Domestic Abuse remains a major issue

Unfortunately domestic violence is still a prominent part of many people’s lives. Shocking statistics have been released by Women’s Aid illustrating the scale of the problem:

  • 1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives
  • 2 women per week are murdered by a partner or ex partner
  • Women who are living with domestic abuse are 5 times more likely to suffer from depression
  • In 90% of incidents of domestic abuse , where children are present in the home, the children will be in the same or the next room
  • On average a woman will be assaulted 35 times before reporting it to the police
  • 30% of domestic abuse either starts or escalates during pregnancy
  • Domestic abuse accounts for between 16% and 25% of all recorded crime.

The problem has received a lot of media coverage recently following MSP Bill Walker’s convictions for assaulting his ex wives and step daughter.  Yet despite years of heightened awareness of this national shame and calls for zero tolerance, the prevalence of domestic abuse has not fallen.

In 2012 the Citizen’s Advice Bureau indicated that 13,500 people reported domestic violence to them. Scotland’s Police recorded 10,159 incidents occurring between 1 December 2012 and 31 January 2013 alone.

So what does the law do to protect victims of domestic abuse?

Of course any one experiencing domestic abuse should report it to the police. Stephen House at the helm of the new national police force is said to have domestic abuse at the top of his agenda. When he was Chief Constable at Strathclyde he confirmed that very few police officers today would dismiss an assault by a partner as “just a domestic”.

There are of course other protections that can be granted by the court in addition to raising criminal proceedings:

  • You can apply for a matrimonial interdict which is an order that prevents your spouse from carrying out a specific action like coming near your home or contacting you or generally behaving in a way that would put you into a state of fear and alarm. If the matter is urgent, then the court can grant an interim interdict to protect you until the matter is fully heard.
  • You can ask for a power of arrest to be attached to the interdict. The court will only grant a power of arrest after your spouse has had the opportunity to speak to the Sheriff. If a power of arrest has been attached to the interdict and the interdict is subsequently breached, your spouse can be arrested by the police.
  • You can apply to the court for an exclusion order. Such an order suspends your spouse’s occupancy rights in the matrimonial home. The court will only grant such a restrictive order if it is satisfied that it is necessary for the protection of you or any child of the family from conduct that would be injurious to the physical or mental health of you or the child. Such orders are not readily granted.

But these measures are evidently not enough. Until it is recognised that domestic abuse is everyone’s problem and that we must re- evaluate our attitudes towards relationships and what we see as acceptable, little is going to change. We have to sit up and take notice and try to change our country’s culture if we want to make domestic abuse a thing of the past.

Make Money from The Commonwealth Games

Many Glaswegians may have been disappointed that they did not receive any tickets for the Commonwealth Games at the first allocation but be heartened to note that with the influx of visitors to Glasgow for the Games there may be an opportunity to make some money by renting out their properties as a holiday let.

Between the 23rd July and the 3rd August 2014, at the 20th edition of the Commonwealth Games, it is expected that 6,500 athletes from 71 nations will be converging on our “Dear Green Place” to compete in 17 different sports. Add general spectators, relatives of competitors and staffing members and you will get an idea of the numbers of people who will be seeking accommodation.

Hotels in the city are already nearly full to capacity and letting agents are beginning to sign up private properties to be rented out during the Games. Agency Commonwealth Letting as of now have properties listed, including a two- bedroomed flat in the City’s West End for £1750 per week.

So whilst now may be the perfect time to consider a holiday let , we would advise you not to just jump in there blindly. Although a lot of rental legislation isn’t designed to apply to holiday lets this does not mean that it is just a case of having extra sets of keys cut and opening the door.

Certainly you do not need to register with the local authority as a landlord but you do still need to consider certain points:

  • Your home must reach the tolerable standard and repairing standard
  • You will need to advise your mortgage lender and insurance providers as they may need to amend the terms of your policies
  • You should ensure all smoke detectors work
  • You will need Gas and Electricity Safety Certificates.
  • You should be aware that rent is considered  income by HMRC and tax will require to be paid.
  • In assessing the amount of rental being asked you should build into that utility bill usage.
  • Preparing an Inventory of what is in the property and its state of repair is helpful to avoid issues at a later date.

We are property experts and are here to help. For advice please contact Alison Gourley

Injured Workers Must Now Turn Detective

Controversial changes to rules governing breach of health and safety at work were introduced on 1 October 2013. Section 69 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act switches the burden of proof from the employer to the employee in many instances of injury. This is likely to mean an uphill struggle for people who are injured at work to claim the damages they need to put their lives back on track. However, it does alleviate some of the burden on responsible employers who do take all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their employees. Until 1 October 2013, damage claims were based on a breach of an employer’s statutory duty of care to protect his employees and these claims were relatively straightforward to prove. Generally speaking, the employee will now have to show that the employer has been negligent for a claim to succeed which “tilts the playing field in favour of negligent bosses and away from injured workers.” “Many people injured through no fault of their own will find it extremely challenging to secure justice” continues Matthew Stockwell, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL). “The employer holds all the important information about any incident, such as maintenance records or previously reported dangers and risks. The injured employee will have to prove the case against his employer which can be extremely difficult when he does not have access to this kind of information. Many people will inevitably shy away from making claims altogether. The negligent employer will then avoid making amends, leaving the state to pick up the tab for medical care and any benefits arising from the injury”. Little wonder that the Act has also been dubbed “a charter for rogue bosses.” Whether you are making or defending a personal injury claim, we can help.

Please contact Paul Neilly:

9 to 5

Last week we welcomed Ella Inglis and her friend Eilidh McDonagh as part of their school’s work experience programme Ella describes her experience below:-

“Living in the Scottish Borders, work experience would usually involve staying at home, getting a lift into wherever your placement is, (probably somewhere like a cafe, or a local school,) eating a packed lunch followed by getting a lift home in the evening. However; I am lucky enough to be here in Glasgow, staying with my aunties away from home, getting the underground into Mitchells Roberton each morning , where everybody seems happy to be, creating a friendly atmosphere, and then spending my lunch hour choosing one of many lovely places to eat, and shopping! Not only do I get to experience all this, I get to do it with one of my best friends, Eilidh!

I really enjoy coming in every day to learn new things about working, and learning new skills which I will use later on in life. I have been given many different tasks, which I find interesting, and it is very nice for me to actually get involved with day to day work in the office, such as writing this blog! Other things I have done include answering the phone calls at reception, learning how to use law pro (a programme which almost everyone in the office uses to input and receive information about clients, houses, and more), getting the mail ready to be posted, and even going to court!

This is my first time ever doing work experience, and despite only being here for a week, I feel I now have quite a good understanding of what it would be like to work in an office, and what each different department does, which is useful for me as I don’t yet know what I would like to work as when I am older, and I now know more about potential jobs.

Working 9 to 5 really doesn’t seem like very long here, as the days go so quickly, and it’s a shame that I’m only here for a week, but I have really enjoyed my placement here at Mitchells Roberton.”

Spare A Thought For Our Older Generation

“The wise mind mourns less for what age takes away than what it leaves behind”

At the moment I work as a Financial Guardian Administrator within the firm. I deal with people, mostly elderly people, who have lost capacity and need a Guardian to look after their affairs. Yesterday was World Mental Health Day 2013, a day observed across the world to raise awareness about mental illness and its effects on people. The theme for 2013 is Mental Health and Older Adults:  it made me stop and think about what we as a society are in fact doing to manage the increasing issue (please note I do not use the word problem) of a growing elderly population. There is no doubt that in developed countries people are living longer, which encompasses more years at work, more years of an active retirement and a growing number of people in their 80s and 90s.  Today it is estimated that there are 800 million people over the age of 60, all with an increased life expectancy and soon there certainly will be more older people on the planet than any other age group.

Our general attitude towards old people in Britain is not always laudable .Ageist sentiments of assuming older people are boring, weak, “past their sell by date” are not only discriminatory but isolate older adults, preventing them from contributing to society .The fairly frequent national scandals revealing the abuse and neglect suffered by many older adults living in institutions is a disgrace.  So often it seems we let down the people who need us the most ,those who have raised us fought for our rights and our futures.

Of course there are huge health concerns for older adults. The World Health Organisation has estimated that by 2030 over 65 million people will be living with dementia, suffering a deterioration of memory, thinking and the ability to perform everyday activities. Another major mental illness facing the older generation is depression. Unfortunately as we age we are more likely to experience suffering from sad things such as bereavement, isolation, disability and long term health conditions which may in turn place people at risk of mental disorders. The Mental Health Foundation estimates that 10-16% of elderly people in the community have depression, rising to some 40% of older people in residential care.

But if we’re fortunate, we too will grow old and it is now that ageing should be one of our concerns. It is at the present moment that we need to ensure there is funding so that research can be carried out into dementia and to seek effective ways of treating the condition. In fact on the BBC News last night UK researchers have , for the first time, used a chemical to prevent the death of brain tissue in a neurodegenerative disease.  Professor Roger Morris from Kings College London has commented “ This finding, I suspect, will be judged by history as a turning point in the search for medicines to control and prevent Alzheimer’s disease.” We have to fight ageism to promote active and healthy ageing. We should invest in better care so that old people can stay in their own homes for longer and then when an elderly adult moves to a residential nursing home we need to ensure the excellence of their care. We need to make sure that “Old age hath yet his honour and his toil.”

Can you photograph a stranger?

I was reading an article by Nell Frizzell published in the Guardian on Friday 4th October 2013.  She was talking about Tumblr accounts, something that I have never heard of before but it seems to be taking off like a house on fire. As the article says “Tumblr accounts dedicated to secretly photographing, uploading and then critiquing fellow commuters, have spored like bed bugs on a bus seat.”

British law on photographing people in the street or on public transport is far from clear. Although the European Convention of Human Rights orders that we all have the right of privacy, legally you do not actually have to ask the permission of those you may wish to photograph on a train or bus or other public place. Every day there are blogs which post secretly taken photos of commuters with the mission of shaming. I just looked at one: Men Taking Up Too Much Space On The Train. This blog collects photographs of what the site’s caretaker describes as “a classic among public assertions of privilege”. But let’s face it none of the men photographed are actually doing anything wrong. Put aside the fact that the photos may arguably make an interesting visual representation of the way men seem to think they are empowered to take up as much space as they like when women mostly don’t, we still have to ask ourselves, is it morally right that these men whose photographs have been uploaded are being judged by strangers without their knowledge?

As Nell Frizzell rightly asserts “Turn that gender picture on its head and perhaps you’ll see why this is unacceptable. Were a man to secretly photograph me – a young woman- upload that photo to Tumblr and invite comments from other users, I think my sisters would be throwing up their hands in horror.”  As the article goes on to point out there does not seem to be the same outcry against women who upload submissions to Hot Guys On The Train, a daily collection of chosen male commuters.

There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that Nell Frizzell is absolutely correct in stating “I, for one just don’t think we should shoot strangers in public spaces.” I firmly believe that our right of privacy needs to be staunchly reinforced.  To take a photograph of a handbag held by a fellow commuter who cannot be indentified is entirely different from uploading a snap of Hitler on the bus which was  hooted at by millions. It was only a photo of a man on a bus in Plymouth. What gave anyone the right to upload this and breach this man’s privacy by turning him into a laughing stock. It is just wrong.

When Is A Pub Not A Pub?

As from 1 October 2013, a number of additional forms of ID have been added to the list of acceptable documents when trying to establish a person’s age in relation to the sale of alcohol. The acceptable forms of ID for proof of age are:

  • A passport
  • A European Union photocard driving licence
  • A photographic ID card bearing the national Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS) hologram
  • A Ministry of Defence Form 19
  • A Biometric Immigration Document
  • A national identity card issued by a European Union member state (other than the UK) and photographic identity cards from Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland.

But even if you were to enter a public house armed with legitimate ID the licensee has a legal right to refuse to serve you.  This right has been enshrined in common law for centuries.  A “public house” is not considered to be a “public place” so a member of the public cannot insist on being there.  He or she is there at the invitation of the licensee only and that invitation can be withdrawn at the whim of the licensee.  Similarly, a member of the public cannot insist on being served.  This extends to the right of a door steward acting on behalf of the licensee to refuse entry to a clubber if they so wish with no need to give a reason.

Some have argued that the right of refusal has been eroded by the adoption of the ECHR under the Human Rights Act 1998 but I think this argument is flawed.  The 1998 Act imposes obligations on public authorities but not on private businesses.  It is not a human right for you to be able to enter a pub.

Even so, a licence holder cannot refuse to serve someone on the basis of characteristics protected under the Equality Act 2010 such as:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender identity and gender reassignment
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

So, licence holders must be very careful of the impact which the Equality Act 2010 may have on the common law right of refusal and they must be alert to the fact that although the right of refusal exists, it is in no way a “licence” to exercise prejudice.  If such prejudice is found to have occurred, the refusal will incur penalties.

George Square reopened with a facelift

george square

George Square has reopened  after the first phase of its face lift was completed at the cost of £500,000. The early autumn sun shone down on the restored city square after the perimeter barriers were removed. The controversial red tarmac has been lifted and a temporary surface has been laid using epoxy resin giving a grey hard wearing coating suitable for icy weather. Two new large grassy areas have been installed with more plants and different lighting. The grassy areas have been created so that they can be covered up to allow large scale events to be held in the square like Remembrance Day and Christmas festivities.

Although the revamp seems to have been warmly accepted I have to say I was somewhat underwhelmed. The square may look a bit more spacious but as I work in an office overlooking it and see it all the time I don’t see much changed. The statutes have been cleaned, there are more benches and the trees have been removed from around the Cenotaph so that the City Chambers is in full view. It is tidier but not much different.

Last year Glasgow City Council announced it would spend £15 million redesigning the historic square and six designs were put before the public to look at. At the end of the day the council did a complete U turn and decided to go ahead with a much more modest project. This was generally accepted by the public in the interest of purse strings but I would definitely have expected something a little more dramatic. There is absolutely no wow factor to the square. For me it is disappointing and looks like a make do and mend job.