A railway company has been reported to the Office of Fair Trading after announcing a 30 per cent rise in off-peak fares. The decision by Arriva Trains to scrap its ‘supersaver’ tickets has enraged consumer groups and the second largest rail union, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association. It has called on the OFT to step in, rather than the rail regulator, on the grounds that Arriva is abusing its monopoly position in Wales. Arriva is the second company to announce huge increases in the price of fares not controlled by the Government. Earlier this year First Great Western announced plans to increase the cost of cheap day returns by 20 per cent. Consumer groups are bracing themselves for further price rises at the weekend. This weekend is, along with September, one of two ‘windows’ available to train operators apart from the January fare round. The consumer group Passenger Focus said previous rises were imposed with minimal notice. TSSA believes that other companies are keen to follow the example set by South West Trains. Gerry Doherty, the union's general secretary, said: ‘The rail companies are determined to squeeze passengers until the pips squeak.’ A spokesman for Arriva said last night: ‘For longer journeys people tend to book in advance, which is why we have introduced cheap options for north to south travel.’ A spokesman for the Office of Fair Trading said it would consider the complaint.



Conspiracy theorists have been having a field day of late down at the Royal Courts of Justice.

Tongues have been wagging after it emerged that Lord Justice Richards – one of the UK’s most senior Court of Appeal judges – has been working behind the scenes for several months despite being under investigation over allegations of indecent exposure
(see story - http://www.legalweek.com/
The saga began when 56-year-old Richards – an appeals judge since 2005 and a contemporary of Tony Blair and Lord Falconer – was arrested in January after allegedly exposing himself to a female passenger on a train in southwest London. The married judge, who is also chairman of the board of governors at independent London school King’s College, was released on bail and later charged but the scandal had already catapulted him into the spotlight of the national press. Casual observers might have assumed at that point that Richards would be formally suspended following his arrest. However, the judiciary are a breed apart. Current disciplinary guidelines stipulate that a judge cannot be suspended from duty. Indeed, Parliamentary approval is required for dismissal and only once has a judge been formally removed from their post, when one ambitious bencher was dismissed for smuggling offences in the 1980s.

However, according to the Judicial Communications Office (JCO), there is a ‘convention’ that judges do not sit in court while a criminal investigation is pending. Yet Richards, while not physically sitting in court, has continued to handle paper judgments and immigration applications, sparking a fair degree of outrage in some legal circles over the disciplinary code’s literal wording. While some have been quick to point out that Richards is innocent until proven guilty, sceptics have argued that the notion of ‘sitting in court’ should cover any judicial function. Immigration lawyers also complain that one judge apparently went out of his way to keep Richards’ continued judicial activity off the radar by keeping his name off a court transcription. This claim was dismissed by the JCO’s spokesperson as ‘tittle-tattle’.

That news prompted one informed observer to suggest judges ‘cared more about the judiciary than the reputation of their clients.’ The rigidly legalistic tone of the JCO’s response – that Richards ‘is considering paper applications for leave to appeal in civil matters only [and] the charges faced…have no bearing on his out-of-court duties’ – will do little to allay public concerns. Whatever the outcome, the affair has done little to endear the judiciary to its critics, coming as it does after a spate of embarrassing episodes – including, most notably, the Old Bailey trial of Brazilian cleaner Roselane Driza, who faces a retrail after convictions for blackmail and stealing sex tapes from a senior male judge were overturned on appeal. Richards, who denies the charges against him, is now due to appear before Westminster Magistrates Court on 11 June.