Archive for January 2013
From 1 October 2012 the Victim Surcharge was increased and extended to force more criminals to pay towards supporting victims of crime. The money raised supports local organisations that support victims at their most vulnerable.
Adults convicted of an offence committed on or after 1 October 2012 will have to pay the Surcharge at the new rate – 10% of any fine (max £120, min £20), conditional discharge (£15), community (£60) or custodial sentence (£80, £100 or £120 depending on length of sentence).
This is estimated to mean that offenders will provide up to £50 million more each year for victims services or organisations. This is on top of the £66 million already provided by central Government to victims’ services each year.
In the book I note that the former Victims Commissioner, Louise Casey, had decided to step down from the post. For some months it has been unclear whether she would be replaced.
However just before Christmas 2012, the Ministry of Justice announced that there would be a new Commissioner, Baroness Helen Newlove.
She brings considerable experience to the role since she has campaigned tirelessly for victims since the tragic death of her husband Garry in 2007. He was murdered outside the family home by a gang of youths, all alcohol and drug fuelled. In her role as the Government’s Champion for Active Safer Communities she has also worked with local people to make communities safer and to find solutions for local problems.
For more details of her appointment see http://www.justice.gov.uk/news/press-releases/moj/helen-newlove-unveiled-as-the-victims-commissioner
Do you get fed up with all those text messages or telephone calls inviting you to claim for an accident you never had or a PPI policy that you never bought?
The Ministry of Justice tries to regulate this seemingly uncontrolled and often unethical sector of the legal services market.
As a cheering end of year news item, the Ministry of Justice website published a press release that reports that between April and November 2012 209 companies were shut down and had their licences removed, three have been suspended and 140 have been warned.
This comes ahead of Government plans next year to give consumers even more protection against rogue firms. This includes making all businesses agree written contracts with customers before taking fees and an independent consumer complaints service which can compensate those who have received a raw deal.
Since 2008, when section 194 of the Legal Services Act 2007 came into force, it has been possible for litigants who are assisted on a pro bono (for free) basis to ask for some costs from the losing side.
They do not get the money for themselves since, by definition, their case has been argued for nothing. But any pro bono costs that are awarded are paid to a nominated charity – the Access to Justice Foundation – which can then use the funds to promote other legal service activities.
The sums involved in no way compensate for the cuts the legal aid that will start to bite in April 2013. But it is a development which, while still in an embryonic stage, may help to create new ways of providing at least some access to justice.
More detail of the work of the Access to Justice Foundation is at http://www.accesstojusticefoundation.org.uk/