A start by “RD”

While my younger brother grapples with the technical aspects of wordpress and works out how to give me posting rights under my own ‘moniker’ I shall post with my avatar.

I began my academic career at a good university, but one, unfortunately placed geographically, far too distant from where I wished to be, so I did not spend much time there. I did make occasional journeys to the university town, with the intention of visiting the law school, but often found myself waylaid by the attractions of a fine pub situated about half a mile from the Law School and was not always able to make it to the school. I do, however, remember the Dean giving all the new students an address. The Dean was a solemn man, newly elevated to professorial rank, a man whose knowledge of criminal and other law stupefied the judges when he was at the Bar, to a point where it was felt that his talents might be better used in academe – which, indeed, they were.

He looked straight at us all. His eyes flickered and darted from side to side. He spoke quickly as he told us that of the 100 in the theatre only two would get a First, twelve, possibly, fifteen, would get an Upper Second, the herd would get Lower Seconds (and find solace practising law in modest firms), a few would get Thirds (and find little pleasure in a life in the law) and, sadly, – looking menacingly around the theatre: “Five to six of you will get pass degrees – a certificate of incompetence.”

I’m afraid, possibly though mild intoxication, that I found this absurdly funny and burst out laughing.

“Mr Charon” the Dean asked “Perhaps you find that amusing? Why so?”

I cannot, of course, remember the exact words which I used to reply (It always amazes me how people who write biographies can remember almost every word they spoke in their lives) but I will give the gist (and in future posts, should I need to resort to dialogue, I will ask you to imagine that I can remember every single word.)

“Well it is rather amusing, Professor ‘X’. How can anyone spend three years of their lives studying something and end up with a certificate of incompetence? Better to cut the losses after the first year and run.” The Dean merely smiled and passed on to other matters. I could, however, see a few anxious looks on the faces of my fellow students. There were eight women on the course. This was most disappointing. Things have changed – a theme to which I shall return when I next post.

R D Charon

Diversions

Here is an internet generated painting based on my name, my favourite colour, my emotional state at the time (crazy) and a host of other asinine questions. I have printed it out. Not a great painting – but these net technologies provide a little amusement for me. Get your own painting?

Malaysia draws up a list of unsuitable names for children. Yes – they have finally done it. Read the story here

Malaysia is a very sophisticated country. I know it well and like both the country and Malaysians. I can see what they are trying to do. Malaysia is made up of many cultures and races, but the predominant sections are: Malay, Chinese and Indian. I quote from the article
“Among the Malays, names such as Zani — which means male adulterer, and Woti — sexual intercourse, were banned, the report said.

For Indians, Karrupan, which means black fellow, is equally as taboo as are names which denote “fair skin,” such as Sivappi and Vellayan, it said.

Jainisah said parents could not name their babies after colours, animals, insects, fruits or vegetables. In the past, some in the Chinese community gave their children inauspicious names believing it would ward off evil spirits and bad luck. Now, names such as Ah Kow — dog in the Cantonese dialect, or Ah Gong — unsound mind, are prohibited. Other Chinese names on the banned list included Chow Tow and Sum Seng which mean smelly head and gangster respectivel”

From RollonFriday.coma story that Shoesmiths have elves on their staff

Good stuff. As RollonFriday say “recreational drugs in the water cooler?”

Miscellany for Monday

Canadian lesbian marriage not recognised marriage in UK

Celia Kitzinger and Sue Wilkinson, of North Yorkshire, were married in Vancouver in 2003. the High Court has declined to recognise their marriage in the UK. Sir Mark Potter, President of The Family Division is reported by the BBC as saying that the couple faced “an insurmountable hurdle” in trying to have a same-sex marriage recognised in English law. Their marriage, could, however, be recognised under The Civil Partnerships Act which confers the same legal rights enjoyed by married couples.

Is it really such an affront to traditional marriage for gay and lesbian couples to be denied a traditional marriage? Turning the argument around – if the parties are not deeply religious, is it such an affront to them to be denied a traditional Christian marriage ? (I make no reference to other religions in this piece, simply because I am not qualified to do so). British churches are full of marrying couples whose devotion to Christianity is, at best, shortlived and, I suspect, tenuous. Who is better in the eyes of God – a very devout gay or lesbian couple or a man and woman who have no real interest in or understanding of christianity ?

Tony Blair accused of conflict of interst in Cliff Richard copyright matter
When I was eight years of age, I thought The Shadows were pretty good (Charon is 53) and, of course, Cliff Richard was a mainstay of the pop scene then. I soon moved on to more radical musicians – Hendrix, Cream, Led Zep, The Doors, The Stones etc etc.

Tony Blair is a friend of Cliff Richard. He has stayed in Cliff’s villa. Now The Telegraph thunders that Tony has a conflict of interest, having stayed in Cliff’s villa, by lobbying for a change to rules that could stop Cliff and other artists receiving royalties from their old hits. There is a 70 year rule in other countries – why not UK? Charon, is not an expert on copyright – but maybe Geeklawyer could assist here – as he is?

The Telegraph reports…“Norman Baker, the Lib Dem MP for Lewes, said: “The Prime Minister has crippled himself by accepting hospitality from someone with a vested interest in Government policy.”

I’m no great fan of Lord Protector Blair and his war policy – but, on this one, I can’t really see why the PM should not support a proposition or lobby for a policy to allow those who are creative (even if it does include someone he knows) from enjoying financial benefits for a longer period. We know there is a witch hunt for Blair – but this strikes me as trying to find trouble where there is no trouble. Well…at least it gave the Lib-Dem and Tory spokesmen something to say. If I was the ‘Umpire’ here – I would say “Not out”. I would not raise my index finger to signify dismissal on the facts as presented in The Telegraph article. I will, of course, declare a conflict of interest myself – as the organisation for which I write this blawg are publishers and course providers Consilio / The Legal Practitioner / LawinaBox. I do have some sympathy with protection of copyright. We get ripped off occasionally – but when SPR finds it, they do tend to act.

This is what SPR did when they found a pirate selling LawinaBox CDs on Ebay One doesn’t always need to be heavy and resort to law! Am I preaching heresy again?

Time on your hands?…

No work ? Or just need a break? Try putting a football into the bin

Police to question Prescott on corruption: Independent Story
Tony Blair is in the States, standing up to Bush about stem cell research and colluding on Lebanon, while Jack Straw breaks ranks by criticising Blair’s stance on Lebanon. Prescott is in charge of Great Britain and, will be for another four weeks when Blair goes on holiday when he returns from the States. Prescott intends to rebuild his tattered image by visiting the regions – but will also have to find time to talk to Fraud Squad Plod about his visits to dome building american billionaire.

The Independent reports : Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, a Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, said Mr Prescott was guilty of a clear conflict of interest. “The act makes it very clear that hospitality must not be accepted from anyone who has obtained a government contract. The rules are very clear but the Government has been very casual about them. John Prescott wouldn’t recognise a conflict of interest if it punched him on the nose,” he said.

It is re-assuring to know that the Police are spending so much time invesitigating senior government ministers. Tony Blair, it is felt, may himself have to face questioning on the loans for honours scandal and now the DPM may find himself down at the local nick while the tape recorders whirr away. Will he be fingerpirnted? Will a DNA swab be taken?

Millions of children to be fingerprinted: The Observer reveals this morning that under EU legislation, millions of children – perhaps as young as six, will be fingerprinted. This is the brainchild of the EU ‘Article 6 Commitee”. Initially, of course, the fingerprints will only be accessible by the individual member state – but, then as is the way, it may be throught wise that all 25 states should be able to access all the fingerprints and, then, because we wish to promote good relations with foreign non-EU states, the possibility, at some unidentified time in the future, there exists the possibility that foreign secret services will have access (they call it ‘interoperability’) to the database.

‘Secure passports make a lot more sense than ID cards,’ said Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights group Liberty. ‘But only as long as the information that is kept is no more than necessary and is not shared with other countries.’

Meanwhile, Gordon Brown is believed to be drawing up plans to scrap the costly ID card scheme because he does not believe that £18 billion pounds is good value for this project.

‘Say it ain’t so, Joe.’ Geoffrey Wheatcroft, writing in the Observer tells us why he loathes the sporting life now riddled with bungs, drugs and cheats. It is an interesting article – and, of course, he has a point. What is the point of watching sport when the competitors are loaded to the eyeballs with steroids, testosterone and other performance enhancing drugs.

I spent an enjoyable couple of hours, recovering from life enhancing Rioja on Friday night, watching Grevious Bodily Harmison and Monty Panesar destroy Pakistan on the cricket field at Old Trafford. Fascinating stuff – although cricket has had a share of cheating in recent times.

To be frank – I would quite like to see an alternative sporting competition where renegade sportsmen/sportswomen, who have been caught cheating, are allowed to perform with drugs and other enhancing products. What about seeing a muscle bound monster complete the 100 metres in 6 seconds, or watch a high jumper jump 20 feet into the air. What about a fast bowler who can deliver a cricket ball at over 200 mph? A Rugby player, so large and so fast, that no-one can bring him down and he scores 100 points on his own? Preposterous, of course.

Allow me to introduce you to….

My older brother.. Professor R D Charon LLB, MA, Ph.d

Yes… it is difficult when one stands in the shadow of talent. It nearly ruined my life. “RD” does in fact know some law and maintains to this day that I may have been better suited to a career with the Metropolitan Police as a Constable. RD spent most of his life writing books which no-one reads and teaching students. He also managed to spend a fair bit of time trying to subvert Heads of Department, Deans and Vice Chancellors. He did, in fact, become Dean of an undistinguished law school and it is best, perhaps, that we do not identify this institution. You may, therefore, take it, that no UK or other university will be identifiable from his ‘musings’. The same will apply to those colleagues he worked with who he will, undoubtedly, be merciless about.

I have asked “RD” (Not even I know his first name.) to assist me with my blawg by commenting on matters to do with legal education.

Paul McKenna wins libel case

The Guardian reports that McKenna has won his libel case..

In his ruling, Mr Justice Eady described the case as “curious” with “much energy expended to very little purpose”.

I went to a Paul McKenna stageshow many years ago – a stage version of his famous TV show. I thought it would be fun – and it was, as it happens, most enjoyable. I have also used his ‘Stop Smoking’ hypnosis video several times. I enjoyed being hypnotised (I assume I was) but, as I am clearly still smoking at professional standards,  it did not work for me. However, in McKenna’s defence…he does say that he cannot make people do things against their will.

Well..there we are.. Encouraged by this victory… I may have to have a look and see if I can find a university which will honour me for work I am doing, my life experience and a copy of some of my former written work. If you happen to know any university needing a new Vice-Chancellor, please email me. Vice Chancellor Charon D.Litt would do nicely…. especially if I can get a ‘K’ to go with it.

Photoshop has given me a taste of how I might look in a procession. Yes… I could do a bit of that.

The man who would be King…

It is not often that I feel the need to write about Constitutional Law (I leave that to those who teach or practise in the field) – but a wonderful story in The Guardian today has prompted me. Here is the link to the full story – worth a read.

In 1931, a Shropshire police inspector called King Anthony insisted he had a better claim to the throne than George V. King Anthony, described as tall and impeccably dressed whipped up the crowds at a series of talks/rallies to put his claim. Descended from a bastard son of Henry VIII, King Anthony maintained that James 1 of England was an imposter, James Erskine, whom he dubbed “goggle-eyed Jim”.

Of King George V, King Anthony said: “The King is a German, a pure bred German … I want to become the first policeman to cut off the King’s head.” ranted King Anthony, adding that “he would have no hesitation in shooting the king as he would shoot a dog.” Not surprisingly the Palace was a bit alarmed by this and plans were hatched to have him quietly declared insane. Unfortunately, the doctors would not play ball. The Guardian writer observes wryly “To the disappointment of the police and the Home Office: “His claim that he is entitled to the kingship of this country is not the mere autogenic delusion of the usual man who says ‘I am king’ but is a case of a sort.”

Again.. I quote from the Guardian.. “King George was consulted. He agreed that the full force of the law should be used to “put a stop to the effusions of the impostor”, as long as the monarch’s involvement was kept secret and it did not end in Hall’s imprisonment. ”

Well they finally nailed him. He was arrested for quarrelsome and scandalous language, fined £10 and bound over to keep the peace with a surety of £25 or the alternative of 2 months imprisonment and hard labour. King Anthony died in 1947 with no male heir. The Throne of the United Kingdom was saved.

Legality of the war in Iraq – the first hurdle

The Queen on the application of Gentle and others v (1) The Prime Minister (2) The Secretary of State for defence (3) The Attorney General [2006] EWCA Civ 1078 26th July

The families of soldiers killed in Iraq have won what Phil Shiner of Public Interest lawyers calls a ‘stunning victory’ and challenge the government’s claim that the war in Iraq is legal.

Interestingly, The Lord Chief Justice convened a court made up of Sir Anthony Clarke MR, Sir Igor Judge, President QBD and Lord Justice Dyson – three of the most senior judges in the country. The judgment makes interesting reading. The judges, overturned the High Court ruling:

  1. We have concluded that we should grant permission to apply for judicial review, essentially for the reasons set out above. We have also concluded that it would be appropriate for this court to hear the application. Mr Singh submitted that we should take that course, whereas Mr Sales submitted that we should not. He submitted that the respondents might wish to adduce evidence of fact which it would be more appropriate for a judge than for this court to analyse.
  2. In many cases that would be a powerful point. However, we do not at present see any reason why we should not be able, so far as necessary, to consider the facts with the assistance of counsel. We have therefore concluded that we should not remit the application for judicial review to the High Court but consider it ourselves subject only to this. If, after seeing the evidence or indeed after hearing argument about it, we conclude that justice requires that the application be remitted to a judge we will take that course. In the meantime, we think that the best course is to consider the application for judicial review ourselves and to resolve the whole matter in November. In these circumstances we have reserved three days in November during which this constitution of the court can hear the application.

The point Phil Shiner makes, in describing this as a stunning victory, is this: that it will force the government to explain why the Attorney General changed his equivocal advice of 13 pages into an unequivocal advice of one page that the war was legal.

Early days and as the CA noted – there are still formidable hurdles ahead. It is, at least, a start. Perhaps we may yet see clarity and accountability for a war which many regard as illegal.

Magisterial in the Magistrate’s Court

The Law West of Ealing Broadway blog – written anonymously by a magistrate is always worth a visit. I enjoyed the account of an East European, set upon by a thug, knifed and hospitalised, only to find himself up before the bench charged with possession of cannabis. The Police found a stash in his clothing which they took away for possible evidence.

This is what the magistrate said in his blog…

“Well, what would you have done?

We decided that after being knifed, spending two weeks in hospital, and losing his stash as well as some of his limited stock of clothing, enough was enough.

Some would call our Conditional Discharge a wimp-out. We thought it was pretty fair, in all the circumstances.”

Seems pretty fair to me. Why did the CPS bother to prosecute? Could this not have been dealt with by a caution? One commentator to the blog suggested that the prosecution was brought to improve crime resolution figures on the premise that it was a cut and dried matter and a conviction was assured. Is that commentator being cynical?

More women QCs..but why so few applications from solicitors?

Gary Slapper, writing in his Times Blog, draws our attention to the fact that 33 out of 68 women who applied were successful in the recent Silk round and draws attention to a case (and I quote) “in 1914, arising from an attempt of a woman to become a solicitor, even her lawyers dutifully accepted the proposition that women had no public functions, and that “in the camp, at the council board, on the bench, in the jury box there is no place for them”

Interestingly: 443 applications for silk were made, broken down as follows – barristers 431/ solicitors 12. (376 male / 66 female / 422 white / 21 non-white / 1 undeclared.) 33 women were successful. 4 solicitors were successful.
After all the fuss about the ‘anachronism, elitism, unfairness etc etc’ of the rank of QC from solicitors some years ago; one would have thought that there would have been a higher number of applications from solicitors.

According to a dca press release in November 2005 the criteria for selection are as follows: Integrity, understanding and using the law, analysing case material to develop arguments and focus the issues, persuading – communicating arguments, responding to unfolding case, working with the client, working in the team – criteria which, clearly, enables solcitors to apply on a reasonably even footing. (Unless I am missing the point)

Why so few applications from solicitors? Does the rank matter to solicitors anymore? It would be interesting to hear from solicitors on this.

EDIT 27 July:   You may be interested in this article in the Independent: The Big question – should we abolish QCs

Cricket..

Cricket is one of my interests – watching it these days, rather than playing. With injury depleting the “Ashes winning” England Team – and a curious first test, which arguably, we threw away, I am looking forward to the next test against Pakistan.

I could not resist this story from The Mirror “Every player in team gets a duck.” Goldsborough second XI achieved this distinction the other day. All their batsmen were caught without making any runs – which means they at least got the bat to the ball. Goldsborough received 5 runs from byes. Their opponents scored a six and the game was over. “Surreal and embarrassing” was one description of the game.

I have a feeling that it would have been an interesting match to watch with a bottle of Rioja to hand.

Anonymous Lawyer…. the book

Delighted after receiving an email from ‘x’@anonymous lawyer to give a fellow blogger a bit of publicity. He has a book coming out.  Check out the law firm – address below.
http://anonymouslawfirm.com/book.php?text_id=About 

I’ll let his email do the talking…also…I am being lazy after a long day…

FROM: Anonymous Lawyer
TO: All partners, associates, e-mail correspondents, support slaves
RE: Required reading

Announcing a temporary change to the firm’s long-standing policy that employees are not allowed to read anything besides lease agreements.

Anonymous Lawyer: A Novel hits stores today, July 25th, and is also available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, or your favorite on-line retailer. No, not that one. I mean the one that sells books.

Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/pf283
Barnes & Noble: http://tinyurl.com/pmbvs
Powell’s: http://tinyurl.com/pqxao

In the novel, Anonymous Lawyer sets out on a quest to eliminate his biggest rival, The Jerk, and become chairman of the firm — while dealing with incompetent associates, his spendthrift wife, and the inner torment deep in his soul. Very deep. It’s not a compilation of blog posts. That would be like double-billing a client. And we never double-bill clients. Okay, we do, but not this time. New material.

USA Today calls the book “wickedly amusing,” Publishers Weekly calls it “side-achingly funny,” the New York Post gives it 4 stars out of 4, and my grandmother really loves it too.

We’ll also be needing you to work this weekend on a memo for a case we’ve already settled, and there’s a typo somewhere in the tax code that we need you to find. Thanks.

Back to work,
Anonymous Lawyer

http://anonymouslawfirm.com

Suit you, Sir?

Fancy getting an A+ or a First in you coursework?

Well of course you do – but would you pay an essay writing service a fair bit of money (say £60 for 1000 words) to do it for you and then submit that work as your own?

There are a number of essay writing services who advertise their services on the net quite openly. I am not going to give them the oxygen of publicity by naming any of them – but this shoddy trade is a disgrace and brings UK legal (and other) education into disrepute and could, if the student gets caught, end their career in the profession before it has even begun.

So…how does it work. Well the websites I looked at tend to promise:

(a) a minimum of a 2.1 level piece of work (One website charged twice the rate to ensure a First)
(b) highly qualified writers (Often citing that their writers held a Masters degree or professional qualification)
(c) Delivery quickly
(d) a guarantee that it was ‘plagiarism’ free
(e) the commissioned work would never be posted on the net or used for someone else’s commission and
(f) absolute confidentiality

Naturally these reptiles of academe state that the work is for personal use by the student and may not be used for any other purpose – no doubt, to cover themselves against the charge that the students commission the work and then submit as their own original coursework. (But…no disclaimer from one company who my friend called)

Charon is nothing, if not thorough. A friend, a young woman, telephoned one of these websites. She made no misleading statements. She simply asked for information on having a piece of course work written, how much it would cost and how the system worked. She was told that she had to register, send in the details of the coursework. The coursework would then be written and returned to her. She did ask if she could hand that cousework in to a College and was told that she could. As simple as that.

I decided then to start making telephone calls. I called The Department of Education (I do enjoy telephoning our government) , who were most helpful and put me in touch with ‘Universities UK’. I have to call back after 10.00 tomorrow. I then phoned Amanda Fancourt, UK Centre for Legal Education, University of Warwick. Amanda Fancourt was very helpful, gave me a viewpoint that universities are doing their best to be vigilant and put me in touch with some of her colleagues at ALT who are doing research. I will write again about this subject – in a more scholarly way, hopefully, but merely flag it up now.

It irritates me that there are organisations who provide this service. It is shocking to know that students are prepared to cheat in this way – but perhaps most shocking of all is the fact that there are people – academics, practitioners, qualified lawyers? – who are drawn on by these companies to provide this cheat service. A very grubby trade.

Publishers publish textbooks and Q&As and a whole raft of study guides to help students. I have no problem at all with this – because lectures, textbooks and Q&A books are all in the public domain and can be scanned by plagiarism software – and the students have to do the work. Also – the content of these publications is not tailored to the specifics of a coursework essay.

If a student is caught – and it is proved that the work submitted is not their own – their academic and professional career is over. The problem is, however, that it may be difficult to prove. Surely , it would be better to take action directly against the suppliers of this type of service and insist that all coursework written for students is made public and therefore capable of being scanned by plagiarism software. I wonder how many students would be prepared, then, to pay £60 per 1000 words for a bit of help with their coursework? A lot cheaper to buy a textbook and do some work. Is this important enough for the universities and government to take action? I hope so. But will they?

A keen eye

From Consilio: Norman Baird, Editor of Consilio, clearly reads the speeches of the judiciary with greater care than I do. He picked up this gem from the LCJ’s speech….

Criminal Justice

“I have asked Lord Justice Keene, who chairs the Judicial Studies Board, whether he can lay on a sentencing induction course for Home Secretaries. He is considering this, but has warned me that the frequency of such courses would have resource implications.”

Speech by The Lord Chief Justice of England & Wales to the Lord Mayor’s Dinner For Judges Read

Justice moves at high speed

Criminals to be whisked before the court within 24 hours…

The Independent reports on Lord Falconer’s latest plans (Infra) to bring petty criminals who are choking the criminal justice system before the courts within 24 hours. Falconer is also going to let teenagers who commit crimes for the first time to apologise directly to their victims instead of facing the the courts.

Falconer also wants to set up mobile courts.

Lord Falconer said (The Independent) : “Too many cases take too long to come to court.

“Processes both in court and beforehand are often lengthy and arcane and take little account of the needs of victims and witnesses.

“The new measures mean that the criminal justice system, and in particular the courts, will be more responsive to concerns raised by local communities, reconnecting the criminal justice system with the public it serves.”

I have adverted to this below. Not being a criminal lawyer, I have absolutely no idea how this will work in practice – but it could either be good news or bad news for criminal lawyers (or is representation assumed not to be needed or desired?) and who is going to escort the virgin teen criminal to the victim to apologise (Para 7.19 Report – available dca website 21 July in pdf format under heading criminal justice review system published) . Presumably this will cost a fair bit of money to organise?

Is this another report destined to be brought into law so rapidly it is riddled with anomalies or are parts of it going to pass into history and be forgotten?

My picture has been taken from me

Curiously…at about 4.15 this afternoon, my picture mysteriously disappeared from the sidebar. I am not alone. Other WordPress users have experienced the same phenomenon. It may be the heatwave or global warming.

I am going to mention linkiewinkie again just to see what happens. This time, without a link (Infra)

Perusal and……Zidane

Zidane’s car wouldn’t start… and other thoughts from last Saturday evening.

I am sitting in the ‘Times reader’ infested garden at The Swan (a previous post below) with my copy of The Lawyer and Legal Week – would you believe? It is Saturday evening and I am waiting for a few friends, who are not trained lawyers and who cannot tell the time, to arrive. It is 6.30. there are children in the garden – but I know that they will be ejected or leave voluntarily at 7.00. But then…suddenly, there is the sound of a crying baby. I can feel my blood pressure rise. I wonder sometimes if I am turning into a grumpy old git or have already turned into one. I look over my distinctive black square reading glasses. The Mother catches my eye and looks upwards, a strained smile on her lips. Then a mobile goes off at their table.. a hideous ringtone which causes almost everyone nearby to turn. The collective disapproval of the herd of regulars (Would that be an appropriate collective noun?) and the Times Readers was too much for the Mother to cope with. It made the baby cry even louder and the Father and Mother scurried out, baby and pram. There is a god. I returned to my perusal of The Lawyer and Legal Week.

‘Perusal’… a word sacred to lawyers

Do we really still ‘peruse’. Do fee notes and bills refer to ‘To perusal of documents’ these days? Please feel free to comment below if you or your firm still ‘peruses’.

pe·ruse
tr.v. pe·rused, pe·rus·ing, pe·rus·es
To read or examine, typically with great care.

[Middle English perusen, to use up : Latin per-, per- + Middle English usen, to use; see use.]
pe·rusa·ble adj.
pe·rusal n.
pe·ruser n.
Usage Note: Peruse has long meant “to read thoroughly” and is often used loosely when one could use the word read instead. Sometimes people use it to mean “to glance over, skim,” as in I only had a moment to peruse the manual quickly, but this usage is widely considered an error. Sixty-six percent of the Usage Panel finds it unacceptable.

Language is interesting… no more so when English is translated from a foreign language. Here are a few examples.

In a Bucharest hotel lobby:
The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time we regret that you will be unbearable.

In a Paris hotel elevator:
Please leave your values at the front desk.

On the menu of a Swiss restaurant:
Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.

In an advertisement by a Hong Kong dentist:
Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists.

Crime doesn’t pay…

A raft of new initiatives on crime…

John Reid promised to work 18 f******g hours a day and has come up with a proposal to provide more prison places (8000) and to take a tougher attitude towards criminals. Out goes the automatic discount for pleading guilty. In, through the revolving door, comes an idea that the judges will have more discretion, an end to to the automatic halving of tarrifs for those on unlimited sentences, unanimous Parole Board decisions before prisoners are released, more foreign nationals will be returned to serve their sentences in their home countries and criminals who carry knives can expect a four-year maximum penalty.

Well… I am not a criminal lawyer – so you will have to visit the Home Office website if you wish to read the reform proposals.

My immediate throught on the proposals was that we really need to think hard about cutting the number of people we keep in prison at great expense – (surely all the prisoners locked up are not a danger to society?), no problem with the knife issue (Presumably chefs, fishermen, gardners and other who need knives will be fine?), good idea to give judges more discretion (I thought Reid was unhappy with the judges?) and it is good to see that the Human Rights Act is going to stay!

What about the automatic reduction for pleading guilty? Reid doesn’t like the idea of people getting a reduction when they are caught ‘red handed’. Here is what Gavin says on Diary of a Criminal Solicitor 20 July “If Dr. Reid does want to take away the idea of discount for a guilty plea then he is likely to find lawyers advising Clients that they have nothing to lose by pleading not guilty. If the sentence will be the same whether the person is convicted after a trial or pleads guilty then what is the point in pleading guilty? If there is no carrot being dangled to intice a guilty plea defendants are likely to plead not guilty.”

Others will, I am sure blog with greater knowledge and precision.

And then..today..up pops Charlie Falconer with another Reform Package from the dca. Delivering Simple, Speedy,
SummaryJustice –
available on Charlie’s Blog, the dca website. I will read this later, possibly. I had a telephone chat with a friend of mine who does practise as a criminal lawyer. He groaned – yet more criminal justice reform to master, yet more for other professionals (probation, prison, police, magistrates, parole ancillary services) to read and master. I asked him how coherent the reform of criminal justice had been in the last nine years since New Labour came to power. His reply “Coherent is not a word I would use. There is a lot of it. Some ill considered and a quick-fix.”

Of course, I could not help but notice that Dr Reid wants to put people who are given community service orders into uniform (bright orange?) so that they can be seen doing their ‘punishment and penitence’. I also noted in the press that he wants passport control officers to be uniformed. Good God…everyone in uniform? I rather like the fact that passport control officers in Britain wear normal smart business clothing. Almost more sinister. Very British and, to my mind, gives an air of ‘assured authority’ and an air of “We don’t have to look like colonels in a junta from some banana republic to know who you are.’ (Mind you – we have a lot of illegal immigrants and despite the best endeavours of everyone involved we don’t know where half of them are to deport them.)

I leave you with a quote from today’s Guardian by someone who does know what he is talking about:

“A criminal justice system that has already seen too much reform is about to be subjected to yet more change. Why? Almost everyone recognises – even if they won’t admit it -that the latest reforms announced by John Reid have more to do with a perceived need to appear tough than they do with rational, thoughtful policy-making. Behind the rhetoric there is growing chaos – the planned prison-probation merger into the NOMS is in a mess; long-standing plans for police reform have suddenly been shelved; despite year on year falls in crime, two thirds of the public think it is on the increase. At no point in the last half century has the need for a royal commission on crime and justice been more urgently required.”

Professor Tim Newburn
Director, Mannheim Centre for Criminology, LSE

A matter of Family Lore

Charon, no stranger to the Registrar of Births Marriages and Deaths (The latter awaits me at some point), has made it to the world of family law – with a mention on Family Lore. (I have amended my blogroll to get the title of John Bolch’s useful and practical blog correct.) I note that John Bolch may be a fellow smoker – a reference to Marlboro in the title of the post providing a clue. I smoke Silk Cut – probably too many of them.

Family lawyers will probably have found John’s blog – but if you haven’t – have a look. Useful stuff.
Thanks for the mention John. I’ll have a look at some law soon for my blawg!

A Saturday in West London

Here is ‘Rowbike’ a new device (American, of course) to get you fit and propel you around in some style. It looks ridiculous, but it could be the answer for the hordes of militant cyclists in London to really get one over on their competitors and other road users. Now you can row yourself through the red traffic light. Have a look at the film on the website. I can see that I may have to get one.

*****

Aliens again I’m afraid…. Yes, here is an American who actually speaks to Aliens. He has gone to a fantastic amount of effort to do so. His film work is not too good and I am not entirely sure of his sanity – but if he is speaking to aliens, at last he is not out buying machine guns and other weapons to amuse himself with, and he seems to enjoy using his life in this way. I like the bit in the film where he says that ‘ he cannot understand what the aliens are saying to him.’ Priceless.

Mind you.. I’m not sure who is more daft: Him or me for writing about it?

*****
Google right on the button with their advertising…?

It may be a spoof…but who knows?

Freedom to Blog?

Human Law is another law blog which I enjoy reading (and which I am delighted to link to in my blogroll). Again, I do not know the blogger, so no vested interest, no secret loans, no cowboy hats – just the spirit of freedom to blog, freedom to read the views of those who write about life, the law and everything.

Tonight, I decided to take a night off from my journey of discovery into the wines at The Swan (I may have made a very brief visit) to reflect, to think, to write and to visit interesting places on the net which might provide me with something to think about.

I found a gem, a nugget of pure gold – and it was picked up by Human Lawyer. Here is his original post – so you may read the original before I put my own spin onto it.

The story: The full story is in The Telegraph.

A synopsis: Secretary working for a firm of accountants in Paris. [Dixon Wilson (Website) Dixon Wilson Paris Office (Website – for those who prefer to speak with English speaking advsiers etc etc) Secretary blogs about her “Bridget Jones life in Paris” life under a pseudonym ‘Le Petite Anglaise’. Does NOT refer to the firm, her former French boyfriend or anything else which could bring the firm of accountants into disrepute, according to The Telegraph report. Firm does not like it. Secretary blogger gets sacked. Dismissal claim in French Court – first type of case of this nature.

However…according to The Telegraph“…partners at the leading British accountancy firm Dixon Wilson alleged that she made herself and therefore the firm identifiable by including her own photograph on the weblog. They also complained that she used office time to work on it.”

Taking an entirely objective view – Catherine the blogger in question, is clearly an attractive person – but The Telegraph article does not reveal how placing her photograph on the web could identify Dixon Wilson to the world at large…given that she did not use her name, identify the firm etc etc.. (She did get 3000 people reading her blog – which is, quite possibly / probably ?, more than the number of people visiting the Dixon Wilson website… but who knows?… people who surf the net will look at anything, even a website produced by chartered accountants. I should know. I can think of no better way of spending an English summer afternoon, sipping Rioja and surfing around accountancy firm websites.

I liked this quote from The Telegraph article: “The senior partner is described as “very old school”, a man who “wears braces and sock suspenders, stays in gentlemen’s clubs when in London and calls secretaries typists. When I speak to him, I can’t prevent myself from mirroring his plummy Oxbridge accent.”

I rang Dixon Wilson tonight – but, not unreasonably at 8.45 pm, the office was shut. I wanted to know who the senior partner was. They don’t seem to identify a senior partner. If you would like to look at photographs of Partners at this firm for purely anthropoligical reasons – here is the link

The Daily Mail reports: “Dixon Wilson is apparently particularly angry about the continual references to her immediate boss, partner James Howes. He was said to be ‘incandescent with rage’ at what she had written about him.”

Well nothing in life is cut and dried, black and white or one sided. Here is a response from one Daily Mail reader, clearly angered by the story – from The Mail…

Please read the blog and get your facts straight. The girl got sacked because she called in a sicky to go and have sex in a hotel room during office hours since she was living with the father of her kid at the time and could not meet her secret lover at home. Hardly professional behaviour that deserves two years’ pay.

– Jules, Nairobi, Kenya

Le Petite Anglaise is certainly stirring it up.

Moral: Blog at work at your peril – unless your blog helps the work / you own the firm / you are an expert on employment law / you simply don’t care or don’t care about getting sacked / you want a lot of publicity when you are sacked.

One thing for sure…Dixon Wilson are now getting a lot of press and PR – but will it help them? Are they being mean spirited or prudent ? What do you think about this?

As a final thought.. I refer to the Telegraph article and quote: “(Le Petite Anglaise) refers to an office Christmas party where someone breaks the “unwritten rule” of pulling his cracker before the senior partner and his wife have pulled theirs.”

God help us…. if there is such an unwritten rule at the firm. There can’t possibly be..can there?

Brokenthebank Mountain?

BrokentheBank Mountain is a story of human friendship between two men – the Deputy Prime Minister of Great Britain and an american dome owning billionaire. The story opens with a touching gift of an £11,000 cowboy outfit (*) to John, the Deputy Prime Minister, and a nine day visit to the billionaire’s ranch. It is a touching story because the dome owning billionaire wants to turn the dome into Britain’s first super casino and John (the DPM) simply wants to go to the Wild West and dress as a cowboy. Philip (Dome owning billionaire) wants to invest millions of pounds in Britain to help the people of Greenwich. John, who was overeeing the regeneration of the Greenwich site as DPM,  denies any impropriety or conflict of interest.

Unfortunately, things turn difficult when journos discover that John’s trip and cowboy outfit have not been registered in the register of Interests at Westminster. We then see the shadowy figure of Sir Philip Mawer, The Parliamentary standards watchdog, enter the fray. The story goes downhill after this because instead of blood in the water, sackings, resignation, collapse of the government and further humiliation for John, all that Sir Philip says is that the cowboy suit should be registered (It is now being registered, apparently – John’s entry is being ‘updated’). Hyperventilating journos, with froth flecked lips, lament that all that is now likely to happen is for John to have his wrist slapped (unsalaciously and with not even a hint of “Le Vice Anglais”) by the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee. Not exactly ‘Rock Opera’ material is it?

(*) The Standard reports that the cowboy outfit is worth £11000: Thursday 20 July 2006

Red rubber gloves…good grief!

I have never felt the need to wear red rubber gloves for anything, let alone to incorporate them into my personal life – but when a friend of mine sent in this report on an Edinburgh libel case, my eyebrows were raised and I had to light a cigarette quickly.

MSP (Member Scottish Parliament) faces former prostitute in court amid claims of group sex, bondage and spanking screamed the headline in the Online Telegraph (in red) I quote from the opening paragraph… you may read the whole story using the link above

“August is traditionally the month for drama in Edinburgh, but this July a small courtroom has been the setting for a production that may upstage the city’s international festival, with scripts racier than anything on the Fringe: cut-throat, Left-wing political infighting; drug-fuelled orgies; partner-swapping, red rubber gloves and ice cubes.”

and to set the point in context… I quote:

“Tommy Sheridan, 42, the silver-haired firebrand former leader of the Scottish Socialist Party, is suing the News of the World over allegations that he attended a so-called swingers’ club in Manchester with two of his occasional mistresses, and that he had taken part in other radical acts of love.”

I am, as it happens, not that interested in what people get up to in their spare time – or even if they happen to be Deputy Prime Minister –  what they get up to of a private nature in work time. I did like the description ‘radical acts of love’ in The Telegraph report. Radical acts of love? I shall remember this phrase should I ever find myself in a situation where I can shoe horn it into the conversation.

What I am interested in is the fact that there are two quite amusing libel cases going on to provide us with some interest and amusement to leaven the depressing news of the war in Israel/Lebanon, the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, the war in….. well there are quite a few to list.

Sheridan claims that none of the allegations are true and, as the hearing continues, we will have to wait and see what the court decides. Paul McKenna is up against it in London in a libel trial to determine the truth of the Ph.d which he acquired from La Salle University in the States.

He is suing the Mirror. John Kelsey-Fry QC, for the Mirror, told him: “This was an utterly bogus PhD, obtained merely on payment of a course fee.”

“Admitted dyslexic and undistinguished scholar’ (as Mckenna was described in The Independent) wanted the Ph.D,  presumably to enhance his standing. Unfortunately, Victor Lewis-Smith took the view that it was all a “load of old doc and bull’. I have commented on this case before.

What really puzzles me is why people bring possibly hopeless libel cases. It may be that McKenna and Sheridan will win and their honour will be unstained. It is an expensive business bringing libel cases. Silks and solicitors don’t come cheap. I can’t comment on the Sheridan matter – although it is a great story – but surely Mckenna, who is pretty savvy, I understand, and good at what he does, must have seen through a scheme where one can get a Ph.D for a bit of cash and submitting a previously written book? It takes years of hard slog to get a Ph.D from most universities and, I suspect, some misery. Well we will know the position when judgment is delivered on or about 31st July. The Mirror are certainly digging their heels in and stand by what was written. If they win, I have a feeling that they will have a field day. If Mckenna wins…I wonder how many people will hunt the net to find easy Ph.Ds?

The Lord Protector..and other ephemera

Private Eye reports in the latest edition (21st July) that The Lord Protector is resurrected and doing his bit for democracy and collective responsibility. The Private Eye story is fascinating and I would hope that PE will not be offended if I quote in full..

” At his recent appearance before the Commons liaison committee, Tony Blair admitted that he had never bothered to hold a vote in cabinet on any issue. It now seems the lack of dissent among his senior ministers may be even worse than we feared.

A story reaches us that Des Browne, who is currently Defence Secretary, was bold enough in his first cabinet meeting to voice disagreement with the prime minister on some matter. His remarks were heard in stony silence.

Then, while the meeting was still going on, Browne found little messages being passed to him discreetly by colleagues. They asked him what on earth he was playing at. Questioning Tony’s judgement, apparently, simply was not acceptable behaviour for a Rt Hon Member of Cabinet.”

Well if that doesn’t chill you down on the hottest day of the year – maybe this will…

Worst sound in the world? There is, in fact, a website established to try and find this out – I tried it but became bored very qucikly, so I won’t inflict it on you. Some people don’t like the sound of fingernails on a blackboard. I can’t stand the sound of babies crying – especially if they are in The Swan. (Thankfully, The Swan is enlightened and all babies, children and their parents are ejected to drive off in their 4 x 4s at 7.00 pm) There is another noise which is happening right outside my office now – a circular saw drilling wood and bricks. I have been told they may do this from 8.00 pm – 6.00 pm (11.00 am on saturdays) and not at all on Sundays. As I like the builders and my neighbours I will just shout the ‘F’ word when the noise comes up as a way of releasing irritation – a sound masked, of course, by the noise of the saw. But.. it makes me feel better to practice my Tourettes

It is too hot to work further (I have a thermometer in my office recording 108 degrees F). I do not have air conditioning, obviously, and the light breeze oustide does not seem to come down the alley way to my office.I tried a fan but it blew all my cigarette ash and paperwork around and I am clearly not sensible enough to stop smoking. But I have been at it since 3.30 am for precisely the reason that it would be hot, so I have done enough for the moment. I offer something which you may already be using – but if you are not, which you might like to check out.

Intute: Law provides guidance and access to global legal information resources on the Internet. The service aims to identify and evaluate legal resource sites offering primary and secondary materials and other items of legal interest. Descriptive records and links are created for legal service sites and specific documents. Intute website

The Judge strikes back

“We do not live on rundown estates, but we do travel on buses and tubes and bicycles, we push trolleys around supermarkets, we have normal family concerns and commitments and neither are judges immune from the impact of crime.” Lord Philips at the annual dinner for judges.

Clare Dyer in The Guardian reports Lord Philips irritation with the media when the LCJ spoke at the annual gathering for judges at the Mansion House. Lord Philips described media criticism of judges as “intemperate, offensive and unfair”. Lord Falconer has finally surfaced like a nuclear submarine after a long patrol to add his weight to the debate. He described the journo criticism of The Recorder of Cardiff, John Griffith Williams, as delivered with “venom”

All good stuff and it is good to see the judge’s defending themselves at a private dinner to which, possibly, journalists had been invited to witness…or, as this is not recorded in Dyer’s article, perhaps they sent a press release!
Maybe Lord Philips had a particular type of tabloid journo in mind, one who chooses to believe the sterotype of a judge. I doubt whether many broadsheet journos would even think that judges, today, are out of touch… well..there we are. Far more problematic for the judges and the legal process generally (let alone ‘justice’) – politicians whipping up support by using their media power to make unfortunate remarks about judges, cases or even in some cases, possibly pressurising the Attorney General indirectly into taking or not taking action on a particular appeal.

Anyway it is good to know that judges are among us in society – although it has to be said, thankfully, there aren’t too many down at The Swan in Chiswick where I seem to spend much of my leisure time in their wonderful courtyard garden. Apropos of The Swan’s garden – it received a write up in The Times at the weekend. Result ? Full of Times readers last night – few of whom, pleasingly, could get a table because the regulars aren’t stupid. They know what time to arrive. There was a certain pleasure in seeing a few ‘Times reading aliens’ look appalled that a table could not be provided for them – and one supercilious couple asked me haughtily if they could ‘have part of the table’ – it seated eight – where five of us were seated. I had to tell them that there was a prospect that the Editor of Tribune (another Swan regular) and his partner may be joining us, as they do on occasion. A film producer friend, who seems to be living at the Swan these days, simply glowered like Hitchcock – they left. Curious how territorial one can be when there are ‘strangers’ about. The truth is – had they been friendly and personable OR, for some of our number – beautiful women who were miraculously single and who enjoyed the company of single men – I suspect that they would have been welcome. Such is life.

G8 – and with one bound Merkel was free

Yo Merkel?

After the ludicrous ‘Yo Blair” episode where Bush and Blair talk about world problems in a very bizarre way – not realising the microphone was ‘live’ – it seems (from the picture) that Bush tried to put his point of view to Chancellor Merkel of Germany in a more forceful way. This, however, is not the case. I was browsing around BoingBoing, which I do most days, and found this extraordinary picture and story. Apparently, Bush walked into the conference room, walked up to Merkel and started to give her an ‘unsolicited’ massage. It is good to know that the World is still in capable hands. Yo Putin, next? Mind you, President Putin of Russia, is an expert in Judo from the good old KGB days and has even written a book about it…. so sidling up to Putin from behind would be really dumb. You may buy Putin’s book on Amazon.

An open and shut case?

I was going to write about this case – but Geeklawyer beat me to it. His piece is worth reading. Geeklawyer, if you read his blog, has extensive experience of Civil Liberties (I have not met him) and while he is robust in his views and has some very amusing rants on his site – this is a serious piece. So – here it is.

What troubles me about the case was the need to shoot 7 bullets into the head, or even to shoot at all. I can understand the need for a specialist firearms officer in a close quarter battle situation, where there is clear and immediate danger to the public, having to shoot to kill. But was that the case here? Perhaps the IPCC report will clear this important point up.
Liberty point out that the ongoing secrecy is unnaceptable and that the IPCC report has still not been published “Suggestions that the Metropolitan Police Commissioner has yet to be interviewed as to what he knew and said about the shooting such a long time ago are equally disturbing. Such delays help neither the difficult work of the police nor public confidence in secret procedures for the use of lethal force.”

Knifed to death in the name of honour

Few will not have read the horrific story of Azhar Nazir who was knifed to death by her brother and a cousin because she wanted to marry her boyfriend and not have a husband forced on her as part of an arranged marriage. The BBC Story covers the facts
Nirpal Dhaliwal, writing in the Evening Standard today brings a breath of reason and rational thinking to bear with his piece. I quote from his work:

“Such crimes are the inevitable result of a liberal multiculturalism that encourages religious and ethnic minorities to regard themselves as separate entities within Britain. Some people are so removed from mainstream life, and accustomed to authorities turning a blind eye, they think they can behave with impunity.

Last year the government produced a paper on forced marriages but the proposal to criminalise those who coerce young women into them has been shelved. Unwilling to worsen its relations with the Muslim community, the government is colluding with the oppression of thousands of young British women.”

Dhaliwal’s words struck a chord. Many years ago I knew a family from Pakistan. They came to Britain. They are deeply religious – the Father only wanted the best for his daughters. I remember we talked about culture, religion and the subject of arranged marriages. He was forthright. He told me that he would treat his daughters with dignity and allow them to choose the men they wished to marry. I asked how he would feel if they married outside Islam or even wished to marry a European. He smiled and asked me what reply I expected – a clever response, which I did not rise to. He told me that he would support whatever decision his daughters came to provided they truly loved the men they wished to marry. He wasn’t from a middle class background in Pakistan. He had not been to university. His wisdom came from an open mind and a love for his family. I thought of him when I read this story.

Easydeath and other matters

Orange coffin anyone?

Sir Stelios is a man with many ideas – but I am sorry to read today in the Evening Standard (I found it on a train) that his plan to provide cheap funerals (under the ‘Easydeath’ label?) have died a death. Given that this is the man who launched an orange cruise ship with windowless cabins – it is not entirely surprising that he could consider a venture with orange coffins. Ah well… I shall just have to settle for the Co-op when I am called.

Did you know… that the origin of ‘Checkmate’ in Chess comes from the Farsi language spoken in Iran and Afghanistan? The original phrase is SHAH-K-MATE (every syllable pronounced) which means “The King is Dead”. Well… I did, simply because I play a lot of Chess – but there is a fascinating website on the origin of words on the net. Shaespeare is reputed to have coined 1600 words, including the word ‘Excellent’. Like most lawyers, I am fascinated by words – the website is worth looking at.
The origin of words website

Irish men nab trawler to get home after missing boat : two blokes miss the ferry, so they steal a trawler to sail home. Unfortunately they realise that they don’t know how to sail and call the Coastguard for help, believing they were speaking to the irish Coastguard. It was the British Coastguard. A lifeboat and helicopter were despatched to rescue the men who had been sailing around in circles and were only 12 miles away from Holyhead in British waters. Wonderfully daft. Story

Blogst in Space

Why do we want to know if we are not alone in space?

In a shallow attempt to ensure that there is at least some law in my posts – I am putting up a picture of the TV judge John Deed instead of an absurd picture of an alien. I feel there is a certain poetic symmetry of posting a picture of a fictional judge instead.

I have just found a website which allows you to blog in space. Last night, after completing my peroration on Geeklawyers new forum (Ibid ) – I went to my austere minimalist bedroom and lay down on my japanese futon. I made the mistake of turning on “Discovery Science’ on Sky.

I sipped a glass of Port (I do not keep Port in my minimalist bedroom – but I just fancied drinking some Portuguese Port as I had not done so for some time). On came a truly absurd and surreal programme about aliens and the fact that we are not alone in space.

First, we were introduced to some woman professor from a US university who had devoted twenty years of her life to sending radio signals into space in the hope that those in other worlds may pick the signals up. The narrator – possibly an actor with no supermarket to open – informed me (I take television personally late at night) that distances are so large in space they had to be measured in light years, that light moved at 300,000 Km a second and therefore our nearest neighbours were 100,000 earth years away, at the very least, if they existed. Cut to a ludicrous picture of another actor dressed up as a caveman with beard and weird teeth to prove the point that 100,000 years ago our ancestors were not really capable of communicating with John Prescott or their friends, let alone sophisticated aliens from outer space. (Not that caveman would have been the recipient – because it would take a 100,000 years to get such a message if sent 100,000 years ago. But can you imagine what might happen if John Prescott, running the country while the PM is away on holiday, was the official British recipient of the message from outer space ?)

It became even more surreal when some very earnest american professors who talk quickly – like some of my friends do in London late at night when they have been quaffing – told us that they too had been doing nothing of any great value to society by sending radio signals into space – but with a fantastic satellite dish which could pick up my mobile phone conversations on Jupiter if the need arose. Apparently they have been sending “I Love Lucy” television programmes into space in a vain attempt to seduce the highly sophisticated aliens to come and visit us.

It then behoved the narrator to say (accompanying footage: film of some star wars like space ship hovering over the earth, about to destroy it) that even if aliens do visit Earth they might not like ‘our primitive and savage species’ and kill us anyway. He was also of the opinion that world leaders would not be able to resist the urge to communicate with these aliens – which could be very dangerous indeed.

I had to drink some more Port to dull the pain caused by what I was watching. I thought to myself, as I watched this nonsense “What world leaders or countries would be mad enough to start an unprovoked attack on an alien spaceship?” Funnily enough I came up with quite a few – US, UK, a few EU states, Iraq (in the old days), Iran, Israel, Hizbollah, India, Pakistan, Syria, North Korea….and Zidane. Mercifully, I was able to pull the electricity cable out of the wall and get to sleep. I could take no more.

I ended my late night throughts by reflecting on the proposition that the work of astronomers, no matter how worthy, is actually a fantastic waste of time, energy and money – when the billions that are spent on this research could be applied to many other things. Being partisan – a small part of the cost of funding the Mars exploration vehicle designed by that wonderful English professor with the mutton chop sideburns, whose name if have forgotten, (the Mars vehicle which crashed) – could be spent on ensuring that those selfless QCs and senior barristers, who devote their lives to defending criminals on legal aid, could maintain their lifestyles and not get into a ‘strapped for cash’ situation because Lord Falconer wishes to rein them in. I was also reminded that these astronomy professors and other assorted scientific boffins, who hang around waiting for aliens to get in touch, were doing something as futile as being a Liberal MP waiting for power…no wonder some of them go off the rails.

About two years ago I was at a dinner party in West London with a couple of actor friends of mine. I was, of course, well into the juice when I arrived, and I happened to remark to my hostess, that one of the guests looked like the Klingon in Star Trek. She smiled at me and told me it was because he WAS the actor who played the part of the Klingon. Nice chap. Don’t think he was terribly impressed by my references to  Darth Vader because he kept telling me that he had been in Star Trek not Star Wars.

Well there we are.


LATER EDIT… I could not sleep, for want of thinking about who that British Prof was…..here is the Prof with the Mutton chop sideburns. Professor Pillinger with his Mars Explorer. Nothing like a bit of ‘googling’ late at night. Typed in ‘mad explorer’…and was asked ‘Do you mean ‘Mars Explorer ?”

No… I am making that bit up… Google isn’t that clever

The price of everything…the value of nothing

Bow Street MagsBow Street Mags hears last case 14th July

Purely by chance, I happened to be at Pizza Express in Covent Garden on Friday at 3.00 having a meeting. I had been invited to have tea at The Savoy – but they don’t let people wearing bright yellow motorbike helmets and leather jackets into the celebrated salon (I have no problem with that) so I chose Pizza Express as a convenient meeting venue.

I saw the last criminal coming out the doors, feted like a celebrity, a homeless man who received a conditional discharge for breaking an ASBO – a far cry from the serious criminals like Crippen, The Krays, Lord Haw-Haw and Oscar Wilde (A serious criminal?) who started their journeys to British Justice at that very court.

Bow Street has been running for 270 years. The Bow Street runners, a pre-cursor to the Police, were founded in 1750. Wikipedia has the info.

Now it is to be turned into a ’boutique hotel’ by an irish property developer – god help us. It seems the cash strapped government did not want to preserve this building for posterity. It could have been used as a training venue for police officers, budding lawyers, and others involved in law enforcement. It could have been used for films. It could have been used as a court room by law schools in London – it could even have been used as a museum of criminality and law enforcement. But no…it is to be turned into a hotel. A missed opportunity, I think, perhaps typical of a government which knows the price of everything, (whither the price of a peerage these days?) but seem to know the value of nothing.

A different kind of honour

Today I was invited to join Geeklawyer’s forum – which I really appreciated. It makes a change from being asked by ‘persons unknown’ if I want a peerage or Viagra and, to be frank – if I was an american, which I am not, I would probably have written a self help book to express my warmth and felt ‘validated’.

Thankfully I am not in a green jump suit and manacles, surrounded by burger eating US Marshalls, after a non-reciprocal extradition to The USA, so I decided to make my first post on his forum reflect the pleasures of a night out at my local. I have a feeling Geeklawyer’s forum will be a good place to visit for the more anarchic among you. You may reach it here. And if you wish to gain some insight into what Charon does at The Swanon Friday nights…look at the ‘Miscellaneous’ thread in the LAWYERS section – or here

RollonFriday competition

RollonFriday usually has unusual items and this week they have got into the spirit of things with a brand new competition…I quote from the News of 14th July
Ridiculous application form competition

Inspired by messages on our discussion board, we are looking for the most ridiculous questions asked by law firms at interviews or in application forms.

The discussion was prompted by a question on Withers’ training contract application form – “to which fictional character do you most relate, and why?”. And the suggested answer of “the fatty who gets done from behind in Deliverance” showed a clear understanding of the nature of the partner/trainee relationship.

Withers can’t be alone in this. So please let us know the most ridiculous question you’ve faced, either on an application form or at interview. And, if you were on good form at the time, what was your answer?”

Click here to get the RoF application form – if you win, they will send you a RollonFriday tee-shirt.

Bowl line and length

Cricket“Cricket needs brightening up a bit. My solution is to let players drink at the beginning of the game, not after. It always works in our picnic matches.” – Paul Hogan

I enjoy cricket – 5 days of subtle warfare, rather more interesting than the one day series (which we aren’t terribly good at) and, as I write, during my lunch hour, England are at 412-4 with P D Collingwood heading towards the double century.

Hang on…. 412-4. I have been drinking espresso for much of the morning. This can’t be? But… it is. The BBC never get cricket wrong.

On the final day of the Ashes tour last year I went with a group of friends to The Bollo, a gastropub nearby, managed by a sportsmad Australian. We sat at a long table watching the plasma screen. We drank wine (Rioja), Guinness, Rose and all manner of things. The Aussie, Ashley, was nervous. It looked as if England might recover The Ashes. We signalled our desire for more booze to Ashley with various Umpire signals. Hand raised aloft ( a Six) meant – another class of Rose, The signal for a boundary was a Rioja and ‘Out’ the raised finger, crooked in the manner of the famous umpire who uses that signal – meant a Guinness. It was a great afternoon. I celebrated this famous victory by filling a box of ‘Bollo’ matches with cigarette ash and taped it up with sellotape after getting all present to sign the box – including our Aussie host, Ashley. We called it “Ashley’s Ashes”. Codebreaker, who writes on my blawg, varnished it to create a look of antiquity and I mounted the box on a small rosewood plinth. I have this box in my possession – but Ashley, who stills runs the Bollo, reminds me that vengeance is coming and November is not far away. He has cleared a spot on the Bar display cabinet for “Ashley’s Ashes’..if (when) Australia win “The Ashes”.

Well, injury, illness and weird stuff from Trescothick, has weakened the England side – Vaughn and Flintoff are, for the moment, out, Jones is injured, as is Giles – but it is looking good as I listen to the commentary today. Nothing like listening to a bit of cricket while one ploughs through some work. God help me… I’m turning into one of those characters from “Last of The Summer Crime”

No loans here…

Well of course I didn’t actually go to Downing Street this morning to ask for a loan. That would have been a preposterous idea. What if I had gone to No 10 to offer to make a loan?.. a modest amount..what would I have been told?

The Loans for Honours scandal rumbles on and now that Special Directorate Plod have got their teeth stuck into a few of the protagonists (and who knows if Mr Blair will be interviewed?) and the fourth estate are circling in bloodied waters, hyperventilating, we can be absolutely certain that this story will not go away until all is revealed.

Downing Street accept (Blair has said that the buck stops with him on this issue) that it must only be a matter of time before Blair is interviewed by the Police. The Guardian covers the issue.

My advice? Let the Deputy Prime Minister handle it…give him something to do and should puzzle the Police for a while. I’ve just read the transcript of John Humphrey’s interview with John Prescott. Classic stuff. Here it is.

Is there any truth in the story that potential Hansard writers are asked to report Mr Prescott’s utterances in parliament before being passed, to coin a phrase ‘fit for the purpose’?

I hope the Beeb will forgive me – but this is one of the bits which left me almost crying with laughter…pure madness. I have copied from the report linked above – which is the full transcript.

“Today I’ll be opening the Wilberforce Centre in Hull with the president of Ghana. I mean, these are the things I’m involved in in the job, John, and I get on with it.

JH: But isn’t the problem this, that you are the Deputy Prime Minister, that job requires a certain amount of dignity in its holder. The view is that you have lost that dignity, and in the views of many people, um, that you have become a bit of a figure of fun.

You know that as well as I do. Is it tenable that you should hold on under these circumstances?

JP: Well, I mean, others have to make judgements about that. I’ll try to do my job, I can’t avoid that.

They will make it clear to me in one way or another, right, and I have to take these things into account. But you became a figure of fun not so long ago, when you made that speech and somebody leaked it, John. You know the fierce storm…

JH: I’m not the deputy prime minister, though.

JP: Well no but you act very much like it, I’m bound to say, but you are paid by the taxpayer, are you not?”

He wasn’t drinking…but if he was, I want to know what it was because I’d like to try some.

Human condition: daft?

TigerI have done over 12 hours work today and my mind can take no more. I decided that I would relax, pre-yardarm, by seeing how many examples of ‘daftness’ I could find in the Press. It did not take long. Fark is always a good source.

First up – we have the case of a 19 year old girl having her arm chewed by a rare tiger at Dublin Zoo. Apparently, she crossed two fences, waded through some vegetation and put her arm through a 20 foot high fence. She had been drinking according to the report. The tiger found her arm very attractive. The tiger will not be destroyed.

Then we have The Sun reporting that ‘chart sensation’ Lily Allen says she will celebrate a No 1 by taking ‘Gak’ (Cocaine) – no doubt, her producer from the record company will be absolutely delighted that she has chosen to reveal this to The Sun and her customers, who are probably fairly impressionable young people. But, not content with this, Lily reveals that she started on drugs when she 13, took the view “Not that drugs are good but if you do them in moderation then they’re fine.” and then, just to make sure her record company took note, she slagged off Kylie Minogue – who is managed by the same record company. She’ll go far.

And finally..when I didn’t think it could get that much more inane…we have Chain Saw Man (again, from The Sun – don’t they have normal stories in The Sun ?)

“A MAN who tried to burst into a bar with a revving chainsaw has been banned from every pub in Britain. “

Right…quite enough of that… it is time to shower and consider which Red I shall drink of tonight. I shall return to more mundane and more serious matters – but, possibly, not tonight.

Shock Doctorror

I have this day been awarded a Ph.D by the University of Winnebago, USA, for my experience of life (the universe and everything?) and the cap fits well, if somewhat bizarrely. As it happens, the red mortar board is quite hot, but I can tell you, when I swanned into The Swan in ‘North Chiswick’ last night wearing it, I was greeted with reverence – which is not usually the case.

No…of course I did not realise that the Institution is a sham, nor, when I bunged them $3000, that I was the victim of a cruel scam.

Difficult to avoid – but there is an interesting libel case going on in the High Court with hypnotist, Paul McKenna (Who has a legit Ph.d) suing over a ‘bogus’ Ph.d claim. The Guardian report tells the story well, so it need not be rehearsed here – and it is lunch time and I have little time for elaboration.

Briefly: Victor Lewis-Smith wrote in The Mirror (2003) that McKenna’s first Ph.d was a sham – “It’s a load of doc and bull”. The Guardian reports: “In fact, La Salle university was not as it seemed: in late 1996 the former president, Thomas Kirk, admitted to the FBI that it was not officially accredited; the following year he was jailed for five years for fraud. “

It will be interesting to see what the High Court decides about the alleged libel. I shall now strip myself of my unearned Ph.D (but keep the cap for occasional nights out) and leave the Ph.d earning to those who have to work extremely hard to get them – and then wander what they are going to do with them.

EDIT: 28 JULY  McKenna wins libel case  Here is my brief observation on that

ID card fiasco in the best British tradition

Having to carry another bit of plastic about does not trouble me unduly – what troubles me is what that bit of plastic can do. Yes, it is unlikely that I will have anything to worry about because I don’t tend to get involved in terrorism, drug running, bank robbery or any other conduct likely to bring terror to the streets of Great britain. Would ID cards have prevented 7/7? The general view, seems not. Can we be absolutely sure that ID cards cannot be forged? The jury is undecided. If fraudulent estate agents can get fake passports for £750 quid, and ‘villains’ seem to be quote adept with modern technology, it is more than probable that ID cards can be forged, iris lenses will be developed and fingerprints faked – enough, at least to defeat computer technology. Who knows.

We are on more certain ground with the proposition that there are civil servants ‘holding their heads in their hands’ explaining that they explained that the computer systems simply won’t work. The government, of course, has an impeccable record rolling out computerised systems on time, on budget and which work. However… it seems that the government is softening up the British public for the disappointment that we will not have ID cards on time, or at all. See: Independent article

However.. I shall not be disappointed if the ID card plan is buried. Gordon Brown is rumoured to be not keen on the idea and, as for the Tories, who knows what they will think if and when they get into power – because their views at the moment are, at best, unformed – pre-election posturing is easy.

I have no desire for the government to be able to track my movements to various pubs, bars, parts of the country and sundry other places when my card is swiped.

One way ticket to an orange jumpsuit?

Tomorrow the Natwest Three will fly to the US guarded by US Marshalls and will be detained, for some time in a Texaxs penitentiary pending trial, unless they reach agreement with the Houston authorities on bail. The House of Lords declined to hear their appeal.

The US authorities want $1million each and the deeds to houses as security, prompting Mark Spragg, lawyer for the three me, to say “The US authorities are starving them of the money to pay their lawyers.”

Both Houses of Parliament expressed opposition last night to the future extradition of British nationals until the US ratify the UK-US extradition treaty. Baroness Scotland is being sent to the US to urge the Senate to ratify.

The Telegraph reports Maurice Mendelson, QC, the emeritus professor of law at London University, as saying: “My chief concern about the case of the NatWest Three is the lack of reciprocity in the operation of the extradition treaty. On the whole, extradition law is based on each state accepting the same obligations.”

Sir Digby Jones, the former CBI director general, warned: “It is going to take a long, long time for the business community to forgive the Government for this.”

Meanwhile Blair, who pledged to ‘do everything he can’ to ensure the Natwest Three get bail, has not succeeded. Another example of our special relationship?

PS…  Apparently the Three will not be wearing orange jumpsuits for their court appearance.  They will be green – but they will be in chains. Why the chains?   Are they likely to bolt?  Are they likely to headbutt the judge?

Deus et natua non faciunt frusta

God and Nature do not work together in vain

The online Telegraph reports that lawyers in top 50 firms are turning into millionaires with the splendidly rich partners at Slaughter & May leading the way breaking the £1 million barrier per partner. Lovell’s partners have, according to the same article, been told to work harder to sustain profitability with billable hour targets being raised to 2,200

Marginally over refreshed at the weekend

Ordinarily I would not draw attention to the fact that I might have overdone the juice. I went onto Geeklawyer’s blog (which I enjoy) late on Saturday night and found myself posting a question on one of his entries.. Unfortunately, I got carried away and started posting on his blog comments section because I could not remember the password to mine – a temporary state, addressed by looking up an email. Reviewing a post, I realised with horror that it was littered with typos. Unable to correct these typos I decided that I would send some more posts – bizarrely, including one to try and cover up my inebriated state.  WordPress informed me that my comment had been sent to the headmaster’s study for moderation. So I had a bit more Rioja.

This is Geeklawyers response:

  1. Geeklawyer Says:
    July 9th, 2006 at 12:43 pm Your posts were indeed passed to me for moderation by WordPress but were felt to be appropriate to the enebriated spirit of this blog: the image of a drunken barrister editing the the manifestly sozzled writings of a fellow lawyer being impossible to resist. As was the idea of him being too pissed to edit his own blog so instead writing on mine. Great.Absum.

Mea culpa. I will have to fit a breathalyser to my blog.

Le Headbutt

HeadbuttTo Zidane?

It is probably best, given my poor knowledge of football, that I do not add to the acres of coverage on the world cup by commenting on the World Cup Final – but I thought it might be of some interest to refresh my knowledge of the art of headbutting, so ably demonstrated to the world by Zidane last night.

My first port of call was Wikipedia, where the subject has been covered in some depth.

A headbutt is a strike with the head, typically involving the use of robust parts of the cranium as area of impact. Effective headbutting revolves around striking a sensitive area with a less sensitive area, such as striking the nose of an opponent with the forehead. A misplaced headbutt can cause more damage to the person performing the headbutt than to the person receiving it.

The Wikipedia entry, thoughtfuly, provides a picture to demonstrate an advanced form of the technique.

So.. the World Cup is over, the flags have been removed from vans and cars (and my glasses) and the media circus moves on… Ingerland now has two years under a new coach to win Euro 2008 and Rooney got away with a two match ban. Italy, when the celebrations are over, can get down to the vexed question of issuing pardons to clubs involved in usual practices.

Perhaps Dame Vera Lynn could sing us out?…“We’ll meet again…don’t know where…don’t know Sven…. But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day.”

Civil liberties being stripped away – slowly

“Blair laid bare: the article that may get you arrested
In the guise of fighting terrorism and maintaining public order, Tony Blair’s Government has quietly and systematically taken power from Parliament and the British people. The author charts a nine-year assault on civil liberties that reveals the danger of trading freedom for security – and must have Churchill spinning in his grave”

By Henry Porter: Independent
Published: 29 June 2006

I missed this article on 29 June.  It makes sobering reading. 

Two jobs MSP vows to give up law

Two jobsGlasgow Govan Labour Party has forced Gordon ‘Crackerjack’ Jackson MSP to give up his work as a highly paid QC according to the BBC so that he can ‘concentrate fully on his role in the Scottish Parliament – and in his constituency. Jackson states that there were never any problems with his constituency work but timetabling Parliament and Court appearances was difficult. The BBC reports that he tops up his £50,000 MSP salary with £240,000 worth of legal fees.

Clearly mindful that he won’t be able to go back on his promise by doing a spot of legals on the side, slyly, Jackson is reported as remarking : “My work’s in the public domain so it will become obvious what I’m doing.”

Regular readers of my blawg may recall that I bought a peerage some time ago but resiled when I found out that others were getting them cheaper. (I was shocked to read the report in the Evening Standard this last week that (unspecified) barristers had been buying them for £250,000 – no doubt the Attorney General will recognise who these barristers are when they pop up wearing the ermine and bring to bear the bright light of illumination?)

I have little to do this afternoon. Wimbledon bores me. The only tennis player I have ever enjoyed watching is McEnroe – although Boris was pretty good at the antics and a great player.

There is only so much fresh air one can take and I went for a 100 mile blast on my motorbike before lunch to test the observational skills of pedestrians, car drivers and traffic police. 3-0 to me, today and a sock over the number plate solves the Gatso problem (Only joking, officer).

So I am sitting in The Bollo, taking advantage of their wireless internet connection, sipping an espresso, Silk Cut in my left hand as I type – wandering in thought. I am wondering how many barrister and solicitor MPs in Parliament (The National one – chock full of Scots labour MPs who can meddle in English affairs) are also doing valuable legal work alongside their duties as an MP.

I googled “Lawyer MPs” and came up with a Guardian story which told me that there are 31 lawyers on the Labour benches – 13 barristers, four of whom sit in the Cabinet. This is not a large number – the lowest for some time. There are, according to the Guardian, as many lawyers on the Tory benches despite the Labour majority – and no doubt the Ming-Dems have a few lawyers knocking about. So let us say about 60-70 people to look at?

I then went to The Parliament website. Most interesting. There is an alphabetical list of MPs, classified by ‘Party’ and ‘Gender’ – but not by occupation. There is a limit, even for me on a Saturday, as to how much futility I can indulge in, and flogging through the alphabetical list of MPs to look at their websites or biographies defeated me.

I then had a brain wave. I am a subject of The United Kingdom. I can phone Parliament. So I did. I spoke to an official – a polite woman with a cut-glass accent who sighed slightly when I told her that I was writing about lawyer MPs and wished to know if there was a list of MPs who are lawyers. I was advised that it might be best to telephone back on Monday as the government of the country was closed for the weekend. I did not hear any suspicious clicking on my telephone line, so felt safe in thanking her for looking after Parliament over the weekend and said that I would call back on Monday.

I then had a rare moment of insight. The Lord Chancellor would know the answer. While I went to school with Charlie Falconer ( I don’t actually remember him from those days) I don’t happen to have his mobile number, so rang Selborne House – the ‘headquarters of the Department for Constitutional Affairs.’ Their office hours are 9.00 – 5.00, Monday to Friday.

M15 would, of course, know – and, probably also, if any lawyer MPs are also doing legals on the side. However, I am fairly sure that they don’t need another file marked ‘Charon’ and decided, since it is highly unlikely they would be closed, that I would not ring them.

So.. I am afraid, after a happy hour of research, I am no further forward. And all this because of an ambitious Scots QC MSP who is selflessly foregoing 240,000 quids worth of legals to serve the interests of his constituents.

Stuck for birthday gift ideas?

horseheadHorsehead pillow suit you?

It is Saturday afternoon and it is time to search the net for weird stuff.  It didn’t take me long – here is a gift which may not improve your credibility with partners, common law or legal, or even lawful, but it will certainly surprise your current partner if you are discreet about placing it. Before the last Mrs C gave herself to a life in the law she may have approved – but now, aware of the hindrances placed on our lives as human beings by law, the law and the new wave of anti-libertarian law makers led by the Lord Protector and Dr John Witchfinder of the Home Office, I suspect she would have to advise me that I owe a duty of care under Donoghue et al not to cause nervous shock to visitors who happen to enter my bedroom – including burglars. That I reserve the right to have a Samurai sword, a Victorian Police truncheon ( a bizarre Christmas gift from my former Mother in Law – 2nd marriage))  and handcuffs ( for those arresting moments) under my futon is a civil right, I suspect, that I may already have lost.

Anyway..there we are.  If you want to buy a Godfather style horse’s head pillow – you may do so here.  

Does the net have the answer to the future of mankind?

Hawking“What’s with this sudden spate of famous people asking questions on Yahoo Answers? Especially Stephen Hawking, of all people … surely you must have better things to do than talk to all us dumb schmucks?” said Qchan05.

Qchan05, whoever he is, is referring to an initiative by Yahoo who invited Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, Stephen Hawing, to post a question on the internet. Hawking posed the question: “How can the human race survive the next 100 years?”

Within two days Hawking received 16,000 responses. The Guardian picked up the story and if you want to read the original story – click here

On the assumption that we don’t global warm, nuclear bomb or bore ourselves to death with anti-smoking, anti-drinking and other assorted anti-libertarian laws, I remain confident enough about the future of the human race, as I perceive it, not to book a ticket on the first shuttle out of town – although the prospect of seeing a few world leaders, celebrities and the more odious rich being blasted off into space to live in a ‘new brave world’ does have some appeal.

Bereft of vision, wisdom or imagination this morning, after an amusing night on the Rioja – I am able only to come up with one question:  “How can the Ingerland football team win a world cup in the next 100 years?”

Mobile phone rage

JudgeUS judge loses it in court

Mobile phones can cause extreme and irrational irritation. I particularly detest certain idiotic ringtones which often preface equally asinine conversation, usually shouted because the moron using the phone thinks the person at the other end can’t hear he/she is having difficulty hearing what his/her caller is saying.

Here is a great story about a US judge who took direct and immediate action – when a mobile phone went off in court. It is worth a look

History matters

CromwellAn amusing story in The Independent caught my eye. Stephen Fry speaking at the launch of Heritage Sectors “History matters” campaign told of a difficult incident between Robin Cook, the then Foreign Secretary and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern. The Taiosaich walked into Cook’s office and walked straight out, saying “I’m not coming in until you have taken down that picture of that murdering bastard.”

Hanging on the wall was a picture of Cromwell. Fry said “It was a bit like hanging up a portrait of Eichmann before a visit of the Israeli Prime Minister. That shows that history does indeed matter.”

and… I just could not resist this from Private Eye’s WorldcupBalls:

“Beckham has one of the best passes in the game – provided there’s another player at the end of it ” ITV commentator

Happy Birthday Dubya

George is 60 today

Pic from a Voice for Freedom

Bizarrely, I was reading The Times of India online ( I honestly have absolutely no idea why) when I discovered that George Bush is 60 today. According to the newspaper, Bush has been commenting on his advancing years at every opportunity and even addressed the matter in his State of the Union speech as a ‘personal crisis’ – although some say that this could be a world crisis in the making.

Ordinarily, I would not be that interested in Mr Bush’s birthday, but today is no ordinary day – so I set about the net to find some ephemera. It did not take me long to find a story which amused me.. here it is: Here is the story link

Even Bush’s Feces & Urine
Are Classified Top Secret
All Of It Captured And Flown Back From Europe

Apparently The White House flew in a special portable toilet to Vienna for Bush’s personal use during his visit. The mind boggles. But this is a matter of national security. The White House don’t want some enterprising foreign spy analysing the President’s body wastes to determine his medical condition. The article is strangely fascinating. Apparently the CIA used to test Gorbachev’s waste. The report also reveals that food for Bush was flown in and treated with special chmicals before he ate it. This may explain why the President is always so keen to slip away and eat cheeseburgers. I shall sleep soundly knowing that the world is safe again.

Even the Guardian mark his 60th with a Quiz: How much do you know about George Bush. (I failed miserably)


Blogger freedom?

boingboing is one of the blogs I visit regularly – eclectic, amusing, and usefully informative.  They picked up on a story about Singapore’s most famous blogger ‘Mr Brown’ – but it was the extract from a government spokesman’s announcement which interested me particularly

“It is not the role of journalists or newspapers in Singapore to champion issues, or campaign for or against the Government. If a columnist presents himself as a non-political observer, while exploiting his access to the mass media to undermine the Government’s standing with the electorate, then he is no longer a constructive critic, but a partisan player in politics.” 

Interestingly repressive view.  I shall reflect on these words and see what I am in the light of them.

Ingerland fightback?

Rooney History is a curious thing. Portugal is our oldest ally and rivalry between England and France, in many different forms, goes back to the time of the Norman Conquest. Yet not one of the ten or so watching Portugal lose to France in The Swan appeared to be supporting Portugal. The papers, of course, had a field day this morning.
I was sent this grim pastiche (left) this morning by one of my Ingerland supporting friends. You may already have seen it. It is going around the email circuit quite rapidly now.

I like both France and Italy – so I will take a leaf out of the Pope’s book and support each country for one half each and then support the winner. Nothing like a bit of papal bull.

World Cup over – let the Battle of the Law Schools begin

KnightsBPP Law School v The College of Law

Full marks to The Lawyer for a most amusing article written by John Parker (Who I had the pleasure of talking to this afternoon – thanks for permission to quote) on the war which is breaking out among the UK’s ‘Top’ (vocational) law schools. I use the term vocational with deliberation, since the epithet ‘top’ appears to be given to these LPC providers and I would not wish to confuse a vocational law school with a ‘top’ academically oriented university.

Let me set the scene with a quote from The Lawyer article:

“London’s legal education market has just got hotter than ever before. Not only will the College of Law and BPP Law School be opening second sites in London in September to house a further 1,500 students, but rival Nottingham Law School (NLS) is planning to launch in the capital in conjunction with US business training giant Kaplan next autumn”

Nottingham Law School is probably the best vocational law school in the country. I say probably, because they have maintained a perfect record of ‘Excellent’ grades on their LPC for years – something which neither BPP nor The College of Law have, yet, managed to do – although The College now has the prized ‘Commendable’ award for their LPC in London. BPP had an excellent rating but it went down to ‘Very Good’ for their London venue in a recent inspection round (April 2005). [Other BPP venues have yet to be assessed by The Law Society under the new scheme and are likely to receive a high rating. The BPP Law School in Manchester has been graded in the top classification for all categories]

Addendum: 6th July – I am grateful to Jo Green, of The Law Society,  for pointing me to the new grading schme which replaces the old Excellent to Satisfactory grades which applied before.  Here is the Explanation of the new system

Well…it seems that the Nottingham Law School / Kaplan ‘axis of commercial enterprise’ has not met with the approval of the two heavyweights in London LPC provision, Nigel Savage, CEO of The College of Law and Peter Crisp, CEO of BPP Law School. Does it sound to me like worry over additional high quality provision in London or worry about their collective domination of market share in London being swept away from under their feet?

Let us look at the evidence, in so far as it exists from the existing source of The Lawyer article.

“Kaplan will use them like we used them and then they’ll be dumped,” snorts Peter Crisp, chief executive of BPP Law School. “Why else would Kaplan be doing it?”

[As it happens Mike Semple Piggot, CEO of SPR, which publishes Consilio/Legal Practitioner online magazines, was the (founding) CEO of BPP Law School at the time. Nigel Savage was, in fact, Dean of Nottingham Law School. The co-operation between BPP and Nottingham – revolutionary at the time, did change the face of legal education because it permitted a private sector teaching institution to get a foothold in this sector of education. Mike Semple Piggot recalls a formal agreement between BPP and Nottingham which worked well for both parties.]

Nigel Savage, CEO, The College of Law, rides, lance held high with great pace, with the comment (again, extracted from The Lawyer report):

“Nottingham is giving birth to another competitor,” he declares. “It’s not about what’s in the contract, it’s about building up sustainability in another provider.”

Savage, not unreasonably, questions Kaplan’s record by owning non American Bar accredited Concord Law School and ‘little known’ Holborn College. He cannot, of course, question Nottingham’s excellent pedigree which he, Peter Jones, Phil Knott, Bob White and others established in the early 1990s and which has been sustained since.

I have some misgivings about elitism in legal education. The Big Two in London have sown up some mouth watering contracts with big firms and the price of LPC courses is rising. Nottingham, almost certainly, will bring their ‘excellence’ to London and maybe London students, who can’t get into the Big Two because they are stuffed to the gunnels with City trainees (or who do not choose to work for a big City firm – yes, that is a possibility) , will have a chance of getting a great course without having to go up to Nottingham. Charon welcomes this development and will watch with interest.

Mike Semple Piggot is contacting all the protagonists to find out more and either there will be an article under his name on Consilio / Legal Practitioner or through Charon – depending on the gravity of the matter. As this is not a ‘gravity article’ I am allowed to comment here.

My final observation again relies on John Parker’s acuity in asking the key questions. John makes the point that Kaplan are rich. He suggested that Kaplan would have no real difficulty in recruiting staff if they paid top dollar (hinting at a concomittant reduction in quality of staff available to other providers?)

Peter Crisp, somewhat amusingly for a CEO of a law school owned by a very successful education and training PLC, remarked:

“Kaplan have to return value to shareholders and they can’t just write blank cheques.”

Peter… I have bad news for you. Kaplan have the ability and resources to pay top dollar and I have a feeling they will. Certainly Mike Semple Piggot recalls that BPP Law School was generous in paying good fees to lecturers when establishing the LPC and BVC accreditations – a policy which seems to have been quite successful in giving return to BPP shareholders on the assumption that BPP Law School is doing rather well.

I may return to this. I may not. Maybe it will be dealt with in more detail by Consilio if the story develops into something with too much gravitas for Charon to trouble with.

A little light relief and other things?

Need a telefoto lens for your mobile?
You see some strange sights in London, but, as yet, I have not seen anyone with a telefoto lens on their mobile. It can only be a matter of time with this nifty device. I am grateful to a German lawyer for sending me the link to the website. Unfortunately, I don’t speak German so I will have to take his word for it! If you do speak german and want a telefoto for your mobile here is the place to go.

NameHere is a man who will give you $25,000 if you give him a name. He wants to change his name from Aaron Schwarz and can’t be bothered to choose a name for himself. Many law firms and, I suspect, quite a few barristers, would be happy to act on a matter for such a fee. Unfortunately it is on a ‘No win, No fee’ basis.
Try your luck / skill?

Career Still thinking about your career path?

Here is a website which may assist you. I wanted to be a surgeon. Probably made the wrong choice, but at least I can drink Rioja every night without worrying about cutting off the wrong leg the next morning.

Quite an amusing diversion if you fancy a look

Cutting up the pie, a postscript to baubles (infra)

PartnerWhat do you call a lawyer who can’t get into equity?

I enjoyed Edward Fennel’s observations about “of Counsel” in relation to the dilemma faced by partners at Herbert Smith who did not wish to dilute the profits of the ‘favoured ones’ by having too many partners, yet wished to retain hard working associates who might be tempted by offers of partnerships from other firms. It also gives me an opportunity to try out the ‘Trackback” feature on my blawg. Here is the original article.

Edward Fennel observed… “My gripe, were I amongst them, is the adoption of the grating Americanism “Of Counsel”. Come on, we’re British – the English language can do better than this.”

Yes.. I agree. One could be boring and call them salaried partners but that may irritate the more senior hard working associates who missed equity some years before.. “Associate partner”?

Unfortunately, it is now 5.20 am, I have not retired to lie in state on my futon and I can only offer the title Consigliere – the Italian term for adviser or counsellor. [From Latin consiliarius, from consilium, advice.] But as Italy managed to beat Germany in the football last night – it seems appropriate. German fans had been singing “Berlin, Berlin, wir fahren nach Berlin” (Berlin, Berlin, we’re going to Berlin) for much of the tournament. I gather Italian fans sang it to the Germans, in German, at the end of the match. I am becoming quite adept at shoe horning world cup facts into conversations to demonstrate my credentials as a Camerounian… which I do to give some comfort to my Tory friends that I am not one with The Lord Protector, that I am not contemplating going into monastic life with the Ming-Dems and that I have little enthusiasm for his likely successor from Reservoir Dogs… “Mr Dour”.

Awards, Honours and baubles

Edward Fennel writing on his Times Blog discussed the recent The Lawyer awards. I derive, I have to admit, some pleasure in quoting from his opening paragraph…

“If you can’t win a prize tonight then you might as well give up,” said Rory Bremner, the host of The Lawyer Awards held at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London last night. And indeed the list of categories was so long that it had to be compressed into a couple of zip-files to enable the wilting guests to get away before the witching hour (even if it did not feature that much-vaunted but mythical award for ‘Best use of a derivative in Belarus’).

As someone from the dark side of politics, the old left, and a Scot to boot (albeit London living for 30 years, who supports Ingerland and who can’t stand haggis, whisky, deep fried mars bars or braveheart bigotry) I am a bit baffled as to why anyone would want a peerage (let alone lend money to the government or make a donation to get one). I suppose one could regard it as a bit of a revenue earner, like a Google Ad on a website, in the sense that one can pick up a bit of money for turning up – and, possibly, because of the propensity for craven behaviour (in some) when faced with the enobled or titled; doors, closed to lesser beings, open and tables in some restaurants may become free. Knighthoods, in the various gradations loved by the British, are a puzzle to me. I would not want one – nor am I likely to get one, but if I did get offered one, I would have to text the Palace to decline.. “thnx m8 not4me”.

I remember when Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones got a knighhood. Was it Keith Richards who said.. “I’m not going on stage with someone dressed in F***ing ermine”? It is ironic that popstars, rebels in their own lunchtime, gladly receive these honours in later life, often without the slightly ludicrous explanation “This knighthood is for the whole company”. No it isn’t. Ben in accounts is no better off. Helen in admin isn’t going to find her life radically improved.

Anyway…moving on, but before I do – one last passing shot. We know that LORD Archer did a bit of time (His three books on his prison experience are sufficient testimony for anyone on this) yet retains his ‘Honour’. The recent “House of Loans” scandal and the award of knighthoods to popstars, spies (Blunt), people who fall off boats in the Med (Maxwell) and a host of other people from Showbiz who some would like to see in “Room 101” lead me to the conclusion that I rather enjoy being “Citizen Charon” – although I can’t even be that while I remain described as a “Subject of the United Kingdom” in my passport. OK, OK… I awarded myself the title QC, but only because The Lord Chancellor, who did try to abolish himself, suspended the award to those who deserve it. On that note, as it is 4.50 am – I shall return to my futon to try and get another hour of sleep.

Blair gets blamed for Italy taxi law

Italy’s taxis go on strike against plan for ‘Blairite’ deregulation
The Independent: 4th July

I was sipping an espresso this morning when I came across this headline on The Independent website. I could not resist.

“Italy’s notoriously surly taxi drivers went on strike yesterday in the first of a series of planned protests against a “Blairite” decree law introduced by the centre-left government of Romano Prodi to liberalise the economy by depriving various trades and professions of restrictive market privileges.”

The Italian taxi drivers may or may not be surly but I do like the idea of a group of taxi drivers criticising the Italian government for bringing in ‘Blairite’ reforms. Perhaps The Lord Protector has spent so much time in Italy the Italians regard him as one of their own?

Meanwhile I am finding, increasingly, on the rare occasions I leave West London by mini-cab, that I have to drive the taxi myself (or at least do all the directions/map reading) because the firm I have used for years has taken to employing drivers from Afghanistan. Some of them are amazing in their knowledge of London – but I had the misfortune recently to have one Afghan driver who did not even know where The Strand was. It was not great – but he beamed and told me he had GPS in his cab. It was only when I realised he was heading back to “Strand on The Green” (co-incidentally where the taxi firm is based) that I realised he had not understood my wish to go to “The Strand”. He had an A-Z, thanfully, so I was able to point at the map and guide him vaguely in the right direction. It was quite a journey. I did more directing than the increasingly hysterical voice coming from the GPS unit mounted on his dashboard. I gave him the fare and asked for a tip. He looked bemused. I said it was customary in London to give the driver a tip – and that as I had done all the directions/map reading , he should give me a tip. I waived my ‘tip’ because I was pretty sure he would need the cash to refit his steering wheel mounted airbag at some stage on the journey back to Chiswick, via Barnsley.

Thanks to Nick Holmes….

It is down to encouragement from Nick Holmes, Binary Law and InfoLaw supremo, that I have come from the age of the dawn of man ‘html land’ to the 21st Century of WordPress software for my blawg.

It seems to do everything I need and you may even comment, should you wish to. I do, of course, reserve the right to delete any inappropriate posts. Unfortunately, the software does not correct typos – so they will, I am sure, remain a feature of my blawg.

New Look Consilio/Legal Practitioner newswire

consilioNew look for Consilio – the online magazine for students and Legal Practitioner Newswire (the variant for practitioners)

The Editors are particularly keen for practising barristers and solicitors who wish to publish articles and reach a wider audience to get in touch.  You may do this by emailing Mike Semple Piggot msp@spr-law.com

The magazines are free and are updated daily with articles, features, legal round ups,  daily legal news, law reports and my own blawg.

Ephemera and some useful stuff…

CharonTalk Digger is a web application that helps users to find, follow and join conversations evolving on the Internet. It’s a search engine using the link-back feature of many other search engines.

Type in your URL and see who is talking about your site and what they have to say.
Talk Digger returns results from Technorati, Google, MSNSearch, Bloglines, Blogpulse, Yahoo, Blogdigger, Feedster and Digg.

hoodie Hoodie accessories – It is too hot for the ‘hoodies’ these days. What do they do? Do they just stay indoors, waiting for cooler days before they come back out to do their business? We now have the answer.

belt People invading your space?
It just is not a problem now with this belt with a flag on it reading “Excuse me. Makes a change from sticking a flag on your car.  You could I suppose, even brand it with the name of your law firm or chambers. I wander what the Health & Safety at Work people would think of this ?

“Been injured in the street by an ‘Excuse me belt’?  Log on to Ambulancechasers.com and soon you will have a cheque in your hands.”

And so..on the 4th of July

Geeklawyer bikeWhile I am reminded a bit of journalists interviewing each other when there is no news to report on, I was pleased to find that Geeklawyer took some pleasure in the brief mention I gave his blog on my ‘pre-historic’ blawg, the old version.

Enjoying the comment on his website “the monstrously vain Geeklawyer will read anything less than physical violence as praise”, I looked at his ‘About us’ section and discovered a fellow biker. That is Geeklawyer’s bike – a useful bit of kit. Having bored my non-footballing friends with my fairly ‘untutored’ comments about football during the world cup, I am not about to embark on a motor bike fest, other than to say that I have now had over fifteen different bikes from Fireblades, R1s, and Ducati’s through to Blackbirds and street bikes. They keep me sane.

Blogroll – I have put Geeklawyer’s blog on my blogroll (Nick Holmes of Binary Law was right – this software is fairly useful!). I shall be putting other blogs up shortly.

Royal Courts in heatwave dispensation
It is heartening to see that barristers were permitted to remove their wigs in court yesterday. I have a friend whose wig is a truly incredible object, yellowed with age, battered (but unbowed) and sits in an old tin box seething with malicious intent. Do barristers enjoy wearing wigs? Some do. It makes clear that they are not solicitors. Is there really any need, in the 21st Century, for men and women, of our century to look like extras in a historical drama? Legal news is a bit short on the ground at the moment – but I was prompted to write by seeing this news in my tabloid of choice, The Miror, who were doing the usual ‘scorcher’ article and dragging up all manner of nonsense on the current heatwave, including the news of the RCJ wig dispensation.

 

 

 

 

Another four years to wait

Svensational or Sick as a gutted parrot? – I didn’t have the chance to put a question to Sven – but if I had, I suspect the answer may have been a follows…

“It was a long hard road and the journey was difficult. But at the end of the day it was not posible to go forward any more. Some of you say that I did not know what I was doing all the time. You are wrong I knew that I did not know what I was doing all the time. Was I a good manager? That is for others to judge. For myself, I wanted much more money but it is not always possible to have what you want, I think. So I say to the team and I say to the fans you have not got what you want. I am sorry for that, of course. But now I go on holiday for maybe a year. Goodbye England.”

Wayne Rooney said he was “gobsmacked” to be sent off for a stamp on Ricardo Carvalho in England’s World Cup quarter-final against Portugal. Sven, as a parting shot, no longer in character as Chance the Gardner, urged Ingerland fans not to kill him. Excellent stuff. One can’t imagine the Chairman of the England cricket selectors urging the cricket barmy army not to kill any of our cricketers – who appear, it has to be said, to be struggling at the moment with injury and actually playing some good cricket.

A new blawg

Charon QC

Well here we are – using WordPress for the first time. Whether I shall continue to use blogging software will depend on whether I can gain some measure of control over layout and design. My old blawg on the web, should you wish to look back at previous editions, may be found here.