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Landlords unenthusiastic about Welsh housing proposals

Pictre of Carl Sergeant for Your Expert Witness storyThe Housing (Wales) Bill was introduced to the Welsh Government on 19 November by its Minister for Housing and Regeneration, Carl Sargent AM. The Bill confirmed the Welsh Government’s plans to require all landlords and letting agents to register and become licensed by their respective local authorities.

Speaking the following day at the conference of the National Landlords’ Association in Swansea, the minister said: “We recognise the importance of the private rented sector and the enhanced role it could play in meeting the increasing demand for housing.

“Good landlords, particularly those who already participate in an accreditation scheme, have nothing to fear. They are already adhering to best practice and are fully aware of their obligations. It is time to tackle those unscrupulous landlords and agents who give others and the whole sector a bad image.

“Our proposals will improve the management standards within the sector by ensuring landlords and letting agents are aware of their responsibilities and act accordingly. These measures can only help improve the private rented sector and make it a more attractive housing option.”

However, NLA chief executive officer Richard Lambert was less convinced.

“While it comes as no surprise that the Welsh Government wishes to register all private landlords, it is deeply disappointing that the plans appear mired in burdensome bureaucracy,” he said. “The requirements outlined in the Housing (Wales) Bill require landlords to not only register, but to subsequently obtain a licence from what could be numerous local authorities – each of which may stipulate its own conditions and fees. Duplication is inevitable.”

That concern was echoed at the conference by the NLA chairman Carolyn Uphill.

“The Bill means that many landlords in Wales will need to obtain multiple licences from multiple local authorities,” she said. “They need a promise that there will be clarity and simplicity over what will be required of them in both registering and licensing their properties.

“Similarly, the Welsh local authorities will need guidance on how the proposals should be administered locally and how it will be regulated so that any unnecessary duplication is removed.

“The clear message from this conference is that, if mandatory accreditation and licensing is confirmed as the Welsh Government’s policy, then we need one accreditation scheme for Wales, not a multiplicity of local variations.”

Richard Lambert also criticised the bureaucracy involved.

He declared: “It is unnecessary and unhelpful to require private landlords to submit details of their investments to a public register in the name of driving improvements and rooting out criminals. Far from combatting criminality within the private-rented sector and offering solutions to the undersupply of residential property, these measures look certain to increase the cost of providing homes by forcing landlords to comply with yet more red-tape.

“The NLA shares the Welsh Government’s desire to raise standards in the private-rented sector, but we remain unconvinced that a national register of landlords is the right approach. It will only serve to increase the cost of living for many hard working families as the fee for registering and subsequently obtaining a license  will inevitably be passed on to tenants.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 November 2013 19:06

Small claims limit to stay as MoJ announces medical panels

Chris Grayling OfficialThe Ministry of Justice has announced that it will not be proceeding with plans to raise the limit of claims for personal injury in the small claims court, although Justice Minister Chris Grayling has not ruled out the possibility of a rise in future.

Announcing the decision on 23 October, he said: “We have listened to the views of the transport committee and others that now may not be the right time to raise the small claims limit because of the risks that it may deter access to justice for the genuinely injured and encourage the growth of those disreputable claims firms which so damage the industry.

“At this stage, we have decided to defer any increase in the small claims track until we can determine the impact of our wider reforms on motor insurance premiums and better safeguard against the risks.”

The MoJ also announced the introduction of independent medical panels to ensure only evidence from accredited experts is considered.

Last Updated on Monday, 28 October 2013 10:12

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Law Society announces Excellence Awards shortlist

Law Society Excellence Awards logo for Your Expert Witness storyThe finalists in the Law Society Excellence Awards 2013 have been announced, following a record number of entries. The shortlist includes outstanding individuals and teams who have set new precedents in the profession. Now in its seventh year, and bigger than ever before, the event showcases some of the brightest legal talent in England and Wales.

The winners will be announced by BBC broadcaster Mishal Husain at a gala awards dinner on 22 October at the Park Plaza Hotel, Westminster Bridge, London. The Excellence Awards reward the most outstanding practitioners in the legal profession and are open to the entire legal sector, not just solicitors.

Entries were scrutinised earlier this month by a line-up of specialist judges, including Rt Hon Sadiq Khan, chairman of Which? Patrick Barwise, former attorney general Lord Goldsmith, CEO of Thomson Reuters Foundation Monique Villa, master of the rolls Lord Dyson, and solicitor and High Court Judge Sir Gary Hickinbottom.

Law Society president Nicholas Fluck said: “The standards this year have been exceptionally high, and I know the judges had a mammoth task on their hands in choosing whom to shortlist. The shortlisted candidates are those who are breaking new ground, showing innovation and who are outstanding representatives of the legal profession.

Last Updated on Friday, 20 September 2013 08:54

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Lawyers need guidance to help people with learning difficulties, report says

Photo of Chris Kenny for Your Expert witness storyA report by the University of Bristol has recommended guidance and training for lawyers to better understand the needs of clients with learning difficulties.

Undertaken on behalf of the Legal Services Board, the Legal Services Consumer Panel and the learning disability charity Mencap, the research involved 90 people with learning disabilities and interviews with 26 family carers and nine legal services professionals.

The report praises the ability of some solicitors to understand the support and communications needs of people with a learning disability but highlights tailored training and guidance would improve the experience for many clients with learning disabilities.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 August 2013 14:47

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Alison Saunders announced as new DPP

Photo of new DPP Alison Saunders for Your Expert Witness storyThe Crown Prosecution Service has announced that the new Director of Public Prosecutions will be Alison Saunders CB. The announcement was made on 23 July by the Attorney General, Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP.

Ms Saunders is currently the Chief Crown Prosecutor for London and will take up her position on 1 November, following the departure of Keir Starmer. She joined the CPS when it was formed in 1986.

The Attorney General said: “Alison will make an excellent Director of Public Prosecutions and is the right person to help the Crown Prosecution Service meet the challenges it will face in the coming years. I am particularly pleased that Alison is the first Head of the CPS to be appointed from within its ranks as proof of the high quality of the professionals that work within the service.”

Dominic Grieve continued: “I'd also like to thank Keir Starmer for the great contribution he has made not only to the CPS but more generally to the criminal justice system.  He can be proud of the reforms that he and his staff have led to keep our criminal justice system one of the best in the world.”

Commenting on her new role, Alison Saunders said: “I am delighted and privileged to be appointed as the next Director of Public Prosecutions. To lead an organisation of committed and professional staff is an honour especially having worked for the CPS since its inception.

“I look forward to carrying on with the fantastic work that Keir Starmer QC has undertaken, ensuring the CPS further improves and continuing with reforms, both within the CPS and more widely in the criminal justice system.”

Keir Starmer added: “I have had the privilege of working with Alison Saunders for five years. She has been an outstanding leader within the CPS and she will make a first-rate DPP.”

Alison Saunders is recognised as an expert in the prosecution of sensitive and complex cases. She came to public notice when her role in the prosecution of ‘Railway Rapist’ David Mulcahy – convicted of a spate of sex attacks and murders during the 1980s – was highlighted in a TV documentary broadcast in 2001.

Recently she has appeared in prosecutions stemming from the London riots and in the Stephen Lawrence murder retrial.

Prior to her appointment as London’s Chief Crown Prosecutor in December 2009 she was head of the CPS Organised Crime Division. The unit deals with the most serious offences, including human trafficking, immigration, drugs-running, counterfeiting and money laundering, and confiscation of criminals’ assets.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 16:03