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Irish Legal News: 29th March 2021

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Legal Advisor / Solicitor (Belfast or Newry) – JMK Solicitors

At JMK Solicitors we make people our priority and that starts with our own people.

We believe that this is the key to our success.

We need the best people to achieve our goals and in return they gain learning and development as well as a rewarding benefits package.

We are delighted to be recruiting for the following post:

  • Legal Advisor / Solicitor (Belfast or Newry)

If you are interested in learning more about the position please follow the link

Closing date: Wednesday 31 March

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UK Supreme Court: Asda warehouse workers can be valid equal pay comparator for shop workers

The UK Supreme Court has determined that the predominantly female retail employees of a major supermarket are able to use the employment contracts of predominantly male depot employees as a valid comparison in their equal pay claim.

The claimants sought compensation from Asda Stores Ltd on the grounds that they had received less pay from 2008 to 2014 than distribution employees for the same level of work. Asda appealed to the Supreme Court following a decision of the English Court of Appeal allowing the comparison.

The appeal was heard by the President of the Supreme CourtLord Reed, sitting with the Deputy PresidentLord Hodge, and Lord Lloyd-JonesLady Arden, and Lord Leggatt.

Fundamentally different operations 

The claimants, who numbered around 35,000 by the time of the Supreme Court appeal, sought to use the distribution employees as a cross-establishment comparison under the Equality Act 2010 and the Equal Pay Act 1970, which was in force during the period claimed for. The question of whether this was permissible was tried as a preliminary issue. 

In order to use the distribution employees as a comparator, the legislation required that “common terms”, the meaning of which was not provided by Parliament, applied at both the claimants’ and the comparators’ establishments. Asda argued that the distribution employees, who worked at depots separate from the retail arm of its operation, did not have common terms with the retail employees. 

Prior to 1988, Asda’s distribution operation was entirely outsourced to third parties. The terms of employment of its distribution employees were originally inherited from the third parties and thereafter set by different processes to the ones used by the retail stores. It was common ground that wages for the two groups were fixed by different methods and that retail pay was generally less favourable than distribution pay. 

The employment tribunal that heard the case at first instance found, using a hypothetical test developed in Dumfries and Galloway Council v North (2013), that distribution employees would have been employed on substantially the same terms as their current contracts if they had been employed at the claimants’ site, and that they would not have received the retail employees’ terms. Appeals by Asda to the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal were dismissed. 

On appeal to the Supreme Court, Asda submitted that its distribution and retail operations were fundamentally different, evolved differently over time, and had different objectives and functions. While there were broad similarities between the retail and distribution employment terms, there were a number of specific differences that prevented them from being used as a comparator. 

Core terms 

The sole judgment given, with which the other four judges concurred, was delivered by Lady Arden. Noting that the employment tribunal had erred in its judgment in some respects, she said: “It was not correct for the employment tribunal to direct itself that it had to find ‘common terms generally as between claimants and comparators’. Therefore, this error invalidates the conclusion of the employment tribunal that there were common terms ‘generally’.” 

However, she went on to say: “The employment tribunal did ask the relevant question at a later stage in its judgment. In my judgment, the employment tribunal asked the question on what terms would the distribution employees be employed if they were located at the claimants’ establishment and rejected the argument that they would be so employed on retail terms.” 

Turning to the tribunal’s analysis of the contracts, she said: “The employment tribunal had left out of account rates of pay but these were the very terms alleged to be discriminatory and so they were properly left out of account. The other areas of difference […] would not appear to be core terms and the employment tribunal clearly considered that they were not.” 

On whether the North hypothetical could be applied, Lady Arden said: “All the employment tribunal needed to do in this case was to make the assumption that the distribution employees could carry out their role at a location appropriate for this purpose at the claimants’ establishment, even if this was contrary to the fact. It could have achieved that by envisioning a depot next to the retail store at the claimants’ establishment. It then had to ask whether, on this assumption, the distribution employees would continue to be employed on the same or substantially the same terms as they were employed at their own establishment.” 

For these reasons, the appeal succeeded. However, Lady Arden noted at the beginning of her judgment: “My conclusion, agreed by the other Justices hearing this appeal, does not mean that the claimants’ claims for equal pay succeed. At this stage all that has been determined is that they can use terms and conditions of employment enjoyed by the distribution employees as a valid comparison. The claimants must still show that they performed work of equal value.” 

Considering how this case would affect future employment tribunal decisions, she added: “Even when evidence is led and the employment tribunal must make factual findings on the issue whether the comparators would be employed on the same or substantially the same terms at the claimants’ establishment as at their own establishment, the fact-finding exercise can and should be kept within tight bounds. The employment tribunal should not countenance a prolonged enquiry into this threshold test.” 

© Irish Legal News Ltd 2021

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Pinsent Masons names new partners in Dublin and Belfast

Oisín McLoughlin and Jane Boyd
Pictured (L-R): Oisín McLoughlin and Jane Boyd

Pinsent Masons has announced the promotion of 19 new partners worldwide, including Oisín McLoughlin in Dublin and Jane Boyd in Belfast.

Senior associate Seána Donaghy has also been promoted to legal director in Belfast as part of the appointments round taking effect from 1 May 2021.

Mr McLoughlin is part of the firm's energy team, advising domestic and international clients with respect to mergers and acquisitions, equity investment rounds, commercial contracts, corporate reorganisations and governance, foreign direct investment and private equity.

Ms Boyd and Ms Donaghy are both financial services lawyers. Ms Boyd advises both domestic and international lenders, corporates and UHNW individuals and families on syndicated and bilateral finance transactions, while Ms Donaghy has a core focus in housing finance and education finance.

Following this promotion round, the firm's total number of partners is 459, with female representation across the partnership increasing to 28.5 per cent.

Andrea McIlroy-Rose, head of Pinsent Masons in Belfast, said: "The Belfast office continues to invest in our talented people and despite the challenges 2020 has brought, this year is no exception.

"Jane and Seána are valuable assets not only to our local clients but as part of the firm's wider sector-focused offering in the UK and internationally. I'd like to extend my congratulations to them on their fantastic achievement."

Richard Foley, senior partner at Pinsent Masons, added: "This year more than any other, our people have experienced enormous disruption to their personal and professional lives. Despite everything, they have shown resilience and the ability to adapt and thrive.

"Although operating under challenging circumstances, our newly appointed partners have continued to apply Pinsent Masons' values, innovative thinking and solutions-based legal services to achieve the best results for our clients.

"Thanks to their hard work and dedication, we have retained our focus on what matters; doing business in the right way for our clients and the communities we operate in. Congratulations to all on their well-deserved achievement."

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Mercy Law Resource Centre names new managing solicitor

Aoife Kelly-Desmond
Aoife Kelly-Desmond

Mercy Law Resource Centre (MLRC) has announced the appointment of Aoife Kelly-Desmond as its new managing solicitor.

MLRC, which provides free legal advice to homeless people and people at risk of homelessness, assists around 1,600 individuals and families per year.

Ms Kelly-Desmond previously worked at A&L Goodbody and Matheson, where she advised commercial entities, in particular financial institutions, and public bodies on investigations, regulatory matters and complex litigation and disputes.

She is a graduate of University College Cork and has completed post-graduate programmes in law and business disciplines with Queen Mary University of London, the Leicester Castle Business School, DeMontfort University of Leicester, and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).

Ms Kelly-Desmond is also vice-chair of the board of directors of Plan International Ireland, an international charity that aims to advance children’s rights and promote equality for girls.

Announcing her appointment, Mercy Law Resource Centre said: "Aoife’s experience of advocacy, front line experience, passion for social equality and wide-ranging legal and regulatory knowledge will greatly strengthen the work of MLRC and enrich the quality of our services.

"We warmly welcome her diversity of legal skills and experience and look forward to this next chapter for Mercy Law."

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NI: Increased limits for unfair dismissal and redundancy payments confirmed

This year's increases in the limits for payments and awards to workers in employment rights cases in Northern Ireland have been confirmed.

From 6 April, the limit on the compensatory award for unfair dismissal will rise from £88,693 to £89,669, while the maximum amount of "a week's pay" for the purpose of calculating redundancy payments will rise from £560 to £566.

The increased limits relate to a range of employment rights including statutory redundancy payments; the basic and compensatory awards for unfair dismissal; the limit on guarantee payments made when employees are not provided with work; and the minimum basic award for unfair dismissal in health and safety and certain other cases.

Economy Minister Diane Dodds said: "In the unfortunate event that workers find themselves in the position of receiving these types of payments or awards, I want to assure them that they will be calculated appropriately and that this is protected by law."

Legislation adjusting limits relating to a range of employment rights is made annually to reflect changes in the rate of inflation as measured by the Retail Prices Index (RPI).

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Seventh extension to immigration permissions until September 2021

Helen McEntee
Helen McEntee

Immigration and international protection permissions have been temporarily extended for a further five months.

People who held a valid permission to be in the State in March 2020 will be legally permitted to remain until 20 September 2021, even if their Irish Residence Permit (IRP) card has expired and they are awaiting a new one.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said: "As the Covid-19 situation continues to evolve, I want to reassure people whose immigration permissions are due to expire shortly that your legal status in the country will continue to be maintained.

"To do this, I am introducing a further automatic extension to 20 September 2021 for anyone already holding a valid permission.

"This extension will benefit those who cannot get an appointment to register or renew an existing permission. However, I encourage anyone who can renew, particularly Dublin-based customers who can use the online system, to do so and not to wait until September."

This is the seventh extension announced by Ms McEntee since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The last two-month extension and the two extensions before that were all described as the "final" extension.

The minister said: "It is intended this will be the final temporary extension of immigration permission, however we will continue to keep the situation under review as part of our national response to the pandemic."

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Employment lawyer launches bid to be elected as Senator

Ciarán Ahern
Ciarán Ahern

An employment lawyer has launched a bid to be elected as a Labour Senator in an upcoming by-election.

Ciarán Ahern, a senior associate at A&L Goodbody, has been nominated to fill the vacancy on the industrial and commercial panel created by Senator Elisha McCallion's resignation last October.

The new Senator will be elected by members of the Oireachtas in a ballot running from 7–21 April 2021. Mr Ahern's election pitch centres on youth involvement and politics and reform of the Seanad.

"Very few people understand that 218 politicians are the only ones who get to decide on this election to our national parliament," Mr Ahern said.

"Through backroom deals the larger parties have the vote sewn up well in advance making it next to impossible for candidates from smaller parties to win these elections.

"This is just one small part of the Seanad reform that Labour has been calling for. Senator Ivana Bacik and Labour colleagues have proposed a number of reforms that could be brought in immediately via legislation, without the need to change the constitution.

"This includes the opportunity for all citizens to vote for the five vocational panels, expansion of the electorate for the university panel and holding the Seanad election on the same day as the Dáil election."

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NI: #InPictures: Solicitors and barristers join roundtable on Human Rights Act review

Solicitor, barristers and rights campaigners attended a "hybrid" roundtable event hosted by the Law Society of Northern Ireland and the Bar Council of Northern Ireland to discuss the independent review of the Human Rights Act.

The event was chaired by Sir Peter Gross, chair of the review panel, joined by three other members of the panel, including Baroness Nuala O'Loan, a former solicitor and the first Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.

Participants included solicitors and barristers from private practice and academia and representatives from a number of local bodies and organisations with a particular interest in human rights.

Rowan White, president of the Law Society, said: "Discussion at the round table has allowed for the further development of a number of the issues which were covered in the Society’s written response to the Panel’s Call for Evidence.

"In particular we welcomed the opportunity to focus on the pivotal role which the Human Rights Act has in the current constitutional arrangements in Northern Ireland."

Maria McCloskey, chair of the Law Society's human rights and equality group, added: "The Act is still very much in its infancy.

"Over the last 20 years, our understanding of it has been developing and, amongst human rights practitioners the overwhelming position is that it has been working extremely effectively. Accordingly this review and its timing is of great concern."

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Dr Sandra Duffy: Latest English court ruling on puberty blockers is huge step forward

Dr Sandra Duffy
Dr Sandra Duffy

Dr Sandra Duffy comments on Friday's High Court ruling in AB v Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, the first case funded by the Good Law Project's Trans Defence Fund.

In the case of AB v Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, heard before the High Court of England and Wales (Family Division), a challenge was made to the findings of the Divisional Court in Bell v Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust (previously discussed here).

AB and CD, who are the parents of XY, a transgender girl, sought permission from the court to consent to puberty blockers on XY’s behalf without requiring the intervention of a judge and the obtaining of a best interests order.

My write-up of the Bell judgment, linked above, contains the background to the cases, but in brief: puberty blockers (PBs) are the form of gender-affirming healthcare prescribed to young trans people aged 17 and under. The hormonal treatment prevents trans children and teenagers from experiencing pubertal changes appertaining to their sex assigned at birth.

These changes can be very distressing for young people and lead to problems in mental health and social development, particularly for young people who are growing up in their true gender from childhood and who are suddenly thrown into a puberty which does not accord with that gender.

Puberty blockers are sometimes challenged as an experimental treatment, a point which was made much of in the Bell judgment, but the international evidence base for their use shows them to be both safe and reversible should the child decide not to proceed with their transition. (Controversially, the evidence on the safety of puberty blockers which was presented in the Bell case, and which is accepted in AB, was very weak and did not draw sufficiently on international best practice – a decided oversight.)

AB v Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust

AB differs from Bell in that the question raised before the court here is whether parents can consent to puberty blockers on their child’s behalf, whereas Bell concerned the competence of the child themself. Bell is currently under appeal (to be heard in June), and Lieven J did not propose to address the issues therein, in AB. It is to be noted that Lieven J was of the panel of the Divisional Court which decided Bell, and, as she states, she “self-evidently entirely agree[s] with its analysis”. (9) Bell was therefore not to be re-litigated in this judgment.

XY, the child in question in AB, is a transgender girl aged 15. She had fully transitioned socially and had been a patient at the GIDS service since she was 10. She is currently taking puberty blockers and cites her potential distress at having to undergo male puberty in her letter to the court. She was declared competent to consent to the treatment. Following the judgment in Bell, the NHS England “issued an amendment to the Service Specification for GIDS requiring that each patient currently receiving treatment should be assessed and a 'best interests' application should be made to the court in the event that the clinical review determined that the patient should continue with PBs.” (24) XY’s clinical review would take approximately three months; meanwhile her next prescription is due in April. XY, her parents, and her clinicians, are unanimous that she should continue receiving her PBs.

The issues before the court were as follows:

  1. "Do the parents retain the legal ability to consent to the treatment?

  2. Does the administration of PBs fall into a “special category” of medical treatment by which either:

    1. An application must be made to the Court before they can be prescribed?

    2. As a matter of good practice an application should be made to the Court?" (34)

Lieven J notes the “central, fundamental and critical role of parents in their children’s lives, and decision making about their lives” (39) and states that this includes the role of granting consent for medical treatment (42) including “the most serious of all decisions” (43). She cites the Children Act 1989, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the European Convention on Human Rights, as support for the rights of parents. The issue as stated in this case is whether XY and her parents have a “concurrent right to consent” (49) - ie, do XY’s parents have a right to consent on her behalf, even if she is Gillick competent?

A variety of wardship and parental consent caselaw is cited as precedent to the current case, including the landmark case of Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Health Authority, from which the notion of Gillick competence arises. Lieven J states that “[t]he very essence of Gillick is, in my view, that a parent’s right to consent or “determine” treatment cannot trump or overbear the decision of the child. Therefore, the doctors could lawfully advise and treat the child without her mother’s knowledge or consent.” (67)

However, in the present case, the parent and child are in agreement on the treatment sought. Therefore, “the issue here is whether the parents’ ability to consent disappears once the child achieves Gillick competence in respect of the specific decision even where both the parents and child agree.” (68) The crux of the decision on this point is that “[i]n the present case, in the light of the decision in Bell, and the particular issues around Gillick competence explained in that judgment, it has not been possible to ascertain whether the child is competent... Whether or not XY is Gillick competent to make the decision about PBs, her parents retain the parental right to consent to that treatment.” (69) This approach is said to protect the rights of both the child and the parent.

The second issue before the court was whether PBs fall into a “special category” of medical treatment requiring particular measures before prescription. Using a line of reasoning taken from sterilisation and wardship cases, Lieven J came to the conclusion that “There are particular issues in relation to PBs and there may well be justification for clinicians taking a very cautious approach in individual cases and erring on the side of having Court consideration and authorisation. However, the need for caution in imposing blanket rules, even for the most difficult categories of case, is important to have closely in mind.” (99)

The court also considered the Australian cases of Re Kelvin and Re Jamie concerning puberty blockers, but differentiated them from the analysis in Bell (102). Lieven J noted the possible discrimination law issues that may arise in placing PBs in a special category of medication requiring court approval, under the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998. However, she reserved comment on these issues. (113)

In conclusion, Lieven J stated that she did not “consider that these issues justify a general rule that PBs should be placed in a special category by which parents are unable in law to give consent.” (128)

Implications for trans healthcare

This judgment, therefore, allows for parental consent to puberty blocking treatment on the child’s behalf, whether or not the child can be judged to be Gillick competent. Self-evidently, this is a huge step forward from the judgment in Bell for parents and children seeking gender-affirming healthcare. Children with supportive parents will be able to access the healthcare they require. However, there are obvious issues with the decision.

Firstly, the situation of children who do not have supportive parents, and who are therefore the least advocated for, remains the same. However, it is worth noting that the Tavistock clinic rarely allowed for puberty blockers to be administered without parental consent in any case, and therefore the situation in law and policy remains approximately the same. Children without support are still being left behind in their struggle for healthcare and, without the backing of their family and following Bell, they are unlikely to be able to access the care they need.

Secondly, it is unsurprising that AB follows the reasoning of BellBell is currently under appeal, but stands, and Lieven J was part of the panel which decided Bell. However, the parts of Bell which, in my opinion, require criticism, are therefore not challenged. The weak evidence base on the safety of PBs from Bell, which I reiterate does not reflect the reality of international best practice, is accepted without question. The outcomes of Bell are also accepted – for example, the very debatable finding that puberty blockers are “experimental”. It remains to be seen what will be made of those findings in the appeal.

Thirdly, although the role of parents in children’s lives and decision is vital, allowing parents to be the arbiters of an issue such as gender-affirming healthcare is territory which must be trodden carefully. The court displays a strange attitude toward family dynamics, stating that it is possible that children may pressure their parents into allowing them to take puberty blockers (125). It seems far more likely that parents would be in a position to refuse consent and therefore bar the child from access to healthcare (pending, of course, the appeal in Bell on the competence of the child). This raises real questions about the autonomy of the trans child and the ideological stances of some in society, including reluctant parents of trans children.

Finally, the court’s negative attitude to transition and trans-related healthcare, as seen in Bell, is still evident in AB. The sentence “The gravity of the decision to consent to PBs is very great, but it is no more enormous than consenting to a child being allowed to die” (121) is quite shocking – delaying puberty is not seen as a temporary, interim solution to the problem of a child growing up in a body incongruent with their identity, but instead it is placed in comparison to decisions around children with terminal illness.

On the whole, the problems which happened in the wake of Bell still stand. There is still a threat of the narrowing of Gillick competence in cases around abortion and contraception, should challenges be taken. The presumption of competence has shifted away from the child and, with AB, toward the parent.

The NHS clinical reviews of treatment and ban on new applications for puberty blockers initiated after Bell are ongoing (although the Good Law Project, which supported the challenge in AB, is petitioning for them to be halted). And it is evident that the English courts still have a long way to go when it comes to understanding the lives and needs of trans young people. However, we must attend for the appeal in Bell to know in which direction the fate of these young people will tend.

  • Dr Sandra Duffy is an Irish legal academic and a teaching associate at University of Bristol Law School.
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England: Hate crime against police on the rise

Hate crimes recorded against the police have risen over the past three years and comprise up to half of such charges in some areas, the Law Society Gazette reports.

Fifty-three per cent of all cases dealt with by North Yorkshire Police in 2019/20 included a victim who was a police employee or officer – compared with a fifth in 2017/18.

In the West Midlands, 43 per cent of hate crimes involved a police victim. The figure was a third or more for the British Transport Police as well as forces in Gwent, Warwickshire and West Yorkshire.

The Metropolitan Police told the Gazette its officers suffered five hate crimes per day.

An increase in the use of body-worn cameras could be one reason more crimes against officers are recorded.

Audrey Ludwig, director of Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality, said: “It may be that the great increase in body-worn video provides police victims with the level of evidence required to meet the evidentiary test in a way not available to other victims.”

Chief Superintendent Mat Shaer, the hate crime lead for West Midlands Police, said: “Many hate crime offences against officers are committed after a suspect has been arrested for other matters so they are in our custody when the hate crime is committed.”

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UK: MPs ‘shocked and appalled’ by treatment of children at privately run detention centre

Members of the House of Commons Justice Committee are “shocked and appalled” by the treatment of children at a privately run detention centre in Northamptonshire, they said in a report published today.

The committee has called on the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to consider taking back direct control of the Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre unless the private company currently in charge, MTC, makes substantial improvements.

The committee also questioned why the MoJ has given MTC two more years to run the centre despite its poor performance in managing the five-year, £50.4 million contract.

The committee report said:

  • children at the secure training centre, just south of Rugby, were locked in their cells for 23.5 hours a day for 14 days;
  • one boy was only allowed out of his room for a total of four hours over a fortnight;
  • the children (defined as up to their 18th birthday) received little encouragement to get up in the mornings and education provision was poor – some spent much of the day in their pyjamas;
  • senior Rainsbrook management, and MoJ monitors working there, were unaware of these conditions, despite having offices just two minutes' walk from the cells;
  • the Justice Secretary was at one point wrongly informed improvements had taken place and subsequently reported this improvement in good faith – in his own words he was “played for a fool”, and;
  • the management of the private, US-headquartered contractor, MTC, were not the only ones at fault – the MoJ also “failed in their management and oversight of Rainsbrook”, the committee said.

A public session of the committee was held on March 9, where evidence was taken from the managing director of MTC’s UK arm, Ian Mulholland, three inspectors of conditions at the facility and Justice Secretary Robert Buckland QC MP.

Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre can hold up to 87 male and female children aged 12 to 17. It has been run by MTC since 2016 and concerns have been raised about the quality of its services since then.

The most recent concerns began to surface in February 2020 when inspectors found poor education provision, with many children refusing to attend lessons, high staff turnover and low levels of staff experience. The inspectors made 19 recommendations but, the report says, these were largely ignored.

In October 2020, the inspectors from Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission and HM Inspectorate of Prisons returned to Rainsbrook and found new and serious concerns.

Newly-admitted children were being locked in their rooms for 14 days and allowed out only for 30 minutes each day for fresh air. The inspectors said this was “tantamount to solitary confinement” and “highly likely to be damaging to children’s emotional and physical well-being." The inspectors informed the MoJ.

In November, Mr Buckland told Ofsted in a letter that improvements were underway. He had, the committee report said, been misinformed.

In December 2020, the inspectors went to Rainsbrook again, unannounced. They found that only limited progress had been made so they took the unusual step of invoking an ‘urgent notification’ which called attention to the situation.

The Justice Committee said it was not confident in MTC’s ability to deliver recommendations repeatedly made over a period of years by the three sets of inspectors.

The committee recommended that MTC and the Youth Custody Service branch of the MoJ report to it by June 2021 setting out in detail what progress had been made. If by then substantial improvement was not apparent, the committee report said, the ministry should consider taking Rainsbrook “back in house.”

Sir Bob Neill, the chair of the Justice Committee, said: “The children held at places like Rainsbrook have committed serious crimes and are not always easy to care for or handle. We know that. But these are children - and some of the most vulnerable members of our society. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. It is clear this was not happening, and that is unacceptable in the extreme.

“The experience of the inspectors over the past year has shown that some of the promises made by MTC are worth less than the paper they are written on. This, too, is unacceptable. But even worse, in a way, is that the competent public authorities - from the Ministry of Justice down - have failed in their oversight of this private contractor.

“We welcome the work being done to address these failings. But the issues identified here are not new and a much greater sense of urgency is required. My Committee will be watching to try to ensure that change for the better takes place – and soon.”

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Spain becomes sixth country in the world to legalise assisted dying

Spain is set to legalise assisted dying, becoming the fifth country in Europe and the sixth in the world to allow terminally ill people to end their life.

Legislation providing for the regulation of assisted dying was approved by Spanish MPs this month with 202 in favour, 141 against and two abstentions.

A regional structure will be established in three months' time to review and authorise requests for assisted dying under the new law.

Health Minister Carolina Darias told MPs: "It is an important day because we are making progress in the recognition of rights. It is an important day for all citizens because we are moving towards a more humane and just society.

"Above all, it is an important day for those who are in a situation of serious suffering, and it is also important for their families and the people close to them."

The minister said the law would balance "on the one hand, the fundamental rights to life and physical and moral integrity and, on the other, constitutionally protected goods such as dignity, freedom and autonomy of the will".

However, opponents of the law, including the far-right party Vox, have threatened to challenge the law before the Constitutional Court of Spain.

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Quote of the day

We do not destroy religion by destroying superstition.

Cicero, 'On Divination' (44 BC)

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And finally... bad type

A court has reprimanded lawyers for using the typeface Garamond to fit more words into page-limited filings.

Lawyers in Washington, D.C. were technically within the rules in using Garamond, which is slightly smaller than similar typefaces such as Times New Roman.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals had only told lawyers to use any proportional typeface so long as it has serifs and is at least 14 points in size.

However, the court has now revised the rules to put a stop to a long-standing practice of using Garamond as a last resort for page filings, Ars Technica reports.

A notice has been issued to lawyers "to encourage the use of typefaces that are easier to read and to discourage use of Garamond".

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LEAP software keeps law firms working remotely Sponsored post

Ben Aslet, LEAP UK Marketing Manager, explains how law firms using LEAP’s cloud-based practice management solution are successfully adapting to remote working and how it’s as near as can be business as normal for law firms using LEAP. He said LEAP have talked to several law firms using the software to find out how they are managing with life away from the office.

The current health crisis means that more and more legal professionals are working from home. Many are showing resilience and agility in the face of the lockdown and those firms that are equipped and have remote-friendly software are faring much better than those have not.

Mike Leeman, BLJ Solicitors comments We now have 50 members of staff working seamlessly from home, thanks to LEAP Legal Software UK.”

We have been working hard to support our clients to acclimatise during lockdown and the feedback that we have received has been incredibly encouraging with many very grateful that they made the transition to cloud software when they did so that their business can continue functioning remotely. Eliot Hibbert of Nexa Law adds: “LEAP is helping our lawyers continue to offer a seamless service in what is a challenging and unprecedented environment.” 

Our Helpdesk and Client success teams have been touching base with our clients to ensure that they can continue to remain productive during the crisis and in many cases our clients are now beginning to understand the true value of LEAP. Paula Langley, Practice Manager, Bookers & Bolton says: “We love it! We are all happily working from home immediately and by taking our work machines home we have fully functioning desktops immediately.

We are finding that firms are benefitting from LEAP’s existing integrations with leading software providers such as LawConnect, for secure document sharing and collaboration with their client. As Stephanie Richardson, Office Manager, Evolve Family Law Ltd puts it: “We are able to create correspondence with all the enclosures without printing a single piece of paper, building bundles and briefs virtually with a click of a button and sharing securely via LawConnect.”

Many LEAP firms are using RapidPay which lets your clients pay you quickly and conveniently online. Ms. Bushra Ali, Director and Head of Practice of Bushra Ali Solicitors and Immediate Past President of the Leicestershire Law Society says: “We can claim fees from clients much quicker and more efficiently. LEAP made it possible for us to shift all our staff to work from home and to be able to operate the entire firm remotely.”

We also hope that our clients will appreciate our continued development of the software to help law firms to work from home during this difficult time. Since the beginning of lockdown LEAP have launched some additional exciting new features that will benefit law firms when working from home.  Via the LEAP Mobile App, iPhone and iPad users can now make FaceTime video and audio calls to clients and other parties, time record these calls and can invite clients to prearranged FaceTime meetings.

LEAP now integrates with Microsoft Teams, meaning law firms can work across multiple locations and staff can share and collaborate on documents and matters, conduct audio or video calls across the team and schedule client call backs directly from LEAP using Microsoft Teams' instant messaging service.

At LEAP we are committed to making our software ever easier to use and more versatile so that our law firms can get on with doing what they do best – practising law. We were one of the first legal software vendors to utilise cloud technology and the fact that our clients are able to function remotely so well is a validation of the work our research and development teams have been undertaking for many years. Stay safe everybody, and keep your clients happy!

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Stewart Title Business Continuity Programme Sponsored post

As concern regarding COVID-19 (coronavirus) continues to evolve, Stewart Title is closely monitoring developments including the recommendations made by healthcare authorities and the UK government, in order to safeguard the health and well-being of our employees while ensuring our continued ability to serve our clients.

We also wanted to assure you that Stewart Title’s Business Continuity Programme was designed to address these types of events and ensure our organisation is prepared to maintain the delivery of products and services with minimal disruption on service levels.

Accordingly, we wanted to inform you that the regular means of accessing our services remain unchanged and that there are tools and policies available that may be of assistance:

  • Online ordering via Stewart Solution from where you can continue to order cover for over 150 title indemnity risks. Our online ordering site is available at anytime and can be accessed on your tablet or mobile. If you’re currently not a user, but wish to sign up, you can register on the site at
  • Our Underwriting Team is available for more complex matters or where you need to discuss your transaction. Enquiries can be sent by email to or by phone on 02070107820 or 02070107821. Should you choose to contact us by email, please include your name, contact information, Stewart file number (ST/**********) and a brief description of your enquiry. One of our team members will get back to you in a timely manner.
  • No Search and Search Validation Policies are available to help your client’s transaction to proceed if you are unable to obtain the results of the normal pre-contract searches from public bodies, as a result of changes to working hours or closures due to COVID-19.

We hope that by providing you with the above information, we have been able to alleviate some of your concerns during this challenging time.

We wish you, your family and your associates continued health and resilience. We will continue to be in touch as the situation develops. 07940513681 01698 833308

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Global Language Services Ltd Sponsored post

Technology in the 21st Century is providing us with the means to communicate our thoughts and ideas across the planet in a way that would have been unthinkable, even 10 years ago.

However good the technology is, it cannot pick up the subtleties of a language, the culture that underpins it, or even the humour that oils many of our conversations.

For this reason there has always been a need for skilled interpreters and translators and probably always will. That’s where Global Language Services Ltd can help you.

Not only do we have the language service talent that you are likely to need, we also have a track record that spans Government, health, justice, commercial and private sector contracts.

So, whatever you want to achieve in a different language, we’re on your side from the word ‘go’.

We go out of our way to help with any translation and interpreting requirements and you can test that simply by picking up the phone and getting in touch. Calls are answered by trained operators with no call centres – just real people determined to help you achieve your language service requirements as quickly as possible.

If you’ve been searching for Professional Translation or reliable Interpreting Services at competitive prices, we like to think that Global will be your long-term partner after your first project with us.

With offices in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness and Aberdeen we are committed to finding local interpreters and translators wherever possible. Our reach, however, goes much further than Scotland and we are happy to take translation projects from across the world.

Call Today on 0141 429 3429 to discuss your Project

or email

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