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Is the law really on the side of serious crime victims?

Police officers

ONLY when somebody finds themselves the unfortunate victim of a serious crime or major injustice do they become fully aware of how the law works in the UK – and how it can leave them feeling let down and ignored.

When we consider the Criminal Justice System in the UK, we often wrongly judge its success simply on the conviction rates. Improved figures are held up by Government leaders as evidence of improved policing – falling conviction rates are usually highlighted by the media as abject failures.

But is it that simple? The answer is no.

In my work for Neil Hudgell Solicitors, as a specialist in handling claims against the police for unlawful arrest, unlawful detention, assault and human rights breaches, I see behind the headline figures, and deal with those who are affected long-term by errors made in the rush to secure quick convictions.

That work this week took me to the MAMAA 2014 conference, a fascinating day focussed around improving victims’ experience of the Criminal Justice System.

Listening to a superb range of speakers, it was abundantly clear that simply totting up the number of crimes with a tick by their side for should never be used as a barometer of success.

There is so much more to ensuring the Criminal Justice System runs as it should.

I see the long-lasting impact on the people who are wrongly accused of crimes they haven’t committed through my work. Often, the error comes about as police have one sole focus, putting a name against the crime and getting them locked up.

In almost all of my cases, the victim and their families suffer long after an apology is made. Their reputation is always damaged, sometimes almost beyond repair, when they have been completely innocent.

Established in 1993, MAMAA is a national, registered charity which offers support for victims of violent crime and individuals and families who have been bereaved by homicide.

It is certainly doing sterling work,  providing training and development for those working with victims, such as Family Liaison Officers (FLOs), as well campaigning to policy makers to consider the needs of those bereaved by acts of violent crime.

MAMAA stands up for the innocent, those who have come to rely on the justice system, not through choice, but through a terrible turn of events which has changed their lives forever.

For these people, long-term support, communication and understanding of what they have experienced is often just as important as a conviction – something those in the justice system often seem to forget.

MAMAA sees first-hand how many people remain affected by the impact of violent crime for many years, and feel let down, and even worse ignored, when they are experiencing the most painful time of their lives.

The conference communicated a very clear feeling of just how crucial it is for such families not to be forgotten, to ensure they are always listened to, taken seriously, and updated throughout a case relating to them.

It brought admissions from senior policing figures that big changes are needed to do just that at all times.

Commander Graham McNulty, of the Specialist Crime Investigation team at the Metropolitan Police Service, said the Criminal Justice System ‘still has a long way to go’, but is ‘heading in the right direction’.

Describing the work of FLOs as ‘one of most demanding and most important roles within the police service, he added: “The pendulum has swung, we are putting victims before the needs of the investigation. Victims need to have confidence they can come forward, and be believed.”

Being believed is not the only thing victims and their families require though. They need an understanding of the impact the crime and their loss has on their lives, not just in the weeks, month, or year after their loss, but for the rest of their lives.

Victims’ Commissioner The Rt Hon Baroness Helen Newlove of Warrington, whose husband Garry was murdered by three youths in 2007 after confronting a gang of drunken youths who were vandalising her car, spoke passionately about the need for a planned new ‘Victims of Crime Law’  to ‘have teeth’.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling says it will give crime victims in England and Wales legal rights for the first time, ensuring they are kept informed about their case, and include the entitlement tell a sentencing judge and offender in court how a crime has impacted on their life through a personal victim’s statement.

Given a recent case, where a judge was overheard saying the personal statement of the parents of a man murdered in 2001 made ‘no difference at all’ as to whether one the murderers could move to an open prison, it is a particularly topical issue.

Describing the ‘traumatic’ and ‘harrowing’ nature of making such statements, Baroness Newlove called for them to be ‘taken very seriously’, saying they must always be read out in full.

“Offenders’ rights are really powerful, we want victims’ rights to be powerful too, they can’t be diluted by law,” said Baroness Newlove, who also called for compensation to be paid in advance to victims’ families, and not ‘in dribs and drabs’

‘The victims I meet feel confused, dismissed and traumatised because of failings of people to do their jobs and support them.  It is important victims are put first, and whilst I welcome the Victims’ Law, it must be right. It must have teeth.”

It was hard to disagree with a word she said.  A victim is defined as a person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or any other event or action.

Whatever has made them a victim, it is not something they have chosen to be. They deserve to be heard, helped, and supported fully.

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03/10/2014 No Comments

Whiplash claims debate rages on

By Jane Woodcock, Senior Legal Executive, Neil Hudgell Solicitors

Whiplash injury claims seem to be a real bone of contention at the moment. Aviva, the UK’s largest insurer, has been particularly vocal on the topic, veering between demanding a reform of the claims system and calling for a ban on whiplash payouts altogether.

Amongst the company’s recommendations is the introduction of a new process whereby victims put their claims directly to the insurer of the driver who caused the crash. By cutting out the middlemen, Aviva expects that car insurance premiums will be cut by, on average, £60 per year – a real coup for motorists no?

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06/08/2014 No Comments

The ride of your life?

rollercoaster on holiday

As the summer season gets into full swing, many families will be looking forward to that much-anticipated break away, escaping to the sun, sea and sand of foreign lands for a week or two.

Whilst the adults might be happy enough to laze by the pool all day, chances are the kids might need a little more occupying and attention often turns to some of the local attractions, such as theme parks and waterparks.

Presented with a glossy brochure or website, families may be persuaded into booking excursions based on the strength of the images alone, which is often where problems can arise.

Although rides may appear controlled and well-maintained on the surface, safety regulations and standards abroad can often be less stringent than they are here in the UK. There have been several reports in the media lately, detailing horrific injuries sustained by holidaymakers abroad.

Dad-of-two, Jamie Norman, suffered serious injuries to his face, arms and legs after the trap door on a 60mph vertical slide didn’t open properly at the Aqualandia waterpark in Benidorm, Spain. Despite Mr Norman requiring medical attention, the slide re-opened after just 15 minutes.

Even more troubling was the death of a teenager who is believed to have fallen from the rollercoaster after a safety harness malfunctioned at nearby theme park, Terra Mitica,

Although rare, such incidents highlight the importance of carrying out detailed research ahead of visiting foreign attractions. The odd minor accident at such locations is, in all honesty, inevitable, but repeated reports of mechanical failures and dangerous near misses should instantly set alarm bells ringing.

Years of experience dealing with holiday claims has taught me that the great majority of travel companies protect themselves from accidents of this nature, particularly those involving alcohol or occurring within the resort complex. Loopholes included in the terms and conditions make it extremely difficult to make subsequent claims, so be sure to read the small print carefully when booking your holiday. Also watch out for excursions being sold by your rep in the resort. It may be that these are not covered under the package holiday.

And, above all, if you’re planning an adrenaline-fuelled day out when you get to your resport, ensure you have taken out a comprehensive insurance policy that covers the relevant activities. At least then, if, in the worst-case scenario, you do experience an accident abroad, you won’t be hit with a hefty medical bill for the privilege.

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01/08/2014 No Comments

Aviva calls for ban on whiplash payouts

By Jane Woodcock, Senior Legal Executive, Neil Hudgell Solicitors

Aviva, the UK’s largest insurer, has sparked controversy of late, with a call to ban whiplash payments for motor injury victims, in an effort to combat the country’s burgeoning ‘compensation culture’.

The proposed revision is expected to save Aviva an estimated £900million, with the insurer only remunerating rehabilitative treatment for whiplash claimants, as opposed to paying out financial compensation.

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29/07/2014 No Comments

First Choice’s Holiday Village Woes Continue…

We have recently posted that the Holiday Village Majorca seems to have an issue with sickness and diarrhoea thought to be caused by contaminated pool water however this is not the only hotel in this chain to have this issue; the Hotel Village Algarve seems to be currently experiencing similar issues, this is off the back of an outbreak at the Hotel Village Benalmadena last month.

We are aware of holidaymakers suffering with diarrhoea, cramps and vomiting; and children having itchy rashes, possibly linked to the pool water; a concern for any parent when the resort caters mainly for families with young children.

What is more concerning is we have spoken to a guest due to travel to this resort within a week, who has been told that there are no plans to accommodate her or her party of 3 under-5’s elsewhere. She has asked to remain anonymous but has expressed her concern for her friend with a serious bowel condition and the children in her party;

“When they have known about this illness for over a week now, and it will be two weeks when we go; I am furious that First Choice feel they can play Russian Roulette with our lives in this way”

TripAdvisor, an unbiased consumer based review site, has been inundated with comments;

“Me and my partner and 3 kids-8,6, baby of 9months,all came down with a form of vomiting and diarrhora [sic.] also my six year old came out with some horrible skin rash which I think came from a dirty pool-which I never see get cleaned.”

“I got the server [sic.] sickness and diarrhoea bug like many others in the hotel. Room was full of ants and kitchen work surfaces and dining table was never ever wiped when asked manager Jo why this was, her answer was the maids only make the beds and sweep!”

“…the main venue it smelt of sewage and the right hand ladies toilet leaked”

“I witnessed a maid clean up sick by using a dustpan and brush in the restaurant.”

“in the restaurant there is birds flying everywhere and dirty mouldy placemats.”

“We have just got back from a weeks holiday here and 7 out of 10 of our group all came down with a sickness and tummy bug … ruined out holiday !!”

“My 1yr old has had diahorrea [sic.] for most of the holiday and the 6yr has a skin infection from the pool. Nearly every child we saw around the pool had a sore chin which I am told by my dr it is due to poor water quality from the pools.”

“Food was uncovered and wasn’t Hot it was just room temperature. Also cold food didn’t seem very chilled either.”

“My 2 daughters also got diarrhoea and dry rashly skin, which I’m told is from dirty pool water. Reps wasn’t very helpful in the sickness bug matter and kept trying to shrug it off saying you can’t expect anything less from a hotel full of kids.”

These reports of general poor hygiene in the hotel complex and issues in the swimming pool seem to be a common feature of improper cleanliness. The standards observed are well below those we expect, particularly maids cleaning up vomit and bodily waste with dustpans and brushes; this does not kill infection. This is a severe concern for those coming back from the Holiday Village, those still in residence and those yet to travel.

If you have been affected by this outbreak, or any other holiday illness in the last 3 years please contact one of our experts for a free discussion regarding your potential No Win – No Fee claim.

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05/06/2014 No Comments

Thomas Cook counting the cost of flight delay

aeroplane in sky

Thomas Cook Airlines will be preparing to count the cost of staff shortages and sickness when their lack of crew delayed a number of flights on Sunday 31 May 2014.

The 06.00 flight from Bristol to Ibiza and the 06.45 to Mallorca were left on the tarmac with customers waiting at check in with only a clock to watch as their holidays ticked away. 11 hours passed without moving a muscle from the airport, before they were taken to a hotel overnight, although the bus forgot to bring them back the next day… they finally took off at 18.30; over 24 hours late.

Meanwhile, a similar story unfolded in Palma and Ibiza for those holidaymakers coming home.

Whilst everyone appreciates that extraordinary things can happen and the best laid plans go awry; staff sickness should not be one of them. There are provisions under EC Regulation 261 of 2004 for compensation of set amounts of between €250 and €600 per person, regardless of how much your flight cost you.  The amount you receive depends on how far your journey is and how long you are delayed.

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03/06/2014 No Comments

Need to make a holiday claim?

woman relaxing on beach

Holidays – great, aren’t they?  A chance to spend time with your family and friends – to empty your mind of all the things in your life that give you hassle and strain.  A time to relax and to do the things you really enjoy.  Why else would you hand over a sizeable chunk of your hard-earned money if it wasn’t going to be just that?

And when you get back, you’ll slide back into your normal routine, refreshed and reinvigorated, ready to face new challenges, and the old ones!  At least that’s the theory.

But it doesn’t always turn out quite like that.  Things can go wrong.  You know, it’s the ‘that will never happen to me’ scenario.  Just when things are going really well, and you’re feeling more and more relaxed, something happens that brings a sudden and abrupt end to the party.

An accident or illness, for example – either of them can turn your holiday into a nightmare.

Without wishing to look at the world of holidays through darkened glasses – I always try to stay positive and upbeat! – there are so many stories in the media where people have had their holidays ruined by negligence on the part of airlines, tour operators, hotels, restaurants, cruise companies – you name it; food poisoning, swimming pool injuries, falls and trips and sometimes worse….

But hold on – people are much more savvy nowadays about their legal rights when they’re victims of negligence, aren’t they?  Don’t you just go to Google to get all the answers?

Well, with holidays it’s just not that simple; you can spend your time looking into all the rules and regulations of here, there and everywhere and, if you don’t know what you are looking for, you can find yourself going down a lot of blind alleys.

When you’re home, and you’re busy refocusing on your return to ‘normal’ life, the last thing you need is the strain and hassle of endless phone calls, piles of paperwork, unacknowledged correspondence, endless options on a telephone line.  A nightmare.

The alternative, of course, is to leave the hassle to me: a specialist in the area of holiday claims at Neil Hudgell Solicitors.  I spend my time checking the Booking Terms, the brochures, the current Regulations and chasing up responses, in fact anything and everything that needs to be done to establish the facts and to recover compensation where we can establish blame. Once they’ve given me all the information I need to start the process, I leave them to get on with their lives while I fight their corner, and, naturally, all on a no-win-no-fee basis.

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10/04/2014 No Comments

Christmas floods: What to do if you were affected

Christmas 2013 brought stormy weather and high winds to much of the UK, causing widespread flooding in Kent and other parts of the South East.

Thousands of people were affected over Christmas and it’s likely there will be plenty more storms in the future, with The Environment Agency estimating that one in six homes in England are at risk of flooding at some point.

We’ve put together this guide to help you understand what you can do in the event that you are affected by flooding – either now or in the future.

Protecting against future flooding

Prevention is better than cure, so if you live in an area vulnerable to flooding, sign up to the Environment Agency’s Floodline, a free service which sends a message to your phone or email when flooding is expected. You can also monitor flood warnings through the Met Office’s National Severe Weather Warning Service. Be prepared for the emergency services to evacuate you  from your home or business if there is a substantial risk of a flood.

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16/01/2014 No Comments

Some personal injury solicitors might start charging but not Neil Hudgell Solicitors

Simon Wilson at Hudgell Solicitors

…we’re continuing to guarantee a quality, no win no fee service to clients.

There’s a lot of change going on in the legal profession at the moment.  New laws,  part of the so-called Jackson Reforms, affect how much of their costs a client can claim back from the other side and, consequently, whether or not a client can expect to keep all damages recovered on their behalf.

Most law firms are now looking at making a claimant pay them a percentage of any damages won to cover legal services and fees.

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18/04/2013 No Comments

Claiming compensation for personal injury or medical negligence? The 5 essential questions you need to ask your lawyer

By Sean Gordon, Senior Solicitor, Neil Hudgell Solicitors

Recent changes in the law* have affected the way that compensation claims operate for personal injury and medical negligence claims, particularly for those up to £25,000.

The changes mainly affect how much of their costs a client can claim back from the other side and, consequently, whether or not a client can expect to keep 100% of any damages recovered on their behalf.

Instead of keeping 100% of any damages won, a claimant may have to pay a percentage to their lawyer.  To avoid this and to ensure there are no deductions from any compensation, and you keep 100% of any damages you win, there are five essential questions to ask a lawyer before you agree to let him or her handle your claim.

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15/04/2013 1 Comment

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