Category Archives: law

We’re all breaking the law now

The government has changed copyright law to make most people in the UK criminals. In 2014 the government passed a law to make it OK to rip CDs for personal use (e.g. putting the music on your iPod or your phone), but the law was drafted so badly that the music industry had the high court rule it illegal, and anyone who rips a CD is a criminal.

No it’s fair to say that the music industry is the most evil here – to expect people to pay twice to listen to their legally purchased music just to listen to it on a different machine is ridiculous. Forcing the courts to make everyone criminals for doing that is way worse that what the government did in this case, so 1-0 to the music industry so far. Determined to not be out-evilled though, the government is proposing to make it illegal to take photos. More specifically, unless you check if any of the objects in the picture are copyrighted, you can’t take a picture without the copyright owner’s permission;

This leads to some interesting results. Could people carry a bottle of coke (a copyrighted shape) with them to prevent any photos of them from being published without coke’s permission? Could celebrities have to buy some cheap Homebase furniture to sit on when they give magazine interviews? Will the Royal College of Art be demanding that Snappy Snaps hands over copies of all photos to monitor for copyright violation, like the movie industry already does with ISPs? Well, if that is the case, the government has already stated that it doesn’t care – the onus is on the photographer to find any potentially copyrighted items in their photos and to find the licence owner. Forget the fact that it’s impractical – we’re all criminals anyway. Mwhahaha

Fresh assault on the Lords

The House Of Lords has been thwarting a lot of potential evil recently. The most high profile being simply asking for the cuts to tax credits to be delayed until increases in the minimum wage came in, which of course prevented the government from throwing as many people in to poverty as it wanted.

This frustrating habit of sticking up for the ordinary person is particularly annoying for David Cameron, who has plans for further evil which he fears the House of Lords will block. The Financial Times this morning reports how frustrating this is for the government, and how they aim to thwart it.

The FT reports that Tory peer Lord Strathclyde is going to propose that the Lords will lose all power of veto over secondary legislation. This is in line with the government’s strategy to push as many evil plans as possible through as statutory instruments rather than bills. Statutory instruments are not subject to the same level of scrutiny, so are easier to force through. If the Lords lose all power over statutory instruments, the government will essentially be able to do whatever it likes, with no-one to challenge it. Mwhahaha.

Autumn statement has numerous hidden evils

When George Osborne stood up in front of parliament to give his budget speech, he only spoke about the good things he did (or rather the bad things that he had threatened to do but then changed his mind in the face of overwhelming public objection). For some reason, he didn’t mention all of the evil things that he is doing in parliament – instead he published those in an 154 page document. Here’s some highlights of the evil buried deep in the document;

When students took out their loans, they signed up to a set of terms and conditions which described how much they would pay back and when they would pay it back. The amount they would pay back in any year depends on how much they earn above a certain threshold in that year, and that threshold increases with inflation. Except the government announced yesterday that they are changing the terms and conditions for people who already have taken out the loans to freeze that threshold rather than increase it with inflation – resulting in students having to pay significantly more of their wages in student loan repayments. If a commercial company changed loan conditions retrospectively, the FSA would stop them, but the government can do what it likes. Mwhahaha.

Whiplash injuries are thought to be a source of fraudulent insurance claims. Someone takes out their brake light bulbs, then slams on the brakes, and then claims for pain and suffering from whiplash injuries when the car behind hits them. This is thought to cost the average motorist £50 a year. In an effort to stop such fraudulent claims, the government is taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut. They are banning all claims for general damages (e.g. compensation for pain and suffering) in soft tissue injuries, and they are forcing anyone claiming under £5000 for an injury to do so in the small claims court – where they can’t recover any legal costs. So to stop fraudsters, innocent people are going to be out of pocket and under compensated.

Despite the high profile u-turn on withdrawing tax credits, a number of other changes are going on anyway. First of all, the tax credits are being withdrawn anyway, with people being switched over to universal credit, which will leave people £1600 a year worse off. Plus the chancellor will still cap child tax credit at two children, hurting families with more children.

At the moment student nurses get means tested bursaries to help them through their training. Nurse and midwife training takes 3 years, and typically has them working a 37.5 hour week during their training period, spending time working on wards in addition to lectures. So there’s little free time for a part time job on the side. But they can at least walk in to a job paying £21,692 a year at the end of it. However, thanks to changes in the autumn statement, nurses will be forced to pay for their training, so now they will start work with £50,000 in debt to pay off too.

Government report confirms Tories have abolished justice

The Justice select committee has yesterday confirmed how evil the former Justice Secretary Chris Grayling really was. Grayling was the MP who was responsible for, amongst other atrocities, introducing the criminal court charge. This charge, which at first glance appears disappointingly un-evil, is about getting anyone taken to court to pay for being prosecuted. The charges that they pay vary from £150 to £1200, depending not on their ability to pay, but on whether or not they plead guilty, and are payable before any victim compensation.

The report confirms that Grayling has achieved a number of evil things with his charge;

1) Innocent people are pleading guilty just to avoid paying the maximum charge. If you plead guilty you only pay £150, but if you are innocent and are found guilty, you can be forced to pay up to £1200. And while you may think that our justice system is good enough to not convict the innocent, any lawyer will tell you that there are one or two magistrates who will convict despite a lack of evidence. For that very reason, anyone is entitled to appeal their case to the crown court, but that costs money. If you are on benefits and ,for example, accused of shoplifting something that you paid for, you literally can’t afford to take the risk of going to trial any more.

2) Victims are being denied compensation because of the charge. Normally, the amount that a defendant can pay is means tested, and the order in which money is prioritized if the defendant can’t pay everything is Compensation; Victim Surcharge; Fine; Costs. However, the court charge has been bumped to the front of the queue and is not means tested. Since 80% of people in court are on some sort of benefit, this means that the court charge often accounts for more than they can ever pay, and victims get no compensation at all. For example a rape victim in south London who got no compensation at all because there was no realistic prospect that the rapist would ever be able to even pay off the £900 court charge.

3) Judges have no discretion over the size of the charge, making it grossly disproportionate for some crimes. For example, a woman who hadn’t eaten for days stole 4 mars bars (worth 75p). She hadn’t eaten for days because she had no money at all, but was still charged the £150 court fee. And when she can’t pay it, she’ll be sent to prison (where at least she’ll be fed).

4) Far from being a money generating scheme, the charge is costing the taxpayer a small fortune. In 2015–16, the net loss is estimated to be between £10 and £20 million. That is due to the large cost of chasing unpayable charges, and then re-trying and imprisoning people who have no prospect of paying them. It is estimated that by 2020, this will have cost the country £1.2 billion.

5) 50 of the most sympathetic Magistrates have resigned at the injustice of the charge. One was even sacked for offering to pay the fine for a penniless refugee. Lawyers, judges and the public are losing faith in the justice system as a result of this charge.

You can find the full report here, which we assume was written to applaud yet another successful evil endeavour. Mwhahaha.

MoJ couldn’t organize a piss up in a brewery

If there is one government department that should know a thing or two about the law, it’s the Ministry of Justice. Surely they know how to avoid silly mistakes that would land them in court. Well, it seems that in an effort to be evil, they may have forgotten all of that.

Former justice secretary Chris Grayling had the idea (that is either evil or stupid) of cutting the number of solicitors who can work on Legal Aid cases from 1,600 to 527. The anticipated impact of this was that defendants who are not in large towns would often not have access to a solicitor, many small firms would go out of business, and continued cuts in fees would mean that those who were left in business would be unable to actually use lawyers for much of their work. To ensure that this erosion of justice was carried out as cheaply as possible, solicitors were asked to submit tenders for one or more of 85 different regions throughout England and Wales. Each tender was to be made up of answers to 17 questions split in to 4 sub sections, which the MoJ would scrutinize thoroughly before awarding contracts to the most appropriate bidders. These contracts are for millions of pounds of work, so they need to scrutinized fairly by competent staff, and with 1000 tenders, that gave about 50,000 answers to be reviewed and carefully analysed.

Except that isn’t what happened at all. That sort of work takes far too long and staff with experience of the legal system and assessing bids cost money. So instead of doing a review of the bids, it has emerged that the MoJ hired some minimum wage agency staff who knew nothing at all about reviewing bids, and gave them just 1 hour’s training in reviewing tenders. In order to get through all 50,000 answers quickly they fired them if they spent more than 14 minutes analyzing the tens of pages that made up each answer – but rewarded them with Mars Bars and Snickers if they went faster.

A number of stupid mistakes were made. Firms bidding in more than one region were penalized for writing the same answer to the same question in the application for each region (despite the answers obviously being the same when they relate to details of the company as a whole). As these firms were generally the large successful law firms, the very people in a position to best deliver on the contracts were arbitrarily penalized out of the process. In another case, one firm was awarded a contract for a region in which it didn’t even bid. Responses to bids indicated that the people reviewing them had problems understanding even the most basic answers. Whistleblowers from inside the MoJ have declared the process as the worst they have ever seen. The result of this attempt to bypass due process is that numerous law firms have launched cases against the government for failing to review the tenders appropriately. So now the whole misguided process has been put on hold, and millions of pounds will have been wasted as a result of trying to do evil on the cheap. Mwhahaha.