Legislation / Legal

HO: Strong new civil orders to further protect the public from violence and additional support for victims of sexual assault have been announced by Policing Minister David Hanson at the launch of an updated strategy to tackle violent crime. The publication of An Action Plan to Tackle Violence – One Year On marks the introduction of Violent Offender Orders (VOOs) to help prevent violent individuals re-offending by disrupting their patterns of offending behaviour.
 
VOOs are legislated for in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 and came into force on 3 August 2009.  Under the terms of VOOs serious offenders who have reached the end of their prison sentences or licence & who may be at risk of re-offending can be banned from places, events and from contacting specified people, for between 2 and 5 years.
 
Like sex offenders they must tell police if they move home, change their name, or go abroad.  Breaking the terms of a VOO is a criminal offence punishable by 5 years in prison. Police can apply to a magistrates’ court to grant a VOO.  Offenders must have served at least 12 months in prison for serious violent offences including manslaughter, attempted murder, GBH, or malicious wounding.
Press release ~ An Action Plan to Tackle Violence – One Year On ~ Violent Offender Orders (VOOs)
 
OFT: 12 firms offering sale & rent back services have agreed to change their adverts or take down their websites completely after the OFT challenged some of their statements made to consumers. The OFT issued formal notifications to the firms in January about advertising for sale & rent back services, which involves buying homes from individuals, usually at a significant discount, and renting them back to the previous owners.
 
The OFT asked the firms to substantiate claims made in their adverts or change them - typical statements included that residents are able to live in properties for life after they have sold them, benefit from low rent or buy back their homes at any point.

This action follows a market study by the OFT which recommended that the sale & rentback sector was regulated.  One objective of the OFT's action was to ensure that consumer protection enforcement was effective while the Government implemented the OFT's recommendations.  The FSA recently implemented an interim regime.
Press release ~ FSA: Regulating sale and rent back: an interim regime ~ OFT ~ Sale and rent back - An OFT market study
 
ScotGov: The Climate Change Scotland Bill has been granted Royal Assent and will now become an Act of Parliament. Climate Change Minister Stewart Stevenson has pledged to share Scotland's forward-thinking strategies with the rest of the UK and also with the rest of the world at this year's UN climate summit in Copenhagen (7 – 18 December 2009).
 
The legislation creates a long-term framework that:
* introduces a statutory target to reduce Scotland's greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050
* establishes an interim target of at least 42% emissions reductions by 2020
* establishes a framework of annual targets
* includes emissions from international aviation and international shipping
Press release ~ ScotGov - Climate Change ~ UN Climate Change Conference Copenhagen 2009
 
HSE: The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is warning companies responsible for carrying out legionella surveys on water systems of the need to ensure that their work is thorough & accurate. The warning follows the conviction of a Berkshire-based water treatment company for carrying out inadequate & misleading surveys at nursing homes in Blaenau Gwent and Powys.
 
As a result, vulnerable residents at the homes would have been at a heightened risk of contracting legionnaires disease, a potentially fatal form of pneumonia.
 
At Abertillery Magistrates Court on Thursday 6 th August 2009, DEBA UK Ltd of Unit 15, The Metro Centre, Toutley Road, Wokingham, pleaded guilty to three charges under Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.  They were fined £24,000 and ordered to pay costs of £17,276.
Press release ~ HSE - Legionnaires disease
 
Ofgem: Energy regulator Ofgem is to introduce new obligations on suppliers to ensure direct debit payments are accurately set & clearly explained.  Ofgem reviewed the direct debit arrangements of the six major suppliers after customers complained about significant increases in amounts they were being asked to pay.  Ofgem was also concerned that suppliers were doing a poor job in explaining the basis for payments.
 
The new condition in suppliers’ licences would mean they must ensure payment levels are clearly & accurately explained and based on the best available information.  Suppliers will also need to be able to justify why they are holding onto credit surpluses built up by a customer.

In a separate move to protect customers, Ofgem has opened the final stage in consultation on a package of remedies emerging from last year’s retail market probe. The measures include tougher rules on doorstep sales, better information for customers via their energy bills and new annual statements on their energy use and how much it costs them each year.  The package also includes increased protection for small businesses through curbing and controlling automatic roll-over of energy contracts.
 
Ofgem has also today confirmed that new supply licence conditions banning unjustified price differences will come into force on 1 September 2009. The licence conditions will prevent overcharging for example on pre-payment meters and for customers off the gas grid, identified last year by Ofgem’s retail probe. In direct response to this energy suppliers have already removed more than £300 million of unfair price premiums.
Press release ~ Ofgem Direct debit Report ~ Energy Ombudsman ~ Energy Supply Probe

WAG: Planning rules that will make it easier for people to install micro-generation equipment such as solar panels in their homes are to be introduced in Wales.  The aim of the latest planning changes is to remove certain types of micro-generation equipment from requiring planning permission, making it easier for individuals and local communities install equipment that will contribute to tackling climate change and lower energy bills. There will be no requirement to pay planning fees, reducing the financial burden to homeowners.      
Press release ~ WAG - Planning ~ WAG - Energy and fuel ~ Microgeneration Action Plan for Wales
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