Breaking Britain News: Deputy Prime Minister of the Four Horsemen of Apocalypse Coalition worried about his Lib-Dem voters

Lib Dems fear guilt by association with Osborne

Independent:

Liberal Democrat ministers have warned that the Conservatives will inflict lasting political damage to Nick Clegg’s party if voters think the coalition Government is relishing the task of cutting public spending.

Although the Cabinet has agreed to try to blame the cuts on its inheritance from Labour, senior Lib Dems are worried that some Tory politicians – including George Osborne, the Chancellor – give the impression they are on a Thatcherite mission to shrink the state.

One Liberal Democrat minister warned yesterday: “If we look as though we are enjoying it, we’re dead. We have to take people with us.”

Hahaha!  Lib-Dem support may well be below 10% soon….

Rive Gauche: Parliamentary Privilege and a trampolining masturbator

Well… after the decision today of a ‘strong’ Court of Appeal (LCJ, MR & P of QBD) it would appear that the MPs and a peer being prosecuted for expenses have run out of options to claim that Parliament should deal with them.

The Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, Lord Neuberger, Master of The Rolls and Sir Anthony May, President of The Queen’s Bench Division, rejected argument by David Chaytor, Elliot Morley, Jim Devine and Lord Hanningfield, that they are protected from prosecution by parliamentary privilege. It is open to the four, who deny theft by false accounting, to seek to take their cases to the Supreme Court. The essence of the appeal was a submission that any investigation into their expenses claims and the imposition of any sanctions “should lie within the hands of Parliament”.

The judgment is essential reading for those interested in Constitutional Law and ‘Parliamentary Privilege’.  I had rather a good lunch reading the judgment.  I thought a light Italian red would be a fine accompaniment.  It was. A fascinating judgment with many cases examined – a pleasure to read from a lawyer’s point of view – and, no doubt, for those who wish to see MPs prosecuted.

Guido Fawkes reported:

+ + + Lord Chief Justices Rules + + +
+ + + MPs To Be Treated As Common Criminals + + +

That would be a fair assessment in the light of the judgment.  I quote the Conclusion…

    Conclusion

  1. If we may respectfully say so, we are not in the least surprised that no attempt has been made by the Speaker or Lord Speaker to seek to intervene in these proceedings, nor even to draw the attention of the court to any potential difficulty in the context of parliamentary privilege, nor even to ask the court to reflect on the possibility that parliamentary privilege may be engaged.
  2. It can confidently be stated that parliamentary privilege or immunity from criminal prosecution has never ever attached to ordinary criminal activities by members of Parliament. With the necessary exception in relation to the exercise of freedom of speech, it is difficult to envisage circumstances in which the performance of the core responsibilities of a member of Parliament might require or permit him or her to commit crime, or in which the commission of crime could form part of the proceedings in the House for the purposes of article 9 of the Bill of Rights. Equally we cannot discern from principle or authority that privilege or immunity in relation to such conduct may arise merely because the allegations are based on activities which have taken place “within the walls” of Parliament.
  3. The stark reality is that the defendants are alleged to have taken advantage of the allowances scheme designed to enable them to perform their important public duties as members of Parliament to commit crimes of dishonesty to which parliamentary immunity or privilege does not, has never, and, we believe, never would attach. If the allegations are proved, and we emphasise, if they are proved, then those against whom they are proved will have committed ordinary crimes. Even stretching language to its limits we are unable to envisage how dishonest claims by members of Parliament for their expenses or allowances begin to involve the legislative or core functions of the relevant House, or the proper performance of their important public duties. In our judgment no question of privilege arises, and the ordinary process of the criminal justice system should take its normal course, unaffected by any groundless anxiety that they might constitute an infringement of the principles of parliamentary privilege.
  4. The decision of Saunders J was correct. The appeals will be dismissed.

It being Friday and “Rive Gauche” Day for me…. I just have to share this remarkable story with you…

Naked trampoline man avoids jail sentence

A man caught jumping up and down naked on a trampoline has avoided a jail sentence.

James Burden, 55, was spotted by a neighbour in the garden of his Falkirk home at 0500 GMT on 25 March. Falkirk Sheriff Court heard Burden had his “manhood” in one hand and a cigarette in the other when the neighbour saw him.

Mike McMahon, prosecuting, said: “He told police he had gone out to the trampoline and had masturbated himself there.”

Asked why he did it, Burden told officers: “Just for the thrill of it.”

Well… there you are… life in Britain goes on and now the courts and parliament are in recess and the long vacation.  What will I be able to write about?  Have no fear… I shall, I am sure, as I holiday in Battersea Square, find something each day to explore.

Law Review: The right to arrest war crime suspects

The right to arrest war crime suspects

Guardian Letter 29th July 2010

[I have reproduced the Guardian Letter in full]

We are horrified at the proposals by justice secretary Kenneth Clarke to give the director of public prosecutions a veto over arrest warrants in private prosecutions for international crimes (Report, 22 July). The justice secretary’s statement appeared to question the ability of magistrates themselves to weed out flimsy cases. To imply that any previous arrest warrants were issued without judges being satisfied of the existence of serious evidence against the person concerned is an insult to the British legal system and the senior magistrates that preside over such cases. Involving the DPP risks adding a political dimension to a legal decision and introduces a source of delay when urgent action may be required to stop a suspect escaping justice.

Since we call on other countries to uphold human rights and international law, our legal system also has to abide by those principles, in particular bringing to justice those responsible for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and hostage-taking. It’s no secret that this move is the result of pressure from the Israeli government to try to ensure that ex-ministers and military staff will not have to face warrants for their arrest on entering this country.

Rather than bending to pressure to change the existing law, our government should be issuing a statement of intent that all those responsible for serious international crimes, whatever their nationality, will be brought to justice if and when the evidence supports criminal prosecution. The proposed changes will apply to everyone, making it more difficult to prosecute all suspects, whether from Israel or any other country involved in systematic human rights violations. Britain must not be seen as a safe haven for anyone suspected of committing such grave international crimes.

Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC

Daniel Machover

Louise Christian

Alexei Sayle

Miriam Margoyles

Keith Sonnet Deputy general secretary, Unison

Hugh Lanning Deputy general secretary, PCS

Sally Hunt General secretary, UCU

Kevin Courtney Deputy general Secretary, NUT

Andy Dark Assistant general secretar, FBU

Tony Woodley Joint general secretary, Unite

Simon Dubbins International director, Unite

Betty Hunter General secretary, Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Rev Canon Garth Hewitt

Benjamin Zephaniah

Lindsey German Chair, Stop the War

Daud Abdullah Director, Middle East Monitor

Chris Doyle Director Council for Arab-British Understanding

Mohammed Sawalha British Muslim Initiative

Farooq Murad Secretary general, Muslim Council of Britain

Diana Neslen Jews for Justice for Palestinians

Diane Abbott MP

Jeremy Corbyn MP

Emily Thornberry MP

Bruce Kent

Karma Nabulsi

Ahdaf Soueif

Caryl Churchill

John Austin

Eleanor Kilroy

Karen Mitchell

Victoria Brittain

Sarah McSherry

Katherine Craig

Ian McDonald

Penny Maddrell

Jackie Alsaid

Andrew Sanger

David Halpin

Bill Benfield

Yvonne Ridley

Andy Newman

Mohammed Asif

Breaking Britain: Cameron continues to cut a swathe through international diplomacy

Cameron and co tread carefully over Kashmir

Guardian: It is clear that every minister accompanying David Cameron on his trip to India has been told not to talk about Kashmir

LATEST…. Hague clarifies….! Not that I know anything about it… but I’d say that British foreign policy is  quite extraordinary at the moment….  Turkey, Gaza, Israel….. what next…. a fact finding mission to North Korea to see #BigSociety ?

UK PM cautions Pakistan over ‘terror exports’

BBC: Leaked documents accuse Pakistani intelligence of helping Afghan militants

British Prime Minister David Cameron has warned Pakistan not to have any relationship with groups that “promote the export of terror”.

Found pic on net… but cd not find owner… great pic!  Sorry if it is yours!

Breaking Britain news: The debate about BPP University College goes on…and on……

The ‘debate’ on Times Higher Education Supplement about BPP getting ‘University’ status goes on…and on….

I don’t suppose that I added much when I posted this early this morning…
Charon QC 28 July, 2010
@Gary

Yes… you are probably right. Governments of all complexions tend to be persuaded by the *Five millions flies eat shit – ipso facto, shit is good to eat* line of argument.

But there we are – that’s democracy for you – and just because a reasonable body of opinion tends to think that any teaching institution can be a ‘university’ however good (and BPP is good) doesn’t necessarily mean it is right .

Does it matter? No – not if you want every college in the country to become a ‘university’ on the premise that it is not part of the defining ethos of such an institution to be involved in research.

We shall see, in time, whether the term ‘university’ continues to have any real meaning. In the meantime – I shall nip orf to think of other things.

Always good to see Black Psyops in action… the above from Legal Week Student!

Law Review: BPP University College debated on THES Online!

My attention was drawn to a debate on The Times Higher Education Supplement website this morning about the new University status conferred on BPP

Comments on this on the THES website before I engaged are here, with the original story

I decided to put a number of points.  This is the exchange so far…..

Charon QC 27 July, 2010

Carl Lygo

Hi Carl

Let me deal with a number of points:

1. Freedom of Information Act

You state…”What you fail to mention above is that those bodies that inspect BPP are subject to the Freedom of Information Act and so the reports in relation to BPP are available. The QAA reports about BPP College are on the front page of our website, so you could not get much more public than that. Students are entitled to information through the Data Protection Act etc. We have an independent chair of our council, with independent members (who have a majority vote), with external examiners from Uk HEI’s, independent representatives on programme approval panels etc. So BPP has in place a lot of external scrutiny.”

It took me a great deal of time and prodding of your colleague Peter Crisp, CEO, of BPP Law School to get access to the QAA report. I had a range of excuses, including ‘The QAA report is a confidential document’ for his not being able to provide this – despite the QAA saying to me in writing that BPP was at liberty to publish if they chose to do so.

I wrote about this several times:
Below is a link to one of these pieces, from which it is possible to track back

http://charonqc.wordpress.com/2009/11/23/legal-education-and-the-freedom-of-information-act/

For you to now trumpet that you publish the QAA report on the front of your website – when it took many months for you to do so is at best ironic at worst disingenuous.

The College of Law – for the record, published the QAA report into degree awarding powers immediately I asked for access to same.

They, too, are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

BPP is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. I believe that both BPP and the College of Law should be subject to FOI

2. The Bar Vocational Course

It is well reported in the legal press that BPP was investigated by the Bar Standards Board for over subscribing on the Bar Vocational Course.

For the benefit of readers who do not follow legal education in detail – here is a short post I wrote covering this:

http://charonqc.wordpress.com/2010/02/25/the-bar-standards-board-report-on-bpp-law-school-oversubscription-on-the-bvc/

I understand that BPP law School is subject to what may be called ‘special measures’ or supervision for the next two years

This is Condition 1 from the Bar Standards Board report – please correct me if I have quoted inaccurately:

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

I am delighted that BPP has got degree powers and university status – but it is right that your new university college should be subject to scrutiny.

Hopefully the Freedom of Information Act will apply – although peter crisp, CEO of the Law School in two podcasts he did with me – in the public domain – indicated that he would be quite happy for BPP Law School to provide the same information required of public sector institutions.

  • David 27 July, 2010 overfilling courses – an omen….While BPP has undoubtedly done a lot of good in professional training, the query from Peter above (Do BPP have to control student numbers as other institutions have to else find themselves under penalty) is interesting.There are controls of student numbers for all organisations, but BPP has already been pulled up for overfilling courses. The Bar Standards Board limits students on the bar training course for example, and BPP faced an enquiry and is only accredited to run the course in future on condition that they comply with the BSB conditions and recommendations.It remains to be seen if this new status will make them more or less responsible.
  • Charon QC 27 July, 2010 For the record… while I write ‘pseudonymously’ as Charon QC on my Charon QC blog – I am not anonymous.My name is Mike Semple Piggot. I have been in legal education for 30+ years – and, ironically, founded BPP Law School with Charlie Prior, then CEO of BPP Holdings plc, in the good old days of 1990.
  • I am not connected in any way with BPP or any other organisation – and I am delighted that BPP has got this status – but, equally, I think it only right that the College should be scrutinised, scrutiny which students and employers who pay the fees are entitled to expect?
  • Carl Lygo 27 July, 2010 If you look at the front page of our website under the text “Approval by the Privy Council” you will get the report I said was on the front page of our website. http://www.bppuc.com/BPP was founded by 3 Accountants, Brierly, Price and Prior hence the origination of the name.You can’t have it both ways – we have the BSB report in to BPP’s over recruitment on the BVC made public and yet you say we are not open to scrutiny.As I said before reports from QAA, BSB, SRA etc are all available to be inspected either from our website (in relation to the ACDAP/QAA report) or from the regulators website.

    I suspect we will be blamed for the dull summer weather next!

    Carl Lygo, Principal of BPP University College

  • Charon QC 27 July, 2010 Carl – I can’t find anything on your website about BPP being responsible for the recent spell of dull weather.I am quite happy to go back over the many months of correspondence I had with Peter Crisp to determine exactly how long it took BPP Law School to publish the QAA report.Final question: Do you feel that BPP University College should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act so that you are – to use a phrase BPP used when applying for degree awarding powers – on a fair and level playing field with the traditional public sector universities?

    A supplementary: Will you be asking David Willetts MP to put this in hand?

  • Charon QC 27 July, 2010 Carl: One last thought? : RESEARCHWould you agree with the proposition that a ‘University’ is traditionally regarded as engaging in both teaching and significant public research for the common good?

    If so – what plans has BPP University College got to engage in significant research in Law, health care, teaching et al (anfd any other degrees you decide to teach)?

    If you do not plan to engage in serious research to current public university standards would it be fair or unfair to say that the title ‘University’ is rather meaningless and is just a bit of puffery demeaning to the established sector?

  • Law Review: So… who is running the Ministry of Justice? Cameron The Flog ’em Brigade appeaser?

    Prisons minister says criminals could cut jail sentences by saying ‘sorry’

    • Crispin Blunt wants victims to confront offenders
    • Restorative justice would lead to ‘rehabilitation revolution’

    Guardian

    It seems, however, that Cameron has slapped this rather good idea down…..

    See John Hirst, writing on Old Holborn’s Blog – a thoughtful piece and well worth reading.

    Law Review: Piggies – Fast Track deportations – BPP gets University status.

    

    The bizarre case of Earl Spencer, his divorce lawyer…and seven little piggies

    The Daily Mail reports: “One of the country’s leading lawyers told the Earl that he had named his sow’s piglets after the character traits of a High Court judge – including ‘self-regarding’, ‘pompous’ and ‘pillock’….. The insults were revealed by Princess Diana’s brother as he prepared to sue the lawyer over the handling of his divorce. After the Earl handed £5.65million to his ex-wife last year, Sir Nicholas Mostyn emailed him about Lord Justice Munby, who heard the case.The keen farmer, now a High Court judge himself, said his sow had given birth, adding: ‘The piglets will be named: James, Munby, self-regarding, pompous, publicity, seeking, and pillock…’ The insults were included in a writ Earl Spencer issued last month in the High Court.”

    Bizarre indeed.  The Mail notes that Mostyn and Munby are, however, good friends…so there should be little difficulty between the learned friends.

    Fast-track deportations from UK ‘unlawful’

    BBC: The fast-track deportation of foreign nationals refused permission to remain in the UK has been declared unlawful by the High Court. A judge ruled that the Home Office policy meant people were being given “little or no notice” of removal and were deprived of access to justice…… Home Office lawyers argued that the deportation policy was “sufficiently flexible” to avoid any human rights breaches, and that detainees were given as much notice as possible before removal

    Well, on this occasion the High Court disagrees.  That’s the trouble with law… it can get in the way of new policies. Back to the drawing board again for the Home Office.  Given the number of Home Office ‘disappointments’ recorded in the press one wonders why the people working there don’t have a look at the law before acting or, at the very least, consult their lawyers.  Perhaps they do?  I’m not sure which is worse…not consulting the law in advance or acting after taking advice from the lawyers!

    The graphic above comes from a post I did on a quite remarkable statement by a lecturer at BPP recenttly….

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

    First private university in decades to be created

    BBP, wholly owned by US company Apollo, has been granted university status. Report

    It will be interesting to see what happens – the plan is to go into health and teaching degrees. Fees at BPP for their degrees, while not on the BPTC scale of nigh on 15k p.a. are likely to be higher than traditional universities – at least until traditional universities are allowed to put their fees up.  They are set, for the moment, at the same level as the maximum fees permitted to be  charged by traditional universities..  One of the problems that BPP will face, of course, is ‘currency and value’.  There is a pecking order of universities in the United Kingdom based on quality. There is not the same perception of law schools providing professional training at LPC and BPTC level  to anything like the same extent.  BPP University College will, I suspect, have to start at the very bottom of the university degree reputation pile – as they have no track record on degree teaching of any substance yet.

    The only issues of any worth considering are these: (a) Can BPP hack it in a competitive and well proven university degree sector? (b) Will a BPP degree be worth anything to employers? (c) Will BPP degree holders be able to compete with the very best students from the top universities? and (d) Will BPP be able to expand their business without damaging the reputation they enjoy for law and accountancy training?

    A fifth question could be: Does BPP University College plan to do any ‘research’ or is this likely to be a costly inconvenience to the business of running a business and  teaching?  These are the questions students and their competitors will and should be asking.

    Only time will tell.  It shouldn’t take long to get an objective market assessment.  I shall return to this shortly in more detail.

    As for Mr David Willetts’ statement  (The government minister responsible for the decision) …“I am delighted that, less than four months after coming into office, we are creating the first new private university college in more than 30 years.”

    This is serial bollocks, of course.  The Coalition government did not build BPP or Apollo.  They did.  All the Coalition government has done is rush into a decision.  We shall see if they get credit for doing so or criticism…in time.

    The BBC reports:”But Sally Hunt, leader of the UCU lecturers’ union, attacked the creation of the new university college as a threat to standards in higher education.

    “Today’s news could mark the beginning of a slippery slope for academic provision in this country,” she said.

    “Encouraging the growth of private providers and making it easier for them to call themselves universities would be a disaster for the UK’s academic reputation. It would also represent a huge threat to academic freedom and standards.”

    “Private providers are not accountable to the public and do not deserve to be put in the same league as our universities,” said the leader of the lecturers’ union.

    BPP University College of Professional Studies Ltd (The full name of the Institution)  – which I assume has to be the vehicle for this given the grant of degree awarding powers was to this wing of BPP – is NOT subject to The Freedom of Information Act and is therefore NOT accountable nor transparent.  It took me some time to get the QAA report from Peter Crisp, the Dean of BPP Law School.  This must change if there is to be an honest and fair ‘level playing field’ between public and private sector.  It is not known at this stage whether Mr Willetts has considered this aspect – or even if he had it in his mind when making the decision. The new University is not a British owned university.  It is owned by Apollo, an American firm.  This may or may not be a disadvantage…and does it matter?  We shall see.

    Tweet of The Week!

    It may be the wine, it may be the Coalition government has finally got to me… but  Old Holborn’s tweet  made me laugh out loud….

    Gordon Brown resurfaces with call for African growth

    Guardian: At African Union meeting in Kampala, former PM says more ‘smart’ aid and investment in IT can set continent on track

    “Truth will rise above falsehood as oil above water”…. as Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra said!

    Dudley poised to replace Tony Hayward as BP chief

    Telegraph: Bob Dudley is set to be named as the new chief executive of BP within 24 hours as the company launches the fight to repair its reputation and finances.

    I rather liked this quote from George W Bush….

    “It is clear our nation is reliant upon big foreign oil. More and more of our imports come from overseas.”

    Perhaps *underseas* would be more topical?  Christ knows what will happen if the Americans ever discover that Afghanistan is the richest source of Lithium anywhere in the world?

    Law Review: The CPS decision in the matter of the death of Mr Ian Tomlinson

    There has been a great deal of comment on Twitter, blogs, the mainstream press about the decision of the DPP not to prosecute in the case of Mr Ian Tomlinson.

    I extract below questions put by a very experienced lawyer – Simon Myerson QC – and my response.  You will appreciate that my response is no more than an attempt to consider issues.  I have no expertise in this field.  Simon Myerson QC is a very experienced practitioner and I am grateful that practising lawyers are prepared to comment on other blogs [Simon Myerson writes a very useful blog ‘Pupillage and How to Get It’ for prospective barristers]

    This is Simon Myerson QC’s comment on the original blog post

    Some questions, if I may:

    On what basis did the IPCC reveal its ‘recommendation’ to prosecute? The IPCC has no statutory obligation to recommend criminal prosecution and is not bound by the Code of Conduct for Crown Prosecutors. Did it have any business trying to dictate a course of action to the CPS?

    To what extent is the officer’s past relevant? His previous alleged misconduct might be admissible before a jury but it has to be relevant. Does it tend to show a disposition to act in a particular way? It seems impossible to say without knowing the details. I make the same observation about the casual assumption that the pathologist’s view must be flawed because he is facing criticism for unrelated matters.

    If these points are irrelevant, then many of the calls for prosecution seem to do nothing more than rely on a wish to see things a particular way – or the view that ‘he did it before so he must have done it this time’ – rather than the objective examination of the evidence which is generally agreed to be necessary before making serious accusations against someone. There is a whiff of hypocrisy here as the ability to take previous conduct into account is often said to be a bad thing. If anyone is adopting the view that it is ok to use it when the accused is a police officer, they ought to stop.

    As to manslaughter the rule is that the force must be unlawful (an issue of fact) and must cause some injury (another issue of fact) which causes the death (another issue of fact). In order to secure a conviction the Prosecution would have to make the jury sure of each issue. That the CPS decided that this was likely to be an assault is a view on 1/3 of the case. On what basis, please, is it being asserted that the decision that there is a less than 50% chance of success is a political one?

    The view that there should be a prosecution anyway, on the other hand does strike me as political. In most cases, a fair conclusion that a conviction was unlikely would be sufficient to ensure that neither the accused nor the family of the victim were put through the emotional wringer of a trial. My experience of experiments in justice where there is a trial without the likelihood of conviction test applying, is that this decision is the right one.

    Finally, it is depressing that in suitable political circumstances, a great many people who would otherwise argue that accidents can happen and that a rush to retributive justice is unseemly, can reverse themselves in an instant. I hold no brief for the police officer: it seems to me that the real issue is not whether he committed a minor assault (at worst) but whether he should have been permitted to regain his post after leaving the force once. That is a question for more senior personnel and it is being obscured in the quest to ensure that a man who pushed someone over when he did not have to, although in the middle of a riot, should face his trial for an utterly unintended and unanticipated consequence.

    This is my response to Simon Myerson.  I hope that Simon Myerson’s questions prompt further analysis.

    Simon Myerson QC

    Simon – thanks for your useful questions above.

    I am not, as you know, a criminal lawyer. My academic side has been in the field of Contract, Tort, and more recently an interest in civil liberties and human rights. Criminal Law, however, has long been of interest – but my expertise extends only to the extent of the ‘man on the Clapham omnibus reading Smith & Hogan’.

    1. I cannot see any bar to the IPCC making representations to the CPS but it is clear, from your first paragraph, that this is not the usual course of events

    2. Your point in relation to previous conduct is an important one and you are right.

    3. “As to manslaughter the rule is that the force must be unlawful (an issue of fact) and must cause some injury (another issue of fact) which causes the death (another issue of fact)….”

    It is clear from the statement of Keir Starmer QC, the DPP, that the CPS had little difficulty in forming a view on the first element. Indeed Starmer makes that point quite clear.

    “The first issue that the CPS considered was whether the actions of PC ‘A’ were lawful. Having analysed the available evidence very carefully, the CPS concluded that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of proving that the actions of PC ‘A’ in striking Mr Tomlinson with his baton and then pushing him over constituted an assault. At the time of those acts, Mr Tomlinson did not pose a threat to PC ‘A’ or any other police officer. Whilst the officer was entitled to require Mr Tomlinson to move out of Royal Exchange, there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of proving that his actions were disproportionate and unjustified.

    Having concluded that the officer’s actions could constitute an assault, the CPS then considered the possible criminal charges…..

    The difficulty lies, as you point out, in the second and third elements of the offence. The medical evidence was not sufficiently clear to bring a prosecution with a realistic prospect of conviction.

    The DPP formed the view that while the conflict on cause of death between the pathologists would not have precluded the bringing of a prosecution “Dr Patel would have to be called at trial as a prosecution witness as to the primary facts.”

    The “CPS concluded that the evidence of those primary facts undermined the basis upon which the other experts reached their conclusions about the cause of death. As a result, the CPS would simply not be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that there was a causal link between Mr Tomlinson’s death and the alleged assault upon him.

    That being the case, there is no realistic prospect of a conviction for unlawful act manslaughter.”

    This also precluded the bringing of a case – : “Assault occasioning actual bodily harm would require the prosecution to prove that the alleged assault on Mr Tomlinson caused him actual bodily harm.”

    A prosecution for ‘simple’ assault was time barred. The DPP does not give a detailed reason in that statement as to why the delay arose.

    It is widely believed – I have seen no documentary evidence – that there have been 1000 deaths on police custody without a single prosecution being brought. Sgt Smellie, in a widely reported recent G20 case,  was acquitted by a district judge of charges in relation to his conduct.

    The video evidence of PC Simon Harwood pushing Mr Tomlinson over is clear – the unlawful act referred to by the DPP.

    That it now transpires that Dr Patel is being investigated – and there were prior misgivings as to his competence – one wonders why Dr Patel was selected as the pathologist for such an obviously sensitive case?

    There are many commentators on blogs, twitter – and some in the media – who express discontent with police, ranging from the absurd to the well thought out and not unreasonable.

    The Police themselves have expressed misgivings about this case – and certainly the appointment of Harwood to the TSG, after difficulties experienced in his previous force, is a matter for investigation by Police.

    I do not see the decision of Keir Starmer QC as political. I see a DPP faced with a very real problem – but would it not have been advisable to accept the conflict between the pathologists and put the case to the jury? This hasn’t been fully explained by anyone – and is certainly beyond me.

    Would it have been  unfair as you suggest in your comment above?

    Given your particular experience as a Silk with many years of practice in the Criminal courts, you are able to give a view?

    Given the difficulties experienced in this case – a source of frustration to many and, I suspect, to the CPS also, it is clear that procedures need to be tightened up in terms of the recruitment of pathologists and procedures to ensure that time limits for bringing prosecutions do not expire. Or is that being unreasonable, neigh naive?

    There is a widespread feeling that had a member of the public assaulted a police officer from behind with a baton a prosecution would have been brought. Is that an unreasonable feeling?

    This case and the Sgt Smellie case have not done the Police any favours in terms of public perception – and it is that perception which becomes a political issue, not the law itself?

    It is important to get a clear understanding when important cases like this come along – but the newspapers don’t always get it right and, certainly, general commentators like me can only really try and report as we find. It is particularly helpful when specialists, with experience, are prepared to give of their time and put forward analysis.

    ***

    You may wish to look at these posts (and the comments) from law blogger Jack of Kent

    Lord Shagger writes…..

    I have to say that I am baffled about Keir Starmer QC ‘s statement on Mr Tomlinson and the events surrounding it. As you know, The Guardian reported “The Crown Prosecution Service has admitted that the decision not to prosecute a police officer for the death of Ian Tomlinson rested on the evidence of a pathologist who has been officially reprimanded and is facing 26 further charges of sub-standard practices, including incompetently carrying out a number of earlier autopsies.” It seems that ‘Freddy’ Patel, the pathologist, was not terribly good at his job given the astonishing number of charges for sub-standard practices reported in the Press.  Why was he engaged to do the first autopsy?  Why did the CPS miss the six month deadline?  Why was “Advice to charge police officer over Ian Tomlinson death ignored” ?  It appears that there is a marked reluctance to prosecute police officers in Britain.  The problem with this and the Sgt Smellie case (not forgetting the 30 years it took to get the Police to make admissions on Blair Peach)  is that the reputation of the Police will go down.   Goodwill works both ways and while I accept that there are many police officers who are concerned about this, there are, unfortunately, many who are not and who seem to regard it as given that they will be able to err without fear of prosecution.  How did PC Simon Harwood, who had ‘anger management’ problems with another force, get into the Met?  We’re not talking about a desk job supervising bun eating  PCSOs here – we are talking the Tactical Support Group, the spiritual successors of the ill-famed SPG of old…in the eyes of some.  Is Keir Starmer up to it?  Not looking too good.

    I see that you covered good old David Davis’ nonsense about Brokeback Coalition. He’s right of course. Many of us are seething that we have to waste time with all these huggers from the LIb-Dems. Clegg doesn’t appear to know the difference between holding personal views and speaking as a Deputy Prime Minister.  Given that the Liberals haven’t had a taste of power since the days of Lloyd George I suppose he can be forgiven for not being wholly versed in the machinations of rule and government.   I rather lost the will to live after watching Clegg talking about his remarks about the ‘illegality of the Iraq war” on Channel 4.

    I rarely spend an evening at the Chien et Canard in Monaco without debating The Boer war with some retail millionaire. Sometimes we even get the odd rich parvenu or fugitive from justice, who didn’t find Spain to his taste or  who has decided that the Cotswolds is not a tax friendly environment,   who chips in with nothing of any value at all in terms of the conversation.

    Krishnan Guru-Murthy: You learnt a lesson at the Dispatch Box this week, you can’t really say what you think, you have to speak for the government rather than your own personal opinions on things like the legality of the Iraq War.

    Nick Clegg: I disagree on some things as hugely important and divisive as the Iraq war. People are still debating the Second World War, the Boer War. This is a debate that will run and run and run.

    I remember when I was at Eton many years ago…..some boys were so eager to impress that they had a certain slightly unctuous and creepy look about them. Cameron has that look and certainly seems to have swallowed much of the public school bollocks.  Usually old boys from public school get over their attachment to their old schools within a few years of being mocked by those who came after them when they keep turning up for events at the alma mater.  Cameron gives the impression that he is still keen to impress those in authority and hasn’t quite grasped the whole point of being Prime Minister…that he is The Authority.  But there we are.

    As for Clegg… I thought this quote from Hamlet might amuse…

    “In the most high and palmy state of Rome,
    A little ere the mightiest Julius fell,
    The graves stood tenantless, and the sheeted dead
    Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets.”
    – William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 1.1

    I suspect that the end game will see Clegg wondering around some television station shouting…

    A vote ! a vote! my kingdom for a vote!
    Richard III. 5. 4

    Good to see that BP has started drilling off Libya. This will, no doubt, irritate those senators issuing invitations to all and sundry – who, sensibly, have declined an invitation to be humiliated in public by the Yanks – and will do wonders for the BP share price.  Timing, dear boy.. timing.  Timing is all…as every litigation lawyer knows.



    Postcard From The Staterooms: Drinking Vin Rose in the sun edition

    Dear Reader!   Bonjour!,

    After a very pleasant evening last night, doing a spot of writing and catching up with my Rioja drinking, I decided to ‘stress test’ my bank by telephoning them to ask if a payment had come in.   I was put through to a call centre and passed the security checks.  I had waited for some time for this and the Rioja had taken hold.  The operator was taken by surprise when I ordered a pizza and then asked him what toppings he had.  He wasn’t very amused. I was a bit over refreshed and rather bored by the long wait.  It can be fun, sometimes, to be an awkward customer with banks.  I shall be writing to The Governor of The Bank of England to say that I am at my country’s disposal in these BIG SOCIETY days should he want any further bank ‘stress testing’ done.

    This morning, I rose rather earlier than usual at 4.00. I found many good stories on the online newspapers – NOT The Times of course now they have hidden by a paywall – and, at 7.00,  I walked up to have breakfast at the Battersea Grill near Battersea Bridge.  Unfortunately, I had forgotten that it did not open until 7.30 so I amused myself by buying some more Marlboros, checking my balance on the ATM machine in the newsagent and purchased The Indie and The Sun.

    I then saw a guy – almost certainly Nigerian from his accent – nicking tomatoes from a pile of small vegetable boxes left outside the cafe. [I have taught and met a lot of Nigerians so can generally recognise them – and very amusing most of them were!.  I am a fan of the louder Nigerians who laugh a lot.] The man appeared to be slightly drunk. He had an opened  can of cider in his hand.  I asked him what he was doing.  He became very abusive.  I asked him again why he was taking tomatoes which did not belong to him.  One of the waitresses arrived and opened up the cafe.  I told him to put the tomatoes back.  He became even angrier, told me that I could get *kill-ed* for doing this.  I’m getting a bit old for this sort of nonsense but I was relaxed – doing Karate and  Kendo in my youth for many years assisted (Not forgetting my ruthless exercise regime with Smokedo).   He was braced to throw a punch – which suited me just fine.  People who are not trained,  invariably are not balanced when they throw a punch. This is why it is a relatively straightforward matter to side step, grab the assailant’s wrist and use one’s other hand to snap the assailant’s elbow into a locked position and put them down.  The pain from the elbow and pressure applied to the nerves around the wrists drains the assailant’s enthusiasm for fighting fairly quickly. At which point, a foot on the neck tends to discourage further activity.  This is the theory of it – although, unfortunately, I had to use it with a pisshead many years back.

    Fortunately, I did not to have  to deploy such methods in middle class Battersea at 7.15 am. After calling me various names, saying that he would wait for me and punch my head in, that I could be *kill-ed* again,  I thought it  best to use the other technique of ‘command and control’ and tell him to  fark orf. Ludicrous man! He did and I settled down at my usual table to have an excellent English breakfast.  I was greedy this morning and asked for  some beautifully cooked chips!

    ***

    A quick return to The Staterooms to do some writing on my new Tort book. This, I have to say, had no appeal at all.  I did read the excellent blog post by lawyer and blogger  Jack of Kent about the win in the libel courts yesterday in the case of Kaschke v Gray, Hilton. This is a very important decision for all bloggers and I raise my hat to Dougans and Jack of Kent for their pro bono work on this, Osler and other matters.  Lawyers do not always get a good press.  These lawyers deserve a bit of praise and they certainly get it from me.

    It would be well worth your time, if you are interested in libel law or blogging, reading these:

    Victory for Gray and Hilton
    Jack of Kent blog post

    Judgment: Kaschke v Gray, Hilton.

    Kaschke’s response – which I have to say is rather dramatic.  I am, of course, allowed to express an objective opinion on what I have seen published on the internet.

    John Gray has become a fat ponze

    I came to the view that Ms Kaschke’s blog post,  in response to losing the libel application yesterday, was ‘dramatic’ simply by reading her own opening to her blog post… I quote…

    I have to let out the frustrations somehow that I collected today when I sat the High Court to listen to Stadlen J’s useless judgment.

    John Gray is just a fat ponze now, he is part of the political establishment, having gotten the Labour Party Councillor post. Alex Hilton has gotten away with his tactics and Robert Dougans looked like a clown who spend most of his time stammering and didn’t know what he was doing. Or maybe his bad conscience over how he tricked me out of my claim, finally caught up with him, it is possible that he still might have a tiny drop of humanity in him, but its not certain…..

    It goes on…..

    UPDATE

    It would appear that Ms Kaschke did not appreciate my comment and giving her an opportunity to respond by linking to her blog post.

    Henchman?  Moi?

    I won’t, of course, be seeking any legal remedy for being called a *Henchman* – I have better things to do than waste my time on litigation.

    Guido Fawkes is usually on the button.  Here is his take on the matter:

    Court Report : Loonie Leftie (Tory Party Member) v Hilton & Gray


    And so to other matters…..

    Catholic church embarrassed by gay priests revelations

    Guardian: Vatican on defensive again after magazine exposes priests visiting gay clubs and bars and having sex

    And then I went orf to The Square to have an early morning glass of vin rose with my americano and some Marlboros. All in all, an unusual morning.  The day can only get better.  I plan to ensure that this is the case

    I asked yesterday on twitter: “To haircut or not to haircut……Whether ’tis nobler on the head to suffer the hacks and cuts of an outrageous barber….or look like Lear? ”  I enjoyed my visit to the choppers in Battersea Square.  A lovely Spanish hairdresser did the business…. I removed the tache myself some weeks ago.

    Pic right – I would not, after all, wish my readers to think that I am pictured top left.  That is my alter ego!

    Best, as always

    Enjoy your weekend

    Charon

    ***

    David Davis MP BrokeBack Coalition pub talk! – excellent nonsense!

    David Davis pub talk reveals Tory unease at the ‘Brokeback Coalition’

    • David Davis reportedly repeats alleged remark by Lord Ashcroft
    • Remarks echo criticism of David Cameron’s ‘big society’ policy

    Guardian: Unease on the Tory right over David Cameron’s coalition with the Liberal Democrats was highlighted last night in unguarded comments made by the man Cameron defeated in the 2005 Tory leadership campaign.

    David Davis is reported to have approvingly repeated a description of the partnership between Cameron and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg as “Brokeback Coalition”, which he attributed to another senior Tory.

    Davis made his remarks during a private lunch with former colleagues from Tate & Lyle at the Boot & Flogger wine bar in Southwark on Thursday.

    The MP was reportedly overheard saying that Lord Ashcroft, the ex-Conservative party deputy chairman, had referred to the government as “Brokeback Coalition” – a reference to the Oscar-winning film Brokeback Mountain, about a gay relationship. Davis, whose remarks are disclosed in today’s Financial Times, said he had been misheard.

    I know The Boot & Flogger in Southwark rather well – a fine establishment for getting seriously over refreshed and for the seriously over refreshed!

    Some Americans think the PM is Piers Morgan?!

    I accept, given that I appear to be on holiday at a cafe in  Battersea Square – I work from 4.00 am – 12.30 and then escape – that I may have misread somewhere today that some Americans think that Piers Morgan was visiting the States this week.  I can’t imagine they could have confused Morgan for David Cameron?  Surely?  A little bit of artistic licence above… but how much given the events of the week and Cameron’s ‘pronouncements’ ?

    Anyway… at least the Cameron visit to get instructions from our cousins went well!

    Law Review: Ian Tomlinson Decision

    LATEST UPDATE….

    G20 riots: policeman who stuck Ian Tomlinson faced two previous aggression inquiries

    Telegraph: PC Simon Harwood, the police officer who struck Ian Tomlinson minutes before he died, was previously investigated twice over his alleged aggressive behaviour.

    Ian Tomlinson death: police officer will not face criminal charges

    Guardian: G20 riot officer filmed striking down newspaper seller will not face charges because of postmortem conflicts, CPS rules

    The police officer caught on video during last year’s G20 protests striking a man who later died will not face criminal charges, the Crown Prosecution Service announced today. Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions, said there was “no realistic prospect” of a conviction, because of a conflict between the postmortem examinations carried out after the death of Ian Tomlinson last year.

    CPS decision

    In a detailed letter setting out its reasons, the CPS said that the actions of the officer – seen striking Tomlinson with a baton then shoving him to the ground in the footage – amounted to assault.

    It said: “The CPS concluded that there is sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of proving that the actions of PC ‘A’ in striking Mr Tomlinson with his baton and then pushing him over constituted an assault. At the time of those acts Mr Tomlinson did not pose a threat … There is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of proving that his actions were disproportionate and unjustified.”

    But the CPS went on to explain the obstacles to a prosecution posed by the subsequent postmortems.

    The first police account, that he died from a heart attack, was confirmed by a pathologist, Freddy Patel, in the initial postmortem examination.

    But a second postmortem examination, conducted on behalf of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), found Tomlinson died from internal bleeding.

    Today the CPS said it could not bring a manslaughter charge because the conflicting medical evidence meant prosecutors “would simply not be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that there was a causal link between Mr Tomlinson’s death and the alleged assault on him”.

    It said it could not bring a charge for criminal assault because too much time had elapsed: a charge must be brought within six months. The CPS also ruled out bringing charges of actual bodily harm, and misconduct in public office.

    The death of Ian Tomlinson – decision on prosecution

    CPS STATEMENT IN FULL

    Statement by Diane Abbott MP: Questions raised over CPS handling of case following lengthy investigation.

    “Five years to the day after the death of Jean Charles de Menezes at the hands of our police, it appears that lessons have not been learnt. The outcome of this investigation gives rise to grave concern.  And the conduct of the CPS, particularly their delay in taking up the case in the first place, has been unsatisfactory

    “I am at a loss to understand why the investigation took sixteen months to reach a conclusion as I believe that if the roles had been reversed, and a civilian assault led to a police officers death in this way, the investigation might have been somewhat quicker and reached a very different conclusion.  It would be inappropriate to level accusations of misconduct at the CPS at this time but I think an inquiry into the investigation, as well as the incident as a whole, is highly necessary.

    “Without a doubt this verdict benefits absolutely nobody, particularly the CPS and the officer in question. I now find it very difficult to see how a breakdown in the relationship between the public and our police forces will be avoided”.

    It is quite remarkable that the actions of police officers at the G20 sixteen months time ago should result (a) in an acquittal in the case of Sgt Smellie and (b) a decision that there is insufficiently clear medical evidence to bring a prosecution.

    I can understand the rationale behind CPS prosecutions that it must be in the public interest and there must be sufficient clarity of evidence to warrant bringing a prosecution.  The IPCC concluded their initial investigation in just four months, albeit after initially claiming there was nothing suspicious about the death for almost a week until the release of footage of the incident obtained by the Guardian forced a U-turn. and passed the file to the CPS.  It is most unfortunate that delays precluded the bringing of, as a minimum, assault charges.

    Part of the problem – there is no clear explanation as to the need for almost a year to elapse for the CPS to make a decision, save for having to return to the IPCC several times for clarification – is the conflict between the medical experts.  The initial postmortem was carried out by Dr Freddy Patel

    The Coroner for the District appointed a pathologist, Dr Patel, to carry out a post mortem. He did so on 3 April 2009. No other medical expert was present. Because Mr Tomlinson had walked some distance from the incident in Royal Exchange before collapsing in Threadneedle Street, the two events were not immediately linked and, when he carried out his post mortem, Dr Patel was not aware of the incident involving PC ‘A’. He concluded that Mr Tomlinson’s death was “consistent with natural causes” and he gave the cause of death as “coronary artery disease“.

    The family and the IPCC sought a second post mortem and this was undertaken by a second pathologist, Dr Cary, on 9 April 2009. He concluded that whilst Mr Tomlinson had a partial blockage of the artery, his death was the result of abdominal haemorrhage from blunt force trauma to the abdomen, in association with alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver. It was Dr Cary’s view that when Mr Tomlinson fell, his elbow had impacted in the area of his liver causing an internal bleed which had led to his death a few minutes later.

    On 22 April 2009 the Metropolitan Police Directorate of Professional Standards instructed another pathologist, Dr Shorrock, to perform a third post mortem. Dr Shorrock agreed with Dr Cary’s conclusion.

    Other expert evidence was obtained from Dr Wilson, Professor Williamson, Dr Alexander and Dr Sheppard. Their evidence related to accident and emergency procedures, issues relating to the liver and microscopic changes to tissue.

    Channel 4 Notes…

    G20 Tomlinson pathologist accused of misconduct

    The pathologist who ruled Ian Tomlinson died of a heart attack at the G20 protests is accused of misconduct in four other post mortems. Channel 4 News Home Affairs Correspondent Simon Israel was at the General Medical Council hearing.

    Dr Freddy Patel appeared before the General Medical Council on Monday accused of misconduct over his failings in a total of four autopsies performed between September 2002 and August 2004.

    We seem to have a credibility problem – credibility in terms of respect for the police and the fact that justice appears to have been ‘thwarted’ by events beyond the control of the CPS in terms of the quality of medical testimony.

    The second post mortem indicates: ” He concluded that whilst Mr Tomlinson had a partial blockage of the artery, his death was the result of abdominal haemorrhage from blunt force trauma to the abdomen, in association with alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver. It was Dr Cary’s view that when Mr Tomlinson fell, his elbow had impacted in the area of his liver causing an internal bleed which had led to his death a few minutes later.”

    Had Ian Tomlinson not been pushed over from behind by a police officer, it is unlikely he would have fallen over, it is unlikely that he would, therefore had died shortly after. A police officer escapes justice because of highly technical issues of causation and the way assault laws are framed.  As others have observed on Twitter – what if Ian Tomlinson or you, or me, had pushed a police officer over from behind and he died?  Would we have escaped justice?  Pretty shoddy stuff?  Did the CPS do their job here?  Why was Dr Patel involved in the post-mortem if there were issues about his competence generally – issues about his competence arising before the tragic death of Ian Tomlinson?

    The BBC reports

    Jenny Jones, a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, said: “It’s clearly an outcome that satisfies absolutely nobody and everybody comes out of it badly.

    “The reputation of the police is poor, and morale won’t be very good if public perception is that the police constantly get away with crimes and are never brought to justice.

    “If everybody had moved a bit faster we might have actually been in the time-frame for an assault charge to be brought,” she added.

    Expressing “regret” for Mr Tomlinson’s family, a Metropolitan Police spokesman, said: “There will, of course, be an inquest where the facts will be heard publicly. This is important for the family of Ian Tomlinson as well as Met officers and Londoners.

    “We now await the IPCC’s investigation report before being able to carefully consider appropriate misconduct proceedings,” he said.

    Deborah Glass, from the Independent Police Complaints Commission, said the circumstances of Mr Tomlinson’s death will now be “rightly scrutinised” at an inquest.

    She said: “We will provide a report on the officer’s conduct to the Metropolitan Police within the next few days.

    “The Met will need to provide us with its proposals regarding misconduct.”

    ObiterJ writes…….

    Death of Mr Ian Tomlinson – no charges to be brought

    Breaking News: Announcement from Number 10

    The PM has been talking about Al-Megrahi (and appears to have developed expertise in Scots law – momentarily forgetting the Acts of Union 1707)  and has, they say, told the Americans that we were junior partners in WWII against the Nazis.  The Russians did rather a lot to defeat the Nazis.  I suspect Cameron’s remarks will irritate a few people over here.  Always good to see a prime minister on top of his brief.  Churchill must be spinning in his grave!

    It might be an idea for David Cameron – and his advisers – to read this… from The Firm

    FEATURES
    21 Jul 2010

    Online exclusive: Editor’s blog- Bomber, bomber, bomber.

    HAT TIP to @Loveandgarbage for pointing me to Ian Hamilton QC’s very direct assessment…..

    Cameron the Coward

    I’d say it was worth a read!

    This, also – from Scots Law News

    Sound and fury in Washington

    It is rare for me to quote The Daily Mail… I do so on this occasion for our country…

    Cameron describes Britain as ‘junior partner’ to Americans in 1940 – a year before Pearl Harbour

    I have always admired this aphorism from a very famous American…
    You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.
    Abraham Lincoln, (attributed)
    16th president of US (1809 – 1865)

    A few pics on today’s news

    Pleasingly, American writers may not understand that old money wears old shoes!.

    This nonsense from the Wall Street Journal is quite amusing though… I assume the writer is American?  If he is British – he may have read too many copies of Heat Magazine? 🙂

    Cameron Wears Old Shoes for Historic Meeting With Obama

    The Big Society: a genuine vision for Britain’s future – or just empty rhetoric?

    Independent: Yesterday David Cameron laid out his flagship policy. Andy McSmith reads between the lines

    Hat Tip to @Wibblenut who Retweeted this:  danbrusca: What’s all this talk of a Pig Society?

    Naturally, I could not resist!

    AV might not hurt Tories if LibDem meltdown continues

    By Tim Montgomerie

    AND a spot of good news!…..

    Unilever action lands BNP with up to £170,000 settlement bill

    Brand Republic: The British National Party remained tight-lipped this morning over claims that it could face financial difficulties due to an out-of-court settlement reportedly paid to FMCG giant Unilever, after the party featured a jar of Marmite in an online election broadcast.

    and finally….

    Taser ‘accidentally discharged’ into man’s groin

    The Independent reports: Police were investigating today after an officer accidentally discharged a 50,000 volt Taser weapon into a man’s groin. Peter Cox, 49, was seeking legal advice over the incident which started when he was stopped on suspicion of driving a BMW without insurance. He spotted a patrol car following him and pulled over at his friend’s house in Bridgwater, Somerset, where he was doing landscaping work on July 13. The officer pointed the Taser at him for a few seconds before lowering the weapon. At this point, it discharged, narrowly missing the father-of-one’s genitals and hitting his groin and ankle. Unemployed Mr Cox, who suffers from Guillain Barri syndrome, fell to the ground in agony and he was treated by paramedics on the front lawn.

    Quite why a police officer pulled a taser out for an uninsured river – even if he was being a bit aggressive (denied) I don’t know.  This is (a) because I wasn’t there (b) I am not a policeman and (c) tonight… I am *Baffled of Battersea*.

    Law Review: Independent torture inquiry – Brutal treatment of children in prison – Burkas

    Call for judge investigating torture claims to resign

    What I did not know, when I commented positively on the appointment of a former judge, Sir Peter Gibson, to head the torture allegations inquiry, was that he had already heard evidence in secret.

    The Independent reports: ” The former judge heading the inquiry into Britain’s complicity in torture faces calls for his resignation.In a letter copied to the Prime Minister, Reprieve has requested that Sir Peter Gibson step aside as his impartiality is fatally compromised.

    As the Intelligence Services Commissioner (ISC), it has been Sir Peter’s job for more than four years to oversee the Security Services; he cannot now be the judge whether his own work was effective. Reprieve has identified a number of reasons that his recusal is required:

    Firstly, David Miliband has stated publicly that Sir Peter has already conducted a secret inquiry, at the previous government’s request, into allegations of misconduct. Yet because it is secret, none of us may know what his conclusions were.

    Secondly, Sir Peter has – in each of his three annual reports – opined that all members of the Security Services are “trustworthy, conscientious and dependable”, thereby entirely prejudging the issues before the inquiry. Contrast this to the criticisms levelled by Lord Neuberger, the Master of the Rolls, in the case of Binyam Mohamed.

    Thirdly, part of Sir Peter’s job, as ISC, was to oversee ministerial authorizations that would allow the Security Services to violate the law abroad, including sanctioning British involvement in abusive interrogations. Since evidence will be presented that such interrogations have continued during Sir Peter’s tenure, he either validated these actions, or he has been hoodwinked as ISC. Either way, he should be a witness at the inquiry.

    Clive Stafford Smith said: “Welcome though the Torture Inquiry is, the current structure is a sham. Sir Peter Gibson was perhaps the least appropriate judge to evaluate the Security Services. The government must get serious about learning the mistakes of the past, rather than try to cover them up, or we are in for a long, hot summer.”

    Oh dear.  A small own goal here, it would seem.  While members of our security services may well be entirely “trustworthy, conscientious and dependable”, it is perhaps better for the person heading the inquiry not to give that opinion three times before heading what is supposed to be an independent inquiry. Still, if these matters are secret and known only to a few, we can’t be criticised for accepting the idea that when our government sets up an independent inquiry it will be just that.

    I am able to report that a squadron of pigs has just taken off from Westminster and is headed towards Guantanamo Bay.

    Revealed: brutal guide to punishing jailed youths

    • ‘Drive fingers into groin’, says prison service manual
    • Disclosures follow parents’ freedom of information fight
    Guardian

    It is quite extraordinary that on the one hand we are setting up a torture inquiry, yet on the other hand government ministers seem to have approved a code which allows private run prisons, through their officers, to inflict pain on young children to control them.  I found this Guardian report rather shocking.  I appreciate that there may be occasions when offenders are violent and need to be physically restrained – but is this acceptable and reasonable force?

    Prenuptial agreements on rise amongst younger men

    Guardian: High earners are rejecting their fathers’ romantic view of marriage to protect assets

    It is good to see that vested self interest is still alive and well in caring Britain and that young men are finally being sensible about the really important issue in life – money!  I presume, given that young women are now coining it in in Coalition Britain that they, too, will ensure there are pre-nups in place before capturing their man?

    I shall leave comment on this to family lawyers!

    Minister says Burka ban would be ‘un-British’

    The Independent reports: “Banning the wearing of burkas in public would be “rather un-British”, the Immigration Minister said today as he attacked efforts to make it illegal in this country.Damian Green said it would be “undesirable” for Parliament to try to pass such a law which would be at odds with the UK’s “tolerant and mutually respectful society”.

    Fellow Tory MP Philip Hollobone introduced a private members’ bill which would make it illegal for people to cover their faces in public.

    I could not care less about what people wear.  If women wish to dress in burkas (as opposed to being forced to do so) that is fine by me.  I would not enjoy having a conversation with a woman dressed in a burka quite so much as if she was unveiled – the physical cues of interaction would not be there.  I would also not be that happy to be sitting on an a plane with a burka wearer who had not been fully screened by security – but I assume that our laws will cater for these security issues when the wearing of a burka could impact deleteriously on our rights?

    I shall return to the issue of drug de-criminalisation later. I am reading a riposte to libertarian views and it is providing food for thought.

    Postcard from The Staterooms: Mackerel edition

    Dear Reader,

    About every 12-18 months I get cravings for mackerel – especially if they are grilled with a slice of lemon or smoked.  And it was thus this year on Tuesday last that these cravings started.  I have been eating mackerels at a local cafe since.  I now plan to buy some and eat them. It is likely that I shall continue to eat mackerel daily for another week, possibly more.  I shall then move on to prawns.   I was a bit bored on Friday afternoon.  As summer kicks in there is less work to do, fewer cases to analyse or laws to comment on.  I get a bit restless when I have too much time on my hands.  After a good lunch of grilled mackerel and vin rose  on Friday I returned to The Staterooms and went on to twitter.

    It was then that I remembered the twitter #film games and I created my own hashtag #mackerelfilms and tweeted “Bring me the head of Alfredo Mackerel” .  It may have been the Rioja I had just poured myself shortly after 2.30 pm. Others joined in… I shall select but a few: @ lesleyalmost The Unbearable Lightness of Mackerel #mackerelfilms,  the former leader of he Libertarian Party UK @IanPJ: Carry on up the mackerel #mackerelfilms, @ lifelessvanilla One more (I promise) Dances with Mackerels #mackerelfilms, @ bnzss: 6million dollar mackerel #mackerelfilms….

    I have no idea why I thought it was a good idea to tweet David Miliband and Ed Balls who, it has to be said, have rather more important things on their mind apart from Peter Mandelson’s book The Third Mackerel to worry about than my questions about mackerel.

    Charonqc: @DMiliband Hi David… I’ve run out of mackerels… Balls said he’s got some… but I’d rather have your mackerels *Wink Wink* (Votes)  and then in the fine british tradition of playing politicians off against each other (as opposed to them doing it for themselves)….

    Charonqc: @edballsmp Ed – I know this is a bit weird… but do you have any mackerels? I’ve ask DM…. if you do…I’ll see you right!

    Suffice it to say that quite a few people who may have had a bit of time on their hands on a quiet afternoon piled in – I thoroughly enjoyed it.  If you really have to find out about #mackerelfilms click the link

    Unfortunately I lost a few mackerel followers – including my very good friend, but clearly no lover of over refreshed #mackerel tweets @ScottGreenfield..  I know where he is.  He has an excellent blog. I may just pop over there!

    Enough about Mackerels and on to a bit of politics…

    I have ordered my copy of Mandelson’s book The Third Man – and I am looking forward to reading it.  I have read the serialisation in The Times and listened to pundits and commentators who haven’t read the book either telling me on television and radio about it.   What is truly astonishing, reading the extracts and listening to sundry pundits who once counted Mandelson as one of their closest friends when it mattered, is the sheer chaos of the new Labour government, the strife between Blair and Brown, the vanity of men put before the governance of nation.  I’ve never been a fan of Gordon Brown.  I regarded him years ago as a clever classic Number 2.  The Number 2 in an organisation is often more clever than the Number 1 – but the Number 1 wins because they are able to communicate and connect.  We saw how Brown, inarticulate and dysfunctional to the the point where bloggers and pundits were making jokes about ‘happy pills,’ could not relate to voters and appeared to have a very strong ‘control freak’ streak.   I am looking forward to reading the detail and, also, to reading Blair’s The Journey.  (What a hackneyed title for a book?) because I am interested in political biography.

    I don’t think any of these books matter in the real world.  Britain has moved on.  I’m not so sure Labour has. I think the voters decided that they had had enough of Labour and even I, a voter of 30 years, lost patience with their stance on civlibs and political correctness.  It now seems that waste and extravagance abounded and government itself became dysfunctional because of infighting. Tragic – an opportunity wasted?   For my part – I am interested in none of the main contenders for leadership of the Labour Party.  Diane Abbott, I like, and I am sure she would make a good home secretary – but I do not see her as a PM, not that it matters what I think.  The Milibands, Balls and even Burnham were all part of the last regime and while they are keen to quash debate on Mandelson’s book and distance themselves from the events of 13 years of Labour rule – I suspect we will have to wait until the generation after them before we see new thinking acceptable to the public.  It may be, of course, that the Coalition makes a complete pig’s ear of things and an election comes sooner than later and Labour return to power.  I’m not so sure that will happen now.  I rather suspect that we will see a Tory government without  a very much weakened Lib-Dem party before another Labour government gets a taste of power.

    What does matter, of course, is how the present government governs….


    Ken Clarke says that he has no plans to cut the prison budget.  What he does plan to cut is the budget for legal aid, the judiciary and the courts.  He also plans to put prisoners to work making mailbags and, possibly, plastic cases for iPhone 4s if he can involve the private sector.  At a time when 600,000+ public servants are likely to be looking for work it is probably not a great idea to put prisoners to work.  However, far be it for me to suggest that the government have consistent politico-economic thinking.  That would break a fine and proud tradition of recent British government.  I plan to have a look at this next week….it is the weekend.  This is no time to discuss law.

    But just a few more quick items: RollonFriday reports: Solicitors face huge rise in negligence claims: Lawsuits against solicitors were up an incredible 163% in 2009, according to data gathered by Reynolds Porter Chamberlain.

    210 claims were launched in the High Court in 2009, compared to a mere 80 in 2008 and only 31 in 2007. RPC  suggest that many firms are facing professional negligence claims fuelled by the growth of speculative “no win, no fee” arrangments. Investors (including banks and subprime lenders hit by mortgage fraud) burnt by the failing economy are out looking for scapegoats – and their professional advisors are the first to feel their wrath.

    Nick Green QC, Chairman of the Bar has come out in favour of de-criminalising drugs. There are cogent arguments for and against.  I noted this yesterday

    + + + Breaking: Lord Taylor Charged with False Accounting + + +

    Guido Fawkes: Troughing Tory peer Lord Taylor of Warwick has been charged for claiming expenses in relation to a house he didn’t own.

    Having been brought down by a blogger he’s now on his own, out of the party and in the dock. He’s accused of fiddling the second home allowance by claiming to have spent six years living at the former home of his dead mother.

    Developing…

    And if you haven’t seen Zac Goldsmith v Jon Snow on Channel 4 news last night – this is classic.  How not to do a TV interview

    Zac v Snow

    The silly season starts soon.  The courts will close, lawyers and others will go off on holidays and there will be even less business or work for me to do.  This is just fine.  I plan to paint and do a spot of writing.

    Best as always

    Charon

    Update…. This from Twitter…

    @ ThetisMercurio

    @Charonqc I liked the comment from someone who said you’d smoked one too many mackerels. Struck me as hilarious – the image – Dali-esque

    Law Review: Chairman of the Bar calls for decriminalisation of drug use

    Chairman of the Bar calls for decriminalisation of drug use

    Nick Green QC is chairman of the Bar Council, the professional organisation of barristers in the UK. Writing in the organisation’s magazine this month, Green called for the decriminalisation of drugs for personal use, arguing (rightly) that a growing body of evidence supports the proposition that decriminalisation can have a number of positive consequences for drugs users and society. He lists the freeing up of police resources, the reduction of crime and the revolving door of imprisonment as peace dividends of ending the drug war, alongside improved public health. Noting that much of the mass media are given to moralising gestures and the whipping up of panic when it comes to drugs, he argues that the Bar Council, made up of lawyers and counting most judges amongst its ex-members, is in a good position to provide a rational argument, being familiar with both sides of the drug policy argument.

    Mr Green’s intervention represents another profession speaking out in support of drug law reform at a time when the tide appears to be turning away from the prohibitionist model that was tried throughout the twentieth century, failed to suppress the flow of illegal drugs and added its own side-effects (including an entrenched criminal market and a global epidemic of injection-driven HIV) to those of the drug problems it was supposed to prevent.

    Release report

    At last – some serious intervention from professionals in our sector.  I agree.  Why doesn’t the Government think the unthinkable and really look at this.  Why should the state pay vast sums to fight a drugs war that just cannot be won?

    Here is an important comment extracted from the comments section

    Steve Rolles

    heres the Bar Council report

    http://www.barcouncil.org.uk/news/chairmans-search/detail.php?id=179

    he says:

    “It was pleasing to see the new Lord Chancellor, Ken Clarke, advocating prison reform in the media. Inevitably the initial reaction in the Shires was that he had already “lost touch” with “normal people”. In a period of acute fiscal austerity it is essential that politicians seek to do what is right and not what sounds right. So far the new MoJ is making good noises. Initial meetings with the new Lord Chancellor and his team suggest that they are intent on working through issues to see what works. In this, we will support them to the hilt. If the prison population could be reduced from circa 85,000 to 80,000 it could save over £200m per annum, and there is a great deal of research from elsewhere to suggest that a less “bang ’em up” approach to sentencing actually reduces crime. The tabloids’ response, which is to throw more people into custody, simply does not work.

    Another political hot potato is drugs. Drug related crime costs the economy about £13bn a year. Again a growing body of comparative evidence suggests that decriminalising personal use can have positive consequences; it can free up huge amounts of police resources, reduce crime and recidivism and improve public health. All this can be achieved without any overall increase in drug usage. If this is so, then it would be rational to follow suit.

    A rational approach is not usually the response of large parts of the media when it comes to issues relating to criminal justice. This is something the Bar Council can address. We are apolitical; we act for the prosecution and the defence and most of the judiciary are former members. We can speak out in favour of an approach which urges policies which work and not those which simply play to the gallery. And this will save money and mean that there is less pressure on the justice system.”

    NOTICE

    Please – if you are interested in this topic – look at the comments. Sackerson makes some good points and provides a link.  I shall return to this on Monday

    Recollections of a trip to The Palais de Justice, Brussels

    Many years ago I went to Brussels to attend a Law Society Conference.  I did things like that in those days.  It was a crashing bore – enlivened only by the comedy of a well known lawyer who was senior partner of a very good law firm and who went on to great things.  I won’t name him – but he will remember the incident.

    Part of the ‘amusements’ was an organised tour of The Palais de Justice in Brussels with the head of the Belgian judiciary – and an extraordinary tour guide who worked at the court.

    We were duly assembled and treated to a very full exposition on the building.  The tour guide told us …. roughly what is in Wikipedia today – with a few embellishments of his own….

    The Law Courts of Brussels or Brussels Palace of Justice is the most important Court building in Belgium and is a notable landmark of Brussels. It was built between 1866 and 1883 in the eclectic style by architect Joseph Poelaert. The total cost of the construction, land and furnishings was somewhere in the region of 45 million Belgian francs. It is the biggest building constructed in the 19th century.[1]

    …..The Brussels Palace of Justice is bigger than St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The building is currently 160 by 150 meters[1], and has a total built ground surface of 26,000 m². The 104[3] meter high dome weighs 24,000 tons. The building has 8 courtyards with a surface of 6000 m², 27 large court rooms and 245 smaller court rooms and other rooms. Situated on a hill, there is a level difference of 20 meters between the upper and lower town, which results in multiple entrances to the building at different levels.

    He told us all of the above and then he said… “If you laid together every brick in the building, one on top of the other, it would be higher than Mt Everest”.  I gasped.  The senior partner of the aforementioned law firm gasped. Then the tour guide told us…“If every brick in the building was laid end to end… it would go around the world.” More gasping – but, being British… we gasped in a British way.  The head of the Belgian judiciary beamed at us as if we were simpletons from a foreign land who could not speak French.   He may have been right.

    We were then shown into the main hall.  The tour guide told us that during World War II the Germans burnt all the Belgian laws and law reports in the hall and pointed to scorch marks on the walls.  It was at this point I corpsed when the senior partner of aforementioned said, quite loudly “Well.  Hitler did a lot of bad things, but at least he did something useful in his time as Fuhrer.”

    It was a long time ago – but I remember it with a degree of sardonic pleasure.  It was not meant in any other way than a cry for help so we could be free of the turbulent and remarkably tedious tour guide.  It is probably just as well that I have no plans to head a delegation to Belgium on behalf of anyone, let alone the lawyers of England & Wales.

    Law Review: Lord Judge LCJ on the State of The Nation – an important speech

    Lord Judge LCJ gave an interesting and important speech at The Mansion House on Tuesday 13th July. I extract from and comment on it in some detail below.

    It is an excellent speech and you may read it in full here

    Judges apply and interpret our laws, dispense justice and resolve disputes is the traditional brief, but over simplified, explanation of the work of the judiciary. The judiciary does not make law; that is the preserve of Parliament. It is, given that we have a common law system, not as simple as that.  The judiciary has, of course, developed our common law and, where gaps (lacunae used to be the technical term pre Woolf) exist their interpretation of existing law inevitably creates new law.  The function of Parliament is to create new law;  the legislature to be supreme over the executive.  Lord Judge’s speech is interesting in two particular respects (a) It is a subtle statement about our way of life; the type of country we wish to live in – not, usually the remit of judicial speeches and (b) a ‘warning’ to the executive not to allow the present economic circumstances to  so damage the justice system as to make it unjust and is also a warning to ministers not to act in the manner of Henry VIII – a ‘dangerous tyrant’.

    Lord Judge begins his speech with an amusing statement about the proliferation of law and tells the Lord Mayor that not only he, but 50 of his predecessors also have been in breach of the law for 50 years.  Lord Judge also admits to being in breach of the same law.

    It is with the most profound regret, that I have discovered that for just about the last 50 years, you and every single one of your predecessors has been in breach of the Calendar Act 1751. By the terms of this Act the admission and swearing in of the Mayor of London must take place on the 8th November annually.You and your last 50 or so predecessors complied with the City of London (Various Powers) 1959 section 5(1) of which provided that you should be sworn in on the second Saturday of November. What gave any of you the idea that a 1959 Act which did not amend the 1751 Act, or repeal it, could be overlooked?

    Lord Judge makes the point that we have many loose threads in our law and in doing so lays the foundation for a brief discussion of The Great repeal Act being put together by the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, which he returns to later in his speech.

    Lord Judge does ask the question: “Which, I wonder of the 2492 – yes 2492 laws – introduced during 2009, an increase of 16% on 2008, will still be in force 700 years from now.”… and wonders how we will be able to enforce (and try) the Nuclear Explosions (Prohibition and Inspections) Act 1998 should anyone have caused or conspired to cause same.

    To the shame of Labour, the last Labour governments of 13 years put together an apparatus of control, intervention, surveillance and regulation more suited to an imaginary (and not so imaginary) Eastern European police state. This was done in the name of counter-terrorism;  but those same powers were misused disgracefully and to little practical effect by council officers, police, police community support officers and a raft of other unelected, unaccountable,  officials.

    It is quite remarkable to me, having voted Labour for 30 years (I shall not be doing so again until Labour returns to being the party for fair and free society), that a Conservative home secretary,  Theresa May, recanting her formerly anti-gay sentiments,  is leading the charge to roll back the authoritarian state. Full marks to her for doing it and for the controlled, thoughtful and measured way she is doing it.  She has appointed  Lord MacDonald QC, a former DPP, a man of known reason and liberal ethic, to oversee the terror legislation review.  While she has put forward proposals to extend the current 28 days detention without trial, she has made it clear that her preference is for 14 days and that this extension is only for six months to enable the terror legislation to be reviewed properly.

    The concern of the judiciary

    Lord Judge states: “I am, I suspect, not the only member of the judiciary who is troubled by the extent of the powers granted to council officials to enter people’s homes without a warrant. Or the way in which apparently sensible powers – directed to the prevention of terrorism, appear on occasions to be used to control activities which by no stretch of the imagination, have anything to do with terrorism.

    But my deepest concern at the moment is directed to the increased use of what are described as Henry VIII clauses. Henry VIII was a dangerous tyrant. The Reformation Parliament made him Supreme Head of the Church, the representative of the Almighty on earth – hardly an encouragement to humility: it altered the succession at his will: it changed the religion backwards and forwards, at his will: they were a malleable manageable lot. And there is a public belief that the Statute of Proclamations of 1539 was the ultimate in supineness. The Act itself was repealed within less than 10 years, immediately after his death in 1547. But it had allowed the King’s proclamations to have the same force as Acts of Parliament. That is a Henry VIII clause. It is perhaps worth emphasising, however, that this Act, and the supine Reformation Parliament was not persuaded to agree that proclamations alone could prejudice any inheritance, office, liberty, goods chattels or life. It was expressly subject to those limitations.

    There is an important principle at stake and it is that Parliament should make law – both houses – and not individuals within the executive.  The legislature should be supreme over the executive.

    Lord judge then goes on to make a quite remarkable statement…

    But do we remember the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill of 2006 which, said to be productive of a reduction of red tape, sought to give ministers power to amend, repeal or replace any act of Parliament simply by making an Order. The proposal would have given Ministers of the Crown executive powers of a most extraordinary kind. It was eventually withdrawn when the House of Lords Constitution Committee alerted itself or was alerted to the implications of this provision. So can we sit back and relax. That’s that, then. But it is not.
    Consider the Banking (Special Provisions) Act 2008 enacted in the hurricane of the banking crisis. It granted the Treasury, presumably the Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury, the power to make:
    “(a) such supplementary, incidental or consequential provision, or (b) such transitory, transitional or saving provision, as they consider appropriate for
    the general purposes, or any particular purposes, of this Act…” But the power goes further. It expressly provided that an order may
    “(a) disapply (to such extent as is specified) any specified    statutory rule of law;
    (b) provide for any specified statutory provision to apply (whether or not it would otherwise apply) with specified modification.”

    So we have an Act of Parliament which expressly grants to the Treasury power to disapply any other relevant statute bearing on the provisions of the 2008 Act or indeed any rule of law.
    The same process is at work with section 51 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. This enables any Minister of the Crown, by order to make such provision as he or she considers appropriate in relation to any provision of the Act. The Act, as it says, relates to our constitutional affairs. The order may:
    “(a) amend, repeal or revoke any existing statutory provision,
    (b) include supplementary, incidental, transitional, transitory or saving provision.” So the new constitutional arrangements can be revisited by ministerial order, directed not merely to amendment repeal or revocation of any provisions in the Act itself, but directed at any of our existing statutory provisions.
    My Lord Mayor this is a matter of great seriousness.

    Lord Judge notes: “So we are talking of over 120 Henry VIII clauses in one parliamentary session. Does this surprise you? It certainly astonishes me.”

    I agree with Lord Judge’s point that the argument that we need powers is fallacious.

    Lord Judge deals with this : “You can be sure that when these Henry VIII clauses are introduced they will always be said to be necessary. But why are we allowing ourselves to get into the habit of Henry VIII clauses? Why should we? By allowing them become a habit, we are already in great danger of becoming indifferent to them, and to the fact that they are being enacted on our behalf.

    I do not regard the need for affirmative or negative resolutions as a sufficient protection against the increasing apparent indifference with which this legislation comes into force. To the argument that a resolution is needed, my response is, wait until the need arises, and go to Parliament and get the legislation through, if you can. I continue to find the possibility, even the remote possibility, that the Treasury may by order disapply any rule of law, or a Minister may change our constitutional arrangements, to be rather alarming.

    …..”When the Great Repeal Act is under consideration, I do urge that somehow, somewhere, Henry VIII clauses and indeed, the modern clause which in reality is Henry VIII Plus clauses should be excluded from the lexicon, unless the Minister coming to the House says in express and unequivocal language that he or she is seeking the consent of the House to such a clause, so that, quite apart from the members of Parliament themselves, the wider public may be informed of what it is proposed should be enacted on its behalf
    Half a moment’s thought will demonstrate that proliferation of clauses like these will have the inevitable consequence of yet further damaging the sovereignty of Parliament and increasing yet further the authority of the executive over the legislature.

    Administration of Justice

    Lord Judge stated that judges accepted the ‘practical realities’ of financial constraints and suggested a number of reforms to the justice system:

    (a) Whether disputes involving children should be dealt with by the adversarial method

    (b) Whether criminal trials should, as with civil trials, be subject to strict timetables to cut costs.

    (c) Although the judiciary has absolutely no control over the Legal Aid arrangements, can we at least ask the question whether these arrangements themselves are counter-productive to an efficient trial system, and observe that, as it seems to some of us, the best rewards are not necessarily received by the most efficient practitioners?

    Our way of life

    David Davis MP, a former shadow home secretary, had a fascinating article in The Times today  – revealing a very different conservative party if his views are shared by a significant number of his colleagues on the moderate wing of the Conservative party.   Sadly, The Times has disappeared from public view – save for those who wish to pay, so I can’t give you the link. Perhaps politicians might like to consider giving interviews to The Guardian, Telegraph and Independent in future so those who don’t buy The Times in hard or online copy can actually read of their views?

    As I share his remarkably ‘liberal’ views (as expressed in the article)  I am happy to summarise in my own words the gist of what David Davis was saying – at least as to the main themes.

    Davis starts by saying that the centrepiece of the new Coalition is the focus on defending liberty of the individual and the the integrity of the judiciary.  We shall see if the latter is achieved. Judges can only operate, after all, within an apparatus which is properly funded and works.

    As to the former – Davis  makes the point that theLabour government set up an authoritarian regime of counter terrorism that didn’t actually work and which ended up being abused.   Secret courts have been overruled many times;  control orders have been too draconian and didn’t seem to work – we lost seven suspects – ‘probably the most dangerous ones’.   The serial abuse of stop and search powers by police has been checked by the European Court and will, inevitably form part of the counter-terror law review. Alleged British complicity in torture is being investigated by an inquiry chaired by former high court judge Sir Peter Gibson.   Detention without trial – which Labour wanted extended to 90 days – may well come down from 28  to 14 days.  Other nations make do with far less.  The United States allows 2 days.  Australia, our closest comparator, is likely to reduce from 12 to 4 days.   S.44 stop and search is already being controlled and, hopefully, will be removed or heavily proscribed in the review.  Councils should have all powers granted by Labour under RIPA removed or at the very least their abuse controlled and penalised.

    Hopefully, Police – who obviously will ‘wish to be heard’ – will just have to accept that it is not possible ever to provide complete safety (which they admit) and that our nation would be better off not cowering under the weight of oppressive police powers and we take an element of risk. The powers don’t seem to work.  I suspect that security service and police work of a far more focused kind – as opposed to 150,000 + searches resulting in a handful of prosecutions – is the area we should focus our laws and resources.  We are told that good security service and police work has contained terror threats so far.  This has not been achieved by 150,000 random stop and searches and interfering with tourists taking photographs. Nor has it been achieved by PCSOs and officious council officers abusing their powers. Terrorists, presumably, are not daft enough to take photographs when Google aerial and street view is widely available?

    We have let the terrorists ‘win’ to some extent by subjecting ourselves, through the last Labour administration, to this raft of oppressive law. Perhaps we should free ourselves, consider our foreign policy in Afghanistan, defend our shores, build bridges with countries other than America and our traditional allies and, if we are attacked, let parliament then decide what laws are necessary?  At least it will be public and at least a modern day minister with a taste for Henry VIII will not be depriving us of laws we thought were once there or making new laws we didn’t see publicly reviewed in parliament.

    Let us hope that Mr Clegg’s Great Repeal Act does, indeed, roll back the state, unnecessary and oppresive law and that Theresa May and her advisers put the clock back in terms of law and apply resources to detection.  At the risk of causing my Labour friends to gasp with astonishment – I rather like what the Coalition government is doing on this…so far.

    Breaking News: Finance Bill debate in Commons – Happy Hour will start at 7.00

    After the example shown by Rochester & Strood MP Mark Reckless last week, I am hoping for a command performance from our elected representatives this evening.  The MPs may have to sit late and in these hot and humid days it is essential that they take on plenty of liquids.

    Paul Waugh, deputy political editor, Evening Standard, asked the question.  I had to respond.

    Charon Reports: On The Square – London observations

    Two young men, early thirties – probably Tories, in Camclegg chic suiting sans tie and hair by Geo.F.Trumper,  walked by as I was having a glass of wine and an espresso at the Riviera cafe in Battersea Square at lunch today. I was at Table 14 – where I often sit.  It gives me a good view of the comings and goings should The Times or The Sun not have sufficient to hold my interest.  One of the men went into the cafe bar.  The other stood outside.  The glass at the cafe bar is reflective and this young man made good use of its properties.  As David Blunkett said of Lord Mandelson today –  “He fell in love with himself at an early age” would be a most apt aphorism to describe the young man’s admiration of himself.  I have seen more preening from the young women who stride by in their dance leotards from The Royal Academy of Dance but 100 yards up the road.

    I moved to Battersea in February. I am right on the river.  In fact, I could almost ‘tombstone’ into the Thames if I was as spirited as the 75 year old Major whose antics I read about in The Sun this morning.  The ex-Major, at the age of 75,  decided to jump off a 40ft cliff into the sea for amusement.  Unfortunately he ‘hurt his bits’ after a bellyflop and had to be rescued and flown to hospital. A spokesman for HM Coastguard remarked “You’d think he would have known better”.  Full marks, Major – you get my vote. Bravo!

    I digress, as I often do.  I like Battersea – rather more colourful and eclectic than Chelsea where I lived on a boat near Battersea bridge for five months before escaping to the Medway last year.  Battersea Square is a bit of a misnomer:  It is more of a triangle. A dry cleaner, a Lebanese cafe, a hairdresser (Metamorphosis by name) a cool bar and an Indian restaurant, wonderfully named  The Battersea Rickshaw, make up one part of the triangle.  The Riviera cafe and a road leading down to a private school makes up another and the third side of the triangle is a road leading to a place called Wandsworth and the territories of the middle class professionals in Putney, if one walks far enough and the Thames footpath.  In summer the Square is packed with a mix of people.  Trees are many and the stylish lampposts are festooned with flowers in various shades of pink in brown baskets. Thomas’s school is down the cobbled lane.  4x4s proceed one after the other – mostly Audis, Range Rover, Lexus, with the occasional Porsche 4×4 – otherwise it is estate Audis and Mercs.  Few normal cars seem to be deployed to deliver the sometimes precocious children to their lessons.

    On some mornings, the Mothers, having delivered their children, meet for a Latte or Cappucino. If you are into ‘Yummy Mummies or MILFS (and I am not) – you would get neck ache.   I have excellent hearing, developed over 25+ years of teaching law and  trying to discern the signals of intelligent life in tutorials where sometimes, it has to be said, the students were a bit like Ingerland in the Worldcup – not very good and underprepared, hungover or simply not up to it.   No… I am joking.  I had a great deal of pleasure teaching law students who were all pretty good and some particularly talented.  I just fancied a curmudgeonly digression.

    I was having coffee the other morning when a group of women met at a nearby table, having delivered their little darlings to the care of the teaching staff. They obviously knew each other through the school.  They didn’t come across as a group of old friends.  I didn’t detect any Sex and The City frisson either.   It surprised me how competitive they all were – and much of it done with a rictus smile.  Without generalising overly – there is a big difference in the style of conversations where men meet other men and women met women.  The women tend to listen more and wait their turn.  The bollocks quotient is also rather lower, I have found, with groups of women.  Nevertheless, on this particular morning – the blood was running, the competition was GAME ON as they vied to outdo each other on their forthcoming holidays – abroad, naturally – and I discovered that ‘James‘ had both an iPhone and a new iPad and ‘simply couldn’t live without it’.  There was a very brief discussion on local ‘hice’ prices – ineluctably. When the conversation of the women turned to politics – Cameron will be relieved to note that newly Tory Battersea is firm.  I’m afraid to say that the conversation was fairly ‘right wing’ – much talk of asylum seekers, ‘prison should be harsh’,  public servants have had it too good for too long, Labour is a ‘disgrace for spending all our (husband’s) money and hanging of chavs should be brought back as a recreational activity .  OK… I exaggerate on the latter.  They did not say that.  I was, however,  expecting Paul D’Acre, Editor of The Daily Mail to pitch up as the guest speaker at the gathering.

    The days are varied in The Square – but there are some constants. A group of businessmen – who are extremely amusing – meet regularly for coffee – each with their iPads or laptops and talk. Sometimes one of them does most of the talking.  I know who he is, but do not know him  – a friendly  guy and he can be very funny. It is a bit difficult to not hear, given the proximity of tables.  It is a great place – not achingly trendy, not achingly pleased with itself – quite the opposite – it is a very friendly welcoming place.  I shall stay until Christmas.  Then I shall escape and go somewhere else.

    Well… there we are… just fancied writing  a few observations on another part of London I like.  Man cannot live by Law alone.

    Postcard from The Staterooms: LSA and Social Media for Lawyers edition

    Dear Reader

    I am a bit late with my postcard this week.  Got tied up with Lord Shagger (posts below) and the World Cup and taking on plenty of liquids, on doctor’s orders after a 24 hour  bout of recurrent malaria on Friday.  I contracted Malaria (and survived, obviously) many years ago in Africa.  They say that it does not recur – but all I can tell you is that every 6-9 months I spend a day shivering and then sweating.  Not a pleasant activity but I am restored to full strength now.  I was not, as @infobunny suggested, being ‘fashionable’ – a reference to Cheryl Cole’s serious attack.

    My attention was caught earlier this evening by an article in The Law Society Gazette.

    Barristers seek partnership with solicitors

    This would for some of my friends at the Bar either be an irrelevance or an apostasy.

    Rachel Rothwell writes : “Some 43% of barristers would like to go into business with solicitors, research commissioned by bar regulator the Bar Standards Board has shown today.A YouGov survey of nearly 2,000 barristers and 141 clerks and practice managers revealed that 43% said they would be interested in becoming a manager alongside a solicitor, while 23% would be interested in management alongside non-lawyers.

    The bit I liked I have quoted in my cartoon above.  It does not surprise me that only a third of barristers said they had a good understanding of the LSA.  My own straw poll indicated a very much lower figure – this may, of course, be ascribed to supreme indifference to the whole thing.

    Solicitors are certainly punting it out there, hyperventilating about SOCIAL MEDIA. Muttley Dastardly LLP issued a helpful bulletin advising solicitors how they may make best use of social media and twitter a few weeks ago.  The Law Society Gazette is at it again with advice on Social media, linked-In etc etc etc.

    Is social networking really appropriate for lawyers?

    Clare Rodway writes: “Here are some of the typical comments we hear as we talk to lawyers and their in-house marketing teams: I’m not sure about all this hype around social media. I’m not sure if social networking has any relevance to a law firm. I can see that more and more business people are active on the networks, but are they really appropriate places for lawyers to be seen? LinkedIn is becoming quite popular with lawyers, but I can’t see how Twitter is relevant. Does anyone get any business from any of this networking? What’s the return on investment? Help! My managing partner has asked me to develop a social media strategy for the firm and I don’t know where to start!


    ~My advice?  Don’t even think about it. I am, naturally, quite happy to charge you a substantial sum of money (double if you wish to consult after 6.00 pm) to tell you why you should be very careful about using Social Media to promote your law business!  I’ll give you a hint.  If you don’t *get* twitter you could make a monumental pig’s ear of it.  But… hey… who am I to  stop lawyers making a pig’s ear of things?

    Sterilise claimants urges racist H M Treasury website!

    Oh Dear.  Osbore & Beaker  don’t really *do* social media. The latest gaffe is not to moderate the website they set up asking for people to suggest ways of cutting the deficit.  Moderating comments is sometimes a good idea.  There are professional agitators and professional nutters out there who enjoy undermining everything.  Unfortunately, I suspect, many of the comments come from real nutters.

    I quote from a newsletter… “This is a single issue newsletter asking for your urgent help in getting a government website closed down. The site, set up by the treasury to allow people to suggest ways to cut government spending, is full of hate-filled racist and disablist suggestions, including the sterilisation of benefits claimants, the return of the workhouse and the forced repatriation of asylum seekers and migrants.  Some of the site’s content is so extreme it may even constitute a criminal offence.

    The Spending Challenge website was set up on Friday by the coalition government and features an introduction and video on its home page by chancellor George Osborne.

    I really liked this.  Good on him and his family….

    Holocaust Survivor Dances to ‘I Will Survive’ at Concentration Camp

    A Holocaust survivor — along with his children and grandchildren — danced to Gloria Gaynor at concentration camps throughout Europe. Says the video’s uploader, “This dance is a tribute to the tenacity of the human spirit and a celebration of life.”  Watch the film.  Excellent.

    And finally…. Twitter can be very enjoyable and amusing. @Nipclaw is a very serious barrister who enjoys and uses twitter well.  I have known her for many years.  The trouble is… I may have seen too many “Carry On” films in my ‘childhood’ and, therefore, just cannot resist her latest tweet this evening – pregnant with several meanings for people like me with too much time on my hands tonight. I may burn in the fires of hell. There are drawbacks to only 140 characters on twitter.

    A short postcard… much to do.

    Best, as always

    Charon


    Law Review: Libel – Iceland a safe haven – Criminal justice – Legal Aid – Libel reform

    Lawyer and blogger Jack of Kent is in the midst of a very important case of concern to all bloggers. I shall leave him to take up the story – for he is doing the work pro bono, for which he is to be commended.  I certainly, have no problem at all in raising a glass to him.  In the interests of fairness it is only right that I draw your attention to a blog post by Ms Kaschke about the same proceedings.  You will, no doubt, draw your own conclusions.

    An interesting article from Afua Hirsch of The Guardian….

    Iceland aims to become a legal safe haven for journalists

    Icelandic Modern Media Initiative would offer protection against litigation

    Plans to reform defamation law announced

    Ministry of Justice: Plans to review the law on defamation to protect free speech and freedom of expression were outlined today by Justice Minister Lord McNally.

    The Ministry of Justice will publish a draft Defamation Bill for consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny in the new year, with a view to introducing a Bill as soon after that as parliamentary time allows.

    Proposals for reform will be the subject of consultation with interested parties to ensure that a wide range of views are taken into account and that a fully informed assessment of reform is reached. The Government recognises the impact that the current law may be having on freedom of expression, particularly in relation to academic and scientific debate, the work of non-governmental organisations and investigative journalism and will be looking at options for addressing concerns around “libel tourism”.

    Lord McNally said:

    ‘Freedom of speech is the foundation of democracy. We need investigative journalism and scientific research to be able to flourish without the fear of unfounded, lengthy and costly defamation and libel cases being brought against them.

    ‘We are committed to reforming the law on defamation and want to focus on ensuring that a right and a fair balance is struck between freedom of expression and the protection of reputation.

    ‘The debate today in the House of Lords and Lord Lester’s Private Members Bill has greatly assisted our thinking on the matter. We will now move ahead with a draft Government Bill with all due urgency.’

    Probation watchdog: serious crimes may be price to pay for cutting cost of justice

    Telegraph: Murders and other serious crimes committed by prisoners released early from jail may have to be “accepted” by the public as part of attempts to keep down the cost of the criminal justice system, the probation watchdog suggested.

    I fear, a sign of the times ahead – with all government departments keen to slash the deficit.  This will, inevitably, impact on legal aid as well…and, indeed, it has….

    Fury as ‘superb’ training scheme for legal aid lawyers faces axe

    • Former minister attacks £2.6m-a-year saving as short-sighted
    • Poorest in society will be hardest hit, critics warn
    Guardian

    Government plans to scrap a scheme for supporting the training of future legal aid lawyers has provoked a furious response, as critics say the move will hit the prospects of the poorest in society joining the profession. The plans would end the £2.6m-a-year training contract grant scheme, which helps pay for more than 750 young lawyers across England to qualify and give legal advice on issues such as housing, welfare benefits, immigration and crime.
    This is a quick update. I am rather pre-occupied with a project.  I plan to write later in the day – it may be serious analysis but I suspect, given some of the above, it will involve Muttley Dastardly LLP and, therfore, be parodic.

    Shagger from Monaco: The State of The Nation

    After my decision to resign my seat in the Lords, following an entirely misguided change in the law (no doubt introduced by sundry tree huggers and hand wringers in the Lib-Dem part of the new government) I am no longer able to play my part, nay divine right, in governing unless if I pay United Kingdom taxes.  Democracy is a curious concept enabling a large number of people who have absolutely no idea what is going on – many do not even read newspapers, let alone party manifestos – to have a say in who governs this country at general elections.  I suspect that AV or worse, PR, will make the situation worse.  Many people in the far reaches of the United Kingdom have only just mastered the idea that one puts an ‘X’ in the box adjacent to the candidate of choice to cast one’s vote.  How these people will manage with anything more complex is anyone’s guess. But there you are.  I digress.

    Charon has been kind enough to make space on his blawg from time to time to allow me to report on my views as to the The State of the Nation. For this I am grateful.    Let me say at once that I am preparing an action under the Human Rights Act claiming that  exiling those of us who wish to spend more time with our money is a ‘cruel and unusual punishment’. Not  mentioning names, of course, but some of my fellow British tax avoiders out here really are beyond the pale and some look as if they would be more comfortable being fugitives from justice in Marbella or some other chavved up part of sunny Spain.  But, noblesse oblige:  I bear my trials, vicissitudes and tribulations in the manner of a stoic.

    Governance is a very serious matter so it gives me great pleasure to readA Kent MP has apologised for being drunk in the House of Commons and missing a vote on the Budget”. Mark Reckless said he did not feel it was appropriate to take part in the vote in the early hours of Wednesday because of the amount he had drunk, according to the BBC.  For the life of me I just cannot see why inebriation, be it Reckless’s,  reckless or intentional, extreme or mild, should be a bar to exercising one’s vision and wisdom as a decision in a vote.   I shall be writing to Mr Reckless later to tell him to ‘man up’ and not make such foolish statements to the BBC again about never drinking again at Westminster.

    I turn now to the matter of Sado-Masochism – or Le Vice Anglais as we call it down here in Monaco. Nick Cohen, writing in the Observer today, tells us we are all having a good flogging with all these cuts and seem to be enjoying it.  Popular mythology suggests, of course, following the antics of Germanophile Max Mosley, that the English tend to prefer the ‘M’ part of S&M.  Well, I can tell you that when I was at a well known public school, our head master Dr James ‘Flogger’ Chenevix-Sade, was rather more interested in the ‘S’ part.  Nick Cohen, once one wades through the salacious (and thereby interesting) bits of his article,  was suggesting that we are all going through a period of collective masochism and are actually looking forward to a bit of austerity and stern governance.

    This is, of course, complete nonsense.  The truth of the matter is that many people, bewildered by our chaps failing miserably at the World Cup, distracted by failure at Wimbledon, the activities of Mr Moat and Mr Gazza pitching up with chicken McNuggets and lager at the most serious manhunt in recent history have not really had time to take in the fact that the proposed 25-40% cuts, the budget and rise in VAT to 20% will actually be rather difficult for many.  The sunshine and the complete lack of a Labour Opposition has allowed the new Coalition to escape real criticism.  The political bloggers and pundits are biding their time.  When the Labour Party finish “Around the houses in Eighty days’ and actually elect a leader and the summer sun turns to Autumn rain which in turn to a winter of discontent as the VAT hits – it will be an entirely different landscape.

    May I commend to you –

    Secret diary of a civil servant: my life amid the cuts and chaos of Whitehall

    Writing anonymously, a senior civil servant offers this savage critique of how the service is being targeted by government cuts – and issues a stark warning about the devastating impact they will have on our society, politics and economy  (Observer)

    Anyway – we may not have to worry about any of this. Charon forwarded to me an email link he received from @Ianpj [Ian Parker-Joseph, formerly Leader of The Libertarian Party  UK – a collection of political cats impossible to herd.  Ian also blogs] Charon, in his usual laconic style, replied to Mr Parker-Joseph thanking him for the emailed article link and suggested that Ian book his summer holiday now before the world ends in a few months time.

    There is a news blackout in force in relation to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.  There may well be a good reason for this if this article is to be given any credence.

    Doomsday: How BP Gulf disaster may have triggered a ‘world-killing’ event

    Helium reports: Ominous reports are leaking past the BP Gulf salvage operation news blackout that the disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico may be about to reach biblical proportions.

    251 million years ago a mammoth undersea methane bubble caused massive explosions, poisoned the atmosphere and destroyed more than 96 percent of all life on Earth. [1] Experts agree that what is known as the Permian extinction event was the greatest mass extinction event in the history of the world. [2]. the planet when they explosively blew from deep beneath the waters of what is today called the Gulf of Mexico.

    Now, worried scientists are increasingly concerned the same series of catastrophic events that led to worldwide death back then may be happening again-and no known technology can stop it. The bottom line: BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling operation may have triggered an irreversible, cascading geological Apocalypse that will culminate with the first mass extinction of life on Earth in many millions of years.

    Well, I won’t spoil the pleasure for you in reading of our imminent Departure through Gate 21 – but basically, we are fucked and it is all BP’s fault. That should do wonders for their share price.  If you do believe this – enjoy your last few moments on Earth.  If you don’t believe it, keep an eye on the BP share price and go long when the price hits the bottom.  I think we may well have more to worry about than oil spills once the government cuts start to bite and it would not surprise me at all if the government is in fact getting it wrong – despite many years to prepare.  We could be tipped back into recession.  Only time will tell.  Fortunately, I am in Monaco, and have put a lot of my newly acquired gold into an old  war bunker in the Swiss Alps which has been renovated so those of us who are rich can keep hold of our money in a terrorist and nuclear proof facility and emerge with lots more when the Euro goes tits up and things settle down.

    I shall write again soon.  In the meantime, as we say down here, ‘If you have to ask, you can’t afford it’.  As the very best banks are now saying to customers.  Don’t ask for credit.  A refusal often offends.

    Best

    Rive Gauche: Tom Watson MP shoots who? – I send Dave £100 to help with deficit – SOME LAW BLOGS I ENJOY AND CLEGG PARTY MASK!!!

    Michael Gove has been in the news rather a lot – *govelling* in The House of Commons after his unfortunate errors and there was a YouTube video floating about of him falling over.  Now to add to his woes Tom Watson MP – he who called Mr Gove a *Pipsqueak* and had to withdraw on the instructions of the *sanctimonious little dwarf* (Speaker Bercow was called this last week!) –  has put the boot in with a wonderfully crafted explanation of why he called Gove a pipsqueak.  It is worth a read even if you can’t stand Labour.   Tom Watson was also kind enough to tweet this link about Inspector Cleggeau, our revered Deputy Prime Minister.  Wonderful stuff

    I have breakfast each morning early at a caff near Battersea Bridge.  Sometimes there are builders sitting outside.  I’ve got to chatting with a few regulars. George Osborne was asking Sun readers to come up with ideas for cutting the deficit.  This, as you can imagine, went down well with men who are largely self employed and take life and work as it comes.  Their reaction was not what Osborne may have wished for… one guy – which had me coughing black coffee – said “We pay these F*****s to sort it… so they should farkin sort it!”.  He’s right.

    Only tonight, David Cameron wrote directly to me (and others),  using his WebCameron database,  asking me if If I had any ideas. I do, as it happens, but being a capitalist anarcho-syndicalist who votes Labour I am open to negotiations.  Unfortunately, HMG is cutting back on  *consultancy* fees – such a bright and clever idea when the Civil Service appears to have needed external expertise for years and bunging peerages at members of the public doesn’t cut it anymore – so it is unlikely he will be back in touch.  I’ve sent him £100 I found in an old Monopoly set lurking in a cupboard – one of those orange ones.

    If you haven’t seen these astonishing Swiss Army drummersplease watch. Truly astonishing.  HT @OldHolborn

    As OH says… no wonder Swiss trains and watches run on time.

    AND SO.. A TRIP TO SOME OF MY FAVOURITE LAW BLOGS!

    John Bolch, a good friend and a very good family lawyer and blogger has an amusing (and interesting)  piece about Facebook

    Block those smelly feet

    The WHITE RABBIT is a lawyer, A BARRISTER WHO SPECIALISES IN BLOODSTAINS – but he rarely writes about LAW. He is now pre-occupied (as I am) with British born Octopus, PAUL

    And then there is my friend Tim Kevan, who writes the BabyBarista blog. Tim has managed to get The Guardian to carry his blog – on very LIBERAL terms (What else with The Guardian) – after escaping from the Times PAYWALL of China.

    Are Your Lawyers from Heaven or Hell? Asks Professor John Flood – who does write serious stuff – but also about the surreal.

    I wasn’t going to mention any serious Law blogs – this being Friday and Rive Gauche day – but I am going to make an exception. If you have not read the blog by Obiter J – please give it a run.  Obiter J is a tireless commenter on many blogs, my own included (when I write sensibly).

    Law and Lawyers

    is a serious LAW blog and well worth reading.

    Law bloggers who know me know me well enough to know that I can’t include them in this Rive Gauche – but I shall include their more recent analyses in Law reviews next week!  Mea culpa

    And on that note…. I saw this on twitter today.  It is an exceptional summation of Ingerland. I am genuinely sorry – I forgot to bookmark who first put it up on twitter and for that I apologise so I cannot give a HT – but it comes from Spygun.com .

    FABIO REVEALS NEW INGERLAND SHIRT

    AND FINALLY… WOULD YOU LIKE YOUR OWN PARTY MASK OF NICK CLEGG? IF SO… CLICK HERE

    Have a great weekend

    Law Review: Gay asylum seeker rights – Death by Stoning – Impending execution of British citizen Linda Carty – Police exceed their powers – solicitors vie to be judges

    Why the Supreme Court ruled against the deportation of gay asylum-seekers

    The Independent reports: “Gay and lesbian asylum-seekers have won the right to live in Britain after the Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the Government was wrong to return refugees to countries where people had to choose between homophobic persecution or hiding their true sexual identity. The ruling by Britain’s highest court ends the Home Office’s controversial policy of refusing asylum to gay refugees on the grounds that they could avoid persecution abroad by pretending to be heterosexual.

    Supreme Court judge Lord Rodger said gay people’s right to live freely must be protected.

    He said: “Just as male hetero­sexuals are free to enjoy themselves playing rugby, drinking beer and talking about girls with their mates, so male homosexuals are to be free to enjoy themselves going to Kylie concerts, drinking exotically-coloured cocktails and talking about boys with their straight female mates.”

    The penalty for homosexuality in Iran is flogging or, in more severe cases, death by hanging.  In many countries in Africa punishment for homosexuality if not meted out by the Courts is often dealt with by vigilantes.

    Halt stoning of Iran ‘adulterer’ – Human Rights Watch

    In The Times today – the entire story was about the impending execution of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a mother of two, who faces imminent death by stoning after her appeals for clemency were denied.  I can’t give you a link because of the new Times Paywall.  The BBC covered the story.

    Bloggers and twitter users covered this some time ago.  Indeed, there was a flurry of activity in which I played a very small part by asking my friends on twitter to re-tweet information about this. They did and in large numbers.  We may not be able to persuade the authorities in Iran to stop executing people by this barbaric method – but at least mainstream media in this country and elsewhere can bring pressure to bear on Iran.    I’m not going to publish the grisly pictures available on the net, nor links to videos of actual executions by stoning.  Suffice it to say that men are buried in a shroud up to their waists, women to their breasts.  If they are able to wriggle free – almost impossible given the shrouds used to bind the body – the more so with women because they are buried deeper – they are pardoned.  The victims are then stoned to death by men throwing stones – neither too large to kill at the first stones nor ‘too small to be stones’.  The Quran does not prescribe this method of punishment, I am told.  Iran’s penal code does.  Many muslims are disgusted and outraged by this cruel punishment and are vocal.  Unfortunately, it is not possible to be as vocal in Iran as here.  It can take 20-30 minutes of blows to the head and body from the stones for the victim to die.

    There are many petitions around the world about this.  Here is the Amnesty US petition

    The impending execution of British citizen, Linda Carty, in Texas.

    Above is a short piece I wrote earlier in the week about the impending execution in Texas of Linda Carty. The method may be less barbaric – but the result is the same. It would appear that standards of justice were roughly on a par in Texas and Iran in relation to the conduct of the trials.

    PCSO unlawfully deleted photographers images

    The NUJ reports: “Branch member photojournalist, James Mackay, represented by Chez Cotton, head of the Police Misconduct Department, at leading civil rights law firm Bindmans LLP, has succeeded in a complaint against the British Transport Police after he was unlawfully ordered by one of their officers to delete photographs he had taken on the basis that he “was not allowed to photograph the police.”

    Mr Mackay’s solicitor Chez Cotton said:
    The incident highlights only too clearly the difficulties faced by journalists and photographers working in Britain today, where increasingly the police are attempting to use legislation for dealing with terrorism and serious public order incidents to prevent reporting on events of legitimate public interest, such as civil unrest, protest and, where it occurs, police wrong-doing. Working in Burma where there is no free press or freedom of speech; the value of ensuring these fundamental rights are protected in this country is of paramount importance to my client by way of complaint or legal action as necessary.

    Complaint upheld

    Mr Mackay, through the NUJ, instructed Chez Cotton of law firm Bindmans to make a formal complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. An investigation carried out by the British Transport Police confirmed:
    That it was not disputed that PCSO Juneja requested Mr Mackay to cease taking photographs and delete the images from his camera, since this was corroborated by the pocket note book of the officer and the statement of the journalist.
    The report states: “…it is clear from legislation and subsequent guidance that PCSO Juneja was acting outside of his powers without justification….complaint upheld.”
    ….it is clear that Mr Mackay was detained for a period, albeit a short time and this was against his will to leave. It is not in dispute that the PCSO had no power to detain Mr Mackay in these circumstances therefore it must be considered that the period of detention was unwarranted….complaint upheld.

    Police officers get a rough deal sometimes from the press – deservedly when they break the rules and they get support –  and praise when they put their lives on the line as many are doing in the manhunt for Raoul Moat.  Police who act outside the rules – and these photography rules are not very difficult to understand – should be asked to leave the force. Frankly, I would go further and suggest that they should be prosecuted or sued in a civil court for exceeding powers.  They are abusing their authority and position.  This is not ‘heat of the moment’ policing where we accept a degree of latitude in the decision making process and have to give support to Police particularly in dangerous or tense violent situations. Not every person confronted by a police officer or PCSO will know the law on photography.

    Solicitors vie for judicial office

    And finally…. solicitors are queuing up to be judges. Can it be due to a downturn in work or a (mini) collective  Damascene moment – an urge to serve – among the side of the profession under represented in the judiciary for reasons of legal history ?

    The Law Society Gazette has the story: Law Society president Robert Heslett said Chancery Lane had worked closely with the JAC to inform and encourage the profession, and the appointments were encouraging.

    I haven’t seen the demographics for these solicitor applications.  I wonder how many applications have been put in by partners at successful law firms where the PEP is £400k – £1.2 million?  That would be an interesting statistic.

    The Octopus is pretty scathing about hung parliaments and Clegg! True Story!

    How wrong I was not to want to write about the Octopus earlier in the day.  This Octopus is …well….Da Octopus… he knows *things*!  It is, of course, entirely possible that the Octopus is fallible and Britain can look forward to a sunny future under the guidance of the Coalition and the wise leadership of Ant and Dec or as some so cruelly call them Cam Jong-Il and his heir Clegg Jon-Il..

    Could not find author of pic above – and did look hard!  Not my pic… but SUCH a GREAT pic – if anyone knows link/author/artist I will give FULL attribution – or remove if they object! .

    Govelling – a tragedy but not Greek this time


    Obviously, it is always sad to see an enthusiastic young government Secretary of State have to Govel – particularly so early in a new Coalition Gove-ernment.  But today Mr Gove had to do just that – to an astonished (and packed) House of Commons.  The Coalition is a principled gove-ernment…it can only be a matter of time before Mr Gove acts in a thoroughly principled way and resigns.

    He may well enjoy my favourite tune from the Pet Shop Boys… GOVE WEST

    WORLD CUP LATEST : 21:24 pm

    It seems that the German OCTOPUS was right and predicted, correctly, that Germany would lose against Spain.  Obviously, our German cousins are not too keen on on the Octopus, known as Paul, now but Nick Clegg has persuaded Dave to appoint the Octopus to high office.

    I am not a heartless man… I am sympathetic…..

    VIDEO COVERAGE OF PIPSQUEAKGATE AND GOVE GOVELLING – Ms Cushion’s excellent blog!

    Watch?

    Torture: The moral high ground – can we afford to take it when others don’t and won’t?

    It is not difficult to imagine a pub conversation where all parties agree that it is perfectly acceptable to torture and commit atrocities against those who would do us harm. I suspect there are internet forums which specialise in exactly this type of rhetoric and, judging by comments I have seen in recent months on The Sun and the Daily Mail websites,  there is quite a lot of support for torturing people, hanging them and, indeed, letting ‘our boys hunt them down like dogs’.

    It would not surprise me, given the Right’s enthusiasm in days gone by for the death penalty, if some in high places, in parliament and elsewhere, do not ‘secretly’ hold these views.

    The issue is perfectly straightforward – (a) do we adhere to an international law which prohibits the use of torture?  (b) do we want to be a society that fights, but fights as fairly as the heat of warfare allows within the laws of warfare?  and (c) are we prepared to do this, when all about us, others – do not wish to subscribe to such a high ethic?

    David Cameron must not compromise on torture

    Guardian: The coalition should wait for the results of the torture inquiry before proposing legislation that bows to transatlantic pressure

    Clive Stafford-Smith, Director of Reprieve, writes in the Guardian today.  It is worth reading.  I make no comment.  Mr Stafford-Smith is eloquent.

    Government to compensate torture victims as official inquiry launched

    Guardian: “PM moves to ensure courts will no longer be able to disclose evidence about British complicity in torture. David Cameron today ordered an unprecedented inquiry into evidence and allegations of British complicity in the torture and abuse of terror suspects. But he immediately moved to ensure the courts would no longer be able to disclose damning evidence which, he implied, could jeopardise intelligence sharing with the US.”

    This is good news as to the first part – even if we have the rather curious business of current cases against the British government being ‘settled’ before Sir Peter Gibson begins his Inquiry.  It is also good news that there is a judge leading it.  The questioning should, one hopes, be rather sharper than the demonstration we saw given at The Chilcott Iraq Inquiry.  The argument that it will be cheaper to settle rather indicates that Cameron expects the security services to have benefitted from torture.  It can’t all be cost cutting…can it?  No admissions will be made, of course, in any ‘settlement’.  Pragmatism may win out here but at least the government is doing something to clear this up.  Of course – it is possible that our security services are clean and are, indeed, doing good work without breaking rules indirectly.  That would be a boon and morale boost to the war on terror.

    What is not such good news is the idea of promulgating legislation to stop judges disclosing evidence of British complicity in torture. Assuming that Britain chooses the moral high ground option and is prepared to pay more than lip service to international law, I would have thought that if we are doing it, the judges should reveal this.  it is, of course, a nod to our American cousins who, it would seem from past events, have a nice line in water boarding, and other subtle tortures which we may be found to have benefitted from.

    The discussion is important and, I would suggest, so are the answers to the three questions I suggested above.  Your views, as ever, are very welcome. I know which side of the debate I am on – but I do not prescribe for others….

    Well refreshed ejaculations, members and a post coital observation or two….

    Well refreshed ejaculations and members

    Paul Waugh writes of last night’s Finance Bill debate – which cannot be guillotined – and Labour’s mischief making in keeping the debate going as long as possible to cause difficulty for Tory and Lib-Dem MPs trying to get home.  It appears, however, that some Tory back benchers were ‘well lubricated’ following dinner.

    Paul Waugh reports: “But perhaps the sparkiest intervention came just before 2am, when Labour veteran Stephen Pound felt that several Tory backbenchers were clearly the worse for wear after their well-lubricated dinners. Their tipsy heckling was most evident when Shadow Treasury Minister Angela Eagle was speaking, Pound claimed.

    Here’s the priceless exchange that followed:

    Stephen Pound: “On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, I would never presume to teach you your job but some of us on this side of the Chamber are having great difficulty in hearing the priceless words that the shadow Minister is enunciating because of the well-refreshed ejaculations that are coming from those on the Benches opposite.”

    Mr Deputy Speaker: “I do not think that I need to deal with that point of order.”

    Ms Eagle: “Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am trying to put the idea of well-refreshed ejaculations firmly out of my mind…”

    Interestingly, of events of the same evening Guido Fawkes reports….

    Next time an MP whines about being poorly paid and hard work because of all those late night sittings, ask him what really happens during those sessions?…… [Do read some of the Eyespy.MP observations]

    0200: Ed Balls the last Labour leadership contender left on the Terrace – still drinking pints with the NE mafia!

    Guido continues….. “Bear in mind some of these MPs will have been drinking subsidised beer since tea-time.  In many cases they will be completely drunk when voting and the whips basically roll them into the lobbies. In how many jobs outside the entertainment industry is it acceptable to be completely intoxicated in the workplace? Makes you proud of our great parliamentary democracy doesn’t it…”The hunt for alleged killer, Raoul Moat, is occupying much of The Sun’s attention span and the Police certainly cannot be faulted for pulling out all the stops.  Perhaps the pictured intervention above is a bit OTT,  but as the ladies in the car do not appear to be too concerned by a burly police officer pointing a machine gun directly at them, one assumes they were warned that this was going to happen. If they weren’t warned then all I can say is they breed the women tough up North.  The internet has, predictably, thrown up some black humour.  It appears that Moat doesn’t like police officers which is why he shot a man who he believed was a cop and plans to continue shooting police until he is caught.  Bloggers and twitterers were suggesting to Moat a long list of people  he might not also like.  One enterprising organisation is, extraordinarily, selling “Where’s Moaty?’ badges.  Black humour can, of course, heighten the seriousness of events and will certainly widen the publicity which may…you never know… assist the police in terms of information.  The Twitter stream will give you some idea of the Moat chatter.  As a lot of twitters observed..and I quote: “Starting to get bored of Raoul Moat jokes. They’re not even raoulmoatly funny.

    I really can’t be bothered to write about it – but if you want to read about an Octopus which can predict the results of Germany’s World Cup matches then go here.


    Anyway… good news for the Coalition government which places so much faith in the private sector and even plans to let the private sector bid for universities or get or widen their degree awarding powers – god help us……

    UK’s first private prison condemned in report

    The Independent reports: Britain’s first private prison, opened in the year Ken Clarke was Conservative Home Secretary, was roundly condemned by independent inspectors today.

    Prisoners at HMP Wolds were found to be high on drugs while prison officers were low in confidence, said Dame Anne Owers, Chief Inspector of Prisons, in a report seized on by penal reform groups who have criticised the over-reliance of private companies to run new prisons…… The Yorkshire training prison, managed by G4S, was also criticised by the inspectors for failures in dealing with violent incidents, suicide prevention schemes as well concerns over the safety of methadone dispensing.

    Anne Owers said: “It is always disappointing to chart a decline in the performance of a prison but, sadly, that is the case with this inspection of HMP Wolds. The prison was not designed as a training prison and will always struggle to deliver the quality of purposeful activity that we expect.”

    She added: “The deterioration in safety and security arrangements, particularly the significant increase in drug use and the weakness in staff supervision of prisoners, are issues that can and must be addressed.”

    Muttley Dastardly LLP: Get your ass out there!

    MUTTLEY DASTARDLY LLP GUIDE TO ADVERTISING FOR LAWYERS

    Get your ass out there!

    This guide, prepared by our internal marketing team, is intended to be a helpful guide to law firms unfortunate enough not to be able to afford their own marketing team.  Muttley Dastardly LLP believes in the hand of friendship.  We hope you will find our guide helpful and that your practice reaps what it sows during these dark and difficult times.

    1. Tesco is coming to get you…yes, YOUR firm, YOUR clients, YOUR profits. If you are really unlucky, the Co-op and ASDA will also come to get YOU!  You can’t stick your heads in the sand and expect to make big money…. you have to husssle, hussle and hussle and get your ass out there!

    2. You will read a lot about building trust and relationships. This is all very worthy.  Look… the public hates lawyers, they may even hate you personally…so why waste time building trust… they don’t trust you now…why spend money trying to get them to trust you?  The client doesn’t want you to be a friend…the client wants you to put the boot into the guy down the road whose hedge is too large or who keeps parking in ‘his’ parking space.  The client wants you to sue the ass of his employer who sacked him unfairly. The client wants you to screw as much money out of the supermarket which washed their floors and then made him fall over because they didn’t warn him.  The client has seen those ads on TV about big fat cheques coming for a broken leg..and…believe me… he wants a piece of the action!  This is where you come in.  He doesn’t want you pitching up at the pub in your Vauxhall Astra claiming to be his ‘mate’. He wants a big fat cheque and no legal bills because the schmucks on the other side will be paying.

    3. SO… how are you going to get your ass out there?!  Here’s how:

    (a)  Write articles: This is a very effective way of showing off your expertise, if you have any – if you haven’t got any expertise do a lateral hire. When you write, you aren’t boring the arse off some academics who hyperventilate when they see The Law Quarterly Review.  Speak direct to the client in language they understand.  Think Daily Mail, The Sun, The Mirror. The problem here is that tabloid writing is difficult.  It takes real skill to terrorise entire sections of Middle England.  It take real skill to reduce complex ideas to easily understood fear concepts.  Bin The Guardian style. Don’t be too clever with some Independent style analysis of the legal problem.  Think EPIDEMIC OF ACCIDENTS…. think MAN GETS £100K FOR 3RD DEGREE BURNS AFTER DRINKING COFFEE AT STARBUCKS. Think… OSBORNE IS TAKING YOUR JOB – DON”T WAIT FOR THE AXE – CONTACT YOUR LAWYER NOW! Above all, play on the innate prejudices and fears of the client when you write your article.  Keep it really simple.

    (b) Website: Get a decent website…pepper it full of pictures of injuries, happy smiling clients with cheques, wonderful cliche photographs of lawyers – preferably get a good racial mix…and put them on a beach.  Don’t sit back and think (a) our lawyers don’t look as good as that  or (b) what the F**k are lawyers doing on a beach…. think client!  Clients want to see thrusting young lawyers on a beach.  Remember, if you have got your practice well sorted, the client isn’t ever going to meet the lawyer.  Think OUTSOURCING and lawyer farms.

    When you design your website…think…ease of use… keep it really simple… one form for the client to use to send in the details.  Don’t forget the PayPal or Visa button if the work isn’t contingency fee.  You don’t want to waste money suing the client once you have won or lost their case, do you?  Above all…under no circumstances give a telephone number.  The last thing you need in a busy day is a client phoning you – it is just not cost effective and clients don’t like being charged for phonecalls.

    Don’t worry about keeping your website up to date.  The client isn’t interested in legal news.  The client is interested in the pay out!

    (c) Twitter: This is an invaluable tool for reaching people.  A lot of people on Twitter drink heavily at night.  Think ACCIDENTS!…think…MARITAL DISCORD…think…DRINK DRIVING…think…LIBEL, BREACH OF CONTRACT, …think the unthinkable…some of these guys on twitter get so pissed…you could even think ARSON or RYLANDS v FLETCHER when they set fire to their own house and it spreads to the neighbours.

    The way to use Twitter effectively is – use your firm’s real name…..produce a tweet about once every five minutes..use capitals and randomly spam people.  There are a lot of well known law bloggers out there…follow the people they follow and then follow the people they follow and so on.  GET AS MANY FOLLOWERS as you can… they could all be CLIENTS!…you will soon build up a good relationship with them..and they are friendly.. they want YOU to make a lot of money representing the downtrodden of Britain.  Get to know THEM… be THEIR FRIEND… flatter them… comment on their blogs…not forgetting to add the URL for your CLAIM page!

    Twitter has a #hastag system…. make a point of reading the newspapers carefully.  If you see a major disaster..this is an opportunity for you to write:  WE CAN HELP YOU IF YOU CRASHED AT HEATHROW TODAY #AirdisasterHeathrow.    WE ARE EXPERTS IN OIL SPILL COMPENSATION #BPGulfspilldisaster. Always use capitals. There is a lot of traffic on Twitter…and you have to make sure your MESSAGE gets out there!  People on Twitter always admire lawyers who selflessly try to help VICTIMS… even if you make a bit of money out of it.

    In Part 2 we will try to help you even more.  We hope this helps you develop your practice

    Fraternal greetings…get your ass out there!

    Jamie Cadogan-Howard OE Bt
    Director of Marketing
    Muttley Dastardly LLP
    London

    Strength & Profits

    Law Review: Not many openly gay judges – Big Brother traffic cameras to be regulated.

    Lord Hailsham in the 1970s formally excluded gay and lesbian lawyers from entering the judiciary by allowing only married people to be appointed. Photograph: Jane Bown for the Observer

    Judicial culture still deters gay and lesbian lawyers, say researchers

    Guardian: Perceived hostility ‘preventing applications to become judges’

    The judiciary is failing to reflect the UK’s gay and lesbian community, experts say, as research suggests it is seriously under-represented on the bench.

    Research by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) law network Interlaw has found that judicial culture, the perception of hostility to gay judges and the isolated nature of the job are deterring gay and lesbian lawyers from applying for careers as judges.

    The study also suggests that gay and lesbian lawyers fear that their private lives may be subject to additional scrutiny if they were to become judges. “The judiciary and sexuality are uneasy bedfellows,” said Les Moran, professor at Birkbeck, University of London, and one of those behind the study. “It is a myth that sexuality has nothing to do with the judiciary … The deafening silence on the importance of sexual diversity in the judiciary is an institutional culture that has to stop.”

    The preliminary findings, which have been made public for the first time, were provided to Liberal Democrat peer Lady Neuberger, whose review of diversity in the judiciary was released earlier this year.

    I cannot, personally, see why a person’s sexuality should be a qualification or disqualification for any job, let alone the  difficult work of a judge but that is probably because I have never been interested in knowing about such matters of a personal nature in relation to my friends. Years ago, a very good friend of mine, who subsequently died of AIDS,  was talking at dinner  about the work of the Terence Higgins Trust.  He talked with passion and knowledge.  I asked him what attracted him to the work of this trust.  He looked at me, baffled – I had known him for 20 years – and told me that he was gay, initially, as if this was some failing in me as a friend until I explained that as I had never heard him, nor, indeed, many of my friends discussing their sex lives (Some people don’t) I didn’t know and even If I had known it would not have affected my perception or judgment of him.  I suspect this is true for many, if not most, people.

    I  went to a public school in Scotland and we were told by our Housemaster’s wife, a doctor of great charm and sense, that it was not compulsory to be homosexual, but if we were, this was not something which should be a cause for worry or angst.  That was in the late sixties when attitudes were by no means the same as they are today.  There is, clearly, still prejudice today – prejudice diminished, hopefully, in the so called ‘macho’ circles by a leading rugby player coming out recently and being received warmly by his friends, fellow players and many members of the public.

    This is by the by – but I make the point simply to make the point that sexual orientation should not be a bar to anything.

    The Guardian notes: “Sexual diversity in the judiciary has been a controversial issue for years. In the 1970s, the then lord chancellor, Lord Hailsham, formally excluded gay and lesbian lawyers from entering the judiciary, by allowing only married people to be appointed to the bench. The practice was only ended in 1991, when the then lord chancellor, Lord Mackay, allowed unmarried people to become judges. However, there are still few openly gay judges. Court of appeal judge Sir Terence Etherton, high court and international criminal court judge Sir Adrian Fulford and circuit judge Jeremy Richardson are among the few judges in England and Wales known to be gay.

    “We have no idea how many gay and lesbian judges there actually are,” said Daniel Winterfeldt, partner at law firm Simmons & Simmons and founder of Interlaw. “We only know of a handful ‑ around five at the most, and some of those only by hearsay. It’s clearly a mark on the profession that so few gay and lesbian judges feel able to be visible.”
    A quick call to a friend of mine (a tolerant friend given that I called him at 6.10 am – he was at his desk, inevitably), a partner in a City law firm, confirmed that it was unlikely that many seeking partnership would ‘feel comfortable disclosing their sexual orientation’.  I took this to mean that prejudice still exists even among a younger group in the law at some level. He confirmed that this was his impression.
    Ken Clarke, Justice Secretary and splendidly attired Lord Chancellor at the Opening of Parliament observed…“The appointments process (for judges)  must fully respect and maintain the independence of the judiciary, and appointment on merit must remain absolutely at the heart of the process,” said Clarke. “These principles will underpin the review.”
    On a rather different note…

    ‘Big brother’ traffic cameras must be regulated, orders home secretary

    Guardian: Numberplate recognition cameras routinely survey the movements of millions of motorists.

    The home secretary, Theresa May, has ordered that a national police camera network that logs more than 10m movements of motorists every day be placed under statutory regulation.

    Her decision means that a “Big Brother” police database that currently holds a mammoth 7.6bn records of the movement of motorists using more than 4,000 cameras across the country will have to be operated with proper accountability and safeguards.

    Each entry on the database includes the numberplate, location, date, time and a photograph of the front of the car, which may include images of the driver and any passengers. These details are routinely held for two years.

    Well… who would have thought that a Tory Home Secretary would be keen to ensure that civil liberties are protected? Times have changed!  It is to Labour’s shame (and I vote Labour) that they allowed our civil liberties to be so eroded.  ironic, given that they gave us the Human Rights Act which I regard as one of the very cornerstones of our ‘civilised’ society.  Maybe the New New Labour, when they finally get back to the business of Opposition, will reflect on the fact that many Labour voters were appalled by their stance on civil liberties and have long and good memories.

    Nothing like a bit of polemic – and on that note. Breakfast at a cafe and a chance to see what is happening in the parallel universe that is both The Sun and covered by The Sun.

    Muttley Dastardly LLP: I talk to Matt Muttley about career opportunities at his law firm

    I arrive at the London office of Muttley Dastardly LLP in The City on time and I am taken to the Muttley Dastardly LLP Partner’s room – now  dramatically re-named ‘The Star Chamber”.  Eva Braun, the elegant Thierry-Mugler suited PA to the charismatic CEO of Muttley Dastardly, Matt Muttley, had already served me with a non-disclosure agreement and a draft superinjunction at reception where I was searched for knives and other weaponry and put through a new money scanning device, so I am not able to describe the changes to the room after the recent announcement in The Lawyer that Muttley Dastardly LLP has confounded expectations by not only increasing revenues but also the all important PEP by a significant 78% over last year.   I am at liberty to reveal my brief talk with Matt Muttley about his recent advertising campaign and the prospects for young lawyers at his firm.

    Matt Muttley: Good of you to drop in.  It is always a pleasure to be asked to give my thoughts and vision on matters legal by hacks from the legal press.

    Charon: I am not a hack and I am not from the legal press

    Matt Muttley: Really?  What are you doing here?  Are you a client?  If so…. welcome… how may we assist?

    Charon: I am here to talk about your recent advert in the legal press…and your trainee recruitment plans….. and your thoughts on legal education generally.

    Matt Muttley: Of course….  Yes… Dr Strangelove, our Director of Education & Training,  mentioned that you were popping over…. good to meet you.  You have nine minutes.  I try to do at least 25 minutes Pro Bono work a year.  This will be marked down for 10 of those minutes.

    Charon: A rather unconventional approach to advertising?

    Matt Muttley: Really?  I would have thought rather more honest than all the happy clappy stuff cluttering up law school websites and law firm recruitment pages showing happy smiling students?

    Charon: Well… yes.. you have a point.  I can’t really disagree with you there.

    Matt Muttley: Excellent.  Next question… you have seven and a half minutes.

    Charon: What is your key point to recruitment?

    Matt Muttley: Our raison d’etre and the maxim we operate by and under is Strength & Profits.  Honour went out of law some years ago.  Law is a business..not a vocation and business rules should and, here, apply.  Partner wealth, Mr Charon…that is the alpha and omega.  It is remarkably straightforward.  We recruit those who share our values.  We do not ask those who do not share our views to share our views…we are a principled Libertarian law firm in that regard  – and we certainly won’t employ them.  Fortunately, despite the appearance of sundry clowns from the Liberal-Democratic party – a party which may well cease to exist in as little as six months –  we have a government which understands the need to build strength through profits – hence the deficit cutting.  We applaud those who want to build a fairer society.  I, personally…and through our black psyops Twitter and Facebook unit run by Dr Strangelove,  know many people who waste fantastic amounts of time twittering and blogging to achieve their aims.  I marvel.  That is their choice.  I am the last person to criticise them for their beliefs and views. I am an anarcho-liberal capitalist. That is just fine and we would not dream of interfering with them, largely, it has to be said, because they are unlikely to be clients of this firm…or, indeed, trainees at it….. – but, by the same token, we must be free to pursue our goals and I am grateful that some right wing political  blogs are putting sufficient pressure on the government, even this government, to remind them that we can go elsewhere to ply our trade.  The internet has given lawyers and bankers the freedom to give advice anywhere and take our revenue generating capabilities and tax revenues with us.

    Charon: And your thoughts on legal education?

    Matt Muttley: We plan to buy a law school – there are good revenues to be made. We may even buy a university, can the unprofitable stuff and go from there…but we may have to buy a law school first.  I’m sorry… I really have to go.  Goodbye.

    The impending execution of British citizen, Linda Carty, in Texas.

    I don’t know if Linda Carty did or did not commit the offence for which she will be executed in Texas shortly – but it does seem to be clear:

    (a) That Texas has broken the agreement relating to British citizens by failing to inform the British government when legal action is taken against British citizens

    (b) That Linda Carty is a British citizen by virtue of her birth in St Kitts

    (c) The original trial was flawed in several ways – her conviction resting on testimony of co-conspirators who testified against her to avoid execution themselves

    (d) That Jerry Guerinot, the defence lawyer, has landed 20 clients on death row, more than any defender in America (The Times) and that he only met Carty for 15 minutes before the trial.  It appears, astonishingly, that he failed to cross-examine prosecution witnesses.

    (e) The New York Times concluded “A good way to end up on death row is to be accused of a capital crime and have Jerry Guerinot represent you [See also: Attorney Jerry Guerinot, Undertaker For The State Of Texas]

    Britain has filed several briefs detailing flaws in the conviction.  These have produced no result.
    Reprieve: A visit with Linda Carty – British grandmother on death row in Texas

    The Times notes that an appeal for clemency would be highly improbable.  Texas has a taste for executing criminals.

    We’re No. 1! (In Executions)

    Report

    The Observer reported in 2007: “In Texas, it is the jury, rather than the judge, which decides when to confer the ultimate penalty. Guerinot has acted for 39 capital murder defendants, of whom three had their charges dropped by the prosecution and six pleaded guilty in return for life imprisonment. In a further five trials, the prosecution did not ask for the death penalty when it came to sentencing. Guerinot has managed to persuade a jury to give his client life instead of death just five times since 1983. Not one of his capital clients has been found not guilty. Thirty-eight states in the US have the death penalty: former Guerinot clients have either been executed or are on death row in 15 states besides Texas.”

    The Times noted that there is one possible hope.  “One legal precedent does offer hope.  In 2008, Mexico succeded in persuading the International Court of Justice to strike down as death sentence imposed on a Mexican citizen in texas.  As in the Carty case, the Texan authorities had breached international law by failing to notify the defendant’s home government about the trial.  The US Supreme Court rejected that ruling.

    I make a few points: I am against the death penalty.  Many people – but far from a clear majority in Britain –  are.  They say that if there was a referendum on the death penalty in Britain – it would be brought back. Hopefully this is not correct and there will be no such referendum.

    I don’t practise law. I was an academic.  I am now a blogger who does various things, including a bit of law commentary.  I know a great many lawyers who do and I have had the pleasure of talking with some fairly well known defense lawyers who blog.  I have also had the pleasure of talking with a US Public defender from Connecticut – who is an ardent opponent of the death penalty in the States.  The problem is that, as I suspect is the case in Britain, the quality of legal representation is both excellent and bad in the United States.  This is a common problem with many sectors – unfortunate thought it may be.   It would seem, from remarks in a leading US newspaper (above), that Linda Carty drew a short straw and ended up with one of the bad ones. Unfortunately – this is not a matter of a poorly executed conveyance, if you forgive the deliberate metaphor – this is a matter where a woman will be put to death by the State of Texas. If the trial and legal representation was flawed – it should not be a matter of our prime minister appealing for clemency – the entire trial should be be set aside (assuming there is provision for appeals of this nature – and if there isn’t, perhaps there should be)

    If the trial was fair, the legal representation to the standards expected of lawyers in the United States, then it becomes a matter of investigating the breach of the agreement between Britain and the United States as to why our government was not informed. If that has been breached – is the trial even valid in law?  I don’t know the answer to that one.  Assuming that argument to be a non-runner (in which case why bother having agreements between the United States and Britain on such matters)  it becomes a matter for the United States to consider the value they place on our relationship with them should Cameron make an appeal.

    The fact that the United States has a death penalty in some states is a matter for the United States. This does not stop those opposed in  their country and elsewhere lobbying or commenting negatively. Should British prime ministers be making clemency appeals?  I’m not so sure they should or should have to.  I hope David Cameron will on grounds that Linda Carty is a British citizen, albeit indirectly,  and on humane grounds. Others will disagree and say that he should not – let justice take its course. I think the United States should remember, however flawed or effective our relationship is, however effective our contribution to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars has been in American eyes, that we have stood shoulder to shoulder with them.  British soldiers (from all services) have fought alongside American troops and many have died – still more have been injured. In the light of this, let alone our common history –  I do not think it unreasonable to ask the United States of America to ask the State of Texas – (a)  Did you breach the agreement between the United States and Britain relating to informing the British government? and if so what can be done about that?  (b) Can  you be absolutely sure that Linda Carty got a fair trial given the objective assessment of the procedures and the behaviour of the trial lawyer?  and then (c) if the answer to (a) and (b) is No and Yes – (c) ask if they could exercise clemency?

    I suspect that Linda Carty will be put to death.  I very much hope not – for the sake of humanity, let alone the rule of law.

    Saturday after a lot of sun…..

    Still.. at least we can say that we were beaten by Germany who do seem to know how to play football.  Germany managed to put 4 goals past another of Ingerland’s  many famous enemies – THE ARGIES!

    And…as I have had an amusing afternoon with lawyer friends  laughing at Mr Clegg’s attempts to engage the British people in law reform – thankfully Brits have a sense of humour even if some politicians don’t – I just had to include this picture as a social record of the number of women in Britain’s new Coalition government. I suspect, after reading some of the suggestions being put forward by  Daily Mail Readers  that the GREAT LAW REFORM ACT will not include the return of the death penalty, the repeal of all laws relating to speeding offences, Europe, particularly those Poles and other ‘East Europeans’ who have nicked our jobs… not that we actually want to do them, Europe again, just to be sure and nor will it include nonsense about imprisoning people who park outside other people’s houses for life.

    The good news is that it will keep Inspector Cleggeau busy believing that he is doing something of value for our country.

    And…as they say on Crimewatch… don’t have nightmares… it is only a temporary phenomenon…….

    Postcard from The Staterooms: Holidaying in Battersea Square edition

    With Parliament in recess and the Law ‘long vacation’ upon us, there won’t be a lot of law for me to write about, so I shall strike while the iron is still hot with this story from the Supreme Court…

    Cuts ‘would close supreme court’

    Guardian: Chief executive warns public spending cuts of 40% would mean court ‘couldn’t actually deal with any casework’  “At a press conference to mark a first legal year for the highest court in the country, Jenny Rowe said: “As 62% of our costs are genuinely fixed, a 40% cut causes us some problems. We couldn’t actually deal with any casework, in fact, with a 40% cut.” Rowe said that casework was a “priority” for the court, but that after being asked to come up with scenarios of cuts of 25 and 40%, its education and outreach projects looked most vulnerable. Since its launch in October last year, the supreme court has heard a total of 67 appeals and handed down 62 judgments.”

    I met Jenny Rowe last summer.  In fact, I enjoyed doing  a podcast with her on the work of the new Supreme Court.

    Clearly, we can’t have a situation where the 40% cut requirement brings about a situation where the highest court in the land continues to exist but can’t actually hear any cases.  Even the most repressive of Lord Chancellors  – and Michael Howard, a former Home Secretary, now appearing regularly in ermine in the Lords doing… I know not what…nor care to find out – would pull that stunt.   I have read most of the 62 judgments handed down by the Supreme Court this year.  The new news summaries, the reports being published immediately and the excellent UKCS blog has made a big difference to access to information.  (The UKSC blog hasn’t done much of late.  I hope that this doesn’t mean it is ‘dying’.  That would be a shame.)

    It would be interesting to hear from practitioners who have appeared before the Supreme Court to hear their views.

    I can understand the need to close some magistrates courts.  I can understand why – but do not approve of – cuts to the legal aid budget are being made, but if we are to have a meaningful legal system, a strong Supreme Court to administer justice for the people of the United Kingdom (It is not as if the Supreme Court judges are paid fantastic sums of money – they aren’t and most lawyers take significant ‘pay cuts’ when they become judges), we have to resource it.

    Lord Hope, deputy president of the court and one of the most senior judges in the UK, said the public had gained since the court’s establishment.

    “Our concern is that having started on this enterprise … we should be able to sustain that operation,” he said. “It’s a quite different operation from what we had before [in the House of Lords]. It’s one which can’t be maintained without resources.”

    It takes a fair degree of skill to piss off both Jews and Muslims but David Cameron has pulled the double off with his remarks about Israel and Pakistan. Did he ‘mis-speak’? or was this a well scripted intentional statement.  I can only presume the latter – in which case, bravo, as I think it is high time we had a Prime Minister who is direct.  I rather like the idea also, instead of HighCommissioners and Ambassadors coming from the ranks of trained diplomats that we let a few businessmen and assorted hedgies, bankers and ponzi scheme organisers to represent Britain’s interests abroad and drium up some business.

    As I find it impossible to take PCSOs seriously – I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful parody. Hat Tip to @OldHolborn for the tip-off.  Wonderful film!

    Just a quickie today… I am holidaying at Table 14 at Riviera on Battersea Square at various times during the day and shall be so for the next week.  Indeed, had a most enjoyable drink or two with The White Rabbit and, curiously, we even managed to debate politics and consider the historical position of the Labour party and reflect on the coalition.  More worryingly, we both seemed to come to the conclusion that the Coalition is doing good work on civil liberties, removal of ASBOS and prison policy – but we did manage to express reservations about Osbore and his CUTS policies.  We have not turned into Coalitionites….  The White Rabbit’s blog is always worth a look.  No law on it, though…..!

    Best as ever

    Charon

    Law Review: Rollback of Labour’s ‘daft’ Laws – and Dwarves

    While I may enjoy doing  a mild parody or two of Nick Clegg, I read with pleasure in the tabloids and in the broadsheets that the Great Repeal Act planning is under way – with the novel approach of asking us, the people, what laws we would like to do away with.  I rather suspect that Mr Clegg will get  quite a few suggestions to a point, reductio ad absurdum, where we won’t have any laws left.

    Being Clegg – he can’t just do something without giving us a tree hugger lecture…. The Independent reports:

    “We are turning things on its head. The traditional way of doing things is that government tells people what to do.

    “That is the old way of doing things. We are saying, ‘Tell us what you don’t want us to do’.”

    Mr Clegg said letting dormant laws accumulate on the statute book sends out the “wrong signal” and there is plenty of “old stuff” that should be dropped.

    He said the previous government had gone too far in invading people’s privacy.

    He said: “Did that make us safer? No, it didn’t necessarily make us safer, so we’ve got to get the balance right.”

    He said that from today any minister who proposes a new regulation will also have to propose an existing law to be taken off the statute book.

    He said: “It’s a one in, one out rule.”

    This one law in, one law out is rather bizarre.  Taken to its logical conclusion – assuming that the ‘bad laws’ are, indeed, stripped out – we could be left with a situation where one good law has to go to make way for a new good law.  This is certainly a new way of doing things.  But there we are.  The rolling back of government has begun.

    The website at www.hmg.gov.uk/yourfreedom will ask citizens three questions:

    * Which current laws would you like to remove or change because they restrict your civil liberties?

    * Which regulations do you think should be removed or changed to make running your business or organisation as simple as possible?

    * Which offences do you think we should remove or change and why?

    Simon Burns apologises to dwarves following insult aimed at John Bercow

    Telegraph: Simon Burns, the health minister, has apologised to dwarves after insulting John Bercow.

    The health minister, who called the Speaker a “stupid, sanctimonious dwarf”, has apologised – but only to short people in general.  One assumes that dwarves were not amused.  It really is quite astonishing that a government minister can be quite so stupid at all, let alone from the floor of the House of Commons.  Intelligence and tact, it seems, are not qualities needed for high office these days.

    ‘Hilarity’ continued.  The Telegraph noted: “Back in the Commons, the former Labour minister Chris Bryant joked with Mr Bercow: “I am glad you are getting short with ministers these days.” The Speaker, who is thought to be 5ft 6ins tall, replied: “You suggest that I have been short with ministers.”

    “I am not sure about that but what I would say to you and the House is I have always been short – and I am entirely untroubled by the fact, which is probably as well.”