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Expert Witness Legal News

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

Pre-recording of vulnerable witness evidence to be allowed – 25 years on from its proposal

Picture of Lord Judge for Your Expert Witness storyThe most vulnerable victims are to be protected from the trauma of appearing in court, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced today.

On 11 June Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced that, for the first time, young and vulnerable victims who have survived the most horrific crimes will be able to pre-record both their evidence and any cross-examination, rather than having to suffer the trauma of appearing in court.

The new system will be tested in three areas – Leeds, Liverpool and Kingston-upon-Thames – with the intention of rolling it out more widely if it proves a success.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 June 2013 15:58

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Two jailed for VAT fraud

Picture of HMRC office for your Expert Witness storyTwo court cases at opposite ends of the country have resulted in jail terms for VAT fraud. On 16 May a Surrey man was jailed for 12 months for attempting to pocket nearly £47,000 in fraudulent VAT repayments.

John Patrick Cahill was investigated by HMRC following suspicions about the accuracy of VAT refund claims he submitted between January 2011 and January 2012. These claims were monitored as part of a London fraudulent repayment tax taskforce launched in 2011.

Taskforce enquiries revealed that his Mayfair business address was simply a mail-drop service. Investigations showed that although Cahill claimed to trade as an energy efficiency inspector his company made no sales for the period.

Last Updated on Sunday, 26 May 2013 17:16

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High Court rules in favour of Barnet outsourcing

Photo of Barnet the Guinea Pig for Your Expert Witness storyOn 29 April the High Court ruled that a London council could proceed with its plan to outsource a number of its services to private companies – including Capita.

Lord Justice Underhill dismissed an application for judicial review brought by a disabled resident. The judge ruled that the application was out of time; however he did also rule on the substantive issues. One of the grounds claimed was that the council had failed to carry out an impact assessment under the Equality Act 2010.

Lord Underhill said: “The judgment as to whether the provisions of the contract adequately address the interests of groups with a protected characteristic is for the council, and not the court, to make; and its assessment could only be challenged if it fell outside the wide discretion which it enjoys.”

Last Updated on Monday, 29 April 2013 17:13

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Court rules against public funding of expert report in a family case

Experts in family cases must be especially careful to ensure their fees will be paid before accepting instructions. The funding of expert witnesses in family cases reached a stalemate this week after the High Court ruled that the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) - formerly the Legal Services Commission - was not obliged to cover the full cost of an expert witness.  After intervening in the case, the Law Society reacted with disappointment at the ruling. The LSC is not normally obliged to fully fund the cost of an expert witness where the child is legally aided and the parents are unable to afford the costs.

Law Society president Lucy Scott-Montcrieff said: "The LSC's position simply results in deadlock. The court has first to decide that an expert report is necessary, not just desirable, to help it decide a child's future, but unless someone is able to pay - in this case the legal aid budget - there cannot be a report. The court's ruling does not address that impasse, and for that reason it is disappointing for those children who find themselves in the family court."

Following the family legal aid changes implemented last week, more cases will appear where children alone are legally aided, said Scott-Montcrieff. The High Court judgment in R (JG) v The Legal Services Commission followed the refusal of the LSC to pay more than one third of an expert's fees.  The LSC's decision was based on section 22 (4) of the Access to Justice Act, which states that costs cannot be awarded against one party simply because they benefit from legal aid. "Reports required from the court for the child's benefit should be paid for by the legal aid budget where the parents are unable to contribute: it should not be enough to argue, as the LSC did, that the parents also benefit from a report."

Experts should ensure their terms and conditions cover the possibility of non-payment by the LAA and there is still recourse to the instructing solicitors.

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 April 2013 11:50