course content, letting professors lead the group in study without waiting on them to thumb through gigantic textbooks.

Technology to Meet Law Student Demands

At Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, students use ExamSoft to take their tests, a program that makes grading easier and allows professors to assign quizzes for homework. Embracing a program like LearnLeo will cater more specifically to the needs of students. While the original product is focused on helping pupils create briefs and outlines, two new products made by the company are now available.

Described as a “pre-law prep program” and a “careers” option, the software gives valuable advice for young people thinking about a career in the legal field. The technology evaluates participating law firms and provides important job prospect information for graduates. LearnLeo also mentors younger students, acquainting them with terminology and other info that will help them adjust to the culture shock of law school.

Right now, the innovative technology is still in its infancy. But Albany, Oregon attorneys recently discovered that students in local programs can access almost 15,000 cases in LearnLeo’s database, making it an incredible–and totally free–resource. Users need to create a quick profile before starting. With news that 3 of Oregon’s law schools have ranked among the top in the nation as of 2015, it’s only a matter of time before they are on board with the learning platform. If you’re headed back to school this Fall, consider these other ways the Internet can help you survive the stress of law school.

Technology’s Impact on Law Students’ Study Habits – 5 Helpful Tips

  • Online dictionaries offer instant access to the definitions of perplexing legal jargon.
  • Collaborate with others on case briefs and read existing resources via a variety of free websites.
  • Research the latest cases in legal news that out-of-date textbooks won’t tell you about.
  • Endless blog articles offer helpful advice on the transition to law school and how to adjust your lifestyle.
  • Connect with other students, lawyers, and professionals, creating a study support system.



Same-Sex Marriage Legalised Across the US

US Marriage EqualityThe US Supreme Court has ruled that US citizens have a legal right to marry people of the same gender. The decision, which comes just a month after Ireland introduced same-sex marriage through a referendum, is valid across all 50 states, meaning that marriage has now been legalised for same-sex couples on a nationwide basis.

The majority of US states have already legalised same-sex marriage of their own accord. However, 14 states continued to disallow the marriage of gay couples. However, the Supreme Court decision means that those 14 states will no longer be able to enforce such a ban, though it has not yet been made clear how soon marriage licenses for same sex couples will start to be issued in these states.

The Supreme Court made the ruling in relation to the case of Ohio resident Jim Obergefell, who had previously not been legally recognised as his deceased husband’s widower. Speaking outside the court after the ruling, Obergefell told the press: “It’s my hope that gay marriage will soon be a thing of the past, and from this day forward it will simply be ‘marriage.’”

According to Justice Anthony Kennedy, the plaintiffs in this case were simply asking “for equal dignity in the eyes of the law,” and this is their right under the US constitution. US President Barack Obama, meanwhile, said that the Supreme Court’s ruling was a “victory for America.”

“When all Americans are treated as equal,” Obama continued, “we are all more free.”

The ruling has put an end to legal battles that have been raging in the US for a number of years on both state and national levels. One eccentric California lawyer even went so far as to propose a bill that would allow homosexuals to be “put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method,” though naturally this bill did not get far.

The ruling’s announcement prompted loud cheering in the streets outside the court, where hundreds had been gathered to await the news. In Georgia, one of the states that had previously banned the same-sex marriage, couples began lining up to begin exercising their newfound rights within minutes. Social media, too, was abuzz with celebration and general discussion, with the hashtags #MarriageEquality and #LoveWins trending on Facebook and Twitter respectively.

Those who had opposed the legalisation of same sex marriage, particularly America’s conservative Christian groups, were disappointed by the court’s ruling. Presidential candidate for the Republican Party, former governor of Arkansas, and outspoken opponent of gay marriage Mike Huckabee said: “We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.”

US Prosecutors Level Multiple Accusations at FIFA Officials

As investigations into the scandal in which international football governing body FIFA has found itself embroiled, US prosecutors have levelled a list of allegations. Several of the organisation’s officials have, the prosecutors claim, been involved with fraud and racketeering for more than two decades.

Prosecutors also claim that these officials are guilty of laundering money, with tens of millions of dollars involved over the course of 24 years. Overall, 14 individuals have been indicted, seven of which are being held in Zurich since Wednesday. One of the seven in Zurich is Vice President of FIFA Jeffrey Webb. Swiss authorities report that six of these seven individuals are currently contesting extradition for trial in the US.

Overall, the US prosecutors claim to have discovered around a dozen different schemes that represent the kind of activities they allege took place. One such scheme, they say, resulted in the decision to award South Africa the honour of hosting the 2010 World Cup.

Most prominently, the indicted officials are accused of taking bribes. Since 1991, it is claimed that they collectively accepted bribes and kickbacks with a total value of over US$150 million (£97 million). According to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, these officials “corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and to enrich themselves.”

Summarising the accusations against the officials, Lynch said that they had “used their positions to solicit bribes,” and they had done so “over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament.”

Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA, is not one of those on the receiving end of the allegations. In a statement, Blatter insisted that corrupt officials would be booted out of the organisation. 11 of the 14 people involved in the recent allegations from US prosecutors, including all of those currently held in Zurich, have been given a “swift and immediate provisional ban” from any activities relating to professional football.

The organisation is due to hold its presidential election this Friday, in which Blatter is the favourite candidate. Should he be successful, it will be Blatter’s fifth term as FIFA president. UEFA, the European football body, has said that this election should be postponed, and it is considering a boycott of proceedings. Currently, however, FIFA insists that its presidential election is to go ahead on Friday as planned.

As well as accepting bribes, including bribes that influenced the decision of where major tournaments would take place, officials are accused of organised racketeering, obtaining money through fraud, and money laundering.

WW1 Killing of Armenians was “Genocide,” Says German Parliament

BundestagThe parliament of Germany (the Bundestag) has approved a resolution which declares a mass killing of Armenians to be genocide. The killings in question were carried out during the First World War by Ottoman Turkish forces, with up to 1.5 million Armenians being left dead. The approval of the resolution coincides with the 100th anniversary of the beginning of these killings.

For some years now, Armenian’s have been campaigning internationally to have the global community acknowledge these mass killings as a case of genocide. Turkey opposed the idea that its First World War actions extended to the point of genocide, disputing the claimed numbers of dead and saying that much of the blame for the killings lay at the feet of a civil war that erupted following the Ottoman Empire’s fall.

Prosecutions against individuals who denied that the killings constituted a genocide led to further controversy, with a European Court of Human Rights ruling in December 2009 deciding that these prosecutions infringed upon freedom of expression. However, 2009 was also the year that saw Turkey and Armenia overcome their bitterness sufficiently to sign an accord in Switzerland which opened their borders and helped to establish better relations between the two countries.

The President of the Bundestag Norbert Lammert led the drive to have the resolution approved. Lammert is of the opinion that Germany and Turkey should join together in attempts to confront past acts of genocide and reconcile with the world.

Regarding this concept of shared national reconciliation, Lammert said: “the unparalleled experiences of violence in the 20th century have ensured that we know there can be no real peace until the victims, their relatives and descendants experience justice: through remembrance of the events.”

The Bundestag as a whole also took the opportunity to highlight issues of violence and discrimination against various groups in the modern age. The legislative body pointed to instances of persecution on ethnic, religious and political grounds against groups across the globe, saying that humanity as a whole must strive to combat these kinds of actions if it is to ensure that the mistakes of the past go unrepeated.

In 2010, it was reported by a US State Department spokesperson that the Obama administration was opposed to a vote on a similar resolution stating that the killings were a genocide. More recently, Greece lent support to this definition of the incident when, in September last year, the country’s parliament approved a bill that criminalises denial of the genocide.

EU Justice Chief Calls for Better Rights Online

Internet PrivacyVera Jourova, Czech politician and the European Union’s justice commissioner, has said that “fundamental rights that apply offline should also apply online.” Speaking at the recent Global Law Summit, Jourova made the comments as part of the first public speech she has given in the UK since last Autumn when she accepted responsibility for matters of justice, consumer protection and gender equality.

Her priorities over the coming year, Jourova said, would be to ensure that the full potential benefits of new technologies are exploited, but that this is balance with the need for people’s rights to be recognised online in the same way they would in real life. She also called for new legislation designed to ensure that users of the internet have “more control and more choice, while future-proofing protections suitable for the digital age.” This legislation, she said, should establish a better balance between the advantages of information technology and the need to safeguard the privacy of individuals accessing the internet.

This speech formed part of a panel discussion entitled “A Digital Magna Carta and the State of Exception.” The debate was chaired by Catherine Dixon, chief executive of the Law Society.:

Jourova’s comments had the support of Anne Jellema, CEO of the World Wide Web Foundation. Jellema said: “The web has unleashed a tidal wave of innovation, but it has also created a tidal wave of data about ourselves.” When it comes to protecting individual privacy, she said, “The law is lagging behind the power of technology.” This is particularly concerning, Jellema contended, at a time when “governments are moving aggressively to expand their surveillance capacities.”

The job of winding up the debate fell to Dr Gus Hosein. Hosein, who is director of the campaign group Privacy, expressed similar sentiments. He pointed to GCHQ’s programme entitled “Squeaky Dophin,” through which it monitors activity on social media websites. Describing the current state of affairs when it comes to privacy safeguards for internet users, he said bluntly that “the present is broken.”

Despite his dim view of the present, however, Hosein remained positive about the potential outlook for the future. He pointed to the way major companies and prominent innovators such as Google are becoming more and more aware of such issues, and taking greater steps to safeguard users.

Concluding, Hosein said that users can protect themselves in three ways: “Understand the technology, demand better technology and don’t allow the internet to discriminate against you – as it does in the US, where American citizens may not be spied upon, but foreigners routinely are.”

Lawyer Says China Discrimination Case “Will Definitely Have an Impact”

Gay Rights ChinaChinese courts recently saw what was probably the country’s first discrimination case focussing on the treatment of a homosexual individual in the workplace. Liu Xiaohu, the lawyer of the plaintiff, has said that the case “will definitely have an impact” on China and the way in which the country views issues of LGBT rights.

The plaintiff, who first filed his case in November and is using the pseudonym Mu Yi, was dismissed from his job, and alleges that this was because of his sexuality. He claims that he was outed as gay after an online video, which was filmed by police and showed him and another gay man arguing, went viral. It was the revelation of his sexuality, he alleges, which led his employer to fire him from his role as a designer.

His employer maintains that “Mu Yi’s” dismissal was not a result of his being revealed as a homosexual, and was not related to his sexual orientation. Yangcheng Evening News reports that the company claims that inappropriate workplace attire and a “poor service attitude” were in fact the reasons for the decision to fire the plaintiff.

It is believed to be the first workplace discrimination case in China to deal with issues of sexual orientation. The Chinese office of PFLAG, a rights advocacy group, believes this to be the case.

The Nanshan District People’s Court, which is in the city of Shenzhen in the south of China, heard the case. A decision on the verdict is expected to be reached at some point within the coming three months, according to Mr Lui. The lawyer described himself and his client as “very optimistic” about the outcome of the case.

The Chinese government only took the decision to decriminalise homosexuality in 1997 – much later than many other countries. Even after it ceased to be a criminal offence, it was still officially listed as a mental illness until 2001. In the relatively short time since, Chinese society has become noticeably more tolerant of homosexuality, especially in the bigger cities, but nonetheless conservative attitudes remain prevalent. Discrimination against LGBT individuals in the workplace is more common than in many other parts of the world, and this means that the decision reached in this case has the potential to be a landmark of considerable importance to other individuals.

According to Yangcheng Evening News, Mu is seeking compensation of 50,000 yuan along with an apology.

Australia’s Channel 7 Loses Legal Battle After “Racist” Broadcast

Australian TV broadcaster Channel Seven has lost a three-year-long legal battle against the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). The battle finally came to an end after Channel Seven lost an appeal in the federal court and was ordered to pay the legal costs of ACMA.

The legal battle stems from a 2011 documentary broadcast detailing the indigenous Brazilian Suruwaha people. The broadcast has been described as a “racist portrayal” of the tribe which violated the television code of practice‘s requirement that broadcasts be fair, balanced, and factually correct. The broadcast would also, according to federal court judge Justice Buchanan, “be likely to provoke or perpetuate intense dislike and serious contempt of and for the Suruwaha tribe and its members.”

The broadcast featured adventurer and writer Paul Raffaele accompanying journalist Tim Noonan through the Amazon. In the program, Noonan and Raffaele alleged that the tribe carry out “one of the worst human rights violations in the world” by encouraging the killing of disabled children “in the most gruesome way possible.” They claimed that disabled children and those born to single mothers were fed, while still living, to wild beasts by the tribe.

Complaints about both the factual accuracy and the tone of these reports were first raised by Survival International, an international organisation that advocates for the rights of tribal people. The organisation formally complained to ACMA after Channel Seven did not correct or retract the many “errors and distortions” that they had highlighted in the broadcast’s allegations of child murder. Channel Seven described the claims made by Survival International as “nonsense” and defended the broadcast, but ACMA found that the allegations of routine child killing were in breach of factual accuracy requirements. Channel Seven challenged this decision through a Judicial Review, but the challenge proved unsuccessful as the court upheld the original judgement.

Stephen Corry, director of Survival International, compared the broadcast to “19th-century colonialist scorn for ‘primitive savages'” designed to “suggest that they don’t deserve any rights.”

The Suruwaha tribe was formed from an amalgamation of members from other tribes who fled the devastation wreaked on the region by global demand for rubber. Members of the tribe who have seen the broadcast are said to be angry. Members of the tribe have also claimed that they were asked to remove their everyday, Western-style clothing for the cameras, and in the final broadcast this had the effect of making them look more primitive and less connected to the outside world.