A little time out…

I am not on vacation – god forbid that anyone should think that! I am, as it happens, fairly busy – but I will be back tomorrow and over the weekend.. I am getting blawgalgia – a rare medicial condition involving withdrawal symptoms from not being able to blawg.

Umpire Charon demands £1800 from The CCC…

Today, in a bizarre twist of fate, a local cricket club umpire has been accused of tampering with the ball by The Chiswick Cricket Club (‘The CCC’). Fiction can be stranger than truth and at a time when the ICC is beset with problems over Umpire Hair’s decision in the 4th England v Pakistan cricket test match last week and subsequent demand from Hair of $500,000 to ‘go quietly’ – it is ironic that we should now hear of an umpire being accused of ball tampering.

Apparently, Umpire Charon, who likes to smoke unleaded Silk Cut while umpiring, found that his matches would not strike on the matchbox. Calmly picking up the cricket ball at the end of an over, he attempted to strike the match on the worn side of the ball several times before the match would light. Fast bowler, James ‘Criminal’ Damage, then bowled a bowl at 93.6 mph which had a ‘reverse swing’ of four metres to the right; surprising the wicket keeper, who was not able to prevent the ball zipping to the boundary for four runs.

The CCC are relying on Rule 42 (Fair and unfair play) 3 (b) “It is unfair for anyone to rub the ball on the ground for any reason, interfere with any of the seams or the surface of the ball, use any implement, or take any other action whatsoever which is likely to alter the condition of the ball, except as permitted in (a) above.”

A spokesman at The MCC said “The Laws of Cricket did not anticipate that an umpire might interfere with the ball, let alone use the ball to light a match so that he could smoke on the field. But it seems to us, after consulting the eminent QC, Sir John ‘Stumper’ Oval, that the words ‘It is unfair for anyone and ‘take any action whatsoever which is likely to alter the condition of the ball’ are sufficiently wide to cover ball tampering by the umpire.

Umpire Charon is no stranger to controversy. A year ago, while umpiring a match between The Acton Irregulars and The Bollo Ball Scuffers, he walked onto the pitch after lunch with a bottle of Rioja which he proceeded to ‘neck’ while play commenced and was heard several times to shout ‘Howzat!’ before the ball had even reached the batsman.

Umpire Charon later sent an email to the Secretary of The CCC stating “that while it may have been inappropriate for me to use the ball to strike a match, so I could light a cigarette, I do not believe that the end result of the match would have been any different. When it was drawn to my attention that the ball did not seem to go straight after my actions, I was very quick to provide a new ball. In the circumstances if you put £1800 into my offshore bank account within 24 hours, I shall be quite happy to go quietly. I look forward to hearing from you by return.”

Bank Holiday Special…

” Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.”

It is, of course, the first verse of a poem by W H Auden made better known by Four Weddings and a Funeral – but appropriate given that law offices, chambers, training organisations, law schools are all closing for the last holiday weekend before Christmas. I am still at my post, but as you can see, I am not doing any sensible work. I am fiddling around on the net – it is, of course, too early to get my sabre out and cut the top of a bottle of rioja off – which is how I open bottles at the weekend.

Insane Lawyer… or, as Sean Hocking of Practicesource.com and Tab”law”oid puts it…Why lawyers should not be allowed to advertise.

This film is amazing. Jim “The Hammer” Shapiro may not be able to “rip out the heart of the person of the person who harmed you” but he will hunt them down and sue them for every dime they have on your behalf. Last week, I started my ‘Lobster Awards’ scheme. (Here) Jim “The Hammer” gets a Lobster Award (Third Class). I watched with increasing fascination. Maybe The College of Law and BPP et al should screen this film for their new litigation practice classes? Thanks for the link, Sean.

This guy eats 30 pancakes a day and, clearly enjoys eating them. He has made a film of himself making pancakes, composed a song to go with the film and is now featured on Good Morning America, Number 3 in the Israeli charts and has had over 700,000 views of his video on YouTube. It is a most enjoyable video (the song is not quite my taste – not Verdi enough) and worth a look. No law in it, as far as I could see. Go and watch the Pancake video – well edited!

US judge gets tough with mobile phone users in court – detains and questions five users. Story

“When no one admitted having the ringing phones Wednesday, Lake County Criminal Court Judge Diane Boswell told all five people in the row to sit in chairs reserved for jail inmates. They stayed there for more than an hour until the morning court call ended.”

Milwaukee described as America’s drunkest city by Forbes.com: Story
“The people who are drunks, honestly, don’t get served here,” Brandon said. “If you can’t hold your head up and if you can’t walk straight, you get shown to the door.”

I did enjoy this comment from the report: “But there’s a difference between being a town of belchers on bar stools and a city with a drinking culture, some Milwaukee residents argued Wednesday.”

and.. on that note I have to sabre the top off a bottle of Rioja soon and close the blawg for today. Have a good Bank holiday.

Greed cameras…

According to the The Mirror – Essex Police are having problems with the locals who have risen in revolt at the proliferation of Speeding cameras. They have taken to ‘modifying’ the signs by taping over ‘Speed’ with ‘Greed’. Police have been told to ‘crack down’ hard on offenders – but so far the protesters have been too quick for the local traffic plod.

There is even a website where you can read about the campaign and print out signs to stick in the rear window of your car. Be warned, however: Police may not take kindly to this. Here is a report from the Association of British Driver’s website: “We’ve received a report from a driver who says he was stopped by police and this speed camera sign was ‘confiscated’. One of the policemen said he’d been told to take them off people. So much for freedom of speech. Print one and stick it in your car. If your are stopped and the sticker illegally ‘confiscated’, be sure to get the officers name, number and a receipt for your property. Then let us know.”

I ride motorbikes. I don’t speed in country villages and it is almost impossible to speed in Central London with traffic congestion. I make no admission of guilt to any particular offence, but it can be safe, and a pleasure, to exceed the ‘national speed limit’ on occasion. There are far too many speed cameras on our roads – and to watch cars speed up to the camera and then slam the brakes on, can be quite a sobering sight!

and so to other matters…

Sadly, Pluto and Charon, after being hailed the other day as binary planets, have now been downgraded to celestial bodies. Now 2,500 astronomers meeting in Prague have voted that Pluto (and, presumably, Charon also) should be redesignated as a “trans-Neptunian”, or dwarf planet. I do not possess a celestial body – I have a ‘two pack’ – the ‘six pack’ stomach is a thing of memory – but I think I would prefer to be a celestial body rather than a planet… and as for being ‘Trans-Neptunian’?…what can I say? Amazing that astronomers have so much time on their hands… but…what is time?

Bystander JP is inviting his readers to ‘have a go’: Here is an extract from a recent post on his blog: “Speeding kills. Speeding is fun. Cameras are there to collect revenue. You have heard it all before. Go on then, let’s have your comments. Be as rude as you like about magistrates but please don’t attack each other.”

He has received 73 comments already – some of them quite amusing.

Don’t send shoplifters to jail!

I don’t run a shop, but I do know people who do – and they tell me that stock theft can cause them serious financial hardship and loss. I read in my tabloid of choice, The Mirror , that The Sentencing Advisory Panel is not keen on shoplifters being jailed – preferring, instead, a high level community service order option. The paper reports that 280,000 people a year are convicted of shoplifting (£585 million lost in thefts) which could pose a problem for the prison service. Retailers are, not surprisingly, disgusted and Edward Garnier MP, shadow home affairs spokesman, points out from stage left (or should that be stage right?) “The law-abiding public expect that people stealing from shops should be properly punished.”

Apparently in Saudi Arabia, where they cut the hands off shoplifters, shoplifting is fairly rare.

Something for the weekend, Sir?…

There is, of course, absolutely no truth in this news cutting, but the thought appealed to me as I wasted yet another few hours trying to speak to people on the phone. I fear that all are departing for the long weekend – heading, perhaps to the shires, the coast or even as far as Scotland.

I will remain at my post in London but I am sure the opportunity will arise for some relaxation – perhaps a glass or two of Rioja and a chance to get off the world for a few days. I found myself looking at the Lawyer website – to see if there was any interesting news. I didn’t actually need to know that Scots law firm, Burness, has re-shuffled its management team – but it was quite interesting to see that the main focus of news on The Lawyer was about ‘who is doing what to whom’, ‘who is landing big deals’ etc, rather than any focus on legal practice or even law.

I did however feel uplifted when I read that “North West firm Hill Dickinson is going green with a scheme designed to offset its carbon footprint and create a local community woodland. The firm is working with environmental company co2balance.com to plant 1,149 trees in order to cancel out the carbon dioxide it uses each year. In addition Hill Dickinson also plans to switch to a renewable energy provider when its current power contract runs out.”

I decided to move on to other websites to see if I could find anything mildly surreal.

And then I found this… The Most Incredible Knife
Wenger wants you to do one thing: throw out your old knives. Actually, it wants you to do several things: throw out your bike tools, your toiletries, your laser pointer and so on, because you can find all of these instruments in a huge Swiss Army knife, which includes every tool the company makes. Wenger is calling the contraption ‘Giant Knife Version 1.0.’ It debuted with all 85 features and can perform hundreds of functions. Who doesn’t need a cigar cutter next to a bicycle chain rivet setter next to a golf divot repair tool.

And then I hit the jackpot with this Ant desk…

It may not appeal to everyone – but I rather liked the idea of ants scurrying around under the glass of a desk… here is a most interesting article on how you can build one for yourself – should you have time to do so over the coming bank holiday!

I read the comments on this chap’s blog – apparently ants build their colonies vertically – so it might be a problem!

And finally… A U.S. psychologist says we might not be able to tell a book from its cover, but we can decide if a person is attractive in only a tenth of a second.

Princeton University psychologist Alex Todorov says people respond intuitively to faces so rapidly our minds may not have time to influence the reaction — and our intuitions about attraction and trust are among those we form the fastest.

“The link between facial features and character may be tenuous at best, but that doesn’t stop our minds from sizing other people up at a glance,” said Todorov, an assistant professor of psychology. “We decide very quickly whether a person possesses many of the traits we feel are important, such as likability and competence, even though we have not exchanged a single word with them.”

A bit quiet today…

Having foregone the pleasures of a holiday for some years, I am re-charging my batteries by taking a few half days off over the next three days to ease myself into the final Bank holiday before Christmas. In any event…it has been a complete waste of time trying to do any business this week as everyone has either left the country or is stuck at one of our airports being searched. So… I thought I might do a spot of blawging.

So..have I really been to a Japanese restaurant to play with alphabet soup? No… messing around in Photoshop, but should opportunity arise in the future, I may well wish to do so.

Hunted long and wide to find some law worth commenting on and did not find anything fascinating.

Apart from a story in The Telegraph – A wife who axed to death her cheating husband after a decade of lies and deceit was freed by a judge yesterday. there is not much about. It was a diminished responsibility case. Mr Justice Fulford said jailing her would serve no purpose.

“This was a spontaneous act committed when you were under great personal pressure and suffering from a depressive disorder,” he said. “You have now been on remand for 10 months, which is the equivalent of a sentence of 20 months. Since I have accepted that your responsibility was low, I do not think it is in the public interest to keep you in prison for any longer than this.”

This nonsense caught my eye: Warm whiskers eye pillow
“Our Warm Whiskers freezable or heatable eye and eye pillows help reduce eye puffiness and strain, headaches, facial tension and sinus pressure. Each animal is filled with relaxing lavender and chamomile.”

Can’t quite see me wearing one these. However… could be just the thing after a night on the Rioja.

Is Bush an idiot… or is he just inarticulate?

Well judge for yourself with this excellent film. It is quite long but well worth watching if you can view films on the net.

Anyway …here is a joke which amused me.

“President Bush is going to establish elections there in Iraq. He’s going to rebuild the infrastructure. He’s going to create jobs. He said if it works there, he’ll try it here.” David Letterman

Bringing the game into disrepute…

“In summertime village cricket is the delight of everyone. Nearly every village has its own cricket field where the young men play and the old men watch. In the village of Lintz in County Durham they have their own ground, where they have played these last 70 years. They tend it well. The wicket area is well rolled and mown. The outfield is kept short . . . [y]et now after these 70 years a judge of the High Court has ordered that they must not play there anymore . . . [h]e has done it at the instance of a newcomer who is no lover of cricket.
This newcomer has built . . . a house on the edge of the cricket ground which four years ago was a field where cattle grazed. The animals did not mind the cricket.”

Per Lord Denning MR

—Miller v. Jackson (1977) Q.B. 966, 976

It seems that lawyers are now involved in the extraordinary events which brought the 4th Test between England and Pakistan to a premature end. DLA Piper are representing Pakistan Captain, Inzamam and “are confident that justice will prevail in this case,” according to The Independent

It may only be a game (and, as Umpire Hair remarked “nobody died”) but an allegation of ball tampering is serious and proof of cheating will be required. It is curious that none of the 26 Sky TV cameras picked up any dodgy ball scuffing. We shall have to wait for the outcome of the grand inquisition to be conducted by the ICC. It was a great game, a good series. Meanwhile, I have a new outfit (pictured) to wear when I umpire the game between The Acton Nomads and The Swan XI to be held this Bank holiday weekend if Pakistan decide not to proceed with the one day series against England.

It was a very secure flight…

The use of Churchill’s wartime image by Ryanair ‘to keep Britain Flying’ which has appeared in various newspapers in recent days – has, clearly, led to a counter-attack from other airlines.  These passengers solved the problem of delays at UK airports by having no hand baggage.


I picked up the ‘Nearly Legal’ blog from Binary Law – and I am glad I did.  There is an interesting article on the subject of blog anonymity. For years I have been deluding myself that my alter ego as Charon QC was heavily masked – but as my blog became slightly better known, a number of other blogs gave the game away.  It does not trouble me – but for the sake of continuing self delusion, I continue to pretend that I am, in fact, Charon – when I write on here.

Saturday in West London

I claim no originality in the idea for this pic – but as some readers may not read Private Eye and Eye did not publish the cartoon which inspired this variant on their website – I have done a variation of the idea for you. The original, worded differently (“Ladies and gentlemen…the bride and groom will now cut the wedding coke”), amused me.

Food writers and restaurant reviewers. For some reason I find many food writers and restaurant reviewers irritating. I’m not a ‘foodie’ (I do enjoy food and a penchant for reds is quite apparent, perhaps from some of my writing) so I find some reviews over the top.

Imagine if there was a restaurant called The Charon? This is the sort of overblown claptrap produced by some foodie hyperbolators. I prefer the writers who tell it straight

The Charon, 1234 Greek St, Soho
There’s great excitement at Soho’s latest bijou restaurant, The Charon. Head Chef, Marco Worral Charon, has found the last ever supply of the mouthwatering fungi Toscana while on holiday near Siena. He won’t reveal where he finds these extravagantly expensive, but delicious, relatives of the humble button mushroom – all he can say is that there are no more to be found anywhere in Tuscany this season. Chef braises the mushrooms first in a rare Chianti, then sautees them off gently in garlic butter, before sprinkling them with a fine dusting of ligurian sea salt and black Florentine pepper – to a recipe first used by Michelangelo when he carved the famous statue of David. Three of the Euro (€) sized mushrooms arrived on a pristine white plate, slightly off centre, with just a drizzle of olive oil and an exquisitely shaped piece of raw carrot, carved to look like a ‘V’ sign. My dining companion, a particularly exacting chartered accountant from one of the Big Four, told me that it was a long time since he had such an orgasmic experience. I bit into the delicately flavoured fungi. I had to agree. I gasped, such was the fragrance, the taste, like foie gras melting on the tongue. We drank a fine Montepulciano, a wine of such depth that I could not see my dining companion through the glass when I held it up to the light to look at its legs. It would have been sacrilege to have taken further food from this great chef – a redundancy.

Sadly, you won’t be able to experience this Charonic feast for yourselves, because, all the fungi Toscana have been eaten by restaurant reviewers – an ephemera…which reminded me of the death of a beautiful yellow butterfly when I was eating at an exclusive restaurant set on the hills of Eze on the Cote d’Azur above St Jean Cap Ferrat, but a week ago. (£200 for 2 with wine)

The sun has broken through. Pakistan are giving England a hard time at The Oval – which is a good thing, because Pakistan are playing superb cricket – and it is time for me to prepare myself for an evening of conversation at The Swan. Perhaps Codebreaker will be there?

On a wet Friday… ephemera

It is Friday… and no-one seems to be around. So it is time for some ephemera and, just perhaps, a bit of law – indirectly.

To the left is a famous advert. I have a copy of this and another, depicting a doctor being woken up at 4.30 in the morning by a patient captioned “More Doctors smoke Camel than any other brand”, framed in my bathroom. Soon, of course, the social lepers that we are will be forced to pursue our evil habit in the open air (but not in bus shelters), leaving sensible non-smokers, roundheads, busybodies and members of ASH delighting in the clean air and lack of noise inside. I shall simply start taking snuff – which I do from time to time – if the weather is too appalling to nip outside for a fag. Mind you, I did read, earlier in the week that Mayor Bloomburg of New York is giving away $125 million dollars to help stamp smoking out all over the world. I am sure that this news will have had the worthies over at ASH hyperventilating with excitement as they sip their camomile tea.

A woman who returned to her car after her pay and display ticket had expired had her ticket cancelled by Brighton Council. She received a letter to this effect which ended with the request: “Please make sure your daughter only vomits within pay and display time.” Laurie Ward, 30, was not amused and moaned that she did not expect to be treated like that by a public body. Brighton Council apologised.

I am going to institute “Lobster” awards: Regular readers of Consilio will be aware that I have a plastic lobster which does strange things and goes to extraordinary places. Consilio asks readers to find the pic of my lobster – and when they do, they get a prize – a simple marketing ploy where everyone wins. Here is my lobster sitting on the chair (I am sitting on it now) which is reputed to have come from HMS Bellerophon which fought at Trafalgar (I always believe dodgy antique dealers). I will be awarding “Lobsters” for ‘outstanding conduct which enriches the human spirit’. Brighton Council gets the first award for their response to Laurie Ward (supra).

Mel Gibson is getting quite a lot of flak for his recent anti-semitic outbursts while drunk.

Here is an amusing pastiche done by roningraffiti. Worth a look if you haven’t seen it. A short film.

And something for Family lawyers…

A couple is lying in bed. The man says, “I am going to make you the happiest woman in the world.”

The woman replies, “I’ll miss you…”

And so I leave you, on this Friday afternoon, with the thought: If your parents never had children, chances are you won’t either. (Dick Cavett)

Fancy being a secretary for a year?….

I do enjoy visiting RollonFriday

… and yet again their journos have found a gem. Read the advert below which I have screen grabbed from LawCareers.net

Apart from a dodgy typo (and I am prone to those myself) the advert is fascinating. Here we have an entrepreneurial solicitor Tony Seymour @ hotmail (Liked the classy email address) seeking an ‘uber-secretary’, no doubt at secretarial salary (not made known) who has to possess a good (2.1) LLB, have completed the LPC, hold an LLM in advanced civil litigation and have 12 months paralegal experience. The advert, curiously, does not specify any particular level of typing skill or PA experience – was that an oversight?

Of course, there will be few legal secretaries with such a profile, and the ‘lure’ of the ‘possibility’ of a training contract gives the game away. Seymours clearly want to get a high quality trainee lawyer at a more modest cost. Why not? Probably better than luring bright young graduates into paralegal work – hinting at ‘development to a training contract at some unspecified time in the future’ – where they are consigned to the bowels of a grand building in the City to do fairly routine work, photocopying and sundry other tasks which do not require the skills of a highly qualified young trainee lawyer.

Mr Seymour clearly does not wish to be troubled initially with having to wade through pleading covering letters, carefully constructed CVs – for he requires ‘concise details (1 page only) – or perhaps that is because his Hotmail account can’t take attachments !

I may well apply for the job. I may not have the precise qualifications he seeks, nor, indeed, high level typing skills – but I feel sure that I would be able to bring vitality, enthusiasm and vigour to the post – especially if the firm provides Rioja, espressos and Silk Cut as ‘staff benefits’.

I am sure that Tony Seymour’s Hotmail in-box will soon be bulging – especially if RollonFriday discussion board members decide they all wish to apply.

I am sure that Anonymous Lawyer would approve of this advert and recruitment policy!

Art is anything you can get away with…

…. so I decided that I would spend today cradling a dead pig in the middle of an art gallery. Well… that is not entirely true. In fact, while I have a taste for the surreal, I will not be doing this… but there is someone who will be.

The Mirror reports (or should that be ‘reveals’?) that “a naked artist will caress a slaughtered pig for four hours..at gallery funded by lottery cash, of course.”

“Kira O’Reilly, who may even cut into the corpse with a knife, says bafflingly the exhibition is about “pigginess, unexpected fantasies of emergence and interspecies metamorphose”

You may be inspired to read the full story – but, yet again, I found myself just having poached eggs for breakfast. Two weeks ago it was Gordon Ramsay slaughtering his favourite pigs for the edification of the British public on Channel 4, now a naked artist wants to cradle a dead pig, dig her hand into its belly and perhaps even cut it with a scalpel – while viewers go into a room for 10 minutes a time to gape.

As the Mirror reports…“Protesters said yesterday: “This isn’t entertainment – it’s sick. She needs help.”

On that note… I am surfing over the Independent which may have other delights for me to reflect upon. Barking!

It is getting serious..when the serious get you!…

I visit Human Law regularly – because the blogger (Justin Patten) knows what he is talking about – and is a well known blogger. I am not given to vanity (although I do appreciate mentions from fellow bloggers – and appreciate the camaraderie of the blawg world) However….
I spilt my espresso all over my desk when I saw a pic of myself staring out at me from his serious blog! This is what Justin Patten wrote about this blawg : …. Charon is a prolific poster of content, sometimes eccentric but clearly shows a razor sharp mind. It is well worth a look.

Editorial comment: I feel certain that Justin meant to say ‘Rioja sharp’ (I have been blawging nonsense for 4 years – but using html on the Consilio magazine. This new technology version is recent.)

Reading his blog has already yielded benefits for me. On his blog roll, Charon refers to the management consultant,Nick Jarrett-Kerr – As a result of this, I called Nick up and we subsequently had a meeting in London.

Editorial comment: I know Nick Jarrett-Kerr well. His management course available from The Legal Practitioner is a serious course and – cheap. He is also an innovative thinker. A lot of solicitors would benefit from talking to Nick J-K. Thanks for the recommendation, Justin.

Don’t drink drive…drive on your drink…

My brain needed a short break – My attention turned to the net. I am fascinated by gadgets and bizarre human behaviour.  Here we have two in one. I found this ‘cruzin cooler’ on the net.

This is what they say…

Cruzin Cooler  combines two basic necessities of life, the ability to have cold food or a beverage handy along with the means to get somewhere, without walking. With modern technology, the Cruzin Cooler is light-weight and comes in various sizes and is available in gas and electric models, with a 10 mile range on electric models and 30 miles on the gas models.

It could, of course, be adapted to carry heavy ‘bundles’ for Court.  So, instead of looking like an airline steward / stewardess, dragging a bag on wheels behind one –  solicitors and barristers could cut a bit of a dash going down Fleet Street on one of these on their way to The Royal Courts of Justice. I would imagine, however, that the Court Service may take a dim view of lawyers driving through the magificent concourse inside the RCJ – so it may not catch on.


If you go down to the courts today…you are in for a big surprise…

A solicitor doing a moonie? Surely not.

Bystander JP, in his excellent blog ‘The Magistrate’s blog’ (Formerly known as Law West of Ealing Broadway – a title which I rather liked) presents this excellent story from the BBC.

Bystander, who is a real JP, takes a stern line: “I was deeply shocked to read this story. Does this solicitor, an officer of the Supreme Court, not realise that the gluteus maximus is for sitting on, and certainly not to be used to express opinions? I have heard a few lawyers talking through their arse in my time, but none has so far felt it necessary to drop their trousers while doing so”

Briefly: Willie Johnstone of Harding, Swinburne, Jackson & Co, Sunderland decided that enough was enough. Defence solicitors were being required to undergo a search – whereas prosecutors, magistrates and court staff did not have to be searched as they went through a back door!. Other solicitors objected – but Willie decided to pull his trousers down in the court corridor – provoking the Court Service to issue a statement saying that they were treating the incident “very seriously”.

With the scent of a great story in my flaring nostrils, I reached for the phone, almost hyperventilating with amusement and telephoned the offices of Harding, Swinburne, Jackson & Co because I could not access their website. Willie is away on holiday in Thailand and no-one was available to comment. I spoke to a great guy who was manning the fort, explained that I was a journalist (which, of course, I now am) and asked him how the firm were reacting. He spoke with a gentle Sunderland accent and told me that there were quite a few reports about it. I asked if the press attention was the reason the website was down. He laughed (Did I hear a quiver… a hint of nervous anxiety?) No, I was told. The firm are simply updating their information. I wasn’t going to embarrass him, nor for that matter, Willie Johnstone (had I got through to him) – so I asked what sort of guy Willie was. I was told that ‘Willie is a great guy’. I laughed, said that the firm had nothing to fear from my report, thanked him for his time and rang off. You know? I have a feeling that Willie may, indeed, be a good guy.

I can understand frustration and anger at discrimination. I have to say, had I been in his position, I may have chosen a different method of protest. Charon’s bum is for sitting on while guzzling Rioja, smoking Silk Cut and sipping espressos – it is not for criminals, witnesses, defence lawyers, plod or other associated legal people to look at. Made me laugh though. I hope the Court service deal with the matter leniently. I can’t imagine that Willie is a serial mooner. I was about to telephone The Law Society when I re-read the BBC report. The Law Society have not received any formal complaints about Mr Johnstone’s behaviour.

Let us hope – to coin a phrase – they ‘drop’ the matter quietly.

Bush is “crap” says Prescott…allegedly..

Having read in The Guardian this morning that Prescott described George Dubya as “crap” at a private meeting (Which Prescott denies), I felt I needed a photograph which gave insight into Prescott’s character. I went to H M Government’s website. Nothing suitable there.. but…what should I find on Havant Conservatives’ website? – this picture of Prescott. Of course – the pics of Tories on this website show thrusting, clean cut, dynamic men! Apart from a woman sitting in the audience at some conference, I could not find any pictures of women. It is a very modern, representative, party – looking forward. There was a pic of Boris Johnson – offset and below the others. Is he anything to do with Havant? Perhaps his pic was just there to excite female viewers or irritate Liverpudlians who might surf over to the Havant Conservatives’ website?.

I did read the website front page. At the foot of the page I read there is a “Joke” for the party faithful. Here it is:


A doctor writing in the Daily Telegraph thinks Patricia Hewitt’s idea to treat Ashma and Angina patients at home is a financial masterstroke. Not only will she be saving the NHS money, there will be a considerable saving on pensions as well!

I have never been to Havant – to my knowledge. it is, of course, possible that I may have been. Judging by the joke – It must be a bit quiet down there.

Anyway…back to Prescott… The Guardian reports that Prescott responded to the allegation that he was heard describing Bush as ‘crap’ by issuing the following statement: “This is an inaccurate report of a private conversation and it is not my view.”

I liked the closing paragpraphs of the Guardian report and quote it in full:

“The revelation will disappoint Mr Blair, the US president’s key international ally. And it will do nothing for Mr Prescott’s prickly relationship with the media, not least because the story surfaced in an article by his biographer, Colin Brown.

But the view Mr Prescott expressed privately is standard among Labour backbenchers and is held widely in the cabinet. Colleagues inside the parliamentary party are likely to be more critical of Mr Cohen for breaking ranks.

Another day in the life of Prescott, Deputy Prime Minister of Great Britain. Lord Protector Blair must dread reading the papers while he suns himself and hangs out his washing on the luxury yacht in Barbados where he is ‘en vacances’.

“Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” …

The Lord Protector in his quest to be tough etc etc etc.. has produced more than 3000 new criminal offences during his reign over us – as The Independent points out – almost one new criminal offence for every day his government has been in power. Quite remarkable.

I feel particularly reassured by this particular crime being stamped down on..

Polish Potatoes (Notification) (England) Order 2004

No person shall, in the course of business, import into England potatoes which he knows to be or has reasonable cause to suspect to be Polish potatoes.

What is it with ‘Polish’ potatoes? I shall have to do some research when I sip a Rioja later in the week.

Charon is now a planet: Official

One may be forgiven for taking the view that Charon may be ‘off the planet’ at times – but it was interesting to see the astronomers have finally decided that Charon is not Pluto’s moon, but a planet in its own right.  This knowledge will add to my enjoyment of life in the years remaining to me.

In the Navy….

I know we have to pay for our new aircraft carrier and submarines somehow…but I can tell you, I almost spat my espresso out in surprise when I read in my Tabloid of choice this morning, that The Royal Navy plans to licence the White Ensign out for advertising purposes.

Navy publicity director Capt Brian Warren, who will vet items, said: “There will be nothing tacky, no weapons and no tobacco.”  The plan is that the Royal Navy will receive royalties of 5-20% of the proceeds.

I can just see one of the great fashion houses selling ‘Sailor Outfits’, snappy bell-bottoms – in fact, come to think of it, why not a full Admiral’s outfit by Karl Lagerlout (no relation)?  The White Ensign has a long and proud history and has, in fact, been used for some time to advertise various brands of ‘navy rum’ – so why should I be surprised?  Does it matter?

What about the SAS logo to market a particularly aggressive law firm – or personal injury service? Would that be tacky”   I can see it now.

“Had an accident at work?”  No problem.  Make an appointment to see one of our special force of solicitors and we will take the employer out.  Who dares sues..and wins”

I will splice the mainbrace tonight.



Hippocratic oath…

Dr Christopher Wood, a GP, shot a neighbour’s dog 12 times with an air rifle after it attacked his chickens according to The Mirror this morning.

Why did he do this? The Mirror report is brief: “Dr Christopher Wood said he opened fire last August because he feared it would attack him or his two surviving hens.”

A vet reported that the dog had been subjected to a “prolonged and brutal attack… tantamount to torture.”

I really cannot understand how a doctor can behave in this way – yet the only sanction applied? A fine of £1500 and payment of £5k costs to the RSPCA. The dog, called ‘Socks’, survived.

Imagine consulting a lawyer who spent his time shooting air rifles at dogs. Would you want to take advice from such a person? Mind you… the prospect of lawyers keeping chickens is also a bit bizarre. Are there any chicken fanciers out there in the legal world? If so, would you have tried to shoot a dog with an air rifle to save your chickens ?

PC Judge Dredd may be coming to a street near you…

I am grateful to Liadnan for inspiring me to look into the possibility that police officers will be dispensing instant justice on the streets of Britain.

The BBC reports : “The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) is consulting members on whether to seek the authority to punish people without going to court.”

While the BBC report indicates that the additional powers sought will mainly be to deal with pissed teenagers binge drinking it up at the weekends and drink drive offences, it is probably fair to say that ACPO would actually like fairly extensive powers to deal with a range of minor offences ‘there and then’.

“When you do decide that someone’s been so criminal and behaved so badly and harmed other people that you need to punish them, that really is something that in a democracy belongs with the courts,” Civil rights group Liberty director Shami Chakrabati told BBC News.

What was interesting was the view expressed by a Police Federation representative. Federation vice-chairman Alan Gordon said: “As usual, Acpo have decided to go public on an initiative without consulting with those who would have to implement it.

“There may be some credibility in these ideas, but our fears are it will cause greater conflict and bureaucracy for our members and could blur the lines of justice – whereby the police enforce the law and courts dispense penalties.”

Policing and the administration of justice should really be kept separate. While it may be seductive, in terms of administration and cost, to dispense justice through fixed penalty tickets – is this something which we really want our police to do?  Parking tickets and other fairly routine ‘civil misdemeanours’ can be dealt with in this way – subject to appeal procedures being in place – but civil disorder offences of a criminal nature should be dealt with by the courts – however costly that may be, to ensure that the lines between policing and administration of justice do not become blurred. I wonder how many police officers on the street want to take on the role of ‘punisher’?  I’m not a police officer, so I can’t actually answer that question.  But, common sense dictates that asking a police officer to police and then be judge, jury and executioner, is placing too much responsibility and power in the hands of an individual and is unlikely to work well in practice. It is important, in my view, to keep the objectivity of the current system where magistrates dispense justice and the police do the policing.

It would be intereting to hear from any police officers, magistrates or criminal lawyers who deal with these matters on a day to day basis.  Please feel free to comment.

Macca divorce…

While I did take the view that I would not comment on the Macca divorce – I thought you might like to read what John Bolch over at Family Lore has to say..

I simply draw your attention to: paragraph 1.3.3 of the Family Law Protocol: “It is crucial that solicitors or parties do not raise irrelevant issues nor unreasonably cause other parties or their own clients to adopt an entrenched, polarised or hostile position”? and let John Bolch pick up the story on his ‘Keeping it Civil’ post.

Charon is alive…

Reports of Charon’s demise were premature. Here he is pictured reading a Cuban newspaper with incontrovertible proof that it is a current picture… because President Castro, who is also not dead, is, obligingly, reading the same newspaper.

The truth of the matter is that I took a bit of time off to spend with my Rioja collection at the weekend and, yesterday, found myself reading some fascinating consultation papers which I downloaded from the Law Society website on matters which I know absolutely nothing about, and deciding whether I needed to know more about these things which I know absolutely nothing about. Anyway… at least we know Castro is alive because he is reading the same newspaper.

If you have any concerns that the images above may have been manipulated in Photoshop (and quite a bit of that goes on in the news media) have a look at this

Airport security…

I was having a quick look at a new facility on WordPress which tags similar topics to those discussed in one’s own blog.

I came across this quote from such a tagged link on Mises Economics blog

“Every time I take off my shoes in the security screening process at the airport, I find it consoling to remind myself that at least Richard Reid wasn’t wearing an underwear bomb.”

You may find this link to X-Ray technology being used for security screening interesting – and revealing.

Rollonfriday has a beauty this week…

I visited RollonFriday, as I do from time to time, and found this marvellous nonsense on their news. This guy would enjoy talking to my brother ‘RD’. They would get on well. The Professor – does not do emails. I may well email him – through the faculty.  I may even call him to read my blawg to him.  You will note that The professor ‘likes for people to come and read things to (him)’. If you wish to see Prof Wexler – here is his page on UBC. Excellent nonsense. I must, however, adopt the comment ‘My mind is like a samurai sword. If I read e-mail, it will dull my blade”

I have just seen the learned prof’s personal webpage. Come to think of it – I think we need more academics like this. Quite enjoyed his webpage – not much on it – but worth a look

Below is the reason (from his own web page) why he does not do email

Steve Wexler
Associate Professor of Law
University of British Columbia

I do not do e-mail.

You may phone me at:
604 822 2194 or 604 228 8953

Write to me at:
UBC Faculty of Law,
1822 East Mall,
Vancouver, B.C.
V6T 1Z1

Come see me at:
Room 240, law school

I do not do e-mail because what I do as an intellectual requires me to read things very carefully and think about them very hard. My mind is like a samurai’s sword. If I read e-mail, I will dull my blade. I am very selective about what I read and would much rather talk to people than read. I like for people to come and read things to me. Then I can talk to them about what they have read. “Chatting” on line is not what I mean by talking.

Language…to really confusify George Dubya…

I wrote this some time ago…on my oldstyle blawg on Consilio, our online magazine – I have extended it, simply, because I wish to.

“Well…I spliced the main brace last night and ended up three sheets to the wind. I can tell you that Mrs C was taken aback. Thought I was for the high jump. Mind you, it was cold enough outside to freeze the balls off a brass monkey. I was at a loose end, you see, and our work is, after all, money for old rope. Hadn’t had a square meal for hours which is probably why I was over refreshed.. Normally, of course I accept all drinks invitations at the drop of a hat and I am sure Mrs C took my excuse on the phone earlier with a pinch of salt. But hook or by crook, I was determined to join you at this wonderful bar for a spot of grog. Needed a hair of the dog anyway, but at the risk of flogging a dead horse and not wishing to be a fly in the ointment, I made my way over the water to get here. After all, mate, I don’t have feet of clay and these days one has to stand up and be counted, throw one’s hat into the ring…you understand, I am sure. Anyway..I would not be worth my salt if I had chickened out. Anyway..as you can see, I grasped the nettle, knowing that we would not have to pay through the nose here and it is not as if I had drunk a Mickey Finn…By the way…why are those Germans looking at me so strangely…. speaking the Queen’s English, which they understand, I am sure….so what is the problem? I am a good European. I back the EU..why are they staring at me that way?

Anyway..where was I ? Ah yes…It is a moot point as to whether I was left in the lurch when Johnny pegged out after having too many irons in the fire, which put the dampers on my plans to hold the fort and bag a table …..

Of course…we all understand the above phrases..but how many of us know where they come from? An excellent book “Red Herrings and White Elephants” by Albert Jack will make all clear. Available at Waterstones and all our other favourite legal bookshops.

Plain English…

“Lawyers have been writing two words instead of one since the Norman Conquest,” says Mark Painter, an Ohio appeals court judge.

There are many benefits in writing in plain English – but in my view the world be dull if all writing was plain. If you are interested in writing in plain English – this is the website for you: Plain English

For my part, while I am quite prepared to write clear letters (with no typos) – I actually enjoy using unusual words, I enjoy convolution and using words and sentences to create mood, atmosphere – even at the risk of a lack of clarity. Of course, if I happen to decide to blawg when I am ‘three sheets to the wind’ – and come up with a pile of nonsense, then I fall back on my prerogative as a citizen of these sceptred isles and say that I am free to do this, in a utilitarian way, so long as it causes no harm to others!

Dubya watch….

I am grateful to JimFTL, who has taken to posting occasionally on my blawg, for sending me this by email this morning…

Three Brazilian Soldiers:
Donald Rumsfeld briefed the President this morning. He told Bush that three Brazilian soldiers had been killed in Iraq.
To everyone’s amazement, all the colour ran from Bush’s face, then he collapsed onto his desk, head in hands, visibly shaken, almost whimpering.
Finally, he composed himself, and asked Rumsfeld, .. “Just exactly how many is a brazillion?”

Examinations…marking of…

I have just seen my brother’s reference to marking examination scripts. Yes, it is true. He did this for some time. In my view he should be tried as a war criminal. He was far too lenient.

In but a few days or weeks, the hapless (or should that be hopeless?) and lazy will be appealing to the examinations board, producing spurious medical certificates or, taking it on the chin, and settling down for a bit of work before the September re-sits. Bar the odd genius who gets a First class answer on the first two questions out of four and then fails to submit answers to the remaining two (Fail usually) and genuine illness – there are usually two reaons why students fail examinations. They either do not know enough law – through laziness or lack of ability or, secondly, they fail to address the questions set. In the latter case, the student rarely fails – but the mark gained does not reflect his or her ability. Examinations are not the best way of testing ability, but what is the alternative? Coursework, in the age of the internet where students can plagiarise or, worse, pay a cheat site to do the coursework for them, is no longer viable.

So… the misery of the exam hall continues. I was always a bit baffled by some of my colleagues in academe who did not seem to be prepared to help students by showing them how to approach essay or problem questions. They regarded my efforts with flow diagrams and specimen answers with disdain. How can one bowl like Monty Panesar without knowledge and practice? I have seen some truly horrific exam scripts – garbage is easy to identify and despatch (dispatch may be used in the alternative). So too, the B52 bomber who spatters law all over the page in the vain hope that some of it will be relevant to the question posed. Others just give up and doodle for a while before leaving. I can’t quite see how a law student, who does a reasonable amount of work, who is not actually ill or distracted by personal problems, who has been shown how to approach exam questions, can actually ‘fail to satisfy the examiners’.You have to be reasonably bright to get into law school these days. Getting a First or a decent 2.1 does require hard work and ability – but that is the way of the world and there are plenty of good lawyers out there with not particularly brilliant degrees. (The difficulty is – these days, they would probably find it difficult to even get into the firms in which they are now partners! or secure even a pupillage in chambers)
What, however, really irritates me is the tendency in some law schools to teach law to a formula. I shall be returning to this theme another time. I have been talking to two students recently who have been taught in this way. They did not find it a satisfying experience. Anyway..enough… I have to read Atiyah, Sale of Goods and see if I still agree with some of the more interesting ideas still contained in the book!

i was asked to review a book once.  It was not a particularly good book on law…in fact, it was terrible.  I borrowed the aphorism of Sir Maurice Bowra (Oxford) and wrote back to the Publisher – “Thank you for sending me this book – “I shall lose no time at all in reviewing it”   I was not asked to review any further books – thankfully.
R D Charon

The human condition re-visited…

I start work early, usually around 4.30 am. By this time in the afternoon, I need a break. Imagine getting pissed, stealing a white goat from a field and breaking into a Volvo, bundling the goat into the back of the Volvo and then ramming the farmer in the Volvo which you have just stolen from him while he tries to block your way in his 4×4. Well, you probably don’t even want to think about bundling goats into the back of your car if you watched Gordon Ramsay’s pigs being slaughtered on Channel 4 last night (I wrote about this yesterday) – but it did happen. The Sun
District Judge Richard Williams said: “It seems to me you did this purely out of immense stupidity.”

Thieves in Malaysia get it badly wrong. Cnews reports that three men in Kuala Lumpur broke into a bank and stole what they believed was a cash dispenser. It was not. It was a cheque deposit machine. It was not clear whether they made off with any cheques after being surprised by a security guard.

Maybe it is a recessive cruel streak in me.? Maybe I have spent too many years marking law degree examination scripts? – some of which were so bad, I lost my sanity. I don’t know. But I do enjoy reading about crass stupidity.

Charon goes “Goth” ?…

And there I was, wandering through Portobello market looking for a stud (metal, lest you should be thinking of other things) and some new Goth eyeliner (It is going to be a hot look this Autumn) when…. who should I bump into? Victoria Beckham – Posh Spice as was. She was moaning about WAGS, whatever they are, and saying that she was sick and tired of everyone copying her. It was then she noticed that my appearance was slightly different.

“Cha Cha”, as she alone, calls me ( a play on my name and my audition for Strictly Come dancing – where I bombed) “Why are you wearing a hideous red lipstick, eye shadow and a stud…been dressin’ in the dark again, have we, love?”

“Victoria.. I have decided on a new look over the long vacation. I see no need to trouble my clerk during August. In any event, he will probably be in Barbados or Jamaica looking for hurricanes and smoking the garden … hasn’t quite clicked with him that Winter is the best time for Barbados. I am returning to the ‘Eighties’… the days of Siouxsie and The Banshees, Robert Smith…Goth revival. You like?”

“No, not particularly” Victoria replied, pouting and looking to her left to look as if she wasn’t looking at the seedy photographer who had been following me around for half an hour.

“You don’t think it works?” I asked, a thin smile beginning to form in my mind.
“No..not for you.” Victoria replied, pouting again and arching backwards to adopt a rather curious model like stance for the photographer, who was now scurrying around frantically.

I was able to tell Ms Beckham that I was, in fact, on my way to a late lunch and felt like irritating a rather tedious barrister (hence the Goth) who I was lunching with and who, I knew, would pontificate about the Bar and drone on about lack of work, the fact that you know you are getting old when high court judges start looking like policemen..or some other such nonsense. Ms Beckham and I parted.

I am delighted that she has now come out with the Goth look as pictured in the Press in recent days (Couldn’t find a link to a pic for you). It pleases me that I may just have influenced this decision. Of course – I could have imagined the whole thing. It was a good bottle of Rioja. I will not, of course, be adopting this Goth look in future.

Terror threat raised to critical…

There are two reports in The Independent this morning on the terror threat.  Both are worth reading:

Reid attacks judges who hamper ‘life and death’ terrorism battle and A major terrorist plot to blow up aircraft in mid-flight has been thwarted by the Metropolitan Police’s anti-terrorist branch and the security service, the force said today. MI5 has raised the threat level to ‘critical’.

John Reid made the point that we are using legislation dating back half a century to combat a 21st-century breed of “unconstrained” terrorists driven by a perverse morality. Perhaps his most forceful point was this: “Yet, in spite of these successes (A reference to four major terrorists plots being foiled since July 7 2005), we remain unable to adapt our institutions and legal orthodoxy as fast as I believe we need to. This is the area that puts us at risk in national security terms.”

What is the solution?  Carefully framed legislation, consistent with The Human Rights Act?  Reid stated “Sometimes we may have to modify some of our freedoms in the short term in order to prevent their use and abuse by those who oppose our fundamental values and would destroy all of our freedoms in the long term.” 

Have the security and police services got sufficient power – legal and personnel to deal with the threat?  This is not my field of expertise.  Any readers care to comment?

I needed a laugh tonight…and this did it…

This is premium grade law – from Bystander JP, who I hope will not object to me quoting the entire post. I am not being lazy… but this is pure class. As I said – today.. I needed a laugh. The Law West of Ealing Broadway is a must for those interested in Criminal Law and the human condition.

Here is Bystander’s entire post:

(I haven’t worked out how to trackback to the specific post – but – it is always worth visiting this blog… The actual post was 9th August under the name “Sensible Advice”)

Sensible Advice

If you are driving along while using your mobile phone, and if a policeman (who is passing by in his car) calls to you to stop using the phone, do not, repeat not, shout back to the officer telling him to fuck off. When he advises you to moderate your language, avoid repeating the original response, and telling him that he is a useless wanker.

The above advice becomes even more important when you consider that there is a stash of cannabis in your pocket.

Ignore the above, and you may expect a fine for the phone, a fine for the bad language, and a fine for the cannabis.

There is no specific offence of being stupid, but if there were, we would see it committed every day.”

I’ll need to blog a bit more law….

A friend sent me this info – a worrying trend. Charon Blawg in The Lawyer….?

Pleasingly, Geeklawyer also receives a mention. I may have to shoehorn a bit more law into my blawg
From The Lawyer

“Chain reaction

The NatWest Three were the subject on many a blog, with the fictional Charon QC (charonqc.wordpress.com) questioning the need for the three accused to front the US courts for a bail hearing in chains: “Why the chains? Are they likely to bolt? Are they likely to headbutt the judge?” Well, I guess that depends on what the judge says about their mothers and sisters.”

Fictional? Oh yes… but I worry sometimes that I am turning into Charon.

“I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury.”

Groucho Marx often hit the nail on the head. I came across an interesting and quite amusing story on a quick visit to Diary of a Criminal Solicitor about an over enthusiastic trainee solicitor selected for jury service. A quote from the CJS website may assist with this story: “Jurors can only discuss the case when all jury members are present and in private. It is illegal to discuss the case with anyone who is not a member of your jury.” If you wish to know more about Jury service?

If you would like to buy the H M Bateman print, or indeed any other legal memorabilia – a quick visit to The Carbolic Smokeball may be useful
On a similar theme – now that judges (and lawyers) may have to do jury service (and it entirely up to them whether they disclose the fact that they hold judicial office to other jurors), we have highly qualified men and women ‘learned in the law’ sitting alongside other jurors who, in all probability, will have little or no experience of law. Is it a good thing? There does not seem to be much comment or analysis on this question available. Of course, because of the secrecy requirement, we will probably never really know what effect a judge sitting as a juror has on the proceedings.

Here is ‘Guidance to judges on jury service’ issued by the Lord Chief Justice. I wonder what a newly elevated judge would think when he looks over at the jury and finds a distinguished Law Lord or other senior member of the judiciary sitting there? I wonder if that judge would be able to resist using his or her knowledge to influence other members of the jury ? I would assume so, since the role of judge and juror are quite different and the LCJ makes this point forcefully in his advice. Is it a good use of judicial time for a judge to sit as a juror? I would not have thought so.

The author of Diary of a Criminal Solicitor also has a very useful website for criminal lawyers. 

Thoughts about pigs…

I enjoy a pork chop and a bacon sandwich can cure many ills early on a Saturday morning if the festivities of the night before have been overdone. Why am I writing about pigs and pork chops? Well.. I was sipping an espresso and eating bacon and eggs when I started to read an article in The Independent.

I quote from the article: “Viewers of The F-Word will see Ramsay moved almost to tears, as he watches the Berkshire sows, Trinny and Susannah, go under the slaughterman’s knife. Looking pale and shaken, the Glaswegian chef sees the 24-month-old pigs stunned by an electric shock to the brain, before being shackled by the hind legs and hoisted to the ceiling. Their throats are then unceremoniously slit.”

I’m afraid you will just have to read the article if you want to know more – it is graphic. They are screening this on Channel 4 tonight – after the watershed. I will not be watching. I have no plans to turn vegetarian – because I am an omnivore and need a bit of meat occasionally to give flavour to the Rioja and other Reds which I enjoy. I did, however, feel the need to push my plate of bacon and eggs to one side. It just didn’t have the same appeal after reading this article. I shall stick to The Mirror as my newspaper of choice when having breakfast early in the mornings – and leave The Indie and other broadsheets until I can cope with their relentlessly brutal gaze on life!

Executives at Channel 4 are, apparently, bracing themselves for a series of complaints. 27 people complained when Channel 4 screened the killing of six of Gordon Ramsay’s pet turkeys before the watershed on the last show. I shall make a trip to Sainsbury’s soon to view the meat counter and re-assure myself. Mind you, I am already thinking about a bit of sirloin steak and chips – must be hunger.

Squatting on the net…

The Independent reports today that a young British artist, Simon Phillips, a self-styled “internet artist” who owns the domain name www.damien-hirst.co.uk, is being sued by Damien Hirst, the multi-millionaire artist for using his name on a spoof website. The website only seems to contain one picture now (left) and when one clicks on the picture there is a link to the official Damien Hirst website (damienhirst.com) – which appears to be ‘under construction’.

Science, the company dealing with Hirst’s business affairs commented “We have to protect Damien’s name, since it is a trademark. He has no problem with tribute sites, but the name of this one means that it could be confused with an official one.”

Manches LLP, retained by Hirst, argue that this is an ‘abusive registration’ and have submitted a dossier to Nominet, the UK internet regulator.

Philips, according to the Independent, stated “I consider my internet site to be my artwork,” he said. “It contains my comments on the state of the world, and since Damien Hirst is attempting to shut it down, he is guilty of trying to censor me.

“His lawyers have behaved in an incredibly heavy-handed manner. If they’d asked me nicely, they would have got a perfectly reasonable response. But instead, I was sent several very aggressive letters. I have therefore decided to fight this one all the way.”

It appears that Philips may have changed his stance (above). Where there are clear attempts to hijack and register a well known name as a net domain, it does not seem unreasonable that Nominet should step in to protect the well known name. The Independent report gives several recent examples of squatting. That being said – where someone just happens to have the same name as a well known personage and registers his or her name to use for a website, and there is no attempt at passing off or spoofing, the matter is rather more difficult if the well known personage wants all internet domain variations of the name.

Bar in China allows customer to beat up staff…

A customer leaving the bar?  Who knows?  But, bizarre though it may be, a bar in China has come up with a novel way of attracting customers – by allowing them to beat up the bar staff.

It is pleasing when the BBC find unusual stories.

The ‘Anger bar’ is a big hit. Astonishingly..“Clients can ask the men to dress as the character they wish to attack.” 

Well…thoughts of volenti non fit injuria came to mind, occupier’s liability, assault, battery, and a touch of s.18 and s.20 OAPA 1861.  Glad I was able to shoehorn in a bit of law.

Cricket and and idiocy…

If you are into cricket (which I am) the game today with Pakistan, which England won to take the series 2-0 with one to play, was great sport.  I keep a weather eye out on a small TV in my office.

However… sadly, not all cricket commentators commentate with style. Fox Sports reports: “FORMER Test batsman Dean Jones has been sacked from his job as a TV commentator, after referring to South Africa’s Muslim batsman, Hashim Amla, as a “terrorist”. Jones, who admitted making the comment and apologised, was on a commentary team covering the second Test between Sri Lanka and South Africa in Colombo.”

Unbelievable.  A case of mouth before brain.

Make a very fast motor…

You have one drywall screw, one 1.5 V alkaline cell, six inches of plain copper wire, one small neodymium disk magnet, and no other tools or supplies. You have 30 seconds to make an electric motor running in excess of ten thousand RPM. Can you do it? Surprisingly enough, you can.

Before I give you the URL for this exotic and exciting device – please note – it works.  The screw could fly out of control (wear safety goggles) and, assuming you can hold the battery on while it spins at 10,000 rpm, you could end up with very burned fingers (wear gloves) – as the website says – don’t leave your common sense at home on this one.

Charon accepts absolutely no responsibility whatsoever and on that basis only – here is the URL  Amaze your friends (ensuring that they are suitably protected, consistent with current legislation) – but don’t blind them with the science.

Punctuation really matters…..

I am grateful to Liadnan, posting on Geeklawyer’s forum site, for picking up a fascinating case where a comma out of place in a contract, triggered the strict construction approach and cost a great deal of money.

This will be of particular interest to contract lawyers – hence my interest. Have a look at Liadnan’s original post. Liadnan also provides a link to the original press report. Fascinating stuff – here is the report again.

Licensed larceny…from the Law West of Ealing Broadway

Bystander JP remarks on his blog, the Law West of Ealing Broadway “I can confidently assert that almost every pint of draught beer sold is short measure, by between five and ten percent, and that this is deliberate policy to increase profits.”

I will be watching like a hawk at my local for the next few days. I seem to recall, however, at The Swan, that they knock the head off and edge the measure to the top – so, I doubt that I shall be able to view any licensed larceny there. Interesting article – worth a read if you are a beer drinker. Bystander also notes that are very few prosecutions for short measure in pubs. Read the comments section on Bystander’s post – most amusing. This topic fired his viewers up – excellent!

A quick trip to see Judge ‘Custody’ Cooper?…

I made a brief visit to Diary of a Criminal Solicitor today as work tailed off just before 5.00 Most interesting post.. I shall give you a flavour of it…

“I had the joy of going to Colchester Magistrates Court and watched this infamous District Judge in action. District Judge Cooper has a reputation for remanding people in custody where he either thinks that they are a bail risk despite the fact they are already on bail, or, that they need to consider their not guilty plea by being put in the Court cells for a few hours.”

The Diarist continues, by suggesting that a visit to Judge Cooper’s court may be entertaining…I quote.. “District Judge Cooper is very entertaining to watch and if you are ever free on a Thursday morning he is well worth watching at Colchester Magistrates Court. The general public would probably applaud the comments he makes about defendants and approve of his methods.”

I quite like the idea that District Judges should be entertaining. The only problem with visiting courts to view proceedings – unlike cricket – you can’t sit there with a decent drink in your hand.

Comedians seek help from lawyers…gawd help us…..

The Independent reports today that a “new wave of young comics at this month’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe will do with a crash course in the law to stop them being ripped off.”

Seems plausible and laudable enough – given that original comedy takes a fair bit of work and why should comedians not enjoy legal protection?

The difficulty is – as the article points out – it is notoriously difficult to copyright a joke.

I quote from The Independent…“The most recent high-profile case of alleged joke plagiarism saw Jimmy Carr claiming that Jim Davidson had swiped a gag. Carr had his lawyers send a warning letter, but his actions brought some derision from others in the comedy world.”

The report continued…“Stewart Lee pointed out at the time that if Jim Davidson wants to use your jokes, it might be time to rethink your material” Now that is funny.

On a warm Saturday afternoon in August…

I have my Silk Cut to the left, an espresso to my right. I also have Photoshop. The Swan will be open for Rioja later…England are doing well in the Cricket against Pakistan (I am watching it on a small portable television in my office at home as I write.)

The Lord Protector is hoping to solve the crisis in the Lebanon over the weekend so that he may join his family in Barbados next week without the tabloids pillorying him for fiddling around in the West Indies while the Lebanon burns with the bombs and rockets of Israel and Hezbollah. I will, if I may, leave political and humanitarian comment to the serious writers in the Press and others, far more eloquent – save to say this: that pictures of young children being carried, dead, from the ruins of buildings in both The Lebanon and Israel demean us and are testament to our failure to resolve issues and differences by talking. War resolves few things. It just leaves a lot of people dead in body and spirit. The Independent reports today that “Thousands are expected to march to Downing Street to demand an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon.”
And so… other matters

Bystander JP in his interesting blog: The Law West of Ealing Broadway (it provides an excellent insight into daily life in the the world of crime) notes that he didn’t receive any gongs for his blog at the New Statesman New Media Awards at which Peter Tatchell made a speech. Bystander comments wryly ( a comment which made me laugh) “I was tempted to tell Peter Tatchell that he looked different without handcuffs on, but I decided that he might take it the wrong way.”

Bystander JP also had the grace to comment pleasantly on my piece about the walk down Fleet Street (Infra) – but wonders whether I was pissed at the time (I wrote it). The alternative construction of course (must bring a bit of law into my blawg) is that he was suggesting that I may have been pissed in Fleet Street. I am not an american, so I cannot plead the ‘fifth amendment’ and, as I do not believe in incriminating myself (The Human Rights Act is so useful), I will pass over the possibility that I may have been pissed in a public place and therefore place myself in jeopardy of being visited by Police or Community Service Officers (who read his blog and, from thence, may visit my blog) and be cautioned for such behaviour.

I am conscious, after seeing Dan Hull’s kind write up of my blawg on his serious law blog “What About Clients? that I am getting some visitors from the US. “Pissed” has a different meaning in the States. It means angry. In the UK, getting ‘pissed’ , by which I mean, ‘mildly over refreshed with alcohol’ is a national past-time and we lead the world; even beating the Japanese, Germans and Dutch, at binge drinking. Our government, however, is trying to ensure that we continue to be world beaters by ensuring that pubs can stay open 24 hours a day. It is also exceptionally good for the Exchequer, now that the anti-smoking bores have got their way with smoking in public places. As Jean Paul Sartre said “I drink, therefore I am.”

Before I pass on – there are some serious and very useful articles and analyses on Dan’s blog which will repay careful study if you want an insight into practice and trends in the States or elsewhere. The blog is right on the button with practice matters. Have a look at “What About Clients?

And so… to even more matters

Revolutionary French farmer is arrested for driving truck powered by vegetable oil. (The Independent) French Customs plod descended on Monsieur Laine, 49, of Rouen in Normandy, because he was using ‘unauthorised fuel’ (i.e. no duty/tax) to power his truck. This is somewhat ironic, given that the world is heating up slowly because of the use of fossil fuels and… I quote from the Independent: “An EU directive passed last year instructs member states to encourage the use of pure vegetable oil as a form of fuel for diesel-powered vehicles. Paris has failed so far to translate the directive into law.”

Meanwhile over in tabloid land..The Mirror has this breaking news:

POLICE set up cordons after a severed finger theatre prop was mistaken for a real one in Heaton Park, Manchester.

Arthur Lee, 61, lead singer of Love is dead

I dropped into BoingBoing, as I often do, to learn that Arthur Lee is dead. This news immediately took me back to the days when I was incarcerated against my will, for an offence I did not commit, (to borrow from John Mortimer QC) in a remote Scottish public school (Glenalmond – which also held a young Charlie Falconer – now Lord Chancellor) in the late sixties. I used to listen to the album pictured. I also listened to Zappa, The Mothers of Invention, Led Zep, Captain Beefheart, The Stones, the Doors and many others…and dreamed of escape. I finally did escape, of course, after turning the system to my best advantage – and embarked on a strange life which has me, this day, writing ephemera for my blawg. Je ne regrette rien. I shall return, in another life – peut etre. I shall raise a glass to the departed Lee, this night.

Mon dieu… I am turning into an old git…reminiscing…. enough… of that. Tonight I shall march against the French again. Cry God for Harry, England and St George – The cricket is fantastic…and, so is the Rioja which I have just cracked open as a precursor to my evening of liberation and libation.

The Rioja which I am now drinking, shipped in 2000, after an unusually long journey, has held the nose well with just a hint of the taste of an old Gladstone bag at the back of the tongue as it slips down. Of course, I am getting rasperries, grass and, perhaps just a hint of Spanish sun. The aroma of the bullring seems to almost pervade the glass. It compares well to the earthy burgundies which I drank too much of in years gone by – but at a price which better suits my wallet. The trouble with Burgundian wines ( I am, of course referring to the reds – white wines are for amateur drinkers) is the noble rot which is talked about them… sorry..the smell of noble rot. Some say that it is essential. For my part… it just seems as if I am drinking a duff bouteille du vin. I hold my glass up to the light and swirl the wine to see the ‘legs’. Unfortunately, I am a little too vigorous with the action, and wine has just sloshed all over my keyboard. C’est la vie – the trials of a Rioja drinker.

I sip the wine…I am transported to Barcelona. It is hot, but there is a faint breeze. The sun is low on the horizon. A flamenco dancer is stamping up and down on the pavement near me. She is beautiful and appears to be wearing a Guardia Civil helmet on her head…I watch her dance… the phone rings and I am back at my desk – the dream shattered. It is someone from a call centre in India asking me if I want to change my mobile. I ask him if he can find a buyer for my present mobile – if I am prepared to do the deal – and, while he is on the phone, I ask if he is able to change my electricity supplier from British Gas to Thames Water. He isn’t able to help me with any of these things. I wish him well and drain my glass. Yes… the Rioja can do wonderful things. A piu tarde

Charon visits Fleet Street at the start of the long vacation…

I happened to find myself on Geeklawyer’s forum (a good place to relax) – and I decided to try and sum up what it MIGHT be like to walk down Fleet Street when the legal year has ended… I probably have not succeeded… but, having spent a happy half hour on his site reflecting on this… I thought I would also put it on my own blawg until I feel it necessary to ‘redact’ it… which may well be on the morrow.


SCENE: Fleet Street, London – August 3rd – a desolate place. Not a new instruction in sight. Charon is in the role of John Simpson (BBC) liberating Kabul some years ago….


I walked down Fleet Street at the head of a small band of very tired barristers (many of whom had not been paid by the law firms which had instructed them in the previous two months of conflict). The wine at lunchtime from various local hostelries had inflamed them. It was not 1381. There was no Watt Tyler… and these people were not peasants in revolt. They were Barristers. Angry?… yes. Looking for ASBOs? – No.

I did not intend to get caught up in this melee. I just happened to find myself in Fleet Street after an afternoon of amusement at Goucho Grill in Chancery Lane. I am always discreet, so I cannot mention who I was with – OK… It was Sven Goran Charon, a Swedish cousin, who had an idea that he might like to manage a set of chambers just to see what would happen.

I was happy to give him completely useless advice in return for a small, but pleasingly satisfying, fee. I carry my own PDQ machine these days. He paid by Amex. The card was not declined.

They were not all young men and women in Fleet Street this afternoon. Some were Silks, newly elevated – the realisation that Silk brought with it sacrifice, troubling them – the sacrifice of seeing their income plummet because solicitors do not always find it attractive to have their ‘favoured’ counsel double or treble their fees.

We walked down past The RCJ – unusually quiet – just a few news crews from Channel Z who were behind the curve and who did not appreciate that the long vacation has started.

… The barristers were battered and dusty after a long Trinity term. I interviewed some of these members of the Bar as we walked past Hammicks and down past Lloyds Law Courts branch where so many legal overdrafts are kept. Their spirit had gone…they were exhausted… but..I understood. Some of them had planned holidays in Tuscany, others were hoping to buy a small property in France. Their dreams were shattered by Clementi, others were shattered by The Lord Chancellor’s view that the state paid far too much to lawyers through the legal aid system.

I watched as one barrister – he cannot have been more than 45 – collapsed on the pavement. I gave him some Rioja from my hip flask. He told me that he would probably not receive any instructions until early October.

I did my best to console him. I tried to tell him that that it was not the fault of New Labour – that we could not blame Lord Protector Blair for this – but he would not listen.

He told me that he could not understand how, when John Reid had promised to work Eighteen F*****g hours a day, there was not more work for prosecution and defence barristers.

He became agitated when I suggested that he should not read too much into press releases from The Home Office.

It was an unusual way to spend the late afternoon – but, as I walked down Aldwych and then into The Strand, en route to The American Bar at The Savoy, with this ‘Band of Brothers/Sisters’, I felt a sense of pride that there is, still, a small group of men and women who make themselves available, in the best traditions of the cab rank rule, to defend this island from the onslaught of governmental indifference to the legal profession, the laws they don’t like and the difficulties faced by lawyers who have served this sceptred isle since time immemorial.

I was moved.

BPP and College of Law are carving up ‘elite’ City LPC market

There is an interesting story in Legal Week about the trend for major City law firms to send their trainees to do a tailor made LPC at a small group of leading vocational law schools.

Both BPP and The College of Law will, of course, deliver an appropriate course to the firms who select them as trainers of choice for the LPC. At least, one assumes this to be the position, on the basis of the quality of their current provision – unless the scale of operation becomes so large that they cannot maintain quality. Time will tell.

 Bridget Prentice MP recently gave a talk to the profession about diversity. I commented on her speech a few days ago

I’ve decided to write a more detailed piece on this topic – so have withdrawn my earlier comments

Pilgims disappointed…

PILGRIMS who queued to drink from a miracle fountain flowing from a statue of the late pope John Paul II were disappointed to hear it is just a council-installed water pipe.

Locals in the pope’s birthplace of Wadowice, near Krakow, thought a miracle had happened when water started to run from the base of his statue. Hundreds flocked to the site to fill water bottles with ‘holy water’. Story

I would imagine the religious people who did flock to the statue would be extremely disappointed to learn that the water came from a newly installed tap. I am not a great believer in miracles, the paranormal or, as it happens any of the gods currently in favour. I find that this enables me to be independent and look at issues rationally without being clouded by a specific religious prejudice. I have also noticed that quite a few wars in history and, indeed, in our time, are based on religious prejudice or intolerance. However, each to their own. I saw a story the other day where a woman was asked by Police to take a sign off her gate. The sign read ” Beware of the dog..we feed him on Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

Now..if someone could turn Thames Water into a fine Rioja… that would interest me, especially if the Thames workmen were late in coming to repair the pipes.

638 ways to kill Castro…

I had to look twice when I saw this on the Guardian website – quite an interesting article

“For nearly half a century, the CIA and Cuban exiles have been trying to devise ways to assassinate Fidel Castro, who is currently laid low in Cuba following an operation for intestinal bleeding. None of the plots, of course, succeeded, but, then, many of them would probably be rejected as too fanciful for a James Bond novel.”

We seem to have a morbid fascination for the demise, death or political departure of world leaders. Some Cubans are already dancing in the street, but it may be premature. We know when George Dubya is going. It is written into the US Constitution. Speculation still continues about Blair’s trip to the political departure gate.

Domesday book online…

The National Archive has come up trumps with this fascinating website

“Domesday is our most famous and earliest surviving public record. It is a highly detailed survey and valuation of all the land held by the King and his chief tenants, along with all the resources that went with the land in late 11th century England. The survey was a massive enterprise, and the record of that survey, Domesday Book, was a remarkable achievement. There is nothing like it in England until the censuses of the 19th century.”

I had a quick look around. Unfortunately Chiswick in West London did not appear to exist – but there is a Chiswick in Essex. Cesewic. Chiswick in Essex? God help us.. I shall definitely be writing to our local online website/newsletter “W4” with this information. Well worth a look – and, a perfectly justifiable entry in my blawg (unlike many) – and a little bit of recreation for tax lawyers and land lawyers!


When I got up this morning I thought I might start the blawg with something sensible..but why? –  when one can draw your attention to Indicatears. Yesterday it was a plastic jumping lederhosen – today..indicatears. The website for this bizarre gadget says: “Now ears a good idea. Indicatears are great fun and a novel new gadget for cyclists, or anyone who wants to let other people know which way they want to turn.

No more confusion then, just wear your Indicatears and they will light up either your right ear or your left ear to indicate that you want to turn right or left. Now isn’t that clever!”

While I am all in favour of bicycle riders being more visible and indicating their intentions, I’m not sure that this is going to catch on. Perhaps Tony Blair should get some and then he can indicate which way he is going to turn when he makes his next sound bite?

The Judges v The Home Office….

There can be no doubt – when the Court of Appeal is convened with The Lord Chief Justice, the Master of the Rolls and The President of the QBD that something serious is being decided. One can only assume that such a constitution was intended.

It was, of course, the appeal involving anti-terrorism laws, or more particularly, the appeal from Mr Justice Sullivan’s quashing of the control orders on six suspected Iraqi terrorists subjected to house arrest for 18 hours a day. The Independent report gives the background.

The Court of Appeal ruled that Mr Justice Sullivan had ‘compelling reasons’ for quashing the control orders.

Will you still love me when I’m 64?

Have I any interest in McCartney v McCartney?

To be honest. No – for the perfectly sensible reason that it is a private matter, or should be. So I won’t be covering this all too public, and I suspect, rather unpleasant battle – if the info in the tabloids to date is proved. He’s a rich guy who entertained millions (but, not everyone) and she will, in all probability, be very rich soon. Let us hope that our profession rises to the occasion and serves both parties well. Amen.

Opus dei?…

Mark Stephens, Partner at Finers Stephens Innocent, needs no introduction to many of those who read my blawg. He is also a Times Blogger – and I particularly enjoyed this piece from his blog – the ultimate contractual provision. Being a Contract specialist, the clause appealed to me.

This reminded me of a very old contract law joke…

The professor of a contract law class asked one of his better students, “If you were to give someone an orange, how would you go about it?”
The student replied, “Here’s an orange.”
The professor was outraged. “No! No! Think like a lawyer!”

The student then replied, “Okay. I’d tell him `I hereby give and convey to you all and singular, my estate and interests, rights, claim, title, claim and advantages of and in, said orange, together with all its rind, juice, pulp, and seeds, and all rights and advantages with full power to bite, cut, freeze and otherwise eat, the same, or give the same away with and without the pulp, juice, rind and seeds, anything herein before or hereinafter or in any deed, or deeds, instruments of whatever nature or kind whatsoever to the contrary in anywise notwithstanding…'”

Unbelievable what you can find on the net these days….

Time for a look at the human condition.

I rise early – often at 4.30 am. It is then, Silk Cut to hand and an espresso from my new Gaggia to my right, that I start my research on the net; reading the newspapers online, fiddling about with the latest legal news and reports which interest me and my thoughts as I surface. It is then that I write some of my posts.

I came across a wind up jumping lederhosen. As the website says – “Don’t ask us what the point of this thing is…why anyone would make it…why someone would buy it!” If you want one: click here

City tries to ban standing at the Bar

One may have thought that Police had better things to do ‘Up north” – but, apparently not. The Times reports

I quote: “Police in Preston, Lancashire, think it is not as simple as that. Vertical drinking, they believe, is one of the country’s main causes of public disorder and would like to see it banned in the city’s pubs. Vertical drinking is a new term for what used to be called standing at the bar, long regarded as the natural refuelling posture. Sixteen pints of lager slip into the tanks much more easily when the gullet is erect rather than kinked by the body being squeezed into a chair like a half-shut penknife. Drinking while standing in a like-minded group, police argue, is a contributor to booze-fuelled violence.”

Personally I prefer to adopt a seated position when I take on Rioja. I find that a table in front of me has several benefits. I may place my espresso, my mobile, my Silk Cut and my wine before me. I may then look across to the person seated opposite and engage in conversation to the best of my ability without fear that he or she will suddenly lurch forward, through intoxication, and disrupt my thoughts. As the reporter said..“There is only one incontrovertible advantage to addling the brain with alcohol while seated. It’s less far to fall.”

Here is a serious burglar…quite extraordinary – underwear on his head? Bizarre.

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. — Police have arrested a man accused of robbing a popular candy store.
Bryan Schoonover, 32, was arrested over the weekend. He was charged with burglary and theft.
Police said Schoonover is the man captured on video surveillance robbing Laura’s Little Chocolates earlier this month. The man was wearing underwear on his head. He took several hundred dollars in cash and two pans of fudge, which is about eight pounds of candy. Full story

Imagine breaking The Prime Minister’s nose while playing football. Well this footballer broke his President’s nose doing just that in Bolivia. BBC story

Think twice before cheating!….

This caught my eye on the net.

I thought this might be useful for Family lawyers who are not served that well on my blawg – simply because I have given up troubling the Superintendent of Marriages etc etc – at least for the time being.

I do, however, like direct action – full marks to Emily. Pure class!

PS.. I’ve also given up on the fact that Linkiewinkie will ever wink at Charon!

What’s that stink over there?

Bullying in the workplace

The Independent reports today : “Helen Green, 36, who worked as a company secretary assistant, successfully sued Deutsche Bank Group Services (UK), for turning a blind eye to “schoolyard” bullying in the “department from hell”.

This action has cost the Bank £1 million. It beggars belief that mature men and women, in serious jobs, in a serious business environment, can behave like schoolyard bullies and make someone else’s life a misery. There is a big difference between banter, teasing and bullying. Helen Green was subjected to bullying by four other women. I quote from the Independent report: “(She) suffered a nervous breakdown after being targeted by four female colleagues who, she said, subjected her to “offensive, abusive, intimidating, denigrating, bullying, humiliating, patronising, infantile and insulting words and behaviour”.

Another passage from the report in the paper describes the scene: “One day, she was working alone when the women trooped in. Ms Dolbear asked the others: “What’s that stink over there?”, and put her hand over her nose. “Daniella was shouting and saying, ‘You stink’, and that sort of loud behaviour and laughing in my face and blowing raspberries,” Ms Green said.”

Apparently one manager dismissed the complaints Ms Green made by remarking that “Everyone has to take their turn,”

Well I don’t think everyone has to, or should have to, take their turn. Employers owe a duty of care to ensure that their employees can work safely at work – and this includes safety in the context of being free from puerile bullying. Deutche Bank have not decided whether they will appeal but deny breach of statutory duty and that Ms Green was bullied. On the facts of the case as reported in the Independent – it seems pretty clear that the High Court took a robust view. So it will be interesting to see if Deutche bank do appeal and what the result of the appeal will be.

The Independent report makes it clear that this is not an isolated case and cites several other examples of large payouts being made by banks and other City organisations. It is extraordinary that bullying at this or any other level exists in the workplace. I know business can be tough. Sometimes it can be dog eat dog, but that is usually between equals in a business context, or at least between business people who are used to the cut and thrust of business life. There is no excuse for this type of bullying in any situation, let alone the workplace.

What’s that stink over there? It is the stench of poor management at a respected bank. The Judge, Mr Justice Owen, made the point “The management was weak and ineffectual. The managers collectively closed their eyes to what was going on, no doubt in the hope that the problem would go away.”

Diversity in law firms… excellent idea!

I do not spend my time scouring the DCA website looking for speeches to read (well, not that often) but I could not resist reading a speech by Bridget Prentice MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitituional Affairs. You may read her speech in full here.

After an auspicious start where she thanked The Lawyer for inviting her to address the herd (I have decided that a ‘herd’ of lawyers is an appropriate collective noun – I may change my mind tomorrow) Ms Prentice MP went on to say that her address should not be seen as dictation but more as a bit of ‘constructive help’.

“Quite rightly the legal profession is independent of Government and it would not be right for ‘us’ to tell ‘you’ how to recruit, retain and promote your staff.”

Just in case any member of the audience was even mildly sceptical, Ms Prentice re-assured them by saying why diversity was important – with a delightful little ‘come on’ at the end on financial benefits to get attention should any particularly greedy members of the profession be present. “Why is this important? Because almost everyone will use legal services at some point in their lives. And I believe it’s essential that the legal profession should be, and should be seen to be representative of the people it serves. Consumer confidence will increase. There are also potential financial benefits for you too. It seems that clients may increasingly choose to purchase legal services from firms who are able to demonstrate their commitment to their staff’s diversity and equality of opportunity.”

She then informed the herd that only 19 firms out of the top 100 had bothered to respond initially – citing possible postal dificulties – and that a further 34 had responded after being prompted. That makes 53 / 100. Good stuff. The profession is clearly regarding this issue as a top priority. Ms Prentice remarked “But only 19 firms had published their data by the date asked for. My speech says that is “disappointing”. I think it’s quite appalling.”

[I have to say, I was a bit puzzled by the ‘my speech says’ and “I think” bit. Didn’t she write the speech? ]
With just a hint of Darth Vader menace….Ms Prentice went on – possibly smiling as she does in her website pic above : It would be tempting now to list those firms who’ve yet to respond! But perhaps I’ll get some more replies following today’s event! I certainly hope so. And anyway, past experience has not stopped us writing to a further 100 firms asking them to publish similar information by the 4 August.”

I liked that bit of her speech better than the rest of it. Subtle menace is always a good thing. Perhaps I could ask for this information under the Freedom of Information Act – from Ms Prentice? She then bangs on about promises she received from law firms to update websites (She will hold them to that promise. This is, clearly, an MP on a mission.

The speech actually makes some very good points and I have no desire to analyse each and every part of it. Instead, I wish to focus on one aspect of it. It is best summed up in Ms Prentice’s own words:

“Take entry into the profession for example. There is evidence that a lot of firms still only recruit from a limited number of universities and that it is not always clear to trainees or those involved in the recruitment process what skills and attributes a firm is looking for. The recruitment process itself is not always as transparent as it could be.”

This really is the crux of the matter. We need to improve education for all sectors of society so that those from poorer or less advantaged backgrounds have a fair chance of getting into one of the top universities. Top law firms are in a position to recruit from the top universities. Why should they not do so? We need to reduce the cost of legal education. Students, mostly from middle class backgrounds, entering a top law firm will not have to worry about LPC fees. The firm pays the fees. It is students from all backgrounds who join firms who do not or who cannot afford to pay LPC fees for trainees that we need to help. It isn’t cheap to do an LPC. At least 20k is need for fees and subsistence, possibly more – and that is just for the LPC year. Loans are available – but what a burden. The truth is – some students are put off because of the high costs of qualifying.

The position of the young barrister is even worse. The Bar is and always has been a very competitive branch of the profession. Are there too many BVC places for too few tenancies, let alone pupillages? Is the Bar that diverse these days? Things are improving – but isn’t there still a sense in both branches of the profession that Law is, essentially, still, a middle class profession ?

Ms Prentice is right to push diversity. The more difficult matter is – how do we achieve it?

Fox hunting… a test case

Imagine a situation… I go for a walk (that, in itself requires imagination) and find a fox being hunted by men stalking behind a tank – flushing the fox out to be shot at by the tank. Would this be lawful – assuming that appropriate permits were obtained for a tank to be on private land firing ammunition? I know little about fox hunting. I know even less about the law relating to hunting.

There is, however, a test case going through the courts at the moment – reported, today, in the Guardian.

The Guardian article makes fascinating reading, not least because it describes a scene of a man in a scarlet coat, a man on a quad bike with a rifle slung over his shoulder, a hunt follower who raises his thumb and says “1-0” (implying a fox had been killed) and observers armed with video cameras and a GPS unit (accurate to ten metres). Helpfully, the article also describes the current law so I am, now at least, better informed.

I have little taste for killing animals for sport. I saw grown men in Africa standing triumphantly over lion and leopard, shot dead with high velocity rifles, accurate to 1500 metres. I can see no bravery or particular skill in shooting an animal with a high technology rifle fitted with a night vision scope and see no pleasure to be gained from seeing a fox harried to death by hounds and then torn to shreds. If they are vermin – shoot them humanely? Fox hunting seems to divide emotion, more viciously than any other ‘sporting’ activity. Since the hunting ban came into force – the sport seems to have become more popular.

I shall continue to watch one of the most vicious games on earth for my more visceral pleasures – CRICKET. Twenty-two men, pitting their wits against each other. A heavy cricket ball hurled venomously at nearly 100 mph against a batsman, but 22 yards away. Fielders, standing a few yards away, in danger of being hit by a cricket ball. The subtlety of spin, the subtlety of light, weather, anxiety, gamesmanship, tactics – the Chess of the sporting world.

What do you think of hunting? Is the pleasure from killing the fox? If not, why not just hunt a human who lays a trail? Same horses, same dogs, same countryside, same followers – but would it be the same pleasure?

As a postscript – we have quite a few foxes in Chiswick. Should I find myself walking home at 3.00 in the morning on a Saturday – it is rare for me not to see a fox. I like the idea that there are foxes wandering around late at night in West London.

So… how much evidence do you need?

So..in front of a judge, solicitors, barristers, prison officers, police and assorted court personnel, a burglar escapes from court and goes on the run. Unfortunately, because no-one took witness statements for this ‘extraordinary rendition by the burglar of himself’ – the burglar escaped conviction for escaping because of lack of evidence.

The Mirror reports: “Derbyshire Crown Prosecution Service spokeswoman Lisa Garnham said of Wilson’s escape: “There obviously were witnesses to the incident, but there was insufficient evidence to proceed.”

Local MP Patrick McLoughlin was not impressed. He said: “It doesn’t exactly send a very firm message to anyone else who is appearing in court. It is bizarre that he was not charged in relation to evading justice after all the extra costs in this case.”

The Keystone cops are investigating.