Oct 01

Consumer Rights Act 2015

poundsThe new Consumer Rights Act came fully into force on the 1st January 2015, Under this legislation consumers will have new and strengthened rights against retailers. For example, retailers must respond to a customer complaint and give 30-day refunds for faulty goods.

There will also be new protection for people who buy digital content, such as ebooks or online films and music. They will be entitled to a full refund, or a replacement, if the goods are faulty.

If a download also infects a computer with a virus, the provider could also be liable to pay compensation for getting the virus removed. See a CAB outline of the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Interestingly, the CRA 2015 also makes ADR ‘Alternative Dispute Resolution’  a recommended process for resolving  business disputes.

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Sep 30

Do animals have rights?

readPrincess Michael of Kent has upset a few members of the public when she claimed that “animals do not have rights“.  Her assertion is that they do not pay taxes, they don’t have bank accounts and they don’t vote. Hence, they have no rights.

My own view is that many people do not vote, do not have bank accounts, and some even seek to avoid paying taxes. Despite such, these people do have human rights that are legally protected. Do animals have rights? Comments welcome …

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Sep 24

Discrimination on the grounds of caste …

bcyagpKcLA domestic servant has won a claim of discrimination on grounds of her caste. She was forced to sleep on the floor and paid just 11p per hour – well below the national minimum wage.

Her claim, at an Employment Tribunal, was successful in relation to the unpaid wages for a sum of £183,774. The tribunal have accepted that she can bring a claim of caste discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. A remedy hearing is scheduled for early November in relation to parts of her claim concerning compensation for her other claims of caste discrimination.

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Sep 18

Govt watch list for preachers …

MagnaDeeply concerning is a news report that the Conservative Government are to establish a register of pastors, rabbis, and other religious leaders. Those on the watch list will be subject to training and security checks.

Not since the 17th century has there been such a clampdown on religious beliefs.

“The proposals mean that Christian leaders invited to speak to a university Christian Union would be required to go on a Government approved training scheme before being allowed to speak to students.

“This is a truly sinister proposal more in keeping with China or North Korea than a democracy built on the freedoms of Magna Carta.


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Sep 15

Poppy appeal

poppyWe may be weeks away from Remembrance Sunday, but a great deal has been written today about Jeremy Corbyn and a poppy. Will he wear red, or will he wear white? There is even talk about a Labour MP’s rebellion over the matter.

For my part, I have faced this issue for a number of years and the solution is really quite simple – wear both a red and a white poppy.

The red poppy is extremely important, because it is about showing respect for those killed and injured during war. It matters little as to which war those brave soldiers served in, the fact is they died serving their country at a time of war. We should, and must, show respect for such bravery.

By comparison, the white poppy is a political symbol that depicts a desire for peace. It has always been my belief that the vast majority of those killed in war wanted to win the peace.  Likewise, those who wear a white poppy also want peace. Yes, a white poppy is a pacifist message, but wearing a white poppy also takes courage – since abuse is sometimes confusingly directed to a person wearing a white poppy.

By wearing both a red and a white poppy you can show respect for those killed serving their country in wars – while standing up for the white poppy message that peace and pacifism is a message worthy of respect and support.

So, my advice to Jeremy Corbyn is clear. Wear both a red and a white poppy. Stand up for pacifism, while showing respect for those killed at times of war.  My advise to a few Labour MP’s who have been kicking up a storm over this issue is that they should show loyalty to their leader and respect for people who have died. You can be a pacifist who shows respect for those killed in war.

Also published in GrearBritishPolitics GBP.

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Aug 19

Women v Men …

questionThe latest university admissions data shows that 57,000 more women than men have gained university places after A-Level results.

Obviously, women are performing better in their examination results than men. Central to this must be the study skills that lay the foundations for success in examinations. The question for me is why are women better than men when it comes to making use of study skills? Read More »

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Aug 16

Magistrates Courts ‘In Crisis’ …

balanceThe Ministry of Justice have recently introduced courts costs of around £150 if you plead guilty, £520 if you plead not guilty (and are subsequently found guilty) in a Magistrates Court. The costs for a person found guilty in a Crown Court rise to £1,200.

These fees are non-discretionary and it seems that in many areas this is causing major problems. For example, in Blackpool 85% of offenders are living on benefits and they cannot possible afford to pay such costs – which are on top of any fines they may be given. There are even reports of some people pleading guilty to keep the court costs down. In my view, the increase in charges related to not guilty pleas is a “tax on justice” and could be found to be in breach of Art 6 (right to a fair trial) of the European Convention of Human Rights. I do accept that Court costs could normally be imposed – but discretion over whether to impose costs (and by how much) should rest with the Judge/Magistrate hearing the case.

There are reports that over 30 Magistrates have so far resigned in protest over the imposition of these court costs charges. They point out that this non-discretionary court cost falls unfairly on those who are living  on welfare.

It also seems that some Magistrates are giving an ‘absolute discharge’ as a means of enabling the avoidance of the imposition of court costs. With an ‘absolute discharge’ outcome, the court registers guilt – but no punishment is given.

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Aug 05

Former Prime Minister Edward Heath …

scalesI cannot see the logic behind opening up criminal investigations associated with individuals who have died. We are all innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Dead people cannot appear in a Court of Law – so they cannot be found guilty. Even if we could find them guilty, they cannot face punishment for their crime. What we have at the moment is trial by media and the defendant (who died over a decade ago) cannot defend himself. This is not justice – it is a media trial that is worse than a kangaroo court.

The police are struggling to investigate crimes that are taking place (see http://www.sociologyblog.co.uk/pub/?p=10892) and yet we now have at least five police forces investigating allegations against an individual who died over a decade ago. In addition, there are 17 Inquiries into `historical child abuse claims’.  In my view, we should be focusing on investigating suspects who are alive and can face trial.

Interestingly, former police chief Sir Hugh Orme has also called for police resources to be used on tackling crimes like burglaries rather than investigating historical crimes where the suspect is dead and there can be no judicial outcome.

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Jul 17

I agree with the Justice Secretary …

prisonI am shocked to learn that I agree with the Justice Secretary Michael Gove. He is right to argue that we need to invest in education for prisoners. His argument that many prisoners lack english and maths skills, often leading to re-offending, makes a great deal of sense. It may cost to educate prisoners, but it will save money in the long run if prisoners can leave prison more able to contribute in society.

Well said Michael Grove is my view. Rehabilitation is the way forward.

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Jul 12

Our ‘secret/private’ criminal cases …

judgeFor the first time, details of cases are not being read out in an open court, and there is no bench made up of magistrates, no lawyers, no defendant, and no access for the press or public.

The introduction of the Single Justice Procedure (SJP) by the Ministry of Justice is the result of a little-noticed provision in a law passed earlier this year.

For a case to be heard, and decided in “private/secret”, the defendant needs to plead guilty to a minor offence where a prison sentence cannot be given. Obviously, many professional and other people would welcome the secrecy of such an outcome, opting to plead guilty and allow a lay magistrate (with a legal advisor) to quietly determine the sentence.

This process  does mean that justice will not be seen to be being done. It also means that the denunciation aspect of the sentencing process has been abandoned for many low level crimes. On the other side of the argument, quick private/secret trials do save valuable time and money.

I have some concerns and suggest some safeguards:

(1) Under the procedure, the victim of the crime will not see justice being done. Thus, the SJP should be adapted to ensure that sentencing should only be in ‘private/secret’ if the victim agrees. A victim statement should also be considered by the lay magistrate.

(2) A defendants letter of mitigation/explanation/apology should always be taken into consideration by the sentencing lay magistrate.

(3) A defendant criminal should only be allowed a maximum of one ‘private/secret’ sentence in say a five year period. That way, the procedure may deter the defendant criminal from becoming a recidivist.

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Jun 30

Lord Janner

JannerThere has been a great deal of publicity recently over Lord Janner and a decision not to charge, and then to charge him with sex offences. The media give the impression that a trial will take place. However, what will take place can best be described as a ‘hearing’ to determine if Lord Janner is fit to plead.

The Criminal Procedure (Insanity) Act 1964 (as amended) determines the procedure to be followed. Firstly the defence, prosecution, or judge, can raise the question of whether Lord Janner is ‘unfit to plead’ – likely to be on the grounds of him suffering from a severe form of dementia.

If the Judge considers this has merit a special jury will be empaneled – medical experts (including one approved by the Home Secretary) will submit reports and the jury will decide the question of him being ‘unfit to plead’.

If, as seems probable, the jury decides that Lord Janner is ‘unfit to plead’, they (or a newly empaneled jury) will go on to decide if the facts indicate that Lord Janner has fulfilled the actus reus (illegal act) for the alleged crimes.

If they decide, from the evidence, Lord Janner could not have committed the alleged crimes – that is the end of the matter. If they decide that Lord Janner did fulfil the actus reus of the alleged crimes then there can be NO finding of guilt. The judge, however, could then give an hospital order, a supervision order, or an absolute discharge. Given the dementia illness of Lord Janner, a supervision order could mean that he returns to his care home.

Lord Jenner is evidently suffering from dementia. It seems to me that the original executive decision of Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions, not to proceed with a charge against Lord Jenner had some merit.  The very idea that an 86 year old highly confused man, suffering from dementia, should face the circus of such a procedure, seems unjust. If I was representing Lord Jenner, I would be seeking a judicial review and an application to the European Court of Human Rights under Article 6 (right to a fair trial). Our legal system should show humanity and  respect for confused elderly people.

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Jun 13

‘Benefit loans’ – Kwasi Kwarteng’s new idea.

poundsKwasi Kwarteng, Spelthorne and Conservative MP, has argued that young people should pay back benefits when they find a job. In effect, this means that if you are young and unemployed you will be able to apply for a loan, which you must then pay back.

There is already a great deal of concern about students needing to pay back thousands of pounds of  tuition fees. Adding ‘benefit loans’ to their debt will push them further into the red. Next, the government will issue everyone with a ‘debt certificate’ – instead of a ‘birth certificate’.

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Jun 12

A lesbian lifestyle can lawfully be classed as ‘sinful’ …

candleA Christian Institute news report, creates some interesting reading. The report concerns an Employment Tribunal that “cleared a Christian who said that a lesbian lifestyle is sinful”.

The tribunal seems to have taken a pragmatic approach to the issue. Looking at the nature of the discussion, and the fact that the Christian woman was simply responding to a question on the subject.

The decision was hailed as a “brave judgment” by Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre – which supported the tribunal case.

She said: “This is a common-sense judgment which shows understanding of the Christian faith and Miss Mbuyi’s freedom to live and speak it out in the workplace. We have been in the employment courts for over a decade now and at last we have a sensible decision.”

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Jun 10

Amazing TV programme on Guide Dogs …

guide‘Me and my Guide Dog’ has been described as an amazing tv programme. Watch Episode One and judge for yourself. Episode Two will be shown on ITV Tuesday 16th June. Well worth watching.

What was remarkable about the emotional programme was the variety of roles these Guide Dogs take on. It starts with the birth of a litter of puppies. It covers the life, training, and death of these amazing dogs. Even shows how, in the USA, prisoners are training Guide Dogs. Please donate to the Guide Dogs.

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