Not Blawg Review… but UKBlawgReview !

Delighted to see a new initiative to promote UK law blogs!.

Do have a look at this excellent round up by Peninsulawyer

“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…..”


A youth army ? Tomorrow belongs to us?

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 is that wonderful song from Cabaret!…just to get you in ze 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

Law Review: The spectre of a ‘Hung Parliament’

Gordon Brown likely to stay as PM in hung parliament

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.

@ericpickles:In the silence of the cab going back to the Commons after #Newsnight can still hear @ChrisHuhne & @johnprescott screaming

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.

Law Review: UK lawmakers delay reform of tough libel laws

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.

Guido Fawkes

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.

Insite Law Newswire – 1st Edition

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 weeklyplease 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.

Download the first edition here

Law Review: Satanic mechanics?… you can’t get better than a Kwik-Brief getter?

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 #257

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.

MPs told they can keep employing family members

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:

Accounting firms facing rise in negligence claims amid credit crunch fallout

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 Clash of The Tight ‘uns

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.

Charon Reports – a plan to do occasional ‘Reports’

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,

Law Review: Justice on the cheap

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?

An idea – a weekly newswire summarising law news and comment

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.

Have a look?

If you have time, would  you please  email me or post a comment with your thoughts?

Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Thames: Papal Bull edition

Dear Reader,

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.

The Observer notes: “The head of the Catholic church is bracing himself for a new round of allegations by victims of paedophile priests — in Italy”

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

Dear Charon,

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.)

An excellent article by David Blackburn in The Spectator caught my eye.

The most corrupt parliament ever?

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


Rive Gauche: Antique ASBOS, a BNP barrister, Meow Meow drug barons, and a pharamacist who won’t give out contraception because of ‘religious beliefs’ al

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.

Barrister standing for BNP at election loses post at chambers

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’…



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…

We got it very wrong, admits Law Society boss as ‘Tesco law’ founders

“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’.

New code allows religious pharmacists to opt out of prescribing contraception

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…

It’s time for a written constitution – and real power to the people

AND FINALLY….. Thought for the day

Law Review: Habemus Papam!? – Of planet sized brains and ‘skulduggery’ redux

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.

  • [X’s] style inspires confidence, and he is adept at identifying winning arguments’ (Chambers & Partners, 2010)
  • ‘Sources underline his credentials as a “clever, persuasive advocate with real gravitas’ (Chambers & Partners, 2010)
  • ‘Never fails to make an impression’; ‘highly imaginative and engaging advocate’; ‘thoroughness and ability to spot angles in a case that others will miss’; ‘bedazzled by him’; ‘skill at crafting a case such that you get the result you want’ (Chambers & Partners, 2009)
  • ‘unique amongst barristers in the way he presents his case.’ An ‘accomplished, brave and innovative advocate’; ‘has a strong, clear view on things and a deliberate way of moving through his argument which ensures all his points get made to the judiciary’; ‘he speaks a language we understand.’ (Chambers & Partners, 2008)
  • a “combination of intellectual brilliance and unrivalled experience”, “one of the few at the Bar who can genuinely make a complete difference when you are having your last roll of the dice” (Chambers & Partners, 2009)
  • ‘known to really get his teeth into the big cases.'” (Chambers guide 2008)

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

A ramble about in some interesting places…

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.

Do have a look if you have time.

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!

Read the interview with Nick Griffin?

G20 police officer hit woman ‘because she was threat’

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!]

Budget 2010

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.

The “Ban It” brigade is out in force again…

Woke at 4.00 as usual and logged on to The Times online and read the screaming headline…

Leading doctors call for ban on smoking in cars

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…

WEDDING guests watched in horror after a guest shot himself in the head playing RUSSIAN ROULETTE.

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…..

Law Review: Pre-nuptial agreements, Citizen’s arrest for Blair?, Sympathy for barristers… you’re having a larf, guv?

Supreme Court to decide on the validity of prenuptial agreements

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.

Wrestling with the libel hydra

Pressure is growing to stop the rich and powerful using the courts to stifle debate – but time is running out


Prisoner sues after he is banned from smoking
The Telegraph: A prisoner addicted to tobacco is seeking damages after he was banned from smoking for swearing at a prison officer.  While the Floggers, Hangers and Softoncrime lifers applaud every abuse against prisoners – you just need to see the comments supporting the prisoner who slashed and nearly killed the Soham killer, Huntley – I can see that the sudden removal of tobacco from a prisoner without providing a substitute could well infringe the Human Rights Act.  It will be interesting to see how the trial judge views this.

Sir JohnButterfillhisboots MP unlikely to go to Lords after Dispatches?!

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

Minicab for Number 10…..?

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.

Law Review: Gagging for Prince Charles?, Quangocrats for hire, To Magic Circle or not to Magic Circle?

The Times reports: ” THE government is trying to change the law to protect the Prince of Wales from scrutiny when he intervenes in public affairs. Jack Straw, the justice secretary, has tabled an amendment to the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill to impose a blanket ban on anyone disclosing information about Prince Charles, the Queen and Prince William. The move comes after a freedom of information (FoI) application revealed how Charles scuppered a £3 billion redevelopment of Chelsea Barracks. The property developers Christian and Nick  Candy discovered that his aide met planning officials to discuss scrapping the scheme….”

Interestingly, the Times states: “Critics of Straw’s amendment say it would seriously undermine freedom of information laws. More than 60 MPs have signed an early day motion calling for it to be dropped. Clarence House said Charles had not lobbied for the changes.”

It is not unreasonable that the Monarch and  monarchs  in the queue, so to speak, should be able to talk in confidence – but I can see no good reason for exemption when, for example, Prince Charles explores wider issues which are wider than the strict and secret national interest. Surely the present exemptions are sufficient?  Arise Sir Lord Jack?

The weekend brought news that Stephen Byers and other Labour ministers were fooled by a cash for info sting – to be screened on Channel 4 Dispatches on Monday night.  Douglas Carswell MP raises a more important issue…

Who’s for hire in SW1?

“It’s not only soon-to-be ex-MPs who allegedly pass through the revolving door from government to business. The spotlight needs to be shone on unelected officials moving from Whitehall to the private sector. Given how enfeebled MPs and ministers have become, it’s technocrats and civil servants that are now seen as real high-value hires by lobbyists.Big corporate vested interests often prefer to have a former quangocrat, who took real decisions, on their payroll, rather than their ex-mouthpiece of a minister. Do unelected officials trade in their contact book? You bet….”

Magic circle tag redundant, Eversheds research finds

It is unusual for me to comment on a story in The Lawyer and Legal Week simply because they tend to focus on the business of lawyers making money as lawyers rather than on the law – which is fair enough. I cannot, however, resist an article where Eversheds commissions a report to confirm that its non-membership of the Magic Circle is just not a problem because ‘half of all clients think that the magic circle designation is redundant, with 94 per cent of them arguing that the profession should reclassify its peer groups.”‘

The usual blunderbuss statistics are chucked about – did the writers of the report really talk to ‘half of all clients’ (or even ALL law firm clients in the world so they could come up with ‘half of all clients’)… or just Evershed clients? Setting aside that those who go to McDonalds for a burger out of necessity may not be happy admitting they can’t afford  to go to a Michelin star restaurant (and this is not to be taken as suggesting that non Magic Circle firms are the McDonalds of the legal world in case some under worked City lawyer is wondering whether to bone up on libel law) … but does it really matter?  The market will decide.  Eversheds is a huge and successful law firm  – probably providing a wider range of legal services than those in the Magic Circle.

BUT.. of course it matters.. to those in the Magic Circle and some who practise law outside . Witness these quotes and comments… “Linklaters corporate partner Charles Jacobs argued that the magic circle firms will still continue to dominate strategic… “The crisis has shown us that the magic circle peer group still gets the lion’s share of the key deals,” he said. “Clients move down market in boom markets not in times of crisis for key transactions and advice. Would HM Treasury have gone to a non-magic circle firm for the Government bailout?”Just loved the words ‘clients move down market’. Then of course…the usual anonymous commentator – who knows… it may even be a ‘plant’..we can’t tell because they are ‘anonymous’….

Anonymous | 18-Mar-2010 2:57 pm

Is this “research commissioned by Eversheds” the most self-serving, steaming pile of bulls**t ever? Certainly sounds that way.

And then another ‘anonymous… but one, possibly with a good reason as   he/she is  ex Magic Circle…

Anonymous | 18-Mar-2010 4:13 pm

I see the lawyers at the Magic Circle have nothing better to do than comment on The Lawyer website. I wonder which client they’ve been charging for their time?
Here, here I say. As an ex Magic Circle lawyer that has spent time in-house, I couldn’t agree more with the findings. It’s about time people realised just how arrogant and exploitative the Magic Circle firms really are.

We British, sadly, are conditioned from birth to be feudally hierarchical, to make subtle distinctions of class, intelligence, tribe etc etc etc… we have State School v Public School, Oxbridge v Red Brick…. Magic Circle v ‘Lesser’ Firms…. will it ever change?  I doubt it… Does it really matter?  probably.. if the Magic Circle can still ull of the trick of charging more for their advice than others and general Counsel buy into the dream…

Surprised? I’m surprised if you are surprised. In the meantime, if law firms wish to keep ‘researchers’ busy by commissioning self wish fulfilment and vanity reports to keep themselves (and others) amused… why not?

How is i that Magic Circle lawyers can get away with charging more for giving advice on exactly the same law as every other lawyer has access to? They may argue that they employ the very best minds and bring ‘added value’.  I’m not so sure… there are some pretty bright lawyers out there in non Magic Circle law firms… unless, if you are from a Magic Circle law firm, you can prove otherwise?  Maybe the game is up and General Counsel have rumbled ’em and savings can be made, without a drop in quality, by going to a cheaper non Magic Circle law firm? – which, of course, is exactly (some say)  what is happening and the big non MC firms may well take an even bigger slice of the pie in the brave new world coming.

Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Thames: Strike while the iron is hot edition….

Dear Reader,

3.50 am is, perhaps, a bit early to get up on a Sunday morning;  presenting that awkward dilemma… is it too early or late for a glass of Rioja?  Fortunately, unlike Mr Cameron – but six weeks or so away from having to cancel   the removals van booking, I don’t have bigger issues to decide…such as finding a new Foreign Secretary, whether Ken Clarke might have been a better choice of Chancellor, whether there could be any good ideas out there on the internet to use as policies…. so I poured myself a glass and settled down to read the News of The Screws and other newspapers online.

The NOTW informed me that Jade Goody’s mother went on a ‘coke binge to mark the anniversary of her daughter’s death’, ‘Venables goes ‘crazy’ in clink’ (quite possibly from reading all the tabloid ‘exclusives’ on him), ‘Paedo on Facebook snared me in web of lies’ (Not ‘me’ being ensnared obviously) – and declined to accept an invitation from the NOTW to meet Mr Miaow Miaow online. I always try to be fair  but searched in vain for anything on NOTW online which could be classed as news or of relevance to anyone that lives on Earth.

So.. it was over to The Sunday Times….online….

Not being one of the new graduates from The Laurel & Hardy Institute of Humanity Studies, I do not believe that ‘people should not ever be allowed to strike…. EVAR! ‘ (which seems to be a popular view among those wretched souls kept in a London ‘Lock up’ so they can be polled from time to time on the issues of the day… I soon got bored with the coverage in various newspapers claiming victory for one side or the other in the British Airways-Unite strike.   I knew I had to read Clarkson on the matter…

Captain to striking cabin crew: boy, are you in for a shock

Clarkson does the business… and summarises the matter in his inimitable way…

“I like Virgin. And I flew Singapore Airlines recently, which was out of this world. But there is nothing quite so joyous as leaving the hustle and bustle of a superheated Third World hellhole and being greeted on the big BA jumbo by a homosexual with a cold flannel and a refreshing glass of champagne. Take that away from us and we may as well all be Belgian.”

I then turned to an interesting article in The Sunday Times…. SAS veterans join new war on poachers:Conservation Wildlife charities are using military kit and know-how in bloody battles to save species at risk

And… just in case you thought that the corruption by MPs was all done and dusted now they have (almost) all paid back what they were not entitled to by way of expenses…the Sunday Times comes up with….

Revealed: Labour’s cash for influence scandal

The Sunday Times reports: A FORMER Labour cabinet minister has boasted about how he used his government contacts to change policies in favour of businesses. Stephen Byers, former trade and transport secretary, was secretly recorded offering himself “like a sort of cab for hire” for up £5,000 a day. He also suggested bringing Tony Blair to meet clients. He was among several politicians recorded by an undercover reporter posing as a company executive looking to hire MPs for lobbying work.

“The others included…” – well… it is only fair that you read the Sunday Times story….. they did the work…it is an interesting list!

And then this… from The Observer…

Treasury calls in Vince Cable for talks on implications of a hung parliament

The Observer reports: “Vince Cable has held unprecedented and detailed talks with the top official at the Treasury about the Liberal Democrats’ economic policies – and declared himself willing to serve as chancellor after the next election. As Whitehall gears up for a possible hung parliament, Cable told the Observer that he had been questioned by Nicholas Macpherson, the Treasury’s permanent secretary, about what the Lib Dems’ demands would be in a coalition with Labour or the Tories….”

The Observer noted…“Cable was unaware of such meetings having taken place with Lib Dem shadow chancellors before previous general elections. The talks were a sign that the Treasury was “taking seriously” the prospect of his party playing a leading role in economic policy in what could be the first hung parliament since 1974.”

On the other hand… as nothing would surprise me in politics these days… it could just be some guy at The Treasury who gets up at 3.30 am, cracks open a bottle of Rioja,  and decides it might be fun to phone Vince Cable….and see what happens ?

I watched Eddie Izzard on television last night – doing his 43 marathons for Sports relief... I like Eddie Izzard (How can one not?) … that was a very fine effort… and because Le Singe is, obviously, still in his tree… I am more than prepared to make a donation to Sport Relief – ordinarily, I don’t like to be told by celebrities to make donations… … but Eddie Izzard doesn’t tell… he suggests…invites… and anyone who can eat a Big Mac while doing a Marathon deserves support!

It is now 5.30 am and I am in an excellent mood… unfortunately… the cafes are not open yet… so I may have another

Best, as always


Rive Gauche: Pope apologises and is Dr Who a non-dom or a long term resident?

BBC: Pope Benedict XVI has apologised to victims of child sex abuse by Catholic priests in Ireland.

It buggers belief that priests in Ireland abused children under their pastoral care – and that the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, has resisted calls to resign over his handling of abuse allegations in the 1970s that saw victims sign confidentiality agreements.

Nowhere in the bible does it say that Jesus had a sword fight… and Jewish magic tricks.

On a lighter note, on the subject of religion, I thoroughly enjoyed this remarkable series of emails between a parent and a school chaplain in connection with parental consent for a child to attend a school religious play… if you haven’t seen it… I am confident, religious or not, that you will laugh….you may laugh more if you are, as I am, a non-believer.  Read the emails

PRIME MINISTER’S QUESTIONS?…And continuing the theme of unbelievable events and mythical matters…. I asked Tom Harris MP, who is a Dr Who fan, about the tax status of the great Doctor. Taking time away from rather more serious issues, Tom replied in his usual dry style…. some politicians do humour well…

In the interests of political balance… this tweet from Paul Waugh, deputy political editor at the Tha Standard

May have overdone the juice last night talking with friends until 4.30 and staggering about Battersea Square at 8.00 to try and find a cafe open to serve coffee…back later…

Charon’s new ‘Pretentious Moi?’ Award and deleting myself from Facebook and Linked-In!

It being Friday, and  in a sardonic mood,…I thought I would institute a new ‘Order’The ‘Pretentious Moi? Award.

Now who… do you think this would be written of…..?

“A feature in Tatler magazine described how the pair liked to rise early “at their two-bedroom taupe-painted barn outside Chipping Norton” to fly to Venice by private jet for lunch at Harry’s Bar before returning to central London for dinner at Wilton’s restaurant in Jermyn Street.”

The answer to this absurd nonsense may be found here…at the foot of the rather sick making article.

I have, as it happens, had the pleasure of visiting both establishments – but I didn’t waste most of the day sitting in an airplane or tube, car or other transport… simply because I did it on different days… still…where would we be without this sort of smuggery? The world would be a poorer place.

Linked-In and Facebook

I amused myself for a while this morning – deleting my Facebook account.  I hardly ever used it.  I was asked some time ago to join Linked-In.  I was frivolous and registered myself qua “Charon QC”, president of Charon International PLC and put my occupation as a money launder and bank shares short seller.  I can’t really see the point of spending my life on Social media sites – apart from Twitter and blogging which I enjoy – so there was a pleasure in deleting Facebook and Linked-In.   The only problem is that Linked-in… means just that.  I could not find any button to press to delete my account, sohhad to waste yet more time removing all the ludicrous information I had put in in the first place.

I shall continue to use twitter to talk with those I talk with on twitter.  I don’t use twitter for any other purpose and it is enjoyable to use the service to keep in touch with fellow tweeters.

And… on the subject of social media….

My “Rive Gauche” posts are now moving to Saturday….

Must dash… got a lunch appointment at Harry’s Bar in Venice and then back for dinner at Ramsays… MWAH… as they say in Smug Square….

Hague to resign over arse / elbow confusion

Picture from the New Statesman – but modified, obviously.

The New Statesman reports: “So after the Tories attempted to divert attention away from the Ashcroft affair through a crude assault on the trade union movement, today they find themselves back under the spotlight.Papers leaked to the BBC show that William Hague was consistently kept informed about the negotiations of Ashcroft’s tax status and that he was “satisfied” with the final outcome in July 2000. All of which seems rather at odds with the shadow foreign secretary’s earlier claim that he only discovered Ashcroft’s non-dom status a “few months” ago.

Hague’s rather lame defence on the Today programme this morning was that he was not a “tax accountant” and that as leader of the opposition he had “a thousand and one problems at a time”.

Inevitably… Lib-Dems popped up with the line that hague was not fit for office…. perhaps the Tories could borrow from Brown and say it is a matter of ‘lessons to be learned’ ?  The New Statesman says that Hague must resign… he won’t, of course…. who is dumb enough in politics these days to resign?… they don’t even resign when they get hauled before the Westminster Magistrates… or, in the case of Baroness Uddin… when they escape from prosecution… but everyone thinks she is up to the elbow in ‘merde’.  Maybe Hague will get the elbow?


It just gets better…and the election hasn’t even been called yet…

Get DaveBerry and keep in the Tory policy loop! DaveBerry FTW!!!

I just could not resist…. after reading this leader from The Times this morning…

Ding-dong. Doorbell rings. Man opens front door.

Man: Hello. Come for this week’s rent, have you?

Tory candidate: Ha-ha-ha! No, I’ve . . .

Man: Why do you keep staring at your BlackBerry? You’re not here to flog me a mobile tariff, are you?

Tory candidate: No, the Conservative Party has gone paperless! I’m your candidate and this phone is my manifesto information hotline to Tory HQ [see page 11]. Can I count on your vote on May 6?…..

Do read the rest of The Times leader if you have time – not often a Times leader makes me laugh… well…they don’t often write amusing leaders…leaders are for ‘serious matters’ !

Law Review: The legal profession’s ‘perfect storm’, naked news readers, privacy and ‘Bar wars’!

Eversheds report looks at how ‘perfect storm’ will affect the legal profession

Edward Fennell, in an interesting article in The Times, asks: Is the recession just a blip for law firms and can we expect to return to business as usual once the Government has sorted out the public finances? Or are we on the verge of epochal change? The stimulating report just out from Eversheds — Law Firm of the 21st Century: the Clients’ Revolution — which I refer to in my In the City diary column this week, suggests that it is very much the latter.

For UK lawyers there is the much discussed perfect storm of the conflux of four drivers of systemic change — the Legal Services Act, globalisation, technology and the increasing power of in-house general counsel (GC), which will affect the profession whether working in the high street or on Cheapside. The Eversheds report attempts to analyse which of the four factors will be the most significant and, based on opinion surveys of law firm partners and GCs, suggests that globalisation (closely followed by the increasing status of GCs ) will be most influential…..

The increasing power of General Counsel – a lawyer known formerly by the far less glamorous term ‘In-house lawyer – has been driven, to a great extent, by the credit-crunch with large corporates seeking more ‘bang for their buck’ and is closely related to the issue of value billing or the more traditional form of hourly billing. Fennel notes “The reason that in–house lawyers are gaining higher status is because the most senior executives have realised just how important legal issues have become to the successful management of businesses. They are no longer hygiene issues but, as the growth in the importance of intellectual property demonstrates, they are now fundamental to business performance”

I touched on some of these issues when I interviewed a well known General Counsel, Tom Kilroy – Misys plc, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Company Secretary – for my series of Inside Track podcasts with the College of Law. You may find it interesting to listen to the podcast? Tom gives a fascinating insight into the role of the GC.

If you haven’t listened to it before, you may also find my podcast With Richard Susskind of interest in terms of the future of the legal profession. Professor Richard Susskind paints a vivid picture of the way the legal profession is likely to develop, based on his research and his best-selling book The End of Lawyers? Listen to the podcast.

Sian Williams’s naked plea fails to convince taxman

The BBC presenter Sian Williams loves her job so much that she would do it naked. Or so she told the taxman. It was all to no avail, however. She claimed that because clothing was required by BBC bosses, who also asked for regular wardrobe rotation, it should be deductible from her tax bill. It was rejected – The Times

Sian William’s argument seemed to hone in on the possibility that she would be sacked by the BBC is she wore the same clothes too often.  The taxman did not buy into this and repeated the rule that expenses can only be deducted for tax if they are “wholly, exclusively and necessarily in the performance of employment duties”.

Inevitably, it would not bother me at all if the newsreaders started reading the news in the nude and, indeed, some people are so enthusaistic about the idea they have started a Facebook group to encourage this. “Let Sian Williams read the TV News NAKED!”

Privacy law: is Max Mosley right?

David Allen Green, author of the Jack of Kent blog writes in The Lawyer: For those whose privacy is invaded, the phrase “Freedom of the Press” is no more compelling than “Freedom of the State”.

Both the Press and the State are capable of doing great good; the effective functioning of both is fundamental to a modern democratic society.  However, the Press and the State are both also capable of intruding needlessly into the lives, communications, and personal space of private individuals.But to take privacy seriously means not starting with the rights of the Press or the State, nor with the interests of the nosey neighbour, the presumptuous council official, or the tabloid reader.  It means starting with the private individual, and working outwards to engage with those who wish to intrude into that individual’s private life….

An interesting article and worth a read. A complex issue with a fair number of factors to balance.  I am still thinking about the issue of a ‘developing law of privacy’ and while it is always interesting to see how others spend time on their hobbies and lives, I am not convinced that it really was in the public interest for us to know that Max Mosley enjoys strutting about shouting in German, having his head examined for lice and then enjoy a cup of tea after a good old British / German thrashing.  The difficulty lies where celebrities, public figures or corporates use super-injunctions and the nascent law of privacy and human rights to prevent revelations which are in the public interest, given the  impact of their activities on the ‘public interest’. Do we have a right to know what Max Mosley gets up to in a Chelsea basement ‘dungeon’ in his own time? No, I don’t think we do.  Do we have a right to know if a Chief Justice ejaculates into his trousers when passing a death sentence as Lord Goddard was reputed to do? yes, we do – for it impacts on his ability and competence to serve in a very important public role. Wikipedia notes: “It has been claimed that Goddard had a particular personal reaction to sentencing people to death. According to his valet, Goddard would have an orgasm during sentencing and his trousers had to be sent off to be cleaned as a result.Another version suggests Goddard reacted in this way when sentencing young men to be birched.”

This may or may not be true – but Lord Bingham is reported as  stating that Goddard was “one of the outstanding criminal judges of the century”, and underlined the change in social standards between 1953 and 1998.  On the plus side – no memorial service was held for him when he died in 1971…Goddard said he did not want one as they were “exercises in hypocrisy”.  I could not agree more…. I  will, however, be making a DVD in readiness for my own departure from Gate Number One….  ...”Charon from Beyond the Grave”.

The Lawyer Focus: 4 New square, Bar Wars

“Despite 4 New Square defeating accusations of racist behaviour in the Employment Tribunal, the case has not done the image of the set – or indeed the bar as a whole – any favours…”

The court battle between 4 New Square (4NS) and London barrister Aisha Bijlani, which ended earlier this month (3 March), was not just a high-profile row between lawyers. The potentially catastrophic (for the set) case has forced the bar to deal with some uncomfortable home truths….

I’d get the popcorn out for this one and settle back – an extraordinary tale from The Lawyer!

An afternoon of ephemera,miscellanea, a Jedi job seeker, Christ quotes…..and a glass or two of Rioja

After the bug of last week (which has not entirely gone – I now have an absurdly deep / croaky voice which makes podcasts just too absurd to contemplate..Think Paul Robeson on benylin) I decided to have a glass of Rioja for afternoon tea.  Normally I wait until well after 7.00 in the evening – but ars longia vita brevis and all that..

I like this….You be The Judge from the Criminal Justice System Online – it does what it says on the tin. [Hat Tip to Brian Inkster of Inksters for alerting me to this ]  You hear the case and decide the sentence…and then see if it bears any resemblance to the ‘real thing’.  Floggers, hangers and deporters will…however, be disappointed. Nothing for you here… but I am sure you can make your own arrangements for something more suited to your tastes by using Google.

And, if you fancy a shock to your central nervous system this wonderful pastiche by the politically astute and leading Photoshop artist..Beau Bo D’Or… it really is worth a look… but I did warn you.

On, temporarily, to more serious matters….. a bit of law, even.

Keir Starmer QC ruled last week that he could not prosecute Baroness Uddin because of a change in the rules by the Lords. One leading barrister takes a very different line.  I extract the full letter from The Times – with due apology for a full extract – because it is rather interesting.  Here is The Times online reference.


The decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions not to prosecute peers who may have committed a criminal offence is said to have been brought about by a loophole (leading article, Mar 13). It is no such thing. It would appear to be an extraordinary failure by the DPP to understand what is required to prove a case. The obvious (but not only) charge would have been one of obtaining property by deception, contrary to s15 Theft Act 1968. In order to establish such an offence the prosecution would have to prove that a defendant dishonestly obtained property belonging to another by deception with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it.

The crucial aspect of the deception is the statement supposedly made by the peer that the address in question was that person’s main residence. Whether the address in question was indeed the main residence is a question for the jury. The opinion of someone else — eg, Michael Pownall, the Clerk of Parliaments — as to what constitutes the main address would not be relevant and would be no more likely to be admissible in evidence than Humpty Dumpty’s retort that when he used a word it meant what he chose it to mean.

If the decision not to bring charges was indeed brought about by the inadmissible opinion of the clerk that one visit per month would entitle a peer to designate that address as the main residence, the DPP should seriously consider his position.

Michael Cousens
Carmelite Chambers, London EC4

I am not a criminal lawyer..but is Cousen’s right? As always, I’d be interested in the opinion of practitioners in the field. It struck me, in the case of  Baroness Uddin for…in effect…. appearing to break the law … but a law circumscribed by definitions of  ‘a main address’  set down by the Lords  … that it would be rather difficult for the CPS to bring a credible prosecution. Over to you….

The Spurn of The Jedi

One of the great qualities of Rioja is that it allows me to read The Sun (and other tabloids) and not feel guilty.  It is probably also true that it is rather more difficult to read The Times, Indie, Guardian, telegraph et al after drinking a fair bit of Rioja..but be that as it may… there are no admissions being made this day by me.

The Sun reported..with the headline above…

A JEDI believer won an apology from a Jobcentre which threw him out for refusing to remove his hood.

“Star Wars fan Chris Jarvis, 31, was told he would have to leave if he did not take it down. Chris is a member of the International Church of Jediism – based on the sci-fi films – whose doctrine states that followers should be allowed to wear hoods. But when he protested, security escorted him from his local branch in Southend, Essex. He filled out a complaint form – and received a formal letter from the JobCentre Plus branch’s boss just three days later.”

Far be it for me…of libertarian leanings… to suggest that Chris Jarvis may well have a better prospect of success when he turns up for a job interview and keeps quiet about the fact that he is a Jedi.  I rather suspect that even the most liberal of Chambers would find it difficult to take a Jedi  on… but… you may know differently? Are there any Jedi barristers, clerks, supernumeries…Chambers butlers?

I am not a religious man…and I mean no offence by what follows to those who are… but I thought it might be interesting to match each of the main political leaders with a well known quote (albeit slightly modified for Clegg) from Jesus Christ….

And finally… may god have mercy upon my soul…mea culpa – but I just had to go back to that poster generating site… it woz the Rioja wot did it, M’Lud…

I may as well finish the bottle… an excellent way to ‘take afternoon tea’…. back later..perhaps….

Law Review: CPS problems, Human Rights in the heat of battle, and an unusual case of a barrister inflating legal aid fees.

Shortfalls in CPS leads to hundreds of defendants avoiding trial

The Times reports: ” Failings in the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in London have allowed hundreds of defendants to go free without facing trial, inspectors have found. A hard-hitting report published today says that defendants are more likely to escape trial because of prosecution blunders than they are to be cleared by a jury.It found that prosecutors have been bombarded with management initiatives that forced them to neglect their core duty of bringing criminals to court. Case preparation was weak with a “lack of intellectual rigour” and poorly-instructed advocates having to prepare cases on the morning of trial.  As a result, more cases are dropped before trial than anywhere else in the rest of England and Wales — a total of 15.4 per cent compared with 11.6 per cent elsewhere. Some of these are abandoned unavoidably, such as witnesses changing their minds or new evidence coming to light, but others are down to prosecution failings.

Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said he was confident that the performance could be turned around. “I am fully aware that CPS London needs to perform much better than it does now and making that happen is a process which I will be closely involved with,” he added.”

Inevitably, with cuts, we are going to see a deterioration in all public services and the criminal justice system – policing through to prosecution – is going to shoulder some of that burden, no matter how ‘tough’ the politicians talk in terms of ‘Law and Order’. Is this, partly a problem caused by the CPS taking work in-house and not relying so heavily on the independent Bar? When I interviewed Keir Starmer QC back in the autumn of last year for a podcast, he told me, inter alia, that he disagreed with the views of the independent bar that the CPS was too reliant on in-house prosecutors. Chickens and coming home to roost… part of the issue here?  As always, I am interested in the views of those who practise at the sharp end.

‘Misleading’ rape conviction statistic will not be dropped, says solicitor general

Britain’s low conviction rate for rape should continue to be highlighted according to the solicitor general despite the recommendations made in a report by Baroness Stern today.The landmark Stern review into the handling of rape complaints found that the common claim that only 6 per cent of rapes lead to a conviction was misleading and it should be emphasised that almost 60 per cent of those charged with rape are convicted.Baroness Stern said women might be put off by the low conviction rate and, in an attempt to encourage more women to report rapes, she suggested setting up specialist sexual violence centre within every police force area.

But Vera Baird, the solicitor general, said: “I do have reservations about ceasing to refer to the widely used 6 per cent figure, which reflects the percentage of reports that produce a conviction. “Although we don’t count any other offence in this way, it is particularly meaningful as it reflects the high number of rape victims who drop out before they get to court, and we really need to focus on that group, as Baroness Stern herself says.”

The Times

Police could face legal action over ‘unfair’ searches

It would seem that the Police have still not quite got the hang of policing with consent or a grip on the extent of their powers or the skill of using those powers effectively and sensitively.  The Independent reports: ” Police forces were threatened with legal action today as the Government’s equality watchdog said black and Asian Britons were still being unfairly targeted for stop and searches. Most constabularies in England and Wales are continuing to use the powers “disproportionately” against ethnic minorities, a review by the Equality and Human Rights Commission concluded.”

Are we in danger of running military campaigns through populist sentiment whipped up by the tabloids?

The Times reports: Giving soldiers human rights in war zones ‘will hamper battlefield commanders’

A mother’s battle to ensure that soldiers in war zones have their human rights protected will be challenged by the Government today as it argues that commanders will fear being sued for decisions made in the heat of battle. The Supreme Court will hear Ministry of Defence submissions over a landmark ruling that soldiers must be protected by the Human Rights Act when fighting outside their bases in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq. Last May the Court of Appeal ruled in her favour, sparking concern among some commanders. Major-General Patrick Cordingley, who commanded 7th Armoured Brigade in the Gulf War and retired from the Army in 2000, said: “Life is hugely complex in battle situations and commanders cannot be expected to have to worry about every aspect of the Human Rights Act once they’re engaged in operations.”

The Ministry of Defence is worried that guaranteeing soldiers the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Human Rights Act when in an inherently dangerous situation would put an unreasonable burden on the Government and would affect the ability of commanders to make decisions that expose their troops to risk.

“British commanders engaged in battle with the Taleban in Afghanistan need to know that the decisions they take in hostile environments will not be challenged at a later date in the courts,” a spokesman for the MoD said.

Human Rights laws are fundamental to our society – although not all are convinced by a need for the Human Rights Act in its present form. There are dangers, however, in applying them in a way which raises the phenomenon of ‘unintended consequences’.  We have already seen how health and safety laws have hampered police in the execution of their duties – both for police officers and PCSOs – are we to go down the same route and hamstring commanders and soldiers in the field as well?   The problem, inevitably, is that there is a lawyer out there to put a case for every police officer, soldier or other public servant injured or killed in the line of duty – rightly, but are lawyers bringing cases too frequently which have no prospect of success and raising expectation in the mind of the victims and their families?  How far should the Human Rights Act and considerations of health and safety be applied to police and forces personnel – men and women who, after all, are not conscripted but volunteer, knowing the dangers and risks?

The base proposition  must be, surely, to ensure that our police and troops are properly equipped and trained to do the dangerous tasks we ask of them – but leave commanders and people in the heat of battle or criminal investigation to use their training  to best advantage without being worried that their reasoned and legal actions will result in legal liability later?

Cash rap for lawyer – The Sun

“a TOP-earning barrister was slammed yesterday for trying to increase his publicly funded fees.  Jeremey Rosenblatt had “brought discredit on the bar” in a payment claim which was “neither justified nor decent” a tribunal ruled. He was listed as the country’s highest-earning civil lawyer in legal aid in 2008, with an income of £500,000-plus.  London based Rosenblatt was found guilty of two cases of ‘discreditable conduct’ and cleared of three. The Bar Standards Board banned him from taking on new legal aid clients for three months.”

I phoned the Bar Standards Board to check the Sun’s report – only to be referred to Webber Shandwick who handle the BSB’s press and PR.I got through to an answerphone which, at 10.30 am, was a bit puzzling. While the BSB published the hearing and charges there is, as yet, no report on the tribunal’s findings on the BSB website.  This will, no doubt, go up soon. Curiously, and this may be pure coincidence… but after my phonecall to the BSB I tried to locate the BSB page with details of the hearing only to get a “404 Page not found”. Curious, indeed.

I always check acts when I see reports in newspapers about the behaviour of lawyers, in this case with the BSB.  I spoke to Webber Shandwick (using the cunning ploy of dialling their ‘direct’ number on their website,  and they provided me with a link to the story as reported in The Telegraph: Jeremy Rosenblatt: top-earning barrister guilty of inflating legal aid fee

The Telegraph report is interesting for it refers to ‘practices’  being encouraged by judges. The Telegraph noted: “The board said the barrister’s sense of personal responsibility was “anaesthetised by what he understood to be common practice”

Chambers and Partners, which publishes a directory of barristers and their chambers, describe Mr Rosenblatt as “a barrister with an uncompromising style” who “takes no prisoners” according to observers. Fluency of address and the will to win characterise this advocate, who “seems to have a tongue that runs on ball bearings”.

A tongue that runs on ball bearings?  I’ve heard of ‘silver tongued’ and ‘forked tongued’ but ball bearing tongued? What on earth does that purple prose mean?  A bizarre business.

Carte postale de la Cabines-on-Thames: Entente Cordiale edition

Cher Reader,

Je vous écris de ma Cabines (Staterooms) sur les questions relatives à la Entente Cordiale avec les Français … vendeurs de missiles Exocet à la ARGIES dans la guerre des Malouines, des perdants au Trafalgar et Waterloo,  et now having a larf at our economy.

The Independent reports: “David Cameron has become embroiled in an embarrassing row with Nicolas Sarkozy after it emerged that the French have complained about a series of jibes at their leader’s lack of height. French officials have lodged a protest after the Tory leader appeared to make a comment about “hidden dwarfs” in relation to a photo of himself and the 5ft 5in President Sarkozy, according to a report in The Mail on Sunday.”

The remark, made in a newspaper interview six months ago, was followed by another slight, when the Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne publicly described a box placed at a speaker’s lectern as a “Sarkozy box”.

This, following ex UKIP leader Farage’s extraordinary outburst against EU President Van Rompuy“”Who are you? I’d never heard of you, nobody in Europe had ever heard of you,” Farage proclaimed. He said van Rompuy had the “charisma of a damp rag” and compared him to a “low-grade bank clerk”. For good measure he also insulted the EU President’s homeland, saying Belgium was “pretty much a non-country”. is ensuring that Britain is placed right at the heart of European politics.

I suppose it is fortunate that this year’s World Cup is in South Africa not Europe – because we do have form when it comes to sending yobs to Europe to run riot and behave badly to our European neighbours.

Tom Harris MP describes it as an act of political malevolence…but which Tory shouted ‘Object’ and scuppered Andrew Gwynne’s anti-poverty Private Member’s Bill?

The Guardian reports: “Pressure is growing on David Cameron to identify the mystery Tory MP who deliberately scuppered a landmark anti-poverty bill that could have stopped “vulture” bankers profiteering from the developing world’s debt burdens. Debt campaigners have reacted in fury and disbelief to the killing of the bill and Labour MP Sally Keeble, one of the bill’s backers, has accused the Conservatives of “duplicity” by pretending to back the legislation and then sabotaging it at the last minute.”

Pretty shoddy…and the failure to own up or report the MP (Pre-pubescent public school concerns about ‘sneaking’? – surely not!) doesn’t really bode that well for what journalists are still calling ‘joined up government’ in the future. Why do journalists still use that awful old cliche…joined up government…joined up education policy etc etc etc..?

As Tom Harris MP said..“Whoever did it is no friend of those charities working hard to improve the lot of the developing world and to stop bankers profiting from misery.”

Hey ho… or should that be “heigh-ho, heigh-ho  its orf to work we go”… a new anthem from the Tories when they get stuck into CUTS, should they be elected on 6th May?

Anyway…. in the interests of political balance (!)… I am happy to report that Guido Fawkes is reporting..

+ + + Lord Paul Repays Fiddled £38,000 Expenses + + +

“Telegraph is reporting that Lord Paul has repaid the £38,000 in expenses he claimed for a flat he never slept in. He says it is not an admission of guilt. So why is he repaying it?”

Well…there we are… a fine Sunday morning.. le soleil is shining and all is well with the world.. now it is time for me to go and read the newspapers, drink some cafe at a cafe and smoke Les Gauloises…Bleu!  Vive la France … Vive la différence

Au revoir

Best as always


Rive Gauche: Prosecuting politicians edition (and other ‘dodgy’ behaviour)…

Delighted to have a cameo role in GuyNEWS latest televised bulletin about the prosecution of MPs and the release of Nick Hogan. If you do not subscribe to Guido’s GuyNews, then you will have to wait until Monday – but you can subscribe for future GuyNews bulletins here and get them on the Friday. This week’s edition is amusing and Emily Nomates, Harry Cole and Old Holborn et al have done the business!

Update: As Lazyhena (Editor of GuyNEWS) has twittered the link to the film – why not have a look?!

I’ll come to the prosecution of the MPs shortly but, first, a word about alleged ‘trougher’ Baroness Uddin from Guido Fawkes and then a quick analysis of the extraordinary statement from Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions…

+ + + Baroness Uddin – No Charges + + +

This isn’t a surprise.  The Clerk of the Parliaments, Michael Pownall, gave the Lords almost free reign to continue troughing by ruling that there is no definition of main residence for the purposes of expenses.  A ruling almost designed to make a prosecution impossible. Uncharged is not the same as innocent…

Lords place themselves beyond reach of the law

The Times reports: Peers who have claimed hundreds of thousands of pounds for homes they rarely visit will escape prosecution through a House of Lords loophole. Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, denounced the change, which was made last month. It allows peers to designate as their main home a property they visit no more than once a month — a ruling Mr Starmer said caused him “very real difficulty”.

The Crown Prosecution Service announced yesterday that it could not bring criminal charges against Baroness Uddin, a Labour peer who received more than £100,000 in allowances by claiming that her main residence was outside London. Her family home is in Wapping, East London, where she has lived for more than a decade. Mr Starmer told The Times: “You could not have a looser definition. It would be nigh on impossible to find a neighbour who could act as a witness and who could say that a peer had not once stayed at a house — short of mounting 24-hour surveillance.”

It is quite extraordinary to have the DPP making a public statement that a prosecution cannot be brought because the Lords changed the rules. The Telegraph reports: “The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, has blamed the House of Lords for derailing attempts to prosecute Baroness Uddin over her expenses claims.”

While Baroness Uddin may well be relieved that she does not face prosecution, she now has to face a Lords internal investigation- as, some say, do up to 20 other peers.  This nonsense has gone on long enough.  Not all MPs worked the system and, certainly, most peers did not either.  If the Lords are to have any credibility and relevance, and win back the trust and approval of the electorate,  they have to be seen to act quickly and robustly with those of their members who have played the system.  For my part, Baroness Uddin is an irrelevance.  She has, clearly, not done anything for which she can be prosecuted, but it may well be that she has not acted with the integrity we are entitled to expect from those who sit in what, after all, is one of the Houses of Parliament. We shall see if the Lords are prepared to  deal with any form of corruption or inappropriate behaviour, whether proven in this case or not,  in their ranks.  As Guido Fawkes commented..perfectly reasonably…Uncharged is not the same as innocent…

Only the Lords can now reveal the truth of the matter.

In the meantime, the troughing MPs who are facing prosecution are pleading parliamentary privilege and argue that no court, save for Parliament, can deal with their behaviour. Guido Fawkes, as always, covers the appearance of the MPs and one peer at Westminster Magistrate: Oink! Oink!

MPs and peer to fight expenses prosecution with 1689 law

The Independent reports: Three Labour MPs and a Conservative peer told a judge today they will use a 320-year-old law to argue they should not be prosecuted over the expenses scandal. MPs David Chaytor, Elliot Morley and Jim Devine, along with Lord Hanningfield, will insist their case should not be tried by a jury and instead dealt with by House of Commons authorities.

I have no difficulty with lawyers using the law to present the best defence of their clients – it is for the courts to rule whether the argument raised in relation to the MPs is right or wrong in law.  We are, however, entitled, as many do, to argue that parliamentary privilege should not be used in this way on moral and ethical grounds.

The Independent reports:  Barrister Julian Knowles, for the MPs, told the court they would argue they were protected by parliamentary privilege, covered in the 1689 Bill of Rights. “My clients should not be understood as saying that they are above the law – that would be quite wrong,” he said. “Parliamentary privilege is part of the law – and it is for Parliament to apply the law in their cases.” He said the case was of “high constitutional importance” but added the criminal courts had “no jurisdiction” over them.

We won’t have to wait long…the troughers will have their opportunity to argue their position – hopefully from the dock – on March 30th when they appear at Southwark Crown Court. I may well exercise my right to see ‘justice being done’ and turn up myself.  I won’t need a mask… some say that my own visage is horrific enough… They are right.  In any event, the troughers are entitled to a fair trial…as everyone is and it is for the Crown Court – if it rejects the parliamentary privilege point,  to determine whether the troughing is criminal or merely “within  the (rather badly drafted) rules”

AND now… to other matters….

I am not a great fan of George Osborne as a potential Chancellor..and, it would appear that The City would prefer Ken Clarke – but I was amused by Osbore’s ridiculing of French president Sarkozy at a speech last year when he made reference to the removal of a box at the lectern, presumably used by a previous speaker, and asked if  it was Sarkozy’s box.  A career at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office may not be open to Osbore should Cameron (who is not afraid to sack Osbore), sack Osbore.

I’m afraid that I did find Osbore’s comments about the “Sarkozy box” amusing – but I was pissed when I saw it first on the news last night and I am not trying to be Chancellor. Have a look – it is amusing.

Good to see that our law firms are getting one up on American law firms…

British law firm cleared way for Lehman cover-up

The Times reports: “Linklaters, one of Britain’s leading law firms, approved controversial accounting practices that allowed Lehman Brothers to shift billions of dollars of debt off its balance sheet and mask the perilous state of the bank’s finances before its catastrophic collapse in 2008.A 2,200-page report into the collapse of the 158-year old institution has uncovered evidence that Lehman used “balance sheet manipulation” in the form of an accounting practice known as “Repo 105”, without telling investors or regulators, that made the business appear healthier.

Lehman initially had sought legal clearance from an American law firm to permit Repo 105 transactions but was denied. It then sought advice from Linklaters in London, which said that the deals were possible under English law.”

The Law Society comes under the steely gaze of RollonFriday News this week… The Law Society seeks slave labour…”The Law Society is offering a “internship” position in its Chancery Lane headquarters on no pay. For three months. The job is advertised as starting from mid May, would suit “a graduate or similar“, and is described as “varied and creative“. And a great degree of creativity will certainly be required to live in London for twelve weeks on a salary of absolutely nothing. A spokeswoman for the Society said that the internship “is an excellent addition to any CV” and claimed that “travel costs and subsistence are paid” – although there’s no mention of this in the ad.”

RollonFriday notes that law firms have been using the ‘internship ploy’ as a means of getting no cost labour (and internships may, in other areas provide good experience for young people), but asks whether The Law Society – representing the profession, should be doing so.  I’m not so sure they should be – they should pay at least the minimum wage and set an example.  Law is a business – it is not a vocation, an art studio, a craft shop, a not very well resourced publishing business….  a museum or art gallery.

Iain Dale decides to interview Nick Griffin for Total Politcs and the left starts a boycott….Crass to boycott..? Yes, I think so.

I was fortunate in having an old Punch cartoon print to scan and use  as a base – when the question of the debates between the three party leaders, soon to be shown on television, popped into my fevered brain. Do I really want to watch and listen  to Brown, Cameron and Clegg talk at me for half an hour each, with no clapping, jeering, heckling or probing questioning?  No… if I want that I can listen to the Chilcott Inquiry.  I think it may be a crashing bore – far better the anarchy of Newsnight last night with Paxo trying to control Ed Balls, Michael Gove, some guy from the Lib-Dems and a host of rather unusual people –   including one of Lord SurAlanSugarpuff’s sidekicks  who has a bit part on The Apprentice in the ‘interview’ episode towards the end. Mr Clive Littman did not look entirely comfortable being on Newsnight – politics is a bit more anarchic than business! I could be wrong and he was just bored.

I will watch the debates – well, at least one of them –  before taking a view – to do otherwise, of course, would be crass.
And talking about Crass… Left wing crassness was was drawn to my attention  by Tom Harris MP on Twitter.

Tom Harris MP writes:

Another day, another boycott in the blogosphere

“SOME might say that, as the author of a blog that did rather well in the last two Total Politics Blog Awards, I have more to lose than others by indulging in a boycott of this year’s contest, as proposed by Though Cowards Flinch.

The boycott is being suggested as a response to Total Politics publisher Iain Dale agreeing to interview Nick Griffin for the latest issue, a decision which resulted in the resignation of Labour MP Denis MacShane from the TP board.

And of course I sympathise. And I admit I raised an eyebrow when Iain announced on his blog that the interview was happening. But I won’t take part in the boycott, for a number of reasons.

The first of those is that Griffin and his odious chums are now democratically-elected representatives of the British people. I wish it were not so, but it is. And ignoring the BNP now isn’t too far from ignoring the views of however many people voted for them. Not a particularly democratic principle, I think you’ll find. And I trust that all those who now want to boycott Total Politics also refuse to watch Question Time…… “

Tom goes on to give further reasons..and I agree. I do not like the BNP.  I do not find Griffin an attractive politician.  I abhor his views – but if we are to learn, reason, combat extreme right wing ideologies,  fight our corner and have a real and mature democracy we have to be prepared to listen to people who think differently.  Just listening to other like minded  people means we tend to hear like minded things.. not for me.  I am open to all viewpoints – then I can think about what is said or done and respond accordingly.

So.. I may disagree with some of Iain Dale’s viewpoints, which is hardly surprising given that he is  Tory and I vote Labour – but Dale does analyse politics well, he is measured more often than not and particularly outside election fever time, he is prepared to publish interesting books/magazines and he is prepared to argue and stand his corner.  I for one will look forward to his interview with Nick Griffin.  I suspect that Iain Dale will ask awkward questions – and he did give readers a chance to suggest questions.

Here is the link John Halton refers to in his tweet above…

J.S. Mill on Holocaust denial

Well, sort-of. Here is Mill’s summary of the reasons for allowing open discussion of contrary opinions:

In the meantime…. since it is election time…. a bit of Labour propaganda for you in the pic above… subliminal messaging!

Nick Hogan behind bars again.. this time in a PUB! Good effort!

Old Holborn reports….. “Nick Hogan is safely back behind bars. Not the bars which the government sought to contain him behind for failing to act as an unpaid policeman and report his customers for smoking – even when he was not on the premises to witness them to doing so – but the bars, the snug, and the restaurant of his own private property, the Swan with Two Necks, in Chorley, Manchester. It was with the greatest pleasure that I was able to telephone Denise Hogan, his wife, a few minutes ago, and ask her to go and collect her husband from the Forest Bank jail in Pendlebury. The indefatigable Old Holborn had moved heaven and earth, above and beyond the call of duty, to arrive at the jail with £8,664.50p in cash, to exchange with the Custody Officer there in return for Nick Hogan’s freedom.”

An Excellent effort by the political blogosphere – and Gudio Fawkes’ extra push was noted recently by Old Holborn.  Those who donated when I gave this worthwhile campaign a bit of publicity on the blog ten days ago… I’m sure it was appreciated!  I gather that Emily Nomates and ToryBear covered this for GuyNEWS – video on Guido’s blog soon…

Manchester Evening News carried the full report, including a picture of Old Holborn turning up with the cash!

Law Review:Prisons, insider dealing, fraud and incest

Judges fear prisons will burst under new rules

The Times reports: “Britain’s leading criminal judges warn that a shake-up of sentencing guidelines could push prison overcrowding to crisis levels. They fear that the Sentencing Council, which comes into force next month with the aim of bringing more consistency to courts, will not curb judges’ use of custody, as hoped, but actually increase it.

The Council of Circuit Judges, which represents 600 judges in England and Wales, told The Times that they would be left with no freedom to fit punishments to the specific circumstances of a case. They fear that cuts to rehabilitation programmes will leave judges with no option in some cases but to jail offenders. Judge Keith Cutler, vice-president of the Council of Circuit Judges, said that the Sentencing Council requires that judges “must follow” guidelines, rather than “take account” of them.”

Criminal Law is not my specialist subject, so I would be particularly interested to have the views of Criminal Law practitioners who read my blog on this issue.  The argument is that the new guidelines will provide greater consistency.  What does this ‘consistency’ really mean?  Do criminals behave consistently across the country?  Is burglary, for example, always the same? manslaughter?  Surely not?  The tabloids are always keen to pick up on judicial leniency – often railing against the judicial system without actually attending the trial to listen to the evidence, to serve up ‘anger and outrage’ to those of their readers who wander about with flaming torches in one hand and a length of rope in the other hand.

The Tories say that this is a naked attempt to reduce pressure on prison places  because judges have to take account of the availability of prison places – but it seems that a possible ‘unintended consequence’ of the new principle will actually incease pressure on prison places as judges will not have the same discretion to leniency.

The Times notes: “A Ministry of Justice spokesman insisted that judges’ discretion would remain unfettered and would be respected. “There will not be an American-style sentencing grid or matrix,” he said. “Judges will still have the discretion and flexibility to give the sentence they think most appropriate. Judicial discretion in sentencing in individual cases is the cornerstone of our justice system. We are not going to change that.”

Ex-Cazenove partner found guilty of insider dealing

The FSA  has notched up a success with their well broadcast policy of getting tough on insider dealing.

The Times reports: Malcolm Calvert, a former partner at Cazenove, the Queen’s stockbroker, has been convicted of insider dealing and faces up to seven years in prison. A jury at Southwark Crown Court today returned a guilty verdict for Calvert, 65, on five counts of insider dealing after 18 hours of deliberation. He was acquitted of a further seven counts…..


Four people have been convicted of insider dealing in the past 12 months, three of whom received immediate custodial sentences and the other a suspended sentence. Calvert’s conviction is a significant victory for the Financial Services Authority, which is bringing a series of insider-dealing prosecutions as part of a wider campaign to clamp down on financial crime. Rob Moulton, a partner at law firm Nabarro, said: “This is a big victory for the FSA, as it is their first criminal success against a “city” name. At a time when FSA is fighting for its survival, this conviction is a real boost to FSA’s credible deterrence strategy.”

The good times seem to be coming to an end… this is clear when a City lawyer remarks..””Prosecuting financial crimes has often proved problematic, but the FSA is on something of a roll. It has said it wants to be seen as a ‘scary regulator’ and this case is going to help to get that message across.”

Margaret Cole, director of enforcement and financial crime at the FSA, said: “The guilty verdict is a shot across the bow for any City workers who may be tempted to trade using insider knowledge.”

It seems that the FSA may not be as clever as they think they are….. the comments section on the story is interesting… this, being an example of the criticism..

Pat Sheehan wrote:

“How on earth can you conclude that “Calvert’s conviction is a significant victory for the Financial Services Authority”?
Surely, they simply caught a sprat while the mackerel escaped: “… they could not identify who the inside source at Cazenove was …”
It would have been a significant victory only if we could all move forward in reasonable belief that from here on Cazenove (or Caz associations) would treat our affairs confidentially.”

In the meantime…

Fraud and corruption is costing Britain £30 billion a year

Jonathan Fisher QC, writing in the Times, has an interesting piece… “It is almost 25 years since the Roskill Report published its radical recommendations for improving the way complex fraud, corruption and financial market crimes are tackled. In that time the complexity of business transactions and the amount of activity in financial markets have both increased dramatically.

Yet the many institutions that investigate and prosecute these crimes, including the Serious Fraud Office, the Financial Services Authority (FSA), the Office of Fair Trading, the Crown Prosecution Service (Fraud Prosecution Service and Revenue & Customs Division) and the City of London Police Economic Crime Directorate, remain hamstrung by a haphazardly developed system of overlapping responsibilities, a dispersion of powers and unnecessary duplication of manpower and specialist resources. As if this weren’t enough, these agencies have to operate under differing statutory frameworks, further exacerbating the problems.

The advantages of establishing a unified agency, as initially proposed by Lord Roskill and advocated again today in Fighting Fraud and Financial Crime, my report published by Policy Exchange, are even more pertinent than they were then. Important changes to the criminal law also need to be made to enable our criminal justice system to cope with complex fraud trials and to bring the perpetrators of such crimes to account……”

And, an even more depressing case…

Litany of failures that let father rape his daughters for years

The Guardian: Authorities apologise over missed warnings of incest as report reveals culture of ‘quiet word’ rather than action

Nick Holmes of Binary Law asks… Tired of blogging? – tired of life

Nick notes that while the young are not blogging so much – this may well account for the fact thst Geeklawyer doesn’t blog as much as he used to.  On Twitter Geeklawyer regularly cites his age as being 28 or 29 depending on how pissed he is when he tweets! Nick also notes that he is p****d off with spammers and those who post comments like..”Great blog post… I’ve been looking for a site like this…I’ll come back@.

Nick – do what I do… re-direct their ‘service’ to a dodgy porn site.  I did that with a law firm, sent them an email to say that I had done this and… hey presto… I had a very apologetic email back asking me to delete their comment – most satisfying.

I have a bit of ‘fever’… so not writing as much as usual… a very tedious fever which prevents me from even drinking a ot of wine. Brighter today,, hopefully, normal service will be resumed on the Rioja and writing front.

And finally…
Romanian street sign warns drivers of ‘drunk pedestrians’

The Telegraph reports:
“Street signs warning Romanian drivers to be careful of drunken pedestrians lying on roads were erected by road safety chiefs worried about the “despairing” levels of accidents.”

I am fairly sure that the bottle pictured above is not Rioja.

The concerns of our times!

College of Law Chief Executive Nigel Savage discusses the future of the legal services market in the wake of the Legal Services Act and questions the impact it will have on careers in the profession.

Max Clifford drops News of the World phone hacking action in £1m deal

The Guardian reports: “Tabloid accused of buying silence after persuading celebrity PR agent to drop case over interception of voicemail messages”

The News of The World appears to be rushing to stop a flood of litigation – as the Guardian states…“The News of the World was tonight accused of buying silence in the phone-hacking scandal after it agreed to pay more than £1m to persuade the celebrity PR agent Max Clifford to drop his legal action over the interception of his voicemail messages. The settlement means that there will now be no disclosure of court-ordered evidence which threatened to expose the involvement of the newspaper’s journalists in a range of illegal information-gathering by private investigators.”

Of perhaps greater interest to political animals, particularly those on the Labour or left, will be the effect this has on Andy Coulson, former editor of the News of The World and currently enjoying time in the sun as the Tory Party’s Malcolm Tucker/Alastair Campbell  communications supremo.

The Guardian notes: ” The case had potentially important implications for Andy Coulson, media adviser to the Conservative leader, David Cameron, who edited the News of the World at the time of the illegal activity and who has said that he does not remember any of his journalists breaking the law……..(NOTW Journos) – Goodman and Mulcaire were jailed in January 2007 for intercepting the voicemail of a total of eight victims, including Clifford and Taylor. The News of the World originally claimed that it had no knowledge of any of the illegal activity. Coulson resigned on the grounds that he carried ultimate responsibility.”

Hey ho…. but do have a look at Beau Bo D’Or take on the Max Clifford story….

I did enjoy this from Overlawyered…

From attorney Bob Ambrogi, on Twitter: “This felt wrong: Shortly after heated call with lawyer saying he’d sue my client, he sent me invite to connect on LinkedIn.” Related: Amy Alkon.

And this from John Bolch at Family Lore… “As humans, we need to evolve more” – John writes...”Nissenbaum explains how relationship breakdown brings out the worst in many people, especially where children are involved. “Every parent who has ever pushed for custody insists he or she is doing it out of love,” he says in his book. “Hate is more like it…. Parents throw everything they have at the other side, the more disgusting, horrendous and despicable, the better.” John ends…”Yep: been there, done that.”

Law Review:Big Bang and big bucks for lawyers and others…

Civil servants ‘told to imitate answering machines’

The Guardian reports: “Civil servants who continued working during yesterday’s national strike have revealed they were told to pretend to be answering machines to cope with an overload of calls from the public. Staff at the Department for Work and Pensions in Carlisle said today they were given a brief script to read out before hanging up, in the style found on telephone answering machines.

The instruction by managers was initially leaked on Facebook after chitchat between strikers and colleagues who had stayed at work. One worker said: “To begin with, we all found it hard to keep a straight face, and occasionally, I slipped up and I ended up giving my name to the person who was calling.”

The staff said their fake-robot message was issued for peak lunchtime, between midday and 2pm. The script read: “Due to the high volume of enquiries we are currently experiencing we are unable to take your call. Please call back later.”

I wake each morning at 4.00 (ish), more often than not looking forward to seeing what idiocy has taken place overnight in politics, so I was not surprised to read in my RSS feeder this absurd story about the civil service. I am almost tempted, as I have to telephone my local council today, to pretend to be an ‘electronic digital telephone machine’  myself and say…

“Good morning… if you would like to know why I am calling, press 1…if you would like to know if I have anything sensible to say when you do speak to me…press 2…. if you would like to do some work for your inflation proof pensioned up salary and actually do something of value for one of your clients…me…press 3”

The Times reports: City law firms are preparing to raise millions of pounds from external investors as the British legal market braces for its own version of Big Bang. At least 20 firms are planning to raise outside funding under rules that will allow non-lawyers to own a stake in legal practices for the first time, accountants advising the firms told The Times.

Three of these firms are planning to raise a war chest for acquisitions of more than £20 million, either through an initial public offering or from private equity investors. The new rules, which will come into force next year, are expected to transform the legal sector, as deregulation did financial services in the 1980s.

Jeremy Black, a partner at Deloitte, the Big Four accountant, said: “It’s going to change the way firms look at the provision of legal services. Nobody will be untouched by these changes.”

There is no doubt that change is coming and the traditional view of law as a ‘profession’ will finally cede to the values and mores of the markets… where business is business.  This does not, of course, mean that lawyers will be any less professional…they will have to be even more ‘professional’ (but in a different sense)  because if they go the full route and list on the stock exchange they will be subject to ‘sentiment’…and sentiment can be a very hard task master.

I did like this paragraph from The Times…”Many partners remain sceptical. They argue that external funding will dilute their partnership culture and force them to give up too much control of their businesses.”

The writer forgot to add…“and too much of their profits”. It does, however, seem an attractive way of capitalising the business. Traditional law firm structures are ‘thinly capitalised’ given that partners withdraw much of the profit each year.  I suspect that full flotation may take some time…and a fair bit of ‘kicking and screaming’.  We shall, of course, see in time.

You may like to listen to a podcast I did for The College of Law Inside Track series with Sir Nigel Knowles, CEO of DLA Piper. Sir Nigel Knowles gave a very sanguine view of the future of the big law firms and the issue of external capital.

Bar Standards Board raps BPP Law School for taking on too many students

While I covered this some weeks ago, The Lawyer adds some interesting points about BPP plans to turn themselves into a fully fledged university.

Offenders who commit ‘grave crimes’ must be named, says judge

The Telegraph reports: “A judge said the public deserved to know the identities of offenders who committed ”grave crimes” as he allowed the naming of a juvenile who killed an innocent peacemaker with a single punch.

This judicial view does not, of course (hopefully), impact on the Venables situation where issues of a fair trial preclude identification.

Jon Venables could be killed if his identity is revealed, key judge warns

The Guardian reports: “Baroness Butler-Sloss, who granted anonymity to James Bulger’s killers, defends Jack Straw’s secrecy stance”

The Sun appears not to have anything on the Venables case this morning.  I suspect the bandwagon is moving on.. there are other more important stories for them t reveal to an adoring public.

It is not just the tabloids who are getting in on the ‘Shock’ act…

The Independent has this…

Paedophile ‘alarm button’ was rejected by Facebook, say police

And… if that isn’t enough to slake your taste for salacious titbits (with an intellectual spin)  this morning… they have this…

Jealous lover killed ex over web photos

Getting back to a bit of hard law….

Supreme Court rejects Christian registrar’s claim

The Independent reports: ” A Christian registrar who lost her job after she refused to carry out civil partnership ceremonies has been refused permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. Ms Ladele, who became a registrar in 2002, said she could not carry out such ceremonies “as a matter of religious conscience”. She claimed she suffered ridicule and bullying as a result of her stance and said she had been harassed and discriminated against by Islington Council in north London.”

Yesterday The telegraph reported: “A pharmacist refused to issue contraceptive pills prescribed by a doctor because it was against her religion.”

Given that employers were not entitled to discriminate against these employees when taking them on for jobs where, presumably, they knew they would have to carry out lawful work which may be contrary to their religions it is puzzling why they applied for the jobs in the first place.  I have little sympathy.

Professor John Flod (RATs – Random academic thoughts) has an interesting film on legal education to look at…

UKCLE’s Ideas on the Future of Legal Education

“My friend, Julian Webb, is who is director of UKCLE and professor of legal education, has put together an interesting short film about the influences on the future of legal education in the UK. I think it also informs discussion about legal education elsewhere.”

Hat Tip to John Flood for picking up this cartoon from The New Yorker

The Fat Bigot has an interesting piece on recessions…

We must avoid the Japanese problem“Anatole Kaletsky wrote an interesting piece in the Times today highlighting the Japanese problem. In an attempt to stimulate its way out of recession in the early 1990s Japan increased government spending and borrowed to pay for it. This went on for several years and now, almost twenty years later, the cost of servicing the borrowing is so high there is no additional money available to repay the principal sums borrowed. Japan’s economy has, as a result, seen virtually no growth in GDP.”

Capitalists@Work are running with this... The end of free speech and flaming on the internet


I am delighted to report that a leading Accountancy practice, specialists in dealing with the tax and financial affairs of solicitors and barristers is supporting our free resource project at Insite Law Magazine.  Cassons for Counsel have a couple of articles which students and practitioners may find of particular interest

Will my pupillage awards be taxed?

There are differences in the tax treatments of pupillage awards from Inns as opposed to those from Chambers.  Read here for more details.

HMRC clampdown on barristers!

A specialist unit has been set up by HMRC to conduct investigations into barristers’ tax affairs. See here for the areas in which they are most likely to be investigating.

Law review: Madrasas and the rule of the mob.

You have to laugh… the Tories are spending a fortune shoring up the idea that they are supporting the NHS and then the Young Britons Foundation pops up in the form of their Chief Executive, Donal Blaney – a lawyer – with talk of waterboarding, shooting down environmental protesters and another spokesman saying the NHS is the biggest waste of time in the UK.

See also: The next stunt? – A Tory ‘ Madrasa’… a Madrasa? Mon Dieu!

Many Tories, deny that there is anything sinister about the YBF and I accept that we are not dealing here with a group of crypto-fascists with muscle spasm problems in their right arms – but, clearly, the views expressed by Donal Blaney are a bit ‘right of sanity’ if he is not joking about waterboarding being acceptable.

The Tories are scrambling to disassociate themselves with the YBF – but they do have a bit of a problem…according to The Guardian they appear to be outsourcing training to the YBF at a cost of ‘hundreds of pounds per person’. Of course… it is possible (and in the minds of some Tories..probably a certainty) that The Guardian is putting the boot into the YBF for ‘political reasons’.

The Guardian noted: “A spokesman for the Conservative party said people attend YBF courses of their own volition and they are not financially supported by the party.

Conservative Central Office would not comment on whether the planned YBF training courses being promoted by Conservative Future will go ahead in the light of the revelations.”

Jon Venables and the Rule of Law

Our country may, according to Cameron et al, be ‘broken’, our country may be ‘broke’, our country may be dysfunctional and populated with venal, self important, self serving and selfish people – an apocalyptic vision made manifest each day by the Sun and The Daily Mail – but, thankfully they are in the minority.

I cannot begin to imagine the pain and misery suffered by Jamie Bulger’s mother and father – few have suffered the horror of having a child murdered, far more intense arguably than accidental death or even honourable death in military service and only those who have suffered such loss, truly, can even begin to understand and empathise meaningfully.  I do not, however, support the view taken by Jamie Bulger’s parents and 70,000 others who have signed The Sun’s petition that they have a right to know every detail about Jon Venables.  The principle of a fair trial trumps such individual rights and misery – for otherwise we return to the law of the lynch mob and not , as former DPP Sir Ken Macdonald QC states...” (the) steely progress of a criminal case to its just conclusion, whether that is conviction or acquittal.”

There is every prospect, if Venables’ identity is revealed – that some vigilante or criminal in prison will exact ‘ extra-judicial justice’ whether by throwing hot sugar water over Venables or worse, killing him – for the glory of being applauded as a hero by those who seek justice through the lynch mob’s rope.

I’m with Sir ken Macdonald QC on this…he writes: “None of us, of course, owns the truth in any of this. But we may suspect that, since he has been returned to jail, Jon Venables could have done something sufficiently serious to face trial in the future. And what if there are others to be tried alongside him? It is a racing certainty they will argue that any case must be abandoned if the jury has an inkling about their companion in crime. It would be a shame if a tabloid conclusion that this young man has done something awfully wrong turns out to be true and yet he can never be tried because a couple of editors were too blind to our system of justice to see how they might frustrate it.”

Today’s story for Editors eager to please and appease could well lead to far greater injustice.  There was a quote on twitter yesterday to the effect… “They should have hung them when they were 10.  Killing children is wrong”  Ignoring the unintended irony in such a quote… that, it would seem, is a very common view – but they do say that if there was ever a referendum on the death penalty in Britain – the majority would bring back the rope. I would not.  Flawed though our system of justice is (and probably always will be in an imperfect society)  – it is by far better than the rule of the mob.

Jon Venables: the right to know

Justice cannot be served at trial unless Jack Straw holds his nerve on unmasking Jon Venables
Sir Ken Macdonald

Jack Straw statement to Parliament on Jon Venables

Jack Straw was called to the house this afternoon at 3.30 to give a statement on the recall of Jon Venables to prison.  The press speculation on Venables’ return has been quite extraordinary.  Straw made it clear that he had every sympathy for the the parents of James Bulger – but at the request of the Police and DPP information on Venables was suppressed to ensure that there would be a fair trial.

Dominic Grieve, Shadow Justice Secretary, stated that the Justice Secretary was entitled to support but he had to earn that support by making a clear statement about the way the justice system worked.  Grieve also stated that the Justice Secretary could have avoided all the press speculation had he been more clear about how the recall system works and to explain the need for a fair trial.

For my own part – the rule of law, the principle of fair trials, is more important than individual needs, and while I can well understand the distress of James Bulger’s family, a fair trial on the new offences would be impossible, in all likelihood, if more information was given at this stage.  The mood of the house was with Straw’s position and the Rule of Law – thankfully.

The press has not been that helpful here and, I suspect, the reports they have published may well have added to the distress of James Bulger’s parents.  I would go further and say that the press has followed its own needs, rather than the needs of the Bulger parents.

Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Thames: Internet anger and other matters

Dear Reader

There is a lot of anger on the net, on discussion forums, in the comments section of blogs and even on Twitter.  Separating the techniques of the professional anger people who use ‘anger’ to make a point – for that can be useful, there do appear to be a lot of morons and trolls out there who have nothing better to do  after wetting their beds than to abuse and insult people on twitter or bloggers who try to express ideas and views.

John Bolch at Family Lore has had enough of people wanting to grind their axes on his blog…. Please, grind your axes elsewhere.

John writes…” I try to keep this blog a reasonably open place, where people can state their opinions freely, whether or not they coincide with mine (a quick read through the blog will confirm this to any neutral reader). Unfortunately, the privilege to comment freely is all too often abused by those with an axe to grind, and too much time on their hands (alas, it seems that this is probably the lot of family law bloggers). Too often, posts are hijacked by such people, whose comments often have little or no relevance to the point of the original post. I’m sorry, but if you want to grind your axe about lawyers biased against fathers/secret family courts/whatever went wrong when you experienced the family justice system, then please do so elsewhere, and let’s keep comments here relevant and civil.

So, if your comment is not approved, or is deleted, now you know why. Of course, defamatory or spam comments will also be rejected.

Politicians are used to maniacs turning up on their blogs and most have a policy of ‘be civil’. Richard Dawkins has now got involved…

Richard Dawkins takes on the Net

The BBC reports: Richard Dawkins has intervened in a dispute about the moderation of his official website. He says the nastiness of comments added to the site is a sign of “something rotten in the internet culture”.

It appears that the site, which describes itself as a “clear thinking oasis” has been muddied by thoughtless abusiveness.

Doubtlessly, some will say that the stridency of the new atheism movement may partly explain the aggressiveness one finds on the Dawkins website; that if Dawkins’s fan-base is populated by those who enjoy the sharpness of his verbal assault on belief and believers, then those acolytes might be tempted to outdo one another in futher sharpness.

But, to be fair, the Richard Dawkins I have met is a gentleman and a scholar, and I am not at all suprised by his stand against incivility.

We all get angry.  These days, I prefer not to…in fact, I go out of my way not to get angry. I prefer to laugh and I would far rather parody something than write a diatribe to make a point. Fortunately, I get interesting and surreal comments from relatively insane sane people on my blog and the bed wetters and trolls tend not to be terribly interested in anything I write or comment on. I have a pretty open policy on comments, but I don’t tolerate people slagging each other off – unless they do it with style, elan and panache – and anyone who comes on to my comments section to say “Great… I’ve been looking for a site like this..keep up the good work” runs the risk that I will divert their URL for their law service (or other commercial activity) to a dodgy porn site.

I am pleased to announce, should anyone be daft enough to be abusive, troll-like or unpleasant on  my blog, that I have a new award – Charon’s Bed-Wetter Award….

It is highly unlikely that I shall ever have to make this award… but I shall do so, possibly, if I get seriously tedious people writing unpleasant nonsense…or law firms (and other commercial organisations) who try to get free Google juice by putting inane and irrelevant comments on a post and then link to their crappy service!

++Target Reached++

Old Holborn and Anna Raccoon did the business with the help of a lot of people on the blogosphere… I was happy to support this (and did) and thank you to those of my readers who did

Anna Raccoon reports: “A quick update to let everyone know what the state of play is with Nick Hogan.

The Blogosphere has reacted in magnificent fashion, the target has been reached in a mere 4 days. There are legal technicalities which Denise is fully aware of, which will be sorted very soon – and he will be home.

I have spoken to Denise several times today, as has Nick, from prison.  He is very much happier than he was yesterday, considerably cheered by the huge bag of cards and letters he has received this morning, and Denise is fully aware of everything that is going on.

My heart goes out to Denise, she has been subject to constant rumour and scurrilous speculation, which has only made a difficult situation more difficult to bear, but rest assured, she is in constant contact with Old Holborn and myself, and wants me to thank you all from the bottom of her heart.

They said it couldn’t be done – well it couldn’t without Old Holborn’s help, or Guido’s final push, but this has been a non-partisan, non-political, non-campaigning, tour de force on behalf of ordinary people who were shocked at an ordinary man being jailed for failing to report his fellow citizens.

Well done everyone!”


Law Review: Balls – appropriation of, the Nanny state and dog’s to get legal representation.

The level of political debate, as the election gets closer, continues to decline.  The Guardian reports…

Peter Mandelson raises stakes in Lord Ashcroft row

Business secretary says Ashcroft has Cameron ‘by the balls’ and that affair reveals ‘fundamental weakness’

The Guardian reports: “In a highly personal attack, the business secretary said in an interview with the Guardian that Ashcroft had Cameron “by the balls”, the affair showed Cameron was “too weak to pick a fight with his own party” and the Tories were “fundamentally unchanged”.

The story is no longer about non-doms – Labour has a few of those lurking in the deep as well – but about integrity and controlling power. Ashcroft, having made  undertakings about tax to a point that Hague said publicly that Ashcroft would be paying tens of millions in taxes, did a quiet deal behind the scenes to ‘alter the effect of the undertaking’ and then, it would appear, kept Hague in the dark until ‘two months ago’.  Hague then seems to have kept Cameron in the dark, given Cameron’s statement that he knew only a month ago.   It is clear now why Cameron wanted to draw a line under the mater and tried to fob the Press off by saying that the horse was now dead so there was no need to continue flogging it.

Unfortunately for Cameron, the horse is very much alive and the left continues to probe and raise the issue.

Photography under threat: The shooting party’s over

The Times, a bit behind the curve on this issue, asks: Did you hear the one about the mother banned from taking a snapshot of her baby in the pool? Or the student prevented from photographing Tower Bridge at sunset? Be warned. The authorities now have the power to confiscate your camera — or even arrest you — for daring to take a picture in public…

The Independent covered this some time back and, indeed, so did the blogs but it remains, nevertheless an important issue about Police, Police Community Support Officers and others exceeding their powers and, of course, Parliament giving these people too many powers. While I am disposed towards the Labour party their record on civil liberties and the explosion of new criminal laws is very poor  and the Libertarians, left or right leaning, are right – government needs to curb its taste for knee jerking.  Clarkson got it right recently when he said that one man getting on to a plane with exploding underpants  has produced fear in the minds of Americans who seem curiously afraid of a lot of things compared to British and Europeans more used to terror outrages on our soil and our government has followed suit with a raft of poorly thought out laws giving poorly trained police et al the opportunity to ‘big it up’ in their high Viz yellow jackets.

Whatever flavour or colour of government wins the next election – the nanny state tendency and political correctness really does have to be looked at. I read somewhere at the weekend that Harriet Harman has now managed to ban use of  the term ‘Chairman’ in parliament.  I have never been a great fan of gender when it comes to nouns (This is something foreigners do with their languages!) and I can’t really get hot under the collar about a female leading a panel being described as ‘Chair’ or ‘Chairwoman’  when there are rather more pressing issues to worry about.  I am not running the country.  Ms Harman is.  Perhaps she could get on with doing so on the ‘bigger issues of our times’?

There is far too much interference in our lives from central and local government. CCTV cameras watch our every move, microchips are fitted in our rubbish bins to make sure we don’t overfill them or put in the wrong stuff, PCSOs, when they are not gathered in groups eating buns on street corners, are misapplying the law with tourists and members of the public, police officers are hesitating to break doors down to save people’s lives because of health & safety laws,… the list goes on and on and on… and worse, our government (and I doubt whether the Tories would be any better) continues with kneejerk policy making nd dancing to the tune of tabloids who are more interested in selling newspapers to their mass readership than the fine detail and intricacy of good government.

An example of dancing to the tune of the tabloids is the clamour for the government to release details as to why Jon Venables has been returned to prison.  I was appalled, as all were, by the horrific abduction and killing of a very young boy by two  juveniles all those years ago.  I have every sympathy for the family who continue to serve a ‘life sentence’ of misery as a result of their  son being  murdered, but I do also feel that as Venables now faces serious charges, law and procedure must be followed to ensure that Venables gets a fair trial for the offence he committed – a serious offence which merited his being returned to prison. Surely everyone is entitled to that… or do the tabloids have a greater right than the individual?

Iraq inquiry: Gordon Brown says war was ‘right’

The BBC reports: “Gordon Brown has told the Iraq inquiry the war had been “right” – and troops had all the equipment they needed. The PM also insisted he had not been kept in the dark by Tony Blair despite not being aware of some developments.”

Godon Brown gave a very competent performance at the Iraq Inquiry – perhaps aided by the lack of forensic questioning skills of the inquisitors which allowed him to evade the difficult follow up questions – or to be more accurate, move on to the next question because there were no penetrating follow up questions as there would have been had experienced counsel been handling the questioning. Armed Forces ‘top brass’ popped up on Newsnight and elsewhere to say various things – ranging from Brown being ‘economical with the truth’ to making disingenuous’ statements.  Certainly, Brown gave a far better performance than I expected – and he knew his brief and the detail.  More importantly, he had the balls… to use a metaphor from the opening section of this Review… to acknowledge the debt we owe to our armed forces and their families and to acknowledge the suffering of the families.  Blair did not do so.  Unfortunately, Brown is now being castigated by the press, bloggers and others for making political capital by going to visit the troops in Afghanistan.  Sometimes, a prime minister just cannot win.

Libel success fees limited to 10%

The Law Society Gazette reports: “The success fees charged by lawyers in defamation cases will be cut by 90% after justice secretary Jack Straw laid an order to amend the laws on ‘no win, no fee’ agreements. From April the maximum uplift charged by lawyers for winning defamation cases taken on under conditional fee agreements will be reduced from 100% to 10% of their original fee, subject to parliamentary approval.

The Ministry of Justice said the amendment is designed to prevent legal costs in defamation cases spiralling out of control. It follows its four-week consultation ‘Controlling costs in defamation proceedings’, which was published in January.Straw said the move would ‘help level the playing field’ so that journalists and writers can continue to publish articles that are in the public interest without incurring disproportionate legal bills.

So… are things looking up?

The Lawyer reports: Eversheds has become the latest firm to reopen its graduate recruitment programme after confirming it has offered positions to all of the trainees it deferred in 2009 as well as its scheduled 2010 cohort. In total the firm expects to take on 76 trainee solicitors in 2010 made up of 49 from its 2010 intake and the 27 candidates it deferred from 2009.

CEO Bryan Hughes said: “Whilst the economy remains fragile in some areas we’re seeing the benefits of having proactively managed our business as our performance continues to improve.”

Soon every Swiss dog could have his day in court

The Times reports: “There is no better place than Switzerland to be a chicken. Or a hamster. Or even — though the jury is still out on this — a goldfish.

The reason is that the country has an extraordinary set of animal protection laws that closely define the obligations of pet owners and farmers.

Now it is about to go a step farther: a national referendum tomorrow will decide whether to allow animals official legal representation.

The canton of Zurich already has an animal advocate, Antoine Goetschel, a kind of courtroom Dr Dolittle who, for the past two years, has been fighting the corner for flogged horses, depressed Dalmatians and tortured fish.

A “yes” vote will place publicly funded animal welfare lawyers, like Mr Goetschel, across the country. “Then I think the Government should create some form of academy or educational forum for animal barristers,” Mr Goetschel said. “These are not skills learnt at law school.”

This may well be a step too far for us… but we aren’t far behind.  I understand, following recent tabloid reports about dangerous dogs ripping faces off children, that the government plans to bring in a National Dog Owning test before anyone can keep a dog.  I’m reasonably sure, without needing to set up a Quango to look into it,  that the great majority of pet owners in this country love and  care for their animals well – but, yet again, a very small minority provides an opportunity for nanny to get her ruler out and be stern…. will this absurd knee jerking interference never end?

More later in the day…

The next stunt? – A Tory ‘ Madrasa’… a Madrasa? Mon Dieu!

Few things surprise me these days, so when I woke at 3.30 this morning and started reading the newspapers online I barely registered more than mild astonishment when I read the Guardian story on the new Tory Madrasa!  I’m afraid that I also started humming ‘Springtime for Hitler’ – a truly marvellous bit of parody from The Producers. (Watch Springtime for Hitler on YouTube)   I seem to hum that song quite a bit these days when I read daft stories about the Tories…. or should that be…. stories about daft Tories?  ( Update: I am more than prepared to accept that Eric Pickles is, as my friend Peter Groves has said in the comments section – a decent guy. I agree. He is usually entertaining on TV … and is known to have a sense of humour.  You only need to see his tweets on Twitter to appreciate that. ….  I am just faffing abart with my captions and what follows! It is Saturday!).

‘Tory madrasa’ preaches radical message to would-be MPs

The Guardian: Candidates trained by rightwing group that rubbishes NHS, dismisses global warming and backs waterboarding

Tory parliamentary candidates have undergone training by a rightwing group whose leadership has described the NHS as “the biggest waste of money in the UK”, claimed global warming is “a scam” and suggested that the waterboarding of prisoners can be justified. At least 11 prospective Tory candidates, an estimated seven of whom have a reasonable chance of winning their seats, have been delegates or speakers at training conferences run by the Young Britons’ Foundation, which claims to have trained 2,500 Conservative party activists.

The YBF chief executive, Donal Blaney, who runs the courses on media training and policy, has called for environmental protesters who trespass to be “shot down” by the police and that Britain should have a US-style liberal firearms policy. In an article on his own website, entitled Scrap the NHS, not just targets, he wrote: “Would it not now be better to say that the NHS – in its current incarnation – is finished?”

Blaney has described the YBF as “a Conservative madrasa” that radicalises young Tories. Programmes have included trips to meet neo-conservative groups in the US and to a shooting range in Virginia to fire submachine guns and assault rifles.

There is ‘another’ Guardian story on this …

Radicalised Tories ready to take on Labour’s big guns

Guardian: Rightwing group Young Britons’ Foundation has begun to earn reputation as ‘Conservative madrasa’

Given that Donal Blaney is a member of the legal profession – he is a solicitor and senior party of GriffinLaw – perhaps an unfortunate choice of name given another well known right wing Griffin? – I wanted to find out more about the YBF – Young Britons Foundation and Donal Blaney.

Donal Blaney is senior partner of Griffin Law – all perfectly straightforward and they offer a wide range of legal services. Griffin Law also had a ‘Legal first’ …  Griffin Law makes law by serving via Twitter

“Today the High Court showed that while it may be steeped in tradition, it is certainly not behind the times by granting an order which allowed service of an injunction via Twitter. The Order which is called a Blaney’s Blarney Order after the subject matter – a blog called Blaney’s Blarney ( – requires an unknown Twitter user anonymously posting under the same name, and thus breaching the copyright and intellectual property of the blog’s owner, to stop posting and immediately identify themselves.”

When I tried to read Donal Blaney’s blog – in the spirit of wanting to learn more of the thoughts of this lawyer and Young Briton’s Foundation visionary… I was, sadly, met with this…

I rather suspect that I won’t be getting an invitation…

Thwarted… I then popped over to the Young Britons Foundation website. Donal Blaney is Chief Executive of the YBF.  There was talk of a ‘Rally’ in Parliament… a Rally?… and opportunities for visitors to the blog (unfortunate enough not to have been able to attend the ‘Rally’)  to look at pictures of happy radicalised Britons at the ‘Rally’

And then there was a case study of a Conservative Activist’… an ‘Activist’…?

YBF Activist Profile

“Emma Carr When did you first become an ‘active conservative’? I have been an active Conservative for about three years and I have known I am a Conservative for about five or six years.   It wasn’t until I went to University that I found opportunities to become involved in local campaigns and Conservative Future.”

I rather liked the phrase… “I have known that I am a conservative for about five or six years”.  It was after reading this phrase that I heard the dulcet Scottish tones of comedian Frankie Boyle, late (sadly) of Mock The Week, in my mind…and I am almost positive I could hear him say… “I’ve known I’ve had VD for  five or six years.”

And Dan Hannan… who can be very amusing on television..and is a very good orator, whatever you think of his views, is President of The Young Briton’s Foundation.

Now I happen to think that it is a good thing to keep very young people busy with things like the Scouts, Cubs etc etc… I was a Cub in my youth..where I developed a penchant for awarding myself honours.  (I really should have been a Tory!)  A friend of mine and I found a box of badges and cub rank  stripes in a box in the ‘Scout Hut’.  We were the most heavily decorated cubs in Scotland… I had badges for absolutely everything down both arms of my green cub pullover… it was ridiculous.  I promoted myself to ‘Senior Sixer’ but was rumbled because I got greedy and gave myself three yellow stripes instead of two… c’est la vie, as I explained to the dodgy teacher – or Akela as we had to call him – who was a bit too keen on Scouting for Boys.(It’s a very old joke… but it is Saturday.)

I digress… and I do think it is a great idea for younger people to take an interest in politics by joining political groups at school and university. I’m not sure I swallow the entire Guardian line that 2500 people have been radicalised by attending YBF events and shoot em ups in the States… but it is a bit of a worry when one reads statements like this in the press…

The Guardian reports: “Writing openly on his own website, Blaney, a Kent-based solicitor, has argued that “humiliation or psychological interrogation techniques are, in my view, not a problem … Waterboarding doesn’t do the prisoner any permanent physical harm although he may be reluctant to shower or use a flannel again in the future when/if he is freed.”

This is passed off as humour. Humour?  I don’t think Mr Blaney will be appearing ‘Live at The Apollo’ anytime soon on the strength of that gag… if you forgive the unfortunate metaphor.

And then there is this… also from The Guardian report..

With strong links with the American neo-conservative movement, the YBF regularly sends activists on subsidised trips to conferences in the US. “We go into schools and we proselytise conservatism and we get hold of the best kids and train them up,” Blaney has said. “We have been described as a Conservative madrasa, so we bring the next generation out to the States and bring them back radicalised.”

This story is wonderful nonsense… or is it? Is The Guardian warning us that Donal Blaney is training a regiment of ‘Stepford Tory Activists’ who are going to march all over us if David Cameron manages to avoid snatching defeat from the jaws of Victory and actually wins the election with a working majority?

Iain Dale has the right attitude..! and if you want a pretty clear perspective on the Tory camp… his blog is worth a read.

I shall leave you, as I prepare myself for coffee, Marlboros and coffee with the newspapers on the King’s Road with two lines from the Springtime for Hitler lyrics…and a pic from the movie!

“We’re marching to a faster pace
Look out, here comes the master race!”

Don’t have nightmares…. as they used to say on Crimewatch..

Rive Gauche: Enim vero di nos quasi pilas homines habent -The gods use mortals as their playthings

As we get closer to the election, The Tories are finding that the Press is getting more interested in their policies and ‘other activities’. The Guardian reports this morning…

Lord Ashcroft faces new claims of tax avoidance

Exclusive: Bills for huge opinion polls for Conservatives ‘sent to peer’s Belize firm’

Fresh concerns about Lord Ashcroft emerged tonight when he was accused of “systematic tax avoidance” by exploiting his offshore status to avoid paying VAT on opinion polls he commissioned for the Conservatives. Ashcroft privately ordered what he boasted was the biggest political polling exercise ever conducted in Britain in 2005, in order to aid the Tories as they targeted marginal seats. The cost of the polls, commissioned from YouGov and Populus, is believed to have approached at least £250,000.

But sources familiar with the transactions told the Guardian that the bills were paid by one his companies in Belize, meaning he did not pay VAT.

Tonight, the Liberal Democrats’ Treasury spokesman, Vince Cable, said: “This is quite serious. We are now not talking just about Ashcroft’s non-dom status, but about systematic tax avoidance in funding Conservative party activities such as polling. How far were the Conservatives aware that Ashcroft did not pay VAT, as would have been incurred by any normal polling activity?”

The Guardian also noted that Hague did not tell Cameron about Lord Ashcroft’s non-dom tax status until a month ago and “Ashcroft did not even reveal his tax status to Cameron when in December the leader approached him to discuss plans to ban non-doms from parliament, despite the fact that he had already told Hague.”

It is comforting  to know that Cameron is on top of things and running a tight ship when it comes to party affairs. Still… you have to hand it to the Tories, their strategy of pumping money into marginal seats may well win them the election….and Cameron is certainly ‘boldly going where no man has gone before’…or as we say down in Battersea while drinking Rioja…Ad eundum quo nemo ante iit.

I’m beginning to feel a bit sorry for Cameron….an aphorism by Horace may be of assistance in these difficult days, Dave…Aequam memento rebus in arduis servare mentemRemember when life’s path is steep to keep your mind even.

Peter Brookes, in The Times, has caught the mood exceptionally well with this marvellous cartoon.

And talking of ‘unusual dealings’… RollonFriday reports…Two ex HBJ Gately Wareing lawyers who were accused of attempting to extort money from the Duke of Buccleuch have appeared in court.

The Sun leads this morning with…

CHILD killer Jon Venables’ cover has been blown in the prison where he is held, The Sun can reveal.

The 27-year-old murderer of toddler James Bulger was given a new name nine years ago.  The Sun notes…”Fearful Venables is being given 24-hour protection inside jail as he gorges on burgers and chips in his cell.”

Venables, detained under his own name (kept from all but a few senior prison staff, is under 24 hour guard but, as The Sun reports, tough lags will be certain to know that he is in the prison.  The government continues to refuse to explain why Venables is back in prison.

Coverage of a serious news issue  having drained them, The Sun reverts to type and reveals that Mick Jagger did something with Angelina Jolie….. which is, clearly, in the public interest….I can’t even be bothered to extract the lurid details….!

UK involved in my torture, says suspect

The Independent reports: Man claiming ill-treatment in Egypt says Britain ‘turned a blind eye’ to his rendition.

Britain may have colluded with America in the rendition of terror suspects that involved “torture flights” from UK territory, judges were told yesterday.

The claim was made by Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni, 28, a former Guantanamo Bay inmate who was returned to Pakistan in August 2009 after seven years in custody.

Mr Madni alleges he was detained in Indonesia on 9 January 2002 and sent to Egypt, where he endured three months of torture. He alleges he was beaten, electrocuted, denied medical treatment and hung from metal hooks attached to the ceiling.

His lawyers, the legal charity Reprieve, say that there is “considerable circumstantial evidence” that the plane carrying Madni from Indonesia to Egypt passed through the British territory of the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia. Yesterday they asked the High Court in London to force the British Government to hand over all the information it might have about the flight, including the names of the US personnel Reprieve claims were aboard. They contend that documents held by the British Government could provide evidence that the UK authorities knew of the rendition flight and “turned a blind eye”.

Shock Horror: Tories cleared over Ashcroft… but there IS a wonderfully British twist!

Politics just gets better everyday…although I am beginning to wonder if the Rioja I drink is making me hallucinate when I read the newspapers and that the stories I read aren’t actually real.  The latest ‘Alice and Wonderland’ fable comes from The Independent

Tories cleared over Ashcroft donations

An Electoral Commission report today cleared the Conservative Party and its deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft of breaching electoral law in relation to £5.1 million of donations from Bearwood Corporate Services.

The Commission rejected allegations that Bearwood – which is controlled by Ashcroft – was not carrying on business in the UK and was therefore ineligible to donate money to political parties.

However, the Commission has asked to meet Conservative officials to ensure that they are clear about their responsibilities for complying with the law.

It transpires, however, that the Electoral Commission has no power to compel people to attend for questioning…so some Tories decided they would decline the invitation to tell the Electoral Commission what had been going on.  It would appear, therefore, that the Electoral Commission cleared the Tories on incomplete evidence… how wonderfully BRITISH!… Yes Minister has nothing on what is going on in 2010!

The Independent notes…. “Today’s report said there was “no basis to conclude” that the donor was anyone other than Bearwood. And it said there was “insufficient evidence to conclude, on the balance of probabilities, that the party was uncertain as to the identity of the donor when accepting the donations”. But it revealed that a number of Conservative officers and staff declined to be interviewed on the issue. The Commission has no power to force people to attend interviews.”

And the report said: “The Commission asked various officers and staff within the party to attend interviews on a voluntary basis, but these requests were not agreed to.”

A Conservative spokesman said the party has “a clean bill of health”.

Next!  There is bound to be something surreal to report on tomorrow from those in power and those who seek power..over us.

Law Review: The ‘Slackoisie’, double dip, Bulger case, and mysterious goings on in connection with the appointment of the new President of the Family Division.

Harman calls for Tory heads to roll over Ashcroft tax row

The Times reports: “The Ashcroft non-dom tax saga exploded on the floor of the House of Commons today as Harriet Harman called for Tory heads to roll. The Leader of the House, deputising for Gordon Brown at Prime Minister’s Questions, said William Hague, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, had “not a shred of credibility” on the issue. During a stormy 30-minute session, Ms Harman said the country had been misled into believing that the Tory peer was paying full tax in Britain.”

I watched PMQs yesterday.  It was like watching Dr Who as a child…I would have been better hiding behind the sofa. Hague may well have a few questions to answer about the Ashcroft affair but he is a better orator.  Meanwhile, Unite boss Jack Dromey, Harman’s house husband  is taking time out from bringing British Airways to its knees and is being parachuted in to a safe seat.  Apparently he achieved this remarkable feat by winning on an all wimmin shortlist according to Hague….. but it may be that I was hallucinating and dreamed this up while taking some restorative Rioja. I have very little sympathy for the proposed British Airways strike but if Mr Dromey and his cabin crew cohorts want to wreck British Airways and bring British Airways down even further in these hard times they will… but BA supremo Willie Walsh is fighting back with some corporate Viagra to stiffen his resolve if Unite harden their position.

William Hague hid Lord Ashcroft’s tax status for months

The Guardian reports: Former leader’s disclosure reveals peer kept financial affairs secret from senior Conservatives for a decade.

Time to shoehorn a bit of law in… I shall do it gently with this wonderful piece from our American friends…

Are You a Member of the Gen-Y ‘Slackoisie’? Find Out Here

The Wall Street Journal blog reports: “A word’s inclusion in the Urban Dictionary isn’t exactly the same as it being added to the OED. Anyone, it seems, can add pretty much any word to the UD at any time. Exclusive it ain’t.

Still, the UD goes where others don’t dare go. And along the way picks up some funny, if not g-rated or politically correct, definitions.

But the one to which we’ll introduce you today has nothing to do with drugs, sex, or rock & roll. It’s funny, though, and will probably strike many out there as either spot-on or downright offensive. It goes like this:


Prounounced “Slack-wah-zee”. This term was coined by J. Daniel Hull, Esq., author of the “What About Clients?” blawg (Pictured right …looking relaxed – CQC), and popularized by Scott H. Greenfield, Esq., author of the “Simple Justice” blawg. It refers to:

(1) a class of narcissistic young professionals, particularly attorneys (usually Gen Y/millennials), who believe that having a job is an entitlement, rather than a privilege. They often complain about the work they have (if working), opine the lack of “real lawyer” jobs available in the market, and are critical of the long hours and inadequate pay found at most small firms. They believe they are entitled to work/life balance, that their opinions on any subject are inherently important and that whatever benefits they enjoy are inadequate. The Slackoisie are more interested in having a place to go in the morning and some spending money than committing themselves to their clients and the profession; or

(2) a slacker with an exaggerated sense of self-importance and entitlement.

I like this word… I’ve come across a few of this breed in my time in the law over here…. gawd bless ’em… some of them live in West London, the land of milk and honey where they know how to pronounce ‘grande latte’ and do so with imperious style at various coffee filling stations on Chiswick High Street while they try to make the best of house price values in a country heading towards a double dip recession.  It may be time for me to resurrect my ‘West London Man’ parody series.

On that issue… Guido Fawkes has an interesting observation this morning about Britain’s debt (less safe than Chile even after the Earthquake) and it would appear that our American friends (taking a break from sitting on the fence on the Falkland’s issue) now bracket our economy with that of Greece and are saying that we are the next basket case.

Guido notes: Chile has just had an 8.8 on the richter scale earthquake, looting and rioting are commonplace.  Even so, U.S. investors still prefer Chilean government debt to UK government debt as measured by CDS rates. Do you get how bad things are?”

Jack Straw refuses to reveal why Bulger killer has returned to jail

The Times reports: “Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, was under pressure last night to lift the veil of secrecy over the decision to return one of James Bulger’s killers to custody for breaking the terms of his parole……..Mr Straw insisted that it was not in the public interest to disclose the reason for the recall, but he was contradicted by Mr Johnson, who said: “I believe the public do have a right to know and I believe they will know all the facts in due course but I must in no way prejudice the future criminal justice proceedings.”His comment was later clarified by the Ministry of Justice, which said that Mr Johnson had been referring to a review by the Parole Board of the decision to recall Venables. The ministry said: “The Home Secretary was talking in general terms about criminal justice proceedings. He is referring to forthcoming proceedings by the Parole Board.”

Jack Straw has been very busy recently.  It appears that he may not be too keen on the appointment of Lord Justice Wall as President of the Family Division…

Top family law post vacant after challenge to government critic

Jack Straw has challenged the appointment of a new head of the family justice system who castigated the Government over its policies, including opening family courts, The Times has learnt.

An appointments panel staffed by senior judges put forward Sir Nicholas Wall to fill the post of President of the Family Division, but only one month before the post is vacated no announcement has been made. Mr Straw, the Justice Secretary, is understood to have exercised his right under the new appointments system to ask the panel to reconsider.

One senior judge said: “It is an appalling state of affairs, not to know who is taking over.” Another said: “An appointment like this is usually announced several months ahead. There is no explanation as to what is going on.”

The Times noted…. wrly?….“but the belief in legal circles is that Lord Justice Wall’s comments in a lecture last November will not have helped his cause. He told the Association of Lawyers for Children that it was the duty of judges to speak out over changes that were damaging the service to children and families.”

I have little interest in Family Law, but John Bolch of Family Lore and Pink Tape will, no doubt, be commenting on this?

Prison service ‘cannot cope with indefinite sentences’

The Independent reports: “Controversial open-ended prison sentences introduced to protect the public may have to be scrapped after inspectors warned that their cost to the penal system outweighed any benefits.Just 75 of almost 6,000 convicts held under the indeterminate sentence for public protection (IPP) have won their liberty since the measure was brought in by Labour four years ago.The result, said Chief Inspector of Probation, Andrew Bridges, and the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Anne Owers, is that prisons have become swamped with inmates whom the probation service did not have the resources to deal with. They warned that the situation has become “unsustainable” and called on ministers to begin a major review of the policy.”

A quick look at what the law bloggers are up to….

Obiter J reviews the thorny issue of… Mobile phones and driving: just what is “using”

and begins his analysis with …”Regrettably, a lot of legislation is not always entirely straightforward to interpret (or “construe”).  The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 Rule 110 seems to give rise to such problems.  Reg. 110(1) states – “No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a road if he is using (a) a hand-held mobile telephone; or (b)…”

The Fat Bigot…says…Goodbye Michael Foot

So, Michael Foot is no more, gone at the age of 96. Proof that the old saying “the good die young” gives only half the story. Reports of his death contain gushing tributes to a “man of principle” who was “true to his beliefs” and a “magnificent orator”. I can’t read stuff like that without wanting to bring up my dinner. Nick Griffin is a man of principle, David Koresh was true to his beliefs and Mussolini was great at stirring up a crowd, yet they are or were despicable pieces of filth who deserve nothing but condemnation for the dire effects of their principles, beliefs and oratory on other people….”
The Stilettoed Socialist has a fulsome tribute…“The Labour Party, today, has lost a true hero. Michael Foot was a parliamentarian held in Gordon Brown, Tony Benn and a fitting tribute was made in the House of Commons by Jack Straw after a frankly embarrassing Prime Ministers Questions, the depressing nature of which was put into sharp focus by the news of Foot’s passing. But more on that in a moment. the highest regard. One of the most outstanding orators this country has ever known and a man who defined the notion of principled politics. Tributes have been pouring in today, from Foot was the mind of the Labour Party. A remarkably intelligent writer who went from Fleet Street to Westminster with the same principles and values underpinning all his endeavours, values which were unashamedly, unapologetically socialist. Without a doubt Foot was a visionary politician, to some extent an idealist, but was one who admired, if not idolised perhaps the greatest pragmatist British Politics has ever known.”

For my part – Michael Foot was a superb orator, an intelligent and thoughtful radical and probably the worst (in terms of effectiveness) leader of the Labour Party… but one of the best in terms of principle. His manifesto may have been described as the longest suicide note in history… but he did bring to politics a sense of fairness and critical thinking which is not always to the forefront of modern political agendas.

Finally…Bystander JP of the Magistrate’s blog asks…

How Would You Deal With This?

Two middle-aged men are side by side in the dock. Each has a care worker with him as both have learning difficulties. They have committed sexual offences against girls of 12 (I have to be careful here, but suffice it to say that no physical contact was involved, but rather crude and inapproriate sexual talk) that has obviously caused great fear and upset to the young victims. The defendants are quickly identified, and brought to court.

They are charged under Section 12(1)a and other sections of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Law Review: The ‘F’ word?, international law, treachery and suitability to govern.

Hat Tip to LadyBizBiz for alerting me to this great picture on MSN this morning.  She’s right… I just couldn’t help myself.

Britain at centre of extradition row over ex-Bosnian leader Ejup Ganic

The Times reports: ” British courts were at the centre of a bitter diplomatic battle last night as Serbian and Bosnian authorities fought for custody of a former Bosnian leader arrested at Heathrow. Ejup Ganic, 63, was detained on Monday after Serbia asked for his extradition on charges of killing wounded Bosnian Serb soldiers during the Balkan wars. Yesterday Bosnian authorities dismissed the arrest as a political stunt and vowed to ask Britain to extradite him to Sarajevo instead, setting the scene for an unprecedented legal struggle.”

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, given the Karadzic trial.  Israel is also concerned that some of their political leaders face arrest in Britain should they set foot in Britain. Are we going to see an escalation of countries arresting political leaders throughout the world?

Guido Fawkes, only this morning, is concerned as to where Tony Blair is in the world at the moment: Has Tony Gone Offshore?

Back in September Guido asked:

“When was the last time you saw Tony Blair in the UK? Billionaire’s yachts in the Med, sure, US TV chat shows, sure. Six-figure speaking engagements in the Far East, of course. “Peacemaking” in the Middle East, allegedly. Is he seen in the UK? No, not much.”

A tax issue? .. that would be ironic and ‘un-patriotic’.

Former MI6 officer charged with exposing spy techniques

The Times reports: “A former member of MI6 will appear in court today charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act by exposing spying techniques. Daniel Houghton, 25, from North London, is accused of disclosing a number of electronic files with articles about intelligence gathering methods at the Central Criminal Court, better known as the Old Bailey. He is also charged with stealing MI5 files containing similar information at the court between September 2007 and May last year.”

Lord Ashcroft: new demands for a full tax inquiry

The Guardian: Papers reveal Tories gave repeated promises over peer’s financial status

A  Lords committee has rejected a call for an inquiry on the grounds that it no jurisdiction over events occurring before 2000.

Revenue investigators were last night facing demands to launch an inquiry into the tax status of Lord Ashcroft, the billionaire businessman bankrolling the Conservative party, amid new questions about how he was allowed to break a promise to permanently base himself in the UK to secure a seat in the House of Lords.

As anger grew over Ashcroft’s admission that he has secretly remained a non-dom for the nine years he has sat in parliament, there were separate calls for inquiries into his nomination for a peerage in 2000 and his tax affairs.

Last night Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, called on the HMRC to review Ashcroft’s tax status in the UK. “There does seem to be a strong case for HMRC to investigate the potential abuse of non-dom status,” he said.

I’m with Cable on this one.  It does seem to me extraordinary that the Tories and Labour are quite happy to take money from non-dom businessmen, but that is not really the key issue here.  The key issue  is the rather more worrying one about ‘truth’ in terms of what Hague and Cameron actually knew compared to their public statements. Lord Ashcroft, turned down for a peerage initially because of his tax position appears to have promised unequivocally to regularise matters and then, hey presto, a ‘revision’ occurred with a senior civil servant to ‘interpret’ matters rather differently. Hague is on record as saying that the newly ennobled Lord Ashcroft’s peerage would cost him ‘tens of millions of pounds’ annually.  It appears that this is not the case.  A Freedom of Information request, it is suggested, should do the trick. I have no idea whether brrooms are available from the John lewis catalogue on expenses.

One assumes that Hague and Cameron have been telling the truth.  If that is the case, then they must have been rather surprised by Ashcroft’s admission the other morning that he is, after all, non-dom?  Tail wagging the dog or vice versa?  Cameron seemed to be rather keen to get the press to stop flogging the horse with a bit of deflection onto Labour non-doms and by trying to draw a line under the matter.  I don’t think this one is going to go away quickly and may well be an election issue not of tax or party financing, but one of truth, character, probity and suitability to govern?

And on that note, let me leave you (for the present) with this Cartoon from lawyer, artist and bon-viveur Charles Fincher …..

Good evening, Mr Cameron… so good of you to drop in….

With a lead article in The Times today relating tales of Lord Ashcroft as Blofeld (and even being given a white toy cat, apparently) I could hardly resist getting out the Photoshop for the inevitable pic….

Lord Ashcroft revels in his notoriety and safe seat at the top table

The Times

Be that as it may…. there are dark forces present this eve, as I read the political blogs.

Guido Fawkes blogs with evidence with two interesting posts:  The Market Hates Labour
providing a clear graph that when Labour rises in the polls the pound drops and the pound rises when the Tories rise in the polls. Guido also provides a snazzy graph to show how Lord Ashcroft’s attendances in the Lords cost the taxpayer NOTHING whereas Lord Paul’s attendances have cost us a WHOPPING £281,263 in expenses

Boris… in a very well written piece, complete with a bit of Latin… suggestio falsi and suppressio veri prefers the sanguine, cold, objective fact of Betfair to the turbulent polls on the premise that when people invest money, they think carefully (apart from, presumably,  those who invested their money with Madoff) and the Betfair odds have not moved.  The money is firmly with a Conservative majority. Others, to be fair, made this point at the weekend, but not with such style and elan.

Boris ends with the clarion call… “Do we really want another five years of the holepunch-hurling horror of Gordon Brown’s management style? Do we want the Downing Street switchboard to be endlessly jammed with people bleating to some “bullying helpline”? Is this any way to run a country? And that is just froth compared to the real charges against Labour.

If Gordon Brown is on course to win the election, then Elvis Presley is on course to win The X Factor and Shergar to win the Grand National.”

Peter Hoskin in The Spectator writes…

Labour’s pursuit of Ashcroft could backfire

The Business Secretary has since come out snarling, saying to Sky News this morning:

“All these years he’s been dodging what he should have paid in tax in full … instead he’s chosen to give all the money to the Conservative party. Perhaps they’d like to pay it back now?”

This is a dangerous route for Labour to go down, on many levels.  Not only (as Guido points out) is Mandelson not really the best poster boy for clean politics, but it risks drawing more attention to Labour’s own non-dom donors, and suggests that Brown & Co. aren’t just “getting on with the job” of government.  With the election only weeks away, maybe they should create the impression that they’ve got better things to do.”

But it is not all politics with the political bloggers. Yesterday, I publicised Old Holborn’s campaign to free Nick Hogan, the first publican to be imprisoned for failing to pay fines for Smoking offences at his pub.  Interestingly, Old Holborn and Anna Raccoon are looking into the legal position as to whether it is lawful to jail a bankrupt who is in no position to pay his fine

Old Holborn reports today… “In less than 36 hours, you have donated more than £5,238 to support Nick Hogan after he was jailed for 6 months for non payment of fines. Anna and I are currently investigating whether it is indeed lawful to jail a registered bankrupt as his ability to pay the fines is zero…….Various other organisations are becoming involved and support has been overwhelming. Donations have arrived from the four corners of the world, left wing, right wing and independent bloggers are carrying the news far and wide.”

If you wish to contribute or just read about this extraordinary case... please go here.

Law Review: The State of The Legal Nation

The recession may or may not be over. The pound is falling,there is serious division between economists and political parties on the best way forward in dealing with the significant debt hanging over Britain PLC and there is doubt about our position in credit reference stakes.

I thought it might be interesting to look at the legal press and take the temperature.

[The pic comes from a website supplying interesting legal prints]

The Lawyer reports: One Essex Ct vs Herbies – back from the brink

The Lawyer can reveal that relations between leading London set One Essex Court and litigation giant Herbert Smith reached crisis point last year following a bust-up over unpaid bills – underlining increasing tension between solicitors and barristers over fees. Herbert Smith set relationship partner Kevin Lloyd was forced to call a summit with One Essex Court senior clerk Darren Burrows after the firm failed to hand over ­barrister fees worth more than £500,000.

The claimant failed to settle fees with Herbert Smith.  In turn, “the firm therefore wanted to avoid paying its barrister team……“Herbies got burnt quite badly on the case, they were left exposed,” one source said. “It’s a bit unfair. The barrister relies on the lawyer to be honourable and pay.”

The Lawyer noted…”They [Herbert Smith] said they’re the top litigation firm and One Essex Court would have to play ball,” the source said. “But Darren wasn’t happy about that and refused.” Following the crisis talks it is understood that Herbert Smith has just begun handing the set instructions again – 15 months after the case. In a statement the set said: “One Essex Court does not ordinarily comment on its relationship with ­individual clients. That said, our fees have been settled on this matter and there are no outstanding issues. We’ve always enjoyed an excellent relationship with Herbert Smith and that ­continues to be the case.”

Unfortunately, chain reactions are common in all walks of business life and sometimes, through necessity,  if the top dog is not paid, those lower in the pecking order don’t get paid either.  Perhaps it is a sign of our times that a leading law firm with pressures of its own due to the downturn had to delay payment.  No further information is available on the matter but it would not surprise me if that lay at the root and in such circumstances is it unreasonable that a set of Chambers, enjoying work from a top firm – with the prospect of more in an upturn, should take part of the strain? That is often what happens in business.  Why should the law business be any different?

It seems that money is starting to flow again in the leading law firms.  A quick look at the headlines reveals some prospect of a brighter future?

SJ Berwin starts quarterly partner distributions after 12-month freezeFreshfields becomes first UK firm to lift associate salary freezeBLP hires advertising guru for marketing push

On the other hand… there are still areas of difficulty, possibly rooted in 2009 rather than 2010 prospects…

Dewey and Debevoise post double-digit revenue drops for 2009Latham saw PEP rise but revenue fall in “tough” 2009Hammonds shelves Munich base following Eversheds raidLG to phase out salaried role in favour of two-tier partnership

It is difficult to say, on a quick look at a few week’s of legal news, what the lieof the land is but it is probably fair to say that fortunes are mixed with some areas of specialist legal practice associated with recessions doing well (litigation and insolvency) doing reasonably well and other areas of practice (M&A, corporate finance, property et al), not so. Speaking with two experienced City lawyers to get their thoughts revealed caution and little in the way of optimism as yet, with one saying that it was unlikely to ‘get any better until well into 2011). Lawyers are often last in to a recession, they say, and last out.

I missed this story last week.

Withers found guilty of contempt of Parliament in privilege case

Legal Week reports: “Withers has been found guilty of contempt of Parliament after suggesting that an MP could face legal proceedings for criticising a client of the firm in Parliament. The Commons standards and privileges committee said yesterday (25 February) that Withers was in contempt of the House when it threatened Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming with libel proceedings if he were to repeat “defamatory claims” about the firm’s client in Parliament. The claims had initially been made in a Liberal Democrat leaflet.

The report said the committee was “surprised that a firm of the standing of Withers” took so long to realise that any comments would have been covered by parliamentary privilege, which allows MPs the right to speak freely in Parliament without the fear of being sued for libel. Despite finding the firm guilty of contempt, the committee said it would not take further action against Withers as the UK top 50 firm had apologised “unreservedly” both to the House and Hemming, after taking legal advice from counsel.

The Law Society Gazette leads this week with: Referral ban ‘will not reduce costs’

Banning referral fees will harm the legal profession and will have no effect on reducing law firms’ marketing costs, the chair of the Claims Standards Council (CSC) said last week.

Speaking at the CSC annual conference in Manchester, Accident Advice Helpline managing director Darren Werth said it is ‘shocking’ that the Law Society and Lord Justice Jackson want to ban referral fees. ‘It will drive businesses underground,’ he said, creating ‘a future not in line with a modern commercial world’ by ‘legislating against market forces’.

The Legal Services Board’s consumer panel recently commissioned management consultants Charles River Associates to undertake an ‘economic study’ of referral fees. Jackson concluded in his final report on civil litigation costs that referral fees should be banned in personal injury cases, while the Law Society Council voted at the end of last year to press for a ban on referral fees. SRA chief executive Antony Townsend said last week that the SRA ‘supports and is contributing to the cross-sector review of referrals by the LSB’.

Law Society Gazette

So… with the Bar wanting a level playing field, a senior judge against referral fees and the Solicitors Regulatory Authority voting to ban referral fees – there is now the prospect that these wise men and women may have actually harmed the legal profession? – Mon Dieu!

The issue is, I suspect, still rooted in the hoary issue of whether the law is a business or a profession…but, as ever, I could be wrong.  You can buck the market if you want to shoot yourself in the foot, but remain a professional – albeit a poorer one.

It seems appropriate to end with this..from the Bar Council

Bar Chairman Calls for Bar to Modernise
(1 March 2010)
The Chairman of the Bar, Nicholas Green QC, will today call for the Bar to continue to modernise as it enters a new era of legal services provision.  Speaking at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Legal and Constitutional Affairs in the House of Lords, Green will set out the challenges facing the Bar following the implementation of the Legal Services Act and will outline how the Bar is responding.

Today… I am all about being patriotic….

It was a fine sunny morning, cold but fresh, when I arrived at the cafe to eat my British breakfast.  I usually drink black coffee…called an ‘Americano’ in the modern way, and not wishing to baffle the Lithuanian waitress by asking for a British black coffee, I compromised my early morning patriotism and ordered the Americano.

The patriotism thing started by David Cameron has descended into a very ‘British farce’ with the Home Secretary weighing in with his comments about Lord Ashcroft’s un-patritotic behaviour only for Eric Pickles et al to lob in those great British patriots who support Labour – Lord Paul, Mittal et al. I was both delighted and ‘pleased’ that John Rentoul, chief political commentator at The Independent gave me a hat tip for my obvious parody of Cameron as Lord Kitchener.

The Polls this morning reveal that Labour has gone down, the Tories up and the gap is now 5 points.  This is still not enough to avoid a hung parliament – and the markets showed their displeasure at the prospect of a hung parliament yesterday by letting the pound drop.  Some say that the currency speculators view Britain as the ‘New Greece’ and are closing in.  Britain’s credit rating is dropping.  Yesterday there was a report that we are paying more than Italy for international money.

Capitalists@work (a blog I heartily recommend) has a very blunt message…. Just Vote Labour

The post is amusing and well crafted and makes some very good points about ‘floaters’… or floating voters who haven’t made their minds up yet.  Worth a read.  Here is an extract!

….But don’t ponce about saying you’re not yet convinced because all the information you will ever need is only a click away on your laptop. All the benefits or otherwise are just a stroll down your local high street, a visit to the health centre, school or a tour of your workplace.  If you think that Dave is a lightweight and you’re unsure then vote for Brown. The Lib Dems or any of the smaller parties are not going to win power. It is red or blue.

The choice my floating friends is painfully simple. If you are happy with what you have, then stick with it. If , like me, you think that five more months, let alone years, of the Prime minister will result in the UK becoming an”abandoned fairground for all” then vote for Cameron and at least the hope of something different…But stop kidding that there is some magical word or phrase that would swing it all around. You either like it as it is or you want a leap into the unknown and whatever that brings with it.

The Sun… (Britain’s most ‘Patriotic’ newspaper?) ran riot today with polls, surveys and comment. After lobbing a bit of ‘fresh salacious meat’ to the circling readers in the form of a story about a BBC reporter who may have hanged himself during a private sex act and agonising about Ashley Cole who has apparently ruined his life by texting pictures of himself in his underpants to various hot birds – The Sun got back to the business of promoting the Tories.

THE Tories’ lead over Labour has bounced back to seven points thanks to David Cameron’s daring “no notes” speech on Sunday, a Sun poll reveals.

The Sun thundered……. “A MASSIVE 72 per cent of Sun readers believe family life has crumbled under Labour, our poll reveals……And 43 per cent blame the booming benefits culture….The same number say children should be raised in a married family”

But then… on page 6…came the headline…

Poll Panic Sparks Pound Meltdown

permitting them to come up with a wonderful blast from the past…

“A weak currency arises from a weak economy which, in turn, is the result of a weak government’

Gordon Brown 1992

On the subject of “No Notes”  speeches…. Beau Bo D’Or really does have the last word with this wonderful picture…

Well…there we are… orf to listen to a bit more Elgar while I sit in the sun and read the sensible (if less influential in terms of reaching voters)   newspapers.

Have a patriotic day… it is your duty… for the country we ALL love.

UPDATE:  You may wish to have a look at this?

Questions mount for Tories over The Aschcroft Supremacy

Law Review: Ashcroft, the blogs and a law news round up

Pressure mounts on Conservatives over Lord Ashcroft non-dom tax revelation

The Guardian: Conservatives refuse to answer accusations Lord Ashcroft breached tax promises made on his ennoblement

All the parties appear to have a non-dom Lord or sophisticated investor lurking in the background as this spreadsheet from the Guardian reveals

The difference appears to be that Lord Paul has never been secretive about his non-dom status, the moneys used by Labour do not appear to be focused on marginal constituencies and Lord Paul does not appear to have broken any promises in connection with his peerage or elevation as a Privy Councillor and….. Lord Paul is not part of the ‘directing mind and body’ of the Labour Party.  Watching Newsnight last night, Michael Gove eloquently put the case for the Conservatives by deflecting attention to the activities of Lord Paul funding Labour and by challenging Kirtsy Wark to ask other parties tough questions…adding…with what appeared to be a hint of menace…’because we’ll be watching’.  This does not augur well for the BBC if the Tories get in?  Kirsty Wark was, pleasingly (to use a variant of a word enjoyed by David Cameron) was able to reassure Gove that the BBC would be asking tough questions of everyone in the run up to the election.

Watching David Cameron put out his well rehearsed statement that Ashcroft’s personal affairs are a matter between him and H M Revenue & Customs and then say that he was pleased that Ashcroft had revealed all was fascinating – the body language reminding me of a child who has been caught ‘in flagrante delicto’, and digging his heels in before defllecting the conversation on to something else with ‘imperial authority’.  Finkelstein of The Times on Newsnight did not think this story ‘would play’ with the electorate and that it was simply  a Westminster row.  We shall see….

The Guardian reports: “By keeping non-dom status Lord Ashcroft avoided paying tens of millions of pounds in tax in the UK while sitting in the Lords and still bankrolling the Conservatives. In 2005 he said he had given “well in excess of £10m” to the party.The Tories refused to answer accusations that Ashcroft had breached the promise he made to become resident and pay full tax as a condition of his ennoblement in 2000 – or reveal when the party leadership first learned that the peer had hung on to his non-dom status.

The Guardian put seven key questions to Tory central office about its deputy chairman, asking what David Cameron and Hague knew about Lord Ashcroft’s financial arrangements….

Jack Straw, the justice secretary, said today: “He was only granted his peerage on the basis he would return to live in the UK, become fully resident, and pay tax in the UK on his wider income.

“Lord Ashcroft has been forced to admit that he has not complied with this promise and that for the last 10 years the Conservatives have been concealing the truth. Instead of paying tax in the UK on all his earned income, he has been channelling millions into the Conservative party to help them buy this election.”

Blair warned in 2000 Iraq war was illegal

Independent: “Secret papers withheld by Chilcot inquiry reveal Foreign Office fears over invasion.  An invasion of Iraq was discussed within the Government more than two years before military action was taken – with Foreign Office mandarins warning that an invasion would be illegal, that it would claim “considerable casualties” and could lead to the breakdown of Iraq, The Independent can reveal. The extent of Whitehall opposition to the policy eventually backed by Tony Blair emerges just three days before Gordon Brown will appear at the Iraq Inquiry, where he will be asked to explain his role in the Government’s decision to invade.”

Having followed the Iraq Inquiry fairly closely, it will be fascinating to see how Gordon Brown performs. Brown does not have the communication skills of Campbell or Blair.  Brown’s fuse is fairly short, it would seem from recent reports, and I suspect, given the brooding antipathy between Brown and Blair, there is a story here to be dragged out of Brown. Perhaps the ‘grand inquisitors’ emboldened by recent revelations, and having had plenty of time to rehearse their questions, will demonstrate some forensic skill and ask the right questions?

The Fat Bigot writes…
Boring is hard to sell
“Perhaps it’s just a reflection of my experience, but I simply don’t think general life is very exciting. It has its moments, of course it does, there are spells of huge joy and deep misery. Most of it, however, is just getting on with getting on. I know I am luckier than most in that my field of work has provided variety and intellectual challenge of a type not many enjoy. When we look at the general scheme of life, though, it is not full of thrills.

If you are a politician faced with an electorate plodding through their everyday lives it’s fairly obvious that promising them rewards they do not have to work for is more likely to gain their vote than telling them they shouldn’t expect riches if they vote for you. This is one of the reasons socialists will always garner votes. They claim there is wealth for all if only they could be in charge and arrange things suitably. Every time they are elected they fail to deliver on that promise, and every time the next election comes around they promise the same thing while the alternative candidate does not. The promise itself is as enticing, yet as tantalising, as the rack of scratch cards on a shop counter. Faced with a choice between the idealist claiming he can make you rich and the realist saying he won’t, it is hardly surprising that people vote for the former.”

Carl Gardner, ex-government lawyer and author of the Head of Legal blog, writes: Binyam Mohamed: finally, an end

“I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to comment on the Court of Appeal’s judgment in R(Mohamed) v Foreign Secretary. People usually claim to hate saying they told you so. I love saying it if I’m honest, but only if I really did tell you so, something you may well doubt if you listen again to my podcast discussion with Charon QC about the case at an earlier stage.”

John Bolch of Family Lore (and many others, I suspect) is already bored with the endless coverage of politics in the media. I have some sympathy with this – but I enjoy politics and accept that my observations are either frivolous or parodic.

John writes: Just make it end…

“Like most people in this country, I don’t give a damn who wins the election, I just want it to be over. Unfortunately, however, there are a few who still think our votes can be bought, so it is my duty to inform you that The Times reports today that the Tories will be attempting to woo voters by including tax breaks for married couples in their manifesto. No details are given (including how a bankrupt country is to pay for such tax breaks), but no doubt I will have to return to this yet again, once the manifesto is published. I can’t wait…!

Simon Myerson QC, author of the Pupillage and How to Get It blog writes…“A Bit of a Kicking Back”

A quick look at some recent law news…

The Guardian: £140,000: the annual cost of jailing a young criminal

Jailing one young criminal costs the taxpayer as much as £140,000 a year, a report says today. Locking up young offenders makes them more likely to commit further crimes and be unemployed later in life, the New Economics Foundation says. The think tank calls for drastic cuts in the use of youth custody. Budgets to pay for it should be given to councils and the money reinvested in rehabilitation programmes, the report says.

The Guardian: Human rights groups call for reform of government’s security committee
Calls come after appeal court judges conclude security services were able to get away with ‘a dubious record’ on torture

The Guardian: Committee urges ministers to abandon control orders
Joint committee on human rights says system imposing severe restrictions on terror suspects who cannot be taken to court is no longer sustainable

The Independent: Inmates advised on early release options

Prisoners who will miss out on early release because a Government scheme was brought to an end are being advised to apply for another scheme to avoid “disappointment”, it was revealed today. Last week Justice Secretary Jack Straw announced End of Custody Licence, which allows inmates out up to 18 days early, would be cancelled next month. But a circular sent to jails in England and Wales advises inmates to apply for release under Home Detention Curfew, which allows prisoners out up to four and a half months early with an electronic tag. The notice even sympathises with inmates who find they cannot now be released on ECL……The Tories accused ministers of a “cynical and dishonest ploy”.


A patriot returns to Britain to do his duty….

The cat is out of the bag… as they used to say in the Royal Navy between bouts of “rum, sodomy and the lash” (Winston Churchill) ….. Ashcroft has fessed up… but the Guardian isn’t letting him off the hook.

Toby Helm does the business in the boot putting in stakes…

Ashcroft tax revelations: A shocking and profoundly depressing moment

The Tory attitude to this scandal says a lot about the party and its self-image as one born to rule

Yes… we know Lord Paul and other non-doms are doing the same thing.. but are they trying to target marginal seats with quids and are they senior members of the Labour ‘apparatus of power and change’ ? ?

UPDATE… now THIS… from a ‘Master of the Art of Politicalart ‘  [Beau Bo D’Or ] is funny… at least I think it is… and I hope you will..

Politics for Younger People (1): Mr Fantastic

I may not get very far with this – but  I have decided to celebrate the fact that the sun shone and  my new rather spiky haircut – which a lovely Spanish woman did – and the fact that I am both resident and domiciled somewhere… by starting a series of posts on politics for the younger person.

First up is Mr Fantastic. (Older readers may care to look at the Wikipedia entry to see what I am on about.. or, indeed, telephone NHS Direct and tell them that the Lord Ashcroft story finally did me in).

OK… OK… I’ll get my coat…. and see if you can catch me…. I’m orf…

The Patriot arrives to address the usual suspects at the Tory Spring Conference

It has been quite a day… with the revelation by Lord Ashcroft that things were not quite what some thought them to be. Jack Straw has responded with a fairly robust statement, Iain Dale, disclosing that Lord Ashcroft is an investor in his publishing business, opens the batting for the Tories with some stat porn, Guido Fawkes  reminds us that he has been calling for Ashcroft to come clean for some time (He has) and reminds us that Labour also has possession of a non-dom peer and Privy Councillor to boot in Lord PaulGerald Warner puts the boot into Cameron by saying that he is ” in a modernising hole and, thankfully, still digging” … and just so that Cameron is left in no doubt about the strength of feeling among some traditional tories… Warner puts the boot in again..

“Good, Dave! This is excellent news. Because, Dave, there is no one we want more to see in a hole and still digging than you. It would have been regrettable if you had taken fright, assumed a mask of traditional Conservatism and possibly fooled some genuine Tories into voting for you. Much better that you should persevere in the demented and traitorous stance that will cause you to crash and burn. So, this is good news.

Just one or two personal pronouns out of place there, though. “We” did not decide we wanted to modernise the Tory Party – you and the Maudernisers did. And, yes, you didn’t do it on your own, you had a bunch of muppets to support you and some hoods from CCHQ – as it is now inelegantly known – to put the frighteners on local constituenecy associations and make sure they selected their candidates from a PC table d’hôte menu of women, ethnic minorities and homosexuals. That strategy, of course, was devised when you had a 25-point poll lead; how it plays out in present circumstances remains to be seen.

The man behind the story and, indeed, the Tory Party…Lord Ashcroft… demonstrated masterly skills of evasion and obfuscation with his statement – forced in advance of a Freedom of Information request about to be published by the Cabinet Office.

Lord Ashcroft: As for the future, while the non-dom status will continue for many people in business or public life, David Cameron has said that anyone sitting in the legislature – Lords or Commons – must be treated as resident and domiciled in the UK for tax purposes. I agree with this change and expect to be sitting in the House of Lords for many years to come.

The difference, however, between Lord Paul and Lord Ashcroft seems to be that Lord Ashcroft was initially turned down for a peerage and only got it because of promises he made… promises, Jack Straw says, which have not have been kept.

“Lord Ashcroft was initially turned down for a peerage. He was only granted his peerage on the basis that he would return to live in the UK, become fully resident, and that he would pay tax in the UK on his wider income.

“Today Lord Ashcroft has been forced to admit that he has not complied with this promise and that for the last ten years the Conservatives have been concealing the truth.”

Tomorrow could be even better….. the spinning jennies could be working overtime….

Law Review: Free Nick Hogan, privacy rights and other matters….

I smoke and while I am happy  to accommodate non-smokers I would have preferred the smoking ban to have accommodated smokers by providing separate areas for smokers inside. Pubs have closed, bars have closed and some pubs are no longer the places they used to be – simply because smokers often enjoy drinking as well and they aren’t going to pubs on cold wet windy days and nights.  They are drinking and smoking at home.

Political blogger and libertarian, Old Holborn, has an excellent campaign – which I am both happy to support by making a donation (I have just done it) and by publicising it.

I quote from Old Holborn’s blog…

There has been a fair amount of comment in the blogosphere regarding the six month jail sentence given to Nick Hogan for flouting the ‘no-smoking ban’.

Outrage has been duly expressed, here, there, and everywhere. Perhaps we can do better than just express outrage?

Nick was actually jailed for non-payment of the fine originally imposed for a ‘mass smoke-in’ on the day the ban came into force in 2007 in his pub, the ‘Swan and Barristers’ in Bolton. He no longer has that pub. He was fined again when council inspectors walked into his present pub and discovered a group of customers smoking – Nick wasn’t even on the premises.

I could not agree more.  Outrage is often expressed on the net and on Twitter – but outrage alone is not going to solve Nick Hogan’s problem. Do have a look at Old Holborn’s blog post to find out what the law is on Smoking (interesting) and if you are minded to help… a lot of £1 donations will free Nick Hogan.  I had some money knocking about in Paypal – enough for four packs of Marlboro…. and Nick Hogan is more than welcome to it!  If you wish to donate – please visit Old Holborn’s blog and follow the instructions there!

Mosley case on privacy laws ‘is being fast-tracked’

The Independent reports: European Court set to give public figures chance to gag press on damaging stories

It could spell the end of the kiss and tell: public figures might, within 18 months, have the power to stifle bad news stories before they are published, a senior lawyer has warned.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is currently fast-tracking a landmark case, brought by Max Mosley, to tighten UK privacy laws. Mark Stephens, a lawyer acting for a group of media and free speech organisations opposing Mr Mosley in court, believes that the extraordinary pace with which it is proceeding suggests that the judges are about to rule in the former Formula One boss’s favour.

That would mean a change in the law that would force the press to contact anyone that they are intending to run a story about to warn them if it could potentially breach their privacy, giving public figures a chance to gag newspapers before publication.

While I am not at all interested in Max Mosley’s desire to dress up in striped ‘prison style’ uniform, have his head examined for lice and then be beaten by blonde dominatrixes shouting at him in faux German accents (He then had a spot of shouting in German himself after his own thrashing) I am concerned that press freedom may be curtailed by public figures when it is in the public interest that their activities be disclosed

Article 8 European Convention on Human Rights – Right to respect for private and family life

1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

The Independent noted: “Mr Stephens, partner at Finers Stephens Innocent, argued that the revelations about Mr Mosley’s sex life, published in the News of the World, are not covered by Article 8. He added: “There should be no injunction preventing publication. What Mosley is doing is trying to drive a coach and horses through the rules and get injunctions against newspapers prior to publication. This could be the end of ‘publish and be damned’. Are we really saying that next time we want to write a story about a public figure, we should give them 48 hours’ notice?”

I did a podcast with Mark Stephens last year when the Trafigura case raised issues about the use of superinjunctions. Given the relative ineffectiveness of High Court injunctions in the internet and twitter age,  it may be useful for the law makers and the Ministry of Justice to investigate the increasing use of superinjunctions.  Privacy of the individual for matters which do not impact on the public interest is one thing (deserving of protection) – activities which are potentially harmful to the wider public interest is quite different – and a free press is essential if we are to prevent mission creep to suppress freedom of the press.

And…another case on privacy…mission creep?

Kate Middleton set for £10,000 privacy victory

The Times reports: KATE MIDDLETON, the girlfriend of Prince William, is set to win a controversial claim for alleged invasion of her privacy. She is expected to receive at least £10,000 in damages, plus substantial legal costs, after threatening to sue a photographer and two British picture agencies over photographs taken of her at Christmas. The images were not even published in Britain. Middleton’s claim follows a decision by the Queen to crack down on alleged intrusions into the private lives of the royals. Middleton’s action may also be an attempt to restrain photographers ahead of an engagement to the prince.

Sources close to negotiations over the dispute say that the photographic agencies have offered to meet Middleton’s demands because they cannot risk losing an expensive court battle. One said: “We can’t fight them. If it went to court and we lost, it could cost £100,000.”

The Times report noted that the photographer took the photos from a public footpath – not using a telephoto lens  – and while Ms Middleton may well have been concerned about photographers taking photographs ‘through the window’  of her eating lunch,  that did not happen.

The Times noted..”Middleton instructed her lawyers to seek damages and take legal action if she did not receive a suitable response. One source said: “They are trying to crucify the photographer; maybe they want to set an example.”

It is a difficult balance, but those who seek to live lives in a public way and take advantage of the very significant financial rewards in doing so must accept reasonable interest from the public in their activities generally and, if they stray into illegal activity, the full scourge of investigative journalism. For my own part, being a good ‘republican’, I would be quite happy if I never saw a photograph of a Royal again – save in the execution of a public state duty.  The trouble with celebs, royal or not, is that they often seek press coverage when it suits their interests and then complain when it does not.  We are too craven in this country about the ‘great and the good’ – I suspect quite a few celebs would bleat like stuck pigs if their rather (often)  tedious activities were not covered by the tabloid press.

And finally… on a cheerful note, particularly if you are a student – I am delighted to let law students know about a new series of Revision aids from Oxford University Press – the Concentrate series.  OUP has published quite a few already:

English legal System | Contract Law | Criminal Law | Equity & Trusts | Public Law | EU Law | Evidence Law | Business Law | Employment Law | Land Law

I disclose that OUP has sponsored Insite Law Magazine costs to assist in our keeping resources free – but I have no hesitation in saying that this series is an excellent supplement for students should they wish to focus their revision.