Danny Alexander *Telegraphed*… Next please…..!

It seems that Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, does have practical experienmce after all…. of Capital Gains Tax and is, therefore, ideally suited to overseeing plans to increase CGT for mere mortals.

Talk about Japanese footballers kicking balls into their own goal!

Telegraph article…

The claims appear to undermine repeated claims by Mr Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, that no Lib Dem MP profited from the expenses system.

In the first televised leaders’ debate, Mr Clegg said: “There are MPs who flipped one property to the next, buying property, paid by you, the taxpayer, and then they would do the properties up, paid for by you, and pocket the difference in personal profit.’’

Who’s next?  Clegg?  Nothing would surprise me.

***

Wrapping Up the Danny Alexander Expenses Story

Postcard From The Staterooms: Econocomical edition

Dear Reader,

You will have heard that David Laws reported himself to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner and resigned yesterday as chief secretary to the Treasury.  While he accepts that he broke the rules, his sin is rather less serious than some who fiddled voraciously as they sacked John Lewis like Romans at an orgy. Some are still in the House, they say, and they haven’t resigned.  The Telegraph will, no doubt, remind us soon enough.

For my part, given that we need the Coalition to work – whatever political dogma we believe in (and Labour really do need a bit of ‘Time Out’ to get a bit of thinking done – it is rather tragic that the country has lost a fine mind and, more importantly, one with significant experience of banking, economics and how markets work.  George Osborne, as yet, does not have this expertise.   He may well prove to be good – and leaving aside parody, briefly – but not for too long, I promise, he is reported to have the brains to pick experience and knowledge up.

It is a bit baffling (but understandable in Coalition terms and binding the Lib-Dems into taking the pain) that Laws has been replaced by a young man with little experience of money, economics, finance, fiscal policy and markets – he did do a PPE at Oxford, but so what..? That is just one up from A level and no match for experience and instinct.  A commenter on my last serious blog post suggested that we get a petition going to have laws re-instated.  I think it would be very good for the country to accept that the expenses thing has happened, we have gorged on it, stop letting The Telegraph hold people and the country to ransom with their constant drip feeding (to whose agenda?)  let the country get on and bring Laws back into government quickly.  I am ever the pragmatist.  The MPs have eaten their porridge, even if, some say, more should have done porridge.  We need to get a grip on the economy and the country and that requires a bit of talent.  Here endeth the ‘lesson’.

I wasn’t going to watch Eurovision last night, but the tweets were so good that I had to watch and join in.  I made a number of observations while in a fairly advanced state of grace brought on by Rioja…

I was rather hoping that Greece won.  I’d have paid good money to see Greece asking Germany for the money to host Eurovision next year.  But one cannot have everything one wants, can one?

Humphrey Cushion ran an amazing Eurovision avatar changing commentary on twitter… she is worth following on twitter - very amusing, if you don’t already follow her. Mea culpa for failing to mention in the first edition of this post.  Honour is restored – quite rightly.  I hold her responsible for getting me into Eurovision again last night!

I don’t follow football, but I was surprised to see that England beat Japan today simply because two Japanese footballers decided to kick the ball into their own goal. perhaps these are good ‘omens’ for a few weeks time?  I do know that the white flags have started to appear on cars again.  I have a pirate flag mounted on my glasses.  Why shouldn’t people have white flags on their cars and vans?  Good effort!  The image to the left is ‘Sexy Soccer’..apparently.  Frankly… of greater appeal to me than the real game… but there we are.  That I don’t give a toss about football doesn’t make me a pariah…..

I wasn’t going to watch Eurovision last night but did…so anything is possible.  I did watch England win the World Cup two hundred years ago.  I watched it with my Mother.  I was 12.  I drank cider.  My mother, then a non-drinker, was completely unaware that Somerset cider had alcohol in it.  I think she suspected something was up when I suddenly leapt to my feet, tore my shirt off, shouted “WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS” and  ran into the street shouting nonsense…

Briefly on Tory Education Policy…

Being interested in education, at least at the tertiatry or university and professional level, I have an open mind on Tory policy.  I was lucky enough, because my parents worked abroad, to go to a very good public school in Scotland.  Had my parents not been abroad, I would have been lucky enough to go to a very good state school in Scotland – but I had to board.  Scotland does education well.  This is not being a “Braveheart’.  It just happens to be true.   I would like to see everyone get the benefit of good schooling – for that lays the foundation for a happy and possibly, if you are that way inclined, a successful life in money terms.  The News of The World, taking a break from outing Duchesses and droning on about tits and footballers (Sometimes the tits are footballers and the footballers have tits), had an excellent piece on the founder of CarPhone Warehouse.

The founder of The Carphone Warehouse (David Ross decided to sponsor a school in his home town of Grimsby.), along with his new headteacher Nicholas O’Sullivan – a former Dominican friar – took the comprehensive over and freed it from council control.  Do, please, read it – it is quite inspiring and whether others will follow this route (and I hope they will) this was a great story.

On that uplifting note, I am orf to Battersea Square for a glass of vino in the evening sun.  I may return sooner rather than later

Best, as always

Charon

We want LAWS!! not Law….


I write this week from a dark place, a place where the mob riots, pitchforks and flaming torches ready… a place where only the head of David Laws will assuage some.   The Telegraph outed David Laws – firstly as gay, in effect, and secondly for an expenses problem in connection with £40,000 worth of expenses paid to his partner.  This has been prohibited since 2006.  David Laws has apologised, given a full and detailed explanation and has offered to pay it back.

While I amused myself, over refreshed on twitter last night by making remarks about Ali Baba and the 40,0000 thieves…and noted that I would soon be ‘orf for 40,000 winks’, I woke this morning sober, refreshed as opposed to over refreshed and, after a coffee and a few Marlboros, thought about the issue.

Firstly, in the absence of any further revelations – some think that there is more to come – David Laws’ explanation seems reasonably credible to me.  The Law is a bit woolly in terms of the definition of ‘partner’ and Laws maintains …

“At no point did I consider myself to be in breach of the rules which in 2009 defined partner as ‘one of a couple… who although not married to each other or civil partners are living together and treat each other as spouses’.

“Although we were living together we did not treat each other as spouses – for example we do not share bank accounts and indeed have separate social lives.

“However, I now accept that this was open to interpretation and will immediately pay back the costs of the rent and other housing costs I claimed from the time the rules changed until August 2009.” (BBC)

I have absolutely no problem with David Laws being gay or, rather more importantly, with his wish to keep private matters private.  Why should he have disclosed his sexuality?   It is no-one’s business but his own.  I can understand, because there is still a group of people in politics who are ‘gay intolerant’, that Mr Laws may wished to have kept his sexuality secret and this is more than likely to have accounted for his interpretation of the rules in terms of the 2006 expenses revisions.

I do not think he should resign.  He has offered to return the money, given the interpretation of the rules alternative to his own, and he has reported himself to the watchdog.   I understand that had Laws claimed for his own rent or purchased a flat the cost to the taxpayer would have been even higher.  The fact that he is a millionaire is irrelevant.  He has already given up salary and compensation far in excess of anything a British government can afford to pay ministers.  How many of us give up our freedom to earn or wish to serve our country by being an MP.  I don’t.  I’ll do what I can, as most will, in other ways.  Being an MP is pretty heavy on the soul, I would have thought.? Hopefully, most MPs will enjoy the parody, the knock about – but how many of us could handle a campaign of vilification in the press?  Criticise and vilify when merited.  Is it really merited on the FACTS here? On the facts as reported so far – I don’t think so. I did not vote for the Tories or the Lib-Dems, nor, obviously, a coalition.  On purely practical grounds it would be unfortunate if Cameron or Clegg were to take the opportunity to be ‘tough’ by sacking Laws.  It would be unfortunate to lose a man widely regarded as clever, thoughtful and honest -  doing a job which the Coalition government says needs to be done.  It would be unfortunate if the government, not exactly over blessed with intellectual and economic talent, had to find a replacement.  I think that Mr Laws should tough it out.  The mob and the press will just have to wait for their first bloodied corpse.  Unless, of course, there is more to this than has been disclosed and meets the eye.

And so.. to the House of Lords.

Long overdue for reform – although I would go further than reform and welcome complete abolition , replacing a second chamber with elected ‘senators’ who will bring experience and expertise to scrutinise the work of The Commons.  We have a long and not always honourable history.  We do pomp and circumstance better than any in the world  and it is important to feel British.  Unfortunately, some of us feel that all the geegaws and baubles, The Lord, The Sirs, The Rt hons this and The Rt Hon that are all a bit undemocratic, all a bit old fashioned for a modern democracy and…frankly…all a bit f**king daft.

I have no interest in titles. If a grown man wants to call himself Lord Fuckerlugs of Spalding On Seaside, that is just fine by me.    Thankfully, there are some wonderful people who do great work with no thought of reward or  of getting a daft ermine gown and a ludicrous medieval title.  Some even decline.  Lord Prescott told us all solemnly some time ago that he had no interest in the Lords and would not accept a peerage.  He has and got his yeterday.  Again.. this is fine by me.  He will just have to accept the ridicule which goes along with it.

The issue isn’t about titles.  It is about substance.  How are we going to fit in 800+ peers, with more to come?  I thought Cameron said Big Society, not Big Government?  We seem to have more has beens and worthies than ever running the country. The Tories say they have to create more peers to outnumber Labour peers?  What happens when they lose the next election and Labour has to create even more.  At this rate, they’ll be holding their sessions at Wembley. The country will be crawling with ‘vermin in ermine’!..

It really doesn’t matter to me at the end of the day that some British people revel in all this nonsense – it is harmless.  What is not harmless is unelected peers governing us.  This has, surely, to come to an end?  We’ll see how many has beens and worthies want to be ‘senators’ and do good work, without titles.  I suspect, not quite so many. We shall see in time.

All the best… toodle pip

Have a good Bank holiday.  I’ll be back tomorrow with my weekly Postcard… but I must see a man about a Dukedom… Fergie says she managed to get me an introduction.   Must rush… Can’t keep the Palace waiting, can one!

Baron Charon of Rioja-on-Sea.

F**kART: *LAPIN*! (2010)

LAPIN!  (2010)
Charon
Acrylics on canvas board

Lapin is a friend – a surrealist, photographer and voracious reader of books. I thought the PopArt style was about right and based it on a pic she took of herself recently.

I still have to tart up the yellow border colour and sharpen up the highlights and a bit of blue – this I will do when the paint dries

Just a few jottings…

I thought I would start the Bank holiday weekend early. It is unlikely that many of my clients, or potential clients,  will wish to be troubled tomorrow by phone, email or at all. I have, however, noticed that on the Friday of a bank holiday weekend people are remarkably industrious.  When, in the past, I have telephoned on such a Friday I have been told “He’s in a meeting”… “He’s still in a meeting”… “Yes.. it is a very long meeting”…”He’s in another meeting” .  The other remarkable feature of Friday Bank holidays is how many people are ‘working from home’ but so industriously  that they cannot take calls or their mobiles don’t work.  I have therefore given up on the working on Fridays before Bank holidays…at least in terms of writing or doing new business.

And so apropos of nothing at all.. my thoughts turn to SurAlanSugar… or Baron Sugar as we must now style him… Lord Sugar,  if you are one of those children on ‘Junior Apprentice’. I’m afraid that I agree with a lot of people on twitterJunior Apprentice is a bit ‘creepy’.  I don’t like it.  I think they are a bit young.  Yes.. Sir Alan was building a multi-million pound business at the age of 14.  I was sweeping chimneys at 7… by 12, too large to get up chimneys, I was sent down t’mines and by 18 I was thinking about putting in a takeover bid for Harrods but Al-Fayed beat me to it.  I made all that up, of course.  I like Alan Sugar.  I admire the fact that he built up a business from scratch and speaks his mind.  I am a bit baffled as to why he revels – or appears to – in all this ‘Sur Alan’ and ‘Lord Sugar’ nonsense.  Harmless enough, I suppose.  I still prefer Keith Richards’ view about titles… on hearing that Mick Jagger had been given a knighthood…. “I’m not going on a fucking stage with someone wearing a fucking coronet and sporting the old ermine..” or perhaps that was apocryphal?   On the other hand.. if one can’t beat ‘em… join ‘em.  May well be time to start awarding myself some new titles.

I’m amusing myself by growing another absurd tache. I’ve also discovered a facility on my new iMac which allows me to take photographs of myself in sepia, colour, black and white and even X-Ray…. I won’t be inflicting any more pics of myself on you… but here I am in ‘moody’ sepia… retro… or what?

I shall, no doubt,  get bored with it… or when I realise that sitting having a coffee in Battersea Square impersonating King Lear is not one of my ‘great ideas’.

Torture inquiry should leave no stone unturned, says Amnesty

Guardian: Investigation into human rights abuses promised by William Hague needs to be independent and must look at criminal responsibility, says organisation

The coalition government should “leave no stone unturned” in the search for the truth about the UK’s complicity in foreign torture, the head of Amnesty International has said.

An inquiry promised by William Hague, the foreign secretary, needs to be both independent and able to decide whether any individuals should be prosecuted, said Amnesty’s interim secretary general, Claudio Cordone.

I can go along with that.

Lord Lester has published his Libel Bill. I’ve read it.   You can too, if you haven’t already.  The pdf is available here. I’m still thinking about the implications – but it is very interesting so I want to take a bit of time before I comment on it.  Some of the comments I’ve seen on the net are amusing – particularly from lawyers!  Vested interests tend to shape responses… ineluctably.

Lord Steyn: Defamation and Privacy: momentum for substantive and procedural change?

Guardian: Read Lord Steyn’s Boydell lecture on defamation law and privacy in full. This is most interesting and worth a read.   Are their hidden messages in it?  Seems there may well be.

BabyBarista leaves The Times!

Tim Kevan is a good friend of mine – and a fellow blogger.  He has left The Times because of their soon to be implemented decision to hide BabyBarista and all their other content behind a paywall.

This is good news for those of us who enjoy his writing and will, I hope, encourage BabyBarista to branch out into other activities – like drinking, painting, and even a spot of commentary on Law?

The new BabyBarista blog is here.

[The cartoon is by Alex Williams]

If you are a law blogger (or, indeed, a blogger who likes a bit of law – would you be kind enough to add the new URL to your blogroll?  – I am sure Tim will return the compliment!

F**kART: Coalition! (2010)

Coalition! (2010)
Charon
22 x 18 Acrylics on canvas board

Cameron is portrayed as a Captain America pastiche and the deputy prime minister, Clegg, as a spiderman type giving the bird with both fingers. They stand on a sea of choppy yellow water!  The ‘bird’ motif is perhaps ‘inelegant’ – but some of his voters think he did give them the ‘bird’ by getting into bed with Dave.

Law Review: Queen’s Speech and matters of rape.

Parliament opened to great pomp and circumstance yesterday in a ceremony that has remained largely unchanged for decades. The Lord Chancellor, Ken Clarke, put the wig back on but did not back down the stairs.  He chose to turn his back on the Monarch and walk down the stairs sensibly after handing The Queen her speech.  The Queen dutifully unsaid all the things she said last time.

Black Rod was ill, so the Commons were summoned by another man in tights after carrying out the solemn duty of banging on the door slammed in his face.  Dennis Skinner, sometimes called The Beast of Bolsover, lightened proceedings…with an amusing quip, attracting immediate ire on twitter from some Tories who temporarily lost their sense of humour.  I thought the quip was excellent and summed up the “Primacy of the Commons’ nicely.

Clegg, largely invisible during Cameron’s address to the House – obscured from view whenever Dave stood up, did his best to see what was going on by bobbing up and to the viewer’s right.    Comical.   Carl Gardner, of The Head of Legal blog, tweeted that ‘these things aren’t done by accident’ – hinting at some clever Tory planning to hide Clegg from view!.

And so to the serious business of government covered well in all the newspapers. Here is the coverage from The Times.  Enjoy it free while you can.  The Times plans to go behind a ‘paywall’ in June.

And so to Law…

We must see justice done (more on rape and anonymity)

Carl Gardner writes:

It’s of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done. So said Lord Chief Justice Lord Hewart in 1923, quashing a guilty verdict arrived at by magistrates in private with their legal adviser, who had a conflict of interest.

The principle has two aspects. First, the justice system must be visibly free of bias. But second, and more fundamentally, the workings of justice must be seen in the first place. Only if justice is carried out publicly can we know it’s being done fairly. That’s why you can go into your local Crown or Magistrates’ Court any day, if you’re not working, and listen to proceedings. It’s why I think criminal trials should be televised. And it’s why I’m against the government’s surprising new proposal to grant anonymity to defendants in rape cases.

I’m still thinking about my stance.  I think I am probably more inclined to allow anonymity until the moment the prosecution begins in the court. This may allow other women to come forward? There has been a tendency for the identity of suspects to be revealed before trial, which is clearly prejudicial if no charge follows and no publicity is given to that fact.  Mud tends to stick unless corrected with equal publicity.

I am, however, very clear on my stance on the Rape trial of the children.  Ken MacDonald QC, a former DPP, often hits the nail on the head with precision in his analyses and he did so eloquently.  His article in the Times is a ‘must read’ on this issue.   I agree and have nothing to add.

This spectacle has no place in a civilised land

We make fools of ourselves and demons of children by trying small boys for rape

Ken MacDonald QC

Son sues mother for ‘failing to protect him from childhood abuse’

Frances Gibb reports on an interesting issue…

Can we stay humane, even in the hell of war?

Moral lines have been blurred on torture: our leaders should remember how the Allies fought with integrity

The investigation into British complicity in torture will, hopefully, clarify exactly what has been done in our name over the past ten years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This thoughtful article is worth reading.  The present government has, rightly, set its face against condoning the use of torture.  Let us hope that we have not condoned the use of torture, directly or indirectly over the past government’s custody of our country.

Times article by Ben Macintyre

Postcard from the Staterooms

Dear Reader,

I’m a bit late with my postcard this week.  This is largely because I had a most entertaining and enjoyable weekend chatting to great people.  On this day of CUTS announced by George Osborne and his ‘Igor’… David Laws, I thought I would do my bit for our country – see above.

I thought I would devote my postcard to you this week to ranting – randomly – about things which have caught my eye today while sitting in the sun on Battersea Square and World’s End, Chelsea.

Oh… how wonderfully tweet…
The first thing to catch my eye and set the tone for my febrile mind was the news that The Hay Literary Festival is to hold a competition for literary types to come up with guff or otherwise on twitter.  … Oh.. so achingly tweet? The competition is to be judged by?… yes.. you’ve guessed it…. the unofficial ‘King of Twitter”… Stephen Fry… as The Guardian described him. Some might say unofficial pain in the arse of Twitter.  I could not possibly comment for fear that he might leave Twitter again and people will want to hang me. I do, however, enjoy Stephen Fry’s stuff and to be fair… he doesn’t call himself the ‘King of twitter’…. does he?

Things could only go downhill  in terms of my more cynical side after reading that… and they did. I took regular breaks during the course of the day to have a coffee, read the papers and watch the world go…. by sitting first at a cafe where I have breakfast and then moving over to an Italian trattoria on the other side of the square, alternating between the two with each coffee break.  We haven’t had a lot of great weather in the last six months – so I am taking advantage.

Mid-morning I saw an attractive young blonde looking desperately serious in her black spandex running kit with obligatory bouncing blond ponytail poking through the back of a large baseball cap. She was running slowly… more like a jog, but looked ‘terribly serious and self important’ as she did it, as if  to convey to the baffled bystander,  who was probably more interested in her arse joggling away under the spandex than her ‘self inflicted pain and endurance of hardship’,  that only a runner can ‘understand’. I have no interest in the ‘pain’ of runners and cyclists.  If I want to go somewhere, I get on a bus, a motorbike or a tube and don’t look serious about it.


Then we have the hordes of people on a hot day wandering about or walking purposefully carrying bottled water. Why do they do this?  Are they at particular risk of dehydration?  Will they succumb to heat exhaustion as they travel between home and office or home and clothes shop?   I would say, from a limited statistical population, that it was probably a ratio of 8:1 in favour of women.  Stylish men who use grooming products may well carry bottled water about with them.  I didn’t see one ‘blokeish’ bloke carrying bottled water.  I suspect this may be because we rationalise that if life threatening thirst should take hold as the temperature soars towards 30C,  we can always nip into a bar and down a cold one. It is a most curious thing to do – carrying one’s own water supply around, I think.  And why would anyone PAY for water?   It comes out of taps and is free (apart from water rates).  I am going to join in and buy one of those old fashioned canvas water bottles they use on safaris and in the desert…. and fill it with water in the morning and Rioja for the early evening.

And then we have the ‘Tour de France’ nazis… the cyclists who think they own the roads. As a  real biker (fast motorbikes, as opposed to ridiculous leg powered things) I take the perfectly reasonable view that cyclists who wear spandex, yellow jerseys, and those stupid boat shaped helmets are the most dangerous road users.  They tend not to stop at red lights.  They ride on the pavements…sometimes, they shout at other road users, they are not identifiable (or accountable), they rarely signal and some of them even shave their legs… and not just, I am advised,  to avoid ingrowing hairs infecting the wounds when they inevitably get knockled over by a lorry or car.

I like people who ride bicycles and who look as if they are enjoying it. I think Spandex Man is related to Spandex Running Girl… suffering pain for their vanity and ego. I like the people who ride ordinary bicycles, wear ordinary clothes, don’t wear helmets.  I did see, in Chelsea – not today, but on Friday – a man in his late fifties or so, wearing a beautifully cut suit, brogues, riding a sit up and beg bicycle with a basket full of wine bottles…and he was smoking a small cigar.  He looked great and was, clearly, enjoying himself. He even managed to signal his intention to turn left.

And… inevitably.. there were a few lobsters about. Why do people who have wonderfully pale complexions, blonde hair,  ginger hair, think it is a good idea to burn themselves?  I heard a couple of women at the cafe warning each other of the perils.  They went into a lot of detail about Factor 50 creams. They must work because they looked normal and comfortable, unlike a few women and blokes who had spent much of the day on Sunday getting pissed in the sun and appeared to be walking burns victims today.  Of course, it wouldn’t be  Britain if the odd person did not complain about the heat…. and they were at it by midday.

I like Battersea Square.  I have met a few of the locals.  I have seen the people who use the Square…. very laid back and relaxed… and several regulars very amusing the other night, when I was sitting out with my ex over dinner at the Italian trattoria, who came over to chat.

I end my ‘rant’ and brief observations with some good news…

ASBO bans woman from lap dancing, pole dancing and prostitution

A woman alleged to have driven neighbours out of their homes by her sexual activities has been banned from inviting any men around for the night except for her brothers and the emergency services.

She is only allowed to invite her brothers over and the ‘emergency services’?  How cool is that?

best, as always

Charon

Excellent email from Peter Crisp, BPP Law School

I am delighted to be able to report….

Dear Mike

Our QAA report has been published on our website since the end of last year (after we got permission from them to publish it):

http://www.bppuc.com/documents/DegreeAwardingPowers_001.pdf

Best

Peter (just off to have lunch, probably not sausages)

Peter Crisp
Dean, Law School
Chief Executive,
BPP College of Professional Studies Limited

Peter Crisp does have a sense of humour – this, I knew – so good effort for letting me know (albeit too late for my report last week, which I have now corrected.) I did have a look to see if the report had been published before writing.  Obviously, I did not look closely enough.  The publication of the report by BPP is a good thing and shows an open attitude which is to be applauded and encouraged.

Podcast for Inside Track: Ted Burke, CEO, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer – The Future of The Legal Profession

Today I am talking to Ted Burke about  the prospects for Freshfields and the legal sector in the short to medium term.  He looks at the increasing globalisation of legal work and the knock-on effect for younger lawyers going to work in the City.  He discusses emerging economies such as India, China and Russia and considers opportunities for lawyers to outsource.  As a US qualified lawyer, Ted gives his view on the value of young City lawyers being US/UK dual-qualified.  He considers how the Legal Services Act will impact Freshfields and the other City and commercial law firms.  He ends with a look at the Eurozone and the role of lawyers in clearing up the ‘mess’ and the future global regulation of banking.

Listen to The College of Law Inside Track podcast

All the podcasts I have done for The College of Law

Law Review: Libel reform, torture investigations, Guardian Law section

In a modern, free, society, freedom of speech is prized as a right but it is a right delicately balanced between the right to freedom of speech and the right of reputation. The civil laws of defamation, embracing libel and slander, are a powerful, blunt and ruthless instrument used by a very small group of specialist lawyers to protect the interests of clients – sometimes reasonably, sometimes to suppress information.

Libel reform is long overdue. In today’s Times, Lord Lester, a Lib-Dem peer and a distinguished lawyer puts a compelling case for libel reform in his draft Bill. The article is a ‘must read’ for anyone interested in this area of law and freedopm of speech.

Lord Lester writes:

On Thursday my Private Member’s Defamation Bill will be published to help the Government to review the law. There will, of course, be professional resistance. Until now, libel law has remained the preserve of a small group of lawyers skilled in its complex rules and procedures. It has been left to judges to fashion the law, in concert with some piecemeal reforms in the 1950s and 1990s that never addressed free speech and could not have anticipated a culture of online publication and debate.

Current English libel law gives robust protection to reputation at the expense of freedom of speech. Its “chilling effect” on what people are prepared to publish has been aggravated by uncertainty about whether defences can be relied upon, and by conditional fee agreements that permit claimants’ lawyers to be unjustly enriched at the expense of writers and publishers. Claimants have been able to pursue claims where publication has caused them no substantial harm, and large corporations have brought actions against NGOs and newspapers without having to prove financial loss.

The government has plans for libel reform.  The removal of a ‘chilling weapon’ from the armoury of lawyers whose clients wish to use the law to suppress freedom of speech is long over due.  Perhaps the use of superinjunctions could be examined at the same time?

July 7 inquests will examine role of MI5

The Times reports: The activities and knowledge of M15 leading up to the July 7 bombings will be investigated as part of the inquests into the deaths of the 52 victims, the coroner ruled. Lady Justice Hallett said that it was “not too remote” to investigate what was known in the years before the atrocities took place.

“Plots of this kind are not developed over night,” the judge said at the High Court in London.

The scope of the inquests would therefore include the “alleged intelligence failings and the immediate aftermath of the bombings” She also ruled that the inquests into the deaths of the four suicide bombers would be held separately and she would sit without a jury.

I’m with William Hague on this one.  It is absolutely right that we examine closely the activities of our security services to ensure that we, as a country, are not complicit in Torture.  David Miliband has maintained consistently that we are not.  An investigatiuon into this and the activities of M15 more widely should establish the actuality one way or the other.

Replace House of Lords with experts to scrutinise legislation

Reform of the House of Lords is also long overdue.  I favour  abolition and replacement by a second elected chamber – where members will not receive outdated titles, be paid for their work and have a role in scrutinising (and improving legislation).  In the 21st Century, and in a modern democracy, I think it is quaint, but completely absurd, that men and women should wish to be called ‘Lord’ this or ‘Baroness’ that – pretty harmless, but if our second Chamber is just a way of rewarding politicians who have done their bit (often badly, given history) or as a reward for rich businessmen it isn’t really of much value to us as a second chamber.

The Times reports on an idea which may attract many: “A better solution would be to abolish the House of Lords and create a new statutory “commission for executive scrutiny” instead. It would not be a chamber of Parliament. Its members would be appointed, on merit, by an independent appointing body; they would be part-time and paid only a per diem allowance for attendance; there would be, say, 200 of them; there would be a gender, ethnic and party balance; a proportion of non-party members; and a spread of expertise to enable the commission to do its work well. Mandating or whipping would be forbidden.”

City firms welcome survival of the Financial Services Authority

The Times notes: “An almost audible sigh of relief swept through the corridors of banking and regulation departments in City law firms when the new Government jettisoned proposals to scrap the Financial Services Authority (FSA), one of the totems of the new Labour years and a personal creation of Gordon Brown.”

THE GUARDIAN DOES LAW… and it is good.

I am delighted to see that The Guardian has started a new Law section.  It is rather good.

Judge-only trials should be an option for serious organised crimes

Louis Blom-Cooper: Trial by jury has become a central feature of the coalition agreement policy on civil liberties ‑ but is it time for reform?

Rive Gauche:The Paralytic Olympics, conduct unbecoming of a barrister and the sun shines…

Taking breakfast after an extremely amusing dinner last night with my ex, I purchased The Times, The Independent and The Sun at the cafe in Battersea Square and settled down to read.  Clarkson in The Sun is usually good value and today his thoughts on the Olympics made me laugh out loud.  Missing a trick by not calling it The Paralytic Olympics, he suggested that as we have no money and our national sport is not football, but binge-drinking, we should convert the 2012 Olympics into a Drunken Olympics.  Instead of criticising young people (and not so young people like me and many I know) in town centres on a Friday and Saturday evening  for excessive drinking, we would be able to applaud them for their diligence in training for their special event.  Clarkson mused on the amusement to be had from officials running for cover during the Drunken javelin event, people falling out of boats in the rowing and archers with arrows stuck in their legs. It would, Clarkson wrote, restore our worldwide reputation for a sense of humour and if the audience entered into the spirit of things by doing some amateur binge-drinking,  we would not notice that the opening ceremony was lit only  by a 40 watt bulb and inspired by a brass band from Yorkshire.

I have to say, that I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in the Olympics. The logo is terrible and the new mascots,  to my eye – because I am not five – are ludicrous and deserve the pillorying they are getting.  I had a go at my own Olympic mascot the other day.

As I have observed on many occasions – I think they should stop all this drug testing nonsense (they’ll never win).  I would pay good money to see a man jump 70ft into the air or run 100 metres in 3.5 seconds.

And so… to a remarkable story about a barrister…

A barrister in a £33million race row who waged a campaign of harassment against her former boyfriend was yesterday ordered to pay £1,000 compensation to his new love interest. Dr Aisha Bijlani, 43, bombarded her ex-boyfriend with abusive emails and was hell-bent on destroying his life after he left her for a German model. But rejecting an appeal against her harassment convictions, Judge Peter Clarke QC ordered Bijlani to pay 28-year-old advertising model Nicola Koenig £1,000 for her troubles. Bijlani asked marketing executive Atul Sehgal, 41, whether his dead mother was a whore and told him he was a ‘pathetic lap dog’, ‘a*******’, ‘loser’ and an ‘impotent gay man’ who was a ‘failure in every way’, the court was told.

She also sent five abusive emails in four days to Ms Koenig, Mr Sehgal’s friend, telling her she was a ‘German Nazi prostitute’, a ‘cheap hooker’, a ‘working class trollop’ and a ‘flat-chested asexual freak’ with sweaty feet who should lick toilet bowls for a living. The judge said: ‘It is not only a remarkable communication to make to a complete stranger but, we’re bound to say, one a person who has been practising at the bar for 14 years must have been suffering from a significant degree of stress to invent.

Daily Mail

I am familiar with this story, having reported on it at the time… but it is Saturday Rive Gaucheso no harm in digging it up again for your edification and delight?

A married judge and his blonde legal clerk lover faced an extraordinary £33million claim by an Asian barrister who says she was the victim of racial discrimination. At an employment tribunal, Aisha Bijlani also accused the married clerk, Lizzie Wiseman, of having a second extra-marital affair with another leading QC. And she claimed she was viewed in her legal chambers as nothing more than an ‘educated wog’.

Big Society: 6.05 pm – Iain Duncan Smith is in The Diary Room (with an exorcist?)

Big Society: 6.05 pm – Iain Duncan-Smith is in The Diary Room

Big Society: Good afternoon Secretary of State.  Found any exorcists in your new department…?  I’m sure there are quite a few demons over there?

Ian Duncan-Smith: hahaha… no, demons, yes… but no exorcists here.

Big Society: So… you have the distinction of being the only leader of a parliamentary party forced out on a vote of no confidence by your own party.  Recovered?

Ian Duncan-Smith: Yes, absolutely… they called me the ‘Quiet Man’… I even told them not to underestimate me… but they did… but now I’m back with my Centre for Social Justice and a good team.

Big Society: yes… it would appear that you are back. William Hague is another former leader.  I was surprised they didn’t have any room for Michael Howard – the leader who never slept – but I suppose they had to shoehorn all those Lib-Dems in.  So… what has it being like trying to persuade some of your more, shall we say, ‘right thinking’ colleagues  of the value of your centre for Social Justice?

Ian Duncan-Smith: A bit like shining a pencil torch into a dark void.

Big Society: hahaha – ah well… they’re a bit busy at the moment trying to fend of Dave’s brilliant new plan to infiltrate the 1922 Committee to stop it being an internal focus for dissent.  Still… some of your colleagues must have been a bit pissed orf not to have got a nice little number or sinecure and now find those jumped up tree huggers bigging it up in the corridors of power.  Well… it has to be said that social justice agenda is right  at the heart of David Cameron’s repositioning of the Tory party under the Compassionate Conservative schtik.

Ian Duncan-Smith: Yes, absolutely… Mrs Thatcher was right in 1987  to talk about the inner cities. She just never got there.

Big Society: So getting fired by the men in suits didn’t bother you that much… you’ve come back.

Ian Duncan-Smith: It was difficult being leader, I make no bones about it. The Labour Party was in the ascendant, we weren’t. We were still tearing chunks off ourselves. But I have no regrets.

Big Society: How long do you think it will be before some of your disenfranchised and disenchanted back benchers and paid up members of the awkward squad will kick off… to use a modern term?

Ian Duncan-Smith: Not long…. but we have a lot of goodwill in the country with this new politics schtik and with quite a lot of people selling their old principles down the river and becoming ‘born again politicians’ we have a majority…. Labour want to re-group so can’t afford to bring us down yet, so even if a few Lib-Dems escape… we should be OK for a while… Even Ed Balls is trying to persuade people he has mellowed and will listen… hahaha…. I can’t see it myself… but who knows…?  we live in interesting times.

Big Society: Normally, Secretary of State, I can listen endlessly… but I’ve just had a call from our producer…. he’s telling me you are just too reasonable and sensible these days… can you come up with real fruit loop stuff next time you come into The Diary Room..? . perhaps encourage Nadine to go for judicial review of the Speaker election… or get some of them to call for an immediate restoration of hunting and tiger shooting, withdrawal from Europe, abolish the Human Rights Act that sort of thing…?  you know… the shit that sells newspapers and makes Daily Politics and Newsnight watchable?

Ian Duncan-Smith: Ok… err…. I’ll see what I can do… bye Big Society….

Big Society: Bye… mind how you go…. Exorciso te romanum and all that!

***

Lawyer’s disclaimer! All, well some it,  entirely fictitious and made up… obviously.

And now a little bit of light relief – fancy a sausage?

With the onset of summer, the work for the day done, I took myself  (and my slightly sinister new temporary  tache) off to a cafe in Battersea Square to sit in the sun, drink black coffee, smoke Marlboros and catch up on a bit of law news in The Guardian and The Times.

After reading about Ken Clarke and how he won’t be an easy lay as Lord Chancellor, I turned to The Times Student Law section which can often a gorge fest for advertorial.  Today was no different.  I was entertained for five minutes by an article where  Peter Crisp,  CEO of BPP Law School,  justified his law school’s outrageous over subscription of students on the BVC last year – because ‘BPP is so popular’.  It appeared to have nothing whatsoever to do with extra wedge or , more formally, income or…indeed…. poor administration. Peter Crisp said there is now a statistician (appointed by the BVC) to ensure that BPP Law School registrars can count.

Yesterday I wrote about the extraordinary story of Katie Best at the BPP Business School saying she regarded the description ‘sausage factory’ as a compliment….

Actually, I take the “BPP is a sausage factory” criticism as a compliment – and not just because it reveals the nervousness of the establishment about the shake-ups in the sector we may prompt. Last time I looked, sausage factories were highly efficient, rational places that make money by providing consumers with a product they desire. Only a very small proportion of sausage factories make their money from churning out products of dubious quality; the rest focus their attention on making affordable, high-quality products that ensure repeat purchase.”

I repeat my hope that this ‘thinking’ does not escape, jump over the wall and infect the quality of work done by the professional team at BPP Law School!

Anyway, you have to hand it to Peter Crisp - he certainly keeps the message that BPP were not at fault in any way for the over recruitment on message.

Good News:  BPP has published the QAA report

I seem to recall that Peter Crisp has two sausage dogs!

Anyway… moving on to other matters legal…

Law firms take up the supermarket challenge

Tesco, the Co-op and others are planning to launch their new legal services under opportunities afforded by The Legal Services Act.  Big brand names are going into the market – including The Halifax.

I am pleased to report that The Times is reporting that high street solicitors are rising to this challenge with their own “BRAND”…. QualitySolicitors – providing no frills legal advice.

The Times reports: “Craig Holt, barrister and chief executive of the new QualitySolicitors network, said: “What the legal market is desperately missing is a recognisable, customer service-focused national brand name — a ‘household name’ — that people can rely on without having to spend hours researching and choosing between dozens of local law firms.”

I’m not sure the name is that great… a bit last century – but hey… what’s in a name?”

I rather suspect that branding this operation will cost a fair bit of money.  tesco, the Co-op and halifax sp[end millions and are already well known.  What's more - they have the space in their supermarkets and bank outlets.  I rather liked this comment...

Eddie Ryan, managing director of Co-operative Legal Services, said: “Yes, we are a threat, [but] are we going to try and wipe out small firms? No.”

Yeah… right!

Law Review: So why do 75% of Sun readers want to get rid of the Human Rights Act? What is there not to like?

The Sun had a poll this morning suggesting that only one in four people wants to keep the Human Rights Act.
I carried out a very unscientific poll of my own this morning while I had coffee. I asked a few people having coffee at the cafe what they thought of the Human Rights Act. Two said they didn’t know anything about it. This is quite understandable – how many people really do, apart from lawyers, politicos and activists? Two said it had to be abolished, but admitted they had never read the Act or the European Convention and one person said it was absolutely vital we keep it – but he, too, admitted that he had never read the act or the convention. Intrigued by this, I rang up two lawyer friends. They are not Human Rights lawyers (Obviously, human rights lawyers tend to know what is in the Act and the Convention). They were only able to tell me about three of the freedoms enshrined in the convention. I was rather surprised – but not totally surprised. The truth of the matter is that most people don’t know the structure of the Convention or the Act, let alone the main provisions or the detail. This is totally understandable.  They have a broad ‘feel’ based on news and reading in the newspapers.


But have a look at the list of freedoms below and see what you think. Do they look unreasonable ideals to you? I would be surprised if you do think they are unreasonable ideals.

The Human Rights Act has, almost certainly, been misused and has thrown up many anomalies – but is this a reason to remove it from our law? `We can repeal the Human Rights Act, but we can’t take ourselves out of the European Convention on Human Rights without coming out of Europe. It may well be useful to have a British Bill of Rights, building on the provisions on the HRA – a Commission may well recommend this in time.

The Human Rights Act 1998

An Act to give further effect to rights and freedoms guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights; to make provision with respect to holders of certain judicial offices who become judges of the European Court of Human Rights; and for connected purposes.

Few, I suspect, if any, would want to live in a country where basic freedoms are not protected with the full force of law.

A British Bill of Rights would have to be consistent with the European Convention – so how much different would it be from the Human Rights Act? I suspect that a Commission may well improve and increase the freedoms. I hope so – the more free we are, the happier and more respected a country we will be. I do agree that we need to get rid of useless, repressive,  laws and misuse of laws designed specifically to combat terror – but which appear to be being used against the people of our country rather than terrorists – ID, photography, protest, wheelie bins et al. I do agree that we need to remove a culture of compensation for everything and discard some of the more ludicrous aspects of political correctness.

Human Rights is important to everyone – the law guarantees our freedom from oppression by the state.

We have ‘relatively’  benign governments in this country – whatever your political leanings – compared to others less fortunate in other parts of the world.   Nick Clegg and his LIb-Dems are saying that we don’t just need to return power to people, we need to give people back their rights.  If he can pull this off, he is to be applauded.  I am only sorry that Labour has not done this – rather surprising given their original political roots.  Hopefully, Labour will have learned from the past 13 years in power that power has to be used wisely, be measured and considered, and not be responsive to knee jerking tabloid ranting….. and certainly  not be misused against the people governed.

The present Coalition government wants to make those freedoms more real, more practical and more usable – but in a balanced way so that our greatest protection – freedom from harm by others  – is properly addressed with open and effective laws designed for that purpose.  I don’t see a Coalition government destroying the concept of freedoms.    Clegg and his Lib-Dem colleagues are right to insist that this is their red line in the sand. Sabre rattling at election time is all very well, but we live a world of ‘real politik’.

Why do so many people ‘hate’ the Human Rights Act (and, of course the Convention)? I haven’t a clue – other than hatred of it whipped up tabloids concentrating on the more bizarre aspects and anomalies – which, is a minority of applications of the laws in daily practice.   Abuse of the Act and the more insane political correctness aspects can be addressed – but do we really want to go back to a pre European Convention law structure?

What, below, is there not to like? Not much, I suspect, will your answer if you are not familiar with the provisions of the Convention and the Human Rights Act. So why do  75% of Sun Readers polled want to get rid of the Act?  Are we living in a country populated by nutters and fascists? No… I suspect the truth of the matter – and I mean no criticism – is that most people don’t actually know how valuable the Convention and the Act is to our country and to maintaining peace in Europe, simply because they haven’t studied it in detail.  They do not see the wood for the trees (and, again I mean no criticism) because Tabloids don’t want to look at success or detail, they just want to bang on about unelected judges releasing terrorists into the community so they can kill everyone, including themselves… and thereby, sell a few more newspapers.  The Daily Mail, the Daily Express – and even The Sun and The Mirror are not exactly immune to such seductive money make ‘SCOOPS’.

Let a Commission get rid of some of the nonsense – but don’t be too quick to talk of ‘powers’ being handed to ‘unelected judges’. Our judges apply the law – that is what judges do.  The judges apply human rights law to protect us – and that has, on occasion, been difficult for Home Secretaries and other politicians who usually use the rubric that they are ‘disappointed’ when a decision of the courts doesn’t go their way.

If you aren’t familiar with the structure – here are the headings.  Wikipedia has more detail.  (I have left wikipedia references in below)

Article 1 – respecting rights

Article 1 simply binds the signatory parties to secure the rights under the other Articles of the Convention “within their jurisdiction”.

Article 2 – life

Article 2 protects the right of every person to their life.

Article 3 – torture

Article 3 prohibits torture, and “inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. There are no exceptions or limitations on this right. This provision usually applies, apart from torture, to cases of severe police violence and poor conditions in detention.

Article 4 – servitude

Article 4 prohibits slavery, servitude and forced labour

Article 5 – liberty and security

Article 5 provides that everyone has the right to liberty and security of person.

Article 6 – fair trial

Article 6 provides a detailed right to a fair trial

Article 7 – retrospectivity

Prohibits the retrospective criminalisation of acts and omissions.[edit]

Article 8 – privacy

Article 8 provides a right to respect for one’s “private and family life, his home and his correspondence

Article 9 – conscience and religion

Article 9 provides a right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Article 10 – expression

Article 10 provides the right to freedom of expression, subject to certain restrictions that are “in accordance with law” and “necessary in a democratic society”. This right includes the freedom to hold opinions, and to receive and impart information and ideas.

Article 11 – association

Article 11 protects the right to freedom of assembly and association, including the right to form trade unions, subject to certain restrictions that are “in accordance with law” and “necessary in a democratic society”.

Article 12 – marriage

Article 12 provides a right for women and men of marriageable age to marry and establish a family.

Article 13 – effective remedy

Article 13 provides for the right for an effective remedy before national authorities for violations of rights under the Convention. The inability to obtain a remedy before a national court for an infringement of a Convention right is thus a free-standing and separately actionable infringement of the Convention.

Article 14 – discrimination

Article 14 contains a prohibition of discrimination.

Article 15 – derogations

Article 15 allows contracting states to derogate from certain rights guaranteed by the Convention in time of “war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation”.

Article 16 – aliens

Article 16 allows states to restrict the political activity of foreigners. The Court has ruled that European Union member states cannot consider the nationals of other member states to be aliens.[16]

Article 17 – abuse of rights

Article 17 provides that no one may use the rights guaranteed by the Convention to seek the abolition or limitation of rights guaranteed in the Convention.

Article 18 – permitted restrictions

Article 18 provides that any limitations on the rights provided for in the Convention may be used only for the purpose for which they are provided.

Protocol 1, Article 1 – property

Article 1 provides for the rights to the peaceful enjoyment of one’s possessions.

Protocol 1, Article 2 – education

Article 2 provides for the right not to be denied an education and the right for parents to have their children educated in accordance with their religious and other views.

Protocol 1, Article 3 – elections

Article 3 provides for the right to regular, free and fair elections.

Protocol 4 – civil imprisonment, free movement, expulsion

Article 1 prohibits the imprisonment of people for breach of a contract.

Protocol 6 – restriction of death penalty

Requires parties to restrict the application of the death penalty to times of war or “imminent threat of war”.

Protocol 7 – crime and family

  • Article 1 provides for a right to fair procedures for lawfully resident foreigners facing expulsion.
  • Article 2 provides for the right to appeal in criminal matters.
  • Article 3 provides for compensation for the victims of miscarriages of justice.
  • Article 4 prohibits the re-trial of anyone who has already been finally acquitted or convicted of a particular offence (Double jeopardy).
  • Article 5 provides for equality between spouses.

Protocol 12 – discrimination

Applies the current expansive and indefinite grounds of prohibited discrimination in Article 14 to the exercise of any legal right and to the actions (including the obligations) of public authorities.

Protocol 13 – complete abolition of death penalty

Provides for the total abolition of the death penalty.[20]

Actually, I take the “BPP is a sausage factory” criticism as a compliment – Katie Best, BPP Business School

Producing the highest-quality MBAs is the unabashed aim of ‘sausage factory’ BPP. Katie Best is proud to see it deliver

My employer, BPP Business School, has been characterised by a number of critics as a “sausage factory”. It is believed that BPP represents the ultimate expression of the industrialisation of higher education. We are treated by critics as a smear on the face of UK higher education, encouraging the rationalisation of degree-level education and framing the student as merely a consumer. We are thought to make the student journey a little bit poorer because of it.

Actually, I take the “BPP is a sausage factory” criticism as a compliment – and not just because it reveals the nervousness of the establishment about the shake-ups in the sector we may prompt. Last time I looked, sausage factories were highly efficient, rational places that make money by providing consumers with a product they desire. Only a very small proportion of sausage factories make their money from churning out products of dubious quality; the rest focus their attention on making affordable, high-quality products that ensure repeat purchase.”

Times Higher Education supplement.

Do, please, read this wonderful parody.  I won’t be doing a parody – no need to… the article by Katie Best and the Poppleton University pastiche does it for me.
Our Sausage is better than yours

I spent 30 years in legal education.  I even managed to play a part in founding BPP Law School and was the first CEO  – which probably irritates the hell out of them now, given my present re-incarnation. BPP Law School and BPP Business Business School are run by the same team and owned, now, by US education firm Apollo who run the very large University of Phoenix in the States.

I am all for law schools using well produced course materials, multi-media;  even bringing some structure into teaching and deploying modern technology.  The last thing we need is students being churned through a professional course like sausages because that gives rise to minced brains and in these days minced brains are not going to do the work needed to the standards demanded.  Education is more than process.  Education is about learning, thinking, reflecting and taking responsibility oneself – owning the material being covered,  and using it to lay the foundation of a successful (and happy) career thereafter.


Let us just hope that Ms Best’s sausage machine thinking hasn’t escaped and jumped over the wall into BPP Law School – or has it…?  Anyone studying at BPP Law School who would like to tell me what it is like these days only needs to email me!  (Email)  Confidentiality guaranteed…. good or bad.

Why am I thinking of Pink Floyd.. We don’t need no EDUKASHEN… Teacher.. leave the kids alone ?