The Patriot needs YOU!

David Cameron has played the ‘Patriot’ card…. it is our patriotic duty to vote for him… to save the country we love.  Where the F**k did the Laurel & Hardy Institute of Policy come up with this idea?… in a crack den?

Well… all I can say in response… after cracking open the Photoshop to do a very obvious pastiche on Kitchener is quote (slightly modified) the lyrics to the Dad’s Army theme tune…

Who do you think you are kidding Mister Cameron

if you think we’re on the run?

We are the boys who will stop your little game

We are the boys who will make you think again

‘Cause who do you think you are kidding Mister Cameron

If you think Old Labour’s done?

Police exceed their powers…again? Excellent video film

If you have not seen this short film yet – please do have a look.  It is an excellent film… Hat Tip to blogger Old Holborn...who writes: “I am sick to death of being told what the law is by people who have no idea of the law yet are being paid by me to uphold the law.”

Quite…

Watch the film

You may also like to look at this for a statement on your rights as a photographer!

Tories have finally cottoned on that they could lose the election

In a week when prime Minister Gordon Brown has been mocked and ridiculed for his ‘bully boy’ ways and parodied in the Taiwan news – the Tories face the prospect that they could actually lose the election and their change of stance to put the focus squarely on a choice between Cameron and Brown and 6 ‘principles or pledges’ may well reflect that ‘reality’.  It won’t be good breakfast reading for Cameron (or Osbore) that YouGov shows the Tory lead cut to just 2 points.  If that lead is reflected in the polls Labour will be the largest party but with no overall majority.

Gordon Brown on course to win election

Sunday Times: GORDON BROWN is on course to remain prime minister after the general election as a new Sunday Times poll reveals that Labour is now just two points behind the Tories. The YouGov survey places David Cameron’s Conservatives on 37%, as against 35% for Labour — the closest gap between the parties in more than two years. It means Labour is heading for a total of 317 seats, nine short of an overall majority, with the Tories languishing on a total of just 263 MPs. Such an outcome would mean Brown could stay in office and deny Cameron the keys to No 10. The poll result presents the Conservative leader with one of the greatest challenges of his leadership today as he makes the keynote speech to his party’s spring forum.

Perhaps rather more worrying for the Tories is that they appear to be saddled by Osbore – who is not revealing any  talent for ideas or communication. Simon Heffer, writing in The telegraph, puts the boot in with…..

The madness of Little George Osborne

Simon Heffer finds the Shadow Chancellor’s recent bout of lunatic posturing irksome. Heffer writes: “George Osborne is becoming a real problem. He gave a lecture on the economy earlier this week whose message I found incomprehensible. There will be cuts, he said. Good. But Dave Cameron, his boss, said shortly beforehand that there had better not be “swingeing” cuts. When is a cut not a cut? What makes a cut, if it be a cut, swingeing?

Heffer then places the ball in front of the posts, runs up and kicks… “What most annoyed me about Little George, though, was the despairing way in which I heard him announce on Radio 4 on Wednesday that “we” would have to “get” the salaries of bankers “down”. I concede that a couple of banks are largely owned by the taxpayer. However, most aren’t: and none totally is. So why does George feel it is his place, like some member of the Socialist Workers’ Party, to call for bankers to be paid less? Since when was the Conservative Party, should it win power, planning to Sovietise our economy in a fashion that would allow it to control bankers’ pay? And even if it were, what does it think this idiotic and unpleasantly illiberal move would achieve?

While I am no great fan of bankers getting paid vast amounts of money, the realpolitik is that unless every major economy in the world acts in concert on banker’s salaries , bonuses et al – the market will rule and the very high reward structure for banks will have to remain. Political posturing is fun for a while but then the harsh ays of reality kick in.  If Britain a banking sector, let alone one of the most effectrive in the world, we can’t control what the banks do in terms of rewards to the top people who make the money.

Heffer also suggests that Darling would do well to suspend the plan to tax at 50p.  This is a sensible proposal.  Economist will punch each other out of the way to get into a TV studio and claim that taxing at 50p will not raise a great deal of money and will simply cause those who do create wealth to find a more generous tax regime.  Lowering taxes, they say, is the way forward and is likely to raise more tax revenue in the medium term.

I do not relish five years with Gordon Brown as leader.  I do not relish five years with a Labour government which continues to erode civil liberties.  I do not relish five years of a Labour government which permits 20,000 council workers to enter homes without a warrant.

I do relish Labour choosing a new leader, getting rid of tired, dead wood, and trying to build a party to reflect a ‘future fair for all’ and which has a long hard look at geopolitics to see whether we really need to play policeman with America in the future, whether we need to continue, long term, in getting involved in long protracted and expensive military engagements overseas when policy might be better focused and directed on our own defence and relations with Europe and the Commonwealth.  Why… we may even be able to negotiate a sensible solution with Argentina on the Falklands to ensure the islanders are free and all benefit should oil be found?!  Good grief…. that sort of thinking won’t do at all… Sun readers will be coughing into their cornflakes at that idea.

It does seem that the weight of professional world opinion is with Labour in terms of the solution to the deficit and Darling does seem to be getting stronger – hopefully too strong for Brown, should he win, to parachute Ed Balls or any other acolyte into Number 11.

I don’t suppose Brown is vulnerable in his constituency?  Where is Alex Salmond when you need him?!  I suspect the Tory bloggers and twitterers will be a bit quiet this morning while they get their spinning jennies out to cast their ‘silk’ later in the day!

Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Thames

Dear Reader,

I have taken up smoking Marlboro Lites – a health kick thingy to supplement my return to the noble art of Smokedo this weekend. I was rather taken with the knowledge that there are now 1440 references on Google for Smokedo which I invented for myself (and others)  last Spring. Pictured left is a drawing done by a very good artist and friend of mine – Lindsey Goldsmith.  The drawing, which took 15 minutes while the artist was pissed at 3.30 am some years back – captures the very essence of my smoking technique.  I am not usually interested in images of myself – but I treasure this one because it was done at 3.30 am while the artist was roaring. I may well have been over refreshed myself at the time.

It is pleasing to see the return of an old friend of mine to the world of law blogging.  The Fat Bigot has returned to enliven our mornings. FB has a great writing style and his insights into the events of our times are worth reading.

Another law blog ‘Law & Lawyers’ , with serious analysis, which I read each day is by Obiter J – who is a regular commenter on my own blog (pleasingly). Have a look?

And since the law blogging world is getting better why not have a look at a blog written by solicitor Matthew Taylor.  Matthew and I plan to do a number of regular podcasts on general law issues of the week.

Mercifully, there are still of a few of us old lags who continue to write nonsense and cover nonsense. I always enjoy my visits to The White Rabbit – who is  Off to London for the weekend…

When Geeklawyer returns from terrorising High Court judges with his advocacy and tweeting with his ‘harem’ on Twitter – it is quite possible that he, too, will contribute to the more surreal analysis of the legal events of our times.  To be fair, Geeklawyer did much to help our understanding of the Middle East with a post only last week… Wimmin Lawyers allowed to speak in Saudi Arabia It is, perhaps, best that I let Geeklawyer explain his thoughts, rather than extract a passage – they are not always ‘office safe’.

THE THINGS YOU SEE (OR READ ABOUT) WHEN YOU HAVEN’T GOT A GUN…

After reading about people turning up at Tesco and other supermarkets to do their shopping in their pyjamas, I did not for one moment think I would witness  such bizarre behaviour myself.  I should have known better.  I have moved to Battersea… near Battersea Square in fact.  This very morning, but a few moments ago, at 10.30 after  returning from doing some Marlboro smoking and reading of the papers at a cafe on the King’s Road, I went into my local newsagent and saw a a man in a fairly unpleasantly coloured check dressing gown, even more absurdly check coloured bedroom slippers and pyjamas with a yellow baseball cap on.  He was buying newspapers and milk and was very pleased with himself generally – judging by the patronising way he spoke to the sales assistant behind the till in a drawling Sloany accent.  I suspect that he may be  ‘something in the City’.  I resisted the impulse to laugh maniacally like those ‘shouters’ who wander about  pissed in the street do and tried to avoid looking as if I was fascinated by the absurdity of his appearance.  I was standing nearby, waiting to buy more supplies.   I haven’t worn pyjamas for forty-five years – it seems to me to be a tad effete to do so – and marvelled that this man (a) would do so and (b) that he thought he was being ‘cool’ by shopping in them. A grown man, dressed in ‘jim-jams and dressing gown more suited to an eight year old boy at prep school in the fifties’, complete with nerdy bedroom slippers, and wearing a baseball cap, is not a good look. If I was Jeremy Clarkson I’d probably want to deport him… but I am not.

Talking about Jeremy Clarkson – he is right on some things. I read The Sun most mornings before turning to more sensible newspapers.  I do this because I want to see what propaganda is being propagated to millions of potential voters by a newspaper which seems to change political allegiance at the drop of a hat.  Clarkson was moaning about the fact that for every electrical device we rely on – laptops, mobiles, camcorders, iPods etc etc there are many separate chargers which have to be carted about if one goes on holiday or even on a short business trip.  Why can’t they come up a universal charger socket and charger?

The nannies are at it again with proposals to require Cinemas to put warnings and calories on popcorn and other foods sold to fat bastards and obese  e-numbered up children. I lost the will to read more of this in The Times this morning and turned the page to read a satisfyingly pleasing story that house prices have dipped again by 1.5% – the point being that this may aid the ‘fragile recovery’.  One of the good things about the recent recession has been that pub and dinner party talk has not been marred by venal and greedy people boring me  to death with how marvellous they are in having a house that has risen in value by gazillions of pounds.  The recent rises in house property prices was beginning to encourage Justin & Annabel to come out of the cupboard again with talk of house values.

Finally… for my ‘Rant du Jour’:  also in The Sun, was a story about a father being told by a security guard at a shopping complex that he could not take a photograph of his own son who was sitting on a toy train….  because he, the father, might be a paedophile. I accept that stupid people have to have jobs – but I do think it best that if people really want to be stupid they should not be employed as security guards. The father objected, remonstrating that he was the child’s father…at which point stupid man says that the father cannot prove this and calls the police.  PC Plod turns up and he, too, it seems, is rather stupid.  PC Plod, it is reported, tells the father that he isn’t allowed to take photographs of children and says that he can require the photograph to be deleted. The father got a bit heated, at which point PC Idiot decides to threaten the father with arrest fror breach of the peace. Christ on a f*****g bicycle…. how do people like this get into the Police?

I am pretty sure there is no law on photographing one’s own child in public and I know of no law which gives the police power to delete photographs taken in this context. I could be wrong, of course… there are so many new idiotic laws in this country that it is difficult to be certain. I appreciate that society has to protect children from paedophiles – but it is getting to a pretty sorry state of affairs when a father can’t even take a pic of his own kid?  Perhaps I am off beam on this and we do need these laws.  I have a photograph of myself aged five naked in a bath.  My parents took the photograph.  I suspect many readers will have pictures from their childhood taken by loving parents.  I also have a photograph of me aged 8 – toothy, wearing short trousers, grey flannel shirt, striped school tie,  a school cap, eating an ice cream – with a parrot on my shoulder…. which appealed to an ex-lover of mine because she said I looked ‘sweet’.  I am pleased to report now… that I am (a) not sweet and (b) do not look sweet.  Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is closer to my ‘look’ these days and,  some say… with an ‘attitude’  to match!

Guido Fawkes has a good story about a Telegraph hackette writing to David Cameron’s friends – on Facebook etc – to dig for dirt about his school days. Telegraph Digging on Dave’s School-days

Frankly, I hope Cameron did have a great time at school and university.  I could not give a damn what Cameron did then. Most people have a few minor skeletons from those halcyon days.  Half the Labour Cabinet popped up some time ago with tales of drug taking at university – with appropriate statements of retrospective remorse  – but it would be most pleasing if he did have a normal childhood and got wasted at university from time to time.

There will, no doubt, be amusements to comment on in the Sunday papers tomorrow…. so I shall hit the send button on my weekly  ‘postcard’ and wander off to find a pub to enjoy a glass of Rioja at locally and think about what I plan to do next.  I think I shall return to painting soon…. My F***Art section needs a few more entries.

Best, as always

Charon

Law Review: Judges will not be cowed by government, time to rein in the law schools? and an ‘arse from elbow’ guide

Labour government Home Secretaries spend a great deal of time expressing disappointment with the judiciary – largely because because their department and those for whom they are responsible do not comply with the law.  The latest opportunity for a Home Secretary to express disappointment came last week when the Court of Appeal decided to reinstate a judge’s criticism of MI5 in a landmark torture ruling.

While The Lawyer focuses on:  “The Lord Chief Justice Igor Judge has rejected claims that Brick Court’s Jonathan Sumption QC had attempted to interfere with a draft judgment by requesting that a paragraph of the Binyam Mohamed torture ruling be redacted.@ The Times dealt with the rather more meaty issue of why the judges refused to bow to government pressure.

The Times reports: “Today, in the interests of “open justice”, Lord Neuberger and two other top judges decided to reinstate the paragraph, albeit subtly rewritten to make the criticism more narrowly focused on the Binyam Mohamed case. To prevent a continuing censorship row, they also decided to publish the original draft text….The decision brought calls from groups such as Amnesty International, Liberty and Reprieve for a full public inquiry into allegations that UK spy agencies colluded in torture during George W Bush’s “War on Terror”. Ministers were furious. Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, said that he was deeply disappointed by the court’s decision to “criticise the Security Service in this way”.

The government has every right to express disappointment with a particular judgment – although in doing so with an audience prepared to read the judgment of the Court of Appeal it cuts little ice.  It may well appeal, however, in an election year, to voters who are already whipped into a frenzy by coverage in The Sun about ‘killing burglars’ and judges who are ‘too soft’. Unfortunately, the wider public does not read law reports and may, therefore, not fully appreciate why the senior judiciary is at odds with the government on this and other civil liberty issues. The judgment of the Court of Appeal makes interesting reading.

An extract from Lord Nueberger MR judgment:

In these circumstances, the final version of paragraphs 168 to 170 in my judgment of 10th February 2010 is as follows:
“168. Fourthly, it is also germane that the Security Services had made it clear in March 2005, through a report from the Intelligence and Security Committee, that “they operated a culture that respected human rights and that coercive interrogation techniques were alien to the Services’ general ethics, methodology and training” (paragraph 9 of the first judgment), indeed they “denied that [they] knew of any ill-treatment of detainees interviewed by them whilst detained by or on behalf of the [US] Government” (paragraph 44(ii) of the fourth judgment). Yet, in this case, that does not seem to have been true: as the evidence showed, some Security Services officials appear to have a dubious record relating to actual involvement, and frankness about any such involvement, with the mistreatment of Mr Mohamed when he was held at the behest of US officials. I have in mind in particular witness B, but the evidence in this case suggests that it is likely that there were others. The good faith of the Foreign Secretary is not in question, but he prepared the certificates partly, possibly largely, on the basis of information and advice provided by Security Services personnel. Regrettably, but inevitably, this must raise the question whether any statement in the certificates on an issue concerning the mistreatment of Mr Mohamed can be relied on, especially when the issue is whether contemporaneous communications to the Security Services about such mistreatment should be revealed publicly. Not only is there some reason for distrusting such a statement, given that it is based on Security Services’ advice and information, because of previous, albeit general, assurances in 2005, but also the Security Services have an interest in the suppression of such information.
169. My concern on this point is mitigated by the fact that the certificates appear to be supported by communications from the US, most pertinently the CIA letter and what was recorded as having been said by the Secretary of State. The US Government, like any other Government, plainly has an interest in ensuring that it controls the flow of any information which it provides to the SyS on a confidential basis, and the fact that it (and other Governments) may well be motivated in this case by embarrassment is not the point: one is concerned with hard facts, not moral judgements.

170. My conclusion on this half of the balancing exercise is this. While there are strong reasons for scepticism, I accept that the Foreign Secretary genuinely believes, and has some grounds for believing, what he has stated in the three certificates, namely that the flow of information from foreign Government intelligence services to the SyS could be curtailed if the redacted paragraphs are published, because that publication would be regarded by those Governments as an unjustifiable breach of the control principle. The normal reasons for deferring to his views on such an issue are diluted by the fact that there is nothing inherently sensitive in the information in those paragraphs, the very narrow and technical nature of the breach, the fact that the US must have appreciated the risk of intelligence material being disclosed pursuant to the law, the fact that other material apparently subject to the control principle has been revealed in the first judgement without objection, and a concern which arises from the apparent involvement of at least one Security Services agent in the mistreatment of Mr Mohamed. However, it is right to weigh against these factors the fact that the Foreign Secretary’s opinion is reinforced by the CIA letter and the notes of the views of the Secretary of State.”

Government fury as judges attack security services

The Guardian reports: Ministers back MI5 after highly critical verdict on secret service involvement in Binyam Mohamed case.

That the government should react with such ‘fury’ is entirely predictable.  Perhaps this says more about the present government than it does the judiciary? Are we likely to see further clashes with government in the coming years? I suspect so.

Time to rein in the law schools?

Beth Wanonoo argues on the Junior Lawyer’s Division website:

There needs to be a set of principles in place to protect students in this marketplace. A ‘law schools’ charter’ if you will. And the SRA should enforce it…

This is what it should contain:

1. Fees must be proportionate to the amount of cost law schools accrue. If the majority of the course is online, that course must be substantially cheaper than one which is ‘off-line’.

2. Law schools should be incredibly, incredibly, incredibly clear to prospective students about the marketplace. They should encourage frank self-evaluation BEFORE the course starts. It is too much to expect every student to be interviewed, but admission to law schools needs to be looked at in great detail.

3. There should be a league table of legal education providers. The SRA should allow the Law Society to rate each law school along five criteria, with each criteria having between 1 and 5 stars. Those criteria: 1. Teaching 2. Facilities 3. Careers advice 4. Administration 5. Employment (as in percentage of grads with jobs). These should be published on the Law Society’s website annually.

Having the ’employment’ criteria will mean that law schools will be under pressure to keep their admissions strict or risk their ratios being diluted. We must also have clear statistics of how many graduates are employed as paralegals and as solicitors after one year.

4. The SRA must have a blurb in each law school prospectus or its advertising media, saying something like this “the LPC is the purely academic stage of legal qualification. It is no guarantee of admission to the roll and does not carry any rights of practice.”

If the SRA, or the Law Society, or even the JLD don’t stand up for students, nobody else will. At the moment there is little representation for students and consequently little balance between their position and that of the law schools.

I don’t agree with Ms Wanonoo on the issue of fee pricing. This is best controlled by competition and the market. Central Law Training have entered the market with a cheaper option. Whether students will be attracted by a cut-price option for a course provided through a commercial CPD provider with little direct experience of running courses themselves  (They are teaming up with the University of The West of England) remains to be seen.

I have long felt that the fees for the LPC and BVC are ‘pacy’ – with BPP Law School heading the list – but this is essentially a matter of what the market will bear and regulators may have little appetite for getting involved. Law Schools are now required to brief students about the legal market place and give clear guidance on the the prospects. Her view that law courses carry a ‘health warning’ is not unreasonable to draw attention to the realities in the profession of today.

I do agree with her idea that there should be a league table of Law School providers for the LPC (and for the BVC / BPTC).
The Bar Standards Board is now publishing inspection visit reports and demonstrated only this week they are prepared to carry out robust inspections and be blunt – even if they have little in the way of sanction to correct errant behaviour.

Nigel Savage, CEO of The College of Law has long argued that the SRA should beef up its procedures for inspecting law schools  providing instruction for the LPC.  I agree.  Students (or law firms) pay high fees for these courses and they are entitled to know (a) that regulators are regulating and (b) that information is made public.

In the ‘arse from their elbow’ department this week…

RollonFriday notes: “It’s been another poor week for law schools. First Nottingham Law School set its students an impossible question, then the College of Law forgot to hand out a multiple choice answer sheet. Not wanting to be left out, the School of Oriental and African Studies then set its law students the most bizarre exam question in living memory……

RoF provides a helpful cut out guide for law school administrators.

There is more law news… but it is early on Saturday morning… and I shall return to law later in the weekend….

Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Thames coming…soon.

The Bar Standards Board report on BPP Law School oversubscription on the BVC

The Bar Standards Board has published a report on the ‘Triggered Visit’ to BPP Law School.

The report states, under ‘The Rationale for The Visit’: “The visit was held to discuss the over recruitment of students by BPP onto the full time and part time course for AY2009-10. An informal ‘fact finding’ meeting was held with members of BPP management on 11 September (right after notification) and a formal meeting, chaired by Nigel Cooper QC, was held on 29 September 2009. Notes of these meetings may be made available separately to relevant committees. The focus of discussion was on the reasons for over recruitment, how it had come about, the nature of infringement of the contract and what might be done to correct the situation – given that the students are of primary concern.”

BPP Law School prides itself as being one of the leading providers of vocational education.  The School is now able to award degrees following approval from the Privy Council.  With such privileges and powers comes responsibility. By oversubscribing on the Bar Vocational Course by a significant amount – the report states the accredited number and the oversubscription: “264 Full Time (318) (at time of visit) /96 Part Time (97) (at time of visit)” – BPP Law School has broken the rules.

I spoke to the Dean and CEO of BPP Law School, Peter Crisp, who told me that the over subscription was ‘inadvertent’. My response to him was that this may well be so, and suggested that he might like to focus his attention on the administration more closely so as to avoid any further inadvertent oversubscriptions in future.

The Bar Standards Board has clearly picked up on this inadvertence with a very strong Condition (Condition 1) which BPP Law School must comply with in future:

“Prior to making any offer for the courses commencing in Sept 2010, BPP must engage the services of an independent statistician or similar expert, (name and CV to be approved by the BSB) to review all available admissions data for the previous 5 years and clarify that in his/her professional opinion the number of offers that BPP wishes to make should not lead to over-recruitment. This certification is to be provided to the BSB before any offers are made, and thereafter the number of offers made by BPP shall not exceed the certified number. This procedure is to be repeated for the courses commencing in September 2011 and September 2012.”

The Bar Standards Board has no power to fine providers – which is fair enough and short of the ‘nuclear’ option of withdrawing accreditation (not merited here) there is little that can be done in terms of penalty.  Given my experience in the past (I founded BPP Law School with Charlie Prior, then CEO of BPP Holdings plc) I am well aware of the inspection process.  The Bar Standards Board is to be commended for what was clearly a rigorous inspection –  even a cursory read of the published report reveals this – and, more importantly, for being prepared to publish their findings.  The BSB plans to publish reports of all inspection visits in future, in line with The Solicitors Regulatory Authority practice  in connection with the Legal Practice Course for solicitors.

BPP earned an additional £793800 for their Bar Vocational Course  (318 enrolled – 264 accredited number of places x BVC fees £14700 (2009) = 793800.

This goes straight to the bottom line. I understand that BPP will have to pay the not insubstantial costs of the inspection visit and they will have incurred additional expenditure in terms of teaching costs, library and IT provision.

Only one other provider (Northumbria University) exceeded the accredited number of places. Other providers will have taken care not to exceed the accredited number of places for fear of being in breach. BPP Law School by breaking the rules, inadvertently or not, have enjoyed a bonus in terms of fee income.  Peter Crisp maintains that the enrolment process in terms of offers to places is not an exact science.  I would dispute this – given that when I ran BPP  Law School we did not break the accredited numbers for the GDL, the LPC or the BVC.  It is difficult to predict numbers but it is not impossible to do so accurately and stay..to coin a phrase from the world of politics… ‘within the rules”.

I am not surprised that the BSB has required BPP to appoint an independent statistician to review all available admissions data for the previous 5 years and clarify that in his/her professional opinion the number of offers that BPP wishes to make should not lead to over-recruitment. BPP made  “620 offers… and 434 acceptances were received by BPP (in April), for 264 validated places.”

This is serious inadvertence. Students are not supposed to make ‘multiple acceptances’. Given that most students who apply for the BVC will get the grades needed to progress, BPP must have been aware that a serious oversubscription problem was heading their way. Interestingly, the Bar Standards Board report states… “During an accreditation meeting in May, there was no mention of the possibility of over-recruitment occurring; in fact, BPP reported that they were ‘working to avoid over-recruitment.’

I accept Peter Crisp’s statement that the oversubscription was inadvertent and not motivated or connected in any way with the sale of BPP Holdings PLC to Apollo last year.  I have no evidence to support any other conclusion.

I take the view, not unreasonably, that BPP Law School has behaved badly on this oversubscription issue.  They have demonstrated that their administration needs to be sorted out on the admissions process and, given that there appears to have been a flurry of activity to reduce numbers by bumping students off the course by seeing if any had paid their fees late

  • Students who had payment problems were sent emails telling them they were not on the course (an action BPP admitted they would not have taken if they had not over-recruited) on the 1/2 September.

There were also reports that BPP were asking students to defer for a year because the Bar Standards Board required them to do so.  This, I am told, was not the case. … The report makes indirect mention of this:

A problem was reported, by some students, regarding the admission process. There are two groups of students who were all, one week before the course was due to start, told they had lost their place on the course due to late payment of fees. The panel was also told that the correspondence merely cited that BPP would love to be able to help, but because of BSB policy regarding numbers, they had to lose their place on the course. It later transpired that most of them had either paid by bank transfer (the money had been floating, unidentified) or were under scholarship from an Inn, so they were subsequently told that they could remain on the course. They students found this very stressful, and felt that the situation could have been dealt with in a much better manner. They were given no warning, or request for payment, but just told they no longer had a place on the course, with no chance to offer an explanation. They have subsequently felt as if the course was organised and tutors allocated without their groups in the equation. This is a cause for concern for the BSB, since the BSB is concerned with a consistent, quality assured experience for students.”

The rest of the report deals with quality assurance and health and safety issues.  BPP Law School is still a good law school. There is no doubt about that.  I had a twitter message from a fellow user of Twitter to indicate that things improved at BPP following the BSB visit and I have also heard or read first hand reports from BPP students confirming that the teaching and provision was good.

BPP Law School hasn’t been caught with their hands in the cookie jar. They have, however, broken the rules.  They have not got away scot-free. It is true that the costs incurred are far less than the profit they made by the oversubscription.  BPP Law School has been given a fairly sharp slap on the wrists by the Bar Standards Board – the requirement to appoint an independent statistician is, in anyone’s money – a pretty scathing comment.

Perhaps the Law School’s new masters – Apollo – would like to start a scholarship fund with the additional profit to pay CASH and fee grants to prospective law students who wish to read for the Bar?  That would be a fair and honourable thing to do – but will BPP do it?

They are now under the gaze of the Bar Standards Board (and an independent statistician!) and they are certainly going to be looked at, rightly, by their competitors, journalists and… of course…. me as a blogger!

Law Review: Farage, Falklands, and King Lear

Listening to Nigel Farage of UKIP being rude about the new barely visible President of Europe (Herman Von Rumpoy) – a pretty poor attempt to do a Dan Hannan and go viral –  I was struck not only by the astonishing ‘crudeness of the  rudeness’  (Rather un-British) but also by the poor quality of the oratory…  As Oscar Wilde observed… “A gentleman is never unintentionally rude”

The Press Association reports: Mr Farage declared: “We were told that when we had a president, we’d see a giant global political figure, a man who would be the political leader for 500 million people, the man that would represent all of us all of us on the world stage, the man whose job was so important that of course you’re paid more than President Obama.”

He continued: “Well, I’m afraid what we got was you… I don’t want to be rude but, really, you have the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low-grade bank clerk and the question I want to ask is: who are you? – I’d never heard of you, nobody in Europe had ever heard of you.”

Mr Farage went on: “I can speak on behalf of the majority of British people in saying that we don’t know you, we don’t want you and the sooner you are put out to grass, the better.”

I have removed Farage’s third finger with Photoshop in the picture above.  It seems he doesn’t need more than two fingers to make his political points. I can see Mr Farage shouting obscenities at opposing football fans and flicking V signs, safe in the knowledge that the Police presence will ensure that there is no ‘physical’ retaliation.  Perhaps Mr Farage could be a consultant for the British Tourist Board?

And now for a bit of Law…

Mercy killers to face the full rigour of criminal law, says DPP

Frances Gibb of The Times writes: “Mercy killers will face the full rigours of the criminal law under guidelines to be announced today by the Director of Public Prosecutions. But people who answer a loved one’s request to assist them in committing suicide are unlikely to be prosecuted, Keir Starmer says.

Writing in The Times today, he makes clear that his final revised policy on assisted suicide reflects the concerns of the 5,000 individuals and groups who responded to his proposals. And he emphasised that the policy did not cover so-called mercy killing, nor murder or manslaughter.”

I did a podcast with Keir Starmer QC late last year where he touched on this and other subjects.

Fortunately, there isn’t time for Gordon Brown to start a war in the Falklands to get his ‘Maggie Moment’ – but the heat is rising on the issue of the Falklands Islands.  The Argentine president, they say, is suffering in the polls and needs to bolster support for her ‘Eva Peron Moment’… The Argentine government, with the full support of the buffoonish Venezuelan president and most of the ‘Americas’ (Not Americas as in Canada and United States – they are excluded from South America’s grand vision of a political power block ) are taking the issue to the United Nations.  HMS York has been sent to the Falklands to stiffen the already potent militarty presence in the islands and there are reports of a submarine skulking in the waters nearby.

Argentina appeals to UN over Falklands oil drilling

The Guardian reports: Buenos Aires moves ahead with sovereignty claim following mobilising of Latin American support against Britain

“Argentina has demanded an immediate cessation of the British drilling for oil and gas that started this week, terming it “the latest illegitimate and unilateral actions by the UK”. The next step would be to table a resolution at the UN general assembly.

The UN has called for talks between Britain and Argentina but has little power to intervene without the backing of the security council, where the UK would be able to veto substantive resolutions.”

Commons accountant held over expenses scandal

The Independent reports: Senior Fees Office official suspected of false accounting in handling of claims

“An official in the House of Commons Fees Office has been arrested as part of the long-running police investigation into MPs’ expenses. Andrew Gibson, a Resources Budget Officer, was well-known to MPs as the man at the desk in the Fees Office who handled their expenses claims. Mr Gibson, along with another suspect who was not an employee of the House, was arrested on suspicion of obtaining money transferred by deception and false accounting, and bailed to appear at a police station in March. Neither has been charged.”

//

‘You ruined my life’, Blair told in fit of rage

The Rawnsley story continues… The Independents reports: ” Gordon Brown told Tony Blair “you ruined my life” in a fierce showdown between the two men shortly before the former Prime Minister agreed to stand down, according to the latest allegations to emerge from a book about New Labour.

The fresh revelations from The End of the Party, by Andrew Rawnsley, document the exchange that saw the tense relationship between the pair reach its lowest ebb. It also suggests that during the confrontation in September 2006, Mr Brown demanded that Mr Blair step down and ensure he be allowed to take over unopposed but that the then Prime Minister retorted that he was unable to deliver on such a pledge.

During their final two-hour confrontation on the issue, the book states that Mr Brown asked Mr Blair: “Who do you think is better than me? Do you think there is anyone who is better than me?” John Reid was “far too rightwing”. Alan Johnson was “a lightweight”. David Miliband was too young. Was Blair saying, Brown demanded, that any of them was “better qualified to become PM?” It adds that Mr Blair later revealed that the exchanges had been “terrible”, saying: “He kept shouting at me that I’d ruined his life.”

Yesterday’s ludicrous performance by Brown at PMQs when he was showing his ‘cuddly’ side by grinning and cosying up to Alastair Darling was risible and as Kirsty Wark said on Newsnight …’Not very Scottish’.  Cameron managed to land one with his… ‘if they get any closer they’ll be kissing’ pre-prepared sound byte…

Guido Fawkes sums it up rather well in The Last Days of Hell

Gordon told GMTV this morning ”I would never engage in divisive or partisan politics.” The spinning is out of control. What would he describe his entire budgets designed to attack the opposition as? What would he describe his maneuvers over many years that finally saw Blair ousted? What would he call what McBride was up to?….Guido has long suspected Darling might be the one to emerge out of the mud and poison surrounding Brown’s government with any semblance of dignity and reputation intact. From his icy put down of McBride with the cutting “I’m still here“, to his description of the Brown/Balls/Wheelan/McBride combo as the “forces of hell”, the ill-treated Chancellor knew exactly what he was doing in keeping the story alive…..

As Guido remarked… ‘No-one believes the lies any more.”

Later today, I shall be covering the very detailed report into BPP Law School’s over subscription on the Bar Vocational Course and the conclusions of the Bar Standards Board panel following the ‘triggered visit’ by the BSB to BPP law School… it makes interesting reading.

But now… it is time for coffee, Marlboros and a read of the tabloids and the broadsheets at a cafe… a piu tarde.

Mr Justice Elephant in the room

‘Choose women, gay and disabled judges over white, middle-class men’

The Times reports: “Women, gays, ethnic minority and disabled applicants for jobs as judges should receive preferential treatment over white men in an attempt to make the judiciary reflect modern Britain, an official report recommended today. The proposals said the “positive action” should apply where two candidates for a judicial appointment are seen to have equal abilities. A report by an Advisory Panel on Judicial Diversity said that the judiciary has historically drawn its membership from well educated, middle-class, white, male barristers. It said that despite increasing numbers of women and ethnic minorities in the legal profession, this had been reflected only slowly in appointments to the judiciary.”

This hoary oldchestnut has been around for years.  I recall reading Professor Griffith’s book The Politics of The Judiciary many years ago.  As far as I recall, a central theme ofGriffiths’ book was the judges were ‘white middle class, middle aged and middle minded’.  It is quite possible, after a lifetime of enjoying red wine while reading about law, that I may have added the ‘middle minded’ bit.

I am all for diversity.  But… I am also all for getting the right people in the job and certainly would not wish to see the so-called ‘ethnic lesbian with one leg cliche’  being promoted to the judiciary ahead of better candidates simply to satisfy the needs of those who wish to mould and engineer society. The judicial appointment process has undergone significant change in recent years. Lawyers are coming from a wider cross-section of society.  Solicitors are now being appointed to the bench.  Lord Collins, an experienced law lord – now a Justice of the Supreme Court – is a solicitor. It takes time for changes to filter through. Women are far more numerous in the profession at the entry point than men.  When I was at law school in the mid-1970s the ratio was 90:10 approximately in favour of men.  Now it is 45:55 , possibly more, in favour of women. More students from ethnic minority families are coming into the law.

I am not in favour of any form of ‘positive discrimination’. It doesn’t work – it demeans the individual appointed, it demeans the process of fair appointments.  It may well have been unfairly weighted in the past, but this does not mean we have to counter past unfairness with a different kind of unfairness going forward. Best person for the job…whatever their gender, orientation, race, religion?  A wonderful ideal… but can we pull it off?

Some of the comments in The Times reflect public attitudes. I quote a couple as a taster….

Martin Carter wrote:
So having deceitfully engineered mass immigration and changed the make-up of the country, Straw’s friends now want to change the judicial appointments system to reflect the population.

Presumably the only reason they didn’t call for full-blown Sharia law was that the country isn’t quite ready for that just yet?

Roger HUDSON wrote:
I loathe with a loathing unsurpassed anything that smacks of ‘positive discrimination’ but, looking at some of the lunatic, irresponsible verdicts dished out by ‘white male’ judges, maybe your black, disabled lesbian couldn’t do worse.

Minor problem

I managed to pour tea over my laptop yesterday afternoon.  This was not a ‘homage’ to Gordon Brown’s temper – but an accident.

The laptop appears to be working intermittently.  Perhaps it is drying out? I shall post later, if I manage to fix it!

The Fall of Gordonus Caesar by the sword of Maximus Rawnsley on Newsnight,

Watching former deputy prime minister  Jabba The Hut Prescott last night on Newsnight, blustering away, clearly furious that the Rawnsley ‘Revelations’ were about to assist in the immolation and final burial of Gordonus Caesar’s disastrous period of rule, was a surreal experience.

I started to imagine Andrew Rawnsley, dressed like Maximus in the famous film Gladiator, riding up and down the lines of his sources on Saturday night, the eve of the firestorm , the eve before publication of his book The End of The Party (available on Amazon and all good bookshops) – and exhorting them to ‘Unleash Hell’.

Far from unleashing hell, Rawnsley’s 24 carat sources appear to have done a runner. Jeremius Paxmanus, taking on the role of Cicero, put Maximus Rawnsley under pressure to name his sources… or rather more particularly, to drop Sir Gus O’Donnell, Cabinet Secretary, in the Merdus.

Rawnsley was, of course, as we say in Battersea…. A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupiA precipice in front, wolves behind (between a rock and a hard place)

Rawnsley could not, as an experienced and well regarded journalist, reveal his sources.  Paxmanus knew this. This allowed Jabba The Hut to froth and exclaim… “Rawnsley’s main source Abiit, excessit, evasit, erupitHe has left, absconded, escaped and disappeared.

As I drank my Rioja (Vinum bellum iucunumque est, sed animo corporeque caret – It’s a nice little wine, but it lacks character and depth) and listened to Jabba’s oration,  I was reminded of the maxim Ad captandum vulgusTo appeal to the crowd — often used of politicians who make false or insincere promises appealing to popular interest.

Paxmanus, unable to break Rawnsley on the crucifix of his advocacy, turned to the next obvious line of questioning… money. I was surprised that Paxmanus gave up so quickly… for normally the maxim...Verveces tui similes pro ientaculo mihi appositi suntI have jerks like you for breakfast…would have been most appropriate.

The subject of money, often dear to the hearts of departing failed politicians (come to that,  failed serving politicians as well) inspired Jabba The Prescott to crow to the baying crowd (Daniel Finkelstein, Lord Hattersley and Lord Steel) that Rawnsley had a book to sell.. forgetting that both he and his wife had been coining it in by flogging their ‘memoirs’.

The interview became more surreal when Paxmanus turned to two rather dull politicians from Jurassic Park. Hattersley pronounced and declaimed with the remarkable prescience of a man who achieved little himself in office but who had the wisdom of the ages… I almost expected him to proclaim… Verum et factum convertunturThe true and the made are interchangeable. One can know with certainty only what he have created himself but he didn’t.  He merely said that there were better issues to think about than the anger management problems of a prime minister which he seemed quite prepared to dismiss as par for the political course.

Lord David Steel, enobled for having told his Liberal Party to ‘go home and prepare for government’ tried to reprise the role Of Maximus Aurelius in Gladiator.  I imagined him saying to Maximus Rawnsley… “You have not seen what politics has become. I am dying, Maximus. When a man sees his end… he wants to know there was some purpose to his life. How will the world speak my name in years to come? Will I be known as the philosopher? The warrior? The tyrant…? Or will I be the Leader of the Liberal-Democrats who gave the party back her true self? There was once a dream that was Government. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish… it was so fragile. And I fear that it will not survive the winter.”

Finkelstein dismissed the whole matter of doubt and said that Rawnsley’s account is true – that the Westminster Village has known this for some time – and that, certainly, seems to be the case from even a cursory reading of Private Eye, Guido Fawkes and other political blogs.Politicians don’t, as they used to say in Dad’s Army – like it ‘Up ’em.’

The spectre of Brown, pictured on the backing set in the Newsnight studio, cast a pall of gloom – a phantasm of doom.

I end with advice for Gordonus Brown, the Labour Caesar who destroyed the vision of a society fair for all, with these words from Horace… Vis consili expers mole ruit sua

Brute force bereft of wisdom falls to ruin by its own weight. This maxim may also be interpreted ….Discretion is the better part of valor.

The Vox populi shall speak… very soon and I fear that it may not be for Gordonus Brown.

UPDATE: IT JUST GETS WORSE


This from Iain Dale Blog  on Prescott – a must read…

How to Cope With a Bullying Prescott

PS… I will try and find some sensible Labour people to vote for… I have just moved to Battersea and have registered to vote… I shall see if the local Labour MP is vaguely sane, sensible, behaved on expenses etc… do I need to hide behind the sofa on this one?

Law Review: Bullying, skirts, projectile vomiting and torture – a tale of life in modern political Britain.

Gordon Brown hit by fresh bullying allegations

Pressure mounts on cabinet secretary to launch inquiry into claims prime minister abused Downing St staff The Guardian

Yesterday, being a Sunday and my mood frivolous, I wrote about the Andrew Rawnsley allegations against Gordon Brown.  I also engaged in a bit of nonsense on Twitter with @KerryMP when accused of the ‘mortal sin’ of not reading the newspapers. This was twitter nonsense.  I enjoy @kerryMP tweets – and at least she is out there, engaging with other twitter users.  I was faffing about.
I do, however, feel that the allegations about Gordon Brown’s behaviour are ‘far from silly’ and the intervention yesterday by the CEO of the Bullying National Helpline raises the stakes.  The serious newspapers are all covering the matter.  I continue with my very simple stance.  Denial and spin will not make this story go away.  It will, of course, drop off the headlines but the fact of the matter is that a serious and well regarded journalist, Andrew Rawnsley, who maintains his sources are ‘impeccable’, has made serious allegations about the behaviour of a serving prime minister.  To dismiss these allegations as ‘colourful’ because Rawnsley wants to sell a book – may well be a sensible tactic.  If Rawnsley has got it right, then Brown, has a few questions to answer. We do have a right to know if the man or woman at the top, leading a government, is in control, is reasonably competent to carry out the very demanding work of a prime minister.  There is too much at stake for this simply to be dismissed.  We shall see what happens this week when Sir Gus O’Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary,  appears before the Justice Committee in the House of Commons.   The Times reports this morning...” A senior government source said ‘The timing for us is dreadful.”

In another bizarre twist, Iain Dale, well known conservative blogger, seems to have got himself into a bit of ‘hot water’ by covering the ‘art works’ of Louis Sidolo who ‘ got in touch with Dale to ask if he could cover his work.  Dale did so and incurred the wrath of the ravening horde. The comments section to the post reveal the extent of that wrath. One of the artworks is pictured left.

Girls, you can take the skirts off

Is not a headline one would have expected to see in The Times on a wet and grey Monday morning.

EQUALITY and human rights law may make it illegal for schools to force girls to wear skirts — because uniforms discriminate against transsexuals. Official guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission warns schools that insisting that girls wear skirts may breach the rights of those who feel compelled to live as boys.The watchdog, which has enforcement powers against public bodies that break equality law, says “requiring pupils to wear gender-specific clothes is potentially unlawful”. The Times

But back to the increasingly bizarre world of politics with this story from The Daily Mail…

Projectile vomiting MP downed so much champagne during drinking contest on official trip friends feared he might die

The Mail reports…

“Two Labour MPs took part in a champagne drinking contest on an official Commons junket to Paris, which led to one of them being violently ill. Left-winger Bill Etherington drank so much that a doctor was called.”

Apparently, Geraldine Smith MP took the sensible course by chucking her champagne into nearby flowerpots.  Etherington did not and ended up…”

in a “confused” state en route to a dinner in a splendid French restaurant. More champagne was guzzled. [He] had consumed a near lethal quantity of alcohol.

‘He was placed at the top table where he babbled incoherently. The event was a dinner for delegates from about 20 countries….The reputation of the British is still damaged by this incident. It was not the idiotic competition or the wild inebriation that left an indelible memory. It was the display of projectile vomiting across the top table.”

Bizarre, indeed.

Rather more serious is the conduct of the British government in relation to torture.  The Times reports this morning…

MI5 may face new torture inquiry

The Times: “AS befits Britain’s most senior spy, Jonathan Evans is noted in Whitehall for being cool under fire. That quality will be tested this week when MI5’s director-general learns whether his service is about to be engulfed by one of the biggest crises in its 100-year history. For the past 10 weeks a senior lawyer in the office of Baroness Scotland, the attorney-general, has been studying the cases of five British men alleged to have been unlawfully detained and tortured in Pakistan with the complicity of MI5. Scotland may rule there is insufficient evidence to call in detectives but if she does refer the cases to the police, it could in effect paralyse the agency that Evans has led since 2007.”

And finally, for this post…from The Telegraph

Judge criticises ‘waste of money’ case after pensioner threatens boys with hammer

A Crown Court case against a pensioner who threatened four boys for climbing trees was a waste of taxpayers’ money, a judge has said.

“Beryl Welch, 61, was charged with affray after scolding four scouts aged 11 to 13 who were clambering up trees at a scout camp next to her garden in Cosgrove, Bucks. After her pleas were ignored and fearing the trees were being vandalised, she got a claw hammer from her house and angrily waved it at the youngsters.

She was arrested after the four scouts, from the 1st Newton Longville Scout Group, claimed she had swung the hammer at them twice, missing one of them by inches. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) charged her following the incident on February 21 last year and bought the case before Northampton Crown Court this week. But following a two-day trial, a jury of six men and six women cleared Mrs Welch of affray and found her guilty of the lesser charge of threatening behaviour. Judge Charles Wide QC gave Mrs Welch a 12-month conditional discharge and criticised the prosecution and the CPS for bringing the case to trial.He told Mrs Welch she would not have to pay any costs because the CPS’s charge of affray was too harsh and the matter could have been heard in a Magistrates’ Court without huge costs to the taxpayer.”

Rawnsley impugns integrity of British Prime Minister and Labour twitter Tzar says – too silly for Brown to deal with?

Andrew Rawnsley – who I always enjoy reading on Sundays – has extracts of his new book The End of The Party in the The Observer today. He makes a number of serious allegations about Gordon Brown – summarised in The New Statesman.

The main five allegations:

1. The cabinet secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell – the top civil servant – launched his own investigations into Brown’s bullying of staff. After looking into it, he told the prime minister: “This is no way to get things done”. He took it upon himself to comfort members of staff and tell them not to take it personally.

2. Apparently Brown was consumed by paranoia after the cancelled election in 2007. After hearing about the loss of confidential data discs in November 2007, he grabbed Gavin Kelly, the deputy chief of staff, by the lapels of his jacket, and yelled: “They’re out to get me!”

3. Stewart Wood, a senior adviser on foreign affairs, received verbal abuse when he attempted to brief Brown about a Downing Street reception for European ambassadors. The prime minister reportedly yelled: “Why are you making me meet these fucking people?” before shoving Wood aside.

4. Rawnsley describes an aide cowering in fear that Brown was going to hit him after sharing some bad news while in the car, and writes that “the cream upholstery of the seat-back in front of Brown was flecked with black marks. When having a meltdown the prime minister would habitually stab it with his black marker pen.”

5. The prime minister’s relationship to Alistair Darling is portrayed as tense and troubled. Rawnsley writes that Brown flew into a rage after Darling said in an interview in 2008 that the economic crisis was the worst for 60 years. In a furious phone call, he told the chancellor that the crisis “will be over in six months”.

Gordon Brown refutes these allegationssee The Statesman piece.

There is only one conclusion to be drawn from this.  Rawnsley is not telling the truth and has opened himself to libel proceedings or Brown is not telling the truth?  It may be possible that I have missed something here with this analysis – and some spin doctor will be able to persuade people that both Rawnsley and the prime minister are telling the truth!
So… as I tend to favour the view, for the present (as is my right) that Rawnsley is unlikely to have written and published this material without checking with ‘impeccable sources’ – Brown should sue and have the matter determined by the courts.

He won’t do so, of course.  He will plead, as his Twitter Tzar already has, that he has ‘better’ things to do and will get on with the job.

I am not interested in the hysterical views of bloggers/tweeters/spin doctors – I would just like to see who is telling the truth – because if Brown has done these things it is clear to me, as a Labour voter, that he is not fit to be leader.  I believe that I still enjoy the right, despite being a labour voter, to express my distaste for the behaviour of the prime minister as described by Rawnsley and if it be proved on a ‘balance of probabilities’ that Brown is telling the truth and Rawnsley has libelled Brown – then I will change my view.

Rawnsley has been brave enough to put his reputation on the line – globally.  Is Brown?

And then I had this astonishing exchange with the Twitter Tzar… may have touched a nerve, there…. that’s the trouble with democracy… you can’t always control people or bloggers… and Kerry MP can certainly not control me now… I shall run RIOT!!

Ridiculous!

And then this came along

OK.. I’ve had my fun… orf to do some ironing…as my irony is not up to scratch….  but I still think Brown should sue if he wants me to believe him!

Another fine mess of an idea from The Laurel & Hardy Institute of Fiscal Studies

The Tories are on a roll.  Another ripper of an idea has just entered the astonishing  mind of George Osbore and his team at the Laurel & Hardy Institute of Fiscal Studies.

The BBC reports:

The public could be offered discounted shares in state-owned banks under a “people’s bonus” plan outlined by Tory shadow chancellor George Osborne.

In a Sunday Times interview, Mr Osborne said the measure would be a reward for the £850bn of public money used to prop up failing financial institutions. Young people and those on low incomes would be offered extra discounts.

Labour called the plan an “expensive political gimmick”, while the Lib Dems said it was an attempt to buy votes.

Mr Osborne told the Sunday Times: “The bankers have had their bonuses. We want a people’s bank bonus for the people’s money that was put into these organisations.” It was expected people would be offered shares worth between a few hundred and few thousand pounds at a discount on the market price, the paper reported.

There could be extra discounts for young people, low-income families and parents saving for their children.

Osbore wants people to ‘save’ – what a  marvellous idea to get people who are already over stretched with debt to get into even more debt by buying shares in one of the most volatile shares in the market.

To be fair to Osbore he did say the share offer would only be made when the banks were properly regulated and could not take the kinds of risks that preceded the recession. It could be some time before we see hordes of people pushing prams and wearing tracksuits or impeccably kitted out in Boden or Hackett kit rushing to the Banks to buy the shares.  Given that the shares are only worth about a third of what the government paid for them – the economics are not looking too good.

I’m with Vince Cable on this one….

Encouraging people on low incomes to invest in a volatile share market shows how removed the Tories are from everyday reality
…A young couple on low income is more concerned with putting food on the table than speculating on the stock market.
Vince Cable
Lib Dem Treasury spokesman

Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Thames: Outsourced and ‘Ghost written’

Dear Reader,

Twitter is awash with social media mavens who think they know more and think better than others.  The fact that many of the social media mavens may be American is inevitable. But the Brit ‘marketers’ are catching up fast with their snakeoil.  They have set themselves up as ‘mavens’ or ‘gurus’. Most of the ones I have come across don’t blog or their blogs are dull, don’t write entertaining tweets and don’t appear to have anything of any value whatsoever in terms of advice.

I am pleased to announce my Merdu du Boeuf award for webfuckery. This award is not given to an individual – it is awarded for a ‘concept’ .  The concept to win this, my first Merde du Boeuf award,  is OUTSOURCING TWEETS… or as the ‘gurus’ call it TWoutsourcing.  My attention was drawn to this ludicrous idea by fellow blogger Peninsulawyer – so Hat Tip to him.  He also tweets.

While I expect busy or cretinous celebrities (sometimes a celebrity may fall into both categories)  to get their memoirs ghostwritten , I really do not see why lawyers get serious law blogs ghostwritten (This is pretty close to fraud for it may mislead the reader about the lawyer’s ability and competence) and I certainly can’t see why anyone would want to pay someone to do their tweets for them – unless, of course, they are going to bore for England about their goddam products.

Oliver Jones is, obviously, an enterprising chap. He has set up  The Legal Marketer to help law firms get work.  He is prepared to tweet for law firms.  His argument is remarkably simple.  He says twitter is no different from an advert whether online or traditional print – so it is perfectly sensible for a law firm to get a ‘professional’ to do their tweeting for them. He does admit that twitter has other, social, uses.  These are are of no interest to law firms who simply wish to market.
I have no problem at all with advertisers – quite the opposite – they sponsor and help pay for the resources that my online magazine Insite Law provides for free.   I have no problem at all with law firms who use twitter simply to market their services. My remedy is simple – I don’t follow them.  If they follow me and I don’t like them or I am feeling capricious,  I block them.  Sometimes, if I am completely roaring on Rioja while tweeting…  I even report them for spam.  I know a lot of lawyers are a bit wet behind the ears when it comes to marketing their firms – but I can’t imagine they are daft enough to let a marketing firm loose on twitter on their behalf – unless, of course, they write all the tweets at a partner’s meeting for the month and send the list of tweets to the ‘guru’ to post at intervals!  Now.. that would be really daft, but it wouldn’t surprise me if some law firms are thinking of doing just that!

Mr Stone may have have succumbed to ‘Twitter selfimportanceitis’… I quote…

I read one tweet where somebody said that if they found out somebody was writing it that they would stop following!

Oh the sacrilege! That person probably thinks that because there is the lack of just one person tweeting, then a message is lost – there may be a brand behind it. Well the computer that you are typing on there… Neither Mr Hewlett or Mr Packard actually crafted it himself and moreover the channel that you use to tell me about your life is making someone some money somewhere so play the game, and be thankful that you tweet because you enjoy it, not because you have to.

I am, indeed, thankful that I tweet because I enjoy it and not because I have to!  Good luck to Mr Jones and the law firms who wish  to twoutsource to him!

Almost inevitably…

Twitter Sparks Its First Libel Action

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Kurt Cobain’s widow, singer Courtney Love is at the center of a libel suit due to her angry Tweets against her former fashion designer, Dawn Simorangkir. According to a libel claim lodged by Simorangkir in Los Angeles Superior Court , Love carried out “an obsessive and delusional crusade” of malicious libel against her on Twitter, adding insult on MySpace and other websites.

And talking of libel… I received a tweet  from @IkenCEO a fellow twitter user asking for my view on Carter-Ruck representing the ‘good guys’ for a change with the comment… ‘that’s not on message’!

My own attempt to ‘twoutsource’ my tweets yesterday when I was recovering from overdoing the juice on Friday evening was met with this…

The reference to @DavidWrightMP was to Wright’s ludicrous attempt to say that his twitter account was hijacked when he tweeted about the Tories being scumsucking-pigs. This may well be true – but it irritated Eric Pickles, Conservative Chairman, so much so that he wrote to complain that Wright may have broken the ‘Ministerial Code’.  It also gave the Tory bloggers and tweeters something to get even hotter under the collar about.

Tory bloggers. gawd bless ’em, are almost wetting themselves with excitement at the prospect of a new Tory era – and they may well get it.  William Hague has, cunningly, been writing in the News of The Screws for two years (Paid / unpaid?) to get in touch with the Conservative Party’s working class side.

The NOTW reports today…

GORDON BROWN is deliberately wrecking the country to sabotage an incoming Tory government, William Hague has claimed.

He accused the Prime Minister of taking Britain to the brink of bankruptcy to leave a mess for his successor. Mr Hague warned that Mr Brown had given up all hope of winning the election and resorted to planting economic booby traps. In an amazing attack, David Cameron’s deputy likened Labour ministers to a retreating army “poisoning the wells” as they fled. He said: “If he had actually planned to leave the country in the worst state possible, he couldn’t have gone about it better.

Good, however, to see that humour and romance are not dead over at Eversheds…. RollonFriday reported on this Email sent to Eversheds staff…

Sent: 12 February 2010 15:32
To: Department staff
Subject: Roses are red…..

Violets are Blue,
I’ve done my timesheets
How about you?

Big Brother Bank Accounts

Guido Fawkes and Ian Parker-Joseph alerted me to the latest brilliant plan from George Osborne – well, I assume he was involved in the ‘plan’, given that he appears to be Shadow Chancellor of The Exchequer.

The plan is simple…. let the taxman have direct access to everyone’s bank accounts so that they can tax you at source. I had a bit of fun with Ian Parker-Joseph yesterday, tweeting that I thought this was a good idea to help struggling companies!  I was in that sort of post-hangover sardonic mood. Ian is a Libertarian – indeed, until recently, Head of the Libertarian Party UK.  He is absolutely right, of course, to say that this is not a great idea.  Guido Fawkes agrees…. “If HMRC has an electronic trojan in your bank account it will move on from deducting from your salary to taking a cut of your eBay sales and tracking all your financial transactions.  Do you want the government controlling your bank account?  That is the ultimate goal of tax collectors the world over since before even the Doomsday Book…”

Given the way MPs behaved when they tried to suppress Freedom of Information requests on their expenses – it is, perhaps, likely that Osbore and others at The Laurel & Hardy Institute of Fiscal Studies will have ‘second thoughts’ should they be elected in May.

Well… the gulls are shrieking, the cormorants are diving for eels… and it is time now, for me, to sit outside a cafe on the King’s Road – at the World’s End end – and drink black coffee, smoke some Marlboros and read the papers.

Have a good week..

Best, as always

Charon

Saturday hangover….

Although the sun is shining, I may have overdone the juice after clearing rubbish and completing my move from kent to London yesterday…  tea with toast is improving things… I shall go and read the papers at a nearby cafe and plan my next blog posts.  I gather that Labour is relying on the ‘submerged optimism’ of British voters… whatever Orwell speak that is?

Cameron is clearly relying on being ‘cool’… I don’t think I have seen anything quite as bizarre in a political photograph for some time.  I wonder if he may have worn a Che Guevara T-shirt when he was at Eton?

The photograph, by the way, is an official Conservative pic by Andrew Parsons… so no photoshop tamfoollery going on here from me…

I shall write my Postcard from the Staterooms later!

Thankfully.. not all Tories are like Sir Nicholas Winterton MP

I return from a most enjoyable trip to find that Sir Nicholas Winterton MP has managed to make himself look a bit foolish. I do hope he did not mean to appear snobbish – but he certainly managed to get himself into a mess when talking to the BBC about travelling First Class on trains.

Here is a selection of his ‘observations’ from the interview…

Winterton was arguing that MPs needed to travel first class on trains and it was right that the public purse should pay for it. The BBC reports: Sir Nicholas kept on talking about the “status of a MP” and it intrigued me that he seemed to be saying politicians were somehow different than others.

The interviewer asked him what he meant.

He said people travelling on the significantly cheaper standard tickets had “a different outlook on life”. And he added, “If I was in standard class, I would not do work because people would be looking over your shoulder the entire time.”

When I asked him whether he thought standard-class passengers behaved differently from those with first class tickets, Sir Nicholas replied: “Yes, I do. They are a totally different type of people. There are lots of children, there is noise, there is activity.”

An unfortunate interview for Winterton… hardly likely to endear him to the tax payers who pay for his First Class travel. For the record… Winterton did NOT say the words in the captioned pic above.  I just fancied taking the piss in my usual Standard Class way.

Law Review: Judges baffle juries

Courts overhaul planned to help juries baffled by judges

A fascinating piece in The Times this morning by Frances Gibb…

Two thirds of jurors do not understand what judges tell them about the law when they retire to consider their verdicts, according to a ground-breaking study into the secrets of the jury room. The findings will trigger an overhaul of the courts.

The investigation found that jurors frequently used the internet to read about trials on which they were sitting, risking miscarriages of justice. In 2008, juries in three Crown Court trials had to be discharged because they used the internet inappropriately.

The study, to be published today by the Ministry of Justice, found that:

• all-white juries do not discriminate against black defendants;

• juries convict more often than they acquit in rape cases;

• men sitting on juries are less likely than women to listen to arguments and change their minds;

• conviction rates in Crown Courts varied from 53 per cent to 69 per cent.

Read more….

Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, did point out some time ago that he had concerns about the fact that many younger people who would serve on juries in the future were used to learning and receiving information through computers and the internet rather than listening and that the Courts, barristers and judges may well have to adapt to take account of that fact.

OUT-LAW had an interesting piece in their online magazine yesterday: MPs, Lords question human rights compatibility of Digital Economy

“The Government must provide more detail on exactly how alleged copyright infringers will be cut off from the internet before a file-sharing disconnection law is passed, according to a parliamentary committee. The Joint Committee on Human Rights has said that the Government must make the Digital Economy Bill more detailed to allow Parliament to scrutinise it properly. It said it could not rule on whether the proposed law was compatible with human rights law until those details were provided.

The Government claims that the controversial Bill complies with the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act. The Committee has said that not only will Parliament need more detail before the Committee can decide on that issue, but that the Government must better demonstrate that even the notification system it proposes in relation to alleged infringers is a proportionate response…..

People often forget that lawyers do a great deal of work for free…. from the biggest City law firms to smaller practices and individual barristers.  The Times has a useful piece on How to . . . make pro bono work for you

UPDATE: This from the  comment section is worth following up!

Sackerson

I have had a little swipe at this and certain other related topical matters. Having been on a murder jury myself, I’d advise His Ludship and MiniJust to steer clear.

http://theylaughedatnoah.blogspot.com/2010/02/advance-of-totalitarian-ideals.html

I’d like to INSITE you to read INCITE!

Every so often, something comes along which makes me laugh out loud – and it happened this morning  when I discovered that BPP Law School was wishing itself a Happy 34th Birthday. I happen to know, simply because I founded BPP Law School with Charlie Prior, then CEO of BPP Holdings PLC,  in the early 1990s that BPP Law School is not 34 years old today.  BPP Holdings PLC is – and they did remarkably well before selling to Apollo last year for lots of money.

BUT  then I did start laughing when I discoverd on the BPP Law School twitter account and on Facebook that BPP Law School has set up a law magazine called INCITE. Imitation is, they say, the sincerest form of flattery.  I set up INSITE LAW magazine in 2008 to have some fun covering news and provide free resources to students.  Insite is growing and well over 25,000 visitors use the site regularly…some more than others.  Students and others, pleasingly, find the free materials on Insite Law of help.

When I set up Insite Law – I wanted a name that ‘played’ on incite, site and insightful.  I came up with Insite.  I wish I hadn’t, because I have lost count of the number of times I have had to spell the name of the website or my email address to callers, prospective advertisers and friends!

I know Peter Crisp, the Dean of BPP Law School well.  In fact I have just spoken to him on the telephone – he called –  and I have assured him… as I do you, that I am delighted to see students setting up magazines and that I am just having a bit of Wednesday fun.  Peter is sending me over a copy of the magazine and I shall, happily, link to it!

One thing that the editors of the new magazine may like to look into, though, is the fact that there appears to be a European mark registered for INCITE:  Case details for Community Trade Mark E6093785 [Hat Tip @filemot ]

All good stuff…. and Bonne chance to the students who have had the insight to set up INCITE – I shall look forward to reading their magazine.

UPDATE: Peter Crisp has sent me a copy on pdf… good stuff.  I enjoyed reading it.

Jurisprudence 101 from Charon

I have decided to go and have a long breakfast at World’s End tomorrow – so I have done my Law Review for tomorrow morning early…. it is below.  This is my final thought before I eat some excellent bacon & eggs tomorrow – turning the plate around so the egg is on the right, as is my practice.. (See ‘About’ section)

Have a good one tomorrow.  I shall re-appear later in the day to write… inevitably.

Law Review: Ministry of Truth and news from the law blogs

Financial Times: Cameron targets non-Tory vote

The FT does, indeed, cover this rather more sensibly than I do….

The FT reports… pinkly and in a most sombre fashion… as befits such a newspaper of record..

David Cameron has rejected calls from the right to reach out to traditional Tories who last backed the party in its 1992 election victory, saying many of those voters were now dead, as he launched a campaign on Monday, targeted at people who have never voted Conservative before.

The marketing blitz – including posters at 1,500 sites in England, Scotland and Wales and a mailshot to more than 2m homes – marks an acceleration of the pre-election campaigning.

[I just loved the bit about ‘many of the voters who voted in 1992 are now dead’]

Apparently. Mr Wright MP deleted this unfortunate tweet – but it was picked up by Iain Dale…rightly… Parody is valid… this sort of nonsense is just ‘unpleasant’. Hat Tip @benjaminfgray and @ToryBear who asked if a Labour supporter/blogger was prepared to be critical… I am not a political blogger. I do vote Labour and  I am more than prepared to be critical of this sort of nonsense by a Labour MP – but does it really matter?…and who really cares?

See how they run? The Ministry of Truth theme for this edition of Law Review seems to be most appropriate.  Paul Waugh takes up the David Wright MP story on his Evening Standard blog:  Twitterstorm – bang to Wrights

TALES FROM THE MINISTRY OF TRUTH

Just as Tory, Labour and Lib-Dem political bloggers tend to stick to their party line –

sometimes ad nauseam (I am not a political blogger – quite happy to be critical of all parties) The Guardian doesn’t seem to like the truth when it doesn’t suit them either.

Dominic Lawson, writing in The Times,  has an interesting piece on Ali Dizaei, the bent Iranian copper who has been banged up for corruption. Lawson notes, with a degree of wry pleasure no doubt: “The National Black Police Association… was not the only organisation to have been made a fool of by this arch-manipulator of racial politics: the BBC had made his dishonest memoir its Radio 4 Book of the Week, and The Guardian was also a willing media partner in his campaign to become the country’s most powerful policeman. Meanwhile, this bent copper’s newspaper of choice seemed to have an exclusive post-trial interview, reporting that “Dizaei, 47, remained defiant and told The Guardian the case was ‘completely outrageous and a fit-up’. He said that he had been pursued by the authorities, who had a ‘vendetta’ against him”. Amazing, given that Dizaei had in fact been found guilty himself of fitting up an innocent man who had crossed him, that any newspaper could publish such comments without its pages turning red with embarrassment.”

Quite

Meanwhile… over at the Ministry of Getting Re-Elected… we have the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2010 – the first in a series of oxymoronic or just moronic pieces of legislation?

Be it enacted by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—

1 Initial duties

(1) The Treasury must ensure that, for each of the financial years ending in 2011 to 2016, public sector net borrowing expressed as a percentage of gross domestic product is less than it was for the preceding financial year.

(2) The Treasury must ensure that, for the financial year ending in 2014, public sector net borrowing expressed as a percentage of gross domestic product is no more than half of what it was for the financial year ending in 2010.

(3) The Treasury must ensure that—

(a) public sector net debt as at the end of the financial year ending in 2016 expressed as a percentage of gross domestic product (centred on 31 March 2016), is less than

(b) public sector net debt as at the end of the previous financial year expressed as a percentage of gross domestic product (centred on 31 March 2015)………

And… from the law blogosphere.

From a very useful ‘new’ blog Obiter J reports

The Lord Chief Justice expresses concerns …..

The Lord Chief Justice has published his “Review of the Adminstration of Justice in the Courts.” The Review covers the legal year 1st October 2008 to 30th September 2009.

1. Concern is raised (para. 2.12) about the use of out-of-court methods of dealing with offenders – such as fixed penalty notices, cautions and conditional cautions. ”

To give a little balance to my Mock The Tory caption pics – but not written for that reason – Matthew Taylor of the MTPT blog writes: “Labour’s Twenty Nations, or How to duck the decimal

John Bolch, Family Lore, appears to have been eating Viagra for Bloggers pills – he has a very sharp piece this morning… a letter to Mrs John terry…  Dear Mrs Terry, allegedly

I am always happy to see a bit of White Rabbit on the blog. Fellow blogger and connoisseur of the bizarre, hyperbolic and hypocritical, White Rabbit has a piece about ‘Lowering the Tone’ and those ‘posters’. Have a look.

But it is not all about ‘Rippers from The Royals’ over at White Rabbit. Here he is reflecting on  Ozymandias

A useful note on Contingency Fee Agreements – final regulations unveiled from Usefully Employed, an employment law barrister.

Who Needs a Lawyer Anyway?

Pink Tape aasks and then puts forward an answer…Not social workers apparently. At least so says the British Association of Social Workers which offers representation from non-lawyers as a perk of its membership. Barristers (incorrectly referred to by BASW as solicitors) offering their services for free via FRU or the Bar Pro Bono Unit may not have the necessary expertise in social work practice and regulation to better their own service it seems from a piece in Community Care………….

Ipso Jure writes..”Ten Great Reasons to Learn about IP Law”

Another interesting piece from John Flood of RATS (Random Academic Thoughts)…

Let A Thousand Flowers Bloom

“”Letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend is the policy for promoting progress in the arts and the sciences and a flourishing socialist culture in our land.” So said Chairman Mao in 1957, on which the misquotation above is based.

I’m not sure Mao would be happy with his phrase being used in conjunction with new forms of legal practice about to emerge from the chrysalis of the Legal Services Act 2007 (LSA). (Apologies for mangling metaphors…) In the last two days I have been listening to the Legal Services Board talk about what is to happen. This is in part because they have published a new business plan, which I urge you to read.

Colin Samuels continues to do a detailed review of Law blogs – sometimes even more detailed than the official ‘Blawg Reviews’ and this week is no exception with  A Round Tuit (18)

Colin starts his Round Tuit with these words…“Was it because a legal technology conference took place in New York or a legal marketing conference took place in Seattle? Both? Neither? Whatever it was, this week seemed to have more than its share of debate about the character of new legal blogging and of legal marketing more generally. There were of course hurt feelings, accusations of bullying, and calls for civil discourse (meaning, unfortunately, an absence of criticism during periods of self-promotion).”

Whatever next? … in the legal blogosphere?

The Official ‘Blawg review’ comes this week (again) from Canada:

Blawg Review #251

This Blawg Review comes to you from the Canadian Trademark Blog, resident in Vancouver, British Columbia – ‘a blawg run by several of the talented trademark law practitioners at Clark Wilson LLP.

Jailhouse lawyer has a piece on his blog Prisoner’s Voice : Prisoners threaten to sue in voting rights row

Capitalists@Work : Always beware the Spanish Inquisition

This story today is hilarious. “Apparently the Anglo-Saxon media are in cahoots to talk Spain down for their  own benefit. This is a great example of many games Government like to play:

– Start by shooting the messenger
– When that fails; tell everybody the messenger is a horrible foreigner anyway……”

Natasha Phillips of The Divorce Manual “has teamed up with Family Lore’s John Bolch to bring you a weekly news roundup of Family Law issues in England. We hope you enjoy it!”

Jonathan Mitchell QC, a Scots advocate, has a very interesting piece: Success rate in judicial review petitions in Scotland

“This post quotes in full a recent response by the Office of the Advocate General to a freedom of information request by Alan Caskie, an advocate specialising in asylum and immigration law. This response shows that the success rate for petitions in this area is high, and rising year by year…..”

Ever mindful that UK lawyers are, slowly, taking to twitter and blogging… I found Peninsulawyer’s post on Twitter analytics of great interest

Dan Hull of WhatAboutClients? doesn’t mince his words – and he is not too keen on people who mince theirs… but in a different way.

Dan is an enthusiast for good writing and his blog, when not providing good analysis of client service, often contains ‘treasures’…

This week:Writing well, living large.

“Commenting on the body of work left by John Dryden (1631-1700), the English poet, critic and playwright, Samuel Johnson, who was born a few years after Dryden’s death, called Dryden’s compositions “the effects of a vigorous genius working upon large materials”.

AND…JUST A BIT MORE HARD LAW….

Media asks court to reinstate criticism of MI5 in Binyam Mohamed case

The Times reports: “Britain’s senior judges will rethink this week their controversial decision to excise damning criticism of MI5 from a ruling published last week.

Lawyers for leading British and American media organisations have written to the Court of Appeal asking the judges to reinstate a paragraph — which disclosed how much M15 had been told about the torture of the Guantánamo Bay detainee, Binyam Mohamed — that they removed from their draft judgment after representations from the Foreign Secretary.

The media groups include The Times, The Guardian, The Independent, BBC News, Associated Press, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and Index on Censorship. The human rights organisations Justice, and Liberty have also urged the judges to reconsider.

The move comes after the disclosure last week that Jonathan Sumption, QC, for David Miliband, wrote to the three appeal judges after seeing a draft of the judgment to express concern about remarks in it by Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, Master of the Rolls. Mr Sumption said that the comments were “likely to receive more public attention than any other part of the judgments” and, if cited in other cases, would “mark an unprecedented breakdown in relations between the courts and the executive in the area of public interest immunity”.”

I have published tomorrow morning’s Law Review early because: I may be ‘ite and abite’ tomorrow morning – but, be sure, there will be something for me to write about on the morrow anyway… until then.

.

Law Review: Human rights cases on the increase

“Anyone who is in the UK for any reason has fundamental human rights which government and public authorities are legally obliged to respect. These became law as part of the Human Rights Act 1998.”

Directgovwebsite

The Human Rights Act 1998 gives further legal effect in the UK to the fundamental rights and freedoms contained in the European Convention on Human Rights.  The wording above reflects a desire that all in the UK, whether British, EU national or not, are protected by the provisions of the Act.

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)  is an international treaty to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe. The convention entered into force on 3 September 1953. All Council of Europe member states are party to the Convention and new members are expected to ratify the convention at the earliest opportunity. It is worth noting that the Convention was drafted with substantial and significant involvement by the UK government of the day.

The Convention established the European Court of Human Rights. Any person whose rights have been violated under the Convention by a state party can take a case to the Court. The decisions of the Court are not automatically legally binding, but the Court does have the power to award damages.

Number of court cases involving Human Rights Act rises by a third

The Times reports: “Terrorism and deportation cases have fuelled the first rise for seven years in court cases using the Human Rights Act, figures published today show. Human rights challenges involving immigration, asylum and deportation cases rose by 34 per cent — and are predicted to rise again this year. The figures come days after Jonathan Evans, the head of M15, hinted that the courts were being used to undermine the fight against terrorism. The rise in such cases was an inevitable result of efforts by the Government to deal with potential terrorist threats, he added.”

Stephen Grosz, head of public law and human rights at Bindman & Partners, notes that the Home Office is the biggest ‘repeat defendant’ and states “Measures against terrorists in a democratic society have to be tempered by respect for human rights. Otherwise, what are we protecting?”

The Head of MI5, Jonathan Evans, took a slightly different stance “….accusations that MI5 colluded in torture would be used by the country’s enemies as “propaganda to undermine our will and ability to confront them”.

Members of the public, not surprisingly or unreasonably, rarely trouble to look at the detail in the law – law enacted by government, but, I accept, not always with parliamentary scrutiny. Members of the public and tabloid journalists keen to ‘rally the people’ tend to take an ’emotive’ line.

A few examples from the Times ‘comment’ section’ to illustrate the point…

Judy Walton wrote: The legal profession must be laughing all the way to the bank. Strangely enough, the lawyer appointed to the role of Law Society President is a specialist in asylum law. What a coincidence!
Rob Bryant wrote: How could the number of cases not increase? Cherie Blair only does compensation cases and the Blairs need all the money. Funny, though, them being so religious. It doesn’t go down too well at the Pearly Gates if you have more money than God. Apparently St Peter says its a big no-no.
Ben Holloway wrote: If I was a lawyer , I would probably vote Labour . They seem to be good for business.
***
The Tories want to replace the Human Rights Act.  Given their focus on designing posters for the edification and delight of the parodfy industry and their focus on statistics and figures, which they then get wrong, because they don’t appear to have anyone who can do Maths checking the public utterances of future, prospective, Cabinet and other ministers, they have not dealt with the detail behind their plans on a wholescale revision of Human Rights Law.  One assumes that it will be on broadly similar lines – for otherwise the law of unintended consequences may pop up and bite them and Britain will find itself in breach of European Union requirements!  These matters will keep  future Tory  Law Officers and Secretary of State for Justice busy if the Tories do manage to avoid snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in a few months time.
***
Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: “We need an inquiry so that we can separate fact from conspiracy theories. The idea that human rights judges and lawyers are part of a campaign to destabalise the intelligence agencies is ridiculous.”

Law Review: Portrait of a Prime Minister, How MI5 kept watchdog in the dark

Piers Morgan interviews Gordon Brown
In a remarkable piece of television Piers Morgan gave us Gordon Brown the man – a portrait of a man which I found engaging and a pleasure to watch.  I have no doubt at all that many politicians when you take them away from their public political persona are interesting and engaging – this is almost certainly true of people in all walks of life.  It was, for all that, a fascinating portrait and one which will add to the political history archive.  It does not, however, alter my perception of the measure of Brown as a prime minister – but it may well do for many. Who knows?  The proof will, as they say, be in the pudding. I claim no powers of objectivity by my last statement greater than those enjoyed by all, but I prefer to judge politicians on what they say and do as politicians which is on the record for all to see.  Of course, it is entirely possible that Gordon Brown, having revealed so much of himself to the public will feel more confident about talking with and to the electorate in a very different way and explain his ideas rather than at the electorate as he has tended to do in  his public appearances in the past.

I will admit to being impressed that Brown, should he leave office, wants to do charity work and that  flying around the world dispensing wisdom in return for large amounts of cash does not appeal to him.  If he sticks to that resolution he will almost certainly deserve respect for doing so.

Fraser Nelson in The Spectator has an interesting review of the Piers Morgan interview

Rather more interesting was the BBC Four film on the Great Offices of State. Last night viewers were taken behind the scenes at The Home Office.  Ministers and permanent secretaries painted what appeared to be a fairly candid picture of the recent history of the Home Office.  I shall look forward to the next episode on the Foreign Office.

How MI5 kept watchdog in the dark over detainees’ claims of torture

• Intelligence committee misled by MI5 evidence
• Demands for reform after appeal court revelations

The Guardian reports:

It was in the middle of 2008 that Jonathan Evans, director general of MI5, delivered a bombshell confession to the previously compliant parliamentarians of the intelligence and security committee.He told them, in strict secrecy as usual, that assurances of MI5 innocence previously accepted without demur by the politicians had in fact been false.

The committee, which was supposed to supervise MI5’s policies, had already published a reassuring report on the basis of what it had been told. That report, based on testimony from Eliza Manningham-Buller, Evans’s predecessor, informed the world that MI5 had been unaware of any ill-treatment dished out by its US allies to Binyam Mohamed.

The opposite was true. As the appeal court has now finally revealed, detailed briefings had been supplied at the time by Washington on the CIA’s “new strategy” for softening up Mohamed and others, for which it demanded British help. This new American “war on terror” involved the use of prolonged sleep deprivation, shackling and threats that Mohamed would be “disappeared”, applied to the point where his mental stability corroded and he apparently became suicidal.

Tory Blogoraptors want more RIGHT WING meat from Cameron

A pleasant start to the day at Mazar, a Lebanese cafe in Battersea Square, with strong black Americano coffee and a few fully leaded Marlboros while reading first the News of The Screws and then a bit of Rawnsley in The Observer.

Why master juggler Cameron is suddenly dropping the balls

Andrew Rawnsley writes: “The unresolved contradictions and tensions within the Conservatives are being exposed even before they have made it to power….concept from both his friends and foes for a Channel 4 documentary about the Tory leader. Opponents to his left say it is no more than putting lipstick on a pig, a cosmetic make-over on Thatcherism. Critics to his right see a convictionless PR man who will come rapidly unstuck in government. The answers of his friends are more illuminating. Their explanations of Cameronism rarely progress further than a clutch of cliches about “compassionate Conservatism”, “the post-bureaucratic age” and “social responsibility”, as if a handful of adjectives is the same as a philosophy. When I sought a definition from the man himself, he shuddered that anyone should think that there ought to be such a thing as Cameronism.”

I read most of the Tory blogs on a daily basis. Few are any more objective than Labour and Lib-Dem blogs.  It was ever thus – the willingness to adhere blindly to a party or policy line at the expense of common sense, fair appraisal and analysis seems to be endemic in the political writing world.  We are all at times, I am sure, guilty of ignoring other points of view.

I watch the political point scoring in Parliament and now on Twitter with pleasure – most of it is fairly meaningless but occasionally it strikes home.

There is an open goal at the moment. Gordon Brown is a very unpopular prime minister.  Cunningly, he set up the Iraq Inquiry, some say to get back at Blair, but all he has done with that is remind people how chaotic were the plans for post-invasion Iraq and how duplicitous the dealing pre-invasion.  Brown may yet be skewered by the Grand Inquisitioners at the Iraq Inquiry who will know that he does not have the slick eloquence of Tony Blair, the smooth lawyer skills of Lord Goldsmith or the King Richard III cunning of Jack Straw. I can see Brown having a difficult time when he faces the Inquisitioners.  Piers Morgan is not on that panel.
Despite there being an open goal, Cameron and his increasingly confused election campaign doesn’t seem to be registering with voters beyond the possibility of a hung parliament.  The red meat eaters on the Tory back benchers do not like losers…. and being unable to get more than a hung parliament out of British voters in a few weeks time will not, pundits say, be regarded as a Victory. Cameron is trying to be all things to too many men and women. That suits me just fine – for while I am none too impressed with Labour at present, I cannot, after 30 years bring myself to even think about voting Tory!  I could, of course, vote for a Monster Raving Loony…. but I fear that we may well have such a resident in Number 10 at present.

Rawnsley adds the comment…“This tendency gets additional amplification because it is noisily represented in the Tory press and blogosphere, where the constant clamour is for much stronger, more right-wing meat.”

Too taxing for Osbore?

Tory top brass frustrated by mystery over Michael Ashcroft’s tax status

The Observer wonders…… “The Conservative party chairman, Eric Pickles, has revealed his frustration over Lord Ashcroft’s tax status, as pressure grows on the party to come clean over the peer’s finances. In an interview to be broadcast tomorrow, Pickles admits that he does not know the financial arrangements of the peer, who has funded the party’s campaigns in dozens of marginal seats and is also a deputy party chairman.

Asked if Ashcroft was a “non-dom” – someone who pays UK tax only on their earnings in this country – Pickles says he is in the dark on the issue: “I’m not in a position to be able to tell you.”

Pickles also hints that he is irritated by the secrecy surrounding Ashcroft and the constant media demands for clarity. “I do not know what his tax status is. If I did, I would certainly tell you,” he says.”


UPDATE:  Guido Fawkes makes a fair point with his questions about Lord Paul and Labourworth a read.

Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Thames: Valentine’s Edition

Dear Reader

It has been a most entertaining week – a bit of good business, a great deal to write about – not least the spat between the Court of Appeal and the government about MI5 alleged ‘complicity’ in the activities of American military torturers.  No sooner had I posted the tweet above after having a quick nap on Saturday afternoon when I received a tweet from @wibblenut to inform me about a ‘shoplifting seagull’.  The BBC reported some time back on the activities of a highly intelligent criminal seagull who stole packs of crisps from a shop.

Another reason why I enjoy Twitter…. these tweets from fellow tweeter …. stupidgirl_no1

@Charonqc I’ve seen that very seagull in action! The shop’s not far from my work!

@Charonqc see?! http://www.flickr.com/photos/stupidgirl_no1/3751921642/

It is Valentine’s Day tomorrow – a day when couples take over restaurants and (a) behave in a romantic way (b) stare at each other glumly (c) or get very drunk.  In my time, I am pained to admit, I have had to engage in this annual gorgefest of sentiment. Well…once… My various wives were not really into Valentines…or at least that is what they told me through their legal advisers.  As Valentine’s Day is on a Sunday retailers are complaining that business is down.  The husbands are all at home and it can be difficult to slip out to send chocolates or flowers to ‘X’ from reception or ‘Y’ from the typing pool and footballers and TV celebrities are keeping their heads down after the outing of John Terry and Vernon Kaye’s activities – not to mention Ashley Cole’s lurid photographs of himself being texted all over the place.

I am a militant ‘single’ for the present – a state of grace which I am enjoying. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy being romantically involved – but it is certainly a more simple lifestyle and allows me to decide to go to a bar at 11.00 a.m. should I feel the need to do so without a concerned wife or girlfriend logging on to the net to contact NHS Direct and ‘grass me up’.

Guido Fawkes is on the money again with this… Pigs Might Fly

I quote:

Piers Morgan: What’s been the best present you weren’t allowed to keep?

Prime Mentalist:
Er, I think the different governments in the Middle East send huge presents. One actually, after a dinner, was a full pig that they actually sent, that had been roasted.

Which Middle Eastern muslim government would send a roasted pig to a foreign head of government?  If they did it would not just be a breach of protocol, it would be some helluva insult. Wouldn’t be Israel either sending the roast pork.  Like a lot of his claims it will, Guido suspects, turn out to be a delusion.”

I do wonder sometimes if Brown is fully briefed on the Middle East… or, indeed, on many other matters.

I have not had the  misfortune to fly on Easyjet or Ryanair in recent years and shall do my best to avoid takings flights with either airline if I can in the future. The Times reports that Sir Stelios and Ryan are chucking their toys out of the pram again.  Some say that this is for free publicity.  I couldn’t give a monkeys about the outcome of this case – but taske consolation from the fact that it provides work for lawyers at a difficult time.  The Times reports… “In a statement released last night, Sir Stelios, the largest shareholder in easyJet, said: “My lawyers have today commenced High Court proceedings against Michael O’Leary and Ryanair for libelling me. Full details of my claim against them will be published later this month. It was about time someone was willing to spend the money to take this arrogant man to court for his despicable behaviour. Sir Stelios’s action comes after advertisements placed by Ryanair, which depicted him as Pinocchio and accused him of failing to publish easyJet’s aircraft punctuality data.”

“Mr Ryan of Ryanair responds in characteristic fashion and is clearly not ‘bovvered’ ““Stelios obviously can’t run, but he can’t hide, either. He’s rattled as he knows that easyJet’s punctuality is lousy. If he’s too scared to run, then why doesn’t he accept our challenge to a bout of sumo wrestling instead.”

Ah… the majesty of our law, reduced to dealing with the the antics of these ‘Magnificent men and their flying machines.”  Yawnnnnnnnnnnnn !

I am appalled by the behaviour of the RSPCA in bringing a case against the beneficiaries of a will.

//

How the RSPCA bites the hand that feeds it

When George Mason bequeathed a large chunk of his fortune to the animal charity, little did his brother think that they’d come back for a second helping. Chris Green of The Independent  reports

In his will, Mr Mason’s brother divided his £1m fortune between the charity, his brother and two of his closest friends, Norman and Patricia Sharp. But, under Britain’s complicated tax laws, the RSPCA was concerned it was going to have to pay inheritance tax on its share of the estate. So it took Mr Mason and the Sharps to court to try to get them to pay some of the tax out of their bequests.

However, at the High Court in London last week, Mr Justice Peter Smith dismissed the claim and ordered the RSPCA to pay the costs. The judge said the charity’s case had been “extremely weak and should not have been brought”, and refused to give it permission to appeal.

….Clare Kelly, John Mason’s solicitor, said she thought it was “quite disgusting” that a donation which had been left in good faith by an elderly animal lover had been used to pursue his relatives for more money.

….But Paul Hewitt, a partner at Withers law firm who fought the RSPCA’s case against Mr Mason, told The Independent yesterday that he felt the ruling in that case had been “grossly unfair” and that the judge had been “wrong” to dismiss the case. He also pointed out that the “vast majority” of legacy cases in which the charity is involved are settled out of court.

I haven’t read the judgment, so I don’t propose to comment on the case.  I used to be a fan of the RSPCA.  I won’t, however, be leaving any of my cases of Rioja or shekels to them after this nonsense.  I am quite shocked that a charity can behave in this manner and even more shocked that they waste money on lawyers.  I have a feeling that many others – whatever the merits of the case – may be equally irritated that a charity should waste money litigating… for my part, they should have paid their portion of the inheritance and be grateful for the money bequeathed.  This..in the modern vernacular is a FAIL.

***

And finally…. it seems that nothing can happen these days without being given the seal of approval by National Treasure Stephen Fry….. it can only be a matter of time, surely, before he becomes Lord Fry of Twitter?

Fry has thoughts on love… for Valentine’s Day.. one assumes, as opposed to just feeling like a bit of random musing…

The Independent carried the story…

“Stephen Fry explains how the moment of first love is so intense that it can never be matched or recaptured, but will linger for a lifetime “like a good acid trip,” with “little flashbacks every now and again.”

I’d like to end by saying I love you all… but (a) that would not be true (b) I am British and (c)  I am not a luvvie.  I’d like to end with the letters SWALK – but I am not a teenager high on e-numbers and angst about body image…. the truth is… I  couldn’t give a monkeys about Valentine’s Day myself… but I shall, as we say in Battersea, defend to the death your right to gorge yourself tomorrow on chocolates, champagne and love.

Have a good one

Best, as always

Charon

Rive Gauche: M15, complicity in torture, Bankers, snake oil, and unethical lawyers

Obama Administration Blasts British Court For Disclosing Abuses at Guantanamo Bay

Professor John Turley, a US academic, writes: “The Obama Administration has taken the rare step of criticizing a British court. Why? Because the court released a few paragraphs of a report that confirmed our abuse and torture of detainees. Spokesman Ben LaBolt denounced the release of the information and threatened to cut off access of the British to classified information in the future. Note these paragraphs do not appear to reveal any new classified technique, but rather confirm our violations of international law — evidence that the Obama Administration has been refusing to release.

Americans are already following the British investigation to learn about the decision to invade Iraq — information that remains classified or unavailable in the United States (here).

Now, we can look to the British courts to confirm abuses of detainees that our courts and Congress have effectively blocked.

LaBolt said the administration “shared this information in confidence and with certain expectations.” Those expectations were that the British would support its effort to cover up the full extent of our human rights violations.”

The decision of the Court of Appeal earlier in the week on the Binyam Mohamed torture evidence issue has created a great deal of analysis and comment.

MI5 officers told to get on with the job in face of storm

The Independent reports: “MI5 officers were being stoical “getting on with the job, concentrating on the threat to national security” amid the criticism over their supposed complicity in the torture of Binyam Mohamed. That, at least, was the official message from Whitehall sources yesterday. But what emerged yesterday was hardly comforting. The charges made by Lord Neuberger, the Master of the Rolls, were damning. The secret service did not respect human rights, deliberately misled a Commons committee of MPs and Lords, and had a “culture of suppression” in its dealings with the court.”

There is no suggestion that MI5 were involved directly in the torture of Binyam Mohamed.  Complicity is the issue. The Independent notes:“The mistreatment took part in Pakistan while the Ethiopian-born Mr Mohamed was in custody of US authorities. It is unclear whether this was done by Americans or by agents of the ISI, the Pakistani secret police, which has itself been accused of helping to organise attacks by Islamist terrorist groups in a number of countries in pursuit of its own shadowy agenda.There are no claims that MI5 took part in the abuse. But one of its agents, “Witness B” in court proceedings, “probably” knew of it in documents he read before flying out to interrogate Mr Mohamed.”

The legal issue is clear. Do we abide by international law, the European Convention on Human Rights, our own domestic human rights laws or not?  The moral issue, which causes the greatest difficulty for many is…should we when those who would do us harm disregard it?  Reading comments from members of the public on Times coverage of the issue reveals many who regard Shami Chakrabarti, Lord Bingham, the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and a host of human rights lawyers as a thorn in the side of ‘good governance’ and some even go so far as to suggest that our courts are pro-Taleban and lackeys of the left-wing.

There are, whether we like it or not, many in this country who would happily allow our military and intelligence services to use ‘whatever means are necessary’ to destroy terrorism and if that includes torturing a few people to exact information which will save the majority, so be it. By the same token, there are many in this country who would like to see the return of hanging and it is instructive that many support the barely thought out proposals of the Conservative party on self defence as revealed in their recent ‘kill a burglar’ policy statement.

Judges persuaded to curtail MI5 criticism

The Times notes: “The Foreign Secretary persuaded senior judges to erase “exceptionally damning criticism” of MI5 from their ruling yesterday detailing the Security Service’s complicity in the torture of Binyam Mohamed.”

It can be argued that we are seeing a similar moral inexactitude in relation to the Iraq War where senior government ministers, including the prime minister, will happily ignore the advice of experienced international lawyers at the Foreign Office in favour of the shifting sands views of the Attorney-General.  Lord Bingham, a former Lord Chief Justice, stated the other day that in his view (a view shared by many lawyers) the Iraq War was illegal.  Never was it more clear the distinction between Doves and Hawks – but in this case, the Hawks appear to be prepared to ignore the existence of international law because the law is ‘finely balanced’ and, more important, there is no Court to determine the issue. It seems that we are also prepared to compromise our ethico-moral and legal position in relation to torture by being ‘complicit’ in the activities of American military torturers.

The head of MI5 strongly defended the work of the Security Service tonight in the face of damaging accusations that it had sought to cover up its involvement in the torture of detainees.

Director-general Jonathan Evans said claims by one of the country’s most senior judges that there was a “culture of suppression” within the service were “the precise opposite of the truth”.

On a lighter note we have strange goings on at Goldman Sachs…possibly

A Sky News blog reports: “Bill Nighy, the veteran British actor, has obviously touched a raw nerve in the City. Nighy’s endorsement of a global ‘Robin Hood Tax’ on the world’s banks attracted international media coverage earlier this week. In a short film to promote the launch, Nighy plays a banker who eventually agrees to a 0.05% tax on international bank transactions to raise up to £250bn annually to fight poverty and climate change in the UK and abroad. And on the website www.robinhoodtax.org supporters of the idea (slogan: “not complicated, just brilliant”) registered their enthusiasm in their thousands. Until, that is, 3.41 on the afternoon of the day of the launch, when the team behind the website noticed that opponents of the tax were suddenly registering votes at the rate of six every second. Within five minutes, the ‘No’ votes had soared from 1500 to 8000.”

The Robin Hood tax team traced the ‘No’ vote surge activity to an address in London.  “A Goldman Sachs spokesperson said: “We have just received this information and are investigating the matter fully.”

It would appear that the banking sector is getting back to usual best practices?  The harsh reality is that the investment bankers know full well the power they have, that Britain cannot afford to lose its  position in international and global finance.  They know that there will be no concerted action worldwide to stop their bonuses and activities – so they will continue to stick two fingers up to government, pay such tax as is necessary to make it economic to operate within a tax regime, but no more and carry on with their ‘trade’.

That may well be the harsh reality – but we don’t need to socialise with them!  I shall be asking people I meet in future to declare if they are or are not bankers.   I have seen the look of disdain on people’s faces when one mentions on meeting new people the ‘L’ for ‘Law’ word. Now it is pay back time for me to boycott all forms of social connection with anyone involved in the banking world!   This unilateral declaration of social leprosy will not affect them one iota… we don’t tend to get many investment bankers slumming at the World’s End of Chelsea or socialising in the dens of Battersea.  if they are there..they are, it seems, incognito!

And while we are on the subject of slime, sleaze and greed… I must draw your attention to an excellent filmed interview by Bruce Carlton on Law.com with ‘three very angry lawyers’: Scott Greenfield, Mark W Bennett and Brian Tannebaum – all serious lawyers, serious bloggers, and users of twitter.  The Three Angry Lawyers have had their fill of slimy lawyers using social media to promote their law practices unethically, they have had enough of snake oil, carpet bagging and SEO and other social media mavens. I agree with much of what they say.  They have even got stuck into a new phenomenon… ‘GHOST BLOGGERS’.  It appears that some lawyers in the States are too dumb to even write their own blogs.  It isn’t exactly rocket science to write a blog… but some of these enterprising souls are hiring ‘writers’ to write their blogs for them – ludicrous. The interview is worth watching – although the film took a bit of time to load last night when I watched it.

While I continue to wait for the Bar Standards Board report into the BPP law School oversubscription of students on the BVC course (The BSB had a meeting on Wednesday and, I am advised, the report will be published thereafter) – RollonFriday has a remarkable story…

BPP investigates Professional Ethics tutor

BPP Law School has launched an investigation into a tutor on its BVC course who was suspended from practicing as a barrister for behaviour likely to bring the profession into disrepute – and who taught on the school’s Professional Ethics module.

Isabel Dakyns was, until yesterday, a tutor and examiner at BPP, despite having been disciplined in February 2008 for failing to comply with a judgement ordering her to cough up nearly £50k. The Bar Standards Board decided that her behaviour was likely to bring the Bar into disrepute and suspended her for a whopping 30 months. Which failed to prevent BPP from employing her to train the barristers of tomorrow on, errr, professional ethics. At least there’s a pleasing irony to it.”

Ouch!

UPDATE: From a commenter Simply Wondered…(I have left the original typing style in.  SW’s style is unique.. no caps

“bpp point
she never taught me but, anecdotally, isabel dakyns was regarded by everyone i can think of that she taught on my course as about the best teacher at bpp. and a damn nice person to boot – her work was very practical and i’m told she went the extra mile for her students. people taught by her appeared to do well. she came across as pretty left-field.”

Retention rates for trainees in the City are not what they were. RollonFriday reports that Denton Wilde Sapte kept only one of its recent intake (There is a useful table of information) and Linklaters has cut back on maintenance grants because of the new ‘shortened’ LPC.

On Fridays, when I do my ‘Rive Gauche’ edition… I often like to see what position The Sun takes on news stories. I do this because there is a prospect that David Cameron will be prime minister of our country in but a few weeks and The Sun provides political analysis to the millions of potential Tory voters who read The Sun.  I couldn’t actually find much news, political comment or analysis of any kind in The Sun today – but it is Friday.  Here is the front ‘splash’ on the online version of The Sun.

Good to see that the country is well informed.

And finally… from Obnoxio The Clown this morning…

Have a good weekend… back later with more and, of course… Postcard from The Staterooms on the morrow or Sunday.

Zorba dancing – the full catastrophe

21 years ago I went on holiday to the Island of Crete. I met some very amusing people there and danced on the same beach Zorba danced on.  Fuelled by Ouzo and retsina I even climbed to the top of what the tour guide called ‘Zorba’s Mountain’.  I would probably bribe someone these days to climb the mountain for me and take pictures while I did a bit of Zorba dancing on the beach.  I like the Greeks – and those I met on Crete were fascinating to talk with.  The history of Crete is full of twists and turns, myths, fables and legend.

There are many memorable quotes from the film Zorba The Greek.  The one I have chosen in the picture is, unfortunately, all too real and serious for the Greece of today.

Gordon Brown refused to confirm that the UK would not be involved in the inevitable bail out for Greece which the markets expect.  The markets have factored the bail out in.  The press say that there will be Armageddon if France and Germany do not assist Greece. We shall know soon enough.

The other words from the film which Zorba uttered, which I have used many times when observing the human condition…… ‘the full catastrophe’… seem appropriate. I think I may well go back to Crete in the not too distant future and walk again around the ruins of Knossos in the hot midday sun! I may even drink retsina again.

I had an amusing last night –  too amusing for me to concentrate on law matters this morning… I shall have a restorative glass of wine and some espresso at lunch and return later in the day to shoehorn a bit of law into the blog… until then…

Tonto rides again… Baby It’s Cold Outside – perfect for Valentine’s day?

Tonto Papadopoulos is a serious writer on finance  and banking and guests on this blogARRIVEDERCI LONDRA! and  The Billion Dollar Bonus

In this video – we see Tonto in a rather different light.  I have had the pleasure of enjoying a few drinks with Tonto on many occasions.  On the last occasion we even discussed the possibility of my having a cameo part in one of his video productions.

The video is well worth a watch.

Another own goal for the Tories… f**kwits !

The latest from the Laurel & Hardy Policy Institute: I’m not sure that many people will applaud the latest Tory poster.  It seems to my increasingly jaded eye that Cameron and his advisers are just trying to be too clever and too ‘hip and down with da kids etc etc etc’ . I feel confident that they will come up with something daft tomorrow as well…..

This was the original poster

My take is above.  If you want to make your own version – go here

Binyam Mohamed torture evidence must be revealed, judges rule

UPDATE: Appeal judge watered down Binyam Mohamed torture ruling

The Guardian: Government persuaded Lord Neuberger to delete damning references to MI5 ‘culture’ of suppressing evidence

Binyam Mohamed torture evidence must be revealed, judges rule

The Guardian reports: “High court ruling compels British government to disclose what MI5 knew of refugee’s treatment in Guantánamo Bay.”

Three of Britain’s most senior judges have ordered the government to reveal evidence of MI5 complicity in the torture of British resident Binyam Mohamed – unanimously dismissing objections by David Miliband, the foreign secretary.

In a ruling that will cause deep anxiety among the security and intelligence agencies, they rejected Miliband’s claims, backed by the US government, that disclosure of a seven-paragraph summary of classified CIA information showing what British agents knew of Mohamed’s torture would threaten intelligence sharing between London and Washington, and therefore endanger Britain’s national security.

The judges – Sir Igor Judge, the lord chief justice; Lord Neuberger, the master of the rolls; and Sir Anthony May, president of the Queen’s Bench – shattered the convention that the courts should not question claims by the executive relating to national security.

In damning references to claims made by Miliband and his lawyers, and stressing the importance of the media in supporting the principle of open justice, they said the case raised issues of “fundamental importance”, of “democratic accountability and ultimately the rule of law itself”.

The disputed paragraphs have now been published by the Foreign Office.

The following is quoted from the first judgment of the Divisional Court in the Binyam Mohamed case on 21 August 2008. We have alerted the Court to a typographic error.

“The following seven paragraphs have been redacted

[It was reported that a new series of interviews was conducted by the United States authorities prior to 17 May 2001 as part of a new strategy designed by an expert interviewer.

v)  It was reported that at some stage during that further interview process by the United States authorities, BM had been intentionally subjected to continuous sleep deprivation.  The effects of the sleep deprivation were carefully observed.

vi) It was reported that combined with the sleep deprivation, threats and inducements were made to him.  His fears of being removed from United States custody and “disappearing” were played upon.

vii) It was reported that the stress brought about by these deliberate tactics was increased by him being shackled in his interviews

viii) It was clear not only from the reports of the content of the interviews but also from the report that he was being kept under self-harm observation, that the inter views were having a marked effect upon him and causing him significant mental stress and suffering.

ix) We regret to have to conclude that the reports provide to the SyS made clear to anyone reading them that BM was being subjected to the treatment that we have described and the effect upon him of that intentional treatment.

x) The treatment reported, if had been administered on behalf of the United Kingdom, would clearly have been in breach of the undertakings given by the United Kingdom in 1972.  Although it is not necessary for us to categorise the treatment reported, it could readily be contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities]”

***

Summary of the judgments given on 10 February 2010

The Queen on the application of Binyam Mohamed
– and –
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

  • As the Lord Chief Justice explains, this appeal raises issues concerned with terrorism (paragraphs 10 to 13), torture (paragraphs 14 to 24), and open justice (paragraphs 37 to 42).
  • The facts giving rise to this appeal are set out in paragraphs 25 to 33 of the judgment of the Lord Chief Justice, and are more fully set out in paragraphs 60 to 128 of the judgment of the Master of the Rolls, and paragraphs 210 to 259 of Sir Anthony May.
  • The issue was whether, as the Foreign Secretary contended, seven short subparagraphs should be removed from the published version of a judgment, given by the High Court on 21 August 2008, on the ground that their publication would infringe the control principle (which is explained in paragraphs 43 to 47 of the judgment of the Lord Chief Justice).
  • All three members of the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s decision, given on 16 October 2009, that the seven paragraphs should be published. The Lord Chief Justice’s reasons are in paragraphs 48 to 56; the Master of the Rolls’ reasons are summarised in paragraphs 136 to 141, and are given in more detail in paragraphs 142 to 203, and Sir Anthony May’s reasons are in paragraphs 265 to 295.
  • In paragraphs 5, 6, and 51 the Lord Chief Justice deals with the suggestion made at the hearing that the High Court’s decision of 16 October 2009 was “irresponsible”, and the Master of the Rolls agrees with him at paragraph 205.
Full judgment
Judgment of Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge
48. In agreement with the Master of the Rolls and the President of the Queen’s Bench Division, in my judgment, this appeal should be dismissed. By way of emphasis, and so as to disclose my own approach to the problem, I shall briefly highlight what seem to me to be the most important considerations.
49. I have no difficulty in acknowledging the centrality of the control principle or confidentiality to intelligence sharing arrangements and no inclination to underestimate their importance to national security. I am therefore acutely conscious of the arguments advanced and information provided by the Foreign Secretary in the open applications for PII and indeed in the Sensitive Schedules.

50. Nothing in this judgment should be seen as devaluing the confidentiality principle, and the understanding on which intelligence information is shared between this country and the USA. It is clearly established that the publication of the redacted paragraphs will result in a review of these sharing arrangements. The review might or might not produce a change. There is a clear risk, and the Foreign Secretary believes, that any such review would culminate in new, and from the point of view of national security, disadvantageous arrangements. However that risk would be the inevitable concomitant of any occasion when the court decided to reject the claim to preserve confidentiality on public interest immunity grounds.

51. The enormous concentration on the redacted paragraphs may have led us to overlook that this litigation has endorsed the application of public interest immunity and the maintenance of confidentiality over secret information. The Divisional Court has in effect upheld and applied PII principles to a vast body of material. Set against the redacted paragraphs over which the argument has ranged for something like 18 months there is, it must be remembered, a very lengthy closed judgment, not the subject of any further litigation, produced by the Divisional Court when the first open judgment was handed down. It is clear that the crucial importance of the confidentiality principle was recognised by the Divisional Court and in overwhelmingly large measure applied by it. This litigation therefore demonstrates that the courts in the UK treat the confidentiality principle with the importance it requires, and have endorsed it in this litigation.
52. I therefore repeat that (and unless the redacted paragraphs are published, what follows depends on my assertion) publication of the redacted paragraphs would not reveal information which would be of interest to a terrorist or criminal or provide any potential material of value to a terrorist or a criminal. The redacted paragraphs do not, for example, identify methods of surveillance currently unknown to potential terrorists, or reveal the methods employed by the security and intelligence services to penetrate terrorist groups. Indeed it seems right to emphasis that the publication of the redacted paragraphs would not and could not, of itself, do the slightest damage to the public interest. Equally, again by way of repetition, it is public knowledge, and clear from the open judgments and the submissions made on behalf of the Foreign Secretary, that there is and for many years has been an intelligence sharing relationship between the UK and the USA. No one can doubt it. Certainly, no on can conceal it. Moreover a close analysis of the redacted paragraphs in the context of all the open judgments would demonstrate that in reality they do not contain anything which cannot be read or inferred from the existing open judgments. For example, paragraph 87(iv) of the first open judgment is itself revealing about the detention of Mr Mohamed and the involvement of our intelligence services with him. It records that the “details of the reports” are set out in the redacted paragraphs. It is also clear from the open judgments that these reports were received by the intelligence services while Mr Mohamed was detained in Pakistan, when he was being interviewed by US authorities.
53.Without going into this material in detail, it increasingly appears that the issue is the control principle rather than the confidentiality of any information within the redacted paragraphs themselves. In other words the appeal concerns an application for PII, not

54. If it is not, the inevitable review would presumably reflect that the Foreign Secretary had done everything he lawfully could in the UK to prevent publication, as well as the considerations which led the court, exercising its independent jurisdiction, in large measure to uphold the confidentiality principle in the context of huge quantities of “secret” evidence in the closed judgment, and only after the most remarkably patient analysis of all the relevant considerations, to reject his PII applications. Presumably, too, the review would take into account the potential disadvantages to the battle against terrorism and the security of both countries if the intelligence sharing arrangements were reduced, and address the relationships between allies in a common cause, and with a common understanding of the possibility that it remained open to a court, whether in the UK or the USA, to refuse the PII application.

55. There is no secret about the treatment to which Mr Mohamed was subjected while in the control of the US authorities. We are no longer dealing with the allegations of torture and ill-treatment: they have been established in the judgment of the court, publicly revealed by the judicial processes within the USA itself. And this serves to highlight that the redacted paragraphs represent part of the Divisional Court’s reasoning, directed not to wrongdoing by the USA authorities but involvement in that wrongdoing by our own intelligence services, and the successful argument by Mr Mohamed that he was entitled to the relief he had sought against the Foreign Secretary. In the context of intelligence sharing arrangements, the decision to disclose evidence critical of the USA authorities by a court in the USA does not reflect identical considerations to its possible disclosure by a court in the UK. Nevertheless, there is at least one common theme. The former represents the proper working of the judicial processes in the USA, and although the latter would constitute a breach of the confidentiality arrangements, the breach would be consequent on the proper working of the judicial processes in this country.
56. There is an attractive argument that Mr Mohamed has nothing further to gain from publication of the redacted paragraphs. That, however, is a consequence of his vindication through the operation of the litigation process and the prolonged delay consequent on the apparently endless arguments about the possible publication of the redacted paragraphs. The successful party is no less entitled to know the reasons for the court’s judgment than the unsuccessful parties. I have already noted the strange consequence that if the redaction is maintained, Mr Mohamed will know less about the reasons for the court’s decision than the intelligence services which, even if innocently, were involved in or facilitated the wrongdoing of which he was the victim. There is a clear interest in Mr Mohamed knowing, and the community at large also knowing, not only that his allegations were vindicated, but also the full reasons (even if not the entirety of the evidence) which led the court to its conclusion. The redacted paragraphs are integral to the reasoning that Mr Mohamed’s entitlement to relief fell within the ambit of executive involvement in wrongdoing.
57. In my view, the arguments in favour of publication of the redacted paragraphs are compelling. Inevitably if they contained genuinely secret material, the disclosure of which would of itself damage the national interest, my conclusion might be different. However dealing with this appeal as a matter of practical reality rather than abstract legal theory, unless the control principle is to be treated as if it were absolute, it is hard to conceive of a clearer case for its disapplication than a judgment in which its application would partially conceal the full reasons why the court concluded that those for whom the executive in this country is ultimately responsible were involved in or facilitated wrongdoing in the context of the abhorrent practice of torture. Such a case engages concepts of democratic accountability and, ultimately, the rule of law itself.
58. This appeal should be dismissed.
***
This appeal reflects very badly on Mr Miliband.
It is interesting to note that the Lord Chief Justice specifically noted Mr Sumption’s suggestions that the courts had been ‘irresponsible’.
The appeal was advanced by Mr Jonathan Sumption QC on the basis that the Divisional Court’s decision was in many respects “unnecessary and profoundly damaging to the interests of this country”, and indeed that part of the reasoning of the Divisional Court was “irresponsible”.
6.Like any other litigant, but no more than any other litigant, the Foreign Secretary, through counsel instructed on his behalf, was and remains entitled to advance robust submissions before this court, critical of the decision. The question for us is whether this appeal should be allowed. No advantage is achieved by bandying deprecatory epithets. Nevertheless at the very outset I shall record that even a cursory examination of the history of this litigation demonstrates the painstaking care with which the Divisional Court addressed the public interest arguments advanced by the Foreign Secretary. The approach of the Divisional Court to the questions requiring its decision represented an exemplary model of judicial patience. Even if at the end of the argument I had disagreed with the Divisional Court there can be no doubt that its judicial responsibilities were discharged with scrupulous regard to the many difficult questions to which the litigation gave rise and with a clear understanding of the potential significance of an order that the redacted paragraphs should be published.
The Courts have dealt a very stringent reminder to government that they must act within the law – that could not be more clear.  The judgment of Lord Neuberger reveals shocking torture.
The Guardian notes: “In the high court last year, Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones ruled that it was clear from the evidence “that the relationship of the United Kingdom government to the United States authorities in connection with Binyam Mohamed was far beyond that of a bystander or witness to the alleged wrongdoing”.”

Law Review: Lord Ashcroft’s tax, Lord Chief Justices speak out, ASBO for dressing as schoolgirl and more women judges are beeing appointed.

It would seem that the Tories are not entirely sure about the tax paying status of their Deputy Chairman, Lord Ashcroft.

Senior Tory clears up Lord Ashcroft tax mystery … or does he?

The Guardian reports: “A senior source said Sir George Young had ‘mis-spoken’ when he told the BBC that Ashcroft was a ‘non-dom’.  Today the party was forced to row back from what appeared to be the first admission by a senior Tory that Ashcroft was avoiding paying full British taxes. A senior source said Sir George Young had “mis-spoken” when he told the BBC that Ashcroft was a “non-dom” – ­allowing him to avoid paying British tax on ­overseas income and assets. The admission ­provoked immediate ­accusations that David Cameron, the Tory leader, was making a mockery of his claims to be a reformer and forced the party to say that the peer’s tax affairs were a private ­matter – a day after Cameron had insisted this approach was out of date.”

The words ‘piss up in a brewery’ come to mind.

Not being an employee of any kind, let alone a secret agent working for MI6, I can only assume that we have had to obtain information in the past of value to our national interest by paying informers. This seems a perfectly reasonable and sensible thing to do if it could prevent terrorist attacks or save lives in a military situation.  We have to distinguish it from the type of business best practice engaged in by organisations like BAe for example – who got hit with a massive ‘fine’ the other day.

The Telegraph reports: “Members of the security services and armed forces have offered such bribes on “hundreds of thousands” of occasions, peers were told. The House of Lords voted to amend the Bribery Bill currently passing through Parliament – to insist that ministers “pre-authorise” bribery by members of the intelligence and security services.

Lord Woolf, a former,. distinguished,  Lord Chief Justice said: “It is a very significant power to give to give to the security services and the other services……If it [pre-authorisation] is practical in terms of telephone tapping or in relation to searching of premises, why can something not be done also in these cases?”

He added: “It is a very corrosive exercise to resort to bribery and, if bribery is going to be resorted to, it does need care and protection of the sort that I have indicated.”

It would appear that HM Government is none too happy with this ‘intervention’. The government seems to be getting a fair bit of ‘intervening’.  Only this week the government has had to rush through legislation to allow them to block terrorist assets after being told that their previous actions were ‘illegal’.

Labour broke privacy rules with phone campaign

The Independent reports: “Labour breached privacy rules by making unsolicited automated phone calls to almost half a million people without their consent, the Information Commissioner’s Office ruled today.The calls, featuring a recorded message from Coronation Street actress Liz Dawn, were targeted at around 495,000 people in areas with strong Labour support to encourage them to turn out to vote in the local and European elections last June.

In a wonderful piece of understatement… Deputy Information Commissioner David Smith said calls of this type can cause “annoyance and disruption” to those receiving them.

Iraq war was illegal, says former lord chief justice

The Guardian reports: “But, says Lord Bingham, any legal redress is unlikely”

Lord Bingham is, without doubt, one of the leading legal figures in the last 100 years – and this interview with Stephen Moss of The Guardian is well worth a read.  I quote a short piece from the interview…

“It is not at all clear to me what, if any, legal justification of its action the US government relied on . . . If I am right and the invasion of Iraq . . . was unauthorised by the security council, there was a serious violation of international law and the rule of law . . . It is, as has been said, ‘the difference ­between the role of world policeman and world vigilante.’ ”

“I took the view which Michael Wood and Elizabeth Wilmshurst [legal advisers to the Foreign Office in 2003] took – that it simply wasn’t authorised,” he tells me. “The whole of the Foreign Office thought this.” Did he express that view to the government at the time, in his position as senior law lord? “No, it would have been quite improper for me to do that. I wouldn’t have dreamed of making this statement at a time when I could still have found myself in a position to rule on this question judicially, which seemed a possibility.”

The Sun continues with in-depth political analysis to persuade their readership tto the Tory cause with this investigative piece…

FEMINIST Labour MP Harriet Harman is in line for the annual Rear of the Year award.

The 59-year-old Deputy Leader could become the unlikely favourite for the honour after being earmarked alongside glamour girls as well as stars of soap and reality TV.

They say that Harriet Harperson is taking a long view and plans to become the next leader of the Labour Party.  She also plans to remove the word ‘Chairman’ from parliamentary language.  It is always pleasing to see senior government figures focusing on the important issues of the day.

The law has many facts, twists and turns.  The Telegraph reported yesterday…

Law Review: Criminals in uniform and Cameron’s latest stunt to let people govern by petition while pissed up on a Friday night.

After years of difficulties with Dizaei, he was finally ‘nailed and jailed’ yesterday for abusing his police powers. Described by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson as a ‘criminal in uniform’ The Sun comforts us all be reporting the words of Mark Leech, the editor of prisoner’s magazine Converse, “”Dizaei has finally been nailed and jailed. His sentence is destined to be slow, long and dangerous.”

The Sun reports: ” During Iranian-born Dizaei’s 24-year police career – 12 of them at the Met – he had wriggled out of one damning allegation after another. For 13 months Scotland Yard even secretly assigned more than 100 officers to investigate fears he was taking backhanders for visas, visiting call girls and abusing drugs. Last night a senior officer said of him ending up in jail: “The champagne is out but it’s a bittersweet feeling because of the disgrace he has brought on the service.”

Just what Australia needs…another bloody law firm?

These are not my words, but the view of an Australian friend of mine who is a lawyer in Australia. Whether Australia needs another law firm or not, they have one. Allen & Overy today announces the launch of our Australian practice with the appointment of 17 new partners, 14 based in Sydney and three in Perth, significantly bolstering our capabilities in the Asia-Pacific region. Commenting, Allen & Overy senior partner David Morley said: “Our decision to launch in Australia underlines the increasing importance of Australia in the global and Asia-Pacific economies. We see significant opportunities for high-end, cross-border M&A and finance work in the private and public sectors, particularly in the energy, mining and natural resources sectors.”

Fresh from pronouncing on parliamentary privilege (a rather pointless exercise – see below) David Cameron has come up with a ripper of an idea to harness the involvement of the ravening horde. His new plan is to give power back to the people.  100,000 signatures on a petition will guarantee a debate in parliament.  Get a million signatures on the petition and MPs will have to vote on the legislation you put forward.  Govern from your back bedroom!   This sounds like a good idea – but it could rebound on him.  I would imagine there are at at least 100,000 mischief makers out there on twitter, blogging, active in local politics or just pissed up on a Friday night who would like nothing better than to see MPs debating their ’causes’.

The Independent reports: “Campaigners who want to reintroduce hanging, oppose higher taxes for motorists, pull out of the EU, or any of the other causes overlooked by politicians have been promised by David Cameron that they can have their day in Parliament. Under a Conservative government, 100,000 signatures on a petition will be enough to guarantee a debate in the House of Commons. A million signatures will give the organisers the right to put legislation in front of the Commons which MPs will have to vote on.”

As the Independent notes: “This opens the near-certain prospect that if the Tories win the election, MPs will have to debate a Bill on whether to pull out of the EU. Nigel Farage, the former Ukip leader, said: “We welcome this proposal, and if he stands by this, and a million signatures is what is required, we’ll get the financial backing to organise a petition – no trouble.”


Another good idea from the Laurel & Hardy Policy Institute?  I do enjoy the ‘law of unintended consequences’.  Cameron refused to have a referendum on Europe – back tracking on earlier policy statements.  Now he comes up with a stunt to get people involved in governing our country through petitions.  I suspect that UKIP will have absolutely no difficulty in getting a million signatures, framing legislation to take Britain out of Europe and then finding mischief makers on the Tory back bench to support the legislation.

Yesterday David Cameron, looking extremely concerned and grave, put forward proposals to ensure that no MP would be able to hide behind parliamentary privilege for criminal acts. Constitutional lawyers of my acquaintance tell me that he need not have bothered – the law is fairly straightforward, they say.  Cameron seems to read different law books from the rest of us.  His last ‘policy pronouncement’ on ‘self-defence’ was almost high comedy.

Matthew Taylor of the MTPT has an interesting and well drafted analysis of parliamentary privilege. If you don’t already know the law on this and have a passing interest in seeing what our law actually is or may be – then Matthew Taylor’s piece is worth a read. It won’t, of course, be of any interest or appeal  to the horde of ‘party whore’ bloggers and twitterers who toe the party line – of whatever party – no matter how absurd their stance may be. ‘Denialism’ in modern politics is endemic. Fortunately, there are some excellent political bloggers who are critical and objective about the party they support!  Guido Fawkes and his blogroll is a good place to start if you get into reading political bloggers in the coming months! You could also try some of the bloggers on my Netvibes page – but I do have to update it.

Law Review: The Grievemeister of Spin, glass ceiling yet again, hidden daggers and a trip to the law blogs

Fresh from supporting the ‘Kill a burglar’ wheeze conjured up by Chris Grayling and David Cameron last week –    Dominic Grieve, Shadow Overlord on Everything to do with Law, has a new plan to grab votes from  the outraged classes of Britain who want prisons to be stripped of swimming pools, televisions, soft beds blah blah blah.

The latest plan, reported this morning in The Times – Every defendant convicted in a criminal court would have to pay a levy of £200.  On the face of it, this seems a vaguely sane and sensible idea to contribute to the costs of bringing criminals to justice. But then there is the problem of scale.  What if the offence was trifling or minor compared to say a Great Train Robbery or complex fraud case? Would it include motoring offences?  (No, says Grieve) What about defendants of very different means?

On closer inspection – The Times reports: “It would only apply where defendants were granted legal aid, which would mean more serious cases that carry a risk of a serious penalty.”

This is ripping stuff – obviously thought through very carefully by a team of the Tory party’s best minds.

The Times notes: “The Legal Services Commission was criticised last week by the Commons Public Accounts Committee as “not fit for purpose”. Mr Grieve said: “The evidence suggests it is not producing value for money and so will be part of our quango review.” He is looking at a scheme to reap some of the interest earned on clients’ money held by solicitors in their firms’ accounts: in France, this brings in about £300 million.”

Grieve is certainly on the money with the Legal Services Commission  being ‘not fit for purpose’ BUT the plan to claim some of the ‘interest’ on moneys held in solicitor client accounts?  Forgive me if I am completely out of touch with modern taxation legislation – but isn’t this already covered in the tax return? I can’t believe that the Treasury has missed a wheeze,  where to avoid any form of taxation on interest –  one simply hands it to a solicitor to hold in their bank account?

These ideas are not that important of course. They will be quietly shelved at a later date.  It is all in the spin… the headlines… to grab the attention of voters who ‘know what they like and don’t like’ . The headlines will allow the ravening horde with their flaming torches  to purr with pleasure at the thought that the Tories are going to stem the tide of leniency and ‘criminal oriented’ concern in the Nu-Labour justice system.

Meanwhile, professionals who actually work in the field (and who know what they are talking about)  and who are responsible for prosecuting, defending and judging are worried that our criminal justice system is failing because there is not enough money to run it.

Bar Council to launch legal action against MoJ

The Law Society Gazette reports: The Bar Council and the Criminal Bar Association are set to take the government to court for the first time in 20 years over what they claim are ‘inadequate and unfair’ consultations on new fees for criminal legal aid work. They have instructed solicitors to take the first step towards a judicial review of the consultations published respectively by the Ministry of Justice and the Legal Services Commission on advocates’ graduated fees and very high cost (criminal) cases. The bar’s principal basis for the claim is that the consultation exercise is ‘inadequate and unfair’. In a press release issued today the Bar Council said its decision to proceed had ‘not been taken lightly’ and it had been more than 20 years since it last instituted proceedings against the government.”

Junior Criminal Bar under threat from botched Legal Aid Reforms warns Commons Committee

The Bar Council warned:

“The influential House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has today published a damning report on the Legal Services Commission’s handling of legal aid reform.

The report on criminal legal aid procurement also warns that the increased use of solicitors to conduct work in the Crown Court is threatening the long-term future of the junior criminal Bar and may be affecting the quality of advocacy provided in those courts.

Welcome to Britain for the next binge session on Olympic sport when London hosts the Olympics. If you were worried that the government, the police and others responsible for our security were falling behind in their disregard of the human rights provisions of Europe… fear not.

Unlawful anti-terror powers planned for use during 2012 Olympics

The Times has the story: “Police are planning to use an anti-terror law deemed unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights across the country during the London Olympics, The Times has learnt.

Senior officers are considering using Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 at every Underground and railway station nationwide. Privacy campaigners criticised the proposal yesterday. The powers would enable police to stop and search members of the public without any suspicion that they were involved in terrorism.

The Times understands that this would be the first time that the powers would have been used across such a wide area. Police said that Section 44, which must be granted by the Home Secretary for a designated area, would be used only in the event of an escalated terror threat. Officers are being trained to use behavioural profiling to spot suspicious characters during stop- and-search operations.”

An imagined exchange between PC Eagerplod and a member of the public: ‘Ello, ‘ello, ‘ello…what have we here then… a pole vault pole?  Why would you want a pole vault pole?  This could be used to pole vault over the fence at Downing Street and then be used as an offensive weapon to harm the prime minister, Sir.  I’m afraid we are going to have to arrest you.  What…?! you will be late for your event?  Pull the other one son… “

Sikh judge Sir Mota Singh criticises banning of Kirpan

The BBC reports: Sikhs should be allowed to wear their ceremonial daggers – known as Kirpans – to school and other public places, Britain’s first Asian judge has said. There have been a number of cases of Sikhs being refused entry to venues because they wear the Kirpan or other religious artefacts. Sir Mota Singh QC has now criticised schools, in particular, over the issue. “Not allowing someone who is baptised to wear a Kirpan is not right,” Sir Mota told BBC Asian Network.

While I understand that sensitivity has to be shown towards those who have faith and believe in a god – there are, obviously, concerns that people are wandering about with daggers under their clothing and, presumably, it would not be that difficult for a terrorist to assume the disguise of a Sikh?

MPs’ expenses: David Cameron will bring in law to stop privilege defence to expenses crimes

David Cameron has many poses – the “Thinking Voter’s Thinking Statesman” look above may not reflect the reality judging by some of his recent utterances.

The latest thought to cross his PR infused mind involves the MP expenses issue and, in particular, the outrageous suggestion that a lawyer may wish to advance legal argument to assist a client in a criminal prosecution.  The legal argument which may well be run up the flagpole – given that the DPP has been on National TV to tell the public that some  MP’s are for the chop and will be prosecuted – involves the possible use of parliamentary privilege to protect the MPs from prosecution.  I am no constitutional law expert but it seems to me to be a stretch of legal interpretation to allow a law designed to protect MPs from legal action for what they say in parliament to be used to protect them from criminal activity connected with claiming expenses. The DPP is certainly happy to see this tested in court.

The Telegraph reports: “Yesterday, Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, added his weight to the calls for the three not to be able to use parliamentary privilege as a defence. He said: “The whole point about this, this dreadful, dreadful, damaging year that we have had here, is that people want to see MPs treated in the same way as they would be treated had they broken the law.

“A few, a very few, have been thought to have broken the law. That is the accusation. They are entitled to a fair trial. I think the public would be aghast if they thought there was some special get out of jail card for parliamentarians.” He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “I do not believe that the Bill of Rights was meant to deal with this kind of issue.”

it is clear from the Telegraph report that politicans are falling over themselves to appeal to voters by decrying the use of parliamentary privilege to protect the MPs being prosecuted.  Gordon Brown has said that the government will legislate if needs be. Perhaps the Attorney-general could be asked for a ‘Better view’ on this vexed issue?

I suspect this will be a lot of hot air… plus ca change. Cameron will, of course, have to wait until he is in power to bring in ‘Cameron’s Laws of Parliamentary Privilege’.  He may find that Gordon Brown beats him to it – simply because Brown is currently in power.  Ludicrous posturing.

You are a lawyer, a woman and have a family — and the big firms

Another article on the glass ceiling with all the usual cliches run up the flagpole.  60 per cent of the intake to the profession are women, yet very few women make it to the top. The reason for this is probably biological in terms of babies and connected with the phenomenon known as wanting to develop some form of a life rather than being involved in the moneymill down at Mammon City. Law firms will have to change their practices if they wish to retain bright female staff.  As the number of women going into the profession as a percentage of intake increases, I suppose it is possible we could get to a wonderfully surreal position where we have absolutely no lawyers in magic circle / City firms older than 30 (because all lawyers are women) and they wither away. This is unlikely.

The Times notes: “The head of a top City firm said that he had begged many of its brightest young women lawyers to stay in it, but once they wished to start a family they would put up with work travel and clients’ late-night calls no longer. “Magic circle” firms know that in seeking continuity of talent, they are running out of time.

The article is here if you want to read it. Yawn…..  wake me when the magic circle etc firms finally wake up and change their working practices.

Thousands to lose jobs as universities prepare to cope with cuts

• Post-graduates to replace professors
• Staff poised to strike over proposals of cuts

Guardian

I shall return to this issue in a later post.  Having spent 30 years in legal education, I am fairly sure that department budgets won’t be cut that much for the very simple reason that law courses are ‘cash cows’ for Vice-Chancellors.  What is more likely to happen is that money generated by law departments will be channelled into other less profitable courses – to the detriment of law programmes?  This will be a juggling act.  Killing golden geese is not a great idea.

A quick look at the law blogs…

Professor John Flood RATS: Tesco Law in a Wig and Gown

“Are solicitors endangered? James Dunning has an insightful post on this at his blog, An Inside Take from the Outside.”

Jack of Kent: Of Political Bloggers and Science Bloggers

“The blogger Anna Raccoon makes some excellent points about the impact of political blogging on scientific questions here (even if her actual views on those scientific questions are misconceived).”

“Who’d have thought the Daily Mail harbours better journalists than the Daily Mirror? Last week the Mirror couldn’t wait to tell us about their “discovery” that Adeela Shafi, Tory PPC for Bristol East, had incurred several CCJs since 2007. So hasty were they that they apparently forgot the minor detail of reporting the story – as opposed to merely relating public facts – leaving their readers to wonder what the story was.”

Geeklawyer : Busy

“Geeklawyer is not dead. But he is in a very large & com­plex case and so is unable to spare the time to blog. How­ever the mer­ci­ful release of clos­ing sub­mis­sions will soon be in sight where­after the whor­ing and drink­ing shall recommence.”

And finally…. over to The White Rabbit to raise the tone…

I can’t help posting this…

“This (nicked from Blue Heron Blast) is a restroom – don’t the Americans have the coyest euphemisms! – in New York. Any suggestion that this blog has degenerated into cheap smut of late is to be deprecated…..”


Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Thames, Battersea, London

Dear Reader,

I write from The Staterooms-on-Thames, Battersea – a curious place overlooking Chelsea Marina and close to Battersea Bridge. I can’t quite see the boat I used to live on at Cheyne Walk beside Battersea Bridge.  It is a short walk to World’s End, Chelsea for coffee, breakfast and a read of the papers.  I plan to live here for a year and then… who knows?

I’ve brought some of my paintings and some furniture with me and  I thought I would take a few pics on my mobile to show the main room where I drink and work – sometimes at the same time. (Dotted about the post)

I have my small computer table set up in an alcove overlooking the river. It is north facing so there is no direct sunlight coming in to interfere with the laptop screen.

The main room is probably three times thee size of the main room in the apartment I had at Chatham Maritime on The Medway. There is, unfortunately, no balcony.  I have to do my Smokedo exercises inside.  This is not a problem.  There are many gulls, ducks, cormorants.  The sound of helicopters going to the heliport is fairly regular but by no means intrusive.  There is almost always something going by on the Thames – yesterday kayaks and an eights boat full of earnest rowers being shouted at by a guy in a motorboat has just gone by.

Britain may have to brace itself for another snow cold snap. The eastern seaboard of the US is enduring what Obama called Snowmaggedon.  Our BBC and Sky news reporters often look ridiculous when they report floods while standing in puddles of water or snow while demonstrating just how slippery it is – but they are nothing on this guy from the States.  He loses the plot completely – well worth a watch. [Hat Tip to fellow twitter user @stokenewington

John Terry’s ‘£750,000’ legal gag

The Times has weighed in with a tasteful piece suggesting that the exact sum is disputed: friends of Perroncel say it was £750,000 while friends of Terry claim the sum was £400,000. Private Eye has a rather more sardonic view saying that Schilling’s, who represent the great, the good and the (obviously) not so good who want to keep their deeds hidden from prying eyes.

Private Eye notes that Schillings describe themselves as..

The leading law firm protecting the reputations of high-profile individuals, corporates and brands.

“Schillings is one of Britain’s top law firms dedicated to safeguarding the reputations of international corporations, brands, celebrities and high-profile business people. The firm’s track-record in defamation, privacy and copyright cases is second to none.”  [This is from the Schillings website] As Private Eye pointed out – and I checked today – the Schillings private client news section on the front page trumpets success – but I could find no mention of the Terry superinjunction which was lifted by Tugendhat J last week.

A quick look at Wikipedia reveals that Battersea is…

Historically a part of Surrey, the area takes its name from the old village of Battersea, an island settlement established in the river delta of the Falconbrook; a river that rises in Tooting Bec Common and flows underground through south London to the River Thames.[3] The site of the original settlement is marked by St. Mary’s Church. William Blake was married, and Benedict Arnold and his wife and daughter are buried in the crypt of the church. Battersea is mentioned in Anglo-Saxon time as Badrices īeg = “Badric’s Island” and later “Patrisey”. As with many former Thames island settlements, Battersea was reclaimed by draining marshland and building culverts for streams.

The settlement appears in the Domesday Book as Patricesy. It was held by St Peter’s Abbey, Westminster. Its Domesday Assets were: 18 hides; 7 mills worth £42 9s 8d, 17 ploughs, 82 acres (330,000 m2) of meadow, woodland worth 50 hogs. It rendered (in total): £75 9s 8d.[4]

Here is a picture of Battersea Square…. lively in summer. It was rather quiet as I sat at Muzar drinking coffee and smoking cigs while reading the News of The Screws.  I read The Observer later… when the mind is clear!

World’s End, Chelsea and the King’s Road is but a 10 minute walk away – a part of London I have enjoyed for 30 odd years.

Finally… a pic of the view from Battersea towards Cheyne Walk, Chelsea and the boats where I lived for a while in the second half of 2008.

Have a good week… back with some law / politics stuff ;later

Best, as always

Charon

Clerics call to bring god back into government!

A senior Church of England bishop has condemned the Labour Government for forcing God out of politics.

Times: The Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright, the fourth-most-senior in the church hierarchy, warned that the British public had been left to “lurch in a sea of amoralism”. The Prime Minister had become akin to an “absolute monarch” with little or no accountability, he added.

While I tend to favour reading the tabloids first on a Saturday (I do like to keep up with the tabloids and their pre-occupations) I woke this morning, after an amusing night, at 6.00 am to read an article in The Times about Labour erasing god from politics and thought that this was probably the best news about Labour I had heard in months.

The Times reported: “In an interview with The Times, Dr Wright, a leading evangelical, echoed the remarks of the Prince of Wales this week and criticised the “myth” of the Enlightenment.”

I tend to agree with the commenters on  the Times story that (a) there is about as much point in arguing about religion with someone who has firm religious beliefs as arguing with a drunk and (b) It is a bizarre experience arguing rationally  about religion with someone whose most firm belief is unfounded or ‘unproven’.

Years ago, I spent a surreal evening with a cousin of mine who went to Canada at the age of 13 after his father died.  I met him again some 25+ years later when he returned to Britain for a visit.  He had found a god somewhere in the Canadian countryside (Vancouver area) and told me quite firmly that the earth was only 4500 years old.  He countered my introduction of geological and biological scientific research which  indicated that the earth was very much older by telling me, with equal solemnity, that God put the dinosaur skeletons in the ground 4500 years before. He offered no answer as to why God would do such a thing. He just beamed at me in what I presume he took to be a saintly manner.  My then wife, a lovely, patient and kind woman, rolled her eyes as I reached for the wine and became even more skeptical.

It was impossible to shake him from his beliefs. I then found myself in the position of Basil Fawlty telling everyone at the hotel ‘not to mention the war’ when a group of Germans were staying there  and I developed a specialised form of ‘religious tourettes’. Pretty well every third sentence involved ‘For Christ’s sake’…. ‘Jesus!’… ‘Christ on a bicycle’ or some variant on the phrase when my cousin ‘revealed’ some more truths from his biblical researches.

I met my cousin (who was kind enough to send me some polemic about ‘the burning bush’ when he returned to Canada after this first meeting) – ten years later. He seemed to have been cured, had given up religion and was drinking in the finest traditions of our mutual ancestors.  This time his behaviour was more surreal.  He asked me if I would like a stuffed brown bear.  I was, I admit, pissed and said ‘Why not?  I had a leopard skin rug in my office which some fool had shot in 1921 (I brought it from an antiques auction when over refreshed one Saturday afternoon).  I thought no more of the offer of a brown bear until, six weeks later, DHL arrived with a very large box.  Inside was a a HUGE brown bearskin, compete with head.  My cousin had reported the bear to the Police.  Apparently the bear was being over enthusiastic about coming onto his ranch where he ran outward bound courses for kids. The Police shot the bear.  My cousin had stuffed it.  His wife was not enthusiastic about having a dead bear lying around.Hence… the bear was sent to me.

So I now had a dead leopard and a HUGE brown bear on the floor of my office. Six weeks after the arrival of the bear,  I had the bizarre and mildly eccentric experience of helping the former Director of Kew Gardens who ran a fascinating botanical magazine.  He wanted a website.  I said that I would be happy to assist as my then multi-media production team were very experienced website developers.  He talked to me earnestly about how important conservation was, mentioned CITES, and said that people needed to learn  how to co-exist with animals and plants.  I looked at the dead leopard and the HUGE brown bear but feet away – and even I had the grace to feel slightly ‘guilty’.

***

I always enjoy (and appreciate) when readers take the time to comment on posts.  I have set down an interesting comment from Marty – and my reply. It is a Saturday, of course – and I have spent a most amusing afternoon near Chelsea walking ‘on’ The Thames outside Lambeth Palace to wind up the inhabitants thereof.

Marty

Comparing Bishop Tom Wright to some religious fellow who has crazy ideas about the earth being 4500 years old really isn’t that helpful in discussing these things. Every group has their lunatic fringe, and to judge a group by it is neither fair nor useful. We don’t want to judge all Atheists by the mass killings of Stalin or Mao do we?

Moreover, to say that Tom Wright builds his worldview on the unproven assumption of God is to show that you may well need freeing from your own Enlightenment straitjacket. I recommend you read Tim Keller’s “The Reason for God” as well as Bishop Wright’s own “Simply Christian” to see what thinking Christians are on about.

And ObiterJ is right, Bishop Tom does have two good points.

Charon response:

Marty

Thank you for your observations.

I do not recall making a comparison between my cousin and the Bishop. I merely reported on two separate episodes. You chose to make the conjunctive construction.

If you were a regular reader of my blog – you would have been aware that while I am an atheist, I am more than content for people to believe in whatever they wish to believe in, dress as they choose and do as they please subject to the laws of our nations – by which I mean the man made laws, not those of some deity who passes his wish through some power crazed nutter in a pointed hat who wants to rule over people. History reveals many illustrations of nutters in pointed hats doing just that.

Your suggestion that I ‘need’ freeing from ‘(my) own enlightenment straightjacket’ is, of course, a perfect example of why I have absolutely no interest in religion – for the ingrained habits of many who follow religion is that they cannot tolerate that others do not agree with them and therefore ‘prescribe’ some remedy for ‘our’ ills. Reading suggestions are always welcome in a civilised society – attaching them to some remedy to prescribe a cure for my failings, is not so! You will recall that I do not advise people to become atheists. I merely comment on such matters.

I am sure that your recommendations  were well intentioned, so please do not take this is as a personal criticism. If you wish to amend the indictment to include further counts of heresy and apostasy on my part – please feel free. I shall, as the MPs said yesterday when the DPP told them about their charges… defend my position vigorously’. :-)

Obiter J is perfectly right as to Count 1 of my burning at the stake indictment… we have lost an element of our human dignity and ethical behaviour. I prefer the state not to interfere, save (taking an old fashioned Benthamite stance) where the acts of people cause more harm to others than pleasure to themselves. This used to be called a ‘felicific calculus’. I suspect this is where Tony Blair got the word calculus from for his recent performance of ‘King Lear / Othello / Caligula / MacBeth’ at the Iraq Inquiry.

As to count 2 – ‘absolute monarch’: I could not agree more. We need to ensure that our system of government returns to Cabinet Government – the halcyon days (if they ever existed) where the prime minister is primus inter pares. It would be helpful, given that we are paying for them, to give the MPs more power and, certainly, I would welcome a change in the law to ensure that this country cannot go to to war on the decision or whim of one person – the prime minister. Parliament should decide such a matter. (If there was a danger of a 45 second or minute weapons / missile strike – we could have a provision allowing the prime minister to make a quick decision?)

Fortunately, I have studied a fair bit of history. I am, therefore, aware of the many shortcomings of the Church in History. I have read of the naivety of Catholic and Muslim in the holy wars, the brutality of ‘religious men and women’ over the years, the caring way priests buggered young children in their care, the power, greed, corruption and control over peoples by Popes, Bishops et al in the name of ‘God’. It continues to this day, mainly, it has to be said through the power of the Pope – contraception, AIDS in Africa being but two examples of papal bull and as for this arrant nonsense on homosexuality – what a marvellous example of how to behave in a free and tolerant society. Church pronouncements in some areas are a disgrace and remain rooted in the bigotry and superstition of the past . In the Islamic world today it would be not unfair to suggest that the interpretation of Sharia laws can be most convenient to the rulers of some states as a means of controlling large numbers of relatively poor people.

Atheists do not suggest that brutality in man is born of a belief in god. Golding in his book Lord of The Flies reveals many failings in the condition of man and the propensity to fetishise, totemise and ritualise.

So – to sum up: I am delighted for those who choose to believe in whatever they believe in to continue to do so. I have no interest, personally, in believing in god and I certainly do not think that the men and women of god can claim any exclusivity over the principles of decent behaviour.

As they say on Dragon’s Den… I am not going to invest in you, God. I’m OUT.

Rive Gauche: MPs to be prosecuted edition

While Guido Fawkes reported this morning that 52% of MPs have been ‘found guilty’ of ‘looting’ in the parliamentary expenses fiasco – the Director of Public prosceutions has decided to charge 3 MPs and a peer.  A sixth peer is under further investigation.

The BBC reports: ” MPs Elliot Morley, Jim Devine, David Chaytor and Lord Hanningfield will be charged under the Theft Act. All four have said they denied any charges and would defend their positions robustly. Revelations about MPs expenses emerged in May last year with the police going on to investigate a handful of cases. Mr Starmer said there was “insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of a conviction” in the case of Labour peer Lord Clarke but said a sixth case remains under police investigation.”

This is a truly astonishing state of affairs.  Lawyers are suggesting that parliamentary privilege may be pleaded by the four charged. The DPP says that he has considered that possibility and is prepared to see it gtested in court.  It would, of course, be an even greater embarrassment for Parliament if parliamentary privilege could be successfully pleaded in a situation where MPs are carrying out activities completely unconnected with their works as MPs.

It is important to note that there is a big difference between claiming expenses for expenses incurred ‘within the rules’ – even though these have no been found to be excessive or not within the rules and claiming expenses but not incurring the expense.  The latter is clearly within the definition of the Theft Act. The BBC reports that…“All four Parliamentarians will face charges of false accounting made under section 17 of the Theft Act 1968.”

Breaking News: Mr. Brown expressed outrage today at the revelation that four MPs will face criminal charges over their expenses claims, saying he was “very angry about what’s happened.”

“These are very serious allegations,” he said.

“That’s why I have put forward proposals to reform not just the expenses system but the way that parliament works,” he added.

Gordon Brown has repaid £12,888.03 for overclaiming on cleaning and other expenses. BBC

Tom Harris MP (who is not on the Legg list) writes…

OKAY, I admit it – I’ve been itching to use that headline for months.

Former judge hits out at ‘damaging’ penalties as he grants MPs’ expenses appeals

Sir Paul Kennedy rejects some or all of Sir Thomas Legg’s demands for repayments in 44 cases, reducing repayment bill by £180,000.

The Guardian reports:

Sir Paul Kennedy, the former judge ­dealing with MPs’ appeals against demands for repayments after the expenses ­scandal, was deeply critical of the ­”damaging and unfair” penalties today as he granted the majority of the 75 appeals.

Kennedy, appointed by the Commons members estimate committee, rejected some or all of Sir Thomas Legg’s demands for repayments in 44 cases, reducing the repayment bill by £180,000. He was “particularly troubled”, he said, by the suggestion that claims by MPs who had not broken the rules of the time should be described as “tainted” or having “breached the requirements of propriety”.

BPP in the news
I have been advised by the Bar Standards Board that the report into the oversubscription by BPP Law School on the BVC course will be published in the course of the next week or so.  I will cover this fully when the time comes.

RollonFriday reports this morning: “BPP has welcomed its future LPC students with customary efficiency by addressing their acceptance emails to the wrong people. Students complained after the college sent out emails using the wrong Christian names and even, in some cases, got the wrong gender. This sort of thing doesn’t go down well with students who have just signed away £12,500 (the equivalent of over 3,000 doner kebabs or almost 5,000 pints of lager).”

RollonFriday is definitely hitting the high notes this week with this wonderful story…

Barrister’s dog obtains an MBA – and other animal stories: “The judgment in the long running Sky -v- EDS case was handed down this week, to the delight of Herbert Smith and its clients BSkyB. And while the commercial and legal ramifications of the £200m award will run for years, astute legal commentators were drawn immediately to the pivotal issue of the dog with the MBA.

During the proceedings, it was alleged that a managing director at EDS had a dodgy MBA, apparently from a college in the British Virgin Islands, but actually obtained through the internet. The point was ably demonstrated by Mark Howard QC who obtained a similar degree from the same college for his pet dog Lulu. As Mr Justice Ramsey noted: “Without any difficulty the dog was able to obtain a degree certificate and transcripts which were in identical form to those later produced by Joe Galloway – but with marks which, in fact, were better than those given to him“. Well what would you expect from the pet of Her Majesty’s Counsel?

More later today…

Law Review: Skulduggery at the Supreme Court?…already?

In jealousy there is more self-love than love.  ~François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Maxims, 1665

Frances Gibb, writing in The Times today, has a remarkable story about intrigue, jealousy, rejection, skulduggery and mysterious goings on in the shadows of the establishment. Frances Gibb was not writing about some new docudrama about lawyers – she relates the extraordinary story of the selection of the 12th Justice of the Supreme Court and details Jonathan Sumption QC’s  rejection as the 12th Justice.

It is an astonishing story – and her article is worth reading in full. Briefly, by tradition the law lords have been appointed from the ranks of the senior judiciary.  The establishment of the Supreme Court changed the law and provided for a wider range of applicants, allowing academics and practising lawyers to apply.

Gibb notes The panel was chaired by Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, and included Lord Hoffmann, and representatives from the Judicial Appointments Commissions (of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland). Sumption and two others, Sir Anthony Clarke, Master of the Rolls, and Lord Justice Collins, were interviewed for the two two posts. A third, vacated by Lord Justice Kerr, had by tradition to be filled with another Northern Irish judge. Sumption was privately informed in early February 2009 that Clarke and Collins would be appointed, But, he was assured, it was expected that Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, a law lord, would take the position vacated by Clarke as Master of the Rolls — and he, Sumption, would then be appointed to fill Lord Neuberger’s post. Straw was informed and agreed.”

The judges of the Court of Appeal started chucking metaphorical buns around, objecting that Sumption, who had little experience of ‘judging’ had been able to continue earnings five (possibly more) times their earnings as judges and should not be allowed to ‘leapfrog’ into the new Supreme Court over their heads. Out of the shadows stepped.

Frances Gibb notes…”The upshot was a compromise: when Lord Neuberger was announced as Master of the Rolls (July 2009) there would be a fresh appointments round, with the same panel but open also to new candidates. Privately, Sumption was told that this second round was not expected to make any difference.”

Lord Mance, who just happens to be husband to Dame Mary Arden, herself a candidate for appointment to the Supreme Court, stepped out of the shadows wielding the metaphorical dagger… “he approached Jack Straw to say that the whole process of Lord Phillips’s five-strong appointments panel could be illegal. What had happened was that, ahead of the October 1 reforms.”

Straw, not keen to be involved in the appointments bunfight… did a runner.  There was even talk of whether Lord Clarke’s appointment was legal, being ahead of the October 1 reforms.  It was fine… he had already sat with the law lords – which, as a peer, he was entitled to do.  (Did he do that deliberately to ensure legality?  We are not told)

“The post was re-advertised last autumn and this time there were only six Court of Appeal candidates. They were to be notified if required for interview by December 7. This time Sumption heard nothing. Anxious about how long his diary had been empty because of the possible appointment, he made his own inquiries. A call to Lord Phillips confirmed that he had not been selected. His chambers announced his withdrawal soon after.”

Frances Gibb says, rightly in my view, that this is ‘an  unedifying story, reflecting poorly on the selection of one of the country’s top judges’.. and she notes whether the idea of winding appointments to the judiciary from the ranks of academics and practising lawyers – which I think  would probably be a good thing – is a sham. Jonathan Sumption QC appears to have been treated in a rather shoddy way – but perhaps that is ‘how things are done’ in the shadows of the establishment?  I can’t believe so…and it certainly should not be so.

Extraordinary goings on?

Expenses row: MPs ordered to pay back more than £1m

House of Commons braced for ‘devastating’ final verdict from Sir Thomas Legg on expenses scandal

The Guardian reports: “The former civil servant charged with probing MPs’ expenses claims will deliver his final, damning verdict on their conduct when he reveals that he has ordered 350 of them to pay back a total of more than £1m.In a report said to be “devastating” for the reputation of parliament, Sir Thomas Legg will criticise the “culture of deference” MPs created in which they expected Commons officials to unquestioningly pay out for their claims. Using blunt language, he will accuse MPs of a collapse in their ethics regarding the expenses system.”

It will be interesting to see how many MPs stand down on health grounds in order to get the departure bonus, which, presumably, they’ll need to pay back the expenses they’ve already ripped off. Maybe they won’t be allowed to get their usual departure allowance?  Maybe there will be more prsoepcutions, maybe the revisionists will ease forward to erase our memories of this rotten parliament?

I have just moved back to London. I write this, overlooking the Thames at Battersea (I am right on the river).  So far, I have not seen any pigs flying in.. although there are cormorants and gulls…and a few ducks.

Alastair Campbell, enforcer to governments, spin doctor, consumate performer at the Iraq Inquiry, blogger, author of  pacy fiction (with a bit of sex thrown in) writes in his blog: Jonathan Freedland, writing in The Guardian, states ‘David Cameron is a mess. When will the media say so?’ It is a question I have been asking for some time, and it is nice to be joined by someone from The Guardian, some of whose reporters and commentators have been as much a part of the ‘give Dave an easy ride’ crew as the Murdoch press, the Mail, the Telegraph, the Beeb and the other broadcasters.”

The curious thing about political writing – blogs, mainstream media et al –  is that it is inevitably coloured by bias.  He’s a Tory and won’t admit to any  sensible points made by Labour or Lib-Dem pundits.  (We can safely exclude the BNP pundits – they are not known to have ever said anything particularly sensible)  He/She’s a raving socialist, New Labour / NuLibore… with a huge class chip on the right shoulder and all Tories are rotten closet fascists etc etc etc.  Well this, of course, is  a gross over simplification and parody – but, listening to pundits on the television assessing speeches from politicians at election time  one does wonder whether objectivity, analysis, truth, reality matters to them.  Their main pre-occupation seems to be to get their man/woman in and to form a government. It was ever thus.

To give you an example:  I was quite impressed by George Osborne’s speech the other morning when he set out 8 Benchmarks.  It seemed to make sense and while there wasn’t any detail, it did seem to be vaguely credible.  I read in a tabloid that Dragon’s Den pin up boy James Caan interviewed Osborne, asked him a few perfunctory questions and then announced that he was *In* (Diluting the brand?)  We then heard that George Osborne had ripped much of his speech / ideas from an earlier speech of Lord Mandleson’s.  The Prince of Darkness, predictably, laughed, admitted to being flattered and made references to George Osborne’s future career as an intern doing the photocopying and made  a sniping reference to US Vice President Biden – who, famously, ripped off one of Lord Kinnock’s speeches years ago.

I was moving yesterday and missed this story about Cherie Blair / Cherie Booth QC…

Cherie Blair in the dock for religious stance

The Telegraph reports: “Cherie Booth, QC, as she is known while sitting as a judge, is the subject of a complaint for allegedly keeping a violent yob out of prison becausehe was “religious”. Shamso Miah had left a mosque when he grabbed Mohammed Furcan and punched him. The thug ran outside but Furcan chased after him and demanded to know why he had been struck. Miah punched him again. Sitting at Inner London Crown Court, Mrs Blair told Miah: “I am going to suspend this sentence for the period of two years based on the fact you are a religious person and have not been in trouble before. You are a religious man and you know this is not acceptable.”

The news report is rather sparse and there may well have been other mitigating circumstances justifying a suspended sentence.  Mrs Booth may well have added the religious point for added emphasis.  It could be that a religious person being castigated in this way ‘you are a religious person and know that this is not acceptable’ would find that more shaming?  We don’t know the full facts and it does not appear from the report in the press that the newspaper does either.  Is this fair reporting?

Obviously, if it can be proven that a non-religious person, on exactly the same facts, mitigating circumstances et al would have sent to prison – there is a problem.  That, I’m afraid, is not clear at all from the press reports and on that ground is unfair.  What is your view?

More later in the day….

Tory MP says wearing burka is like putting a paper bag over your head

The BBC reports: An MP has called the wearing of burkas the religious equivalent of “going round with a paper bag over your head.

In a parliamentary debate, Conservative MP Philip Hollobone said it was “offensive” for women to cut off face-to-face contact with other people. The Kettering MP said he had “huge sympathy” with those who wanted a ban on face-covering veils in public. None of the three large UK parties back a ban, with ministers saying it would not be “British” to bar them.

I thought I would invite readers to vote on the matter – it being an election year n shit…. innit.

Law Review: Silk, Iraq, Victims, Discrimination – what more do you need for a Tuesday?

Why the legal debates about Iraq will never end

The Times has an interesting article by Professor Malcolm Shaw QC. It is worth reading to get a perspective on the issue of the legaility of the Iraq war.  Shaw opens with “What have we learnt so far from the Iraq inquiry with regard to international law? At one level, we have heard views that international law is uncertain, international lawyers dogmatic, and that lawyers who are not international lawyers are not international lawyers and thus cannot, by implication, deal with arguments in that field….”

A bit of Silk for the weekend, Sir…Madam?

The Legal Services Act has not exactly ambushed the legal profession – although a remarkably high number of lawyers I have spoken to in recent months do not have a grasp of…shall we say, the detail or, indeed, the implications for the profession.  The Lawyer reported yesterday: QC aspirants think again as LSA casts pall over bar
“Concerns about the future stability of the bar are having a knock-on effect on the number of barristers applying to become QCs, leading barristers have warned. In total 275 barristers have applied to the QC appointments committee this year. That translates to 11 per cent more applications than last year, when 247 people applied, but 17.4 per cent lower than 2008’s level, when the number of applications stood at 333. It’s a worryingly low ­figure,” one barrister ­commented. “I thought it would be much higher, especially when you ­consider it’s open not just to commercial barristers.

There appears to be support for the changes brought in relating to the appointment of silks and support for the rank of QC as a ‘kitemark’.  The market rules, however, and The Lawyer reports a clerk as saying (neatly summing it up) “Many people are worried they’ll lose clients when they’re made QC,” he said. “It may be a great status symbol, but it doesn’t ­necessarily mean you’ll get more instructions.”

While the Tories appear to be focusing on the fears of Britons being burgled in the night and their rights (It is interesting to note that only 11 prosecutions of householders have been brought in 15 years according to the DPP) Jack Straw has announced plans for  a National Victims Service.

The Ministry of Justice has announced: “An additional £8 million will establish the National Victims’ Service, which guarantees all victims of crime and anti-social behaviour referred by the police more comprehensive and dedicated support. The first stage will begin helping families bereaved by murder or manslaughter from March. This will provide intensive support, care and attention, tailored to their individual needs, beyond the conclusion of any investigation or trial.” Full press release

Pope condemns gay equality laws ahead of first UK visit

The Guardian reports: “Pope Benedict XVI has condemned British equality legislation for running contrary to “natural law” as he confirmed his first visit to the UK later this year.

The term ‘Natural Law’ has very little practical meaning. The cynic in me tends to believe that it is most often prayed in aid by those in power to control the activities of those not in power. The mumbo jumbo men are becoming increasingly concerned that Britain is no longer in thrall to the power of religion. The bishops have told the Pope..“…sexual orientation legislation that came into effect on 1 January 2009 had forced the closure of half the Roman Catholic adoption agencies because the law making it illegal to discriminate against gay applicants went against their beliefs.”

The Guardian notes: “In his letter the pope said: “The effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs. In some respects it actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed.”

For my part I am more persuaded by the entirely sensible line taken by the National Secular Society. Terry Sanderson, the society’s president, said: “The taxpayer is going to be faced with a bill for £20m for the visit – in which he has indicated he will attack equal rights and promote discrimination.”

It can’t be as much fun being Pope these days.  Back in history the Popes wielded considerable power, could start Crusades and organise for Inquisitions to be set up by Torquemada et al… hey ho… times have moved on.

Sir Jock Stirrup: Tony Blair’s Iraq war delay caused kit chaos

The Times reports: Britain’s top military commander admitted today that soldiers in Iraq were left without life-saving body armour and even proper boots and clothing because Tony Blair delayed authorising the war plans. Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup told the Iraq Inquiry the armed forces had been underfunded in the years leading up to the invasion which led to shortages of equipment….” Full report

The government has gone ahead with compulsory body scanning at airports, despite concerns by civil liberties organisations about invasion of privacy.

It appears that the new scanners do not reveal intimate body parts, the images cannot be stored and pored over on the internet by people into ‘signage porn’  but they  do reveal items like explosive underwear, guns and knives strapped to the thigh etc etc .  The scanners do not reveal explosive materials concealed within the body.  One assumes that a terrorist who is going to blow him or herself up is not going to be overly concerned whether the explosion comes from ‘within’ ?

One of the commenters on the Times story sums it up..

Barking Mad wrote:

Personally, I don’t think this goes far enough!. I want to feel very safe on my flights. The minimum security should be full x-raying of each passenger and full internal cavity searches. All passengers should be naked for the full flight and no baggage – carry-on or checked-in, should be allowed. Then I’ll be safe!

Straw urged to take action against court gagging orders

The Independent reports: ” Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, was challenged last night to take immediate action to tackle the proliferation of “super-injunctions” issued by courts. The demands follow the failed attempt by footballer, John Terry, to obtain a double gagging order preventing reporting of his affair with a team-mate’s ex-girlfriend. Vanessa Perroncel was last night at the centre of a bidding war, with newspapers offering her a reported £250,000 to tell the story of her affair with the England captain.”

Injunctions, in the digital internet age, have ‘limited utility. While the information can be suppressed within Britain – the High Court writ goes no further than England & Wales.  People in Scotland and elsewhere can read, comment, disseminate, host on severs to their hearts content – and we in England can simply go to those servers and read the details.  (Hence the idea behind the ‘super’ injunction which not merely suppresses the information but suppresses the knowledge that such an order was even given…theoretically)

The Independent notes: ” Mr Straw has signalled his concern over the issue and has launched a review into super-injunctions. The former minister, Denis MacShane, has called for action within weeks. Mr MacShane said: “Any order that bans the press from reporting the facts, and then bans the reporting of the ban itself, is Kafkaesque.”

And finally… a quick trip to the Law blogs.

Matthew Taylor of the MTPT blog has a very interesting piece... Sally Bercow v EyeSpyMP, or An interesting dimension the BBC missed.

“At the risk of turning this into a bad journalism blog, I have to mention the BBC News story on Sally Bercow’s “spat” with EyeSpyMP. It does also raise some interesting questions about the interface between the law of privacy and modern commstech.”

Professor John Flood, RATS, asks: How Is Access to Essential Services Guaranteed?

“Since my visit to CES in Coimbra, Portugal recently I’ve been thinking about the changing landscape of access to justice. For me the formal state system of courts has assumed a much less dominant role in the last 10 to 15 years. And even though legal aid in the UK has just enjoyed its 60th birthday, it only applies to criminal cases and a few types of civil matters. And government is seeking to reduce legal aid expenditure in the future.

So what has happened to the landscape? How has it changed? And has it improved or deteriorated?

Simon Myerson QC continues his coverage of the perils and pitfalls for prospective barristers who wish to make a career at the Bar.

I have said it before and have no difficulty in saying it again – all students considering a career at the Bar should read Simon’s Pupillage and How to Get It blog.  This week he continues in Bit of a Kicking Part 2 with the difficulties of pupillage… an essential read for those of you going to the Bar.

THE CANADIANS ARE COMING TO BLAWG REVIEW – FOR 4 WEEKS ON THE TROT

This week Slaw.ca takes the baton with a very detailed and fascinating review…

The Legality of an American Slavery

“February 1 is known as National Freedom Day in the U.S.  It’s also the start of Black History Month, the annual celebration and triumph of the descendants of African-Americans.  This year, President Obama has also indicated that National Freedom Day will also be the first ever National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.  For this reason, Blawg Review #249 will follow the theme of African slavery in America, using the model of Alex Haley’s Roots: The Saga of an American Family.”….

Read Blawg Review #249

Breaking News: Tories will issue every householder in Britain with a .44 Magnum

I don’t know what they are smoking down at the Tory Think Tank – but it is heavy shit judging from the latest policies on Law & Order being revealed in recent days.  The Tories plan to change a perfectly sensible law into something verging on insane – because they say that people, courts and juries do not understand the present law on self defence of ‘#reasonable force’.  They have cited that the law needs to be changed because of the Munir Hussein case (which was not a self defence case) and because Mylene Kass got ticked off by rather foolish police for waving a kitchen knife at someone staring into her kitchen from outside.

The Tory proposals have received good coverage in the press.  In December of last year The Independent reported: ” Chris Grayling, the shadow Home Secretary, has said there should be a “higher bar to jump” before law-abiding householders are jailed. He has promised to review the law to bring it in line with the Republic of Ireland where people can use all but “grossly disproportionate” force. Mr Grayling said that if someone was threatened in their home by a knife-wielding burglar, they “might” be justified in killing him.”

The latest idea is from David Cameron: The BBC reports

Burglars “leave their human rights outside” when they break in to a property, Conservative leader David Cameron has said.

Cameron promised to strengthen the law to protect householders who exercise their “legitimate” right to self-defence when confronted by an intruder.  I am not entirely sure what he means when he says that burglars leave their human rights at the door, nor does Cameron, judging by a recent interview he had with John Sopel

SOPEL
OK well let’s go to another one that I think is ambiguous. Defending your home, the right to defend your home. Chris Grayling told us on the Politics Show last week that he was definitely going to change the law. As to how, it is not clear. Now that’s not a question of spending. How would you, how is the law going to change?

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?

CAMERON

Well at the moment the reason for changing the law is people I think do find it rather unclear what the current framework of reasonable force actually means, and one of the reasons for raising the threshold is not just what actually happens in the court of law, but it’s to make sure that fewer cases frankly are taken to court, that fewer people are arrested for doing what I think is perfectly legitimate which is to defend yourself in your own home. The moment a burglar steps over your threshold, and invades your property, with all the threat that gives to you, your family and your livelihood, I think they leave their human rights outside.

I am none the wiser as to what ‘grossly disproportionate’ actually means and if Cameron and Grayling can’t explain it, it doesn’t seem to be a very clear law change – and may well baffle even the most gung-ho of householders.  If you can’t use ‘grossly disproportionate’ force, then proportionate force must be acceptable.  How does ‘proportionate force’ differ, in law, from ‘reasonable force?’  It doesn’t appear to be defined in any Tory policy document. Perhaps they are keeping the ‘detail’ up their sleeves until they are elected?  Perhaps, more likely, is that they haven’t actually bothered to work it out properly?  Who knows?  David Cameron certainly doesn’t – otherwise, one assumes, he would have been able to counter John Sopel in the interview referred to above.  It is, of course, possible that burglars will arm themselves more heavily if this law goes forward.  Most householders would not know how to tackle a burglar, let alone an armed burglar. Most people are not naturally violent and  manywould probably baulk at hitting an intruder with a heavy object to the point of death or serious injury?

Even Dominic Grieve, who is an experienced lawyer (and who should know better?)  and who  is currently appearing to do all the Shadow Law jobs (or was), is on this strange carousel.  A friend of mine said he was  ‘almost laughed out of Middle Temple recently when he put forward the ‘not grossly disproportionate’ guff. You can fool some of the people, some of the time.. but you can’t kid a kidder… addressing lawyers about the meaning of laws is very different from grandstanding to the general public and the pro-flog / hang / kill burglars brigade.   Toeing the party line Mr Grieve?  Pushing out the pap for preferment?  Would you take this view if you were not standing for election?

The Independent notes: “Keir Starmer QC, the most senior prosecutor in England and Wales, told BBC Radio 4 that he could not see a justification for changing the law to boost householders’ rights. He said: “There are many cases, some involving death, where no prosecutions are brought. We would only ever bring a prosecution where we thought that the degree of force was unreasonable in such a way that the jury would realistically convict. So these are very rare cases and history tells us that the current test works very well.”

Peter Mendelle QC, Chair of the Criminal Bar Association has said that the current law of ‘reasonable force’ is well understood by juries and there is no need to change the law.  It seems to my increasingly jaded eye that Don Cameroni and his Enforcer, Chris Grayling,  are grandstanding, appealing to public fears and trying to grab votes.  All politicians do this – but this just seems to be another example of half-baked thinking. I could, of course, be wrong – but there again I am not the Pope and I am not standing for election – so I am quite happy to be persuaded by sensible, rational and clear argument and reasoning.

The other point about leaving human rights outside the door is – that The Tories are effectively saying that those who break the burglary laws are to be stripped of their rights.  This is just carpetbagging snakeoil rhetoric.  He cannot mean it – otherwise there would be no need for his ‘not grossly disproportionate’ law. Do these burglars get their human rights back when they get to court?, when they go to prison? Risible.

I shall look forward to a visit from a Tory canvasser as the election approaches… as I tweeted earlier today…

Your thoughts, comments, analysis, ridicule… welcomed as always in the Comments section…

***

UPDATE

David Cameron’s Tories leave human rights at the doorstep

By Andrew Reeves – a very good article / blog post.

New Statesman thinks that Cameron has gone too far: Even burglars have human rights

Spectator:  Cameron grasps at populism out of desperation

“David Cameron has said that “burglars leave their human rights at the doorstep” when they break into a house. He added that he wishes to see “fewer” prosecutions of homeowners who defend themselves or their property from intruders. He has not spelled out precisely how far we can go with burglars, whether or not we can tie them to a tree and bugger them, whooping and hollering. Nor has he made it clear what happens to burglars who climb in through an upstairs window; do they still have to leave their human rights on the doorstep, or could they perhaps put them beside the wheelie bin, near the gate? Either way, this is an abrupt volte face from the Tory leader; three years ago, when attempting to convince the country that the Conservatives were now a “nice” party, he said:….”

“…..Of course, we are nearing an election and we can expect a bit of grandstanding. But has there ever been a leader so divorced from even a semblance of principle or ideology? Has a leader ever flip-flopped more cynically? If you vote for Cameron on May 6 will you have the slightest idea of what you are voting for?”

Law Review: Superinjunctions, assisted dying, kidnap and lawyers from hell redux

Personality is part of politics whether politicians like it or not. Spitting Image, the parody puppet show years ago, showed how a politician’s parody image could become more ‘real’ in the public mind than the reality of  a thousand speeches in the House of Commons.  When I think of Lord Tebbitt even today… I still think about the puppet of him dressed up a s a leathered up biker bovver boy. I still think of John Major, grey, eating peas.  I prefer not to conjure up images of him having sex with Edwina Currie – revelations which followed his premiership.  Guido Fawkes coined the phrase the ‘Prime Mentalist, and it is increasingly the case on blogs, in the mainstream media, that Brown is painted as a violent, bad tempered, dysfunctional man. His Nokia throwing escapades are, they say, legendary.

Guido Fawkes’ latest piece is worth a read: Labour Will Have a Khrushchev Moment of Truth in the End

Guido writes:

As we come closer to the dénouement of this government more and more will come out confirming the truth of this characterisation.  The increasingly manifest weirdness of the man means that his acolytes are now reduced to excusing him as a “poor communicator”.  Poor communication skills do not explain the widely reported acts of violent rage, poor communication skills do not explain the bizarre behaviour, the appalling mistreatment of junior staff or the violent Nokia chucking abuse towards aides.

The demented dithering of Downing Street’s dysfunctional operation is now well known throughout Westminster and openly recognised in Whitehall.  The decision making processes that determine the strategic direction of the country have almost broken down. This stems in large part from the personality of Gordon Brown.

I have very little interest in football and even less in what footballers get up to. If the England Captain wants to behave badly towards his wife by having extra-curricular activities with another woman that is really a matter for his wife to take a stance on.  Being an election year, it was no suprise to find that a government minister has piled in.  Politicians seem to be falling over themselves to bathe themselves in the glory (or caddery) of our sports stars.

The Financial Times notes: “Mr -Justice Tugendhat lifted the injunction on Friday after spending a week examining the case in which he came to the conclusion that the gagging order was largely to protect commercial deals and not justified by “the level of gravity of the interference with the private life of the applicant”. Under the terms of the super-injunction, which has become increasingly popular, newspapers cannot identify the applicant. Hugh Tomlinson, a QC at Matrix Chambers, said: “This is a welcome reminder of the rigorous tests that have to be satisfied before injunctions are granted.” Dan Tench, a partner at Olswang, which specialises in media law, said the ruling was a “manifesto” judgment that set out a stricter approach for those seeking such injunctions. The approach has been contrasted with that of Mr Justice Eady, who has been accused by newspapers of creating a privacy law after awarding injunctions to individuals such as Max Mosley, the Formula One chief, although some lawyers argue the attacks on the judge are overdone.”

It is refreshing to see the High Court taking a different line to the use of super-injunctions.  Perhaps they will be rather more difficult to get in the future?The FT notes that other lawyers take a more sanguine view – that Tugendhat J is even more ‘pro-privacy’ than Eady J and suggest that this stance is more to do with the ‘limited utility’ of granting injunctions in the global internet age.

Pressure is mounting for a clarification on the law of assisted dying. The Independent reports that a poll shows that 73% are in favour of assisted dying.

Pratchett: ‘Let me be suicide court test case’

Sir Terry Pratchett, who has Alzheimer’s, wants to see a tribunal set up to which people with incurable diseases can apply for assistance. A legal expert and a doctor who had dealt with serious, long-term illness would be part of the body, he will add. “If I knew that I could die, I would live. My life, my death, my choice,” he will say.

We’re getting desperate, say kidnapped British couple

The Times reports: Britain reiterated its refusal to pay a ransom for the British couple kidnapped by Somali pirates as a video emerged yesterday in which Paul and Rachel Chandler pleaded for the Government to help.

Britain has taken a consistent stance in public over kidnap cases.  The government does not submit to blackmail or terror ransom demands. A Foreign & Commonwealth Office spokesman said “We do not make substantive concessions to hostage takers, that includes paying ransoms.”

The position is entirely logical, if rather harsh for the unwilling victims. The Somali pirates, we are told, regard kidnapping and ship seizure as a business.  It appears to be an extremely successful and profitable business – ransom demands have been met elsewhere.  Why would the Somali pirates stop if governments and ship owners are prepared to buy their ships back?  Tragic though it could well be for the British couple and their families if the Somali pirates do carry out their threat to execute them – it must be the right stance for the government to take?   I have to admit, however, that it was a bizarre choice of sailing holiday destination.  There aren’t many Somali or any other pirates in the Med, in the West Indies and pirates have not been sited around the coasts of Britain and mainland Europe for several hundred years. The couple are in very real danger, but presumably they were aware of the attendant risks of sailing in that region and if they weren’t, they should have been. [It has been pointed out – rightly – that the Chandlers were in Seychelles Waters and were heading towards Tanzania when they were hijacked and towed towards Somalia – fair point.  Happy to correct.}

They say that the Somali pirates rarely injure or kill their hostages.  I don’t know enough about the subject to be more precise. There can be little profit in it for the Somali’s to kill an elderly British couple, given the British government stance.  A Spanish or French couple, on the other hand may well have luckier.  Both the Spanish and French governments have, reportedly, paid kidnappers off according to The Times.

Yesterday I wrote about Solicitorsfromhell.com – a website set up to name and shame lawyers (into paying money to have their names removed from the list) 

Hat Tip to Brian Inkster, of Inksters – a Scots law firm – for information on a Scottish ‘lawyers from hell’ name and shame website: Scotland Against Crooked Lawyers

Lawyers and Iraq – living with the consequences

Jonathan Goldsmith, secretary general of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe, writing in the Law Society Gazette has an interesting piece on lawyers involved in the Iraq Inquiry last week.   The Foreign & Commonwealth lawyers, Wilmshurt and Sir Michael Wood stated that the war was unlawful.  Jack Straw, Lord Chancellor ignored this advice and took the view that as he had chanced it before the courts while at The Home Office and won, he would regard the war as lawful and Lord Goldsmith, who initially took the the view that the war was unlawful, had a Damascus moment after a visit to the United States etc etc etc.

Jonathan Goldsmith makes this rather poignant comment “I do not envy the participants in this decision, who were required to give advice in just the kind of circumstances which calls on the lawyer’s deepest core principles. I do not know how I would have behaved (and I fear the worst about myself). But I imagine that the legal profession will have to live with the consequences, in terms of the image of lawyers and the image of what legal advice means, for a long time.”

I do like understatement.