Home Office announces that the world is flat

Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, announced today that he found Professor Nutt’s advice inconvenient and not consistent with policy… or so it would seem.

The Guardian reports rather more precisely:

“Professor David Nutt, the Government’s chief drug adviser, was sacked today after claiming ecstasy and LSD were less dangerous than alcohol, Home Office sources said”

Ah well…. The Curse of The Home Office appears to have another victim.

A rather grave matter…

When I was a law student, I dug graves to keep myself amused with cigarettes, wine and other sybaritic pleasures.  I don’t dig graves these days,  but as I get older I am definitely interested in the idea of supermarkets flogging coffins.  I can quite happily picture myself, on a Saturday when I collect my shopping, wheeling a coffin out of of Sainsburys on a trolley, taking it home and perhaps using the coffin as a coffee table (and storage facility) until the time comes to get into it.

I just could not resist this story from the BBC this morning…. Halloween?  What’s that? This is far more ghoulish. Have a good night if you are out and about on the night of ghouls.

A Round Tuit (7)

A Round Tuit (7)

Colin Samuels, author of four award winning Blawg reviews and until recently a sherpa on Blawg Review – produces an excellent weekly round up of Blawgs.  While inevitably US centric, Colin looks at a range of blog posts each week and often features blog posts from elsewhere.  Always worth a read – the themes covered are, more often than not, of interest to all lawyers and students wherever they practice.

Do have a look?!

 

Lawcast 159: Charles Christian on new technologies for lawyers

 

Legal Technology Insider

Lawcast 159: Charles Christian on new technologies for lawyers

 

Today I am talking to Charles Christian, lawyer, writer and Editor of Legal Technology Insider. Over the next 12 months law firms will once more be ramping up their investments in legal IT as the country climbs out of recession – but what sort of technologies should they be looking at?

Listen to the podcast

Podcast version for iTunes

Imagine….

Imagine a country where the right to trial by jury has been undermined, where an individual can be tried twice – the rule on double jeopardy abandoned – where well over 3000 new crimes have been enacted in the past ten years; where racial, sexuality and religious tensions are said to need the protection and might of law.

Imagine a country where the chief justice and many leading judges fear for the future of justice and civil liberties because the government of that country has eroded civil liberties in the name of countering terror and  has reduced support for those of limited means, and vulnerable people, to fight their corner and pay for lawyers.

Imagine a country where people are imprisoned without charge for 28 days (42 days was defeated).

Imagine a country where the right to speak freely is restricted and individuals can be threatened by lawyers who can simply telephone a judge in Chambers to restrict them from speaking out,  on what may well be a matter of great public importance,  to protect sectional and very private corporate interests, where attempts to restrict the reporting of the proceedings of the press are routinely granted through the use of super-injunctions and, latterly, a country with laws which allowed lawyers to attempt to restrict the reporting of proceedings in parliament itself.

Imagine a country that leads the world in CCTV surveillance with more cameras per head of population than any other on Earth.

Imagine a country where not only the police but local authorities and other civilian bodies can routinely spy on you, intercept your email, bug your phone and can intrude to examine your bank accounts and then, even for quite minor offences, can seize your assets, freeze your bank account and seize and crush your car; powers intended to tackle terror and organised crime but which now will, inevitably, be used for far less serious offences.

Imagine a country which has restricted the money paid to experienced criminal lawyers with the result that many lawyers can no longer afford to practice in the field and the quality of representation may decline as a result.

Imagine a country with over 85,000 people in jail, a country where the Justice Ministry wants yet more prisons and even considered hiring prison ships from elsewhere.

Imagine a country where the government uses the device of statutory instrument to slide controversial legislation through into law without the eyes of the public, expert commentators or members of parliament being able to see, or objective  minds,  to consider those laws.

Imagine a country that allows the prime minister to wage war without the consent of the elected representatives of the people…

You don’t need to imagine such a country.  You are living in it.

The Home Office has finally administered the coup de grace on common sense and civil liberties

The Times reports…

Draconian police powers designed to deprive crime barons of luxury lifestyles are being extended to councils, quangos and agencies to use against the public, The Times has learnt.

The right to search homes, seize cash, freeze bank accounts and confiscate property will be given to town hall officials and civilian investigators employed by organisations as diverse as Royal Mail, the Rural Payments Agency and Transport for London.

The measure, being pushed through by Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, comes into force next week and will deploy some of the most powerful tools available to detectives against fare dodgers, families in arrears with council tax and other minor offenders.

The radical extension of the Proceeds of Crime Act, through a Statutory Instrument which is not debated by parliament, has been condemned by the chairman of the Police Federation. Paul McKeever said that he was shocked to learn that the decision to hand over “intrusive powers” to people who were not police was made without consultation or debate.

This is a very worrying development and reveals that mission creep has finally crept up to the limit of common sense.  I agree with the Police Federation spokesman.  The government wants to ’embed’ seizure powers across the board in the Criminal Justice System and raise £250 million.

Putting draconinian powers in the hands of council officials is not a clever move and will, inevitably, result in poorly trained council officials making poor decisions.

I’ve lost patience with Labour over their continued and almost relentless attack on common sense when it comes to civil liberties.  Their much vaunted talk of human rights seems futile when they give with one hand yet take with the other.  This decision will be a disaster like many other decisions of a Home Office which has not, to coin a phrase, been ‘fit for purpose’ for some time. And to think, after the crazies we have had running the Home Office in recent years, I thought that Alan Johnson might actually be vaguely sensible.  This is not sensible…and while I am permitted in New Orwellian Labour Britain.. I shall say so.

I have stopped voting labour…. this means I shall not be voting for the first time in nearly 30 years. Not that this will have any effect whatsoever on the voting figures for Labour bar one less vote.

POLICE STATE BRITAIN ? … NAH… MORE OF A TRAFFIC WARDEN STATE BRITAIN  – and this will be even worse…. have you ever tried to speak to a council official?

If you want to pay your council tax PRESS 1…if you want to pay your parking fine PRESS 2… if you want to pay your fine for putting your bin out too early PRESS 3… if you want to enjoy your life in Britain… sorry… we don’t accept calls on this.

Shock Horror: Charon may be related to Edward 1

The Daily Mail worries me, but in a week where there is actually quite important news  – The Daily Mail has come up with a story about inbreeding in the Royal Family. You have to have a quick look at this – to get the point… astonishing, however, how all the royals do look alike?

It really is astonishing how a leading newspaper can be so pre-occupied with so little… what is more worrying is that their readers may also be pre-occupied with so little and, like everyone…Sun Readers, Mirror Readers… Guardian,Times, Indie, Telegraph etc etc readers….  … they have a vote.

I love Britain…… serious about politics… You bet!

Anyway… let me re-assure you, I am a republican. I am not related to any Royals or Boris Johnson… and while my father was in the Army during the second World War, he didn’t have liaisons with any members of the royal family past or present… or even dead ones.

Lord Neuberger: A rather good speech..

I would like to draw your attention (if you have not already seen it) to a good speech by Lord Neuberger MR.  Amusingly, it includes a scripted slip of the tongue in para 14!

LORD NEUBERGER OF ABBOTSBURY, MASTER OF THE ROLLS

A JUDICIAL PERSPECTIVE ON THE CONDUCT OF CLAIMS IN THE CURRENT
CLIMATE

Yes… more of this from the senior judiciary, please.  Very interesting reading.

Worth reading

Comment du Jour: Genocidal maniacs, conmen…and other matters

The legal news over the last few days has thrown up some curious and interesting stories.

Genocidal maniacs

Yesterday we had Justice Minister and Lord Chancellor Jack Straw announcing that Britain would not become a haven for warlords and genocidal maniacs – which is reassuring given our history over centuries and, some would say, more recently (Interestingly the Radovan Karadzic genocide trial began and was suspended)…yet today  The British government wants allegations that it was complicit in the torture by the US of Britons held as terrorism suspects to be heard in secret.

“In documents seen by the Guardian, lawyers for the government argue it must be allowed to present evidence to the high court with the public excluded, otherwise Britain’s relations with other countries and its national security could be damaged. The government also wants its evidence kept secret from defence lawyers.”

It is, perhaps, not appropriate that I refer to Tony Blair in the context of genocidal maniacs – but he has been told in no uncertain terms by the prime minister and by David Miliband that he must fight or risk losing the European Presidency. (Guardian)

While I do vote Labour,  I have some reservations about Tony Blair becoming President of Europe.  I understand the need for Europe to have a well known politician to represent European interests on the world stage.  I suspect that other candidates (who have to hold or have held prime ministerial office in their own countries) may well be ‘invisible’ outside their own countries. Unfortunately, Blair is all too visible.  His pro-European sentiments were clearly not to the fore when he sided with Bush on the Iraq war.  Henry Porter did a rather good piece in The Observer last Sunday and, as always, made sense and put his views carefully and in a rational manner.

“What European leaders should want is the most principled individual for the job, not someone who cuts a dash on the G20 catwalk and knows how to abuse power.”

Having read Alastair Campbell’s The Blair Years recently, I have reservations about Blair’s ability to lead a complex entity of nations without being overtly ‘Presidential’. Blair also tended to be over reliant, it would seem, on a few people to govern and this, in the context of the European Presidency, would not appear to be a tactic which could be deployed successfully.  There is also the question of why he would wish to do it when he can earn fantastic sums of money on the after dinner speech and consultancy circuit. This latter. of course, is a personal issue for him.

I also have grave reservations about the baggage he carries with him over the prosecution of the war in Iraq and, more particularly, the use of the sexed up dossier.  Former Foreign Secretary (Lord) David Owen, is not alone in believing that ‘contempt of Parliament should always be a disqualification for holding high office’.   This, I feel, disqualifies him play a leading role in Europe  and, as Philippe Sands QC observed in the Observer on Sunday –  Blair is associated with the possible use of torture by the US and UK governments.  Sands puts the boot in, albeit elegantly as befits a Professor of Law at University College London and a leading Silk, by saying “Europe needs a president who is associated with promoting modern values, including the rule of law and fundamental rights for all.”

That said, there is no doubt that Blair was one of the most dynamic prime ministers of the modern era and would certainly bring profile, energy and drive to the job and perhaps this is of more value to Europe than baggage from the past? I suspect, had there not been a war with Iraq, that Blair would have gone on to be a very credible prime minister, albeit  not one with overtly or natural socialist principles. Who knows?  we did go to war with Iraq on a premise which has been revealed to be incorrect.

We also have some potentially sinister developments on the Policing front

Guardian: Chief constables will be forced to justify the legality of recording thousands of law-abiding protesters on secret nationwide databases, the government’s privacy watchdog announced today. Christopher Graham, the information commissioner, said he had “genuine concerns about the ever increasing amount” of personal data held by police.

 

The present government does not have a taste for following advice from incumbent Information Commissioners and it is no surprise to hear the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, saying “The police know what they are doing, they know how to tackle these demonstrations, they do it very effectively.”

To be fair to Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, he has intervened at the eleventh hour in the case of Gary McKinnon,  the hacker who faces 60 years in jail in the US for hacking into the Pentagon computer system..  Alan Johnson is going to look ‘very carefully’ at the medical evidence being put in support of a likely suicide if the extradition goes ahead. Times

And finally… a conman who told women that he was Keir Starmer QC, the DPP, to lure them into his bed has been jailed…

Independent: A swindler who pretended to be the country’s top lawyer and dressed in pinstripe suits, wigs and robes to trick women is behind bars after being convicted of a string of offences including fraud and theft.

 

 

 

Inspiring…

This was sent to me by a good friend in Australia – an English barrister who lives out there now with her teenage boys.

As we get older we sometimes begin to doubt our ability to “make a difference” in the world.  It is at these times that our hopes are boosted by the remarkable achievements of other “seniors” who have found the courage to take on challenges that would make many of us wither.  Harold Sclumberg is such a person.

I’ve often been asked, ‘What do you old folks do now that you’re retired’?

Well..I’m fortunate to have a chemical engineering background, and one of the things I enjoy most is turning beer, wine, Scotch, and margaritas into urine.

And I’m pretty damn good at it, too!!



Chef Charon présente Boeuf Bourguignon

I could not cook many years ago…but now I can – simply by watching programmes on cookery, reading cook books, trying things out and by having had the good fortune to eat some very good meals in different parts of the world. I am not a foodie.  I just enjoy cooking and eating the results. I also like cooking for friends.  It has to be said that I have had to go out to dinner after cooking – simply because what I tried was, shall we say, not too good.

There is a fantastic range of information on the net and on television for those of us who enjoy cooking.

Tonight… a recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon done in a slow cooker or ‘crockpot’

1. Buy a slow cooker (£20 – or use a hob and cook gently for about 2 hours and then transfer to a hot oven 180C to thicken the gravy for about 15 minutes.)

Using the slow cooker on a high setting for 5-6 hours:

2. Chop topside, sirloin,  rump or even cheaper cuts of beef into chunks. Coat with flour (I prefer cornflour) and season with salt and  pepper.  Brown in frying pan using groundnut or sunflower oil until the meat has a good colour on the outside

3.  Chop carrots, onion, mushroom, onion/challots and small potatoes (keep the skin on) garlic  – some mixed herbs and anything else you fancy by way of veg.

4. Add about 1/4 pint of beef stock available from supermarkets.  Put in a small amount of fat from the beef to render down and provide depth to the gravy.

5. Add a full bottle of decent burgundy.  The burgundy will cost about £6-10 depending on your budget.  It is worth using good wine. Frankly any heavy bodied wine will give good flavour

6. Cook for 5-6 hours with the slow cooker on high or 9-10 hours with the slow cooker on low.

Garlic and chive mash

It will take about 20 minutes or so to cook some small potatoes with or without skins (I like skins on for this dish)

1. Cook potatoes until you can put a fork into the heart of the cut potatoes. Drain water, mash, add garlic puree or chopped garlic, chopped chives and butter.  Mash until you have the mash the way you like it.

Quantities are irrelevant with slow cooking.  Some people are greedy.  Work out how much you like, add for friends. Make enough for some the next day – because it does taste better the next day and you can heat it up fairly quickly on a stove. Best to make a new batch of mash, though.

Rioja, Burgundy, Barolo, Cotes du Rhone… in fact.. most reds go well with this.

I have just had a boeuf bourguignon prepared in this way … and I am feeling no pain at all.. and I am never, knowingly, under refreshed… at night.

Blawg Review #235 from Counsel to Counsel

On this 80th Anniversary of the Stock Market Crash of 1929, Counsel to Counsel hosts Blawg Review and dedicate Blawg Review #235 to The Great Recession.

How has our current crisis changed the practice of law and affected our careers as attorneys? Fortunately for me, there was no shortage of reading material on the subject this past week. While US centric – much applies to Britain and elsewhere… I would have thought?

Read Blawg  Review

College of Law Inside Track Podcast: Simon Myerson QC- Life at the Bar and advice on gaining pupillage

College of Law Inside Track Podcast:
Simon Myerson QC- Life at the Bar and advice on gaining pupillage
I talk to Simon Myerson QC. He considers the OLPAS form, the pupillage process, how best to prepare for pupillage interviews and the likely legal landscape for those who wish to join the Bar. He is generally optimist about the future and his advice is that it is a good career, if you are good. Simon Myerson’s blog Pupillage and How to get it is essential reading for prospective barristers.

Listen to the podcast

Religion… a Panopticon for the future?

I am a liberal atheist, by which I mean that I do not seek in any way to persuade others to my belief that there is no god of any kind, nor do I seek to encourage others to adopt a rationalist stance on the matter.  If people wish to believe in a god or gods – and there do seem to be quite a few gods in religious belief systems – and enjoy their beliefs,  that is their right … but, inevitably, because this is a law blog I introduce a Benthamite caveat…provided it does not cause more harm to others than it provides pleasure to believers.

I used to teach Jurisprudence… a subject, sadly, which many universities now consign to the larder of obscure options and which legal regulators appear no longer to regard as a subject which will help the young lawyer become an expert in conveyancing, prosecuting and defending criminals or become a highly paid maven on mergers and acquisitions or… indeed…. legal work of any kind.  Be that as it may.

It was Voltaire who said “If god didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent him” and history reveals that it was remarkably convenient to have a god and a structured system of rules as an instrument of social control.  I hesitate to go further lest I find myself banged up at a secure police station in West London for breaching the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006.

I would like it to be perfectly clear, as a liberal atheist,(Lest some police officer is behind with his ‘nickings’ this month)  that I have no intention of breaching s. 29B of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act because I am, just that, a liberal atheist – tolerant, inclusive, relaxed and  laid back, about the things fellow human beings believe in.

I would, however, like to commend a piece written by Professor Turley, a US academic, on Blaspemy laws.

Professor Turley writes in USA Today…

Perhaps in an effort to rehabilitate the United States’ image in the Muslim world, the Obama administration has joined a U.N. effort to restrict religious speech. This country should never sacrifice freedom of expression on the altar of religion.

I leave you with one thought – is it sensible to have prime ministers, presidents, ayatollahs, et al who believe in so many different gods, running our various countries?  Perhaps the world would be better served without the influence of so many religions?  I am just asking, in a spirit of reasoned debate, and not inciting.

PS… One of the great ironies of Jeremy Bentham is that he designed the Panopticon, a prison designed is to allow an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) prisoners without the prisoners being able to tell whether they are being watched, thereby conveying what one architect has called the “sentiment of an invisible omniscience.”[1]

Postcard from The Staterooms-On-Sea: QT, BNP and OTT…..

Dear Reader,

I write this week from my penthouse garret, replete with boeuf bourgignon cooked on my new slow cooker, and with no Professional Masterchef to watch, I shall in all probability take of the wine of the gods and do a spot of writing….. the results of which are set out below.

Last night I watched BBC’s Question Time, a programme I usually enjoy. The BBC were right to invite Nick Griffin onto the panel.  The protesters at the BBC appeared to be the usual mob of professional protesters (some even wore masks), and students.  The irony of a group of left wing protesters protesting about free speech was not lost on me.  Frankly, the fact that 3 police officers were injured because of the antics of these people is appalling.  Protesting in a violent way is not the answer to issues of this nature.  The programme, discussed in detail elsewhere, was poor.  The audience and Bonnie Greer were rather good.  Griffin revealed himself to be a man lacking in mental acuity and tried to play the moderate card… absurdly referring to meetings with the Klu Klux Klan – the ‘non-violent wing’. He couldn’t tell us why he used to talk about racism, holocaust denial etc etc because of European Law.  This, of course, is bollocks.  We do not have a holocaust law in the UK.   His racist, intolerant bigotry shone through. He also looked rather weak.  Not a convincing dictator for a new order at all. Unfortunately, he will get more support because there are many in our sceptred isle who lap up his brand of racial and social intolerance.

With hindsight, Question Time may not have been the right vehicle.  Perhaps 10 minutes on Newsnight with Paxo or Andrew Neil on Straight Talk would have been a bit more rigorous and more credible from an intellectual honesty point of view.  I got the distinct impression that the BBC were revelling in their own sanctimonious and unctuous pomposity and brilliance… and… the ratings as well.

The only good thing is that the BNP morons will not form the next government – but I have no doubt that some other self serving politicians will be part of the next government, whichever party wins.

Following my fifth Michelin star, awarded to myself earlier this week, I have purchased several items of kitchen equipment – a slow cooker and a vegetable rack.  The slow cooker (£17.95 from Range)  is excellent.  15 minutes prep with fresh ingredients, toss in a bottle of decent wine, adjust chef hat, turn slow cooker on.  10 hours later – boeuf bourgignon – another Michelin star.  Recipes galore on the internet.

The vegetable rack was a design nightmare. Basically it comes with two side struts, on casters.  The idea is that four wire baskets fit onto wires on the side struts to create the whole and provide support strength.  The trouble is, with the casters, and only two hands, I began to lose the will to live.  Expletive followed expletive to the point that I felt like Basil Fawlty thrashing his car with a branch a la Fawlty Towers years ago – and wanted to toss the whole thing into the river. However, reason prevailed.  I had a cuppa. And cunningly outwitted the side struts (and the casters)  by laying them flat on the floor to assemble the vegetable rack. Job done. I then had to go and buy some vegetables to put in it, of course.

Props to RollonFriday for this remarkable picture from a New Zealand Barristers website, EquityLaw.

It does rather look like an early Village People publicity shot.  I just love the ‘evil dictator’ look with the guy in the dictator’s uniform…. so 2010.

A RollOnFriday t-shirt goes to anyone who can translate the following:

“In a similar manner to the ancient arts of budo law is a discipline, which trains the ethical character, the fighting spirit and the will. [Law] represents the ultimate battle of mind, will and knowledge. Equity equates with equality, fairness and justice. This is the philosophy and approach of the firm, which has developed a new vision of law for the 21st century.”

It has been an interesting week. I did a podcast with Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, on Monday. I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite having had no sleep on the Sunday night, emergency dental treatment in the early hours of Sunday morning – but the show must go on and I had to get up to London to The College of Law multi-media studio to record it at 12.00 midday.  It was probably the only time the DPP has been interviewed by someone high on drugs (legal – heavy pain killers and anaesthetic!). I’ll give you the link when it goes out.  It was a very interesting discussion. Keir Starmer was very open and pulled no punches.

Well… only one glass in… but time to do a bit of work… for, tomorrow, I ride on London to escape from my garret and my desk.

Best,  as always

Charon

Lawcast 158: The Bar Professional Training Course at Kaplan Law School

 

Kaplan Law School

Lawcast 158: The Bar Professional Training Course at Kaplan Law School

 

Today I am talking to James Wakefield director of the Bar course at Kaplan law School in London. From September 2010 the Bar Vocational Course BVC will be called the ‘Bar Professional Training Course’ BPTC. Kaplan has been validated by the Bar Standards Board to deliver the Nottingham Law School course in London as from September 2010.  Kaplan states on its website that The Nottingham Law School Bar Vocational Course has been long established as one of the best in the country with double the average pupillage rates and the highest student satisfaction rates.

Controversially, while the Bar Standards Board was not able to introduce an aptitude test after Office of Fair Trading intervention – Kaplan is introducing one of its own.

Listen to the podcast

Podcast version for iTunes

House of Commons Debate on Trafigura | Carter-Ruck and Superinjunctions

House of Commons Debate on Trafigura | Carter-Ruck and Superinjunctions

English Libel Law (Parliamentary Proceedings)

Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon) (LD)

I turn briefly to the conduct of Carter-Ruck. It ought to be said—the company has always been willing to make it clear and to talk about it to us when asked, and also volunteered to meet us—that it was not its intention during any of this actively to prevent the reporting of parliamentary proceedings. That is Carter-Ruck’s position. One can accept that at face value. The question is whether what it said in its letters to The Guardian, and indeed what it wrote in its letter to the Speaker, is consistent with that. Essentially, it said that because there was no exemption for reporting parliamentary proceedings in the order made by the judge, The Guardian would be in contempt of court—the implication being that serious penalties would flow from that—if it were to report parliamentary proceedings.

Carter-Ruck did not at any point caveat that with a paragraph stating, “But of course, we understand that no court could or perhaps would ever seek to enforce a contempt action against someone who reported parliamentary proceedings fairly and truthfully.” It is the absence of that caveat that could be said to make it look at the very least that it was seeking to intimidate The Guardian on the basis of a threat of being in contempt if it published parliamentary proceedings. Such a threat would, of course, be extremely effective against most defendants, especially those who do not have the means or the legal resources of The Guardian.

In effect, failure to point out to a defendant that, of course, if it is the view that parliamentary proceedings should not be prevented from being reported, or could not be prevented, letters from a well-resourced law firm acting on behalf of a well-resourced client would have a chilling effect. It is also fair to say that The Guardian was in doubt about its own legal advice on the matter.

Comment du Jour: Top secret and other matters…

On the day when Parliament debated the Trafigura affair and superinjunctions, I thought it might be useful to take a brief look at the Binyam, Mohammed judgment in advance of a podcast on the matter with Carl Gardner tomorrow from the perspective of the British government and examine the case more widely in the podcast tomorrow..

The High Court has ruled that US intelligence documents containing details of the alleged torture of a former UK resident can be released.

The BBC covered the story. Briefly –  Binyam Mohamed spent four years in Guantanamo Bay and claims British authorities colluded in his torture while he was in Morocco. The UK government denies allegations of collusion and says it will appeal against the court’s judgement. The government stopped the judges publishing the claims on national security grounds. The key document in the case is a summary of abuse allegations that US intelligence officers shared with their counterparts in London. Any publication of the material will be delayed until an appeal takes place.

Foreign Secretary, David Miliband argued that releasing the material would threaten Britain’s national security because future intelligence sharing with the US could be compromised. But Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones ruled that the risk to national security was “not a serious one” and there was “overwhelming” public interest in disclosing the material.

The BBC reports: Clive Stafford-Smith, Mr Mohamed’s lawyer and director of human rights charity Reprieve, said the government was “trying to conflate national security with national embarrassment”….

“The judges have made clear what we have said all along – it is irrational to pretend that evidence of torture should be classified as a threat to national security,” he said.

“Rather, it is proof of a crime committed against Binyam Mohamed, and as such it should be fully aired in a court of law.”

The full judgment of the High Court may be viewed here |   There is also a Summary

The response of the British government.

The full text of David Milibands response to the judgment reveals the theme that it is for the United States to sanction release of this information not the British courts.

”The issues at stake are simple, but profound. They go to the heart of the efforts made to defend the security of the citizens of this country. At a time when the UK faces a serious threat from international terrorism, the Government will not take risks with intelligence that is essential to national security and shared with us by many states.”

”We only share British intelligence with other countries on the basis that they will not disclose that intelligence without our express permission. The same inviolable principle applies to foreign intelligence shared with us. In the case of the US, an intelligence partnership whose importance and breadth is unique in the modern world, that principle requires defence with special vigour. Secretary Clinton and I have both described the inviolability of the principle at issue here.

In my podcast with Carl Gardner tomorrow we will examine this case in depth and invite comment.

And… we must not forget this…

Outrage as ‘secret inquests’ plan revived

The Times reports:

Civil liberties campaigners today accused the Government of quietly reviving plans to hold investigations into controversial deaths in secret.After widespread opposition to proposals to hold sensitive inquests behind closed doors without juries, Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, announced in May that he was dropping the measure from the Coroners and Justice Bill.But the campaign group Liberty said today that a similar plan had been added back into the Bill, which is designed to reform coroners’ courts in England and Wales.”

And it would seem that the judiciary is not happy with secret superinjunctions

The Independent reports: “Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, said yesterday it was a “fundamental principle” that MPs should be able to speak freely in Parliament. He described this right as a “precious heritage” that had been secured through the sacrifice of previous generations who had fought and died in the name of free speech.

And, finally, we have Nick Griffin who is appearing on Question Time tomorrow. I have no doubt that BBC luvvies are hyperventilating at the thought of the spectacle, salivating at the ratings, rubbing their thighs in a rather undesirable manner – because, in part, this is a stunt – but if democracy is to work it is only right that BNP leader Griffin should face questioning from the public and debate with senior politicians from mainstream parties.

It is rather ironic that the United States is also concerned at the Tory links with right wing politicans in the European Parliament.

Guardian: The shadow foreign secretary, William Hague, is to meet the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, in Washington tomorrow amid concern in the Obama administration about the Conservatives‘ European policy and Jewish outrage at their alliance with far-right parties with alleged antisemitic and neo-Nazi links.

And I couldn’t really stop here, not when we have Spy v Spy in The Supreme Court

Guardian: “It may not have the ring of a historic legal battle. But the case of A v B, which opened at the new supreme court today, has a significance that goes way beyond the banal soubriquets of the two sides.

It involves secrecy and the security services, and could expose agencies to a scrutiny they have never had before. The case will determine whether complaints against them could be heard in British courts or merely in a tribunal which can meet in secret and against whose decisions there can be no appeal.”

So… all in all a rather TOP SECRET day… good for those who like secrecy, not so good for the rest of us, perhaps.

Cats on Parade….

CATS ON PARADE

by Richard Rude

Forget most of what you’ve heard about the economic crisis, it’s unbelievably boring anyway. Even experts explaining it on the news get bored. Especially since they don’t seem to understand ten percent of what they’re talking about (it’s the little bit they miss that nails them). And it’s not very inspiring to hear them promise to fix what they broke in the first place.

Subprime, Credit Default Swaps, Madoff, Schmadoff, Toxic Assets…? These are just symptoms. Hardly any of the pundits want to mention the cause, and there is one underlying and principal cause of all that’s gone wrong with people’s money lately. Unless we talk about it plainly no one’s going to be fixing anything in a hurry. Worse, we may be led to think the crunch is over, only to be demolished by Crunch 2.0, El Gordo, just around the corner.

Start by taking a walk through the Square Mile. I did for the first time in a decade and one thought immediately struck me: what the hell are so many swanky new bars, restaurants, and glitzy boutiques doing here? What’s with all the pampering?

I know there’s been a lot of development in London, but doctors don’t have golf shops or virtual driving ranges on Harley Street, and Grey’s Inn isn’t a warren of tanning salons for barristers, so why has a banking district been tarted-up like a Dubai shopping mall for the amusement of its workers? It isn’t seemly and it makes for shoddy work habits. But it’s a good reflection of one fundamental change that began in the late 1990s, the one basic factor that’s fostered the deplorable lack of professionalism that suddenly became the hallmark of Finance. It’s cultivated carelessness and self-delusion, and bred the subprime incubus, the credit crunch, and the clusterbomb of ensuing problems.

Here’s the thing.

Money has been too cheap for too long.

Truly, you have to look no further than this for an explanation of what this crisis is about, both in terms of market mechanics and of mass psychology.

For the past ten years the cost of borrowing – the price of money, the interest rate – has been set much, much lower than in previous decades. Seen in this context everything else in the markets and beyond drops neatly into place: the extravagance, the foolhardiness, the ruinous combination of stupidity and greed. Once we link all this to the backdrop of long term cheap money the knots into which the experts are tying themselves fall apart.

When the cost of borrowing is too low for too long a period it distorts everybody’s model of reality. It turns society into a teenager who wants to blow his inheritance. Cheap money causes us to over-value everything: property, shares, artworks, “aspirational furniture”, ourselves, you name it. The subnormal can pass for average; the mediocre is raised to excellent; everybody’s special. The unequivocal transcendent advertising mantras of our time, “Indulge yourself”, and, “Because you’re worth it!” send powerful messages — if you want to create a society of spoiled, self-deluded brats, that is. What’s especially pernicious about too much easy credit is that over time it has a sneaky way of lulling us into a state where we start to believe we really should be living way beyond our wildest expectations. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the London property market.

At the climax of the buying spree in 2008, one investor paid upwards of a quarter-of-a-million pounds to string a hammock between two parking meters on a residential street. It was only a 12-minute sprint to Hounslow East tube station so the buyer had no trouble renting it out. I am of course pulling your leg, but honestly, I’m not pulling very hard.

Extend the buy-to-let business model from property to everything else on the planet: as long as new money is continuously created cheaply it has interest in buying anything in the world. What’s more borrowers haven’t even had to worry about positive yields on their investments they bought with loans because everything just kept going up in price year after year (N.B. until it didn’t). Can’t let your buy-to-let property? No problem. It’s still good business because anyway the price of your hovel will probably go up faster than the rent you’re not receiving. Everything becomes a commodity; what should be an ‘investment’ and return a steady income gets bought not for its yield, but just for the sake of selling it at a higher price to the next sucker queuing up with a cheap loan in his hand. And so on, and so on, until the music stops.

There’s another even more harmful and tangible effect brought about by ultra-low interest rates: they empty bank accounts. Obviously those with savings or capital will not keep their money in an interest-bearing deposit when there’s little or no interest to be had. Low rates squeeze out cash from savings accounts into more attractive alternatives. Never mind all their bad bets, no wonder banks keep running out of capital, it’s so evident it hardly needs explaining – no cash in the coffers because of low interest rates!

The important thing to remember about the stingy interest rates of the past decade is that like all adjustments they started off as temporary. What should have been occasional kick-starts to help get businesses and consumers over a few hurdles became permanent policies that just kept blowing more and more helium into share and property bubbles. This is about as clever as putting the kettle on the stove before leaving your house to go on holiday.

So why didn’t they raise interest rates – make money more expensive and bank deposits more attractive — to take a little heat out and avoid the bubbles and the crashes? I’ll tell you the real reason, but here’s what central bankers kept telling us,

“Inflation is benign”. Low inflation means there’s no reason to raise interest rates; it’s fine, everything’s cool, Bro.

Excuse me, but how do you measure inflation? (This is the heart of the melon, and now we have to get very serious for a moment).

There are two principle measures of how much prices are rising: the first, Headline Inflation, is the average price of a basket of goods and services; the second, Core Inflation, is the same basket but it strips out the cost of food and energy. Central banks favour whichever of these two is the lowest, the most self-serving, and fits best with their preconceived notions. We’ve been sold a story of low inflation for years. Some genius cat back in 1996 even wrote a book called The Death of Inflation, and a lot of people believed him. Since then central bankers with the foresight of ostriches have chosen to ignore rampant share markets, “irrational exuberance”, rising commodities, and out-of-control property speculation. They only wanted to consider the narrower Core measure of inflation, which consistently showed that prices were tame.

Incidentally, house and share prices, and all the other stuff that got real expensive do not figure in any measure of inflation central banks care to monitor. Now ask yourself a question: What are the average household’s three biggest outgoings? I’d say mortgage payments, food, and energy, in that order — three things that are specifically not in the ‘favoured’ Core inflation measure central banks use to make an interest rate decision. I don’t know about you, but when I want to know how hot the engine in my car is I don’t look at the radio.

What’s more, the Core basket is mainly comprised of cheap Asian consumer goods and outsourced labour. You know the type of thing; tennis balls from child-operated factories in Indonesia; laminated novelty handset covers stamped out by Chinese political prisoners; Bangalore emergency call centers, and the rest. There’s been a huge divergence between cheap imports and high asset prices, between how our cost of living is perceive and what our overall expenditure actually is when we take into account food and petrol, and the price of housing and other assets and services we purchase. It’s a somewhat confusing picture, but not that difficult, and history shows the central bankers got it completely wrong.

When central bankers drive down the price of money too far they drive up the price of the World. Paradoxically, they also cheapen its worth. As long as too much new money keeps being created everything is always affordable to too many people no matter how expensive things get. Taken to an absurd conclusion, when money is so cheap to borrow that everything is immediately acquirable by everyone, at any price, at the same time, we are left with prices approaching infinity and value closing in on zero. Just think how useful one more car in central London would be; now imagine its value after cramming in 10,000,000 additional cars. More is better: up to a point.

Now I have to tell you why the central bankers have been setting such obsessively low interest rates. For the simple reason that just as “greed is good”, up is better than down. Everybody was making so much money borrowing cheaply to buy stocks and property that no one dared interrupt the party. The central bankers ceased being shepherds; they painted their butts white and ran with the herd.

I’m afraid that’s really all there is to it.

Now they’re setting interest rates even lower. Never mind the rhetoric about economic stimulus packages and the like. All the policies have one overriding purpose: to get property and stocks back up to their pre-crash levels, because that’s what the toxic assets are linked to and where capital is tied up. Policy makers, investors, governments, homeowners, heck, just about everyone wants the price of assets to go up again – and keep going up. The hope is to revalue, essentially to ‘de-tox’ the toxic by re-inflating asset prices back to their giddy heights with another stampede of buying, and presto! as if by magic all the banks will suddenly have good paper on their balance sheets, and it’s business as usual, Madame. Crisis? What crisis?

Of course this speedy recovery dream fueled by even more cheap money also means that many of those who made poor decisions and bought at the top of the market will be able to sustain their shaky investments. The problem for said ‘recovery’ is that nothing fundamentally changes, and low interest rates will continue to inhibit the trickle of money into bank deposits  – well, who’s going to put it there unless rates rise? Once again this will lead to more shortfalls in capital and require yet more government handouts. The lessons go unlearned.

Look: when it comes to keeping bank coffers filled the best way is the old-fashioned way: through deposits. This is banking. It’s not about acquisitions, or punting the stock markets, or creative accounting; it’s about taking money in and lending it out – but you have to get it in in the first place. Interest rates need to be low enough to accommodate economic growth, sure, but they also need to be high enough to encourage deposits, or else a bank is just one more canoe up a certain type of creek without a paddle.

College of Law Inside Track Podcast: Sir Nigel Knowles, CEO of DLA Piper

College of Law Inside Track Podcast:
Sir Nigel KNowles, CEO of DLA Piper
Sir Nigel Knowles , CEO of DLA piper explains how his firm went from being two small regional firms in Sheffield and Leeds to become the world’s largest law firm by revenue in a matter of 15-20 years. He talks about what DLA Piper are looking for in terms of recruiting young lawyers, emphasising that they have a very flexible approach and promote diversity and in particular are more than happy to give wild cards a chance. He talks enthusiastically about the College of Law and Sutton Trust Pathway to Law programme which DLA Piper supports and explains why DLA Piper chose the College of Law as their preferred provider.

Listen to the podcast

Postcard from The Staterooms-On-Sea: Gags and gags…..

Dear Reader

I write to you from a location I am not able to tell you about.  In fact, I shouldn’t really be telling you about the fact that I can’t even reveal that I cannot reveal my location….. but  as super injunctions, despite being described as ‘unfortunate’ by Gordon Brown, have been ridiculed on Twitter and elsewhere and Carter-Ruck have found themselves being rather f****d and have climbed down on Trafigura and the publication of the Minton Report – I feel able to at least tell you that I am at a secret location in Chatham, St Mary’s Island Kent overlooking the old Royal Naval Dockyard with an excellent view of Upnor Castle and a lot of boats.

So you don’t have to go onto Twitter and the internets to find out where I am, I am taking the unprecedented step of breaking my own self imposed super injunction… here is where I am at this precise moment in time.  (I may not be here for long.  I am ‘peripatetic’ and plan to move very soon… possibly within hours.)

My podcast with Carl Gardner on the Guardian Gag order is here and my podcast with Mark Stephens of Finers Stephens Innocent on the use of superinjunctions  is here. Both podcastees are well worth listening to – and I am appreciative of the fact that both Carl and Mark gave up time in a busy schedule (and Mark on a Saturday) to do the podcasts.

Continuing on the theme of information, I turn back to freedom of information.

I did invite BPP by email earlier in the week to consider releasing the QAA report to the Privy Council which led to BPP being given degree awarding powers. Neither BPP nor The College of Law is subject to the Freedom of Information Act.  Both Colleges are at liberty, therefore, to suppress or refuse to release information should they wish to.  The College of Law has chosen not to suppress information and they are prepared to make their report public.  BPP has, thus far, declined.  I have not had a reply from Peter Crisp, Dean and CEO of BPP law School, to my email .  In the wake of the rather serious over subscription by BPP of their Bar Vocational Course (and their acquisition by an American company) it is all the more important that the public (and students thinking about going to BPP) should be able to see objective reports on the College.  The SRA publishes inspection visit reports.  I hope the BSB will publish their findings into the the over subscription by BPP Law School on the BVC course.  I go further and hope the BSB will consider publishing inspection visits on all the BVC providers in future when the new BPTC comes into operation.

See my post on BPP Law School’s over subscribing of their BVC

***

So… as the solicitors side of the profession (or one law firm within that side) has had a bit of a rogering on the internet… what have The Learned Friends at The Bar been up to this turbulent week?

Well.. I can tell you that one member of the Bar is very pissed off and is claiming £33 million damages and has called into question the behaviour of two senior Silks who happen to be Deputy High Court judges and who have broken the ‘unspoken’ rule about not consorting romantically (or Ugandan Affairs as it used to be called by Private Eye) with their clerks….

Such are the divisions of society at The Bar (it would seem?)  that going ‘below stairs’ for a shag is still to be frowned upon – wonderfully English, wonderfully archaic… The ‘Sin’ is made all the worse in the eyes of the The Learned Friends if the clerks or barristers are married to other people.

The Telegraph reports:

Dr Aisha Bijlani described to an employment tribunal a “racist” culture which operated behind the respectable façade of the award winning Four New Square Chambers where she had worked for 16 years.

……

Their relationship has caused a mini-scandal in the usually conservative legal profession as it has breached the convention that clerks and senior barristers should not become romantically involved especially if they are already married to someone else.

Unfortunately, and rather more seriously the claim also involves accusations of racism.

Dr Bijlani claims three “overtly racist” clerks were assigned to her between 1994 to 2009 during her time at Four New Square, named as Dennis Peck, Dominic Sabini and Steve Purse.

The tribunal panel was played a tape where Mr Peck can be heard mimicking a West Indian accent, then said that a receptionist of Afro Caribbean descent sounded like she spoke “gibberish”.

The recording was made by accident on the receptionist’s voicemail after he apparently failed to disconnect the call after leaving her a message.

It is also claimed that Mr Peck, who is not cited in the claim, was over heard saying “I hate educated wogs”.

Dr Bijlani said: “I have no doubt I was being clerked in an environment where I too was considered as an educated wog”.


This, if proven, is hardly the sort of behaviour expected of a set of Chambers... or is it perfectly OK, still, for barristers and their clerks to behave like racists?  Hardly.  I would have thought that a racial discrimination claim of £33 million will probably dampen ardour and focus minds.

If these allegations are true…. perhaps the Bar Standards Board will investigate?  My my… the BSB is rather busy at the moment…..invesitigations all over the place.

Have a good weekend… I’m orf to injunct myself with some superwine….

Best, as always

Charon

***

UPDATE Sunday 18th October

There is more to this story: The Telegraph reports today

Barrister in race row was arrested for harassment

Lawcast 156: Mark Stephens on Superinjunctions in the wake of Trafigura and The Guardian Gag

Lawcast 156: Mark Stephens on Superinjuctions in the wake of the Trafigura issue and the Guardian Gag.

Today I am talking to Mark Stephens, partner at Finers Stephens Innocent about the use of superinjunctions in the wake of the Guardian Gag story earlier in the week.

Listen to the podcast

Podcast version for iTunes

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Mark Stephens biography

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You may also like to listen to Lawcast 155 with Carl Gardner on the Guardian Gag

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Alan Rusbridger, Editor of The Guardian:  Trafigura: anatomy of a super-injunction

As the ‘super-injunction’ obtained by oil-trading firm Trafigura and law firm Carter-Ruck is published for the first time, the Guardian’s editor offers a clause-by-clause guide

Special Injunctions 101: A guide

PS… I can tell you – because I am not injuncted – that I am doing a podcast tomorrow with Mark Stephens of Finers Stephens Innocent on the subject of press freedom and special injunctions. Mark Stephens is a well known media lawyer and was on Newsnight on Thursday night discussing the Guardian gag and special injunctions.  We hope the podcast tomorrow will shed some light on what these special injunctions are and why Parliament needs to look into them.  Gordon Brown described special injunctions as ‘unfortunate’.  I think that Parliament may need to be a bit more robust than that.

ABA Journal 24 Hours of Legal Rebels – Education Costs Money, But Then So Does Ignorance

I don’t practise law and I’m not an American so you could be forgiven for wondering how I managed to find myself writing a piece for the ABA Journal Legal Rebels project. Twitter. The power of social media.

We have too many lawyers and we have too many law schools taking on too many students.

This last statement is pregnant with many possibilities and is intended to provoke and, possibly, irritate those with vested interests in the education business, academics at traditional law schools and may even irritate a few practising lawyers as well. Be that as it may, as we say over here when we wish to push a point fearlessly….

If you wish to … you can read my contribution to the ABA Journal project here…. as I say at the end of my piece… I’ll get my coat…

Lawcast 155: The Guardian Gag affair with Carl Gardner

Today I am talking to Carl Gardner, ex government lawyer, a barrister and author of The Head of Legal blog.  We look at whether the Bill of Rights has, in fact, been infringed by the gag, the use of injunctions generally and specifically in this instance, the use of parliamentary privilege and whether the judges are going too far in granting injunctions which can, effectively, be destroyed in their effect by many thousands of angry people on twitter and in the blogosphere.

Listen to the podcast

Podcast version for iTunes

Yesterday The Guardian‘s David Leigh in an article published on Monday night before hitting the front page on Tuesday  said this:

Today’s published Commons order papers contain a question to be answered by a minister later this week. The Guardian is prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found.

The Guardian is also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented – for the first time in memory – from reporting parliament. Legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret.

In practical terms, at least as far as distribution to the public is concerned, Parliament had been gagged.

The context has been well put by Wikileaks.org and I quote from their website:

The question, the subject matter of the gag, correctly identified by Guido Fawkes, Alex Massie of The Spectator – who published details of the question while other mainstream media held back –  was the one tabled by

Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme): To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of legislation to protect (a) whistleblowers and (b) press freedom following the injunctions obtained in the High Court by (i) Barclays and Freshfields solicitors on 19 March 2009 on the publication of internal Barclays reports documenting alleged tax avoidance schemes and (ii) Trafigura and Carter-Ruck solicitors on 11 September 2009 on the publication of the Minton report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura

The Commons’ gag order was intended to prevent publication of Trafigura and Minton in the same context. As Wikileaks notes – the Minton report released by Wikileaks  has not been mentioned in the press because of a 11 September 2009 media injunction.

“To-date the UK public has been kept in the dark. Paul Farrelly’s question is an attempt to take on the suppression issue. In the process it connected the Minton report on WikiLeaks to Trafigura, something the UK media could not, or would not do.”

“Knowing this, lawyers for Trafigura, Carter-Ruck, obtained a second, secret media injunction to prevent reporting of Paul Farrelly MP’s questions. That this alleged order was granted is a bold and dangerous move by the High Court towards the total privatization of censorship.”

Last night I was on twitter and,  along with many others,  I saw the Guardian story and tweeted about it, expressing a degree of outrage.  It did not take long before many hundreds of tweeters turned to thousands and overnight and this morning Trafigura and Carter Ruck found themselves a trending topic on Twitter – even Stephen Fry weighed in, adding countless thousands more to the clamour.

Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardia,  reported this afternoon:

“I’m very pleased that common sense has prevailed and that Carter-Ruck’s clients are now prepared to vary this draconian injunction to allow reporting of parliament. It is time that judges stopped granting ‘super-injunctions’ which are so absolute and wide-ranging that nothing about them can be reported at all.”


ABA Journal: 24 Hours of Legal Rebels…

While I prefer the term ‘independent’ to ‘rebel’ when applied to my Charon persona, I was delighted to be invited to participate in a project being run by the ABA Journal – 24 Hours of Rebels.

This is how the ABA Journal describes the project:

You’re invited to an online meeting of some of the most creative minds in the legal profession. We’re asking them to answer the question: How does the practice of law need to change in the next five years?

They’ll do more than just describe what needs fixing – they’ll offer solutions you can put into practice in your profession life. And you can participate in the conversation, through webinars, online radio shows and live chats.

I’ve written a piece on one aspect of legal education on the themethat we have too many lawyers and too many law schools are taking on too many law students.  I may have to get my coat and deport myself when it goes out on the ABA Journal website on Thursday.  I’ll provide the link when it does.

The other contributors look as if they have some interesting things to say… you may want to check it out.

Comment du Jour: Guardian gagged, lawyer career wrecked and other matters…

The Guardian has been gagged from reporting on parliamentary proceedings. The news broke on Twitter a couple of nights ago when Alan Rusbridger the editor of The Guardian tweeted “Breaking news: Guardian gagged by a company in the High Court. We can’t tell you which company, or why. Er, that’s it”

The Guardian followed this up with a report. The inevitable happened.  Twitter was very active last night.  Type “Guardian gagged” into the Twitter search box to see how active.  Political bloggers were soon onto the matter with Guido Fawkes, Iain Dale and Tory Politico acting swiftly.

The general principle that proceedings in parliament should be reported fully has been undermined by this episode.  Suggestions, on Twitter, that an MP may be using Parliamentary privilege to circumvent an injunction were raised.  Who knows?  The Guardian plans to fight the injunction. This story will, inevitably, continue to run.

Interestingly, the Guardian stated: “The only fact the Guardian can report is that the case involves the London solicitors Carter-Ruck, who specialise in suing the media for clients, who include individuals or global corporations.”

This statement was inevitably going to lead to widespread coverage on the blogs and the twittersphere. From there it was only a matter of time before….speculation and surmise hit the net….

To other matters, but staying with The Guardian –  A rather important story for the rule of law, the role of regulatory authorities and solicitor ethics.

Lawyer’s £5m battle over ruined career

Barrister ‘unable to work for 16 years’ sues former head of Law Society for negligence

The Guardian reports:

A former president of the Law Society and his City law firm are being sued for up to £5m over allegations that they helped a global oil company wreck a barrister’s career. Michael Napier and three other lawyers from his company, Irwin Mitchell, have been accused of a breach of contract and negligence by Michael Ford for allegedly colluding with Exxon Mobil. Ford, a barrister in Hong Kong, claims that he has been unable to practise his profession for 16 years. Napier, Irwin Mitchell and Exxon deny the claims.

Expenses:  They are all in it together…

After a break of 82 days MPs, even those chucking themselves or being chucked out of parliament through ‘resignation’ to spend more time with their duck island et al or likely to be chucked out by the electorate, returned from the long vacation.

The Independent reports:

Gordon Brown’s attempt to clean up politics after the MPs’ expenses scandal backfired on him yesterday when he was ordered to pay back more than £12,000 he claimed in allowances.

Sir Thomas Legg, a former senior civil servant called in by Mr Brown to audit claims by all MPs, ruled that the Prime Minister had claimed too much for cleaning at his second home and uncovered a £1,396 “double claim” for painting and decorating. Mr Brown agreed immediately to pay back a total of £12,415.

In a dramatic twist to the expenses saga, senior figures in all three main parties were dragged into the net. Sir Thomas asked David Cameron, his shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, and the Chancellor Alistair Darling to provide further details of their claims for mortgage interest under the MPs’ “second homes” allowance, while the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, repaid £910 he had claimed for gardening costs.

Ah.. this is more like it.  The Silly Season is over.  The Conference season is over…. now politics becomes real again.

Oh… and you may want to look at this from The Spectator…

British Press Banned from Reporting Parliament. Seriously.

Alex Massie writes… “This time, perhaps even the lawyers have gone too far. It’s hard to recall, even in the long history of appalling gagging orders, a more disgraceful injunction than this…”

Interesting stuff!

UPDATE 1.15pm

Charonqc Guardian gag lifted http://bit.ly/11mYDb #Trafigura #CarterRuck

It would appear that twitter did, indeed, mobilise some support – Guardian editor thanks twitter for support.

The BPP Bar Vocational Course Saga continues….

Legal Week reports: It has also been confirmed that BPP Law School, which last month asked for volunteers among its BVC students to defer for a year, exceeded its allocated numbers of 456 by 80. This figure includes both the full-time and part-time BVC courses run by BPP in London and Leeds. It has since been reduced to 63 as a result of deferrals and withdrawals.

However, BPP Law School chief executive Peter Crisp told Legal Week that BPP has sufficient numbers and quality of staff to deliver the course to the extra students.

“We are a large, well-resourced law school and therefore able to cope with an additional 60 students on our BVC. Our reputation is built on the quality of our provision and we have the staffing and accommodation to teach the additional students in place. Although the over-recruitment is regrettable, the demand for places this year is testament to our reputation as the leading provider of the BVC.”

An additional 60 students on the BVC course brings in a fair bit of additional income – income straight to the bottom line and pure profit.

BPP fees for the BVC (Full-Time) are £14700 for London and £11,950 for Leeds.  The part-time course fees are roughly half for each of the two years of the part-time course.  Without knowing the precise mix between full-time and part-time fees  the additional income could be anything between £0.5 million to £800,000.

Legal Week reports: A statement issued earlier today (2 October) by the BSB reads as follows: “The BSB takes this matter very seriously due to the quality assurance issues such over recruitment can cause. Both cases are currently being considered by the Bar professional training course subcommittee.

“Further meetings on this matter will be taking place with both providers to ensure that the quality of delivery of the course is not diminished and that the interests of the students currently on the course are not affected. The BSB is also seeking explanations from both providers as to why the current situation has arisen and the measures they will be putting into place to prevent or limit the possibility of it occurring again.”

This is, to use the  vernacular…taking the ‘piss’… or to put it in rather more professional terms – a serious breach of the rules and, frankly, a breach of the principles of fair competition with other law schools which are able to get their administrative procedures right.  Other providers, save for Northumbria, have not broken the rules.  Other providers whose administrative procedures would seem to be far superior in terms of getting the numbers right  are not enjoying the extra booty and income.

We shall have to wait and see whether the Bar Standards Board take this seriously enough to impose a sanction on BPP Law School in terms of additional quality assurance / resource  provision  – particularly as BPP now enjoys degree awarding powers granted by the Privy Council. If I was the CEO or Dean of a law school offering the BVC, – I know how these things work.  I was the first and founding CEO of BPP Law School back in the 1990s –  I would be extremely irritated that BPP Law School and Northumbria seem to be flouting the rules with impunity.  An excess of 80 students (since reduced to 63) in the case of BPP Law School (30 for Northumbria) cannot, credibly, be put down to ‘simple’ administrative error –  it is a ‘serious’ administrative error  and  it would not be unreasonable for the BSB to require a tightening of BPP’s internal administration.  I cannot imagine that BPP would do this deliberately to ramp up the share price for the acquisition – a well known rumour which was going around – and which I discount entirely.

We shall, in time hopefully, learn the result of the BSB investigation into BPP and Northumbria if the BSB make their report and findings public  – which is not unreasonable to expect given the ‘public interest’ on this this issue.

While Peter Crisp is confident of BPP Law School’s ability to resource the additional 60 students – and he certainly has in excess of £0.5 million to do so. His assertion that over-subscription (while ‘regrettable’) is testament to the quality of BPP’s position as the ‘leading provider’ of the BVC is little more than PR guff and bluster,   may well be questioned by Deans of other law schools and, frankly, looks a bit lame in the context of this academic fiasco. No law school can support a claim, credibly, to be the leading provider of the Bar Vocational course (in my view)  for the very simple reason that we do not get to see the detailed inspection reports on BVC providers. There is, therefore, no truly independent yardstick students can use to measure quality of provision other than a law school’s marketing and word of mouth.  The SRA, by contrast, does publish inspection visit reports which are of some value to students in determining which law school they wish to attend. Perhaps the BSB may like to consider  their position on inspection reports for the future?

When I spoke to the Bar Standards Board I asked if students would be prejudiced. The BSB made clear that no students would be forced to leave the course.  This, effectively, puts the BSB in a very difficult position because they, quite rightly, will not prejudice students by requiring them to leave the BPP course. The BSB is acting in the interests of the students and the profession to ensure that Bar courses are run to high standards and should be commended for investigating both BPP and Northumbria thoroughly to ensure there is no repeat of this next year.

Degree awarding powers re-visited

Given that BPP has been purchased by Apollo, an American education group –  and through BPP has degree awarding powers in any subject – it is all the more important that BPP plays on the same level playing field as universities and should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act requirements. 

While The College of Law is prepared to make public the report of the QAA to the Privy Council which led to The College of Law getting degree awarding powersBPP continues to refuse to make their QAA report public. The only reason given to me by BPP for not releasing the report was that they received the report in confidence.  The Chairman of the QAA confirmed to me that BPP were at liberty to release the report if they wished to do so.

I have written to Peter Crisp, the CEO of BPP Law School, to ask him again if he is prepared to release the QAA report on degree awarding powers.  BPP Law School is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act and despite Peter Crisp saying to me in two podcasts that BPP would be happy to provide information in the same way as universities subject to the FOI  are required to – BPP made it very clear to me that they would not do so for the reasons set out in this blog post I wrote earlier in the year.

College of Law Inside Track Podcast: Tom Kilroy – Misys plc, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Company Secretary

College of Law Inside Track Podcast:
Tom Kilroy – Misys plc, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Company Secretary

I talk to Tom Kilroy, Executive Vice President,  General Counsel and Company Secretary of Misys plc. Tom  gives a fascinating insight into the work and role of General or in-house counsel stressing the differences between general practice and in-house legal work and stresses that anyone who wishes to become a General Counsel should get experience with a firm first and be hot on financials and business context.

Listen to the podcast

Blawg Review #233 comes from Popehat – Emperor Norton?

Popehat reports: “Today marks the 150th anniversary of one of the greatest political and legal declarations in American history: the October 12, 1859 decree by Joshua Norton I, Emperor of the United States of America and Protector of Mexico. If we ran the schools, every schoolchild would be required to memorize the words of the only monarch ever to preside over the United States ”

I rather like people who give themselves awards – I do, often (I am now, it would appear,  a 3 star Michelin Chef. Astonishing, reall).  Emperor Norton decided many years ago to go for the big one.  Popehat’s Blawg Review # 233 is thorough and surveys a great deal of writing on legal blogs – it is a good read.

A quick poke about in the news bin…

“There will be incredulity that the party of Churchill chooses allies like this”
David Miliband, Foreign Secretary – The Observer 11th October 2009

The Observer has been dogged in exposing the Tories’ new and fringe bedfellows in the European parliament. Remember, they have rejected the conservatism of Angela Merkel for that of people who commemorate the Latvian Unit of the Waffen SS. Rejected Nicolas Sarkozy’s Conservatives for a party of climate change deniers from the Czech Republic. Rejected Fredrik Reinfeldt’s Swedish Moderate Party for the Polish far-right party of Michal Kaminski.

The latest revelations – the Hague letter about his party’s “good friend” Kaminski, the latter’s disgraceful calls for apologies “by the Jewish nation” to balance Polish ones and his hair-splitting about how bad it is to burn 300 Jews in cold blood – are devastating.

A rather unpleasant elephant in the room… it would seem
Fortunately, the press and media are now waking up to the idea that it is time for the Tories to come under greater scrutiny – and their choice of bed fellows in Europe does, indeed, look rather bizarre.  Miliband calls for Cameron and Hague to ‘announce today that they are suspending their membership of the ECR.’

Clearly, with the conference season over the knives are being sharpened and politics will again become interesting and very real – for in a very short time there will be an election.  Guido Fawkes asks if we are being softened up for Gordon Brown stepping down (To bottle yet another election – according to Guido) with recent reports about the prime minister’s torn retina in his only good eye.  Gideon “George” Osbore managed to kick an own goal with his recent miscalculation – a modest matter of being £3 billion pounds and about five years out – but all MPs will have to be concerned with the imminent publication of a report into expenses…. some may even face prosecution, Brown has stated… some may have to repay expenses claimed.  Guido puts the boot in by suggesting that the nation should not have to pay for ironing Gordon Brown’s shirts with the observation….  It is not as if his wife has a job… ……

The Mail on Sunday reports… Baroness Scotland is being investigated by the Bar Standards Board, the barristers’ watchdog. This prompted me to take a trip over to the Bar Standards Board.  BPP Law School is also being investigated by the Bar Standards Board in connection with the number of students on their Bar Vocational Course – and it will be very interesting to see if the BSB publishes the results of that investigation.

The number of barristers being disbarred in 2008 was relatively modest – but, astonishingly, some were disbarred (and others fined) for failing to do their CPD.  This is astonishing.  It is a very straight forward matter to do CPD.  You can even buy all your CPD from a mate of mine over at CPD Channel for about £250.  The fines for failure to complete CPD appear to be quite hefty – weighing in at £400-500 for each ‘count’ and if the barrister is then dumb enough not to complete CPD and comply with the BSB rulings he/she can, in appropriate circumstances, be disbarred.

RollonFriday reports: “Insiders at Halliwells claim that the firm has butchered its Newly Qualified salary levels by up to 42%. The firm has in the past paid its NQs £62,000 in London and £39,000 in the regions. But RollOnFriday has been told that this has been slashed to a flat rate of just £36,000.”

And another interesting story which does not look good for those who lost their jobs during the credit-crunch “A recruiter at one of the leading consultancies in the City has confirmed to RollOnFriday that dozens of his clients blatantly discriminate against redundant lawyers.”

And finally….. just to showhow  caring people can be at work…. My thanks to @squeezeomatic on Twitter for drawing attention to this story…

Cam & Os… shock horror….problem with numbers

It would seem that Osbore, much feted as a Chancellor in waiting last week, may not have enough fingers to count with.

The Guardian reports: “George Osborne’s reputation as a would-be Tory chancellor was unravelling tonight after his claim that he would save £13bn by raising the state pension age was challenged by the respected thinktank that provided the basis for his figures.

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) said the shadow chancellor’s proposed saving, outlined at the Conservative party conference this week, would take five years longer than estimated and fall £3bn short.”

as they say… you couldn’t make it up…. and he even used the NIESR figures for his speech as the Guardian report suggests above….  so he may not be able to read either.

Postcard from “Le Manoir aux Charon”

Since being reunited with my furniture and, more importantly, my cooking knives and kit some weeks ago  I have started to get back into the cooking lark.  I have been watching  Masterchef, of course, where four chefs get a chance to make fools of themselves on a skill test before being ‘allowed’ to cook for Michel Roux Jnr – 0ne of only a handful of two star Michelin chefs in the country.  I have, as it happens, in my day had the pleasure of eating food cooked by Albert, Michel and Michel Roux Jnr.  Clearly, they can cook!

I have been most concerned recently about the prawn population in the seas around Britain and believe, without any scientific evidence whatsoever, that prawns are serious contributors to global warming.  We know that cows farting in fields cause a great deal of global warming.  The role of prawns, however, is much more subtle.  Prawns are superb planners, the administrators of the sea…. a maritime Civil  Service if you like.  They organise the cows, placing them strategically around our country in fields, so that farting by these cows is  available to all the peoples of this isle.

I have, therefore, taken it upon myself to rid the seas of Britain of prawns and cook them in a delicious sauce of Thai Nam Pla fish ‘jus’, fresh red chilli (sometimes green chilli) fresh ginger, crushed garlic, a touch of dark soy, a splash of Chinese rice wine (or sherry if I have a local Vicar coming over to hear my thoughts on atheism) served with thinly sliced mange tous, green or red peppers and spring onions on a bed of twice washed basmati rice.

For these efforts I awarded myself my first Michelin star. Encouraged that I did not need to trouble NHS Direct with gastric problems, I ventured on to broaden my range to porc au cidre, pollo supremo, lamb glazed with honey and rosemary and garlic.  This resulted in my feeling able to award myself another Michelin star… and today, I am pleased to report that a perfectly cooked tart au citron secured my third self awarded Michelin star.  I am now able to watch Masterchef with the critical eye of one of only a handful of chefs who have awarded themselves three Michelin stars.  I shall not, of course, stop here.  I am going for a total of 15 Michelin stars…. before the doctors from NHS Direct track me down.

Le Menu degustation 9 Octobre 2009

I am pleased to report that Chef Michel Charon is dining for his pleasure tonight

Chilled grappa and lemon sorbet

***

Prawns au Charon

***

Tarte au Citron

***

Rioja will be taken, followed by chilled grappa shots

Charon reports: From the Tory conference…

I bring news from the Tory Conference. For some of you, the news I bring will be welcome… for those of you planning a career at the BBC as a public servant, or, indeed… as a public servant in another sector… this is time for you to get back behind the sofa because the Daleks are definitely coming to stuff you.

I listened with interest to George Osborne’s speech as I multi-tasked my way through the day –  smoking, drinking tea, doing a client project and a spot of writing –  and was delighted to hear Osborne say that no-one would be allowed to earn more than the Prime Minister if they work in the public sector (without Osborne’s express permission) and that the maximum  pension drawing per annum for public servants would be capped at £50,000.  Robert Peston blathered on about ‘grandfathering – confusing so many people who read his blog on the BBC that the BBC had to explain what ‘grandfathering’ is….. and made the perfectly reasonable point that this could lead to unintentionally hilarious consequences where a new executive working at top level in The Royal Mail, the BBC and a host of other public sector organisations, would be earning well below the earnings of other executives below them in the corporate ladder.  In fact… being honest and trying to be objective – a fine idea in theory…. but  a bit of a scrambled egg of an idea in practice?

Grandfathering by the way… seems to means that Buggins and Muggins, already in post, will still be able to trouser their vast inflated salaries but new people coming in won’t be.  Osborne also signalled his intention to reduce government and MP salaries by 5% and establish a pay freeze.  Bankers are to be given a right royal Bullingdon Club kicking if they overdo the bonuses and ‘We’re all in it together” if we want marmalade at breakfast in a few years time.  CUT< CUT< CUT< CUT…. all good stuff to excite Basildon Man, those of a vapid disposition who read The Sun and do what The Sun tells them to do  and at least Osborne did give the political darlings and buffers  from Surrey et al their first conference orgasm in over 12 years…. although some Tories may think it more of a case of “F*ck me, George…. F*ck me….. Bash the rich…I like it when you talk dirty… when you treat me mean!.”

But enough of that…. far more entertaining was an excellent interview between two of Britain’s greatest political media icons….. Paxo interviews Boris.  It really is good and if you have not seen it… you may wish to.  Despite being a slighly surreal Labour voter who (a) doesn’t approve of the PM (b) Not too keen on some of the fuckpiggery which goes on in the name of ‘political correctness’ (c) is appalled by Labour’s record on the erosion of civil liberties in the last 12 years and (d) does not wish Blair to be President of Europe – I did vote for Boris to be Mayor voting Tory for the only time in my life  – BUT I shall continue to fly the red flag down at Charon Hall….and go down drinking the King of Spain’s best Rioja if we do, in fact, lose the next election/.  It is still an election the Tories can lose because it seems, at the moment that the Tories won’t actually WIN, they will take power because Labour loses it.

Don’t put your grandparents out to grass…. GRASS ’em up and win MONEY!!

In an astonishing development, our political masters have come up with the ultimate absurdity in a vain attempt to control crime and turn this once proud nation into a nation of snouts, narcs and grasses. I checked the date.  it is not All fool’s Day.
The Times reports…

Crimespotting: the new way to make money on the Internet

Britain, already one of the most snooped-upon nations on Earth, is about to become a nation of snoopers. A network of citizen crimewatchers will be given the chance of winning up to £1,000 by monitoring CCTV security cameras over the internet.

The cameras’ owners will pay a fee to have users watch the footage. The scheme, Internet Eyes, is being promoted as a game and is expected to go “live” next month with a test run in Stratford-upon-Avon. Subscribers will be able to register free and will be given up to four cameras to monitor. Eventually the consortium behind the idea hopes to have internet users around the world focused on Britain’s 4.2 million security cameras, waiting to see and report a crime in return for cash prizes.

This latest bit of half-baked fuckpiggery is just too absurd for serious comment – but…. I have a horrible feeling people will rush to hire the CCTV cameras and middle minded politicians with less sense than a drunken parrot with a bazooka will applaud the idea as ’empowering for the people of Britain’ and make statements like….  ‘It is time we took back our streets’ blah blah blah.

I shall, of course, be applying to hire the CCTV cameras in Chancery Lane and Fleet Street so I can keep an eye on the activities of our learned friends….


*Think* for today


From the same Times article: “Britain is one of the world’s most monitored societies, with one camera per fourteen people. It has 20 per cent of the world’s CCTV cameras, but only one per cent of the global population.”

Three mute Tories…. see how they run…

It would appear that prospective parliamentary candidates made fools of themselves on Newsnight last night when Michael Crick appeared to ask them about Tory policy on Europe.  Dizzy Thinks reported on his blog:

One of them just kept saying “no comment” as if he had been arrested with a pocketful of Columbian marching powder. Another suddenly pointed off into the distance and shouted “David! How are you” and marched off.

Alastair Campbell also took a sanguine view of this on his blog… “Newsnight gave us a tiny glimpse last night, which made me think this could be an election where local politics counts more than usual, and where candidates such as those we saw last night could become a serious liability”

Well…. that’s a good PR start for the Tories…. let’s see how they run when the interviewers start asking the really difficult questions to Osborne et al about financial policy… could be absolutely fascinating to see if there are ‘any’ policies.

The 2010 election may be won on the playing fields of Eton…

It occurred to me, as I sat on a five hour train journey from Truro in Cornwall to London yesterday that if the Tories win we shall be governed again by chaps from Eton….

I was detained for some years at a public school in Scotland – which I enjoyed, as it happens – but I rebelled against their ethos as soon as I left, ran amok and now people express surprise when I say that I vote labour.  Why?… I have no idea.

I rather like this Cyril Connolly quote about Eton…

Were I to deduce any system from my feelings on leaving Eton, it might be called The Theory of Permanent Adolescence. It is the theory that the experiences undergone by boys at the great public schools, their glories and disappointments, are so intense as to dominate their lives and to arrest their development. From these it results that the greater part of the ruling class remains adolescent, school-minded, self-conscious, cowardly, sentimental, and in the last analysis homosexual.”

It certainly gives a new meaning to the phrase… “I had the odd fag when I was at Eton.”

Ideas…a bad one… and a poetic one…

I had just eaten a very late breakfast (at 6.30 in the evening) of brown toast, creamy scrambled eggs cooked to a ‘method’ prescribed by Gordon Ramsay (It appealed to my sense of the surreal to use a top Chef’s cookbook to make scrambled eggs) and smoked salmon – when I read that the Tories have a wonderfully half cooked scrambled egg of an idea…

….To let the public get involved in drafting/re-writing legislation at what will be called, The Register reports, ‘The Public Reading Stage’.

I can’t wait to get ‘mullahed’ (sic) on Rioja, sit down at my laptop with a woodbine and start drafting in my ‘thoughts’ on new legislation in some form of government legislation Wiki.  The more drunk I get, the harsher shall become the penalties for non-complaince… and, thus far, I am only proposing 40 lashes with a cat of nine tails in the market square for non-compliance with the ‘revised’ Sale of Goods Act 2010.  I would imagine I will be quite happy, as the Rioja hits my cerebral cortex,  to propose transportation to FRANCE for rather more serious matters.

This idea of the Tories could be even more farcical than Labour’s No 10 petitions.  Many a happy hour has been spent  by pissed up nutters drafting petitions to propose the removal of Gordon Brown and other Cabinet Ministers – for totally spurious reasons, of course.

As the Register says…

Luddites might suggest that the public already have plenty of avenues to express their views on legislation – not least the fact that they can give the OK to parties’ manifestos every five years or so in the general election.

Of course, expecting people to get off their backsides and get down to a polling station before having their views ignored is dreadfully old-fashioned and inefficient.

By contrast, the “public reading stage” will mean MPs can in future be hijacked by wingnuts and ignore the common sense majority in real time

And now for some poetically different…

Along with banging on endlessly about the benefits of legal  technology, journalist & blogger Charles Christian also publishes the   Ink Sweat & Tears poetry and prose webzine. Launched in early 2007,   Ink Sweat rapidly established an international reputation with new,   fresh poetry and prose published daily. Today a massive 8500+ readers   visit the site every week – which is enormous in a market where many   publications struggle by with just a few hundred readers. Charles says   “this is publishing for the iPod generation. Forget about waiting  months for even an acknowledgement, with Ink Sweat, contributors   receive an acceptance (or rejection) within 24 hours and are likely to  see their work published within a month”.

Try your hand at a bit of Tennyson, ST Coleridge (He used to get a bit high when he wrote…..?

Well… you know who to contact.  Don’t tell him I sent you – this could prejudice publication !!  Charles knows about the nonsense I write on here.

In Luton town, did Charon Khan, a stately pleasure dome decree,

Where Rioja, the scared wine, ran through caverns  measureless to man ….

down to a sunless sea.

My apologies to ST Coleridge

College of Law Inside Track Podcast: Lynn Johansen, Graduate Recruitment Partner – Clifford Chance

Lynn Johansen, Graduate Recruitment Partner – Clifford Chance

I talk to Lynn Johansen – graduate recruitment partner at Clifford Chance,  about the qualities needed by prospective applicants to Clifford Chance (which are applicable to most City firms), the application process and the training given to young lawyers. She also discusses the Clifford Chance Pro Bono programme which is a major feature of the Clifford Chance ethos.

Listen to the podcast

Postcard from the Mattresses from Don Charoni

Don Charoni is in his office at The Staterooms.  The room is dark.  Charoni is wearing a Tuxedo and there is a glass of Rioja to his right and a pack of Camel to his left.  It is an ‘Anniversary’ for him.  On this day he is happy to see people and, if he can, grant their wish.

An impossibly youthful man (29), buff and  fit,  with a close cropped  beard is sitting on a chair in the corner of the room, playing with a wire garotte and murmuring.  Charoni’s ex-wife is watching from the drawing room down the hallway.  She shakes her head, a wistful expression on her face.  She saw this scene many times during the marriage. Aldo Sollozo, the managing partner of Sollozo & Tattaglia LLP, a niche practice in The City specialising in, shall we say, Terminations of the employment variety and Construction Law,  is shown into Don Charoni’s office.  He shakes Charoni’s hand and the door to the office is closed.

***

Sollozzo: Bene, Don Charoni. I need a man who has powerful Twitter friends . I need a million followers. I need, Don Charoni, all of those followers that @StephenFry carries around  in his pocket pocket, like so many nickels and dimes.
Don Charoni: What is the interest for my blawg…. for my online law magazine?
Sollozzo: Thirty percent of @StephenFry’s followers, free SEO and marketing for two years and I’ll buy four banners for your free online resource project. In the first year your end should be three, four million pageviews. And then it would go up.
Don Charoni:And what is the interest for the Tattalgia family?
Sollozzo: [smiles at @Geeklawyer who is still sitting in the corner playing with a wire garotte] My compliments.
[@Geeklawyer drinks some cider and  gives a formal nod]
Sollozzo: I’ll take care of the Tattaglias, out of my share.
Don Charoni:So, I am to receive thirty percent of @StephenFry’s followers, free SEO and marketing for two years and the revenues from four banners for tweeting, for legal advice and social media influence. Is that what you’re telling me?
Sollozzo: That’s right.
Don Charoni: Why come to me? What have I done to deserve such generosity?
Sollozzo: If you consider 300,000 followers  merely tweeting…
[raises his glass]
Sollozzo: Te salut, Don Charoni
[the Don gets up to take a drink and sits closer to Sollozzo]
Don Charoni:I said that I would see you because I had heard that you were a serious man, to be treated with respect. But I must say no to you and let me give you my reasons. It’s true I have a lot of friends on Twitter, but they wouldn’t be so friendly if they knew my business was spamming, legal marketing and search engine optimisation, instead of drinking and farting about which they consider a harmless vice. But SEO and legal marketing, that’s a dirty business.
Sollozzo: No, Don Charoni…
Don Charoni:It makes no difference, it does not make any difference to me what a man does for a living, you understand. But your business is a little dangerous and tedious.
Sollozzo: If you’re worried about security for your 300,000 followers on twitter from the deal, the Tattaglias will guarantee it.
Geeklawyer Whoa, now, you’re telling me that the Tattaglias guarantee our followers ….?  what the fuck you drinking, you disappointing little working class, left wing,  solicitor-inadequate… !!
Don Charoni: Wait a minute.
[the Don gives Geeklawyera cold stare, freezingGeeklawyer into silence.  Sollozzo looks slyly satisfied… ]
Don Charoni: [dismissive] I have a sentimental weakness for my fellow blawgers and twitters and I spoil them, as you can see. They talk and blaspheme when they should listen. Anyway, Signor Sollozzo, my no to you is final. I want to congratulate you on your new law firm and I’m sure you’ll do very well and good luck to you. Especially since your interests don’t conflict with mine. Thank you.
[Sollozzo leaves]
Don Charoni: Geeklawyer, come here.
Don Charoni: What’s the matter with you? I think your brain is going soft with all that comedy you are playing with that young girl @infobunny on Twitter. Never tell anyone outside the Family what you are thinking again. Capische?

***

Sollozo leaves the building  and Don Charon’s ex-wife comes into the office.

Don Charoni: All right. This one time I’ll let you ask me about my affairs.
Ex-Wife: Is it true? That you are going into the SEO and Law Marketing business? Is it?
Don Charoni: No.

[Ex-Wife smiles and walks into Charoni’s arms]

Ex-Wife I guess we both need a drink, huh?
Don CharonI: It would be inelegant not to….Chianti per favore, gattina

[Ex-Wife goes to the kitchen to fix a drink, but sees Peter Clemenza, Luca Brazzi and @Geeklawyer enter Don Charoni’s office]
Clemenza: Don Charoni.
[Clemenza kisses Charon’s hand, and @Geeklawyer shuts the door in her face… ]

With profuse apologies to the screenwriters of The Godfather.  It is, however, my favourite film of all time.  This, when you know me , is not at all surprising and the ex-wife referred to above arranged  for the band at our wedding to play The Godfather theme song as I got up to make my groom’s  speech – and that, believe it or not… is TRUE.  My ex-wife and I continue to be very good friends – and that is also true.

***

Now… I’m afraid I must rush. I have a ‘Christening’ to go to… and when I return… I shall definitely have fewer followers…. out of choice… there are spammers to deal with…. Geeklawyer… you have your wire garotte?

After that… I am ‘escaping’ to GO WEST… to see a friend…. and may be out of range, out of contact… and I shall certainly be ‘out to lunch’… as we say in blawg land.  Back Sunday….

Vi auguro un buon weekend e buon vino rosso

Best, as always

Don Charoni

1st October: The Supreme Court is open for business

1st October: The Supreme Court is open for businessThe highest court in the land opens its doors to the public

What lawyers think of Blair’s legacy – the Supreme Court

Jenny Rowe, the CEO of the new Supreme Court

Today, as part of my series of podcasts for The College of Law Inside Track I talk to Jenny Rowe, the CEO of the new Supreme Court.

Jenny Rowe  gives a behind the scenes view of the new Supreme Court, the budget for running the court and the new technologies, events, publication of judgments with commentaries being employed to make the court more accessible to the public.

Listen to the podcast

And when you can get around to it… why not have a look at Colin Samuels’ round up of of blogs Round Tuit…. good… with a brilliant analysis of the child rapist Roman Polanski by Popehat.  I cannot, for the life of me understand why The French and other supposedly sane people are rushing to defend a man who raped a 13 year old child and fled the US jurisdiction to avoid justice .