Tagged: Ministry of Justice

Tenant evictions reach six-year high amid rising rents and benefit cuts

The number of tenants evicted from their homes is at a six-year high, according to new figures, as rising rents and cuts to benefits make tenancies increasingly unaffordable.

County court bailiffs in England and Wales evicted more than 11,000 families in the first three months of 2015, an increase of 8% on the same period last year and 51% higher than five years ago.

The increase in the number of tenants losing their homes means 2015 is on course to break last year’s record levels. Nearly 42,000 families were evicted from rental accommodation in 2014, the highest number since records began in 2000.

Rental prices have soared in many UK cities but wages failing to keep pace with rising costs and caps to benefits have left many poorer tenants unable to make payments.

Separate figures also published on Thursday showed almost 59,000 households have had their benefits capped in the past two years. Nearly half of those families were in London, where the the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom home is £2,216.

Housing charities said the figures were a glaring reminder that many tenants were struggling to maintain a roof over their heads, and they called on the new government to do more to tackle a housing crisis in the UK.

The latest repossession statistics, published by the Ministry of Justice, reveal the highest number of evictions in a single quarter since 2009, when comparable records began, with nearly 126 families forced out every day.

Between January and March, 11,307 tenants and their families were evicted by bailiffs, compared with a figure of 10,380 between October and December last year, and 10,482 in the first quarter of 2014.

The record figure comes as the number of landlord repossession claims – the first step of the legal process leading to an eviction – also rose. Claims were up 10% on the last quarter, but at 42,226 they remained below a six-year high of 47,208 in the first quarter of 2014.

Claims by both private and social landlords were up, the figures showed, although most of the rise was explained by claims by the latter. Social landlords were behind nearly five times as many attempts to recover properties than private landlords, the figures showed. These landlords are typically housing associations providing homes at lower rents than the market rate, often to tenants who receive housing benefit.

In the first three months of the year, 64% of possession claims were made by social landlords. These 27,204 court actions came alongside 5,551 made by private landlords and 9,741 accelerated claims, which could have been by either social or private landlords.

In May 2014, when the threat of evictions reached its highest level for a decade, the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations across England, told the Guardian the bedroom tax was causing problems for social landlords. The policy cuts the amount of housing benefit paid to social housing tenants whose homes are deemed too large for their requirements. Benefit sanctions were also thought to be causing problems.

But many housing associations, particularly in London and the south-east, have turned out tenants as they have sought to redevelop generations-old estates to take advantage of the big rise in property values. This has in turn led to an increase in the number of grassroots campaigns to oppose evictions, such as the Focus E15 mothers.

In one case of eviction resistance last week, activists from Housing Action Southwarkand Lambeth in London answered a call from a 14-year-old girl to successfully resist her family’s eviction from a flat in an estate that Southwark council had marked for demolition. Elsewhere in the capital, shorthold tenants in Brixton’s Loughborough Park estate, owned by the Guinness Partnership housing association, have defied eviction orders by occupying their flats.

The MoJ figures came on the same day as the Department for Work and Pensions revealed that 58,690 households across the UK had their benefits capped to a maximum of £26,000 a year since April 2013. Londoners were the worst affected, with 26,636 families facing a cut in benefits over the period to February 2015, followed by 5,953 in the rest of the south-east.

DWP proposals to meet the Conservatives’ pledge to cut £12bn from the welfare budget, in documents leaked to the Guardian last week, included barring under-25s from claiming housing benefit, increasing the bedroom tax on certain categories of tenants, limiting welfare payments by family size and freezing welfare benefits at current levels.

Responding to the eviction statistics, Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said:

“Today’s figures are a glaring reminder that sky-high housing costs and welfare cuts are leaving thousands of people battling to keep a roof over their heads.

“Every day at Shelter we see the devastating impact of a housing market at boiling point, with the cost of renting so high that many families are living in fear that just one thing like losing their job or becoming ill could leave them with the bailiffs knocking at the door.

“The new government must make sure people aren’t left to fall through the cracks and hurtling towards homelessness by preserving, if not strengthening, the frayed housing safety net to protect ordinary families desperately struggling to make ends meet.”

Betsy Dillner, director of the campaign group Generation Rent, said:

“These record eviction figures and signs that they are accelerating are a stark reminder of the housing crisis that the government must urgently start taking seriously now they’re back in power.

“Whether it’s an inability to pay expensive rents or a landlord’s desire to take back their property, the fact that more than 40,000 families were forced out of their homes last year is a symptom of the government’s failure to create a sustainable housing market.”

The housing minister, Brandon Lewis, defended the government’s performance, pointing out that mortgage repossessions had fallen drastically, keeping owner-occupiers in their “hard-earned homes”.

He said:

“Mortgage repossessions continue to fall at 56% lower than this time last year, and the lowest annual figure since the series began in 1987. Meanwhile, numbers of county court mortgage possession claims continue to fall to the lowest quarterly number since records began. This is thanks to our work to tackle the deficit and keep interest rates low, helping more families to stay in their hard earned homes.

“There are strong protections in place to guard families against the threat of homelessness. We increased spending to prevent homelessness, with over £500m made available to help the most vulnerable in society and ensure we don’t return to the bad old days when homelessness in England was nearly double what it is today.”

Source – The Guardian,  14 May 2015

Two thirds of North East law firms ‘could close’ as Legal Aid contracts are slashed, lawyer claims

Criminal lawyers have today claimed that up to two thirds of law firms in the North East could close as the government slashes Legal Aid.

Lawyers raised fears in the wake of the failure of a national appeal to stop the number of available Legal Aid contracts being reduced.

The cuts, an extension of the government’s austerity program, could lead to miscarriages of justice for vulnerable people, campaigners say.

Lewis Pearson, vice-president of the Newcastle Law Society, said the changes represented a huge blow to the region, and Northumberland especially.

“The effect on the whole Legal Aid system will be profound and ultimately leading to a significant reduction in firms as well as reduction to justice,” he said.

“This is particularly the case in Northumberland where access to justice is already restricted.”

Mr Pearson, a partner at Pearson Caulfield solicitors in Newcastle, added:

“The issue is particularly important in our rural communities where there are many miles and people to cover.

“In the long run, those firms who do not have those contracts will waste away.”

Legal Aid is the help given to people that may not otherwise afford their own lawyers, and is a big source of income for many firms.

Proposals put forward by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling last year will see the number of contracts available cut from 1,600 to 527 across the UK to save money.

In the North East, the number of Legal Aid contracts available will fall from 60 to 12.

North of the Tyne, seven companies will be awarded the contracts for magistrates’ courts in Newcastle, Bedlington and North Shields.

Only five will be awarded for the courts in Gateshead, Sunderland and South Shields.

Last week the Law Society, the body representing solicitors, asked appeal court judges to rule that the cuts were not viable and contained “serious defects”, but the court turned down their bid.

Now, lawyers’ groups have called for the changes to become “an election issue”, saying they will threaten access to justice for many accused of crime, especially the vulnerable.

Elspeth Thomson, Legal Aid chair of the Law Society, said:

“Once you reach a tipping point where lawyers have gone under, there won’t be anyone there in police stations to advise people of their rights.

“The government make it sound like it is about loaded lawyers making the big bucks but it is not. It is about day-to-day lives, where normal people are needing help.”

But the Ministry of Justice says the changes are necessary to make savings, and anyone who needs access to a lawyer will still get it.

A spokesman said:

“Our legal aid reforms are designed to ensure the system is fair for those who need it, the lawyers who provide services as part of it and importantly the taxpayers who ultimately pay for it.

“We have one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world and even after reform it will remain very generous – costing around £1.5bn a year.

“Anyone suspected of a crime will still have access to a legal aid lawyer of their choosing after reform, just as they do now.”

Last year, North East solicitors and probation service staff took part in 48 hours of protests at cuts to Legal Aid and the privatisation of court services.

Legal workers picketed outside courts across the region and rallied at Grey’s Monument in Newcastle last April, voicing fears for the future of their professions.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 29 Mar 2015

Government in the dock over ‘tax on justice’

The Government has been accused of attempting to profit from injured people and putting a “tax on justice” after a hike in the cost of issuing some civil court claims came into force.

Anyone attempting to claim more than £10,000 through the civil courts will now have to pay five per cent of the value of the claim, subject to a maximum fee capped at £10,000.

Lawyers opposing the change say it amounts to a 600 % increase on the current charging structure and will deny justice to injury victims and hit small to medium sized businesses who may not be able to afford to recover debts they are owed.

However the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) says it will not affect 90 per cent of cases and waivers will be available for those who cannot afford to pay.

It is intended that it will raise £120m – cash which will go towards and repairing the crumbling infrastructure of many courts.

The Law Society has already begun legal action in an attempt to force a judicial review over the move which it said would affect debts owed to small businesses as well as personal injury and clinical negligence claims.

Anthony McCarthy, a director of Macks Solicitors, in Middlesbrough, said:

“To issue a £190,000 claim last Friday would have cost £1,315.

“To do it today costs £9,500. That is a massive 622 per cent increase.

“This is an attempt by the Government to profit from injured people and those who are recovering business debts in order to fund the infrastructure of the courts.”

Mr McCarthy said debtors would be far less likely to pay up if they thought their creditor could not afford the court fees.

In a House of Lords debate last week justice minister Lord Foulks said litigation was “very much an optional activity“.

 But Mr McCarthy said:
“I’d like him to come to Teesside and tell that to my clients who have suffered from asbestos-related mesothelioma and who may no longer be able to afford to access the courts to seek compensation to fund their care.

“There is no logic or sense in this. It is a terrible decision that has been criticised by litigators across the board.”

 Law Society president Andrew Caplen said: “This amounts to a flat tax on those seeking justice.”

Justice Minister Shailesh Vara said it was only fair that those who could afford to pay should contribute more in fees to ease the burden on hardworking taxpayers.

He said:

“Court fees are a small fraction of the overall cost of litigation and Britain’s reputation for having the best justice system in the world remains intact.”

Source –  Northern Echo, 10 Mar 2015

Funding for Victim Support offices on Tyneside is axed with jobs put at risk

Funding for a service that helps crime victims through their most difficult days is to be axed on Tyneside.

 Three of the four Victim Support offices in the area look set to close, following a major shake-up in victims’ services, at the end of next month.

The move comes after the Government, which had provided 80% of the charity’s funding decided to devolve, decisions on victim care spending to a local level, with individual Police and Crime Commissioners determining how help is provided in their own force area.

Northumbria’s Vera Baird is so far one of just two PCCs in the country to decide not to provide funding to the existing Victim Support services, instead choosing to replace them with her own ‘in house’ victim care structure.

Some staff at the offices in Newcastle, North Tyneside, Sunderland and Gateshead have been told they could lose their jobs, although it is understood they are being encouraged to apply for the new roles.

Ms Baird said:

“The Ministry of Justice has decided to fund victims’ services in a different way with the funding now being provided through Police and Crime Commissioners across the country.

“In the Northumbria Police region this new service will be independent from the force working with the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and will link in with existing services and voluntary groups already working in the force area.

“It will put victims at the heart of everything that is done throughout the whole criminal justice process ensuring that they have access to support and advice when they need it.

“This new service will be available in April and discussions are continuing with victims’ service providers in the region as we work to get the best possible service for victims of crime.”

But, both staff and families who have been helped by the charity in the past fear future victims of crime will suffer.

Margaret Smith, whose 16-year-old son Mark was killed almost eight years ago, said:

“I think it’s absolutely horrendous. Who else would people turn to if Victim Support isn’t there? Closing it would be the worst thing they could do, they help a hell of a lot of people.”

Mark was stabbed to death near his Benwell home in Newcastle, in May 2007.

And in the dark days, weeks and months that followed, Victim Support became a lifeline for grieving Margaret.

“They helped me with everything,” the 54-year-old said. “It was the worst time of my life, but they were fantastic. I poured my heart out to them and they listened to me.”

Formed in the 1970s, Victim Support is the world’s most established victim and witness support network.

Staff help victims of all types of crime, including assault and burglary, with things like counselling and claims for compensation.

But they also provide a shoulder to cry on, and someone to talk to away from a victim’s family, and independent of the police.

Susanne Hilton, whose son Glen Corner was stabbed to death in South Shields on his 16th birthday in 2006, said Victim Support provided an essential link between her family and the police :

 “I think it’s very important that there should be a service such as Victim Support.

“They were a great help to us. They were constantly there for us, and they continued to support us for a long time.

“They were like a go-between for us and the police. So if we wanted to ask anything about things like Glen’s clothes they were there to do it for us.

“The police are there doing their jobs, but Victim Support provided a personal service for us.”

And a Victim Support employee, who asked not to be named, said the closure would mean many staff members with years of experience would no longer be working with victims.

And she fears the unique skills they have built up over a number of years could be lost forever.

“This will mean dozens and dozens of very well trained people will lose their jobs,” she said. “Victim Support staff have very specific skills. We have people who work with domestic violence victims and those that work with people affected by anti-social behaviour and this requires a variety of skills that have been built up over a long time. It’s not a job you can just walk into. We deal with some of the most vulnerable members of the community, who are not always easy to deal with.”

The staff member also said allowing the PCC’s office to deliver victims’ services could threaten impartiality.

“If the police are doing it, where’s the independence ?” she asked.

“And more to the point, how many victims will want to engage with the police? A lot of victims of crime are criminals themselves.”

Victim Support as a charity will continue and provide other services funded from elsewhere, said Carolyn Hodrien, regional director, who added:

“Our priority, as always, is ensuring victims across Northumbria continue to receive the help they need to cope and recover from crime. We know that crime victims really value our independence from the police. Our staff and volunteers will continue to offer information and support to victims of crime and anti-social behaviour in Northumbria as well as our specialist service for families bereaved by murder or manslaughter.”

 Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 20 Feb 2015
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Evictions Soar To Record High

The number of evictions in England and Wales have soared to the highest level since records began, according to official Government figures.

Ministry of Justice figures show that 41,956 households who rented their homes were evicted between January to December 2014.

Around 8,000 families in England and Wales are losing their home every month, reports 24dash.com.

The shocking figure represents an 11% increase on the previous year and is at the highest level since records began in 2000.

An estimated 21% of landlord possession claims made by landlords between October to December 2014 will result in tenants being evicted. But the figure could be anywhere between 17% and 24%.

Rob Campbell , chief executive of the housing and homeless charity Shelter, warned of the “devastating impact” a shortage of affordable homes is having on struggling households.

“With the cost of housing sky-high, we are hearing from increasing numbers of families who are terrified that just one thing, like a sudden illness or job loss, will leave them homeless”, he said.


Mr Campbell slammed Government welfare cuts for “making it harder and harder for people to stay in their homes”.

He urged politicians from all parties to “commit to building the genuinely affordable homes that we desperately need”.

In related news, a Bill is currently passing through parliament which could make so-called revenge or retaliatory evictions illegal.

If the Bill is passed into law, it would prevent landlords from evicting tenants within six months of receiving an improvement or hazard awareness notice.

Source –  Welfare Weekly,  12 Feb 2015


Shelter claims one in every 121 North East households at risk of homelessness

Families are “teetering on a financial knife-edge” with one in every 121 households in the North East at risk of homelessness, a charity claims.

Shelter says 140 children in the region will wake up homeless this Christmas, while 58 people are being put at risk of eviction or repossession every day.

Imagine the panic of receiving a notice through the door saying that you could lose your home – that’s the devastating reality for thousands of people every week,” said Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter.

“The sky high cost of housing is making it harder and harder for families to keep a roof over their heads. And with the stakes so high, all it can take is one piece of bad luck to send a family spiralling towards homelessness.”

Figures from the Ministry of Justice show that in the 12 months to the end of September there were more than 7,250 possession claims – the first stage in a court process which can end with the loss of a home – issued in county courts for homes in the North East.

Of those the highest number – 1,853 – were for properties in County Durham, followed by Newcastle (1,230) and Northumberland (1,016).

However, the highest proportion of homes on which possession orders were sought was in South Tyneside, where 938 orders were applied for – one for every 72 homes in the borough.

Councillor Allan West, South Tyneside Council’s lead member for housing, defended his authority’s approach to dealing with homelessness.

Following a review in 2013, South Tyneside Council developed a new homelessness strategy which made homeless prevention one of our key priorities,” he said.

“Our proactive approach means that we step in to prevent households becoming homeless before their case becomes critical.

“This is reflected in figures released recently by the Department for Communities and Local Government which highlighted that the number of times we intervened during 2013/14 was almost five times the national average.

“As a social landlord, we have an early intervention approach to rent arrears and nowhere has this been better demonstrated than in the award-winning work of our Welfare Reform Team which has enabled over 92% of tenants who wanted to keep their homes after the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’ maintain those tenancies.

“Eviction is used as a last resort when all other methods of engagement and arrears collection have failed.

“Since quarter four of 2013 the number of mortgage possession claims in South Tyneside has reduced from 254 to 147 and evictions resulting from possession claims from Council tenancies have reduced from the same period last year.”

At the opposite end of the scale Sunderland had the lowest proportion of applications for possession orders, with 696 – one in every 172 homes – and Gateshead saw the fewest applications overall, with 652.

According to the MOJ, of the around 223,000 possession orders applied for nationally in county courts each year, just under 53,500 result in repossessions.

If the same was true on the regional level that could mean that around 1,740 North East families have had their homes taken off them in the 2013/14 period.

And as Christmas approaches Shelter is warning that continuing “sky-high” housing costs coupled to families having little or no savings to fall back on, mean that “just one thing, like a sudden illness, can be all it takes to tip a family into a downward spiral towards losing their home.”

Our advisers will be working non-stop this Christmas to support families who find themselves battling to keep their home – but our services are already over-stretched and we’re struggling to meet the demand, ” said Mr Robb.

“We desperately need more support from the public to help us make sure no-one is left to fight homelessness on their own this Christmas.”

To support Shelter’s emergency Christmas appeal please visit shelter.org.uk or text SHELTER to 70060 to donate £3

Source –  Newcastle Journal,  02 Dec 2014

EVICTION HOTSPOT: 404 Hartlepool families face losing their homes

A staggering 404 families face losing their homes or being evicted for falling behind with their mortgage and rent payments.

Figures released by Shelter, the nationwide homeless charity, highlights Hartlepool as a “hotspot” where people are more likely to be evicted.

Over the last 12 months, a total of 404 court papers were issued to homes in Hartlepool where mortgage commitments had not been met.

Shelter’s study highlights the financial hardship facing many families struggling to make ends meet, with rising costs of living couples with high mortgage repayments leaving them “stretched to bursting point”.

A Citizens’ Advice Bureau chief says she isn’t surprised by the figures – and fears the situation could get worse before it gets better.

Janet Noble, training supervisor for the Citizens’ Advice Bureau in Hartlepool’s Park Road, said: “We deal with this issue on a daily basis, and people get into this situation for a variety of reasons.

“We have had cases where people have split up, and the husband will pay the mortgage for the first few months but then he gets his own place, and has his own living costs to meet.

“People lose their jobs and can’t afford their repayments, others may think they can afford the repayments but then when they interest rates change, they struggle.

“This is an ongoing issue, and with talk of the interest rate rising again, we could get more people with the same problem.

“It could get worse before it gets better.”

 “People do get lots of chances to get back on track, the eviction process doesn’t just happen overnight.

“The courts can allow arrears to be spread over a certain period of time to be repaid, and we can offer advice on how to put those proposals forward.

“The problem is when the letters and the warning are ignored, and it gets to the point where it is too late.”

The research, based on data recorded by the Ministry of Justice, found that in the last year more than 10,300 homes in the North-East were at risk of eviction or repossession, the equivalent of 28 every day.

It also identified the latest hotspots across the region where people are most likely to face losing their home, with South Tyneside and Newcastle topping the list with Hartlepool, Middlesbrough and Darlington also faring badly.

Shelter carried out the survey after being inundated with requests for help from people at risk of losing their homes.

Since 2011, across the country the charity has seen the number of calls about mortgage arrears rose by nearly a fifth.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Each one of these will have had their lives turned upside down by this experience, as they faced seeing their home, the foundation of their life, ripped away from underneath them.

“Tragically we are seeing more and more people coming to us for help, people who have been struggling to make ends meet and then just one change of circumstances has pushed them spiralling towards homelessness.

“We urgently need people’s support so we can help more people in the North East avoid the nightmare of losing their home.”



Anyone who falls into arrears with their mortgage will initially be contacted by their lender to see if any arrangements can be made to catch up on payments.

If the account remains in arrears for a period of time without any payments being made, then the lender is likely to commence county court proceedings.

The court could make a suspended possession order if a suitable repayment plan which is acceptable to the lender is pit forward.

Homeowners at risk will then receive a letter notifying them there is a claim for possession of their property, and if the situation is still left unresolved then an eviction notice will follow.

This gives the homeowner a time and a date within a fortnight when bailiffs will attend the property to formally repossess it.

That notice will inform the residents that the property must be cleared of all personal possessions.

By this late stage of proceedings, usually only a payment of the full arrears stops the bailiffs taking possession.

Source – Hartlepool Mail,  14 Aug 2014

Government again under fire over mesothelioma scheme

MPs have again launched a stinging attack on the Government following what they described as a “maladroit” review of claims for the asbestos-related disease mesothelioma.

A short inquiry by MPs on the Justice Select Committee found the consultation had not been prepared in a thorough and even-handed manner and it should be undertaken again.

Their report also called on the Ministry of Justice to work with the Department of Health to reduce delays in the production of mesothelioma victims’ medical records and highlighted the excessive average legal cost of £20,000 for every claim.

Middlesbrough Labour MP Andy McDonald, one of the committee members, said: “What is abundantly clear from our investigations is the Government never had any intention of retaining the exemptions they agreed to and which were secured by parliament for the benefit of mesothelioma victims and their families.

“The protective measures that were so hard won from the Government, which meant that victims didn’t have to suffer additional legal costs brought about by litigation funding changes introduced by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO), were simply a sham.”

Mr McDonald accused the Government and the Association of British Insurers of “dodgy deals behind closed doors”.

Last year, MPs from this region condemned a “roll over” to the insurance industry when they criticised weaknesses in the Mesothelioma Bill, legislation designed to compensate victims of mesothelioma who have been unable to trace employers who exposed them to asbestos.

Mesothelioma, a painful and almost always fatal lung disease caused 2,291 deaths in 2011, a higher number of which on average occurred in the North-East. This is thought to be because of the region’s background in heavy industry.

 The committee’s chairman, veteran Liberal Democrat MP Sir Alan Beith, who represents Berwick-upon-Tweed, said the Government’s approach had been unsatisfactory on a number of counts.

James Dalton, an assistant director of the Association of British Insurers, said the insurance industry had always been “open and transparent”, adding: “We make no apologies for negotiating with Government a scheme, paid for by insurers, that will compensate an extra 3,000 sufferers over the next ten years, who would otherwise go uncompensated.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: “We are considering the best way to get claims settled fairly and quickly.”

We will consider the report’s recommendations and respond in due course.


Source – Durham Times,  01 Aug 2014

Coroners’ offices across region could be scrapped over ‘too low’ death rates

> Despite Iain Duncan Smith‘s best efforts, it appears that we’re not yet dying in great enough numbers, so its time for yet more cuts in services….

Up to seven coroners’ offices across the region will be axed, under cost-cutting plans to scrap those where the number of deaths is “too low”.

Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling is considering a proposal for each coroner area to handle 3,000 to 5,000 cases each year – culling at least 24 across England and Wales.

That would mean about seven disappearing in the North-East and North Yorkshire, where coroners are currently overseeing as few as 340 deaths annually.

None of the 12 offices in the region reach the new threshold, according to 2013 figures – with County Durham and Darlington (2,445 deaths) the busiest.

Hartlepool has the lowest number (340), followed by South Northumberland (428), North Northumberland (656), North Tyneside (758) and York (985).

Merging York with the offices in North Yorkshire Eastern (1,040) and North Yorkshire Western (1,038) would just about reach the 3,000 benchmark.

However, bringing together the much-criticised Teesside office (2,398) with Hartlepool (340) – a proposal already put forward – would still fall well short.

The mergers are proposed in an annual report by the newly appointed chief coroner, Judge Peter Thornton QC.

 Judge Thornton noted that 60 per cent of coroner areas across the country have fewer than 2,000 reported deaths.

And he wrote: “That number of reported deaths is too low and many areas have only a part-time coroner.

“Each coroner area should have approximately 3,000-5,000 reported deaths each year, with a full-time senior coroner in post.

The plan, handed to the Ministry of Justice, would see the 99 coroner areas slashed to “about 75 in number, maybe fewer”.

> You can forsee a time when services will have been cut back so much that there’ll just be one coroner for the whole North East. Perhaps just one MP too, as services are concentrated on the London city state.

It is not clear how many coroner courts would close – as opposed to offices – if the merger plan is adopted.

The annual statistics also compare how quickly each coroner’s area completes inquests, on average – revealing Teesside to be by far the slowest still.

In April, 83-year-old coroner Michael Sheffield was finally forced to step down from his role after a concerted campaign by local politicians and others.

Initiatives were launched to clear a backlog of inquests, which take an average of 50 weeks to complete, the annual report shows.

That is much longer than the next slowest area York (36 weeks), which is followed by Newcastle (31) and both services in North Yorkshire (25).

The fastest inquests are carried out in Hartlepool (11 weeks), followed by Sunderland (14), Gateshead and South Tyneside (19) and County Durham and Darlington (24).

Coroners have been reminded of their duty to set dates for inquests at the opening of each case – and for a medical report to be produced within four to six weeks.

They must explain, to the chief coroner, why investigations that have taken more than a year have not either been completed or discontinued.

Source –  Northern Echo, 25 July 2014

Latest legal aid figures. Social welfare – it’s a wipe out!

Benefit tales

Latest legal aid figures. Social welfare – it’s a wipe out!

by nickd (Mylegal), ilegal team

It’s a wipe out!
The Ministry of Justice has today released the latest legal aid statistics. Remember these cuts were once promoted by the Coalition as one of their ‘top achievements’. I can’t help but feel today’s release couldn’t have been timed any better, the breaking news over the Brooks aquittal and Coulson conviction provides the MOJ with the ideal opportunity to slip these statistics out in silence – very much as per their usual transparency agenda….
I’m sure these will be analysed in detail over the weeks to come but for now I just want to draw your attention to the areas of social welfare law once well served by legal aid which helped advice agencies & law centres assist thousands of vulnerable individuals battle for their benefits – no easy task when…

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