The High Court has said that two victims of the black cab rapist, John Worboys, have the right to receive compensation from the Metropolitan Police because of the flawed police investigation. The Court ruled that systemic failures by the police meant that Worboys was not stopped sooner, and the verdict could mean that hundreds more women will also be entitled to compensation payments from the Metropolitan Police. The extent and level of damages will now be assessed and compensation will be calculated for the victims.
John Worboys was jailed for life in 2009 for offences committed between 2002 and 2008. He was convicted of two rapes and 12 drug charges. Mr Worboys picked up fares and claimed to have won the lottery, showing a bag of cash as proof of his winnings. He would then offer his victims a glass of champagne, which had been laced with sedatives, and would sexually assault or rape the victims. Many of the women could not recall the full details of what had happened to them. The police requested that any other potential victims of Worboys came forward.
The two victims that won the right to compensation brought claims against Mr Worboys under article three of the Human Rights Act. This means the right not to be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment. The judge ruled in favour of the two victims, also stating that a systemic failure by the police meant that Worboys was not captured and stopped sooner.
It is believed that Worboys attached 100 women during a seven year period, and not only do these findings mean that many of those women will be able to make similar claims against the Metropolitan Police, but it could open up new claims in a number of other cases too.
The Metropolitan Police had questioned whether they have a duty of care for victims, and said in a statement that they did not want to cast doubt on the claims of the victims, but believed it important to question the extent of liability and the role of the police in such cases. A source went on to say that they had contested the claims to determine a precedent in such cases.
A domestic abuse victim has filed a compensation claim against the Metropolitan Police after one of their officers admitted to having abused his position of power by sexually assaulting her. The incident occurred when the 38 year old woman was dragged out of a nightclub by her then boyfriend, and he physically abused her. PC James Formby attended, plied the woman with alcohol, and then took advantage of her inebriated state. Lawyers for the woman claim that the Met are responsible, although lawyers for the police are fighting the claims with a number of counter claims of their own.
This particular incident led to a series of reports by the Guardian newspaper, highlighting the extent of abuse by police officers in a position of power. Over four years, the Guardian found that 56 cases involving police officers and vulnerable victims had been brought. These cases included rape, sexual assault, and taking advantage of their position of power and trust.
One of the worst cases to date is that of 42 year old Stephen Mitchell, a former officer with Northumbria Police. Mitchell had previously been charged with a serious sexual assault while he was a soldier in the 1980s. Despite this conviction, he went on to serve for Northumbria Police, and he was convicted of two rapes, three indecent assaults, and six counts of misconduct in public office.
He received two life sentences, and was told he would not be eligible for parole for at least seven and a half years. That case led to an investigation into Police recruiting policies, and caused the Guardian to start its investigation into similar offences. They claim that the offences are typically hidden, and many officers are dealt with internally rather than facing public trial.
The Met are fighting the most recent case stating that even though the victim was very drunk, she had consented so there was no unlawful act. They also claim that the officer was acting on his own, and therefore the Met should be held vicariously liable for the actions that he undertook during the attack.
A landmark case in the Northwest will determine whether it is legally considered a crime to drink while pregnant. If the Court of Appeal finds that drinking while pregnant is tantamount to essentially poisoning a baby, it means that children that have suffered illness as a result of their mother’s drinking during pregnancy could be entitled to receive compensation payments. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority had successfully challenged such claims, but the decision will now be taken by the Court of Appeal.
There has long been evidence to suggest that drinking while pregnant can harm a baby, but it has never been considered a criminal offence. There have been calls from certain groups to make it illegal, so that it would carry a similar penalty to that of assault or even of poisoning.
One of the potential dangers to a baby is that of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, or FAS. Health experts say that it would require that a mother drink regularly during pregnancy in order for their child to be born with FAS, and that possible symptoms and side effects can include deformities as well as problems with emotional and physical development and attention and concentration problems. Recent research suggests that moderate and infrequent drinking may not cause damage to the baby or prevent their proper development.
None of the parties in the current case can be named for legal reasons, but the baby was diagnosed as having FAS when she was born. She is now six years old and living with foster parents. During a previous hearing, the mother was found to have administered poison that inflicted grievous bodily harm. The mother was believed to have taken drugs and to have consumed excessive amounts of alcohol regularly.
In 2011, the Court ruled that the child was eligible for a compensation payout because the mother had been grossly negligent. However, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, who were set to meet the payout, challenged the judgement and it was overturned by the upper tribunal of the Administration Appeals Chamber. No date has been set for the next hearing, but if compensation was awarded and the mother found guilty, it would have considerable ramifications on a wider scale.
Coroner Lord Justice Goldring has told jurors and the court that the current Hillsoborough Inquest is only interested in determining what, if anything, could have been differently and how things could be improved for similar situations in the future. He said that the jury was not responsible for attributing liability; nor are they responsible for determining whether compensation should be paid or how much compensation is owed. However, the findings of the inquest are highly likely to be used in compensation claims and cases brought following the hearing.
During an FA-Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, on 15th April 1989, 96 people were killed and a further 766 were injured. The deaths occurred following a crush at the Leppings Lane end of the Hillsborough Stadium. Damaged and decrepit turn styles led to overcrowding outside the ground and there was, allegedly, a delay in opening exit gates to allow people through. The current inquest has been set up to determine whether the crush, and subsequent deaths, could have been prevented or minimised, and what can be done to help orevent a similar tragedy from occurring in the future.
An initial inquest in 1999 ruled that the deaths were accidental, but a landmark and well publicised inquest determine that this was not the case. The Hillsborough Independent Panel overruled the decision, and this has led to the new Inquest being opened.
Addressing the jury, the Coroner said that they would not be responsible for determining civil liability, but that they would make important decisions regarding the roles that were played that day, whether mistakes were made, and hopefully provide the families of the victims at least with some closure on the matter.
Although he said that the jury would not be responsible for judging civil liberties, it seems highly likely that family and loved ones of the victims will want to seek compensation if it is found that failings on the part of the police were directly attributable for the disaster. While the jury may not decide who is, and who is not, entitled to compensation, or even how much compensation they should receive, they will have an early hand in the process.
The government is seriously considering introducing what is referred to as a Cinderella Law, which would make it a criminal offence to starve children of love and impose emotional cruelty upon them. The new law would mean that children found to have been victims of the newly introduced crime may be able to claim compensation from parents, because the emotional neglect would be considered a form of criminal injury. Charity Action for Children is at the head of the group demanding the introduction of the law.
Emotional cruelty is not currently considered a criminal offence. While local authorities and the Court may decide to remove a child from its parents because of emotional neglect, parents will not be prosecuted unless it is found that they have committed some form of physical abuse or legal neglect. The new laws would change this, and would mean that Courts would have a wider range of offences with which to charge parents.
Sources close to the government have said that amendments to an existing bill are currently under consideration and are more likely to happen than not. The Telegraph had earlier reported that the Queen would introduce the idea during her speech in June, but because the new laws could be introduced as part of an extension to an existing bill, this would not be necessary. The changes could occur sooner rather than later.
The charity Action for Children is the primary driving force behind the proposals, but they have the backing of many other groups and a number of prominent MPs. Current legislation comes from the Children and Young Person’s Act of 1933, in which it is considered illegal to treat children in a manner that is likely to cause injury, including mental impairments.
The proposed changes would extend this bill so that the potential injuries include any impairment of physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development. The government has said that it could make the amendments prior to the next general election but also stressed that it was not yet a done deal and that work was still required on pushing the bill through.
The Ministry of Justice has said that it has removed the licenses of 200 rogue claims management companies in the past 12 months, and that more rigorous processes mean that the total number of personal injury companies is down from 2,553 at the end of 2011 to 1,400 in January 2014. The total of number claims management companies, including personal injury firms, is down from 3,367 to 2,254. The majority of CMCs are personal injury firms.
The Ministry of Justice has introduced a range of changes and improvements to the licensing and accreditation, as well as regulation, that claims management companies, must undergo. The industry had come under considerable scrutiny because of alleged poor practice, especially since the Payment Protection Insurance mis-selling scandal. One of the practices that is being clamped down on is the automated calling of people that are not affected by the claims.
In the past 12 months, the Ministry of Justice has removed the licenses of more than 200 rogue firms. Justice Minister Shailesh Vara said that “we are taking strong action to rein in the rogue firms operating in this sector.”
The closure of rogue firms is only a portion of the work that the MoJ is undertaking. They have also finished a consultation period on the introduction of more rigorous conduct rules for claims management firms. They are currently analysing the responses, and this is expected to lead to further amendments and additional requirements.
In November, the MoJ announced that it would be given the power to fine firms that broke their rules and that have broken their licensing agreement. Currently, the MoJ is concentrating on those firms that charge clients incorrectly, but they are expected to expand their remit to include companies that manufacture claims, or that use data requests to file spurious complaints.
Every individual should have the right to submit claims for personal injuries when they have been injured, or suffered illness, through an accident or neglect that was not their fault. However, it is important that the government and the Ministry of Justice, in particular, closely monitor the situation, and the fact that rogue companies have been shut down means that consumers are able to enjoy a better quality of service.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has dismissed claims by a Labour peer that the current mesothelioma scheme could lead to claimants receiving 100% of their compensation in a couple of years’ time. Currently, sufferers will only receive 75% of the total amount that they are due, but the Labour peer that headed up the recent changes to the scheme has said that once the scheme reaches its peek in 2016, the amount of compensation that victims receive will naturally start to increase. The ABI refutes the claims.
Mesothelioma is a deadly form of cancer that is contracted when a person comes into regular contact with certain types of asbestos. The lining of the organs are adversely affected, and because of the length of time it takes to identify the disease, as well as the devastating effects it has on the body, it leads to the death of the sufferer.
Mesothelioma claims have been prevalent for a number of decades. The negative effects of asbestos were first discovered as early as 1940s, but despite powerful evidence, companies continued to use the inexpensive and efficient building material for many decades. Asbestos can still be found in the walls and roofs of certain building today, and a long and complex removal process is required to dispose of it.
Because companies continued to use asbestos even after it had been found to cause cancer in workers, companies have been found guilty of taking unnecessary risks. The fatal nature of the disease means that claimants receive large sums of compensation, often totalling tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds. The disease is usually not recognised until several decades after a person has come into contact with asbestos, and a compensation scheme was established by the government for those instances where claimants could not identify or locate the company responsible.
Changes to the mesothelioma claim scheme mean that claimants currently only receive 75% of the total compensation they are awarded. Victim’s groups and legal firms have slammed the changes, but the Labour peer that headed them has defended the decision by saying that full 100% compensation will be available to claimants following a peak in 2016. The ABI has dismissed these suggestions and indicated that sufferers will not receive the full amount that they are due.
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