31st July: In conversation…..

Today, Friday 31st July 2009, brought the curtain down on a venerable institution – the Judicial Committee of The House of Lords – to be transformed on October 1st into The Supreme Court of The United Kingdom. The judges of the Supreme Court are to be styled ‘Justices of the Supreme Court’.

But… there is still a problem… how are they to be referred to in the papers, on television?  As Joshua Rozenberg pointed out in the Law Society Gazette this week… calling them ‘Justice’ is either a bit too American and could lead to confusion with our most senior judges being on a lower level in title terms than a High Court judge (Mr Justice or Mrs Justice ) or the Court of Appeal judge ( Lord Justice or Lady Justice).  Rozenberg suggests that Justice of the Supreme Court Lord Clarke of Stone-cum-Ebony is just not going to fit in the television captions or, I would add,  be capable of being remembered by the average television autocue based presenter/interviewer.

I opened a bottle of Rioja and imagined a conversation between two men who meet in the pub quite a lot.  I shall call them  Man in a Hat and Man in a Cap.

Man in hat: You do know that the Law Lords stopped being Law Lords today don’t you?

Man in cap: Stopped being Law Lords…?  what sort of Lords are they going to be then?

Man in hat: Well.. they’re still going to be Law… Lords… as in Lords who do Law… but they won’t be Law Lords… The House of Lords… or part of it… … see… has changed into the Supreme Court….

Man in a cap: Yeah… I read about that in The Telegraph… they’ve got a new building an all…. an expensive new building…. 65 million quid  it was… did you see that? And.. I also read that new judges to this Chicken Supreme Court aren’t going to be Lords at all…. just law judges… so won’t they feel a bit left out… what with all the others being Time Lords who aren’t any longer… and that?

Man in hat: Yes… I saw that in The Mail.  Disgraceful… you’d have thought a man or woman who works all his or her  life for his or her country and goes to our highest court of law would get a Lordship wouldn’t you? … especially since all the other lords who do law but aren’t law lords any longer have got lordships.

Man in cap: So if a new judge is appointed to this Supreme Court aren’t going to be Lords what will they be?  Sirs? Dames? ….

Man in hat: Well… they will probably be Sir or Dame already because of being a High Court judge.

Man in cap: But that is a bit confusing…. I read that a judge … if a bloke… goes to the High Court… the Queen gets her sword out and he becomes a Sir and then everyone calls him My Lord. But…  he is a ‘Sir’, gets called My Lord and he  is called Mr Justice in the newspapers and on the telly…. what’s that all about then?  I’ve got a Scottish mate… he says it is even more confusing up in Scotland.  There… he says… judges of the Court of Session don’t get Lordships but are called Lord and when they go from the Outer House  to the Inner House…First or Second Division… some of them who are already called Lord… get real Lordships in the House of Lords….. and can call themselves Lord…even though they already have been calling themselves Lord… even though they aren’t Lords…. .. but they can’t call themselves Lord Lord.

Man in hat and Man in cap sip their drinks… both in a reflective mood…

Man in cap… continues: And what about the geezer who isn’t a Lord or a Sir when he leapfrogs straight from his Chambermaid  or from his law firm or university to the Supreme Court…  as is allowed… I saw that in The Telegraph… by the new laws…. does he get a Sir en route before calling himself Lord like the Scots judges ?…. and if not, why not…?

Man in hat: Fuck it… I can’t cope… fancy another?

Man in cap: Don’t mind if I do My Lord….. perhaps the new judges will be called The Supremes…..?

Barbecue Summer…?

It’s an old joke… and I am grateful to my dear friend in BrisVegas, Australia for sending it to me… but I just could not resist after the ludicrous predictions of the Met Office that we would have a long hot sizzling “Barbecue Summer”.  Well… as we all know… we haven’t….. and even the Third Ashes Test was delayed… and you can’t get more serious than that in the great scheme of life.

A few good reads.. from Bastard to White Rabbit and a very direct Clown

Time for a bit of non-law… a few very good reads – and while The White Rabbit is a serious lawyer who specialises in blood stains, writing about law on his blog is a rarity. A man after my own heart – and always a pleasure to read – including his comments on my Lord Falconer podcast (which have, predictably, absolutely nothing to do with the podcast) where he engages with Jimmy Bastard (or Sir James, as I know him from our fortnightly lunches at the Langham).  Jimmy Bastard’s Never Mind The Bollix is unpredictable and raw – one just does not know what will come up next.  It could be deep and beautifully written, it could be a rant or it could be some surreal and very un-PC stuff. Always enjoyable to read.  He paints a picture with remarkable ease – and that ain’t easy.

Obnoxio the Clown is on twitter and his blog is direct, to the point and more often than not… not office safe.  But his observations on life and politics in particular are worth a read even if they do, occasionally, shock or repel!  I often find  myself feeling mildly guilty at laughing at some of the stuff he writes about or finds on the net.  It is a good feeling – but I wouldn’t tell my doctor about it.

And then there is James Higham, a writer, who has a fascinating  blog Nourishing Obscurity – an eclectic mix of whatever James is interested in that day.  He and the Blog Bloodhounds (Sleuthing the sphere) have a very wide range of blogging interests – a must look at and read.  The pleasures of exploration are also to be enjoyed on James Higham’s blog – his blogrolls, his categories – a mine of information and non-law blogging pleasure. Today.. James is, in fact, Squadron Leader James Bigglesworth Higham.  Tomorrow he could well be James Robespiere-Higham. One just does not know.

Fancy a political kick in the balls? Then… over to The Devils Kitchen.

And… in this brief look into the non-law world, have a look at Ms R – A Woman of Experience. her blog is tight, well written and always entertaining or just funny.  She’s also writing a book. (details on her blog)

There are many more blogs I read… soon, I shall do another section on non-law blogs and, of course, as the political conference season starts up I’ll do a run down on some excellent political blogs. For the moment…. that is all.

Oh… and don’t forget about Geeklawyer… he doesn’t write much about law either… largely because he spends his life on Twitter with his harem and drinking mead – but when he does do a blog post – always worth reading…. always!  Mind you, in relation to twitter… I cannot take a lofty attitude… it would appear that I spend industrial amounts of time on Twitter myself… actually… I multi-task…. until I get so pissed I can only tweet.

Lords rule on assisted suicide: R (on the application of Purdy) v Director of Public Prosecutions

On the day when the Law Lords bade farewell to the House of Lords and sit as Justices of the Supreme Court of the United kingdom at the new Supreme Court in October,  they gave judgment on one of the emotive issues of our times in R (on the application of Purdy) v Director of Public Prosecutions [2009]

The Times reports: “Five Law Lords unanimously backed the woman’s call for a policy statement from the Director of Public Prosecutions on the circumstances in which a person such as her husband might face prosecution for helping a loved one end their life abroad.”

“The Law Lords agreed that changes were a matter for Parliament, but upheld Ms Purdy’s argument that the DPP, Keir Starmer QC, should put in writing the factors that he regarded as relevant in deciding whether or not to prosecute. After the verdict, Mr Starmer issued a statement accepting the decision and saying that an interim policy would be produced by the end of September. He added that his final version should be published by spring 2010.”


I spoke earlier in the week to Lord Falconer on his amendment to the law on assisted suicide. We now have a clear statement from the Law Lords that the DPP is under a duty to put in writing the factors he regards as relevant in deciding whether or not to prosecute and, thereby, clarifying the position for those, Like Ms Purdy who wish to end their lives knowing that their loved ones will not be prosecuted if they assist.

A step in the right direction but by no means a change in the fundamental law – a challenge for a future parliament. The next stage must, inevitably, be pressure on Parliament to change the law to permit assisted dying in this country.

An issue of justice

While our own legal history has a grim and primitive past; with trial by ordeal and combat being replaced by rough justice and the penalties of death by hanging, drawing, quatering et al – and the Americans and other supposedly civilised jurisdictions around the world continue to exact the penalty of death – we do have the right as commentators to say that  this and other cruel punishments are plain wrong, just as we have the right to observe in this country when bad laws are made and bad judgments are handed down.

We are not, by any means yet, in a state of grace where we can legitimately say that our Justice is perfect,  or even more foolish –  the best in the world – for that degrades the evolution of our system and the work of judges who do their best, in the main, to dispense justice within the confines of a flawed menu of laws.

That stated, there is a shocking story in the Guardian today about a flawed legal system and the remarkable courage of a young woman who has renounced her UN immunity by resigning from her job with the United Nations to protest and test the Sudanese judiciary and Islam itself as it is interpreted in that country.

Sudanese journalist quits UN job to go on trial for wearing trousers

Guardian: A  female Sudanese journalist facing 40 lashes for wearing trousers in public told a packed Khartoum courtroom yesterday that she was resigning from a UN job that grants her immunity so that she could challenge the law on women’s dress. Lubna Hussein was among 13 women arrested on 3 July in a raid by members of the public order police force on a popular Khartoum cafe. The women were all wearing trousers, considered indecent under the strict interpretation of Islamic law adopted by Sudan ‘s Islamic regime. All but three of the women were flogged at a police station two days later.

I have read with some irritation suggestions from Lord Phillips, the Archbishop of Canterbury and others that we should embrace Sharia law concepts within our nation,  and The Times only recently had a Sharia gorge fest reporting on the views of a cleric who wants to see Sharia courts given greater prominence.

We live in an increasingly secular country. I accept, for reasons of history that the Church of England enjoys a degree of primacy,  but rather than suggest that we embrace all religious systems within our law, I would prefer to see all religious systems and overt influences  removed from law and judicial hearings.  We have a common law system which, while not perfect,  is evolving. That is one of the benefits of a common law system over more structured written constitutions or civil systems based on codes. It may well lead to imperfection and inconsistency but many of these can be tempered, evened out or put right through our appellate system.

This is not a crass political issue – it is about justice and the rule of law in our country.  For my part I do not see how we can operate several different types of law within our nation and I certainly do not feel attracted by the justice of Islam when it continues, even in this country, to be manifestly oppressive to women – most alarmingly, in this country, in terms of the rights of islamic women in relation to divorce and family law issues. I have no difficulty at all with those who wish voluntarily and with informed consent to have their disputes settled by Sharia courts in this country,  but I would not wish to see those ‘courts’ have any force of law at all in terms of ousting the jurusdiction of our own courts and system of law – or mediation  by those courts barring the right to appeal to the courts of England & Wales.

30th July: News updated on Insite Law

Farewell to the law lords
Times / David Pannick QC
Today the law lords sit to give judgment for the last time in the House of Lords and, as Lord Hope of Craighead said there last week, the upper chamber will be “losing part of itself”. From October the law lords will become Justices of the Supreme Court, created under the Constitutional Reform Act 2005.

Insite Law now has a daily editorial section – with an archived RSS feed – so if you wish to check back over the events of the last week covered in editorial (or even further back) you may do so by visiting the editorial page on Insite Law.

Insite Law news updated: cases, professional news, legal news, editorial and blogs.

Good time to be a lawyer?

There is a certain irony  that the  Bar Standard Board could be forced to abandon plans to introduce a compulsory aptitude test designed to reduce the number of people taking the Bar Vocational Course  after The Office of Fair Trading ‘dubbed it’ anti-competitive earlier this week. (The Lawyer)

Far be it from me, a blogger who spends a lot of his time with his wine supplier, to suggest that the OFT may actually have got this wrong. But…  I think the Bar Standards Board have got it right by introducing an aptitude test to give students a realistic idea in advance of spending a great deal of money as to whether they have a realistic prospect of making a decent career at the Bar.  There are far too many people chasing too few tenancies.  This is unlikely to improve in the current climate and may well not improve at all given that we are unlikely to return to the heady days of the past fifteen or so years bull run. While law schools will solemnly give students warnings about the difficulties they face, it is a bit like asking turkeys what their plans for the Christmas holidays are to leave entry to a Bar exam course to the law schools.  I would make the same point about LPC providers. 7000 LPC students taking less than 6000 training contracts is not an ideal situation for students in the bottom 1000.

By the same token – full marks to The Law Society for taking a pragmatic approach to the current difficulties by launching  a campaign warning students to think twice about embarking on a career in law (The Lawyer).

That said – the law has always been a competitive profession and if a student believes that he or she  possesses the qualities (the aptitude test will assist here) and knowing the risks, they are prepared to take the risk – the profession will benefit from that attitude and we should be wary of warning students off.  The public and private interest is best served by maintaining standards of excellence – and we do not want to see diversity or risk issues bring in a culture where no-one loses and there are no prizes.  Equality of opportunity to compete for the best education to allow competition for the best opportunities should be our goal – not some artifical construct where people are weeded out to cap numbers and control real markets.

Frankly – an idea few will like,  is to make the examinations for law a lot more difficult. That would weed out those who have little prospect of  a career in law and raise standards in universities… Oh… and get rid of this ludicrous idea where everyone should get an Upper Second or a First.  Degree inflation is a farce…..  I’ll get my coat.

Lawcast 152: Lord Falconer on assisted dying and the new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom

Lawcast 152: Lord Falconer on assisted dying and the new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom

Today I am talking to Lord Falconer, a former Lord Chancellor, about two important and interesting themes – assisted dying and his amendment to the Suicide Act defeated in the Lords recently and secondly his thoughts on the reasoning behind establishing a new Supreme Court and the direct it may, in time, take.

Lord Falconer became Lord Chancellor In 2003, with the remit of abolishing the office. His reform included the creation, for the first time, of a Supreme Court for the UK, the creation of a commission to appoint judges, making a full-time independent judge the Head of the Judiciary for England and Wales, and introducing an elected Speaker for the House of Lords.

Listen to the podcast

Podcast version for iTunes

“My mother never saw the irony in calling me a son-of-a-bitch” – Jack Nicholson

I do like a bit of irony… and in the wake of my podcast with Dan Hull of Whataboutclients? only last Saturday where Dan put forward his very strong views that bloggers and those who comment on blogs should identify themselves and not hide behind a cloak of anonymity – there is a certain delicious irony and schadenfreude (for anonymous bloggers?) in finding, only a day later,  that our best known blog commenter, the lovely LawMinx,  awarded Dan one of her LawMinx blog awards. (I got one as well – and while I usually like to give awards to myself I was very pleased to receive it.)

The news today that Avon and Somerset Police force is issuing its female officers with head coverings to be used in places of worship to improve relations with Muslim communities (Independent) prompted, I’m afraid, rather dark thoughts about all forms of religion, about the stated purpose of Jihadists to not rest until the whole world knuckled under to Islam and even darker thoughts about moving to France where they have an extremely sensible attitude to SECULARISM.  I have been reading the work of Christopher Hitchens but I shall resist the temptation to write a peroration on the theme of atheism and the ills religion has caused the world in the last 2000 years.

So… I had a glass of Rioja and came up with the perfectly reasonable thought that if various communities, muslim, ethnic, Northern, Souther, Scots, Irish,  lagerlouts, clubbers etc etc etc, wanted better relations with the Police then it might be an idea for some of those community elders or parents of those who commit offences to tell their offspring to commit less crimes and show a bit of respect for the community and country we live in .  It was at this point that I went into the bedroom, opened the cupboard and was relieved to see that a Blazer and cravats had not appeared, as if by magic,  and that I had not joined a golf club.

Back later….

Insite Law – major upgrade

I have almost completed the structural upgrade to Insite Law. Each weekday morning, and once over the weekend, Insite Law will be updated with editorial, Editor’s pick and all the important latest legal news from The Times, Telegraph, Independent,  Guardian, Ministry of Justice, Bar Council and The Law Society. the Law reports will also be updated daily.

The ICLR does not have an RSS feed – so I have created a website specifically for ICLR / WLR summaries and these will link to each summary as they are published by the ICLR.

Law Reports: I have collated RSS feeds from all the major free law reports and summaries covering cases from The House of Lords, Court of Appeal (Civil and Criminal) and all divisions of the High Court. These may be found here

I have created two new websites to serve up daily legal news and news from the Bar Council and The Law Society.

There are also news feeds from the Law Society Gazette and Legal Week on the Insite Law news page.

This – hopefully, will make it fairly easy for you to keep abreast of developments in news, law reports and the blogs in one easy stop.

Law books: And you can even buy the latest law books stocked by Wildy & Sons who sponsor Insite Law.  There is a new RSS feed to take you direct to their website.

All these resources are accessible through the Insite Law Homepage

27 July: News up on Insite Law

News is up on Insite Law

The news is up in RSS feed format on Insite Law. There is also a searchable news blog which provides the feeds of headlines and a brief summary.  The links, of course, go to the full news report from the Insite news blog archive.

I have also built a widget to feed the ICLR Weekly Law Report cases directly to the right hand panel on the front page of Insite.  Again, there is a searchable blog archive.  The RSS feed provides the area of law, name of the case, date and the cases blog archive gives the summary.  The link on the law reports blog archive is searchable and the link takes you to the ICLR daily summary.

Law Minx: Thanks For Doing a LOVELY Job: The First Annual Minx Blawggies………
Law Minx has been handing out the prizes… (Charon QC got one!)

Lawcast 151: Scots lawyer Brian Inkster on Crofting law, technology and other matters

Inksters

Short film on Brian Inkster and his practice

Law firm that is just that little bit different

Lawcast 151: Scots lawyer Brian Inkster on Crofting law, technology and other matters

Today I am talking to a Scots lawyer – my first podcast with a practitioner from Scotland. Shetland born Brian Inkster founded his own practice, Inksters, and as we will see…does things a little differently, providing a City level of service from his Glasgow offices to his crofting clients in Shetland and his other clients throughout Scotland… Brian is on Twitter, not surprisingly, given his passion for technology and after finding out a bit about practice in Scotland I want to ask him what makes his delivery of legal services special enough to attract the attention of the Telegraph and other news services.

Listen to the podcast

Podcast version for iTunes

26 July: Postcard from the seaside

I shall not be taking a holiday this year.  This is not unusual.  I have not had a holiday for five years – and it suits me.  Drinking a small glass of Tempranillo with my toast and marmalade at 5.30 this morning,  as the gulls flew in, I wondered where the middle classes would be holidaying this year and, in particular how Her Majesty’s judges do holidays.  I cannot for one moment picture a High Court judge dancing in a foam filled nightclub dance floor  in Ibiza or running amok in Magaluf – so where do they go?  I shall return to this shortly.

In these credit-crunched times the middle classes are developing a taste for ‘Staycations’.  So instead of pouring into Tuscany en masse in their linen jackets and Panama hats, they are staying at home.  Those with young lager lout offspring may well piss off to Cornwall so that Harry from Stowe, Jack from Eton and Thomasina from St Paul’s can take recreational drugs and ‘hang out’.  Others may head for Wales, The Lake District or Scotland for something more spartan and ‘uplifting’.

I have this image in my mind of a High Court judge on holiday with his wife. He is used to presiding,  so I imagine him sitting in splendid isolation on his side of the table – in the centre; his wife positioned opposite like counsel. The waiter has just delivered the skeleton argument containing details of the meal.  The judge asks his wife to put her submissions on what points she is likely to take in terms of the food set out in the schedule. The judge listens patiently, nodding approvingly when his wife makes a particularly interesting selection, calls the waiter as an expert witness to clarify some particularly troublesome evidence in French,  and satisfied with the veracity of the evidence,  places his papers on the table, turns to the waiter and gives judgment. The judge speaks slowly to ensure that the order is reported accurately to Chef in the kitchens.

It may be that a glass of Tempranillo at 5.30 am is not one of my better ideas when I start to have thoughts of this nature – but it is National Silly Week tomorrow according to Man in a Shed.  One must do one’s bit.

Apropos of nothing… I don’t have children. Some people don’t. The upside however, is that at least I won’t have a son or daughter anxiously asking ‘after my health’ in later life or worse, shuffling me off to Green Lawns Hall for the demented and gaga and advising me about my cigarette and alcohol consumption while consulting a Wills & Probate textbook and clutching a power of attorney form.  But if you do have a young family and decide to holiday in rain soaked Britain then you may find a trip to the cinema useful.  I did my 150th podcast and my guest was US lawyer Dan Hull yesterday. I like the idea of having ‘guests’ on podcasts, makes it sound like a ‘show’.  I always enjoy podcasts with Dan – I have no idea what he is going to come up with next.  Yesterday it was his latest fave rave ‘Anonymity on the blogosphere’ – and, of course Geeklawyer and Scott Greenfield of Simple Justice were mentioned. After the podcast Dan was telling me about his friend Ellen Bry, a well known actress in the States.  Ellen has made a new film which would be perfect for holiday family viewing.

I haven’t seen it – but I have read about it and Dan describes it thus… ” In the film, we meet a determined and spiritual woman who is surprised to learn that she has inherited just one thing from her dead businessman husband: a run-down old house in Georgia, and the turbulent foster family living in it. Taken from the story Mrs. Hobbes’ House, The Lost & Found Family is a poignant, uplifting, instructive and remarkably powerful family film set in the American South.” You may watch the trailer here

So… if it is on at a Cinema near you and the family is missing their wifi, twitter, Facebook or their Playstation… no need to panic…

I haven’t had swine flu yet despite the fact the pandemic is currently sweeping across Britain,  causing further problems for British holiday makers who are being touched up and screened by French Immigration and Health officials (apparently).  It is curious how the French over react to everything and then make a complete hash of things – but they do do making a hash of things with style and elegance… Trafalgar, Waterloo, Maginot Line etc…

As my Grandfather, Sir Humphrey Charon KCMG, our man in Paris many years ago used to say… “Charon…. just remember… the Frenchies invented the hot air balloon…. entirely appropriate… remember that when you visit France and all will be well”.  I have never forgotten his advice.

So there we are… another weekend postcard written.  The gulls are having breakfast.  I am only moderately over refreshed and it is time for coffee.  I shall, of course, be back later in the day to blog.  Now I must scour the horizon for U-Boats… and, as Gordon Brown ponders his future after the ludicrous result in the Norfolk by-election where a Labour majority of 5000 was turned into a Tory majority of 7000 – I shall have some breakfast.

Best, as always

Charon

Lawcast 150: US lawyer Dan Hull of Whataboutclients? on anonymity and blogging.

Lawcast 150: US lawyer Dan Hull of Whataboutclients? on anonymity and blogging.

Today, in my 150th podcast, I am talking to US Lawyer, fellow blogger and friend Dan Hull, co-founder with Julie McGuire of Hull Mcguire PC and founder of the WhatAboutClients? Blog which on Saturdays turns into the WhatAboutParis blog.

Dan and some other leading US law bloggers have had it with anonymity and they are refusing to publish comments unless you stand up to the plate using a real first name, real second name and a verifiable email address.

It is fair to say that Dan Hull, Rob Bodine and Holden Oliver from Whataboutclients?  started the ball rolling on this anonymity issue on the other side of the Atlantic – and his thoughts are being adopted and developed by others. He believes the legal internet (and wider internet) needs a few rules – non-anonymous blogging being one of them… subject to exceptions.

Mark Bennett from Texas, author of Defending People who did a podcast with me some time ago has already intitiated this policy…WhatAboutClients? notes… Texans are quirky Americans. Internet handles like Law Gringo, Smokestack Lightning and Young Cardozo Speaks won’t cut it with them. We also look at the recession in the US/UK, and the issue of blogging generally. Geeklawyer, Scottgreenfield, Mark Bennett and a few other blogging luminaries are mentioned!

Listen to the podcast
(It is a fairly long podcast – you may want to have an ‘interlude’!

Podcast version for iTunes

27th July… Silly Week?

Although readers may not notice any change in substance on my blog, I am quite happy at James Higham’s suggestion to promote and support  Man in a Sheds ‘Silly Week’ . James Higham writes an excellent blog –  Nourishing Obscurity –  and is often to be found posting on blkogs as the mood takes him – which is often.  Support Man in a Shed’s Silly Week on your blog?

I thought I would kick off with an observation.  I was watching ‘Cromwell’ the Hollwood blockbuster where Richard Harris got to look saturnine as Cromwell and Alec Guinness played Charles 1 better than Charles I may well have done – right up to my favourite bit (I am a mild republican) where they did the Chop-Chop business.

My contribution to the start of ‘Silly Week’ is this ‘tweet’ – done last night as I was a bottle into the proceedings… it shows.

The news (on my new RSS news panel widget) and editorial etc is up on Insite Law.

Lawcast 149: Carl Gardner on the new UK Supreme Court and the issue of Law Officer’s advice to the government

Wikipedia: The UK Supreme Court

Unsilent Partners

Lawcast 149: Carl Gardner on the new UK Supreme Court and the issue of Law Officer’s advice to the government

Today I am talking to Carl Gardner a former government lawyer and author of the Head of Legal blog about the new Supreme Court and the recent decision of Mr Justice Blake in HM Treasury v The Information Commissioner about the extent to which the law officers advice can be made public or discoverable under the freedom of Information Act.

Listen to the podcast

Podcast version for iTunes

Head of Legal Blog: Law Officer’s advice

HM Treasury v The Information Commissioner [2009]

The Supreme Court: Contrasting themes US and UK

We thought this week  on Unsilent Partners that it would be interesting to look at the United States Supreme Court and contrast with a quick review of the new United Kingdom Supreme Court which opens for business in October.

Colin Samuels has written the section on the United States.  I plan to publish an overview of the UK Supreme Court shortly and I am doing two podcasts to supplement our coverage – first with Carl Gardner, author of the Head of Legal Blog and a former government lawyer and, second, with Lord Falconer, the former Lord Chancellor, who introduced the legislation to establish the new UK Supreme Court. The podcasts will be completed by Tuesday 28th July.

Unsilent Partners: The Supreme Court: Contrasting themes US and UK

23rd July: Law News…

From today on Insite Law  – all the law specific news from the main newspapers will be available directly in RSS feed format from a new Insite Law RSS news feed blog – in the panel below and on the news page.. I am putting together a news page to provide news feeds for Legal Week, The Law Society Gazette and Current Awareness from the Inner Temple. When you click a headline in the news feed widgets you will be taken straight to the news source and be able to read the news report in full.

Click here for the main news page resource

If you wish to check back for news you may have missed, you will be able to do so by visiting the Insite Law News feed blog. This will, in time, grow into a useful, searchable, news link resource should you ever have to check back on old legal news.  I should have completed this work by the end of the day.

Visit Insite Law and the new News page?

Lawcast 148: Charles Christian, Editor, The Legal Technology Insider on the future for technology in law

Lawcast 148: Charles Christian, Editor, The Legal Technology Insider on the future for technology in law

Today I am talking to Charles Christian founder and Editor of The Legal Technology Insider and the Orange Rag, an online blog the Insider. Charles won’t, I am sure, mind my saying that he has been on the scene for a long time and it is fair to say that The Times description and I quote… “the definitive online resource for the latest news about legal technology” is spot on.

Why Charles Christian set up The Legal Technology Insider – The use of technology in the legal profession in the past 10 years – The impact of recession on the use of technology – the future for entrepreneurial barristers and solicitors – A kook into the future for technology in the legal profesion – The value and use of social media (Twitter/Facebook/Linkedin) for lawyers.

Listen to the podcast

Podcast version for iTunes

22nd July: news update on Insite Law

Baron ‘Sugarpuff’ takes his seat in the Lords
BBC: Businessman Sir Alan Sugar has taken his seat in the House of Lords as Baron Sugar of Clapton. The tycoon and star of the BBC TV series The Apprentice was ennobled by Gordon Brown last month and handed the advisory post of enterprise tsar. The Tories say he cannot work for the BBC and government at the same time, saying he must choose between them. Lord Sugar, who will take the Labour whip in the Lords, says his role is to advise firms through the recession.

Woman ‘detained’ for filming police search launches high court challenge
Guardian: Gemma Atkinson claims she was handcuffed after recording search of boyfriend on her mobile phone.

22nd July: news update on Insite Law

Milburn: ‘Top jobs are open to too few’

Channel 4 reports: “Bright children from middle and working class families are missing out on professional jobs because of continuing “elitism”, a government-commissioned report warns. The report, by a cross-party panel chaired by former cabinet minister Alan Milburn, calls for urgent action to break “closed shop mentality” which, it says, still  characterises the professions in Britain.”

This is a tired old theme, but one worth looking at less emotively than through the rather mundane rhetoric of a politician possibly trying to please rank and file and constituents in the run up to an election.

I remember reading Professor JAG Griffith’s book The Politics of The Judiciary when I was at law school in the early to mid 1970s.  I can’t imagine that he has had to do much updating to the statistics on Oxbridge and public school educated members of the Judiciary,  Bar or the leading City and Commercial firms and, indeed, Milburn states that “Currently 75 per cent of judges and 45 per cent of senior civil servants were independently educated”

I am not sure that ‘Class’ comes into it in quite the same way it may once have done.  The legal profession has never been of great interest to the aristocracy and landed families – the Church, Army, the Arts and State tend to get second sons and daughters from that relatively small world in terms of numbers.  But there can be little doubt, still,  that it is easier for the children of middle and professional class families to get into the leading sets or law firms simply because private money can pay for good private education and there is a high chance many of these privately educated middle / professional class children will get into Oxbridge and Russell Group universities and have a better chance at the top sets and firms.

The professional demographic is changing. Labour and Conservative governments have widened access to education and business opportunity – and nothing is to be served by making hackneyed party political points.

History is a wonderful thing but it can obscure what is beginning to happen now and I, for one, prefer to concentrate on the official efforts being made by both The Law Society and The Bar Council to achieve diversity.  Lord Neuberger reported.  The Law Society and Bar Council   are encouraging wider entry to the profession – but whatever their aspirations and efforts – the professional bodies cannot do it all. It is down to money and information.  It is down to the firms and sets trying to inform, trying to help through sponsorship and scholarships and this they are doing.  It is down to the firms to  recruit from a wider base (provided the quality is there)  and providing information to show that the law is not an elitist profession, that it is open to talented people from all walks of life.

It is also, frankly, down to the law schools to raise their game and provide as high a quality of education as the leading universities and down to recruiters to look more closely at that quality instead of being mesmerised by the words Oxford, Cambridge, London, Durham et al.

It is easy for politicians to make statements which they can then forget as they move on to the next hot cliche, but I believe that we have already seen marked change in the last twenty years and the next ten will see yet more change as the legal world changes, as new opportunity arises, and a new legal demographic develops.

It takes time for change to happen but the cartoon image of upper middle class barristers portrayed in my caption pic is not typical at all of those I meet from the Bar, the law firms or the professional bodies –  and it irritates me, and I suspect many, when government ministers bandy about outmoded cliches about class and Oxbridge.  The legal profession should be run on lines of excellence,  for that will ensure quality and competition. Excellence and elitism of quality of career  should, however, be open to all – and that, I’m afraid, is still down to opportunity, information and money – and for the present, the middle and professional classes dominate in terms of opportunity because they have  the money to privately educate, tutor and have the connections to get advice and guidance from members of both sides of the profession. Jobs for the boys and girls is a thing of the past, surely? – but it may well still be true that birds of a feather flock together when it comes down to candidates wwith equal  CVs.

As always.. your thoughts would be most useful.  What would you advise if we are to ensure that we are not percieved as an elitist profession in terms of entry. Elitism in terms of quality of service is an aspiration most would not quarrel with. That is competition and only a fool would go to the worst lawyer for advice is better advice is available at a reasonable price…as in all walks of life.

//

Inner Temple Survey results

I have written before here and here (with an online ‘straw’ poll) about the proposal to merge Inner and Middle Temple libraries.

The results of the Inner Temple Library survey are here. (I shall post the link to the Middle Temple survey result when it is available.  The survey result is interesting, revealing some inconsistencies (inevitably) but a quick glance indicates a degree of resistance to the idea. The straw poll I conducted on my blog revealed:

Is the proposal to merge the Inner Temple and Middle Temple libraries a good idea or a bad idea

Good idea – 8 votes (8%)

Bad Idea – 85 (85%)

Don’t know – 7 (7%)

Total votes: 100

Interestingly the job advertisement for a property manager below describes the Inner Temple Library as ‘World Class’ but indicates that the successful applicant ‘will have a hugely influential role in the development and implementation of the Inn’s property strategy over the coming decade and beyond.’

Could it be that the decision has already been taken?  Surely not before the result of the survey?  That, to use a cricketing metaphor after the excellent Lords win yesterday, would not be playing with a ‘straight bat’ … in fact it would be…  caught and bowled.

Funniest thing I’ve seen on the net today – NOT office safe.

I have no idea what the Sprite PR execs smoke or drink – but this is just surreal, funny and slightly mad.  And Brit TV thinks it is cool? Good for Germany…. it is not office safe – it is sexual but not porn… unless you happen to be very straight and serious.  It made me laugh… maybe I am on Twitter too much?

The original YouTube link went 404- copyright assertion?

so here is Obnoxio the Clown’s link – which does seem to work!

Watch the video.

Hat Tip to @geeklawyer and @Special_Noodles for the link…. who else?

England beat the Aussies for first time at Lords since 1934

It was a most enjoyable Test match; cricket where both teams played some interesting cricket.  To be fair to Australia, they were the  victim of some unfortunate decisions – but that, until new technology referral rules come in, is part of the game… or the rub of the green as the pundits told us endlessly.

The drought of wins against Australia at Lords since 1934 has ended, Freddie Flintoff pulled a 5 wicket haul (getting onto the boards at Lords both as a batsman for a Test 100 and for 5 wickets as a bowler) – a fitting end to his last test match at Lords.  On to Edgbaston.  England have done well there and 1-0 up is a happier position that 0-2 down.

Blawg Review #221 – from The Complex Litigator

Blawg Review comes from California this week – the land of the nuts and the fruits as Professor John Warwick Montgomery ( a US lawyer and also an English barrister)  used to delight in telling me.  John was from Orange County.  This may explain a lot.

It is a good Blawg review – elegantly written, using american English, of course.  The author reminds me to sharpen my writing up!

By the way, Charon QC, it’s “organization,” not “organisation.” Just thought I’d tweak your English a bit. It seems to have stopped evolving a few centuries back, after all the Americans left. Although I concede that I prefer your punctuation rules for quotation marks.  Lay on, McDuff.

The Complex Litigator has produced a very thorough review of the legal blogging world – with some fascinating insights into Sotomayor and the legal world in the States.  Hat Tip for giving good ocerage to some well known UK blawgs as well – that is always appreciated. I enjoyed it… all of it… it is almost as long as one of my Blawg Reviews… Cathy Gellis produced a long Blawg  Review a few weeks back and The Complex Litigator has done the business. Maybe I should go to california?

Thanks for the mention as ‘that blawger from the UK who takes a bit too much delight in his smokedo, and his consumption of alcohol in its many forms,’

Appreciated.

Read Blawg Review #221

PS: ED of Blawg Review writes to ask what ‘ocerage’ is…as in Hat Tip for giving good ocerage to some well known UK Blawgs.  ‘Ocerage’ is, of course, a Norse word for ‘giving it a bit of welly ‘ which we understand in the 21st Century to be a shout out or, in motorbike terms… going for a fast blat with the throttle full on.  Language is a complex beast and we are all the richer for it…. it would appear, also, that I may have fat fingers.  I certainly can’t claim to have been pissed when I wrote the above.  At 10.00 am – that would just be inelegant.  I would not like our american friends to think they, and they alone, have the monopoly on coming up with good words and phrases.

Coming soon….

Coming up…
I have a new blog with US lawyer Colin Samuels (Unsilent Partners) where we look at topical legal issues from a UK and US perspective. Last week we write about assisted suicide and next week we plan to look at the US Supreme Court and our new Supreme Court contrasting the two. Lord Falconer, the former Lord Chancellor,  knows a great deal about both these topics and I will be doing a podcaast with him on Tuesday 28th July to discuss his amendment to the Suicide Act and his thoughts on the new UK Supreme Court.

“Buggery was invented to fill that awkward hour between evensong and cocktails.”

I happened to be on Twitter exchanging tweets with @ntheowl who was complaining about having to do a book review.  I suggested that he use Sir Maurice Bowra’s famous aphorism which I paraphrase…“Be sure… I shall lose no time at all in doing so” when asked to review a colleague’s latest work.  @ntheowl responded with…‘I cannot begin to say how useful this book is …’

This prompted me to look up Sir  Maurice Bowra in Wikipedia.  He was known for his wit…. I particularly like this aphorism which resonates with “Englishness”… “Buggery was invented to fill that awkward hour between evensong and cocktails.”

and also… “”My dear, in Oxford I am known by my face”, (allegedly after being caught skinny-dipping in the River Cherwell and placing his hands over his face rather than his privates)” . Sir  Maurice Bowra served as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford from 1951 to 1954.

Yes… Twitter can be most useful.

It’s just a jump to the left…

I always enjoy watching The Rocky Horror Show and listening to the many great songs.  I have even dressed up in a morning court tailcoat, fishnet tights, boxer shorts and brogues to attend a production of The Rocky Horror Show at a London theatre some years ago.  It was curious to have the denizens of The Groucho Club sniffing, not because of the stuff going up noses, but because we were somewhat weirdly dressed with me in my kit, a female friend dressed as Magenta and a doctor friend of mine as Frankenfurter himself.

Change, in the form of opportunity and threat from The Legal Services Act 2007, is coming.  Some entrepreneurial lawyers will see it as an opportunity, others will not and some may well not have a clue what is even in the Acxt.  Will The Bar jump to the left and stay with the time warp or to the right and take fresh opportunity?  I suspect we will know the answer soon enough in the Autumn when the learned friends return from the long vacation.

But enough of that… what about the news from the News of The World,  staple of my Sunday reading along with a few hours reading The Observer?

As if the Queen hasn’t had enough lunatic antics in her family over the years, The News of The World reveals today that Prince William’s girlfriend (and soon to be wife?), has a colourful uncle.  NOTW revealed today that Uncle Gary is a bit of a nutter with a penchant for spliffs, cocaine and hookers.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, of course.  Regular readers of blogs and Twitter will know that fellow blogger and Twitter Geeklawyer has a penchant for roughly the same thing…in fact, when I saw the headline I wandered if Geeklawyer was Kate Middleton’s uncle until I saw the picture.  Geeklawyer, I can report, is BUFF and, of course, very much younger than Uncle ‘Gazza’.

Yesterday evening I was having a smoke and a glass of wine at a local pub.  It was raining slightly and very windy but this did not stop play.  I continued to smoke, as did a group dressed up as pirates, outside.  A local wandered by with a great T-shirt… with the legend ” I haven’t got Tourettes… you  are a C**T”

Well… it would seem that the future Duke of Slough as Uncle Gazza described himself to NOTW undercover reporters, has a penchant for the same humour… the pic to the right explains all.   Let us just hope, if William and Kate do get married, that the Palace Guards don’t hear The Queen saying of Uncle Gazza …”He’s orf his head” …for…”Orf with his head”.

This, and stories about Amy Wino having a £6 million demand for money for her ex-jailbird loser husband and Jordan saying that she’s do a Madonna and adopt children, make Britain what it is… a marvellously eccentric country in which to live.

And..there is the CRICKET, of course. It is the 4th day of the Test at Lords where the England team has  not beaten the has not beaten the Aussies on the hallowed turf since 1934.  We are adept at snatching defeat from the jaws of Victory… but thus far it is looking good. And… as I write Ponting has just gone 78-3… we are in with a chance!

I enjoy watching Test cricket – a game that can cause friends of mine to pass out in front of me when I start talking about it; a game that mistifies go getting US lawyers who just cannot handle the idea that a game could last for five days without a result! It is the sporting equivalent of Chess – and a pleasure to watch… Time to crack open a bottle and watch an afternoon of great cricketing action.  Back later….

Knowing when to stop digging….

It can’t just be barristers who keep digging long after they should have stopped.  Geeklawyer pointed to an episode recently where a barrister behaved rather badly with a fellow blogger, stories are legion about barristers taking wrong or bad points in court or not getting the point or to the point and now we have a marvelllous BabyBaristaesque farce going on between Troubled Barrister and Ed on Simon Myerson QC’s blog Pupillage and how to get it.

In fairness.. I am not entirely sure whether Troubled  Barrister is just doing a wind up and having been a gravedigger when I was at law school, I did offer him my spade if he wanted to dig an even bigger hole.

Briefly: Simon Myerson QC has put up a post naming and shaming Chambers where prospective barristers have written to him/commented on his blog about the negative experiences (and the good experiences) they have had with Chambers when applying for pupillage.

TroubledBarrister (To use the name style of Tim Kevan’s BabyBarista) weighs in with... “…I think it is a bit unfair to get people to “anonymously” call out chambers and even more so individual people. If you think they are being nasty then just wait until you in front of LJ this case is beneath me or HHJ I am going to take your client’s crap case on you.”

Ed // July 15, 2009 at 5:20 pm | Reply

@Troubled Barrister

So you don’t think it’s unprofessional to treat job applicants with contempt?

Troubled Barrister // July 15, 2009 at 6:17 pm | Reply

What a stupid rhetorical question, in short alot of you need to toughen up a bit. It is a nasty world out there!

Horse With No Name // July 15, 2009 at 11:39 pm | Reply

Dear Troubled Barrister,

It may well be a nasty world but is that an excuse for rudeness?

Ed // July 15, 2009 at 11:58 pm | Reply

@Troubled Barrister

Hit a nerve, did I? Poor lamb. “Other people behave like poo-poos to those they have power over, so I must too, or they won’t think I’m rock-hard”.

Don’t worry, TB. I think you’re rock-hard. We all think that. Honestly.

Troubled Barrister // July 16, 2009 at 1:00 am | Reply

I wont dignify Ed with a response to his extremely immature post.

Horse – of course it doesnt make it right being rude; however, there is no sense crying about it. I know very well the heart ache of trying to find pupillage and how it can be a frustrating an upsetting experience it can be.

Calling out chambers and individuals is:

a)Serves very little purpose
b) Just plain wrong if people are going to do it from behind a computer screen

simonmyerson // July 16, 2009 at 1:25 am | Reply

Sorry TB – you’re wrong.

I don’t disagree that comments about individuals are unhelpful, but I reckon that anyone who is Head of Chambers and in silk will recognise frustration for what it is and – as you insist – be tough enough to take it.

That is a side issue. You say that you know how hard it is to get pupillage but it’s not ok to say anything about the things that make it not simply hard, but unacceptable. Sorry: I don’t understand how that works.

Then you write a frankly insulting comment to an applicant – you being in a position of power compared to them – and then you complain that they are calling people out anonymously. I’ve looked you up in the Bar list – can’t find anyone named Barrister, Troubled.

***

I do urge you to go and read the rest of it. Maybe Tim Kevan was closer to life with his BabyBarista book than he anticipated…. marvellous stuff… and I now know what the phrase “See you next Tuesday” stands for… so one learns something every day.

Excellent!

Charon goes on Circuit?…..

LAW AND JUSTICE (ENGLAND AND WALES) – THE CIRCUIT SYSTEM.

HC Deb 31 July 1885 vol 300 cc673-4

§ MR. WHITLEY asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether the Government will, during the Recess, consider the present circuit system, and especially the best mode of providing increased facilities required in the large centres with regard to the trial of actions in other Divisions of the High, Court besides the Queen’s Bench?

THE SECRETARY OF STATE (Sir E. ASSHETON CROSS), in reply, said, that the Judges had arranged to try all actions entered for trial at the various Assize towns during the present Assize Circuit. It had not been brought to the notice of the Lord Chancellor that any action set down in any place for trial had not been tried there; but if any question relating to the system of Circuits should require to be considered, the Lord Chancellor would be ready to consult with the Judges on the subject.

The Circuits:

The Bar Council notes: England and Wales is divided into regions or “Circuits” for the purposes of the administration of justice. The Circuit system, which is overseen by the Lord Chancellors Department, has a long history. More information about this history is available from the links below.  Click here to view the map.  The Bar Council’s Guide to the Circuits is available here. The “Circuits” also form the basis for administration of the Bar in England and Wales.

Charon makes a plan….

The plan is this.  I would like to travel to each of six circuits – ideally on a motorbike, stay in a hotel and interview some lawyers and….. good grief… a novel idea… real people who aren’t lawyers.  I shall talk to them about the legal system and their perception of it on their own turf.  I shall also drink… of course. I’d also like to meet some bloggers… naturally… or Twitterers

I’d like to ask your advice:

(a) is it a good idea (b) Would you be prepared to meet me and do a recorded interview and (c) when is the best time to go on ‘Circuit’?

If you have the inclination – please use the comments section below to respond… If you put your real email address in the email box on the comments (it willl NOT be published or visible) I’ll get in touch if you are prepared to talk to me / meet etc..

I stress.. it is only an idea – but although I will do recorded interviews in audio format I shall take a pro TV camera with me for some musings en route and when I get there.

18 July: Postcard from Chancery Lane

I write to you from Chancery Lane in the heart of legal London.  The Temple is but a stone’s throw away where barristers are anguishing (or not) about their future in a world of Tesco Law and men in sharp suits suggesting all manner of collaborations, partnerships and alternative business structures.  Chancery Lane, is of course, home to The Law Society the professional body for the solicitors side of the profession; an imposing building with gold lions on the railings and inside,  one used to be able to get a decent coffee and a bit of Prue Leith’s cake. You probably still can.  I have, in fact, met solicitors in this very building – in the bar, naturally.

My postcard today is, unusually, largely about law and lawyers and embraces the concept of the IDEA as a theme.

Let’s kick off with a BAD idea. The Law Society Gazette reports this week

“Negligence claims soar – worse to come”

“Professional negligence claims against solicitors are soaring, with one City firm reporting a 158% surge in cases over the past 12 months. And experts are warning that worse may be to come in the downturn, as solicitors are moved to areas with which they are unfamiliar…..

Sarah Clover, head of the professional and financial disputes team at City firm Barlow Lyde & Gilbert, said lawyers were ‘dabbling’ in areas of law that were not their speciality. ‘Corporate lawyers are becoming corporate recovery lawyers, for example – a recipe for disaster if they get it wrong.”

One can applaud the sentiment and idea of trying to avoid redundancies but this idea seems, with hindsight,  to have been rather a bad one.

So let’s look at a GOOD idea

RollonFriday has set up a scheme with The Law Society and LawWorks – and it is a good one.

“There has been an incredible response to the launch of RollOnFriday Community Action, which has attracted over 200 applicants in its first seven days.

The scheme enables lawyers who have been made redundant to continue practising, while at the same time helping their community – and giving them a head start when it comes to finding a new job. RollOnFriday has launched the initiative in partnership with Law Works, the Law Society and 25 leading international law firms.”

A few ideas for lawyers in practice

1. So… what about the DIPPING your fingers in the cookie jar idea?

The AMLaw Daily reports: “Joseph Collins, the 59-year-old corporate partner on leave from Mayer Brown, was found guilty by a Manhattan federal jury of five counts in his criminal trial. The charges included conspiracy, two counts of securities fraud, and two counts of wire fraud. A mistrial was declared on nine other counts. Collins had been accused of helping Refco’s top executives hide $2.4 billion in losses at the now-defunct trading company. Collins claimed that he had been duped by his longtime client, and didn’t know they were using him to facilitate their fraud.”

If you are going to do something, professionals say, do it properly.  This lawyer then pulled the “I was duped” defence.  Right.  Must be worth a try but I don’t think you get to be a partner in a major law firm if you are going to be susceptible to being duped by the clients.  The other way round, it seems, is just fine… unless you get caught.

2. Fancy fiddling your expenses?

Law.com reports: ” A former partner at Latham & Watkins pleaded guilty Friday to defrauding both clients and his own firm by charging them more than $300,000 in personal or false expenses. Samuel A. Fishman, a mergers and acquisition specialist in Latham’s New York office from 1993 to 2005, was designated billing partner for a number of firm clients.”

3. The do your job properly idea

Apologies for re-cycling my cartoons, but my life is draining away and needs must.  It would appear that some advocates are ‘lacklustre’ and are not doing their jobs properly.  The Law Society Gazette has the story.

A third of all prosecution advocates ‘lacklustre’ or poor, inspection says

Briefly: “The inspectors found advocates, both in-house and external counsel, were fully competent in two thirds of cases, but a quarter were lacklustre and 8% were less than competent or poor. Of the 376 advocacy assessments made, none came out as outstanding.”

4. Do you want to be RADICALLY PROACTIVE?

At the risk of injecting some sensible content into my weekend postcard – here IS a GOOD idea.  I did a podcast with Nick Jarrett-Kerr, a leading law firm management expert and a former managing partner of what was then Bevan Ashford.  Nick talked to me for 30 minutes about his five point plan.  It is one of the most enjoyable podcasts I have done and Nick really does the business – with some good analysis of the current position and ideas for law firms coping in the recession.  Interestingly my stats reveal that it is US lawyers primarily who are listening to this podcast (so far).  I hope more British lawyers listen.

Lawcast 147 Nick Jarrett-Kerr and his Radically Proactive plan for law firms.

5.  Plugging another idea:  Colin Samuels and I have started a blog – Unsilent Partners – where each week we look at a legal issue from the perspective of the US and the UK  We do not hold ourselves as experts but rather as narrators and hope to encourage a few bloggers and readers to get involved.  The first ‘essay’ was on Madoff’s sentence.  This week we look at assisted suicide, Lord Falconer’s amendment and the objections which led to the amendment being defeated in both the Commons and the Lords.

Next week, with our own Supreme Court about to open for business in October, we look at the Supreme Court of The United States and how it works and I shall give an overview on what we know about our new Supreme Court and how it will work.

Well… all this law has taken a heavy toll on my body tonight… so it is time for some SMOKEDO – one of my better ideas.  I am getting fitter – although I do need to buy some new jackets…. and I can forget about wearing my suits because I ain’t going to fit into the jackets…. perhaps not such a great idea after all. But there agaimn… I’ve worn suits all my life… so time to stop?  Yes… I think so….

I’ll be back… as they say.

Have a good weekend

Best, as always

Charon

Legal educators get caught short on exam procedures.

RollonFriday reports on more headaches for the two leading vocational law schools, The College of Law and BPP.

“Students at BPP Law School have complained after the start of an exam was delayed for two and half hours. The students on the LPC course in London had assembled at the Emirates Stadium last Saturday to sit their Solicitor Accounts paper. At 2pm they were told that due to an “administrative error” they were 80 papers short, and that the exam would be delayed as a result.”

To add to the headaches… this today from RollonFriday

“Following the LPC mayhem at BPP a few weeks ago, the results of the GDL course were delayed by 2 days due to a “technical hitch.” When asked, a spokeswoman couldn’t explain what the hitch was.”

Charon Verdict: Leg before wicket, Chaps…..  or even worse… falling into your own stumps!

17th July: Insite Law news, reports, blogs and podcasts updated

Editor pick of the day
17th July 2009

Murder rate hits 20-year low
Independent: The murder rate in England and Wales is the lowest it has been for 20 years, according to annual crime figures released today. There were 136 fewer homicides – including murder, manslaughter and child killings – in 2008/9 compared to a year earlier, a fall of 17 per cent. The latest figures for 2008/09 are down to a low of 648, a fall of 26 per cent since 2002/03.

Geeklawyer reviews BabyBarista book
Baby Barista – the witness statement

“…BabyB is not a sympathetic character; like Geeklawyer he is scheming manipulative amoral disloyal calculating and backstabbing, but none of these virtues offset his essential badness.”

17th July: Insite Law news, reports, blogs and podcasts updated

16th July: News, reports, profession and blogs update Insite Law

Simon Myerson QC names, shames and acclaims
Simon Myerson in his excellent Pupilllage and How To Get It blog collates comments from BVC students about the pupillage interview process. He names those Chambers where students made adverse or negative comments in his survey  and gives full credit to Chambers where students had a rather more pleasant experience.

This is a must read – especially if you are a member of a set named and shamed or a prospective Bar student / pupil. The comments from BVC students and others are worth reading.  Hat Tip to Simon for putting this together.  He’s quite right – there is no excuse for rudeness – in all the forms revealed on this survey.

Editor
Mike SP
Email

Editor pick of the day
16th July 2009

Bar Council
Family Legal Aid Plans Torn Apart in Damning Justice Select Committee Report
(15 July 2009)
Legal Services Commission proposals to cut legal support for vulnerable children and families have been savaged in a damning report from the all-party Justice Select Committee.

John Bolch, Family Lore: Barely Functioning
Following Sir Mark Potter’s recent comments regarding the crisis in the family courts, I requested an interview with His Honour Judge Polden, the designated Family Law Judge for Kent, on the subject. I chose him because I have always practised in Kent and therefore know something about the courts in this county. He declined the interview. Perhaps this is not entirely surprising, given the state of some of the courts over which he presides.

16th July: News, reports, profession and blogs update Insite Law

Unsilent Partners (2): The legalo-ethical position on assisted suicide

The legalo-ethical position on assisted suicide
Mike Semple Piggot

I was talking to Colin Samuels about the amendments to our law on suicide being put forward by Lord Falconer – an amendment which failed to pass scrutiny in the House of Lords. We thought it would be interesting to debate this issue, comparing and contrasting the position taken in the United Kingdom and in the parts of the United States.

As always – we welcome your contribution to knowledge, analysis and discussion in the comments section.  I set out the current position, as best as I can, in the United Kingdom with a few observations.

Read Unsilent Partners for the full post

Lawcast 147: Nick Jarrett-Kerr’s five point plan on Radical Proactivity for law firms in the present recession

Nick Jarrett-Kerr: Radical Proactivity: A five point plan

Nick Jarrett-Kerr’s blog

Jarrett-Kerr Consulting

Lawcast 147: Nick Jarrett-Kerr’s five point plan on Radical Proactivity for law firms in the present recession

Today I am to talking to Nick Jarrett-Kerr, a former managing partner of Bevan Ashford and more recently a leading management consultant and author on law firm management and development. Nick Jarret-Kerr now practises as a management consultant through his own firm Jarrett-Kerr Consulting.

I quote from a recent newsletter Nick sent out to clients…In many countries, law firms are noticing some flickering lights at the end of the tunnel. Relieved by the hope of better things to come, the instinctive reaction of law firm leaders is still to remain in defensive mode until they have experienced a few better quarters of trading activity.

We discuss the five point plan for Radical Proactivity:

1. Remodel the firm’s infrastructure and platform
2. Rebuild Esprit de Corp
3. Cross-selling revisited – the ‘carrot and stick’ approach
4. Revitalise your core teams
5. Make a radical strategic move

Listen to the podcast

Podcast version for iTunes

Boring barristers?… some are far from boring… BabyBarista and the Art of War

Marcel Berlins has stirred things up with his article in the Guardian suggesting the modern advocates lack the flair and atistry of their forebears…. and suggests that modern barristers are boring.

I don’t want to discuss advocacy or, indeed, the wider question of whether modern barristers are or are not boring.  What I want to write about is a barrister who is definitely not boring and that barrister is BABYBARISTA.

I don’t know the name of the vintner that author of BabyBarista Tim Kevan uses… but I am going to ask him… because whatever he was drinking as he plotted out and wrote BabyBarista and The Art of War... I want some… it certainly does the business.

Tim Kevan, who is a Cambridge  man and a barrister himself (although for the present he has gone surfing and writing),  has created a marvellously mendacious manipulating monster for the 21st Century in the form of BabyBarista who plots, lies, and manipulates his way through the twelve months of pupillage to try and defeat TopFirst, TheWorrier, BusyBody and late entrant ThirdSix to gain the coveted tenancy.

When I was at university in the early seventies I read Brothers-in-Law, AP Herbert, Megarry and then read the entire Rumpole series written by Sir John Mortimer QC in the Eighties.  BabyBarista follows this fine lineage but does not try to copy it – quite the opposite.  Tim Kevan weaves colour and story through brief description and good narrative and is bang up to date on his cliches (which I suspect are deliberate to parody pre and misconceptions)  and icons of  the modern world of blogs, Twitter and Facebook.   He paints a wonderfully surreal picture of the Bar, stretching belief but at the same time leaving the reader wondering where the inspiration came from.  We meet his pupil master TheBoss – a man with absolutely no spine who, shall we say, gets into some pretty difficult water.  There is TheVamp – a woman I could probably enjoy  meeting myself in all senses of the word, UpTights – not my type, OldSmoothie – a pretty hopeless case and the avuncular “Feel the force, Luke”  character of OldRuin – the only truly honest barrister in the entire book – apart from the lovely Claire.

I liked the way Tim used his experience of practice to parody different scenarios, different styles of work and personality, and some of the changes the legal profession is going through.  His section on claim farms and their handling of accident claims is just wonderful.  We have a judge who plays online bridge during hearings, an Insurance company which settles cases with a barrister by playing Battleships – the old game from childhood – and we have general mayhem and riot.  I was left hoping for more extreme behaviour from BabyBarista in his quest for pupillage, conscious that I was rooting for an appalling role model for the legal profession and I enjoyed every page.  Cleverly, Tim grounds the entire book with the sub-text of SunTzu, The Art of War.

As with all authors there is the obligatory “All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain are fictitious and any resemblance… etc etc..”

I’m sure this is the case –  but I couldn’t help putting a face to some of his characters from people I have met in my lifetime.   This, of course, made it even more enjoyable for me.  Roll on the next book.

BabyBarista is a Hogarthian romp, a parody, a satire with edge and I have no hesitation in finding for Tim Kevan and recommending it to you.  Tim Kevan, a fellow blogger and friend,  has done the business… and that,  as my regular readers will have gathered, is my legion d’honneur… my highest accolade.. and it made me laugh… out loud..  as I read it lying in state on my futon with a bottle of  Rioja to my left.

***

BabyBarista and The Art of War

£7.19 on Amazon when I wrote this review.

Blawg Review #220 from Overlawyered

Overlawyered is a Blog I read regularly. Walter Olsen has been blogging for ten years and this, he suggests (and he is almost certainly right), makes his law blog the oldest.  I have been writing Charon QC since 2001 (albeit only using WordPress since 2006) and I’m sure a few other bloggers are not far behind Walter Olsen.

This week’s Blawg Review #220 is excellent with a varied content, an easy pace and some rather amusing snippets… just as I like it!

Walter kicks off with this… “The week’s most widely blogged story, well documented by Above the Law, is a South Florida lawyer’s “Motion to Compel Defense Counsel To Wear Appropriate Shoes” at a personal injury trial, from fear that his opponent would employ a certain pair of hole-worn loafers to practice the arts of aw-shucksery on the jury.”

Do read it.. I am sure you will enjoy it.  An amusing and interesting review of the week’s posts on the legal blogs.

Read Blawg Review #220

Blawg Review

An excellent initiative: Bar National Mock Trial Competition 2009/10

Bar National Mock Trial Competition 2009/10

10 July 2009
Volunteers Needed! Can You Help?

The Bar National Mock Trial Competition has been running since 1991 and each year involves over 200 schools and nearly 3,000 students from across the UK. Teams of up to 15 students (16 in Scotland), aged between 15 and 18, prepare the prosecution and defence of two specially written criminal cases and take on the roles of lawyers, witnesses, court staff and jurors in a mock trial. Their performances are judged by Circuit Judges, Recorders (Sheriffs in Scotland) and senior barristers/advocates. Each team takes part in regional heats, held in November each year, and the winners of the heats go on to a National Final, held in spring the following year.

For details: See this Bar Council notice

11 July: Postcard from The Good Ship DOOMED

I write today from the SS Doomed, a fine ship, captained by my cousin Captain Horatio Charon, who served with absolutely no distinction as Commodore of some blazer wearing yacht squadron on the South Coast of England and bored everyone, including himself, rigid with tales of life on the bloody ocean wave.
I sit here on the bridge, a glass of Rioja in my hand.  It is 9.45 am, but even though there are no icebergs on the Medway, Horatio Charon is not terribly good at sailing and if we go down I would not wish to do so without a wine glass in my hand.  This is my new mantra.  The pathologist will not find anaesthetics, painkillers or enough dope inside me to kill a herd of elephants, but I would like him to write on my death certificate, should my soul be lost this day at sea… “He died with an acceptable level of red wine inside him for a gentleman of letters”.

Reading the Law Society Gazette as I do avidly each Thursday lunchtime when a solicitor mate hands me his pristine copy still in the cellophane wrapper (unopened),  my eye was caught by the headline…

BAR AT ‘ROCK BOTTOM’ DECLARES BROWNE

Well.. I suspect, given the spat between Paul Marsh, President of The Law Society and Desmond Browne QC, Chairman of the Bar, about solicitor-advocates competing with barristers and solicitors enjoying an advantage because barristers cannot pay referral fees to enterprsing claims farmers and ambulance chasers  – to which Paul Marsh, not unreasonably said…. “Well change your rules then!”… (Paul Marsh put it rather more elegantly) –  the subtlety of The Gazette headline may be  another arrow in St Sebastian Browne QC’s back.

I don’t know if Desmond Browne QC actually said the Bar is at ‘rock bottom’ but at a debate on legal aid The Gazette reports him as saying ‘that barristers around the country are ‘totally demoralised’ due to pressures in relation to fees, competition and proposed reforms’ The Gazette, wryly, added ‘Only two peers and no MPs attended the debate”.

Well.. this coming on top of the Crown Prosecution Service having the temerity to employ barristers who did not wish to throw themselves on the burning fire of the Bar’s funeral pyre (more of which later) and who wanted a degree of life in their lives  and no longer needing the ‘independent’ bar and Jack ‘The Lad Chancellor’ Straw’s remarks about the law not existing to provide work for lawyers… it is hardly surprising that Desmond Browne QC is a little frustrated and flagging up the difficulties.

I did a podcast with Jane Lambert, an Intellectual property barrister, who has developed a new attitude and approach to practice.  It is worth listening to.

I can’t see the independent bar adapting quickly to the opportunities afforded by the Legal Services Act – they are already lagging on recognition and regulation rule changes – and it may be that they don’t embrace or relish the opportunity of working in partnership with solicitors, accountants and grocers.  But we shall see as time marches on.

In a marvellously unscientific survey I asked  friends of mine in their late forties and early fifties who practice at the Bar what they (a) know about and (b) think of the Legal Services Act.  Not a lot,  would be a fair summation.  There isn’t a great deal of literature about on the issue and it would be interesting to hear from practising barrister readers (I know there are a few of you!) what you feel about the coming change.

Finally.. on this topic before we go over to The News of The World… Legal Aid work, Desmond Browne QC says is on the wane for the independent bar and he points to the decline in the number of pupillages on offer this autumn in Chambers doing publicly funded work “. In Birmingham, he said, they were ‘non-existent’.  (Gazette 9 july 2009)  I cannot believe our second City is alone in this?

So… over to The News of The World which has not so much been writing about the News  this week  but appearing in it with tales of phone bugging and other investigative techniques.

Here are the news headlines according to the News of the WorldLa Toya Jackson: I know who murdered my Michael – Apparently Michael Jackson is worth more to dark forces dead than alive and doctors are being investigated about how Michael Jackson died with enough drugs inside him to wipe out most of mammalian wildlife in Africa.

I then discovered the following news…. Lily Allen has a third nipple and says ‘I am completely comfortable getting them out’ .  Jade Goody’s widower Jack ‘All Heart’ Tweed charmed a model into bed with a text message: ‘U want rump?’.  I must remember not to ask this question when I next take a woman to a steak restaurant… and then…. I lost the will to live.

Right… I have enjoyed drinking a glass of Rioja early this Sunday morning. I am now in excellent spirits accordingly.. time for an hour of Smokedo exercises and then I am going to the pub to read a sensible newspaper and eat a chicken.  I shall have half a chicken with some vegetables, potatoes and a bottle of something red and light… a Bardolino?  Who knows.

Best, as ever.. have a good one.  I may be back later.

Charon

Afghanistan… winning the ‘unwinnable’ war…and the peace.

The newspapers, television and other media are covering the war in Afghanistan with increasing vigour and today we learn of the death of eight soliders in the past 24 hours. The bravery of these young men and women from all walks of life and military rank is remarkable; few of us can even imagine what they face daily in Afghanistan in our name.

The Secretary of State for Defence, Bob Ainsworth, warned days ago that a major  joint operation with the United States is under way to provide the opportunity in Helmand Province for the Afghan authorities to govern if and when the Taliban are cleared out. The United States is providing the main force but we have significant numbers of troops deployed. It seems, yet again, that we are deploying troops without sufficient back up and resources in terms of equipment – and this, if true, is not the fault of the military.  It is the fault of government and, ultimately, whether we like to face this or not, it is our fault.  The government governs in our name and we have the right to speak in protest at the way the government is acting.

There will, we are told, be more soldiers killed.

I read in the Independent this morning…

The Government will, however, face questions about the way it has responded to the call from military commanders to send reinforcements to Afghanistan.

The senior command had wanted to send about 2,500 extra troops, but Gordon Brown refused the request, agreeing to the temporary deployment of 700 just for the period of the Afghan elections scheduled for August.

One of the senior officers intimately involved in drawing up the reinforcement plan said last night: “What has happened has shown the sheer danger our forces face out there day in, day out. We know the force levels needed for safety. This was not a spurious request and there is sincere hope the Government will think again.”


The prime minister is reported as saying…

Mr Brown acknowledged: “This is a very hard summer and it is not over.” He sought to justify the conflict, stressing: “We knew from the start that beating the insurgency in Helmand would be hard and dangerous but it is vital. People in Britain are safer because of the courageous sacrifice of British soldiers.”

If Mr Brown refused to deploy the 2500 troops requested,  the question is why?  We are committed to a bloody and dangerous war to preserve the security of our nation and other nations.  This is the line being taken by our government.  I would have thought that equipping troops properly – not promises to do so in the future – is far more important than spending in many places and other projects elsewhere.  This is a war.  It is not a peacetime training exercise and if military commanders feel that they do not have adequte support, sufficient equipment and kit, then it is our duty – surely? – to ensure that the troops get it by asking searching questions of government.

This is not a party political issue anymore, even if it may have started out that way.  This is a matter of conscience.  We ask troops to act in our name.  It is not enough to honour their deaths with hastily rushed words in Parliament and funeral corteges and medals. We must, as a country, do everything in our power to minimise the risk for the men and women on the ground and ensure that our troops are effectively deployed with proper resources and equipment.

A final thought… I don’t know how you feel, but I feel a bit uncomfortable that those in our society who are making very high profits from the law, business, entertainment and the like – because we do enjoy freedom and security as a result of military action in Iraq and Afghanistan should enjoy such high profits when soldiers on the ground are not properly equipped.  I am told that US troops have far better equipment and resources.

Maybe a voluntary  fund to get donations from lawyers, entertainers, bankers, estate agents, television personalities and everyone minded to help would be a way of providing money for this extra equipment.  Of course, I am being naive. A fund for military equipment?

Why not, we raise millions for Tsunami victims, earthquake victims, starving children in Africa, cats, dogs… why not our forces?

Any Celebrities out there who are prepared to help on this one?  Perhaps we could ask on Twitter and on facebook?… even if you just want to lobby the government to tell us the truth on the matter. Is the government right or are the soldiers on the ground right?

This article in The Independent makes stark reading.

Meanwhile, a former head of the Armed Forces yesterday accused the Government of putting UK forces at risk and spending the “minimum they could get away with” on defence.General Lord Guthrie, chief of the defence staff from 1997 to 2001, said commanders on the ground were struggling with too few troops.

He told the Daily Mail: “I spoke to an officer the other day who said that the Treasury had affected the operational safety of our soldiers, by preventing an uplift in our numbers.”

It is “very likely” that fewer soldiers would have been killed by roadside bombs in Afghanistan if ministers had provided funding for more helicopters, he added.

Enough law…

I appear to have spent far too much of my time doing law related work this week and not nearly enough time being amused, so much so that I have resolved not to do any law whatsoever until Sunday – save for just reading Mr Justice Mann’s excellent judgment in Office of Fair Trading v Foxtons [2009] EWHC 1681 (Ch)

Contract law reports rarely offer laughs but being a Contract lecturer for 30 years I have to get them where I can.  Mann J did the business for me, not simply because he said “I therefore find the sales commission clause to be unfair for the purposes of the Regulations.” but for his, to my eye, wry comments.  Here is one of many

Mr Kent sought to argue that it was sufficiently flagged. I disagree – tucking something like this away in clause 5.1 of the small print, albeit under a heading “Sales Provisions”, is not flagging it at all….”

I used to live in Chiswick and the Fuxtons sales team slithered about in their Minis leaving an oil slick behind them.. and not just from their cars.  I am not a fan – but that is my right. I recall the BBC Whistleblower programme some years ago ago when the undercover reporter exposed such arcane practices as CHOP-CHOP.  The clauses in this particular Fuxtons contract are astonishing.

I haven’t enjoyed reading a law report so much for years.  Props to Mr Justice Mann for an excellent analysis and statement of the law relating to Unfair Contract Terms and for a few laughs – always a bonus when the senior Judiciary can provide those.

RollonFriday has an amusing story in their news section this week about a simple Offer & Acceptance issue.  A unlateral offer, it would seem.

Student sues lawyer for reneging on $1million offer

“A law student is suing a defence lawyer in the US, claiming that his promise of $1million on TV amounted to an offer capable of acceptance by a viewer. US lawyer James Cheney Mason was defending a client accused of murder. He claimed that the prosecution’s case relied on his client being able to get from the airport to his hotel, where he was seen on a CCTV camera, in just 28 minutes. Mason claimed that this was absolutely impossible and that therefore, the prosecution had no case against his client. And he was so sure of this that he offered $1million on national TV to anyone who could prove him wrong.”

Well… Dustin S Kolodziej did just that and now wants his million dollars. Carlill v Carbolic Smokeball may be of persuasive authority? I don’t know if Texas Contract Law is based on our common law or not.  Kolodziej v. Mason et al

Stray sperm?

Above the Law has a bizarre story: A mother is suing a hotel claiming her teenage daughter fell pregnant simply from using a hotel swimming pool. Magdalena Kwiatkowska says the 13-year-old conceived after coming into contact with ‘stray sperm’ in the water of an Egyptian resort.

And finally… a rather bizarre story from The Scotsman: Manager jailed for burning down workplace to avoid getting sack.

A TYRE centre manager who started a huge blaze at his work because he feared he would be fired has been jailed for 28 months. Colin McReadie, 22, drank 20 pints of lager before letting himself into the Budget Tyre Auto Centre in Edinburgh and setting fire to a rack of tyres using a gas torch. He then locked the building and went back to the pub, leaving the fire to cause £700,000 of damage.
I may be back later.. time to faff about on Twitter

A tale of two tribes: Transparency in legal education

With power comes responsibility. The College of Law and BPP Law School are the leading providers of vocational legal education in the United Kingdom.  Between them they train the majority of students who study law at Graduate Diploma in Law level and who wish to qualify to practice law as a solicitor or barrister.  Both institutions now have degree awarding powers, powers granted by the Privy Council recently.

Neither institution is subject to the Freedom of Information Act, unlike Universities.  The College of Law is a registered charity and BPP Law School is part of a PLC – although they will soon, if the acquisition  by Apollo goes through, be part of a successful american company.

Interestingly, in podcasts with both Nigel Savage of The College of Law and Peter Crisp, Chief Executive of BPP Law School, both CEOs have told me that they would be prepared to provide information equivalent to that available from universities under FOI requests if asked.

Well…  I have asked. I have asked both The College of Law and BPP Law School if they are prepared to publish the assessors’s reports on their institution which were provided to the Privy Council by the QAA; reports which led to The College of Law and BPP Law School  being given the power to and the privilege of  awarding degrees; enabling them to compete with universities in the provision of law and, in fact, any other degrees they wish to provide a course for.

Are the College of Law and BPP prepared to publish?

Nigel Savage, Chief Executive of  The College of Law,  is quite happy to publish the assessor’s  report and has suggested that he will ask the QAA to publish it on their website to ensure complete transparency.

Peter Crisp, CEO of BPP Law School, is NOT  prepared to publish the assessor’s report on BPP.  I wrote to Peter Crisp inviting him to publish and provided him with the QAA statement on publication of these reports which is, in fact, on the QAA website. I quote it in full: (I have highlighted the important words…”The organisation may grant access to this report before this time”)

Policy on the disclosure of records relating to applications for degree awarding powers and university title

Peter Crisp intimated to me in a phone call a few weeks ago that the assessor’s report was confidential but when I pointed to the QAA disclosure policy above (which is why I have quoted it in full)  he wrote back to me to say that he would refer the matter to the BPP board.

I received a reply from Peter Crisp on 6th July 2009

We have considered this and I’m afraid you will have to make a FOI request to the QAA for the release of the report. It was released to us as confidential information and the Board was not minded to go behind that.

The terms of our grant are of course public knowledge.

The QAA is, of course, not subject to FOI and neither is BPP Law School.  It would appear to me, therefore, that either BPP has misunderstood the meaning of the QAA policy on disclosure of the assessor’s report or are choosing not to reveal the report for public scrutiny for their own reasons which, of course, they are fully entitled to do as they are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

So, what is the state of play? – a rather different approach to transparency taken by the two leading providers.

The Freedom of Information Act issue: For my part, given that both The College of Law and BPP Law School enjoy all the powers and privileges of degree awarding universities, they should be subject to  the The Freedom of Information Act in exactly the same way as public sector universities – particularly now that an american company has acquired BPP Holdings PLC and, thereby, has effectively acquired the degree awarding powers of a British university.

The College of Law has demonstrated that it is prepared to be open.  Thus far, BPP Law School has not.  I shall write to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills headed by Lord Mandelson to see what the Department’s view on this is.  When I  get a reply, I shall publish it on my blog.

I have to say that I am a little puzzled as to why BPP Law School has declined to make the assessor’s report available for public inspection.  BPP has a good reputation, is well resourced, provides high quality courses and cannot, possibly, have anything to hide.

It seems inequitable that public sector universities should be subject to FOI requests and not BPP.  It is not exactly a level playing field.

I would be interested in your thoughts and comments on this, as always. Please feel free to comment in the comments section below.

***

Acquisition of BPP by Apollo
You may be interested in listening to my podcasts with Peter Crisp and Nigel Savage on the acquisition of BPP by Apollo.

***

UPDATE FOLLOWING LEGAL WEEK STORY
10th July 5.20 pm

Legal Week has published a report this afternoon, (they kindly linked to my blog post of yesterday)  reporting that Peter Crisp CEO of BPP has repeated his unwillingness to disclose the report.  I quote from the Legal Week report

“The QAA report is marked ‘confidential: not for publication or disclosure’ and we’re not going behind that. In any case, the terms of our grant are public knowledge.”

Let me repeat the QAA policy on the disclosure of the assessor’s report which led to BPP being granted degree awarding powers because  Peter Crisp seems to be relying on the fact that the document was marked confidential and not for disclosure as a reason for not disclosing – which, palpably, is not the case.

The organisation may grant access to this report before this time”

QAA disclosure policy

I always check my position as carefully as I can, so before publishing yesterday I wrote to the Chief Executive of the QAA, Peter Williams, to check that I had interpreted the QAA disclosure policy correctly and that BPP was entitled to disclose the report if they wished to. I received an email from Peter Williams to confirm that I had interpreted the policy correctly. I also spoke to a senior person at the Department for Business, Skills and Innovation.

BPP is fully entitled to refuse to disclose the report if they wish to and cannot be compelled to disclose because BPP Law School is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.  I would not wish prospective students when considering which institution to attend for the GDL, LPC BVC or indeed, a law degree,  to be under the misapprehension that that the reason BPP cannot disclose is because the document is marked confidential and not for disclosure.   Peter Crisp will have to justify refusal to disclose on other grounds.  The QAA policy would appear to permit redaction of commercially sensitive information.

I feel strongly that BPP Law School and The College of Law should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act given that they both enjoy the same rights as publicly funded universities to award degrees.  Public sector universities are subject to the FOI.

Perhaps the law should be changed to bring The College of Law and BPP within the Freedom of Information law?   The College of Law would appear to have no difficulty with this proposition because they  have stated that they are more than happy to disclose the assessor’s report on them which led to their being granted degree awarding powers.

Alex Aldridge, Editor of the Legal Week Student section reports:

However, College of Law CEO Nigel Savage suggested that it is important for prospective students to be able to see the report:

“Currently students have little information to go on to distinguish legal education providers. So the opportunity to see an independent review would clearly be beneficial to them.”

I think that maybe BPP has missed an opportunity here – but that is their right.

9th July: Update up on Insite Law

9th July: Update up on Insite Law

Editor pick of the day
9th July 2009

Ex-Murdoch editor Andrew Neil: News of the World revelations one of most significant media stories of our time Guardian: Former Sunday Times editor says tabloid did not have a public interest defence and Andy Coulson has questions to answer

One of Rupert Murdoch’s former leading editors said last night the Guardian’s revelations of the News of the World’s phone hacking represented one of the “most significant media stories of modern times”.

***

White Rabbit: Suddenly there’s a lot of it about

Beyond parody… beyond indulgence…

Nick Griffin’s views are popular in the UK with  the Yoberati or knuckle dragging classes, so why should we be surprised when he goes on the BBC and suggests that the EU should start sinking boats with illegal immiigrants on them?

Why any of us continue to give him air time is baffling – I suspect, as I am doing now, so that we can express our disgust for this miserable excuse for a politician and hope that his views, when aired, disgust people and bring a sense of shame to those who like and support  his views.

It is an interesting point.  Are we right or wrong to give him a platform?  He is elected… and, as with everyone else, he has a right to express his views…  but does  that mean we ‘should’ give him air time or column inches?

The BBC has the story: Sink immigrants’ boats – Griffin

The interviewer, BBC Correspondent Shirin Wheeler, said: “I don’t think the EU is in the business of murdering people at sea.”

Mr Griffin replied: “I didn’t say anyone should be murdered at sea – I say boats should be sunk, they can throw them a life raft and they can go back to Libya.”

Unbelievable.

Torture: Pleased with our country?

The Guardian reports today:

“The true depth of British involvement in the torture of terrorism suspects overseas and the manner in which that complicity is concealed behind a cloak of courtroom secrecy was laid bare last night when David Davis MP detailed the way in which one counter-terrorism operation led directly to a man suffering brutal mistreatment.

In a dramatic intervention using the protection of parliamentary privilege, the former shadow home secretary revealed how MI5 and Greater Manchester police effectively sub-contracted the torture of Rangzieb Ahmed to a Pakistani intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), whose routine use of torture has been widely documented.”

On the assumption that what David Davis said, using the protection of parliamentary privilege, is true, this raises a number of rather worrying issues

1. The extent to which the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary (MI6), The Home Secretary (MI5) and the Justice Secretary were aware of the use of torture by Mi5 – and the rest of the Cabinet?

2.  If they were aware of the use of torture indirectly (or directly) by our own security services did they sanction it?, approve it? turn a blind eye to it? or call for it to stop?

3.  With instances, albeit rare, of brutal treatment of prisoners in Iraq by the British army, the use of excessive force by Police in terror cases (Charles Menezes comes to mind) is it now the only way we can deal with terror? and if so, are we comfortable with this as a civilised nation?  The senior law lords have, not surprisingly, condemned the use of torture and excessive force and secret evidence and control orders  in combatting terror.

4.  Do we have to pay the price of such oppressive measures to maintain the security of our nation? Is this the the new real politik?

5.  Are we in danger of winning the war but losing the peace?

6.  Has Britain, as a nation, always used such ‘secret’ force to maintain liberty and freedom?  We have been involved in World Wars and serious military conflict for nearly every year in the last hundred years.  Is it realistic to suggest, in war, that there are any rules at all and the reality is that if terror measures are used on us, we are released from the obligation to fight fair and clean?

I do hope not…. but what is the reality in modern Britain?   Has David Davis got it right? It seems to me that a rather ominous silence is enveloping on  this issue – the blogs are not exactly falling over themselves to comment and the newspapers and mainstream television mediaare not, when I last looked, giving Mr Davis’ intervention last night much further comment – perhaps qualified privilege defines a line in the sand?

8th July: News, reports, blog updates on Insite Law

8th July: News, reports, blog updates on Insite Law

Editor
Mike SP
Email

Editor pick of the day
8th July 2009

From Tom Harris MP’s blog…
Closer my God to thee

“I OVERHEARD a rather unkind reference to the denizens of the Upper House this evening:

Labour Lord: “We’re voting on assisted dying tonight – putting old people out of their misery.”

Labour MP: “Turkeys voting for Christmas, then?”

In the end they didn’t. Vote for Christmas, I mean.”

And this, from Scott Greenfield of Simple Justice, is PURE GOLD about Twitter…

Unfollowed in St. Louis

From Simon Myerson QC’s blog Pupillage and how to get it.

This is from Counsel magazine but Simon Myerson thinks thinks it deserves the widest possible circulation. I agree.

“Derek Wood QC is conducting the review of pupillage. He is having a drinks reception on Monday 13th July in Lincoln’s Inn at 530pm. If you are a pupil, or a recently completed pupil, you should have had an invitation. If not then get in touch with Andrea Clerk at the BSB – aclerk@barstandardsboard.org.uk – and go along.

The review is genuinely interested in your experiences and your thoughts. So make sure that those conducting it know what they are. And ask for an amnesty for pupil bloggers… “

And so it came to pass that Bernie saw the light….

It would seem that Bernie Ecclestone didn’t really mean to say that Hitler did a good job and was a great leader… just that Hitler did the business for building Autobahns. Ecclestone apologises and then  drones on, somewhat absurdly,  in today’s Times.

Apparently Ecclestone met with The Prince of Darkness.  They had a chat. Paul Waugh in his Evening Standard blog reports: ” As an aside, the pint-sized fan of dictatorships then mentioned that he had got himself into a spot of bother over his remarks in a Times interview that Hitler “got things done”. Mandelson replied: “You should take advice before doing such interviews in the future. That was the extent of the exchange, sources say.”

The Times reports: A jury hearing a libel action brought by Richard Desmond, owner of the Daily Express, against the author of a biography of Conrad Black was discharged today after “fundamental” evidence emerged.

The article was not that informative (not surprisingly) – but I did enjoy the comment of someone called Francesca who wrote: “The good High Court judge has given up further lucrative earnings as counsel to live a life of cloistered slavery: writing (usually) his own (many) judgments, of breathtaking excellence. Money couldn’t pay you for that calling; very few are up to it. Barristers clerks in some chambers earn as much.”

I can’t imagine that Eady J has taken to writing comments in The Times under a pseudonym – but it is, clearly, easier to get a comment published in The Times these days.  I may spend a happy evening with a bottle of Rioja and then nip over to The Times online myself… and run amok.

The talking stops tomorrow and The Ashes begins….

Sky Sports has been acquired and I am ready for the long haul…. Test cricket is my thing and there is no bigger match than an Ashes Series.  Pity about Lee, of course.  It can’t be easy for Australia to lose their start 90mph reverse swinging bowler right at the start.

I haven’t watched much of the largely pointless pre-series hype and talk – the game is the thing.. and the game is afoot.

Guido Fawkes: Lords Savage Brown’s YouTubed Parliamentary Standards Bill

Guido notes: “As the Lords say, it is a hastily cobbled together rush to “do something” – the wrong thing.  The report diplomatically describes the Prime Mentalist’s expenses announcement on YouTube as “constitutionally unorthodox”.

Oh Dear…. Gordon appears to be getting a kicking… at least substantially recasting this Bill will keep his mind off The Ashes series.  After dooming Andy Murray to crash out of Wimbelbore last week by wishing him well on Twitter (of all places) many of us are rather hoping that he doesn’t have the usual Prime Ministerial taste for cricket.

And it came to pass that our latest Home Secretary read  the secret  scrolls…

Keen as mustard… Alan Johnson, the sixth incarnation of Labour’s Dr Who since 1997 (and the fourth in three years) , took over as Home Secretary and pronounced the ID card idea dead.

Times: Alan Johnson: ID cards ‘will never be compulsory’ for Britons

Unfortunately, it is not dead and today the Guardian ran the headline..

£1,000 fines to bolster ID cards as Tories pledge to scrap scheme

The Guardian noted: “MPs tonight approved fines of up to £1,000 for those who fail to tell the passport and identity service of changes in their personal details including address, name, nationality and gender….

…..The home secretary, Alan Johnson, also made clear that there had been no U-turn over ID cards and that the programme was still on course despite claims that he had ruled out making them compulsory. “We haven’t scrapped ID cards, what we are doing is accelerating their introduction,” he told MPs.

The Conservatives’ home affairs spokesman, Damian Green, asked how the scheme could be “voluntary” when they were penalties for failing to provide information for the database.  Alan Johnson may not have been to university (as he once quipped when heading the Department for Education etc etc)  but he is, undoubtedly, a clever man… and it would appear that he has read George Orwell’s 1984.

Unsilent Partners…an idea

Unsilent Partners is an idea cooked up by me  and Colin Samuels, author of the Infamy or Praise blog.  The plan is to write a series of essays / commentaries on  interesting legal issues and developments in the USA and the UK – perhaps each commenting on the other writer’s post.

You are most welcome to join in (writing at length or briefly)  by using the comments section at the foot of each blog post.

Have a look?

Lawcast 146: Jane Lambert, Barrister, on the issues facing the Bar today

Lawcast 146: Jane Lambert, Barrister, on the issues facing the Bar today

Today I am talking to Jane Lambert, a barrister who specialises in Intellectual property law. Jane attended by telephone the special Bar Council consultation on 26 June 2009, took some fairly detailed notes and contributed to the debate.

The Bar, as with the solicitors side of the profession, is experiencing the rigour of the most severe recession since World War II and now has to contend with a changing legal landscape with the advent of alternative business structures and other changes following the coming into force of the Legal Services Act. It would appear that the Bar may still be behind the curve on these changes…

Listen to the podcast

(I have recompressed the file – so the sound is much improved from the first version – apologies!)

Podcast version for iTunes

Jane Lambert NIPC Law IT/IP blog

Blawg Review #219

Blawg Review #219
Cathy Gellis has produced a Huey Lewis and The News themed Blawg Review of epic proportions. She does note, however, that it is not quite as long as my absurdly long review a few weeks ago. I like it. I use the present tense because I am still reading it. It is quite possible that I may be doing so for some time. It’s a good review – with good links to UK law Blogs and gives a very good picture of what happened in the blogosphere last week. Do read it. You can dip in when the mood suits you – which adds to the pleasure of the review.

Doomed I tell you… doomed….

Guido Fawkes  reports that shortly before Andy Murray played Roddick at Wimbelbore 10 Downing Street sent a message via Twitter…. It seems that Murray may have been doomed from that moment on…

Rather enjoyed this from The Observer Upfront page This much I know:

“The democracy of blogging and tweeting is absolutely terrific in one way. It is also the most effective producer of rubbish and insult and falsehood we have yet invented”

Professor AC Grayling

I had a good look around Professor Grayling’s website – some very interesting stuff.  I shall be buying his book Liberty in the Age of Terror.


I rarely read (and certainly do not believe in) astrological predictions. This is not really surprising for an atheist. I was, however, amused by the prediction for my Taurean week ahead from The Observer Bolloxmeister Neil Spencer. … “A fixed smile and agreeable manner will carry you through situations and dealings with people that leave you appalled’. I’d better go out and find some appalling people so that I can practice being an agreeable sphinx.

As far as I can see – and the astrolobollocks in The Mirror is even more spectacular – this must be money for old rope.  I’m now sitting here as I drink some Burgundy whether I can turn my hand to generating astrological predictions and persuade people to sponsor me.  Mystic Charon?   Charon the Mystic?  All suggestions for (a) doing this as a means of paying for even more Rioja and (b) a suitable name – gratefully received.  I’ll even do your first astrolobollocks prediction FREE.

This is a picture of the new head of MI6 or ‘M’ in the 007 films.

In fact  the director of the real-life MI6 is known as “C”, nominally for “chief” but actually the result of the first director, Sir Mansfield Smith-Cumming, signing his documents with the last initial of his name.

There was a time, in the not too distant past, when the name of ‘C’ was a state secret and no pictures ever appeared.  But now Sir John Sawers, the next head of MI6, is a very well known man.  The BBC reports that Sir John is the UK’s ambassador to the United Nations and is due to take up his new post in November. It appears, however, that his wife had a facebook page and a fair bit of information was placed on the site – without privacy settings.  Blazer wearers from Surrey and the odd Tory MP are making much of this and harrumphing.

The BBC reports: “David Miliband denied security had been compromised after the wife of Sir John Sawers posted family photographs and details of their children and home. Mr Miliband told the BBC: “You know he wears a Speedo swimsuit. That’s not a state secret.”Some Tories said the disclosure was damaging and Lib Dems want an inquiry.”

“In the old days we used to keep the name secret, all photographs were banned ad I never really believed that the Russians didn’t know who the head of MI6 and MI5 was,” Ken Clarke MP, languidly told Sky news.. possibly as he drank a Martini… shaken not stirred, smoked a Monte Cristo and looked at a man stroking a white pussy across the table from him…

But all is not doom…

Fellow Twitter user and City lawyer  has been going to the gym and smoking a rather good cigar.  There is hope in every avenue of life despite these dark days!  #Smokedo is spreading….

Some philosophical issues…..

Lord Falconer is championing the cause of those who assist the terminally ill with suicide – to my mind a perfectly reasonable cause to give dignity to those who wish to end their lives because of ilness and pain yet who do not wish to bring harm through prosecution to those who assist them.  Times

“We are in this awful situation where people who travel with relatives probably won’t be prosecuted, but can’t be sure,” said Falconer. “It means people are going to clinics on their own, or going earlier than they otherwise would, which can’t be right.

“In my view rightly, the DPP has refused to prosecute around 100 people in these cases. The law must be brought in line with actual practice and the change in public views on these issues.”

Inevitably there has been a parade of ex-archbishops and bishops coming forward to argue the point.  Lord Carey has joined the ranks of those who wish to block this change in the law and who seem to have missed an elementary philosophical position – the right of an individual to make decisions.  Writing today in the News of The World – a paper not noted for a focus on deep philosophical issues – under the screaming headline – Mercy Killers  are hijacking the suicide bill Lord Carey argues that an amendment would put the elderly at risk of unscrupulous heirs who wish to do away with their relatives so they can get the money.  This may well be the case – but this phenomenon can surely be dealt with by an independent assessor who looks at the evidence and the reality behind a request to die?

For my part if an adult wishes to end his or her life, but is unable to pursue this action alone they should be given the right to do so free of the burden that their partner or family member or friend will be prosecuted. My reasoning is based on a principle that we should have an absolute right – free from religious or philosophical  ethics of a bygone age – to determine how we should run our lives and, in this case, our deaths.  Even on a Benthamite utilitarian construct,  the right to die and enlist the help of another who is prepared to extend love for their friend in this way will give the person who wishes to die greater pleasure to themselves than harm to others and should, accordingly be a right enshrined in law.  Of course we must have laws in place to prevent unscrupulous relatives knocking off their rich relatives  – but that, surely, is not beyond the ability and will of parliament?

And then we have Jack ‘Hardliner’ Straw, our  Lord Chancellor, turning down parole for Ronnie Biggs on the grounds that Ronnie Biggs did not show repentance for his crime and chose to commit another crime by escaping from custody all those years ago.  To this Jack ‘The Pirate Hat’ Straw added that Biggs had courted press attention outrageously.

The facts are these. Ronnie Biggs was one of the Great Train Robbery Gang.  He coshed the guard.  The guard died subsequently.  Biggs and his fellow gang members was sentenced to thirty years – a sentence, some say, issued to show that the government and the judiciary were cracking down on organised crime.  Biggs did a runner and for many years made a laughing stock out of Plod who chased him around the world and finally to Brazil. Biggs returned to Britain, a sick man, voluntarily and was immediately banged up.  Biggs is an old man now and seriously ill.  He is unlikely to be a threat to anyone in society apart from himself.  He is too frail to even steal a newspaper from the local newsagent, let alone use a cosh or commit robberies.  The Parole Board recommended release.

I am baffled by Straw’s decision. In my view – and I am far from alone in this – he has made a poor decision and has diminished himself and the justice system in the process.  Prison is not simply about revenge.  It is about deterrence and rehabilitation. It is, in so far as it can show this, also about compassion and hope.  I can see nothing in this decision of Jack Straw’s other than revenge.  It is a decision which leaves a rather unpleasant odour.   It is ironic when Straw is falling over himself to tell the judiciary not to jail people and not to be offended when criminals show disrespect to them and the justice system because we haven’t enough prisons and we don’t wish young thugs to feel discrimiated against  – that he should now wish to appear to be the ‘Iron Man of Justice’.  Straw would be better off listening a bit more to the senior judiciary and other experts on  other means of punishment.  We have more people in our prisons than any other country in Europe and more lifers, I understand, than the rest of the European Union put together. I won’t even bother to consider today whether half of these people (non violent people) are even in prison.  I doubt whether many prisoners show repentance. Straw would be better placed dealing with the rise in serious crime and not pissing about on a pre-election ‘London Palladium’ stage grandstanding. FAIL… as they say in the modern vernacular.

And finally… My favourite pic of the week. A fabulous one fingered salute from a brave woman.  I am grateful to Natasha Phillips, a fellow blogger and friend, for putting this picture up on Twitter earlier today.  It needs no commentary.  Natasha, who is part Persian, is also a serial user of Twitter (@sobk13)  and, late at night, is a Twitter DJ using Blip.FM!  She also plays a savage and cunning game of Scrabble and is resistant to my puns.  I am working on new tactics.

Postcard from Wales: 5th July

I escaped on Friday morning to make a trip to Brecon to visit a very good friend of mine, a barrister, who moved to Australia some years ago.  She is from Brecon and is over in Wales seeing her mother with her two sons; sports mad 16 year olds.  Brecon is astonishingly beautiful, a small market town with a quiet lazy feel to it on the day I visited, set in the heart of the Brecon Beacons; some of the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen.  I have in my youth been up Snowdon (in fact, years ago, I foolishly did the Three Peaks challenge   a completely pointless exercise involving long hours sitting in a van driving and then bursts of frenetic activity climing each of  Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike, Snowdon.)  I prefer taking time to walk and see things.

My friend asked if I would like to see Pen y Fan. I have been tricked before with these leading questions.  “As a theoretical proposition I would, indeed, like to see Pen y Fan”  I replied.  The thought of walking up was not on my agenda.  I think she sensed, despite my lean and hungry Smokedo look, that I was a bit unprepared to stroll up a small mountain.  We went for a walk instead up a fairly steep hill to a Trig point from where we could see Pen y Fan and tremendous countryside and the valley below.  Her two sons, perhaps not as fascinated by the view and the lyricism of lush and verdant Wales below us, amused themselves by kicking a rugby ball into the bracken and then losing it.  My friend strode into the bracken and found it – clearly with a sharper eye for where the ball landed than we three men…

So… Bernie Ecclestone, the mighty midget of Formula 1 racing, appears to have finally lost the plot with calls for authoritarian government and suggesting that Max Mosley would make a good prime minister.  Christ knows what goes on the minds of rich business people used to getting their way – but clearly it doesn’t involve a great deal of political acuity or common sense.  Surely, he must know that Max Mosley’s father was a ludicrous figure of ridicule when he pranced around in jodphurs and riding boots doing fascist salutes.  Max Mosley as prime minister?  Yes… I can see Guido and the political bloggers commenting on Prime Minister’s Questions if Mosley was PM – ~Mosley gets/gives a SPANKING!”….

The Times had an amusing article: Hitler?  he got things done…

Perhaps Ecclestone could now fuck off back to his Formula 1 trailer and continue to make millions from what must be one of the most boring sports on earth to watch.?   This is merely a suggestion – I don’t share Ecclestone’s ludicrous tastes for authoritarian behaviour. Here is the Libertarian Party UK response to Ecclestone’s suggestion that Hitler was an OK sort of a guy who may have been got at by the boys – but was a good leader!

Well… there you are, as my Welsh friends say in their lilting voices…. a short one… but I need to go for a walk to ease the ache in the back of my legs from the unaccustomed walk up a hill!  It is very flat where I am East of London…. as it would be… on the sea.

be sure, I shall return and write more… two days off blogging has given me severe withdrawal symptoms….

Orf to the Land of the Dragon…

I leave at dawn for Brecon, Wales.  I like Wales – although I have not been for a few years.  A short trip.  I shall take my laptop and if the mobile wifi dongle works where I am going  I shall do a Postcard from the Valleys.  If not, I shall do it upon my return on Sunday.

Cogito ergo bibo…and Wimblebore Review….

Cogito ergo bibo… I think therefore I drink, seems to me to be a perfectly sensible rationale for one of my main vices…although I am much taken with Bibo ergo cogito.

It was doing this drinking hobby of mine last night when I started to think about Wimblebore… a tennis festival put on by the British… well English to be really fair…  for the benefit of overseas tennis players who can actually play the game.   Most years there is a collective gasp of pleasure (and much clapping)  from the middle classes when Britain’s last remaining player makes it to Day Two  and, during the  time of Tim Henteeth, there was much national hand wringing and angst as they coped with the inevitable defeat.  Henman Hill used to irritate me beyond the irrational… the Henman Hillbillies seemed to clap anything and did, when it rained and Sir Stiff Pilchard popped up to sing The Young Ones or Summer Holiday or whatever it was he did sing that famous rain and brain sodden day.

But now we have a Scot who seems to be pretty cool and does not seem to be that bothered by the ‘expectation’.  Famously, he said of some football tournament – another game I do not watch – that he would support whoever was playing against England.  This did not go down well with the blazer wearers of Wimbledon and Surrey.  If he makes the Final I shall watch.

I hear on my sound news feed  the inane interviews with the pundits and the only one worth listening to from my perspective as a non-tennis watcher is McEnroe.  He talks straight, seriously and sanely about a sport he clearly has a passion for.

I was reading the papers this morning and the sports writers seemed to be rather pre-occupied with the state of British tennis.  The Mirror writer suggested that we are no good at it because it is a middle class elitist sport and there is probably some truth in that.  Apart from the somewhat surreal sight of out of condition people, suddenly enthused by tennis for three days after Wimbledon, patting a ball back and forth across the net and wheezing, the tennis courts in public parks are often emptyfor the rest of the year and it is not really on the  sports radar of most schools, let alone state schools.

I saw a film on You Tube of the famous Wimbebore roof closing. The hyperventilation, the almost insane smiling and more of that clapping,  the grave commentary and then bizarre music, was almost too much for me.  I reached for my injection… but fortunately did not have to euthanase myself.  Here is the video

This morning BBC Breakfast decided to stop any pretence of being a serious news Channel in the early mornings. Bill Turnbull, who actually does have a good sense of humour, decided (to my eye) to crank up the dumbing down. Morons watch television after 9.00.  Adults wanting to catch up on news watch it before 9.00.  We do not need to have matters dumbed down.  I lost patience when the hyperventilating weather girl decided that she was Matron and issued a Weather Fatwa telling us to watch the heat…. meanwhile the  elderly are dying in satisfactory numbers… I could almost hear the autocutie newsreaders (male and female) reading.

It is remarkably simple. The sun in Britain at this time of year is visible.  It can be hot and even reach 30 degrees or high 90s farenheit.  The sun can burn skin – but if you want your distended beer belly and skin on your face to make you look like a cooked prawn go ahead, be my guest.  The heat also makes you thirsty so it is not a great leap in thinking to ensure that you drink water.  And finally… on this matter… if you lie in the sun until you faint then you may well get heat stroke, severe burns and waste a doctor’s time at your local hospital.

Oh.. and finally.. to exorcize Wimblebore from my system and psyche before The Ashes start next week – a word about the effing bloody ‘Wimblebore’ strawberry.  I saw a news item on this on BBC Breakfast News for Cretins.  They are grown under plastic.  They have to be a ‘Wimblebore type’ – this was not fully explained by the interviewer who was too busy hyperventilating and holding his or her knees together with the excitement. I remember eating one or two on my only trip to Wimblebore a few years ago.  I may have been better placed nutritionally and in terms of pleasure if I had eaten the grass from Henman Hill.   £2.25 for a miserable portion with or without cream… “having a  farkin  larf, guv… but the farkin geezers got to pay for their farking roof…don’t they?” …. as Dave, from the Cafe in Chelsea, would say…

PC Plod gets hot and brain falls out of the back of his head….

The Guardian reported this morning: Police floated imposter theory over Ian Tomlinson’s death at G20 protests

A senior police officer who investigated the death of Ian Tomlinson told his family that the officer who struck him at the G20 demonstrations could have been a member of the public “dressed in police uniform”, it emerged last night….

…The City of London police completely failed to persuade the Tomlinson family of its impartiality, not least when they were told by an investigating officer that he was not ruling out the possibility that the alleged assailant may be a member of the public dressed in police uniform,” it said. A source present at the 8 April meeting said the senior investigator’s comment was made after he was pressed on how the identity of the officer could be established from the video.The investigator agreed that the man who struck Tomlinson was likely to have been a police officer, but could “not rule out” the possibility that he was a member of the public.

This is a rather bizarre way to go about things….  fortunately independent investigation is being carried out… at least I hope it is.  Ironically… police officers are ‘members of the public dressed in police uniform’ – although some of them appear to think they are there to control us rather than protect.

House of Lords – the elephant in the room. Time to get shot of it?…

The news with a big update to law reports is up on Insite Law

PM warned that elevation of Michael Martin could damage Lords
Guardian: Michael Martin , the former Speaker of the Commons, was today elevated to the House of Lords despite a warning from the independent appointments commission that his presence could “diminish” the upper house. In an unprecedented move, the commission wrote to Gordon Brown to warn that Martin’s conduct in recent months, which led him to become the first Speaker of the modern era to be forced out, could damage the Lords’ reputation.

The article in The Guardian left a rather sour taste in my mouth as I rose very early to see the sunrise – cloudy. Michael Martin has been elevated to the Lords – a tradition going back some time.  The Guardian reports: The intervention by the commission, chaired by the former Foreign Office permanent secretary Lord Jay, is understood to be the first time in modern times that questions have been raised about elevating a former Speaker to the Lords….

… In a carefully worded letter to the prime minister, the commission referred to the terms of its vetting procedures. These state that the commission’s role “is to advise the prime minister if it has any concerns about the propriety of a nominee”.

In plain English… the Lords don’t want any more unsuitable people turning up to add to the carnival atmosphere of recent years with Peers being suspended for corruption and a couple of ‘master criminals’ with jail experience (although one currently in jail) among their noble ranks.

The Guardian noted:  Martin was nominated for a peerage by the Commons as part of a “humble address” to the Queen. In a message to MPs on Monday the government whip, Helen Jones, in her role as the vice-chamberlain of the household, reported that the Queen had agreed to confer a peerage on Martin “for his eminent services during the period in which he has, with such distinguished ability and dignity, presided in the chair of this house”. The traditional form of words was greeted with ridicule. Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, a Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, said: “This is old-fashioned nonsense. Parliament should start using words that people understand and believe. Michael Martin should not be handed a P45 in an ermine envelope.”

Few  question the value of a second chamber, but the classic British fudge of half reform started by Blair has left us with an institution  still made up of unelected people, accountable to no-one,  with fairly extensive powers; powers which can be over ridden only by taking our ball back and  by invoking the Parliament Act. For my own part we should move to a position where we have an elected second chamber and remove the titles of Baron this and Baroness that and build a Parliament that reflects a mature and modern democratic country.

The whole business of titles is verging on the comic opera in the 21st Century. Orders of The British Empire and the like are ridiculous enough when Empire seems to be limited to a tedious lump of rock on the rump of Spain and a few islands dotted about the world. I have no problem at all in the State rewarding excellence – but surely it is not beyond us to call the awards something rather more meaningful?

The trouble is – people like all the flummery that goes with a title and this is harmless enough – but not when it comes to the government of our country. We are a democracy with a constitutional Monarch.  We are no longer a feudal society.  We are no longer a society where the robber barons of ye olde Englande rule in a gentleman’s club environment. An elected chamber (perhaps we could even call it a Senate?) would be a very valuable step forward in governance.  The trouble is, without the ermine, the titles and all the other nonsense that goes with it currently – would anyone want to be part of it?

In October the Law Lords become Supreme Court Justices.  It would be good, in time, if we could get rid of peerages and other titles denoting links with a feudal past from our judicial system as well.  What about Justice, Appeal Justice, Surpeme Court Justice?  They seem to describe the position more than adequately without the prefix Lord, Lady.  Mind you… why stop there? … let’s get rid of the whole shooting match and become a republic, enjoy our history and base our future on a classless society? The Americans  do it rather well – and they are celebrating Independence this very weekend on the 4th July. Anyone fancy that or as we say in the modern vernacular… Anyone ‘Up for it’?


They tell me that the Tower of London has space in it… I’d better keep my head down… but on reflection that is not really a good idea when talking about the Tower of London.  I’m orf for breakfast, some coffee and a bit of Smokedo.  I’ve been up since 3.30 and it is time for a walk.