Friday, 29 November 2013

People Love a Bargain - Black Friday Attacks

BlackFriday Chaos (Small)From the Independent 29/11/13:

Black Friday, the American holiday dedicated to discount shopping, seems to have been successfully imported into the UK, bringing with it both crowds and chaos.

[…] Asda seems to have been particularly affected by the frenzy, with multiple reports of hospitalizations and injuries from Asda stores across the UK.

In an Asda store in west Belfast there were claims that heavily pregnant woman had been pushed and shoved and pensioners had been knocked to the ground [with one reportedly sustaining a broken arm in the process].

"It was just a free-for-all. It was frightening," said one woman who witnessed the scenes at the Westwood Centre. "People were getting trailed to the ground. [Getting what to the ground?] People were arguing with people. [At least they weren’t trying to argue with inanimate objects then!] Two of my friends were injured."

The woman claimed her friend was kicked in the stomach by a shopper trying to take a TV from her.

Similar reports have emerged from stores in Liverpool and Bristol, with eyewitnesses reporting in the latter store that a man had to be restrained by security guards after becoming annoyed that he could only buy a single TV.

Only on Bristolian could start a fight trying to purchase a TV!

I’m certainly not excusing the generally loutish behaviour seen during ‘Black Friday’ but, let’s face it, shopping is stressful. Christmas is more stressful still. Combine them both together (and add in herd instinct and small-man-syndrome) and you’ve got a potentially dangerous mixture. The January sales are bad enough, but after Christmas shopping is for fun; before Christmas, lives depend on it.

There’s simply no escaping from the fact that people love a bargain and when there’s the prospect of losing out on a good deal, people act irrationally. Heck, some would kill to get 40% off of a TV (or at least start a stampede).

Sadly, I think Black Friday is here to stay. Clearly the safety of customers is going to be an important consideration as the phenomenon grows even bigger. As I’m fond of saying, liability is never far away, and shops are going to have to start taking these risks seriously if they’re to avoid a wave of costly litigation.

In the meantime, I’m waiting for a documentary ‘Police, Camera, Action’ style which compiles all the CCTV footage showing customer scrums in supermarkets and shopping malls up and down the country on Black Friday. No doubt it would be voiced-over by a 20-something Northerner muttering an endless stream of utterly trite comments – as is the preference for narrators on TV shows at the moment.

For what it’s worth, I’ve been a bit of a sucker for a bargain this year, albeit from the relative safety of my office chair. Amazon have had a field day today (and that’s just down to me). Still, if you can’t spend of a bit of money at this time of year, when can you?

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Open plan offices were devised by Satan after all

open plan shirkingFrom the Guardian (Oliver Burkeman’s Blog) 18/11/13:

In case you still needed persuading that open-plan offices were devised by Satan himself in one of the deepest caverns of hell, the Harvard Business Review delves into new research showing just how frustrating people find them – and just how paltry, on the other side of the scale, are the benefits they bring. [The most bothersome aspect of open plan offices appears to be] a “lack of sound privacy” – hearing other people’s conversations, and perhaps equally crucially, knowing that other people can hear yours.

We already know that open-plan offices have been associated with less persistence at challenging tasks, lower motivation, higher stress and blood pressure, and more. But Kim and Dear’s work, published in the December 2013 issue of the Journal of Environmental Psychology, puts paid to any suggestion that the benefits of easy communication between workers – effortless exchange of information, useful chance conversations sparking new ideas – outweighs these irritations.

It’s difficult for me to remain restrained on this topic. I don’t just dislike large open-plan offices – I absolutely can’t stand them! Employers’ faith in the supposed benefits of them is absolutely misplaced.

It’s difficult to imagine creating a more unproductive environment. I think it’s very possible that many employers choose to operate open plan offices because of convention and nothing else. Doors are seen as crippling barriers which fatally inhibit the flow in knowledge and productivity throughout the office. Strangely, the last time I checked, doors were designed for people to walk through them.

The downsides of open plan offices far outweigh any benefits. Everyone is less productive as a result of the constant breaks in concentration via endless interruptions, inane chatter and the frankly bizarre desk habits of some of our closest and most despised colleagues. Everybody must surely see that open plan offices aren’t efficient. So why aren’t we doing something about it?

It’s not as though they can be relied on to help keep shirkers in check. Employees inclined to shirk will always find a way to do so whether it’s behind a closed door, a flimsy and futile office partition or anywhere else.

Why can’t society embrace common sense and return to more conventional offices?

Sunday, 17 November 2013

UK Drink Driving Law: Is Enough Done To Curb Deaths?

Guest PostDrink Drive DeathsWith the Christmas period quickly approaching, police forces all over the country step up their efforts to fight drink driving over concerns that too much enjoyment of the festive period (and all it brings) will inevitably lead to a rise in the crime. They’re not wrong to be concerned either – according to the Department for Transport, while deaths caused by drink driving have had a trend of steady decline in the last thirty years, last year’s statistics showed a rise of almost 30%.

It comes as no surprise, then, that there have been consistent calls this past year for tougher laws and regulations against a variety of driving offences – whether it’s drug/drink driving, or just using a mobile phone. There are plans to introduce stricter ‘drug driving’ laws next year (with harsher sentencing), Scotland plans to cut their limit by almost 50% and a victim’s sister has handed a petition to Downing Street calling for an immediate ban for those arrested on suspicion of drink driving.

A Steady Drop and a Sudden Rise: What’s Behind the Increase?
The RAC’s David Bizley has called these rises, which were announced earlier this year, a ‘call for concern’, and he’d be right to do so – while figures have shown a general decline since records began in 1979 (from 1,640 a year down to just 230 in 2011), last year’s figures showed a one of the first rise in almost a decade.

The reasons behind the rise are unclear, and it’s still lower than the figures from 2009 (as well as all years previously), but the suggestion seems to be that limits need changing and more effective enforcement of existing law is needed – both too high a limit and ineffective policing could be behind the cause.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa) has therefore called for a drop in the drink drive limit (recommendations have suggested lowering to 50mg per 100ml of blood) and for the government to re-evaluate their anti-drink driving campaigns, as well as to invest in tighter policing.

The Line between Lower Limits & Stricter Bans
A terrible case was brought to our attention once again recently as the sister of a student, who was killed by a drunk driver in 2010, submitted her 13,000-signature petition calling for a drastic change in law. As it stands, by default, those arrested and awaiting trial for a drink-related driving offence are still able to drive – a ban is to be handed down by a sentencing judge in the event a guilty plea is entered or guilty verdict is reached.

Of course, there are always going to be exception circumstances (like repeat offenders, High Risk Offenders, incredibly serious incidents etc.) and in these instances judges do have the power to ban anyone on bail. The Ministry of Justice have argued that, as a result, the powers already exist for judges to ban drivers in these most serious of cases.

A much lower drink driving limit could help to curb deaths, as well as result in harsher sentencing for what seems like a serious case but is not considered as such by law. As it stands, the UK’s alcohol limit is 80mg per 100ml of blood – while there are no plans for changes across the board, Scotland is going through legislative changes cut this by almost 40% to 50mg.

Automatic Bans – Not Considering ‘Special Reasons’?
However, a blanket ban could have adverse effects on either those who might later be found innocent, or those who are successfully able to argue exceptional hardship to appeal a ban. There are also special reasons to consider including drinks spiked/laced, or driving in an emergency (eg. if you’re fleeing from very real threats to your life).

Of course, incidents like the one above are absolutely awful, and shouldn’t ever happen – the man found guilty of causing the teenager’s death was, quite rightly, sentenced to four years in jail for death by careless driving. He was also almost twice the legal alcohol limit, so it’s perfectly understandable why the victim’s family felt the defendant’s ability to continue to drive while awaiting trial was ‘totally disrespectful’.

Nonetheless, the law has a duty to be fair and judges need the power to be able to make their own judgements (which is why the MoJ argue the powers already exist) – the appropriate line is a difficult one to find, especially with cases such as this and figures revealing a rise in deaths.

This guest post was written by Tom McShane – blogger and writer for drink driving specialists McMillans Drink Driving Solicitors. While all drink driving offences should be taken seriously, Tom hopes new legislation changes won’t fall down hard on innocent drivers or defendable cases.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Most Common Causes of Car Accidents

Guest Postfatal car accident

Driving is a dangerous activity as not only does it have the potential to affect your safety, but it can also affect the passengers in your car, other drivers and their passengers, and any pedestrians. There are many causes for car accidents, but there are three main ones that are extremely worrying as they all come back to driver behaviour.

Driving whilst distracted, driving at high speeds and driving whilst tired are the main perpetrators. With a few adjustments, the chance of being involved in a car accident can be drastically reduced.

Driving Whilst Distracted
Driving whilst distracted can be extremely dangerous as it means you do not know what is going on around you. If a child runs in front of the road, you may not have been paying attention to notice them in time or, if you did, you may have slammed on the brakes or swerved and not noticed the car behind you or the cyclist on the other side of the road.

Being aware of what is going on around you at all times is important whilst driving. You need to be constantly checking for potential hazards and preparing for them early on. Distracted driving could be a result of changing or playing with music or the radio, using your phone whilst driving, eating or even dealing with children in the passenger seats.

Driving At High Speeds
The higher the speed you are driving at, the less reaction time you have. This could be a change in traffic, an obstacle you need to avoid or a change in road conditions. This means that an accident you could of potential avoided, could cause serious injury or even be fatal.

Due to the fact that you are driving at such a high speed the impact of your car on a person or piece of property is likely to have more damaging effects than if you were driving at a much slower speed. By reducing your speed and sticking to the designated limits, you could potentially save your life as well as the people around you.

Driving Whilst Tired
Driving should have your full attention, and that is something you can’t give if you are driving whilst tired. This is because your reaction times are much slower and you may not notice things that you may have done if you were fully alert. You are much more likely to miss road signs and any warnings indicating conditions up ahead, meaning that you will be unprepared for them.

You need to be able to react quickly to sudden changes in traffic and road conditions in case things happen quickly, especially on high speed areas such as motorways. If you are planning a long car journey, try swapping over every so often so that one person can get a bit of rest in between. Try to avoid travelling at night but, if it’s necessary, get a good night’s sleep the night before or take a nap before you leave; if you are too tired to carry on, stop off at a service station to take a break.

By making these minor changes to your driving you are less likely to be involved in a car accident that could be your fault. You do, however, still need to watch out for other drivers as they may not all be following such dependable driving conventions.

This post was written by Ekta Mair who, after being involved in a car accident that wasn’t her fault, wanted to provide some safer driving tips to other drivers. She sustained injuries from her accident, so used Claim Advance to ensure she received the compensation she deserved.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Co-op legal scales back training contract targets

cooperative legal services

From Roll on Friday 18/10/13:

Co-operative Legal Services has admitted that it will be unable to reach its target of providing 100 training contracts a year.

Yikes. That’s a lot of training contracts (suddenly not happening).

CLS, which is the legal branch of the Co-operative, announced only last year that it planned to take on more trainees than any Magic Circle firm: 100 a year within just five years. But students who signed up for expensive law courses thinking that this heralded an upturn in the grad rec market should have saved their money.

Whoa. Hang on a second. Since when did the average law student become the proverbial moron in a hurry (actually, don’t answer that!)? Any law student (current or prospective) should have their eyes wide open when considering their career and they shouldn’t be mollycoddled or forgiven for naiveté if they plan on a career in law thinking it’s still the gravy-train it once was. Let’s face it: there’s plenty of doom-mongering and tales of unemployment woes out there for any ignorance to be utterly inexcusable.

Let’s stop treating law students like morons. They know what the chances are of their careers panning out perfectly (or they damn well should do). Give them a little credit.

The Lawyer reports that after a bad year for the Co-op, only ten trainees were taken on in this year's intake.

A spokeswoman for the Co-op told RollOnFriday that said that the numbers might increase in future, but "we are focussing our efforts on our learning academy". In other words, filling its ranks with loads of cheap paralegals rather than investing in training the solicitors of the future.

Sadly, that seems to be what every law firm is doing at the moment. Pity the poor trainee solicitor, I say. They’re a dying breed (soon to be made extinct if we carry on at this rate).

I once overhead someone say that a paralegal is to a solicitor what a processed fish stick is to caviar. I’m not going to attribute that statement to anybody in particular, but they know who they are. (I’m sure they go home and cry themselves to sleep at night.) Whilst no one can doubt the value, skills and knowledge of paralegals out there, I find the notion of a mass ousting of solicitors in favour of an army of paralegals a rather worrying prospect.

At any rate, if this paralegal invasion continues at its current rate, the whole structure of the profession is going to quickly change beyond all recognition. It follows, then, that legal education, qualifications and vocational training is going to need a massive re-think before it’s too late.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

A Judge, a penis pump and an unfortunately-placed banner ad

From Roll on Friday 25/10/13:

A judge who was jailed for using a penis pump in court has had his pension stopped.

American County Court judge Donald D. Thompson was convicted of indecent exposure in 2006 after being caught using the device under his robes while presiding on the bench. He served 20 months in an Oklahoma prison - hardly a walk in the park for anyone, but presumably particularly grim for a judge with an enhanced penis.


Rather than make any wisecracks at this story (believe me, it was quite tough to refrain from doing so), I’ll simply post a screenshot that I took when I first saw the story.

You really can’t make this stuff up.

Screenshot_2013-10-25-20-17-25 3

It looks like the well-endowed LexisNexis has lucked-in on some unexpected extra publicity.

I guess some legal publishers fall on their feet and others just don’t.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Tubby Trick-or-Treaters Refused Treats on Weight Grounds

Trick or TreatFrom Think 30/10/13:

In North Dakota, one woman is taking the issue of childhood obesity into her own hands. If any of the trick-or-treaters that knock on her door this Halloween are “moderately obese” — at least according to her own standards — she plans to give them a letter explaining why they shouldn’t be eating candy.

Trick or Treat refusal letter

In an interview with local radio station […] the woman explained that she’s just trying to help encourage healthier habits. “I just want to send a message to the parents of kids that are really overweight… I think it’s just really irresponsible of parents to send them out looking for free candy just ’cause all the other kids are doing it,” she said.

How about simply giving kids healthy treats, such as fruit or a nut/seed/fruit mix?  That seems a far better option than singling the tubbier trick-or-treaters out for ridicule.  Discrimination is hardly going to help someone come to terms with any weight issues they might be experiencing.  And let’s remember: one person’s idea of ‘tubby’ might be another’s ‘scrawny’.

Or if a healthy food choice is still too risky (there is a lot of natural sugar in fruit after all), what about just not answering the door when trick-or-treaters call?  Aren’t most adults meant to spend 31 October hidden behind the sofa, pretending to be out, so as to avoid pesky trick-or-treaters?

For what it’s worth, we didn’t get any trick-or-treaters this year – none called after we arrived home from work at any rate.  After 5 or so years of being kept at the back of our store cupboard, the dreaded tub of pear drops we habitually dish out to trick-or-treaters as a punishment has finally been discarded.  After spending such a long time in storage, age had taken its toll and the contents of the tub had congealed into one big super-sweet.  The ants and other insects are going to love consuming that candy monstrosity now it’s been deposited into our composter.

All part of the circle of life, I guess.