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Friday, 29 November 2013

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981: A Legal Landmark

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 consolidated existing countryside law making it an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take any wild bird.

The act also extended state protection of wildlife to wild plants, and wild birds’ nests and eggs.

Most farmers and rural inhabitants will be aware of the Act and many of its provisions but it is important for all users of the countryside to keep abreast of the legislation, particularly newer agri-businesses or other businesses establishing themselves in rural areas.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Sparing Your Firm’s Blushes: Disciplining Errant Employees

Magic circle law firm, Clifford Chance was recently left blushing by a future trainee in an ill-judged candid camera moment.

The trainee, while being interviewed by a student reporter in the early hours, made inappropriate comments about why he enjoyed working in the city, specifically as a “City lad” stating: “I f***ing love the ladness”, and explaining, “The ladness is just basically f***ing people over for money.” 

Needless to say, this was not the sort of PR exercise advocated by a top City firm and disciplinary proceedings swiftly followed.

Not every instance of errant employees merits disciplinary proceedings quite as obviously as this so it is important for employers and employees to understand where the lines are draw.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

LinkedIn Challenges for Employers

Most businesses are likely to be familiar with LinkedIn, the social network preferred by professionals. For those that are not, LinkedIn is an online network allowing employees as well as employers to build a collection of professional contacts.

Where it is clear that a systematic list of contact details acquired by the employee in the course of employment is owned by the employer, the use of LinkedIn raises new challenges for lawyers concerning not only ownership of information and confidentiality, but also in relation to non-solicitation and non dealing clauses in employment contracts.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Protecting Your Database from Employee Data Theft

Data theft involves the stealing of personal information belonging to another person, firm or organisation and it is deemed to be a crime.

In the UK, the Data Protection Act of 1998 prohibits the unlawful obtaining of personal data without the consent of the data controller except where the person can show that it was for the detection or prevention of crime, or that the information is required under the law or by the court.

Sadly this does not stop employees stealing data from businesses, particularly when those employees are leaving.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Offensive Football Chants and Public Order Offences

The Football Association is seeking to crack down on the use of the anti-Semitic term ‘Yid’ by Tottenham Hotspur fans.

This has caused some consternation amongst Tottenham Hotspur supporters who are known to chant ‘Yid Army’ at matches as a term of support. It occurs because historically the club had a large contingent of Jewish supporters and the chant was used as a defence mechanism to deflect anti-Semitic abuse.

The recent controversy highlights the difficulty of managing and policing these issues for the authorities and the police.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Business Bribery Risks in Focus

On 15 July 2013, Chinese authorities launched an extensive corruption and bribery investigation against GlaxoSmithKline. The charges allege that GlaxoSmithKline paid travel agencies up to 3 billion Yuan, approximately £303 million, for bribing Chinese officials and doctors.

GlaxoSmithKline’s former head of operations in China, Mark Reilly, stepped down in light of the scandal and remains in China to assist investigators. Meanwhile, several Chinese employees have been detained by authorities, including four senior managers. Chinese officials have also initiated cursory investigations of many other global pharmaceutical companies with offices in Beijing.

GlaxoSmithKline admits to some illegal activity by Chinese executives and is set to re-evaluate its business plan in order to manage the corruption and bribery risks.

The high profile of this case and the recent court appearance of the first defendants to be tried under the 2010 Bribery Act should encourage businesses to take note of potential bribery risks.

Monday, 18 November 2013

The Risks of Corporate Intelligence Gathering Under the Data Protection Act

Operation Millipede has brought the issue of data protection and the illegal gathering of information to the fore of the minds of both businesses and legal practitioners.

Businesses should be aware of the potential offences that can be committed under the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) and the penalties that can be imposed when they engage in information gathering exercises.

The companies being investigated under Operation Millipede may have committed a number of offences under the Data Protection Act by commissioning the illegal gathering of information.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Will Peacekeeper Liabilities Weaken UN Effectiveness?

On 6 September 2013 the Dutch Supreme Court ruled that the state was liable for the deaths of three Bosniaks (Muslim Bosnians) in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, upholding an Appeal Court decision of 2011.

The men worked for the UN/Dutch peacekeeping force and with many others had taken shelter in the UN compound as Bosnian Serb forces overran Srebrenica on 11 July 1995. Three days later the peacekeepers forced the Bosniaks to leave the compound and face death by the Serbs.

The International Court ruled the killings as genocide and Mladic is on trial for these crimes. The Dutch government accepted “political responsibility” for the failure of the mission, but said responsibility for the massacre itself lies with the Bosnian Serbs.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Android KitKat and the Benefits of Co-Branding

The recent release of Android’s latest Operating System created much hype for its surprise branding if not for its technological wizardry. While the name Android KitKat was along the lines of previous releases which have all been named after confectionery or desserts, this release was the first to see a partnership with another global brand.

The union sheds light on a marketing practice that generates interesting strategic and legal issues. Businesses contemplating such an arrangement must assess the goals of co-branding partnerships along with the possible risks that they can create before committing themselves.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Plague of Asbestos, the ‘miracle mineral’

Once touted as the ‘miracle mineral’ for its strength, resistance to heat and affordability, asbestos was used widely throughout the UK in previous decades across many industries. It was particularly abundant in shipyards, industrial plants and in the construction and insulation of commercial and domestic buildings.

If only we had known then what we know now; asbestos has since caused thousands of deaths in the UK alone and recent figures from the World Health Organisation estimate that more than 107,000 people die each year as a result of lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis as a result of occupational exposure to asbestos.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Legal Issues for Tech Start-ups

When starting a company there are numerous issues entrepreneurs have to contend with and these issues are made all the more complicated when it is a tech company.

While founders normally want to concentrate on developing their idea and growing the business, it is important to bear in mind the legal issues in order to protect the company further down the line.

Friday, 8 November 2013

What Was The Advent of Race Discrimination Law in the UK?

It is just over half a century since racial segregation was deemed illegal in the United States. The relatively recent history of segregation and its effects are not easily forgotten.

Prior to the civil rights movement it was legal for employers to discriminate against individuals on the basis of their ethnicity. There were a number of defining moments that brought about radical social changes in the US such as Dr Martin Luther King Jr.’s pivotal speech on race relations.

Although similar social changes happened in the UK, they were marked with moments that gained less prominence but which were critical nonetheless.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Bank Rate Held, but Increasing Hope for Borrowers with Small Deposits

Ray Boulger, of leading independent mortgage adviser John Charcol, comments on the mortgage market and today’s as expected announcement from the MPC of no change in Bank Rate or the amount of Quantitative Easing.

“The MPC’s no change announcement following its regular monthly meetings has now become little more than a ritual and this looks unlikely to change for many more months. The only question today on central bank rates was whether the ECB would cut. The fact that it has done so, cutting its benchmark rate by 0.25% to a new all time low of 0.25% sooner than most economists expected, is no doubt partly because the Eurozone inflation has fallen to 0.7% but also suggests the ECB remains bearish about the zone’s economic outlook. Unfortunately EU politicians have so much political capital invested in the euro the ECB is unlikely to recognise, at least publicly, the fundamental contradictions and economic illiteracy of a one size fits all policy for the 17 widely diverse countries in the Eurozone.

High Season for Agricultural Disputes

The UK agriculture industry is no stranger to challenge. High land prices, fewer and fewer young people getting involved in farming and recent reductions in farming subsidies make for tough business.

However, for many farmers the toughest challenges do not come from high level national or regional difficulties but from more local problems.

With land in the UK at a premium, agricultural disputes relating to land are common. Where agricultural land is involved it can be critical for a farming business to have boundary or other land disputes resolved as quickly as possible to avoid affecting business income.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Health and Safety: Avoid Expensive Fees for Intervention

The primary legislation regulating health and safety issues in the UK is the Health and Safety at Work etc Law 1974. It applies to employers and self-employed persons and breaches can be costly in several ways.

The Act seeks to ensure that employers, employees and the general public are protected from dangers in the workplace by imposing obligations on employers to provide a safe environment.

Fees for Intervention (FFI) are an hourly cost penalty that the HSE can impose on employers when it carries out inspections related to health and safety breaches.

Many employers have not even heard of FFI, introduced in 2012, but they should take note and be aware that fees can add up very quickly.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

McCammon Judgement: Football Still Suffering from Racial Discrimination

On 3 September 2013, Gillingham Football Club lost an appeal ruling that their sacking of Mark McCammon for gross misconduct was an act of racial discrimination.

Football has made much headway with improving its reputation regarding the prevalence of racism, particularly at its highest levels but this case shows that there is still some way to go.

The McCammon case also highlights the importance of anti-discrimination laws in rooting out all forms of discrimination whatever the work environment.

Monday, 4 November 2013

How is Consumer Credit Regulated?

Consumer credit is an essential and significant market in the UK. In 2011-12 UK consumers borrowed £176bn from credit card companies, businesses offering hire-purchase agreements and payday lenders.

In March 2013 the UK Treasury announced that it would transfer responsibility for consumer credit regulation from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

What does this mean for lenders and borrowers?

Friday, 1 November 2013

Financial Services Ombudsman Flooded with PPI Complaints

Banks sell payment protection insurance (PPI) policies to consumers for loan payment protection should a consumer become unemployed or too ill to work.

However, UK banks recently were caught up in the largest insurance mis-selling scandal the industry has experienced.

The fallout has seen millions of claims being processed but hundreds of thousands of customers have complained to the financial services ombudsman after failing to get satisfactory resolution with their bank.