The much-criticised 2010 Bribery Act has been rewritten and is set to come into force on 1st July 2011. The new Act contains six key principles for business to consider and includes practical guidance for them to follow; the previous draft was criticized for its lack of clarity. A number of companies are reported to be anxiously preparing for the Act and ensuring compliance by increasing the number of regulatory lawyers in their employ and increasing the size of their compliance departments.

It has been quite a week for law reforms, and protests against them. The Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has announced the privatization of Birmingham prison, which will be run by the security company G4S from October. The announcement has prompted threats of industrial disruption from prison officers. As well as taking over Birmingham G4S are also to run a “super-size” 1,600-place prison, Featherstone 2, on the same site as Featherstone prison, Wolverhampton. The prison officer unions fear that more of the 140 publicly run prisons in England and Wales will follow in being privatised, and the justice secretary strongly hinted at further rounds of competitive tendering.

Lawyers marched in London on the 26th, in protest against the legal aid cuts. Michael Mansfield QC, speaking outside the Royal Courts of Justice in support of the Sound of For Justice campaign stated that ‘We are marching to defend the last remnants of a system of justice intended to protect the vulnerable and promote a fairer society’.

Ken Clarke also announced reforms to the funding of civil litigation, including a proposed clampdown on ‘no-win no-fee agreements’. Commentators have warned that the proposed reforms could make solicitors reluctant to take on complex cases. The Bar Council has established a working group to explore the viability of a Contingency Legal Aid Fund (CLAF) in the wake of the Government’s response to its consultation on civil litigation costs. Peter Lodder QC, Chairman of the Bar, said, “We are committed to finding ways to ensure that claimants are not denied the opportunity to uphold legitimate legal rights simply because they cannot afford to access the justice system.”

Nezar Hindawi, a Jordanian jailed for 45 years for plotting to blow up an Israeli airliner has won a legal challenge against UK government refusals to allow his early release. He was jailed in 1986 after planting a bomb in his fiancée’s hand luggage for a flight from London Heathrow to Tel Aviv. The Parole Board has recommended release but successive governments have rejected its advice. A further hearing will be held to decide whether the Supreme Court should now make a final ruling, or whether the justice secretary should be ordered to reconsider his decision.

Finally – the ECHR has published an online brochure on the Court, “The ECHR in 50 Questions”. Perfect bedtime reading.