Curious choice of election slogan… so I re-did it.
Curious choice of election slogan… so I re-did it.
Delighted to see a new initiative to promote UK law blogs!.
“Welcome to the second edition of UKBlawgRoundup.
The theme of the roundup is “new beginnings”. Given the season, you might expect the usual Easter cliches, but instead I have for you a fine crop of newly hatched legal blogging projects from around the UK. The only gambolling lamb is this rather tasty looking Czech sweet pastry one…..”
I was alerted to the latest idea from The Laurel & Hardy Institute of Social Policy Studies by @lazyhena – editor and star of GuyNews tv progs. Apparently the Tories want a Youth Army and run busy-bee training camps.
My response was, of course, facile…
But… I am glad to see that Old Holborn, who is standing as a parliamentarty candidate for the Jury Team… is also in such a mood…
And here are some lyrics…slightly adapted…natch!
Tomorrow belongs to me
The sun on the meadow is summery warm
The stag in the forest runs free
But gathered together to greet the storm
Tomorrow belongs to me
The logo for the Tories is leafy and green
Ashcroft gives his gold to the party
But somewhere a Tory awaits unseen
Tomorrow belongs to me
Now Fatherland, Fatherland, show us the sign
Your faithful have waited to see
The election will come
When the world is mine
Tomorrow belongs to me
Tomorrow belongs to me
Tomorrow belongs to me
Tomorrow belongs to me
MPs will get 18-day window to form government under emergency plan drawn up by Whitehall
There will be many who relish the prospect of a ‘hung Parliament’ – forcing people to work together. I am not, at this stage, in favour of such a result – partly because I remember the last hung parliament and partly because I have little faith (or experience) in politicians from the different parties in Britain being able to work together in the national interest. I also feel that the country needs to return to being governed. There is precious little government going on at the moment – there will even even less during the election period – and we are not in great shape. I am, of course, given that we have not experienced these particular circumstances before in terms of credit-crunch et al – happy to keep an open mind should there be a hung parliament. National Governments have worked before – coalitions, tend not to.
The quality of political debate on Newsnight last night with Pickles, Prescott and Huhne shouting over each other was lamentable and..rather worrying. Newsnight is watched by adults – adults who are actually interested in politics. It is not watched, generally, by people who are not interested in politics – so it would be helpful if politicians would remember that when they go on Newsnight they are talking to an interested audience who do not need to hear a load of ‘political pap’ and watch grown men and women trying to score points off each other. Eric Pickles went straight on to twitter to say that he was in a taxi.
Hopeless….. I’m not a Tory but I do enjoy listening to Pickles. Last night was, however, an exception
Civil servants have drawn up contingency plans – which include the Queen’s powers to forestall a second poll if it would not be in the national economic interest. Interesting reading. I suspect that more detailed legal analysis will follow in the press and blogs on this issue soon.
In the meantime – The Guardian has an interesting piece.
Hat Tip to @JackofKent for reminding us of this tweet by Tom Watson MP – ironic. Before he instructed Carter-Ruck?
Also this tweet by Beau Bo D’Or..he’s right. Important to get the story right!
Julie Kirkbride MP ( reported by Guido Fawkes as being one of those involved in blocking libel reform…) is a Tory… at least I assume she hasn’t lost the Tory whip since I looked at her website a minute ago.
Associated Press is reporting that “Freedom of speech campaigners accused British lawmakers Tuesday of blocking attempts to reform the country’s notoriously tough libel laws. A committee of House of Commons legislators voted to delay proposed changes to current laws, which would sharply cut fees charged to both defendants and complainants by lawyers representing them in libel cases.”
But opponents — including some lawmakers on a committee scrutinizing the planned legislation — said more consultation, and a full Parliamentary vote, is needed before any changes can be passed.
“The feeling was that the impact would be that lawyers wouldn’t touch difficult cases any more,” said Labour Party legislator Chris Mullin, who voted against immediately passing the laws in a vote of a legislative committee.
Libel reform campaigner Jonathan Heawood, of human rights charity English PEN, said the decision was surprising. “It’s hard to understand why anyone would stand in the way of these reforms on costs,” he said.
Guido Fawkes picked up on this late last night, warning that details were, at that stage, sketchy:
“Details are a little sketchy tonight, but Guido understands that there has been a last minute ambush of Jack Straw’s libel reform bill in the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments.
The ambush was apparently galvanised by Tom Watson, with the support of Chris Mullins, Peter Kilfoyle, Jim Sheridan and Julie Kirkbride.
It seems inexplicable, the reform carries widespread support across all parties. Cynics note that some of last minute opponents had in the past benefitted from Conditional Fee Arrangements (CFAs). Others point to the closeness to former speaker Michael Martin, who opposes the reforms in the Lords. Others note that some of the opponents have themselves been beneficiaries of CFAs . Solicitors Carter-Ruck are lobbying intensely against to keep the no-win-no-fee system. Carter-Ruck won £50,000 for Tom Watson on that basis. Coincidentally.
Not surprisingly, the news provoked reaction on Twitter – most of it surprised. Tom Watson MP came on to twitter to say that he would explain more in due course.
@Tom_Watson: Friends, voting on the Budget until early hours. Promise to give you a detailed reason why the proposed libel reforms were floored tomorrow
It would be rather unfortunate if the reason lawyers won’t touch libel cases anymore is the fact that libel lawyers can charge £1000 per hour (possibly more?) whereas criminal law barristers are only getting £60 p.h as was suggested on Twitter last night… surely not? A number of people on Twitter are asking Mr Watson why he blocked the libel reform. His explanation better be credible, for otherwise, I suspect that he will be subject to a fair bit of comment. Libel reform is an issue which many wish to see followed through.
Here is the first edition of the new Insite Law Newswire - a work in progress, inevitably, covering key information of relevance (I hope) to practitioners and students with the occasional contribution from ‘Charon QC’. The newswire is rather more ‘serious’ than Charon Reports. The plan is to publish once a week on a Monday but with the Easter Weekend coming up I thought I would publish this week’s edition now and another next week before settling into a Monday publishing date. If you would like to contribute an article or a blog post, please get in touch.
It is, of course, free to view and if you would like to subscribe and get it by email weekly – please register here – or simply visit Insite Law Magazine on a Monday and pick it up directly. You will not receive any emails other than the newswire. You may unsubscribe at any time and your email will NOT be given to third parties.
The Home Office is to ban Meow Meow plant food within days. I suspect the net drugbarons are devising some quite different plants food as I type…
…and, as the newspapers are now suggesting, rubbing their hands with glee as they stockpile and wait for the price to rocket for retail on the streets.
The difficulties of the Criminal Bar are considered by Frances Gibb, legal editor at The Times. It would appear that mechanics are not being paid £60 gross per hour (£40 net). As ever, the comments in the Times continue to reveal the pulse of the nation…
Keith Welton wrote:
1/ virtually all car mechanics take home pay is less than £10 per hour.
2/ The work a car mechanic does is useful to society unlike much that is performed by a Barrister.
I suppose we should be grateful for small mercies and that we don’t face the problem in the industrial and construction world where immigrants from Europe can undercut British workforce fees and, some say, do a better job.
Blawg Review this week comes from Lance Godard (who helps law firms grow and prosper) and is ‘innovative’. In Lance’s own words…” To celebrate the first anniversary of 22 Tweets, our Twitter interviews of practicing lawyers, we’ve put together a special version of Blawg Review. What does that mean? First and foremost, it means that we’ve selected 22 posts from this week’s legal blogs: 22 authors, 22 blawgs, 22 posts.”
It also means no free ride and, indeed, I have to respond to a question lance posed to me…on Twitter. I am thinking about my 140 character response. Lance asked me…as if I would know…. (and if I did, I would probably wish to charge a fee for my ‘view’ .”)
@charonqc What would you say is the most significant issue facing the legal profession today? Can it be resolved? How?”
Any ideas? Good Blawg Review – it will be interesting to read the responses of the other 22 bloggers asked.
The Times reports: MPs will be allowed to continue employing spouses despite overwhelming public hostility, the head of the new expenses watchdog said yesterday. Sir Ian Kennedy, the chairman of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, risked the wrath of the Speaker and the Committee on Standards in Public Life by allowing one family member to be employed per MP.
It seems to me, not unreasonable for those MPs who did not abuse the system (and there are a fair few), to be allowed to continue to employ a spouse or other family member to work with them. I would have thought that we get better value for our taxpayer buck from a wife / husband or husband / wife working together? Sir Ian Kennedy, a former Dean at King’s College Law School, is no fool and he will have examined the matter most carefully. The tabloids, naturally, are awash with talk of climbdowns etc etc. Fun though it is to read the random ranting of journalists in newspapers who one minute are gung-ho for Labour then turn overnight into a ravening horde for the Tories.. I would prefer to see the future governed by people who actually know what they are talking about than hacks appealing to ‘single Mum (35)’ or ‘Joe the builder’ to give us their thoughts on the matter. Perhaps I am being unreasonable?
The Lawyer has picked up on the BNP barrister story: BNP barrister sparks debate on workplace ethics.
A noble effort on the part of the The Lawyer (at least they tried) – but on reading the story, which was rather thin, it appears the debate is not that ‘fierce’ or, indeed sparky…or spark plugs, come to that, given the ‘satanic mechanic’ stories raging about barristers being paid less than car mechanics. In fact there appears to be only one comment on the story at the time of writing this post but they did manage to dredge up a couple of quotes…
Wragge & Co senior partner Quentin Poole said: “It’s possible to imagine a situation where an individual apple would taint the whole barrel, but it’s unlikely. We instruct St Philips and I’m quite sure our litigation partners will talk about this and decide what their view is.”
That said, an instructing partner at another Birmingham firm said that if Grierson had remained at the set its business would probably have suffered.
“I think [the set was] worried that in Birmingham there are a number of solicitors from ethnic minorities that instruct the chambers. What it boils down to is money,” he emphasised.
I think that rather sums it up. Perhaps it is, after all, a matter of money and busy lawyers are far too busy making the stuff to concern themselves about ‘sparking a debate’?
But… it is not all bad news… The Times reports:
The Times notes: “Although the number of claims last year was far lower than the 61 that reached the High Court in the wake of the dot-com collapse — when auditors were criticised for their their role in corporate scandals such as those involving Enron and WorldCom — lawyers predict that this is the beginning of a wave of cases that will emerge from the financial crisis.
“The sudden jump in professional negligence claims suggests that cases relating to the credit crunch have started to reach the courts,” Jane Howard, a partner of Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, said.”
And finally…. with a due Hat-tip to The Sun headline writing team… I did watch (but was rather bored by)…
The Times report is rather more sane… “Alistair Darling and Vincent Cable ganged up on George Osborne last night to heap derision on the Conservatives’ proposed tax cut.”
Inevitably, on Twitter, Tim Montgomerie of Conservative Home was on twitter immediately to pronounce 7/10 for Osborne – placing him in clear ‘Blue’ water between his rivals Darling and Cable. @ToryBear told a grateful nation ‘Well done, George’ – the lefty twitters derided Osbore… but a poll did seem to place Vince Cable first, Darling 2nd and Osbore 3rd… hey-ho…who cares what the pundits think?… there is only one poll that matters – fun though it is to see twitterers and political bloggers hyperventilating and wetting themselves online with excitement at every small stage managed activity… therein lies the real fun.
I found the actual ‘debate’ between the Tight ‘Uns rather dull. I suspect the debates – even more stage managed and controlled between the party leaders – will be even more dull; but we shall soon see… coming to a television set near you…shortly.
Having spoken to a number of sponsors at Insite Law magazine today who like the idea of an Insite Law weekly newswire – I was asked if I would be prepared to do one with Charon posts from time to time. If it will help the FREE resource project… I am more than prepared to do so. The content of this edition is based on recent posts. Future editions may take a similar review format but I suspect that I may well focus on particular issues as well.
Here is CHARONREPORTS 1 – in PDF format. I’m still getting used to the software and format/layout may change for future editions.
Again… your thoughts, comments, suggestions – and even ‘guest articles’ ? – welcome,
Paul Mendelle QC, Chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said today in The Times that there are not too many barristers, there are too many laws and that Jack Straw’s plan to cut legal aid by 18% would lead to members of the Criminal bar earning less than a car mechanic. He went on to say that unless barristers are paid more we are going to end up with a second tier service and injustice – which will cost a lot more in the long term. His letter, as one would expect from an advocate, is tightly drawn and makes a number of ‘politically persuasive’ points. It is worth reading.
At first blush, this view is not going to elicit any sympathy whatsoever from members of the public. I could add that some members of the public would be more than happy to have cheaper, or even better – no trials, ‘bang villains up’ in a prison with no TV and no amenities and ‘throw away the key’ – but that would be facile.
Or is it? The fact of the matter is that criminal law is in the public sector domain, paid for by tax payers – and the legal sector will be subject to the same cuts as the rest of the tax payer funded economy in the coming years. While it is certainly true that a number of leading QCs have managed to relieve the tax payer of £0.5 – 1 million for criminal law work – they are a very small majority – a minority Jack Straw is quite happy to brief about for political election advantage. Frankly, The Tories are even quieter about their plans for Law than they are on the economy – but I can’t see a Tory government rushing to do anything other than provide more and cheaper prison places and cut the costs of banging the villains up in the first place. I have seen nothing from Conservative CCHQ or Mr Grieve to persuade me otherwise.
While there will be some ‘villains’ or those charged with serious criminal offences who are able to pay to hire the ‘best briefs’ – they are not, in the criminal sector, in the majority. Big business will always pay lawyers more for advice – but even they are now railing against some of the fees charged by the big City firms. Family lawyers specialising in the rarified atmosphere of relieving popular music stars and footballers of large fees for advising them on the ‘financial arrangements’ following divorce, enjoy lavish fees compared to family lawyers dealing at the lower end of the economic pyramid – it was ever thus. The market rules – but you don’t always get what you pay for, simply because of the professionalism of the lawyers involved in tax payer funded criminal law who provide a high quality service and advice for little money. It is right that Mr Mendelle raises these issues but, I suspect, until the country is out of the financial ‘merde’, barristers, as with others, will just have to wait in line for the good times to return… unless they wish to retrain as plumbers and car mechanics or become Unite sponsored British Airways cabin crew and go into far more lucrative sectors.
I did enjoy this passage from Mr Mendelle’s letter to the Times…
There aren’t too many barristers but there certainly are too many laws. Too many ill-considered and appallingly drafted laws are passed, as one bloated Bill after another is extruded from the sausage factory that Parliament has become. It is not barristers who drive up the cost of legal aid but the increases in the numbers of those prosecuted and jailed, a good few for crimes that never existed until this Government created them.”
He’s probably right – but, in these difficult days at least there are more crimes for people to commit. What would we do if villains and NuLabour criminals didn’t oblige by breaking the law? If you are a student thinking of a career in the criminal law field – you now know what the score is. Cabin doors to manual?
I am planning a free weekly newswire to summarise the week’s events – material not published on the blog or Insite Law magazine as well as selected posts from the blog – which I hope will be of value and use. Not everyone has time to keep up to date with legal news, reports et al and this service may be of some help.
The contents will include: Law news – a practitioner section written by Peter Groves, solicitor – general news by me, law reports, round up from the Law Society / Bar Council, podcasts and news from the blogs.
It will be financed by sponsors and advertisers to allow me, through Insite Law, to develop (and pay for) the free legal resources I am keen to expand and provide.
Here is the first ‘TEST’ pdf. It is a very short edition to test the concept. I anticipate 15-20 pages as the norm if I proceed with the idea. The first edition, if the idea proves interesting and people are receptive – will go out next weekend/Monday morning.
If you have time, would you please email me or post a comment with your thoughts?
While I will, of course, be doing my annual ‘Urbi et Orbi’ blog post next weekend, it being Easter… it would be most remiss of me not to note, at the very least, the Pope’s ‘difficulties with assorted and sundry sodomists or should that be sodomites..or buggerers, even? They appear to be popping up, if you forgive the rather grisly metaphor, all over the place.
I feel confident that the Pope will get to the bottom of it eventually….so moving on…
As the election draws closer the main political parties are revving up. The latest Tory attack posters are rather good – featuring a grinning Gordon Brown with various captions about plundering pensions and letting criminals out early etc etc and, inevitably, there will be many parodies…
The Labour Party, taking time out from consulting their ‘Masters’ at Unite, is losing no time in briefing about Osbore being immature and shrill.
I’ve just had an email from David Cameron…. I claim no special favour here. I registered as Charon QC to receive emails from WebCameron some time ago and still they come. I always look forward to them…. I read it with a glass of wine over lunch on Sunday
This week Labour showed us they simply have nothing left to offer. We had a completely empty Budget followed by five empty pledges. With each day that passes the choice at this election becomes even more stark and clear: five more years of Gordon Brown’s tired government making things worse or …with the Conservatives. ( I removed the word change just before ‘with the conservatives’. It read much better that way.)
Blackburn draws attention to the Sunday Times coverage of yet another MP using his ‘experience’ to charge consultancy fees, plus ‘expenses’ (naturally)… and ends with this wonderful thought…“It’s nothing short of miraculous that the 50 percent tax rate got through this parliament of multi-millionaires. And who knows, perhaps a tax scandal is in the offing?
This affair runs too deep for politics to be absolved by an election. George III’s rotten parliaments take some beating, but this current parliament contends for the dubious accolade of ‘most corrupt parliament ever’. As in 1832, reform is essential.”
My Sony Vaio laptop died yesterday… it wasn’t a great death… I downloaded an update to some software and it simply refused to restart. An engineer sucked air through his teeth in a meaningful way when I spoke to one at PC World and told me that it would take 2-3 days to fix it….and even then..?…. so I bit the bullet and bought a new iMac. The return to Macs after a year farting about with endless problems with Windows Vista and Sony taking 15-20 minutes to boot up is wonderful. Straight out of the box and up and running within five minutes. I re-started just to have the pleasure of seeing this sophisticated computer do so in just over 90 seconds…marvellous. All I need to do now is bite another bullet, throw my Samsung Jet into the river and buy an iPhone… maybe next month.
I was a bit over refreshed on Twitter t’other evening and thought that I might create yet another ‘brother’ or ‘cousin’. Cardinal Charoni di Tempranillo, my ‘spiritual’ cousin, is flying over from the Vatican next week. I have warned him to warn the Pope that if he needs an English lawyer the fees will crucify him. Charoni is coming over to ‘consult’, visit a lap dancing club with his City lawyers, and do a few exorcisms. He is doing a special offer… Buy one exorcism, get one free. I thought the ‘Reverend Charon’ would be appropriate and found some suitable quotations to reflect the mores and issues of our times….
Well… there we are…another week has gone by. Easter next weekend and we can enjoy the spectacle of lots of frustrated motorists sitting in long queues on motorways in the bad weather. The papers report that 50,000 motorists will break down in their cars… or should that be… the cars will break down?
Have a good week. I return on the morrow with some sensible law news…. and, no doubt, reports of some other nonsense from the political world.
Best, as ever
I had thought of moving my weekly ‘Rive Gauche’ post to Saturdays but why deprive myself of a little pleasure looking at the more unusual side of the law on a Friday morning when there isn’t a lot of ‘hard law’ about? I will try and shoehorn a bit of real law news in towards the end of the post.
So first up is the reassuring news that yobs have been around for some time and that ASBOS were being dished out years ago.
Pictured left is one of a number of Edwardian yobs The Sun has managed to find. Magistrates punished these offenders by having them photographed and the posters distributed to local pub landlords. The Sun reports: “Offences punishable with the blacklist included being intoxicated to complete incompetence, riding a horse whilst under the influence or drink-driving a steam engine.”
“Intoxicated to complete incompetence?” I shall be using this phrase I am sure before too long.
Fascism is alive and well it seems – but the Brothers-in-law at Robert Grierson’s chambers were none too keen, it seems, on having a ‘potential fascist’ (there being absolutely no evidence that Mr Grierson is a fascist) in chambers – but since the BNP is widely regarded as holding ‘fascist and other unusual sentiments’ – guilt by association?). The Guardian reports: “This afternoon St Philips chambers in Birmingham, where Grierson was a door tenant – an associated barrister working from different premises – annnounced that it had parted company with the lawyer
In a tersely worded statement, James Burbidge QC, head of St Philips, said: “Robert Grierson has resigned from his position as a door tenant of St Philips chambers from the 25 March 2010. He accepted that his candidacy in the forthcoming election was a distraction to the proper work and approach of St Philips chambers, its members and staff … St Philips chambers was not aware that Grierson was a member of the BNP … any views [he] purports to hold or express in the forthcoming election must be taken to be his own personal views and not that of [the] chambers or any of its members.”
Mr Grierson responded: “The BNP is a democratic political party. We have recently voted to allow in non-white members. I said [to chambers] that you should not discriminate against me and should not be removing me from chambers.
“The head of chambers said it would be much better if I resigned because the BNP is obviously a controversial issue with some people. So I took the view, out of consideration for other members of chambers and in order not to make their lives difficult, that I would resign.
“Notwithstanding that, my position is that I should not be discriminated against. I’m still a practising barrister, working out of my home address.”
Ever keen to report on bizarre events, I went and had a look at another report where assorted knuckle draggers were able to respond to this news and demonstrate their understanding of democracy in action. I was not disappointed.. the comments are, truly, astonishing. here is one to give you a ‘taste’…
WHEN WE TAKE BARKING COUNCIL.WE WILL HAVE A BUDGET OF 200 MILLION SMACKERS.SO ALL THOSE LEFTYS IN NON JOBS LIKE THE LOCAL EHCR.BETTER START LOOKING FOR A REAL JOB STARTING NOW.
We live in a free country. Mr Grierson is perfectly entitled to stand as a BNP candidate. Equally, we are perfectly entitled to say to him that we do not wish to associate with him and…. his Chambers have done just that.
As ever…cartoonist Peter Brookes sums it up nicely…
“Resisting calls for his resignation, Ian Smart, the Law Society president, admitted that the society had been given “a kick in the appropriate part of the anatomy”. The Times
We are talking about the Law Society of Scotland here.. not the Law Society…the one in Chancery Lane wot duz the biz for solicitors in England & Wales.
Delighted that I have been able to shoehorn some real law news into the post, I feel I can now escape and bring you a few delights from The Sun – the newspaper of choice for many who appear not to live on earth.
And just when we thought…after Byers, Hoon et al and their ludicrous behaviour exposed by Channel 4 that Gordon Brown might be given a bit of respite… not a bit of it. The Sun, hyperventilating and dribbling with outrage and moral compasses, screams…
We are also given the heart gladdening news that ‘Vanessa was given a kicking in court’ - a reference to the alleged French serial shagger who dunnit with John Terry and da boys which ‘Team Bridge” did not approve of.
The Sun reports: “WAYNE Bridge’s ex Vanessa Perroncel is set to receive just HALF the pay-off she wanted after taking “a kicking” in court, it was claimed last night.”
My mate, John Bolch of Family Lore – who does not cover tasteless reports of celeb divorces will, no doubt, be grateful that I soil my hands so you don’t have to!
John has some amusing posts this week and a serious Family Lorecast - Things that litigants in person shouldn’t do #3: Throw eggs at the judge and a rather good logo.
And so… it is probably time for a bit of Law. Yesterday, fellow tweeter @infobunny drew my attention to an extraordinary story about a pharmacist who does not have to supply contraception on ‘religious grounds’.
This, I am afraid, so irritated me I just had to ‘kick off’ and asked on twitter if anyone fancied assorted acts of random fuckery on Chancery lane as a protest. It provoked quite an amusing series of tweets…
This is ridiculous. If a pharmacist doesn’t want to hand out lawful drugs and contraception why take up the profession? It is not acceptable for members of the public to be denied contraception by a pharmacist in any event and while I am quite content, as an atheist, for others to practise their religions, I would prefer they do it in a way which does not cause serious difficulties for others.
My comment on the matter summed up yesterday afternoon with this tweet…
On to other matters….
RollonFriday is offering guidance on how to forge your own payslips after reporting…“Former DLA Piper partner jailed for inflating salary”
“A former DLA Piper partner has been jailed for two months after lying about his salary in order to get a better job.
Back in 2006 Rudy Lim was a partner in the firm’s Singapore office, angling for a job with rival firm Duane Morris. In order to big up his prospects, Lim claimed he was earning over £500k a year - when in fact it was more like £200k. He also said that he took home an extra £100k a year as part of a profit share scheme, clearly trying to distinguish himself from DLA Piper’s many, many salaried partners.
And in case Duane Morris didn’t believe him, Lim rather unwisely took it a step further by forging a payroll statement setting out his alleged earnings. However, DLA Piper discovered this on his computer and reported him to the police….”
Well..there we are… a sunny Friday in London… time for coffee, read the newspapers and watch the world go by at a cafe for a while…
I do read sensible law news… and here is something sensible to read… an excellent article by Richard Gordon QC in the Times…
AND FINALLY….. Thought for the day
The legal sector is, perhaps, more prone to puffery and self aggrandisement than other sectors - and certainly a quick glance at the style of Chambers & Partners ‘puffs’ about members of the Bar makes interesting reading. I selected a number of QCs at random from chambers websites in the almost certain knowledge that they would include these ‘glowing references’ for very few to see – who, after all, hangs out at chambers websites while surfing on the net?
Typical of the genre are the following – I have deleted the names to protect the innocent.
All good stuff – and, I suspect, pretty harmless. We all like to have our backs slapped from time to time and why not get another lawyer to write to a directory and do so…after all, one good turn deserves another. I looked at over 200 of these ‘puffs’ (30-40 barristers) – all remarkably similar, almost as if there was a database of ‘puffs’ from which to choose five for each reference!
After 30 years teaching law, observing lawyers and commenting on law, I have come to the conclusion that while law is ‘difficult’ and requires a reasonable intelligence, it does not require a brain the size of a planet to make a reasonably good living or do a competent piece of work. I may well get lynched by the ‘brothers-in-law’ for saying this – but the truth of the matter is that law is a construct of the judiciary and those tasked with inventing new laws – the politician – which may well explain why so many of our new laws are so badly framed, allowing, of course, lawyers further opportunity to ‘dazzle each other with their ‘brilliance’.
The analysis and intelligence required of lawyers is not so demanding as required by practitioners and academics in, say, the field of medical, engineering or even planetary science – or mathematics. There is a finite number of laws; many now conveniently placed on databases by Lexis-Nexis, Westlaw and Lawtel et al, a body of caselaw – much of it also online and that covers the research side. The clever bit is not, of course, telling the client what the law is so they may avoid breaking it or losing a civil action (although, they say, that much law as practised is for exactly that) – but in constructing ‘instruments’ to ‘avoid’ the law (or tax) or to lace it with ‘zones of uncertainty’ , ‘poison pills’, ‘shark repellent’ to deter the other side from testing the matter in court. Even so – this skill is not comparable, say, to that of the inventors of all the modern drugs, developments in medical science, aircraft, iphones, the internet etc etc which allow us to live a 21st century, as opposed to a 13th Century, life.
So where is this all leading?
Habemus Papam! (“We Have a Pope!”) or, to be more accurate, we have a new Supreme Court Judge – finally…after an almost absurd, but very English, period of legal history where anger, vituperation, jealousy, back slapping, duplicity, whispering and indecision baffled some, amused others, and led to the elevation to judicial pinnaclehood of Lord Justice Dyson.
The Times provides the soothing balm before injecting the more spicy stuff…
“His promotion will be welcomed widely. He is both popular and talented, a public lawyer by background with ability and a humane touch. It will be welcomed, too, for marking an end to an unseemly fiasco that exposed the workings of senior judicial appointments in an unedifying light.”
I have no doubt that Sir John Dyson will be a good supreme court justice. There is little point in speculating. Objective analysis of his judgments (Now they are no longer in the House of Lords, I assume they don’t make speeches any more? Presumably Sir John won’t get a peerage?) will reveal all – and, fortunately, there is an excellent website where this objective and useful analysis is being done: UKSC | Blog
The rest of The Times story is devoted, of course, to the rather shoddy way Jonathan Sumption QC was treated by the ‘powers that be’. (Times coverage)
The Times notes, wryly: “As disclosed in Supreme Ambition, Jealousy and Outrage, Jonathan Sumption, QC, the original favourite, withdrew his application after opposition from senior judges. There was furious resistance to the notion that Sumption, who had not sat as a judge full-time, should leapfrog others who had. Yet the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 had expressly provided for this possibility and the advertisement for the post stated that lawyers of 15 years’ experience could apply.”
This raises two issues: first, that Sir John Dyson, however qualified, may not have been the best choice and (b) it dilutes the intention behind the new statutory regime that it was not necessarily going to be the case that Mr Justice Buggins would get his turn and that we would seek the very best from The Bar, the profession generally, or academe. Other Supreme Courts around the world have benefited from a greater pool, a more diverse approach – why not the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom?
The Times states: “Judges and lawyers remain deeply divided over the issue. A top commercial silk said he thought that Sumption had been “appallingly treated”, adding, “his appointment would have been a one-off. What this has done has effectively blocked the possibility of a top silk joining the Supreme Court for a generation so our highest court has been deprived not just of his but of other talent.”
Inevitably, and one can’t blame the ‘top silk’ – given the secretive ‘ways and means’ which seems to still operate in the higher reaches of the ‘law’ – the top silk chose to speak anonymously, off the record on even such an uncontroversial point! To that extent – one is tempted to disregard ‘top silk’s’ views completely because if he hasn’t the balls to go on record, why should we even consider his thoughts and views? I suppose old habits die hard – but there again, I don’t have to worry as I seek no preferment, reward or honour from anyone, so, within the law, I can say what I like without fear of favour (sic)!
At least an old friend of mine, Jonathan Goldberg QC (though I do not agree with his view on this), did have the cojones to come out and say, with typical bluntness…as reported in the Times: ” But many judges privately take the view of Jonathan Goldberg, QC, who dismissed the idea of such appointments as “all very silly” and “typical new Labour spin”, adding: “It is perfectly obvious that the only person possessing the incredibly refined skills required of a top-tier judge will have been an experienced judge already.”
This, of course, has all been very disappointing for the architect of the new Supreme Court regime… Charlie Falconer who, as Lord Chancellor is alleged to have designed the entire edifice with Tony Blair while smoking a cigar, drinking a whisky and scribbling on the back of a fag packet
The Times reports: ” Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the former Lord Chancellor, said: “We were very keen to open up the Supreme Court beyond simply the Court of Appeal judges. If he [Sumption] was the best man for the job, that he did not come from the usual pool should not have been a reason for rejecting him.”
Lord Goldsmith, the former Attorney-General, said: “Jonathan is an excellent advocate and an excellent lawyer. As a matter of principle, other countries have benefited from occasionally taking into their supreme courts some outstanding lawyers who have not come directly from the ranks of the judiciary.” The principle was a positive: to ensure the “widest choice, so as to have the best possible candidate”; it would be wrong to say such a candidate could never be appointed.
There is, of course, at last one precedent for a member of the Bar going straight to the top court – Lord Radcliffe. The Times picked up the point…giving us (lawyers) another opportunity to bask in our own ‘brilliance’ and, in this case, read of ‘Giants’…. ” Even Hedley Marten, head of Radcliffe Chambers, a set created in 2006 and named after Lord Radcliffe, holds no brief for Sumption. Radcliffe, he said, was not only a “giant at the Bar” but had made substantial contributions to English life, in the Ministry of Information and in the partition of India. “He was already seen as national asset to be used at the highest level.” Sumption was “brilliant” but “unlucky”. “I do not think he passes the ‘national asset’ standing of lords McNaughton or Radcliffe.”
Change? Not bl***y likely… evolution, not revolution, is the ‘ways and means of the ‘Law’ ‘.
I rest my case…?
You may also like to read this very interesting article by Dominic Carman in The Times today : Jonathan Sumption shouldn’t feel alone . . . George Carman didn’t do much better
While I thoroughly enjoy doing my usual (often) daily Law Review (and I am soon to return to serious podcasts after a brief break) – one of the joys of having a blog with no real ‘agenda’, no deadlines and readers who seem to enjoy popping in as the mood suits them – is being able to just write about whatever has taken my interest or mood.
We will soon get a chance to vote – or abstain, forget to vote or be a militant non-voter – and it is a pity I don’t live in Cambridge. Old Holborn has decided to stand for Parliament as Guy Fawkes. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Old Holborn, but I have followed his blog, which I enjoy, and I have admired some recent rants and campaigns – most recently, with Anna Raccoon and others to free Nick Hogan on the Smoking issue. I’ll let Anna raccoon take up the story. She is to be his parliamentary agent and has boned up on the complex issues of Election Law.
“He is not interested in promoting his real life personae, in raising his profile as a person to be appointed to boards or committees, he prefers to remain anonymous.
He is not interested in belonging to a powerful group or tribe, or toeing the party line. He prefers to be independent.
While I do enjoy the black and white vision of the zealous hyperventilating Labour and Tory tweeters and bloggers and their sometimes very amusing banter – the truth of the matter is that there are interesting ideas on all sides of the political spectrum and, fortunately, once the banter has been done, there is much to think about in their views and analysis.
Iain Dale came in for a lot of criticism recently (largely from the left, unfortunately) for interviewing Nick Griffin, BNP leader, for Total Politics.
I was more than happy to support Dale’s stance that interviewing Griffin is the right thing to do so that we may judge Griffin on the basis of his words and actions, not myth and tabloid hysteria. I read Iain Dale’s interview with Griffin. It is a good interview, polite but direct with some excellent touches of satire which may well have gone over Griffin’s head. For a Cambridge law graduate, Griffin is not the clearest thinker or communicator or, frankly – given his responses, the brightest knife in the box. I got the feeling, reading Griffin’s responses, that he would have been a rather dull person to teach in law tutorials – I don’t get the feeling that he has an interest in law or the rule of law! I prefer my speech free and Iain Dale has held to a much valued tradition of free speech by doing the interview. Credit where credit is due is also part of politics and life – even if we may not always be prepared to give it in public in the weeks before an election!
You may remember Sgt Delroy Smellie. He stands 6ft 4″ in his bare feet, but dressed as Robocop in full body armour and wielding a police baton which he used on a young woman, he was very much a commanding presence. Unfortunately, Sgt Smellie may well have succumbed to the old Actonian aphorism on power because he seemed to think he was justified in hitting a woman because (a) he mistook a carton of orange juice she was carrying for a ‘weapon’ and (b) she did not ‘obey orders’. Telegraph
The trial continues and, rightly, we’ll have to see what the jury makes of Sgt Smellie’s conduct and defence. [Oops...I got wrong on jury - see Simon Bradshaw's comment below which I have left!]
The Chancellor has delivered his budget, pleasing Labourites and angering Tories who have rubbished it. Not much point in reading the blogs on this and twitter is awash with Tory and Labour bloggers et al shouting at each other – pointlessly! The money markets will decide who is right.
Woke at 4.00 as usual and logged on to The Times online and read the screaming headline…
On closer inspection the ‘leading doctors’ – as opposed to the non-leading variety who get up each day wondering which particular bit of medical negligence law they will test that day? – are calling for people who smoke in cars containing children to be banned from doing it. My own view on this is fairly straightforward… if parents are daft enough to smoke in a car while their children are present, idotic enough to feed up their children, like geese on fois gras, until the little darlings are so fat they look like mini zeppelins and are so lacking in any form of parental responsibility they don’t know or care if little Johnny is out committing burglary or other crimes – they really shouldn’t have children in the first place… but there we are.
I don’t have children. I don’t want children and, being honest, there are times when I have ‘dark thoughts’ about wanting to have children banned from pubs and restaurants. This then led me to the idea that in these dark credit-crunch times, we could perhaps introduce a Child Tax so that those who do wish to have children actually pay more tax than those who do not. I explored these thoughts on Twitter – only to be reminded that children are our future because they will work and be taxed later to pay for the old. It was but a short jump in thinking to suggest, by way of response,why wait?…. we should put children to work earlier so we can tax them as well as the parents. I shall write to Osbore and suggest this in case he finds himself a little light on ideas if he is the next Chancellor.
I went off to have coffee and get my smoking back to olympic standards after a bit of a lay off while I was sleeping and, as is my practice, I read a tabloid before starting on the more sane newspapers. Today… it was The Sun – where I learned that doctors are at it again, advising us that there has been a four fold rise in syphilis – due, it seems, to Facebook. I have long suspected that Facebook can give one syphylis of the mind, but I had no idea that ‘poking’ someone on Facebook could lead to syphylis of the sexually transmitted variety. Apparently, “Figures released last month showed that people in Sunderland, Durham and Teesside were 25 per cent more likely to log on regularly.” Log on to get syphilis? I had to read more… and then lost the will to continue living….
But… my energy was renewed when I started reading the next story in The Sun – SCANNER GLAMOUR DIG-DONG
I love those gigantic t**s screamed the headline
The Sun reports, dribbling with righteousness and shoehorning a bit of civil liberties in for good measure about how these machines infringe human rights….
A HEATHROW security man was quizzed by police after ogling a girl colleague “naked” in a new anti-terror body scanner.
Jo Margetson, 29, reported John Laker, 25, after he took her picture with the X-ray gadget and made a lewd comment.
The pervy guard leered and told her: “I love those gigantic t**s.”
And then I discovered from the Sun that Al Qaedr have a new TERROR device – women with exploding breasts. The plan is that female suicide bombers will have their breasts impregnated with high explosive – undetectable to scanners, we are told – and blow themselves up. Male suicide bombers, it is suggested, will be given exploding buttocks. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the story on the online version of The Sun because I would then be able to show you a picture of a pair of breasts fitted with high explosives.
But despair not…. The Sun has other astonishing news…
The man suffered brain damage and paralysis after a prank went horrifically wrong.
Wedding film of the incident — as a bride and groom celebrated their nuptials — has sparked horror after being posted on the web.
Ever helpful, The Sun saves you the bother of trying to find this delight on the internet by providing the video embeded on the page so you, too, may enjoy the same experience as the happy couple. Astonishing…. The Sun does note…”The unnamed man’s condition was later described as “very poor” after doctors removed a bullet from his skull”
I then met a very amusing guy who has coffee at the same cafe and…. what a small world it is. He asked me what I did for a living. I resisted the urge to say that I was a disgraced MP out looking for a ‘consultancy’ or two – so I told him… briefly. He then told me that his girlfriend had just done the LPC and starts today working for a very well known lawyer – the same lawyer that my ex girlfriend did some work for at one of London’s top firms and where she continues to work. I then asked him what he did – he is a builder and stand up comedian. Excellent way to start the day.
I shall return later to write about some Law news…..
Not being a Family lawyer - and with much of my interest in law rooted in Contract - I can’t really see why two adults should not attend to their financial affairs in advance of marriage in the reasonable expectation that the courts will uphold what they have agreed. I can understand why the courts should have protective jurisdiction over children under the age of 18 but do not see why the courts, in these modern days, should have any involvement whatsoever between the adult parties – save for dissolving the marriage according to statute, a pretty routine administrative matter these days The Supremes are going to get a chance to stick their oar in shortly – The Times.
I shall now sit back, light a cigarette and wait to be flamed by outraged family lawyers who will, no doubt, find many reasons why the courts should intervene in what, essentially, is or should be a private matter.
“They say that satire died when Henry Kissinger was given the Nobel Peace Prize,” Ken Loach, the film maker, told a little-reported event in Brussels last year. “Well, it died again when Tony Blair was appointed a special representative for the Middle East.”
The Samosa carries a report of an attempted Citizen’s arrest on Tony Blair. While these stunts may well be admired by those who do not care for Tony Blair’s war mongeringe, they are not without danger. The difficulty is, that you can’t really arrest someone and then hope to find a court to try him. generally, the court is ready and waiting, the indictment laid, the offence ordained by statute or common law. Unfortunately, as far as I am aware, there is no indictment charging Blair with war crimes…. that is the root issue?
Do lawyers really earn too much?
Well… the answer to that depends on who is paying. A private client, whether corporate or wealthy individual has a fair prospect of negotiating value even if he or she cannot significantly depart from the remarkably similar fee scales charged by the top lawyers for their services! When it comes to lawyers being paid by the State I am coming, increasingly, to the view that it is entirely reasonable that the Secretary of State for Justice should ensure that the State gets good value. The issue really turns on what is a reasonable fee for the work done, given that Jack Straw, rightly, has said that the law is not there to provide work for lawyers.
The Times reports: “Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, warned that “we are in grave danger of becoming over-lawyered and under-represented” as figures showed that 950 barristers earned more than £100,000 gross last year. Ten QCs were paid more than £500,000, with the highest on £928,000. The highest-paid criminal defence solicitors’ firm earned £9.3 million.”
Lawyers are not going to get a lot of sympathy for their very high fee demands at the top of the pile (many lawyers do not earn a great deal of money) and as Dennis Skinner MP, the ‘Beast of Bolsover’ told MPs yesterday…. “You aren’t going to starve on £60,000″ - I would far rather see lawyers struggling to maintain a reasonable and fair living supported – for then representation for those who need it will rise - than the pockets of the top lawyers being lined with public funds.
For a noble ‘profession’ there do seem to be a lot of very greedy people in it – but that is not a problem so long as we stop the nonsense about calling it a vocation or a profession. Nursing is a vocation…working for peanuts in a law centre is a vocation… being a very rich barrister or City lawyer is not.
Perhaps it is time for those at the very top of the legal aid earnings pile to take a ‘vow of chastity’ and come down to …say £500,000 ? I’ve just seen a small squadron of pigs with barristers wigs on flying past in formation down the Thames.
And talking about men with barrister wigs on… the Daily Mail reported yesterday that a man wearing a barrister’s wig with electrical wires coming out of a rucksack caused alarm and consternation yesterday. In fact, he was lucky not to be shot when Robocops turned up.
I may as well have been sitting in The Whitehall Theatre back in the old days when Brian Rix did his farces as I watched Dispatches. Tonight’s edition of Channel 4 Dispatches was a Tour de Farce…epic even. Hoon, Hewitt, Byers, Baroness Morgan, Margaret Moran – too ill to do constituency work.. but not ill enough to turn up and do an enthusiastic interview) and Sir John Butterfill, a sole Tory MP – ‘pillars of the establishment’, some ex-ministers…. all revealed to the increasingly goggle eyed viewer just how venal they can be. Channel 4 set up a fake consultancy company, Anderson Perry, and invited these politicians along to see just how much they charged and whether they were for hire. £3000-5000 is the going daily rate. Hoon even told the interviewer that he was away recently doing Nato work…and a ‘bit of Hoon work’!
I don’t have a major problem with ex MPs earning a living – £20 million… didn’t the socialist Tony do well?…as Brucie might have said… but profiting directly from time in government to a point of trying to influence policy on the QT is not ideal.
A disgrace… and if they lied, as appears may be the case, following denial and ‘explanation’ today – please see the views of the Fat Bigot in the post below….
I quite liked Sir John Betterfillmyboots MP… particularly when he rose to the occasion and informed the comely female interviewer…confidentially… that he would be going to the Lords! Love it…. Gun… BANG… just blasted my left..sorry, right…foot orf.. was the first thought which came to my, by then, laughter collapsed mind.
This was Britain at its best… we lead the world… I am going to sing Land of Whores and Glory..below…. and wonder what happened to the idea of socialism and fairness with those who are supposed to serve Labour ideals (I exempt Butterfillhisboots on grounds that as a Tory – at least we know he hasn’t got any nonsense on his sleeve about being a ‘socialist’) and put the needs of the people first.
Land of Whores and Glory – to be sung in honour of the Alumni of Anderson Perry
Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Sleaze,
How shall we whore thee, who are born of thee?
Wider still, and wider, shall my fees be set;
God, who made me mighty, make me mightier yet
Channel 4 tonight will broadcast Dispatches – a tale of corruption, mendacity, greed, deception , absurdity and sheer idiocy.
Stephen Byers has referred himself to the watchdog – possibly in the hope that he will be exonerated in full and be recommended for a peerage so that he can join other arch criminals who have, in their time, made a mockery of the peerage and the House of Lords ….. but he may have to watch that he isn’t referred to the CPS or fall victim to a private prosecution. I am not a criminal lawyer – but my old mate, the Fat Bigot, was a very successful member of the Criminal Bar and he writes with great clarity on this issue… “When in a cesspit…stop digging” – it is worth a read. Guido Fawkes was asking ‘loafing lawyers’ to decide how many criminal offences Byers may have committed already… the Fat Bigot has a view on this. Do read his post… I will give you a hint with this extract…
In order to earn fees at all the former ministers would have to satisfy potential clients that they should be engaged. At meetings held to discuss the prospect of their being engaged they made representations about having assisted others to achieve favourable results that could not have been achieved without their intervention. Now they accept that those representations were lies. In other words they were seeking to gain work by telling lies. That used to be “attempting to obtain a pecuniary advantage by deception” under the Theft Act 1968, it might now be worded differently and feature in a Fraud Act but the substance of the offence has not changed. They are in exactly the same position as Mr Hardup who tells lies about his circumstances in order to obtain a job or to obtain benefits he is not entitled to receive.
Perhaps I am missing something, but it seems to me that either they were telling the truth about their previous lobbying successes (in which case they were admitting to past corruption in order to gain fees for engaging in future corruption) or they were telling lies (in which case they were committing a criminal fraud in order to gain fees for engaging in future corruption). What is so peculiar about it is that their corrupt activities are not necessarily criminal offences, whereas telling lies to obtain money most certainly is a criminal offence. They just made their position worse.