Khodorkovsky Speaks on Yevtushenkov Arrest

The former director of the Yukos Oil Company, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, has spoken out about the arrest of Vladimir Yevtushenkov and urged him to seek a compromise with the Russian Federation.

In an interview with Vedomosti Business Daily, Khodorkovsky has linked the billionaire’s arrest with his conflict with Rosneft over shares in Bashneft. He believes that Yevtushenkov “was stubborn” in price negotiations and “did not want to pass his property at the conditions he was apparently offered. So it was decided to use the familiar old method. I think there is nothing else here.”


The charges levelled at Yevtushenkov are that he is involved in money laundering, following a probe into Sistemabs acquisition of shares in the Bashneft oil company. The accusation is that the shares were stolen from Russian Bashkotorstan Republicbs oil companies, but commentator have suggested that the real reason for his arrest is that he was successful in acquiring shares that Rosneft, Russiabs largest oil company, was determined to buy.

Parallels have been drawn with the Yukos affair, part of which saw Khodorkovsky serving ten years for unpaid taxes and his company put into bankruptcy and dismantled. Khodorkovsky says that there are important differences between the two cases. In his case the actions taken against him and his company were politically motivated as he was a leading critic of the Kremlin, whereas the current Sistema case is purely driven by economics and profit.

Khodorkovskybs advice to to Yevtushenkov, currently under house arrest, is to agree to whatever terms are now offered to him. “If Yevtushenkov has a chance to reach an agreement, he should go for it. I would not see any shame or discomfort if he agreed on any conditions.” He said. (source)

Ministry of Justice Gets Huge Fine for “Serious” Data Protection Failings

The Ministry of Justice has been issued with a civil penalty of £180,000 by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) after what were described as “serious failings.” The failings in question led to 75 prisons around the country storing sensitive data in a way which fell far short of the required security levels.

This is not the first time the Ministry of Justice has faced penalties for poor data protection practices. In October 2013, they were issued with a fine that was almost as large (£140,000) following another serious failure to keep sensitive information safe. In this incident, details of all the inmates at a prison, totalling more than 1,000 individuals, were accidentally and repeatedly emailed to the families of three of the inmates.

The latest fine is one of the largest penalties that has ever had to be paid by a department of the government. The failings which led to the fine were uncovered after an investigation by the ICO into the data protection practices of the prison service in England and Wales.

The mistake occurred in May 2012 when prisons were issued with new hard drives for back-up storage of important data. These hard drives were equipped with advanced encryption to protect the data from falling into the wrong hands and to keep it safe from hackers. However, the prisons were not properly instructed in how to use these hard drives. Specifically, they were not told that the encryption function had to be turned on by the end user (in this case the individual prison). Instead, many believed that the encryption was an innate function of the hard drives and did not need to be activated.

The result was that data was held for more than a year without encryption by 75 prisons in England and Wales. In May 2013, while this problem was still in effect, a hard drive containing unencrypted data of nearly 3,000 prisoners was lost. Some of the prisoners in question had links to organised criminal gangs, making the loss of their data particularly concerning. All of this data was unencrypted and vulnerable.

This issue stemmed directly from an earlier data protection issue on the part of the prison service. The new, encrypted hard drives were originally introduce in response to an earlier incident when the prison service lost data relating to around 16,000 prison inmates throughout the country.

The ICO’s head of enforcement, Stephen Echersley, said: “The fact that a government department with security oversight for prisons can supply equipment to 75 prisons throughout England and Wales without properly understanding, let alone telling them, how to use it, beggars belief.”

Following the ruling, the ICO released a blog clarifying the importance of encryption to data protection.

Corrupt Legal Professionals Face Crackdown

HandcuffsSolicitors and other members of the legal profession who work with criminal gangs to help them in their activities could face imprisonment of up to five years under new proposals from the Home Office. These proposals form part of the Serious Crimes Bill, announced today in the Queen’s Speech.

The bill also includes other provisions to facilitate a crackdown on organised crime. These include enhanced abilities for the seizure of criminal assets and the closure of loopholes that previously allowed some criminals to keep what they had gained from illegal activities.

In order to be prosecuted under the new bill, specifically under the offence of “participation in an organised crime group,” it will have to be established by prosecutors that a defendant had “reasonable grounds to suspect” that their activities were aiding criminals and facilitating crime.

The Home Office claimed that some lawyers, along with other professionals such as accountants, are wilfully assisting criminals by deliberately failing to ask questions about why their services are needed, and then later claiming ignorance of any criminal activity. Karen Bradley, a Home Office Minister, welcomed the proposals. She said that “Nobody is above the law. But for too long corrupt lawyers, accountants and other professionals have tried to evade justice by hiding behind a veneer of respectability.” She went on to suggest that the new law would [send] out a clear message” to professionals who were “helping to oil the wheels of organised crime.”

However, many voices within the legal industry have spoken out in opposition to the proposals. These include president of the Law Society Nicholas Fluck. While stressing that he had “no sympathy” for solicitors who aided criminals, Fluck said that it was questionable whether the laws would make any real difference given the regulatory and statutory obligations that solicitors are already under. He also said that the issue of criminal intent had to be looked at carefully. Requiring defendants to prove they did not have “reasonable grounds to suspect” that they were facilitating crime might result in a reversal of the burden of proof.

Richard Atkinson, chairman of the criminal law committee of the Law Society, joined Fluck in criticising the law. Atkinson asked whether the government may be “seeking to impose on lawyers and other professionals a duty to enquire into the workings of their clients.”

Illegal for Police to Delete Photos of Abuse Victim From Paedophile’s Computer?

Dorset Police are refusing to delete photos from the computer of a paedophile that show the girl he abused in swimwear and leotards. The police claim that, as the photos are neither prohibited nor classed as indecent under UK law, it would be unlawful for them to be deleted.

The offender in question, a man in his 50s, was jailed last year following his admission to a number of offenses. These included sexual assault of a child aged under 13. He was sentenced to a prison sentence of nine years. The man cannot be named for the same of his victim’s privacy.

He has now made a formal request that his mobile and laptop are returned to him. Officers are indeed required to return this property according to the legislation under which it was seized. However, the PC still contains photographs of the girl he abused, many of which show her in swimwear or in leotards, which the  police claim they have no power to delete.

The mother of the victim said that she was “appalled that the man who abused my child can ask the police to hand over our family photos for him to keep for the rest of his life.”

She went on to say: “My daughters struggle every day with the devastating consequences of his abuse and this will only make them feel more humiliated and degraded. Why should we continue to be traumatised further?”

As the photos are not illegal or technically indecent, the police claim they have no legal power to delete them from the offender’s personal computer. However, human rights organisation Liberty disagrees with this view of the law. They claim that returning the devices with the photographs left in place would  breach two separate articles of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Articles three of the Convention affords protection against inhumane treatment, while article eight deals with the issue of invasion of privacy. According to Liberty, in a letter written to Dorset Police, returning such intimate photos of the girls to the man who abused them for him to keep indefinitely would violate the Convention on both counts. Not only would it “[cause] the girls a significant amount of distress,” but would also represent “an enormous violation of their dignity and personal integrity.”

However, Dorset Police maintain that their options are limited. Martin Underhill, Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset, has insisted that the police are not to blame for the fact and that he will lobby for a reform to the relevant legislation.

“Think of the trauma this causes to the victims,” Underhill said. “And think of the control and power this gives the abuser.”

Legal Aid Challenges Rejected by High Court

Legal aid cuts have been an extremely contentious topic within the legal industry for some time now. The high court has now rejected a challenge to the justice secretary’s cuts to legal aid available to prisoners.

The high court has decided that, even if prisoners “suffer serious adverse effects,” the issue of cuts is ultimately a political one. As such, an appeal against the justice secretary’s decision, which came from both the Prisoners’ Advice Service and the Howard League for Penal Reform, has been rejected. The judges decided that they were not able to reverse the decision, which was down to the judgement of justice secretary and lord chancellor Chris Grayling.

The cuts form part of Grayling’s efforts to save a total of £220 million annually from the criminal legal aid budget. Most of the cuts that have been proposed as part of these efforts have been controversial in one way or another. Lawyers have questioned whether they are the most effective cost-saving measures and protested at the harm they could do to the availability of justice in the UK. This has led legal professionals to take protest action such as walkouts.



Both of the charities who raised the challenge have expressed an intention to appeal against the decision. According to the arguments put forward by their lawyers at the challenge’s hearing, the cuts would not only harm the rights of prisoners but also their prospects for rehabilitation. The changes were also called “unfair, irrational and inflexible.” Furthermore, it was suggested that they would lead to “hidden costs” which would ultimately place a burden of millions on the taxpayer, making them counterproductive as a money[saving measure.

According to Phillippa Kaufmann QC, representing the charities, the result of the cuts would be “huge unfairness.” She said that female prisoners would find themselves unable to gain assistance when their eligibility for places in mother-and-baby units was being reviewed, for example. She also suggested that prisoners under close supervision, being segregated, or facing resettlement issues upon release might find it difficult or impossible to get the advice and assistance they need under the new system.

However, James Eadie QC disagreed. Representing the justice secretary, he claimed that many of the arguments made opposing the changes had been reviewed by parliament already. Ultimately, he claimed, the changes were approves in light of a situation that called for “financial stringency in the legal aid system because of scarce resources.”

Turkish Judiciary now Under Government Control

Recep Tayyip ErdoganTurkey’s judiciary, which was previously independent of the government, has now been placed directly under the control of government ministers. The ruling party has defended the move as part of a crackdown following accusations that a group of lawyers planned to overthrow the current government. However, the opposition has been critical of the new legislation, describing it as “a modern coup d’etat.”

The lawyers in question allegedly plotted against the government, under the cover of investigating a corruption scandal. The corruption investigation in question involved several prominent businessmen and the sons of former government ministers.

Off the back of these allegations Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been Turkey’s Prime Minister for the past 11 years, introduced legislation that placed the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors, the country’s premier judicial institution, under direct government control. As a result, the government can now appoint or dismiss judges and prosecutors, and enforce their decisions on the Supreme Council. Erdogan said that this was a necessary measure in countering threats to the government – an idea which the opposition question.

Many prosecutors and judges have now been dismissed by the government in connection with the allegations since the new powers took effect. The total number of dismissals reportedly reaches into the hundreds.

The move to place what was an independent judicial system under the direct control of the government has drawn widespread criticism both within Turkey and elsewhere across the world. The country’s opposition party, the Republican People’s Party, said that it granted “exceptional authority” to the justice minister. The Republican People’s Party’s Deputy Chair, Faruk Logoglu, accused the government of intending the legislation to “transform the Turkish state” into one that was undemographic and compared the result to a sultanate. He said that placing such power into the hands of the justice minister was simply “wrong.”

The human rights committee of the Law Society has also spoken out against the legislation. They have criticised the government’s introduction of this legislation, saying that it hinders free speech and challenges the Turkish judicial system’s independence. The committee’s chair, Professor Sara Chandler, said that ” The legislation passed earlier this week, to bring the country’s top judicial body under justice ministry influence, is unconstitutional and undermines the judiciary’s independence.”

Professor Chandler went on to say: “The Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors is responsible for appointing members of the judiciary, is an independent body and should remain so.”


How Insurance Companies try to Block Accident Claims

Most people who have been injured as a result of somebody else’s error are entitled to make accident claims against the negligent person or company. However, the actual expense of paying the settlement will often fall to an insurance company. In line with their reputation for being loathe to part with money even when a policy requires it, insurers have recently come under fire for using a number of tactics to try and falsely block accident claims. There are concerns that, at present, there are few legal repercussions or none at all for insurance companies caught deceiving victims in order to block a claim.

In order to avoid these sorts of tactics, it is important to always seek expert advice when making an injury claim.

Exaggerating the Blame

Sometimes, the victim of an accident will be partly to blame themselves. In this case, they will still be entitled to make a claim against the negligent party, but the value of their claim will be reduced to reflect the fact that part of the blame was their own. For instance, if the person was in an accident that somebody else caused but did not take proper safety precautions themself, part of the blame will belong to them and part to the person who caused the accident.

Insurance companies have often been accused of exaggerating the level of blame that belongs to the victim in these cases. Generally, this involves offering an out-of-court settlement that is much lower than their true entitlement. They then falsely lead the victim to believe that this is all they can expect because of their own part in the blame.

Creating a Rush

Insurance companies have also been found to have deliberately rushed accident claims with the express intention of giving the victim less time to build the necessary case. Putting things into a rush reduces the time available for seeking advice and gathering evidence, making it more likely the victim will lose the claim and the insurer will not have to pay.

Furthermore, some insurance companies are reported to have actively discouraged victims from gathering evidence. Normally, this is done by deceptively claiming that gathering the evidence will create a delay. They then add the claim – an outright lie – that this delay will lower the amount of compensation the victim will receive, falsely leading the injured party to believe that gathering evidence is not in their best interest and weakening their case.

Eighth of Separated Fathers Have no Contact With Children

DivorceAccording to recent research from the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), around an eighth of separated or divorced fathers do not have any contact with their children. More specifically, this applies to around 13% of such fathers throughout the UK.

NatCen have published this study annually since they were first founded in 1983. It draws on data gathered through the “British Social Attitudes Survey,” and aims to examine life for Britain’s families and the way it changes with each passing year. This year’s survey highlighted the fact that almost a million British fathers have children who they do not live with, and 13% of those do not have any contact with them at all.

According to claims from The Centre for Social Injustice, parts of the UK have become “men deserts” with entire neighbourhoods full of families that lack father figures. Furthermore, the Centre for Social Injustice described a “tsunami of family breakdown” as being responsible for the number of children left without a father.

There seem to be a number of reasons that fathers lose contact with their children after a relationship comes to an end. One such factor seems to be fathers entering into new serious relationships. According to the NatCen report, only 69% of fathers maintained contact with their children when entering into a new relationship. This compares to 86% of fathers who do not enter into a serious new relationship.

According to Eloise Pool, a Natcen Spokesperson, financial problems are also a factor. According to Pool, “Some fathers simply don’t have the financial resources, or spare bedrooms, to be able to maintain regular contact with their children.”

This compounds existing concerns over the effect of rising divorce rates on children. Another recent report, this time from the Marriage Foundation, suggests that 50% of infants in the UK at present can expect their parents to divorce by the time they are 15. This is based on an estimate drawn from current divorce rates and analysis of trends.

However, the government hope that recent reforms to the legal process surrounding divorce will help tackle these concerns. Earlier this year, a new Child Maintenance Service was introduced. This is primarily aimed at making the divorce process easier and more amicable rather than preventing separations. However, it is hoped that this will lessen animosity between separated parents, which could contribute to more ongoing contact between fathers and children. It is also hoped that it will lead to more optimised financial arrangements, helping tackle the factor of money pressures.

New starts for UK law enforcement- or old traditions?

Taking on its first case on October 7th, British law enforcement got a boost when the National Crime Agency (NCA) officially started operations last month.

The NCA is essentially a new agency to tackle organised crime- but with a wider set of powers and roles.  It will be much tougher on finding criminals and tackling serious and organised crime, with the new agency being more centralised than its predecessor, the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), and will take the lead role in investigations. The NCA will operate by being able to coordinate command and control investigations with local and regional police forces and agencies, utilising and sharing their intelligence, information and assets, as well as bringing in centralised and national resources and intelligence for specific investigations.

Reflecting modern threats and criminal activity, the NCA will take on varied roles and responsibilities, some from other agencies. A key area will be organised crime, where it will take over from SOCA. Additionally, its other major ‘command’ will take over most aspects of border policing. Other areas brought under NCA control include child protection and exploitation, and it will head up the new national cyber-crime units and initiatives.

More tellingly, economic crime will also be tackled by the NCA. A 2012 City of London Police study put the cost of economic crime to the UK at £73bn, and rising. As such, it is no wonder that many financial professionals and experts have agreed to be volunteers for the new agency, and many financial institutions have agreed to offer financial and economic advice to it.

The new agency will also be more transparent and very visible; press releases show heavily armed NCA officers wearing conspicuously labelled NCA windbreakers taking down criminals in training exercises. In an interview to The Independent, the new NCA Director General Keith Bristow illustrated the tough approach of the NCA; “we want the criminals to know who we are because we want them to fear our attention.” The former Chief Constable of Warwickshire Police went on to say that “our top priority is continuously to disrupt those criminal groups by bringing them to justice, taking their assets off them, using every lawful and ethical technique that we have available to make their criminal lifestyles as difficult as possible.”

On the NCA’s ability to order other law enforcement agencies to do its bidding, the career policemen was in line with the politicians. Home Secretary Theresa May stated in  her House of Commons speech launching the NCA that having such authority to “undertake tasking and coordination, ensuring appropriate action is taken to put a stop to the activities of organised crime groups” enabled the agency “to directly task where there are disputes about the nature of approach or ownership.”

“NCA officers will be able to draw on a wide range of powers, including those of a police constable, immigration or customs powers… This will mean that NCA officers – unlike anybody else – will be able to deploy powers and techniques that go beyond the powers of a police officer.” Effectively, Ms May announced the formation of a visible, tougher and all controlling UK- style FBI.



Previous governments have similarly tried to tackle the growing problem of organised crime. The NCA’s predecessor was launched in 2006 by Tony Blair. Under the initial leadership of former MI5 Director General Sir Stephen Lander, it was set up to tackle head on the threat of organised crime. With a team of over 4,000 experts drawn from the various law enforcement and intelligence fields, it was set up to target groups such as drug smugglers, people traffickers, fraudsters, and related organised crime groups. It was welcomed as a centralised law enforcement agency, as opposed to all the regional police forces and agencies.

SOCA was given wide powers, in order to make things extremely difficult for organised crime leaders. To that end, the agency was given a greater intelligence gathering role, taking on roles and services formerly provided by the National Crime Squad, the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS), intelligence roles from HM Customs & Excise and the Immigration Service. It was to be, the Labour government claimed- Britain’s FBI.

Several years later, and after several scandals, its perceived lack of tangible success in arresting organised crime leaders, and the recent resignation of director Sir Ian Andrews over a conflict of interest, SOCA has gone the way of its predecessors. In its place is SOCA Mark 2.

Will the NCA be a new, tough and flexible law enforcement agency, as its masters make it out to be? Or is the NCA merely an exercise in rebranding, giving a new name, budget, and slightly differently worded job description to a very similar agency, as many commentators feel?  

Crime bosses in jail, organised crime gangs thwarted, cyber-attacks stopped, illicit materials seized at borders and similar results will show whether the NCA will be as robust as its proponents claim, or as far reaching and powerful. Only time will tell as to whether the new agency will result in arrests, reduction of organised crime, and less drugs on the street. A few years of operations and involvement in fighting crime will show whether the National Crime Agency will be a welcome addition to the UK law enforcement community, or whether it will merely be the same presence at the table.

Crime and criminals have recently become more advanced, technologically savvy, and have adapted their methods have adapted their methods to 21st century technology. In response, whether it is a new agency, new resources, better use of cyberspace and international policing agencies, law and enforcement had to be modernised and updated. Rebranding or not, a centralised agency focussing its resources to modern criminal trends and activities is very necessary. Even if the NCA is the same as SOCA, the perception amongst the public and criminals is that of a tough, new agency. Such a perception can be invaluable, and actually be an effective deterrent of some organised crime without the NCA actually having to do much.

The one definite is that politics never changes. When SOCA was announced, Conservative shadow ministers were critical and sceptical. Following the Home Secretary’s announcement, shadow Home Office minister Yvette Cooper said of the new agency that “for the renamed national crime agency to be successful, it needs steady leadership, clarity and the resources to deliver. In the end reorganisation is no substitute for police officers on the ground doing the job,” before questioning the finances of introducing a new agency when police numbers and funding were being cut, and Police & Crime Commissioners (the Coalition’s other flagship law and order policy) were being introduced. Furthermore, in her tough stance on crime and law and order, Theresa May is very similar in her approach to her Labour predecessors under Tony Blair. In Whitehall, the governments may change, but the politics don’t, and neither do the policies.

It remains to be seen as to whether the National Crime Agency will be a welcome change that will result in disruption to organised crime, or will merely be a rebranded SOCA. Either way, an attempt at a change in law enforcement tactics can only be welcomed.



How good healthcare can be bad for government health

Governments in 2013 have seen great issues as regards government funding. Raising taxes, and clamping down on tax evasion are seemingly easy compared to some issues over government funding. Whereas some governments (such as China and some UAE emirates) seem to like spending in defiance of such global trends, austerity measures have been implemented across Europe, resulting in Chancellor George Osborne having to make deep and unpopular cuts to most government departments. However, he probably considers himself lucky compared to his American counterpart Jacob Lew, who replaced long time Obama supporter Timothy Geithner early this year.

In the US, one of Congress’ main duties is to pass spending bills that fund the federal government, and its activities and agencies. Such bills can be debated and passed  at any time of year- but the Capitol has to bear in mind that its financial year runs from October 1st to September 30th. It was one of those spending bills that nearly caused basic essential government services to grind to a halt late last year.

However, this time, America was not so lucky; a shutdown finally happened. The trigger was the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the formal name for the President’s longstanding signature domestic policy bill, Obamacare. An incredibly devisive bill, it was utilised by a group of Republican Congressmen and Senators as a bargaining chip. Led by freshman Senator Tom Cruz (Texas), Republicans demand that any new finsncial legislation for government inludes measures that would erode Obamacare. Inevitably, Democrats have contested this. Effectively, the last few weeks saw the Republicans holding the f3ederal goverment to ransom by not agreeing to alternative measures, as the clock ticked down to the deadline by which financial bills to fund government had to be passed.

As the deadline expired, with no measures having beeen passed (except a last minute measure to pay the front line military in the event of a shutdown), there was effectively no money to pay the government to allow it to operate. Whilst the Eurozone is stagnating and in many member states are in unprecedented economic trouble- at least there is money available to allow the government to operate, in most cases.


The lead up to the shutdown was characterised by some bold, forceful politicians who stood absolutely by their convictions. Noteable amongst the architects was John Boehmer, tbe combative Republican Speaker of tbe House of Representatives who has been a long standing critic and thorn in the side of Obama’s government. Given his combative, uncompromising style, House of Commons Speaker John Bercow could learn a lot from him. Obama himself has been equally uncompromising, refusing to back down and to allow his personal project of a healthcare bill to be derailed. Both sides are resolutely sticking to their convictions, and although willing to negotiate across the aisle, are refusing to compromise their  positions.

Although only positive that political leaders are standing up for convictions and principles, such determination, although praiseworthy, is causing great damage across the board. Science (including space probes), military, local government,veterans affairs, public parks, museums, libraries- the list goes on.  all are effected, with many simply ceasing to operate, and government employees not being paid. As for the long term consequences- that could last for a very long time.

After nearly a week, Secretary Lew must envy Chancellor Osborne; Osborne may have to deal with severe budget cuts and limitations, but the British government can still operate. Mr. Lew would probably prefer to be dealing with a banking scandal such as the long running PPI mis-selling scandal as opposed to a shutdown. At this stage, is there an end in sight?

It is reassuring that the answer to that at least is yes. There is great pressure to come to a resolution. Indeed,  many Republicans-  even those who encouraged and supported the brinkmanship that led to the shutdown- are now critical of Boehmer’s continuing stalemate. Many want the crisis to be averted, and for bipartisan discussions, and see the need for concessions on both sides.

Throughout this, President Obama remains resolute. Resolute in his support of Obamacare, resolute in condemning the Republican brinkmanship that resulted in the shutdown, and resolute in his detetmination to end the domestic crisis. However, there are indications that, if the shutdown goes on for much longer, it is possible that the Republicans will cease using Obamacare as a bargaining chip in efforts to get a funding bill passed. Although unlikely, it is a possibility; only time will tell how the shutdown is resolved. If that does happen, it will be a victory for Obama- but at what cost?

Given how detrimental the shutdown will be to America and the average American, it is to be hoped that both parties are able to seek a resolution soon. At least Congress needs to only think of funding itself; the nature of the Eurozone means that all the EU nations need to actively think about funding (and in instances even bailing out) other member states, in addition to their own economic problems.