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.


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

  1. The major difficulty I have with assisted suicide is the impact its legalisation will (notice I don’t say “would”) have on “social norms” surrounding terminal illness and death.

    The issue is not greedy or impatient relatives hurrying granny out of this world. The issue is a world in which the “normal” thing to do is to quietly crawl into a corner and let the kindly doctor end it all for you.

    Social norms are powerful things. Look at how people who, forty years ago, would not have dreamt of living together before marriage: most of those same people would not now dream of not doing so, because that’s the “normal” thing to do (and most of us want to be “normal” in most of what we do). I’m not saying that’s a terrible thing – just that it demonstrates the power of social norming.

    So when assisted suicide is legalised, the result is that it will quickly become the “normal” thing to do for those suffering from terminal (or permanently incapacitating) illness. People who wouldn’t have dreamt of going down that path under the current law will choose to die, simply because “that’s what people do” (in a sense it almost won’t be a “choice”, just as “choosing” to live together is almost not a “choice” today). Soldiering on to the end will become the quixotic (and probably somewhat frowned-upon) choice of a tiny minority.

    As for the religious aspect: I’ll admit that my perspective here is probably informed by my belief in a 2000-year old sky-deity, but I don’t think my argument depends on that belief or represents an attempt to impose it on anyone…

  2. John… a fair point…. blind application of religion worries me… not the fact of belief..

    There are many religious people who argue persuasively on moralo-ethical principles which may well be the same as those in many belief systems.

    I shy away from people who simply argue from a position that ‘god says so… so it must be right’… unfortunately, a fair few do this.

  3. Keep an eye out for Mr. Justice Bean. He is being given a lot of these tricky cases, is already a Presider on the South Eastern Circuit, and I think he is cut out for great things, relatively youthful as he is.

    I have met him a few times and he is a first-class operator; exceptionally sharp, but modest with it.

  4. Bystander – I have not met him – but his reputation precedes him. I thought it important that he made that statement yesterday about the verdict and the importance of juries. Shrewd in light of recent events – and gratifying.

    Good also to have your take on it, given your experience and expertise!

  5. surely assisted death for tories (if not the tory party) will benefit us all.

    i can’t for the life of me work out who keeps voting for them given the faces you see at conference (apart from the hand-picked pr department interns behind dave) are all on the point of expiring anyway. are there secret spawning pits in esher where old-people are produced and then distributed in chilled lorries to shore up the tory vote without going through any of the other 6 ages first?

    like saruman and his orcs.

  6. SW – the Conservative Party Conference is made up almost entirely of the undead. Have you ever wondered why you never see a mirror at the Conservative Party Conference?

    Or indeed garlic?

    :-O

  7. Charon,

    Osborne inspires little confidence and will be utterly useless as a chancellor. Our best hope is that the Treausry lay down the law and George does what he is told.

  8. ‘Have you ever wondered why you never see a mirror at the Conservative Party Conference?’

    silly me – i had assumed it was simply because they were such a bunch of filthy-souled pug-ugly bastards. that and michael howard of course.

    and garlic is a nasty french invention so would find little favour with the tories.

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