RE: Charon QC v David Cameron – Breach of Contract

This is my emailed reply to David Cameron’s Contract email to me (Exhibit A below)

Dear David,

Thank you for the contract.  Thought you did OK on telly last night.

I write to ask if you would prefer to settle my claim for breach of contract now, and save court action (thereby reducing the deficit) ?

Do let me know what sort of figure you have in mind and I’ll mull it over.

Good luck in the election…. I say that to all the ‘Boys’ !

Best, as always

Charon QC

I append the Contract (Exhibit A) below.  I am looking forward to receiving a useful sum which I shall spend on a libation and, possibly other earthly pleasures.  It is only a pity the email did not call into question my parentage or refer to bigotry.  I was, however, delighted that he said I could have access to ‘all the drugs I need’.  I’m not, however, that keen on feeding myself plant food or horse tranquilisers. I shall write to David and see what other drugs he has which might be of interest. I quite fancy a spot as Home Secretary… and as he has a vacancy because Basil Grayling-Fawlty is, clearly, not up to the mark, I’ll offer myself – given that I am now accepting his invitation to join the government. (See below) But there we are… one can’t have everything in life.


Email from David Cameron to Charon QC

Dear Charon QC,

At the start of this election campaign I invited you to join the government of Britain. My message was that we’re all in this together, and we’ve got to stop pretending that government is the answer to every problem.

So during this campaign I’ve been talking about the new, active part I hope people will play in making the country better and building the Big Society.

Now, as we get into the final week of the campaign, I want to set out our side of the bargain in a contract with you. This contract – as you can see below – is a no-frills, no-nonsense commitment to do some very specific things if you vote for us.

With trust in politics at an all time low and people tired of politicians breaking their promises, this contract couldn’t be clearer. If we don’t do the things it sets out, if we don’t deliver our side of the bargain: vote us out in five years time.

P.S. This is a contract between the Conservative Party and every person in the country – please do make sure your family and friends see it by sharing this email with them.

A contract between the Conservative Party
and N Charon QC

We go into the general election on 6 May with trust in politics and politicians at an all-time low. And I can understand why: the years of broken promises, the expenses scandal, the feeling that politicians have become too remote from the people – they’ve all taken their toll. That’s why I’m making this contract with you.

For too long, you’ve been lied to by politicians saying they can sort out all your problems. But it doesn’t work like that. Real change is not just about what the government does. Real change only comes when we understand that we are all in this together; that we all have a responsibility to help make our country better.

This contract sets out my side of the bargain: the things I want to do to change Britain. But it also makes clear that I cannot do it on my own. We will only get our economy moving, mend our broken society and reform our rotten political system if we all get involved, take responsibility, and work together.

So this is our contract with you. I want you to read it and – if we win the election – use it to hold us to account. If we don’t deliver our side of the bargain, vote us out in five years’ time.

We will change politics

Our political system needs to change. Politicians must be made more accountable, and we must take power away from Westminster and put it in the hands of people – individuals, families and neighbourhoods.

If you elect a Conservative government on 6 May, we will:

1. Give you the right to sack your MP, so you don’t have to wait for an election to get rid of politicians who are guilty of misconduct.

2. Cut the number of MPs by ten per cent, and cut the subsidies and perks for politicians.

3. Cut ministers’ pay by five per cent and freeze it for five years.

4. Give local communities the power to take charge of the local planning system and vote on excessive council tax rises.

5. Make government transparent, publishing every item of government spending over £25,000, all government contracts, and all local council spending over £500.

We will change the economy

Gordon Brown’s economic incompetence has doubled the national debt, given us record youth unemployment, and widened the gap between rich and poor. Unemployment is still rising, and this year we will spend more on debt interest than on schools. We need to get our economy moving.

If you elect a Conservative government on 6 May, we will:

1. Cut wasteful government spending so we can stop Labour’s jobs tax, which would kill the recovery.

2. Act now on the national debt, so we can keep mortgage rates lower for longer.

3. Reduce emissions and build a greener economy, with thousands of new jobs in green industries and advanced manufacturing.

4. Get Britain working by giving unemployed people support to get work, creating 400,000 new apprenticeships and training places over two years, and cutting benefits for those who refuse work.

5. Control immigration, reducing it to the levels of the 1990s – meaning tens of thousands a year, instead of the hundreds of thousands a year under Labour.

We will change society

We face big social problems in this country: family breakdown, educational failure, crime and deep poverty. Labour’s big government has failed; we will help build a Big Society where everyone plays their part in mending our broken society.

If you elect a Conservative government on 6 May, we will:

1. Increase spending on health every year, while cutting waste in the NHS, so that more goes to nurses and doctors on the frontline, and make sure you get access to the cancer drugs you need.

2. Support families, by giving married couples and civil partners a tax break, giving more people the right to request flexible working and helping young families with extra Sure Start health visitors.

3. Raise standards in schools, by giving teachers the power to restore discipline and by giving parents, charities and voluntary groups the power to start new smaller schools.

4. Increase the basic state pension, by relinking it to earnings, and protect the winter fuel allowance, free TV licences, free bus travel and other key benefits for older people.

5. Fight back against crime, cut paperwork to get police officers on the street, and make sure criminals serve the sentence given to them in court.

6. Create National Citizen Service for every 16 year old, to help bring the country together.

Rive Gauche: Voters are strange when you’re a plonker….

After Gordon Rochdaled himself the other day and watching his lamentable performance in the final leadership debate last night – a truly appalling closing speech – I think the words (modified) to the famous song by The Doors might be in order….

People are strange

Voters are strange when you’re a plonker
Reporters look ugly when you’re alone
Advisers seem wicked when you’re unwanted
Debates are uneven when you’re down

When you’re strange
Bloggers come out of the rain
When you’re strange
No-one remembers you’re sane
When you’re deranged
When you’re deranged
When you’re deranged

13 years ago, on a sunny May morning Tony Blair walked into Downing Street and, with many others, it felt good to be a Labour supporter, it felt good to have change, it felt good to have a young prime minister who promised so much. For the first few years Tony could do no wrong.  He was even called Teflon Tony – nothing stuck.  But the Iraq war came along and it all went pear shaped.  We were fighting a war on terror and then our civil liberties started to be eroded, countless new laws were passed, ID cards were mooted, CCTV cameras exploded into bloom like cherry blossom on every street and the Labour government, which promised so much, started to become repressive, authoritarian, divisive and disorganised.  In Number II, rather as the Minotaur of Knossos did in mythology, the Chancellor lurked, scheming, plotting , burning with ambition, to take over the mantle of prime minister which, rightfully, in his mind, was his and his alone.  Gordon Brown has been a disaster for the country and for voters like me who were prepared to back a vision of a fairer Britain. I need not, of course, rehearse the many disasters with the economy in recent years, for everyone has a view on that.

I have  supported Labour consistently for years.  I am not, however, a fan of Gordon Brown.  I have made that clear for years in my blog.  The other day, Brown revealed what many have known for some time that he is a bully, intolerant, unable to communicate with voters on a personal level and, frankly, should never have been prime minister – he lacks the skills for the top job. What I think is, of course, entirely irrelevant, but it is my blog and it is Rive Gauche Friday…  my view is that Labour had the opportunity to get rid of Brown on several occasions over the years and they bottled it each time. They are now reaping what they sowed.  I won’t support a Brown led Labour Party.  I won’t do it, because this is the most important election I have voted in to date and I have changed my mind.

I won’t vote Tory because I don’t agree with many of their policies.  I won’t vote Lib-Dem, despite liking Clegg, Cable, Kennedy and Ming,  because I don’t agree with their policies on Trident, the armed forces, the amnesty on immigration  or their wish to join the Euro zone.  So, I shall have a look at the Independent candidate and if I don’t like what I see, I shall vote by spoiling my ballot paper.  I shall draw a pirate flag over the ballot paper. I have bought a nice fat black marker pen for the purpose this morning.  It is sitting on my desk as I type. I shall practice drawing it quickly over the next few days.

Back later with some law… now that the lawyers and the courts have got back to work after the Easter break, there is, actually, some rather interesting law to write about.

Acropolis Now! – I like the smell of drachmas in the morning

While It is rumoured that a number of German politicians are keen for Greece to hand over the Acropolis and several islands in return for help from Germany, there are no immediate plans for  Germans to start governing Crete or any other Greek island again – although it is likely that the Germans and others who assist in the Greek bail out will have a hand in running the Greek basket case economy for some time to come if help is given.

The Guardian, helpfully, are providing a LIVE blog for those of you who want to watch a country collapse as alternative entertainment to the antics of t’parkin eating Clegg and the other politicians who are scrambling for office  to avoid handing our own country over to the IMF shortly after the 6th May.

My favourite image of the election campaign so far is the picture below from BBC Newsnight last night. Gordon Brown was out campaigning, talking to children.  As he did this, a young boy steps in front of the cameras with a ‘Mad as a Box of Frogs’ T-Shirt on.  I could not have wished for a better image to sum up the whole election campaign.  Wonderful.  I wish the young lad well and I have every confidence that he will do well in future if he can pull a stunt like that off at his young age.  Bravo!

Newsnight clip 27.10 minutes in

The young lad didn’t say this…. but I just can’t help myself sometimes.

I do plan to do a Law Review shortly – the Blair Peach issue and other serious matters… until then…

Podcast: 20 minutes with The Great Ignored

Today I am talking to The Great Ignored about the political events of our times. It is, it is fair to say, a rather bizarre conversation – but TGI had every right to be heard and I enjoyed talking with him.  He has set up his own police force, plans to stand for election as police chief and is opening a school – a Madrasa, all consistent with Tory aspiration.  I wish him well. We talked about Clegg, Cameron and McDoom and hung parliaments….and…Michael Gove, who was, apparently, on television years ago with David Badiel?  Then I went out for a large drink. Perhaps I should have done the podcast after the large drink?

Listen to the Podcast

Fortunately, there are other serious podcasts in the series:

Emily Nomates, Editor of Guy News | Tom Harris MP | Iain Dale, Blogger and pundit | Tom Williams

| Carl Gardner

Be careful about the iLegal app for iPhone – and read this before you make your mind up

There is a new iLegal app for iPhone. It is not free – and I would advise you to read this excellent post by Nearly Legal before you get anywhere near downloading it.

The legal press seems to be enthusiastic – but they may not have had the time and dedication to investigate as Nearly Legal did. Make your own mind up, as always, but do read Nearly Legal’s post.  It may not be as up to date as you want it to be.

Interesting and encouraging comments

Professor RD Charon puts CLEGGALOMANIA under the spotlight….

I am delighted to be invited by my brother Charon QC to put a few points about the absurd and mildly bewildering rise of Nick Clegg as a mainstream political force. Charon QC is busying himself surfing the internet for interesting places to live on the West Coast of Scotland and is not at all convinced by Clegg and cannot be bothered to spend time on the Lib-Dem surge  doing anything other than ridiculing Mr Clegg’s claims to be the only Northerner standing for PM.

I have both the time and the inclination.


Main Entry: Clegg·al·o·maniac

Pronunciation: kleg-ˈal-oh-mayneea
Function: noun

Etymology: Latin, Cleggus – a politician with ambition and ideas above his station

1 : a person who suffers from a  misguided sense of his or her own importance in election campaigns: cleggalomaniac
2 : national hysteria suffered by a group during elections, often associated with belief that what they say is important: cleggalomania
a state of advanced dementia where an individual diagnosed as suffering from cleggalomania becomes unhappy when subjected to objective critical scrutiny: cleggalomaniacal

I do find it somewhat astonishing that a political party stating as one of their aims a ‘clean up in politics’ should be financing their campaign upon the proceeds of crime – but there we are. Eric Pickles, hyperventilating  spinmeister in chief for the Tories came up with a wonderful tweet this morning….

RT @mazza1230: @EricPickles #libdems. Weak on Crime. Weak on returning the Proceeds of Crime.

I am grateful, also, to Eric Pickles for pointing out that the Lib-Dems, after putting out photos with fake nurses, have now taken to impersonating police officers. Mr Pickles asked on Twitter only a few hours ago if the Lib-Dems actually know anyone in uniform.  Given their desire to strip our country of a nuclear deterrent (or in the alternative find a way of stuffing cruise missiles into a submarine) I rather suspect they don’t.

Moving on: The Lib-Dems, silent on the issue as to whether 16 year olds should get the vote, are, seemingly, quite happy for 16 year olds to star in porno films and, indeed, watch them.  Curious – prompting Outraged of Mumsnet to be… well, outraged.

I never thought I would ever write or utter these words…. but to coin a phrase… I agree with Kavanagh in The Sun.

Clegg recently suggested that we are far too obsessed with our past glories, winning the World Cup in 1966 and behaving  like a group of lager louts – unlike the French who had ‘ineffable style’.  Kavanagh reminds us, quite rightly, that the French surrendered to the Germans in WWII despite having more troops, built the Arc de Triomphe to celebrate a few battles they won in wars they lost and are probably the most perfidious people in Europe.  Clegg suggested that we need to be put back in our place.  Well, Mr Clegg, you may well be put back in your place,  but I would not want you at the helm of our armed forces if you have these sentiments about our country being put back in its place.  (I find it quite extraordinary, after reading The Sun for only 30 minutes this morning, that I am turning into a ranting nutter and speaking out in support of Mr Kavanagh…. and well done, The Sun, for coming up with CLEGGALOMANIA as a screaming headline!)

Right… let us reflect on the other policies being put forward by Mr Clegg and his happy band of cardigan wearing tree huggers. Mr Clegg wants to give an amnesty for 1 million illegal immigrants and allow immigration to parts of Britain that can absorb more immigrants. Not even the refugee agencies agree with him on this idea.  Mr Clegg did admit that his plans would not, of course, stop immigrants moving once they had been deployed to the remote regions of our nation and that he did not have any plans to put checkpoints along Hadrian’s Wall.

I do not, of course, need to turn my attention to the economy because St Vince has already been revealed as a carpetbagger by Andrew Neil who asked him… “Isn’t the biggest myth about the election your reputation?”

On that note, I am off to a meeting of like minded people and press the ‘Post’ button while my brother, Charon QC, is otherwise engaged  buying a new kilt so he doesn’t feel out of place when he deports himself back to Scotland.

Anyway… Mr Clegg… as you would say up North… ya tarkin sh*te, man!


My brother has extreme views.  This is why he is orf to a meeting with his Tory mates.  I am, of course, ‘liberal’ with a small ‘l’ and I shall, therefore, in this spirit, not remove his preposterous rantings above

Charon QC

Law Review: World IP Day – really?….. Heads on spikes on London Bridge

It is World Intellectual Property Day today – not that I am interested in it being so other than to ask who decides these things.  Is it our friends from across the pond who can have a world series in sport with no other countries involved?

Politicians’ legal fight in private to avoid trial over expenses

Frances Gibb, legal editor of The Times, has picked up on the interesting issue of the politicians who are being hauled before the courts for ‘fiddling their expenses’. Gibb reports: “The hearing next month, in which the men will claim that they are protected by parliamentary privilege, will be covered by blanket reporting restrictions. “Essentially, you can’t report anything,” one lawyer said. “It is a pre-trial application and, like any other, subject to normal prohibitions on reporting. The two-day hearing is an attempt to block criminal proceedings, under which they could face hefty jail terms if found guilty. The four will invoke the protection for parliamentary proceedings enshrined in the Bill of Rights to argue that the House of Commons rule book on expenses is “privileged” because it is part of parliamentary proceedings, and so protected from scrutiny by the courts.”

Whatever the merits of their parliamentary privilege argument – and many politicians have come out against parliamentary privilege being used in this way (largely because they don’t want to be mocked and derided by potential voters and the press)  – the whole business is shoddy.  I can well understand that people who have been caught out on  their specialist subject wishing to evade penalty – in this case, potentially,  quite a long time in prison if found guilty – but Gibb reports that media organisations and the DPP may apply to have reporting restrictions lifted.   The trial judge has a discretion to do so if it is in the public interest.

I’m not so sure I want reporting restrictions lifted – for the very simple reason that I want this trial to be ‘squeaky clean’ procedurally so that those charged cannot later claim their trial was not ‘within the rules’ and, of course, because I would like to see our rather battered Rule of Law returned to good health.  All are entitled to that.  Of course, it would help if politicians would actually understand and realise that you can’t have a Rule of Law of any real worth unless we have high quality lawyers to prosecute and defend and we resource process properly – but it would appear that the last crew of political pirates and quite possibly the next crew do not really know a lot about the law and none of the political parties, as far as I can see from their manifestos, have plans to ensure that the Rule of Law is maintained at an adequate standard.  Political waffle about ‘British Justice being the best in the World’ just doesn’t cut it… only a properly resourced justice system can do that.  Our politicians seem to have lost sight of that.  This is unfortunate and ironic. Enacting rafts of new laws is relatively easy – even a third world dictatorship can do that.  Running a proper justice system takes a bit more effort and cash. Trial without a jury, anyone? Let’s go back to the Police bringing charges, anyone? Dispense with trials altogether, anyone?  Fixed penalty tickets, anyone? Fast-track everything through Magistrates, anyone…? nice and cheap – and we’ll have more money to enable you to pass on all your property to your children when you die, when you’ll probably be as concerned about justice as you were when you were alive!   Ah… sounds a bit like a Ministry of Truth & Justice proposal.

For those keen to see MP heads on spikes on London Bridge…. this last from The Times may cool your enthusiasm. “Any ruling by the judge on parliamentary privilege and whether it extends to give the men protection in this case from the criminal courts will be appealed to the Court of Appeal and from there to the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land. A criminal trial is therefore unlikely to take place before the end of the year.”

Postcard from the Northern Staterooms : T’internet edition

Dear Reader,

It has been quite a week… and until Wednesday, I think it was, when I bought a case of Rioja Collapso 2007,  my view of the world was relatively straightforward and, quite possibly, similar to yours.  I don’t know what the vinyard has done, but ever since I opened that first bottle (and I have been doing my duty and working assiduously through them) things have become quite surreal.  First, Nick Clegg announced that he was the only Northerner standing for PM – @CherylKerl might say “Ah’ve aalweys leiked Clegg’s suporb woak; it’s just a shame thar he ler hizself doon wi tha shockin Geordee accent.” (With apologies to @CherlKerl for ‘adapting’! )

And today, as I opened another bottle at lunchtime, I began to wonder if I am living in the same reality of Tuesday last.  Just a selection of stories in the papers today, I present as evidence of the problem.

Lord Sir Digby Jones, who has form for unusual statements, has come up with a wonderful plan to ‘starve the young benefit scroungers into accepting jobs’. Apparently he was introduced to two young prats in Swindon who were being interviewed for BBC’s Panorama which goes out this week. One of the pair, from a middle class family,  told Sir Digby Jones-Lord that he and his girlfriend were paid about £12,000 a year in job seeker’s allowance and housing benefit and ‘there was no reason for them to look for work’.  Lord Digby Sir-Jones, was clearly not amused by this – and I’m with him on this – and suggested that these parasites should be starved back to work, or, in the alternative, should go and do some random cleaning of lavatories, graffiti removal – or study at College.   Lord Sir Digby Jones, who finally left the Labour government, did end the piece in the Sunday Times by saying….  that he had put his ‘Starve the scroungers back to work’ idea to a meeting of senior ministers and officials when he was in government.

“I told them. ‘We are creating a victim society of people who think they have no responsibility’.

“They all just said ‘What, what are you talking about?  You can’t say that’.  I might as well have admitted I mugged my granny.”

I agree… I’m writing to Sir Lord Digby-Jones, as I drink this fine Rioja Crianza that if he would be prepared to mug his granny on Britain’s Got Talent... he’ll get a YES from me.

I continued my reading in The Sunday Times and discovered that we have 1 million illegal immigrants who have gone awol. It is quite possible that some of them are working for the government.  The government has form on this. Quite a few illegals have popped up working, of all places, at the Home Office. Then I discovered  that the ‘Fortunes of the super-rich have risen by a third’.  This, when the country is reduced to penury is the supreme irony. Those investment bankers and ‘hedgies’ certainly know how to spot a turkey, promote it to the public and then bet against it succeeding.

Nick Clegg makes another appearance in  my alternate reality with a statement that he wants to have a ‘Putsch’ (assuming he actually manages to win his own seat in the election’), and demand half the seats in the Cabinet….. oh… and get rid of Gordon Brown. Well… I’m certainly with him on the latter proposition.   I suspect that the Lib-Dem surge is going to burst… but I could be wrong.  Most of the political pundits disagree with each other, so why should a Rioja drinking law blogger be able to shed light where there is darkness.

Stephen Hawking, I read in the Sunday Times’ is warning us that we should not communicate with any aliens who may visit us. I’m with him on that and can re-assure him and you, that I shall certainly not be sharing any of my Rioja with the yellow flying Lizard from another world who popped into The Staterooms just before before lunch.


Something to think about on May 6th

This is  the most important election I have been interested in and this from Old Holborn is worth a look!

I decided not to run the London Marathon yet again this year – the organisers  weren’t too keen on me competing with my water bottles filled with Rioja anyway… but I can report that as a ‘homage’ to all the runners, I did run 124 yards to a nearby bar to have an excellent roast beef lunch.

Best as ever


David Cameron – The voice of reason – a Statesman in waiting….

With the Daily Mail failing their Cleggmania smear test today, reason has descended on Twitter after a marvellous morning of #nickcleggsfault which threw up some great tweets. Tonight, the three leaders will talk directly to us, in our living rooms, quite possibly all three adopting the rather creepy “look directly into our living rooms” technique pioneered by Clegg last Thursday.  I shall be wearing White Tie for the occasion.  I wouldn’t want any of the leaders to think, as they speak directly to me, that I have let standards drop at the Staterooms.

I shall also be opening a fine Chateau Neuf Du Papes – a wine most suitable to accompany bull… papal or otherwise.

Gays, Right Wing Polish allies? – Dave has it covered…. sorted!

Conservative party to send gay MP to quell EU extremists

Guardian: Most senior gay member of Conservative party sent to Poland to encourage EU allies to abandon homophobic views

Incredible….this passage from The Guardian rather sums it up?

“Amid nerves among cabinet ministers that Labour is heading for a defeat along the lines of its performance in the 1983 election under Michael Foot, the foreign secretary, David Miliband, today accuses Cameron of adopting an “isolated and weak” position on Europe after abandoning the main centre-right grouping in Strasbourg to sit in the new European Conservatives and Reformists group.

This includes the Czech ODS party, whose founder, Vaclav Klaus, has questioned global warming, and Roberts Zile, of Latvia’s Fatherland and Freedom party, some of whose members attend a ceremony to commemorate members of the Latvian legion of the Waffen-SS.

Cameron says the Tories have responded to these concerns by asking Herbert to travel to Poland. He said: “We would not join with parties that had unacceptable views. But we do recognise that, particularly in central and eastern Europe, there are parties that have still got some way to go on the journey of recognising full rights for gay people. We are helping them make that journey.”

Law Review: Supreme Court decision on sex offender register, CPS slows down recruitment of in-house advocates

The Sun reports, with remarkable restraint, unusually: A SUPREME Court ruling now allows convicted sex attackers to appeal to have their details removed from the register following complaints that it breached their human rights. Do you agree?

President of the Supreme Court Lord Phillips said the Sexual Offences Act, which set up the register, was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights because it did not allow for a review of individual cases.

BBC report

The decision of the Supreme Court may be read here

Lord Phillips:

57. I have referred earlier to a number of situations in which the degree of risk of re-offending has to be assessed in relation to sexual offenders. I think that it is obvious that there must be some circumstances in which an appropriate tribunal could reliably conclude that the risk of an individual carrying out a further sexual offence can be discounted to the extent that continuance of notification requirements is unjustified. As the courts below have observed, it is open to the legislature to impose an appropriately high threshold for review. Registration systems for sexual offenders are not uncommon in other jurisdictions. Those acting for the first respondent have drawn attention to registration requirements for sexual offenders in France, Ireland, the seven Australian States, Canada, South Africa and the United States. Almost all of these have provisions for review. This does not suggest that the review exercise is not practicable.

58. For these reasons I have concluded that the Divisional Court and the Court of Appeal were correct to find that the notification requirements constitute a disproportionate interference with article 8 rights because they make no provision for individual review of the requirements. I would dismiss this appeal and repeat the declaration of incompatibility made by the Divisional Court.

Scots Law Society boss rejects members’ decision over ‘Tesco law’

The Times reports: “Bitter divisions within the legal profession were laid bare last night when the President of the Law Society of Scotland (LSS) said he was “unable to accept” the emphatic vote of his members to oppose reforms of the legal system.”

The Law Society Gazette reports: CPS slows recruitment of in-house Crown advocates.

Figures obtained by the Gazette have revealed a steep decline in the Crown Prosecution Service’s recruitment of in-house Crown advocates as an alternative to self-employed barristers. CPS figures show that the number of Crown advocates in the CPS increased by only nine in 2009/10, to 1,086. Law Society Gazette

Interestingly, when I talked to Director of Public prosecutions Keir Starmer QC late last year in a podcast for my series with The College of Law Inside Track, Keir Starmer was bullish about his plans to recruit in-house expertise and be less reliant on the self employed Bar. The criminal bar is going through a period of great change, made more difficult by reductions in legal aid budgets, so this will be welcome news.  Serendipitously, I am due to record a podcast for the College of Law Inside Track with Nicholas Green QC, Chairman of The Bar.  I shall ask him if he welcomes this news. I rather suspect he will.

Getting the old cabbage across

There is an old adage in teaching, and I suspect it works in most forms of communication, and it is this… Keep it clear, tell the listener what you are going to say in summary, say it and recap.  The key word, of course, is ‘clear’ and while there are many good ideas in the Conservative manifesto they are buried deep in the detail and do not appear to be getting out to the wider voting public.

The Guardian, no enthusiasts for a Tory government, report..

There’s no such thing as ‘big society’, senior Tories tell Cameron

Leader urged to scrap key policy idea as anxiety grips party.

The message is very definitely centred around Cameron – this was made even more clear when Cameron re-filmed his election broadcast in his back garden to combat the rise of Clegg.   The Tory high command, it is reported, are a bit anxious that the Tory message isn’t getting out – and they are right to be.  The Westminster bubble, the serious pundits know what Cameron means – The Sun does its best to reduce the message to clear principles (and they do a pretty good job – I am an admirer of tabloid journalism – if not always the more surreal content.  Making the complex clear and graphic is a high skill) – but busy people who are not poljunkies don’t always have time to investigate and discern the meaning.  The concept of reducing the size of government is sound – but the detail is not clear and such detail that has caught the public and parodist imagination  – electing police chiefs, for example,  is not that good an idea.

This quote from The Guardian is telling on two fronts: “We have some great policies but we’re not talking about them,” said one Tory. “I had no idea that we have a great idea to give 1 million more people access to an NHS dentist. What a great idea. Why aren’t we shouting about that … it’s is a great policy and nobody knows about it?” The second ‘front’ of course is.. if a Tory enthusiast didn’t know, how could a floating voter possibly know?

The Guardian continues: “A third Tory source was even blunter. “The ‘big society’ is bollocks. It is boiled vegetables that have been cooked for three minutes too long. It tastes of nothing. What is it?”

The old joke about Michael Howard, oft portrayed as Dracula by satirists and The Daily Mirror,  was..“how would you like your stake?”

This time, The Guardian suggests, the question  to the Party if Cameron fails will be… “What would you like to put on a stake?”

The Tories have form on replacing leaders, quickly, efficiently and ruthlessly. Et Tu, William?

And finally…the BBC reports (Actually… I hope they do push this point and VOTE …. but I am getting old and cynical)

Law Review: Transforming the Lords and the Banks – Goldman Sachs under the cosh?

Before I start on the law…..this video from Iain Dale and Total Politics is excellent. More please.

You be the jury — join our bribery poll

Times: British companies are not doing enough to prepare for new laws that could lead to unlimited fines if their employees pay bribes, lawyers say.

Try the poll…!

Call to change law after burglar death case

Independent: “The law should be strengthened to protect homeowners who confront burglars, the mother of a trainee builder cleared of murdering a teenage intruder said today. Omari Roberts, 23, was told by the Crown Prosecution Service that no evidence would be offered against him, the day he was due to stand trial for the murder of 17-year-old Tyler Juett.”

The professionals all say the current law is more than adequate to protect people in their own homes – yet the politicians want to change it.  Hopefully, they will have more urgent matters to attend to after 6th May.

House of Lords transformation plans leaked

• Elections for the second chamber would take place at the same time as general elections
• Number of Bishops sitting in the Lords would be halved from 24 to 12

The Guardian reports: The House of Lords should become a second chamber where just two-thirds of members are elected until fresh primary legislation in 10 years’ time decides whether all peers should be elected, according to a document drawn up by the government.

Whether these plans will ever see the light of day remains to be seen – but it would seem to my eye that Bishops should not be involved simply by virtue of their office in legislation and opportunity should be taken to remove a tier of honours – peerages – from our political life.  The Supreme Court welcomed Sir John Dyson as the 12th Supreme Court Justice yesterday.  Pleasingly (although perhaps not for him? I would hope that serving our country as a Supreme Court Justice is honour enough.  I rather suspect it will be) Justice Dyson will not be getting the usual peerage which went with elevation to what was the House of Lords Judicial Committee.   I think this is a step in the right direction – separating the Supreme Court from Parliament and honours of a political nature.

The big story for lawyers today is reported fully in The Times

Watchdog launches formal investigation into Goldman

The Financial Services Authority has opened a formal investigation into Goldman Sachs in a move which could further escalate allegations of fraud against the US investment bank.

The UK financial watchdog said this morning that it has decided to start a “formal enforcement investigation” into Goldman Sachs International, its London-based business, after an initial review of the case.

The FSA’s probe comes after America’s Securities and Exchange Commission shocked the market last Friday by accusing Goldman and one of its vice presidents, Fabrice Tourre, 31, of fraudulently selling bad loans to investors in a deal which lost $1 billion (£650 million).

The net is closing in globally on banking practices and it seems that the US is more than prepared to go for Wall Street.  Others in Europe and elsewhere will, surely, now follow? It can only work if there is global co-operation and the rule of law and regulation brings a degree of control.  Seaparting the retail banking side from the gambling side of banking might help as well?

BSB launches survey on the future of the profession

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) (16 April) launched a survey of the profession on opinions and expectations in relation to the new business structures permitted under the Legal Services Act 2007. The BSB has teamed up with leading market research group YouGov to create and administer the survey, which all barristers, clerks and practice managers will be invited to complete.

The survey follows the historic decision by the BSB last November to allow barristers to become managers of Legal Disciplinary Practices and in principle to form barrister only entities.

The BSB is now asking the profession to register interest in the full range of business structures that the Act will facilitate and to suggest what other elements of the current Code of Conduct should be relaxed to enhance the services that individual barristers can offer.

Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. – James Bovard (1994)

Listening to the leadership debate and marvelling at the astonishing rise in the fortunes of the Lib-Dems following Clegg’s appearance with the two wolves –  I thought it might be useful to write something brief, but topical, on libertarian principle.

The quotation in the post header seemed to me a reasonable start and more important when coupled with this quotation:

“It is not the business of government to make men virtuous or religious, or to preserve the fool from the consequences of his own folly. Government should be repressive no further than is necessary to secure liberty by protecting the equal rights of each from aggression on the part of others, and the moment governmental prohibitions extend beyond this line they are in danger of defeating the very ends they are intended to serve.”

Henry George

I may ‘outrage’ some who read what follows.  So be it.

The government banned Meow Meow last Friday following outrage in The Sun and elsewhere.  It will, of course, be a complete waste of time.  The chemists will simply produce another ‘legal’ and, in any event, those who want drugs will always be able to get them.  We waste fantastic sums of money – deficit increasing, industrial, sums of money fighting a pointless drugs war.  Much crime is driven by drugs.  If you don’t believe me have a look at the murder rate in Colombia and Mexico, the burglary and street crime rate in this country and in mainland Europe.

Will we ever win the drugs war?  I doubt it? Should we try?  I’m not so sure. Listen to my podcast with US federal Judge John Cane and consider the question after listening to it.  This experienced American judge has many years of judicial experience.  He is worth listening to.

I digress, but with reason.  I have one simple question:

What business is it of ‘Mythical Anecdotal Man’, cited by leading politicians to justify their governance over us, what I ingest, inhale, smoke, drink, eat  or do with my life so long as it does not do harm to others.

Maybe it is time for a smaller government, a government which does not respond to the dictat of tabloids, of banks, of corporate vested interests and which trusts people more to make their own decisions.  In the case of drugs, would it be such a terrible idea to address the drugs war by legalising drugs?  They may just reduce crime, reduce over regulation of people, raise additional revenue,  cut prison costs, allow police to be used to deal with the remaining crimes which worry people (much burglary and street crime may well be reduced as a result)  and trust people to make their own decisions.

Will any mainstream political party have the courage to trust people more and regulate less – and return to libertarian principles – by no means a monopoly of the Libertarians?  That is the thing about libertarians – they tend  to be tolerant of political views other than their own in so far as necessary government is concerned.

Jeremy Bentham had a theory of libertarianism… he called it a felicific calculus. it is worth looking at.

Royal Navy sails on France – Admiral Brown rules the waves….

Gordon Brown to take lead part in HMS Pinafore


CAPT.                    I am the Captain of the Pinafore;
ALL.                And a right good captain, too!
CAPT.                    You’re very, very good,
And be it understood,
I command a right good crew,
ALL.                     We’re very, very good,
And be it understood,
He commands a right good crew.
CAPT.               Though beholden  to a peer,
I can hand, reef, and steer,
And ship a Britstrandee;
I am never known to flail
At the fury of Iain Dale,
And I’m never, never wrong with stats!
ALL.                          What, never?
CAPT.                              No, never!
ALL.                          What, never?
CAPT.                              Hardly ever!
ALL.           He’s hardly ever wrong with stats!
Then give three cheers, and one cheer more,
For the hardy Captain of the Pinafore!

Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Thames: Iceland and Leader Special

One can’t help but feel sorry for the people of Iceland.  Last year their banks blew up and earlier this week their country blew up….spreading ‘an arc of sulphurity’ from Iceland to the Nordic countries;  grounding aircraft and inducing panic buying in supermarkets for dust pans and brushes and soon, no doubt, food…  as people realise that we don’t grow a lot here and there aren’t any aircraft flying to bring food in.  I have, of course, gone long on chanterelles mushrooms, basil, extra virgin olive oil, ciabatta, olive bread and balsamic vinegar – not to eat myself, you understand, but to put in food parcels for my middle class friends whose diet is so rarified from years of foreign holidays they  can no longer metabolise ordinary British staples.

It was certainly That Was The Week That Was for Nick Clegg, propelled from relative obscurity by the Leadership debate to a point  where political pundits were hyperventilating on TV and the blogosphere about ‘Clegg introduced to the British people’.  One of many polls put the Lib-Dems equal with the Tories on 32% with Labour pushed into third place with 28% – a statistic which, to the anger and chagrin of many on Twitter, would still leave Labour with the largest number of seats.

You have probably seen it – but if you haven’t you may enjoy having a look at this excellent parody of Cameron and his ‘I met a man who told me..’  sound byte in the leader debate last week.

I even felt inspired myself, despite my post Twitter hangover of last night, to pen a Limerick (Called a Twimerick... by, a few people on Twitter who happened to see it…). I really will have to speak to my wine dealer, as I now like to call him…. some of his latest offerings have aeronautical properties.

I’ve just met a man from Belize
who helped us pay for our sleaze
When told this was so,
he said yes, this I know,
can I go to the Lords now, please

I am an enthusiastic reader of political blogs.  I  thought I would share a few good posts (there are many more good polblogs)  with you if you do not ordinarily spend your time reading polblogs.

Fat Bigot: Brillo brings the Knife from the Kitchen | Alastair Campbell : The election landscape has changed. Exciting times | Old Holborn 4MP: The ‘Stepford Leaders’ Debate | Tom Harris 4MP: How to avoid difficult decisions in government, by N. Clegg | Iain Dale: Why Did Cameron Play Safe? | Obnoxio The Clown: The Mass Debate | Dizzy Thinks: Cameron and Brown dismiss Clegg at their peril | Guido Fawkes: Guy News : Debate Debate Debate! | Emily Nomates: When Lovebombing Is Not Enough | The Spectator blog: Nick Clegg: the Hans-Dietrich Genscher of Britain | Al Jahom’s Final Word: Shameless, Boyo | ToryBear: Not Everyone Enjoyed the Debate…

Returning to the world of LAW briefly…. RollonFriday reports: Herbert Smith trainees disciplined for trolleyed sex frolics

Two trainees at Herbert Smith have apparently been disciplined after they were caught getting jiggy at a firm party.

The real estate team had thrown a – clearly very successful – “get to know you” drinks for trainees and had rolled in a trolley laden with alcohol to help with the mingling. And it seemed to help one couple in particular. RollOnFriday has heard various reports, ranging from them engaging in, ahem, a non-penetrative sex act in an adjoining room, to them spiriting the trolley away from the party, drinking all the booze and then celebrating their achievement by having sex on the empty trolley.

It is not known if one trainee said to the other “Shall I shake you or stir?”

And I can’t resist this, also from RollonFriday….

Lovells partner sends world’s most obtuse email : A partner in Lovells‘ New York office has sent the most convoluted email opener RollOnFriday has ever seen.

Marc Gottridge sent the following to the entire firm:

“Sorry for the broadcast email — and please do not read any further than this paragraph if you are either (a) a US-based Lovells lawyer who is joining Hogan Lovells US LLP effective 1 May or (b) a non-US-based Lovells lawyer, joining Hogan Lovells International LLP effective 1 May, who is not admitted to practice before any court in the US. In other words, please read the rest of this email only if you will be, from 1 May, a member of Hogan Lovells International LLP and are admitted to practice in any US jurisdiction.”

So thats, errr, US qualified lawyers not in the US? Or all US qualified lawyers? Or just those at Lovells? But only if there’s an “R” in the month? Clearly the chaotic post-merger structure has confused even the most intelligent partner. The firm better hope this is not a sign of things to come…

Ah well…. Obfuscation, dissimulation, evasion are but few of the many qualities needed by lawyers these days.  The dark arts of drafting  are, I am glad to see, still going strong.

A fine sunny day… I’m going to escape for a while… sit in the sun… but, be sure, I shall ensure that no volcanic ash gets into my wine glass or my lungs while I watch the world go by and smoke a few Marlboros.

Best, as always


Podcast: 20 Minutes with Carl Gardner on arresting Popes, all law since 2000 null and void? and the Queen’s powers in the event of a hung Parliament

Today I am talking to Carl Gardner, ex government lawyer, writer and author of the well known Head of Legal blog. Carl and I have done well over ten podcasts together over the last two years on civil liberties issues.  Today we’re seeing whether anyone can, in fact, arrest the Pope, we look at a suggestion that all laws since 2000 are null and void, including the Lisbon Treaty,  and we  talk about the powers The Queen enjoys in the event of a hung parliament – even if she chooses not to exercise them.

Listen to the podcast

Noli me tangere – Carl Gardner’s article on the legality of arresting the Pope

Other podcasts in the politics podcast series

20 minutes with Emily Nomates, Ed of GuyNEWS

20 Minutes with Iain Dale

20 Minutes with Tom Harris 4MP

20 Minutes with Tom Williams

Coming up: Old Holborn, Ian Parker-Joseph Geoffrey Woollard , Suzanne Moore ,  @thegreatignored

Week after next: Tom Watson on Libel reform and The Digital Economy Act.

And more to come….

Rive Gauche: Spin and rioting Archbishops….

While not riveting, nor particularly sophisticated in terms of deep content, I enjoyed watching the Leader debate last night – and watching the spinners proclaiming on Twitter every few minutes that ‘their man’ had won. The spinning  started but two minutes in and continued relentlessly until the end when the face of Police, Camera, Action (who nearly appeared on his own show for drink driving some years back), Alistair Stewart, proclaimed how disappointed we all were that it had come to an end.  Clegg was the first big surprise.  He came over rather well.  I had to telephone NHS Direct several times to check that I did not have the symptoms of Lib-Demitis.  I was reassured that I was in no danger of developing the full blown ‘condition’. Brown, of course, was expected to perform badly in front of an audience of humans – however regulated, so no big disappointment then.  He did have a couple of moments of involuntary YouTube rictus.

I did think that the ITV coverage was poor.  PC Stewart, who promised to be a policeman if the leaders lied, barked at the leaders off camera and did little else… perhaps it was in the rules that he wasn’t allowed to? On to the next two debates…. Will Gordon and Dave be up to the mark next time?

Lawyers reject calls for Christian-sensitive judges

• Critics say hand-picked panel would set dangerous precedent
• Ex-archbishop wades into row over rights of Christians at work

The Guardian reports: “Attempts to have religious rights cases heard by hand-picked judges would set a dangerous precedent, lawyers said, amid mounting unrest about legal clashes between religious representatives and equality rights campaigners.Calls for a dedicated panel of judges with a “proven sensitivity and understanding of religious issues” today gained momentum, after a former archbishop of Canterbury gave his support to a case on discrimination in the workplace.Lord Carey of Clifton made the comments in a witness statement in an appeal brought today by Gary McFarlane, a relationship counsellor from Bristol.

I did read a report in the press yesterday that Lord Carey, the former Archbishop, was calling for ‘civil unrest’…. an idea so preposterous that it conjured up surreal images in my Rioja filled mind last night of the faithful chucking fish and bread loaves at the Downing Street gates and then morphed into images of Archbishops rioting in Trafalgar Square.  I really must have a word with my Rioja dealer.

Back later with something more sensible… perhaps.  Enjoy Ash from Iceland Friday

Noli me tangere: why you can’t arrest the Pope

Discussed this for a podcast with Carl Gardner the other day… his EXCELLENT article on this subject is well worth reading.

Podcast: Charon after dark – Charon interviews himself, the Prime Minister and Cardinal Charoni di Tempranillo

It has been a long time since I last did a ‘Charon After Dark’ podcast with myself – but as I am doing a lot of podcasts with other people, I felt I may as well do one with myself…

Tonight… I arrive by jet plane to Heathrow, take a helicopter to the Staterooms at Battersea where I live and interview the prime minister briefly – he is, after all, rather busy – and I speak to my long lost cousin from Italia…Cardinal Charoni di Tempranillo.

Listen to Charon after Dark…with sound effects in glorious Dolby (8-9 mins)

It is quite possible, excited as I am at the prospect of the Leadership debates this evening… that I may have started on the juice just a bit before 6.00… but…there we are.

Podcast: 20 minutes with Emily Nomates, Ed and anchor-presenter of GuyNEWS

Tonight I am talking to Emily Nomates. Anchor, investigator, editor and producer of GuyNEWS…an ‘anarcho feminist with a tweed jacket to die for’ … and she also blogs as Emily Investigates.

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Emily Nomates when I appeared on GuyNews looking like King Lear with a barrister’s wig on… doing a small cameo as the ‘most expert judge in the world’… I enjoyed it… went to my head it did… sentencing all those MPs to 10 years and wondering if I could deport them. A pleasure tonight… to ask the questions!

We talk about GuyNews, Emily interviewing Lord Pearson of UKIP in a Burqa (Emily wore the Burqa), Basil Grayling recanting and we even manage to shoehorn in some sensible stuff on hung parliaments and the future.  British Telecom managed to cut us off five times during the podcast which I recorded on Skype – simply because they don’t seem to provide a stable service where I live right on the waterfront in Battersea…very close to the scene of the BIG IDEA TORY MANIFESTO launch the other day.  Even though I vote Labour… I can’t blame the Tories for losing my BRITISH TELECOM internet connection five times.  Emily was very patient and while I never edit podcasts on principle I did have to patch five separate recordings together.  I can promise you that nothing was cut out.  I enjoyed talking with Emily… I hope you will enjoy listening.


Listen to the podcast


Other podcasts in the series

20 Minutes with Iain Dale

20 Minutes with Tom Harris 4MP

20 Minutes with Tom Williams

Coming up: Old Holborn, Ian Parker-Joseph Geoffrey Woollard , Suzanne Moore ,  @thegreatignored and Carl Gardner, ex govt lawyer on arresting Popes and other legal niceties like the Queen’s powers in the event of Hung Parliament.

Week after next: Tom Watson on Libel reform and The Digital Economy Act.

And more to come….

Podcast: 20 minutes with Tom Williams

Tonight I am talking to Tom Williams, who although too young to vote in the coming election,  is clearly interested in politics judging by his prolific output of tweets on twitter.

Tom describes himself thus on his twitter profile…”16 y/o Labour activist in NW, college student, prospective barrister, not quite sure yet precisely where I stand politically – I don’t like labels…”

Listen to the podcast

Other podcasts in the series

20 Minutes with Iain Dale

20 Minutes with Tom Harris 4MP

Cameron runs scared of Paxo!

Paul Waugh reports “The BBC have just been told that David Cameron will NOT be going head-to-head with Jeremy Paxman on Monday.”

I watched the Paxo interview with Clegg.  It was good and I thought Clegg did quite well.  Brown is, apparently, quite happy to face Paxo on 26 April.

The Leader Debates are on tomorrow.  I think I’d rather watch a Paxo interview with the leaders.

Charon’s 20 Minutes with…. podcast series

20 Minutes with Iain Dale

20 Minutes with Tom Harris 4MP

Coming tonight: Tom Williams, a young Labour supporter and Emily Nomates, Ed of GuyNEWS

Coming up: Old Holborn, Ian Parker-Joseph Geoffrey Woollard , Suzanne Moore ,  @thegreatignored and Carl Gardner, ex govt lawyer on arresting Popes and other legal niceties like the Queen’s powers in the event of Hung Parliament.

Week after next: Tom Watson on Libel reform and The Digital Economy Act.

And more to come….

Broken Britain: Charon’s Guide to the Tory Manifesto

I was going to do a podcast with Emily Nomates tonight – postponed until tomorrow to allow her to complete the production of a GuyNEWS vid (an entirely worthy cause) – and this has left me with a bit of useful time to consider the events of our times with a bottle of the juice.

Today Great Leader Kim Il Kamer On launched an invitation to the people of Britain to join him in government…. of all places… at Battersea Power Station,   which allowed soon to be ennobled  John  Lord Two Shags Prescott to tweet…. “Tories to launch manifesto at Battersea Power Station – impressive from the outside but hollow and empty within”.

Battersea Power Station used to spew out a lot of things that were not terribly good for ‘one’.  It may be that things have not changed that much?

A long document, but since I was only looking for things which I did not expect to be in it or specific items – it did not take me that long to read it and  I was reasonably well rewarded within the early sections on the economy.

Charon’s Guide to The Tory Manifesto – sponsored by Oddbins’  Best

There is to be an emergency budget. This we knew.  The Faustian Pact with the people did not mention VAT and appeared to my jaundiced eye to be a bit thin on how they were going to start cutting the deficit. Cunningly, they are going to cleanse the nation of the NI rise and fund it through cutting waste – where, we are not told.

Interestingly David  Cameron is on record, unlike  The Iron Lady, as saying there is such a thing as society. Well if the manifesto goes to plan and they ignore most of it, there may well not be a coherent society when they are done.  Birds of a feather tend to flock together despite the fine sentiments in TV sound bytes about being One Nation Tories.

The plan to provide 5000 community volunteers to fart about in uniforms, no doubt, is still in the plan. What these worthies will actually do of value to society is not set out in any detail. Join the Police Community Support Service and eat buns on street corners like the others?

I am delighted to see that The Tories are going to deliver a successful Olympics. Unfortunately, there is no mention of BANNING DRUG TESTING. So for people like me, who have no interest at all in the Olympics, we will be denied the pleasure of seeing someone run 100 metres in 3 seconds or jump 70 feet into the air.

The National Lottery is to be restored to its original purpose. This is good news and may well prove very fruitful in generating revenue to reduce the deficit.

There is to be a focus on ‘behavioural economics and philanthropy’. At this stage I was beginning to reel slightly from the rather dull prose and, possibly…the wine – but I can only assume that this will be a return to business as usual and greed will be most welcome at H M Treasury;  particularly greed for consumer items on which VAT can be charged at a higher rate? Who knows? The manifesto is curiously silent on VAT.

Social engineering programme – Marriage and Civil Partnerships to be recognised and encouraged. This is good if you want to provide more work for lawyers.  Things have been a bit quiet on the divorce front, sources in Chancery Lane tell me – so I am all for this.

The Tories plan to reverse Labour’s Death tax. Idealogically, Tories don’t want income generators to die – ever.  Dead people generally pay no income tax and VAT.  A one off hit is inefficient and most inconvenient for very rich people who want to ensure that their fortunes can be lost by the next Bouji going generation of slackers.  They do say ‘things’ skip a generation. .

Closing the attainment gap: This rather sinister section may have more to it than meets the eye. What does it mean?  The manifesto is thin on detail. Giving the Tories the benefit of the doubt, I shall be generous and interpret it as meaning that a Tory government will close the attainment gap completely by making it almost impossible for nouveaus and parvenus to catch up with ‘old money’.

Discipline in the classroom: Words to create a frisson in the savage breast of some ‘old school’ Tories.  Children are running amok in classrooms.  The Tories plan to give the headmaster the ‘last word on discipline’ – presumably not the type of Papal last word… like ‘This is our little secret.  Tell no-one about this beating, waterboarding, roasting in front of a fire secret…and for good measure here is a superinjunction…” type of last word?

Elected Police Commisioners: I have no idea whether George Osborne, Basil Grayling-Fawlty and David Cameron watched too much Batman as children – but the idea of elected Police Commissioners is not the best they have come up with. I look forward, as does the Guardian commentator, to lunatics from the BNP being elected as local ‘Police Top Guns’ – as Sir Hugh Orde has suggested may well happen.

Well… I could go on… but I have better things to do…. and you are far better off the reading the excellent ‘annotated guide’ to the manifesto from The Guardian which reviews it properly.

I leave you with this…. a Public Service Announcement from  a man in the Autumn of his drinking life –   but with the fire of hope still burning bright and a one way ticket to France if the Tories are elected! (No… I’d never leave Britain…. well.. I might if Basil Grayling starts running the Home Office –  but he would probably deport me anyway.)

and this wonderful news…

Cleverest women are the heaviest drinkers

Women who went to university consume more alcohol than their less-highly-educated counterparts, a major study has found.


I had noticed that some clever women can knock it back… and long may that continue!

Law Review: Legal Aid and MPs, Army discriminates, and Lord Justice Wall sworn in as President of the Family Division

Law Society Chief Executive Desmond Hudson says:

“It is a principle of our legal system that anyone charged with a criminal offence before the Crown Court is entitled to legal representation. This is a vital part of ensuring that charges against a defendant must be fully proved in a fair trial. This must require the provision of legal aid. The Government has recently introduced a means test for such cases to ensure that those who can afford to contribute to the costs of their representation are asked to do so. Depending on the wealth of the individual and the cost of the case, their contribution could cover all costs.

“It would be very worrying indeed if a fellow citizen charged with serious criminal matters could not be properly represented in court. Stigmatising the legal aid system is disappointing and unhelpful.”

Quite! – We do not, of course, know the current available finances of the MPs charged.  Lawyers, as with most people in society, tend not to do all their work pro bono. Legal costs are high… but perhaps future governments could save even more money by dispensing with trials altogether? No… that would be silly…. will never happen….  but what of Crown Court trials without juries?  They are cheaper!  Good to see that all three leaders are on top of their game when it comes to legal aid for MPs and the Rule of Law.


Rather than fill my blog post today with news, new reports and announcements from the profession – I have them all in the latest Newswire which you may download here

If you are an Intellectual Property lawyer – then you will find Dr Peter Groves’ latest Ipso Jure newswire most useful.  It is, of course, FREE

Female soldier wins discrimination claim against army

Guardian: Tilern DeBique, 28, was told the army was ‘unsuitable for a single mother who couldn’t sort out her childcare’

We may have gone too far in suspecting abuse
Times: “The family courts are groaning under the weight of applications to take children into care. Within weeks of the Baby Peter tragedy being made public, legal departments at local authorities went into overdrive as social workers decided that they would no longer take chances where they suspected, but were not certain, that a child was in danger of abuse or neglect.”

Sir Nicholas Wall: the forthright and firm judge in the family courts
Times: The formal swearing in today of the new top family judge in England and Wales may be a relatively low-key affair — but Sir Nicholas Wall is unlikely in futureto have a low profile to match. He is well-well known for his forthright pronouncements both in court and out of it; qualities, perhaps, that did not endear him to Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, who asked that his name be reconsidered.

I rarely follow Family Law cases – but I am looking forward to Sir Nicholas Wall being outspoken about our legal system.  he is, they say, not shy in coming forward.

EllieGate – the saga of our times!

The bloggers and the press are having fun (largely at Ellie Gellard’s expense it has to be said) about Labour inviting a young activist @bevaniteellie to help them launch their prospectus.

The Daily Mail dived in with this…“A glamorous young activist who introduced Mr Brown to the crowd at Labour’s manifesto launch in Birmingham has previously called for him to be removed as Prime Minister, and for the violent death of Baroness Thatcher.”

Iain Dale wrote of Comical Allie and Guido Fawkes gave us a remarkable image. For my part? – @bevaniteellie may well irritate some Tory bloggers and tweeters – they are more than able to cope – but at least she is enthusiastic about politics and is having a go. I quite like Emily Nomates take on the story in her blog…

“…There’s both great opportunity and danger in this kind of mania. Small mistakes become big fast: Ellie’s old blogpost from her more earnest days is elevated to a “gaffe” with the aid of a few nice smiling photos. And if you don’t agree that her sex has anything to do with this blow-up, just ask yourself why Ellie is on the front pages of two papers and official Labour PPC Steve MacLennan wasn’t.”

There are, of course, bigger issues than Ellie Gellard’s political change of mind – and today the Tories launch their manifesto which should present some opportunities for parody after they ran riot with Labour’s manifesto yesterday. By the way… I nicked the caption for the pic above from a commenter on one of the blogs or press reports… at least there is still some humour in what could become an ugly election campaign.

Back soon with some sanity… some law in Law Review

Podcast: 20 Minutes with Tom Harris 4MP

Tonight I am talking to Tom Harris who for some years now has been the Labour MP for Glasgow South and is standing for re-election on the 6th May. Tom is a well regarded blogger with a taste for the direct, sardonic and serious… as with my other podcasts in the 20 minutes with series… tonight is not about pushing policies but looking at the human side of politics.

We talk about twitter, the value of blogs in politics, rushing legislation through Parliament in ‘wash up’, Votes at 16, hung parliaments, why Tom Harris went into politics and his enthusiasm for the years ahead, the issue of whether Scots MPs should vote on purely Scots matters and even find time to discuss independence for Scotland – briefly.  It is fair to say that the series  title of 20 minutes should, as last night, be changed to be 30 minutes with….

Tom Harris blog

Listen to the podcast


Other Podcasts in the “20 Minutes with series…”

Iain Dale, Tory political blogger and commentator

Old Holborn, Emily Nomates from GuyNews, Carl Gardner on The Queen’s Powers, Tom Williams to come this week and more next week and the week after…

Law Review: Arrest the Pope?, Gold diggers, and Baroness Scotland vindicated

The news at the weekend that British national atheist Professor Richard Dawkin is planning to arrest the Pope caught my attention. I commented on this in my weekly ‘Postcard’ yesterday.

What bloggers need to know about defamation

A useful article: “This is a guest post by barrister James Tumbridge (pic right) following a report by Iain Dale highlighting the difficulties which Labour blogger Alex Hilton (pic left) faces. It is a cautionary tale for us all…..”

The election campaign is under way and is settling in to be unpleasant and dirty. Pundit and commentator  Mark Pack had this wonderful extract from the Labour Manifesto from 2005.  It needs no further comment.

Plan to end ‘gold digger’ divorces

The Times reports: “ONE of Britain’s leading family lawyers, Baroness Deech, says that assets built up before a marriage should be excluded from divorce settlements. Deech, the chairwoman of the Bar Standards Board, said the country should adopt European-style divorce laws to bring an end to bitter and expensive legal battles and to deter “gold diggers” from marrying for money. Under the proposed overhaul, only assets — including cash and property —acquired during the marriage would be subject to the divorce settlement. Individually owned or inherited assets would be protected.”

While David Cameron is proposing to strengthen the family with a £150 tax bonus and they say that Labour makes it more profitable to get divorced, Family lawyers will, possibly, be perturbed by Baroness Deech’s latest cunning plan. I remain of the view, from a secularist stance, that the State shouldn’t be involved in marital arrangements between consenting adults and certainly we should not have to have judges being involved in dissolving such relationships.  I can see absolutely no sensible reason why two adults cannot make whatever arrangements appeal to them without interference.  If they have children, it is not unreasonable that the judiciary should ensure that the interests of the children are protected.  But…there we are…as I have said on many occasions, I am not a family lawyer.  I specialise in Contract and Contract law is more than capable of addressing disputes between individuals at to what they have agreed.  It matters not what I think … the State will go on interfering for the forseeable future.

Illegal migrant found guilty of conning law chief Baroness Scotland over job

Baroness Scotland, the attorney-general, has been vindicated by a jury who convicted her cleaner last week of fraud.  I am not sure if we have the answer yet to the perfectly reasonable question put by commenters if Baroness Scotland paid Tax and NI on her cleaner’s wages. This is a matter between her and HM Revenue & Customs and they, no doubt, are on top of the matter?. The Times has the story.

Some people are never satisfied.  The jury has found the cleaner guilty.  the ravening horde on The Times Comments section are, however, not satisfied.

A selection of negative comments for your delectation and delight…

john papi wrote:
Thank you Moya Ashfield. They should hang the jury!!
S de Wolfe wrote:
‘Baroness Scotland of Asthal’….!!! sorry, but that’s too ridiculous. The rest is irrelevant.

I suspect that S de Wolfe won’t be giving up the day job to become a stand up comedian.
Richard Prior wrote:
One person’s word against another. Is this justice. Socialist justice maybe.
And finally… a bit of that very quiet, but determined, Tory… Iain Duncan Smith…who should never be underestimated

Podcast: Twenty minutes with Iain Dale

Today I am talking to Iain Dale, former parliamentary candidate, political commentator, pundit, blogger, founder of Total Politics and the managing director of publishing company Biteback Publishing.

Iain is also well known for his regular appearances on BBC and Sky News commenting on the political events of our times.

Today I’m not going to ask Iain to guide us through the intricacies of Tory policy – but, consistent with the rest of my series of political podcasts with a small ‘p’, we covered a number of issues including the role of partisan blogging, the dangers of Twitter, why Iain interviewed Nick Griffin, David Davis & David Cameron, voter engagement, negative campaigning, an English Parliament, how new MPs can improve parliament and the prospect of a hung parliament and would George Osborne stand aside for Vince Cable?

Listen to the podcast

Iain Dale’s Diary


Podcasts coming up this week: Twenty Minutes with Old Holborn (Independent), Tom Harris MP (Labour), @LazyHyena (Ed of GuyNEWS, disaffected anarcho-feminist or something) Geoffrey Woollard (Independent) and Tom Williams (Labour) who is too young to vote at this election but who has demonstrated considerable enthusiasm for politics.

Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Thames

Dear Reader,

Last week it was Basil Grayling, a potential home secretary, revealing a deep understanding of the law when he said that B&B owners should have a ‘right to ban gays’ – which is against the current law, of course ….and this week we have former Tory Leader, Iain  Duncan Smith, appearing to talk nonsense about brain size and criminality.  Ah well…. these things happen.

Iain Duncan Smith ‘distorted’ research on childhood neglect and brain size

The Guardian: Research focusing on effects of extreme abuse was ‘grossly misrepresented’ by former Tory leader, neuroscientist says

Good to see ‘Britain’s national Atheist’ doing the business as the Easter Week celebrations come to an end with his latest plan…

Richard Dawkins: I will arrest Pope Benedict XVI

The Times reports: “RICHARD DAWKINS, the atheist campaigner, is planning a legal ambush to have the Pope arrested during his state visit to Britain “for crimes against humanity”.

Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, the atheist author, have asked human rights lawyers to produce a case for charging Pope Benedict XVI over his alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic church.The pair believe they can exploit the same legal principle used to arrest Augusto Pinochet, the late Chilean dictator, when he visited Britain in 1998.”

I think this is a marvellous idea – to underscore the revulsion felt by many at the way the Catholic Church has condoned child abuse for years in the name of preserving the ‘good name of the universal church’.  I hope they succeed in framing an appropriate charge.   The Times noted: “They have commissioned the barrister Geoffrey Robertson and Mark Stephens, a solicitor, to present a justification for legal action. The lawyers believe they can ask the Crown Prosecution Service to initiate criminal proceedings against the Pope, launch their own civil action against him or refer his case to the International Criminal Court. Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, said: “This is a man whose first instinct when his priests are caught with their pants down is to cover up the scandal and damn the young victims to silence.”

Labour hit by cancer leaflet row

I was not impressed by Labour’s behaviour in this rather sordid episode as reported in the Sunday Times.  I’m not sure that dirty tactics, spreading alarm and repeated negative briefing goes down well with British voters.  This election campaign seems to be shaping up to be rather dirty.  Extremists on both sides of the main political divide may well justify this type of campaigning on the ‘for the greater good of the  party’ principle but I find it rather unpleasant.  I am certain that I am not alone on this.

Sunday Times: “LABOUR has become embroiled in a row about the use of personal data after sending cancer patients alarmist mailshots saying their lives could be at risk under a Conservative government.”

Politics Home is reporting this morning…“Mr Davis refused to be drawn on whether he’d be willing to serve as home secretary in a Conservative government, but said that the real Conservative Cameron has come out more in the past weeks with the NI plan and the marriage tax break proposal.

“We’re beginning to see a bit of the real Conservative Cameron – he’s a nice man, but he’s a Tory,” he said.

I am a bit baffled by David Davis’s remark.  It would make more sense if Nick Clegg had said it.  Is David Davis talking in code?  Is there a hidden message within the phrase… perhaps it is an anagram and revelation will come with careful study?

It appears that I was a little over refreshed on twitter last night. Just as well I am not a prospective parliamentary candidate or Gordon would sack me.

With all this serious stuff and even a bit of law on the Lord’s Day… I knew that I should have read The News of The World first as I took breakfast at the cafe… as is my usual practice.  I have caught up on my reading.  As ever, it didn’t take long for me to read NOTW and I didn’t even find something to laugh at which is most unusual….

I have a plan – a series of political podcasts

Rioja has many beneficial properties and through judicious self prescribing I came up with a plan to do a series of podcasts with political commentators, pundits, bloggers and future MPs. The angle is not to cover ‘policies’ – for others can do that far better than I would be able to and there is, in any event, a lot of coverage elsewhere… but to look at issues about politics, why the podcastees find politics so interesting, what their thoughts are on people abstaining or not bothering to vote, whether there will ever be an ‘English parliament’, whether they think the next Parliament will repair the damage to the reputation of Parliament and a host of other matters which come up in  the podcasts which I can’t predict. Politicians and political commentators are used to talking, so it will be difficult to predict – I shall do my best to keep them off pushing too much party line stuff!

So far I have invited

Iain Dale (Tory commentator), Old Holborn (Independent), Tom Harris MP (Labour), @LazyHyena (Ed of GuyNEWS, disaffected anarcho-feminist or something) Geoffrey Woollard (Independent) and Tom Williams (Labour) who is too young to vote at this election but who has demonstrated considerable enthusiasm for politics.  I am interested in the why not so much the what – so, hopefully, the podcasts will be interesting from a very different point of view.  I do plan to ask others – I just haven’t had time to do so since yesterday.

And I just have to end with this...Hat Tip to BenjaminFGray

Caught in the act… in flagrante delicto…?

Back later… but there is a bit of sun out there… a glass of wine for a late lunch

Best, as ever


Rive Gauche(1) : The sun shines and they come out in droves….

One of the pleasures of going to a cafe on a Saturday morning when Spring has arrived, is people watching – and there is no greater pleasure than seeing a 45 year old City type, who has decided to raid his 15 year old son’s wardrobe, wandering by dressed in three quarter length cargo pants – strutting his stuff as if it looks great.  I have to say… it looks even more bizarre when the City type is balding but hasn’t quite got the courage to go to a barber and get a Number One cut. When I lived in West London I used to see quite a few of these types in their absurd cargo pants looking ‘yoofily hawt’ – but, it appears, they live in Battersea as well.

Fire up the convertible
And then there are the convertible drivers, sharing their ‘unusual’ taste in music with us as they drive by wearing military style caps or, even more bizarre, beanie hats.  Some of them have the grace to look mildly self conscious; others look wonderfully pleased with themselves…cool… or what?  FTW!….and why not?!

The Grand National

Today is Grand National Day.  I haven’t got that much interest in horses – although I quite enjoy eating them when I am holidaying in France – although, to be fair, I don’t think any of them were racehorses – Boeuf en Croute au Shergar was not being offered at the restaurant I visited near Saint Jean Cap Ferrat on the Cote d’Azur when I was down there a few years ago… amusing myself on my motorbike.  I’ll say this for the Frenchies.. they know how to build a good road for a blat.

The Sun treated us to a series of dressing in the dark pictures from Aintree Ladies day.

Just a quick one today…. so I’ll be back later, after my lunch with a fellow tweeter to do Part (2)… enjoy the sun.

Basil Grayling: I’m sorry you misunderstood my remarks… some of my best friends could well be gay?

Basil Grayling has finally surfaced to demonstrate that he is an astute political operator… Politics Home reports: “Mr Grayling apologised for the impression of controversial comments he made last week about B&B owners refusing gay couples and insisted that he has always voted for gay rights.

“I am certainly sorry if what I said gave the wrong impression,” Mr Grayling said. “I certainly didn’t intend to offend anyone. But let’s be clear – I have voted for gay rights, I have voted for gay issues.” Mr Grayling defended his record on gay rights issues and said he voted for the current law.

“I have always supported gay rights. I voted for this measure. I voted for civil partnerships,” he said. “I voted for the law as it currently is. I did that because my conscience told me it was the right thing to do,” he said.

Meanwhile the Labour Party has sacked Stuart MacLennan for his amusing – but inappropriate for a prospective MP – comments on Twitter. To be fair… they weren’t anything I haven’t seen on twitter from many  others… but I suppose it not unreasonable for prospective MPs to keep it vaguely sane.   I’m sure Mr MacLennan, who, they say, did not have much prospect of winning will surface again.  I hope so. Not exactly a hanging offence.. just a bit ‘daft’ for a prospective MP perhaps?

It appears that Dave Cameron plans to continue with his support for Basil and Manuel Osbore…. fair enough… at least we know what we are dealing with.

Lawcast 165: David Innes on managing client relationships

Today I am talking to David Innes who  or many years worked with a law firm handling the law firm’s relationships with clients.  David raises a number of important issues and gives a fascinating insight into how having a client relationship programme can have have significant benefits to  law firms.

Listen to the podcast

Download David Innes flyer/contact details

Law Review: Referral fees, ABS in Scotland, a lying Attorney-General?, libel reform and the Digital Economy Bill fiasco.

A couple of interesting stories this morning – first, the vexed issue of solicitors paying referral fees to CMCs to get personal injury and other work.

A ban on referral fees may be too late for lawyers

Claims management companies (CMC) came into being over ten years ago. The basic idea – and as Rose said in his article, you will have seen the adverts on the television….”Injured at work’ etc etc –  is that an individual seeking legal advice will contact a CMC and solicitors will then ‘buy’ the case from the CMC for £600-£800.  Neil Rose, writing in The Times, ends his excellent article with these words:

CMCs came into existence a decade ago because solicitors failed to take the marketing opportunity thrown up by the introduction of no-win, no-fee agreements for personal injury work. Now, they now face a serious battle to hold on to the legal work itself.

Rose’s article is worth reading because both The Law Society and The Bar want referral fees to be banned – some even want it to be made a criminal offence to pay referral fees. CMCs.  Rose notes “The number is now 3,366 and growing fast. The claims management industry’s turnover as of June last year (when there were 2,456 businesses) was put at £382 million.”

Lord Justice Jackson also wants referral fees to be removed from the legal system. Rose continues “Lord Justice Jackson argued that referral fees have driven up costs and brought no benefit — they should be banned in personal injury and possibly other areas too, he said…….The judge was not persuaded by the argument made by CMCs that they have widened access to justice by making people more aware of their rights, saying that there are plenty of other avenues for people with claims to find a lawyer. Further, he said, “it is offensive and wrong in principle for personal injury claimants to be treated as a commodity”. Most lawyers would agree — the Law Society and Bar Council would both like the ban reinstated — but equally those who pay them are generally resigned to the commercial reality of referral fees.”

With the impending election, it may well be some time before this issue comes up again – a new government may well have other priorities.  Not all lawyers are in favour of a ban.  There are many lawyers who are entirely reliant on buying cases from CMCs and as Rose notes they could become desperate men and women if a ban is introduced for they do not have the marketing reach of the big CMCs.  Will it affect access to justice?  That is more doubtful – people who are injured will still need a lawyer – but while Google is a powerful tool, it is not always easy to discern quality from a website.  Presumably the CMCs do some form of quality control when they select their solicitors… or do they just flog the cases off to the highest bidder?

Hat Tip to Brian Inkster of Inksters for alerting me to the fact that by a narrow margin solicitors in Scotland voted yesterday to accept Alternative Business Structures – a majority of 24. The second question, whether the Society should be involved in regulating the new service providers, produced a much bigger majority, 3,622 to 844, an 81% yes vote.  The Journal Online: ABS wins by a whisker

And talking of Scotland… this time Baroness Scotland, the attorney-general.

The Times thundered...perhaps prematurely, given that the trial continues… Baroness Scotland ‘did not ask cleaner about immigration status’

The Attorney-General asked her cleaner, an illegal immigrant, to start immediately on piles of ironing and laundry, without seeing a passport or even asking about her immigration status, a court was told yesterday.

Naturally, the commenters on The Times were out in force.  Typical of the genre…

Martin Carter wrote:
Any chance of this case bringing New Labour crashing down just before voting day? Is it possible that Scotland might be proven to have lied under oath?
Probably not, Martin – but I may change my view when the trial is over and the verdict is in. I find this time honoured practice most satisfactory before jerking my knees.

Digital economy bill rushed through wash-up in late night parliamentary session

Government drops clause on orphan works but inserts amendment criticised as over-broad which could block sites based on ‘intent’

Much commented on on Twitter… the much maligned Digital Economy Bill was rushed through Parliament last night. The Guardian has the story and OUT-LAW has some interesting comment, albeit written before last night’s antics: The legislative farce of the Digital Economy Bill.


Overhaul of libel laws ‘will have to wait’

The Independent reports: ” Plans to cut the profits of law firms who bring libel claims against the media have been dropped, MPs have been told. Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, had promised an overhaul of Britain’s libel laws after a review found the rules had a “chilling effect” on freedom of expression. Among the reforms was a draft law to reduce the fees charged by “no-win no-fee” lawyers in defamation cases from 100 per cent to 10 per cent. But yesterday, the Commons Leader Harriet Harman said the plan was “not going anywhere”, confirming that it would need to be reintroduced by the next government after the general election.

Some will be disappointed with this – but for the long term reform of this complex and emotive area of law, it is right that Parliament reviews the matter most carefully.  We have quite enough badly drafted and rushed legislation on the books already.

Well known legal blogger Jack of Kent has addressed this issue in a well reasoned and closely argued piece: Why MPs should support libel costs reform this week

The Sun continues with ‘top of the game in-depth analysis’ with comment on Brown’s ‘illiteracy’ and informs us that with Posh it is SEX, SEX, SEX, SEX and SEX as she tries for another baby.

And… we must of course forget about puns.. The Sun is right in there with Rosie raises the bra

In London we are going to have sunny intervals and the temperature could fluctuate wildly from 6-16C – although the BBC does change the weather forecast quite often during the day. Probably best to have a quick look out of the window.

Professor RD Charon: Politics from the right – a beacon for the Great Ignored

Charon QC, my brother – we share the same Father and little else –  has invited me for the duration of  the election campaign (#GE10) to comment on events from the perspective of a Tory.

By way of background I must disclose that I too have spent a life in the law;  the  rather more refined world of academe.   It matters not, for regular readers of my brothers blog will know that while he pays lip service to the law with his little ‘vignettes’ which he is pleased to call ‘Law Reviews’ – he does not over exert his mind on legal matters in those lucid periods between visits to his vintner.  Be that as it may…  for many years we, by which I mean the people we ‘know’,  have been surprised by Charon QC’s Damascene conversion to the left many years ago and until he started ‘blawging’ it was not a matter of great concern to ‘us’ in Notting Hill and the Shires. It was our dark family secret.

I am, however,  grateful to him  for being afforded the opportunity to take a different line, by which I mean approach… not something one would take at ‘modern middle class dinner parties’. I would have preferred my smoking hat to be of a blue hue, but one cannot have everything in life  and my hatter offered only purple as an alternative…which is just a bit too ‘Non-UKIP’ for me… if you forgive the pun which CCHQ gave me earlier today as a rather neat little ‘sound byte’ should I happen to find myself on Newsnight being interviewed as one of the ‘Great Ignored’.

From the Playing fields of Eton to the playing fields of Parliament

Much has been made of David Cameron’s patrician background (In fact Gideon Osborne may probably lay better claim to a  place in the nobility, but give it time and I am sure great honours will follow for David) and his schooling at Eton. I went to a rather more sophisticated public school modelled on a bit of rum, sodomy and the lash as Churchill once described the Navy – although only rum was actually ‘out of bounds’ at my old school in my day.

It may interest you to know – although those on the left will find this ironic – that Eton was founded by Henry VI originally for the children of the poor as a charity school to provide free education to seventy poor boys who would then go on to King’s College, Cambridge, which he also founded in 1441.  As the school grew, more students were allowed to attend provided that they paid their own fees and lived in the town, outside the college’s original buildings. These students became known as Oppidans, from the Latin word oppidum, meaning town.

Today, of course, Dave lives in Notting Hill – but, to his credit, he shares this wonderful part of London with investment bankers and tourists;  the original inhabitants having long de-camped to Hoxton or banished to the Wormwood Scrubs side of the  Notting Hill area…and, indeed, some of them are actually in Wormwood Scrubs with, they say, some MPs and insider dealers soon to join them.

I digress. Parliament is soon to be prorogued… such a wonderful word... a time when the country runs better than at any other time. MPs and ministers will be deprived of their offices, their blackberries and even their official websites.  Some of them have been clever enough to come up with the device on Twitter ‘Buggins4MP’... others like @WilliamJHague..who had to use the ‘J’ because he wasn’t quite savvy enough to set up a twitter account before other ‘William Hagues’,  so they can communicate with their subjects. It has to be said that my favourite Tory, apart from Ken Clarke, was rather busy attending to Lord Ashcroft’s repatriation to the United Kingdom as a fully fledged and domiciled member of the House of Lords.

For the next four weeks we will be given the opportunity to hear educated men and women slagging each other off… a sort of Rah Boo Sucks… in the case of my own favoured party… and given dire warnings by Gavin Esler on Newsnight that they must sit quietly with their hands behind their backs like visitors to a lap dancing club – lest we have a repeat of the wonderfully disgraceful episode on Newsnight the other evening  covered well by Guido Fawkes on his post Clash of the Pie-Tans.

For those of you new to ELECTION FEVER, may I suggest that you make it your duty to consult Iain Dale, Conservative Home and Tory Bear… for therein lies a lot of what you need to keep up to speed on the events of our Tory future. Of course, The Sun, if you can tear yourself away from the coverage of football and tits, has a most amusing political columnist called Tony Newton Dunn, Kelvin Mackenzie and of course probably the most important political leader writer in the country… in terms of ‘REACH’. .. I am talking KAVANAGH.

A little taste of the genre… first, from Trevor Kavanagh…When it’s no fun being well hung

And this wonderful statement from Kelvin “Gotcha” (Remember the Falklands war) Mackenzie…

@Frasernels “One more term of Brown and we’ll be twinned with North Korea” – Kelvin MacKenzie at tonight’s Spectator debate. Brilliant line. While you are it… I suppose you may find The Spectator useful as well.

Well… on that note… if you want a future fair for us and not Gordon Brown… It’s TIME FOR CHANGE.  I shall return on the morrow.

OUR LEADER…In nomine Patris et fillii et Spiritus Sancti

And… you MUST keep up to speed with GuyNEWS… essential viewing 🙂

Law Review: Superinjunctions, libel, discrimination and the digital economy bill

Superinjunctions inquiry to start work next month

Guardian: Committee to mount unprecedented investigation into controversial superinjunctions which restrict press freedom

“Superinjunctions are to be examined by a powerful committee of judges and lawyers, it was announced today, after months of speculation about the impact of the legal restrictions on press freedom.

The committee, which begins meeting next month, represents an unprecedented investigation of the controversial measures, which force journalists to keep both information and the existence of an injunction secret.

Superinjunctions have been blamed for silencing the press partly because of the cost of attempting to have them overturned. There is currently no information about the extent to which they have been used against the media, although a series of high-profile cases, including the Guardian’s attempt to report about the dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast involving the oil trading company Trafigura, led to concern about their use.”

Amusingly, there appears to be widespread ignorance of superinjunctions and their use.  Even Mr Justice Eady, leading libel judge, recently overturned by the Court of Appeal in BCA v Dr Singh,  said he was unaware of them but did admit to issuing them… possibly.How could one not know if one has issued a supe injunction? Bizarre… see below. I am very happy to be advised by practitioners who have experience of applying for superinjunctions on this narrow point.

The Guardian reports: “I had never heard the term ‘super injunction’ until it was mentioned in parliament,” Eady said, speaking at City University. “I was not conscious I had ever granted one, but I might have.”

Without wishing to appear too simple minded – there is probably a very good reason superinjunctions are not well known – that is the purpose of a superinjunction, so that no-one knows that an injunction has even been granted.  Record are not, apparently, kept. There is an element of a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party about all this and it is definitely time to get deep analysis and discussion into the reform process.

Thankfully, while Tom Watson blocks libel reform on the grounds that Parliament needs more time (Infra), the Court of Appeal has stepped in to bring a degree of sanity into libel proceedings in BCA v Dr Singh.  Having the use of super injunctions examined by people who actually know what they are talking about – even better, with no vested interest in them – can only be a good thing.

Jack of Kent, the well known law blogger, has a good post on libel reform and why Tom Watson is wrong. I don’t actually think that Tom Watson was wrong to as for more time.  It is important to get legislation right – but reform must come, and I think it is on the way.  Freedom of a responsible press is absolutely vital for democracy and objective and reasoned criticism of corporate and other public activity is absolutely vital to the health of our intellectual capital.

Crucifix ban nurse Shirley Chaplin loses NHS discrimination case

The Times reports: “A Christian nurse who refused to remove a crucifix at work has lost her claim for discrimination after an employment tribunal panel ruled that she should have reached a compromise with her hospital employers. Shirley Chaplin, 54, suggested that her religious beliefs would be “violated” if she took off the necklace because she felt that she was being asked to hide her faith. She had the support of a number of bishops who claim that Christians are being persecuted in an increasingly secular society. The Archbishop of Canterbury has also criticised a “wooden-headed bureaucratic silliness” that prevents people from wearing religious symbols at work. John Hollow, the tribunal chairman, ruled that the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital had acted reasonably in trying to reach a compromise. It had argued that the objection to the crucifix, which Mrs Chaplin, from Kenn, near Exeter, had worn for 30 years, was based on health and safety concerns about patients grabbing the necklace, not religion.”

For my part, this ruling is a step forward in common sense and good application of law. Where a religious symbol or form of dress  interferes with the ability of the wearer to do a job safely or goes counter to the reasonable and lawful contractual requirements of an employer, is it so unreasonable to ban the use of such symbols? I can’t, personally, see much harm in  a person being permitted to broadcast their faith in situations where safety is not compromised – or at work, generally, but that is a matter, in a work situation, between employer and employee contractually. We saw recently how a pharmacist was able  to plead that fulfilling prescriptions for contraception offended religious beliefs. Such action impacts on the public who are entitled to be provided with prescriptions and it should not be for an individual, no matter what their beliefs, to deny such right. These individuals should seek other employment where their religious beliefs do not impact on the public.   If an employer has a ‘uniform code’, is it so unreasonable to require compliance with that code to ensure corporate branding consistency?  Employees are not, after all, compelled to work for a particular employer. On the other side of the coin, I agree fully with those who found Chris Grayling’s remarks that B&B owners should be able to refuse entry to gays offensive.  If a B&B owner opens his or her house to the public – they must comply with the law and not discriminate on ground of sexual orientation.

Controversial elements of the Digital Economy Bill will face further scrutiny even if the bill is passed later, Commons Leader Harriet Harman has said.

BBC: Part of the bill, which refers to how copyright holders can block access to websites hosting pirated content, will be subject to further consultation. Several MPs called for the whole bill to be delayed until after the election.

The Ministry of Justice and Legal Services Commission have today outlined new steps that aim to rebalance the legal aid budget, reduce costs and increase value for money for legal aid.

The reforms are outlined within the government’s response to the consultations on the advocates graduated fees scheme and very high cost cases (VHCCs) and are designed to sustain the legal aid budget, ensure that we focus criminal legal aid spending effectively and support other measures introduced to address wider issues on controlling public finances. The reforms are intended to make better use of the criminal legal aid budget and include changes that rationalise payment structures. The government has decided not to take the option of a one-off cut of 17.9% to advocates graduated fees. Instead the reforms include the alternative option consulted on, of a staged reduction over three years of 4.5% each year (a total reduction of 13.5%) in advocates graduated fees, coupled with extending AGFS to cases due to last up to 60 days. The funding order to make these changes is being laid before Parliament today. The first of the staged reductions will come into effect on 27 April 2010, and the extension to 60-day cases on 14 July 2010.

Ministry of Justice

Scramble to save Bills at end of parliament.

The Independent: Moves to stage a referendum on scrapping the first-past-the-post electoral system have been abandoned as the parties wrangle over legislation to be rushed into law ahead of the general election. The Government has also dropped proposals to phase out the right of hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords. With Parliament due to be dissolved next Monday, the plans fell victim to the squeeze on Commons time

INSITELAW Newswire / 6th April 2010

INSITELAW Newswire/ 6th April 2010

The weekly newswire contains a summary of key law news, reports and comment – with some posts by Charon. Hopefully, it will be useful in keeping you informed  about some of the key developments.


If you would like to subscribe for this free weekly newswire and receive it by email each Monday  please click here

Student Revision Course
“There are still places available at the QED Law revision seminars. Open to all students on LLB and GDL/CPE programmes they take place at University College London and there is a choice of dates in April and May. For more information – QED LAW

Disclosure: I’m not involved in any way – but I’ve known Norman Baird for years and some of his colleagues also.  They do do the business.  Good courses.

What a gay day for a trip to Torquay!

Chris Grayling reveals the real Tories

Guardian: By supporting homophobic discrimination by B&B owners, the shadow home secretary has shattered David Cameron’s gay-friendly image

Will Dave sack him? Are gays any different from other groups?  Basil Grayling’s ‘thoughts’ on gays do break the current law. Is he going to change the law if the Tories get into power…? or as shadow home secretary is it simply that he is clueless (a) about the current law ? … (b) generally?

Urbi et Orbi 2010

I suppose I could be like the Archbishop of Canterbury and apologise if my pic above gives offence – but that would not be right. I do not mean offence to anyone who is a devout believer – for everyone has a right to believe or not believe and this is not a gratuitous insult to those who believe, nor directed at them. I do mean to  be critical of those who govern the church for the cover ups and lack of direct action.

The paedophile scandal has brought the Catholic church into disrepute.  It is shocking to believer and non-believer alike.    For years priests have been abusing children. For years these activities have been covered up.  They are serious criminal offences but more than that; priests charged with educating a child, in a position of trust, have not only abused children, they have stripped them of their childhoods and their belief and trust. I am sure many who are devout believers would agree that it is a shocking state of affairs and has to be addressed to the very root and dealt with.

Being a heathen, I like to mark this day each year with Urbi et Orbi in the original sense of the term – a proclamation.

Wikipedia notes: Urbi et Orbi (“to the City [of Rome] and to the World“) was a standard opening of Roman proclamations. The term is now used to denote a papal address and Apostolic Blessing that is addressed to the City of Rome and to the entire world.

It is an opportunity to write on a range of of issues and ideas which interest me in no particular order… in fact, randomly. Sometimes it is good to be ‘random’.

Meet Michael Pownall The Clerk of the Parliaments who billed the public £1,500 for a week at the Hilton hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is paid about £170,000 a year, has been criticised for being lenient towards peers accused of misusing their allowances and has racked up a pension pot of £2 million – according to The Telegraph.

I just love this...”He claimed another £770 for his flights to the African country, which was hosting an international conference of parliamentary clerks in April last year. In a letter to the official who was reimbursing him, Mr Pownall wrote: “I remind you that I travelled Ethiopian Airlines, overnight, economy – for which I believe I deserve some credit.”

According to a spokesman for the House of Lords – who, presumably did not wish to be named?…“He has made considerable efforts to minimise the costs to the public purse.”

We live in a truly remarkable country… remarkable! Why would a third world country spend money hosting an international conference for Parliamentary Clerks?… and, come to that, why do they need one?. What do they talk about?  Expenses?  Readers may recall that the DPP, Keir Starmer QC had a bit of difficulty prosecuting peers because of a change in the rules at the Lords. Mr Pownall, apparently signed a gagging order in relation to matters according to The Telegraph.

The retrospective rules were blamed by Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, for undermining police inquiries into several peers’ allowance claims. Mr Pownall then signed a legal gagging order banning publication of a memo to the Lords committee outlining his reasons for approving the controversial guidelines.

Gilbert & Sullivan at its very best!  Rule Britannia!

With Labour shooting their feet off with the latest attack poster saying “Don’t let Cameron take you back to the 1980s” – they haven’t got it quite right. I had a great time in the Eighties and happily admit that Margaret Thatcher did provide the impetus for some of those pleasures.  Guido Fawkes and Iain Dale have both reminded us about some of the good things in the Eighties.  As someone who is supposed to be a Labour supporter, there are only 3 items on Iain Dale’s list I would not agree with – and yes, I have no problem with Scargill being defeated (One of Iain Dale’s 20 good things).  I am not a fan of Union power abuse and posturing.   Have a look – a good list – brings back some excellent memories – as it may well for you if you were there and able to enjoy them.  I’m getting worried… am I really a Tory? I shall speak to my Doctor.  Perhaps he’ll give me an injection.

Not content with past buffoonery on the question of self defence, Chris ‘Kill a Burglar’ Grayling has diversified and gone in for a bit of gay bashing with his latest pronouncement, taped in secret.

Secret tape reveals Tory backing for ban on gays

• B&Bs ‘should have right to bar gays’
• Exclusion would violate law – Labour
• Audio: Listen to the recording


I’ve never regarded Mr Fawlty as the brightest knife in the shadow cabinet box – but this latest nonsense takes the biscuit. Tory blogger and commentator Iain Dale was quick to condemn and criticise (rightly) in a thoughtful post.

If the Tories win, I have no doubt that Mr Fawlty would provide hours of fun for us bloggers… but we must be selfless and suggest that Cameron considers Grayling’s position.  I rather suspect, had Grayling made the same remarks about Jews, Afro-Caribbean etc etc… Grayling would be heading to Torquay now to try his hand at running a Bed & Breakfast.  I wonder if David Cameron will be firm and decisive on this one?  He may lose a few Gay votes… he may not.  Most Gays  are pretty tolerant people, able to see the wider picture and forgive idiocy, unlike…it would seem…Mr Grayling.

And finally… my thoughts, ineluctably…turned to the question of my own departure from Terminal Life and after a glass or two of wine I came up with an epitaph. I shall leave it in a sealed envelope to be opened on my death…

“I was a restoration project and had no wife: they that dranketh with me, though I am now dead,, yet shall they laugh”

And..on that note…enjoy Resurrection Sunday…as someone on Twitter is bound to call it and have a good weekend.

Labour attack poster – a variation a la Charon

Labour has produced a new ‘attack’ poster published this morning… I was a bit bored…so I thought I’d do one of my own. The original Labour version…. is a bit of an own goal… makes Cameron look cool to young voters…. so… a bit of an own kick in the goolies… good effort Labour.  Go to the top of the class and hand out the f*****g pencils.

I am also advised that Ashes to Ashes is probably one of the most popular TV programmes about at the moment… Dear god…. How did this get through…

I asked on twitter if they were all on meow meow when the original poster was designed… only for @AlJahom to come back very quickly with…

Al Jahom AlJahom @Charonqc well the top man’s on MAOI MAOIs, so why the hell not!? /cc @torybear

And… you have to hand it to the Tories… they have come back very quickly (and cleverly)… with this….

Boys doing men’s work comes to mind…. next time, Labour… let the professionals do it… or go to a political blogger and get them to do it… just saying!

Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Thames: Rationalist Edition

Dear Reader,

I write on a Saturday this week because I am going to be busy doing my annual ‘urbi et orbi’ blog post tomorrow.  I trust you are having a rationalist, religious or just plain Easter egg greedy weekend?

It is unusual for the Church of England leader, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to openly criticise another religious party or branch – but, it appears, the election fever to come has taken hold at CofEHQ Lambeth Palace.

The BBC reports…The Archbishop of Canterbury has said the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has lost “all credibility” over the way it had dealt with paedophile priests.

Rowan Williams said the problems, which had been a “colossal trauma” for the Church affected the wider public. It seemed appropriate, given that the Church and political parties share a common interest in persuading us to believe in unbelievable things,  that I adapt the recent Tory poster…. and, after all, the Church of England was described as ‘The Tory Party at prayer’ not so long ago!

In a spirit of even handedness… How a Vatican ‘attack poster’ might look…given the propensity for Tories and Labour to shoot ‘own goals’ with their real attack posters… why should the Church be any different?

But back to more earthly matters….

The perennial ‘lightbulb question’ was running riot on twitter the other night….with Tories asking ‘How many labour supporters does it take to do…. this and that…. so I had to join in.

Tom Harris MP has an amusing story…

The joke’s on you, Colin

When former Bristol councillor Colin Eldridge fell for a very clever and funny April Fool gag in yesterday’s Liverpool Post, he could so easily have laughed it off. A self-deprecatory “I am such a chump – but that was very funny!” would have done wonders for his public persona. People like politicians who can poke fun at themselves.

Instead Eldridge, who is now the LibDem parliamentary candidate in Wavertree, decided to pretend that he was in on the joke all along. It was blindingly obvious that he had been completely taken in by the spoof story about Liverpool spending more than £140,000 on road signs written in Mandarin Chinese (a proposal which “has got to be worthwhile,” he told his host without a trace of irony), Then, when it was pointed out to him by the presenter that it was an April Fool’s trick, Eldridge said: “Maybe I knew all along.”

As a public service, Tom Harris has the radio interview Colin Eldridge did so we can judge for ourselves whether Eldridge was ‘savant or chump’ – and he plans to keep the radio interview on his blog until the election…and beyond.  Who said Labour is going soft!

Mandarin Chinese?  Love it – mind you, it appears that I fell for a story about Cambridge University taking back panto-fascist Nick Griffin’s degree. At least I can plead that The Sun reported this on 2nd April, not 1st April.

Feeling Horny? Not me.. I’m limp and lovin it!

My mate Tonto Papadopolous has been keeping himself amused…and this, his latest foray into motion pictures,  will…hopefully leave you LIMP.

Do watch the movie… I am pretty sure it will make you laugh.  I have drunk and talked until dawn several times with Tonto… fortunately, he is making movies at the moment… so I am relatively sane and get to bed earlier.

“The only good Tory is a dead Tory”

If you want an amusing story – head over to The Spectator.  This is pure class…. if you enjoy stories about politicians who ‘go over the top’ and get carried away. I won’t say any more… it is definitely worth a read even if you aren’t interested in politics.

What a B’stard!

And this is in the same category of ‘pure class’ for political parody – I found it on OboTheClown’s blog., M’lud… honest.  Not office safe.. but as it is a Bank Holiday… this is a movie well worth watching…  Cherie Blair and Alan B’Stard a film by Alison

As is my practice most weekends, I buy a tabloid and a more sane newspaper and flick through the tabloid while having a few Marlboros and coffees.  I went online this morning to look at The Sun – the cafes were still shut.

It really is an alternative universe over there.

Today’s headline news… “Harry Blotto and the Missing script” (Apparently some one got pissed and left the script for the new film in the pub).

Dr Who-er missus – “FLAME-HAIRED actress Karen Gillan is about to shoot to fame as Doctor Who’s latest assistant.”

My leg is broken – and so am I: CESC FABREGAS breaks his silence on the injury shock that shattered his season

Vice on the road: MOTORISTS are being distracted by signs warning them to beware of hookers

AND…as I prepared myself to phone a clinic in Switzerland to say it was time… I read a news story about a bloody police monkey in Thailand.  Dear god…. the future of our country is safe with The Sun behind the Tories.  How many potential voters does The Sun get each day?

The question is – are political bloggers – who reach good audiences, but nowhere near the reach of The Sun – wasting their time. I don’t think so… but The Sun will, surely, shape the future of our country …
On that note.. orf to find an open cafe… enjoy your weekend.  Back later with some law…perhaps.
Best, as ever

It did not take long….

Predictably, it did not take long before a copper (or in this case an ex-copper who quit or had to quit?), popped up to tell us all that it is time to have Judge only trials. No doubt, those who wish to be Home Secretary or Secretary of State for Justice / Lord Chancellor on May 7th will be salivating at the prospect… CUT (costs) and BURN (Villains).

Andy Hayman was Assistant Commissioner for Special Operations at the Metropolitan Police. He has managed to persuade The Times to give him some air time – perhaps it was a quiet news day? – to tell us….

Twelve good men no longer guarantee truth

As crime gets more sophisticated, sometimes the jury system will not be able to cope.

Hayman makes some ‘apparently’ perfectly reasonable – if rather well known points… about the length and complexity of cases citing a rather bizarre illustration…

In one case, an expert investigator told me that if they had printed off the relevant data from the confiscated hard drives you could have physically filled the 13 floors of New Scotland Yard.

So? Some cases may well be complex – is that a reason to chop the jury? He also tells us that unless we have served on a jury  we cannot possibly know how difficult it is and that he has spoken to a lot of jurors...”most describe mixed feelings when the summoning letter arrives in the post. They feel proud to have a chance to fulfil their public duty but also dread being selected for a case that may mean a year swallowed up, poring over complex, and in some cases, distressing evidence.”

I can only assume that Mr Hayman has served on a jury in such a complex trial and he appears to be unaware of the rule that Jurors are not supposed to discuss what happens in the jury room with anyone… or has that gone by the board since those dark distant days when Professor Smith and Professor Griew wrote about Criminal Law in their respective textbooks? I cannot imagine that he was talking to jurors before the trial… well… perhaps such is imaginable but, one assumes, did not happen.

I repeat … I am not a criminal lawyer – but the fair number of criminal lawyers I have spoken to are very much in favour of the jury.  Certainly, there is the well known aphorism that if you are innocent go for trial by judge alone and if guilty…try your luck in front of the jury.. but that is an aphorism and not a factual observation of scientific study supported by clear evidence.

I’m with the criminal law experts on this.  We have to retain trial by jury, we have to watch mission creep and we certainly do not need to hear from policemen who should have no part in the criminal justice system following investigation and arrest.

We are not a Stasi East German style state yet…despite the best endeavours, it would seem, of some on both the left and right…. and we certainly do not want to become one.

Rive Gauche: Good Friday Edition….Always look on the bright side of life

I woke early… and my first thought was… I wish that bloody cock would stop crowing

So here we are…the big day…a religious holiday for some..and a ‘Rationalist’ holiday for me… a day when the authorities in Saudi Arabia, just to prove that not much has changed in the cradle of religions in 2000 years, are going to chop the head off a Lebanese TV star who used to predict the future…for ‘sorcery’.  Hopefully – but it is, arguably, unlikely.. the Saudis will see sense and not carry out the execution.

I went off for black coffee and Marlboros at 7.30 in the hope of finding a cafe open..and LO!… it was so… it was open. I settled down to read The Sun and The Times and discovered, from The Sun that…

Cambridge University are to strip holocaust denier and pantomime fascist Nick Griffin of his 2.2 law degree. While we can all understand why the University would not wish to be associated with Griffin…it is rather ironic that they too are seeking to re-write history.  I would have thought Cambridge University was well known enough throughout the world as a serious university and  not as a fascist Madrasa…but there we are.  So much for John Wilkes and Liberty.  I did check Wikipedia to see if Cambridge had educated him. It appears not.. this may well be why he was able to develop notions and principles of free speech!

[Update: It appears (See comments)  that this story is an April Fool reported as ‘fact’ today… the day after April Fool’s Day, by The Sun…. I was a bit hungover when I read The Sun this morning.  Difficult to distinguish fact from fiction these days.  Thought it was bizarre that Cambridge would do this… mea culpa.  I leave the story in to show the nature of reporting.  I’m sure Cambridge will understand and cope!]

I then had a phonecall from someone wanting to advertise on the new Insite Law newsletter – pleasingly.  I gave him some details and when he asked if we could go forward, it being Good Friday… I said “Yes… let’s nail this down..let’s do it.”  I have been in this mood for some time…

The Israelis continue to bomb Gaza… but, they say, the Easter celebrations will not be affected. Beau Bo D’or reminded us that this has been going on for some time with this wonderful picture which he did in 2008…

I noticed (as he did)  that Hat Trick used one of his spoof Tory posters without permission for Have I Got News For You last night. With typical humour Beau Bo D’or noted on Twitter that HatTrick productions are situated right next to ‘The Pirate Castle’ (Google Pic) in London… wonderfully ironic. (I confess to ‘nicking this pic’ – but I usually ask and have been given permission before on each occasion… I happen to know that Beau Bo D’Dor may be watching “Withnail and I” and would not wish to interrupt him.)

Yesterday was April Fool’s day… it was difficult, this year, to distinguish fool from true and this may well prove to be the case until the election.  After the furore about Tom Watson MP and others blocking government libel reform plans the other day it was ironic that the Court of Appeal handed down some serious common sense and justice the next day  to get a grip on the runaway horse of libel law.

British Chiropractic Association v Dr Singh [2010] EWCA Civ 350

The Guardian reported: “The science writer Simon Singh has won his court of appeal battle for the right to rely on the defence of fair comment in a libel action.

Singh was accused of libel by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) over an opinion piece he wrote in the Guardian in April 2008.

He suggested there was a lack of evidence for the claims some chiropractors make on treating certain childhood conditions including colic and asthma.

The BCA alleged that Singh had in effect accused its leaders of knowingly supporting bogus treatments.

In May last year, high court judge Mr Justice Eady, in a preliminary ruling in the dispute, held that Singh’s comments were factual assertions rather than expressions of opinion – which meant he could not use the defence of fair comment.

Today, the lord chief justice, Lord Judge, master of the rolls Lord Neuberger and Lord Justice Sedley allowed Singh’s appeal, ruling that the high court judge had “erred in his approach”.

The judgment may be read in full here.

Paragraph 34 is most instructive (para 1 below) – one which, hopefully, will send a ‘chill into the minds of those who reach for ‘libel Top Guns’.  It is, as one would expect from this particular line up of experienced and thoughtful judges (it was not always so in our long legal history that chief justices and senior judges delivered thoughtful and clever judgments) a carefully reasoned and clever judgment; one which will go a long way to discourage libel actions and bolster freedom of ‘honest opinion’. Perhaps Parliament can be relied on to complete the job and clean up a pretty shoddy part of our jurisprudence and bring fairness back into the system and, more important – protect those who are deserving of protection, bolster free speech and encourage responsible and fair reporting.

I have pleasure in quoting Paragraphs 34-37 of the Judgment… 1-4 below… the paragraphing has been lost from the original

  1. We would respectfully adopt what Judge Easterbrook, now Chief Judge of the US Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, said in a libel action over a scientific controversy, Underwager v Salter 22 Fed. 3d 730 (1994):
  2. “[Plaintiffs] cannot, by simply filing suit and crying ‘character assassination!’, silence those who hold divergent views, no matter how adverse those views may be to plaintiffs’ interests. Scientific controversies must be settled by the methods of science rather than by the methods of litigation. … More papers, more discussion, better data, and more satisfactory models – not larger awards of damages – mark the path towards superior understanding of the world around us.”

  3. In an area of law concerned with sometimes conflicting issues of great sensitivity involving both the protection of good reputation and the maintenance of the principles of free expression, it is somewhat alarming to read in the standard textbook on the Law of Libel and Slander (Gatley, 11th edition) in relation to the defence of fair comment, which is said to be a “bulwark of free speech”, that “…the law here is dogged by misleading terminology… ‘Comment’ or ‘honest comment’ or ‘honest opinion’ would be a better name, but the traditional terminology is so well established in England that it is adhered to here”.
  4. We question why this should be so. The law of defamation surely requires that language should not be used which obscures the true import of a defence to an action for damages. Recent legislation in a number of common law jurisdictions – New Zealand, Australia, and the Republic of Ireland – now describes the defence of fair comment as “honest opinion”. It is not open to us to alter or add to or indeed for that matter reduce the essential elements of this defence, but to describe the defence for what it is would lend greater emphasis to its importance as an essential ingredient of the right to free expression. Fair comment may have come to “decay with … imprecision”. ‘Honest opinion’ better reflects the realities.
  5. This appeal must be allowed.

Noting the 1 April date of this report from The Firm… I am not sure whether this is an April Fool or not…anything is possible in the legal world, even in Scotland:

Sarah Palin admitted to Faculty of Advocates

The Faculty of Advocates has announced that former US Vice Presidential hopeful Sarah Palin has accepted an invitation to be admitted as a non-practising member of the Faculty of Advocates.

The Faculty of Advocates has announced that former US Vice Presidential hopeful Sarah Palin has accepted an invitation to be admitted as a non-practising member of the Faculty of Advocates. The invitation was made based on the former Governor’s record as a lawmaker and scrutineer of innovative legislation in Alaska in the area of complex land acquisition and expolitation contracts. Welcoming the admission, Richard Keen QC, Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, said he was “sure” that all members would join with him in welcoming “such a distinguished addition to Faculty membership as Ms Palin.”

I particularly enjoyed this last sentence…

“Palin will become a non-practising member of Faculty until she has passed the bar examinations and memorised the 26 character alphabet.”

I shall return soon..and on Sunday..with my annual  ‘Urbi et Orbi’

In the meantime, enjoy your Easter and if you are one of those who like to sit in a car on the motorway in a howling gale… it is not a cross I would like to bear… but may your god be with you.

And finally… the Guardian’s April fool poster…

Law Review: Non-Jury tials, Tom Watson MP responds on Libel reform, Dangerous Orange Juice on the Streets of London SHOCK!

It is not all doom and gloom and certainly not down at left leaning Matrix Chambers where, as reported in The Times, the new Silks celebrated in some style; dancing the night away at the Royal Exchange, a glamorous venue surrounded by expensive boutiques and jewellers. The message of that gave, according to one guest, is that at least “human rights work pays”.

Why not?  Hair shirts rarely solve problems and for large swathes of the law as practised in the City…. given  Easter is approaching … “Ye who is without sin…cast the first stone…. or am I mixing up my proverbs and should be talking about glass houses?

Fortunately, there is some rather more important law news today.

Why I opposed Libel costs reform yesterday by Tom Watson MP
Yesterday I wrote about the blocking of the libel reform by Tom Watson and others.  A great deal of anger was vented in the usual way on twitter and in the blogs. It was surprising to find what appeared to be a perfectly reasonable start by Jack Straw in reforming the disgraceful state of libel law in this country being blocked by a small group of MPs. Tom Watson noted that he had been the subject of anger and libelous remarks about being in the pay of Carter-Ruck but was able to ride that particular storm.  As he put it…“A number of people have tweeted and emailed today, libelously suggesting I am on the payroll of Carter Ruck. Luckily for them, irony is something you get used to in my profession. And in politics, you have to take the rough with the smooth.”

The article Tom Watson MP wrote for Liberal Conspiracy where he explained his reasons clearly is worth reading in full .

Briefly, let me make the case for the libel reform I want to see.

  1. End libel tourism.
  2. I want the burden of proof rule to be reversed for big corporations who bully writers, creators and scientists.
  3. I would like to see a change to statute of limitations and the multiple publications rule that’s not fit for purpose in the digital age.
  4. I’d like to see a defence of “responsible journalism” defined in law.
  5. And I’d like the law of “criminal libel” to be junked in Scotland as it was South of the border last year.

I came to these conclusions, having heard evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee for our inquiry ‘Press Standards, Privacy and Libel’.

The reforms listed above will genuinely support free expression, so cherished by the new communities of interest brought together by the Internet age. It is these bold measures that should form the basis of wholesale reform of libel laws in the UK.

Yesterday’s proposals would not achieve any of the above. They would, as Lord Thomas observed, possibly benefit large media companies who are lobbying hard for all political parties to endorse the measures before an election, but would not provide adequate protection to the little guy, who ends up in the libel courts alone against giant corporations with money and clout.

Basically, Watson is saying that that the reduction from 100% to 10% uplift may deter lawyers from taking cases on Conditional Fee Arrangements and more time is needed.  Watson is not, after all,  a latter day Dick Dastardly who is trying to put a spanner in the works.  On the plus side of Twitter et al – at least our politicians, some of whom blog very successfully, are all too aware of the fact that people are watching and are prepared to state their views – sometimes even cogently and persuasively!  We shall just have to wait – but libel law reform is coming and it may have to go further than it has, so waiting for more parliamentary time may, in the end, be not such a bad thing.  Watson said he would respond to the uproar and he did.  He was as good as his word and his reasons are credible even if delay is disappointing.

And so… a little bit of light relief….

Yesterday threw up some marvellous ‘unintended consequences’ pictures grabbed from TV  of David Cameron.  As ever, I found these on twitter (Hat Tip @loveandgarbage)

There were no PMQs yesterday – it being Easter and that…. but here is a ‘blast from the past’… David Cameron at his first ever PMQs when he was thinking about being the ‘Heir to Blair’ (How times have changed).  Remarkably, the Boy Wonder has been with us for nearly five years… and we could be getting another five years of him soon… Cameron that is, not Blair.  Watch the film?

High cost of protection is eroding legal bastion

Frnces Gibb, legal editor of The Times reports: “Jury-less criminal trials have sparked controversy in the legal profession, pitting prosecutors against defence lawyers. The Criminal Justice Act 2003, which made them possible, was introduced amid concerns over jury nobbling. David Blunkett, who was Home Secretary, said that in London alone £9 million was being spent every year on surveillance of jurors. People who tried to intimidate jurors did so for one reason, he said — “because they think that those in front of the judge and jury will be convicted….So the Act allows for trial without jury if there is “evidence of a real and present danger” of tampering. The growth of organised crime has made interference with juries an increasingly serious threat to justice.”

Yesterday saw the first trial with a judge alone – and it was a guilty verdict.  What worries lawyers is that this will encourage the Police and the CPS in these times of the great ‘Cuts’ to cut costs and go for more trials with a judge alone. Practitioners are against the erosion of jury trial.  Germany abolished jury trials in 1924.  In France it is reserved only for the most serious cases and, in fact, many of our criminal trials are conducted by lay magistrates and district judges with no jury. I remember Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, telling me when I interviewed him for a podcast that the Crown Court was, in effect, a sentencing court these days;  with 75% of cases, or thereabouts, actually being tried without a jury by magistrates.  Do we still need juries?  The criminal law practitioners says we do.  I suspect that we shall, hoever, be seeing  many more trials with a judge alone – the CUTS, the CUTS. … not forgetting the ‘convenience to the State’.


I won’t be commenting at length on the acquittal of Sgt David Smellie, the baton wielding cop at the G20 who mistook a carton of orange juice for an offensive weapon and  because of this and the fact he did not like a member of the public disobeying ‘orders’ (reportedly)  used his baton on an unarmed woman.  He had only 7 seconds, according to the trial judge, to make a decision. He was acquitted.  It did not, perhaps, help that the principal witness for the prosecution, the victim, did not turn up.  It can be rather difficult ( I am advised)  proving cases when witnesses don’t turn up – even with video evidence. Sgt Smellie is NOT GUILTY and that is the end of the matter, save for a possible internal Police investigation.  So be it – but perhaps the Police need better offensive weapons recognition training and anger and crowd control management training?

I’m sorry that I don’t have any April Fool stories for you this year… I really did think that the story of the acquittal of Sgt Smellie was one but had been released a day early in error… but there we are….it wasn’t..and he is definitely NOT GUILTY..that is the law.