Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Porn vs Real Life

There has been a lot of debate in recent months about how best to tackle the problems caused by the explosion of pornography in society brought about by the internet.

Dave, over at Number 10, spoke just the other week about plans to combat the “corroding influence of pornography on childhood” by requiring customers to specifically opt-in if they want to continue to have access to pornography via their ISP.

Oh, he also mentioned that it had finally dawned on the government to close that gaping loophole and bring depictions of rape within the provisions of extreme pornography. You know – 5 years too late and all that, but still.

Dave’s speech, of course, preceded the strategy paper that DCMS published yesterday. This so-called ‘strategy paper’ is in place of the White Paper that should have been released long before now outlining the anticipated Communications Bill. I suppose it’s nice that the DCMS finally got round to publishing something (don’t forget – the Green Paper was scrapped too) but it’s hard to ignore the fact that the concept of a new Communications Act is running embarrassingly out of steam.

Humph - and some say DCMS is a ‘mickey mouse’ department which hasn’t got the ‘teeth’ for matters as large and important as communications. I wonder why.

Anyway, returning to the damage that pornography has wrought on young people’s attitudes to sex, most people seem to be in agreement that better sex education and more open and transparent conversations about porn and sex are what are needed to provide kids with a reality check about what to really expect from sex.

Well, help is at hand. This extremely funny video (complete with statistics) uses food in a very creative way to shed light on just how divorced from reality the word of porn really is.

A word of warning: you’ll never look at a banana tip dipped in chocolate spread in quite the same way ever again.

Porn Sex vs Real Sex (as depicted with food).

Monday, 29 July 2013

Lawyers must show adaptability in a world full of change

lawyer resourcesCareer development seminars aimed at lawyers are forever beating the drum for the need to change and move with the times. It seems that “versatility” and “adaptability” are the new legal watchwords (apparently ‘commercial awareness’ alone doesn’t cut it any longer).

Chief amongst the areas in which they need to show this adaptability is how they manage information. Lawyers need to competently juggle an ever-increasing array of materials and sources and across a wide range of formats. Of course, technology can be both a blessing and a curse in this regard. (Isn’t it always?).

Lawyers need to be conversant with electronic and conventional book and paper sources and they cannot afford to ignore one format over another. It’s clear that offices are slowly (very slowly in some cases) moving away from their reliance on paper, but the realisation of the ‘paperless office’ is still a frightfully long way off.

Despite the lack of instantaneous ‘inline search’, conventional book sources still play a vital role in legal practice and legal research. Sometimes, browsing or thumbing through a volume can help you get the ‘feel’ of an unfamiliar area of law and help you focus in on appropriate keywords that can then be used in an electronic search. After all, searching electronically only ever works efficiently when you’ve identified the right words to search for!

We’ve recently made a conscious effort to vastly reduce the amount we print. It’s interesting that the transition was far less painful than people feared and to see how readily people adopted and accepted it. Now we just need to focus on getting employers to recycle more waste besides paper.

While I’m on the subject, why on earth do some law firms insist on having their air conditioning cranked up to such a high level that staff need to sit their shivering with their jackets buttoned-up? Practising law doesn’t absolve people from the need to be as environmentally friendly as possible.

But I digress. For what it’s worth, academia still over-emphasises traditional paper sources which doesn’t exactly help students when they get into practice. The Legal Practice Course is particularly bad in this regard. For instance, it still assumes firms opt to use hard copies of lengthy reference materials over electronic versions. In my experience at least, that’s utter nonsense.

No matter how unshakable you are on using conventional paper sources, when you’re dealing with lengthy pieces of legislation, for example, it simply doesn’t make any sense to use the paper version. Have you seen the full size of the Companies Act 2006 recently? Why on earth are we forcing students to lump around hard copies? Heck, they’ll be brining personal injury claims for lumbar and shoulder injuries before we know it!

We’re in quite an interesting, transitional phase with not just vast electronic databases of cases and legislation but electronic versions of conventional academic law books and practitioner texts. When you combine that with the burgeoning popularity of ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) access to this content across a range of devices such as e-readers, tablets and smartphones is not just possible, but happening. Yes, many law firms still regard BYOD with about as much relish as pro bono work, but there are some avant-garde players out there.

As this transition continues, lawyers must stay on their toes and continue to evolve and adapt to the changing environment of information sources. While it’s vital they embrace the benefits of modern technology, younger lawyers in particular must be careful not to ignore traditional sources or downplay their importance.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Avoid Expensive Legal Action: Improve Your Human Resources Department

Guest Post

Small businesses owners generally struggle, when it comes to maintaining a fully-equipped human resources department. And this is a shame because often a company owes its success to its fantastic HR service. Not only do they help recruit the very best in the business, but they nurture existing employees, deal with conflict, and make sure you’re protected from expensive legal action; particularly after the changes in the employer / employee claiming market.

Offer Training Opportunities
As an employer, you’re always worried that any training offered will go on to benefit a competitor, if your employee decides to pursue another position at a different company. However, enriching your workers through your HR department ensures that your services are high quality and up to date. Employees like to feel as if they are moving forward and developing as a professional – it gives them confidence. Stagnant jobs lead to stagnant business.

Build Team Relationships
Without a doubt, companies run well if there are solid communication links between employees. By building interpersonal relationships through HR schemes, you can boost the efficiency and creativity of workers in the office.

disgruntled employee claimsCommunication
A large part of HR is good communication skills. Not only should your HR employees be able to draft a well-worded letter, but they should be able to talk with other employees. Often, members of the HR team have to deal with personal problems and delicate information. They should be discreet and sensitive, where needed.

Stay Ahead Of the Game
Laws change all the time. It’s up to your HR department to stay on top of rules and regulations, to make sure that your company doesn’t fall foul of the law. They should lead by example and create a safe workplace for your employees.

Fact: family-friendly businesses attract and maintain the best employees. Having a family-friendly HR department means that you can retain talent, even when workers decide to take on the responsibilities of parenthood. That means considering flexible hours and allowing time for parents to attend family emergencies. Think of your HR department as your business’s employment lawyer, focussing on your concerns.

Conflict Management
Whenever there are groups of people, there’s bound to be friction every once in a while. HR departments are ideal for taking care of conflict management and should be able to diffuse tense situations. Angst isn’t good for office morale and can often distract employees from their work. And, of course, as an employer, you want a pleasant working environment for your staff.

If HR has to be one thing, it’s certainly ‘organised’. With so much information to store and concerns to process, organisation stops the company from descending into chaos. Your HR department usually deals with the payroll system, or outsources this task, as well as other significant processes.

Recognising the Positives
Through the HR department, you can keep tabs on employee progress and reward those who excel at their line of work. Where members of staff have really gone the distance, they deserve recognition for their efforts, to promote similar behaviour throughout the office.

Brain Injury Lawsuits: Will They Doom or Save the NFL?

Guest Post

110 million Americans settled down to watch the 47th Super Bowl last February, making it one of the most popular sports in the US. However, ex-players have been pointing a finger at the NFL and accusing them of causing degenerative brain conditions, due to repeated instances of serious concussion on the pitch. Even President Obama has expressed concerns for the sport, saying that if he had a son, he would think twice about letting him play American Football.

In 1904, before the NFL was created, no less than 18 college football players died from head injuries. Rules changed. Protective equipment improved. But it just goes to show how brutal this game can be.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback, Roger Staubach, threw in the towel after experiencing 20 concussions. Philadelphia Eagles passer, Jon Jaworski, said he’d suffered no less than 30.

A concussion occurs when the brain crashes into the skull, so it doesn’t necessarily require a direct hit to the head. Symptoms of concussion include losing consciousness, problems with vision, confusion, and nausea. According to research, conducted by the American Academy of Neurology, 51% of players had been knocked unconscious on more than one occasion and 31% had trouble with their memory.

Surely this highlights the fact that American football is dangerous for its players – of course, anyone who watched a game would be able to tell you that (and without a scientific study to boot). But the vast majority of American football’s appeal comes from its inherent violence. Will American football go the same way as boxing and watch its many fans leave the stadiums, if the brutality is turned down?

brain injury compensationCTE
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a disease that is caused by the repeated jostling of the brain against the skull. It can affect your memory and emotional state, as well as cause dementia and death. Symptoms are similar to those who experience Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Many ex-players, who have either died or killed themselves because of CTE, have families who are trying to take legal action against the NFL.

After neurosurgeons continued to unearth evidence that football players were developing severe disorders, the NFL began a programme that awarded $88,000 a year to any players who required institutionalisation because of their brain injuries.

NFL’s Reaction
The NFL is now pouring money into medical research and charitable donations, to stem the tide of vitriol. Some people are likening American football to smoking and that the NFL, like tobacco companies, is trying to play down the health risks of this contact sport.

Although dropping unconscious on numerous occasions is concerning, neuroscientists are warning that football causes ‘subconcussive’ effects, and that these can also lead to CTE with time. With this awareness, is this the end of American football or will the NFL succeed in taking the proper precautions to protect players? Only time will tell, but given the prevalent culture and popularity of the sport, it’s unlikely to go away soon.

Composed for Barlow Robbins, brain injury solicitors who have many years experience dealing with brain trauma. Their brain injury page, includes references to leading solicitors and additional supportive information for help on the matter.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Tenancy Law – “Providing a False Statement Knowingly”

Guest Postlandlord and tenant lawLegal 4 Landlords

Introduced by the Housing Act 1996 was an additional ground for eviction, which aimed to deal with a growing number of fraudulent tenancies. The new ground for eviction (Ground 17) was aptly names “Providing a False Statement Knowingly”.

The additional ground is however only a discretionary ground, which makes a total of 9 discretionary eviction grounds, and 8 mandatory eviction grounds – 17 grounds altogether (click here for a full list of mandatory and discretionary grounds for eviction).

Specifically Ground 17 is for when a tenant (or a person acting for the tenant) is deliberately dishonest in order to obtain a tenancy, which they would not have otherwise been able to secure. Letting agents and landlords where frequently frustrated by a relatively small number of potential tenants who provided both misleading and deliberately deceptive information, which did not always come to light until after the tenancy has started, at which point they previously had little recourse. With the introduction of Ground 17, landlords at least have the option to take action against tenants who has made fraudulent claims.

Tenant References and Tenant Application Forms
The majority of letting agents, and most landlords take proactive measures to “vet” their tenants prior to signing a tenancy agreement. The most common part of the vetting process is a tenant reference. This reference (which is usually completed by a third party tenant referencing company such as Legal 4 Landlords) will ask the potential tenant various questions about their financial situation, employment, lifestyle and previous address history. The results will then be fed back to the landlord or letting agent together with a recommendation, usually either Accept of Decline (some maybe returned as accept only with guarantor).

A small number of tenants who have been declined tenancies in the past due to their tenant reference may decide to provide false information in order to ensure an “accept” is received.

Most Common Types of Fraudulent Information
Research completed by Legal 4 Landlords has highlighted three main areas which are most susceptible to fraudulent statements:-

1. Tenant(s) states they are single when they are not
This can be because they know their partner would not pass a tenant reference or a credit search, and therefore conceal their relationship in order to avoid the tenancy application being rejected. Another common reason for the applicant claiming to be single when they are not is in order to qualify for housing benefit or tax credits as a single person / parent.

2. Tenant(s) states they are employed when they are not
This could simply be an unemployed tenant trying to obtain a tenancy which specified professional tenants only (no DSS). Some may go to great lengths to confirm employment, including fraudulent pay slips or by providing false employment reference. (useful tip: always confirm employment references using a landline phone number which can be found on the company’s website, and then ask to be transferred to the person who provided the reference)

3. Tenant(s) claim they have lived with parents for the last 3 years
This is generally to avoid bad debt detection, or to avoid providing their previous landlord details.

How to Use Ground 17 for Eviction Proceedings
Ground 17 is a discretionary ground, and so the court will take a subjective view on the particular details surrounding the claim and whether it is reasonable to grant an order for possession (evict the tenant) when considering the requirements of the Ground 17:-

“Recovery of possession where grant induced by false statement”

The tenant is the person, or one of the persons, to whom the tenancy was granted and the landlord was induced to grant the tenancy by a false statement made knowingly or recklessly by—

(a) the tenant, or
(b) a person acting at the tenant’s instigation.”

Click here to view Ground 17 details on

This ground has two significant components which the landlord would need to prove:

(a) they were induced to grant the tenancy by a false statement, and
(b) the false statement was made knowingly or recklessly.

NOTE: the false information does not need to come directly from the tenant, but can be from a third party in which the tenant has influenced, for example a false employment reference.

What the Court will Consider

  • Did the tenant deliberately provide misleading, false or withhold information on their tenant application or tenant reference forms?
  • Does the landlord have evidence of the deception, for example a copy of the tenancy application or tenant reference form completed and signed by the tenant?
  • What was the nature and extent of the false statement? Eg. was it a slight exaggeration of earnings, or did they completely falsify their employment situation?
  • When did the landlord find out about the false information, and how quickly did they seek legal remedy?

Most often the landlord will not find out about the false information until a property inspection is carried out, or if problems with rental payments arise.

Identity Theft
In additional to any fraudulent information provided by the tenant, it is also worth considering the possibility of identity theft. Landlord and letting agents can reduce their risk by confirming the potential tenants identify with a trusted form of photo ID, for example a passport or photo card driving license.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Closing the rape porn loophole - better late than never

rape porn extreme pornography From the Guardian 22/07/13:

Every household in Britain connected to the internet will be obliged to declare whether they want to maintain access to online pornography, David Cameron will announce on Monday.

In the most dramatic step by the government to crack down on the "corroding" influence of pornography on childhood, the prime minister will say that all internet users will be contacted by their service providers and given an "unavoidable choice" on whether to use filters.

The prime minister will also announce that possession of "extreme pornography", which includes scenes of simulated rape, will be outlawed by the government. It is illegal to publish such pornography and illegal to possess it in Scotland but not in England and Wales.

I remember reading McGlynn and Rackley’s* article a few years ago which criticised the omission of rape from the ‘extreme pornography’ provisions under the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.

*See C. McGlynn, and E. Rackley, ‘Criminalising extreme pornography: a lost opportunity’, Crim. L.R. 2009, 4, 245-260.

As the authors highlight, the exclusion of rape represents not just a glaring omission on the part of the legislature, but an inexcusable deviation from the Government’s mission statement which set out rationale behind the provisions on extreme pornography in the first place.

[P]ornographic pro-rape websites, which are freely and easily accessible online, will [not] be covered by these measures. This is lamentable, not least because the “extensive availability of sites featuring violent rape” was within the initial purview of the Government. Although some “violent” rapes may be covered (what is “non-violent” rape?), if they involve weapons or result in serious injury to the anus, breasts or genitals, this excludes many pornographic rape images.

While many of the “rapes” on pornographic rape websites may not be “real”, but staged, they nonetheless are often presented as real and certainly presented to valorise forced sex. Indeed, one deeply ironic aspect of the exclusion of pornographic rape websites from the scope of the CJIA is that the apparent evidence of a causal link between exposure to violent pornography and a propensity to commit acts of sexual violence (deployed by the Government) is based on research which invariably deploys images of rape as the basis for investigation.

Rape sites, such as those described above, should have been brought within the scope of these measures, whether or not the rape involves additional physical violence**, and their exclusion reveals the extent to which the Government has strayed from its initial ambition and lost sight of the harms to be addressed by these measures.

** My emphasis.

It’s a positive sign that the government has finally acknowledged the need to close this gaping lacuna; it’s just a pity it’s taken them 4 – 5 years to do so.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

An Update from Marmite the Bunny

Marmitius Cheekius Rabbitus (Latin name, obviously).

Marmite the RabbitHello there readers,

It’s been almost a year since I first graced the blawgopshere and it’s been a busy time for all at Law Actually HQ.

After the cable-damage incident in the LA datacentre last June, I took it upon myself to investigate the possibility of running the electrical and computer cabling under the floors.

To this end, I had to make an access hole through one of the carpets in the entrance hall – something which did not go down particularly well with all my colleagues. Despite assuring everyone that I had the business’ interests at heart, I found myself firmly rebuked for the creation of said hole. To make matters worse, my experiment wasn’t a total success either. As I submitted in my written report, “the concrete floors on the lower levels made the installation of cabling on a subterranean basis untenable.”

What a bummer. Even as a bunny, you live and learn.

Carpet Damage - Bunny Digs

Back in September, I appeared in the Metro “Pets of the Day” and later in the autumn I assisted in the planting of daffodil bulbs. I was particularly helpful in digging holes in the soil, even though I felt my assistance wasn’t properly appreciated by some! Humph. Once spring finally sprung this year, the daffodils provided some cheery springtime colour to the Law Actually grounds.

Marmite - Famous Bunny

Leading up to Christmas, I was asked to don on my Santa hat (much to my chagrin) and feature in a photo shoot. All I was interested in was my afternoon nap.

Marmite Christmas Hat

Christmas was a merry affair at LA HQ with a day, as Michael dubbed it, “of festive fare and merry-making”. I had a great time opening my gifts, hiding under the Christmas tree and nibbling it when the fancy took me. I found the gift wrapping of much greater interest than the gifts themselves.

Marmite - Wrapping Paper

The snow in January was really quite something. I particularly liked burrowing through it to nibble the sweet tender grass below. Coping with the ice proved trickier than I expected; even with four legs I was slipping and sliding like a trooper, but I didn’t let it stop me binkying like a mad thing.

Marmite - Nosing snowMarmite - Head BuriedMarmite - Stunned LookSpring and summer has seen my interest in herbs rekindled. There’s nothing I like more than a good munch on some fresh fennel, mint and parsley from the Law Actually gardens. I’ve also developed a taste for strawberry plants and beetroot leaves!

Marmite NibblingMarmite - Gravel

I like to sun myself (when it’s not too warm). There’s nothing like a dose of Vitamin D to bring a certain lushness to a bun’s coat of fur!

Marmite - StepMarmite - Grass

Marmite - MatMarmite - Nosing shed

That’s all for now, readers.

Until the next time.


Marmite - Signature

Saturday, 20 July 2013

‘Captain Sum Ting Wong’ broadcasting debacle

Captain Sum Ting Wong

From the Metro 15/07/13:

Asiana Airlines is considering legal action over a TV news report that broadcast four spoof names that it said were the pilot’s involved in the San Francisco plane crash.

The carrier said its reputation had been ‘badly damaged’ after the bogus names were read out on the city’s KTVU-TV, along with a graphic of the burned-out plane.

An news anchor kept a straight face as she read the names ‘Captain Sum Ting Wong’, ‘Wi Tu Lo’, ‘Bang Ding Ow’ and ‘Ho Le Fuk’.

Despite claiming the names had been confirmed by a National Transportation Safety Board official, the anchor later apologised for the station’s mistake.

The National Transportation Safety Board has also apologised, saying a summer intern erroneously confirmed the names of the flight crew.

Asiana is mulling unspecified legal measures against both KTVU-TV and the NTSB.

I’m no expert when it comes to US law, but I should imagine the ‘unspecified legal measures’ the article refers to is defamation (that is, libel – assuming US law treats ‘broadcasted slander’ in the same way as English law) and, as against the KTVU-TV, a possible breach of the USA’s broadcasting law.

Whether Asiana would have a viable action (certainly in the case of defamation proceedings) remains far from clear, however.

Maybe from a PR point of view, this might be a case of ‘least said, soonest mended’.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Apprentices: employed, but at what price?

Guest Post

Legal 4 Landlords

Apprentices are usually fixed term contracts in which the apprentice expects and agreed amount of training. For this reason, apprentices are usually exempt of being made redundant (unless the company closes down).

But what about their other employment rights?

For school leavers, making the decision about what you want to do with your life can be an incredibly daunting one. University was a popular option, but recent rises in tuition fees mean that some people have been put off going. School leavers sometimes want to get out earning money from the time that they sit their last exam, but this cannot always be the best option for long-term career qualifications. For this reason, more and more young people are attracted to applying for an apprenticeship, because it allows them to earn a wage and also benefit from comprehensive training. Whilst this vocational training it likely to be paid at a rate less than the minimum wage, as industry qualifications are also included, apprentices need to be clear about exactly what their rights are, with regards to the law. We’ve all seen the TV show, ‘The Apprentice,’ where Alan Sugar fires the weakest employee, but the only similarity with the TV show is the name.

apprentice employment lawTraditionally, an apprenticeship was a contract of employment, to train an individual in the necessary skills for a qualification or job role: modern apprenticeships, available today, are often comprised of the employer, the individual and the Government, who might contribute some funds to the training. The apprentice is required to work for 16 hours a week or more, and also to attend college. Apprenticeships are usually for a fixed duration, usually between one and four years, and should still include a contact outlining the rights and responsibilities of both parties. As the apprentice has a contract of employment, they also have the same rights as other employees, regarding protection for things like unfair dismissal and protection against discrimination. The apprentice, rather than having less rights, often has more than typical employees because there are also expectations of training involved. So, what are these rights?

  • Apprentices are not usually sacked, unless for cases of gross misconduct, which might involve behaviour like habitually refusing to do certain tasks: the grounds for dismissal for gross misconduct are much narrower than for non-apprentice employees. Apprentices are generally exempt from redundancy, unless the workplace closes down. The implications of an apprentice being sacked unlawfully can be expensive, as damages are usually higher than for unfair dismissals because they include loss of training and status.
  • Moreover, apprentices are entitled to their own scale of minimum wages, which starts at £2.60 per hour for the under 19s. They are also entitled to statutory sick pay, unless they have been on the apprenticeship for less than three months, and they are also not generally recommended to have their apprenticeship terminated for incapacity: rather, it is suggested that the apprenticeship be deferred. Enhanced sick pay may be available, at the employer’s discretion.
  • In terms of breaks, apprentices are entitled to the same amount of breaks as employees as they come under the Working Time Regulations of 1998, like an employee would: a twenty minute break for every six hours worked. This is regardless of any day release for college that apprentices might have. For the under 18’s, who may work for up to 40 hours a week, and the over 18’s, who can work up to 48 hours a week, the law protects the same as it would for any other employer.
  • Apprentices are also protected from discrimination, as would be expected. There is no reason to believe that you should be given the worse jobs, or treated any differently, as an apprentice. Moreover, if there are specific issues of discrimination then, like any employee, the employer has a legal right to protect you from them.

Despite this legal protection, some apprentices have reported horror stories such as:

  • Some apprentices have been paid only £25.00 for working a 40 hour week!
  • Some employers have not paid apprentices for their college hours.
  • Some apprentices have been denied the chance to take holidays
  • Being told that they cannot leave work to go to college.
  • Having to pay for their own college course, from their wages.
  • Working for up to 70 hours a week!

So, what do you do if you find yourself in one of these situations?

In the first instance the cheapest and least likely to create a difficult atmosphere, would be to speak to your manager and express your concerns. If you have done this and it has failed to make any difference, or you feel unable to speak to your manager, or you no longer work at the company, then a sensible step would be to consult a solicitor.

Many law firms, such as Leaders in Law provide free “first advice” (usually a telephone call directly with a lawyer) to give you some basic advice and help you to decide what would be the best course of action (if any) to take. Leaders in Law is particularly experienced in employment law, and would be well placed to advise you further.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Cornish drunk death fall avoidable, says family

Cornish Cliffs

From the BBC 11/07/13:

The parents of a 26-year-old man found dead on a Newquay beach have called his death "tragic and avoidable".

Oliver Doy, from Hampshire, was found dead six days after he was last seen by friends leaving a nightclub, [having travelled down to Cornwall for a weekend of body boarding with two friends].

Police said they thought he may have fallen over a cliff behind his hostel in the town.

But Deputy Coroner Andrew Cox said there was no evidence to show how he died and recorded an open verdict.

Police said CCTV footage showed Mr Doy "staggering around drunk" early in the morning on 7 January 2012.

A pathologist said the amount of alcohol in his blood was approaching three times the drink driving limit.

According to a report featured on This is Cornwall, Doy’s parents slammed Newqay’s drinking culture saying he might still be alive if bar staff at two night spots had refused to serve him.

An emotional Mrs Doy told the court: “There’s a culture of young people going to Newquay with the sole purpose of drinking excessively and I think that was a contributing factor to my son’s death.

“People in night clubs need to do their jobs. They have a duty of care, although you wouldn’t think so serving alcohol to people who have already had enough. They are putting profit before any moral duty. [If they hadn’t] perhaps none of us would be sat here now and we’d still have our Ollie with us.”

High alcohol content, high cliffs and high spirits don’t make a very safe combination.

From the suspected facts, this had a great deal in common with an incident I blogged about in 2009 involving a student who had visited Newquay to celebrate the end of his exams and fell to his death after a session of heavy drinking.

But this case is slightly more puzzling in that the coroner was unable to determine the precise cause of death. Doy had certainly not drowned but neither was there was clear indication of injuries consistent with a high cliff fall. CCTV lost track of Doy in the moments leading up to his death.

In any event, alcohol certainly seemed to play a significant part in the death.

As regards a bar serving alcohol to a person who is clearly drunk, you can forget the ‘moral duty’ aspect of it; it is an offence under section 141 of the Licensing Act 2003 to serve alcohol to someone in that state. The real problem is enforcement, of course, and how to provide a balanced, workable framework so that bars can safely serve alcohol whilst remaining in business. And, search as we might, I don’t think there are any easy answers to be found here. After all, the line between someone who has had a few drinks and someone who is dangerously drunk can be a very difficult one to consistently draw. And let’s not get hung-up on this being a problem unique to Newquay; is there any truly safe place to get seriously drunk?

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Get your summer rolling with a caravan loan

Sponsored PostFamily looking out from camper van. United KingdomWith summer now in full swing and summer holidays fast approaching, there’s no better time to consider buying a caravan or motorhome.

Caravans allow for unparalleled freedom when touring around the country (or abroad), unencumbered by a strict itinerary. You can go where you like, stop where you like*, all on a schedule that suits you – not your holiday operator.

Owning a caravan makes packing for your trip away relatively easy, without that constant fear associated with ‘suitcase travel’ of leaving something crucial behind. You can load up your van with relative speed and ease and away you go.

What’s more, with your own caravan, you needn’t worry about the cleanliness and facilities of third party static vans on camping sites. It’s very much like taking your second home with you and there’s a lot to be said for having some personal space that’s truly yours on holiday.

Caravan owners are free to make more of their leisure time. A caravan can be hooked up to a car in no time and you can be headed away for a weekend’s break with very little preparation or planning. And who doesn’t a love an impromptu mini-break in the sun?

For motorsport fans, a caravan would be perfect for making the most of a summer of motorsport action with the Goodwood Festival of Speed, coupled with the British Grand Prix held each July.

With in-season testing set to return to F1 from next season onwards, British petrolheads have an even greater treat in store.

One of the two day testing events is to be tacked on to the 2014 British Grand Prix. This allows fans the chance to get up close and appreciate F1 cars in all their glory at the home of British motorsport and at just a fraction of the cost of attending the Grand Prix weekend.

Of course, die-hard fans might want to attend both events next year and what could be better than rolling up in your new caravan before settling in for nearly a week’s worth of high octane action.

If water sports are your thing, what could be better than decamping down to the shore? With so many campsites being located next to beaches, having your caravan on the seafront is the next best thing to owning your own mobile beach hut. Cornwall has some fantastic surfing beaches on the north coast or, if calmer waters are more to your liking, the south coast provides perfect conditions for swimming, snorkelling and a whole host of other activities.

However, caravans can be expensive and rather than holding off, you may want to consider a caravan loan so you can start enjoying caravanning life sooner rather than later.

Try using a personal loans calculator to get a quotation for a loan  today.

Loans are available from £3,000 to £25,000, for a term of 2 to 5 years at a rate of 5.4% APR Representative on loans between £7,500 and £10,000. You can apply via an easy online process and obtain an instant decision.

Go on – you know you want to!

*(Subject always to the need to act in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations – plus a healthy dollop of common sense!!). 

Lloyds-Deloitte Scandal Muddies the PPI Waters

Sponsored PostPPI claims companyFor followers of consumer finance news it would seem that the mis sold payment protection insurance (PPI) scandal goes from bad to worse! The latest incident involves the Lloyds Group and financial services provider Deloitte, and has become something of a row between the two. The saga involves a call centre staffed by personnel brought in by Deloitte to handle mis sold PPI claims for Lloyds’ customers, an undercover journalist from The Times, and some rather unusual alleged instructions to staff at the centre. It should be said that Deloitte is adamant it has not been involved in wrongdoing.

The Times’ Revelations
The Times sent a journalist into the centre, posing as a trainee, and the report that followed alleged that not only were staff encouraged to ‘play the system’ in order to slow down or deter claims, but there were also incidences of signatures being put to agreements without consent and other misdemeanours, which The Times alleges led to the contract between the two parties being terminated. Deloitte is at pains to point out that the contract was actually ended because Lloyds opted to use two providers instead of three, and it chose to close the Deloitte contract irrespective of the reports.

The Latest in a Long Line
This latest saga is just one of many that have dogged the PPI claims routine over the past couple of years; even after the High Court ruled that the lenders must pay back fees on mis sold policies there were numerous instances in which banks were fined for being too slow. The revelations that a Lloyds call centre – albeit one staffed by third party employees – has been so recently involved in similar practices will not be welcomed by the consumers.

Where the Confused Should Turn
The resultant mistrust of the banks and other lenders and apparent intent to make things difficult for consumers has left many claimants unsure of what to do next. In fact, there are good reasons for using a PPI Claims company, especially if they are looking for a stress-free and easy way of making a claim. There are plenty offering no obligation advice and help, with online applications that can take mere moments, and the benefit of expertise is many-fold. Experience, after all, cannot be bought, and with an average payout of £3000 so far there are good reasons for investigating further the possibilities of making a PPI claim.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Motorsport can be dangerous: time to reconsider pit lane cameramen in F1?

Paul Allen cameraman accidentFrom BBC F1 08/07/13:

Formula 1 must consider introducing measures to protect people working in the pit lane from potential injury, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner says.

A television cameraman was injured by a loose wheel from Mark Webber's Red Bull during the German Grand Prix.

"It's a timely reminder that things can go wrong," Horner said.

"Mechanics have to wear safety gear and helmets. Maybe it's time we looked at some of the other people working in the pit lane having some as well."

The man injured was Paul Allen, who works for F1's official television production company, FOM. He was taken to hospital with a broken collarbone and cracked ribs.

Horner said: "It's a horrible feeling because your initial concern is for that individual.

Watching cameraman Paul Allen being nearly flipped into a somersault in the pit lane by Mark Webber’s fly-away wheel makes for horrific viewing. For me, the fact he was looking the other way filming when the wheel hit him simply makes the incident all the more horrific. Still, as nasty as his injuries were, he escaped very lightly when you consider how it could have ended.

Two F1 stewards were killed in 2000 and 2001 respectively by loose wheels escaping through gaps in the trackside fencing when F1 cars crashed (although, granted, the cars in those incidents were at racing speed rather than the mandatory pit land speed limit of 100kmph). Wheel tethers of increased strength and smaller access gaps in trackside fencing were brought in as a response.

Until last month’s freak accident in which a steward was killed after falling under a tractor hoist at the Canadian Grand Prix, there hadn’t been any further steward fatalities.

Reflecting on Allen’s injury at yesterday’s Grand Prix, it occurred to me that the sub three second pit stops we’re now routinely seeing has made life in the pit lane more dangerous than ever.

Prior to 2010, when in-race refuelling was allowed, pit stops were routinely around 8 – 10 seconds – with the refuelling aspect taking far longer than was needed to remove and replace the car’s 4 tyres. This meant the pit crews could complete the tyre change at their relative leisure.

But now that in-race refuelling has been banned, the faster pit stops have resulted in far more cars being released without their wheels correctly secured as pit crews continue push the envelope to service their cars as quickly as possible.

Horner is undoubtedly right: everyone in the pit lane needs protective clothing at the very least. Pit crews are kitted out with body armour, fire proof suits, helmets and visors. The FOM cameramen, by contrast, are wandering around in exactly the same environment clad only in Dr Martin’s, smart trousers and a short sleeved shirt. That’s horrific no matter how you slice it.

But Allen’s accident raises a broader question in my opinion: should cameramen even be in the pit lane wandering around, with 22 F1 cars shooting in and out and drivers and pit crews pumped full of adrenaline?

That sounds to me very much like a recipe for disaster.

Quite frankly, I’m surprised FOM are willing to risk the potential liability by placing cameramen in the line of fire (so to speak) and without any kind of equipment to protect them.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Toilet Trouble - Not such a public convenience

peeing in public

From the Falmouth Packet 27/06/13:

Caught short visitors to Helston are using the outside wall of shut public toilets to relieve themselves on.

Well, I hate to say it, but I can’t think of a more appropriate wall to pee on.

This was news from Councillor Gillian Geer, a shop owner in the town who told her fellow members that people often complained to her about the situation.

“As a council and as a town we can’t have that. It turns out they are really well used – or at least should be really well used. At the moment people are using the area outside for whatever they should be doing inside,” she said.

“If we want a town people are proud of we really do not need people peeing behind a wall. Shopkeepers are witnessing it in that area.”

Goodness no! Have you seen some of the stains left by revellers in any town or city throughout the UK after a typical Friday or Saturday night out? And the last thing a full-bladdered local or visitor wants is a charge of outraging public decency should they be forced into a not-so-private ‘splash and dash’.

Section 87 of the Public Health Act 1936 gives local authorities the power to provide public toilets, but, crucially, imposes no obligation to do so. As a result, the provision of public loos tends to be something of a postcode lottery (or a local authority one at any rate).

Still, the fact remains that operating a public toilet is far from cheap with the initial construction charges representing just a fraction of the overall cost. Local authorities, invariably plagued by short termism when it comes to managing their budgets, are frequently tempted by ensuring the construction of new public toilets by way of section 106 agreements (under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990). That might ensure toilets are built at a cost to developer in exchange for wider planning rights, but allows such developers to adopt a ‘hit and run’ approach by building the toilet and then leaving the authority or new land owner with the cost of maintaining it in the future. Such toilets are often shut as soon as the developer’s work is finished.

The broader question is what to do about providing sufficient public toilets at a manageable cost. Time for a pubic (ahem) public debate, surely?

Until a solution is found, a lot of Helston folk are going to have to continue with their pained expressions and crossed legs, I fear.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Digg Reader: spoke too soon

After posting my review (of sorts) last week, my experience with Digg Reader took a turn for the worse.

At some point before the weekend, it stopped showing the number of unread items next to each subscription and then failed to show new content reliably enough to be usable.

Put simply, it stopped doing what I needed it to do.

I understand it’s a work in progress and there are developments coming, but an RSS reader needs to get the basics right from day one.

And for now, Digg Reader fails miserably on that front.

For the time being, I’ve switched to ‘The Old Reader’ which is much uglier than Digg Reader and its performance isn’t quite so snappy. Still, it offers all the functionality I need and that’s the main thing.

The Old Reader

I’ll keep an eye on Digg Reader’s progress in the coming weeks, but they need to get the basics fixed quickly for this thing to stand any chance of surviving now it’s out in the wild.

BT engineers arrested in parking ticket swindle

openreach engineersFrom ISP Preview 01/07/13:

Police in West London have arrested eight of BTOpenreach’s telecoms engineers and another thirty have been suspended after bosses at BT were allegedly tipped off about a fake car clamping business that had netted the fraudsters around £200,000.

[BT] vans belonging to BTOpenreach have to pay around £1 million worth of fines in London every year. This is because engineers often have little choice but to park in restricted areas while carrying out vital broadband and phone repairs.

Ah – sneaky.

Still, it’s interesting that BT regard their vans being routinely ticketed for parking offences as a necessary cost of doing business. How about trying to educate their engineers to park more sensibly (I realise this isn’t always possible), but I’ve seen some Openreach vans practically abandoned they’ve been parked so badly. Time for extra training I think.

[T]he fraudsters found a way of manipulating this by creating fake claims that parking wardens had ticketed their vans when in fact they had not. On top of that the engineers were also found to be wrongly claiming overtime pay.

The City of London Police confirmed the arrests and noted that eight of the workers were now out on bail.

Which reminds me: I very nearly got run over the other day as a result of two badly-parked Openreach vans which obscured my view when crossing the road. Ironically, they were parked up outside a firm of solicitors. Still, I’m sure BT wouldn’t have needed to instruct them; they’ve plenty of their own in-house lawyers!

BT get a bad press on the whole (an awful lot of it, deservedly, I think) but I’m sure the vast majority of Openreach engineers are honest, law-abiding citizens. Certainly the chap who came out to install a new line at Law Actually HQ a couple of years ago was very helpful. It’s just a pity they aren’t all like that.