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News Roundup Week Ending 11 July 2014

Charlotte Rowles

By Charlotte Rowles on 10/07/14

News Roundup Week Ending 11 July 2014

9 July 2014

Paul Britton reports for the Manchester Evening News on the case of Nadeem Aslam.

Man jailed for 13 years for rape cleared after judges told alleged victim lied.

Nadeem Aslam, 45, from Burnage, who spent more than three years in prison after being convicted of a string of sex attacks, has been freed.

A man who was found guilty and jailed for a string of rapes he denied has been cleared after judges ruled that his alleged victim lied.

Nadeem Aslam, 45, served more than three years of a 13-year sentence, but has now been cleared on appeal and freed after fresh evidence emerged.

Judges at London’s Criminal Appeal Court ruled the conviction was unsafe as a result and said there wouldn’t be a retrial.

Mr Aslam, from Kingsway, Burnage, denied the charges but was locked up after he was found guilty by a jury at Manchester Crown Court in December 2010 of a string of sex attacks.

The Appeal Court judges however found after a two-day hearing that his accuser had indicated that she was going to fabricate evidence against him and later told people after the trial that she had lied to the jury during her evidence.

The court heard that the woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, had asked one witness before the trial whether the jury would ‘feel sorry’ for her if she cried while giving her evidence over a video link.

The same witness also told the Appeal Court that the accuser had said: “If the jury feel sorry for me, will he get a prison sentence?

“If I cry, do I look in the camera when I cry?”

There was also ‘fresh evidence’ from a number of other witnesses, which indicated the woman had admitted making up her allegations against Mr Aslam, the judges were told.

Clearing Aslam after the hearing, Lord Justice Laws said the new evidence of one witness ‘strongly suggested’ that, before the start of the trial, the accuser was ‘at least contemplating’ that she might lie to the jury.

Sitting with Mr Justice Andrews and Judge Nicholas Cooke QC, Lord Justice Laws said the evidence from other witnesses proved that she told them that the accusations were false.

He added: “She was prepared, in the immediate aftermath of the appellant’s conviction, to tell these witnesses that she had made a false accusation: and that, in our judgment, is what their evidence proves.

“In view of our conclusions as to what the fresh evidence proves, we are bound to find that the appellant’s convictions are unsafe.

“The appeal is allowed.”

He confirmed there would be no retrial.

Judgement: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Crim/2014/1292.html

4 July 2014

Solicitor John McKenna reports on the impact of legal aid cuts for the Guardian. 

Legal aid cuts are severing a lifeline for many poor families.

People should not be denied legal advice just because of their financial situation as it can lead to tragic circumstances, says Liverpool family law partner John McKenna. 

The much-publicised legal aid cuts are being felt up and down the country, but nowhere more acutely than in areas like the Breckfield district of Liverpool, where our head office is based.

Frequently named one of the most deprived areas in the UK, Breckfield is no strangers to struggle. Its residents are used to fighting every day just to keep their heads above water and money is tight. Understandably, when legal issues arise finding the funds for adequate representation or advice is almost impossible. In such situations legal aid always provided a lifeline.

With the assistance dramatically cut many people in Breckfield and areas like it have lost the right to have legal representation when needed and, in turn, their right to be treated fairly.

Some of the most common – and indeed most heartrending – forms of litigation we deal with are custody battles and family disputes. These cases are always difficult for everyone involved and the need for sound legal advice is never more obvious than when children's livelihoods are at stake.

This is something that became all too clear recently when a custody dispute took a tragic turn. The case involved the care proceedings of two young children following a private law dispute between the parents who made allegations of abuse.

Following this, Residence Orders were made in favour of the father of the younger child and the grandmother of the older child. The mother was to have contact. We were instructed to represent one party and all parties were in receipt of legal aid at this time.

It soon became clear that this arrangement was not being followed and, as a result, the family appeared in court again. This time, following the implementation of legal aid restrictions, the parties were forced to represent themselves.

Sadly, a judgement was made which ultimately resulted in the mother taking her own and her young son's life. One could certainly argue that had legal aid still been available and legal representation been provided the outcome could have been different.

Whilst this is an extreme case, it is not an exaggeration to say families and children are being put at risk because legal advice is not available to them. Decisions are being made that may well have been very different if legal advice was available.

Following the economic meltdown this country has witnessed over the last few years one can understand the need for the government to make cuts but the current reforms target the vulnerable and, like many other in the legal industry, we believe they should be reconsidered.

People should not be denied legal advice just because of their financial situation. Justice is a fundamental right and without legal assistance too many people will be denied it.

John McKenna is a family law partner at Paul Crowley & Co

3 July 2014

The Independent Police Complaints Commission website reports on disputes handling. 

One in three people not confident their complaint will be handled fairly by police, survey for IPCC shows.

One in three people in England & Wales are not confident that if they complain to the police their complaint will be handled fairly, according to a survey for the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) published today.
The finding is consistent with the IPCC’s own recently published reviews of police handling of complaints, part of our on-going work and the IPCC’s three-year plan for improving public confidence in the complaints system, also published today.

The survey of more than 4,000 people also found:

• a growing proportion of people – three out of four – say they would complain if really unhappy about how a police officer behaved towards them or handled a matter they were involved in; but two out of five of those questioned were not confident they would know how to do so
• people from ethnic minority communities were less likely to say they would complain, and more likely to fear harassment if they did so
• people aged 15-24 are less likely to be happy with the way police treated them but less willing to complain or to have confidence in the police dealing fairly with complaints.

IPCC Chair, Dame Anne Owers, said: "The majority of the 30,000 complaints made annually about the police are handled by the police service itself.  This survey shows that too many people are still either unsure of how to make a complaint about the police or don’t believe their complaint will be dealt with fairly. It is particularly worrying that young people and those from ethnic minorities have lower confidence in the complaints system.

"The survey underlines the importance of the plan we are launching today, and there is clearly more work to be done by both the police and IPCC to improve access, awareness and trust in the complaints system and those who work in it.”

The 2014 Public Confidence Survey is the sixth in a series over the last ten years.  It looks at public perceptions of the police, the complaints system, and the IPCC.

This year’s survey shows the majority of people are aware of the IPCC (64%) and 77% of those people are confident that the IPCC deals with its work in an impartial way. However, awareness among ethnic minorities is less than half (32%) that of the white population (74%).

Other key findings from the survey include:

• 23% of people had had contact with police over the previous 12 months, a lower proportion than most earlier surveys but an increase on 2011 (20%);
• the proportion of people (66%) stating they were happy with their contact with police has fallen back to 2004 levels after a high of 76% in 2011; and people from ethnic minority groups continue to be less happy (56%) than white people (68%).
Dame Anne said: "Later this year the IPCC will begin to take on more independent investigations into serious and sensitive allegations made against the police.  That is an important part of our statutory responsibility to ensure public confidence in the police complaints system. But it is not enough, by itself, to achieve that aim.
"The survey findings underline the need for more work to address public confidence concerns, and how important it is we take forward our work to improve complaints handling, in partnership with forces, PCCs, and other policing bodies.”

Steps set out under the IPCC’s plans for oversight & confidence and engagement plans, which are published today, are:

• developing additional guidance for police forces to handle complaints better, and formalising its work with Police and Crime Commissioners;
• providing better information for the public on how their local force handles complaints, and continuing to make the case for a simplified complaints system that is easier for the public to use;
• introducing a more robust system for holding forces to account and following up learning recommendations – new powers will compel forces to respond formally and publicly to IPCC recommendations;
• continuing to argue for reform of the police disciplinary system to make it more timely and transparent;
• undertaking a programme of engagement activity with BME communities and young people to increase awareness of the complaints system as well as understanding and tackling the barriers they face;
• working towards a complete picture of case outcomes for individual officers and staff members across the complaints system including criminal and disciplinary proceedings and dealing with unsatisfactory performance.
The plan also builds on learning from the recent review of how the IPCC investigates deaths following police contact which benefited from feedback from bereaved families and other stakeholders.

In January this year, the IPCC issued a draft oversight and confidence plan for public consultation, and received more than 100 responses from a range of stakeholders, including members of the public, police forces, Police and Crime Commissioners and voluntary sector organisations. Respondents provided useful feedback and raised a variety of views including that the IPCC should do more to speed up its handling of cases and to improve the quality of its work.

The Oversight and Confidence plan launched today outlines the steps the IPCC will take, in cooperation with stakeholders including the College of Policing, HMIC and Police and Crime Commissioners, to improve complaints handling and embed good practice in policing.

The IPCC conducted a series of pilot oversight projects in 2013/14 that examined in detail how forces are handing aspects of the complaints system, most recently an investigation into how forces handle allegations of discrimination. The reports identified significant failings in how forces handle complaints and can be found here.

See more at: http://www.ipcc.gov.uk/news/one-three-people-not-confident-their-complaint-will-be-handled-fairly-police-survey-ipcc-shows#sthash.4vLTfqfI.dpuf