Justice on the cheap?

The number of paralegals entering the legal profession has doubled in the last decade and is set to rise even further. Recent figures show an increase from 24,509 in 2001 to 51,250 today - a rise of 109%.

In addition, the Regulator of the Institute of Legal Executives is currently consulting on a proposal to grant Extended Rights of Audience to Associate Prosecutors - who are not required to have legal qualifications.

These Rights of Audience, if granted, will mean that such Associate Prosecutors will be able to prosecute all summary-only cases in the Magistrates' Court.

At this stage, there are no plans at present to allow these Prosecutors to prosecute offences that are punishable by imprisonment. However, the very idea of having defendants prosecuted by Associate Prosecutors with no legal qualifications could lead to potential miscarriages of justice; which, as we all know, are expensive to correct.

 

This issue was debated and settled by Parliament when the Criminal Justice & Immigration Actpassed into legislation in 2008; and the powers that Associate Prosecutors can be granted are defined by the legislation. The key issue is the competence of Associate Prosecutors to carry out the work the legislation permits.

Although, in principle, we should welcome any attempts to reduce public expenditure, it is the accumulative effect that this is likely to have. Not only is legal aid less readily available and legal aid rates are continuing to be cut; but this also comes at a time when HM Courts Service is moving to replace legally trained court clerks with unqualified note takers.

Therefore, there is all the more reason for drivers and motorists to engage proper legal representation when it comes to Magistrates' Court Hearings, including trials, which Associate Prosecutors shall be able to handle. If you take out the absence of proper legal representation for a defendant; with the limited legal knowledge of magistrates and court clerks without legal training, and prosecutors without full qualifications, the risk is that justice shall not best be served.

No one doubts that paralegals do a valuable job and that Associate Prosecutors should be able to present 'guilty' pleas in uncomplicated cases - but that is worlds apart from contested trials, where once again the defendant or driver faces the possibility of a miscarriage of justice.


For further information contact Anton Balkitis or Lucy Wood on 0115 9100 600 http://www.keepmeontheroad.co.uk/

Transport managers: new rules explained

From 4 December 2011, new rules policing the management of O-licences come into force, writes Tim Ridyard, solicitor-advocate and partner of Woodfines' road transport and logistics team. The Access to the Occupation of Road Transport Operator regulations (EC regulation 1071/2009) will bring significant changes to the way that the industry operates.

By now, operators should have responded to a letter from the Central Licensing Office in Leeds. If not, it is vital that this letter is read and acted on. The letter explains the changes affecting Standard Goods and Passenger licences with effect from 4 December 2011.

Also enclosed is a transport manager questionnaire, which the Central Licensing Office requires to be completed by both the transport manager and the operator and returned to EU Regulations, PO Box 178, Leeds LS9 1BS. This is not without a certain irony in that after 4 December the new regulations forbid operators from using PO Box addresses as their contact details.

Missed deadline
Inevitably, not all operators will have made the required response deadline of 17 October. But be of good cheer – the Office of the Traffic Commissioner (OTC) has set up an email address for people who can’t respond in time (euregulation@VOSA.gov.uk).

“We have asked operators to provide the minimum of information required under EU law and it’s information that the majority of operators and transport managers will have to hand,” says deputy senior TC Beverley Bell. “If operators contact the TC’s office and explain that they need more time to provide copies of documentation then, where practicable, TCs will try to accommodate this. However, a failure to respond at all would put the operator in contravention of European law and could lead to questions around their repute and ultimately their fitness to operate.”

In short, forget to fill in this form and you could lose your licence.
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Details needed
A transport manager questionnaire requires personal details and details of any licence the transport manager is nominated on. The transport manager has to explain whether he or she is an  ‘internal’ (employed by the company) or ‘external’ transport manager (operates across a number of licences) as well as confirming what type of CPC or CPC exemption is currently held.

Both the transport manager and the operator must sign the declarations. It is very important that anyone signing the forms understands the declaration. Under the changes in force from 4 December, TCs will be able to take direct action is being taken against the operator or not. Transport managers can be declared unfit if they are not of good repute and the new EC Regulation lists a range of offences that of themselves will lead to the loss of good repute, unless the TC decides that in the circumstances this would be disproportionate.

Where a transport manager is disqualified, then that person is disqualified not only in the UK but in every EU country. However, the TC can suggest steps that will allow the transport manager to resume their career, such as retraining.

Grandfather’s rights
The information pack accompanying the form sets out the arrangements for those who hold existing grandfather’s rights and how new-style grandfather’s rights can be acquired by those who can prove they have continuously managed haulage or passenger transport operations for a period of 10 years ending on 4 December 2009.

The guidance notes also set out the specific details relating to the declaration made by either ‘internal’ transport managers or ‘external’ transport managers when signing the transport manager questionnaire. It lists core responsibilities. In short, when signing the form, the transport manager is declaring an agreement to his or her responsibilities. This includes the responsibilities typically found on 0-licence application forms, together with confirmation that the transport manager will notify convictions and their resignation whenever that takes place.

Where a transport manager works for more than one operator, the transport questionnaire has to be completed for each operator. The new regulations limit the number of operators a transport manager can work for to four with a total fleet of no more than 50 vehicles.

What operator s need to know
The information pack provides background information for standard licence holders and it explains the following:

    The new National Register of Operators in the UK, which will be connected to similar registers in other EU member states, is set to go live in 2013.
    Financial standing – there is to be a greater range of ‘acceptable evidence’ to prove financial standing. Senior TC statutory directions and statutory guidance will be provided in due course.
    Address – since the EC Regulation requires that every operator must have an establishment in Great Britain, PO Box and third party addresses will no longer be permitted. Those operators who use PO Box numbers or third party addresses will be contacted by the Central Licensing Unit so it can be provided with an address where the physical premises of the business are located.
    Access to a vehicle – all operators must have access to at least one vehicle ‘registered or in circulation in Great Britain’ with effect from 4 December 2011. It appears that this will be interpreted as at least one vehicle being specified on the licence or by being able to demonstrate on request that the operator has a vehicle available even if it is a rented vehicle.
    Community licences – EC authorisations for standard international licence holders from 4 December 2011 will be called ‘community licences’ and will be issued in due course in revised format on the expiry of the existing ones. Operators who have not yet responded to the OTC’s request for information should urgently email: euregulation@VOSA.gov.uk

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