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Judges could quit over pensions – The Law Society Gazette

June 17th, 2013

Judges are warning that they will go back to being practising lawyers because their pensions are to be cut by more than a third, the Gazette has learned.

Full-time judges are barred from legal practice while in post. Their terms of service add that the lord chancellor regards a judgeship as a lifetime appointment and that there is an ‘understanding’ they will not return to practice.

But the lord chief justice Lord Judge is reported to have told the review body on senior salaries that judges are prepared to defy this understanding if their pensions are reduced.

Actuarial evidence shows judges would see a cut in pension benefits of between 34% and 46% if the planned changes go ahead after April 2015.

In his evidence to the review body, Judge expressed concern that ‘by making it harder to recruit the best judges, the changes could affect the quality of the justice system, including its ability to attract international business’.

Debt Matters

June 13th, 2013

Have you missed mortgage payments or facing Bankruptcy? Speak to our Debt Solicitors 020 8297 4000.

Purchasing a property and need a conveyancer?

June 12th, 2013

Speak to Mandy Peters for a Conveyancing Quote today.  Call us on 020 8297 4000.

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June 11th, 2013



UK’s use of drones in Afghanistan ‘may be in breach of international law’ in Afghanistan.

June 10th, 2013

The MoD has confirmed such drones can be operated remotely from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire. Photograph: MoD/EPA


Reported in the Guardian. Saturday 8 June 2013

The use of remotely piloted drones by British forces in Afghanistan may be in breach of international law, a controversial legal opinion circulated to peace campaigners and released on Saturday claims.

The argument challenges the well established legal defence set out by the RAF for deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the UN-sanctioned conflict.

Publication of the document coincides with the court appearance this week of six anti-drone protesters who pleaded not guilty to causing criminal damage following the first mass trespass inside the RAF’s new ground control for Afghan drone operations.

Written by Phil Shiner and Dan Carey of the Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers, the legal opinion argues that use of drones inside Afghanistan, which is a UN-declared conflict zone, is subject to the European convention on human rights (ECHR). That principle is already established in British case law, they say, in relation to the case of Al Skeini, which went to judges in Strasbourg and concerned the killing of civilians during British security operations in Iraq.

Their document states: “The requirement to use ‘no more [force] than absolutely necessary’ in article 2(2) [of the European convention relating to when it is permissible to take life] places a significant restriction on drone use.

“Only when it is absolutely necessary to kill someone rather than arrest/disable them will the use of drones be lawful. And even then, drones may only be used for one of the purposes in article 2(2), most relevantly, in self defence under 2(2)(c).

“Provided therefore that UK jurisdiction for the purposes of the ECHR is established, then the application of the ECHR would limit the use of drones solely to situations in which there is an immediate threat to life. This prevents the carrying out of ‘targeted killings’ and narrowly circumscribes their use even on ‘the battlefield’.”

“There is therefore a strong presumption that the UK’s drones programme is in breach of international law.”

The protesters, two of whom are priests, entered RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire on Monday and were brought before Lincoln magistrates on Tuesday. They say their action was to prevent crimes being committed in Afghanistan. A fence was cut, pictures of civilian victims distributed and a “peace garden” created inside the base.

The six Disarm the Drones activists are: Chris Cole, a drones researcher from Oxford; Fr Martin Newell, a Catholic priest from London; Rev Dr Keith Hebden, an Anglican vicar in Mansfield; Susan Clarkson, a Quaker pensioner from Oxford; Henrietta Cullinan, a teacher from London; and Penny Walker, who describes herself as a grandmother from Leicester.

Cole said: “We cut the fence in order to prevent more serious crimes in Afghanistan. We were inside for about an hour and a half before they arrested us.”

Hebden told the Guardian: “Drones go against international law, you can’t warn anybody or engage with the local community. There’s between a one and four-second delay between people on the ground [in the UK] pulling the trigger and the drone firing. They are not the accurate weapon commonly portrayed.”

Walker said: “This was the first mass trespass at RAF Waddington. Our defence is that we were preventing a worse crime.”

All six were held in custody over Monday night. Several said their computers had been seized during police searches despite the fact that conspiracy charges had been dropped. A condition of their bail prevents them returning to Lincolnshire.

Remotely controlled armed drones used to target insurgents in Afghanistan have been operated from RAF Waddington, the home of XIII squadron, since April. The Ministry of Defence has consistently defended its use of remotely piloted drones and published detailed legal justifications. A spokesman said: “All operations, including those involving unmanned aerial systems, are informed by appropriate legal advice and are conducted in accordance with applicable International Humanitarian Law.

“Unmanned Air Systems are subject to legal reviews during the acquisition process, in accordance with the UK’s responsibilities under article 36 of Protocol I Additional to the Geneva conventions of 1949. The reviews have concluded that UK UAS currently in use are capable of being used lawfully and in accordance with all relevant international and domestic law.”

A defence source questioned whether the same conclusions would apply to weapons dropped from traditional aircraft or even artillery and mortar rounds.

Welcoming Games Family Members for the Commonwealth Games

June 10th, 2013

Welcoming Games Family Members for the Commonwealth Games

The 20th Commonwealth Games are fast approaching. Individuals needing a visa to prepare for the Games will be able to apply for a Commonwealth Games visit visa from 27 May 2013.

The visa will allow multiple entry to the UK, with a maximum stay of 6 months for a single visit. It will be valid until 3 September 2014, with the Games taking place from 23 July to 3 August 2014.

Applying for a Commonwealth Games visit visa

You should apply for your visa on our online application system. You will need to apply for a ‘Commonwealth Games visit visa’.

If you are unable to apply online you can complete a paper application VAF1C. You can find form VAF1C in the business visitors section of the UKBA website. You must state on your form that you are applying for a ‘Commonwealth Games visit visa’.

When you apply, you will need to provide a letter from the Glasgow 2014 Organising Committee, to confirm your Games-related role. You will also need to provide biometric information (unless you are normally exempt from this requirement).


Changes to applications from overstayers

August 30th, 2012

29 June 2012

From 1 October 2012 if you have overstayed your leave by more than 28 days any application for further leave will be refused. This change in the Immigration Rules will affect applicants applying for further leave under:

the points-based system;
all working and student routes;
visiting routes;
long residency routes;
discharged HM Forces; or
UK ancestry routes.
This change is in line with the new immigration rules coming into effect for the family migration route from 9 July 2012.

If you have limited leave to remain you must ensure you apply to extend your leave, if needed, in time. If you wish to remain in the UK after the 28 day period you should leave the UK and reapply for a visa.

Please monitor this website for further information about the changes

New interviews for students

August 30th, 2012

Following a successful pilot, Immigration Minister Damian Green has announced that a targeted interview system for students will be introduced this summer and will concentrate on high-risk applicants.

If you are a student, you may be interviewed and asked a number of questions about your immigration and education history, study and post-study plans, and financial circumstances. We expect to interview up to 14,000 students in the next 12 months. We will refuse visas if we are not satisfied that you are a genuine student.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said:

‘With more interviews and greater powers to refuse bogus students we will weed out abuse and protect the UK from those looking to play the system.

‘Under the current system UK Border Agency officers are unable to refuse some applications even if they have serious concerns over the credibility of the student – we are toughening up the system to ensure genuine students benefit from our country’s excellent education sector.

‘Britain is open for business to the brightest and the best migrants but the message is clear – if you lie on your application form or try to hide your true motivation for coming to the UK then you will be found out and refused a visa.’

Today’s announcement follows an interviewing pilot carried out by the agency last year to tackle concerns about the legitimacy of some applicants. More than 2,300 student visa applicants were interviewed in 13 overseas posts with the aim of testing how effective face-to-face interviews would be – in addition to existing strict application processes that consider fraud and other factors.

Under the pilot, around a fifth of the applicants were refused entry to the UK based on their interview. One of the main issues was the inability of interviewees to display the required level of English. Some were unable to answer basic questions in English without the aid of an interpreter – despite stating on their application forms that they had the necessary language qualifications to study at higher and further education standards in the UK.

Office closure

July 13th, 2012

Please be advised that our office will be closed for refurbishment from Monday 16th July to Friday 20 July 2012. If you have an urgent enquiry during that period do call us on 07894 077 023. We apologise in advance for any inconvenience this may cause. Business as usual from Monday July 23rd.

Changes to the family migration Immigration Rules come into effect on 9 July 2012

July 10th, 2012

09 July 2012

A number of changes to the Immigration Rules come into effect on 9 July 2012. These changes will affect non-European Economic Area (non-EEA) nationals applying to enter or remain in the UK under the family migration route.

These changes will define the basis on which a person can enter or remain in the UK on the basis of their family or private life, unifying consideration under the rules and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

If you already have leave to enter or remain in the UK, on the basis of being the spouse or partner of a settled person, you will need to meet the rules which were in force before 9 July 2012 if you apply for settlement.

The changes include:

introducing a new minimum income threshold of £18,600 for sponsoring the settlement in the UK of a spouse or partner, or fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner of non-European Economic Area (EEA) nationality, with a higher threshold for any children also sponsored; £22,400 for one child and an additional £2,400 for each further child;
publishing, in casework guidance, a list of factors associated with genuine and non-genuine relationships, to help UK Border Agency caseworkers to focus on these issues;
extending the minimum probationary period for settlement for non-EEA spouses and partners from two years to five years, to test the genuineness of the relationship;
abolishing immediate settlement for the migrant spouses and partner where a couple have been living together overseas for at least 4 years, and requiring them to complete a 5 year probationary period;
from October 2013, requiring all applicants for settlement to pass the Life in the UK Test and present an English language speaking and listening qualification at B1 level or above of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages unless they are exempt; and
allowing adult and elderly dependants to settle in the UK only where they can demonstrate that, as a result of age, illness or disability, they require a level of long-term personal care that can only be provided by a relative in the UK, and requiring them to apply from overseas rather than switch in the UK from another category, for example as a visitor.
The changes to the Immigration Rules were announced by the Government on 11 June 2012 and they form part of the Government’s programme of reform of the immigration routes. The changes are being introduced following wide consultation and expert advice from the Migration Advisory Committee.