Prezza’s hard on green issue

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New facilities for CO2 production in Europe

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Arabian Industrial Gases goes solar

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Desert Mountain Energy makes new appointments

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Local authority surveillance

first_img Directed surveillance and CHISClause 38 of the bill makes similar provision for magistrate approval of local authority authorisations for the use of directed surveillance and the deployment of a covert human intelligence source (CHIS). It does this by adding a new section 32A to part 2 of RIPA. Directed surveillance is often conducted by local authorities to, among other things, investigate a benefit fraud or to collect evidence of anti-social behaviour. Typical methods include covertly following people, covertly taking photographs of them and using hidden cameras to record their movements. A CHIS is defined in section 29(8) of RIPA as someone who establishes or maintains a personal or other relationship with a person for the covert purpose of using the relationship to provide or obtain information. Typical examples, in a local authority context, include an informant regularly disclosing information about benefit fraudsters who are working in a factory, or a witness on a housing estate disclosing information about anti-social behaviour. Once again the internal authorisation for such surveillance methods is not to take effect until such time (if any) as a magistrate has made an order approving it (section 32A(2)). Approval can only be given if the magistrate is satisfied that: a) There were reasonable grounds for the authorising officer approving the application to believe that the directed surveillance or deployment of a CHIS was necessary and proportionate and that there remain reasonable grounds for believing so; b) The authorising officer was of the correct seniority within the organisation, that is a director, head of service, service manager or equivalent as per the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Directed Surveillance and Covert Human Intelligence Sources) Order 2010 (SI 2010/521) (‘the 2010 Order’); c) The granting of the authorisation was for the prescribed purpose, as set out in the 2010 order, that is preventing or detecting crime or preventing disorder; d) Any other conditions set out in any order under part 2 of RIPA are satisfied (none at present).In addition to the above, where the authorisation is for the deployment of a CHIS, the magistrate must be satisfied that: e) The provisions of section 29(5) have been complied with. This requires the local authority to ensure that there are officers in place to carry out roles relating to the handling and management of the CHIS, as well as the keeping of records (as per the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Source Records) Regulations 2000 (SI 2000/2725)); f) Where the CHIS is under 16 or 18 years of age, the requirements of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Juveniles) Order 2000 (SI 2000/2793) have been satisfied. This sets out rules about parental consent, meetings, risk assessments and the duration of the authorisation. Note that the authorisation of such persons to act as a CHIS must come from the chief executive; g) Where the application is for the renewal of a CHIS authorisation, a review has been carried out by the local authority and the magistrate has considered the results of the review. The new provisions make it clear that the authorising officer is not required to apply in person and there is no need to give notice to either the subject of the authorisation or their legal representatives (Section 23B (2) and 32B(2)). This reflects the covert nature of the exercise of the investigatory powers under RIPA. Magistrates’ approvalChapter 2 of part 2 of the bill (clauses 37 and 38) amends RIPA, so as to require local authorities to obtain the approval of a magistrate (lay or legally qualified) for the use of any one of the three covert investigatory techniques available to them under RIPA. An approval is also required if an authorisation to use such techniques is being renewed. In each case, the role of the magistrate is to ensure that the correct procedures have been followed and the appropriate factors have been taken into account. The new provisions allow the magistrate, on refusing an approval of an authorisation, to quash that ­authorisation. Directed surveillance and the ­serious offence testThe Home Office review also recommended that where local authorities wish to use RIPA to authorise directed surveillance, this should be confined to cases where the offence under investigation carries a custodial sentence of six months or more. This recommendation is to be put into effect by an order made under RIPA itself (section 30(3)(b) of RIPA). There is an exception to the new rule. The review recommends that because of the importance of directed surveillance in corroborating investigations into underage sales of alcohol and tobacco, the government should not seek to apply the threshold in these cases. This concession is a direct result of lobbying by the Local Government Association and will be welcome news to trading standards officers. The Home Office says that the six-month threshold test will mean ‘minor offences’ will not be the subject of surveillance any more. But what is a minor offence? Dog fouling and littering may not seem as serious as benefit fraud, but these offences are the subject of daily complaints to local authorities and ward councillors up and down the country. The new RIPA codes of practice accompanying the bill’s changes to the local authority surveillance regime will spell out precisely how the magistrate approval process will work. The Home Office, in its impact assessment of the bill, states that each application will take 20 minutes to hear. In reality, a much longer time will be required, certainly in the early days, for magistrates to understand this complex piece of legislation and to ensure they get the balance right between the privacy of the citizen and the rights of wider society. Many local authorities will feel that the changes to RIPA in this bill are a disproportionate response to inaccurate media stories. They are more about the coalition government wanting to be seen to take a tough stance on civil liberties rather than any well placed concern about the misuse of RIPA powers. Most authorities only use their powers in a handful of cases each year and only when there is no other viable means of investigating offences and then in a reasonable and proportionate manner (see the recent report about Kirklees Council). Like them or loathe them, the changes to the RIPA regime will have a profound impact on local authority investigators, especially in trading standards, environmental health, benefit fraud and licensing teams. The added scrutiny of authorisation forms by magistrates will increase the importance of staff training and guidance on completing such forms correctly. Communications dataChapter 2 of part 1 of RIPA allows local authorities, as well as others, to access communications data about an individual from any Communications Service Provider (CSP) (for example, a telephone or mobile phone service provider). Often these powers are used by, among others, benefit fraud investigators and trading standards officers to carry out mobile phone subscriber checks and to request itemised call records. A new section 23A will be added to chapter 2 of part 1 of RIPA. An authorisation or notice to obtain communications data from a CSP shall not take effect until a magistrate has made an order approving it. The magistrate must be satisfied that: a) There were reasonable grounds for the designated person (the person authorising the obtaining of the data) within the local authority to believe that obtaining communications data was necessary and proportionate and that there remain reasonable grounds for believing so; b) The designated person was of the correct seniority within the local authority in accordance the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Communications Data) Order 2010 (SI 2010/480), that is director, head of service, service manager or equivalent; c) The granting or renewal of the application was only for the prescribed type of communications data to be acquired for the prescribed purpose as set out in the above order (that is, subscriber and service use data, for example, mobile phone subscriber information and itemised call records, to be acquired only for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime or preventing disorder); d) Any other conditions set out in an order made by the secretary of state under chapter 2 of part 1 are satisfied (none at present).center_img Ibrahim Hasan is a solicitor and director of Act Now Training Ltd . In January, the Home Office published its long-awaited review of counter-terrorism and security powers. Amid all the headlines and controversy about control orders for suspected terrorists, it is easy to miss the proposed changes to local authorities’ powers to carry out surveillance under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). The changes will be given legislative force through ­amendments to RIPA set out in the Protection of Freedoms Bill (published on 11 February) which is going through ­parliament. RIPA came into force on 2 October 2000. It regulates, among others, local authorities when conducting covert surveillance and accessing communications data. This is done by requiring applications for the doing of the same to be made in writing to a senior officer within the authority. That officer has to decide whether the surveillance is necessary and proportionate and, if so, approves the application. Before the 2010 general election, both coalition parties promised to overhaul RIPA. They argued that surveillance was often used by local authorities to investigate minor offences and in a disproportionate manner. They pointed to newspaper headlines about the number of surveillance operations being carried out by ‘town hall spies’ to monitor dog fouling and littering.last_img read more

What makes the latest Rightmove figures significant

first_imgSubscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our community Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY Stay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters Subscribe now for unlimited access To continue enjoying, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGINlast_img read more

Default system

first_imgI read the views of Nicholas Cusworth QC. I support his advocacy of an accrual type of matrimonial property regime, but would add two extra aspects. First, damages received by either party for personal injuries should be excluded from the community estate. It would clearly be grotesque if a husband could divorce a physically or mentally damaged wife and get half her capital award. Second, this system should be underpinned by a general recognition of the enforceability of prenuptial contracts both local and foreign. The current ambivalence of the courts makes for much uncertainty and unnecessary litigation, to the point of discouraging marriage. I suggest that a law be brought in that creates a default system that creates upon death or divorce an equal split of the assets, other than inheritances and damages, accrued during a marriage; and allows a prenuptial contract to vary this in any way that suits the parties. This would help the simplification of maintenance claims arising on divorce. With a clear division of assets calculation of the amount, whether in capital or instalments, claimable and needed by a party is reasonably straightforward. Douglas Wade, Sevenoakslast_img read more

Legal aid tender process reopens for two areas

first_imgThe government is reopening the tender process for two of the three areas for which it received insufficient bids for new criminal legal aid contracts.The Ministry of Justice is pressing ahead with plans to reduce the number of contracts for solicitors providing 24-hour cover at police stations from 1,600 to 527.The tender process closed on 5 May. The new contracts are scheduled to start on 11 January 2016.However, the Legal Aid Agency received insufficient bids in three procurement areas: Devon and Cornwall 1 (Devon), Dyfed-Powys 2 and Hampshire 2 (Isle of Wight).Outlining plans for the three procurement areas, the agency said Dyfed-Powys 2 received three bids against four available contracts. Subject to the applicant organisations successfully completing the assessment process, the agency will now award three contracts.In Devon and Cornwall 1 (Devon), the agency received four bids. Eight contracts were available. Organisations which bid in the original tender will be awarded a duty contract if their assessment process is successful.Following a meeting with local providers to discuss procurement options, the agency said a ‘key barrier’ identified was travel requirements to cover the entire procurement area. As a result, the agency has decided to subdivide the procurement area into four smaller zones – centred in Exeter, Plymouth, Teignbridge/Torbay and Barnstaple – and run a tender for up to an additional four contracts in each zone.The tender will be open to organisations that hold a 2015 own-client contract and have an office in the Devon and Cornwall procurement area.The Barnstaple zone will also be open to 2015 own-client contract holder in the Somerset & Avon 1 area.Organisations awarded a duty contract as part of the original tender will only be eligible to bid for one further duty contract in one zone only.Meanwhile, the LAA received received two bids for Hampshire 2 (Isle of Wight) against four contracts available.The agency said the share of duty contract work will increase by 50% against the anticipated contract value advertised should the two bids pass the assessment process.It will also tender for a third duty contract, comprising 25% of the total work available in the procurement area. The tender will be open to any eligible organisation, including the original bidders.The MoJ said the new contracts would commence in line with the original timetable. A spokesperson for the ministry told the Gazette: ‘Having met with bidders in each of the three areas, we have developed approaches which will make sure we have crime provision in all of them.‘We remain on track for service to start in all areas on the planned date in January 2016.’last_img read more

Loan write-off tips Minster Law into profit after £23m loss

first_imgMichael WarrenManaging director Michael Warren (pictured) said the increase in turnover was partly due to Minster settling cases more quickly, with a positive effect on fee income. The firm has also changed accounting policy to value only those cases where liability has been admitted in its work in progress.The investment, said Warren, ‘has provided us with the means to start our journey to transform Minster Law into an enduring and successful business that will lead the UK in claims services provision’.He added: ‘I am convinced that our sector is on the threshold of a revolution. I see this revolution as a good thing to be embraced, and I expect Minster Law to play a leading role.‘Our new owners fully support our strategy and I am hugely excited by our prospects for the next 12 months and beyond.’Sales costs, which reduced 12%, are expected to be cut further over the next 18 months when the firm completes its relocation to one site in Wakefield, with 300 York-based staff moving as part of the change.Warren said the new base will help to complete the automation initiative and ensure the firm is prepared if the next government revisits the idea of fixed damages for whiplash and an increased small claims limit. The first of these aims was shelved this week when the Prisons and Courts Bill was squeezed out by the upcoming general election, but many expect legislation to return in the summer.‘The justice secretary has made clear the government’s desire to digitise much of the legal process, freeing up lawyers for more complex work,’ said Warren. ‘We welcome the government’s approach and believe the legal sector needs to grip the opportunity provided by technology.’ Yorkshire firm Minster Law has undergone a remarkable recovery by turning around annual £23m losses to record a profit.The personal injury firm today reported it made a £2m pre-tax profit for the financial year ending June 2016. Turnover rose from £37.2m to £55.8m year-on-year and sales costs fell from £43.6m to £38.4m.The firm has benefitted from acquisition by BHL (UK) Holdings Ltd from BGL Group, under the terms of which BGL agreed to write off the balance of an outstanding loan of £39.8m.These accounts are the first published since that takeover, and reflect the extra cash pumped into updating systems and bringing in new technology to automate the claims process and reduce costs.last_img read more

No scope cuts and a fee hike: Scottish government buttresses legal aid system

first_imgScotland’s legal aid solicitors will enjoy a more upbeat Christmas than their counterparts south of the border following a hike in fee rates.All civil and criminal legal aid rates north of the border will increase by 3% from next April, after the Scottish government published its response to an independent review of the system conducted by Carnegie Trust chief executive Martyn Evans.The government’s response also sets out plans for a payment review panel, the streamlining of administrative processes and regulations to simplify fee structures. A public consultation will be launched next year.Ash Denham, community safety minister at Holyrood, described the 3% fee hike as a ‘first step’ in advance of a wider review of legal aid payments. She added: ’We have also confirmed legal aid provision for cases in housing, immigration, welfare and family law will remain protected, unlike in England and Wales where the legal aid scope for these categories has been cut.’We will consult and work closely with the legal profession in delivering further improvements and hope this collaboration can lead to a better system for all involved.’last_img read more