Charon makes ABA Journal top 100 blog list?!

I am pleased to report that I appear to be on the ABA Journal Top 100 law blogs list – along with that complete and utter bounder, rogue, mate  and serial Twitterer Geeklawyer.

We are in the IMHO (In My Humble Opinion) section.  It is fortunate we are not appearing in the Legal Theory section.  That would have been just too ironic!

All good stuff.  If you wish to look and vote, please do so. There are, actually, some fantastic US and other blogs on that Top 100 list in various categories  – so t’is a genuine pleasure and an honour to be in such good company.

Postcard from The Staterooms-On-Sea: 30 November 09

Dear Reader,

I’m a bit late with my weekly postcard this week.  I was kidnapped by a very good friend who came to stay this weekend… but, fear not…there is much to discuss this week.  The observant will have noticed an addition to my header – a smoking Santa –  which I ‘borrowed’ from the net.  Unfortunately, there appears to be no attribution, so I can’t credit the artist but if he or she objects, I shall, of course take it off – but I thought it a very fine addition to my blog header for the festive season to come.

The Iraq Inquiry proceeds and retired mandarins are falling over themselves to appear and opine again with those at the very heart of power. I wrote a piece this morning, commenting on an Independent article with some memorable quotes. White Rabbit’s comment in the comment section to that post inspired my main header pic (above) for this week.

I watch rather too much news and politics stuff on BBC News and BBC Parliament. The Iraq Inquiry, of course, keeps me occupied (I watch it on my laptop as I work away) and this afternoon,  I watched The Prime Minotaur clunk and thunder his way through his announcement on Afghanistan with much mentioning of tests being satisfied, statistics displayed with all the elan and  style of a Soviet  grain farm report and I started to think about a famous statue of Theseus slaying The Minotaur.  It just popped into my febrile mind.  The statue depicts the slick, smooth, privately educated Cameron, doing what Etonians do (sometimes in the nude, they say);  indulging in a bit of SM with someone on the other team. Gordon ‘The Minotaur’ thunders away even though he knows that there are more slick PR lashes coming from Theseus Cameron. The raw nudity of the sculpture seems….somehow… appropriate as a metaphor for our times…. and may well prove Nostradamian, should Labour manage to lose the next election, which,  despite my personal irritation with Labour’s track record on civil liberties, I hope they don’t.

Talking of civil liberties… my podcast with Shami Chakrabarti for The College of Law Inside Track series went out this morning.  I highlight it again simply because Shami Chakrabarti talked a lot of sense and was a pleasure to meet and interview.  I think you will find the 25 minutes a rewarding use of time, should you wish to listen to it.

It is, of course, St Andrew’s Day – a day when many Scots go about their lives completely oblivious to the fact that St Andrew is their patron saint.  This was certainly true when I was a lad being educated at two places of detention far from the wages of sin in Scotland.  Things may have changed in post Salmondian Alba.

Two things of note….

Firstly, Blawg Review # 240 celebrating the theme of St Andrew with many mentions of Andrews and a good sprinkling of links to Scots law blogs. You may read it here.  I liked the writer’s wry comment… “Blawg Review’s Editor asked me to host today’s Blawg Review because today, November 30, is St. Andrew’s Day…..And given the speed with which Blawg Review’s Editor forwarded along this list of other law bloggers named Andrew, I can only assume that at least a substantial fraction of them obviously have more sense than to agree to host Blawg Review after Thanksgiving weekend.

And, secondly, Alex Salmond announced in a ‘WHITE PAPER’ (this gives dreams added virility), his plans for a Free Scotland, a Scotland unshackled from the chains of history (including some pretty fucking stupid investments in South America (The Darien Scheme) many years ago)

Although I am a Scot, I have lived in England for 30+ years and have no view one way or the other on the Independence issue.  If the people of Scotland in their collective wisdom decide that their lives will be better, seems not unreasonable to me. If they do go independent, the English taxpayer won’t have to cough up so much, or at least the money coughed up will stay in England & Wales. And as the oil is running out without much thought a la Dubai as to what to do after the apocalypse in terms of generating revenue, now might be a good time to break away. Unfortunately, the ‘Arc of Prosperity’ once dreamed of by Alex Salmond, with a far away heroic look in his eye, is no more.  Iceland is a bit buggered.  Scotland’s main Banks are a bit ‘distressed’ and are now owned by the Westminster government. so there is probably much to think about.  I shall go back and forth to Scotland, as will everyone else, whatever the Scots decide.  It really is up to them….surely? The Queen will still be Queen.  The Royals are still popular in Scotland and certainly not, I am told, ‘unpopular’.  It will be interesting to see if Salmond, who I always enjoy listening to even if I don’t always agree with him, pulls it off.

I can’t for the life of me see why the Tofftastic Party is so exercised about Scotland breaking away. When I last looked, I couldn’t see much blue on the political map of Scotland.  The Tories are not exactly popular en Ecosse. The Labour Party could be a bit f****d if Scotland breaks away – because the map of England & Wales is not very red at the moment and a great deal of Labour’s heartland power base is in Scotland.  They will, of course, oppose Independence and say they are going all out, in a wonderful demonstration of commitment to democracy, to say they will ‘block a referendum’.  Oh… the irony.

Tweet of The week


I end my postcard this week with a very rare photograph of a political meeting ‘somewhere on the River Medway’.  My political ambitions are… by no means… over.


Best, as always

Charon

College of Law Inside Track Podcast: Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty

College of Law Inside Track Podcast: Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty

Today I talk to Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty. Shami Chakrabarti gives her thoughts on why the Human Rights Act is so important and outlines Liberty’s key role in the successful campaign to defeat proposals to increase the period that terror suspects could be held without charge to 42 days. She also discusses the role of the judiciary in upholding democratic values and gives advice to young lawyers interested in working within the field of human rights and civil liberties.

Listen to the podcast

This concludes my series of podcasts for The College of Law. Earlier podcasts in the series may be found on the College of Law website

Charles meddles while Chelsea burns?… and Lord Goldsmith’s letter writing skills.

The Times had an interesting story over the weekend:

Prince Charles named in £81m Chelsea Barracks court battle

The Candy brothers, property developers for the super-rich, want to call the Prince of Wales as a witness in an £81m case in which they are suing the Qatari royal family over the collapse of their plans to build Britain’s most expensive residential block.

Nick and Christian Candy claim it was Charles’s outburst against the venture to Qatar’s rulers that wrecked their scheme for London’s Chelsea Barracks.

The plan to build the most expensive apartments in London where, The Times reports, a one bedroom flat would sell for £20 million has been thwarted, the Candy brothers allege, by Prince Charles having a cup of tea with his mates in the Qatar Royal family. The Times notes… “The brothers’ lawyers will want to ask the prince what was said during an afternoon tea with the ruler of Qatar when he visited Britain to open a gas terminal in May.”

Prince Charles, noted for his enthusiasm for building in the style of times past, has previous.  He objected to an extension to the National Gallery in London describing Lord Rogers’ work as a ‘monstrous carbuncle’. If Prince Charles is summoned, the Candys would have the right to cross-examine him.  The Times notes: “He would be the first royal to appear as a witness in court since the future Edward VII gave evidence in a gambling case in 1890. In 2002 the Princess Royal, Charles’s sister, appeared in court to be fined £500 by magistrates after one of her dogs attacked two children.”

The Iraq Inquiry has, thus far, proved fascinating and the cause of considerable embarrassment, it is believed, to former Prime Minister Tony Blair. The Independent has a wonderful story under the headline…

 

Iraq: The war was illegal

The Independent reports:

The Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war will consider a letter from Lord Goldsmith, then Mr Blair’s top law officer, advising him that deposing Saddam would be in breach of international law, according to a report in The Mail on Sunday.

But Mr Blair refused to accept Lord Goldsmith’s advice and instead issued instructions for his long-term friend to be “gagged” and barred from cabinet meetings, the newspaper claimed. Lord Goldsmith apparently lost three stone, and complained he was “more or less pinned to the wall” in a No 10 showdown with two of Mr Blair’s most loyal aides, Lord Falconer and Baroness Morgan. Mr Blair also allegedly failed to inform the Cabinet of the warning, fearing an “anti-war revolt”.

The description of Lord Goldsmith being ‘more or less pinned to the wall by Lord Falconer and others is surreal but Goldsmith did appear to go through some fairly extensive letter writing at the time by all accounts.

Interestingly, the BBC had a report just over a year ago…

Legal advice given to Tony Blair by the attorney general prior to the Iraq war was fundamentally “flawed,” a former law lord has claimed.

Lord Bingham said Lord Goldsmith had given Mr Blair “no hard evidence” that Iraq had defied UN resolutions “in a manner justifying resort to force”.

Therefore, the action by the UK and US was “a serious violation of international law,” Lord Bingham added.

The Independent has a list of quotes which may trouble Blair who is believed to be concerned that his reputation is being ‘shredded’. I am rather more concerned for those whose lives have been shredded by the death, military and civilian on both sides of loved ones caused by and during this war.

Critical evidence from key figures to Chilcot inquiry

Sir Peter Ricketts “We quite clearly distanced ourselves from talk of regime change… that was not something we thought there would be any legal base for.”

Sir William Patey “We were aware of those drumbeats from Washington [about regime change]. Our policy was to stay away from that end of the spectrum.”

Sir Michael Wood “[Establishing no-fly zones over Iraq] was very controversial … The US government was very careful to avoid taking any real position on the law.”

Sir William Ehrman “We did, on 10 March, get a report that chemical weapons might have remained disassembled and Saddam hadn’t yet ordered their assembly.”

Sir Christopher Meyer “Suddenly, because of the unforgiving nature of the military timetable, we found ourselves scrabbling for the smoking gun.”

Sir Jeremy Greenstock “I regarded our participation in the military action against Iraq in March 2003 as legal, but of questionable legitimacy.”

Lord Sugar delivers maiden speech in car crash TV style

I quite like ‘SurAlan’ from his various appearances on The Apprentice and he seems to know what he is doing business wise.  Quite why he wanted to be a Lord in the first place  and then deliver an extraordinary maiden speech in The Lords I’ve no idea… but it didn’t go down well.  He did drone on a bit…about himself. Probably best to leave the jokes to people who can tell them rather than ending up as one.

TV maiden speech | Times review | Real Business review

Lawcast 161: Geoffrey Woollard, a prospective parliamentary candidate

 

Geoffrey Woollard blog

Lawcast 161: Geoffrey Woollard, a prospective parliamentary candidate

 

Today I am talking to Geoffrey Woollard, a farmer of many years standing who describes himself as an ex-Tory and is planning to stand for Parliament as an independent for South East Cambridgeshire. . Geoffrey responded to my new parody series The Huntsman’s View and I thought it would be an excellent opportunity in the run up to the 2010 election to get a handle on matters political and in particular the process of standing for Parliament by inviting Geoffrey to do a podcast with me. I am delighted that he agreed to do so… so without further ado…

Listen to the podcast

Podcast version for itunes

 

Apologies – some difficulty with Skype at my end with sound.  Happens occasionally.

Rive Gauche: I cannot fiddle but I can make a great state of a small city – Lawrence of Arabia

Christmas is coming and in some shopping malls it is Christmas every bloody day. It may have been Christmas for the bankers yesterday when the Supreme Court ruled that they didn’t have to worry about the OFT poking its nose into their sordid dealings with customer recidivists (although, leaving the door open for the OFT to have another go by pursuing a different line)… but today was not Christmas for bankers when Dubai announced that it wanted until May  2010 to repay massive debts – about £60-80 billion, apparently, I discovered on Twitter. European bankers are in for about 50% of that according to a friend of mine who tweets.

Gordon Brown, no doubt, is climbing into his Brown of Arabia outfit and heading off to Dubai to solve the problem. FTSE dropped badly on Thursday with some of our banks losing between 3.2| – 8% value on shares.  Could this be the death knell for Dubai?   Too early to tell and the BBC and other news services seem a bit pre-occupied with what Katie Price / Jordan is up to in the jungle with her cross-dressing cage fighter.The sands of time will tell… no doubt.

On to rather good news. Shami Chakrabarti, who I had the pleasure of meeting and doing a podcast with last Friday (Podcast goes out this Monday),  has been given an honorary degree by the College of Law.

Also rather good news, given that BPP Law School continues to refuse to let anyone look at their QAA report to The Privy Council in connection with degree awarding powers – is that The College of Law has put its money where its mouth is and has published their QAA report on their website – for all to see!

The Irish government has finally moved on the appalling abuse meted out to children by Irish priests over many years.  Four Archbishops in Ireland failed to pass on information about priests with a taste for abusing young boys – fearing that the public outcry would be too much to cope with or control. No longer.  The Irish are now going to root out all the abusers. Justice may have been delayed but the Irish Justice minister has stated that it will not be denied.

The Independent reports: Gordon Brown was accused of strangling the inquiry into the Iraq war at birth yesterday by refusing to let it make public sensitive documents that shed light on the conflict. A previously undisclosed agreement between Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry and the Government gives Whitehall the final say on what information the investigation can release into the public domain.” Independent

The Iraq Inquiry will run on for some time – but we appear to be off to a cracking good start with no lawyers on the panel and a senior civil servant, in the background, pulling the strings for what information can be disclosed. I have set up a widget on my online mag Insite Law to keep abreast of developments – and read it assiduously.  Sir Christopher Meyer did a star turn today with the revelation that Blair ‘hardened’ his position after a private chat with George Bush in a log cabin.  Perhaps they said a quick prayer, turned to each other and said “Right… in the name of God… war!…” Who knows? Hopefully someone will ask Blair when he takes his turn next year.

Sir Christopher Meyer did, however,  state that “officials had been left “scrabbling” for evidence of WMD as US troops prepared for invasion.”

Another Meyerism… “I didn’t tell Wolfowitz ‘we’re with you on regime change, let’s go get the bastard’ ..”

I enjoy reading The Economist and no more so than today when our American fellow bloggers and friends are celebrating Thanksgiving or Turkey Day. While President Obama pardoned a  turkey called ‘Courage’ (covered assiduously, also,  by the BBC) and sent it to Disneyland, The Economist reports…

ONE thing Americans should be thankful for this Thanksgiving is that they have not put on as much weight as the average turkey. Between 1960 and 2008, turkeys bulked up by around 11lb (5kg) to 29lb, an increase of 64%, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Coincidentally, in that same period the average American man gained 28lb, almost the equivalent of a turkey, according to data from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, another government agency, and a Gallup poll of 2008.

The Telegraph has rather a good story about two lovers who decided to have a shag in an unusual place. And why not?

And talking of unusual places.  Brian Inkster of Inksters Solicitors, serious tweeter and principal of a modern client facing law firm in Scotland is in Argentina with his wife Nicola. He’s not lawyering… he’s doing some equally worthwhile.

They are assisting the charity, Habitat for Humanity, with the renovation of homes for families living in poverty in Buenos Aires. They will be working alongside other volunteers and with ‘stakeholder’ families who will eventually live in the houses. Brian and Nicola have also been fundraising for Habitat for Humanity. The cost of the trip to Argentina has already been met by Inksters. Therefore, every penny that is raised by Brian and Nicola goes straight to Habitat for Humanity to directly assist the project.

In just a few weeks they have raised well over the initial target they set themselves of £5,000. Brian said “we have been overwhelmed with the interest in and generosity we have received for this Global Village Challenge. My clients and our business contacts have been very supportive in helping us reach and surpass our fundraising target. We have also raised well over £1,000 via Twitter alone with donations coming from lawyers as far afield as Canada and the USA.”

Have a look at their website – and if you would like to help, you know how to get in contact through Inkstersgive

Putting up my Friday Rive Gauche a bit early… because I may escape to London tomorrow morning… but there again, I may leave it until Saturday.  And here is how I might look at a shopping mall in Dubai soon.. they say, advertising rates are going to improve…. Have a good Friday.

Ah… a plot…. let’s go and lose it…

The day began well enough  shortly before 4.00 am, the time I usually rise to beat the Grim Reaper to it  – It being well known that a lot of people snuff it at 4.00 am)  – and I enjoyed doing two podcasts later in the morning: One with Paul and Jack from All About Law and one with Geoffrey Woollard, a prospective parliamentary candidate.  This latter  podcast goes up tomorrow morning.

To illustrate the type of day I am having – the more vigilant will have noticed my use of a capital letter after a colon in the paragraph above. In fact you may use a capital or a small letter after a colon and, if you are feeling particularly pedantic,  you may use one or two spaces after the colon. I have known this for some time… in fact, since I was ten, at a school in Scotland, where I spent a fair bit of my time in class wondering whether a board duster was going to come flying my way or not.  I did actually manage to catch a board duster lobbed in my direction on one occasion and asked if the teacher would like it back. He did want it back. But there we are….

I went for a walk after my podcasts, to get some fresh air and buy essential supplies of wine, fags and some provisions.  I bought myself a Marlon Brando Godfather mug.  I really shouldn’t be allowed out…sometimes. Still.. it is a very fine mug for a cuppa.

The day is not over yet… I am getting cabin fever, having confined myself to barracks for two full weeks and my only social contact has been on Skype video…. so I am planning amusements for Saturday.

Libel: Doctor stands up for freedom of speech

The Times reports: “A British doctor who is being sued for libel after criticising an American company’s research has pledged to turn the action into a test case for freedom of speech. Peter Wilmshurst, a consultant cardiologist at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, told The Times that he aims to use a public-interest defence to fight the claim from NMT Medical and establish the principle that scientists may engage freely in academic debate.”

Dr Wilmshurst is to be applauded for standing up for a very important principle. As he says – he could lose his house if the decision goes against him.

Dr Wilmshurst said: “I have got a responsibility to fight this. There is a fundamental principle of science at stake here. People have to be free to challenge research.”

There is growing concern about the use of England’s draconian libel laws to stifle expert scrutiny of scientific evidence. Simon Singh, the science writer, has been sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association over an article in which he questioned the evidence that spinal manipulation could treat childhood conditions such as asthma and colic.

Times

The Lord Chancellor, Jack Straw, is well aware of the pressing need to rein in the growing problem of libel tourism and the use of libel law to suppress fair, public comment and scrutiny.

Mark Lewis, Dr Wilmshurt’s solicitor said, “Libel law was having “not so much a chilling effect as a killing effect” on scientific debate, by making researchers think twice before challenging findings with which they disagreed.

The dangers of punditry…

While most bloggers try to comment accurately on the issues of the day and, possibly, add a perspective from their own experience, this excellent post from Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice does illustrate the dangers of punditry and the art of  talking ‘complete and utter bollocks’ as we say down on the Medway.

Freedom of Speech is a prized right… do read the comments (82 when I was on earlier)… they are well worth reading!

And… while you are at it… do go and have a look at WhatAboutClients? run by Dan Hull and his colleagues… it is always worth a read and if you like ‘direct’… you will certainly get it there!

Cruel Britannia

Is this how low we have fallen?  Is this why David Miliband, Foreign Secretary, is so keen to keep secret the information which our judges wish to make public as part of the due process of law?  Is this what is being done in our name?  Is this how we preserve our so called freedom?

The Guardian reports:

‘Cruel, illegal, immoral’: Human Rights Watch condemns UK’s role in torture

The attorney general was under intense pressure tonight to order a wider series of police investigations into British complicity in torture after one of the world’s leading human rights organisations said there was clear evidence of the UK government’s involvement in the torture of its own citizens.

After an investigation spanning more than a year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) today condemned Britain’s role in the torture of terror suspects detained in Pakistan as cruel, counter-productive and in clear breach of international law.

Critically, a report published today by HRW – entitled Cruel Britannia: British Complicity in the Torture and Ill-treatment of Terror Suspects – draws upon corroborative evidence received from the Pakistani torturers themselves.

Read the full report in the Guardian

 

Nemo iudex in causa sua: Do me a por favor!

Today, Britain begins a process of carefully controlled investigation. We do public inquiries rather well.  We appoint distinguished men and women to listen to evidence and they then go off and write something to the taste of the government in power. Newspapers, television channels, bloggers and other commentators get hot under the collar for a while and we move on. The Hutton Inquiry was a prime example of the genre. The Hutton Inquiry website is no longer operational.  The Ministry of Justice is maintaining it for archive purposes… or possibly… in the modern parlance… for ‘training purposes’.

Will the Iraq Inquiry go the same way?

1. Sir John Chilcot, has insisted that the legality of the invasion in 2003 will be one of the key issues it addresses. Fine.  But where are the lawyers on the panel to conduct appropriate and searching cross-examination?

The Guardian notes: “Lawyers are trained to weigh up evidence and will know and say when they see a decision-making process that appears to be out of the ordinary,” said the British international law expert Professor Philippe Sands QC. “The fact that the members of the inquiry do not include a lawyer is very, very telling”.

The Guardian continued to tap the nails in: “Some of the debates around the legality of the war are quite sophisticated – it is not all clear-cut,” the senior legal figure said. “It’s going to be very difficult to deal with someone like Blair without a panel experienced in cross-examination.”.

2. The issue of the war’s legality is, one would have thought, the central issue.  The judiciary are right to express ‘surprise’ at the absence of a senior lawyer or member of the judiciary on the panel.

3. The Telegraph reports that witnesses could be given immunity from prosecution. This is all very well (and may, indeed be valuable for some appearing?)  but are we really going to get any where near the truth with imprecise questioning?  Are we going to have men and women appearing behind black curtains talking into a voice synthesiser?  Inevitably, there will be some evidence which cannot be aired publicly – in the interest of state security?

Off to a good start then?  We shall see.

Legal education, BPP and the Freedom of Information Act

With the news today that BPP Law school’s owners, Apollo Global (who now call the tune) are being investigated for a second time by the United States SEC – this time for accounting issues on revenue recognition – I feel the time has come to push for BPP Law School to be subject to the Freedom of Information Act in exactly the same way as all university providers of the LPC and BSB are.  BPP Law School is not subject to the FOIA.   The College of Law, a charity, is also not subject to the FOI legislation  but they have been more prepared to be open and transparent than BPP law School has been.

1.  I have written repeatedly to BPP Law School’s Chief Executive, Peter Crisp, asking for the QAA report on their application for degree awarding powers (which they were granted by the Privy Council) to be made public.  I wrote again today.  I have not even had the courtesy of a reply to my last three emails on the subject over the past three months. This, does not trouble me.  I am but a blogger – but what have they got to hide in the QAA report?  Why won’t they reveal it?
Here is my earlier Transparency in Legal Education post

The College of Law is prepared to make public the QAA report on their degree awarding powers application.

Catrin Griffiths, Editor of The Lawyer, notes “BPP has been assiduously courting the Tories, with chief executive Peter Crisp up at the party ­conference this autumn doing the prawn cocktail rounds. It has just been allowed to award degrees, but is not yet classed as a university – much as it would like to be.Despite the University of Buckingham’s ­comparative success, private providers of higher education have been viewed with a certain amount of apprehension among the Labour establishment, but a Conservative government would be more sympathetic. For BPP, the timing of the SEC inquiry couldn’t be more awkward.”

2. If I want to find out about enrolments, pass rates, drop out rates etc,  at law schools run by universities I can simply put in a freedom of information request and the universities will, generally, give me this information.  I know this to be the case because a friend of mine, Norman Bair of QED Law has been doing just that for years. If, however, I want to get the same information from BPP Law School I am, now, met with silence.  It is, of course, BPP Law School’s prerogative to keep this information SECRET and it also their prerogative to ignore my emails on the issue, despite the fact that Peter Crisp in two podcasts with me agreed that BPP Law School would be prepared to provide the same information as university law schools are required to provide.

The BSB report on BPP’s oversubscription by 63 students on their BVC course is due soon.  Was this a simple bit of bad admin or was it to inflate the value of BPP for sale to Apollo purposes?  We don’t know.  Perhaps we never will.  All I have received from BPP was a press release they sent out to others who asked the same questions! The BSB report will be made public, I am advised.

BPP Law School should be made subject to the Freedom of Information Act – directly, or indirectly.

BPP Law School is now part of a US education group, a very successful education group which owns the University of Phoenix.  It is a multi-million dollar global business.  It is also an education group being investigated by the SEC for a second time – and this may well turn out to be a very minor matter.  Whatever the outcome of that, Apollo now has degree awarding powers in the United Kingdom – the only private for profit organisation in Britain to have such powers. Remember… the degree awarding powers are not limited to law and business.  Any field of study can be linked to a course and a degree provided.  The College of Law has these powers.  The College of Law is a charity.  There is no difficulty whatsoever with education being in private hands, but my argument.. and certainly in so far as it related to legal education, a matter very much affecting the public interest, is that BPP should be subject to the Freedom of Information legislation. My view is that students, parents and sponsors of students should be able to see this information and be able to ask any questions they wish in so far as permitted by the freedom of information legislation and get straight answers through a formal request under the FOIA if the information is not given freely.

I accept that the government already has enough on its hands in the 33 legislating days remaining – but why can’t the SRA and the BSB make it a condition of accreditation to run LPCs and BPTCs that BPP Law School provide exactly the same level of information to the public, when requested, as all other providers are required to do or, in the case of The College of Law, will provide voluntarily?

Frankly… one rule for BPP and another rule for the university law schools is no longer acceptable.

As ever, I am interested in your views – and if you think this is only fair, please pass this idea onto your colleagues, fellow academics and fellow students.  BPP Law School don’t listen to me on this… but they may well listen to you… or a lot of you, should you be minded to tell them.

***

UPDATE 6.00 pm Monday 23rd November 2009.

Being fair to BPP, I have now received an email from Peter Crisp…

Dear Mike

I’m afraid there really is nothing more for me to add to the statement I gave to The Lawyer and I can only repeat what Apollo have said publicly on this matter, namely:

  • Apollo has been informed by the Enforcement Division of the SEC that they have commenced an informal inquiry into the Company’s revenue recognition practices.
  • Apollo does not have any further insight into the scope, duration or outcome of the inquiry at this time.
  • Apollo is fully cooperating with the SEC.
  • ·         Apollo believes that its revenue recognition policies are appropriate and in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

As I said in The Lawyer, BPP remains a UK company subject to UK regulation.

I have in front of me a copy of the QAA Institutional Assessors’ Final Report on BPP: it is headed “Strictly Confidential”. I have no authority therefore to publish it.

Best wishes.

Peter

***

I have written back to Peter Crisp to indicate that I spoke to the QAA months ago and they assert that BPP is at liberty and has the authority to publish the report if they wish to.  My post on Transparency in legal Education makes this clear.

Here is my earlier Transparency in Legal Education post

College of Law Inside Track Podcast: Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions

College of Law Inside Track Podcast: Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions

I talk to Keir Starmer QC the Director of Public Prosecutions about  the role of the DPP, the recently issued guidelines on assisted suicide, the future of the Public Prosecution Service, the relationship with the independent Bar and opportunities for students and qualified lawyers in the service.

Listen to the podcast

BPP Law School owners investigated by SEC in US for accounting irregularities

BPP parent Apollo Group in SEC accounting probe

The Lawyer reports:

For-profit educator’s business model under scrutiny. BPP Law School’s long-term goal of transforming itself into a full-blown university could be in jeopardy thanks to its US parent Apollo Group being ­investigated by the SEC in connection with accounting irregularities.

The probe, which Apollo claimed is an “informal inquiry”, is the second time the group has been put under the SEC’s microscope for its revenue recognition policies.

This, clearly, is a major headache for BPP Law School, now owned by Apollo and while Peter Crisp, BPP Law School Chief Executive, may well take comfort from his statement to The Lawyer…. “The inquiry relates to Apollo’s US ­operations only and not BPP, which remains a UK ­company subject to UK ­legislation.”“… but the fact of the matter is that BPP law School is also subject to complete control by Apollo by virtue of their ownership of what what BPP Holdings plc and what Apollo does may well impact on BPP operations in the UK and elsewhere.

BPP College of Professional education, of which BPP Law School is part, became the first ­privately owned company to receive degree-awarding powers in September 2007 and has the power now to award degrees not just in law and business but in any subject it wishes to run degree programmes for.  The degree awarding powers, clearly, were the main interest for Apollo Group. I can’t imagine that Apollo Group were simply interested in UK legal education.

This raises important issues in the UK

1.  I have asked BPP Law School several times if they are prepared to make public the QAA report on them which led to The Privy Council granting degree awarding powers.  I shall not rehearse the matter here again.  BPP is not prepared to do so.  The College of Law has been prepared to make their QAA report on their degree awarding accreditation public. Here is my earlier Transparency in Legal Education post

2. We are waiting for the Bar Standards Board report into the oversubscription by BPP by 80 (Later reduced to 63)  students on their Bar Vocational Course this year.  I understand that publication of this report is imminent.

3. I would assume that the SRA and the BSB will wish to examine the impact of the SEC investigation into Apollo Group in so far as it impacts on the activities of BPP Law School in this country?

We shall see what happens. I will, of course, write to Peter Crisp for his thoughts on this story.

 

Update

 

I have now received an email from Peter crisp.  It is published at the foot of this later post: Legal education, BPP and the Freedom of Information Act

Gordon… I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse…

Readers who have seen The Godfather, a truly classic film, will be familiar with the scene at the end when Michael Corleone, the new Godfather, attends a christening.  While The Don is at the christening, those who crossed him meet their destiny with the after life.  I couldn’t help but make the connection when I read this morning in The Sunday Times that Lord Mandelson wants to be Foreign Secretary.

As The Sunday Times notes: ” Mandelson’s reshuffle call puts the prime minister in a perilous position as he struggles to retain the support of the most powerful figures in the cabinet. If he bows to Mandelson’s wishes, he risks alienating David Miliband, the foreign secretary, and his ally Ed Balls, the schools secretary, who is still eager for promotion. If he refuses Mandelson’s demand, he risks losing his loyalty with potentially devastating consequences for the election.”

As they say… Revenge is a dish best eaten cold…. Game, Set and Match to Mandelson?  Brown could well be stuffed on this one. You have to laugh…. Ladies and Gentleman… we have a new Richard III of The Labour Party… I present… for your delectation and delight… Baron Mandelson of Foy, Foreign Secretary of The United Kingdom.   Of course, it could just be a load of balls and everyone at the top end of the labour party is happy, working harmoniously together,  and only thinking of the best interests of the country as a whole.

SHIT…. I’ve just seen a squadron of black leather clad stormtrooper pigs fly over Upnor Castle on the River Medway… they are heading for Westminster… and they look as if they mean business. You couldn’t make it up…. wonderful nonsense. The Sunday Times piece is rather amusing… and worth a read.

And don’t forget this from The Times on 27 September….

LORD Mandelson has disclosed that he is ready to accept a job under a future Conservative government.

In an interview with The Sunday Times magazine, “the business secretary said he would be willing to put his “experience at the disposal of the country”, if Labour lost power. “As I grow older, I can imagine more ways of serving my country than simply being a party politician,” he said.

Asked whether he might use his experience in business and world trade under a future government, he said: “If I was asked to do something for my country using that asset base, of course, I would consider it.”

//

Straw to act on ‘draconian’ UK libel laws

“When another country introduces laws to protect its citizens from your courts, you have a problem. When that country happens to be your closest ally in times of war and peace, you have a crisis. That is the state of English libel law.”

John Kampfner is chief executive of Index on Censorship and author of Freedom For Sale.
Times

The good news… is that Jack Straw, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, is going to do something about it and, hopefully, the backing of the other parties.

The Times reports: “The justice secretary says the large legal fees involved in defamation cases in English courts are jeopardising freedom of speech, potentially curbing vital debate by scientists, academics and journalists.”

Inevitably, lawyers and other ‘special interest’ groups are rushing to lobby against changes. I do hope this comes to something because if it it doesn’t one can be fairly certain with mounting anger and awareness, Twitter, mainstream media and pressure from  voluntary organisations will build to a point where no government will be able to ignore the pressure.  Our justice system has been undermined and devalued by the injustice of our libel laws.  Freedom of speech, the right to investigate matters in the public interest, responsible and informed comment should be encouraged in a modern society.  The irony, of course, is that many who seek superinjunctions do have something to hide and a carefully framed revision of libel law should be able to protect the victims of genuine and malicious defamation.

Will I be sorry to see the demise of lucrative fees to lawyers when the libel laws are changed?  Will I be sorry to see a valuable source of invisible export income dry up?

You can be sure that I won’t be sorry – and there are countless thousands more out there who feel the same way.  Fortunately, there are some (individuals and organisations) who are more vociferous because of their ability to spread the word. Let’s hope they pile the pressure on until we rid our jurisprudence and legal system of these vile and undemocratic laws.

Postcard from The Staterooms: 21 November 09

Dear Reader,

I can’t quite believe it is that time again… the weekend, postcard time.  I may have been watching too many programmes on quantum physics, but there does seem to be an inexorable law of physics which states that as one gets older, time speeds up. I  also noticed that it was Children In need time again.  I don’t have children so I don’t tend to spend much time (or, indeed, any) time thinking about them – but I was amused by a tweet from fellow tweeter John Kerrison last night.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, is meeting with The Pope to express disappointment at the way the Catholic church is welcoming all his members, tolerant men and women to a tee, who don’t care much for homosexuals or women bishops. Being a confirmed atheist, I do not spend any time, usually, reading about religious news – although if and when The Messiah does return I’m sure that it will be covered by Newsnight, so I’ll make an exception.  Machinations, on the other hand, in religion as much as other walks of life… fascinate me.  The Pope is welcoming disenchanted Anglicans into the Catholic fold and is bending the rules to allow them to be married and carry on their own ‘practices’… and appears to be enjoying himself in so doing. I suppose it is the equivalent of a ratings war between television companies or market share war between gas and electricity suppliers.  I wonder if I will get a phone call from some call centre asking me if I would like to change my religion and get a better chance of life ever after?

800 years of history swept away

Frances Gibb, legal editor of The Times, reports: ” Barristers will be free to set up in partnership with solicitors or with each other under historic reforms approved last night by the Bar Standards Board. The landmark decision was taken at a packed public meeting of the Board along with a series of other changes that ditch 800 years of working practices in the profession. The Board, chaired by Baroness Ruth Deech, agreed in principle that barristers could be permitted to join in partnerships with solicitors and others without having to qualify first as solicitors, under the regulation of the Solicitors Regulation Authority.”

Baroness Deech, who appears to be everywhere these days said… and I just love this statement which I suspect will have some barristers reviving their interest in Anglo-Saxon epithets… “”I do think it will send a shot of adrenalin through the profession and hopefully it will revive and pick up without losing the benefits [of its traditional working methods and core principles].”

I had no idea the Bar was so stricken across the range of practice – which, of course, it isn’t. It will be interesting to see how The Bar responds.  Being a rather disparate group, I suspect there will be many styles of working and, inevitably, because it will suit a section of the Bar, the current practices will be maintained. I shall have to talk to a few more barristers and see what they think  before commenting further.

I have just seen a tweet from stephenfry : I’m hoping the decision to screen anti benefit fraud ads during the darts isn’t a reflection on what the govmnt thinks of darts fans, LOL.

Given the statistical probability that there are, indeed, a fair number of potential benefit fraudsters among the dart competition watching fraternity, it is good to see the government using our money wisely. This led me to thinking about other appropriately targetted advertising.  Perhaps a public information film on burglary during The Antiques Roadshow?. A care in the community film during X-factor? The usual drunk driving message during Top Gear? That, actually, would be quite sensible given the number of petrol heads in this country. The only problem is, those with a disposition to drive while drunk are probably out drinking and driving, rather than watching TV.  Anyway… I could waste more time musing on this, but I won’t.

RollonFriday reports :“A student at Leeds university has pleaded guilty to impersonating a London barrister. ” This is not the way forward to a career in law. What was this student thinking?  Bizarre.

The Recess Monkey has a good story about a Tory complaining that “too few applicants for the Tory candidacy have “normal English names”. Given that he sent the email at nearly 1am, you wonder how often he lies awake angry at those damn foreigners with their foreign names, foreign food and foreign ways…. It appears David Cameron has now suspended Hobbins (which isn’t actually an English name and in fact is from Buckland). There is no suggestion as yet that the tens of thousands of bigots remaining the the Tory Party will face a similar fate.”

Do read the whiole story, particularly Mr Hobbins’ email. Yep… there are still fools in the Tory ship.

Well… that’s about it for this week… My plans to develop my new series ‘The Huntsman’s View are developing.  Episode 1 and Episode 2 are out… Episode 3 is being written.  Each episode, as with my West London Man series last year will have  an accompanying podcast.

Best, as ever

Charon

Diary of a Huntsman… (2): Invisibility

PODCAST VERSION: A Hunstman’s View (2) / Invisibility

20th November 2009

The London trip was not a great success and a fresh assessment is required if I am to stand for parliament.  Cybil has a rather curious attitude to politics.  She listens to what politicians say and assesses their worth and value accordingly. I remember, over dinner some time ago, she made the extraordinary statement “Why can’t we have a government with just the sensible people from all parties in it? Vince Cable, for example, he seems to be the only politician who (a) has actually grappled with economic and financial policies in real life –  running a business  and (b) seems to have a better grasp of things than the current Chancellor does.  Why can’t we have him as Chancellor?” There was an embarrassed silence at the table.  Jamie Cadogan-Browne… a grandee.. I suppose you would call him, had a coughing fit and I thought I was going to have to put my old Boy Scout first aid badge knowledge to use.

Question Time and the great Tory Law & Order hope

We watched Question Time together last night and a vivid illustration of this technique of assessing politicians on what they say,  rather than on the basis of the party they represent,  presented early on in the form of Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Grayling.

“See, darling” Cybil said with an amused smile “Grayling… saying nothing of any value whatsoever… hot air and blether…. just like that other chap Ian Duncan-Smith …blah blah blah. All those years in television have reduced his thinking into simplistic impressionistic summaries suitable for a game show but hardly of value when it comes to serious debate. He’s being slaughtered and they are all laughing at him on Twitter.”

I have now discovered what Twitter is.  Cybil, apparently, has been on it for months.  She tells me that there are quite a lot of sensible people and bloggers using it including some MPs from Labour who are using it rather well. I must investigate this Twitter further and these blogger johnnies. I had wondered why she was spending so much time tapping away into the laptop of hers while doing a myriad of other things.  A chap, of course, prefers to focus on one thing at a time. I shall ask Jack, my head keeper, if he knows anything about  Twitter. He’s another one who is always tapping away into a laptop or his new iPhone.

I have to say that Cybil may have a point. Grayling didn’t do at all well last night on QT – not quite as bad as that chap Woollas for Labour,  who must have lost thousands of votes every time he opened his mouth… but there we are. The problem the Tories have is that they did have a fairly useful Shadow Home Secretary in David Davis, the member for the constituency of Haltemprice, who resigned, stood against himself on a a matter of principle,  and fired himself into political obscurity (albeit with a bit more style than that Parnell chap for Labour did when he resigned and then looked baffled when no-one noticed.)

CameronDirect needs a new Shadow Home Secretary but he won’t,  of course,  fire Grayling, Grayling won’t fall on his sword, so another chink in the slick corporate armour of CameronDirect is opening up for others to push sticks into before the election in 2010.  I’m rather looking forward, I have to confess, to seeing what nonsense Grayling comes up with next in his vision of a Law & Ordered Society‘ after his surreal ideas for yobs the other day.

The big thing at the moment for the Tories is for elected Police Chiefs. James Forsyth, writing in The Spectator, states “It is crucial that the Tories do not back down under this pressure. Locally elected police commissioners would be transformative, they would ensure that the police concentrate on the crimes that most effect peoples’ quality of life. The current top down, target-ridden culture would be replaced by accountability to the public.”  They say that the police are already politicised, that Ian Blair was a Labour police chief,  but Boris blew the bloody doors off on that wheeze and now has the Met under control. I’m not so sure that elected police chiefs is a good idea.  Quite apart from the idea of police chiefs lining up in a row with rosettes on – and what if a BNP Plod wanted to stand?  What then? – what exactly do the Tories mean by ‘locally elected’ police chiefs?  One commentator on The Spectator page drew the ravening hordes attention to an immediate practicality and flaw in the thinking.

A Mr Dennis Cooper writes ” Firstly my “local” police force is not “local”; it’s Thames Valley Police, covering three counties plus Milton Keynes. I question whether it would be possible to have a meaningful direct election of a Chief Constable for a force covering such a large and diverse geographical area.”

Of course, we could have lots of smaller police forces with even more plod wandering about with silver  fruit salad on their hats, but that rather goes against modern ideas of connected policing and maximisation of resources. But who said that ideas had to be workable to be policy?

The Invisible Man (and Woman) of Europe

Dickie Suffolk rang to say that we had done rather well in Europe. A rather dull man who can’t write decent poetry from Belgium is President and some Northern lass has been propelled from obscurity into the the Miliband role.” he roared down the telephone.  Dickie is one of these people who hasn’t quite grasped how mobile phones work.  If he is outside, he shouts louder, not realising that there is  a microphone at the bottom of the device that works perfectly well outside and is, Jack tells me, designed  for indoors and  outside use. “At least we stuffed Blair” I didn’t have the strength to suggest to Dickie that ‘we’ had done absolutely nothing as ‘we’ are not yet in government.  Dickie is one of these people who tells others that he only has a few slots in his brain left and he doesn’t care to fill too many of them up with complex impractical philosophical knowledge or debate. I did suggest to him that he might benefit from taking The Sun rather than wrestling each day with The Times.  I recall that he looked at me almost gratefully for the suggestion. Good chap, Dickie…. to have for the weekend… but not destined, I fear, for any form of ministerial position.  Nor did I point out that ‘our lot’ seem to have teamed up with sundry right wing nutters and SS sympathisers on the extreme right of Europe and that Angela Merkel and Sarkozy are not exactly in daily touch with Hague and CameronDirect. I also have a sinking feeling that if ‘our’ lot was in power, we would have a Brit in possibly the even more influential post of High Representative and I could almost hear Cybil in the recesses of my mind saying “Your lot would have been sitting in dark corners muttering about federalism, a super state, sovereign states, Britannia ruling British waves and thinking up new bogey men with which to terrorise the people.” I do not know for sure, of course;  nor it is any of my business… I rather like diversity….  but I believe that my wife may be a Liberal-Democrat.  I know she votes.  She is always most careful to get out an early to do so.

I suppose the good news is that after all this hand wringing and putting Ireland under the cosh to vote Yes because the first No vote was inconvenient, the 27 leaders have managed to control the monster of Europa by flying in a couple of nonentities who will do what the leaders want them to do, rather than the other way round. Obama was diplomatic and sensitive to European pretensions, however, in suggesting that the new President of Europe and his High Representative will enable Europe to develop in a meaningful blah blah way…etc etc etc.

You win elections by getting more votes than the other parties.

Cybil rushed into my study a few moments ago with her laptop and told me that I must read something.  She set the laptop down in front of me.  I was reading the Investor’s Chronicle, or ‘Misers Monthly’ as Cybil calls it,  to see if I was missing anything. My attention was drawn to an article on a blog by Mr Tom Harris, a Labour MP for Glasgow South.  Seeing that he has quite a number of #1 Rosettes on his blog, like the  First in Show things we have at our County Fairs, I was quite happy to read what he had to say. His central premise was that Labour will win if they get more votes than the Tories – Yes – that this will depend on having better policies – Yes – and will not depend on jiggering about with the voting system – Yes.  So… Three Yes votes from me for that type of thinking. Good grief, I’ll be watching X-Factor like Farmer Brown or Britain’s Got Talent soon if I am not careful.

Cybil laughed when I told her that I agreed with the chap.  “See?  There are people out there in other parties who say interesting things.  Perhaps you should apply to become a Labour MP…..? it wouldn’t be the first time a Tory had crossed over.  Think Churchill, darling, she said with the usual glint in her eye… he enjoyed a bit of political cross-dressing as Shami Chakrabarti likes to say!”

There are limits.  I told her this.  Her response was insouciant.  “It takes a good man to know his limitations, darling.  You should watch Dirty Harry.”

With that, she was gone.  I could hear her tapping away into her laptop in the drawing room nearby.

PODCAST VERSION: A Hunstman’s View (2) / Invisibility

Rive Gauche: Hubris, schadenfreude, dark forces and injustice… what more could you want on a Friday?

Continuing with my Friday ‘Rive Gauche’ theme, I thought I would start this week’s edition with some more political nonsense, tinged with a soupçon of hubris.

Political diarist Iain Dale, always worth a read whatever your political proclivities, asks:

When will it end? The Telegraph has the story tonight of Conservative MP David Curry, the new chairman of the Parliamentary Standards Committee (no, really), has been accused of claiming £30,000 of taxpayers’ money to pay for a house he hasn’t set foot in for four years, after being banned by his ex wife.

Mr Curry has referred himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner. Iain Dale, states, not unreasonably…“Quite astonishing behaviour. It’s even more astonishing that Mr Curry took on the role of chairman of the Standards Committee in the first place. Did no alarm bell ring, even at the back of his head?”
Harman Faces ‘Driving Offence’ Prosecution. Sky news reports: “Cabinet minister Harriet Harman will be prosecuted for allegedly driving without due care and attention and driving while using a hand-held mobile phone, the Crown Prosecution Service has said.” Harman plans to contest the charges, but Gordon Brown gets the opportunity to trot out the well worn line that he has ‘full confidence’ in her. Given Brown’s reputation, chronicled amusingly by Guido Fawkes at every opportunity, to jinx pretty well everything he supports… this may not be welcome news to Harman.

The new president of ‘Europe’ is more likely to be mistaken for someone who directs the traffic than stops it as Blair may well have done – but in the finest tradition of the Franco-German axis which appears to dominate in Europe,  we now have another ‘leader’ who has not faced a public vote in Mr Van Rompuy,  who also managed to become prime minister of Belgium, I believe, without being elected to the role by the people of Belgium.  BBC

While many will rejoice in the fact that Tony Blair did not get the traffic stopping role of ‘EU President’ – Britain did not miss out and another person who has never been elected to anything (it is believed) is now High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security. Labour peer Baroness Ashton will now be doing the business. Most sardonic political commentary on the matter seems to focus on the fact that after 10 years of angst and pushing through ‘a new order for Europe’, the leaders of 27 countries have finally decided against striding across the world stage and would rather have someone as president who they can get to sweep up after them at meetings. We shall, no doubt, see how it all works out… or, more likely, we won’t..because RumpyPumpy, as he is now known, inevitably, in Britain…. probably won’t be appearing in the newspapers that often.

Meanwhile… The Great Architect of everything on earth and beyond, Lord Mandelson…another person not elected to govern over us…. is about to perpetrate a disgraceful abuse of power which is better left to the others to describe.  Let me point you in the direction first of a sane article on the topic of Mandelson’s grip on this country.

***

Dictatorial, disastrous, dire: Mandelson must not pass

Without debate, without public consulation, without any form of mandate, Lord Mandelson – an unelected politician – is preparing to place the rights of powerful industrial concerns above those of Parliament and above ours.

The powers that he wants to create – by means of a statutory instrument, which bypasses Parliamentary debate and decision – will criminalise downloading of content without permission. They will give him or anyone he chooses the power to enforce by law any action he or his successor thinks fit, in the service of protecting copyright.

These are the opening paragraphs for an excellent analysis by Rupert Goodwins. The entire article is a must read if you are interested in this issue.

We go over now to GEEKLAWYER, who, taking time out of his busy work and twittering schedule, has an excellent (and sane)  analysis of the very same issue. “Three Strikes and You’re Out” – A good read.

Despite well con­sid­ered inde­pen­dent advice on the eco­nom­ics of pol­icy deci­sions for the Inter­net from Pro­fes­sor Gower and var­i­ous oth­ers it seems that all it takes to buy Labour pol­icy is a bribe from a For­mula One homuncu­lus or a blow job from a rent boy on a nice yacht. Regrettably while Geeklawyer has a big mouth there some things he wont swal­low, one is the mem­ber of Hartle­pool; not even for some­thing as impor­tant as this.”

And then we have Keir Starmer QC, Director of Prosecutions, in The Telegraph: Chief prosecutor backs state snooping plans  Proposed new powers to track every email, phone call and website visit have been backed by the country’s top prosecutor as “vital” to fighting crime.” Telegraph

Civil liberty groups are none too pleased with this… “The DPP should also watch he doesn’t become a cheerleader for a government policy that the British people feel deeply uncomfortable about.”

Quite…

I have a podcast with Keir Starmer QC for the College of Law Inside Track series going out on Monday. It is an interesting podcast with a great deal of ground covered. I’ll post the link, as usual, on Monday.

After all this… a light touch before I go for the grand finale.

Earlier in the week I published the first episode of The Hunstman’s View – a diary of politics and ‘the human condition’ as seen through the eyes of Sir Henry ‘Baggers’ Bagshotte 8th Bt. I rather like Baggers – a man in his fifties, tory by instinct. but not,  by any means,  sure of the ground being developed by modern tories led by Cameron.  He is not, however, a Turnip Taliban. New episodes will be published over the coming months until the run up to the election in 2010.

I was delighted to see in the comments section of The first Hunstman’s View episode a comment from Geoffrey Woollard:

“I know nothing of Ms. Truss and her troubles. Sir Henry Bagshotte, Bt., has my sympathy, however, if only for his having such an unhelpful lady wife.”

I was even more delighted to discover that Geoffrey Woollard is a real life prospective parliamentary candidate…standing on an independent ticket. I wrote to Geoffrey to ask his permission to quote him in my piece and to ask if he minded my drawing attention to his candidature.  I received a very pleasant email back to the effect that I should go ahead, thanking  me, and noting that all publicity is good publicity.  So…I present…. Geoffrey Woollard, prospective parliamentary candidate for South East Cambridgeshire.

Geoffrey Woollard has a blog. Definitely worth a read.

I do hope that Geoffrey will keep an eye on the diary of Baggers…. Geoffrey is none to keen on Baggers’ enthusiasm for hunting. I suspect that Baggers won’t be doing a great deal of it, largely because I have absolutely no interest in hunting myself… and cannot really see how anyone can get a kick from hunting an animal to death for pleasure. Cybil, by the way… wife to Baggers 8.. will be rather more helpful than  Geoffrey may realise!  Bon Chance, Geoffrey.  Independent tickets are good.

And finally… An Anatomy of an Injustice

Imagine a High Court judge walking down Chancery Lane on his or her way to the Royal Courts of Justice.  The judge notices a carrier bag on the pavement.  Being a civic minded citizen he picks the carrier bag up, opens it, and discovers a sawn off shotgun within.  The judge is now ‘guilty’ of the strict liability offence of possession and subject to a minimum sentence of 5 years imprisonment – whether he phoned the police immediately or took it to a police station. Of course, it is highly likely – being a judge and all that – that the CPS may decide it is not in the public interest to prosecute or, if they do, the trial judge may well come to the entirely sensible view that the strict liability offence is mitigated by ‘exceptional circumstances’ and an absolute discharge will be given.


This, however, is not what happened in the celebrated Paul Clarke case
– which provoked considerable outrage on twitter.  I was outraged.  Fortunately, a lawyer and writer, Jack of Kent – a leading law blogger, picked up the tale and analysed it in a measured and thoroughly researched way.  I spoke to the journalist who broke the story, consulted with my friend who writes the The White Rabbit blog  (Andrew Keogh, an experienced criminal barrister) and spoke at some length with Jack of Kent.  I could see no point in publishing anything myself for I would rather focus attention on this case – and attention there is – through Jack of Kent’s excellent analysis.

Please do read it. it is an important analysis; important for our rule of law and important for Justice…whatever that means these days.

This secret isle……

The secrecy thing is getting out of hand. Recently, we had the Trafigura super injunction fiasco which, thankfully produced such outrage on twitter, in the blogs, The Guardian and other mainstream press, that the lawyers had to back down. We have secret evidence, we have SIAC, we have a growing culture of secrecy in this country, despite freedom of information legislation, and The Guardian reported today Mr Justice Silber’s judgement which I covered in my last post.

Good grief… we even have Baroness Deech wanting to keep information about plans for the Bar secret from barristers…. not a terribly clever move I would have thought. Do read the Times article for this latest bit of secrecy nonsense.  Baroness Deech wants to keep information secret so that members of the committee could get on with their proposals without being lobbied by third parties.  Have you ever tried to lobby a barrister?  Barristers are not exactly known for caving in to pressure, any more than a judge  would cave into public opinion in deliberating sentence. Ridiculous.  I’m with the barristers who complained about Baroness Deech’s position.

See: Times –  Barristers claim unfair secrecy as board debates ban on partnerships

In the meantime… here is a song wot I rote….. (with apologies to the geezer wot rote the original)

Jerusalem Redux

And did those writs in ancient time,
Walk upon England’s civil rights?
And was the Holy rule of law
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Government Benign,
Spy forth upon our shrouded sills?
And was Jerusalem butchered here
Among those dark Satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of Fire!

I will not cease from mental fight;
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Til we have rebuilt Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land

Another nail banged into the coffin of liberties…

The Guardian reports this morning:

Judge allows secret services to hide evidence in civil lawsuits

• Ruling prompted by UK Guantánamo torture cases
• Lawyers decry attack on basic principle of law

MI5, MI6 and the police will be able to withhold evidence from defendants and their lawyers in civil cases for the first time, the high court ruled today.

In a move that has widespread implications for open justice, Mr Justice Silber agreed with the security and intelligence agencies that “secret government information” could remain hidden from individuals who are suing them.

Mr Justice Silber’s ruling came in the case of Binyam Mohamed and others who claim that they were ill-treated, and in some cases tortured, in Guantánamo Bay with the knowledge of Britain’s intelligence agencies. The Guardian report may be read in full here.

The ruling is worrying for it’s potential scope. The Guardian notes: “The only occasions when evidence and allegations have been withheld from defendants and their lawyers have been in cases directly linked to “national security” – for example those involving deportations. But if today’s ruling stands, MI5, MI6, the police and other state institutions will be able to withhold relevant information from any civil action, for example for claiming compensation for wrongdoing……Silber was not asked to consider the particular facts of the Mubanga case but to set down a principle. He argued that it would be better for “special advocates” to decide, in secret, what information in the hands of the government and its agents should be disclosed. However, he agreed that the issue raised what he called a “stark question of law”.

I have not had a chance yet to read the judgment in full… but it is worth extracting another quote from the Guardian report pro tem

Clive Stafford Smith, director of the legal charity Reprieve, said: “When the history books are written, the darkest chapter of our current times will not be torture, but the seeping evil of secrecy, where the ‘national interest’ is conflated with ‘national embarrassment’, and ultimately anything of which the government is ashamed, from parliamentary expenses and working up to torture, becomes secret.”

Surely, no government would wish to abuse the spirit and intendment of this ruling? Would they?


Diary of a Huntsman….


PODCAST VERSION: A Hunstman’s View (1) / Law & Order

18th November 2009

Cybil not awfully impressed by my latest idea to stand for parliament,  but having seen the buffoonery in SW Norfolk t’other night with the Turnip Taliban, I spoke to Jack, my head keeper,  and we both agreed I could not really make any more of  a pig’s ear of things than they managed to do as reported on Newsnight on Monday.

Arriving at Marylebone station too late for breakfast and rather too early for lunch,  the fare on offer in the station concourse had little appeal. Fortunately, Mrs P, our wonderful cook, had had the foresight to  slip a small chicken pie into my shooting bag and this, together with my whisky charged hip flask, I was able to take a perfectly acceptable brunch, seated on my shooting stick by a tree in the Marylebone Road. It was fortunate that there was sufficient earth  surrounding the tree for me to set my shooting stick for otherwise I would have had  to eat standing up – which  is just not acceptable and I would have had a bit of a walk to Regent’s Park to find a suitable vantage point.

Believing there was a possibility that I may be asked a few questions about politics and possibly even current affairs for my ‘preliminary’ chat at Central Office, I discovered that the Conservative Party is now being run rather well by a group of chaps from Eton.  I’m a rather poor example of the produce of Collegium Sanctae Mariae prope Wintoniam but at least my brains didn’t fall out the back of my head when I was there unlike some of my friends who like to say there were ‘educated’ at Eton. Be that as it may.  Jack, my head keeper, had told me that The Telegraph was no longer a reliable source of tory policy and suggested that I get hold of a copy of The Sun newspaper to read on the train.  He told me it would not take long for me to get a sense of current Tory thinking.  He was right.  it didn’t.

Law & Order brief

Reading The Sun, under the wonderful headline You’ll cop it…now! I discovered that a Tory government will give police powers to hand out on-the-spot hard labour punishments to street yobs. I know the chaps at Eton used to enjoy a bit of weed, quite a lot of it, they say, but I had no idea they were still smoking the stuff. The progenitor, or at least the distributor of this nonsense, is one Chris Grayling, Shadown Home Secretary.  He wants to deliver a sharp shock to tearaways.. he even dubbed this half thought out plan as “the 21st century equivalent of the clip around the ear”.

I rang Cybil and asked if she knew anything about Mr Grayling.  She did, but wasn’t minded to tell me as she had better things to do. Jack, my head keeper, was in the estate office. Nothing in Debretts.com but he did discover from Wikipedia that Grayling had spent much of his time before entering parliament at the BBC, then Channel 4 and running TV production companies and being a management consultant – so he is obviously completely suited to running the Home Office and opining on how best to get criminal justice shucked into shape.

The Sun reported “The Conservatives’ crime supremo said ‘Early intervention is a crucial way to deal with anti-social behaviour.’  I read with mounting amusement that this Tory Robocop wants to get yobs to dig gardens or clean up graffiti. I was beginning to wonder if my decision to stand for political office was sensible, given the rather bizarre policy on law and order I had just read. But  there we are.

Pre-selection chat

I received a message on my Blackberry to say that my interview would not be at Central Office after all. There was a bit of a flap on – the Turnip Taliban were not taking it lying down.  This news did not surprise me.  I know the type.  They remind me of people at dinner parties who repeat themselves incessantly and snort  when they manage to say something that makes even vague sense. I was told that we would, instead, meet at a pub in Chelsea.

Interview didn’t go well. A slick elegantly besuited young man who cannot have been more than 30, told me that I was not a woman.  This, I have known for much of my life. It would appear, also, that I have a few skeletons in my cupboard.  This puzzled me at first.  All the Bagshottes have been been laid to rest in the family crypt and I could not quite see why I should suffer from the really disgraceful behaviour, venal, fornicatory or otherwise,  of my ancestors. Young man looked at me with amused disdain and told me that my skeleton was that I had worked in The City for most of my career until inheriting the pile from Baggers No 7.  I was told that it ‘would not be politically expedient, at the present time, to have another candidate who (a) was a man (b) had worked in The City  (c) had inherited wealth and (d) enjoyed a spot of fox hunting. He did say that if ‘we get a large majority, you’ll be right in there for one of the early slots.’. Interview over.

So, my political ambitions thwarted, I returned to the estate.  Cybil found it most amusing and told me that I had far better things to do with my time.  She said I should be a diarist and chronicle the goings on of the new guard. Cybil  talks a lot of sense;  sometimes rather too inconveniently for my tastes… but there we are.  So I shall.

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PODCAST VERSION: A Hunstman’s View (1) / Law & Order

West London Man is still in La Guardia jail… New York…. he may get out soon and return…. but if you wish to read of his exploits… here it is.

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Lord Strathclyde to put boot into democratic process? Surely not?!

Lord Strathclyde, leader of the Tories in The Lords lists this in his bio on the Tory Party website:

PROUDEST POLITICAL ACHIEVEMENTS:

  • Protecting the integrity of the House of Lords and resisting government attempts to turn it into a ‘crony’ house of rubber stampers

There is a delicious irony, therefore…at least to my sardonic eye this windy, grey, morning that the same Lord Strathclyde, possibly puffed up on high octane self importance, is reported in The Guardian today as being the architect of a plan to thwart the processes of people who have actually been elected to power to govern our country.

Conservatives: we will kill off Queen’s speech bills

Tory peers will use time pressure to thwart Gordon Brown’s ‘electioneering’ package

The Guardian reports:

Tory peers are ready to block most of the government bills to be announced in the Queen’s speech tomorrow, threatening to mire the final days of Gordon Brown‘s government in frustration and delay. Lord Strathclyde, the Conservative leader in the Lords, predicted that few if any of the bills announced amid tomorrow’s fanfare and pageantry would reach the statute book without the consent of Tory peers.

“We all know that this Queen’s speech is all about better electioneering and politics rather than the better governance of the country,” he told the Guardian.

I do appreciate (before some peer has apoplexy about a blogger criticising the Lords) that the House of Lords does much good work, scrutinising legislation and that not all of them are on the take with cash for questions or have difficulties remembering where they live for expenses purposes.

If Lord Strathclyde is saying that he and his fellow peers will deliberately undermine the process of a democratically elected government for his own political ends, rather than act in a rational and reasoned way and bring wisdom to the political process – then he could find himself lighting a touch paper – for there are many in this country who would prefer to have a second chamber of ‘elected’ representatives who are interested in acting in the interests of the wider good.

The Guardian, with a degree of subtlety, notes… “Tory strategists know they will have to tread carefully not to be seen to be blocking popular measures, something governments perennially accuse oppositions of in the runup to an election.”

***

I am a fan of In The Thick of It – the political satire.  It is just as well that Malcolm Tucker is an entirely fictional character, bearing no resemblance to any person, living or dead…. because Tucker certainly would not have allowed Strathclyde to stand in front of a Scottish Conservative poster… just too tempting, I am afraid, for me this morning as I cropped the image in Photoshop. (Idid nothing else to the original image)

Access to Justice and other forms of direct access…..

Catherine Baksi, writing in The Law Society Gazette reports:

“The public wants direct access to barristers in crime, family and immigration work and is ‘dissatisfied with paying two lawyers for one job’, a panel of leading barristers claimed this week. Kevin Leigh, barrister at No5 Chambers in London, said: ‘It’s about giving proper choice to the market and increasing access to justice at a reasonable cost.”

Given the changing legal landscape, given the decline (possibly, temporary) in demand for legal services, given the severe reduction of the legal aid budget, it is entirely reasonable for the ‘public’ to take this stance and absolutely right that leading members of the Bar are taking the view that direct access to barristers is to be encouraged.  It may require some specialist training for those barristers who have been used to the support services provided by solicitors (if applicable) but it is certainly feasible if senior barristers think it is.

Baksi notes ” Since 2004 the public has been able to bypass solicitors and instruct barristers directly in most areas of civil work, but not in most criminal and family work and all immigration work. Following a consultation last year, the Bar Standards Board approved the extension of the scheme to these areas. The change awaits sign off from the Legal Services Board.”

I rather liked this quote from Mark Ellison QC : “…public access was an opportunity for barristers to take control of their fees and stop ‘being the trolley dollies of solicitors’.”


Crisis…
Also in the Law Society Gazette this week… Dominic Grieve QC tells the Bar Council Conference thatThe country is facing ‘the biggest crisis in access to justice since the second world war’.

Grieve is right… not that he is going to magic up the money if the Tories form the next government and he becomes Minister of Justice, Lord Chancellor or Attorney-General – or, indeed, all three.  Anything is, of course, possible.  Who would have thought that a new Supreme Court could have been conjured up according to some on the back of a fag packet during a late night whisky between Tony Blair and Charlie Falconer?

Dominic Grieve is reported as opining, possibly even with appropriate solemnity,   “…there was insufficient money to fund the system, but said the idea of getting more money from the Treasury was a ‘fantasy’.”

He said other sources of funding, such as a contingent legal aid fund, legal expenses insurance and using the interest generated from pooling client money, should be explored. At least we know where the lie of the land is should the Tories gain power.

The legal press continues to note the nose diving profits of law firms, the difficulties faced by middle-tier firms and expresses surprise that law schools are rolling in quids because demand to go into a profession of declining opportunity is so high. Mad, really… but there we are. Students must make their own choices but, certainly,  cannot plead that they weren’t warned. There will be tears before bedtime, inevitably, for some students when they graduate and find that there is no room at the Inn or, indeed, at a law firm.

Podcast
If you would like to hear an experienced Family Law solicitor who is also a Law Society Council member explain just how bad access to justice is – then, please, listen to my podcast with Christina Blacklaws. Christina knows what she is talking about – she experiences the crisis every working day.  It IS serious.

Listen to the podcast.

Blawg Review #238 and a bit of parliamentary hocus pocus and walking backwards…

The Daily Mail noted last December – Officials in Jack Straw’s private office are used to seeing him in tights, or finding him on the floor of the gents struggling to get the sheer silk over his knees without a snag.

The Daily Mail was referring to Straw, qua Lord Chancellor,  dressing up for the annual bit of hocus pocus where The Lord Chancellor presents The Queen with  a speech laying out the government plans for the next session. The Mail noted: “In a Labour Party packed with republicans, Mr Straw takes a perverse pleasure in pointing out that he was happy to walk backwards down the steps of the throne after presenting Her Majesty with the words for the Queen’s Speech on Wednesday.”

No doubt, Straw plans to do a bit of Health & Safety legislation offending walking backwards again today when the same ritual will take place. For my part, as a republican, I would prefer to get rid of all the pageantry relating to government and reserve it for Coronations and other non-political events… but there again, I would prefer to have no more Coronations. That being said, I am a fairly laid back republican… a libertarian republican….  and if the monarchy and all the pageantry and pomp and circumstance gives pleasure to the majority, I  am quite happy to go along with it.  It is all pretty harmless stuff;  a remembrance to a once glorious or  inglorious past, depending on your world view.

I am not so keen, however, on all this flummery in relation to government and I find it ludicrous that our representatives should kneel to the Monarch however meaningless the ritual is in the modern era. This is because I rather like the republican ideal – that ‘all people are born equal’ – an ideal, I accept, more observed in the breaking but, nevertheless, an ideal.

At least Nick Clegg, leader of Britain’s third largest party [ Lib-Dems 🙂 ]  has the right idea.  He has described it as a waste of time and money.

The Independent takes time away from warning us about Polar bears being left stranded on icebergs to discuss the issue: The Big Question: What is the Queen’s Speech, and does it serve any real purpose?

And since I am in such a ‘tolerant’ mood today, what better way of telling you about Joel Rosenberg’s excellent Blawg Review #28 which was published yesterday. (Celebrating International Tolerance Day)

“We tend to idealize tolerance, then wonder why we find ourselves infested with losers and nut cases. — Patrick Nielsen Hayden

“I have seen gross intolerance shown in support of tolerance.” — Coleridge

Joel Rosenberg isn’t a lawyer.  He is a writer and firearms instructor.  He has even described himself as a Jew with a Gun.  His Twitter bio…. “Writer, firearms trainer, smartass — you know: the usual. I exchange tweets with Joel on Twitter- he knows what he is on about and his Blawg review is a good read… not surprisingly.

Strictly Come Dancing with David….

I sit here dressed in perfectly normal modern clothing, a glass of Rioja to my left, waiting for news from Norfolk… from the very heartlands of Turnip Taliban power.  Sir Jeremy Bagge and his ravening horde, who don’t want to be taken for ‘complete idiots’ by Tory Central Office,  are about to determine… not just the fate of Liz Truss… but the fate of David Cameron and his ability to direct policy from Notting Hill.  If Cameron loses… the fogeys up and down the country, young and old, will riot in their unusual coloured corduroy trousers and tweed or waxed jackets and run amok… and the slick Central Office machine may well hyperventilate.  It could be the beginning of another civil war originating in East Anglia… but this one could just be bizarre and even amusing to behold..

We shall see..

 

UPDATE 10.15 pm 16 Nov: I am advised on twitter:  Cameron 1 – Fogeys 0 |  Liz Truss survives de-selection bid. They’ll just have to go back to growing food and general Bufton-Tuftoning…  Cameron survives… so no dancing for him on this occasion….

While I am on the topic of unfluence and puppet masters – I have been watching a rather disturbing programme – Dispatches – about the perhaps not so benign influence of the pro-Israel lobby in Britain.  They seem to be puppet masters of the financial kind…. anyone know much about the hidden power of this lobby, how much money they give, plan to give… wonder why the Tory polbloggers haven’t picked up on this with their usual ardour. Maybe Dispatches has ‘got it all wrong?”…

College of Law Inside Track podcast: Professor Stephen Mayson on the legal landscape.

College of Law Inside Track podcast: Professor Stephen Mayson on the legal landscape.

Today I talk to Professor Stephen Mayson. He considers the future of the legal profession and the legal landscape following the opportunities for alternate business structures and the opportunities for young lawyers coming into the profession over the next few years.
Listen to the podcast

Law Society Gazette Podcast: Christina Blacklaws on the state of Family Law today.

Law Society Gazette Podcast: Christina Blacklaws on the state of Family Law today.

Today I talk to Christina Blacklaws who specialises in child care law and mediation. A founding partner of Blacklaws Davis LLP, she is a member of the Children Panel, a Law Society Council member, serving as child care representative for the Council.

Listen to the podcast

Postcard from the Shires of Tory England

Dear Reader,

I write this weekend from Norfolk… metaphorically speaking… the seat of Sir Jeremy Bagge of  Stradsett Hall, self appointed leader of the Taliban Turnips – the greatest foe the slick new Tories led by David Cameron have yet had to face.  All will be made clear later.

I have decided, this week, to devote all of my weekly postcard to The Tories… one must, after all, be even handed.

The Tories are now enjoying the patronage of The Sun – a leading British newspaper unique in modern Britain –  with the ability to change political conviction, political editorial integrity and affiliation at the flick of a switch…. the switch, of course, being controlled by Murdoch. Unfortunately, The Sun rather ballsed things up with the attack on Gordon Brown for writing a letter with spelling mistakes in it to Mrs Janes – ironically getting Mrs Janes’ name wrong themselves on their own website. The Daily Mirror retaliated with a picture of David Cameron paying his respects.  The Daily Mirror accused Cameron of bad taste in taking his own photographer to record the event (I got this picture from the Conservative  Party’s fotostream) and trading on Remembrance and the many things this means to the many people in Britain who choose to pay respect to the Glorious Dead and the living who fight wars in our name to this day. I’m not sure that retaliation of this nature is that helpful, frankly.

There is a wonderful story in The Telegraph (14th November 2009): Tory rebel tries to remove Elizabeth Truss as safe seat candidate

The self-appointed leader of a group of Tory rebels will on Monday try to have ‘A list’ choice Elizabeth Truss removed as a candidate after revelations of her extra-marital affair. But Sir Jeremy Bagge says he has ‘got nothing against women’.”

The elegant Stradsett Hall sits beside a lake of gently gliding swans. But the tranquillity of this 1,000 acre Norfolk estate could not be more deceptive.

For this is the home of Sir Jeremy Bagge, the self-appointed leader of a group of Tory rebels who are proving the most intractable enemy David Cameron has yet had to do battle with. Nicknamed the Turnip Taliban, these are the traditionalists who reject their leader’s modernising agenda and are flexing their muscles ahead of a crucial meeting to decide the fate of the beleaguered “A list” candidate Elizabeth Truss.

The story is both interesting and amusing.  Cameron, no doubt, is concerned about it because it reveals to the people of Britain that there are still some wonderfully eccentric people living well away from Westminster who disagree with him, who are Old Conservative and whose views may not go down at all well with the Labour voters Cameron is trying to seduce, let alone the slick new Tories of Eton, The City, Notting Hill and Soho….

I particularly liked the idea of Sir Jeremy Bagge finding a Turban (I have tried to picture what he might look like wearing a Taliban Turban above) in his ‘hice’ and wandering about the estate wearing it.

The Telegraph reports:

Explaining his hostility to Ms Truss, who he initially supported, he said: “She was the best there was on the day.

“I was then very disappointed to hear that there was a skeleton in the cupboard. I’m not judging her on her past, it is the fact that Central Office did not disclose to us that there was a skeleton. When I rang up HQ they said you should have Googled her. I don’t have time to Google. We were given a briefing sheet and it wasn’t on there.”

But underneath this perfectly straight explanation lie simmering tensions. It is obvious that grass roots activists have been reaching boiling point for some time over the issue of Mr Cameron imposing his preferred candidates on them.

“I personally feel that Central Office are dictatorial. They have shoehorned us, they have deceived us, they have betrayed us.” Sir Jeremy pauses before declaring: “I think they need a boot up the backside, a b—– good kick to wake them up, to be perfectly honest.”

The Telegraph, pleased with its new found investigative skills following the long running and hyperventilating tour de farce on the MP expenses scandal…asked…

Dictatorial methods aside, however, the question still arises, what is wrong with a list full of women? Sir Jeremy repeatedly says he has nothing against women.

“Sorry, no, I have never said I’m anti-women. I have got absolutely nothing against women.

“Who cooks my lunch? Who cooks my dinner? How did my wonderful three children appear? Women, you can’t do without them. My god, take my wife.”

What does she do for a living? “What does she do? She looks after me. Looks after the children. Runs the house.”

I am convinced that the next election is going to be won or lost on the playing fields of Eton…. but it is good to see that there is Old Eton and New Eton.  Sir Jeremy Bagge, of course, was educated at Eton… where else?

Deeply Dippy
In a rather bizarre postscript to all of this…. (I happened to Google Sir Jeremy Bagge and Eton – and it threw up the story from the BBC) …. Sir Jeremy Bagge was ‘guardian’ to Crown Prince Dipendra, who is believed to have shot members of his family (Wiping out most of the Nepalese Royal Family)  before turning his gun on himself and who studied at Eton for three years.
***
I particularly enjoyed the comment of the Provost of Eton on hearing that a former Etonian had commited a  mass murder…

“He was a very popular boy and was also liked by all his teachers.”

Eton has always been at the forefront of British interest…. and, it would seem… it still is.  There are believed to be quite a few Old Etonians in the Shadow  Cabinet.  Cameron, himself an Old Etonian,  seems to have two Old Etonians who could be just a bit more than a pain in the arse… if you will forgive the metaphor…. we must not forget Mayor Boris…. for he could well be a political Blofeld who wins the day eventually against the slick new James Bond of the political firmament.

As I had no booze at all last night – not entirely surprising after a rather long 15 hour lunch on Friday which ended at 3.00 am on Saturday morning… I’m orf…. as we say down on the Medway… to have a glass or two of Rioja.

Best as always

Charon

Rive Gauche: Friday 13th Singing in the rain edition…

A short Rive Gauche today… I leave for London on the 7.30 am train to record a podcast with Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, for the College of Law Inside Track podcast series I have been doing for them.

RollonFriday – their ‘news’ always worth a look on a Friday – reports: “Things are so bad at Slaughter and May that the firm’s most famous partner has emailed all staff and encouraged them to sign up to a discounted beer offer – at a grand saving of 42p a bottle. Full story…

While I am not an ardent supporter of the prime minister, I do think that The Sun has behaved badly with the campaign against Gordon Brown in recent days.  The Guardian reports on the backlash against The Sun.

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Baroness Neville-Spook on Question Time last night was asked by John Humphrys (standing in for David Dimbleby who was knocked unconscious by his wife’s bullock earlier in the day) if the Tories would distance themselves from The Sun.  After a fair amount of waffle and strangulated vowels,  Baroness Neville-Bond-Blofeld conceded that the party would probably not do so. Quite what she was doing representing the Tories on Question Time last night, I have no idea.

I can only assume that the ‘big beasts’ of the Tory party, the ‘Grandees’, were rehearsing the classic song Springtime for Hitler for their version of The Producers so they are ready to take over the reins of power and ravish our country in May or June 2010.

And on that note.. I’m orf to London to see a woman about a podcast…and then, hopefully, some amusements with Geeklawyer and others.  I lead a reclusive life on the Medway these days… I have to escape occasionally… a piu tarde.

Police, Camera, Action….

Today I read three different stories about the Police.  The first is serious – the other two mildly absurd.

I read on SimonCollister.com a post about the Metropolitan Police and  the Evening Standard

“The Met has now requested that all imagery of its officers hiding or obscuring their badges be removed from photo libraries and image databases (hiding numbers means officers can’t be (easily) identified and is an illegal tactic usually performed to allow police to act with impunity while committing – often violent – offences against the public).

While the Standard accuses the Met of trying to “re-write history”, a member of the public gets it right in a comment posted on the story:

“If people start uploading such images to Facebook and Twitter, will they get their collars felt? We seem to be heading in that direction.”

SimonCollister.com goes on, however, to reveal something rather more unpleasant…

He was talking about the Met’s unwillingness to engage with social media and noted…

“Following the G20 the Met has signed up 6Consulting and Radian6 to run social media monitoring for the force so it’s very likely that any ‘offending’ material will certainly be identified. That said, I return to the point I made originally which was that this approach reveals a traditional command and control communications culture at the Met which will not fit in the distributed, complex, networked world in which we now live.”

The blog post ends with a note  where the author of the post had a rather intimidating ‘encounter’ with the Met’s Director of External Affairs, Dick Fedoricio.. who left a phone message . “He advised me, in a rather intimidating fashion, that if I planned on blogging about the Met again I  should give him a call in advance.”

We live in a democracy of sorts where the police, theoretically, act on behalf of the people and not against the people. They police, theoretically, by consent. For the most part, this is true – but we have seen many instances over the years of police brutality, police corruption, police dishonesty and police criminality.  Hopefully – eventually, these transgressions are rooted out and dealt with.

I can see absolutely no reason why any journalist, blogger or other commentator (provided they do not compromise an authorised police operation or compromise judicial proceedings) should not question the police, write about the police or comment on police activity…..

Next they’ll be telling us we cannot photograph them…. Hang on… they already have… possibly so that we cannot identify police officers, with their shoulder boards taped over,  using truncheons on unarmed women or hitting an unsuspecting man from behind at the G20 protest – a man who subsequently died.

Well… if the Met’s Director of External Affairs, Dick Fedoricio wishes to consult with me about my future blog posts about the Met… he can have a quick look at my ‘About‘ section which will provide him with the means of getting hold of me.  Mind you, after reading my About section he may well take the view that his time would be better spent on other matters. I would understand.

Now to the two absurd stories about Plod…both from The Sun.

Cops have been assigned to peer out from behind a beach hut clutching hand-held speed cameras in a bid to halt brisk bikers breaking the 10MPH limit along a waterfront promenade. The operation — which sees a PC clock a speeding rider and radio down to a council “seafront ranger” who stops the cyclist and warns him to slow down — has been slammed as “ludicrous” and “absolutely ridiculous”.

Curiously… it looks as if this officer is not wearing identifying shoulder boards… so maybe he was ‘undercover’.

The second story involves Police cyclists. Apparently there is rather a complex ‘Roadcraft Style’ booklet to ensure that Police know how to stay upright, how to get off and… the fun bit… know how to cycle down stairs past a ceremonial guard of other police officers.

In fairness – as a motor bike rider –  the Police Roadcraft method for motorbikes is superb. I have had three excellent two day courses with experienced police riders who were great fun to learn from and I have no doubt at all that my bike riding improved – particularly in London. For the avoidance of doubt – should Met Blogger Spotters be reading this – I do respect the work that the majority of police officers  do.  Like others, I have no time at all for police who abuse their powers or break the law. We need a good police service.

Thankfully… most police officers do not behave badly, do not break the law, do not abuse powers and, frankly, deal with some pretty unpleasant stuff during their working lives.  Would you want to deal with a fatal road crash?  Would you want to deal with violent drunks on a Saturday night or face a dangerous thug or  criminal?  Not so sure I would…

I’d like to say “Evening all”… mind how you go... but it would appear that this is just not allowed now in the politically correct mania that is our country.  Apparently, it might offend some sodding minority who may have a different view on what the word ‘Evening’ means… sod it… I’m thinking of sailing for France where they seem to be far more sanguine about many things!

The law of unintended consequences….lizard gods and control orders.

It is, I suppose,  quite possible that somewhere out there, in The City or the regions, there is a lawyer who believes that god is a lizard and  who also happens to be a psychic.

Last week environmental campaigner Tim Nicholson successfully argued that green beliefs were the same as religious beliefs  for the purpose of the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003.

The Independent reports today:

In an unpublished judgement in Mr Power’s favour seen by The Independent, the employment specialist Judge Peter Russell said that psychic beliefs are capable of being religious beliefs for the purpose of the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003.

Judge Peter Russell, sitting at Manchester Employment Tribunal, said:

“I am satisfied that the claimant’s beliefs that there is life after death and that the dead can be contacted through mediums are worthy of respect in a democratic society and have sufficient cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance to fall into the category of a philosophical belief for the purpose of the 2003 Regulations.”

Judge Peter Russell did say, however, that a later hearing would have to establish whether the claimant was “dismissed for the possession of religious or philosophical beliefs or for his alleged inappropriate foisting of his beliefs on others.”

Returning to the case of the fictitious solicitor psychic who believes that god is a lizard…. it would seem that his beliefs in lizard gods and psychic powers are capable of protection under the  Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003, but if he started to use his psychic powers to predict the outcome of litigation instead of looking up the law, he would find himself on the wrong side of a professional negligence judgment. But… there again, he would be able to predict that… would he not?

Setback for Government over ‘secret evidence’ for control orders

On a rather more serious note, for those of us who are not lizard god believing psychics, there is the continuing problem of ‘Control Orders’ and ‘secret evidence’ following the Lords ruling in July in AF.

I haven’t had time yet to read the judgment but Frances Gibb, legal editor of The Times, has a useful report on a case heard recently by Mr Justice Collins who stated “There was “an irreducible minimum” of information that had to be provided even in the case of light control orders. “The approach to disclosure is the same for any control order,”

Frances Gibb states:

The Government’s attempt to restrict the movements of terror suspects through “control-lite” orders suffered another setback at the High Court yesterday. The new orders are an attempt by the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, to maintain the beleaguered control order system after they were condemned in July by the House of Lords. The system came under fire because it relies on the use of “secret evidence” to restrict the freedom of suspects who cannot be prosecuted for reasons of national security. Ministers recently sought a way around the problem by introducing the concept of orders imposing lighter, more limited obligations on controlees that they said did not require them to disclose further evidence.”

Jon Ronins, writing in The Times, asks:

Whatever happened to the radical lawyers?

I did laugh when I read this… “The suggestion that legal radicalism may be a thing of the past elicits a heartfelt groan from Roger Smith, director of Justice. “There are a number of baby-boomers who came into the profession in the 1970s, now retiring and feeling old and crabby.” They went through “the heyday of legal aid and frankly made a lot of money”. “Many were able to wear their hearts on their sleeves and keep a full wallet in their back pocket. The grumpy old men should shut up and take their pension.”

Always good to get a sense of perspective.  I’ve done a couple of podcasts (Most recently for The Law Society Gazette) with Roger Smith and he can always be relied on to analyse and provide perspective.

And finally… props to Paul Waugh on his blog for the Evening Standard for this…

Put Swiss cow bells on electric cars – Tory health spokesman

Now, here’s a lovely moment from the House of Lords, proving that eccentricity is not yet dead in Parliament.

During Transport Questions, peers were struggling with the dangers posed by electric cars (they are too quiet for pedestrians etc).

Shadow health minister Lord McColl* then came up with a startling proposal:

“My Lords, does the Minister accept that there might be a simpler solution? When I purchased one of these cars a few years ago, my wife, being very practical, said that the answer would be to put on the front of the car a small Swiss cowbell….”

 

Bar Council: An excellent speech by Desmond Browne QC

Access to Justice – Justice for All?

Around 500 people were present at the Bar Council Conference on Saturday which has been judged a great success. The keynote speech was delivered by Sir Nicolas Bratza, following the opening address by Chairman of the Bar, Desmond Browne QC.

Desmond Browne’s speech, if you haven’t heard it or read it is worth reading.

I do no more…for it is not necessary… than to quote a few choice extracts…it is an excellent speech, meaty, direct and to the point.  Food for thought.

In the past few months the Legal Services Commission has been at great pains to have us “celebrate” legal aid’s sixtieth birthday. But once the candles on the cake had been blown out, it was clearer than ever that we had been left in the dark. In all the party euphoria the Commission generated, it overlooked those fundamental principles which govern a social democracy’s obligations for the welfare of its citizens. These principles were espoused especially strongly by refugees from fascism reaching our shores in the late 1930s. Today, more than ever, at a time of deep economic recession and confronted by laws of ever-increasing complexity, we need to remember those principles – and be sure that we apply them in practice.

……

Family Legal Aid:

There is wide recognition that effective legal representation is particularly critical in family law cases. Indeed, over 20 years ago in Airey v. Ireland [1979] 2 EHRR 305 the European Court treated as a breach of article 6(1) the refusal of legal aid to a woman seeking judicial separation in the Irish High Court, because of the complexity of the proceedings, the need to examine experts and the emotional involvement of the parties. Obviously these factors will be present in many, many family cases, and they require experienced advocates to deal with them.

Criminal legal Aid:

Turning from family legal aid to criminal legal aid, we can only conclude that this is a government which will never learn. As Disraeli once said: “you can tell a weak government by its willingness to resort to strong measures”. The very omissions for which the LSC was so harshly criticised in relation to family legal aid have been repeated all over again –  this time by the Ministry of Justice in relation to the cuts in criminal defence fees proposed in their Consultation Paper of 20th August.

………

The betrayal of the ideals of 1949:

There is every reason for the profession to feel betrayed, but what matters is that the public has every right to feel betrayed too. We are now heading for precisely that which the midwives of legal aid wanted to avoid – two standards of access of justice dependent on the ability to pay. When the wolf is at the door, we can no longer be accused of crying wolf.


Desmond Browne then turns to consider Access to Justice and reflects on the future of the profession

In ending, I inevitably return to criminal defence fees. Swingeing cuts can have only one result — quality will be driven down as experienced advocates are driven out, Poor quality advocacy increases the chances of acquittal of the guilty, and (worse to my mind) conviction of the innocent. As the Lord Chief Justice said in his recent Kalisher lecture, “it really is as stark and simple as that.”

The full speech may be read here.

Privacy, secrecy and putting the clock back twenty years

The Independent reports: Ministry of Justice figures indicate there are 3,808 judges in England and Wales and 205 or 5.4 per cent are Freemasons. There are also 29,702 magistrates, of whom 1,900 or 6.4 per cent are Freemasons.

While I am more than happy to go along with Jack Straw’s statement …“no evidence” of any “unacceptable behaviour by Freemason judges… I am not sure that it is a great idea to cave in to possible legal action by The United Grand Lodge.  If Grand Lodge maintains that Masonry is not a secret society why should they be so concerned that judges – who do occupy a rather important place in the firmament of justice – be required to reveal that they are masons? I would prefer to keep to the former practice where judges have to declare and I would hope that judges who, after all, have nothing to hide in the fact that they are masons, would declare voluntarily, given their importance to the administration of justice.

Birds of a feather flock together, whether we like the practical implications of this or not. It is part of life. The trouble with Freemasonry, it is argued, is the very secret nature of the proceedings.  If you are not a mason, you just don’t know what influences masons bring to bear and what favours are granted to masons between themselves – if any.  They say that they do not favour each other.  I am not so sure about that.  I have had some unusual handshakes and suggestions in my time and frankly, I am almost certain that masons will favour another mason over a non-mason all ‘other things being equal’ – whatever that means. More often than not – that will be perfectly harmless…. but it might be best, when it comes to justice – that we continue to keep a register of such interests?

I cannot, now, recall the case – but some years ago a judge halted a trial, telling the jury that the defendant had just revealed to the judge by a secret distress signal that he was a mason.  The judge was right to disclose this – but it cost the state a fair bit of money to set a new trial. Maybe a reader will recall the exact case and remind me? Maybe this was just ‘urban myth’.

Of course – quite a few police officers, lawyers, prison officers, politicians, business people, magistrates are Masons – a society within a society? Is it a force for good?  Undoubtedly the Masons have done great works of charity. This is a matter of public record.  Is it just another hocus  pocus bit of harmless mumbo jumbery which men, particularly, like to engage in – a chance to dress up, have arcane rituals and generally invent a way of life for themselves?  Probably – it certainly seemed that way to me all those years ago when I was ‘approached’.  Today the mantra seems to be – ‘To be one, you have to ask one’.  They do have a website!

And moving from secrecy to another type of secrecy – Privacy.

Max Mosley, whose private sexual interests were emblazoned all over the News of The World earlier in the year is taking his case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to argue that newspaper editors should be obliged to forewarn people if a newspaper is likely to publish a story likely to invade the privacy of an individual.

I think Mosley has a fair point – when it comes to legitimate and lawful private interests, people are entitled to protection of law. The public interest point arises, however,  if an individual’s private interests, personal, financial or otherwise, impact on his or her ability to do a job involving public interest. As the Guardian notes – “The changes he wants might undermine the right to freedom of expression.”

The developing privacy law, not by any means always associated with libel law, is a development we should keep a very close watch on.  On the matter of libel law – here is a proposal From The Libel Reform Campaign which is  worth reading.

And on to dishonest secrecy…  Ofsted hid crucial evidence on Baby P sacking

The Times reports: The childcare watchdog has admitted withholding crucial evidence that could potentially hand Sharon Shoesmith, the former head of children’s services at Haringey Council, hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation. Ms Shoesmith was sacked after a damning Ofsted report into how her department was run in the aftermath of the Baby P case. A High Court judge has taken the extraordinary step of reopening her case so dozens of pages of handwritten notes, e-mails and draft reports can be examined.”

Putting the clock back?  What?  By our progressive DPP?

The Times reports: “The police may take over responsibility for bringing charges for thousands of minor offences each year under changes to be piloted by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The move — which turns the clock back more than 20 years before the service was set up — would leave CPS lawyers to deal with more serious offences while police handled offences that can only be tried by magistrates.”

And finally….

Infidelity murder defence to go

BBC: Ministers are pushing ahead with plans to end the right of murder suspects to cite the sexual infidelity of their partner as a partial defence in court. In last month’s Lords debate, deputy High Court judge Lord Thomas of Gresford described the plans as “illogical” and “outstandingly obnoxious”.

Well…..good to see that all is going swimmingly in the legal world and world of law.

 

***

Public record (“Is it a force for good?  Undoubtedly the Masons have done great works of charity. This is a matter of public record.  Is it just another hocus pocus bit of harmless mumbo jumbery…”)

 

They put a man to death… he died at 9.11 last night

Why, when we have bravely and nobly progressed so far in the recent past to create a decent, humane society, must we perpetuate the senseless barbarism of official murder?

Abe Fortas (1910-1982), former U.S. Supreme Court Justice, New York Times.

The DC sniper was executed at 9.00 pm last night. Reports on Twitter reveal the irony of his death being announced at 9.11 pm. A quick trawl through Twitter posts under the #DC Sniper tag on Twitter reveals very mixed responses from the delighted and retributive to responses from those staunchly opposed to the death penalty.  There was even one tweet where a person staunchly opposed to the death penalty appeared to make an exception for this case.

I am opposed to the death penalty. Quite apart from  the very real possibility of human fallibility, the possibility that an innocent man could be put to death by the inherent imperfection of any judicial process – it reduces us to the level of barbarians and there can, for me, be no solace in the fact that such execution is democratically ordained and sanctioned by the State.

The death penalty has been abolished in several states in the USA.  A quick look at death penalty quotations from judges on Google throws up some interesting views. Judges, in the main, appear not to approve of the death penalty.

I recall sitting in the Selangor Club in Kuala Lumpur some 15 years ago, while visiting Malaysia on business, talking to a Malaysian High Court judge who I had known for some time. He had sentenced four people to death that very day – for drug offences.  He had no alternative but to apply the law of Malaysia.  He found the the matter profoundly depressing and quite apart from the fact that the death penalty was clearly not a deterrent in drug (or any other cases) he believed it was contrary to morality for the state to put anyone to death.  He felt it diminished the state.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, U.S. Supreme Court Justice: “People who are well represented at trial do not get the death penalty … I have yet to see a death case among the dozens coming to the Supreme Court on eve-of-execution stay applications in which the defendant was well represented at trial.”

Arthur J. Goldberg (1908-1990), former Supreme Court Justice: “The deliberate institutionalized taking of human life by the state is the greatest conceivable degradation to the dignity of the human personality.”


Our sceptred isle: another great day for British law and justice…

As the prime minister and Alistair Darling continue to empty the coffers at the Treasury and the Bank of England quantitatively eases yet more money into the banking system, it would appear that ‘Question Time Jack”, our Lord Chancellor and Minister of Justice, not to be left out in providing absolute powers for a future government (?),  is continuing his quest to appear in the dark humour footnotes of history.

First up this foggy dark and cold morning is the matter of secret inquests.

The Independent reports: ” Secret inquests which will bar bereaved families and the public from attending hearings into controversial deaths were forced through Parliament last night. The Government narrowly defeated opposition to the new powers by a majority of eight MPs in a highly charged vote in the House of Commons. Under the measures ministers will be able to order that an inquest is replaced with a secret inquiry whenever they deem it necessary.”

Labour’s Bob Marshall-Andrews (Medway) described the inquiries as a “disproportionate remedy……In order to rectify what is an evidential problem, the Government is proposing to hand a massive new power to the executive.”

Simon Carr, writing in The Independent, has an amusing sketch: Trust him, he’s the Justice Secretary … Oh, if only we could

I rather liked this….from Mr Carr…”“There’s no reason not to trust me,” Jack Straw told the House of Commons. He wouldn’t dare say that in public.”

But there is some good news….The Independent reports:

‘Big Brother’ database cancelled by ministers’. Plans to store information about every phone call, email and internet visit in the United Kingdom have in effect been abandoned by the Government.

The Independent reports that ministers remain convinced of a need to investigate everything the people of Britain do.  I suspect this delay is not borne of a Damascus style conversion on the part of the home secretary, but is more of a cynical ‘spin’ influenced  postponement until the next election.  Should Labour get back into power (and some reports suggest they not only won’t get back into power but we could be saying goodbye to quite a few familiar Labour figures as they are reduced to a rump party of 120 MPs) the plan will, no doubt, be revived.  The plan will probably be revived anyway… because if the Tories win,  they could find it most convenient to know what we are up to as well.

But.. just as we thought that we could regain some credibility for our justice system… along comes a raft of stories today and yesterday which are worth noting…

Russian oligarchs, tedious celebrities, venal businessmen and sundry assorted scum are putting on their sombreros, oiling themselves up with gel and sun cream and are flying to the Costa del Stranda to superinjunct and bully people into submission.

Libel tourism is big business….perhaps we should be pleased that at least a few lawyers are doing OK at the moment?… but, it isn’t just about the interests of these assorted users of the skills of Mr Justice Eady and others… this goes very much to the heart of freedom of speech.

Fortunately, Parliament, perhaps shocked by the ludicrous Carter-Ruck / Trafigura incident, has been called to action.  Question Time Jack can’t be expected to know everything that goes on in his ‘patch’ – that would be placing an altogether unfair level of competency standard on Ministers – but it would appear that his Ministry of Justice, while able to tell us the precise amount it is reducing the legal aid budget by, hasn’t a clue how many superinjunctions are out there.

“It seems that the select committee’s findings next month could be quite radical. It is likely to recommend that judges be urged to throw out cases that do not directly involve UK publications; MPs may look again at the casino culture of costs and conditional fee agreements. The “no-win no-fee” system was introduced in 1995 with the laudable aim of broadening access to justice. But rich litigants have created a situation where costs can be 100 times the damages awarded.” The Times

The laws that stain Britain’s good name

There is a rather good piece about libel tourism in The Times today by John Kampfner, chief executive of Index on Censorship and author of Freedom for Sale – worth a read.   It is a pretty sorry state of affairs when some states in The United States have to pass laws to protect their people from British Libel Laws (Scotland’s libel laws are a bit more sensible, they say) and several publications abroad are thinking of blocking access to their online material by British users for fear of libel litigation in Britain.

John Kampfner notes... “Of many absurd individual cases, one stands out. The science writer Simon Singh is being sued by the British Chiropractic Association after he accused it of promoting “bogus treatments”. Singh has fought a dogged and high-profile campaign. But for every one of him, dozens of individuals are bullied into silence.”

See also: The Guardian Foreign media count cost of UK libel laws

And yesterday……a number of stories about Justice on the cheap with the Police using cautions for even quite serious cases…

““Nearly half of all crimes — or 700,000 a year — are handled outside the courts, including shoplifting, burglary and assault. Under a drive in the past decade towards swift, summary justice, police have been given wide powers to impose cautions and fines (fixed penalty notices), and prosecutors can impose conditional cautions.”

Frances Gibb, writing in The Times, asks: Fixed penalties are efficient and cost-effective. But is it justice?

Well… that is enough to be getting on with for one day. Dawn is breaking.  It is still cold and foggy… and I’m not just talking about the weather.  Time for a cuppa. As they used to say at the end of Crimewatch… Try not to have nightmares.

No sex please… and a fine end to a pet chicken.

One of the benefits of starting my work at around 4.30 am each day is that by late afternoon I can faff about.  Today,  Chef Charon decided that it was time to cook a chicken.

It was, I suppose, the natural ending to the pet chicken but I did, at least, offer it a last request.  Not surprisingly she asked for a Marlboro Lite.  This, after all, is no ordinary chicken… it is a Charon chicken.  The Maris Piper potatoes were blanched and cooked with a whole unpeeled lemon for 12 minutes and a bulb of garlic.  The chicken was rubbed down with salt, pepper and olive oil.  The whole lemon from the potato pan was pricked with a fork and placed into the chicken’s cavity, along with the whole garlic separated into cloves.  The chicken was cooked for 45 minutes and basted.  Goose fat was added to the pan – and the pre-blanched potatoes with roughened edges were placed into the chicken juices and goose fat. 45 minutes later, roughly – a rather good roast chicken.  I cooked the carrots in butter, sliced thinly and a cup of water .  This concentrated the flavours.  A chicken stock with added juices from the roasting tray provided good gravy. I nicked the idea from Jamie Oliver… and why not!

Malbec from Argentina was taken.

And then I started to think about SEX… not, I hasten to add, for myself… but in terms of a law report I was reading about noisy sex upsetting the neighbours.  The judge had to listen to a ten minute recording of the romps. 30 years practising law, onto the bench and you have to listen to audio recordings of people having sex. Fortunately, one assumes, the judge doesn’t have to do this every week.  We are British, after all. The Independent has the full, lurid, tale….

I went out onto my balcony for a smoke and to do 100 press-ups.  I am still following my Smokedo regime.  It was a bit quiet on the balcony.  I could see the copy of The Law Society Gazette which my pet chicken had been reading just before the end. I could see the dish of Rioja, half drunk….. Yes…. I do miss Henry Chicken… but what a fine way to go, if you have to go?

Blawg Review #237 – Christian Metcalfe of Property Law blog

Blawg Review #237 – Christian Metcalfe of Property Law blog

“Today’s single most important political principle, the right to live in a participatory democracy, comes down to us not from the slave-owning societies of Athens and Rome, or from the pleasant estates in France where Rousseau and Montaigne envisioned the ‘general will’, but from buff-coated and blood-stained English soldiers and tradesmen.”

Christian has produced an excellent Blawg Review #237, embracing many of  the posts on the legal blogosphere over the last week.  A work of detail and themed beautifully….. do read it…. it will give you a good overview of legal thinking and the pre-occupations consuming law bloggers last week

Read Blawg Review #237

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori

“Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, sed dulcius pro patria vivere, et dulcissimum pro patria bibere. Ergo, bibamus pro salute patriae”

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori is a line from the Roman lyrical poet Horace’s Odes (III.2.13). The line has been used frequently in war poetry – most notably by WWI poet Wilfred Owen.

The quotation above translates as… “It is sweet and right to die for the homeland, but it is sweeter to live for the homeland, and the sweetest to drink for it. Therefore, let us drink to the health of the homeland.”

My interest in this quotation was triggered by a tweet today from Oedipus_Lex who was at The Cenotaph marching today.  He described the maxim as ‘The Great lie’ – and, of course, he is right.  No-one wants to die for their country.  It isn’t sweet and right to die for one’s country – but it is right to wish to fight for one’s country and it is right that we should honour those who gave their lives in war so that we may enjoy life and freedom.  One wonders whether our government(s) are now squandering the freedom brave men and women have given their lives for by failing to address the big issues properly, by knee-jerk reactions to terror, by eroding our  civil liberties, by failing to govern minimally and effectively.

The Independent today became the first newspaper to call for our troops to be brought home in their leader. I don’t know enough, frankly, to hold a clear opinion, let alone express a view at this stage.  I would be surprised if many, not privy to government and military information, know enough either.   I do, however, agree with the proposition expressed by many commentators that while we may not agree with the reasons for the war, we do support the troops and it is essential that the troops know that we respect their work, that we honour their dead and they are properly equipped and resourced.  Gordon Brown has come in for serious criticism this week from former senior military and naval officers – men who rose to the very top of the services, men who, in their day, advised government. One would have thought that weight should be given to their opinions? Is there another way of dealing with this long long war… a war that some say is, ultimately, unwinnable – a war that could go on for many years to come?

I think I shall have a drink to the memory of the many who have given their lives and to the living who choose to use their lives to serve in our armed forces now. Salut! slainte

Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Sea: Ghosts, Lemon cake and wine edition

Dear Reader,

You may well find that drinking a glass of Argentine Malbec on a Saturday afternoon at 4.00 pm with a slice of lemon cake a strange thing to do and, more often than not, I would agree with you. But today, I made a bacon, egg, mushroom and onion pie (some people prefer the French word quiche) and a lemon sponge cake. At 4.00 this afternoon I was rather bored.  By 4.15, a glass of Malbec and a slice of lemon pie consumed, I was in excellent spirits. I may do this again.

I am grateful to Mark Pack (Via Matt Wardman) for noting this wonderful gem from Hansard

It’s February 1940. The country is at war. The question of the moment: inter-species enmity.

Sir Arthur Heneage: Is it not a fact that foxes are the greatest enemy of rats and mice?

John Morgan: Cats.

I followed up on a few more Hansard gems from related posts on Mark’s page… I did enjoy this one…

In (partial) fairness to the government department concerned, this is from May 1994:

Mr Newton The Privy Council has no plans to use the internet.

The irony of the new MP Salary Czar being paid £100,000 (not a bad little earner to shuffle a few economic indices about and rather more than MPs earn as a basic) has been compounded by The Telegraph revelation that Professor Sir Ian Kennedy (late of Kings’ Colege, London – a fine lawyer) is a close friend of Alastair Campbell, spin-meister in chief to the Blair administration. So close in fact…. “that (Kennedy) helped advise him on his appearance before the Hutton Inquiry into the death of David Kelly, the government scientist.He also holidayed with Mr Campbell, was even the spin doctor’s “phone a friend” on a celebrity episode of the television quiz show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.”  (Kennedy got that one wrong and, as a result, Campbell lost £7000.  An omen for MPs?

SuperPlod has been at it again.. and by the term SuperPlod…I am referring to the successors to the Special Patrol group a group of police Rambos who caused a lot of trouble in the old days and who had to change their behaviour and change their name to the territorial support group (TSG).

The Guardian has the story… and, sadly, it speaks for itself…. I accept that Police officers face mindless violence every day and particularly, on a Friday and Saturday night from drunken yobbos and Yobettes – and most people applaud them for their courage and humour when doing it…. but there were problems with a few officers at the G20 and … but surely this can’t be right?

Scotland Yard faced calls for an “ethical audit” of all officers in its controversial riot squad tonight after figures revealed that they had received more than 5,000 complaint allegations, mostly for “oppressive behaviour”.

Details of all allegations lodged against the Metropolitan police territorial support group (TSG) over the last four years reveal that only nine – less than 0.18% – were “substantiated” after an investigation by the force’s complaints department.

The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, were described as evidence of a “culture of impunity” that makes it almost impossible for members of the public to lodge successful complaints against the Met’s 730 TSG officers.

I did enjoy this…

SWANSEA, Wales, Nov. 6 (UPI) — An alleged burglar wanted by Welsh authorities sent a newspaper a picture of himself because he didn’t like the mug shot it published…… he sent a picture in, posing beside a Police van.

Police said Maynard’s stunt is likely to backfire as the newspaper printed the photo on its front page. “He is a berk. He thinks he is being clever by showing off like this, but we’ll have him in soon now,” one officer said. UPI

BUT… it isn’t just the criminals in Wales who are possibly a bit daft.  This classic from The Guardian reveals theat the Welsh Police or Heddlu may be a bit daft as well…

Psychic ‘leads’ prompt murder inquiry

Welsh police investigate information that mediums claim to have received from dead man’s ghost….

A police force has defended spending £20,000 investigating a man’s death after his ghost was said to have told psychics that gangsters had forced him to drink petrol and bleach.

Guardian

Well… another week goes by…. not long to Christmas and as I said on Twitter while mildly over refreshed the other night…. “Tomorrow I shall buy a Christmas tree, some hideous decorations and set fire to them…. why wait until Christmas to be a GRINCH.

Best, as always

Charon

The Law business and the business of law…

Will law firms be able to attract third party investors in the brave new world or will existing financial services business develop their own businesses by providing legal services or provide law services from scratch under their brands?

Well… to be perfectly honest, if I knew the full answer to that now,  I would probably be sitting in a lavishly appointed hotel (I would not waste money on my own lavish offices, of course) revealing my thoughts on the matter to eager and greedy lawyers for a ‘fee’ rather than sitting here on a Saturday afternoon, a glass of Rioja to my right,  and nipping off every so often to do 100 press ups or 30 curls with weights while I smoke on my balcony.

The difficulty with the present model of partner owned law firm is that Professor Stephen Mayson has a point (infra). Neil Rose argues in The Law Society Gazette that ‘Law firm partners are paid too much and their business will struggle to attract external investment because they are not worth as much as partners believe. Stephen Mayson, director of The College of Law’s think tank says that partners have to re-think how much they pay themselves.

Cutting to the chase – in the partnership model the profit goes to the partners, so there isn’t anything left for external investors.  To attract external investors there will have to be an attractive return on capital invested.  This means that the model will have to change.  Partners will have to convert drawings to a much smaller salary and share, as shareholders, along with external investors. Have they the appetite for this?  Of course, it is quite possible for law firms to come up with wonderful fudges by packaging off parts of their ‘business’ to external investors… but that, I shall  leave  for another time…and, who knows, possibly for that meeting at a lavishly appointed hotel with greedy lawyers?

The law firms will also have to build up a real brand, recognised not only in this country but worldwide.  Law firms are not very good at marketing themselves to the wider market, it would seem. Rachel Rothwell, writing in the The Law Society Gazette states that ‘More than 60 of the public cannot name a single law firm’.

While the top City firms are obviously well known to their specialist clientele – and they are not all interested in the wider market – this lack of brand recognition of law firm providers of legal services does not augur well for the future.

I would hazard a guess that most people would be able to name an Insurance company – Norwich Union, Churchill… come to mind immediately, for example.  Most people would be able to name a leading supermarket…. of course… Tesco et al comes to mind. There are many other large corporations out there with well known and trusted brands who are quite capable of providing high quality legal services.

The question is – will they invest in law firms with their antiquated business model structures and complex and possibly inefficient management and delivery infra-structures,  or will they start from scratch, paying good money to attract expertise?  I suspect it may be the latter model – for in business,  the brand and scaleability and liquidity of investment on a stock market is the real key.

When a solicitor or barrister, for that matter, decides to retire.  That’s it.  No further earnings or drawings and NO EQUITY… for there is nothing to sell.

I have a feeling if a law firm went into the Dragons in Dragon’s Den seeking investment… there would be five people saying “I’m OUT”.

It is wonderfully ironic that while law firms can’t build a brand within an investable model (yet)…. providers of legal education can and did.  BPP Law School, as part of BPP Holdings PLC, was sold to the yanks for a very large sum of money…..

***

PS – this may interest you – a tweet from a fellow tweeter…

filemot There is one #IPlaw firm already quoted on the London Stock Exchange http://www.murgitroyd.com/i…

Rive Gauche: Cock ups, being a cock and on ‘The Square’.

It is Friday, so there isn’t much legal news – journos having hyperventilated themselves into a state of collapse earlier in the week are, possibly, recovering from Thursday night – the new Friday.

So, in keeping with this spirit, I thought I would start a weekly section and being a ‘european’ with a small ‘e’, call it Rive Gauche.  This is more ‘coming out of left field’ rather than ‘left’ politics…

So… starting off with two stories from RollonFriday…

“BPP students found themselves anxiously waiting for their results last week, when the computer system failed yet again…..Students told RollOnFriday that when the LLB results were put out, the computer system simply couldn’t cope with the demand. One says that the system was down for most of the afternoon, and claims that “when I was finally able to log on I could only get access to a different student’s results“.”

A solemn press statement was issued by Peter Crisp, Dean and CEO of BPP Law School demonstrating  the usual masterly and exquisitely crafted exculpation.

ex·cul·pate
I am almost tempted to adopt this word as my word of the week.  For the many scholars of human activity who ‘peruse’ my blog… here is a little treat for you – not, of course, being scholars, that you need it… [Medieval Latin exculpre, exculpt- : Latin ex-, ex- + Latin culpa, guilt

And then the noble art of Cockery – being in a state of being a cock. We have all been a bit ‘gauche’ in our time (my cheeks still blush at some of things I did last week, let alone 30 years ago when I was in my mid-twenties… but here we have an Ashurst Trainee doing the business and suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous mockery on the RollonFriday discussion board no doubt..

Ouch!:  RollonFriday picked up the story…

An associate at Ashurst’s Abu Dhabi office has been given a merciless ribbing after boasting about his Porsche and Rolex in a local newspaper.

Robin Hickman’s interview is worth a read for the contradictions alone: His dad wasn’t well off, apparently, but nonetheless owned a squash club and a Porsche. And Robin is frugal with money, but nonetheless blew a month’s salary on a Rolex Daytona. Read more….

On the square?

While it is unlikely that you will find the body of God’s Banker, Roberto Calvi, swinging from a rope under BlackFriar’s Bridge, should you be out early of a morning (He did that some years ago) there were suggestions that he was done in by ‘Masons’….

Wikipedia has an entry:

On 10 June 1982, Calvi went missing from his Rome apartment, having fled the country on a false passport in the name of Gian Roberto Calvini. He had shaved off his moustache and fled initially to Venice, and from there he apparently hired a private plane to London. At 7:30 AM on Friday 18 June 1982 a passing postman found his body hanging from scaffolding beneath Blackfriars Bridge in the financial district of London. Calvi’s clothing was stuffed with building bricks, and he was carrying around $15,000 of cash in three different currencies.[4]

Calvi had been a member of Licio Gelli‘s illegal masonic lodge, P2, and members of P2 referred to themselves as frati neri or “black friars”. This has led to a suggestion in some quarters that Calvi was murdered as a masonic warning because of symbolism associated with the word “Blackfriars”.[5]

It would seem that British Masons are not quite so direct. The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chanccellor, Jack Straw, has announced that it is OK for judges to be Masons and there is no longer any need for them to disclose this.Times

If you are not a Mason – and you would know if you are; although a non-mason would not know you are a Mason – here is The Square.

The Times notes… in a solemn and ritualistic manner… “The policy reversal was announced by Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, after a threat of legal action forced a review. He said that it would be “disproportionate” to continue with the practice.’

But… all my concerns are allayed, put to rest, diluted …. by the statement in The Times:

But senior judges resisted being required to make the declaration. Lord Bingham of Cornhill, then Lord Chief Justice, said at the time that there had never been “a vestige of evidence that any judge in any case ever in this country has been diverted from his duty by any conflict arising from Freemasonic association”.

I can’t quite see why a judge, these days, would want to be a member of what is, essentially, a private and secret society…. must be the charitable foundation work Freemasons do… and they do a fair bit of that.

Tonight may be bonfire tonight… but tonight… I’m all about Europe!

Bonjour Willkommen bienvenue… as we say down on the River Medway….. but in fact… we say Hiya!  You alright?… which I quite like… and have found myself saying as I greet the taxi driver who whisks me from the Staterooms-on-Sea to Chatham Railway station.

It is wonderfully ironic that the Tories, who have some very strange bedfellows in European politics, are being pilloried for their ‘pathetic’ policies on Europe and today Pravda appears to agree with them with an article written by one Hans Vogel entitled Twenty Years after the Fall of the Berlin Wall, the EU is a Reincarnation of the Former Soviet Union”

The irony was just too much for me – the former soviet Russia agreeing with the Tories….. who appear to be running their political marketing propaganda with the ineptitude and efficiency of an old soviet commune farm –  bit of an Eton Mess… as the saying goes…..that I just had to go an cook something particularly British (although I did use a good robust French red)… Steak Pie with puff pastry…. and it was good!

Politics.co.uk thinks Miliband is headed off to Europe as Great High Executioner on Foreign Policy… and that Lord Mandelbrot will soon be de-lorded to allow him to stand for parliament, look after things for one term and then hand back the reins of power to Miliband when he tires of being the Foreign Policy Shah of the new European super state. Curiously Miliband says he doesn’t want the job… which can only mean one thing, some say… that he is hyperventilating at the prospect.  After all who wants to be ‘Shadow’ Foreign Secretary…. ?

Losing our right to reject goods?  A right that has been with us since…. Time Immemorial?

The trouble with Europe…. is the Europeans….  who think so very differently than we do; who are used to centralised state control, who seem to prefer a strong state and over regulation – which they then promptly appear to ignore.

An example of European thinking is the Euro plan to abolish the right to reject goods under ss13,14 Sale of Goods Act 1979 (and, presumably at common law in Contract) in favour of a requirement to accept a replacement or repair.  Bugger that…. our Contract Law works, it is absolutist in nature, unfairly fair at times – but at least business people know where they stand – and the European laws on Contract are a bit… well…. European and wishy washy..

The Times takes up the story…

The right of consumers to reject faulty goods must be retained in the UK despite European plans to abolish it, legal watchdogs said yesterday. The Law Commissions of England and Wales, and Scotland, have thrown their weight behind retaining the right which consumers have exercised for more than 200 years. There is overwhelming support among both the public and businesses for keeping the right to reject faulty goods – currently the subject of 10 million complaints a year. But the European Commission has proposed a new directive on consumer rights which, if adopted, would force the UK to abolish the right to reject in favour of a right to a repair or replacement.

I am, of course, a Contract lawyer, albeit academic… but I am a militant one…. and our Law Commission is right to throw weight behind the issue and kick this latest eEuro fuck up into the river.

Good grief… I like Europe… but the Frenchies and others may just have crossed my line in the sand with this proposal.  Vive La Revolution…. Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité… as we say down on the Medway.

Blawg Review #236 – Halloween Edition by Eric Turkewitz

Eric Turkewitz writes a ‘mean’ Blawg Review… and I mean that in the Cowboy Western ‘mean an ornery’ sense…of the word I heard as a child when I was transfixed by Rawhide, Gunsmoke et al.  From a Marathon themed Blawg Review, written by him some time back and which was superb, to the dark depths of the ghouls…. of Halloween – a US festival and calendar import we Brits are taking to our hearts… perhaps even more than Guy Fawkes night.

As ever, Eric Turkewitz manages to cover a wide range of blogs in a highly readable way…. as I am always pleased to say to friends…. every day is Halloween for me…. believe me… I don’t need the make up.

Go and read Eric’s excellent Blawg Review # 236. It has been a strange old week and I am a bit behind on the reading….

 

PS… while we are on the subject of US blogs… I see that the US prof who was suing Above The Law has decided against ….

ARRIVEDERCI LONDRA!

ARRIVEDERCI LONDRA!
by Tonto Papadopoulos

A grave and present threat looms on the horizon: one that could wilt the economic life of The City, London, the entire UK – maybe the World.

You’ve heard it again and again, and you’ve been warned, “If banks don’t hand out billions in bonuses, talent will migrate!”… leaving tumbleweeds blowing down Moorgate, and the rest of Britain.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is what’s known as ‘talking your own book’. Do groups like Goldman Sachs gee the market with purple commentary to try to make themselves and their product seem more attractive, and more valuable? Do they talk their own book?

You bet they do – and so what.

Talking your own book has been part of human behaviour since the first enterprising caveman collected an inventory of rocks. The financial markets are a poker game not a tea dance. If other speculators, fund managers, government, the media, etc. are dumb enough to believe slick table talk from Goldman et alia, tough beans on them.

Banking “talent” threatening to leave London sounds more like the hollow demands of a not-very-attractive gold-digging spouse, “You wanna keep getting some of this, Frank?… You know what to do.”  As long as the rewards are consented to and  mutual who am I to argue with arrangements between two adults, but in the case of the banks one has to wonder exactly what value shareholders are receiving in exchange for the huge sums lavished on human resources.

We’ll have a look at what all of this “talent” we might lose constitutes in a second article, right now the obvious question is, if they left London, where would all these financial rainmakers go?

Let’s imagine a worst case scenario. Let’s suppose for a mad cow second that The City and Wall Street suddenly became the bastions of prudence and responsibility they’re meant to be. What if bankers didn’t hand themselves thousands of multi-million bonuses this year. Or next? Or ever again? What then?  I know that nowadays this sounds like a crazy nightmare or some whacked out LSD trip, but  please bear with me.

If bonuses were pared back in London and New York there are several choices open to the bank employee looking for the supra-valuation of his own merit to which he’s become so accustomed. Let’s not forget these are mostly the same clever individuals who weren’t clever enough to see the well-telegraphed crunch in 2008, the very same people who helped to create the financial crisis. Well, any one of these brainiacs could go to Tokyo, Singapore, Shanghai, or Hong Kong; or closer to home, Paris, Frankfurt, and Milan beckon; or staying in the Anglosphere let’s not forget Dublin, or knocking on doors for surreal and over-the-top lucre in Sydney or Johannesburg. Assuming there’s the money and the will. That’s a big assumption.

Most of all London should be scared of Milan. Milan could easily lure tomorrow’s grabby financial cat, for the following good reasons (besides the fabulous shopping on Via Montenapoleone, one of the few temples of conspicuous spending that can actually compete with London financial districts): For one thing, in Italy you have a very supportive government. No one knows how to sweep Blunders & Corruption of Historic Proportion under the rug with flair, style, and perseverance – no one knows how to “take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’!” –  quite like the Berlusconi administration does.

Second, Italians’ appetite for flamboyant excess is legendary.

Third, if by any chance said legendary flamboyant excess were begrudged, in Italy banks can always fall back on a solid organised crime infrastructure staffed by individuals who fully appreciate the buccaneering self-interest displayed by opportunists and careerists. I mean this in the best possible way.

Come to think of it what stops the entire City from uprooting itself to an offshore oil platform  like a Bond movie villain might do? Most of the big banks have already extirpated themselves from The City to Canary Wharf. Decamping a few more miles away, or 6,000 miles away, is therefore not inconceivable.

But please, let’s THINK.

For all the whooping and hollering the fact is that regardless of big bonuses there is no substitute for London as the major international financial centre. There are many reasons, but the most obvious one (doh!) is the Time Zone between Tokyo and New York. The main reason London is a global hub today – just as it’s been since Roman times – is geographic.

The other lock London has on its role is that the language of the markets, just like the language of, say, international air traffic control – is English.

Oops, I forgot: having a large concentration of English-speakers means maybe also we see threats to London’s pre-eminence from canny Bangalore, East Timor, the wily Kingdom of Bhutan, and many parts of Sri Lanka? Maybe even Newcastle-upon-Tyne?

No. It takes more than just speaking English to create a financial centre. Apart from the geographic high ground that London has, it takes money, and it requires relationships.

Where is money concentrated in this world? The biggest user and abuser of capital is the US, a nation that requires at least $2 billion of inflows per day just to sustain the American Dream (and a couple of long distance wars). And with whom does the US have its closest relationship?

Britain serves as America’s aircraft carrier. This is a role that evolved during WWI, developed during WWII, flowered after Big Bang and the Thatcher/Reagan lovefest, and came into full, heartsick bloom with Tony Blair, “cementing our special relationship”.

Yes, the Continent is also between Tokyo and New York, but London’s time zone puts it one hour closer to US time, and there is no price on 60 minutes in modern financial markets. Paris and Frankfurt don’t ignore these facts about London’s hold as a global focus point for capital transactions, which is why they don’t bother playing the bonus game to the extent we do in the UK. They could offer the sky and the moon. Dubai has, and what has it achieved? Dubai… who?

Try as they may, no one can change geography, and altering the bonds of history can take centuries.  Bonuses or not, no prima donna will be saying arrivederi, Londra in a hurry. Anyway, based on the appalling failures that came to a head in 2008 we should all be wishing they would leave!

Bar Council Launches It’s Your Call – A Career at the Bar

Bar Council Launches It’s Your Call – A Career at the Bar
(3 November 2009)
The Bar Council has published the fourth annual edition of It’s Your Call, a guide for those interested in joining the Bar.  The guide, published in collaboration with the Inns of Court, is the latest in a series of publications designed to inform the public and those interested in a career as a barrister.

Muttley Dastardly LLP: Memorandum to all staff

MEMORANDUM TO ALL STAFF

From: Matt Muttley, Senior Partner
Date: 3rd November 2009

1.  It is with some regret that I have to tell you that the other name partner of our firm has had to hand over the reins to me.  I know that there has been speculation from the ‘lower deck’, as we like to call our junior associate team,  that Mr Dastardly had been extradited to the United States to answer to charges related to the Ponzi scheme initiated by Bernard Madoff.  This, I can tell you, is not the case.

2. Mr Dastardly has been arrested by officers from the Serious and Organised Crime Agency.  It seems that he was on Twitter the other evening and was upset by what he saw – lawyers from this country, the United States and other jurisdictions wasting valuable billable hours twittering away to each other in what he told the SOCA agents, who accompanied officers from a London armed response team,  was an ‘unconscionable and unseemly manner’. Some of these twitterers were even subverting the course of British justice by expressing support for the evasion of superinjunctions.

3. It would seem that this was just too much for Mr Dastardly and, using skills  developed over many years at this firm, hacking into employee email and Facebook accounts,  he hacked into a number of computers at a rival law firm, which shall remain nameless, and caused to be sent from a computer therein,  belonging to a well known partner at that firm, an email to Gordon Brown with a faked superinjunction, purporting to come from the High Court in London. The superinjunction warned Gordon Brown that his support for former prime minister Tony Blair as a candidate for the post of European President could lead to charges being laid against Mr Brown for crimes against humanity and  to cease and desist from such support and, further,  that there was an injunction upon this injunction preventing publication by any means the existence of the first injunction. For good measure, the letter warned Mr Brown not to discuss this with his wife Sarah, who is a well known Twitterer.  The course of history would have been so very different had Gordon Brown not been making a film for his YouTube website when the email came in. The email was read by The Minister of Justice, Jack Straw, who recognised, immediately, for the law was fatally flawed in two respects – respects which are just too embarrassing for me to mention given our reputation for legal excellence – that the email was a forgery and the work of a desperate hacker.

5.  The partners met this morning and unanimously decided that Mr Dastardly had brought the firm into disrepute by making errors of law in his faking of the superinjuction and,  for that reason, he is “Out” and  he has been removed as senior partner and as a partner of this firm. Attached to this email is a superinjunction which, of course, because it has been properly drafted by me, prevents you from discussing this matter.  This email will, of course, be removed from our server within 20 minutes of receipt. You do not need to click the message received window which pops up when you click the email.  We will know when you read it and records of this will kept for the usual training and  termination of employment purposes, as with all electronic and voice communications at the firm,  consistent with the firm’s handbook.

6.  I have decided, under the  executive powers given to me under the new deed of partnership, that the name of the firm shall be changed, with immediate effect, to Megaladon LLP with a new logo;  which I believe better reflects our reputation and standing in the legal profession both in this country and in the United States.   I have attached a working draft of the new logo for your information.

Human Rights SWAT group

I  would like to meet with the members of the Human Right SWAT group to discuss a rather curious case, details of which have been reported today, about a man who was able to claim that his beliefs about climate change entitled him to protection under the Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations 2003 that covers “any religion, religious belief, or philosophical belief”, forbidding employers to persecute staff on religious grounds.

“Essentially what the judgment says is that a belief in man-made climate change and the alleged resulting moral imperative is capable of being a philosophical belief and is therefore protected by the 2003 religion or belief regulations.” Report

Matt Muttley
Senior Partner, Megaladon LLP

PS: The observant among you will have noted that there is no Paragraph 4. This paragraph has been redacted because it is so secret that I cannot even tell you and I drafted it.  The firm is working on a new ‘Hyperinjunction’ and I am pleased to tell you that I was able to telephone a high court judge only this morning to get an injunction against myself. As you know… at Megaladon – We do the business…every time.

And still they come… a tide of eager lawyers to be…

Interestingly,  while the Law Society Gazette highlights the inequality of legal education in an editorial opinion piece (Rising material inequality is hindering access to the legal profession) Legal Week highlights the fact that law is attracting ever greater numbers of new entrants to university programmes.

Paul Rogerson, editor of The Law Society Gazette,  writes:

Rising university costs are a hindrance to aspiring black lawyers, the Law Society announced at the conclusion of Black History Month. A timely observation, though Chancery Lane might have gone further. With annual tuition fees predicted to rise to £7,000, an issue that this week is viewed through the prism of race must also be observed through the prism of class.

Soon, students who are not fortunate to be the offspring of monied parents will probably have to take on debts of £35,000 just to get a degree, never mind embark on legal training. The editor of this magazine knows for a fact this is going to further inhibit social mobility, because had that been the case 25 years ago he would not have gone to university. No way.

Legal Week reports:

The number of applicants accepted onto law courses grew to a new high this year, according to research published by admissions service UCAS.

The total number starting a law course at university or college in September 2009 increased by 1.2% to 18,394, after the figure passed the 18,000 mark for the first time in 2008.

This is good news for the universities and vocational law schools.  We shall see if these aspiring lawyers get jobs in 3-4 years time.  Maybe the legal landscape will have changed for the better with the coming into force of the Legal Services Act and the change in fortunes of the British and global economy?  We shall see… in time. I suspect… that quite a few will not get the training contract or pupillage they aspire to.

A snippet from Legal Week:

Law professor sues legal blog for $22m in damages: A prominent law professor has launched a claim against Above the Law, alleging the popular US legal blog of racially taunting him.

The case involves coverage of a prominent University of Miami School of Law professor and civil rights advocate Donald Marvin Jones, who was arrested on suspicion of soliciting an undercover officer for sex.

The blog, which is known for its irreverent style, covered the story in October 2007 with a series of posts about Jones, whom it dubbed “The Nutty Professor”.

Jones alleges that the blog’s coverage veered into racism, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court. He alleged that Above the Law portrayed him in a false light, invaded his privacy and infringed the university’s copyright on his faculty photo. Jones is seeking $22m (£13m) in damages.

An online article about the arrest by David Lat, Above the Law’s managing editor (Pictured), “instigated its readers not only to read the post but also to join in what was clearly a viciously racist series of rants” directed at the African-American professor, the suit claims.

Above The Law is a good blog, run by  bright people, so it will be interesting to see if this case has legs.

For the rest of the story….

The EU Referendum and a few other pigs which may fly….

Some time ago, ‘Dave’ Cameron made an ‘iron clad’ promise to hold a referendum on the EU. This would have stirred the brains of oak in the Shires and ‘coq au vin’ of the gentleman and lady farmers and bankers of SW1 and W11 in London. These valiant people from a sceptred isle  would have felt, once again, that their type of chap would soon be leading them out of the desert of Europe to a promised land where Union Jacks flew and Britain would again rule the waves, albeit not quite so many… but at least they would rule British waves.

Alas…. an inconvenient Czech called  Václav Klaus has been farting about for some time, holding out against the wishes of 26 other member states and, indeed, the rule of Czech constitutional law – but appears to have had enough personal glory and is about to sign…possibly.

As Dave says … in the Guardian of all places…(how shaming for a  one trick nation Tory):

“But if the treaty is signed, if it is implemented, if it is put in place by all 27 countries, then clearly the situation will have changed and we’ll have to address that changed situation. It won’t be a treaty any more; it will be part of European law.”

Cameron added: “If this treaty becomes law, it becomes law along with all the other treaties that have been passed into European law and we’ll have to explain what a Conservative government would do to try and make sure that Britain had her rights protected and defended properly.”

Unfortunately, as Guido Fawkes’ famous ravening horde of commenters reveals (some of whom are of a Tory disposition – but will vote UKIP, possibly, if Dave doesn’t give them a referendum)  Dave may not have much time.  The feral beasts who run riot through Tory party meetings, fetes and summer balls, singing Jersalem at every opportunity, will not wait and this could be disastrous for Dave and the New Conservative Nice Party.  As a matter of Law, Cameron is right.  It will be too late to have a referendum on the treaty once the treaty is a matter of European law.  We can have a referendum – but it will be a referendum on whether we want to come out of Europe.  This may not be such a brilliant ‘wheeze’ from the financial or economic standpoint and I suspect that Cam & Os have worked this out, even though their arithmetic has been a bit dodgy in the past.

It would appear that Postman Pat (as the new Home Secretary is not so affectionately known in some quarters, predictably) has been wondering down a road towards Damascus and has been seing very bright lights…. searchlights, possibly….. for he has now recanted and has said that something has to be done about Immigration forwith…. immediately and in a way that will re-assure voters likely to drift away to the BNP, UKIP, or the Tories – who, for different reasons are all pretty hot on immigration.

//

We got it wrong on immigration, says Johnson

Was the wonderful headline in the Independent this morning.

“The Home Secretary admitted yesterday the Government had made serious mistakes over immigration and in the aftermath of the 7 July bombings. Alan Johnson confessed Labour had been “maladroit” in its handling of immigration and accepted ministers had ignored for “far too long” the problems that led to a backlog of 450,000 unprocessed claims.”

This for a man who only a few months ago told a Commons Select Committee that he did not “…. “lie awake at night” worrying about Britain’s population reaching 70 million,  this verges on apostasy.

As he was clearly on a roll, after being rolled by scientists in the recent drugs advice fiasco… Johnson pressed on.

The Independent reports….

The Home Secretary also conceded that some anti-terror proposals, such as the detention of suspects for up to 90 days without trial, had gone too far. “That probably was an understandable feeling: that we should be more draconian. But perhaps that wasn’t the right way to go,” he said.

Well…that’s got the pig up and off the sofa…. now let’s see if the Home Office can actually make this one fly. I suspect that we won’t have to hold our breath for  too long before the idea is quietly shelved or the 450,000 unprocessed claim records are lost by some hapless courier company.

By the way… did anyone ever  find those CDs containing 25 million records lost by HM Revenue & Customs (Or was it another department?  DVLA perhaps?) ?

And finally… another story about pigs flying…. except this time the pigs will probably fly off to another bank where they can get bonuses.

The Telegraph reports…. RBS and Lloyds agree to bonus clampdown in return for more taxpayers’ cash

Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group have agreed to dramatic caps on bankers’ bonuses as the price for receiving billions more in taxpayer aid.

With apologies to The Guardian….

UKSC | The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom blog

Here is a very useful new blog about the Supreme Court: “This blog is dedicated to the UK Supreme Court, currently known as the House of Lords. The UK Supreme Court is the UK’s highest court; its judgments bind lower courts and thus shape the development of English Law. Since 1399 its judges, the Law Lords, have sat within Parliament. From October 2009, however, they will move to an independent court in the Middlesex Guildhall. To mark this historic development, this blog has been set up to provide commentary on the UK Supreme Court and its judgments.”

(And, pleasingly – they are interested in other UK blogs and have done a number of short features.  Even I get a mention.  I had better sharpen up my act and write a bit more sense. This is a very useful resource and running commentary and analysis of decisions complete with links to judgments and the new press summaries.)

Law Society Gazette Podcast: Roger Smith, Director of Justice – The POCA extension and the erosion of human rights and civil liberties.

I am now doing two podcasts a month for The Law Society Gazette.  The second podcast is now up

I talk to Roger Smith, director of Justice, about the POCA extension and the erosion of human rights and civil liberties.

Roger Smith is director of the law reform and human rights organisation Justice, he is a solicitor who has worked for organisations including the Law Society, the Legal Action Group and the Child Poverty Action Group.

Listen to the podcast

College of Law Inside Track: Amy Wilson, ex-student, Farrer and Co – A journey into Law

College of Law Inside Track: Amy Wilson, ex-student, Farrer and Co – A journey into Law

Today I talk to Amy Wilson about her motivation for going into the law, the demands of the GDL and LPC courses which she did at the College of Law and her experience of the interview process and work at Farrer & Co

Listen to the podcast

Postcard from the Staterooms-on-sea: Vengeance is mine says the Lord edition.

Dear Reader,

Lord Irvine may have had a taste for expensive wall paper, but after six years he has finally come out from behind the woolsack to set  the record straight and no-one could possibly accuse him of papering over the cracks.  The Daily Mail reports:

“Former Lord Chancellor Derry Irvine has revealed how he lashed out at ‘insensitive, high-handed and incoherent’ Tony Blair and accused him of snubbing the Queen in the bitter row that led up to him being sacked from the Cabinet. Lord Irvine’s onslaught against Mr Blair, who he taught as a young barrister and introduced to Cherie, was revealed as the peer broke his six-year silence over their feud.

He accuses Mr Blair of failing to consult either him or the Queen about the plan to abolish the historic post of Lord Chancellor – and discloses how he struggled over three days to stop Mr Blair firing him.

Lord Irvine was clearly less than impressed by Tony Blair’s decision to alter the constitution without consulting him and stated in his paper to the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution… ”

‘I asked him how a decision of this magnitude could be made without prior consultation with me, the judiciary…and the Palace. The Prime Minister appeared mystified and said that these changes always had to be carried into effect in a way that precluded such discussion because of the risk of leaks.

‘I was surprised he thought the abolition of the office of Lord Chancellor was of the same order as any machinery of government changes.’

One rather gets the feeling reading Lord Irvine’s paper that there is an element of the old Pupil Master about the tone, as if he was upbraiding a young pupil for failing to ensure that the Jammy Dodger biscuits were on his desk in Chambers at precisely 9.00 am and beginning to have reservations about the pupil’s grasp of law.  Lord Irvine says this…“‘it then strongly bore in on me that the Prime Minister had not received any, or any proper advice and was completely unaware that complex primary legislation was required’.

It is pretty clear, also, that Irvine was, shall we say, ‘pissed orf’  about Lord Falconer replacing him when he said this…“‘There was no mention of Lord Falconer,’ says Lord Irvine. ‘We left off on the basis, as the Prime Minister was always wont to say, that no final decision had been taken, but in reality the die was cast.’
***

Wonderfully Shakespearian… one wonders if Lord Irvine may have said to Blair… “Et tu, brute”

It seems to be Tony Blair week in the press this week. After the good news that Blair’s chances of being President look to be shot down in flames by the reluctance of Angela Merkel of Germany and Sarkozy of France to support his ‘presidency’ – and the news that sundry Europeans are openly mocking Gordon Brown for his clunking fisted attempt to have Blair made president – it is reported in the Mail that Tesco wants to enlist Blair’s support to open supermarkets in the Middle East.

This extract from the Mail report is particularly telling…

“Asked if Mr Blair had been in talks with Tesco about representing them in the Middle East, the spokesman declined to comment, nor would he answer questions about whether the sum of £1million had been discussed.

Sources close to Mr Blair insisted the talks did not break down over the issue of money but would not explain why they failed. Another senior source suggested that the talks between Mr Blair and Tesco had been going on for five months.

The disclosure comes as new details emerged of Mr Blair’s business affairs in the Middle East.

Despite Gordon Brown’s campaigning on Mr Blair’s behalf for the EU Presidency, the estimated £15million Mr Blair has made from commercial activities since stepping down as Prime Minister.”

And then we had the ludicrous position where Postman Pat decides that he knows best and rejected the advice of leading government experts on drugs.  I wrote about this last week (Home Office announces that the world is flat) after finally losing patience with Labour over the latest erosion to our civil liberties…. Imagine….

We now have more experts resigning from ‘independent advisory’ positions and soon there may more resignations.  Would you trust ANY government that constantly ignored the advice of experts on medicine, drug use, military matters, envirnment, prison policy, law….. I have decided not to trust this government any further although I have a sinking feeling that a Tory government will be just as bad and possibly worse.

And the news isn’t much better with the report in The Times about libel tourism undermining British Justice…

Libel tourists flock to ‘easy’ UK courts

The Times reports…” An Icelandic professor has emerged as the latest victim of “libel tourism” in Britain after he was sued in the High Court by a wealthy compatriot for a posting on a website based in Iceland. Hannes Gissurarson was initially bemused when a British diplomat, acting as an envoy of the court, turned up at his door in Reykjavik to serve him with a writ. The professor of political science was told that judges in London would adjudicate on whether his comments on the University of Iceland’s website were defamatory. During the ensuing five-year legal battle, Gissurarson was forced to sell his home and faced legal costs of more than £150,000.”

This is absurd and it high time the laws of libel in England & Wales were examined by Parliament – otherwise, to borrow a phrase used by a former Information Commissioner, we will ‘sleepwalk’ into a new privacy law and a legal landscape of super injunctions which strike at the very root of free speech and fair reporting.

And finally… the news which shocked nearly a million twitterers…

Stephen Fry in a flutter at horrid tweeters on Twitter

The Times reports…

STEPHEN FRY has said he is going to quit Twitter after a fellow user of the popular internet site described him as “boring”.

The television presenter has been one of Britain’s biggest champions of the social networking site. Last month he used it to announce the end of his television series Kingdom. He also used Twitter to spearhead a campaign against a newspaper columnist who had described the death of Stephen Gately, the gay pop star, as “sleazy”, describing the article as “loathsome”.

Yesterday Fry said he was ready to silence his fingers and thumbs and stop providing his 925,000 followers with near-hourly updates on his thoughts and activities, known as “tweets”.

At 2.18pm he posted: “Think I may have to give up on Twitter. Too much aggression and unkindness around. Pity. Well, it’s been fun.”

Twitter is fun.  It is, I suppose,  vaguely useful for chit chat, info and links – and I have met some very amusing and interesting people (real-life and virtually) through twitter – but to get worked up about being described as boring is probably taking Twitter just a bit too seriously.  I write a pile of nonsense on twitter at times.. in fact I have  written just under 30,000 tweets since late June of 2008 when I joined… I would think a fair number of those tweets were done under the influence and probably bored people rigid… easy… just block me or unfollow! Sorted.

Well… another interesting week in prospect.  I am interviewing Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty for The College of Law Inside Track podcast series I do for them… so that should be fun.

Best, as always

Charon


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