A brief exchange on twitter – politics.

I am not a Tory, but I do read and enjoy Iain Dales blog. I  read the transcript of John Sopel’s interview with David Cameron on The Politics today.  (See my weekly Postcard below) I was surprised at how poorly Cameron performed and was very surprised by some of the answers Cameron gave to Sopel’s very well structured and focused questions.  I do appreciate that politicians work long hours and have many pressures and cannot always deliver killer speeches during interviews.  Cameron, however, is putting himself forward as a prime minister in waiting and this interview with a well known interviewer on a well known politics show, in my view, does not show him at his best.

Tweetminster noted earlier this evening that ‘sentiment’ about Cameron had fallen following the Cameron / Sopel interview.I asked Iain Dale a number of questions this evening on twitter.

I have put them in chronological order…in terms of my typing.  Time lags for responses do occur and I sent Iain more tweets than he responded to – inevitably this can happen on twitter.  I have set the tweets out in the chronological order of the way Iain responded which, apart from the Chilcot question (which was not addressed to Iain dale specifically,  was as near as dammit chronological in time as well.  Please remember this was a casual twitter exchange and not an ‘interview’ – that is why twitter is both interesting and not always to be relied on as a public debate / analysis forum.  Iain was responding, as he often does, to a fellow tweeter on a Sunday evening and not being questioned formally  for a more mainstream public medium. This is not to say that his responses would have been any different.

The first tweet was my response to reading Cameron/Sopel interview

Charonqc

Truly dreadful performance by Cameron when torn apart by Sopel on The Politics – astonishing http://charonqc.wordpress.com waffle waffle…

***

Exchange between myself and Iain Dale

Charonqc

@iaindale What is your take on Cameron’s performance on the Politics / Sopel

  1. iaindale @Charonqc You are confusing Cameron’s interview with Mandelson’s. 20 minutes ago from TweetDeck in reply to Charonqc

  1. Charonqc

    @iaindale No.. this one… http://page.politicshome.com/uk/article/5215/burglars_leave_their_human_rights_at_the_door_says_cameron.html 16 minutes ago from web in reply to iaindale

Charonqc

  1. @iaindale Not poking… genuinely interested because you are an objective Tory…. a bit worrying in parts? 15 minutes ago from web in reply to iaindale

  1. iaindale

    @Charonqc Not at all. I assume u r talking about his burglar comments. Totally agree with him. 14 minutes ago from TweetDeck in reply to Charonq

  1. Charonqc

    @iaindale No… his failure to give cut figures and his view of Chilcot et al? Again… not poking… but interested. 4 minutes ago from web in reply to iaindale

  1. iaindale

    @Charonqc I dont expect him to give figures until nearer election. He needs to give general direction not minute details. 3 minutes ago from TweetDeck in reply to Charonq

  1. Charonqc

    Does David cameron have any understand of the Chilcot Inquiry/International law? Doesn’t seem so http://charonqc.wordpress.com Worrying 18 minutes ago from we

  1. Charonqc

    @iaindale Would you say that this interview does credit to Cameron as a prime minister in waiting? 2 minutes ago from web in reply to iaindale

  1. Charonqc

    @iaindale Yes.. I accept that…My last tweet is perhaps the one I should have started with.. Thanks for responding.. less than a minute ago from web in reply to iaindale

  1. iaindale

    @Charonqc I saw nothing in it which would indicate otherwise. half a minute ago from TweetDeck in reply to Charon

Charonqc

@iaindale Thank you.. 12 minutes ago from web in reply to iaindale

Postcard from The Staterooms-On-Sea

Dear Reader,

This is my last weekend Postcard from the Staterooms-On-Sea.  I leave Chatham Maritime on the Medway for London next week; returning to live in Battersea, right on the river opposite the boat I used to live on at Cheyne Walk.  This is not a permanent return.  I feel like a Tuareg, moving my tent and furniture about every six months or so.  I rather like the idea of being able to move about the country and pitch my tent metaphorically in different places.  I have enjoyed my time in kent – but I need a bit more of a social life. The apartment is right on the river overlooking the Thames to Chelsea and about 50 years from the very pleasant Battersea Square. (Right)

I’ve just finished reading a fascinating transcript of an interview with David Cameron by John Sopel of the BBC on The Politics Show. It is quite extraordinary, barely months before the election, that Cam & Dec haven’t got their act together on the specifics of the cuts they are going to impose. Save for those who will vote Tory come what may, how are other voters going to make an informed decision unless they are given details.  Cameron waffled badly in this interview, allowing Sopel to plunge the toasting fork into Cameron’s buttocks several times.  It was like the scene in Tom Brown’s Schooldays when Flashman toasted the young Tom Brown in front of the fire.

Here are a few of the Sopel questions. The answers are worth reading…

SOPEL
I’m sorry to interrupt you, I just want to interrupt you on that because is it that you haven’t identified what the year one cuts will be and therefore can’t tell us, or that you have identified them but now is not the time to tell us?

I want to rattle through some of the specifics where you have pledged, I just want to check that those specifics are still in place, for example on inheritance tax even though there are only a couple of thousand estates, a few thousand people would be affected by it, that commitment, policy commitment remains?

No going back on that one?

And now I want to go to where I think there are, really ambiguity is a good word to use for it. What about recognising tax, recognising marriage in the tax system? Where are you on that because this is going into a right mess at the beginning of the year?

You’ve had two years to work out the answer to that. You launched something and then it kind of all collapsed.

I’m not asking for the detail of everything but for, you’ve had four years to work this one out and you haven’t worked it out.

And then Cameron launched into his ‘Kill a Burglar ‘ speech and made the remarkable statement that burglars leave their human rights at the door. I’m astonished that a prime minister in waiting can make such a statement.

CAMERON
Well we think that the, the proposal has been put forward which is to say that unless the action you take as a homeowner is grossly disproportionate, so you’re raising the bar effectively, that that will be a good step forward. Now if you can find a different –

SOPEL
How have you turned that into law because –


CAMERON
Well I’ve given you two words – grossly disproportionate. That’s –


SOPEL
You can use proportionate force, you just can’t use grossly disproportionate force?

Oh dear… Cameron is not very good at thinking on his feet, it would seem and his side-kick Osbore doesn’t seem to be good at thinking at all.

Interestingly… this from Tweetminster at 6.15 pm this evening:

tweetminster Sentiment (on Twitter) around David Cameron has dropped following Politics Show (& the resulting coverage) http://bit.ly/dAjy1V

Having re-read this grilling of Cameron by Sopel – irrespective of the fact that i am supposed to be ‘socialist’… Cameron worries me. Nothing seems to be structured, coherent, thought out.  This is not really good enough for a prospective prime minister who has had some years to work things out.  Waffle just doesn’t cut it in tutorials with first year students… it certainly doesn’t when it comes to policy statements from a man who puts himself forward as the next prime minister.  Kenneth Clarke?  too late for a Conservative leadership challenge?

AND THIS IS THE KILLER QUESTION FROM SOPEL… Very clever as it reveals that Cameron has no understanding whatsoever of International Law, the ICC or what Chilcot is about… tragic… and I am sure that Sopel must have thought very carefully about that question…

SOPEL
Yeah, do you understand why some people say Tony Blair ought to be tried for war crimes?


CAMERON
Well I don’t, I don’t think it’s come to that. He’s, he’s giving an account of himself as we are speaking right now. I haven’t been able to see that. Let’s let Chilcot do his work and do his report, and then I think we can make more of a judgment.

This is rather worrying?

The Law Society gazette ran an astonishing story this week:

Website for blacklisted solicitors plans expansion

While I am n favour of the Solicitors Regulatory Authority publishing reports of disciplinary proceedings taken against solicitors – I am not so sure the Solicitorsfromhell site is an altogether fair way of dealing with complaints. Quite apart from possible issues of libel and unfairness (the owner of the site says he has been threatened with libel by solicitors) – it is not an analytical or objective forum.  The site does not appear to permit of a dissent or an alternative viewpoint under each listing post.  Mr Kordowski has this notice on the front page of his website:

Note to Solicitors and Firms:

An internet directory or search engine (such as this) is NOT a publisher at common law, just a facilitator.
As held by Mr Justice Eady on July 19 2009.

The Law Society Gazette reports: ” Solicitorsfromhell.co.uk allows visitors to post complaints about law firms and individual solicitors. The postings appear on Google within 24 hours. Kordowski said that he set the website up because he was ‘shocked’ about the number of complaints made about solicitors. He maintained that he is carrying out a public service that is also of benefit to the ­profession. Law firms can pay £299 to have all current and future traces of their name removed from the site. Alternatively, they can pay between £99 and £199 to have specific postings deleted. Visitors are charged a fee for posting a complaint about a firm.” (Mr Kordowski says that visitors to the site are NOT charged a fee)

Gary Slapper, of the Open University (who is always worth reading in The Times) has a truly weird case this weekand I mean W E I R D

“In the film The Matrix, Keanu Reeves plays a character who moves in and out of the real world. He might have thought he was having a similar experience while defending a recent legal action in Canada. Reeves was sued by Karen Sala, a woman he said he had never met but who claimed that he had disguised himself as her husband and, over 25 years, fathered her four children.”

RollonFriday has a classic this week: Exclusive – Eversheds partner questions parent’s commitment
Eversheds has admitted that it had to carry out an investgation after one of its partners sent a email to a colleague wondering how to deal with an interviewee who had recently had a child.

Delighted to see that the Spacehijackers, who painted their armoured car in Police colours to attend the G20 protests last year, are not going to face charges. The CPS appears to have used the common sense test… “

A theatre group charged with impersonating police officers at the G20 protests are planning to sue the Metropolitan Police after the Crown Prosecution Service dropped all charges.

Eleven protesters, billing themselves as the Space Hijackers and portraying themselves as the “laughing cavaliers of capitalism”, were arrested after they jumped out of an armoured vehicle at the Bishopsgate offices of the Royal Bank of Scotland during the demonstrations in London’s Square Mile on 1 April last year. They were charged with impersonating police but the case was dropped after four hearings after the CPS said it had received new information and no longer believed there was a realistic chance of a conviction.”

I accept that it is easy to indulge in a bit of ‘Police bashing’ – and sometimes, as the G20 police behaviour demonstrates, they deserve it – but this action on the part of the police was doomed to failure right from the start and just plain daft. I suspect a jury would have acquitted had it gone the full distance…. the CPS certainly thought so.

Guido Fawkes notes: Andy Murray Cursed (Again) Loses Open

“Back in July last year Andy Murray was cursed by Jonah Brown.  Earlier this week when Gordon wished Murray well against Federer many co-conspirators winced and commented that this was the kiss of death again.”

Another interesting week ahead for law news… I am planning to do some televised short voxpop interviews with members of the public about legal news stories when I return to London.  these will supplement the podcasts which I am already doing and, hopefully, be of interest in terms of seeing how mebers of the public regard our laws and the legal issues of our times.  We shall see how it goes!  (I shall, do not fear, be behind the camera)

Have a good week

Best as always

Charon

Chilcot enquête spéciale: Non, je ne regrette rien

The BBC reports: Tony Blair has said the Iraq war made the world a safer place and he has “no regrets” about removing Saddam Hussein.

The newspapers will be full of it – but after six hours watching it today, admittedly, while doing other things in parts,  Je suis fatigue. On the way out of the Chilcot Inquiry room Blair was heckled by 2 members of the audience.  One called him a liar and the other called him a murderer.   I make no comment on either of these accusations – but will say this, that it would not have harmed his case at all to have shown greater concern about the death toll, military and civilian.

Blair ran rings around the Chilcot Inquiry today. There were many instances today when the Inquisitioners failed to ask probing questions – some will say, and I have sympathy for this, far too many occasions. Blair gave a very good presentation, so good at times that I wondered if he was giving a presentation to a group of investors at a hedge fund meeting.While Blair was articulate, confident and assertive, I suspect that Gordon Brown, when he appears, will not be quite so smooth.

There were thousands of tweets during the day on Twitter #iraqinquiry #blair – this was one that amused me.

I may have to go back to getting my news in print or from the radio. I just  can’t take any more hyperventilating BBC reporters.

Wikileaks needs help: “We protect the world—but will you protect us?”

“Wikileaks has probably produced more scoops in its short life than the Washington Post has in the past 30 years ”
—  The National, November 19. 2009

Wikileaks needs financial help.

“The Sunshine Press (WikiLeaks) is an non-profit organization funded by human rights campaigners, investigative journalists, technologists and the general public. Through your support we have exposed significant injustice around the world—successfully fighting off over 100 legal attacks in the process. Although our work produces reforms daily and is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including the 2008 Economist Freedom of Expression Award as well as the 2009 Amnesty International New Media Award, these accolades do not pay the bills. Nor can we accept government or corporate funding and maintain our absolute integrity. It is your strong support alone that preserves our continued independence and strength.”

Can you help?  If so – click here

Rive Gauche: Contrition from Blair? – he may just tell us to eff off… who knows?

Friday’s Rive Gauche edition  has come around quite quickly after an extraordinary week for law news.   Today, Tony Blair  appears before the Iraq Inquiry.  He will, naturally, be thoroughly prepared.  it is unlikely the questioning will trouble him over much and, after his appearance with Fern Britton, where he said that WMD was not necessary for the war and he would have found other arguments to justify the war, we are unlikely to get anything sensational.

The Guardian reported at the time: “If you had known then that there were no WMDs, would you still have gone on?” Blair was asked. He replied: “I would still have thought it right to remove him [Saddam Hussein]”.

Significantly, Blair added: “I mean obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments about the nature of the threat.” He continued: “I can’t really think we’d be better with him and his two sons in charge, but it’s incredibly difficult. That’s why I sympathise with the people who were against it [the war] for perfectly good reasons and are against it now, but for me, in the end I had to take the decision.”

In a rather bizarre twist, Sir Martin Gilbert, a panellist on the Chilcot The Government’s Got Talent show, has been praising the prime minister Gordon Brown for his hard work.  The timing isn’t great, given Brown’s imminent appearance before the Iraq Inquiry – but this is Britain, so why should we be surprised?

The Times has the story. It is perfectly reasonable for Gilbert to make statements about prime ministers and anti-semitism in Britain  – but I would thought it would have been more sensible to wait until after the Inquiry?

So that will be a “YES” vote from Gilbert for McDoom then?

UN in secret peace talks with Taliban

The Guardian reports….“Taliban commanders held secret exploratory talks with a United Nations special envoy this month to discuss peace terms, it emerged tonight.Regional commanders on the Taliban’s leadership council, the Quetta Shura, sought a meeting with the UN special representative in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, and it took place in Dubai on 8 January. “They requested a meeting to talk about talks. They want protection, to be able to come out in public. They don’t want to vanish into places like Bagram,” the Reuters news agency quoted a UN official as saying, referring to the Bagram detention centre at a US military base outside Kabul.”

London is hosting a conference on Afghanistan and while it seems perfectly sensible to me to try to find a diplomatic solution to a nine year old war, many on BBC’s Question Time last night were none too impressed about the government giving money to the Taliban to get them to stop fighting.

President Karzai had talks with David Cameron the other day….

Scientists have discovered a sub-species of Homo Plodiens in Scotland. The BBC reported the other morning… An Ayrshire businessman says he has been fined by the police for blowing his nose while driving. Michael Mancini, from Prestwick, said he was sitting in stationary traffic with the handbrake on when he used a tissue to clean his nose. He claimed he was waved over by four police officers and given a fixed penalty for not being in proper control of his car.”

And finally….

If you haven’t already spotted this and you want a bit of light entertainment with your coffee… then get on to Twitter and watch the feed from @eyespymp

Basically… it tweets about sightings of MPs and what they are doing… Hat Tip to Guido Fawkes…who states “Guido hears that some MPs are up in arms about invasion of their privacy and that hacks are chortling away.”

Here are but a few examples of recent @eyespymp tweets…

“Vaizey spotted with a short homicidal looking chap at St. Stephens”

“Theresa May with horrific faux crocodile skin bright green handbag. Error.”

“Charles Clarke at Peter Watt’s book launch. The book slams Brown – Clarke here like a greyhound”

“Harman marching back and forth across central lobby for the benefit of a TV camera”

“Gerald Kaufman hobbling along cloisters. Thought he’d died ages ago?”

Have a good Friday.  I shall watch a bit of Chalcot and then I’m orf to London to do ‘stuff’ to organise my imminent return to the capital.

Law Review: The judges lay down the law…

Judges throw out measures to freeze assets of terror suspects

The Supreme Court delivered yet another defeat for the government in their latest ruling.  The Times has the full story but this list from The Times article  is a useful reminder:.

Judicial defeats for terror laws

2004: House of Lords rules that the indefinite detention without trial of foreign terror suspects at Belmarsh jail is unlawful. 2007: Law lords rule that the most restrictive aspect of the control order regime — the 18-hour curfew — is a breach of human rights. 2008: Five men cleared by the Appeal Court of offences under Section 57 of the Terrorism Act; judges say that it is not illegal to possess extremist material unless it is used to inspire terrorism. 2008: Court of Appeal blocks the deportation to Jordan of extremist cleric Abu Qatada; he is later released on bail then re-arrested on the basis of intelligence that he was about to flee the country. 2008: Appeal Court blocks attempt to increase four-and-a-half year jail term for convicted terrorist Sohail Qureshi. 2009: Government forced to rescind some control orders after House of Lords ruled that suspects had to be told what some of the secret evidence against them said. 2010: Supreme Court declares that terrorist asset-freezing orders, introduced by the Treasury when Gordon Brown was Chancellor, are unlawful.

‘Criminal barristers feel that they have an economic gun to their heads’

Paul Mendelle, QC, chair of the Criminal Bar Association: “We are pragmatic and accept the need for cuts. But that does not have to mean these savage and unprincipled cuts to fees that have already seen their value eroded by a decade of inflation.”

The Times reports: “As chairman of the 3,600-strong Criminal Bar Association (CBA) he is organising roadshows on the latest proposals on criminal legal aid. This battle is far from won. Two sets of options are on the table: one from the Legal Services Commission (LSC) on high-cost trials and the other from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) on defence fees generally. Both mean big cuts. The MoJ paper proposes either a one-off cut of 18 per cent for all hearings or a smaller 13.5 per cent decrease over three years — but with strings attached.”

To some extent, compared with other more militant sectors, the legal profession is a soft target for a government intent on cutting. Against a background of a national need to cut back on public expenditure, lawyers are going to have to take a share of the pain and the government will judge the balance finely to ensure expenditure is pitched at a level that the system can continue without mass exodus from lawyers. Lawyers can, of course, exert a fair bit of pressure – the system simply cannot work without them, but will they wish to stir the searing heat of national publicity from the tabloids – as surely they will – by being ‘too assertive’ on the fees issue in the short term. It may be a waiting game or a long game’?

Interestingly, over at the Ministry of Justice: New pilot to increase sustainability and efficiency of law centres

The Sketch: Legality is what the best lawyer says it is

I thought the opening to Simon Carr’s Sketch in the Independent was excellent…

I’ve consulted enough QCs in my litigious life to know how to find out how good your case is. You brief them with your opponent’s case as if it were your own. The advice comes back very unfavourably to your own interest. When you explain the situation, the QC then comes to “the better view” and he gets the business.

And if you want a wonderfully ethereal view of the legality of the war from Anthony Scrivener QC read this

Lawcast164: The legal basis for the Iraq War and Lord Goldsmith’s opinion with Carl Gardner

Lawcast164: The legal basis for the Iraq War and Lord Goldsmith’s opinion with Carl Gardner

Today I am talking to Carl Gardner, a former government lawyer in Tony Blair’s administration and author of the Head of Legal blog, about the legality of the War in Iraq.

The legal analysis turns on United Nations Special Resolution 1441.  Yesterday Sir Michael Wood, Legal Adviser to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office,  was quite specific in his view that war would be unlawful without a second resolution.   The Foreign secretary, Jack Straw, rejected Sir Michael’s advice.  Elizabeth Wilmshurst, a deputy legal adviser at the FCO, was of the same view as Sir Michael Wood and, indeed resigned, so strong was her conviction that the war was unlawful.

Philippe Sands QC of Matrix Chambers and Professor of International Law at University College London has long been of the view that the war in Iraq was illegal and published a book to that effect some time ago.  There are few supporters of the revivalist theory put forward by Lord Goldsmith at the Iraq Inquiry hearing today – but Carl Gardner is one lawyer who does. The podcast is  a discussion between us rather than a traditional interview style podcast.

Listen to the podcast

iTunes version

Read Carl Gardner’s blogpost on this issue

Guest Post: Jane Lambert on “All Change or Not” The Bar’s Roadshow hits York.

“All Change or Not” The Bar’s Roadshow hits York.

Jane Lambert
Barrister

NIPC Law blog

On 30 Oct 2007 the Legal Services Act received Royal Assent. Part V of that Act provides a legislative framework for legal services including advocacy to be offered by businesses consisting of lawyers and non-lawyers.  Since 31 March 2009 the Solicitors Regulation Authority (“SRA”) has allowed solicitors to practise in partnership or other association with barristers, patent or trade mark agents and other legal service providers and some non-lawyers. Such practices are known as “legal disciplinary practices” (“LDPs”).

Paragraph 205 of the Bar’s Code of Conduct precludes barristers from participating in LDPs except as employees unless they re-qualify as solicitors as that paragraph prohibits counsel from practising in partnership or companies either with solicitors or even with other barristers. However, on 20 Nov 2009, the Bar Standards Board (“BSB”), the Bar’s regulator, proposed changes to the Code to permit barristers to:

  • become managers of LDPs, regulated by the SRA without having to re-qualify as solicitors;
  • practise in more than one capacity at the same time e.g. as both managers of LDPs and as independent practitioners;
  • form barrister-only partnerships (BoPs), pending the creation of an appropriate regulator for such entities,; currently not in existence, and consultation by the BSB in relation to becoming such a regulator; and
  • practise through other barrister-only companies and limited liability partnerships (LLPs).

To bring those proposals to the attention of practitioners and discuss their ramifications, the Bar Council and BSB are holding seminars on each Circuit between 11 Jan and 2 Feb 2010 called “All Change or Not”.    My chambers manager and I attended the seminar for the North-Eastern Circuit in York on 19 Jan.

The York seminar took place at the station hotel and was addressed by the Chair of Bar, Nicholas Green QC, and Sarah Brown from the BSB. Given our well deserved reputation for cussedness (you can always tell a Yorkshireman but you can never tell him much) the speakers may well have expected a rough ride.   In the event, they were treated with great deference by the audience except by me.    Probably the reason for this is that they pressed all the right buttons.   For example, Nicholas Green told us that barristers were on average 20% cheaper than solicitors because we did not have to carry their overheads and that solicitors had probably suffered more from the changes to legal aid fees than had barristers.

While emphasizing that barristers would be free to take advantage of the proposed changes or leave them Green suggested four possible options:

  • members of chambers or other groups of barristers could form companies (referred to as “ProcureCos) which could bid for civil and criminal legal aid contracts from the Legal Services Commission (“LSC”) and other work and distribute it to the members and their pet solicitors;
  • barristers could become managers of LDPs;
  • barristers could practise part of their time as employees and part of their time as self-employed practitioners; or
  • barristers could form barrister only partnerships.

A handout to delegates explained that ProcureCos could be formed at once under the existing rules whereas practitioners would have to wait for the other proposals to be approved.    Since the LSC is expected to invite tenders for block contract work in February, the audience was urged to get a move on with setting up ProcureCos otherwise solicitors would scoop the pool.

Sarah Brown, one of the lay members of the BSB, announced a whole slew of other proposed changes to the Code including the following:

  • counsel instructed under the Public Access Rules will be free to conduct correspondence with solicitors, interview witnesses and settle witness statements;
  • the Public Access Rules will be amended to allow barristers to accept some criminal, family and immigration work without the intervention of a solicitor or other professional intermediary;
  • barristers will be free to attend police stations and interview clients there; and
  • the prohibition on barristers sharing accommodation with solicitors will be scrapped.

As a clear distinction is drawn in the Legal Services Act 1990 between advocacy and conducting litigation I could not help pondering whether some of these changes were actually within the BSB’s gift since collecting evidence and conducting correspondence strike me as conducting litigation.

Such thoughts prompted me to ask the first question which was in two parts:

(1)        how can a ProcureCo contract for work and sub-contract it out to pet solicitors and members of the syndicate without holding clients’ funds which has always been forbidden; and

(2)        if such companies were to manage client funds, how could barristers maintain the 20% cost advantage that we had been told that we enjoy since ProcureCos would require the same sort of accounting systems, bookkeeping staff and premises that solicitors appear to need, all of which cost money?

“Good question” mused Green before telling us that he did not think that a contract for say a million pounds payable quarterly really meant holding clients’ funds and that he was sure that our costs ought to be lower than solicitors’.   It would be wonderful if he is right – especially as I had to withdraw from a panel to provide business support services to new businesses in Bradford funded by the Local Enterprise Growth Initiative last year because the work would have required my instructing patent and trade mark agents – but the advice that I received at the time from the Bar Council was to the contrary.

The only other bolshie question came from Ian West from Middlesbrough.   “You all know me” started Ian (though to be quite honest I did not know him) “as I’ve served on the Bar Council.” He continued that he believed he represented the views of criminal practitioners who made up two thirds of the Bar.    Ian could see nothing in the proposed changes for him or for other criminal practitioners whatsoever.    He explained that solicitors get work through branches in every city and town in the region which enables them to attend police stations and mingle with the public.   ProcureCos can’t do that, said Ian.   He feared that the reforms would accelerate payment on the basis of one case one fee instead of ring fenced advocacy fees and our bidding for work through ProcureCos would alienate solicitors.   The Chair did not really answer that question beyond re-stating that barristers like him were not bound to change their working practices if they did not want to do so and that there would be an end to ring fencing whatever the Bar did.   On reflection, I am not sure that the criminal bar could not compete with multi-branch law firms.   I get work from running inventors’ clubs in Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester and intellectual property clinics throughout the North.   Could other barristers not work with local law centres, citizens’ advice bureaux and other local organizations in providing some pro bono services as loss leaders? Just a thought.

The meeting in York took place less than a week after Jackson and yet not a word was said about the report.    That was amazing since Jackson is concerned with costs and the whole point of the 2007 Act is to stimulate competition in the legal services market and so force down costs.    A few days after the seminar I attended the Chancery Bar Conference at Regents Park where both the Chancellor, Sir Andrew Morritt, and the Vice-Chancellor, Mr Justice Morgan, gave pretty strong indications that the Jackson recommendations are almost certain to be carried out whichever party wins the next general election.   They have to be because we as a profession are pricing ourselves out of the market.    Change is coming whether the Bar likes it or not and with all due respect to our eminent Chairperson I think we will have to do more than set up ProcureCos.

27 Jan 2010

Law Review (2): United Nations names Britain as complicit in snatching and torturing prisoners. Proud to be British with this….?

Below is a press release from Reprieve. I have extracted it in full.  The report runs to 221+ pages… I have read some of the more UK specific parts and will examine the document in more detail during the course of the day.

Our adherence to the  international rule of law was questioned by government legal advisers yesterday. Today, Lord Goldsmith will speak about his legal advice to the government on the Iraq War.  He may well be persuasive.  I tend to prefer waiting for all parties to speak before forming a final view.

This United Nations report is blunt. Reprieve has extracted the salient points below.  What do you think?  Do you feel that Britain is justified in ‘teaming up with unscrupulous, Mafia-like regimes that are in the habit of disappearing people’ as Clive Stafford-Smith says our government is doing?

Today’s United Nations report names and shames governments who have secretly held ‘ghost prisoners’ beyond the rule of law; the UK is exposed as complicit in snatching and torturing prisoners in the so-called war on terror.

The UN has today released a wide-ranging report on secret detention which will prove embarrassing for states like the UK who claim respect for the rule of law.

In this report, UN experts put the US-led “rendition programme” in context as another sad chapter in the history of torture and secret detention, alongside the 1970s campaigns of disappearances in Latin America, and the gulags of the USSR. And in case of any doubt, the UN sets out in unequivocal terms exactly why such practices are illegal.

In an investigation spanning 19 countries across all regions of the world, four independent UN bodies worked together to interview victims of secret detention and canvass governments in order to understand and redress the victims’ plight.

The findings make uncomfortable reading for the UK government who – despite their public condemnation of such practices – are revealed as complicit in war crimes like kidnap, secret detention, and torture.

Revelations include:

  • Confirmation that the UK knew about US renditions practices from 2002, yet continued to hand vulnerable prisoners to US custody with no process until well into 2004;
  • Confirmation that the UK knowingly received information obtained from prisoners being interrogated in US ghost detention;
  • Numerous cases showing that the UK took advantage of illegal secret detention practices over at least three continents by colluding in torture;
  • Unanswered questions in relation to the number of prisoners held by torturous Arab regimes at the request of the UK;
  • Indications that the infamous ‘Salt Pit’ in Afghanistan may have been run by the FBI.

Worryingly, the report indicates that the UK intelligence services lack the oversight that would prevent crimes like complicity in torture from recurring in the future. It recommends that:

“To ensure accountability in intelligence co-operation, truly independent intelligence review and oversight mechanisms should be established… such mechanisms should have access to any information, including sensitive information…”

The report warns of the dangers of intelligence services keeping secrets from the bodies that are charged with policing them; precisely this befell the UK, leading to the ISC’s ‘independent’ report on Rendition containing multiple, serious and embarrassing errors.

Reprieve Director Clive Stafford Smith said:

“Sadly, our government has teamed up with unscrupulous, Mafia-like regimes that are in the habit of disappearing people, using information extracted by violence, keeping secrets and protecting their thugs and cronies. It is shameful that it takes a UN report to reveal these shoddy practices to the British people. The victims are still waiting for an apology. ”

Reprieve investigator Clara Gutteridge said:

“The British government comes out of this looking like the War on Terror’s spineless ‘middle management’. It’s time to live up to our own – ancient – standards and refuse to work with regimes that torture.”

The full report may be read here: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/13session/A-HRC-13-42.doc

Law Review: Chilcot and Geeklawyer… but not in the same context

Philippe Sands QC, a member of Matrix Chambers and professor of International Law at University College, London, suggested on Newsnight that following evidence about the legality of the Iraq war, Tony Blair may have to choose his travel destinations carefully. I won’t make any further comment on that for the present. (Apologies for typo in tweet as to spelling of Philippe)

Sands is the author of a book, Lawless World, in which he accused US President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair of conspiring to invade Iraq in violation of international law.

I commented on yesterday’s proceedings at the Iraq Inquiry below: Breaking News: What will Jack do now? and Chilcot Special: The government did not like the advice of government lawyers

Today, former Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith appears before the Iraq Inquiry. On Friday, Tony Blair appears. I plan to do a podcast with ex-government lawyer Carl Gardner who is now author of the Head of legal blog tonight.

The invasion of Iraq was lawful

by Carl Gardner on January 27, 2010

“This blog didn’t exist when US and British forces, with others, invaded Iraq in 2003. I’ve never written directly about the legality of the war. But with Sir Michael Wood and Elizabeth Wilmshurst having given evidence to the Iraq inquiry yesterday, and Lord Goldsmith due to appear today, I think it’s time for me to address the issue.”

Press coverage: Guardian –  Lord Goldsmith got taxpayer help for Iraq war inquiry legal advice Chilcot inquiry: Lawyers expose pressure to give green light for war | Times –  Lord Goldsmith to face pressure over legal U-turn on Iraq war | Telegraph –  Government knew ‘no leg to stand on’ legally to go to war in Iraq | IndependentInvade and be damned: Foreign Office lawyers say advice on legality of war was ignored

As a postscript to yesterday’s testimony before the Iraq Inquiry, The Telegraph notes “Margaret Beckett, Mr Straw’s successor as foreign secretary, risked outrage by saying that Dr David Kelly, the government scientist who committed suicide after being accused of leaking secrets about the “sexing-up” of intelligence, would have agreed that Saddam Hussein was seeking to stockpile weapons.”

Tony Blair is due before the Iraq Inquiry on Friday.  Matthew Norman has an interesting piece in the Independent this morning

Matthew Norman: Irrespective of Chilcot, Blair will always remain a pariah

The former PM will never escape the verdict of the court of public opinion

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OTHER LAW IN THE NEWS TODAY

Frances Gibb, writing in The Times, reports

Gilderdale case prompts fresh calls to clarify the law on assisted dying

“One devoted mother who helps her sick daughter to end her life with tablets and morphine walks free from court with a suspended sentence. Another is jailed for murder, to serve a minimum of nine years, after injecting her brain-damaged son with a lethal dose of heroin. The two contrasting cases have reignited the debate over “right to die” and whether those who assist a loved one to end their suffering should be subject to criminal law. Both involved a loving parent who could not bear to see a child suffer. Both, therefore, were acts of mercy. But there were key differences: Frances Inglis’s son, Thomas, 22, who had brain damage, had never indicated an intention to die. His mother believed him to be in pain and could not accept an encouraging medical prognosis.”

I commented on this legalo-ethical debate in Law Review: Assisted dying, Barristers modernise (?) and standards in legal education. yesterday.

Victims’ families demand Edlington boys be named

The Times reports: “Pressure was growing on the Government last night to release the full findings of a confidential inquiry into the Edlington torture case. The Conservatives stepped up demands for the publication of the 150-page report and the Liberal Democrats are considering tabling an amendment to a Bill that would require the findings of all serious case reviews to be made public.”

It is easy to understand the anger of the families and the public in this shocking case. Mr Justice Keith rejected applications to lift the ban that prohibits identification of the two brothers and their family. He said that naming the boys could adversely affect their rehabilitation.  Was he right to do so?  Difficult though it will be for many, I think he was right to do so.  The children involved in this appalling and mindless, sadism are are the product of their backgrounds and part of our justice system in terms of penal theory involves rehabilitation.  There is also the issue of ‘vigilante’ justice being meted out when the boys are eventually released.   There are, it is believed, plans to consider prosecutions against the parents.

OUT-LAW reports:

Sky wins landmark ‘fraudulent misrepresentation’ ruling, HP vows to appeal

Hewlett-Packard has vowed to appeal a ruling announced today by England’s Technology and Construction Court that is expected to cost it more than £200 million. The case is one of the longest-running and most expensive disputes in the technology sector.  The OUT-LAW article is well worth a read. The judgment of Mr Justice Ramsey (500+ pages, one of the longest ever, is due shortly)

Misrepresentation seems to be the flavour of the week this week…. Today, The Independent has a story about deceit on the leafy banks of the Thames : Court battle after ‘garden flooded 80 times’

“A financier who bought a £1.9m family home on the banks of the Thames is taking the previous owners to court, claiming they failed to warn him that the garden flooded as many as 80 times a year. Adrian Howd and his wife, Caroline, claim that, before buying the house – named Tide’s End – their solicitors had asked Bobby and Nicola Console-Verma’s lawyers: “Given its position, please confirm that the property has never suffered from flooding.” The couple’s lawyers responded: “Our clients confirm that the property has never suffered from flooding during their 14-year occupation.” Dr Howd and his wife argue that this response was untrue and fraudulent. However, the Console-Vermas’ barrister Michael King insisted that the question was “ambiguous” and that they had reasonably taken the view that “property” meant “bricks and mortar”, not the garden.” (Independent)

Often very fine lines of interpretation decide the events of history as the Iraq Inquiry is now revealing on the legality of war issues.  It seems that this case may also turn on a fine line.

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Not a law blog – but Capitalists&Work is always worth keeping an eye on.

UK GDP Q4 2009; 0.1%

Wow, that is a poor number. So much for Labour going to call an election on the back of the ‘return’ to growth.

And crocodile tears for the BBC having prepared for weeks on the Government’s behalf a ‘we are out of recesion day special.’ (Love this headline, UK emerges from recession, repeat the BBC is not biased, the BBC is not biased….)

With all the talk of outsourcing work to lawyers in India, this post by Professor John Flood on his RATs blog is worth a look: Lawyering in India

John Bolch, Family Lore, looks at: Attitudes towards cohabitation

He notes: “I’ve just been looking at the press release for the British Social Attitudes (‘BSA’) 26th Report, which was published today. Along with the unsurprising news that fewer people in Britain feel an obligation to vote than at any time since the question was first posed on BSA in 1991, the Report has some interesting findings regarding attitudes towards cohabitation. Cohabitation, it seems, is becoming increasingly acceptable, with 45% of those questioned agreeing that it ‘makes no difference to children whether their parents are married to each other or just living together’, up from 38% in 1998. This rather contradicts those, particularly the Tories, who maintain that it is far better for children if their parents are married.”

Geeklawyer writes…Dear prospective advertiser number one million. Thank you for your interest

Geeklawyer thinks that the ambulance chasers will taint his blog! Geeklawyer is so fabulously rich from his practice at the Bar – he regularly taunts Criminal and Family practitioners about this on his blog and on Twitter  – in jest – that he doesn’t need advertisers.  He is in a fortunate position, indeed.  Thankfully, I am more than happy to allow advertisers to support our free resource projects on Insite Law – for otherwise it would not be possible to give all the comment on here and free resources on Insite Law away free.  I am not, unfortunately, as rich as CroesusLawyer!

Geeklawyer writes…

Dear Casabian,


I’d rather have my bol­locks chewed off by a bad tem­pered rot­tweiler with a taste for slow pain, than have a bunch of low-life ambu­lance chasers taint my site with their ads.

And just to show how appreciative I am that commercial organisations are for sponsoring the free resources on Insite Law  for students et al – I am delighted to say that Accidents Direct are supporting our project – so they can go on my header.  I am also appreciative of the support Wildy & Sons have given consistently over three years as I am to all the advertisers on Insite.  Lunch doesn’t come free in the world most of us live in and if barristers, solicitors, publishers, and other firms (as they are doing)  wish to help support the free legal web concept  – that is good for everyone and I am more than happy to assist them in return.


Chilcot Special: The government did not like the advice of government lawyers

I regarded the invasion of Iraq as illegal, and I therefore did not feel able to continue in my post. I would have been required to support and maintain the Government’s position in international fora. The rules of international law on the use of force by States are at the heart of international law. Collective security, as opposed to unilateral military action, is a central purpose of the Charter of the United Nations. Acting contrary to the Charter, as I perceived the Government to be doing, would have the consequence of damaging the United Kingdom’s reputation as a State committed to the rule of law in international relations and to the United Nations.

Elizabeth Wilmshurst, former Deputy Legal Adviser to the FCO
18 January 2010

What an extraordinary session of the Iraq Inquiry.  I watched all the testimony of Sir Michael Wood, David Brummell and Elizabeth Wilmshurst.  I was struck by much of the evidence, but two statements by Sir Michael Wood stood out.

“He (Straw, who was then Foreign secretary) took the view that I was being very dogmatic and that international law was pretty vague and that he wasn’t used to people taking such a firm position,” said Wood.

“When he had been at the Home Office, he had often been advised things were unlawful but he had gone ahead anyway and won in the courts.”

Sir Michael Wood said this was “probably the first and only occasion” that a minister rejected his legal advice in this way.

The Guardian report gives a flavour of the proceedings: Guardian

While the main event on the legal side will be Lord Goldsmith’s testimony tomorrow it is already clear that the principal legal adviser to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Sir Michael Wood, maintained a consistent line of advice that war with Iraq without a second UN resolution was illegal and that he had rejected the government’s argument that resolution 1441 – passed in November 2002 – requiring Saddam Hussein to disarm was a sufficient basis for military action.

It is very clear that this advice was not to Jack Straw’s taste and, equally clear that it was not to the prime minister’s taste.  Lord Goldsmith, effectively, had to intervene to say that government lawyers were perfectly entitled to give advice inconsistent with government policy!  We know that Lord Goldsmith is believed to have changed his mind, but more particularly, Elizabeth Wilmshurst highlighted the fact that the government seemed to be reluctant to call for formal advice until very late in the run up to the war – when, she suggested, it would then be  difficult for the Attorney to have advised the government that the  conflict was unlawful without a second resolution at that stage . It would, she said, have handed Saddam a massive PR advantage.

Elizabeth Wilmshurst did state there was no substantive difference between her views and the attorney general’s pre-7 March. I did enjoy Wilmshurt’s response when Sir John Chilcot asked  if it made  a difference that Jack Straw himself is a qualified lawyer?.  Elizabeth Wilmshurt replied…“He is not an International Lawyer”. Rather sums it up, I think?

Note for the “Send Blair to The Hague” brigade

Unfortunately for those who wish to see Tony Blair led away in handcuffs to stand trial – this is unlikely to happen. Elizabeth Wilmshurst stated that while the ICC has jurisdiction now in relations to ‘crimes of aggression’, it cannot be applied retrospectively. [See: #Iraqinquiryblog ]

I am doing a podcast with Carl Gardner, ex government lawyer in Tony Blair’s administration and author of the Head of Legal blog following Lord Goldsmith’s evidence tomorrow.

Law Review: Assisted dying, Barristers modernise (?) and standards in legal education.

In the grand scheme of things, the overclaim by prospective Chancellor Osborne is not one of the great sagas. it is, however,  a bit surprising that such a senior member of the shadow Cabinet, with a good university education and who puts himself forward as the next Chancellor, should take ‘flawed advice’ and make an error of this nature (He overclaimed £1666 ). The Independent has the report

There have been rumblings in the Tory blogs and press about Osborne’s competence and Labour, clearly, are targeting him.  The Indie reports that his rating has, in fact, gone up in the light of recent events. I find Hague and Clarke rather more compelling and believable in the role of  ‘Prospective Chancellor’ – as, I suspect, do many.

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It is a pretty shocking indictment of our law, our values, our mores… that a loving mother has to resort to grinding up drugs in a pestle and injecting air into the bloodstream of her daughter to give her daughter relief from the misery that became her life. It is even more shocking that she is then hauled before the courts and is now the subject of national and, possibly, international comment.  There will be many who will decry the compassionate judgment of the jury in acquitting her of attempted murder, there will be many who will pray some god in aid as justification for their view that all killing is wrong and there will be many who will say that we need new laws.  The law does seem to be in a bit of a mess. Perhaps the solution is to keep the law, the guidelines put forward by the DPP, but give the judges more discretion?  Perhaps – let us be radical in these early days of the 21st Century – we need to have a law of controlled and medically supervised assisted dying?

I favour a change in the law of assisted dying. If an individual chooses to die because life is, for them, no longer tenable, no longer sustainable – surely it is barbaric to insist that they live and suffer to salve the conscience and conscientious objections of those who take a different view?   For my part – it is none of their business.  I am not interested in the views of any religious leader, praying in aid beliefs and ‘deities’ from 2000 or more years ago. I am interested in rational, philosophical and moralo-ethical analysis. We should, as a civilised and moral and honest society permit those who wish to die to do so with dignity and die humanely.  It goes without saying – before the ravening crowd pile in with their outrage, ‘moral compasses’ and other assorted ‘mumbo-jumbery’ –  that we need to think through compassionate laws to ensure that decisions are taken by the person who wishes to die without ‘undue influence’ from others and having taken an accurate medical prognosis to ensure that consent is truly ‘informed’.

I applaud the judge, Mr Justice Bean, who said: “I do not normally comment on the verdicts of juries but in this case their decision, if I may say so, shows that common sense, decency and humanity which makes jury trials so important in a case of this kind.”

I agree with Mr Justice Bean on both counts. I also applaud Mrs Gilderdale for being a real Mother.  It must have been the most difficult thing she  had to do in her life. What do you think? Please feel free to use the comments section below as always.

As the Guardian reported: “The case has drawn parallels with that of Frances Inglis, the mother jailed at the Old Bailey last week for injecting her brain-damaged son with a lethal dose of heroin. Is there really, such a substantial difference?  Lawyers will be able to pick subtle legalo-factual distinctions – consent to name but one.  Is there really such a ‘moral’ difference?   In neither case, of course, do we, as readers of newspaper reports, see or listen to all the evidence.  we are, therefore, reliant on accurate reporting.  This, it has to be said, is not always reliable. But..going on what is available to us all in the press.. what do you think?

Barristers ‘gearing up for a revolution in the way they provide their services’

Barristers in England and Wales are preparing themselves for major changes in the ways they provide legal services, the new Chairman of the Bar Council Nicholas Green QC has said. Barristers are ‘gearing up for a revolution in the way they provide their services’. His remarks come as the Bar Council runs a series of nation-wide road shows following the historic decision of the Bar Standards Board (BSB) in November 2009 to liberalise the Bar’s practice rules in the light of the Legal Services Act 2007.

These changes, which will need to be approved by the Legal Services Board, could see barristers, among other things, working in partnership with other lawyers, or forming specialist procurement companies through which to deliver their services on a cost-effective basis.

Nicholas Green QC:

The Bar has major advantages in terms of quality and cost. Barristers have a great opportunity because they are both specialised in advocacy and advice, and often in particular areas of law. At the same time, because of chambers’ significantly lower overheads, barristers’ services are considerably cheaper than those of solicitors. ‘There is also an excellent opportunity for clients and consumers to benefit from the expert services of the Bar in different ways and at less cost. This will provide an important response to the recent review of costs in civil justice, by Lord Justice Jackson, which warned of the need to reduce the cost of going to court.’

I hope to have a fellow user of Twitter, a barrister, doing a guest post on this issue shortly…

Iraq inquiry: Government legal official will disclose advice given to ministers

The Times reports: ” Sir Michael Wood, the former top legal adviser at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has been given permission from the Attorney-General to break with protocol and disclose advice given to ministers in the build-up to the Iraq war.”

I shall certainly be watching this appearance.  Let us hope that Sir Roderic Lyne opens the batting on this one.  Baroness Prashar of Runnymede, despite her appointment as Chairman of the Judicial Appointments Commission, is not one of the sharpest of questioners on current performance, at any rate.

CoL launches online GDL

The Lawyer reports that The College of Law  “has fired another shot in the battle to become the UK’s top legal education provider by launching a new fast-track part-time Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). The school has launched an online part-time GDL, which has a January start date and allows students to complete the course in 18 months rather than the usual two years.

CoL’s director of vocational programmes Scott Slorach said: “We anticipate most students choosing this mode will have work or family commitments. It gives them a better work/life/study balance by allowing them to choose their own study times and also reduces the travel and accommodation costs that students undertaking the traditional part-time courses may have to meet.”

No doubt BPP will pop up with a variant on this before too long. The GDL is a tough course, providing as it does coverage of the eight core subjects required by the profession before a candidate may take the LPC or the BPTC.  Part-time students tend to take their studies seriously and this initiative will certainly widen access to education. There are dangers, of course, that this is just another stage in the dumbing down of legal education and that young lawyers are being commoditised, to use a noun that used to be a verb and a concept beloved of the sayers of legal sooths.

I am fairly enthusiastic about the use of new media and technology in legal education but remain skeptical about standards. Neither the SRA nor the BSB appear to have much appetite for rigorous inspection of law schools and, short of the nuclear option of withdrawing accreditation, do not appear to have many teeth to ensure that law schools keep to the standards required and observe the rules.  (The report into BPP’s over subscription has still not been released.  I am advised that it will be soon.)

I am writing a couple more long posts on legal education (here is my first: Law Review: Law Student Special – From here to eternity… (Part I)) and will return to the issue of standards in legal education then. The comments at the foot of The Lawyer article are worth reading.  I have some sympathy with some of the views expressed by students.  I liked the one where a student said… “Makes you wonder why you pay eight grand for a reading list and a library card.”

And finally…

Yale law professor Robert Solomon, director of clinical studies at the institution, is plaintiff’s counsel in a lawsuit filed late last year contending that it is a violation of Connecticut consumer protection law for McDonald’s, Burger King and Friendly’s not to disclose to customers that their grilled chicken contains naturally occurring carcinogens (as do a wide variety of grilled, charred and barbecued food) [From PointofLaw ]

See?… with tall that legal knowledge and opportunity… it is worth it… you too could end up filing lawsuits about carcinogenic chickens.


Law Review (2):Burqas and the divorce laws of Britain..

GuyNews from Guido Fawkes has the gen on Lord Pearson’s plans for UKIP to take away part of the BNP vote: “Guy News wanted to get to the bottom of the UKIP burqa ban.  So we sent Emily Nomates, in disguise, to meet Lord Pearson.”

Subscribers get the videos early on a Friday (You may subscribe free on the Guido Fawkes blog) but here it is!  It really is a must watch.  Lord Pearson does say some extraordinary things!

Another, equally, interesting perspective comes from Dominic Lawson writing in the Times: Banning the burqa is simply not British.

Lawson writes: ” This is not to say that Lord Pearson, UKIP’s new leader, is a figure in the Hitler mould. Far from it. Having met Pearson on more than one occasion, I know him to be a civilised and considerate person. Yet in attempting to gain market share from the British National party in the run-up to the general election, Pearson is indulging in a lethally dangerous form of identity politics; and in his claims to be standing up for “British values”, the UKIP leader is in fact trashing them…….Pearson declared last week: “We are not Muslim-bashing, but this [the wearing of the burqa] is incompatible with Britain’s values of freedom and democracy.” First of all, he absolutely is “Muslim-bashing….”

I am not in the least interested in what people wish to wear. If women are forced to wear the burqa, that is a different issue – but as many women wish to wear the burqa, they should be free to do so, subject to the caveat that they should be subject to the same security issues as everyone else in this country.  I doubt that I would personally find it as interesting to talk to someone wearing a balaclava or a burqa as I would an open face because we tend to read faces when we listen to give sense, emotion and depth to the spoken word. I suspect others may take a similar view.

An area of law I have absolutely no interest in is Family Law. Fortunately there are many good bloggers about to deal with such matters: John Bolch, Family Lore, and Pink Tape to name but two regulars.

I do wonder why lawyers who deal with the fantastically rich are so rich themselves… I can only presume that  these lawyers charge rich people more for exactly the same advice as lawyers dealing with ‘ordinary people’. The law for rich and poor must be ‘roughly’ the same, surely?   The rich lawyers may argue that the financial affairs of the maniacally rich are ‘far more complex’… there are tax issues, off-shore laws to consider…blah blah blah… but, I would have thought that less well paid lawyers who  deal with normal people (who do not have an account at the RichBastardsBank)  still have complex issues to sort?

My only other observation, which is ironic given David Cameron’s plan to encourage everyone to get back to eating Sunday lunch, attending Church and getting married, is that getting married  is not a brilliant idea in the current climate of Britain’s divorce laws. It is quite possible that the Tories, when they came up with this wheeze, had not done any detailed research on our Family laws.  They do seem well up on kill a burglar ideas though.  If you are a rich man or rich woman…. don’t complain when you have to give away half of your fortune to your estranged spouse.  Either live together happily (this is quite possible for many) or don’t get married, don’t let the other party live with you and don’t make promises you aren’t prepared to keep.

The latest nonsense to come out of our divorce courts is covered by the Daily Telegraph: Is divorce law fair?  A multimillionaire faces Britain’s biggest divorce payout. Is Lisa Tchenguiz right to demand £100m of her husband’s wealth?

At least this case – for those of us who have no interest in this field of law –  has a human interest story….well… ‘human’ interest in the sense of greed and duplicity… The Telegraph reports: “Shortly after Miss Tchenguiz filed for divorce, her husband was locked out of his Mayfair office and 20,000 documents were downloaded from his computer…… and then asks: “Was the judge right to rule that Miss Tchenguiz could use this information? Do you think assets are shared fairly in divorce law? What about spousal maintenance? Should the wife get half?..”

Apparently the judge held that she could use the stolen information (she was clobbered for a million in costs) and remarked that on the scale of bad behaviour, nicking documents from the husband in a bit of DIY detective work was pretty severe and shoddy.  This is ‘End of the pier at Brighton’  knock about stuff… but English Law can be a bit ‘colourful’. If you are in the market  for other ‘novelty cakes’ yourself… they do some good ones here. Truly astonishing.

There is a lot of LAW about today…

Solicitors drum up childhood-abuse cases with jail ads

No Shit Sherlock award…

The Times reports… solemnly..

SOLICITORS are advertising in jails for prison inmates to make compensation claims for abuse against former carers and teachers. Some of the claims involve allegations stretching back decades. The prisoners contact the lawyers to inquire about payouts and are told to make complaints to the police about their alleged abusers, partly in order to shore up their compensation claims. They can net up to six-figure sums. In addition to genuine cases of historical abuse it is feared that some former carers and teachers could be wrongly accused — and socially stigmatised — by hardened criminals attracted by the lure of compensation money.”

CPS refuses to reveal details of Nick Griffin’s race hate trial

Guardian: Prosecutors claim releasing information about 1998 case would breach BNP leader’s data protection rights

The CPS decision here is understandable – but here we are not dealing with a private individual.  Mr Griffin is the leader of the BNP.  Mr Griffin’s party will play a part in the coming elections.  The Guardian is appealing the decision with the Information Commissioner.  I hope that the information is revealed.  The electorate and the press do have the right to know about the political views of those who seek election… or the views they may once have held.

The Guardian reports: ”  In a letter to the Guardian, which ­submitted the request almost four months ago, the CPS said: “The majority of the information contained in the case papers is personal data. “A large proportion of this personal data is sensitive personal data because it consists of information as to the commission of an offence and Mr Griffin’s political opinions.”…..On appeal, the CPS last week ­reiterated its view that Griffin’s rights are not outweighed by the public interest in the disclosure of the information.”

Law Review (1): Rabbie Burns, Kill a burglar re-visited and Chilcot review

Blawg Review #248 by Scotslawstudent is up…

Welcome everyone to Blawg Review #248, this week hosted at scotslawstudent.com. Today is the 251st anniversary of celebrated Scottish poet Robert Burns’ birth, which took place on this day in 1759. Burns was a prolific poet who wrote his best work in Scots, which is not the same as English, and he also recorded traditional Scottish music and spread it to a much wider audience than ever before. He’s why you probably sang Auld Lang Syne on New Year’s Eve no matter where you live.

Read Blawg Review

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Frances Gibb, writing in the Times this morning reports...” A new law to give greater protection to householders is unnecessary and could be a licence to kill, a leading criminal barrister has warned.Paul Mendelle, QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, says that a change to allow “disproportionate” force would encourage vigilantism. “The law should always encourage people to be reasonable, not unreasonable; to be proportionate, not disproportionate,” he said, adding that the present law worked perfectly well and was well understood by juries….If, as the Conservatives propose, the law is changed to allow “disproportionate force”, householders who kill burglars could be acquitted.”

Leading lawyers have long maintained that the existing law on self defence’ is more than adequate and that change is not necessary. I agree.  Interestingly, the Munir Hussain case did not turn on the application of self defence laws strictly.  Carl Gardner has written a detailed analysis of the decision which is worth a read:  The truth about Munir Hussain

Frances Gibb also followed her main story up with a comment in the Times that the judges don’t need more laws but do need more discretion, pointing out .. “David Thomas, the sentencing expert, told The Times that in the case of the Hussain brothers a prison sentence of 30 months was “as far from the guideline as [the judge] could properly go”. He added that in the Inglis case: “No one could doubt that the mother was properly convicted of murder.” He said the judge, Judge Brian Barker QC, was required to impose a life sentence. With regard to how long Mrs Inglis should serve, the judge went as far below the recommended level as he could. Judges are increasingly restricted over the sentences that they can impose, and the trend is towards greater straitjacketing: the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 will require them to follow guidelines, not just take them into account, unless contrary to the interest of justice.

The comments in both Times articles are interesting. The general public is on the side of the Chris Grayling school of thought and not the side of lawyers who practise daily before the courts.  Some of the comments are fairly extreme..

The ‘People’ speak….

Bob Evans wrote:
The courts have already proven incapable of responsible discretion. The judges are drawn from the ranks of the lawyers who were sworn to defend and win freedom for criminals. Too often, they have carried this prejudice when charged with delivering justice to *all*.

Mike Longford added to the maturity of the debate with this wonderful diatribe...”Criminal barristers have to be the lowest form of scum on this planet.”
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And then there is this nonsense… from  Johnn Schroeder who wrote: In Britain, the lawyers would rather you die then their clients, that way they get paid! Of course the question is are lawyers able to defend themselves? Judges, politicians? Britain is not a land of free people, and as such, the population has little in the way of protections like Americans have. Too bad really, since America’s right to self-protection was once an English right too!”
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Well…there we are… moving on…

The Chilcot Inquiry will hear from leading government lawyers, Lord Goldsmith and Tony Blair this week in what promises to be an interesting week. The Independent has a critical review of the performance of the Inquisitioners so far… and is worth a read.  I particularly liked this rather good line…
“Former permanent secretary at the Northern Ireland Office. Member of the Butler inquiry. The occasional anecdotes, nervous cough and oddly frantic panting of Sir John soon raised concerns that the inquiry chairman was more an old-fashioned English eccentric than an interrogator filled with iconoclastic zeal. Those fears were not eased when Sir John asked one perplexed witness: “Was there anything, any juice in the lemon to be squeezed out of trying to peer behind the curtain into the mind of the regime of Saddam?”
Part (2) will follow later in the day…

Postcard from The Staterooms-On-Sea: Legality of the war…. and a bit from the political world….

Dear Reader,

“Philippe Sands QC, a professor of international law, who gave evidence to the Dutch inquiry, said: “There has been no other independent assessment on the legality of the war in Iraq and the findings of this inquiry are unambiguous. It concludes that the case argued by the Dutch and British governments, including the then attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, could not reasonably be argued.” Guardian 12 January

“The findings of the Dutch inquiry that the war had no basis in international law are even more important for a domestic audience in Britain,” said Sands. “I do not see how the five members of the Chilcot inquiry, none of whom is legally qualified, could possibly summon the means to reach an alternative conclusion.”

Against this background and Jack Straw’s recent appearance before the Iraq Inquiry where he says he was ‘haunted’ we have Sir Michael Wood QC, principal Legal Adviser to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office between 1999 and 2006, likely to testify that he gave consistent advioce that the Iraq War was illegal without a second resolution. This will, The Observer, reports…“This will provide an explosive backdrop to the former prime minister’s appearance before the inquiry on Friday.”

The Observer notes: “His testimony will come the day before the appearance of Lord Goldsmith, the former attorney general, who is said to have dropped his legal objections days before the invasion, following intense pressure from Blair and his closest advisers, and the US authorities……Wood’s deputy at the time, former Foreign Office lawyer Elizabeth Wilmshurst, who resigned two days before the war because she believed the invasion was a “crime of aggression”, will appear at the inquiry after Wood on Tuesday.”

Lord Goldsmith changed his mind about the legality of the war.  Was he waterboarded?  There was talk late last year of him being pinned to a wall by Blair’s enforcers. . This will be one of the key areas of questioning and will pave the way for what could be an extraordinary day when Tony Blair appears on the 29th.  Blair will hold firm and repeat the mantra that he did what believed was right.  I rather suspect that Gordon Brown’s testimony will be as interesting – testimony which will now be heard before the general election which Bob Ainsworth says will be on 6th May.  Tom Harris MP says that Ainsworth doesn’t know the date and asks why we are so interested in conspiracy theories. Harris adds, laconically…“Given the public appetite for conspiracy theories, I’m surprised no-one has actually suggested that Bob’s and Chris Bryant’s comments earlier this month are part of a complex subterfuge aimed at persuading the Tories to prepare for an election on the wrong date…

Interestingly, the Observer reports: “Blair will take his place amid intense security, with mass protests expected in Westminster. Sources close to Scotland Yard said Blair’s appearance had been a major factor behind the government’s decision to raise the terror threat level from “substantial” to “severe”.

Brown must now be regretting his ‘masterly’ decision to hold an Iraq Inquiry – an inquiry which, reportedly, angered Tony Blair.

Finally, on the Iraq war issue…The Mail reports :

David Kelly post mortem to be kept secret for 70 years as doctors accuse Lord Hutton of concealing vital information

***

I escaped to London on Saturday – hence no blog post – for lunch. I don’t do it often (but I am moving back to London in early February) – but I do enjoy a long lunch…particularly lunches which start at 2.00 pm and end the following morning.  Curiously, at some point in the proceedings, I was asked if I would like to appear as ‘Chairman of a large Corporate’ in a parody film being made about news by a friend of mine.   Hey… why not..?  I prefer the subtlety of radio/podcasts and I no longer care that much if people run when they see images, still or visual, of me on blogs….  so I appear to have landed myself a ‘part’ in a ‘musical video’… I do enjoy ‘random’.

I left Battersea at 8.00 this morning, walked across the bridge to World’s End in search of much need black coffee...found some at Mona Lisa and another cup at the Chelsea Bun and sat down to read the News of the Screws. (The Observer is best read sober).  Coffee taken…I made my way to Victoria Station to be told there were no trains to Rochester/Chatham because someone had decided to thrown himself in front of a train.  (I do feel for the driver’s of trains in these not so uncommon situations). Onwards to Charing Cross – where I found a train and after faffing about on the internet for a while I had a most enjoyable afternoon kip….


All this is, of course, completely irrelevant… but I would like to link to The White Rabbit, a fellow law blogger who is a serious lawyer but finds detailed analysis of legal issues on his own blog… unnecessary… This week he has several excellent posts and I have no hesitation in suggesting, when you want a laugh.. just pop over to his blog… (he does music as well)… This week I have selected…

Immortal stuff from Steve Bell

White Rabbit notes… “Cartoonist Steve Bell surpasses even his usual standards in the Guardian this morning. For the terminally inattentive Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary at the time of the Iraq invasion, has informed the Chilcot Inquiry that he could have stopped British participation in the invasion by resigning.


He didn’t though.”

I read many political blogs and this week, Old Holborn caught me eye with this wonderful idea! I quite fancy the idea of buying myself a High Viz yellow jacket and wondering around talking to Police Community Support Officers….

Oi! YesYOU! Who are you!? PROVE IT

Old Holborn advises: “Do it. Everytime you see one of them watching you, watch them. DEMAND to see their warrant card. And then ask the time(they hate it).”

[Picture Cassie Mayes – which I just had to nick from Old Holborn’s post.  Mea culpa]

Guido Fawkes reports: +++ Osborne to Re-Pay £1,666 Expenses Over-Claim +++

“Lyon’s report says Osborne’s breaches were not “major ones, were not intentional and did not provide Mr Osborne with any significant financial benefit.” He will not have to give an apology to the House. Nice to know the Shadow Chancellor can add up though.”

Rather more serious…. Guido Fawkes notes about David Chator MP… David Chaytor, the soon to be former MP for Bury North, drew up a tenancy agreement with his daughter but disguised their relationship by giving her middle name as her surname.  That is deception. …”

Obnoxio The Clown, not ‘knowingly over under-C*****d in terms of  usage of the old anglo-saxon (and not always office safe – assuming you want to keep your job) is a blog I read regularly. Acerbic is a word I like… and Obo can, certainly, be that… here is a recent post on politicans..  Have I got politicians for you

I did enjoy this tweet from Sandanista…

And Jimmy Bastard on NevermindtheBollix…. makes one think…

“If I’m honest, I always knew that walking away would not be the end of it all.

It could never be as easy as opening and shutting a door. There would always be a time when that knock on the door, or that tap on the shoulder in a crowded bar would see me having to face up to my past.

My advice to any armchair gangsters reading my words who still believe that violence brings honour or glory to a man’s name is; seek help, for you are caught up in your own mad world of atrophied emotional dyslexia.

Violence is an opprobrium that sits like a cancer inside a man’s chest.”
And another blogger who not only thinks, but engages in discussion on many blogs.. Obiter J – this is the latest piece.. Children and the law: No.1 – The Edlington Case

Carl Gardner, ex government lawyer, blogger (Head of Legal blog) is always worth reading on the current ‘difficult’ issues of the day. I know Carl.  We enjoy a few glasses of wine together from time to time and I have done many podcasts with him. This piece on the Munir Hussein case is very definitely worth a read…The truth about Munir Hussain

I lost  my parents many years ago.  This week, three people I know (all three met through Twitter – two I have met many times face to face). Geeklawyer lost his Mother.  I think he made a fine choice of music with this.  I would certainly have no hesitation in using it when I finally go.

What better tribute to a parent… Geeklawyer writes… “Thanks old girl. See you around.”

Best as always
Charon

Gordon Brown testifies early at the Iraq Inquiry

Below are extracts  from  what could well be the testimony  that Gordon Brown delivers to the Iraq Inquiry when he does appear…possibly?

Sir John Chilcot: Good morning, prime minister.  Perhaps we could start  at the beginning… when you first heard of plans to invade Iraq?

Prime Minister: Yes..indeed…. It all started in America… I remember the day well… The Arctic Monkeys really wake you up in the morning!  [The prime minister laughs and bobs his head from side to side] …

Sir John Chilcot: Quite… now, if you please…… the events leading up to the war?

Prime Minister: My favourite sport at school was rugby. All sports are teamwork, but rugby particularly is about teamwork and I think teamwork is the essence of this…. but I must emphasise tht it was Tony Blair’s team… my team and I were holed up at the Treasury with other things on our mind… I think I speak for millions of people when I say today that Tony Blair’s achievements are unique, unprecedented and enduring, including sexing up the dossier….. In the hours and questions ahead, my task is to show I have the new ideas, the vision and the experience to earn the trust of the British people..and had nothing whatsoever to do with Iraq and the decision… I wasn’t even there…. I was at The Treasury, getting on with the job.

Sir John Chilcot: Prime Minister, we have heard that there was a particularly strong and close relationship between Tony Blair and George Bush….

Prime Minister: Our relationship with the United States is a relationship founded on our common values and the dignity of the individual… I was on the phone just before coming over today talking to President Obama Beach and told him this… that he had nothing to fear from Britain or the Iraq Inquiry…  [The prime Minister leans back in his seat, grinning like a Cheshire Cat and rocks from side to side]

Sir John Chilcot: If I could take you back, please, to the early discussions about the weapons of mass destruction and the issue of whether regime change was ever discussed…?

Prime Minister: Oh yes… I often talked to members of my inner cabinet and, indeed to Mr Blair… about regime change… his!  [The prime minister laughs maniacally, stands, turns to the audience seated behind him and takes a bow]

Sir John Chilcot: Indeed… but if we could trouble you to focus on the key issues?

Prime Minister: I want to lead a government humble enough to know its place – where I will always strive to be – and that is on people’s side….. I think we should do better next week, better the week after, and better right throughout the course of our government. Sometimes in parties these things happen, but it is not acceptable to go around terrifying the British people with talk of weapons of mass destruction.. that is the sort of thing the morally bankrupt Tories and The Daily Mail do… and I do believe that what people now want to do is to debate the future with me… we are a team together…  about policy – and I think the issues about what Tony Blair will or will not do with his time now that he is no longer involved in politics  are going to be left to Tony Blair…who got us into this mess in the first place, according to tape recordings I made secretly at the time. [Brown looks cunning]

Sir John Chalcott: Prime Minister… you had many meetings with Mr Blair in the run up to the Iraq War… what did you talk about?

Prime Minister: That’s between me and the bed sheets  [Prime Minister laughs  and makes unusual hand movement with his right hand]

Sir John Chilcott: Quite… the Iraq War discussions, if you please, prime minister… and in particular the importance of the dossier and its potential to persuade others to a point of view?

Prime Minister: Potential?  This government strives to bring about conditions where everyone can live their lives fully….Pop Idol, X Factor, Fame Academy, there’s so much talent out there. It’s great to see people getting the chance to show their potential…I hope the Spice Girls will come back, although it may be beyond even Bob Geldof to get that to happen.

Sir John Chilcott: We have heard that Robin Cook was the only Cabinet Minister at the time to object to the plan to invade Iraq… what are your thoughts on this?

Prime Minister: Robin Cook’s mastery of the House of Commons was acknowledged on all sides and his incisive mind, forensic skills and formidable and wide ranging debating prowess were seen by the public very clearly. I admired and valued Robin as a colleague and friend and as one of the greatest parliamentarians of our time. His wife Gaynor and his two sons are in our thoughts and prayers… Unfortunately he is dead and can’t be here today.

Sir John Chilcott: Mr Blair told us that he firmly believed in the intelligence reports presented to him in the run up to the War.

Prime Minister: There is nothing that you could say to me now that I could ever believe… I  said that to Tony Blair on several occasions.  For me there is a mission for this country moving forward – there are big long-term decisions we’ve got to take as a nation. We spend more on cows than the poor. I sense a new spirit in Britain: that the people of Britain want this massive demonstration of my competence to get on with the job to be given enduring purpose. Did I tell you that the Arctic Monkeys really get you up in the morning?

Sir John Chilcot: We shall break there for lunch….

***

Much of the above narrative was, of course, taken from well known Gordon Brown quotations (with some midifications to suit my purposes!) … it is quite possible, in the real thing, that he will rehash some of his most famous lines?

Rive Gauche: Blunders edition

I have no idea why the Tories thought it was a good idea to put Caroline ‘Nannygate’ Spelman on to BBC’s Question Time last night – because she didn’t do a very good job.  In fact, Spelman reminded me of my old days when I taught law students who turned up to tutorials hungover and unprepared  after a night on the lash and who, when I inevitably zeroed in on them to kick proceedings off, put on a slightly hunted look, eyes swivelling frantically,  as if to get inspiration from the ceiling. I remember looking up at the ceiling with them just to see if it was their lucky day and the answer to my question was, in fact,  on some celestial autocue. It never was.

Spelman, qua representative of the Tory party (and she is a front bench spokesperson after all), managed to convey the impression of a party which isn’t yet prepared and hasn’t quite thought things through.  She was particularly bad when discussing the Munir Hussain ‘have a go hero’ case and seemed unable to get the distinction between self defence and revenge. I half expected the spectre of Chris ‘Kill a burglar’ Grayling to loom in the background, arms outstretched. I’ve mocked a pic up to show you how I saw Question Time last night when this topic was being discussed.  It has to be said… I do enjoy a few glasses of rioja while watching QT.

The Tory policy on families, I suspect, is doomed to fail – another attempt by politicians to socially engineer people into a bizarre troupe of ‘Stepford’ couples.  I’m afraid I can’t be bothered to comment further on these policies and this was my mildly over refreshed take on it as I added to the nonsense tweets about #bbcqt last night.

First up from the left field this morning is another example of government brilliance and competence at controlling highly personal data.

The Independent reports: ” The personal details of hundreds of magistrates were placed in the hands of convicted criminals in a data loss blunder, it was revealed today. A directory containing names, telephone numbers and email addresses of magistrates and court legal advisors in Norfolk was sent for printing in a prison workshop manned by inmates. The document, containing details of 400 magistrates and 26 legal advisors, was sent to HMP Standford Hill in Sheerness, Kent, at the beginning of the month. Printing, which is carried out by inmates supervised by prison officers, had begun when the mistake was uncovered. The incident prompted an apology from senior courts service staff. A spokesman said all copies of the document have now been destroyed.”

Cue…the Information Commissioner banging his head on the table and some hapless minister being shunted out to do the Lessons have been learned speech from Richard III ( Copyright G.Brown 1997-2010 )

Fear (of something)  dominates the headlines for most newspapers and tv stations. Charlie Brooker’s latest Newswipe on iPlayer (available for seven days, apparently) devoted an entire edition to the way TV and mainstream news media terrorises people with scare stories… and a very amusing edition it was. I was particularly amused at the footage of a hysterical and angry US female news reporter expressing outrage at the failed attempt by Mustapha Al-Blowmyballsoff, the guy trained by Al Qaeda-on-Sea in The Yemen who tried to blow a plane up at Christmas by setting fire to his explosive underpants.  Brooker’s  response to all the shouted questions from the journalist was wonderfully laconic… “I don’t know… you are the fucking journalist.. go and find out and tell us.” (or words to that effect.  I can recommend that edition of Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe! In fact, I can recommend all Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe programmes!

The Telegraph tells us that….

Muslim police say Islam not to blame for terror attacks

“Muslim police officers have rebelled openly against the Government’s anti-terrorism strategy, warning that it is an “affront to British values” which threatens to trigger ethnic unrest.” Telegraph

Good to see that the government has got a firm grip on current thinking in a section of the police force.

Over to The Sun, the thinking Tory’s favourite newspaper…… for the latest issues of the day..

The headlines today were particularly good…Blake has been at it again… (left) but the other headlines included… “Cross me and you’re dead…Fergie warns his United stars…” and

“Is this the worst Mum in Britain?…She sniffs 12 cans of lighter fuel a DAY in front of kids and down 10 cans of Stella”

And I discovered, under the headline Simon’s a very cheeky fella that SIMON Cowell patted Cheryl Cole on the bottom as they arrived at the glittering NTAs

The Sun does, eventually, find some news that people who live on earth read… and reports that Gordon Brown will be flamegrilled by the Iraq Inquiry before the election. After Jack Straw’s elegant appearance before the Inquisitioners yesterday (reported more fully in The Independent) we now have the prospect of Tony Blair next week (29th January) and Gordon Brown.  I suspect that Blair will be smooth and effective and “McDoom” will make a complete balls of it.  He is not a great public speaker… but I could be wrong.

And finally… for this week’s edition of Rive Gauche…

Apple turns lawyers loose to keep its big secret

The Times reports: “Apple has turned to its lawyers in an attempt to keep the lid on the company’s biggest product launch in three years. Its lawyers have sent a warning letter to a website that offered cash for photos of its touchscreen tablet personal computer before the product is unveiled, probably next week. The tablet will be Apple’s biggest new product category since it launched the iPhone in 2007. The company, which has turned secrecy into a marketing phenomenon, has declined to confirm even if its event a week today will reveal the much-anticipated device.”

Have a good one… there is some sensible law related stuff in the posts below and I shall, of course, continue with posts over the weekend with my Postcard from the Staterooms-on-Sea, returning to the daily Law reviews on Monday… have a good weekend..

Law Review: Law Student Special – From here to eternity… (Part I)

While I always enjoy reading the enthusiastic PR  put out by law firms in the ‘Student’ editions of The Lawyer or Legal Week,  brimming with adverts from law firms; I sat down over lunch today at my local pub,  a glass of burgundy to my right and a fag to my left (I was sitting outside in the winter sun) and read  Student Law in Times 2.

Just turning the first page of the 12 page ‘pullout’ supplement brought my first reward.  The inside page, all of it, was devoted to an advertisement from The Institute of legal Executives with the quite remarkable headline.” Your best route to becoming a qualified lawyer”

I don’t have a scanner down here at the Staterooms-On-Sea, but it is quite remarkable what one can do with a mobile telephone these days, so I was able to capture an image of part of the advert.

I suspect that The Law Society and the Bar Council may take a rather different view of the best route to qualifying as a lawyer and, being realistic, the chance of a student, studying the long and excellent route to qualification through ILEX and being able to compete with the top quartile of graduates fresh from Oxbridge, Russell Group universities and the shiny temples of legal mammon that are the modern vocational law schools is… frankly… low.

I am a fan of ILEX as a route to qualfication though and not everyone wishes to be a City or BIG Law lawyer…thankfully…. so qualifying while you work and gain experience, reducing the debt burden, can make sense.

Frances Gibb, a seasoned and professional commentator on matters legal has been around for a long time and I mean that kindly because she brings a wealth of knowledge and contacts to her pieces. Frances Gibb kicks off proceedings under the headline The profession is shifting to a legal services market and advises…. “Be broadminded; there’s more to a legal career than simply qualifying as a solicitor or barrister..”

Frances Gibb reminds us of the warning put of last summer by The Law Society that students should think twice before embarking on a law career in the present economic climate. She asks if things have changed and provides some useful facts and figures, noting conflicting information and highlights the point that training places, some say, have dropped by as much as a third.  It does not appear to have dipped. Tim Pierce at the SRA says that 5751 places were offered in 2008-09 compared to 5732 for 2009-10 and that the current figure is 4510, but says that many are offered during the year, so the dip is ‘illusory.  There are, Pierce notes, more applicants so competition remains fierce.

The current state of the market really really depends on who you speak to. There is always an element of wish fulfilment. Listening to a podcast I did a year ago with Peter Crisp, CEO of BPP Law School, one could be forgiven for thinking that the credit-crunch was having absolutely no effect because, he reported enthusiastically, numbers on his courses had never been so high.  This was certainly true on the Bar Vocational Course.  We await (and I will be advised by the BSB when it comes out) the BSB report on BPP’s significant over subscription on the Bar Vocational Course which even The Times observed would net them a ‘cool million’ straight to the bottom line.  (I suspect 650- 750,000 quid is nearer the mark, recalling the very detailed budgeting done when I was involved in founding the school in the early 1990s)

If you have been reading Legal Week and The Lawyer you will have seen numerous stories about even the very biggest law firms cutting staff, partners and associates – but there are signs of resurgence now. It would be wise to read widely to get an accurate feel to the current market and the future.

The bottom line, no matter how you cut the figures is that roughly 14000 LPC qualified students this year are competing for 5700 training places according to figures in the Times. What of those from last year and the year before who have still not been absorbed into legal work?  They can’t all be flipping burgers or working as baristas at Starbucks?

And that leads nicely to the LAW SCHOOLS… all of them, not just the big boys, The College of Law and BPP Law School… and in this section, I include all the universities, all 104 of them providing law courses  in the UK, most of them in England & Wales

Nigel Savage, CEO of The College of Law opens the batting with a typically clever piece, deflecting attention from the vocational law schools to the first line universities with an excellent piece: Law schools: gatekeepers or cash cows? The main theme of the article, which I extracted from the Times summary is…Undergraduate law degrees have been neglected with law schools now isolated from the profession and exposed in the battle for resources.

The really juicy bits of Savage’s article are worth closer and objective analysis.

The inital rubric rehearses the changing nature of the profession but it is not long before the experienced Captain and centre forward takes the ball from an excellent corner kick and slams it into the back of the net with this… ” How are law schools coping? At the professional stage (Legal Practice Course or Bar Vocational Course) the sector has coped well with much innovation and flexibility. Until recently, the Bar Standards Board and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) have been vigilant in maintaining standards and publishing monitoring reports.”

The elegance of this one crisp paragraph contains three separate propositions: (1) The professional stage is separate from the academic stage (2) We, the College of Law have adapted to change – and they have.  See this excellent piece by Richard Susskind on the College of Law’s new e-learning initiative and (c) Savage, by my interpretation,  has a  dig at the the regulators – The Bar Standards Board and the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

I have some experience of this given my background, but I think that Savage is right to raise this.  It does appear that the regulation of vocational law schools is perhaps not as rigorous as it was in the days of the fearsome and very professional Pauline Collins and her assessment teams (The 1990s). The inspections were rigorous, fair and thorough. In my role as the then CEO of BPP Law School (I resigned in 1997) I took them seriously, as did the other law school heads and their teams.   It is imperative, in my view, that all law schools, academic stage universities and professional stage providers,  are subject to external, objective, scrutiny. It is absurd that the SRA appears to be cutting back on monitoring visits, as Savage states in his article,  and both regulators should make all reports and assessment visits public so that students and others can assess the quality of the provision at each provider. The good law schools will pass muster, the poor ones won’t.

Savage then picks the ball up and runs straight towards the goal – the academic stage universities – with this… ” The key problem is the academic stage and the state of the undergraduate law degree. This should be the gatekeeper for the professional bodies; instead it has been hugely neglected with law schools now isolated from the profession and exposed in the battle for resources. Law is a cash cow for vice-chancellors. There are more than 68,000 students taking undergraduate law degrees, with 15,500 graduating each year. Law faculties used to be powerful centres in university administration. Today they have been absorbed into huge mega-faculties and resources are fought for at a low level. A robust regulator, therefore, is more vital than ever.”

There are 68,000 students studying law currently in universities and colleges. Not all will wish to go into a legal career (and many read law with no intention of doing so).  Law is an important service to the country.  It is not all City and Big Law – although that, as the President of The Law Society Robert Heslett told me in a recent podcast which I did for my Law Society Gazette series, is vitally important to the economic health of our country.

Many lawyers act for private clients doing valuable work in family law, in crime, in employment… the list is long.  Pretty well every field of human activity involves law and lawyers and it is important that we get the quality right.  The universities may well assert that it is not their function to turn out lawyers, that law is a philosophical discipline, a social science, a field of independent study.  They are right – but it is also the bedrock of knowledge needed by lawyers who do practise and if they wish to continue to provide quality education for students who wish to go into practice it is only right that they (as many do)  should tailor the versions of courses for these students to the needs of a modern profession and work with the profession and regulators. The universities would, of course, be free to do as they please with courses for students who wish to study law as a liberal social science. If the universities don’t adapt, if they don’t work with the profession (as many do happily and profitably)  then it would not surprise me if the College of Law, BPP law School and other providers  enjoying degree awarding powers and who are already experienced in providing high quality training like OXford Institute, Nottingham, Northumbria, Kaplan et al pick up the baton and run with it. While BPP Law School and others may have specialist City courses, they and most providers at this level cater for the full range of  training for lawyers in day to day practice.

Savage makes the point that universities are tending to absorb law departments into ever larger Faculties and that competition for resources is high. This is not good for the profession and the Bar Standards Board and The Solicitors Regulation Authority should be far more assertive with the universities and insist on specified student – tutor ratios, correct provision of resources, teaching time et al. The question is – have they the will to do so?   There is absolutely no credible reason why profitable law faculties should subsidise other departments to the detriment of quality standards in law and any attempt by the universities to divert resources from law to other disciplines, to subsidise them, should be resisted.

On that note, I will probably irritate some in the traditional universities – but there we are.  It  won’t be the first time.  Some years ago, at a conference, I suggested that we close 25 % of the law schools and give the money to the better law schools so they could increase the provision and offer more places.  That… went down well, as you can imagine.

In Part II I shall continue to examine student specific issues and  look at the future of legal education for barristers.  I shall also touch on the developing field of E-learning for law students.

Useful articles from The Times Student Law…

Learning at all hours of the day and night

Once, law lectures were given in fine halls. Now, students have the convenience and flexibility of electronic tutorials and online supervision

Why do state schools set the Bar so high?

Aged 10, Charlotte Pickering decided that she wanted to be a barrister. But teachers at her local comprehensive did little to encourage her dreams

Mentoring: more than a helping hand

Being matched with a volunteer from your favoured practice area can help you to network, write job applications – and be successful at interviews

It’s time to spread your wings

Don’t specialise too soon and be ready to change direction; that way you’ll still be in demand in the bad times as well as the good

Ten amazing courtroom film scenes

The real judiciary would not permit some of these classic capers. Particularly the delinquent lawyer who drank a bottle of poison in front of a jury…

New master’s degree in law and finance

The University of Oxford’s groundbreaking degree – already oversubscribed – aims to boost individual careers and legal expertise in the City

Lessons in juggling your workload

Would-be lawyers have always worked hard. But the findings of a new research report suggest that things might be getting more difficult . . .

Law schools: gatekeepers or cash cows?

Undergraduate law degrees have been neglected with law schools now isolated from the profession and exposed in the battle for resources




Megaladon LLP (Formerly Muttley Dastardly LLP) – Law Firm directories

Statement to staff  from Matt Muttley, senior partner, chief executive, managing partner and president of Megaladon LLP

RE: LAW FIRM DIRECTORIES

It would appear, yet again, that Megaladon LLP does not feature in the latest Chambers & Partners directory or, indeed, The Legal 500. It is with regret, therefore, that I have to announce that our former Director of Marketing, David ‘The Airbrusher’ Cholmondely-Cameron-Smythe, was escorted from our premises at 4.30 am this morning by Megaladon LLP security operatives.  I know that some of you may have found this distressing, working as you were on our new and exciting plans to set up our own outsourcing operation in the East Indies  –  but in these dark days of the Jackson report, credit-crunch and the ever present threat of over regulation by sundry regulators, needs must.  Mr Cholmondely-Cameron-Smythe is an enthusiastic gardener, which is fortunate, because he will now have an opportunity to ‘engage’ with this interest and ‘transition’ from employment to a less stressful lifestyle.

The fact, as reported in The Times, that barely 5% of in-house counsel even look at law directories is irrelevant – a fact put ably by Mr Cholmondely-Cameron-Smythe when I held a special ‘closed’  session of the Megaladon LLP Star Chamber shortly before 4.00 am this morning.

I would like to re-assure you all that I was much comforted by a comment in The Times report on the launch of the new Chambers & Partners directory by this viewpoint..and I quote it in full… “Lisa Hart, the chief executive of Acritas, says: “General counsel are in specialist buying roles and they don’t normally need a directory to see who they are going to use.” She maintains that it is only in the rare circumstances when in-house departments are confronted with an out-of-the-ordinary matter that they will resort to looking at a directory.

That said.. we, at Megaladon LLP, must be ever vigilant to all marketing opportunities… and as you know, I shall be going on a Twitter course early next week with a famous celebrity chef, to ensure that we are at the forefront of modern social media tecniques.

That is all.  Be happy in your work and…remember our mantra… one day, you could be a partner at Megaladon LLP.

***

Note to Editors: Megaladon LLP is the new trading name of Muttley Dastardly LLP following the unfortunate ‘departure’ of name partner Dastardly in late 2009

Law Review: Self defence, murder by love, assisted dying.. and other matters….

There were two important criminal law cases yesterday:  The so-called ‘have a go hero’ case and the case of a mother who killed her son through love.

Munir Hussain
The Independent reports:
“A businessman jailed for seriously injuring an intruder after the lives of his family were threatened by knife-wielding burglars in their home was shown “mercy” and freed by senior judges today. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, sitting at the Court of Appeal in London with two other judges, replaced 53-year-old Munir Hussain’s 30-month prison term with one of two years, and ordered that it should be suspended.”

The facts of this case are well known.  The case caused an outcry, prompting politicians  to respond ‘robustly’. Many lawyers took the view that the self defence, reasonable and proportionate force,  laws in this country are sufficient.  Many, including me, felt that the trial judge was right to sentence Mr Hussain and his brother to prison.  Chasing someone down the road and battering them so badly with a cricket bat that the bat broke and the victim suffered serious injury is not self defence.  It may well be a completely understandable reaction, but no matter how one looks at it, it is retribution.  It is vengeance.  iIt is taking the law into your own hands.

Today the Court of Appeal, headed by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord judge, freed Mr Hussain – but not his brother.  Mr Hussain was given a suspended sentence of one year.  His brother had his sentence reduced to a very merciful one year.The brother had not been subjected to threat and violence during the burglary.

The Independent noted: “Lord Judge said: “This trial had nothing to do with the right of the householder to defend themselves or their families or their homes…… (lord judge rehearsed the violence of the tack on the burglar)…..this was “not an ordinary or normal case or one that falls within the overwhelming majority of cases, not least because of the character of the two appellants”.

I have not read the judgment, so I am reliant on the Independent report. That being said.. this appears to be the key point..“Involvement in this serious violence can only be understood as a response to the dreadful and terrifying ordeal and the emotional anguish which he had undergone.”

This is not a precedent directly in the sense of being a licence for retribution.  These were exceptional circumstances. I watched a BBC report later in the day.  An ex senior police officer and a probation officer were brought on.  The probation officer said that experts, judges, commentators, lawyers and others can say what they like and it won’t make a blind bit of difference to public opinion.  The public, the probation officer said, were alienated from the criminal justice system and we only had ourselves to blame because we are not tough enough on young career criminals. The Police officer reinforced the sense in the judgment but did say that provided reasonable force is used when an intrusion is taking place, prosecution is unlikely.

We are good at shades of grey.  Our legal system is built upon flexibility. Too much definition or strict liability can lead to inflexibility and injustice. Today’s decision may well be one of those classic fudges where the rule and principle of law is upheld, the law emphasised by an experienced judge, and a degree of ‘mercy’ applied.  I’m not against that  type of justice.  I think quite a few people would suffer from a red mist after an intrusion. The thing is, would we have beat a man so badly with a cricket bat?  I’m not so sure and for that reason, I would prefer  not to see the law changed and in exceptional trouble cases… there is always the objectivity of  appeal.

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‘Mercy killing’ mother is jailed for life

The Independent reports: A mother who gave her brain-damaged son a lethal heroin injection to end his “living hell” was told today she must serve at least nine years in jail. Frances Inglis, 57, was given a life sentence for killing 22-year-old son Tom after he suffered severe head injuries when he fell out of a moving ambulance.

Reports reveal that Mrs Inglis made two attempts to kill her son, not believing medical advice that the son was showing signs of recovery, to put him out his misery.  The judge made the very important point,while acknowledging that her motives were born of love…“What you did was to take upon yourself what you thought your son’s wishes would have been, to relieve him from what you described as a living hell…..But you cannot take the law into your own hands and you cannot take away life, however compelling you think the reason. You have to take responsibility for what you did.”


Now the Royal College of Physicians slams the DPP’s plans for euthanasia

The Telegraph reports: “Poor Keir Starmer, the luckless Director of Public Prosecutions forced by some simpering Law Lords, who fancy the idea of euthanasia, into the impossible task of “clarifying” when it’s okay to assist someone to kill themselves, keeps being slapped down by medical professionals.

The British Medical Association and the General Medical Council have already made it abundantly clear that they want no part in voluntary euthanasia becoming a clinical practice. Now the estimable Royal College of Physicians, the professional body representing over 20,000 physicians that “aims to improve the quality of patient care by continually raising medical standards”, has weighed in with a strongly worded letter to the DPP.

“We would go so far as to say”, writes the College’s Registrar, Dr Rodney Burnham, “that any clinician who has been part, in any way, of assisting a suicide death should be subject to prosecution.”

I did a podcast on this topic with Lord Falconer (Listen to the podcast )  – an opposing view. Also with the DPP, Keir Starmer QC (Listen to the podcast)

THE SUPREME COURT

Twelfth Justice – How are we getting on?

“We thought that it was time to have an update on the appointment process for the twelfth justice.  As our readers will recall, some time ago applications for this post were invited – with a closing date of 26 October 2009. Since then, there have been no official announcements.   There was much press speculation about the possible candidacy of Mr Jonathan Sumption QC.  However, in December 2009 he announced that he was withdrawing his candidacy….

The saga goes on… but it is an important one….

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Jackson costs review divides market

I have read Jackson LJ’s report – thankfully this article from The Lawyer relieves me of the need to explore some of the more problematic issues – and it comes straight from the mouths of the people at the coal face.  I enjoyed reading it.  Definitely worth a read.

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And a bit of Social Media  Mavenry and Gurudom for the weekend, Sir, Madam?

As regular readers know… I am not enthusiastic about mavens or gurus droning on about social media – but I do like Brian Inkster and Chris Sherliker,  who are both regular twitterers… so I shall make one final exception. They usually make sense, so perhaps they will take a different view to a lot of the nonsense I have seen on the net about twitter and other social media and how lawyers can benefit. Brian wrote and asked me if I could flag this up… knowing of my views!. Of course… a pleasure….

This Friday, 22 January, at 3.30pm you can learn how UK lawyers are using social media. American Attorney and social media expert, Adrian Dayton, will be interviewing Glasgow Solicitor, Brian Inkster of Inksters Solicitors, and London Solicitor, Chris Sherliker of Silverman Sherliker, about their experiences particularly with Twitter. Adrian will be seeking to find out whether things are really that different in the UK from the US.  Are lawyers in the UK and abroad using social media to make connections and bring in business?  Or are UK lawyers too serious for Twitter? You can listen and join in by way of a free conference call by registering in advance at: http://adriandayton.com/2010/01/how-uk-lawyers-are-using-social-media/

I may, of course, listen in… so if they do talk nonsense, I shall run amok.  They would, I am sure, expect nothing less.  🙂

The Social Media Maven pronounces (2010)
Oil on Canvas
Charon

In the Collection of @ScottGreenfield

The painting comes from my F**kArt series. I have a couple to finish and then I start on tmy Surrealist period of paintings in late January!

PS… I will be posting out paintings to recipients soon… I am just a bit behind on my life at the moment… mea culpa.

 

Poor behaviour by a British prime minister

Gordon Brown, like many who held high office before him, has to put up with a lot of flack, criticism and downright rudeness. That, I suppose, is inevitable in an intelligent and relatively free democracy.  Many of the slings are parodic or analytically fair  and most people, one hopes, are able to distinguish between the politician and the man or the woman when it comes to having a go at politicians.

Today, I watched Prime Minister’s Questions. I do most Wednesdays, although it has become less valuable with the electioneering going on.  Iain Dale covered the story, but what I saw at the end of PMQs when Brown dismissively answered Michael Fabricant’s question about the safety of a local dam, I found deeply unpleasant.

I excerpt from Iain Dale’s full blog post…

“Michael Fabricant raised the urgent matter of the leaking dam which holds back the waters of the Chasewater Reservoir today with the Prime Minister in the House of Commons……..Lichfield District Council officials have told Michael Fabricant that unless the dam is repaired soon, it could have “catastrophic consequences” with loss of life and property and the Midlands canal system running dry….”

Michael Fabricant: “….The small district of Lichfield does not have the funds to make the urgent repairs. Will the Prime Minister please use his best endeavours to ensure that the financial burden is spread over the region as a whole?”

The Prime Minister: Of course I will be happy to consider his point although I see that he is making the case for public expenditure.

It was like watching the boy in a class at primary school, the one who could never tell jokes, think he is making a ‘funny’.  It wasn’t funny. I found it rather unpleasant. This wasn’t, or shouldn’t have been, a party political issue. Brown should have given a more responsible and considered answer – that, after all, is part of the responsibility and dignity of a leader. He chose to make a cheap jibe. Disappointing.  Let us just hope that the dam does not break and that people do not suffer harm or worse.

It just gets worse… no wonder Labour politicians are frustrated.. no wonder Labour voters are fed up. Cameron is not popular.  He did not perform well at PMQs.  The Spectator is even speculating about whether Cameron can cut it.  Do we really deserve a government of the least unpopular? The country is not doing brilliantly.  We are fighting a war, terror, economic collapse and Brown is pleasuring himself with cheap jokes? Get a grip… or perhaps, in the circumstances…that… is an inappropriate metaphor for Brown.

There be some rum doings down at the hall, this night…

“The Hall at Middle Temple is one of the finest examples of an Elizabethan hall in the country with a double hammer beam roof carved from the oak of Windsor Forest and an elaborately carved screen made in 1574. The traditional oak panelled walls are festooned with Coats of Arms and the impressive windows are made from heraldic glass memorials to notable Middle Templars. The bench table is believed to be a gift from Elizabeth I. It is 29 feet long and made from a single oak tree which was floated down the Thames from Windsor Forest.”

Middle Temple

In these splendid premises, steeped in history, the ghosts of the famous barristers and judges of their day almost present at every dinner, now enjoyed by the famous barristers and judges of our day… there have been deeds which have reached the courts of justice.

The Telegraph reports…

A cellarman at one of Britain’s most prestigious barristers’ inns claimed he was sacked for trying to prevent his colleagues from stealing bottles of wine, a tribunal heard.

I was alerted to this story by a fellow blogger on twitter who has a new blog called Bleak Flat… a rather good name for a law blog. The Telegraph reports ” Ryszard Adolf, 52, claimed that The Honorary (sic)  Society of the Middle Temple knew about the “system” and used to charge customers for the shortfall. He claimed that kitchen staff would ask him for ‘takeaways’ of up to six bottles of wine a day. He told the tribunal: “I was ordered to give takeaway bottles to the chefs every evening, every dinner.”

Apart from the Telegraph referring to the Honourable Society of The Middle Temple as the Honorary Society – there was the wonderful news…. “David Read, representing Middle Temple, said that Mr Adolf had not co-operated with colleagues when he started work last January and would often leave his shift early. He also suggested that Mr Adolf would address waitresses at the Inn with the Polish word ‘kurwa’, meaning ‘whore’. Mr Read added: “Middle Temple had an investigation undertaken to see whether it was possible for there to be a fraud by members of catering staff and the conclusion was that no fraud was being perpetrated and it was nigh on impossible for members of staff to have personally gained from wine sales.”

Calling a waitress at The Middle Temple a ‘whore’? Mr Adolf could be forgiven for thinking, given our standing in the community at large, that some of the members may be rapacious in their financial desires… but to call a waitress a ‘whore’ does not quite seem in keeping with this splendid dining club!

A virtual bottle of Rioja, not ‘plundered’ from any Inn of Court wine cellar for any member of Middle Temple who can shed more light on the goings on at the Inn on dining nights… you may post your comments below… and please…. no wino companies trying to get free search engine optimisation… if you are tempted..I have a policy of re-directing any URL you provide to a dodgy ‘pron’ site! I can’t say fairer than that.

Law Review: Social media for lawyers.. you could not make it up!

I see that The Ministry of Justice has got the hang of twitter and social media benefits. I just could not resist the tweet above from Matthew Taylor of the MTPT blog.

I am a fan of twitter, although I tend to misuse it and abuse it and, ordinarily, would not bother to read any blog post or article talking about the benefits of social media to lawyers or, worse, sanctimonious blog posts from newcomers who have spent too much time drinking snake oil.  I do, however, always enjoy reading blog posts which take the piss out of social media mavens and gurus and the Grand Old Duke of New York, Scott Greenfield of Simple Justice, often marches his wonderfully acid twitter media posts up to the top of the hill and down again. His latest on this issue… The Square n00b Answer..is very amusing.

Greenfield starts…” Ever wonder how all the old-time lawyers jump online and screw it all up overnight?  It could be those bar association CLEs teaching how to be a blogger in 30 seconds or less, taught by lawyers who have never been closer to a computer than when they stop at the secretary’s desk to ask for a coffee refill.  Or maybe it’s reading something like this Corporate Counsel post at Law.com by Doug Wood from Reed Smith…….Yes, that Doug Wood, the man who launched a thousand twits and blogs with his thorough, yet persuasive, explication of why corp counsel need to “Get With It … or Get Burned.”  He offers such gems as….. “

Peninsulawyer, who also tweets, wrote an interesting piece on twitter and other social media… Social Media – Out of control? where he reviews the state of play and benefits for lawyers. It is an enjoyable piece but I don’t propose to rehearse the points he makes.  His blog post did, however, prompt me to ask a question on twitter… “Are lawyers foolish to block access to Twitter etc for their staff?”  Inevitably, issues of productivity came up and, of course, it is easier to control it in a small operation than a larger one.  For my part, when I ran businesses and law schools, I regarded it as very much a matter of give and take.  There was also the very real problem of hypocrisy,  as I was a regular poster on RollonFriday in the very early days of that discussion board, as were some members of my team. I suspect that British law firms will use twitter well, some do already, and others will make a complete horlicks of it and use twitter to broadcast their latest offerings and little else.

I shall end with this tweet (I have permission) … sums it up, really. Carry on Twittering!

THE IRAQ INQUIRY

Geoff Hoon says Gordon Brown starved MoD of cash before Iraq war

Geoff Hoon did a boot job on Brown at the Iraq Inquiry – and, pleasingly, the questioning does seem to be getting a bit sharper. The Times reports: “Gordon Brown tonight faced demands to give evidence to the Iraq Inquiry before the election after the former Defence Secretary said the Armed Forces were starved of cash in run up to the war.”

And… the other interesting piece of information to come out was a hitherto classified letter from the Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith to Hoon. The Times reported, in a separate piece:

“The Attorney-General sent a furious letter to the Defence Secretary a year before the invasion of Iraq warning that he saw “considerable difficulties” in giving legal approval for war, it emerged this morning.Lord Goldsmith complained to Geoff Hoon that he had put in a “difficult position” by the Defence Secretary’s public claim that Britain would be entitled to use force without a specific United Nations resolution.In a previously secret letter released by the Iraq Inquiry this morning, Lord Goldsmith said that he had given no opinion on the legality of military action.“I think you should know that I see considerable difficulties in being satisfied that military action would be justified on the basis of self-defence,” he wrote.

Of course, later, Lord Goldsmith was able to find enough relevant law upon which to base an opinion that going to war was lawful.  It will be interesting to see what the Iraq Inquiry ‘inquisitioners’  do with Goldsmith.

Sarkozy backs off from Haiti spat as US military airdrops aid

I see that the French president has backed down from a diplomatic spat after one of his ministers complained that the US was ‘occupying’ Haiti.  France, of course, was the colonial power in what became one of the world’s poorest basket case countries. It seems to my jaded eye to be rather hypocritical to complain about the US involvement when it would appear that France has done little to assist Haiti in recent years… or if they did, their assistance was  a spectacular failure. The last thing we need is the French, or anyone else, trying to vie for publicity and ‘power’. The first issue must be assistance, saving lives and building a future.  The US has the ability and resources and it is their money they are spending as well…not just money derived from donations. (The Times has a full report).  For my part it is good to see many nations and the people of these nations doing what they can, whetehr by donating or by direct practical help,  to help another country instead of waging war.

LIBEL… a continuing and burning issue…

“Freedom of expression and investigative journalism are fundamental protections to the democracy of this country.”

Jack Straw, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, January 2010

The Independent reports: ” The success fees which lawyers working on no-win, no-fee conditional fee agreements (CFAs) in defamation cases should be cut from 100 per cent to just 10 per cent, Justice Secretary Jack Straw announced today. The proposal, the latest stage in the Ministry of Justice’s programme aimed at ensuring that costs in publication proceedings are reasonable and proportionate, was put out for consultation today. It is thought that action could be taken through a statutory instrument by May. Mr Straw’s announcement comes hot on the heels of the publication last week of the review of costs in civil litigation in which Sir Rupert Jackson, who sits in the Court of Appeal as Lord Justice Jackson, recommended ending the regime under which success fees for lawyers suing newspapers for defamation and privacy on CFAs are paid by the losing defendant. Instead, he said, damages should be increased by 10% so that the claimants could pay their lawyers’ success fees from the amounts they recovered.

Libel tourism, superinjunctions, oppressive use of law to curtail inconvenient news coverage blights our legal system and much of it arises because lawyers have been able to charge truly astonishing fees.  Other reforms, including  proposals to get rid of juries in libel trials,  are to be welcomed so that libel becomes a fair law to give redress by vindication rather than be seen as a cash cow for lawyers or a tool for corporates and others to shut out debate and freedom of expression and reporting.  Jack Straw, if he can pull a statutory instrument out of the hat before the May election, is at least making a start.

And…since this is a SOCIAL MEDIA edition of my daily Law Review… it seemed appropriate to end with this truly remarkable news story from The Telegraph… you really could not F*****g make it up…

Chef Ramsay is going on a twitter course? Why?  This… I will just have to see… Hat Tip to @Pam_Nash



Law Review: Measured judgement

The Independent reports: Twitter joke led to Terror Act arrest and airport life ban

When heavy snowfall threatened to scupper Paul Chambers’s travel plans, he decided to vent his frustrations on Twitter by tapping out a comment to amuse his friends. “Robin Hood airport is closed,” he wrote. “You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!”

Unfortunately for Mr Chambers, the police didn’t see the funny side. A week after posting the message on the social networking site, he was arrested under the Terrorism Act and questioned for almost seven hours by detectives who interpreted his post as a security threat. After he was released on bail, he was suspended from work pending an internal investigation, and has, he says, been banned from the Doncaster airport for life. “I would never have thought, in a thousand years, that any of this would have happened because of a Twitter post,” said Mr Chambers, 26. “I’m the most mild-mannered guy you could imagine.”

The police appear to have gone into overkill mode on this one.  As Matthew Taylor observed on twitter – it would be interesting to be a fly on the wall when the CPS consider this case for prosecution.  Which law has been broken?  Are they going to be able to bring a case within any known law?  Will a jury think that the country is losing the plot if a case is brought? Will the trial judge throw a  pencil into the air and say that the police and CPS need to get a grip? I was going to write about this in some detail.  Fortunately, Matthew Taylor, on his MTPT blog, analyses  the law and I need not do so.  See: Somebody set us up the bomb, or Making a #TwitterArrest

It is, of course, easy to comment after the event – but even allowing for a heightened state of alert following the failed Christmas airline bombing, surely we need a bit more objectivity and measured judgement being applied? I for one, will certainly not be asking friends for help on Twitter blowing up balloons for a party in case some over anxious member of the public tips off the police that some atrocity is about to be committed and the police decide to interpret ‘balloons’ as meaning a high profile building and ‘party’ as a terrorist group.  Good grief… put this way… almost any tweet could be interpreted by the police to be pregnant with ‘terror and security issue’ meanings… we could be doomed.

I’m not going to discuss this… but I just could not resist this headline from the Times..

Abuse of pre-pack deals ‘could turn Britain into an insolvency brothel’

The knives are coming out and they are sharp. Tony Blair engaged in what came to be known as ‘sofa’ government.  It appears his successor, Gordon Brown, prefers the darkened bunker, with civil servants excluded,  and the brutish tool of political edict.The Times reports

Whitehall rebels over ‘brutish’ Gordon Brown

The credibility of the control order regime has been further questioned by a decision of Mr Justice Silber.

The Times reports: “The two suspects, known as AF and AE, had argued that the orders against them were unlawful and that they were entitled to damages for breaches of their human rights. Mr Justice Silber, sitting at the High Court in London, agreed and quashed the orders yesterday. He said that the men could claim damages from the Government for restrictions placed on their movements during the past three and a half years. However, he added that the ruling did not automatically mean the men would succeed with their claims and emphasised that the level of compensation would be low.”

Alan Johnson responded immediately and the government will appeal the decision. The Times noted that AF and AE won a landmark ruling in the House of Lords last year over the Government’s use of secret evidence to persuade the courts to impose and maintain control orders.

Pressure continues to be exerted for reform of our libel laws generally and The Times reported yesterday that Nick Clegg pledges to curb libel law’s ‘chilling effect’ on scientific inquiry. Fellow law blogger Jack of Kent has long focused his attention on libel reform and his latest post (and others on this theme) is worth a look

Assisted suicide or attempted murder?

Just three months after the Crown Prosecution Service clarified the law on assisted suicide, a”devoted” mother helped her suffering daughter die by handing her a lethal dose of morphine and then administering a lethal cocktail of drugs. The Independent.

I examined this issue in some depth with former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer and Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions,  in two podcasts late last year (Links to the podcasts above).

MPs warn of criminal justice ‘crisis’

The Law Society Gazette reports: “A committee of MPs has warned that the criminal justice system is ‘facing a crisis of sustainability’ as government spending on prisons takes resources away from other aspects of criminal justice. The Justice Committee said the government should make ‘radical moves’ to shift resources away from incarceration towards rehabilitation and projects that tackle the underlying causes of offending like social exclusion, poor education and drug addiction. The call was backed by Law Society legal aid manager Richard Miller, who said that a reduction in spending on prisons would leave more cash for the legal aid budget.”

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Binary law asks... Are blawgs an effective marketing tool?

White Rabbit, an experienced member of the Bar and author, in a post entitled Thought Crimes considers the case of the tweet which led to Paul Chambers being arrested by police.   Accepting that Paul Chambers may not be the brightest knife in the box for tweeting about blowing an airport sky high… White Rabbit concludes..”Clunking, boneheaded authoritarianism by numbers!…. and muses…”A quick blast of Maggie’s Farm seems appropriate.”

The Legal Action Group (LAG) notes… A bill of rights election “Last week saw the opening shots of what is likely to be a four-month general election campaign, assuming Gordon Brown goes for the predicted 6 May polling day. The Human Rights Act (HRA) 1998 will feature in this campaign as Conservative leader David Cameron has pledged to repeal it and replace it with a ‘British Bill of Rights’. It is unclear, though, what he means by this.”

IPKat has this wonderful story in their Monday Miscellany…“Via a Tweet from Duncan (IP ThinkTank) Bucknell comes news from TorrentFreak that the official logo for Hadopi — the new French mechanism for dealing with file-sharing copyright infringers — was itself a copyright infringement since it employed an unlicensed font. Hadopi has apologised through “gritted teeth” (dents grincées) and is busy seeking an alternative, non-infringing font.

And finally…. I was on twitter last night exchanging a bit of curmudgeon with @jangles (we were discussing the takeover of Cadbury by Kraft) and he suggested I listen to Razzle Dazzle from Chicago.  Good advice and if you need cheering up after Blue Monday yesterday… the most depressing day of the year… then this is definitely worth a listen…

Law Review: Outsourcing… the new paradigm for long term failure?…Stashes and other matters…

Why pay £60,000+ to newly qualified solicitors in your City or BigLaw law firm for routine drudge work when you can pay far less to a law outsourcing operation in Mumbai where they pay highly qualified graduates from India’s best universities only  £4700 per annum?

The idea of outsourcing to an Indian ‘law call centre’ is very attractive… productivity rates will be high – The staff in Indian outsourcing factories are unlikely to be faffing about on the RollonFriday discussion board (Not criticising… I enjoyed it when I posted as Brigadier Grappa in the early days of the board), reporting for work hungover, muttering darkly in the photocopier room about being exploited etc etc etc.

British law firm managing partners, under the cosh from in-house counsel from some of the biggest credit-crunch hit PLCs,  have been falling over themselves to book tickets to Mumbai, to find a magic bullet to ensure partner PEP is maintained without sacking the entire junior drone workforce.  Of course, I am painting a grotesquely simplistic picture…. but if you want a really grotesque picture of where City or BigLaw law practice may be headed have a look at this remarkable and surreal article in the Times…

Brief for India’s outsourcing lawyers: keep it cheap

There isn’t a lot of ‘Rule of Law’ to be found in modern City practice…it is more a case of the ‘law of rule’.. Compliance is the buzzword…the new paradigm…  but this article could be enough to put some readers off practising ‘Law’ …or at least that type of law.  You can hide behind the sofa if you don’t wish to read it. There isn’t a lot of money, they say, to be made in many areas of law…so if you really want to spend your legal career making money… then a City career is probably the best place to look to get the foot on the rung of the long ladder to partnership… or not… in the modern era.   I don’t know… I am merely an observer… I am merely commenting on what I read and hear.

The lawyers got away with it. Public anger is so focused at the greedy bankers that no-one is really questioning why law firms are not being looked at more closely for their part in the credit-crunch.  Law firms, after all, provided the legal infra-structure, designed the legal foundation of the ‘magic apps’, the ‘documentation’, the ‘securitisation’… but, of course, they were not progenitors of the credit-crunch..they were merely following orders to provide a watertight infrastructure.  This, again, of course, is too simplistic… or is it?  No doubt the sayers of sooths and prognosticators of the legal world have flagged this up….and if they have I would be delighted to read their thoughts on the issue.

The Iraq Inquiry turns up the heat this week…

The Independent reports… The inquiry is set for its most riveting week yet, as three key figures appear to give evidence. Today it will hear from Jonathan Powell, Mr Blair’s head of staff, who is expected to be asked about his involvement in the notorious September 2002 dossier setting out the case for war in Iraq. Former Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, will appear tomorrow, while Mr Straw will give evidence on Thursday.

But the best bit from that piece in The Indy is this…Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, secretly warned Tony Blair that there were major legal obstacles to invading Iraq, it has been revealed.”

There do seem to be a lot of (possibly) unminuted handwritten or typed letters flying about in the run up to the Iraq War.

Brown had secret pot of cash to fund projects, book alleges

And so, to the mix between politics and law – and this story combines both in quite an important way

The Guardian reports…” Gordon Brown was yesterday asked to explain a secret Labour fund allegedly used to finance projects while his supporters were trying to unseat Tony Blair.As Brown lines Blair up to play a role in Labour’s general election campaign, the Tories challenged the prime minister to explain why the fund had not been declared in the register of MPs’ interests. The fund was revealed by the former Labour general secretary Peter Watt in the latest excerpt from his book published in the Mail on Sunday. Watt said Brown set up his “own personal pot of cash” while he was chancellor.”

The really important part of the Guardian article is… ” The Tories said that the fund should have been registered with the Commons authorities as a “personal benefit”. In a letter to the prime minister, the shadow treasury minister Greg Hands wrote: “I would like to know on what basis you judged it unnecessary to declare the fund. It is important that you clarify these issues urgently as I believe there may be grounds for investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.”

Quite…

The Guardian did note…“A Labour spokesman said: “All donations received … are declared in accordance with the relevant rules and guidelines.”

We have heard that mantra before. So the story runs… and Brown appears to be bringing Tony Blair back to help with the election… to help capture the hearts and minds of the middle classes.. High comedy, indeed.

Part II of Monday Law Review will follow later in the day…

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PS… I did comment on the Watt allegations in my Sunday edition of...Charon reports… from the front line…from Oldgitstan..

And finally… on a lighter note... if you want to learn more about a future (possibly) prime minister… DAVE… then this may be worth a look.

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Blawg Review from Gideon on Martin Luther King Day is up….

Clever and understated… with some very subtle points…  a definite worth a read… won’t take too long.

As Gideon says… “Instead, read the Review as a free flowing conversation I’m having with myself (and you). It’ll make the experience less painful.”

Also… please note… this is an unusual BR…as Gideon says… “As always, I will update this post throughout the day on Monday to reflect the many MLK related posts around the blawgosphere, so keep coming back! If Twitter’s your thing, you can get in on the act there, too.”

Read

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I did a podcast with Gideon last night (not connected to his BR) but it was fun to do – as before!

Lawcast 163: With ‘Gideon’ – a US public defender

Lawcast 163: With ‘Gideon’ – a US public defender

Today I am talking to ‘Gideon’, a US public defender and the author of the A Public defender blog. We look at the death penalty issue in the United states, the increasing use of surveillance in our respective jurisdictions, the latest on President Obama’s plan to close Guantanamo and even find time to discuss whether a tweet is copyrightable.

Listen to the podcast

Podcast version for iTunes

Charon reports… from the front line…from Oldgitstan..

I rose today at 3.30 am, as I do every day.  It was dark outside. The sun here does not dare venture out much before 7.00. There was an eerie silence…always a sign that something is about to kick off.  When I went to bed last night…. Iain Dale and Yasmin Alibai-Brown were sparring on BBC News 24.  I had to agree with Iain Dale’s assessment of that minor skirmish… it was 1-1

BUT… this morning… it was different… there was blood on  the walls….

The Ranting Penguin came through first on my dongle… I knew then…. that this was but the start of a very, very,  hard day in British politics…

Things are so bad in South Wales that even the Chief Constable cannot go down to his local Tesco to buy Coco Pops without fear of an attack by the Oldgitsban.. a  ‘proscribed’ group of elderly people who terrorise supermarkets on a Saturday and monitor the internet… when they could shop during the week….. just to annoy the middle classes who have to shop on Saturdays because of their own duties working for banks, estate agencies and…some say… law firms, the ‘meedjahuddin’ and advertising agencies.

I do not know who the Ranting Penguin is… all I know is… that when I see a feed from the blog… things are going to kick off and it is time for me to get the ‘kit’ on….

I read this story in The Telegraph… keeping an eye out for roaming gangs of Oldgitsban.…it is well known that this group of elderly insurgents rise early….get up at unusual hours… and are monitoring ‘communications’ on Twitter and in the blogs… I am grateful for their efforts… these people, without thought of reward… watch our liberties…watch our rights…

Being an ’embedded reporter’…. I do have to take instructions from the military… but… I can tell you… on this occasion… as I got out my laptop….even the local Brigadier was happy for me to report on what must be the STORY OF THE FIRST COUPLE OF HOURS OF SUNDAY MORNING BEFORE ANDREW MARR COMFORTS US ALL WITH HIS GROUND BREAKING PAP SHOW… The Andrew Marr Show – possibly the most trailed (advertised) show on the BBC?

I almost wept, as I saw the reports in the MAIL ON SUNDAY… about Tony Blair asking..

‘Find me some obviously sick children’

Some things are just so bad… that it is difficult for even a hardened blogger to report… and it is at times like this that I am glad we have the the Mail on Sunday to dig deep… as a ‘tribute’ to them… it is best that I let them take up the story…and let you…. decide on the ‘realpolitik’ of the matter…

BUT… it got worse… Gordon Brown had a secret stash of money…. the records being kept in an old exercise book.. and Brown seemed to spend a lot of time scheming to become prime minister… a position which he has held with exquisite lack of success, earning the soubriquet of being Britain’s worst prime minister…and he didn’t even start a f**king war…

The MAIL on SUNDAY… has the story

This is Charon…reporting from the front line…. I’m only sorry that there is no SNOW… I would have enjoyed doing the weather forecast and helping the people of Britain understand just how BAD…snow is… anyway… have a laugh… if you can…. as you read the latest revelations from Peter Watt, former (and very pissed off) General-Secretary of the Labour Party.

***

Transparency declaration: Charon has voted Labour for nearly 30 years. This does not make him a war criminal.

Postcard from The Staterooms-On-Sea: Gulls, ducks, cormorants and swans…

Dear Reader,

Soon, I move back to London;  leaving behind Chatham Maritime, Rochester and the Medway and my view over the old naval dockyards.  The gulls, cormorants, ducks and swans where I am going will be different..they will be Battersea ducks and gulls.

A friend of mine re-tweeted yesterday…Word of the day: Slacktivist“. n. one who sits on their arse, tweeting about important issues, thinking they’re making a difference.

I enjoyed that.  I would far rather read the wonderfully crafted rants of some of the political bloggers – which are amusing and probably do achieve something – than the Po faced comments and endless re-tweeting by people who seem to get outraged easily.  There was one this morning…“third day in a row the Daily Mail has failed to put #Haiti on the front page. Pathetic.”

I’m sorry Haiti is going though misery.  It is a dreadful tragedy.  The US and many other nations are doing everything they can to help. It will take time for that assistance to kick in. Celebrities are falling over themselves to publicise how much they are giving (why, when people give, do they need to tell people?) – but endlessly wringing one’s hands is not going to do any good to anyone. [ Repeating a message  until desired action takes place can be useful. We saw the positive value of Twitter with this on Trafigura. There have been many other illustrations. ]

I have no immediate plans, I’m afraid, to fly myself into Haiti by helicopter to try and rescue people and deliver food parcels and tents.  This does not make me a bad person. I do not need to have my conscience or ‘moral compass’ re-educated by sanctimonious nonsense on twitter or anywhere else.  I have got the message loud and clear and, like  all decent people, I am saddened by these events.  I have a suspicion that the self appointed twitter and other media experts on Haiti, exhorting us to pray (I don’t do god….of any kind), give (my private affairs),  or otherwise moderate our lives to show solidarity with Haitians, probably didn’t even know where the place was last week and have, possibly,  relieved themselves of the need to ‘give’ because they are doing such ‘important’ work on twitter by publicising the cause. Will no-one rid us of these turbulent bed-wetters?… Here endeth the Saturday rant.

Scott Greenfield has a very interesting post today… I quote from a section of it.. but the full post is well worth a read..he is referring to the disaster in Haiti: .“The point is that emergent desperation calls for certain abilities.  Think Abraham Maslow.  It breaks my heart that I, as a lawyer, cannot offer the help that people need in their desperation.  I cannot ease their pain.  I cannot feed the hungry children.  I cannot build them shelter.  I cannot even capture the suffering on film so that the rest of the world can see the pain.  I am but a lawyer.  There are times when my limitations are manifest.  This is such a time….”

Tweet of the week:  I don’t often get compliments… this is an excellent compliment!

Osbore Corner – The life, times and thoughts of a Chancellor in waiting

Better crack on… things to do…. supplies to organise.

Best, as ever

Charon

Lawcast 162: Law News round up with Matthew Taylor

Lawcast 162: Law News round up with Matthew Taylor

Today I am talking to Matthew Taylor, a solicitor, who is also author of the MTPT blog. In the last week two important legal issues have caught my eye – the motion granted to John Hemming MP about contempt of parliament by a law firm and the European Court of Human Rights decision that s44 stop and search powers are illegal. In fact, there has been a lot of law news this week and we’ll be exploring some of these issues in the podcast today..

We consider also:  Trial by judge alone, Marco Pierre White case against Withers, television in court and the Iraq Inquiry.

Listen to the podcast

Podcast version for iTunes

This is the first Law News round up style podcast which I plan to do with an invited guest on a regular basis. I’m afraid I have a cold and some snuffling noises were picked up.  Apologies – mea culpa…but the show had to go on!

Rive Gauche: Jackson puts the boot into personal injury claims farmers and Withers has a bad week

George Osborne, the Guardian reports, can’t wait to start cutting.
The Guardian reports..

George Osborne identifies cuts for first weeks of Tory government

Shadow chancellor says £178bn fiscal deficit means he cannot wait for initial post-election budget before cutting expenditure.  This prompted the chief secretary to the Treasury, Liam Byrne, to say: “What is clear is that in his rush to cut spending in 2010, George Osborne would put the recovery in grave danger. But until he says how he’ll do it, and whether he’ll match Labour’s pledge to halve the deficit in four years, his speeches must be taken with a huge pinch of salt.”

New rules to cut down frivolous injury claims

Independent: Unscrupulous firms that urge people to make frivolous legal claims after suffering an injury face being shut down under radical proposals designed to cut millions off the cost of civil justice. So-called “claims farmers”, which sell on cases to personal injury lawyers, would be banned under a plan drawn up by one of Britain’s most senior judges. The clampdown is part of a series of reforms aimed at cutting back Britain’s burgeoning “no win no fee” legal industry. Lord Justice Jackson, a judge in the Court of Appeal, said: “The focus of our litigation process should be upon compensating victims, not upon making payments to intermediaries and others. That such substantial referral fees are being paid shows that there is too much money swilling around in the personal injury compensation process.”

Hat Tip to Scott Greenfield, Simple Justice, for alerting me to this wonderful advert from a US Law firm about personal injury cases

The film is worth a look.  It isn’t  a long one.

Whatever your politics… Lord Tebbit of Chingford is one of Britain’s most outspoken conservative commentators and politicians…and he writes a damn good blog in the telegraph… worth a read.

Why won’t the two main parties do anything about the madness of taxing the poor?

This is his second piece… and it will give you a good taste..

My increasingly jaded eye, when it comes to PR material spun out of law firms and elsewhere, was caught by this piece of analysis  in AllAboutLaw, a good magazine primarily focused at students.

The recruitment manager from a law firm  reflects on ….The LLM – the employers perspective.

After giving four reasons why students take an LLM – 1. They have a genuine, long term interest in the subject matter. 2. They have no idea what they want to do next in their career, it’s a way of killing time. 3. They have poor previous academics and want to ‘prove’ themselves at a higher level. 4. They have secured employment in the distant future/have been deferred and want to continue to academically stretch themselves….

The piece goes on with this wonderful ‘case study’… “Let us take a case study. Doing an LLM in Family Law in the hope that it will increase your chances of securing a training contract with a firm like Trowers & Hamlins would have little impact on your application, Trowers & Hamlins doesn’t have a family department, nor are they likely to gain one in the foreseeable future.”

Perhaps realising that this last ‘case study’ might be too Stating the Bleeding Obvious 101 for Law Firms – the writer does go on to suggest that a relevant LLM may be of more use.  I’m afraid I lost the will to go on after reading… ““Even if the LLM is valuable to your future employer it must sit alongside a stellar application”

I had no idea what a stellar application is. I iz old git, yeah..not down on da street with da kidz.. not sav wid teh internets.  I did check Google to see if I could download one to an iPhone – but then I realised  she was talking about the application form.  BUT….ever thorough…then I discovered that there is even a book about stellar application writing… so if you don’t measure up, have a totally inappropriate LLM, have a pretty ropey cv… or are just exhausted after being patronised by dumbed down articles on law school or law careers websites, you may find this book of some value… so your LLM can ‘sit alongside a stellar application’…

***

IT HAS NOT BEEN A GREAT WEEK FOR WITHERS

Not only are they now facing the prospect of being hauled before the Bar in parliament to answer a charge of being in contempt of parliament (in fact, this is unlikely) they have managed to get into RollonFriday and may have irritated Marco Pierre White… big time.  RollonFriday, as is often the case, has the story… If you do feel inclined to visit the Withers website… it may be an idea to wear sunglasses.  The front page of the website is… shall we say… a bit ‘sudden’.

RollonFriday reports…The Court of Appeal has ruled that Marco Pierre White can seek damages from Withers after his personal mail was intercepted. The celebrity chef is in the middle of a divorce from his wife, Mati. She is represented by Withers, and during the course of proceedings letters to White were produced by the firm (including a contract from P&O and a letter from his daughter). White said he’d never seen these documents before, and claimed Mati had said that Withers had said she could go through his post….”

But it is this bit.. that I enjoyed most…and I quote it in full…

A spokesman for Withers said, “We have always maintained that any allegations made by Marco Pierre White against Marcus Dearle and Withers LLP are completely unfounded. But as Sedley LJ commented, ‘…  the desire for vengeance on the lawyers acting for an estranged spouse is as  common as it is irrational.'”

So, that’s calling a volatile and mouthy chef “irrational“. Smart – watch this space”

It is Friday… not much law news about… and I do enjoy a bit of left field on a Friday morninng.  Today, I shall have a traditional bacon and eggs breakfast.  in fact.. I shall cook it now.  Enjoy the weekend.

Rex Charon MP: I can go on like this

As ever, I am grateful to my red flag flying twin  non moustachio’d  brother Charon QC for hosting my occasional pieces. The truth be told, I have barely enough time to accommodate my long lunches these days without fiddling about on the internet.  The day started well enough with Guido Fawkes rallying the troops with his Scoop du Jour: Labour Faked Cameron “Airbrushing” only for @BeauBodOr (who has an excellent website btw) to come along and spoil the fun with this tweet: “http://bit.ly/7teozH Guido EXCLUSIVE accuses Labour of faking Cameron airbrushing. Nope, they used myDavidCameron template and credit them.

I was going to attend the Hemming motion about Withers  being in contempt of parliament but also to have a laugh at the expense of the Lib-Dems,  but others were able to do this rather well and I note that CQC has already written this up below… the assiduous, conscientious,  bastard.

Then came the news that Labour are trotting out their ‘pledge’ ploy. They have five of them, apparently.  Boris did quite well out his pledge card when he ran for Mayor but the Pillsbury doughboy lookalike, David, described them as vacuous. Pundits are speculating.

Guido Fawkes then ran with an exclusive story about the BBC inviting Damien McBride to give a speech to the BBC.  In the meantime, almost unnoticed, the BBC were amusing themselves by getting Anjem Choudary, no longer a member of the proscribed Islam4UK (one assumes) on to Daily Politics to talk to Andrew Neil. The Financial Times waded in with… The return of Damian McBride? and gave a platform for Eric Pickles to do the outraged slings and arrows bit and trot out the old impartiality trick…which I am sure he just does to wind up the liberals and Guardian readers. I have no idea, of course…  “Impartiality must be at the heart of what the BBC does. This raises serious concerns.  Did Mr McBride get paid, were his travel and other expenses paid, did he receive any gifts for attending this event? The BBC must come clean on all these issues.”

The tragedy in Haiti needs no comment from me and certainly didn’t need this pile of toss from the Daily Mail this morning…

“For tourists on cruise ships plying the Caribbean, Haiti appears a beguiling, mysterious place…. blah blah blah… But it is no paradise for the country’s nine million people. Indeed, the devastating earthquake now bringing death and heartbreak is the latest in a long line of tragedies to befall a place dubbed the Island of the Damned.”

The blood lust was up and Malone went into hyperdrive… with much talk about voodoo dolls, TonTon Macoute and Haitians eating each other….. “Successive dictators have raped, murdered and even reputedly eaten their enemies…….Described by one commentator as an ‘international crime scene’ rather than a country….. [more more lurid scribbling of cannibals, children being sold into slavery, TonTon Macoute wandering about shooting anyone they fancied [ etc etc etc.]…

The picture is from the Mail.There can’t have been any pictures of Haitians eating each other on Corbis or Getty Images. I’m assuming Malone wrote this from the comfort of his own UK desk?  But I just love the way this compassionate soul, Malone, ended his piece… “For the people of Haiti, though, hope has always been a rare commodity”

I’m just surprised that Malone didn’t manage to shoehorn the Chris Izaak  lyrics in…

I know what to do when your sad and lonely,
I know what to do when you love her only.
I know what to do when no one needs you,
I know what to do you do voodoo. Voodoo.
You do voodoo.

I’ll end with a bit of Alastair Campbell…from his blog:

“Now that things have calmed a bit after the frenzy of Tuesday, normal political service resumed here, with a reminder that there are only two parties in this country capable of forming a government, so that the big choice on the agenda is whether we want Labour or the Tories in power, Gordon Brown or David Cameron in charge…….

and Campbell continues... “Meanwhile I may be back later developing on the theme of last night’s tweet about Paul Dacre allegedly being in love with me and possessed of homoerotic fantasies, as many right wing extremists appear to be.”


As Abraham Lincoln said… “If you once forfeit the confidence of your fellow citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem. It is true that you may fool all of the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all of the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

Sometimes I think… that Lincoln wasn’t quite right on this…


The Ayes have it the the ayes have it: Withers contempt goes to Standards and Privileges Committee

I have just watched the motion brought by John Hemming MP (Lib-Dem) alleging that an email he received from Withers was intimidatory and a contempt of Parliament.

The full email is here (Scroll down) – but the relevant part of the email, which damned Withers, was this:

In order to settle this matter we, therefore, require an apology in respect of both the serious allegations plus payment of our client’s costs, a substantial payment to a charity of his choice and an undertaking not to repeat the allegations or any similar allegations, particularly in Parliament.

Interestingly, the MPs distanced themselves from the specific facts or Mr Hemmings’ conduct outside parliament and inevitably their focus was on the principle enshrined in our law and parliamentary procedure for hundreds of years that MPs may say what they like in parliament and newspapers that report on parliamentary proceedings may do so without fear of contempt.

This is an important issue and as MPs noted, there have been two attempts in recent months (Trafigura / Carter-Ruck) being the first by lawyers to gag MPs, prompting David Heath to observe cynically that lawyers do not appear to know about parliamentary privilege.  He also made reference to a notice sent out this morning by The Law Society.

The debate was brief, reinforced the right to the freedom of MPs in parliament.  Geoffrey Clifton-Brown was fairly scathing about the Lib-Dems and what they say on their leaflets outside parliament but made very clear that the central issue  of parliamentary privilege was vital, noting that with power came responsibility not to, for example, over use it or comment on matters sub judice.

The matter will now go before the Standards and Privileges Committee.  Perhaps lawyers need a brush up on Constitutional Law 101?

***

In fairness to Withers and I do agree on this latter pointMatthew Taylor writes: ” The debate strongly confirmed my view that John Hemming is in the wrong here, and that Withers’ hand has been forced. That said, Hemming’s comments about and allegations against their client are now in the public domain, and freely reportable. There is a problem if John Hemming could give an undertaking not to repeat allegations (to avoid a lawsuit), but remain free to repeat them in Parliament without sanction. It does not defeat the purpose of Parliamentary Privilege, but does debase it.”

Hemming has certainly used parliamentary privilege to enable the Withers client to be named in parliament and, thereby, for newspapers to freely report on it.

Law Review: Tin of beans or can of worms? and many other matters…

The Legal Services Board hit the ground running with coverage in the Times. Frances Gibb reports...“Stacked on David Edmonds’ desk is a pyramid of 18 varieties of baked beans. “It’s a private joke,” he insists — declining to be photographed with them. “It shows the huge variety you can have, and quality at the same time.” The joke is a reference to the Big Bang in legal services — opening up the market to different ways of meeting consumers’ legal needs. Edmonds, as chairman of the Legal Services Board, is the arch-regulator under the reforms of the Legal Services Act 2007 and is given the task of policing the landscape that is taking shape.

It is too early to tell whether the Legal Services Board will be of any value whatsoever. I suspect it will turn out to be yet another bloated, expensive, quango – but, as always, happy to be shown the error of my thinking by results. Mr Edmonds ‘has extensive leadership experience of senior management teams in commercial and public sector organisations, in both Chair and Chief Executive roles…etc etc etc.”

Frances Gibb  asks: “So what is next in the pipeline? First, he is launching a quality assurance scheme for advocates, to be in force by mid 2011. It will start with family and crime and move to other areas, unless the profession can show a good reason why not. “We are setting up a joint advocacy group with representatives from the regulatory bodies for the Bar, solicitors and the Institute of Legal Executives and that will work out the detail and the scheme. We will not prescribe how the assessment will be done or its cost . . . our job is to take the lead and ensure that something happens.”

This sounds like a reasonable plan.  I’m all for regulation which improves quality – an objective eye on the smug self satisfaction of any group of professionals when they are charging (in many cases, substantial amounts)  is always welcome.  It is quite likely, I am told by experienced criminal barristers, that the LSB will find some pretty appalling advocacy out there and, I am also advised,  that there is some pretty ropey civil advocacy going on in the lower courts as well. So plenty to keep the LSB busy.

Gibb asks: “What will the new landscape look like? “I don’t think it will be a Big Bang but before next year we will see people using in a different way.” He predicts more telephone legal advice, like NHS Direct, for the straightforward simple advice and greater use of technology and trained non-lawyers for lower-level work. “It is perfectly possible we will see firms floating on the stock market, but more likely in the first place we will see private investors investing capital in law firms.” Would he? “I couldn’t, as a regulator, but as an individual, some of the returns law firms make are very good . . . so why would I not?”

I’m all for change – so long as the public realise that the old maxim “You get what you pay for” applies. I do not need to be Nostradamus to predict that we could be reading news stories soon about members of the public bleating that they had dodgy advice from some telephone call centre ‘operative’  contacted through one of those adverts on daytime television! We shall see. It could be more a case of cans of worms than beans.

The first signs that the legal landscape is changing came with the report that Sky television are keen to get stuck in and televise court proceedings.  What they mean, of course, is get stuck in to reporting the ‘juicy cases’.  I really can’t see Sky television solemnly televising  proceedings relating to international commercial contracts or complex matters in Chancery relating to taxation and trusts etc. Predictably John Ryley, head of Sky News, said that there was one branch of the democratic system that broadcasting had still not properly penetrated – the courts. “A coherent, and fair, judicial system is the keystone of a democratic system,” he said in a speech to the Cambridge Union Society.  Good grief… what a revelation.  I rather liked Mr Ryley’s ‘euphemism’ ‘penetrated’…

Are we to have Sky newshounds hyperventilating from the door of the court, reporting solemnly on a ‘miscarriage of justice’?  Are we to have cricket style commentators – perhaps retired barristers and judges, commenting on cases as they proceed?  Perhaps we could have a Hawkeye style bit of technology to analyse an advocate’s ‘telling’ cross-examination with re-plays to see if the point is a ‘killer blow’?

The Times notes…” Sky News planned to campaign hard after the general election to lift the ban on cameras in courts, contained in the Criminal Justice Act 1925. “We will explore every opportunity to mount a legal challenge against the ban on cameras, launch a public petition as we did for the Leaders’ [television] debates. And remind our viewers, listeners and website users about the campaign every time we report from outside a court with no pictures of what has taken place inside.”

Sky?  Ah… commercial television provider… adverts?  “I’m sorry…after the break, we’ll give you the verdict”.  It could be highly entertaining car crash tv and give the media yet more opportunities to get things wrong when reporting about legal matters.  I’m in favour….not of that, but of more transparency and the recording of important cases in a mature, objective manner in the style of parliamentary proceedings. That would be valuable and interesting. .

Dutch PM clings on as inquiry finds invasion had no mandate

The Times reported yesterday...”  The Dutch Prime Minister insisted yesterday that he acted honourably in supporting the Iraq war despite the verdict of an independent inquiry that the invasion had no mandate under international law. In a devastating rejection of the position of the Dutch Government, the inquiry, led by the former head of the Netherlands Supreme Court, decided that the UN resolutions did not provide a legal basis for the use of force. Like the US and British governments, Jan Peter Balkenende relied on UN Resolution 1441 of November 2002 as the legal basis for supporting the Iraq war. This resolution threatened serious consequences if Saddam Hussein did not fully comply with his obligations to disarm. However, the Davids commission in the Netherlands concluded in its 551-page report: “Despite the existence of certain ambiguities, the wording of Resolution 1441 cannot reasonably be interpreted as authorising individual member states to use military force to compel Iraq to comply with the Security Council’s resolutions without authorisation from the Security Council.”

The Dutch prime minister is ignoring the report, as I suspect our own prime minister would, had such a report been commissioned from an experienced judge. We got a foretaste of what Tony Blair is likely to say when Alastair Campbell gave evidence to the Iraq Inquiry a couple of days ago.  It may well be that Britain went into an illegal war… but what value international law when the biggest players in the Iraq war, America, Britain and other coalition countries are found to have invaded Iraq unlawfully?  For the ravening horde, expecting to see Tony Blair and George Dubya Bush wearing orange pyjamas and handcuffs at The Hague… I wouldn’t hold your breath. International law, particularly war law, tends to go in favour of the victors rather than the defeated…

Interestingly.. “Dutch ministers were further criticised by the commission, which sat for ten months, for using intelligence from Britain and the US that showed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, rather than the “more nuanced” assessment of its own secret services.”

We do know now, Mr Blair told us so himself, that even if there hadn’t been weapons of massive destruction, the decision would have been the same.  His decision may well have been – but would he have had the support of members of his own party, opposition parties or even the people of Britain who were happy to support the decision to go to war? I suspect not. Would other nations have joined in? Mr Blair’s evidence could be most interesting to watch – assuming we are allowed to see most of it…and let us not forget about those letters to George Bush… they could be pivotal.  Nick Clegg is stirring things up by requiring Gordon Brown to give evidence  to the Iraq Inquiry before the election.  Gordon Brown is right to say that it is an independent inquiry.  It is up to the Iraq Inquiry to determine when people give evidence. Making political capital about this so the Lib-Dems can showcase their opposition to the war may well backfire on them.  Brown has stated that if he  is required to give evidence before the election by the Inquiry, he will do so. Perhaps Mr Clegg would like to exert undue, inappropriate, pressure on the Iraq Inquiry to suit his ends ?  That would be just an irony too far.

European court rules stop and search illegal

I blogged about this the other day – the comments are interesting…and later today, I am doing a short podcast on the issue with Matthew Taylor of the MTPT blog – a practising lawyer.

I do like twitter… not just social. Today, a fellow blogger, reminded me…

Law Review: No angry men

While it is routine for civil matters to be tried without a jury and for less serious offences to be decided by lay magistrates or a stipendiary magistrate, now styled district judge, the first case for 400 years to be tried by a judge alone  began on Tuesday.  The Independent covered the story in some detail so I will not rehearse the brief facts here, but confine myself to a brief comment and invite discussion: No angry men: first trial without jury begins.

The Criminal Justice Act 2003 provides  that a trial without jury may be held  where there are fears jury tampering would take place, and if measures to protect jurors are inadequate. Last year the Court of Appeal ruled that the £1.75m armed robbery alleged to have been carried out by John Twomey, Peter Blake, Barry Hibberd and Glen Cameron at a warehouse at Heathrow in February 2004  be heard by a judge alone because of the danger of jury tampering. The last trial had to be abandoned over those fears.

The Times noted: “Defence counsel had unsuccessfully tried to appeal to the Supreme Court to challenge the jury-less trial. But, they were told, the justices of Britain’s highest court had no jurisdiction to hear the appeal.”

Trial by jury is enshrined in our constitution and criminal practitioners I have been able to speak to thus far are staunch advocates of the system. I am not a practitioner but raise the thought for discussion that while it places a burden on the judge to both ensure a fair trial compliant with the laws of evidence and take on the responsibility otherwise taken on by twelve men and women,  is it necessarily the case that a jury would do a better job of determining guilt than a lawyer with considerable experience of trials, experienced at analysing factual information and unlikely to be swayed by factors which may prejudice a juror one way or the other?

I did not think it was a particularly good idea, some years back, when the rules were changed to permit practising lawyers and judges to sit on juries, partly through concern that they may dominate discussion in the jury room but partly because of their experience and knowledge of the system.

I can see why there is a need to have an exceptional provision to hold trials in cases of ‘jury nobbling’ – and, inevitably, because I am not a criminal law practitioner my response to  trials without a jury is based on gut instinct and the emotional response that trials should be tried by 12 ‘ordinary men and women’.  Is this emotional response logical? Would it necessarily be a bad thing to remove the need for juries in more serious cases?   I invite discussion and would be particularly interested in hearing the views of lawyers and others who are specialists in criminal law.

To focus discussion on this – should readers wish to comment- I post this as a ‘single issue’ Law review and will post comment on other legal stories of the day separately later today.

Iraq Inquiry – how not to run an ‘Inquiry’?..and some comedy…

With…apologies to The Simpsons… although I suspect they could have asked better questions…?

If we expected to see Alastair Campbell crumble, distance himself from Blair , or even see the panel leap into action and ask questions with anything approaching the precision of an experienced barrister, we were disappointed.  I enjoyed watching Alastair Campbell publicise his ‘The Blair Years’ diary (which I have read)  (Guido Fawkes makes the same point) and it is clear that he has paved the way for the ‘main course’ – Tony Blair, as Sir Menzies Campbell (no relation) put it.   Ming (Who is a QC)  did say to the BBC reporter that it was unfortunate that no QCs were on the panel to actually ask focused questions and point out inconsistencies – but there were a few moments of high comedy.

At one point in the morning session, Alastair Campbell’s mobile went off to indicate receipt of a text.  One of the panel members asked if it was Mr Blair.  The rest of the comedy was provided by Campbell saying that he did not manipulate news, terrorise newsrooms and justify not correcting press reports on the dossier and WMD by saying that if he had to do that, he would be doing it 24/7.

Campbell did find time to tweet at lunch… perhaps going back into role?...“Having a sandwich mid inquiry. Watching lunchtime news. God these hacks do talk some drivel.”

Lord knows what we’ll get as a Chilcott Report.  Lawyer John Halton did tweet…

Full marks go to Paul Waugh, deputy political editor of The Standard for his very good and sometimes very amusing tweets throughout.  His write up focuses on the We will be there’ letters.

And.. a follow up post from Paul Waugh.. Arise Sir Dyno-Rod

UPDATE: Hat Tip to @wibblenut

for alerting me on twitter to this….

Iraq invasion violated international law, Dutch inquiry finds

Investigation into the Netherlands’ support for 2003 war finds military action was not justified under UN resolutions (Guardian)

BBC: Stop-and-search powers ruled illegal by European court

Police powers to use terror laws to stop and search people without grounds for suspicion are illegal, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled.

The Strasbourg court has been hearing a case involving two people stopped near an arms fair in London in 2003. It said Kevin Gillan and Pennie Quinton’s right to respect for a private and family life had been violated. It awarded them 33,850 euros (£30,400) to cover legal costs.

Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 allows the home secretary to authorise police to make random searches in certain circumstances. But the European Court of Human Rights said the people’s rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated. The court said the stop and search powers were “not sufficiently circumscribed” and there were not “adequate legal safeguards against abuse”.  BBC

Judgment: CASE OF GILLAN AND QUINTON v. THE UNITED KINGDOM (Application no. 4158/05)

Also: This

…2.  Holds that there has been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention;

UPDATE MTPT blog post:

The legality of stop and search

This, hopefully, will curb Police enthusiasm for stopping photographers. The government will need to re-think on this one.  I may do a more detailed analysis if I have time…

***

Watching the Iraq Inquiry..Campbell is doing rather well.  The panel don’t seem to be probing him that hard.

Law Review: Iraq Inquiry, Proscription and Terror legislation and a chef whose divorce could change the law

Campbell faces the moment of truth

The Independent reports: “Alastair Campbell faces potentially explosive questioning today over his role in overstating the reliability of intelligence on Saddam Hussein’s weaponry, as he becomes the first major political figure to appear before the Iraq inquiry. Tony Blair’s former Downing Street director of communications is expected to be quizzed over a key claim that it was “beyond doubt” that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction (WMD), made in a dossier published in September 2002 setting out the Government’s case for war. The assertion appeared in a foreword to the document, which appeared under the name of Mr Blair. However, Mr Campbell has already admitted that he was responsible for drafting it.”

The Independent notes that Sir John Chilcott, the chairman of the Iraq inquiry, has shown a close interest in the claim.  Good grief… even a first year law student attending a tutorial with a hangover could have picked up on the fact that Campbell’s testimony is central to this inquiry… an interesting day ahead, I think?

Update 10.05 am:  Tweet of the morning…so far!

Confirmed, election to be on May 6

Not, I hasten to add, confirmed by the prime minister… but inadvertently by one of his hapless team with previous.  Tory Politico takes up the story…” The argument about when the general election will be held appears tonight to be over following a blunder by Chris Bryant. Speaking to diplomats at Canning House, a diplomatic think-tank, the Europe Minister seemed to confirm the widely held belief that the poll will be held on May 6 – the same day as the local council elections. Referring to recent tensions between Britain and countries in South America, Mr Bryant said: “I hope that by the time of the general election on May 6, relations will have improved. His loose lips will anger the Prime Minister and senior party strategists, as it’s common knowledge that ministers have been told not to talk in detail about when the election will be called, in order to keep the Conservatives in the dark and so not to help them plan for the big day.”

Oops.  Perhaps there will be a statement from The Bunker that this is ‘silliness’ and the prime minister has discussed the election timing with absolutely no-one at all.. that he is not thinking about the election at this time… as he is getting on with the job?

Marco Pierre White challenge could change divorce battles for ever… (The Times thunders….)

John Bolch of Family Lore comments… or rather…. puts the boot in..and why not?:The Times today carries two articles (here and here) on the Marco Pierre White case. I’m not sure why they are running these articles some two and a half months after the event, or why there are two articles not just one. I am also not entirely sure of the point of the articles, as they seem to add nothing to what we already knew. However, I shall not complain, as both articles include contributions from my excellent fellow family law blogger, the ubiquitous Marilyn Stowe.

Islamist ‘march’ group to be banned

The Independent reports: “The Islamist group which provoked outrage with its plan to march through Wootton Bassett will be banned, Home Secretary Alan Johnson announced today. The order will come into effect on Thursday and make it a criminal offence to be a member, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.  Mr Johnson said the group had tried to escape proscription simply by changing its name. He said the order would apply to the group’s other names, including Al Muhajiroun. He said: “I have today laid an order which will proscribe Al Muhajiroun, Islam4UK, and a number of the other names the organisation goes by. “It is already proscribed under two other names – Al Ghurabaa and The Saved Sect.”Proscription is a tough but necessary power to tackle terrorism and is not a course we take lightly.”

Few people will shed any tears over this at first glance – but proscription does, of course, affect freedom of speech rights and these, this policy reveals, ‘have to be balanced against the wider good’.

The right of freedom of speech, they say now, carries with it the responsibility to speak about things in a responsible way.  That is the problem with proscription.  That is the problem with having legislation banning comment on religion and other matters… the values and mores are the values and convenience of the government of the day – which is fair enough, after all, they were elected to govern – but it does, whether we like it or not impact on the purity of the meaning of the concept ‘freedom of speech’. The definition of ‘responsible’ becomes the prerogative of the state – assuming  they are able to define such a concept to the satisfaction of our increasingly skeptical courts.  There will be some who say that it is better to counter extremism with rational and civilised debate and protest. It will, however, be far easier for the state to bang people up under this legislation – membership itself is the criminal offence – than proving offences under other terror or criminal legislation!  Another step forward?  I’m not so sure it is.

And finally… this from Charles Pugsley Fincher JD at LawComix

Jiminy The Cameron appeals to the young and senile alike….

With sincere and genuine apologies to Jiminy The Cricket... but I started on the Rioja a little early and had some new coloured pens to try out. Guido Fawkes has a picture comparing Cameron and Data from Star Trek.  It is quite difficult to tell them apart, but I felt that what the leader of the Conservative Party really needed was an image which would appeal to young and senile alike…. . now that no-one is allowed to publish pictures showing him as belonging to a ‘certain club’.

The world does not need any more political bloggers – there are plenty of excellent ones about of all shades (a few here)  – so I shall confine myself to weaving politics and law together in a way that, perhaps, reflects my wine consumption as the day progresses.

And here is a story that really astonished me… from The Independent:

A senior Scotland Yard officer assaulted and falsely arrested a man in a row over payment for a personal website, a court heard today. Ali Dizaei, 47, abused his position as a Metropolitan Police commander to further his own interests, a jury was told. He then wove a web of lies in the aftermath of the row outside a west London restaurant, Southwark Crown Court heard. Prosecutor Stephen Wright QC said Dizaei “bullied” and “threatened” Iraqi web designer Waad Al-Baghdadi He said: “These are allegations of the wholesale abuse of power by a senior police officer for entirely personal and oblique motives.”

The case continues…

Hoon and Straw to give Iraq evidence

Jack Straw and Geoff Hoon are to be the first members of Tony Blair’s Cabinet to give evidence to the Iraq Inquiry, it was announced today. Geoff Hoon is lined up for two three hour sessions.  I would imagine, in the light of recent events, that he is likely to be less reticent and less prone to dissimulation.

***

Old Holborn is on the money again with this… Cromwell your MP:

“My attention has been brought to a mischevious little website set up to annoy the 646. It takes the hassle out of abusing MPs by automatically formatting and sending the following speech by Cromwell to any MP you fancy….”

Release of secret child punishment manual ordered

The Guardian reports: The information commissioner has said that a secret prison service punishment manual used in ­privately run child jails should be made public after a three-year freedom of information battle. The 114-page Physical Control in Care training manual details restraint ­techniques authorised for use on children in secure training centres.They include detailed descriptions of “distraction” techniques, which deliberately inflict pain and were found by the court of appeal to have been routinely unlawfully used in secure training centres……

The Guardian noted.. with a wry twist at the end...”MPs and peers said their were alarmed when they saw the headings of some of the redacted sections of the manual covered issues including “hair grab”, “strangle on the ground”, “strangle against the wall”, “strangle on the ground”, “kicks standing” and “kicks on the floor”………The MPs and peers also concluded in their report that it was impossible to tell whether physical restraint techniques complied with human rights when they remained secret.”

Old Holborn: Is The Lid Finally Coming Off Gordon’s Head?

Old Holborn:  Is The Lid Finally Coming Off Gordon’s Head?

( Also cross-posted in Anna Raccoon – Cross posted from Anna Raccoon – original article by John Ward of NotBornYesterday)

The health denials that emanated from Downing Street throughout Autumn 2009 are now revealed in almost every detail as a tissue of cynical lies from start to finish. Following the Mail’s extracts from Peter Watt’s new book Inside Out, Guido Fawkes last night as good as confirmed our story of 4th September 2009, which had alleged that the evidence for Mr Brown being on anti-depressant drugs and going blind was compelling. Fawkes’ new piece openly headlines ‘He’s Bonkers’…..

Definitely a should read.


F**kwittery Corner: Crikey, we can’t do as we “likey”….

Some mornings I get up and I find that the idiots have been behaving themselves – but not so this morning. The Telegraph reports:

Businessman arrested over ‘anti-gypsy’ email he did not even write

The 45-year-old IT company manager, who does not want to be named, was arrested in front of his wife and young son, was fingerprinted and had his DNA taken.

It came after staff at Rother District Council in East Sussex declared the phrase “It’s the “do as you likey” attitude that I am against” – sent in an email to their planning department – was potentially racist because “likey” rhymes with the derogatory word “pikey”. The businessman was held in a cell for four hours until officers established he had nothing to do with the email, which had been sent by one of his then workers, Paul Osmond, from a company computer….

Sussex Police said they had arrested the businessman over “suspicion of committing a racial or religious-aggravated offence”…..

A council spokesman said: “As far as we were concerned it was an offensive comment, so we got in touch with the police.”

Why do we bother?  How do we manage to have obviously not very bright people working in public services?  Don’t Sussex Police have better things to do than arrest people for this sort of nonsense?  £12000, the investigation cost, according to the report.  Madness.

The Law Society Gazette podcast : Jonathan Goldsmith, Secretary General of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE)

The Law Society Gazette podcast : I talk to Jonathan Goldsmith about the role of the CCBE, the Akzo Nobel case on in-house counsel, the new Justice Commissioner and the opportunities for lawyers in Europe.

Jonathan Goldsmith is the Secretary General of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE), which represents over 700,000 European lawyers through its member bars and law societies. The CCBE deals with a wide range of EU and global issues, such as anti-money-laundering legislation, an EU-wide Code of Conduct, competition matters affecting the legal profession, and human rights. He is an English solicitor. |

Listen to the podcast

Law Review: Home Plodiens rides to the rescue and other matters.

While I would not go as far as Chris Grayling, shadow home secretary, in the Kill a Burglar stakes, I do think that Hertfordshire HomoPlodiens have lost a sense of proportion with this case, reported in the Independent. Police warn TV star over knife

Independent: Myleene Klass was said to be “aghast” and “bemused” today after being warned by police for waving a knife at youths who entered her garden.

The TV star and Marks & Spencer model was in the kitchen with her daughter upstairs when she spotted the teenagers peering into her window just after midnight on Friday. She grabbed a knife and banged the windows before they ran away.  Hertfordshire Police officers warned Miss Klass she should not have used a knife to scare off the youths because carrying an “offensive weapon” – even in her own home – was illegal. The Independent reports…however..”A spokeswoman for Herts Police said no reference was made on the Klass incident report about a weapon.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “The Government strongly supports the right of law abiding people to defend themselves, their families and their property with reasonable force.

“That is why we introduced the self defence provisions of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.

I agree with those who say that our current ‘reasonable force’ provisions are sufficient and I would have thought that a woman alone, with a child, picking up a carving knife from the kitchen drawer and waving it at people staring into her property, who cannot possibly have been in fear for their lives (but who may well have been deterred from further activity),  should be within the law. This is why I keep a Panzer tank in my drawing room – parked in the corner.  I have had no intruders. I also have a very fine Samurai sword in my drawing room from my old Kendo days. I don’t think I would have any hesitation whatsoever in unsheathing it if I discovered an intruder. There is an old maxim, once used by a president of the United States “Speak softly, but carry a big stick”. I would not use the sword, of course (unless the intruder was also armed)  – for then I might well cross the line of reasonable force… but waving it about to deter violence from an intruder? Interesting issue – perhaps a Criminal Law specialist reader could cast some light on this plan – so that I continue to act like a law abiding citizen?

Matthew Taylor writing on his blog considers the fairness of the fine meted out to Harriet Harman QC, MP in relation to her recent driving activities. Harriet Harman’s Fine, or Does this look right? The issue has been discussed, inevitably, in the political blogs (with some vigour) and in the Press but it is good to see a lawyer apply some solid research and reasoning to the issue.

And here is a wonderful story about officialdom and Health & safety gone mad… (Hat Tip to @loveandgarbage)

“Apparently it was quite a day in Lochmaben. The ice had been checked by the local council and was 7-8 inches, and solid. However, someone phoned the police to say there were lots of people on the ice and they didn’t think it was safe. Anne tells the story, “Six police officers arrived but they couldn’t go on ice to warn people because of health and safety so they passed the buck to the Nith rescue who came with a rescue boat but because of heath and safety they couldn’t go on ice either. So the Coast Guard arrived, lights flashing! But guess what? Because of health and safety he couldn’t go on the ice either! A great day was had by all.”

Excellent!

A right-wing think tank today called for drunk NHS patients to be fined and prescriptions for common pain killers to be scrapped. (Independent) There is an increasing tendency to penalise people for their lifestyle choices – on the grounds that those who lead impeccable lives should not be penalised by having to subsidise the health of those who actually live their lives – albeit, at times, intemperately. There have been calls to ban smokers and binge drinkers.  Then, of course, obese people… soon, it could be people who live in areas outstanding national ugliness or who watch X-Factor…who knows?  We could have a crack at people who engage in sports – broken legs and arms must tax the NHS?We must not forget those who are unfortunate enough to get old and endure the long process of bits of their bodies packing up?

The Right-Wing Think Tanks are all revving up their engines waiting for the glorious day when their leader, freshly airbrushed, rides into Downing Street with his Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse…to bring order to our land.

I certainly support action to fine people who, through excessive alcohol consumption,  are violent and abusive to medical staff in hospitals.  This, I am told, is a very serious and increasing problem.  Fortunately we have some criminal law provisions for this already.

The thaw may have started and I have lost interest in laughing at BBC autocuties droning on about the snow. There isn’t a lot of law about to report on this morning so you may as well have a laugh.  here is a wonderful pastiche about Google’s new phone…  (Hat Tip: Gideonstrumpet)

Google Nexus One: The “Fuck You iPhone” Phone

Do watch the movie.  it is rather good.

| John Flood RATs – also picks up on this!

A quick trip to the blogs

John Bolch at Family Lore has a couple of posts of interest:  Sunday Review | John Bolch also notes…The recession: it IS all doom and gloom for those in relationship breakdown

Capitalists@Work consider Politicians@Work

Meanwhile, in the City of Westminster . . .

Is David Cameron the luckiest man alive, or what ? Saved by Hoon & Hewitt in an important week when he was looking like a prize eejit. C@W has long registered misgivings about the boy Osborne, and it is surely clear now that his ability to muster (and brief his master upon) a coherent Treasury package is wholly inadequate. Not a comfortable conclusion.

Bearwatch asks:  Which books should we burn?

Welsh pensioners are buying books as fuel. Discounting differences in book size, and assuming you could gather all copies of the same title, which books would you burn? On his deathbed, the poet Virgil requested his friends to burn his “Aeneid”. Does an author have the right to do this?

White Rabbit is  Off down to London…: Here is a – very temporary – parting shot. I’m working in London tomorrow so think I’ll head down tonight to avoid travel grief tomorow morning given present conditions. Jailhouse Lawyer – the source of so many goodies – comes up with the following gem of a news item: “Man’s penis removed from pipe

The Law Society Gazette podcast : I talk to Jonathan Goldsmith about the role of the CCBE, the Akzo Nobel case on in-house counsel, the new Justice Commissioner and the opportunities for lawyers in Europe.

Jonathan Goldsmith is the Secretary General of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE), which represents over 700,000 European lawyers through its member bars and law societies. The CCBE deals with a wide range of EU and global issues, such as anti-money-laundering legislation, an EU-wide Code of Conduct, competition matters affecting the legal profession, and human rights. He is an English solicitor. | Listen to the podcast

Dr Who votes Labour?

Regular readers know that I am vaguely interested in politics. I shall not, however, transmogrify into a political blogger.  Rex Charon MP, my morally bankrupt brother from the unelectable wing of the Tory party (who crossed the floor when he saw the lie of the land), is quite capable of handling such political commentary as I wish to publish on my blog.  Indeed, he did so only last night in the weekly ‘Postcard’.

I was astonished to see that Dr Who is voting Labour. Hat TIP: Man Widdicombe has a brief post on this – and Constantly Furious is blunt and to the point. Celebrities have exactly the same rights as the rest of us untutored souls to drone on about politics  (Political bloggers, commentators tend, in the main, to know what they are on about even if we don’t always appreciate their stance) –  but I do find it rather tedious when celebs (many of whom have invaded Twitter to tell us about their wonderful lives and their next show/book/pantomime) start to believe in their own immortality and iconographic status and ‘pronounce’.   If Dr Who supports Labour is the best Labour can do by way of a poster campaign, we could be even deeper in the merde than we are already with the Watt’s revelations today that Gordon Brown behaves in a rather unusual way and the failed coup of last week. Still 5 months to go until the election.  As the old saying goes... a week is a long time in politics…. and there are, thankfully, some clever and sane people in the Labour Party who could bring things round! (All comments relating to flying pigs are subject to ‘deletion’… possibly…. OK… they won’t be.)

I am not the first to consider that David Cameron, in the very limited context of Labour’s advert, may be a most suitable Davros.  It has been a strange day… so I couldn’t resist faffing about with Photoshop again. The Daleks pictured are plastic ones.  Cameron’s head is, of course, real…. in so far as anything is real when Photoshop comes into play.

PS… is the Labour poster for real? 🙂

***

Update

Tom Harris MP – who is a serious MP and a well known political blogger – happens to be a major Dr Who fan.  This is a matter of record and, who knows, may even be recorded in Hansard? If you go to Tom Harris’ twitter page… you will see what I mean on this matter.

Tom’s response:

and I just had to have this from a mate of mine…

A matter of principle or principal?

The news last night from the Daily Mail was rather grim. I do not usually read the Daily Mail;  preferring to get my news on politics from the main newspapers, bloggers and commentators.

The Daily Mail is serialising former secretary-general of the Labour Party, Peter Watt’s book. The Mail headline…

Brown’s election shambles: Man who ran Labour Party reveals chaos at No 10 in devastating new book

I am assuming that Mr Watt is completely familiar with the law on libel.  It is unlikely – given that his charges about the prime minister’s behaviour are serious – he would be anything other than comfortable that he is not defaming the prime minister.

That said, the Mail article makes rather depressing reading for people who support Labour ideals. The Mail summarises the key claims:

In his book, Mr Watt, who resigned as Labour general secretary in 2007, claims:

  • Mr Brown’s Cabinet ally Douglas Alexander said the PM’s inner circle wanted an early Election partly because even they didn’t like him – and they feared the British public would soon form the same view.
  • The day Mr Brown called off the 2007 Election, denying he had ever intended to hold one, Labour chiefs had a fleet of limousines circling Parliament Square ready to take Ministers on the campaign trail, and had 1.5million leaflets ready to be posted.
  • No10 is ‘completely dysfunctional’ under Mr Brown, who runs the country ‘by making it up as he goes along’.
  • Sulking Mr Brown walked out of a Downing Street dinner party with US politicians because they sat down without his permission.

The story about the dinner party is rather disturbing.  Petulance and childish behaviour is not something one immediately associates with the behaviour of a prime minister in public. ” Mr Watt also highlights Mr Brown’s ‘weird’ behaviour. He recalls the moment the Prime Minister threw a tantrum at a No10 dinner party for US Democrat politicians after guests sat down without his permission…..Mr Watt said: ‘For the rest of the meal he was monosyllabic, sulking because he had lost control of the seating plan…..The plates had not even been cleared when quite suddenly, without saying anything, he just got up and left. “He’s bonkers,” Vilma [Mr Watt’s wife] whispered. She was right.’

This week, Brown managed to see off the Hoon-Hewitt coup, but there was speculation in the press and in the blogs that there is more to come.  There may still be more to come.

The Sunday Times reports this morning:

Now Geoff Hoon savages Gordon Brown over Afghanistan war

Geoff Hoon, the former defence secretary behind last week’s attempted leadership coup, is set to inflict further damage on Gordon Brown with the disclosure that the prime minister vetoed the purchase of vital military helicopters.

Leaked ministerial letters reveal how, as chancellor, Brown repeatedly prevented Hoon from ordering life-saving battlefield equipment for Afghanistan and Iraq.

With nothing left to lose, Hoon, who was dismissed as an embittered traitor by Brown’s allies for the failed email plot, has the potential to undermine Brown’s leadership in the run-up to the general election.

The bloggers have long speculated about Mr Brown’s state of mind, his lack of ’emotional intelligence’, the dysfunctional nature of his administration and while much of this may be motivated by political leanings and, in the case of Mr Watt, anger; a picture of a man,who simmered away for years in-fighting with Blair,  who is not fit to ‘get on with the job’ is emerging to those many of us who are not privy to the inner world of Westminster.

I find it all rather distasteful.  I have no enthusiasm for a Conservative government, but after the events of recent weeks, I certainly have no enthusiasm for a government led by Mr Brown.  It will be particularly interesting to hear Mr Hoon’s statement to the Iraq Inquiry… whatever his motivation(s).

POSTCARD FROM REX CHARON MP

I am grateful, at this time of the ‘Great Snows’, to be offered the opportunity by my brother Charon QC to speak directly to you…the people of Britain. While my brother persists with the delusion that he is a socialist, I take a rather more pragmatic line. It is certainly true that I became an MP at the height of Mr Blair’s popularity in 1997 and I remember, with almost a wistful tear in my eye, the scenes as a young Tony Blair walked into Downing Street.  This was a happy time, a time before Blair decided to embark on selective regime change after prayers with a United States president who hailed from Texas, and started being selective with…shall we say..certain factual material.

While Quentin Davies shuffled across the floor from the Conservative Opposition benches to much fanfare; my own move over to the Conservative benches barely raised a murmur.  This, as it happens, was most useful to me and I met some very fine people like Duckhouse Viggers and Hogg ‘The Moat’,  who explained the intricacies of the expenses system to me.  Many happy hours were spent, I can tell you, poring over the John Lewis catalogue and checking the fine print in the Green Book… but there we are.

Suffice it to say that my own political future is secure. Iain Dale has, as near as dammit, told me so personally with his blog post earlier today that we can expect a 12 seat majority in the next Parliament.  As I come from an extreme right and entirely unelectable wing of the Conservative party –  had I not been fortunate  in representing  a constituency where they wear tweed coats (they do not call them jackets) and red trousers – all will be well.

The great ‘Plot’ from the Hoon-Hewitt Novelties Co (Established 2010) appears to have fizzled out and dear Matthew Paris, a former MP, must have  had hours of pleasure constructing an elaborate analysis and in coming to the conclusion that far from failing as a plot…it succeeded.

His central theme was that Hoon-Hewitt knew perfectly well that they could not succeed and with no prospect of a meaningful career in politics remaining, they decided to give the prime minister a kick in the political balls.   Political commentators and newscasters, taking a break from reporting endlessly about snow while they stood around in the stuff, had varying degrees of success in keeping up with events last week and Nick Robinson – who really is barely intelligible at times, had absolutely no success at all in terms of political prognostication.  Asked by Andrew Neil on The Daily Politics whether there was any truth in the rumour that a plot was coming, Robinson  indulged in a bit of sycophantic laughter and said that Neil was ‘right to place no credence in the idea’.  About ten minutes later the great ‘sayer of sooths’ was on BBC News solemnly reporting on the ‘Coup’.

A few of us from the entirely unelectable end of the party –  if we didn’t have the good fortune to represent constituencies in the Tory  shires – did enjoy Guido’s film over lunch at Claridges It really is worth a watch..and while you are at it.. you might care to look at the latest GuyNews: Save our Gordon edition where my brother Charon QC  is, somewhat implausibly,  making a guest appearance right at the end.

While Cameron is enjoying his place under the sun lamp – or so it would seem from his heavily photoshopped appearance on the latest poster from Tory HQ – George Osborne has been very quiet.  This, some of us suspect, is because he doesn’t have a great deal to say and does not wish to add to the impression that we have no fixed policies and fuel the  creeping realisation by voters that we may not have a clue….  after the debacle of David’s appalling performance earlier in the week.   I know that there have been murmurings that George may have been..shall we say… over promoted ……and that we would do better with Ken ‘The Bruiser’ Clarke as Chancellor.

It has just been drawn to my attention (by a fellow twitterer @johnhalton) a reasonably recent article from The Spectator: …

Osborne’s crazy admission

Montgomerie Andrew Rawsley’s column today:

“Mr Osborne raised some eyebrows at a recent private meeting in the City when he was heard to remark that ‘40% of my time is spent on economics’ – meaning that most of his hours are spent on campaigns and tactics. Mr Osborne seemed to think that 40% was an impressively large amount of his time to find to spend on economics; some of his audience thought it was a worryingly low proportion for the man who expects to be chancellor in less than a year’s time.….Of course, it’s no secret that Osborne has other responsibilities within his party.  But for him to push this “40 percent” line during an economic crisis is utterly bizarre, and will just fuel chatter that he’d be better off elsewhere in the Tory operation.”
Then some PR spinner decided that it would be a good idea to give the government a bit of ‘beasting’, toast their buttocks in front of the fire a la Flashman,  and blame them for the snow and lack of grit. I have a feeling they would have been better to leave out the snow and talk of a lack of grit on the party of Labour of a different kind – but our ‘masters’…in their wisdom, with an open goal, decided to run with this… duly picked up by The Independent

Tories blast ‘utter failure’ on grit reserves

This allowed that most subversive of Labour MPs on Twitter, Tom Harris MP, to post this tweet earlier today.

As I am on the subject of Twitter… I did enjoy this…

Cam The Man, as I believe some PR and advertising mavens are thinking of calling him to appeal to Sun readers… came up with this on Thursday.“We’ve got to have an election and a change of government,” Cameron told Radio 4’s Today programme. “Gordon Brown has only been prime minister for a couple of years and is in deep trouble.”

I resisted the impulse to tell Sir Harry Blundering-Smythe MP (We were taking breakfast together on expenses at Browns Hotel – Tory backbenchers of a ‘certain cut’  like a bit of irony) – who looks after the adjoining constituency, that should David become First Lord of The Treasury and Prime Minister he could probably manage to get into deep merde within a couple of weeks.

Anyway.. they have now come up with another wheeze… Go for an immediate election. ToryBear was certainly up for bringing it on on Sky. This is a marvellous idea.  Not only have we not got nearly enough policies worked out yet – which the electorate will swallow with the enthusiasm of a binge drinking  fellatrix on a night out in her high heels and short skirt we’ve still got Chris Grayling, Shadow Home Secretary, lurking out there in the deep,  like a latter day JAWS, giving demonstrations to all and sundry on how to kill burglars to prepare them for the happy day when we return to our rightful place as the ‘Ayatollahs of  New Britain’.

On that note, ladies and gentlemen… as they used to say on Crimewatch… don’t have nightmares… it is only politics…

You know what to do with your ballot paper

Good on you…

Rex

My brother Charon QC  has asked me to insert a drawing he has just knocked up… to give a bit of political balance to this postcard of mine.

STOP PRESS – UPDATE Saturday night 10.30

@iaindale Blogpost: Peter Watt: Gordon’s Part in My Downfall http://tinyurl.com/yzqc59v

This is beyond parody.  I have never been keen on Brown…  but this ain’t good for Labour either. I assume, of course, the Mr Watt is aware of the law of this country in relation to accuracy and libel.

***

My postscript of last night has been superceded by my post today: A matter of principle or principal?


Rive Gauche: The Photoshop airbrushed edition

Would you believe it…Friday 8th January already. This morning, BBC Breakfast News treated us to the quite remarkable spectacle of a roving reporter demonstrating that snow  on ice below can be very slippery.  She didn’t fall, she solemnly demonstrated how slippery the pavement was by sliding her foot across the ice.  I became ‘outraged of The Tundra’ last night, having waited patiently for Newsnight and some relief from Snowpocalypse Now to find Gavin Esler leading on…SNOW..and then bringing on some analyst to administer the coup de gras by talking about…SNOW.  I have given up watching BBC news programmes and shall do so until the snow disappears.

RollonFriday can usually be relied upon to provide a laugh on Fridays.  This week they discuss a fight at Clifford Chance’s Moscow office and end that report with….”Meanwhile, a corporate partner at a large UK regional outfit decided that his firm’s Christmas party was the perfect opportunity to announce his forthcoming sex change – while completely bladdered, with his shirt fully undone, and having wrestled the microphone away from the cabaret. As one witness reported dryly, “he’ll make a graceful lady“.

Liberal Conspiracy has some amusing Cameron poster spoofs…

It is a bit light on News from Tory HQ this morning. The Labour plotters are possibly down at the Job Centre and Miliband is probably doing what Miliband does…so a quick review of a few of the posts from political bloggers.

First up – Guido Fawkes: “Guido is frankly surprised with Mehdi Hasan’s latest article “In Defence of Ed Balls“.  Not that the ’senior political editor’ of the New Statesman is defending the indefensible, it is his admission that “I don’t know him. Never met him……How do you get to be a ’senior political editor’ of a supposedly serious political journal without ever having met Ed Balls? Staggering.” Guido Fawkes

Iain Dale and ToryBear both came up with a post on the Hoon-Hewitt nonsense – Dale | Tory Bear

Tom Harris MP asks the question of the week about Photoshop and airbrushing: So the camera lies – deal with it

The Ranting Penguin reports: Mad Bitch In Court | This one is not for  the faint hearted or for people who wish to keep their jobs if working for an employer at their office. Boris Johnson has A sweet way to enforce law and order.

Politicalbetting.com asks: Do the Lib-Dems gain most from the plot’s failure?. John Prescott states  Bitterites should face secret ballot

That’s enough for now… I have to get supplies and so I am off to clear the shelves of Basil, Sherry and ready made french onion soup… to do my bit for PANIC BUYING and irritate the 4×4 drivers who are just a bit too smug for my liking generally, but particularly at the moment! I am advised that 4×4 drivers are particularly partial to the aforementioned items.  I shall, of course, buy cigarettes and some wine.

Have a good weekend.

Law Review: Oink, morally unacceptable tax evasion, and a watchdog ducking the MP expenses issue

Barely five working days into 2010 and we have had an attempted coup against a sitting, albeit unelected prime minister, a prospective prime minister who can’t seem to get his own manifesto policies straight, a nation under siege from television reporters, notably from BBC News 24, assaulting us almost round the clock with news about Snowpocalypse Now and politicians and political bloggers sharpening their knives for the long run up to the election later in the year. [A larger version of the  NASA #uksnow picture is available here – should you need an early morning snow fix]

Frances Gibb, in The Times, covers a piece of legal history this morning: Case of ‘Heathrow four’ to be challenged as lone judge prepares for historic trial.

“Defence lawyers are preparing to challenge the first criminal trial in England and Wales for 400 years to go ahead without a jury. The case is expected to be heard next week. Lawyers for four men accused of being part of a gang that stole £1.75 million in a raid at Heathrow will seek to adjourn the trial and go before the Supreme Court, the highest in the land. They argue that the case is of public importance and that the men were denied the chance to rebut the allegations against them or to challenge the direction for a trial by judge. The decision that there should be a a judge-only trial was made by the Lord Chief Justice and two other judges in an historic ruling at the Court of Appeal in June.”

The case is interesting for a great many reasons, not least since it will be the first non-jury criminal trial since the days of the Diplock courts in Northern Ireland. The jury-less trial is the first of its kind under the provisions contained in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 to prevent jury nobbling. The trial is expected to be rather shorter than a traditional jury trial, barristers will probably have to alter their presentation style – the judge will have access to all the witness statements, something denied to juries and,  as Frances Gibb reports…“Mr Justice Treacy will be both judge and jury: he will resolve matters of law and have to do “mental gymnastics”, as one barrister put it, if he excludes evidence as inadmissable — trying to put it out of his mind and to pretend he has never seen it.”

10,000 own up to ‘morally unacceptable’ tax evasion

Stephen Timms, the Treasury Minister, (Not pictured left – that is Al Capone – a celebrated gangster and serial tax evader) today branded offshore tax evasion “morally unacceptable” today, as HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) announced that about 10,000 people came forward to declare money in offshore accounts before the UK tax amnesty deadline on Monday. Mr Timms said: “Hiding money in offshore accounts to evade tax is economically and morally unacceptable. It robs public services of funding and places an unfair burden on the honest majority of taxpayers. Times

Accountants will tell you that tax evasion is illegal (and, by definition morally unacceptable) whereas tax avoidance is legal and, arguably, morally acceptable. Given that there are believed to be some 100,000 offshore tax ‘evader/avoiders’ getting 10,000 of them to cough up can hardly be described as a triumph.  Those who did cough (and 1000 did on the day of the deadline expiry – 4th January) will have to pay the tax due, the interest, and a fine of 10%.  Those who are now caught will have a fine of 100% of the tax due – although HM government plan to increase this in the future  to 200%.

This prompted one ‘Outraged of Lichtenstein’ tax payer to comment on the Times article:
Richard Koenig wrote: “No Mr Trimms. What is “morally unacceptable”is bankrupt, inefficient, feckless governments stealing from their citizenry. What is “morally unacceptable” is extorting other countries who have efficient markets and competitive tax environments. No one minds paying reasonable tax, but the UK has now entered levels of taxation that are an affront to hard work, talent and life’s blessings. Peaple (sic)  like Trimms make me sick.”

Founder of Oink music piracy site ‘had $300,000 in bank’

The Times reports: A man who ran a pirate music website amassed hundreds of thousands of pounds in “donations” from people who had downloaded 21 million songs, a jury heard yesterday.  The trial continues – but it is interesting because it appears, at first blush, given that the alleged ‘pirate’ did not host any copyright material himself to be a case under the new Fraud Act – which contains a very wide definition of fraud.  I make no further comment – but it would be interesting if criminal or intellectual property lawyers reading this would give an insight into what could be a landmark decision in criminal law?

It is always a pleasure to see serious newspapers getting in on tabloid style puns and The Independent does so with this pun on the MP expenses issue…

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Watchdog accused of ducking confrontation over MPs’ expenses

Sir Ian Kennedy, a well known academic lawyer, (Ex King’s College London)heads the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority – and IPSA is certainly keen to get members of the public involved in the consultation process. You may access the IPSA consultation document here and complete it online: The consultation document is available for completion online.

There is gold in them thar Google hills – and, with the launch of the new Google Nexus phone – the lawyers are about with the first piece of litigation.  I have to say that I did not immediately think of the works of science fiction writer Philip K Dick whose estate is planning to sue Google over the name Nexus One, which it claims was taken without permission from Mr Dick’s book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? This is probably because I have no interest whatsoever in science fiction in any of its forms. I prefer the fictions of the present and the past.   No doubt the litigation will grind through the courts or there will some satisfactory pay off and honour will be served. Mr Dick’s daughter Isa Dick Hackett said she thought the estate had a strong case against Google. “Google takes first and then deals with the fallout later,” she said.

A raft of political stuff…

There are many articles on the politics of the week.  I have listed these in the news feed on Insite Law this morning. I do no more than list them.  I have commented on some earlier in the week – even if just to do a caption pic or a cartoon and the political bloggers do comment and analysis with style and vituperation.

Hey ho, hey ho…. it’s off to court Trafigura go

Trafigura returns to court in attempt to suppress lawsuit documents

“Trafigura, the offshore oil trader that became notorious for legal attempts to suppress reporting of parliament, is going back to Britain’s judges tomorrow. The privately owned oil giant wants high court records to be sealed to prevent the public and the media from reading allegations made in a separate lawsuit.” The Guardian

After the superinjunction fiasco late last year when Trafigura and Carter-Ruck, their lawyers, were effectively forced to back down by mass civil disobedience on twitter and elsewhere – they have a new strategy – get the courts to seal the court records to stop nosy people poking their noses into Trafigura business. A cunning plan.  We shall see what our Courts make of this given that the superinunctions were criticised by no less than the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge.

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Carl Gardner, author of the Head of Legal blog, has an amusing story: Sion Simon, Keith Vaz and Law Officers’ advice

“The DCMS minister Sion Simon has been speaking for the government in the Commons this afternoon, and is in an embarrassing situation: it appears that government lawyers have advised that the Video Recordings Act 1984 should have been notified to the European Commission under the “Technical Standards” Directive, 83/189 (since replaced by Directive 98/34). Since it was not, its provisions are unenforceable; the government has therefore now notified, and by means of the Video Recordings Bill is repealing and reenacting the 1984 provisions. The bill is going through in effect in a day. Oops!”

Capitalists@Work ask: Will a failed Brown-out lead to UK blockout?

“The events at Westminster yesterday make the comic The Thick of It, look quite tame in its parody. Some now quite pathetic ex-ministers hope a simple letter will be enough to get rid of a tenacious and street-fighting Prime Minister. That the plot failed is not much of a surprise, neither the the lack of solid backing for Brown by his enemies. Brown too did not have the stomach to go for a vote and therefore renew his mandate ahead of an election and get a boost for his personal rating as he would be seen as a toughie.

But the real cost to the country is the on-going collapse of the UK credibility in the eyes of the world. Check out what has happened the past month alone…..”

Prof John Flood over at RATs (Random Academic Thoughts has a fascinating piece on his blog: Do You Know What Lawyers Do?

John Bolch at Family Lore covers  the ‘Medieval’ System of Family Law in this country and is quite sardonic with this: “The Independent this morning informs us that “an overwhelming majority of lawyers have told the Government” that the divorce system must be reformed, to provide for no-fault divorce. I’m not quite sure who these lawyers are or when they told this to the Government, but the report goes on to tell us that: “Lawyers told the consumer law website TakeLegalAdvice.com that families would suffer far less during the separation if the husband and wife did not have to cite unreasonable behaviour or one of the other grounds for a quick divorce.”
Read…

And finally…

Being Friday… I write a ‘Rive Gauche’ piece…coming slightly from left field… I shall do so later…but I shall leave you with this picture from Conservative Flickr to which I have added a, possibly, welcome/unwelcome caption…

More law news may be found on my online mag Insite Law

Onions reduces the South Africans to tears and other matters….

If you would like to keep up to date with reports direct from Helmand, Afghanistanthis is the place to do it: What Winning Looks Like

The Mongoleers: How would you like to drive in a 1.2 litre car from Goodwood to Mongolia?

This is fun – the idea, at any rate, if not the actuality – but Laura Over, a Paralegal in her fourth year of training to be a Legal Executive, and her childhood friend Paul Evans will be attempting The Mongol Rally 2010, and driving over 10,000 miles from England to the capital of Mongolia in an effort to raise money for three very good charities – The Christina Noble Children’s Foundation, Cancer Research and the Neurofibromatosis Association. As well as the money we are hoping to raise, when in Mongolia, the car itself will benefit charity. Laura works for ASB Law, a Crawley law firm – who are supporting the idea.  The trip is likely to take five weeks and includes some serious and tough terrain and exposure to the Gobi desert.  Obviously they are looking for sponsorship – so if you fancy making a modest donation… pop over to the website and have a look.
Excellent idea.  Apparently there are 300 teams from Britain and another 200 or so driving up from Italy.  Eccentricity always interests me, especially if there are lawyers involved.  Bon voyage.

Visit The Mongoleers website

MPs’ expenses report casts doubt on reform proposals

The Telegraph reports: “The head of the new parliamentary expenses watchdog has risked reigniting the row over the allowances system by casting doubt on a number of proposed reforms.”
The consultation document is available for completion online. #

CRICKET!

And finally… England grind out the draw. The South Africans should have declared earlier.  Good, exciting Test match.  England 1-0 up with one to play. Great series

Law Review: A snowstorm in a teacup or …”If you are Brutus…then Caesar would be OK tonight”

Gordon Brown survived the attempted mutiny by the Hoon-Hewitt axis of incompetent plots – although the political hyperventilators on TV  were able to extract just a little bit more angst by filming  David Miliband giving a lukewarm response ‘hours later’.  Baron Mandelson of Foy etc etc…went onto Newsnight to give a calm, assured and only mildly sinister re-assurance that all is under his control and that Brown will continue to lead the Labour party into the next election.  Guardian

Paxman was then able to say to Geoff Hoon…“If you are Brutus…then Caesar would be OK tonight” which rather set the tone for the rest of the interview – although Hoon gamely battled on to justify his action as settling the issue once and for all.  Well, as Carl Gardner observed yesterday in a piece for the Wardman Wire – he certainly did that.

Lord Justice Jackson has handed his review of civil justice in to the Master of The Rolls

David Allen, writing in The Times, notes:“Not all the big Jackson stories last year were about celebrities. One of the biggest stories in the legal world was that of Lord Justice Jackson and his fundamental review of the costs of civil litigation and recommendations to promote access to justice at a proportionate cost. The report has been presented to the Master of the Rolls and is due to be published next week. The legal world waits with anticipation. Rightly so given that the potential for change is enormous: recommendations could stretch far beyond amendments to the costs rules. However, there is a general election looming and even without that, questions have already been asked about whether there is real political will to effect change.”

The Law Society Gazette reveals the astonishing news this morning….

LSB research reveals public ‘don’t know what lawyers do’

The even better news is that despite few members of the ‘public’ knowing what lawyers do..“The research, which was commissioned to mark the start of the LSB’s regulatory regime on 1 January, found a high degree of satisfaction with solicitors among the public.” Wunderbar.

And…it just gets better…

Amid economic gloom there is plenty of opportunity for the bar

The Law Society Gazette produces a veritable feast of opportunity for members of the Bar, most of it, it has to be said, coming from the human misery caused by the recession  – in a very interesting piece by Lucy Trevelyan – who notes… “The recession might be maintaining its grip, but in the realms of consumer credit, fraud and insolvencies – and a host of other practice areas – barristers face a busy 2010 as serious thought is given to litigation.”

Advice for 2010? Love your clients and taking nothing for granted

Times: “Last year was traumatic for many law firms. Few avoided staff cutbacks or shorter time working. In many cases partners took home significantly less than they had earned in recent years and managing partners have had to take tough decisions to deal with the downturn. So does this week represent a turn of the page? Does a new decade mean a new chance?”

On the political blogging front, Iain Dale posted a very amusing human interest story last night: That Effing Gordon Brown

If ever there was a reason for men to learn to cook it is in Today’s Independent: Jilted woman ‘laced former lover’s curry with poison’

Iceland’s president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson announced that he would not go ahead with the October agreement to repay €4bn (£3.6bn) lost in Icelandic bank Icesave, , but would instead put the bill out to a public referendum. The Lawyer reports on  what Ashurst and Mishcon advised and noted..“As it stands at the moment the situation is seen as a political one, with no party seeking further legal advice at this stage.” Unfortunately, at this stage, no more work for lawyers on this front, then!

Paxman, on Newsnight last night, interviewed President Grimsson, describing Iceland as a country with a population the size of Wigan, castigated him for breaking an agreement which had been stitched together quite satisfactorily by the Iceland and British governments, asked him who he was to go behind that and basically put the boot in by treating Grimsson rather like a bailiff might treat a council tax debtor.  Paxman’s parting shot to Grimsson that Britain would block Iceland’s entry to the European Union did not trouble the Iceland president – but may well have given comfort to some viewers.

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Blawg Watch…

John Flood has the gen on the future of global law at his RATs blog

Watch the movie

Capitalists@Work reports: Retail sales figures are looking up | Geeklawyer is up to his arse in lit­i­ga­tion but had to put draft­ing aside for a moment to com­ment on UK favouritism towards spe­cific war criminals: Yea, but they’re our sons-of-bitches

Colin Samuels, Infamy or Praise, publishes his useful Round Tuit – weekly round up from blawgs:  A Round Tuit (14) | Michael Scutt has a very comprehensive look at British law blogs. | John Bolch, Family Lore has a sardonic take on: We settled the divorce…

To crank up the legal content of his blog,White Rabbit produces a report on   the sinisterly named Minister of Justice, Jack Straw. “I’m not quite sure what he’s got there…”

Corporate Law and Governance reports: In a speech delivered yesterday at the Work Foundation,  Lord Mandelson, the Secretary of State for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, stated that his Department was reviewing whether changes introduced by the Companies Act (2006) – including the introduction of Section 172, which sets out the duty of directors to promote the success of the company – had changed boardroom behaviour. Lord Mandelson had much more to say, including…..” Read the post

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Tales from…Tory HQ?…

Tweet of the morning…

I enjoy Paul Waugh’s blog…take look?

And a bit of snow… if you need yet more pics… this is where I do my  Smokedo exercises… and weights. It is rather bracing out here at the moment.  Like the views though.. lots of gulls, cormorants, swans, yachts and even a Castle at Upnor in the distance.The basin is an old Royal Naval Dockyard basin… they built HMS Victory and many famous warships at Chatham! This part is called ‘Chatham Maritime’ now… I like the place – but soon to leave to return to London.



The day in view: Putsch, snow and BBC News 24

I’ll come to the snow later. The ‘plot’ to ‘settle the leadership’ broke just after PMQs at lunchtime today.  Carl Gardner, author of The Head of Legal blog, has penned an interesting piece for the Wardman Wire. With customary precision, Carl takes us through the constitutional issues, discusses the prospects of Crudas, Miliband and others  and concludes..“If Hoon and Hewitt wanted, as they said, to settle the leadership issue one way or the other – well, they’ve succeeded in that.”

Guido has the real deal... It is amusing… and Guido did appear to be the first to have the famous Hoon-hewitt letter on his blog at lunchtime.

Watch the movie?

The Liberal Conspiracy takes a most unusual line on the ‘plot’: LIVE pictures fropm the Labour Plot. Cat lovers will enjoy this one. Very good.

Reclusive Tory blogger Iain Dale tweeted…

The snow

Scots and Northerners are expressing outrage that now London and the fantastically well off South-East is under siege from snow,  the nation has gone into a state of hyperventilation and PANIC BUYING.  I did point out to my Scots friends that they must understand that we have “London Snow”.  This is quite different in texture and quality from Northern or Scottish snow.   I get up most mornings shortly before 4.00 am.

Regular readers will know that many deaths occur at 4.00 am.  My plan to avoid the Grim Reaper, before he visits at 4.00 am,  appears to be working.  It also allows me to get a bit of work done before Twitter and blogs start to weave their spell. The BBC does many things well – although on Newsnight last night Paxo had to listen to a very jolly Bishop  who must spend a fair bit of time telling parables in very simple language. Unfortunately, the BBC seems to think that anyone who is conscious between the hours of 5.00 am and 9.00 needs a good kick in the ass from Jonathan Charles who shouts the business news in a very manly way (nodding his head every 5.5 seconds to punctuate his points – I timed him one morning, so obsessed did I become with his ‘nodding dog syndrome’) and then, between 6.00 and 9.00 we get the autocuties (irredeemably good looking men and women) who, lovely people they may well be, smile far too much and speak to us as if we are children who really ought to eat more vegetables. (Fortunately BBC Radio 4 still caters to those who enjoy adult news).

Today, BBC News 24 went into overdrive. I have never seen so much coverage on snow in my life.  Every conceivable angle was covered.  We had the obligatory news anchor standing outside in the stuff, wiping slabs of snow off a car roof to prove it.  There was even a bit of confusion as to whether the snow was 15 INCHES deep or 15 CENTIMETRES deep. Oh the angst. We then went to the regions and were treated to regional autocuties, all standing about in the snow,  and then we had snow analysis, endless severe weather warnings and finally… requests to send pictures of our own snow in.  I was, I have to say, tempted.

Panic buying was much in evidence at my local supermarket. Bread – none.  Milk – None.  Salt – |None.  Fortunately, as I observed on Twitter this morning – there was plenty of garlic and coriander – so being a MIDDLE CLASS PANIC BUYER… I cleared the shelves of the stuff.

Finally… see what I mean?



Tories digging it….

I was amused when I saw this picture posted on Twitter by @ericpickles, Chairman of The Conservative Party.

“@EricPickles In the spirit of bi-partisanship we feature two Labour politicians on our next poster”

The Tory bloggers have been running amok – some with style and panache – at the attempted putsch by ‘serial plotter’ Hoon and Patricia Hewitt. I watched the news at lunchtime – I just cannot get enough news about snow and requests to send in pictures about the snow I have got – and watched John Mann MP being wheeled out to look mildly sinister and dismiss the Hoon-Hewitt letter as a load of dissembling, disloyal and self serving bollocks.

But in the spirit of just enjoying playing around with captions and pictures (both from the Conservative Party Flickr site – a rich source of excellent photographs for this sort of thing) here are two I knocked up as I opened a bottle of Rioja. OK…OK… I know… childishly simplistic…. but we will all go mad if we take everything about the election campaign too seriously. As Shami Chakrabarti said in the podcast I did with her… the country is going to be governed by the government whoever wins and it may not even be a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea but between two devils at this rate.

Immediate ballot on future of prime minister

Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt launch new Gordon Brown challenge

Times: Two former Cabinet ministers have today launched a last-ditch attempted putsch against Gordon Brown.

Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt have written to all Labour MPs calling for the leadership issue to be sorted out “once and for all”.

A source close to the former Cabinet ministers, both of whom were allies of Tony Blair, said: “We can’t go on like this.”

A Tory a Day: Lord Mandelson puts the boot into Osborne

Paul Waugh, writing on his Evening Standard blog, noted Lord Mandelson’s latest speech: ” Lord Mandelson has just delivered his speech on the need to Go for Growth. In it, he has compared George Osborne to Montagu Norman* – the Bank of England Governor during the 1930s who many on the left blame for spending cuts that deepened the depression.

“Of course consolidation is vital. But we have to show more sense and more caution that simply adopting a one club policy of cutting spending. Unfortunately, my friend George seems resolutely determined to duck the lessons of history and be the Montagu Norman of the 21st century.”

Read the full blog post…

Law Review: The Tricoteuse of the Guillotine await you, Mr Blair

The Independent reports: “Demand for a seat to watch Tony Blair give evidence to the Iraq inquiry has been so high that a public ballot is to be held to allocate the limited places.”

120 people will be given the chance to watch as Mr Blair is questioned – one third of the seats being reserved for the families of servicemen killed during the Iraq war. Blair faces what the Independent calls a ‘six hour grilling’.  Given that there are no lawyers experienced at cross-examining witnesses on the panel ( a curious state of affairs which many have noted),  the grilling is more likely to be expedient ‘Burger King’ than searingly forensic ‘haut cuisine’.

It is probably just as well for Mr Blair, given his travels and his quest for worldwide fame,  that there are few countries which allow private individuals to bring private prosecutions to have politicians and others arrested when they visit.

Attorney General Baroness Scotland may block Israeli war crimes warrants

The Times reports: “The power for a private individual to seek an arrest warrant from a British court for a foreign national they wish to prosecute is an unusual but not unique quirk of English law. The ability, which derives from the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980, is also available in varying forms in the Netherlands, Spain, the Czech Republic and New Zealand. But after several high-profile cases where British courts have granted arrest warrants for foreign nationals — many of them Israelis — Britain has gained a reputation as being an easy place to do it.”

It seems that Hamas has been ‘stirring up trouble’ by hiring lawyers to have visiting Israelis arrested for war crimes, prompting the government to act. The Times notes: “The Attorney General could be given a veto over arrest warrants for foreign leaders in an attempt to placate Israeli ministers who fear war crimes prosecutions if they visit Britain. Baroness Scotland of Asthal, who is in Jerusalem, discussed an amendment to British law that would give her office the power to review arrest warrants in private prosecutions against political figures, according to Foreign Ministry sources. Israel warned that a failure to resolve the situation soon would have consequences for both countries.

A Mr Jeffrey loop comments on the issue in The Times: “Do you lot still have trial by fire or combat too? Grow up England.”

It does seem rather bizarre that private individuals can bring such prosecutions. Lawyers maintain that it is quite difficult to get arrest warrants – but the Times does note that the evidence underpinning the issuing of such warrants has , in the past, included articles in newspapers! Oh dear. Another matter for Jack ‘The Lad Chancellor’ Straw to look at?

Ten ways to reveal your lover: coming out the easy way

James Quarmby, tax partner, Thomas Eggar writes in The Lawyer: “Homosexuals are the hidden minority. Don’t look round but the person sitting at the desk next to you may be one. Unlike other minorities we’re not immediately obvious (apart from a few flamboyant individuals I could mention). This means you won’t know unless you’re told……”

James Quarmby considers various methods for coming out, noting that some law firms are liberal while other law firms still live in caves with their animals when it comes to issues of sexuality. I did like this wry comment ” 2. Don’t make any grand gestures or announcements. Hanging a banner over your desk emblazoned with the words, ‘Yes, I’m gay, get over it’, probably isn’t the best move. Lawyers are conservative ­creatures by nature and are easily shocked by… well… anything really…

and this… “5. Do take your significant other to the firm’s Christmas party. You can be ­guaranteed that, within a few hours of arrival, the gossips will have done their work and that every last man, woman and child will know all the fabulous details. However, it’s probably best to avoid ­getting heroically drunk and snogging to the slow numbers on the dance floor. This may be a step too far.”

There is more good news.  On 1st January yet another law regulator lumbered onto the stage. Only time will tell whether the new Legal Services Board will have any value whatsoever.  A new blog run by ‘ a barrister’: Of Interest to Some Lawyers noted “We are the new, independent body responsible for overseeing the regulation of lawyers in England and Wales. Our goal is to reform and modernise the legal services market place by putting the interests of consumers at the heart of the system, reflecting the objectives of the statute that created us, the Legal Services Act 2007″.

I went onto the Legal Services Board website.  Not a ripping read, it has to be said – although I enjoyed reading the register of interests and expenses for the board members. The expenses were satisfyingly dull – mainly taxi fares and one board member had no expenses. Why not…was my immediate thought? The LSB is subject to the Freedom of Information Act and the website has a helpful section on how to make FOI requests. The website reminded me of the early days of the web in design terms and the new logo looks as if it had been knoocked up by a board member keen to demonstrate that this was not a money wasting quango. The Approved Regulators page explains all to any member of the public with a burning desire to see state of the art web design and modern regulatory practice in relation to law regulators. We shall see… in time.

You may like to look at this excellent article from the Law Society Gazette. It raises ‘food for thought’: The Legal Services Board must properly research what it is about to do

Official: 2,500 ex-servicemen are in prison

My attention was caught when I saw this headline in The Telegraph: “Nearly 2,500 ex-servicemen are in prison in England and Wales, official figures show for the first time.”

The Telegraph report did not explain why we have so many ex-servicemen in prison beyond stating the obvious – that the government is not, perhaps, looking after ex-servicemen that well when they return from war,  but the Telegraph did make this wry comment ” The count of the prison population – which was carried out in November – is the first time ever that the Government has attempted to understand how many former members of the armed forces are in jail. Officials were able to complete the count by matching all the 81,000 prisoners aged over-18 in England and Wales with a database of more than one million veterans held by the Ministry of Defence.”

Clearly:  The answer to the question – why are there so many ex-servicemen in prison? – is rather important, I would have thought?

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Judges examine rise in complaints against MI5

The Independent reports: ” A record rise in the number of complaints against MI5 and other bodies authorised to spy on the public is being investigated by judges appointed to oversee the use of surveillance powers in Britain. Some of the allegations brought to the attention of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, include claims of harassment against officers working for the Security Service, MI5. Others concern the alleged misuse of surveillance by local authorities. The tribunal judges, who oversee the work of MI5 and other law enforcement agencies authorised under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, confirmed yesterday that they were looking at why the number of complaints had more than doubled from 66 in 2007 to 136 in 2008.

And finally… the weather

#BrownOut plan on Twitter core of Tory policy?

The Independent solemnly reports… as if any of this really matters..

Tory bloggers bite back against Labour’s ‘Twitter Tsar’

“Tory bloggers are planning a ruthless demonstration of how much better they are at internet campaigning than their left-wing counterparts by trying to use Twitter to oust the Labour MP who was recently appointed the party’s ‘Twitter Tsar’. Their target is Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP for Bristol East, an assiduous user of the social network site, who was appointed last summer by Labour’s campaign organiser, Douglas Alexander, to train her fellow Labour MPs how to campaign on line.

Ms McCarthy has made enemies of some of the leading Tory bloggers, including Harry Cole, who blogs under the alias Tory Bear, and Iain Dale. They are fronting an online campaign to get her ousted from her seat at the next general election.”

Iain Dale is a good Tory blogger. I’m not a Tory but I enjoy reading what he has to say, even though I may not agree with all he has to say.  I don’t agree with everything Labour MPs or the present government do.  Yes, he did get blocked by @kerryMP.  I recall seeing it unfold on Twitter some weeks ago. It may or may not be that he has taken umbrage. He appears on pretty well every television station to comment on the news and will probably do so until the election.  If Twitter and political blogs have any real influence with the broader electorate  (they may do) then getting hot under the collar about stunts organised by @ToryBear et al is simply providing fodder for further amusement. I haven’t met @ToryBear – I read his blog and enjoy the reports he does on GUYNews. He clearly enjoys satire and parody as a means of getting his political views across. Quite a few bloggers and journalists use satire – sometimes to greater effect than than the rather dull analyses of recognised mainstream media gurus/mavens.   At first, I thought that that the #KerryMP stunt was a bit OTT, with a whiff of bullying about it – but, upon reflection,  if Labour can’t take stunts and criticism from Tory bloggers how can they possibly hope to deal with the stunts and very serious matters likely to be thrown at them in 2010  should they be re-elected.

And…remember…all is fair in love and politics.  Sauce for the goose?

And… I just could not resist this…

and this… at 8.00 pm tonight…

KerryMP Facebook group

Mr Choudary woz here….

Mr Choudary and his Islam4UK want to protest about the Afghanistan war by having a procession of empty coffins at Wootton Basset. Social Cohesion Minister Shahid Malik stated in a BBC report: “Anjem Choudary rightly has a reputation as a dangerous and divisive figure in the UK, however, he does not speak for Muslims in the UK.”

I am sure he doesn’t.  He does have a right to protest – for that is a right all in the UK have.  I think Choudary should protest in London, properly supervised by the Police.  London is the seat of government and it is the government he should address his protest to – and not to those who receive back loved ones who gave up their lives in Afghanistan.   I think his deliberate selection of Wootton Basset, designed to be inflammatory, is tasteless.  I hope the government stops it on public order rather than free speech grounds (I agree with @Oedipus_Lex stance on that)

Choudary and his tawdry plan to protest at Wootton Basset simply reveals that he has no manners and respect for the sensitivities of others – yet requires us to have sensitivity for his views on Islam.  I seem to remember an aphorism from my Sunday school in my childhood…do unto others as you would expect they should do unto you. I’m an atheist – but the aphorism, rooted in many religions,  seems a pretty sound one to me

Law Review: Severe politics fatigue warning

By 10.30, when Newsnight came on television last night, there were signs on Twitter that many in this country were suffering from extreme exposure to politicians and political bloggers faffing about with #Kerryout campaigns, prompting some to say…”How can we go on like this until the election?”

The Tories kicked off with a rather bizarre poster showing a heavily photoshopped  David Cameron staring out at us with the rubric “I’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS”. Some say that putting the word ‘cut’ in the second line with ‘NHS’ was not a good idea.   Some say that some will read this as “I’ll cut the NHS” – and they could be right.

The Independent got it right this morning  with:

Who’s telling the truth about the Tory plans?

Yesterday’s war of fiscal words will have left many people perplexed. Sean O’Grady, Economics Editor, separates fact from fiction.

The Guardian scythed in with:

Cameron error gives Labour first blood in election campaign

The Sun, perhaps reflecting the concerns, interests and human rights of its readers, went with….the above… prompting me to wonder if they, or to be more accurate, Vanity Fair, are aware of an injunction against the use of naked pictures of Tiger Woods.  Who knows?  Who cares?

In the interests of political objectivity, I had a quick scan through the online version of The Sun (I even looked at ‘Sun Lite’ – for the less advantaged reader? – to see if I could find any politics). I learned about porn stars, Frank’s cheap date at Poundland and the opening of the world’s largest vulgarity in Dubai… but I could find no incisive comment on David Cameron’s plans about running the country should he be elected later in the year. I accept that I may not have looked deep enough… but…life is short and my attention span for tabloids..even shorter.

It was a bit of a struggle to find any Law to write about  this morning – but the Guardian gamely tried to stir our interest with this headline…

New scanners break child porn laws

It seems that the full body scanners which the prime minister wants installed at every airport are not only not available (apparently) but when they do become available we won’t be able to use them on any terrorist under the age of 18 because of our child porn laws. The Guardian has the full story – I really can’t be bothered to comment on such arrant stupidity, other than to say – surely we can solve that issue.  Terrorists often employ children to fight and use them as human bombs.

I shall find some law later…have a good one…

Law Review: Back to work…and the latest law news.

We start the new year, the new decade, with the news:  “a total of 400 serving and former MPs were yesterday reported to be facing demands to pay back some of their claims. They range from a few pounds to about £90,000. The number is twice as high as previously calculated. (Independent)

MPs invoke 1689 Bill to avoid prosecution

“Independent reports the astonishing news that three labour MPs are arguing they cannot be prosecuted over expenses claims because they are protected by parliamentary privilege. The trio – Elliot Morley, David Chaytor and Jim Devine – are being represented by a legal firm that has acted as solicitor to the Labour Party since 1990. Their lawyers are understood to maintain that the Bill of Rights of 1689 makes them immune to prosecution. Police have forwarded files relating to the expenses claims of six MPs and peers to the Crown Prosecution Service.”

MPs are entitled, as is everyone in this country, to the correct application of the law. If it transpires that immunity is, indeed, provided under the Bill of Rights 1689 then it might be advisable for Parliament to clear that loophole up  – retrospectively?   The good thing about HP sauce is… you know what you are getting when you buy it…and it adds a bit of honest flavour to a bacon sandwich. The sandwich of greedy, troughing,  MPs is not, however, quite so palatable.

For more observations on legal life – do visit Charles Pugsley Fincher’s website – always worth a visit.  (I have not, obviously, been bribed to say this)

Fortunately, there aren’t too many people trying to bribe bloggers – although I do draw attention in my Blawg Review #245 to an astonishing situation where a blogger in the US ran a marketing campaign to persuade people to vote for his blog in the annual ABA Journal blog awards  – the prize money on offer?   $500!  The Times reports this morning: Eversheds offers guidance on new bribery law.  It is an interesting article because parliament is about to  to pass one of the most comprehensive laws in the world to stamp out the use of bribes, kickbacks, gifts and corporate corruption to secure contracts, especially overseas.

Apple not to blame for hearing loss from playing iPods too loud, says judge. The Times notes that a judge has applied a degree of common sense to a claim by holding that people do not need to turn the volume up to “11” and they are responsible for themselves. This contrasts starkly with a report this morning on Overlawyered: “Lawyer: Man who slipped on cruise ship deserves every penny of $9.5 million”

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary claims he has become so unpopular with the airline’s passengers that half would be happy to see him dead.

The Belfast telegraph reports: “He said many more would rejoice when he finally steps down in around two years’ time after more than 17 years at the helm. …..I think there will be great joy, I think there will be dancing in the street at the idea of O’Leary leaving Ryanair,” he said. “It will be a nicer, warmer, caring airline with me gone. I think half our passengers would like to see me dead and buried, actually, and eventually they’ll get what they want. Frankly, I couldn’t care less as long as they fly with us.”

The OFT has described Ryanair as ‘puerile’.  Fortunately, I do not need to fly Ryanair.  The Independent reports: “Britain’s top business regulator has accused Europe’s biggest airline, Ryanair, of “almost taunting” passengers in a strongly worded attack on its charges. John Fingleton, the chief executive of the Office of Fair Trading, described Ryanair’s levying of fees for paying by card online as “puerile” and “almost childish”, adding the carrier was only operating within “the narrow letter of the law”.

The Daily Mail, ever at the forefront of news reporting notes that Ryanair cabin crew have a safe pair of breasts

And finally for this first day back at work…

I have written to the Bar Standards Board this morning to ask about the progress of the report by the BSB into BPP Law School’s over subscribing on the Bar Vocational Course;  a serious over subscription netting BPP Holdings plc, now owned by US firm, Apollo a very substantial sum of money believed to be as high a £1 Million.  (I suspect the real gain is slightly lower than that).

The BSB told me in early December that the report, which they plan to publish, will be out soon.  I have asked them to let me know when the report is out so that clarity can be brought to this rather shoddy episode. I have written on the issue of clarity by BPP several times.  BPP is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.  I believe, given they have degree awarding powers, that they should be – and deliver their services on a level playing field with university providers who are subject to close scrutiny under FOI. Here is a recent post I wrote.

I will let you know as soon as I hear from the BSB.  They are opening for business, not today…but tomorrow: Tuesday 5th January. It isn’t easy being a regulator, clearly.  An extra day of holiday must be most welcome.

Hat tip to US blogger Cathy Gellis for alerting me to this US news story about online education and diploma mills in the states – which includes a reference to BPP Law School’s new american masters Apollo. BoingBoing story

Update 10.00 am: The BSB office may not be open until tomorrow as the Out of Office email I received indicated but I have had a further very swift response from BSB to say that the report will be published after further meetings this month.

Blawg Review #245

Last year in Blawg Review I took on the role of the  Lord of Misrule. It appealed to me on this, my fifth  Blawg Review, to start with a welcome from the Baron Mandelson of Foy, Prince of Darkness,  First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills,  Lord President of The Council and Witch Finder-General for H M Government….

”You are unwise to lower your defenses”

I have no theme – other than to look at as many good blog posts and bloggers as I can under various quasi-random headings. I can’t visit or cover every blog  – caprice is my theme if any.  I would also like to wish you a Happy and, being lawyers, a prosperous New Year – although I do appreciate that some criminal and family law practitioners in England & Wales may start crying or laugh in a maniacal way on the matter of prosperity,  given the Ministry of Justice’s curious passion for reducing access to justice in our green, pleasant and sceptred land.

It has not always been possible to refer to a recent post – simply because some bloggers have not had time to blog during the Christmas season. You will note that I choose the highly emotive term Christmas…not to offend my readers, who, whatever god, faith or non-belief they follow,  are unlikely to be offended by my use of the ‘term of art’.   My intention, for as Oscar Wilde said ‘A gentlemen never insults anyone unintentionally’, is to irritate the increasing army of busybodies,  licensed nannies and professional bed-wetters who think that the word Christmas will offend some minority belief.  The only people who are irritated by Christmas are Fellows of The Royal Society of Grinches.  I am an honorary member.  We like to be irritated by Christmas. It provides us with a suitably festive feeling of satisfaction.

This said… I move on. My customary warning to readers at the beginning of my Blawg Reviews  has been delivered by the ‘dark lord’ in the picture above.  We now proceed… with a very serious issue first.  It does lighten up in later sections.

***


At 10.30 on Tuesday 29th December the Chinese executed Akmal Shaikh for drug offences.  Akmal Shaikh was a British Citizen.

The BBC reported:

“The Chinese ambassador Fu Ying has been summoned to the Foreign Office amid a growing row between the UK and China over the execution of a British man. Akmal Shaikh, 53, a father-of-three from London, was executed in China after being convicted of drug smuggling despite claims he was mentally ill. Foreign Office Minister Ivan Lewis told the ambassador “China had failed in its basic human rights responsibilities”. The Chinese Embassy said Mr Shaikh had no previous record of mental illness. Mr Lewis said after the meeting: “I had a difficult conversation with the Chinese Ambassador today.”

I can well understand that the British government had ‘difficult’ conversations – but they, like many other Western governments,  can barely breathe as they hyperventilate about the opportunities that China provides to weakened western economies.  I am opposed, as many are, to the death penalty – yet, sadly, it continues to be exacted in many civilised countries throughout the world, including many states of the World’s most powerful democracy, the United States of America.  There are many in our own country who support the death penalty – indeed, only today it is believed that 60% of Daily Mail readers (may ‘god’ have mercy on their souls – as the judges of old used to say after passing sentence of death) support the death penalty.

LEO McKINSTRY: Sorry not to join the liberal wailing: heroin traffickers deserve to die

Mr McKinistry cheered up his readership with a rather bizarre rant on why Britain needs to get with it like the Chinese and start putting bullets into the back of people’s necks… or however it is, these days, that civilised countries descend to the level of barbarians and commit state sanctioned murder.

You may find the Power of Words with Morgan Freeman of interest and also The Innocence Project.   (Hat Tip to Ed of @BlawgReview)

I know that many United States citizens and lawyers are against the death penalty and I have no hesitation in drawing the blogosphere’s attention (if you don’t already read him) to Gideon who writes the excellent A Public Defender’s Blog.  I don’t point to any particular post – just dig around on Gideon’s  blog and you’ll read some very well structured and argued pieces on the subject. Gideon is a staunch opponent of the death penalty.

A selection of Gideon posts on the death penalty in the US: Death penalty’s broke and we can’t fix it | A few thoughts on the death penalty | Bailout where it’s needed: public defender systems | It’s time to wake up (updated)

Another Year In The Trenches: Norm Pattis writes...”Come next week, I start another trial. This one is a capital felony, although the state is not seeking death. I suppose it’s hard for the state to get up a good case of blood lust when there are no photographs of a mangled corpse to show the jury.”

***

I would like to pay tribute to the hard work done by Clive Stafford-Smith at his colleagues at Reprieve.  This is a very good organisation and if you are not familiar with their work,  may I urge you to have a look at their website.

The Barrister Bard has a rather different take on the issue and asks where Reprieve is “when we need a voice crying in the wilderness?”: CAST NOT THE FIRST STONE


“Lewis (The Foreign Office minister Ivan Lewis) said that there had been 27 ministerial representations to China about Shaikh’s case in the last two years. Despite the increased international dialogue with China “all of those representations have been in vain and this is a very very different view of what constitutes universal human rights”.

…and it’s the last 3 words that really stick in my craw; this dishonest, morally-corrupt, money-grabbing pack of cretins have the temerity to suggest how yet another country should run its affairs, and all this after conspiring with the CIA to spirit several British citizens out of the country to be tortured.

Bastards.


WELCOME to  The Dark Edition…the Darth Vader of Blawg Reviews


I. BANKERS – THE ONLY PEOPLE JESUS EVER SHOUTED AT

The Fuckpig is part of a series of paintings I did over Christmas to amuse myself and have a mild dig at the pretentious nature of some modern art. [F**kART – the complete series] As I  drank more and lost the plot through an excess of free time, the series expanded.

The Bankers wrecked the banks through sheer greed and with it the global economy. Lehman Brothers went down.  Others were bailed out at tremendous cost simply because government had to act decisively to protect the economy and depositors.   I am pleased to be able to report that our prime minister says that it started in America. All seems to be improving now, slowly – although there is still talk of double dip  – and the British and French governments are giving the Bankers a kicking where it hurts – in their wallets – through a special tax.

Law is inextricably linked to economics, finance and the global economy so I make no apology for referring to a number of blog posts written by people in the financial world and politics.

First up are two guest posts on my own blog written by a friend of mine under the name Tonto Popadopolous.  His real name for those of you who like people to have real names is Richard Rude. (True Story)

If you haven’t already seen these – they might interest you if you want to get a handle on the economic crisis we are just coming through.

ARRIVEDERCI LONDRA!The Billion Dollar Bonus

Capitalists@Work is, in my view, essential reading for any British lawyer (and I can see no reason why overseas lawyers could not benefit from the views and thoughts of City Unslicker and his colleagues.  Capitalists@Work predictions in 2009 makes interesting reading.

I read Guido Fawkes every day – and whatever your politics – it is a  great read and will give you comment, information and analysis that the mainstream media don’t even think about.  (I have even appeared as Judge Charon QC – The most expert judge in the world on GUYNewswhich I thoroughly enjoyed doing.  I suspect that my television career will come to an abrupt end with that appearance. It is unlikely that I will be invited to be the 12th Doctor when the 11th has had his go.) Here is Guido Fawkes on the Bankers:  In Defence of Some Banker’s Bonuses

Cathy Gellis is a good blogger – and I have had the pleasure of meeting her.  I think she was disappointed that I didn’t get completely pissed (or even mildly over refreshed) at our lunch… next time, Cathy. Her Blawg Review #219 – absolutely nothing to do with Bankers… had everything to do with Huey Lewis.  I just cannot leave out a blogger who themes an entire Blawg Review around Huey Lewis – so I won’t.  (PS – she comes from California and lives on a  boat – so gets my vote on that…res ipsa loquitur on the California point.)  I said it was going to be ‘dark’… but..hey… a bit of ‘random’ is good as well.

On the subject of Bankers – Walter Olson of Overlawyered tweeted a link to an interesting and critical article:  The (New York) Times and Goldman Sachs“Wall Street continues to defend what looks to us as rank financial speculation,” the Times says. “What goals, other than lining it [sic] pockets, were served by the deals?” “Lining pockets” is a term the Times editorialists use to convey their contempt for the profit motive, which is a pretty basic element of capitalism.

Walter Olson keeps a very close eye on the activities of lawyers – always a good read.  An example of the ‘genre’ comes with this, his 29 December Round Up.

Pragmatist has a view on  Simple, Low Cost Financial Services

It is good to see the Adam Smith Esq blog – a serious blog for those interested in the economics of law firms – visiting the auld country: Adam Smith’s Home Town

2. SOCIAL MEDIA MAVENS & GURUS

Let me explain my thoughts on this.  I have absolutely no interest in Twitter, Linked-In, Facebook or any other form of social media – other than for amusement.  By taking this attitude, I have met some great people – real life and virtual – and through that have learned a great deal from the blog posts of others and, indeed, many of my podcastees have come through meeting  on Twitter.  What I do not need is some grasping greedy b’stard telling me (a) how to use twitter or (b) tweeting at me endlessly about his or her wonderful life and the opportunities to be had through Twitter et al.

Just to make it absolutely clear… this is the type of tweet I like to see…it reflects social and pleasurable interaction.  Oedipus_Lex doesn’t just tweet – he also writes a very good blog. Here he remembers where he was on 9/11

So, when I discovered on twitter that an american lawyer and serial tweeter had written a book on How to Use twitter for Lawyers at the wonderfully absurd price of £145… I just could not help myself….

Blogging isn’t dead – as some mavens predicted.  Scott Greenfield , author of Simple Justice and I share a taste for the sardonic and I shall return to a selection of Scott Greenfield classics later – but his Come Rest Ye Merry Blawgers is one of the good things about social media in the blogging sense – one gets to read some very interesting things by interesting people and…yes..he is right… we blog for pleasure not profit.  While Scott Greenfield is a criminal defense lawyer in the US – you do not need to be interested in criminal law to read his blog – he covers a wide range of topical themes of interest to all lawyers  – and he is refreshingly direct.

For example Findlaw Plays Dirty finds Greenfield stating his views bluntly..“Ask anybody in the blawgosphere about the New York Personal Injury Law Blog and they will immediately tell you what a great job Eric Turkewitz does with his blog. It’s one of the best known, best respected PI blawgs around. Everyone knows that. Everyone, apparently, except Findlaw. As Turk found out to his amazement (though not amusement), Findlaw like the name so much that it created its own New York Personal Injury Law Blog. It’s shabby and worthless….

And… you certainly don’t want to write a book and get Greenfield to review it  unless you really know what you are talking about.  I just can’t resist putting this into the mix:  Book Review: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Criminal Justice System by Robin Sax

And finally…. it is back to Scott Greenfield for a warning that some people on Twitter are rather unpleasant as this post reveals:  The Lesson Of One Psycho On Twitter

3. OF DUCK ISLAND, MOATS, THE SURREAL AND POLITICS

In the “You could not make it up category”–  the absurdity of many of our elected representatives hammering their expenses, hoovering up goodies from the John Lewis department store catalogue and flipping their houses to claim housing allowances for a second home (several of them dishonestly) at tax payer expense must be  at No 1.

I don’t plan to rehearse the saga here but it is an appropriate category to showcase some of the more surreal bloggers  or more unusual blog posts in recent weeks (or further back because a lot of bloggers have succumbed to Christmas and there isn’t a lot of recent stuff about).

Just behind the MPs must be GEEKLAWYER. I am fairly certain, if Geeklawyer had been a Member of Parliament or, even more wonderful, a member of The House of Lords …he would have been in the merde up to his elbows almost as a point of honour.  His last Blawg Review was excellent.  He spends a fair amount… well…., a lot of… time on twitter looking after his harem, talking to the laydees,  but he did find time recently to save the Inner Temple and Middle Temple libraries from merging.

Geeklawyer gives of his time freely, with no thought of reward.  This is reflected in a recent post:  The Bar as a career

Nick Griffin, ‘everyone’s’ favourite fascist revealed himself to be even more of a buffoon than we thought he was when he appeared on BBC Question Time to represent his party – a party that has now been forced to change membership rules to allow non-whites to join to avoid falling foul of discrimination laws.  Griffin astonished viewers when he wasn’t able to explain why he had been a holocaust denier and tried to promote the BNP in a more reasonable light by telling us that he had been in touch with the Klu Klux Klan in America – or, at least, a non-violent chapter of the Klan.  Laughter all round.

Matt Wardman of The Wardman Wire is on the money with this… even a video of Griffin.  Nick Griffin’s BNP Christmas Story, complete with a Blofeld Cat

***

2010 – Election Year: Let me showcase a few political blogs.

First up is Tom Harris MP – Labour member for Glasgow South. Tom Harris is an enthusiastic user of twitter. I did a podcast with him some time ago.  His blog is widely read and well regarded. A recent post: We cannot afford a government that sneers at public service demonstrates why.

Guido Fawkes has his Sh*ts of the Year 2009 as there isn’t a lot of political news about at the moment. Iain Dale (Tory) has  Ten Blog Headlines You Won’t See in 2010

Alastair Campbell, Spinmeister-general for Tony Blair’s regime and denier of ‘suggestions’  that he is the model for Malcolm Tucker in The Thick Of It– probably the best political satire since Yes, Minister – weaves his dark arts to revive an ailing Gordon Brown and still finds time to blog. Campbell asks us to – Prepare for avalanche of Ashcroft posters for Tories

Old Holborn who has a great strap line “There are 60 million of us but only 646 of them” – is a serious blogger and very direct. A recent post veers away from the political to reflect on the nature of the human condition – and in particular The PANIC buyer. VAT and salt: “There was not one grain of salt on Morrisons’ shelves this evening, even though today the temperature touched the friendly side of zero for the first time in at least a week. The glacier outside my house took the opportunity to melt its surface and smooth itself, ready to freeze again tonight. I think there’s a postman in there. We’ll find out in a thousand years or so.”

Obnoxio The Clown can fall into both the political blogger and off the wall surreal category. Hyperventilators and those of a nervous disposition may benefit by giving this one a miss. Obo notes “It’s the economy, stupid!”: “Bill Clinton won his first election on this bon mot. Unfortunately for us, it hasn’t always been the decider that it should be.”

Mr Eugenides writes:  I haven’t changed my mind about… the Guardian

Ian Parker-Joseph, former leader of the Libertarian Party UK and author of the PJC Journal takes a thoughtful approach to politics and is particularly keen to promote the Albion alliance – a cross-party, non-aligned campaign group whose aim is to get all election candidates to sign up to a personal pledge to work for a referendum on the UKs relationship with the EU.

Netvibes list with many political blogs at a glance (I must and will update it)

And so…back to the surreal…

@infobunny continues to come up with some great ideas on twitter. This year – animal advent – and, clearly, she continues to read some interesting books and watch some ‘unusual’ films as this recent tweet demonstrates beyond peradventure: “I just want to fuck your brain into my brain” (what a line!)”

@infobunny also does some serious art and has now gone into photography.  I make no secret of the fact that her ART paintings inspired me to do my own F**kART series and, indeed, she was the recipient of Fuckerflies 1

And… her librarian skills are often put to good use on twitter. This series of pictures from The Sun showing the british enjoying New Year and defying the weather show diligence in research… classic.And some more classic brit binge drinkers captured by the Daily Mail here

I would normally place US defense lawyer Mark W Bennett in the serious criminal law category (and may well include him below when I turn to serious legal posts – but this excellent post deserves a place in the ‘surreal’ category. Lizards Don’t Laugh. Bennett writes: ” Personal injury lawyer Paul Luvera has written about Applying Reptile Concepts in Trial—describing how plaintiffs’ lawyers should appeal to jurors’ reptile brains.

The reptile brain is the core of the human brain, sitting right at the top of the spine surrounded by the later-developing dog brain and ape brain. The reptile brain is a survival engine, concerned only with survival: kill, eat, mate, flee. To get through to the reptile brain, you show it a threat, a way to mitigate or resolve that threat, and a greater threat that could otherwise result. In the example of a personal injury trial, says Paul, the plaintiff’s lawyer wants to make the points that….”

Rick Horowitz, a very friendly tweeter, and a US lawyer – has a few sites to choose from. He is not phased, as far as I can see, by any of the British tweeters or bloggers…and that.. is just fine by me.

Tim Kevan’s wonderful and sometimes venal, duplicitous and cunning character, Babybarista,  continues with his adventures and (as Geeklawyer and Charon QC blog did) got nominated for the ABA Journal Top 100.  Tim also writes the Barrister Blog. The three of us decided to enjoy the voting process by encouraging American and other voters to vote for our blogs. The British are also, truth be told, pretty lazy when it comes to voting (you should see our appallingly low turn out figures for parliamentary elections)  – but thanks to friends  for doing so.  The British tend to be more reserved about honours, preferring to buy them or spend years doing something to get the tinsel at the end.  The Americans, or some of them, are not quite so reserved.  Mark Randazza with his legal satyricon (who I hope wins the IMHO category Geeklawyer and I were in) suggested, in a wonderfully surreal way, that the ‘kittens would get it’ if people didn’t vote for him. After a few days of faffing around with our poster campaign “FREE the BRIT 3”, I gave up.  But… the show goes on… and Robert Ambrogi had a great tweet on Wednesday 30th December.

Robert Ambrogi writes a serious blog and does excellent podcasts

And something  surreal from our world?

Venkat Balasubramani writes Spamnotes, a US blog about electronic communications.  He noted on twitter a fascinating story about how Facebook lawyers are sending out ‘cease and desist’ letters to Seppukoo, website that offers “virtual suicide” of Facebook profiles for those who are disatisfied with their accounts and want to have a little fun. perhaps all this social media is getting a bit tedious when lawyers start to get involved in fun? I’d far rather read about lawyers creating fun than stopping it when it comes to harmless social media stuff.

And if you want some really serious UK centric information technology analysis – no better place than Charles Christian’s Legal Technology Insider and the accompanying blog The Orange Rag.  I’ve known Charles since the 15th Century… or so it might seem as I marvel that it is 2010 and I am still around.  I plan to do a regular briefing podcast with Charles on IT matters during 2010. We’ve done a couple so far – see Insite Law magazine

And… in this section… the last word just has to go to Scott Greenfield of Simple Justice for a truly remarkable piece of writing and direct, simple, honesty. I quote from Scott’s post…

“Neil Squillante at Technolawyer wants to win his category (ABA Journal Awards)  so badly that he has started a sweepstakes with cash prizes, substantial cash prizes, for those who vote for Technolawyer.  Nothing that I’ve experienced as a part of the blawgosphere, as a blawg in the ABA Journal Blawg 100, has made me more ashamed than this.”

The full post is essential reading – but the comments section (I could not resist putting in a few ‘observations’) is as interesting as the main post. Full marks to Neil Squillante though.  He is prepared to debate the issue and answer his critics – and that is good.

Information Overlord was a bit pre-occupied with lists of Best books, films and music in the run up to Christmas – but he often manages to capture telling points on IT matters in his blog during the legal year.

On the subject of honours… I have to report that yet again Her Majesty was not advised by her prime minister to give me something…. I don’t really mind if honours are what people want… although it still seems to me a bit bizarre,  in the 21st century,  that people want to be called Baron Sugarpuff or Dame Madasahatter with a medal celebrating an empire we lost years ago. Mind you, it is the Pantomime season.   I  don’t want them myself. (Apart from those I can award to myself)

4. SOME LAW FOR THE WEEKEND, SIR?


I suppose it was inevitable, given that this is a review about law blogs, that I would have to shoehorn a bit of Law in. This, I shall do without an injection and shall select recent pieces I found interesting with no particular theme in mind.

But I shall start with Andrew Keogh, a criminal law specialist, barrister and published author, who writes the White Rabbit blog. There is very little law in White Rabbit’s blog – but it is a treasure trove of pleasures.  I won’t select any particular post – go and see for yourself.  He has been to see Avatar and writes a brief review.  The White Rabbit also asks (and I concur) “…could we start the second decade of the twenty-first century by dropping the ‘two thousand and…’ business as regards the year? Twentyten will do nicely, thank you. We didn’t speak of one thousand, nine hundred and eighty four or whatever.”

But we must start somewhere with ‘Law’ and first up is : Colin Samuels’ Infamy or Praise.

Colin has won Blawg Review four years running.  He doesn’t really want to win again.  He may well do so – certainly, his 2009 Blawg Review, as ever, was extremely good. For years Colin was a sherpa on Blawg Review – supplying useful links (with copious notes) to writers of Blawg Review to help them. He has retired from this – and now produces a very good review of blog posts weekly on his blog under the Round Tuit category.  Check the latest one out. (And he says that my Blawg Reviews are long?  Oi Vey! )

Time to get down and dirty with some British  and overseas hard law blogs…

I’m going to start off this serious section with one of my favourite blogs.  He has been at it (by which I mean blogging and dispensing justice)  for many years… ladies and gentlemen… I present Bystander JP and The Magistrate’s blog.

Old Bystander’s Almanac 2010 : “Some of us have just about sorted out the Millennium nonsense, and here we are, ten years on….”

Another UK blogger who just does the business…. for family lawyers… no matter what the weather, is good friend John Bolch of Family Lore. There is a huge amount of free content on his blog and Family Lore Focus – and he now has a Wiki.  He even gives out monthly Virtual Oscars… I am proud to have received a few – and recently he considers… the  Top Ten Cases of 2009 I’m not a family lawyer, but I suspect that many family lawyers will be grateful for his sharp observations and tireless news and updating.

And… indeed… I shall… we continue with some of the best legal blogging about.

We shall start with Dan Hull of WhatAboutClients?

It is difficult to categorise Dan Hull and his colleagues who produce a very serious blog – his client centred material is mainstream serious for any practitioner – when he then goes off piste into literature, music, art, film, Europe (He is a Europhile) and turns the blog into WhatAboutParis? – it is another of those magical mystery tours which also give pleasure.  Take a look, if you haven’t already. Law ( I hope most lawyers would accept this)  is fairly straightforward if you do the reading and the spadework – the human being side of being a lawyer and applying it daily in practice is the tricky bit. Thankfully…the lawyers I tend to meet do the human being bit pretty well…and if they blog… they express it.

Dan Hull (and a few others) have a wonderful obsession with ‘anonymous’ bloggers. I always look forward to going on to Dan’s blog to see what his ‘Rant du Jour’ on this topic is.  Dan Hull was active on just this issue on 29th December…. big time… with  Name Please?

I am not ‘Anonymous’.  As I have observed before… I am ‘pseudonymous’ – my About section explains all – and… I’ve used this before… sometimes I am even Hieronymous when I hit the juice… inevitable at this time of year.

And this a Dan Hull / WAC?  post you really should read: Starting fresh, curious and truly awed.  This is what makes blogging and reading blogs interesting and thought provoking.

Antonin Pribetic, author of The Trial Warrior (a very detailed and content rich blog from a Canadian lawyer) considers the topic of Defamation in Canada – a topic of great importance in our jurisdiction given the restrictions on freedom of speech and libel tourism we have experienced this year – let alone the vexed question of superinjunctions.  The Trial Warrior considers: Supreme Court of Canada Recognizes Responsible Journalism Defence in Defamation Claims

5. BRITBLOGS – A SELECTION

The number of British blogs is increasing – although some on my Netvibes page (which I must update and will) are not so active as once they were.

In this section I take a look at some recent posts and bloggers not mentioned in other sections…

Prof. John Flood and his RATS (Random Academic Thoughts) blog ended the year with  The End of the Tournament? The Re-Organization and Re-Professionalization of Large Law Firms in the 21st Century

Jonathan Mitchell QC, a Scots advocate, knocked off on December 17th until the New Year.  He left behind a quiz and a prize.. Review of the year

Law Actually also did a review….The Law Actually 2009 Review. Good to see the Curious Black Cat ‘Blogging Again’. John Hirst, aka Jailhouse Lawyer is an indefatigable blogger and source of some very funny links. Always happy to read and listen to him – even If I do not always agree with his stance.  That is one of the values of blogs – there are many opinions and shades of opinion. Here is Jailhouse Lawyer / A prisoner’s Voice on  Prisoners Votes Case aired on the radio on Iain Dale’s radio show

Android’s Reminiscences is always worth a look and the artwork is great. Here she is with a new design for a friend’s blog: New Blog Design for Aimless Wanderer.

Enquiring Minds has a resolution to revive the blog. That is a good resolution.

It is difficult for me to resist this remarkable ‘giving the bird’ logo from the Scottish Court Service – found on Jennie Law. Perhaps Alex Salmond designed this one evening while watching Braveheart?  Who knows?

The Running Librarian suggests that we.. Keep an eye out for social media snake oil.

I quote: “Kevin O’Keefe has published an interesting post called Law firms should beware social media snake oil in it he refers to a post from Business Week, called “Beware Social Media snake oil” in the post from Business Week the author argues that “…an entire industry of consultants has arisen to help companies navigate the world of social networks, blogs, and wikis. The self-proclaimed experts range from legions of wannabes, many of them refugees from the real estate bust, to industry superstars”

Bloody Relations has some wonderfully surreal stuff on the blog at the moment – not a lot of law, it has to be said – but I can hardly cast a stone in that direction at the moment: Bethlehem Social Services is on the case

Natasha Phillips, author of The Divorce Manual, entertains on twitter with her Blip.fm, Scrabble and amusing tweets – but she also produces a very thorough work on divorce and family law issues.  Natasha does podcasts and organises conferences.  She is pictured (2nd left)  with Sandra Davis,  Tim Loughton MP, Lord Justice Munby

There are several very good Intellectual property Law blogsIpso Facto, written by Dr Peter Groves, a solicitor, is always on the point as, of course, is the IPKAT by Professor Jeremy Phillips and his colleagues.

Simon Myerson QC continues to dispense free advice and give of his time on his blog Pupillage and How to Get it : Still A Job Worth Doing

Chris Sherliker, co-founder of Silverman Sherliker LLP, is a very good user of twitter. I don’t know if he is going to stick with blogging but his Blawg Review #243 was excellent : Fighting Back. Check out his Tweets He has also managed to stick to his New Year resolution to START smoking..unless I misread a recent tweet.

And.. when you have a quiet moment – perhaps away from Twitter, have a look at serial tweeter @Loveandgarbage blog: Love and Garbage Some commonplace musings

And I just have to mention Pink Tape. @lucindee, it appears, has fallen for the ‘charm’s of the 29 year old and BUFF  Ubertweeter @Geeklawyer.  Quite apart from the fact that her Family Law blog posts are always well constructed – @lucindee has a great dog!

This is Pink Tape’s message of Optimism for 2010: “I have sought the guidance of the Geek and there is hope for the family bar after all…Apparently I need first to ditch hubby number one and find a more…uh…economically viable one. I KNEW I was missing a big part of the economic equation that made this job worth it. The solution is so simple. Thanks GL and happy 2010.”

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And while we are it – here is my Netvives page for UK BlogsPageflakes page for Canadian blogs | Pageflakes page for US blogs | Pageflakes page for Blogs from other jurisdictions.


6. ON CIVIL LIBERTIES AND FREEDOM GENERALLY

The last decade has defined freedom perhaps more than many decades in the last part of the 20th century. We have seen over 3000 new crimes added to the statute book.  We have been to war, possibly an illegal war, with Iraq.  We are still at war in Afghanistan and the government has introduced powers, some so draconian, they allow the state to wage war, in effect, on the people they seek to govern… or, more accurately put, in whose name they govern. One begins to wonder if the terrorists would have been so effective in restricting our freedoms by other means.

Before I look at recent blog posts, it may be of interest to listen to two podcasts I did recently with well known British civil liberties and human rights lawyers.

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

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

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

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

I take a broad approach to civil liberties and freedom in this section – there are, thankfully, many lawyers involved in ensuring that the rule of law in this and other countries is maintained and that law is applied according to the principles of a democratic society.

I shall have a rant.  I am an adult.  Most people over the age of 16-18 are. We do not need to be told what is good for us.  If I wish to go out onto my balcony and perform the noble art of Smokedo by smoking as I do press-ups, use my weights, do squats – that is my choice.  If I want to sit in front of my computer at night, drinking a bottle of rioja while I blog, paint or tweet – that is my privilege and right.  I certainly don’t need some licensed nanny from an increasingly intrusive government being a busybody. I am quite comfortable with the fact that when the real Charon ferries me across the Styx to Hades and my coffin goes into the flames – the coffin will explode because of all the alcohol in my bloodstream.

Upon reflection..perhaps some Brits need to be told to handle their alcohol intake.  These pictures are just wonderful: And some more classic brit binge drinkers captured by the Daily Mail here

Carl Gardner, ex government lawyer, barrister, author of The Head of Legal blog and, more often than not, my first port of call when I want to do a podcast on civil liberty issues is always worth reading.  I have done many podcasts on this topic and many with Carl.  I suspect that we will have to do more as the years pass.  Trafigura: the UN report, and free expression is an example of his style and care.

China is going to be a major player in the Tens.  US lawyer Dan Harris has a very comprehensive coverage of China Law resources and this may be worth book marking if you are doing business with China.

Heather Brooke of Your Right to Know is another useful blog.

It is always useful to keep one’s thinking and brain in tune. You may like to have a look around at Stephanie West Allen’s Idealawg blog.

In terms of freedom of information: Nick Holmes of Binary Law has a fund of useful information with infolaw – and deserves recognition for the valuable work he does on infolaw and in promoting the free legal web.

Freedom to have sex is certainly within the scope of this review:  The Legal Satyricon considers: Speech suppression and sex

“Sex is the only reason anybody does anything.  Wars have been fought over women, great men have mutilated themselves over them, and men generally acquire money, power and status to increase their desirability and ability to obtain sex.  Sure, there’s the benefit of money, fame and the respect of the community, but traditionally sex has been part and parcel of high social standing….”

Balkinisation has matters of surveillance in mind: Updates on the National Surveillance State. The Volokh Conspiracy has the attempted airline bombing at Christmas as the lead post recently.

Deservedly, a special mention to Mark W Bennett of Defending People – a criminal defense lawyer.  His views on criminal law may be Texas and US specific, but his views on freedoms and ethics are universal in spirit and application. His latest post pays tribute to a fellow lawyer: Two Things to Read Today.

AND also to Brian Tannebaum who is able to parry @geeklawyer on Twitter with a panache I last saw on the cricket square at Slough Grammar. Brian Tannebaum  is another criminal defense lawyer – from Florida – with strong views.  He also enjoys wine and is kind enough to send me slices of virtual key lime pie – but we don’t let Scott Greenfield know this.  Not surprisingly, Brian has  A Criminal Defense Lawyer’s New Year’s Resolutions.

Strictly speaking, Inner Temple’s Current Awareness blog isn’t a blog in the traditional sense – but it is a very good current information service updated daily (outside holiday periods) and ensures that lawyers in the UK are kept abreast of important legal news, caselaw and statute.  So.. it goes in.

Freedom comes in many forms and the approach to legal blogging, analysis and coverage taken by Slaw, a Canadian blog, is remarkable. You don’t need to be Canadian to read this blog – there is always something of value and interest to overseas lawyers.  Simon Fodden and his many colleagues keep the standard high. A pleasure to read and res ipsa loquitur is most appropriate as a compliment here.

Lex Ferenda asks: Do we now have a law of privacy?

Dr Eoin O’Dell a Fellow and Senior Lecturer at the School of Law, Trinity College Dublin, is the author of cearta.ie, Irish for rights. He keeps a very close watch on developments in Ireland.

Nearly Legal and his colleagues continue to keep a very valuable and close watch on Housing Law:  Ending ‘Horsham’ possessions?

Mediation plays an important part in individual freedoms and is playing an increasing role in dispute resolution worldwide. Here are a few well known bloggers who write about Mediation. Dialogic Mediation services has this:  Turning Conflict into Conversation …

Blawg review sherpa, tweeter  and author  Vickie Pynchon keeps a close eye on mediation and settlement.  I provide the link to her main page.  From there you can get to her blogs.  And… there is Diane Levin of The Mediation Channel who, curiously,  is pre-occupied this week with  What color is a banana? Perception, bias, and identity

And I have no hesitation in recommending a serious law blogger Jack of Kent who really does analyse things most carefully: The Injustice Done To Paul Clarke. I have no doubt that Jack of Kent will have to analyse more ‘hard cases’ in 2010 – and for that reason – well worth book marking.


7.  A LOOK INTO THE ABYSS OR THE FUTURE?

2010 is going to be an important year for all lawyers, but particularly for lawyers in England & Wales. The Legal Services Act will start to kick in.  Soon,  people will be going down to Tesco not just to get their shopping, but also to get advice on whether they can divorce, sue anyone for falling over etc etc… or will they?

Richard Susskind is a leading master of the dark art of looking into the future.

So is Jordan Furlong of Law.21. Indeed, in a recent post Jordan Furlong asks: “What if you could take a law firm, carve away all the parts of it you don’t like, and keep all the parts you did? What if, from the client perspective, you could get rid of high and rising prices, time-based bills, gratuitous overhead costs and unfamiliarity with your business? What if, from the lawyer perspective, you could do away with brutal billing targets, inflexible work schedules and long commutes into the downtown core? But what if in both cases, you could keep the high quality of talent and the brand-name assurance that comes with a respected legal services provider — what would that be like?”

I have had the pleasure of doing podcasts with Richard Susskind and Jordan Furlong. You may find them useful if you haven’t already listened to them.

The Greatest American Lawyer asks: Time to Say Goodbye to Billable Hours.  It will certainly be worth keeping an eye out on John Flood’s RATs (Random Academic Thoughts) blog.  Here he considers, albeit  briefly on this occasion:  Legal Services Act Breeds New Lawyers

Brian Inkster, who engages with many on Twitter has a very interesting model for legal practice in Scotland.  It is worth looking at his website.  Here is the podcast I did with Brian Inkster

Just before Christmas I did a Law Society Gazette Podcast with Robert Heslett, President of The Law Society. We covered a wide range of topics from the rule of law, the opportunities and threats to the solicitors profession, human rights and Twitter and other forms of social media and how they could be of benefit to lawyers. Listen to the podcast

In a podcast  Professor Stephen Mayson 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

Although a few of the above do not blog – their views may be of interest to those of you concerned about where the legal profession is going and what the future legal landscape is likely to be.  It is important to remember that five of the top 10 law firms in the world are British (the law of England & Wales), that English law is often applicable in international contracts because of our links with the Commonwealth countries and British law firms are very well placed to take part and influence the future globalisation of legal services. It is interesting to listen to (and read)  the views of these experienced and expert analysts. You may not agree with them – but they are certainly worth a look.

Gerry Riskin of EDGE International is always worth a visit on this issue: Law Firm Leadership Eye Openers

8. SHOOTING ONESELF IN THE FOOT

While The Darwin Awards celebrate the departure of human beings from this earth through their own stupidity.  Shooting oneself in the foot, short of death, does not qualify for a Darwin award. I thought that I would like to have a short section in this review to look at a few cases of ‘foot shooting’.

I took my inspiration for this from a wonderful story reported in April 2009 where the composer of Bright Eyes – the theme song for the wonderful Watership Down film – ordered a massacre of hundreds of bunnies  on his own land because they were destroying his estate.

101 Reasons to kill all the lawyers is an amusing site.  Here is the most recent:

# 67. Judges Quiet in the Court!

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Above The Law (always worth reading) placed this story in their Non-sequiturs section: Judge Rejects Paul Weiss Partner’s Bid to Revisit His Divorce Pact After Madoff Loss

Althouse writesI must correct Barack Obama’s grammar.

He said:

“A systemic failure has occurred and I consider that totally unacceptable. There was a mix of human and systemic failure that contributed to this potential catastrophic breach of security.”

He meant “potentially catastrophic breach of security.” Potential needs to be an adverb, because it modifies the adjective catastrophic. It shouldn’t be an adjective, which makes it seem to modify the noun breach. It was a breach. If the bomb had gone off, it would have been catastrophic. That’s where the potentiality lies.
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I end with a cartoon from Bitcher & Prickman – always worth looking at for keen observations on the human condition in law – of universal application, one would have thought.  Website

Blawg Review has information about next week’s host, and instructions how to get your blawg posts reviewed in upcoming issues.
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